Belize Construction company Destroys Mayan Pyramid in Latest Refutation of Libertarianism

A construction company in Belize gradually hollowed out and ultimately destroyed a 60-foot, 2300-year-old Mayan pyramid to get gravel for paving roads, National Geographic reports.

There are exceptions (executives with a conscience), but mostly capitalism and its companies are about making money, any way they need to. They are all too often amoral, which is why they need to be regulated by a moral community via its elected government. The idea that corporations would all be nice if there were no government or only weak government regulation flies in the face of everything taught us by modern history, going back well before the British East India Company forced the Chinese government to let it addict people to opium. (And, no, it isn’t a sufficient refutation to say that the EIC was originally chartered by the state; the state wasn’t overseeing it out in the Indian Ocean).

Contemporary tobacco companies such as Philip Morris and Reynolds American deliberately slaughter 443,000 Americans a year with their poisonous product, spraying the leaves with extra nicotine to addict their victims. And the government lets them get away with this.

And America’s coal companies spew out toxic mercury and lead and other poisons, which are damaging our health, plus a lion’s share of our carbon dioxide emissions, which are destroying the planet via rapid climate change.

Those two kinds of corporations should just be closed down altogether by a moral community via its elected government.

Road builders, you need, but they obviously need to be watched like a hawk.

The Guardian has video:




37 Responses

  1. What does this have to do with libertarianism? It was a company own by a local politician who didn’t care about the laws that had been issued to protect the site.

    Regarding tobacco… If its so poisonous and horrible then why doesn’t the government just ban it outright? Can it be that they are loving the taxes that it brings in?

    • Yes, and you promised us that without government oversight corporations would never do things like that. Weak government as in Belize is very much like no government, so is a good testing ground for your incorrect theory.

    • It was a company own by a local politician who didn’t care about the laws that had been issued to protect the site.

      I’ve highlighted the part that has to do with libertarianism for you.

    • Wait…so if some sociopath in a country with relatively lax regulation breaks the law and thereby violates the rights of his fellow citizens, this invalidates Libertarianism?

      So then, if some sociopath in a country with relatively stringent regulations breaks the law and thereby violates the rights of his fellow citizens, would that validate Libertarianism?

      • Your philosophy is that we don’t have to organize a government to curb the sociopaths in the corporations because of the Magic Hand. I’m just pointing out that in real world situations of weak or lax governance, the Magic Hand that turns corporations into angels is not in evidence.

        • So am I to take it you don’t care for Libertarianism and Adam Smith, then Professor Juan Cole? Maybe you should go back to Mexico and hang out with the communists, wait the drug cartels, wait the libertarians there.

          On second thought let’s send Brad down there. The government wouldn’t interfere with him much there. He’s just have to fend off his fellow libertarian drug dealers.

          We could even sponsor his bus fare.

      • If the outcome of ignoring regulations is bad, it invalidates the libertarian claim that there shouldn’t be regulations.

        This “sociopath” was operating the way libertarians want him to be able to operate. I don’t like the way it worked out. You?

    • The true nature and aims of libertarianism, in six interesting parts, starting with Part I:

      link to nakedcapitalism.com

      And just follow the links there to the next, and the next…

      Looks to me (Monsanto, CIA, Big Banks, “health insurance,” etc.) that “we” are most of the way to turning it all over to “government-like organizations” already.

      Enjoy your “freedoms” while you can, folks…

    • Heh, thank you Mr. Cole for elucidating my philosophy. Silly me all these years imagining the reason concentrating regulatory power in a central authority was a bad idea is because the 1% inevitably capture control of it and have their way with the rest of us.

      I don’t know who it is that claims to be a Libertarian and “promised” you that reducing central governmental regulations would eliminate sociopaths, but I suggest that the two of you explore collaborating on a work of fiction given your powerful respective imaginations.

      Most Libertarians accept the need for government to adjudicate situations where individual rights are in conflict and, as an incentive for proper behavior, to mete out justice in cases where rights have been violated. In this case, should it be proven the facts are substantially as related in your article, most Libertarians would cheer for the perpetrator to be appropriately punished.

      Getting back to the novel idea, perhaps an historical milieu would serve. I expect you could really get into telling the story of how Libertarianism caused the Fall of Rome, the Black Plague, the Inquisition, or the Curse of the Bambino, for example.

      • Your leader Rand Paul expressed discomfort at the Civil Rights Act of 1965 forcing restaurants to stop discriminating against African-Americans. Because, you know, government regulation is always bad.

        • “My” leader Rand Paul? Would this be the same guy who is scurrying around assuring Evangelical groups that he fully supports the so-called “War on Drugs” that blights the lives of millions of Americans, enriches criminals, wastes resources on prisons, and is the proximate cause of death of thousands of Mexicans and Latin Americans? Yeah, nice try, but no sale.

          Last time I checked, our putative standard bearer is Gary Johnson. Good luck tarring him with racism. However, given that you appear to have lost interest in our original discussion, I am confident you can come up with some other ad hominem non sequitur.

      • @Brad, and anyone else interested how Scientol — er, libertarianism works in the realm of Argument, there’s a whole trove of white papers and talking points and how-tos for Making Your Points and “arm waving” and stuff like you stuffed in your last paragraph above, here’s an entry point:

        link to libertarian.co.uk

        You gotta love cults, especially ones who arrested their development in Debating Club…

      • Private property did not precede government. The first civilization, Old Kingdom Egypt, started with no personal property at all when it carried out its greatest accomplishments. But centuries later court favorites were granted land by the pharoah-state and became the first rich people in the sense we understand it now. Since then, every private property system has degenerated into extreme inequality of wealth and thus power, unless the threat of rebellion by the poor led to the creation of structures to regulate the process. This is how Athenian democracy occurred, and worked until it was overthrown by the rich.

        American inequality exploded in the capitalist golden age before the ’29 bubble burst, but after the “big government” measures that followed, inequality and the power of wealth remained fairly steady while the country itself enjoyed broad prosperity for two generations. The entire point of the conservative movement was to bring back the era when the rich could literally get away with murder, in the guise of “restoring” traditional limited government.

        In other words, it is possible to keep the 1% under control, but not if your society comes to worship the rich as a master race.

    • It was Adam Smith in the very Wealth of Nations, that is never actually read by those always citing it, who made the very specific point about the role of govt to keep the Invisible Hand in check.

      Simplistic reads of neoclassical economics just don’t work, but they appeal to the needs of second-rate economists and sociopathic politicians with a Will to Power. As Uncle Milton would’ve said with a sly smile, slavery, for example, didn’t work and the system corrected itself…..By the same logic, this guy in Belize will be “corrected,” as he genuinely deserves, by the market, rather that by a bunch of idealistic malcontents.

      Such thinking really does work out oh so nicely when working with closed systems, where all the variable are known, explained away, or can be shoe-horned into some uber impressive regression model. Too bad about that “friction” of the civil war or everything that’s happened since with the slaves, or as long as there are an infinite artifacts of our history in places like Belize, or Mother Earth is content to serve as our garbage dump.

      • When the system “corrects” itself, modern global investors simply move on to their next crime. Maybe they went from making billions polluting the land, to making billions cleaning up the pollution the very least amount they could get away with, or selling pharmaceuticals to treat the cancer that resulted. There is ALWAYS economic crime going on somewhere in the world, and the same people always seem to come out ahead.

        • That’s sorta my point:

          In a Gilligan’s island view of the world, slash & burn progress works. As long as there is an infinite cheap source of whatever, people don’t worry about it, and business certainly doesn’t. Slavery instead of technology in the US would’ve kept on “working” indefinitely: never mind how the complacency it enabled in the gentry kept the plantation economies from innovating and moving on. The result was extreme social stratification (don’t forget the poor whites) and profound economic stagnation in the South, human values completely aside.

          This reminds me of todays post on (somehow) getting the nation/world/industry!!! productively focused on global warming. Unfortunately, the tendency to stagnation in this case will broil us, literally. The Greenhouse Effect is like a steamroller, where even if we recognized and acted on it appropriately starting tomorrow, it would be highly, highly disruptive…..to put it mildly.

          Instead, we get guys that could/should be natural leaders acting thus: link to thinkprogress.org

          A few days ago Schmitt had another great op-ed about how rising CO2 levels are GREAT!! “The Plants will just eat that stuff up!, This is good News!!”

      • To expand on your observation, Travis, Adam Smith, along with Karl Marx, are among the most widely cited individuals, and the least read, by those who purport to use their ideas as evidence of the correctness of their positions. Be they Libertarians, Socialists, Capitalists, or Marxists, those who are so fond of quoting Smith and Marx as evidence backing their positions have only in rare instances actually read “The Wealth of Nations” and “Das Kapital.”

        Everyone seems to base their understanding of each author on secondary sources or, more perniciously, by searching the internet and Wikipedia (with its consistent suggestions that “this needs further citation”). Such flimsy research results in many a lacunae in the understanding of Smith’s and Marx’s ideas and philosophy. As an example, many think of Smith as an economist. He was not. Adam Smith was first and foremost a University of Glasgow lecturer who held the Chair of Moral Philosophy, and one of his works is entitled, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments. That he wrote about Political Economy and the mechanism of the Market in “The Wealth of Nations” was an adjunct to his overall view of Moral Philosophy, and his concern for the well-being of not only the Capitalist class, but that of the common man as well.

    • The site is on private property. The Libertarian view is that only the property owner should decide what happens to it.

  2. Executives with a conscientious, or at least those that act on it, are by definition unprofessional, and are not going to a position of any real responsibility.

    OK. There are exceptions, such as when the organization they represent has some benign purpose as its charter, but the typical mantra is to “increase shareholder wealth,” and do what it takes to do so.

    There was the Bhopal gassing in India lo those years ago, written off by Union Carbide as simple cost of doing business. Yesterday I heard of a gold mine cave-in in Indonesia that was operated by Freeport-MacMoran: same thing. This sort of thing is standard Operating Procedure, and nobody rises to a position of responsibility in a modern traditional corporation if they aren’t very good at lying to themselves and the world about what they’re really up to.

    Anybody invested in a pension fund that isn’t set up otherwise will also be supporting this imperative to Do What it Takes, and if you’re willing to accept less return on your investment you’re in the minority. Money ultimately talks, as long as its ugliness isn’t too blatant, and the various investment funds provide a very nice arms-length complicity.

  3. The East India Company was the main opium trader in China (there were also American companies), but the trade appears to have been encouraged in the beginning because of Britain’s trade deficit with China, and the two Opium Wars to keep the trade flowing were fought by British armed forces. This was the classic nationalistic colonial partnership of corporations with the government. The same type of partnership has existed between the US government and US corporations in Latin America. I don’t know if the Belize case is of this nature, but you can still find plenty of cases in Latin America where the US government policy is colonial exploitation. Corporations were involved with government from their very beginning, but from various historical lines of evidence we know that corporations act like non-democratic governments when they get sufficient power. Why would it be better to be ruled directly by corporations (or other mega-businesses) than by an elected government?

    • In that same era, the royal governor of Ireland, who held the same hyper-capitalist social Darwinist beliefs that Libertarians specifically claim they are trying to revive, presided over the horror of the Potato Famine. He and Adam Smith shared a belief that markets could not succeed unless small farmers were forced out of their lazy way of life by any means necessary, and the Irish were the greatest threat of all.

      This article in The Exile illustrates why the governor cheered on the early stages of the famine and blocked relief efforts until he faced a disaster that reduced Ireland’s population from 8 million to a few million. It also shows why the capitalists got the Enclosure Acts passed to destroy the common lands and force peasants onto a very unfair industrial labor market. In effect, the idea sacred to libertarians that all land had to be someone’s property was manufactured by lobbyists, just as “intellectual property” rights are manufactured.

      link to exiledonline.com

      None of what we believe about the rise of Free Enterprise is true. These ideas also reflect Locke’s view that it was okay to steal land from Indians because whites would use it more productively.

      If your society doesn’t believe in private property, or believe in it the way an Anglo-American greedbag does, then you are subhuman and your rights are false and must be sacrificed to the true rights of the Western entrepreneur. I guess this is when it’s okay for the rich to call in the military.

      • Another little footnote to “history,” from the Catholic Encyclopedia entries on the “suppression of the Jesuits,” with an unintentional little peek at “certain Western attitudes:”

        The Suppression in France was occasioned by the injuries inflicted by the English navy on French commerce in 1755. The Jesuit missionaries held a heavy stake in Martinique. They did not and could not trade, that is, buy cheap to sell dear, any more than any other religious. But they did sell the products of their great mission farms, in which many natives were employed, and this was allowed, partly to provide for the current expenses of the mission, partly in order to protect the simple, childlike natives from the common plague of dishonest intermediaries. Père Antoine* La Vallette, superior of the Martinique missions, managed these transactions with no little success, and success encouraged him to go too far. He began to borrow money to work the large undeveloped resources of the colony, and a strong letter from the governor of the island dated 1753 is extant in praise of his enterprise. But on the outbreak of war, ships carrying goods of an estimated value of 2,000,000 livres were captured and he suddenly became a bankrupt, for very large sum. His creditors were egged on to demand payment from the procurator of Paris, but he, relying on what certainly was the letter of the law, refused responsibility for the debts of an independent mission, though offering to negotiate for a settlement, for which he held out assured hopes. The creditors went to the courts, and an order was made (1760) obliging the Society to pay, and giving leave to distrain in the case of non-payment…

        link to newadvent.org

        Libertarians wear cassocks too?

  4. I live in Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto with a population of roughly 183K. So, essentially the number of US deaths caused by tobacco are 242% times the population of RH every year! Living in Toronto I wont know much about everyday life in the US. So I had a question. Are tobacco companies allowed to advertise their products on TV, Magazines….? If so, do you think banning TV ads, given that TV is still the most popular medium, would help in reducing smoking?

    RE: ALEC you wrote “Maybe you should go back to Mexico and hang out with the communists, wait the drug cartels, wait the libertarians there”. You’ve got no better retort than YouTube-esque straw-men and personal attacks? Don’t know why Juan even approved your post, given that it didn’t really add anything to the discussion. Then again, maybe the best way to combat absurdities is by exposing them.

  5. The point apparently not taken away is we’ve lost a priceless piece of human history. That it lends credence to my long running conviction “Liberatarians” are naught but Republicans on Dope is beside the point, we have lost a priceless piece of human history. So tourerrists won’t get mud on their Land Rover.

    I’m going to roll on the floor laughing my ass off when yawl’s usary loving Jesus floats down out of the sky on a white horse with a thousand angels to carry yawl away to paradise, amnd he turns out to be a hungry lizard. We did, afterall, invite them to “Come, Eat!”

    No fear.

    • The market is the only measure of value that libertarians can allow in their government-free arrangements.

      Thus black token libertarian Thomas Sowell argued that black culture had proven itself inferior because, well, blacks were economically inferior to whites. Therefore black culture had no right to exist.

      Consider that. Jazz, the blues, soul, the Harlem Renaissance, Dr. J’s impossible dunks, Dr. King’s impossible dream, August Wilson, Malcolm X, Spike Lee, all of it, worthless because it doesn’t make black people rich… Though Sowell somehow failed to observe how many white people, in our system, got rich off of this inferior black culture.

      • “Therefore black culture had no right to exist.”

        I have read quite a bit of Thomas Sowell’s writings, and I have never come across a statement of his that either explicitly or implicitly suggested “black culture had no right to exist.” I would appreciate it if you would provide a citation to back up your categorical statement.

      • When a corporation cries out that it will comply with health/safety/environmental/workers’ rights, etc., it is time to tighten up the regulations…..

        • Because the honor system, which our Congress and several presidents have too often acceded to, doesn’t work……. If the corporations were serious about protecting the environment, consumers, workers, etc., they would welcome protective regulations. What’s more, the arguments they use against regulations are merely self serving and bogus. Fantasies which, unfortunately, have often taken root in the national mind, contributing to our mythology.

    • Don’t neglect the “legal” offensive use of the regulatory structures to attack competitors and restrain trade and fix prices. One side of it:

      link to annenberg.northwestern.edu

      Another, of course, is the entire “intellectual property” monster, near the pinnacle of which is this:

      “Why Does Monsanto Sue Farmers Who Save Seeds?” link to monsanto.com

      “There is no honor among thieves,” unless via “interlocking directorates” and other forms of collusion they are cooperating in the thievery. See, e.g., “Wall Street.”

  6. I imagine some entreprenuer will seize upon this chance to take advantage of this now cleared area to put up a nice shopping mall with acres of free parking. That would be a fitting end to the saga. As regards previous comments, the unregulated market (libertarianism) demands that business maximize profits above all else. How this somehow leads to value for society is belied by history and common sense. I call it the economic pixie dust theory. All we need is pixie dust added to this approach and it all works out for the best.

    • It’s even more malicious than that. When I was in school I learned the story of how an English entrepreneur landed in the early 19th century central Philippines, barely governed by distant Spain, and made his fortune. He brought in cheap mass-produced English textiles, which destroyed the local trading networks of handmade textiles as everyone bought the new cloth and ruined each other’s livelihoods. With these victims now facing starvation, he hired them cheaply as mercenaries, armed them and overran other territories, which became his personal empire.

      It’s that second punch that the libertarians say doesn’t exist. But considering how Cecil Rhodes created Rhodesia with a private army, by massacring tribesmen with his own Maxim gun, and then funded the Rhodes scholarship as part of his plan to ensure eternal Anglo-American white dominion of the world before his early death, and you have to wonder if it isn’t just the logical path of all genuine entrepreneurs freed of all restraint. The pursuit of wealth is exposed as truly the pursuit of power, rushing to fill the vacuum where government isn’t functional. Are these men not part of a continuum from Alexander to Pablo Escobar?

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