.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

A Pox On All Their Houses

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

There is no such thing as "collateral damage", only murder.

"It is not simply that our national discourse rests on a foundation of evasions, complicated by equivocations, twisted by avoidance, and rendered into meaningless insignificance by an uncountable series of lies. All of that is true, but it fails to capture the quality that is most striking to the perceptive observer. That quality is one of overwhelming, oppressive and suffocating unreality. It is as if everyone knows, but will never acknowledge, that we may speak only in code, and that we may only utilize the safe, empty phrases that we have agreed are "acceptable" -- phrases and language that are safe precisely because they have been drained of all correspondence to facts."
- Arthur Silber

This is, exactly, the point.
R.D. Laing put it very concisely in Knots:
They are playing a game
They are playing at not playing a game

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Nothing Comes Easy

The conditions a person lives in are a function of the prices they have been willing to pay. You like hello kitty, so you forgo that expensive meal to get the hello kitty pillow, etc. A rather venal perhaps, but concrete example. Everything has a price, because everything has a cost.
(the statement "there's no such thing as a free lunch" is a snappy, but slightly under-nuanced version of this idea)
Where people seem to go wrong and create political cleavages seems to be on their understanding of "payment".
A very wise friend of mine said something last night that I liked very much:
"Are you a giver or a taker? I'm a trader."
In any exchange between two people, the total wealth of the people increases. To take a very counter-intuitive example, to make my point, imagine a bread line in the USSR. The people waiting on line to get bread have gained, because they will eat tonight. But so too has the CPUSSR. Clearly, because if it wasn't benefiting them in some way, they wouldn't offer the bread. What they gain is a situation where there is not mass starvation.
When I give my homeless crackhead friend a couple of dollars, I am gaining something from it too. (but in these two examples, we begin to see a complexity appear in the situation, don't we?)
The one major exception to this pattern seems to be what I call "real crime"; that is to say when violence and deception are applied.
In these cases, total wealth is not increased, even though one of the parties may have gained vastly, they were trading against an ultimate value... either someone's physical integrity or their mental integrity.
In the case of the USSR, for instance, what they have taken from the people by violence, far outweighs what they give them in bread. In order to keep holding on to their position, giving away some bread is a cheap deal.
And so, maybe we can see why oligopolies are harmful, and why central banking has demolished the economy despite "growing" it.
Because what has been lost is far greater than what has been gained, but what is lost cannot be measured precisely.
In the case of banking, they pump money into the economy, claiming to be growing it, but what are they growing?
As we've seen before, much of "wealth" is subjective and immeasurable. The old situation where one bought food from a person who had agency and could decide for themselves whether to give Old Lady Cranston a discount on her sack of flour has been replaced by one where we are, with ever growing frequency, human machines, interacting with other human machines. Our sense of agency only comes through consumption, and even then we are arrayed with a pushbutton world where actual pondering and consideration of choice becomes flipping channels of very similar inanity. This sense of alienation has been observed over and over again, but it's not necessarily a function of trade, or even the separation of capital and labor, although that gets closer to the issue. People would (and do) pay a price to gain their agency back, if they are able to.

Bankers give money on the basis of money. The other forms of payment become attenuated, in fact almost impossible. The clerk at the supermarket is a n-th order agent of someone who is merely a manager for dispersed owners who have no idea what is going on except the price of their stock.
And our other social institutions have been forced, by violence masked by deception, to fit this system instead of being allowed to naturally undermine it, as they must if they were spontaneously generated, rather than engineered for an ulterior purpose. Mostly in the name of a fraudulent "growth". Real economic growth comes from transformation of a less desirable pattern to a more desirable one. Trade and production are variations of the same thing.
In our abstracted, dimensionally restricted system, what is gained in measurable cash balances and numbers of units moved is more than lost in other forms of payment.
But this all points at the larger pattern of real crime. Capital tends naturally to accumulate sporadically, by a law of diminishing returns... after that millionth or so apple sold, apples become pretty cheap. And what people desire most, what will turn a profit, is always shifting, markets are (somewhat) efficient. Without any interference, anything that turns a profit today, becomes glutted tomorrow, and the profits go down to the average return on time. And then keep in mind, that wealth is not only the seen, the measurable, but the unseen... clean water, trees, healthy living conditions, nice neighbors are all things people would pay a price for, if they could. (and do, when they can)
What is mostly going on in this pattern of alienation and impoverishment is destruction of capital for the sake of those who already own capital, to make it more scarce, not more abundant. When Keynes decried the shelves full of goods unsold, he was crying out for your impoverishment for the sake of the existing owners of capital. (the bank pumping and relief programs are a way to "patch" that capital destruction so as to prevent mass starvation, it is our equivalent of the USSR's bread lines... it is the price paid for the reproduction of labor)
This is the real reason for War, Regulation, Central Banking, all of it. Even land conservation and real-estate laws. It is to restrict the free movement of capital or to destroy it outright. On the other side, labor is encouraged to reproduce endlessly through various religions and other ideological cousins. And through inflation, taxes and various "protective" regulations, they are inhibited in the accumulation of their own capital.

It is not trade or capital accumulation which has created poverty in the midst of wealth, and environmental destruction, but very well disguised destruction of certain forms of trade or capital accumulation, through means of violence and deception. Take away that violence and deception, and in time, things would right themselves. How do we do that? Well, that's a good question. :) It's worth pondering.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A couple of things my friends told me

My friend George once told me "The cops aren't the real cops. They're just the clean up crew. The real cops are all around you, watching you all the time." And he swung his hand around and pointed out all the people around us as we were walking through a shopping mall.
My friend Aggie recently told me "There is no government, just a bunch of guys in blue uniforms with guns who will get angry if you don't pretend there is."

There are two interlocking lies that the government relies on to remain in power. The first is the lie of "legitimacy", the lie that there are some people who have the authority to do things that everyone else can't do. This lie is referenced in the second quote. This lie runs fairly deep in the heads of the populace and it's the main one that libertarians often go after.
The second lie is that of "necessity". This lie is why we keep coming back to economic arguments, even though it's kind of a trap. Because in the minds of most people, necessity is really the only reason they maintain the lie of legitimacy in their heads, why they enforce the fake laws made by this imaginary body. Their fear of what will happen if there's no government leads them to lie to themselves and everyone else and keep pretending that the government exists as such. (People do this about other things all the time, so this isn't an unknown phenomenon here.)
If these two lies are taken away, the people who want to pretend that they are the government are merely seen as a super-mafia. And at that point the market order will displace them. As it would with all other organized crime, if it weren't for the existence of the "government" and its fake laws.

Would you rather listen to your customers or some idiots in a marble building hundreds or thousands of miles away?

I think I realized how to explain what's wrong with most so-called "pro-capitalist" thinkers. They think they've figured out how the market works, and then they, performing the same act of hubris that "anti-capitalist" thinkers do, wish to engineer this mechanism themselves.
They want to second-guess the collective consciousness. But humanity as a whole, in its market order, even if most of the individuals in it were as stupid as you think they are, is way, way smarter than you (or any committee) could ever be. Because it has calculated (in the meta-mathematical sense) the revealed preferences of everyone.

You can't "fake" a cellular automaton convincingly. The closest way to do so is with a radial mirroring of a fractal outgrowth.

But that way, you only get something that looks like a cartoon of a market. (i.e. 18th Century England, the Gilded Age, etc...)
It's a very well analyzed mercantilism at best, but that quickly becomes easily critiqued by the socialist left. Because many among them will clearly see that you did not deliver what you claim to.

If you want to overcome the objections of the socialists, the only alternative that means anything is a real spontaneous order. Anarchy.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

How intelligent people fall for political tricks

the pattern usually goes like this:
1. observation of a problem
2. one faction offers a context-free solution, usually involving totalitarian measures applied directly against the problem.
3. another faction (often those who have something to lose directly from the context-free solution) argues that the problem doesn't exist, contrary to all observation, and argues against the solution on the grounds of freedom
(thus confusing freedom with ignorance)
4. the original faction now appears to clearly be "in the right" on the issue
(thus making liberty look "in the wrong")
5. the second faction says "even if ___ exists, it's not a problem"
(thus making liberty look immoral or inconsiderate)
6. now the first faction takes the moral high ground
7. context-free, most likely totalitarian solution is imposed, creating all new problems, as engineered by those behind both factions.

This is called "the bishop's con" when performed by "private" con-men.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Mr. Shaffer does it again.

Only when our ego-identities become wrapped up with some institutional abstraction – such as the state – can we be persuaded to invest our lives and the lives of our children in the collective madness of state action. We do not have such attitudes toward organizations with which we have more transitory relationships. If we find an accounting error in our bank statement, we would not find satisfaction in the proposition “the First National Bank, right or wrong.” Neither would we be inclined to wear a T-shirt that read “Disneyland: love it or leave it.”


Read the whole thing. He nails it pretty well, IMO.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

If you want to understand what it is, we're fighting for, in a positive sense, this is a good example:
Ordinary guy belts out Nessun Dorma

Not reality tv, the allegory of what this story is about. Regular people doing extraordinary (by our current standards) things.

In the world I'm working for, this will not be surprising.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Some good thoughts from others

Lately I've been running into some pieces that really explore the heart of what makes thoughtful people in This Thing Of Ours a bit different from rank and file "Libertarians". Now one of the interesting things is that when I posted this on my other blog (which I use to poke at various leftists and conservatives that I know), I immediately received a strongly worded, but un-thought out response from a socialist "anarchist" who was basically trying to smother these ideas in their crib. His emotional aggression was basically a signal not only that these ideas are getting at something fundamental, but also that they are a threat to the false binary as it exists, which is a necessary lever to push us toward total statism of the "Big Mommy" variety. If that false binary of "socialism or fascism, take your pick" is deflated, if we show a way out, that threatens those who want to control or be controlled in a deep, emotional way. They don't want to consider these ideas and argue about them, they want to cover them with the same old rhetoric.
And I think what makes them threatened is the hidden understanding that this approach actually offers normal, Joe Public types something they can believe in without compromising their morals or their freedom. Since deep down, the control freaks hate the middle class public and wish to degrade and/or destroy them, it would make sense that they would react strongly.

That said, here's the articles in question, it's nothing that hasn't been touched on before, but they put it together and expressed it very very well:

Actually Existing Capitalism
This is a very good wrap up of the distinctions made or not made between "capitalism" and "the free market" and why the traditional political ideologies are all wet.

Socialism vs. Regulation
This one in particular might be very controversial to some of you, but it makes sense of an intuition I've had for a while, but haven't had exactly the words to explain.
It also makes mincemeat of those who throw Europe in your face as a sort of prima facie argument for statism.

Let the free market eat the rich!
The last couple of sections explore something that I think is also going to raise red flags among the traditional libertarians out there, but I think is an essential part of what makes Allan Thornton-esque raw anarchism more viable than minarchism. The biggest subsidy the rich may have is the socialization of the costs of fighting private crime. And somewhat ironically, that re-distributes private crime to the poor and middle class.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Freedom isn't totally "free" in some sense.

In order for you to be free, your neighbor must be free, in the long run.
Eventually the mechanisms that suppress behavior you find reprehensible will be used against you too.
Eventually the totalitarian machines in far off lands will create totalitarian machines here, to fight against them, if you let that happen.

In order for the nice normal middle class people to keep their nice normal middle class life, the druggies, gays, people of color, sex freaks, hippies, etc, have to have a place to go where they can do their own thing. And vice versa.

This is the real price of freedom, not bloodshed, but tolerance of things that you don't like. And that means the responsibility to make choices and live your own life, not by default, but because you want to. You don't get to sit back and let life live you. If you do that, you're not really alive, and furthermore, you're killing the rest of us. Put the bullet in your brain, get it over with and let the rest of us go on in peace.

I suspect that the modern idea of "having it all" amounts to really having nothing at all - eliminating all choice, and thus all meaning, to anything you "have". It's a subtle form of suicide. Once you don't have to choose between this or that, what are you doing? Just existing, waiting for the body to give out. You might as well just go on heroin, it's less stressful, and it will make the time go by quicker.

Ideally, life should be an essay question, not even multiple choice. But that is still better than true or false, which is the kind of half-life that's being created for us by certain elements in our society. "You're either with us or against us, male or female, gay or straight, sober or clean, 'educated' or a 'loser', etc" And one day that will lead to a gun in your face "choose the answer we like or die" and that will be the final choice.
Which doesn't amount to much of a choice at all, in my opinion.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Impending Release and the End of No-Context

Sometimes I think liberals only hate conservatives because they make government look bad. I came across some essay somewhere complaining about how the FDA is failing to properly inspect our food (anyone reading this probably is not surprised about that at all...). He made some very cutting factual arguments, he had some interesting points. But what was missing was the context.
What makes conservatism generally a useless ideology that serves as nothing more than a red-herring, if you'll excuse the pun, is that the conservative version of "free enterprise" is a matter of cutting back government intrusion slightly to give big business more room to cut corners. Now it's arguable whether or not that is beneficial to us, it's a matter of priority, but again, the context is missing here.
Coming in on the edges of our vision, is a lesson. It's a lesson being demonstrated most palpably in Iraq. William Lind calls it "4th Generation Warfare" and Kevin Carson over at the mutualist blog has written a pretty great essay on how this can be (and has been) applied to labor relations.
But there's even more, really, to the story. The pending financial collapse. The fears of terrorism. The drug war going ape shit on the population. Peak oil, global warming, etc...
All of it are examples of the same pattern, one that was pointed out by Ludwig Von Mises a long time ago. The calculation problem, he called it. Basically, the way he put it, a central economic planner has no way to possibly calculate how to carry out the plan. A weaker variation on this was proposed later by Hayek, but really Hayek's "information problem" even if true, is superfluous. Even with access to all the discrete information in a system, without spontaneous market clearing mechanisms, there is no way to know what price will balance any particular demand curve. (And demand curves are subjective, so that kills the idea anyway.) In other words, not only is the demand curve opaque until revealed, so is the supply curve. The only way to reveal it is with a market.
The problem, and here's where I relate this all, is that the calculation problem isn't an all or nothing affair. Of course a central planner that had total control over the economy would have an infinite calculation problem. But to the extent that there is interference with market clearing, there is a partial calculation disturbance. All estimates are a bit off.
The thing that both the liberal and conservative thinker are missing is this larger picture, that the world we live in is not one of a spontaneous order with a few minor distortions.
To put it simply, if my house caught on fire, and the fire department botched the job of putting it out and rescuing me safely, while I wouldn't be entirely surprised, I would have a right to hold them responsible. Why? Because there is no other agency to turn to to perform this service. And so to understand why things are the way they are, we must answer the further question of why it is that there is no other agency to perform this service. The answer lies with the same people that run the fire department. Namely, the State.
Why are people getting contaminated food? Because the FDA has taken on the role of guarding food in such a way that competitors to their system can't operate on a widespread basis. And because the food industry has been cartelized to the point where competitors to the major food suppliers can't operate on a widespread basis.
And because the federal reserve pushes the money supply forward, making the benefits of cutting costs and operating for the short term almost irresistable, and making it unduly profitable to expand businesses beyond their natural limits of growth.

All of this leads to massive calculation problems. To some extent, up till now, there has been enough force applied to hold the system together in the face of these problems, by shifting costs downward to the weak and defenseless. Europe and the US haven't had to absorb the costs of their own miscalculations. But the "weak and defenseless" have learned how to fight back, in the face of military calculation problems.

Technology, while often used by the State and it's parasitical appendages to protect centralization, often has the side effect of equalizing power. Missiles and C4 are cheap and effective.

For the past 100 years, we've lived in a secret hidden context of oligarchy that many of us at this point have been programmed to take for granted. Food comes from the supermarket. We drive 10 miles to work or more, in cars made by "the big three" or now maybe "the big six". We sit down and work in a giant office building in cubicles. Then we go home and watch tv, broadcast by a few companies. Even our elections run on this model. Multiple choice.

Well, the world is about to become an essay question. And the powers that be want you to be afraid of that, because they are. People who even address the possibility of these interlocking, related systems collapsing mention it with an air of dread.
But in reality, when the destabilizing force of the giants and official experts is removed from any system, and replaced by a spontaneous market, calculation comes back and things rebuild themselves properly, stably, in a way that doesn't require more and more input all the time, but yields more and more output, because the patterns get smarter, meaning more and more amenable to our desires.
When businesses really compete in a hard way, for example, we benefit as consumers, as laborers and even as small business owners.
When many banks are issuing their own money, whatever money survives will be stable and a good store of value, making all economic calculations more accurate, allowing our time horizons to slow down, we can think long term and plan for our future.

When the US is finally forced out of Iraq, the Sadrists and Sunnis will fight to a standstill using the same 4th Generation Warfare techniques on each other, and then mark off their territory and get on with life.
And the rest of us will have gotten a lesson that will be indelible.

Will things get worse for us First Worlders in the short term? Possibly, but the division of labor is pretty remarkable and people are pretty good at solving problems when left to their own devices. On the other hand, the Third World will bloom like 3 billion flowers. And in the long run that will make things more stable and pleasant for all of us.
And with all of us having mastered these decentralized techniques for toppling larger opponents, the resulting near-anarchy will be stable. In other words, anarchy cannot arrive until it can be maintained stably and peaceably, because the means for attaining it are the means for maintaining it. So when it comes, it's coming pretty much for good. The future looks bright indeed.
It won't be a utopia, but things will be as good as they can be given our state of knowledge and development.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

there is indeed a grave danger, and an inconvenient truth...

Butler Shaffer says it much better than I feel like saying it right now.

A quote:
"It is no coincidence, I believe, that the environmental cult arose at about the same time that the earlier faith in state economic planning was unable to withstand the pragmatic power of the marketplace as the generator of material well-being. Environmentalism provided an alternative vehicle for those whose principal ambition lay in controlling the lives and property of their fellow humans. There was some initial uncertainty expressed over whether we faced an incipient global “cooling” or “warming,” but there was no absence of faith in their underlying cause: to extend coercive control over all of humanity."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

1 Iraqi = 1 American = 1 Englishman, etc...

"More important, all too many Americans have yet to confront the moral implications of invading and occupying Iraq. U.S. officials continue to exhort the American people to judge the war and occupation on whether it proves to be "successful" in establishing "stability." and "democracy" in Iraq. If so, the idea will be that the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, including countless Iraqi children, will have been worth it. It would be difficult to find a more morally repugnant position than that."

- Jacob Hornberger

Killing thousands of non-combatants for some sort of political goal, even if that goal seems incredibly desirable, is still MASS MURDER.
Think of it this way, if the government said "We're going to exterminate all the homeless people, welfare mothers and their children in the US in order to stabilize the economy", would you think it was "worth it"? If they failed, would you blame them for "bungling" the planned extermination?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The State IS Crime.

I was getting a bit tired of posting into the darkness, as it were. But Billy Beck pointed me to something so perfectly illustrative that I had to share:

With the blessing of officials from the Village of Port Chester, the Village’s chosen developer approached Didden and his partner with an offer they couldn’t refuse. Because Didden planned to build a CVS on his property—land the developer coveted for a Walgreens—the developer demanded $800,000 from Didden to make him “go away” or ordered Didden to give him an unearned 50 percent stake in the CVS development. If Didden refused, the developer would have the Village of Port Chester condemn the land for his private use. Didden rejected the bold-faced extortion. The very next day the Village of Port Chester condemned Didden’s property through eminent domain so it could hand it over to the developer who made the threat.

Organized crime, plain and simple. Such a clear example rarely crosses my desk.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Here there be... Something Else

In any widespread debate among human beings, there tends to be a portrayal of the situation as a binary conflict. As an example, let's take "democrat vs. republican" - not that the content matters here, but it's a common example that most of you will be familiar with. But this translates to gender, religion, sexuality, and many other human "dialogues" (note the already implicit binary)...
Most of the time it's portrayed something like this:
binary spectrum

Depending on who is portraying the situation, the left circle might be bigger or the right or the middle more or less overlapping, but it's still a binary venn diagram of some sort. Of course what is missing from the picture is what makes this post worth posting... the Excluded Other, the Damned Thing as Robert Anton Wilson put it, the thing that is semiotically made invisible by those who fear it. In reality, though this is also an over-simplification, the venn diagram should look more like this:
reality covered

Of course, it would be more accurate to portray a vast multidimensional grid of interlocking rings in all directions, but for the purpose of this post, this will suffice...

The excluded other has to fight just to get acknowledgement of its own existence, it is not debated or even scorned (except to say 'oh, that's crazy talk!') because it is not known of/acknowledged by most. It has been buried and forgotten, so that the powers that be (in whichever sphere happens to be 'in dialogue') can keep the minds of people on their two favored options. This binary portrayal may just be a function of the human brain or it may be an ontological condition of those who attempt to control debate, that it is always in their interest to keep things in a dialogue rather than a true analysis.

In the works of many whom I would consider 'in this thing of ours', there is an attempt to re-awaken an awareness of the Something Else, to remind us that there are "more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy"...
This is perhaps the primary thing that draws us together - as a different kind of revolution, a semiotic revolution, a disinhibitory stimulus to reawaken the authority/judgement/reason/awareness within us, that the false rulers of our minds don't want us to reclaim for ourselves.

There are two basic understandings that buddhism (at least of the zen or chan variety), daoism and existentialism share:
1. Desire can be a trap.
2. Whatever you say it is, it is precisely not that.

In existentialism the way 2 is explained is that we are always at least one step ahead of ourselves, that to enclose the totality of our understanding, we must be larger than that totality... this totality is re-totalizing in every moment...
Thus we are always incomplete, a work in progress, which leads back to 1.
Where daoism and existentialism perhaps branch off from buddhism is in seeing this incompleteness as necessary for existence. We cannot complete ourselves. In the moment we are complete, we are no longer "here" except as an object to be used by those still incomplete.
But what we 'are' is trapped within the time span of our incompleteness. So make the most of it.

Where desire fails is when we actually strive for completion through any incomplete means. To be a 'true believer', and thus to seek this binary in which all things can be understood and collected.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

More on the GWOT

I don't think I was communicating well the last time I spoke about this so I'll restate my position a bit better I hope.
I don't like terrorism one bit. Punishing civilians for the actions of their evil masters is a foul and despicable thing to do.
If there really was a Global War On Terrorism, I'd be all for it. But the government of the United States engages in terrorism all the time. They'd really be on the other side of that war. In reality what people mean though is a Global War on Radical Islamic Terrorism.

OK, I don't like Radical Islam either. I'd rather live in a fucked up Keynesian/Fabian "socialism" (as I do) than under an Islamic Sharia State. And to the extent that they promote and support killing civilians to achieve their goals, fuck them. But the GOT-US isn't really doing anything to protect us from RIT either. All that TSA garbage is just fucking with us, and does little or nothing to prevent terrorism. The incentives are all wrong here. The GOT-US gets stronger, the more RIT there is, and vice versa. If they're not directly working together, they've at least figured out the tacit rules of their game, and that game works against us both ways.
If the GOT-US really fought a War on RIT, it would tend to diminish the strength of the state itself. Because what would work is clearly things like:
Allowing pilots to carry guns. Allowing airlines to decide if their passengers can carry weapons. Making airlines tort-responsible for what happens to their passengers and planes. (if this had been the case during 9-11, American and United would probably be out of business by now...)
The airlines themselves as (quasi)private firms would be much better situated to decide how to handle their own security, especially if they knew they were fiscally responsible for it.
This of course, doesn't just apply to airlines, but to everything else. Under a fairly libertarian society, terrorism is hard to pull off. How many attacks have been successfully pulled off in the US? How many in Europe? (hint the second number is much higher)
Of course, a totalitarian country like China can stave off terrorism too. But if your answer to terrorism is to go that far, well, I think we'd be better off taking our chances with a less safe society. Hell, you like that idea so much, move to China. No terrorism there.

One thing that I find curious about "pro-war libertarians" is that they tend to support Bush even on stupid shit that has nothing to do with terrorism. This suggests to me either:
1. They are no longer libertarians. Although this is the popular answer, and technically true, it's not that meaningful.
2. They are disingenuously supporting this stuff because they think that anything that helps the Bush regime will be good for the GWOT. They even pick up Republican "talking points" on a lot of issues. This is really stupid, because if anything, Bush is bringing us closer and closer to a destabilized chaotic terroristic situation. He's been the best friend Radical Islam has had the past few years. (not that Kerry wouldn't have been worse, but it's this "all or nothing" go team go crap that is stupid and not helpful at all)

By being better libertarians, they would be fighting the GWOT the right way and would be objectively helping to reduce terrorism worldwide. But instead they're inadvertently making it worse. You want to talk about fundamentals: It is not in the interest of terrorists to make America more free. Quite the opposite, until we reach a sort of threshold of totalitarianism on the other side. It is not in the interest of the state for terrorism to dwindle away to nothing. Again, not until they reach a threshold point where they feel their rule is secure without it.

So I am the real pro-War libertarian, if the War is a real Global War On Terrorism.

Link

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Freedom is the default.

A quote from The Scotsman:
"So pervasive is poor diet that reliance on individual choice as the prime ideology in shaping food supply is no longer an adequate policy or ideology." (adequate for whom?)

Freedom is not an ideology, though an ideology can be built around an abstraction called "freedom".

How close "freedom" and freedom come to each other will depend inversely on how densely extended the ideology is.

To say that the idea that people own themselves is necessarily "ideological" or part of an "ideology" is repulsive and idiotic. At best, it blurs the line between ideology and ... well, everything else. Which makes "ideology" itself an orwellian non-word, with no particular meaning.

Now if you want to make some sort of utilitarian argument why coercion is desirable in a certain situation, well, you won't be the first and some people have come up with some pretty involved ones. But the burden of proof is still on you. Freedom is the default. It's not an ideology, its a basic part of life itself.

We're not here to fulfill some sort of greater purpose or function for anyone. There is no one to provide this function.
Unless there is:
The secret implication, that the powers that be behind statements like this don't want you to understand completely, is that they believe that we (those of us subject to "society's" laws) all belong to them ("society" or to be a bit less tricky, those who are above the law, those who make the law). That they OWN us. We are farm animals, livestock to be handled. We happen to be uppity slaves, but their mission is to get us in line.
For our own good? What does that mean? "Good" can only be revealed by our desires. What they mean is for their own good.
If they set the standards of what is (hahah) "adequate" or "proper" or "desirable", it can only come from their own desires. Not ours.
Or there would be no need to change our behavior, perhaps at most, to educate us that what we're doing won't get us what we want.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

totally geeky, I know, but...

I came up with this a few days ago, and figured what the hell, might as well post it.

You code 16 functions, what do you get?
another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Linus don't you call me, cause I can't go,
I owe my soul to the company store.

When you see me pinging better step aside,
a lot of men didn't, their networks died.
One hack of iron, the other of steel,
if the syn flood don't get you, then the DDOS will.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Go North, young ma'am.

Gary North hits one out of the park today. [link]

I'm often a fan of his, though he's inconsistently good, and holds some odd beliefs.
But on economic issues, he seems to "strike the root" more than a lot of people in this thing of ours.

I don't even need to add commentary to that article (not like I have much time to do so, I've been fiendishly pressed for time lately, but I'll endeavor to get some original thoughts up here soon).

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A new ally

Pro Libertate - Man, he's good.
Thanks to Vache Folle and JL Wilson for the heads up on him. I've actually followed links back to the Birch Blog before and always liked what I read there, but never actually read it on a regular basis. Now I regret that decision.

So Wm Norman Grigg, you are on my blog links.

(From my experience, the Birch people tend to be the best or the worst, depending. I mean they definitely see through the standard "left-right" spectrum. And the understanding that the Elite use the sub-proletariat for their own purposes was way ahead of its time. Sometimes they're too nationalistic and constitutionalist for my taste.)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Truth and Evasion

You know, it always makes me smile crookedly, to see discussions about this particular thing or that that the government has done, when the people discussing it don't have their tongue firmly in cheek.
Ok, I know it serves a purpose as a sort of signalling, like "ok, I think we're hitting the threshold now". But does anyone in this thing of ours still deny that the end point of all this is going to be full-on totalitarianism? I mean, open up your eyes. All three if necessary.

But seriously now. To make the point clear so that you can't dodge it:
The United States is going to become a totalitarian state, sooner than anyone expected. This is not arguable. It's surely going to happen. Europe is already there, and no one sees it.
It's not going to work the same way the old school totalitarians did it, because these guys have read all those books too.

Every day will be like every other day, for everyone, everywhere. That's what they want.
That is spiritual genocide. If you're robotically acting out a script, you're not actually alive, in any human sense.
Artificial intelligence will begin in the bodies of human beings. We are the robots.

The only way out of this is to destroy the capacity of the state to function. This will also happen, and hopefully sooner than I fear. But until it does, we're on the road to serfdom, and the pedal is to the metal. So don't be surprised when they make a law saying you have to bend over and present your asshole for inspection every day. After all, it's for your own good, right?

Bastiat, the Left-Libertarian?

Here are some quotes from Economic Sophisms (with bold emphasis by me) that I think have a direct bearing on left-libertarian thought:
In the same way, we could make a survey of all industries, and we should always find that producers, as such, have antisocial attitudes. "The merchant," says Montaigne, "prospers only by the extravagance of youth; the farmer, by the high cost of grain; the architect, by the decay of houses; officers of justice, by men's lawsuits and quarrels, Even the ministers of religion owe the honor and practice of their high calling to our death and our vices. No physician takes pleasure in the good health of even his friends; no soldier, in the peace of his country; and so it goes for the rest."
It follows that, if the secret wishes of each producer were realized, the world would speedily retrogress toward barbarism. The sail would take the place of steam, the oar would replace the sail, and it in turn would have to yield to the wagon, the latter to the mule, and the mule to the packman. Wool would ban cotton, cotton would ban wool, and so on, until the scarcity of all things made man himself disappear from the face of the earth.
Suppose for a moment that legislative power and executive authority were put at the disposal of the Mimerel Committee, and that each of the members of that association had the right to introduce and enact a favorite law. Is it very hard to imagine what sort of industrial code the public would be subjected to?
If we now turn to consider the immediate self-interest of the consumer, we shall find that it is in perfect harmony with the general interest, i.e., with what the well-being of mankind requires. When the buyer goes to the market, he wants to find it abundantly supplied. He wants the seasons to be propitious for all the crops; more and more wonderful inventions to bring a greater number of products and satisfactions within his reach; time and labor to be saved; distances to be wiped out; the spirit of peace and justice to permit lessening the burden of taxes; and tariff walls of every sort to fall. In all these respects, the immediate self-interest of the consumer follows a line parallel to that of the public interest. He may extend his secret wishes to fantastic or absurd lengths; yet they will not cease to be in conformity with the interests of his fellow man. He may wish that food and shelter, roof and hearth, education and morality, security and peace, strength and health, all be his without effort, without toil, and without limit, like the dust of the roads, the water of the stream, the air that surrounds us, and the sunlight that bathes us; and yet the realization of these wishes would in no way conflict with the good of society.
Perhaps people will say that, if these wishes were granted, the producer's labor would be more and more limited, and finally would cease for want of anything to occupy it. But why? Because, in this extreme hypothetical case, all imaginable wants and desires world be fully satisfied. Man, like the Almighty, would create all things by a simple act of volition. Will someone tell me what reason there would be, on this hypothesis, to deplore the end of industrial production?
I referred just now to an imaginary legislative assembly composed of businessmen, in which each member world have the power to enact a law expressing his secret wish in his capacity as a producer; and I said that the laws emanating from such an assembly would create a system of monopoly and put into practice the theory of scarcity.
In the same way, a Chamber of Deputies in which each member considered solely his immediate self-interest as a consumer would end by creating a system of free trade, repealing all restrictive laws, and removing all man-made commercial barriers—in short, by putting into practice the theory of abundance.
Hence, it follows that to consult solely the immediate self-interest of the producer is to have regard for an antisocial interest; whereas to consider as fundamental solely the immediate self-interest of the consumer is to take the general interest as the foundation of social policy.


Now, the result is that each man sees the immediate cause of his prosperity in the obstacle that he makes it his business to struggle against for the benefit of others. The larger the obstacle, the more important and more intensely felt it is, then the more his fellow men are disposed to pay him for having overcome it, that is, the readier they are to remove on his behalf the obstacles that stand in his way.
A physician, for instance, does not occupy himself with baking his own bread, making ins own instruments, or weaving or tailoring his own clothes. Others do these things for him, and, in return, he treats the diseases that afflict his patients. The more frequent, severe, and numerous these diseases are, the more willing people are—indeed, the more they are obliged—to work for his personal benefit. From his point of view, illness—which is a general obstacle to human well-being—is a cause of his individual well-being. All producers, with respect to their particular field of operation, reason in the same manner. The shipowner derives his profits from the obstacle called distance; the farmer, from that called hunger; the textile manufacturer, from that called cold; the teacher lives on ignorance; the jeweler, on vanity; the lawyer, on greed; the notary, on possible bad faith, just as the physician lives on the illnesses of mankind. It is therefore quite true that each profession has an immediate interest in the continuation, even the extension, of the particular obstacle that is the object of its efforts.


Let its go back to the thirteenth century. The men who then practiced the art of copying received for the service they performed a remuneration determined by the average rate of wages. Among these copyists, there was one who sought and discovered the means of multiplying rapidly copies of the same work. He invented printing.
At first, one man became rich, while many others were being impoverished. However marvelous this discovery was, one might, at first sight, have hesitated to decide whether it was harmful or beneficial. Apparently it was introducing into the world, as I have said, an element of limitless inequality. Gutenberg profited by his invention and employed his profits to extend its use indefinitely, until he had ruined all the copyists. As for the public, the consumers, they gained little, for Gutenberg was careful to lower the price of his books only just enough to undersell his rivals.
But God had the wisdom to introduce harmony not only into the movement of the spheres but also into the internal machinery of society. Hence, the economic advantages of this invention did not remain the exclusive possession of one individual, but instead became for all eternity the common inheritance of all mankind.
In time, the process became known. Gutenberg was no longer the only printer; others imitated him. Their profits at first were considerable. They were compensated very well for being in the vanguard of the imitators, and this extra compensation was necessary to attract them and to induce them to contribute to the great, approaching, final result. They earned a great deal, but they earned less than the inventor, for competition was beginning to operate. The price of books kept falling lower and lower, and the profits of imitators kept diminishing as the invention became less novel, that is, as imitation became less deserving of especial reward. Soon the new industry reached its normal state: the remuneration of printers no longer was exceptionally large, and, like that of scribes in earlier days, it was determined only by the average rate of wages. Thus, production itself became once more the measure of compensation. Yet the invention nonetheless constituted an advance; the saving of time, of labor, of effort to produce a given result, for a fixed number of copies, had nonetheless been realized. But how was this saving manifested? In the cheapness of books. And to whose profit? To the profit of the consumer, of society, of mankind. Printers, who henceforth had no exceptional merit, no longer received an exceptional remuneration. As men, as consumers, they doubtless shared in the advantages that the invention had conferred upon the community. But that was all. In so far as they were printers, in so far as they were producers, they had returned to the conditions that were customary for all the producers to the country. Society paid them for their labor, and not for the usefulness of the invention. That had become the common and freely available heritage of all mankind.

I confess that the wisdom and the beauty of these laws evoke my admiration and respect. In them I see Saint-Simonianism: To each according to his capacity; to each capacity according to its production. In them I see communism, that is to say, the tendency of goods to become the common heritage of men; but a Saint-Simonianism, a communism, regulated by infinite foresight, and in no way abandoned to the frailty, the passions, and the tyranny of men.
What I have said of printing can be said of all the tools of production, from the nail and the hammer to the locomotive and the electric telegraph. Society possesses all of them in having an abundance of consumers' goods; and it possesses them as gratuitous gifts, since their effect is to reduce the price of commodities; and all that part of the price that has been eliminated as a result of the contribution of inventions to production clearly makes the product to that extent free of charge.


In a temperate zone where coal and iron ore are at the surface, one need only stoop down to get them. At first, I readily agree, it is the inhabitants of the favored region who will profit from this lucky circumstance. But soon, as competition develops, the price of coal and iron ore will continue to fall until the gift of Nature is available free of charge to everyone, and human labor alone is remunerated in accordance with the average rate of wages.
Thus, as a result of the operation of the law of supply and demand, the gifts of Nature, like improvements in the processes of production, are—or continually tend to become—the common and gratuitous heritage of the consumers, the masses, mankind in general.


The theory whose outlines I have attempted to sketch in this chapter still stands in need of a great deal of development. I have considered it only in its bearing on the subject of free trade. But perhaps the attentive reader may have perceived in it the fertile seed that is destined, when it matures, to eradicate not only protectionism, but, along with it, Fourierism, Saint-Simonianism, communism, and all those schools of thought that aim at excluding the law of supply and demand from the governance of the world. From the point of view of the producer, competition doubtless often clashes with our immediate self-interest; but, if one considers the general aim of all labor, i.e., universal well-being—in a word, if one adopts the point of view of the consumer—one will find that competition plays the same role in the moral world as equilibrium does in the physical world. It is the basis of true communism, of true socialism, and of that equality of wealth and position so much desired in our day; and if so many sincere publicists and well-intentioned reformers demand arbitrary controls, it is because they do not understand free exchange.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Some short things to ponder

It's late and I'll expand on things soon, but for now:
1. It's not unreasonable to believe that economics (and it's violent distortions) plays as much of a role in foreign policy as much as it does in everything else. The people involved are likely not sentimentalists AT ALL.

2. A deeper perspective on the Dot Bomb and Greenspan. This kind of blew my mind, and if you put as much significance on the financial side of things as I do, perhaps it will blow yours too.

3. Bastiat was really important to the history of left libertarianism in a way most people have never focused on (though I've seen it obliquely mentioned). Re-read "things seen" and perhaps "sophisms" to see what I'm getting at.

4. James Leroy Wilson, inspired by Lady Aster: (emphasis mine)
I will add that in many ways direct welfare payments - giving money to people for doing nothing, is not nearly as bad as "make work" programs, corporate welfare, and unnecessary military hardware.

With welfare, money is taken from person A through taxes, to give to person B. So, the economic choices of A are diminished by that amount, and those of person B increased. There are strong economic and moral arguments against this; I am not defending it, though I don't fault the recipients.

But I'd rather a person be on public support than work at a manufacturing plant that produces tanks or aircraft that the military doesn't need, but that brings profits to the corporate contractor and "jobs" to a Congressional District. Not only is he making his living from other people's taxes, his job is actually doing the economy harm. How so? $10 billion spent on manufacturing unwanted and impractical tanks is $10 billion that could have been spent manufacturing computers, x-ray machines, surgical equipment, cars, homes, or other things that people actually want and need. If we paid his salary directly and let him sit at home all day, we'd be better off. Not as well off as if he manufactured something that a free market would demand, but better off nonetheless, because precious resources wouldn't be used for expensive boondoggles.

Government redistribution of incomes is bad, but government redistribution of capital is worse.

He's on to something big there.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Et Tu, all of you?

I've decided, after being tagged multiply for this book virus thingy, that I'm flattered enough that you're still reading this thing that I'm going to do it. :)

* One book that changed your life:
The Nausea by JP Sartre.
(Unlike many of you folks, I was a libertarian before I knew I was, and I was gradually introduced to the ideas of libertarianism by a mentor.
I eventually outgrew him and became an anarchocapitalist in college. So no one libertarian book opened my eyes to anything.)

However The Nausea made me see that there's more to the world than the dry scientistic public school p.o.v.
I read it at age 13, my dad was an existentialist and he finally let me read it. It devastated me, but afterwards I knew...
There is more, and less, than most people realize out there.

* One book that you have read more than once:
The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
The subtlety and perfection of his pattern recognition only becomes more clear upon multiple re-readings.
I don't know if you can really call it philosophy, but this book is one of the greatest works of genius of all human history.

* One book that you would want on a desert island:
Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce

* One book that made you laugh:
My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist by Mark Leyner

* One book that made you cry:
The Nausea. See above.

* One book you wish had been written:
Equilibrium by Adem Kupi (but there's still time)

* One book you wish never had been written:
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by JM Keynes
This should be a no-brainer. Keynes was more devastating to the world than any other thinker.
I guess that's something to put on your resume... if you're an evil genius.

* One book you are currently reading:
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

* (more than) One book you have been meaning to read:
Calculated Chaos by Butler Shaffer
The Theory of Money and Credit by L Von Mises
A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism by HH Hoppe (curious, mostly)

However I'm going to spare you all and not tag anyone. So there.

Friday, July 28, 2006

3 things worth linking to.

1. Billy Beck lays it down.
(though Churchill was certainly a POS, no matter whether he got this or that point right)
For people that haven't had family living under "communism", it's hard to understand probably just how fucked it was. And the "cold war" was the excuse for the West to expand state power. In truth the world elite were running Leninism over there as an experiment to see how far they could go, to establish a hard limit. (wanna draw a parallel with the US Constitution, feel free)

Though the war of 1812 really was a massive fuckup historically, to say it was a blunder is misleading. It was all part and parcel of the Hamiltonian path. Bringing us back into the fold, so to speak.

2. Jeremy at Social Memory Complex gets to some of the meat on these bones.
"However, is the market really to blame if risky, destablilizing, and hazardous behavior is subsidized from the get-go? "
One of the best sentences you could get about the "market failure" argument.
Remember, folks, markets are really good at rolling up future risks into prices. The stupid pseudo-economists have even noticed this. If this process is inhibited, well, those who are able to take advantage of the places where it is inhibited are getting a risk subsidy that is being thrown on us.
Then that gives the state an excuse to "protect" us (from the risk they subsidized).

3.
And last, but far from least, Stefan Molyneux fires with both barrels.

"An “Arab” doesn’t exist; neither does “Israel” or “Muslim.” There are people and land and trees and sky. There are no “groups.”"
Well fucking said!
"As long as there are Arabs and Jews and Americans and Iranians, our natural brotherhood remains drowned in bloody tribal fantasies. If we refuse to give up our gods and groups and leaders, we will forever live in war and fear and hatred."
And that's it, folks. Right there.
(of course this applies to internal divisions as well... but more on that later...)

Soma is not good enough.

Good lord, people.

You have no idea what you could have been, what you could have accomplished in a free world.

You'd think it was utopia, but only because we live in dystopia right now, that is:
A world that was rationally designed to be terrible for you.

You think it's not so bad 'cause you're used to it.
That's what the people in Indonesia think too. "Oh those 18 hour days in the factory aren't so bad... it could be much worse..."

Fucking Alphas and Betas. You have no idea.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

We spin our wheels and webs.

This comes out of a comment I made on the Mutualist Blog.
Someone came right out and actually stated that profits are inherently monopolistic; which is an annoying "hidden assumption" many leftists bury in their arguments. By pre-assuming it, they therefore have framed it out of being subject to discussion, which makes it hard to argue for markets effectively. In response I said:

The truth is, profits are never self-sustaining, in a milieu of open finance. Under a "capitalist" finance system, sure, because capital funding is restricted to "proven winners" and those with connections.
But under an anarchist financial system, profit can never be more than a sporadic, unpredictable outbreak. As soon as a firm becomes profitable, people will finance competitors, reducing profits back toward the general rate of interest.
As more capital is accumulated, that general rate of interest falls near 0.

Marx saw this, but didn't quite understand it well enough to draw the right implications from it.


Which is probably because he didn't pick up on marginal utility theory. If he had, the world might be quite a different place.

TO CLARIFY: By putting "capitalist" in quotes, I meant to imply the so-called capitalist finance system we are currently living under, which is actually fascistic if anything, with chartered and regulated banking. (which creates the opportunity to expand fractional reserves without being checked by competing banks)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ahh. Where to begin?

I think if anything I've underestimated the horrors of the "Liberal Democratic" ideology. Mea culpa. That doesn't get neo-conservatism off the hook though.

I don't know if I have the time in my life to pick through the massive, fundamental delusions that constitute that mindset(either one), in order to find some sort of basic reality that can be built on. Even if there was something to be learned from observing these folks, the slimy, icky unreason coating it is too repellent to dig through.

I'm sorry, I just have better things to do. You guys, go ahead and vote each other into the ground. Just expect me to put up the best fight I can against any of it touching me or mine.

I feel like the political equivalent of one of HP Lovecraft's narrators now.

Thanks to Vache Folle for diving into the muck for me, and pulling this out:
Why Do Democrats Hate Libertarians?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Speaking of Wings,

Per Bylund is someone else who I tend to enjoy reading quite a bit, and I think he hits the nail on the head in a way that is refreshingly intuitive in this article in Strike The Root:
Free Market Thinking: Not Applicable

Sunday, June 11, 2006

You might not expect this from me but I enjoy reading Billy Beck. I think he's made a few errors here and there, but then again most people have. I certainly have, I'm sure, if you go back over my words with a critical enough eye. But he's a man of reason, and I'm all for that.

On his latest post, he digs into the "libertarian-left" connection in a way that I think needs addressing, if nothing else. A quote that I think sums the thing up well:
"What I might need from them would be, say, a basic common-sense endorsement of the principle of private property, and they're never going to do that. Do you understand? That's why they're on "the left", and until they're not, there is nothing serious to "talk" with them about."

Well, this is the problem. That "the left" has come to mean "people who are against capitalism". Well, there's no way around it using modern terminology. This is a "zaxlebax problem" akin to calling currently existing "capitalism" a free market, when it's clearly not.
And this is going to be a problem for people reaching out to "the left" for quite some time. Because they themselves have internalized that definition such that it galls them on a deep level to admit that private property is inherently just, even in principle (if not in current practice), and they fear unrestrained human action, because they've also internalized the "hobbsean perspective" that people are essentially maniacs that need to be molded and restrained. Until "the left" does not subscribe to those principles, our role in reaching out to them must be primarily one of disabusing them of those notions. Go to Jim Henley's blog sometime and read some of the anti-libertarian screeds by some of the liberal commenters. This is what we're up against. People who claim that Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith were not proto-libertarian.

Now the converse, however, does not apply. Libertarians should not have much to do with what passes for "the right" anymore (except perhaps some of the paleoconservatives). We can see where that got us. They have nothing more than lip-service for "private property" if even that. And what they mean by it is more akin to "feudal property" than anything we'd endorse as "private". "Economic freedom" to them is merely a trifle, a political foil to be discarded when it becomes inconvenient to their real project (which I believe is to forge a caste system), just as "civil liberties" are for the left.
The right is more dangerous to us because they sort of talk the talk, and so they are immersed in a massive fraud and/or self-deception. Whereas most of the left just have bad ideas, but they actually mean it (with all the fuzzy-brained confusion that implies), so you can kind of argue with them about it. My approach to dealing with the right would be to expose their contradictions to a point where they admit what they really believe, and then at that point, we can "reach out" to them too.

Now as for myself, I don't consider myself part of any wing of the political bird. I just want to stop the whole filthy business altogether. Or at least, to show people what they're really dealing with, and let them sort it out.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

coming soon to theatres...

America, Freedom to Fascism -

"FOUR STARS" (Highest Rating).The scariest goddamn film you'll see this year. It will leave you staggering out of the theatre, slack-jawed and trembling. Makes 'Fahrenheit 9/11' look like 'Bambi.' After watching this movie, your comfy, secure notions about America -- and about what it means to be an American -- will be forever shattered. Producer/director Aaron Russo and the folks at Cinema Libre Studio deserve to be heralded as heroes of a post-modern New American Revolution. This is shocking stuff. You'll be angry, you'll be disgusted, but you may actually break out in a cold sweat and feel a sickness deep in your gut; I would advise movie theatre managers to hand out vomit bags. You may end up needing one."

--- Todd David Schwartz, CBS

This is the best review really, that a movie like this could get. It means that it will impact people on a level where their SERIOUSLY EMBEDDED PROGRAMMING won't be able to filter the message. If I were to make a political movie I'd want people to leave the theatre crying and trembling with rage.
Because if you haven't said "fuck all those motherfuckers" you aren't there yet.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Straight Dope

You know what it really comes down to?

I don't care what politics you think you believe.

Just become ungovernable. The rest will sort itself out.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Comments

I apologize for all the missing comments, people. Apparently I had "moderate comments" checked and didn't realize it. Your comments should all come through now.

So if I haven't responded to your comments, that was why (I wasn't ignoring anyone!). I'll try to do so as I go back through the posts, but you might not see them.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

By the way

Sorry about the dearth of updates this month, but it seems like it's not just me.

May is crazy month, I guess. (as the first month after Tax Slavery Month, I guess maybe that might have something to do with it)

Also, sorry about the slew of unfinished multi-parters. I'll try and get all those threads woven together soon.
--------------------------------
One of my favorite methods, or techniques is the "there's no such thing as..." approach. I first encountered it when reading a book called "There's no such thing as Hypnosis". The book goes on to teach hypnosis, of course, but the idea behind the title is that there's no particular thing which you can separate out and point at and say "that and only that's hypnosis!".

Some things to keep in mind:
1. There's no such thing as "the economy".
2. There's no such thing as "a market".
3. There's no such thing as "society".

I'm sure you will encounter many more no such things, now that you know to look for them.

on inequality and its discontents, part I

One thing also that must be understood is that just as there is a black market at the bottom, there is one at the top...

The difference in effective wealth between a DuPont or Rockefeller and a successful trial lawyer is greater than the difference between that trial lawyer and a homeless bum. Far greater. The power curve looks like a capital J. I feel safe in saying that no one reading this is on the vertical part, or even on the curvy part, most likely. (which starts when you're dealing with multi-millions, I think)

We're almost all proletarians, here. Fighting the upper middle class as a class enemy is pointless.
Trying to forge solidarity of interests may go farther, but it's still a tough battle within the Spectacle.
(If the House Slaves identify with the Masters, it makes a slave revolt harder to pull off.)
This may change as "the economy" (which is many different things depending on who is saying it) gets more strained.

The government is often driven to suppress the upper middle class in order to create more equality among the proletariat, because it secures the position of the elite (those who don't have to obey "the law" made by the elite). However, this also makes the Spectacle more unstable (which is why sometimes they have to promote UMC interests against the lower classes - divide and conquer). Ultimately this instability is the thin wedge that we have to pin our hopes on. This is why exposing, mocking, analysing and denying the reality of the Spectacle* is our best tactic.

By the way, this mechanism is also fractal. There are elites within elites, untouchables among the untouchables.

Part II will deal with why the Government is a special factor in this mechanism, and why liberty is the ultimate political goal.

* - sometimes called the Matrix, Conventional Wisdom, or the Granfalloon.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Happy May Day!

Today is International Labor Solidarity Day!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Issues And Problems with Objectivism Part I

I'd like to talk about it without being snarky or dismissive. This of course could be interpreted as giving it too much credit, and thus an implicit sanction. But this kind of "meta-argument", often used by Objectivists themselves, is one of the issues I have. By not engaging something except dismissively, you leave a "back door" open for the ideas to persist and resist correction. This is why people still haven't buried "Intelligent Design" or, rather why it took so long. I think that door is pretty much closed now. A good, thoughtful satire can do the trick. But satire is more than mere snark. A good satire gets close enough to the roots of the thing it satirizes that the analogy can regress back to the original argument. Making fun of conclusions, in a "that's crazy talk!" kind of way, doesn't help, and often hurts. It just reinforces the adherents and allows them to circle the wagons, using the snark against itself.

First off, the Objectivist concept of "objectivity" leaves some things to be desired. I definitely believe that existence exists. Reality is real. But that's a vast oversimplification. The reality that comes to me through my senses is "real", in fact its the only thing I can possibly define as real without going into metaphysical speculations. However, science has shown us that the reality in my brain has been filtered and altered by my sense organs and brain. A man with myopia lives in a blurry reality. A color-blind person lives in a reality where "red" and "green" are the same thing.
To get to the bottom of what's going on between all our reality tunnels, we've developed science, to discover testable and replicable "truths" that can withstand the highest levels of scepticism. These do however rely on our perceptions of experimental data as well, but the idea is that if enough people examine the data, they'll come up with something reasonably "objective". The idea of gravity? Pretty fucking objective, if you ask me.
Outside of this kind of objectivity the only other kind is objectivity of necessity. This is the realm of say... Austrian economics. Predicated on ontological necessities, and logically valid, the foundations of austrian economics are, IMO, pretty much unassailable and objective.
I think that many Objectivists get these two kinds of objectivity confused. (For that matter so do some Austrian economists) Now deriving a philosophical base from ontological necessities, requires that you have some. The ones that Austrian Economics derives from are pretty solid: "there is scarcity" and "people act to reduce this scarcity".
One of the mistakes Objectivists make in their ontology relates to the confusion I spoke of above. Not only does existence exist (and therefore, being as well), but they believe that the naive empirical reality they see is an objective perspective.
(now the more sophisticated ones might claim that only a perfectly functioning person will perceive Objective Reality, but I have some problems with that too)
This is almost a variation of Anselm's ontological proof, except with Objectivist man as the self-grounding causa sui. Maybe if the Objectivists studied Existential ontology, they could shape up their philosophy a bit.
But it gets worse. They claim that things have "natures" and that everything acts according to its nature. Well, in a definitional sense that's true. An orange is an orange because it's a round orange citrus fruit. But here, I see a lot of them making the mistake of swapping Identity for Definition. In other words they slip into a sort of pseudo-platonism, in which an orange is a round citrus fruit because that is the nature of an "orange".
This is how they can separate themselves from being "Libertarians" (and the weird claim that libertarians are worse than communists, etc... is that on the grounds that "libertarians" make liberty look bad by trying to justify it with bad reasoning?).
But definitionally, "Libertarian" means someone who supports Liberty. So by definition all objectivists are libertarians. In fact, if they were right about having the one true justification for liberty, they'd be the only real libertarians.
Of course, most 'libertarians' make the same identity vs. definition error, and are not libertarians at all, no matter what they say.
You can call a cantaloupe "an orange" all you like, but that doesn't make it one.
In general, the pattern I get from reading them, is that Objectivists make a lot of oversimplifications, extend their arguments beyond their proper scope, and think that they are hooked into Objective Reason.
There's also a very strange tendency because of this to have very skewed political/social/economic views. Usually, their logic might well be very tight, but their premises are almost always based on variations of the identity error and oversimplifications. They tend to use the "lesser of two evils" argument way beyond any reasonable scope. (thus the ridiculous blood-thirsty republicanism of some Objectivists) One might wonder, if they were living in Germany in 1927, for whom they would vote. (I'm not casting aspersions about crypto-nazism, btw. They might well vote for the communists as the lesser of two evils. But after they did so would they promote communism as a force for good in Germany?)

One question that I've never heard of an Objectivist giving a good answer to is why we should have a government. Now, I'm not arguing that we don't know the objective limits to when force should or shouldn't be used. We do. Defending self-ownership, is a pretty good, albeit short way of putting it.
The problem is this:
I am self-owning. This is where my rights come from, including my right to self-defence. I may, if I wish, hire an agent to better protect my rights, to delegate that task to them, so to speak. However, I am not obligated to (nor do I have a positive right to get defense services for free). And there certainly can be no one pre-determined agent that has a claim on this job (what makes them so special?).
Now, as I've said, if a minimal self-defense state were maintained by robots, or maybe REALLY integral, intelligent people, it could be morally permissible to have one. But it still doesn't seem mandatory or necessary to have one.

There's more on all of this, and I might need to flesh some of it out, but this is a good starting point.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Unbundle the Zaxlebax!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Roderick Long is one of my favorite people at the Mises Institute.

Recently, he gave the Rothbard Memorial Lecture at the Austrian Scholars Conference.

The whole thing is wonderful of course, but the part that struck the hardest for me was when he spoke of anti-concepts and package-deal terms. This is an enormously important thing for everyone to understand, and not only in the context of socio-political thought. I think this is one of the patterns that trips people up all too frequently. It is a fundamental building block of critical reasoning.
Of course, I would say (and I think Prof. Long would agree) that this thing of ours, is essentially critical reasoning properly applied to the socio-political sphere.
In that realm, I find that the biggest stumbling block to speaking clearly with anyone about politics seriously, are these package deal terms.
Most of my real life friends would, if anything, call themselves socialists. A few consider themselves capitalists. But almost all of them end up endorsing positions that are, if they could think about them clearly, terrible and inhumane. But they can't think about them clearly, because they've already absorbed a metric ton of presuppositions about how the universe works that clearly aren't possible. Yet unfortunately, cognitive dissonance and social pressure keep them frozen in their boxes. If you point out the contradictions, they become uncomfortable, and you seem like a "crazy idealist" or something like that.
Public schooling is largely to blame for this, and of course that's why it's one of the really unassailable institutions in our society. I mean, you can criticize it all you like, but if you talk about abolishing public schools, people freak out.
As I've said before, I think that hard reality is the only ally we really have. Underneath it all, people's desire to survive and thrive is stronger than their ideology. Only when statism becomes untenable will it be demolished. And in that post-collapse gap, that's when we have a chance to keep it from reviving.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Theories of Value, Part I

Recently, Kevin Carson's Studies In Mutualist Political Economy was featured in the Journal of Libertarian Studies, edited by Roderick Long, one of my favorite thinkers among the Mises Crew. The JLS was the Austrian response to the Studies.
Though some of the responses (notably Reisman's and to some extent, Block's) were a bit silly, most of them focused on his revised Labor Theory of Value. This is the biggest theoretical difference of opinion between Austrian and Mutualist economics, most likely. (the other being discussed by Prof. Long, the difference between usufruct and lockean homesteading approaches. It's not that big a difference that a non-economist would likely notice it.)

As you may have guessed, either from the title of this blog, or by reading enough of it, I don't exactly agree with either approach. Yet, I believe that they have more in common than one might think. (I certainly don't wish a pox on either the Neo-Austrian economists nor the Carsonian Mutualists, btw. I think between them, there is an almost complete reconstruction of a general social science, in fact.)

I think the roots of all production cost are time, energy, natural resources and luck*. A "good" that requires very little of any of these to produce will not be as scarce, and in general its marginal value will be lower, than a "good" that requires more of any of these to produce, given the same desire for it. Now desire is the most subjective factor in all of this. No matter how hard it is to make a feces-covered brick, I don't want one. And things that are more desirable, will command a higher price, given the same difficulty of production.
Value, or marginal scarcity, is a very complex factor depending on raw expenditure of production and desire, and comes from both. Both of these are "subjective" but bound each other. I'd love a supercomputer, but I don't want to break my ass too much for one.

* chemistry and cooking are two fields where luck comes into play in successful production.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A new ally

"I could also point out that if libertarianism were to try to dismantle the state while selectively attacking social benefits for the poor while ignoring the structural advantages of the rich, the result would be that the working class would make one great rush for the local state socialist party's recruiting office while classical liberalism remained the party of a few intellectuals and middle-class eccentrics out of touch with social reality. I rather submit that this is what has been happening for the last 150 years or so." (emphasis mine)

- Lady Aster

Exactly! And so well put.
One interesting pattern that I bring up when speaking with state socialists of the Euro-phile variety is "liberate the worst first". Because the blindness I see in them is that they make the same mental error of the conservatives, which is the belief that the poor are actually objectively inferior to the rich. Their answer is to paternalistically care for them rather than kill them off. The libertarian rejoinder should be to liberate them first, and see what they can do for themselves. Then we'll be in a position to liberate the next stratum. Of course it would be best if we all woke up free and peaceful tomorrow, but if we have to make a trade off, let's liberate the worst first.
And more specifically, let's focus on bringing liberty to the third world, and the pockets of the third world which have blossomed in the first world. (when I heard those terms for the first time, I always wondered "what's the second world?" )
If through inflation and licensing and "petty" tyranny, the worst off among us are kept down, we'll never really be free. Unless you advocate starving them out or killing them off in wars, in which case you're an Archon and my objective enemy, plain and simple.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

While we're at it...

Let me point out that there was a half-million person mobilization against HR4437, and that it was largely self-organizing. This is something that fills my heart with joy to see and I am in full solidarity with it. (sorry had to cut out the pics, too much load time)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Reiteration and Clarification, Part I

I'd like to re-iterate, and hopefully clarify, my position on this thing of ours, so you know what you're getting into.

First of all, I'd like to say that I am a libertarian by definition, not by identity. What I mean here is that I am only a libertarian because the definition fits me. I don't make a conscious effort to fit into a libertarian set of check boxes. (I used to, but I've grown past that, I think, or I just grew tired of it maybe)

What I do believe is that everyone owns themself. No one else owns anyone else, even in tiny little parts. You can try to nit-pick that with me, and that can be a fun game, but I'm certainly not going to take it seriously. That is the line in the sand that I've drawn. And I mean this in an ethical sense. In any other sense, ownership of another person is ridiculously impossible. You can't get me to do anything without my consent on some level. All you can do is constrain my physical situation. Doing so in a way that tries to assert ownership over me is unethical, IMO. Because it's based on a lie.
Because of this, I see fraud as much more dangerous and fundamental to crime than force. Force is the end point, the bottom line of last resort. But force creates counterforce as the United States government keeps revealing, though they don't seem to be learning the lesson very well. What is more difficult to overcome is being tricked into giving up some piece of life force for ersatz goods. This is the fundamental scheme that the financial criminals and governments use to assert their primary dominance over the people of the earth.
Liberty, in my opinion, is merely the absence of Crime. Crime, not as defined by legislature, which is another form of fraud, but the normal, everyday intuitive sense of crime. Murder, assault, theft, rape, swindles, that sort of thing.
A perfect Liberty is a situation where such things do not exist at all. This is probably not an achievable situation, but it constitutes an asymptote, a limit towards which true libertarians wish to carry society above all else. And I reserve the right to use the phrase "true libertarians" because I mean people who are libertarian by the definition of the word, not people who identify as libertarians. This is not a "no true scotsman" argument.

Anarchy on the other hand is a situation where no one is given the authority to commit crimes. They might still get away with it, but by and large people don't believe they are entitled to. Every Archon is a criminal. By definition. Someone who convinces you to do something honestly isn't a ruler over you but simply a wise man. No one wants to believe that they are not free, that their world is a lie. So it is easier for a lot of people to think that they are being led by statesmen.

The job of the anarchist is to point out that this is not so. What people do with that information will vary, as do people.

And so in all of this, my position on various issues is informed by these ideas. To get rid of the swindle, and secondly to reduce crime. This is why I have no qualms about supporting either the student protests in France (maintaining self defense against plutocratic crimes), nor the "Harass the Brass" direct action campaign to end the war.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

On the GWOT

This explains my position on the "Global War On Terror" very succinctly. <- link, click it

Now, I don't like terrorism at all. But my definition of it is probably different than the "official" one (surprise surprise). Yet mine encompasses pretty well, I think, the intuitive understanding of what "terrorism" is.
That definition is "the infliction of damage on non-combatants for a strategic goal".

Part of what galls me about it is that the terrorist mindset recruits everyone into a position against their will (you're either with us or against us). And that's kind of the root of my anarchism, that no one should be forced to participate in something they don't agree with. Let the fighters fight, and leave the rest of us the hell alone.

My solution to terrorism, arm everyone and let people form privateer squads to take out terrorists. It would totally work, of course, and that's why it will never happen under statism. Because just as the drug lords use their ill-gotten gains to fund the 'drug war', the terrorists use theirs to fund the 'war on terror'.

"Oceania has always been at war with Terrorism"

Friday, March 17, 2006

The way Howdt

Dr Lenny at the Zone mentioned me on his blog, so I checked him out. Very nice science/natural resource stuff. He's got an interesting approach to his thought processes that I like. He goes well with To Herd or Not to Herd.

He wrote something that got me thinking about why I'm doing this. Really, what we're all trying to do here is to keep crosslinking to each other to leverage each others ideas. In this way, the more unique our particular approach becomes, we might get fewer readers, but they'll be different ones, different entry points into the crosslink network. And ideally at least some of them will become one of us. Eventually we can reach that turning point faster than you might imagine.
But either way, it provides sustenance to all the other pro-liberty activities going on. It gets people to think in new ways about their ideas and to go off in new directions hopefully.

Interestingly, Kevin Carson just posted something really good about Pharm and Patents, which I think Dr Lenny and his readers might dig.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Steam Engine Time

One thing I've noticed is that as communication becomes more dense and interactive, certain concepts pop up out of the blue all over the place at once.

One of these is a reification of the idea of what a 'market' is. Statists and anti-statists alike often seem to fall into the trap of taking the metaphor of a market too literally and treating it as a noun, as a specific institution the way a 'school' or a 'hospital' is. And this leads to all kinds of weird attempts to fix it or replace it with something else. But the primary concept has already been lost, you're working on an abstraction of an abstraction at that point. What a 'market' is, IMO, is a metaphor for trading in the aggregate. But Sunni Maravillosa had a very elegant (and entertaining) way of making the point:
Markets and Marketplaces

Some other links that are illustrative here:
Kevin Carson on the "Crunchy Cons"
Inadvertent support for free markets in an anti-capitalist reader

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More Poxes for everyone!

Lew Rockwell, in quotes, from his latest article, with commentary by me.

Against the Left:
"The typical response of the left is to say that they want a state that does only good things such as share and care, and not bad things such as steal and kill. But this cannot be. We might as well wish for a lion that only purrs and cuddles, or a rattlesnake that only provides percussion accompaniment to mariachi music. The very nature of the state is that it exists only through and for compulsion. To imagine otherwise is not to face reality."

And even its "sharing and caring" functions are at best iatrogenic.
Civil society could do anything the government does, if people wanted it to. But it's easier to let someone else handle it. (especially because we ourselves are under the gun, and have so little time and energy to help others with)

Against the Right:
"The question we have to ask ourselves is whether a society that fails to learn the art of civilization will erect and sustain a state that will impose civilization on the people. I submit that history also teaches that when a people are brutal and uncivilized, the state is even more so. The state is rarely and maybe never better than the people it rules; in fact, it is almost always worse."

I would add, that the state through its propaganda/mind control engines (education, PR and inflation), invariably makes the surrounding culture worse and worse, thus creating more clamor for "order" imposed from above.

The Bad News:
"Thus do we have the central bank to create money for the state. Thus do we have paper money that can be created in unlimited quantities. Thus do we have deposit insurance to make banks failure proof, so that the masses will never doubt that the credit pyramid is immortal. Thus do we have the fed's power to manipulate interest rates and control the flow of credit to the system."

The "evils of capitalism" do exist. But their source is at the root of the money/credit system itself. By definition, "capitalism" is not free trade, but a system whereby the means of production is in the hands of capitalists, or in other words, financiers. This condition can only come about through violent/fradulent intervention.
It is an unfortunate orwellianism that "capitalism" has come to mean both our capital finance system and free trade. They are not the same thing. IMO, "socialism" (in its orwellian meaning - the means of production in the hands of the state) is merely an advanced stage of "capitalism" (in its orwellian meaning). The oligopoly getting replaced by a monopoly. Ironically as this "progression" occurs, it creates a semi-cooperative society among the ruling class where they agree to share our slave labor amongst themselves.

The Good News:
"If any state could rule without propaganda, it would surely do so. Why then do states find educational control and the propagation of the civic religion in their interest? Because at some level, every state, in all times and places, is required to seek the tacit consent of those it governs. No state can control a society by use of the sword only and alone. It must also seek some degree of ideological conformity with its own goals. Otherwise its rule becomes threatened and destabilized." (italics mine)

All we really have to do is generate the understanding that the state is a form of organized crime. The rest will take care of itself, as people act spontaneously to avoid and free themselves from this uber-mafia, to the extent and by the method and form that they wish to.

PS - is anyone still reading this? Heh. I feel so Nockian lately...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I've never done one of these on this blog before, so apologies in advance if you find it jarring. :)
But I was kind of flattered to be tagged (by Brad Spangler), and I don't talk about my self much if at all here in general, so this might be a good way to release some small bits about me. So here it is, the "Meme of Fours":

Four Jobs I’ve Had
1. Roofer (fixing roofs on houses)
2. Java Programmer
3. Waiter
4. Network Technician

Four Movies I can watch over and over
1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2. Serenity
3. The Ninth Configuration (find it watch it love it)
4. The Matrix (the first one)

Four Places I’ve lived
1. New York City
2. Brooklyn, NY
3. New Haven, CT
4. Anchorage, AK

Four TV shows I love:
1. Deadwood
2: Cowboy Bebop
3. Firefly
4. Futurama

Four highly regarded and recommended TV shows I haven’t seen (much of):
No thanks.

Four places I’ve vacationed:
1. Nakhon Ratachasima, Thailand
2. Denver, CO
3. Cologne, West Germany (it was still west then)
4. Seattle, WA

Four of my favorite dishes:
1. Filet Mignon / Hanger Steak
2. Bacon
3. Chicken Ceasar Salad
4. Grilled Swordfish

Four sites I visit daily:
1. Achewood
2. Lew Rockwell
3. Mutualist Blog
4. Strike The Root

Four places I’d rather be right now:
1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2. Amsterdam, Netherlands
3. Lake Lucerne, Switzerland
4. Costa Rica

Four bloggers I’m tagging:
1. Black Guile
2. Jeremy
3. Vache Folle
4. Wally Conger
(I tried to pick people who might actually do this)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Disciplined Minds

This is the title of a book written by Jeff Schmidt, who worked for 16 years at Physics Today and was fired for writing it.

The subtitle is "A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-Battering System That Shapes Their Lives"

Christopher Bradley wrote a very interesting review of this book over [here]

Let me pull out some choice bits:
Schmidt hits on the head when he talks about "constrained curiosity". They are disciplined to have internalized the system to such an extent that they are free to "do what they want" -- because they have been so rigorously vetted by the system, in the first place, that employeers know that very few professionals are capable of framing a thought that is incompatible with the system they serve. So a journalist working for the New York Times is simply incapable of writing a story that doesn't support the status quo; by the time they are even considered for employment by the NYT their ideological credentials have been demonstrated a thousand times in a thousand ways; any ideologically incorrect thought that such a journalist presents is likely a transient misunderstanding of the desires of the NYT management and swiftly changed (and by that time, likely without even a twinge of remorse). Professionals are workers that the management, the employeers, the people in charge of the system, can trust.
----------
That's a big difference and it explains why the education system is designed the way it is -- to eliminate so many from professional jobs. Most people can't do it. They might be able to turn off their consciousness and just do a job for eight or ten hours a day, just pass the time in thoughtless repetition of the job, but to be at work for eight or ten hours a day and to be thinking would draw their attention time and again to the strangeness of what it is they're doing. Get too many people like that together in an office, thinking but not thinking about the creative task at hand, and you're asking for a revolution. So people in these creative jobs, well, a different sort of compulsion is required. The non-professional worker the employeers can just compel through force (not just the stick to the head, but the slower but equally deadly unemployment); the professional worker has to be tricked into accepting their role in the system because their creativity and energy are needed in specific ways that different qualitatively from non-professional workers. Since most people lack the ideological discipline necessary to be professionals, well, you gotta get rid of them. Efficiently and in a way that doesn't reveal the ideological nature of the selection. Through the use of the "neutral" arbitrarion of education and professional credentials to create the illusion that when a student fails it's "their fault" -- because most people believe education is largely value free.
----------
The book is explicit that most people actually learn the technical skills on the job -- the education and certification process is largely ideological; so, if every physicist on earth vanished today the technicians who set up the experiments, grad students, interested amateurs and the rest could largely pick up where the "professionals" left off with little trouble. For me this was an important piece of information, as well. I have long felt there is an arrogant bias in the professions concerning the depths of their knowledge, but often when talking with professionals I have felt sorta surprised about how little they know. Or, rather, they seem to know a great deal about a very narrow sub-set of a field and often lack what I'd consider to be the basics and often lack an ability to qualitatively describe what they're doing, or have done.

I mean, I've known for a while now that professionals aren't necessary for a field to continue and advance, and often a hinderance to it -- but only historically. The example I use is the massive glut medical knowledge that happened in Revolutionary France when all the learned aristocrats were thrown out of medical practice. The quality of medicine dramatically improved when the doctors were fired . . . or, y'know, executed 'cause it was Revolutionary France. There are other examples as well -- like the reason why 19th century German chemistry and physics was so much better than everyone else's was because Germany opened up their universities to the middle classes, letting a large number of people with different values into the system to its great benefit.


...anyway you should probably go ahead and read the whole thing.

Link