Sunday, November 19, 2006

Plant Seeds in Fertile Soil

On my blog and in my discussions I'm extremely blunt. Anarcho-Capitalist. No government, free market. I'm sure this drives a lot of people crazy and turns them off immediately, so I'm considering rethinking that tactic. After all, if nobody is listening to you except people that already agree with you, you end up trapped in a world where you vehemently think everyone else is wrong and nobody cares.

We use two different kinds of words these days. We use descriptors and names. "Automobile" is a descriptor. "Car" is a name. We want a descriptor which has positive, or at the very least, non-negative implications. In absence of such a descriptor, it's better to use a name.

Libertarian was a pretty good descriptor, but has recently become a name. And that name has become associated with the Libertarian Party and the huge number of people who call themselves libertarians have no principle or consistency. They advocate one tax because it eliminates another, and advocate gay marriage frequently without considering the possibility of abolishing state marriage. So it has implications that we want to avoid; it is no longer consistent in the public mind with our goals.

Panarchy is one possible descriptor. It does have the drawbacks of being a word nobody has heard of before, and being impossible to explain without leading them to think you actually mean "anarchy".

Acracy is also unintuitive and impossible to explain without saying "no government".

But I think I've found a good descriptor.

"Market government" is a contradiction in terms, the two are completely at odds, which invalidates the "government" part while not retaining that appearance. But consider the implications of saying "Market Government" to someone you're trying to convert. They'll think you're a little fringe, which you are, anarchism isn't mainstream no matter what you call it, but their minds are not reflexively closed to the idea. It takes the immediate burden off of proving that we are better off without government (as well as setting aside such considerations as "what about the roads/what about the poor/what about my favorite program) and shifts it to allowing you to explain that you believe government services should be provided by the market, offering you a choice of governments and allowing you to choose the best government for yourself.

This allows you to lead people into the idea rather than the usual response to anarchism, which is to distance oneself as much as possible and criticize it from afar, not bothering to check the validity of any points but rejecting them outright and then seeking a way to dismiss them as patently absurd without needing to actually refute them.

You do not need to tell them that roads, police, and courts may be provided by three seperate companies. If they ask about that, you could say "If the market supports that kind of service division, it does so because that is how the customers want it." This way you can advocate a totally free market without government controls. If they ask "Who governs the government services?" ask a similar question which applies to the present day such as "Who governs the United States?" The obvious answer to either is "the people", although people's power over governments would be much greater with a free-market government than with a central monopoly government.

I'd like to see anarcho-capitalism marketed as "market government" to see if people are truly more responsive and acceptant of the ideas. Showing someone the ideas from the inside before telling them what they're looking at will make it so that even if they quickly figure out that you are advocating anarchism, they will have seen the reasons behind the idea from the inside. This is a good way to deal with the problem of people judging ideas by their labels.

Anarcho-capitalists and libertarians, once realizing the basic truths of anarchism, rarely change and become republicans or democrats. They may abandon the term anarchy, but they do not abandon the ideas. You can show someone the ideas, and if their mind is open, they may never fully abandon those ideas, even if the reject the name given to them.

If you can show them why the market works and why the monopolies do not, it is easy to advocate anarchism under the title "Market Government" and get a number of curious interested people introduced to the basic premises of anarchism before they reject it. It performs the critical function of planting the seeds of truth, which, if nurtured, grow and become stronger until a metaphorical tree of knowledge is planted in them, which they will have a hard time denying if you continue to ask them about it from time to time.

Plow the dirt, get their mind ready for the ideas. If you don't have an open mind, you can only plant in barren land.
Then sow the seeds. Introduce them to the fundamental principles like market vs government, and explain the advantages of the market.
Then water the seeds by citing how the ideas work in various specific instances. Why they are protected from their neighbor advocating shariah law, for instance.
The seed will grow roots into their mind, and become almost impossible to uproot to replace with another tree. Hack as they may at the branches, they might never pull up the roots.
And eventually, if the tree grows large enough, the ideas may spread when the tree bears fruit and plants it's own seeds later on.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Deep Anarchy

I'm a Deep Anarchist. This is more of a perspective of anarchism than a kind of anarchism.

Deep Anarchy is looking at the State as a shared delusion, like a religion, rather than as a concrete entity. Rather than assume government, as most people do, it assumes no government, and treats the actions of certain people acting in their capacity as a government as merely individuals acting under the delusion of working for a ruling body.

We already live in anarchy. Let us assume that States exist. The State can only use authority where it's agents (police) are there to enforce it. Because police are limited, the reach of the State is inherently limited. At any particular time, the police can only control a certain limited area. They can't be everywhere or see everything. In fact, they can't be most places at most times. Unless there is a police officer close enough to you to protect you, you are essentially in a state of anarchy. At that moment, you can act without fear of police action. The fact that these anarchies exist should be obvious. Without them, crime would be impossible. People today can smoke a joint, mug a passerby, fuck a whore, and any number of other illegal activities because they do so in a state of anarchy. The potential for the anarchy to be broken by the presence of a police officer drives them to avoid the police.

But States are arbitrary mental groupings of only cognitively related objects (in this case people and buildings). "States" are imaginary. The people forming the State are certainly real.

If we just assume that States do not exist, and look at bureaucrats and cops for what they really are, bureaucrats and cops, individual people, who exercise violent and coercive authority over others, then the situation looks different. Enforcement action taken by the DEA, rather than appear to be anarchy being broken by the presence of police, becomes overt and unremorseful theft between individuals acting under anarchistic circumstances. This is the worldview that results from the perspective of Deep Anarchy.

I should take the time to note that anarchy does not mean chaos. It means statelessness. A lack of some kind of monopoly ruling body. People will still be people without the government. Their values will not suddenly change. Peaceful people will continue to be peaceful and violent people will continue to be violent. The violent would not see a lack of police as a green light for rampant killing of innocents. Especially under anarchy, where peaceful people would not face police harassment and imprisonment for carrying their most effective means of self defense with them. Police, as noted above, cannot be everywhere, and cannot enforce justice everywhere. The people at large can defend themselves better than the police can defend them, and they can defend each other even better still. The violent, while they might no longer fear enforcement action by the police, will suddenly have much more to fear from enforcement action by victims and other peaceful people. The green light for killing sprees will become a red light when the potential victims are finally freed to defend themselves without restriction imposed by government. The cocky hardass gangstaz will rethink their criminal intentions if faced with aptly free and well-armed potential victims. They might be cocky hardasses, but they're not suicidal sadomasochists.

Question as much as you can. Assume as little as possible. Question government, and do not assume government, and you may reach similar conclusions as mine.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Searching for Ownership

One of the central ideas of Libertarianism and rational morality is Ownership. It's also the one that has given me the most trouble to test the soundness of. To my advantage it is an almost universally accepted concept which rarely comes into question except in the case of Tradtional Anarchists who deny Ownership, so I never have to actually explain it to people.

But that's not good enough for me. This is after all an idea on which the concept of rights are built. Should the concept of Ownership have no valid justification at all, then the only valid philosophy would be Traditional Anarchism, and if I cannot prove that Ownership exists, how can I say that rights exist?

It is insufficient for me to ask "What is the alternative to Ownership?" first because I can only speak from the perspective of someone who has lived his entire life in a world of Ownership, and second because it does not prove a reasonable basis for Ownership except a utilitarian one, and as utility is subjective. I could certainly discuss the ramifications of abolition of ownership, and it would not be pretty at all in my opinion.

I could talk about scarcity and value, and how life must consume resources, and how in a world where resources are not infinite nor omnipresent it becomes necessary to allocate resources, but this could at best be an arguement for possession, not ownership.

I could talk about how peace is desirable, and that ownership is repsected because failure to respect it results in violence...but this would be accepting Non-ownership as a basis to disprove Non-ownership while simealtaneously assuming Ownership to prove Ownership. I suppose ownership is subjective, but I do want some firmer, objective foundation for it.

Perhaps a combination of these are why the very idea of owning something is never questioned. People just don't want to question it because the results of questioning it might result in long-held beliefs simply falling apart.

Hence is the quest for truth. If I cannot refute Non-ownership nor prove Ownership, I might have little choice but to accept Non-ownership. Unless perhaps Ownership builds upon Non-ownership, but I haven't figured out how that might work yet. I certainly like Ownership, and don't want to give up the idea as unfounded. But in intellectual honesty if I can't give it a foundation it won't hold up to any criticism. It is unlikely that Ownership will be criticized by anyone I encounter, but I still like the security of having a sound basis for it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Free Your Mind To Free Your Body

On top of the irrational beliefs in gods and governments, there is an equally pervasive belief in compulsory wearing of clothing. Stand back and look at this objectively for a moment.

You come out of your mom's womb. You were not born with clothing. Hence is man's natural state. It is not by nature than humans must wear clothing almost purpetually.

Some might claim that nudity promotes lust. I contend that there's actually nothing inherently wrong with that, but that it's untrue anyways. Nudity is not inherently sexual. Yes, you are generally naked when you have sex. But I can point out plenty of other times that you're naked that you're not having sex.

Ask yourself the following question: "What is the function of the bathing suit?"

It doesn't make you more wet. If it does, it makes you more wet when you want to be dry. It impedes your swimming, so it's certainly not designed to make you a better swimmer except in recordsetting and flotation swimsuits. Does it dissuade sexual fantasy?

The very act of hiding genitalia creates sexual mystery. Wearing a bright red bikini attracts attention directly to the genitalia and then says "No! You can't look here!"

Imagine I shout at you to come look at something and then as you get closer I put it in a box and tell you "You can't see it." Is that going to make you want to see it more or is that going to make you want to ignore it? Now, if I called you over to look at something and showed you a glass of water, with nothing unusual about it, it's not exactly like all other glasses of water but it's not terribly different, what would you think then? You'd ask me what's so special about it as if you were obviously missing something because if you weren't you certainly didn't want to spend your time looking at a glass of water.

Yet the people who believe in compulsory wearing of clothing would see the bright red bikini as less sexually interesting as no bikini at all. Or at the very least, more decent.

As a matter of fact, the concept of a bathing suit is only about 100 years old. Before then people just stripped down naked and hopped in the pond/river/ocean/bay/gulf/lake/etc. Skinnydipping wasn't even a word because an alternative way of doing things wasn't even bothered to be thought of.

People do not need clothes to survive. I don't know why people think you do. Clothes are no more necessary to survival than calculators. People say "Food, Clothing, Shelter" as if they were three different things. Clothing is portable shelter. You don't always need shelter, just when things start getting pretty bad. And in this day and age of air conditioning, central heating, good insulation, telecommuting, et cetera, it's less necessary than it ever has been.

I'll grant that sometimes clothing is useful. If you're cooking, welding, playing with liquid nitrogen, smoking, or doing anything else where there's a high likelyhood of something hot, poisonous, cold, sharp, or extremely fast moving hitting you, you probably shouldn't be doing it naked. And if it's really cold outside, or you live in the desert, then you have some reasons for wearing clothes.

But when it's betwenn 65 and 95 degrees outside, there's no practical reason to wear clothes. If it's raining, your skin dries off a lot faster than your shirt does.

If you're working out, your sweat will evaporate faster if you're not wearing anything, and you'll cool off better. You also won't have to peel your clothes off to get in the shower. If you're sitting at home doing something else, you'll be amazed how quickly you forget that you're naked. And if you're being harassed by those damned Jehova's Witnesses again, answer the door naked. They won't be coming back anytime soon. And if you have never been skinnydipping you are seriously missing out on a wonderful experience.

So why do we wear clothes? Especially unnecessary and redundant clothing. On males, all it takes to be "decent" is a pair of underpants or boxers. Yet we wear so much more. We wear a shirt or two, pants, and sometimes a hat, at least in fair weather. That's 5 times as much clothing as we need to be "decent". Certainly we'll attract attention doing that but we won't get arrested for indecent exposure. Most women would venture out in public wearing the skimpiest bathing suit in existence before going out in their regular underwear. Why? The bathing suit is more revealing, so it's not how much skin is showing.

It's not like the Bible bans nudity. Nowhere does it say "If a man goeth out into market and is not wearing his garment, he shall be taken to the edge of town and stoned." Not at all. Jesus actually said "He who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." (Luke 22:36) Jesus would rather have you naked than defenseless. And the prophets tore off their clothes in the street and prophesied nude. It was pretty normal. Fishermen at the time almost always worked without their clothes on. But one of the things you learn about fundamentalism is that when it makes policy decisions, half of them glaringly contradict the Bible. Prohibition on alcohol for example.

So, why do we wear clothes 24/7? It's not to keep people from lusting after us. It's not because we don't have fur. It's not because we melt when it rains. If it's because it makes us "decent" then that definition is arbitrary and hence invalid. Because we "just don't wanna see that"? That's caused by the arbitrary decency and social conditioning. My personal belief?

Herd mentality. If you subscribe to the clothes-compulsive mentality, beat yourself in the head until you realize that most people are stupid, so if most people believe it, it's probably stupid. So don't follow a bunch of stupid nitwits. You have your own brain. Use it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth

As Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian Economist, proved in his book "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth", economic calculation under socialism is simply impossible. My reasons for saying this are quite different from Mises', but much easier for the layman to understand. I'll put it in very simple mathematical terms.

2+2=0: Value is Objective

Under socialist thinking, value is more than just something we perceive. Something has a certain value, and it doesn't change from person to person. To someone who believes it, mutually beneficial exchange is simply not possible. One man cannot make one dollar except at the expense of another. So if I have something I think is worthless and another person has something I value at $2, and what I have, he values at $2 and what he has he thinks is worthless, if we trade, and each come off perceiving the trade to enrich us both by $2 each, the total wealth increase is actually zero under socialist thinking.

2+2=2: Reality is Subjective

Socialists must always deny reality in order to practice socialism. They do this by picking and choosing the reality they want to live in, and dismissing the rest as absurd. An increase in the minimum wage, under socialist thinking, will cause low-wage employees to all get pay increases. This action has no consequences except when it's convenient for the Socialist thinker. Socialist thinkers ignore undesirable consequences. In this way, four real consequences can actually be two. While in the Socialist's subjective reality, the wages increase, and employees get more money, in the real world the effects are the employer's costs increasing and the subsequent firing of employees. Those effects, if even acknowledged, had other, unrelated causes.

2+2=3: Redistribution Maximizes Welfare

To a Socialist, 1 million dollars in the hand of one man is worth less than 1 dollar in the hands of 1 million men. This actually contradicts their belief that value doesn't change from person to person. The belief is that redistributing wealth evenly will maximize overall utility and "collective good." And this will not affect the production of wealth, as we already know how to do that and that will not change. So it is true under socialist thought that 2 men with $2 each has the same collective good as 1 man with $3 and 1 man with $0.

2+2≠4: Exploitation is Evil

Socialists think paying low wages for unskilled labor is inherently wrong. Paying a worker for what their labor is worth, that being whatever wage they agree to sell their time and energy for, is exploitive. So for two hours of work worth two dollars per hour, paying $4 is wrong because it's exploitive.

2+2=5: The Collective Supersedes Individuals

This is the basis of all collectivist philosophies. To Socialists, a thing can be completely separate from the sum of it's parts. The collective supersedes the individual. So for example, if you have 4 individuals forming a collective, a Socialist might judge the collective good to be worth 5 individuals, because the collective always outweighs the sum of it's parts. Under this logic it's perfectly fine to kill a dissident individual and that this can be done in such a way as to make all of them all better off than they were before, including the dead one, because it was done for the "collective good."

22=4: I Know Everything

It is possible under Socialist thinking for someone to know what is best for the collective. Someone can know how to create and distribute goods and services in such a way as to maximize overall welfare. In reality, the amount of information necessary for this to work in a complex economy is greater than what a single human mind can comprehend, much less evaluate without leaving out any relevant information. If 22 units of information are needed to plan the economy, then only 4 are actually used to plan the economy, because that's all that was "really needed" to plan the economy.

2+2=22: The Living Wage

A wage is really just a price paid for labor. Under Socialist thinking a wage is an amount of money given to someone by an employer for them to live off of. And if the wages given are lower than what is supposedly needed to live off of, then exploitation is taking place. Under socialist thinking, if I make $2 worth of butter per hour, let's say that's 10 sticks per hour for two hours a day, and thats my employment, my labor is enough to earn me a "living wage" of $22 per day. To a Socialist thinker I should be able to buy 110 sticks of butter a day, even though I only made 20.

For Socialist economic calculation to work, not only do all of these have to be true, but they must all be true simultaneously. That's why Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth simply does not work.

(revised 11/08/06)

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Rich

A lot of people seem to think the rich got rich by either being lucky, or by stealing it. If the rich became so by stealing it, they could only have done so through government, or the definition of theft being used is different from mine. So in this post, I'll address the "You get rich by being lucky" idea.

Becoming rich is a course of action guided by a way of thinking.

Money is made through production. Production is the allocation of resources to meet demand. Whose demand is irrelevant. You can produce for yourself (i.e. grow a tree that bears fruit for you to eat) or for others (transfer the fruit to others), it really is not important. What is important is the allocation of resources.

The poor and middle class are trapped in a little thinkbox. That thinkbox is "The way to make money is to work for it." In effect, they think that the only resources they can allocate to production are their time, effort, and talent. They allocate these resources to meet demand by finding an employer that demands it and selling it. They create a surplus of value, earn a wage, and spend that wage. How they spend it depends on their class. The poor spend it on their day-to-day needs and the occasional toy and their bills. The middle class spend it on a new car, a new house, et cetera, which they always buy with debt and create recurring expenses.

The rich don't think that way. They see that everything they own is a resource to be allocated. They do own their time, effort, and talents, so those are certainly resources which may be allocated. But what the rich do is think of everything they own as something that can be allocated to meet demand. Their money, real estate, all their property can be allocated and create a surplus of value. The rich might start by working just as a poor or middle class person does, but what they do with the money is very different. Rather than buy things to satisfy their own demands, they allocate the money they earn to meet someone else's demand. This is one of the essential principles of becoming wealthy. You must produce more than you consume. The rich do not consume their money, they use it to produce. They might loan it out, for example, to someone who needs the money now, and get a return on the investment, the interest. They might buy a house, for example, and then rent the house out to tenants, creating a recurring income. Pay attention, because this is how the rich become rich. I've heard it called the "Infinite Bootstrap Principle". What does the rich man do with this surplus of value he created? This income from rent? He buys, for example, another house. Now he has two sources of income, two tenants renting to him, and now the money is coming in twice as fast. This takes absolutely no effort on his part, he can keep his day job while he is earning these passive incomes. Soon he buys a third house to rent out. Then a fourth. And a fifth. He can buy each one in less time than the last one because the money is rolling in faster than when he had fewer houses and fewer rent paying tenants. At this point, he can quit his day job, as he has enough income coming from the renters that he no longer has any need to work. He can devote an extra 40 hours of his week to allocating his resources, figuring out what he has, looking for people that might need what he has, creating a surplus of value, and spending that surplus on additional resources that other people might need.

That is how the rich get rich. It's not by magic, it's not by sheer luck. It's not because they were born rich, and it's definitley not because they steal it.

When someone attacks the rich for being so rich, keep in mind that they are rich because they are allocating resources to those who want them more. They might own property worth billions of dollars, yes. But that money is all tied up in business ventures seeking to meet demand. Also keep in mind I'm not just talking about consumer demands. Employees make demands as well, they demand a paycheck, and supply something valuable in return. The rich's money is all tied up in investments and real estate. It's all tied up. They don't have a 500 million dollar house with 400 rooms filled with millions of dollars worth of fine art, furniture, servants and maids, or anything of the like. They more likely live in 10 million dollar homes with good furniture and a great view, but that's just not where their money is. They are not surrounded by their wealth, their wealth is out at work looking for workers to hire and customers to satisfy.

And the only reason the gap between the rich and poor is so wide is because the poor don't know this. If they did, the poor would be doing exactly what the rich did. And there are two possibilities for what this might do, both are a good thing in the eyes of those seeking 'economic justice'.

1. It would bring the poor up to the standard of living enjoyed by the rich.
2. It would reduce the opportunities of the rich such that they will eventually be pulled closer to the poor.

I do care about inequality. I just don't care about it the same way those that won't shut up about it care about it. I don't think the gap between the rich and poor is a good thing. I want that gap closed, but I want it closed by the poor bringing themselves up to the rich. I am not happy to hear that 90% of the wealth is in the hands of 10% of the population. The amount of wealth in the world is not static, it's not a big pie where one can gain only at the expense of another, the poor can bring themselves up without bringing down the rich. That is what I want to see.

If you care about the gap between the rich and the poor, do not focus on penalizing the rich. No good will come of that. Focus your efforts on helping the poor bring themselves up. That way, everybody wins.