Sunday, May 14, 2017

Proposed Split of Washington State and the Sixth Pillar of Localism

I noticed that yet another state bill has been filed proposing a west-coast state split into two (or more) states. In this case it is a proposal to split Washington State into two. The coastal half would retain the name "Washington" while the eastern half would be named "Liberty". The problem is that it would not matter if every single voter in "Liberty", or the rest of Washington State for that matter, thought it was a good idea to do that. According to our current constitution, there is no liberty to form "Liberty". The decision to approve this would have to be made by the other Washington, Washington D.C..


Now you may be wondering why the decision on whether to politically separate a state on the west coast would need to be approved by the representatives of people in Texas, Massachusetts, and Georgia? After all, there are people who know very little about the situation. They would be less likely to make an informed and just decision than the residents of the area which proposes peaceful separation.

America itself was formed by people who broke existing political lines because they felt those previous alignments did not represent them anymore. I would suggest that even Western Washington should not control whether the people of eastern Washington want to remain in union with them. I.E. they should not be allowed to take hostages. If the people on the other side of the mountains want to manage their own affairs, or even feel that they are being treated unfairly, by what right or principle should the Coastal inhabitants keep them chained together?

The plain fact is that the two halves of the state have very little in common. They are very different in culture, in values, in economies, in geography and climate. There is very little that is real binding them together. Just an imaginary political line backed by government force. There is no just reason for their fates to be bound together.

This is all very relevant to Localism. The sixth pillar of localism is that political unions should be voluntary. It doesn't sound very radical in theory. In practice we find that centralizing governments want to enforce political lines whether the people within them get along or not. There should be some agreed-on process by which even counties (the smallest unit whose boundaries do not regularly change) or groups of counties, may switch states or even form a new state themselves. And they should be able to do this without needing the approval of the very people who they believe are treating them unfairly- or the approval of a distant FEDGOV who has little knowledge or appreciation for their actual condition.

Did our Founders wait for approval from representatives of other regions of the British Empire before acting toward the dissolution of our bonds with England? How much less then should FEDGOV interfere in the desires of one part of a state to separate from another all the while remaining in our union.
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I repeat the call for supporting all seven pillars of localism. There is no such thing as a "perfect union". Government is not going to be perfect so long as it is run by and in the service of imperfect people. Still, it can be made "more perfect" as in a "more perfect union" by altering the systemic flaws which almost all of us would agree are unjust.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Wal Mart Dominates Map of Biggest Employer in Each State

Click on image or here to get a larger view. Aside from Wal-Mart we see state university systems, and healthcare providers/insurers. Anyone think this is a sound basis for an economy? Maybe we can all go to college to work at Wal-Mart, with the rest of us patching everyone up?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Just Transition to Robot Labor

The robots are coming. Human manual labor is about to be replaced on a scale and level of detail which will surpass even the original industrial revolution. There will be economic displacement. There will also be productivity gains on net, but there will be winners and losers in this technology revolution. Our present laws are woefully unprepared to make this transition a just and socially stable one.

Right now our laws are skewed to favor purchasing a robot over hiring a worker. Robots don't require matching social security or Medicare contributions from the employer. Their costs can be depreciated, often at an accelerated rate. They are a capital asset of the company, increasing its book value. They don't unionize, demand safer working conditions, or sue. If I am running a large company and I have a choice between adding robots or adding human workers, it's a no brainer. And more and more employers will have that choice.

This is all a part of the giant shift between gaining wealth by working capital vs. gaining wealth by selling labor. The accelerating trend is for capital to replace labor. The far left says that the answer is a government provided "basic guaranteed income". I think that is a terrible solution, but some solution is going to be needed, such as this one.

In the meantime the public policy goal should be to ease the economic shock of the transition. That is, that should be the goal if public policy in America was still interested in the welfare of the public at large. What I suspect will happen is that the laws will be fashioned so that the economic gains from robotics are concentrated as much as possible in the hands of those who are on top now. That seems to be the goal of most recent laws.

This will be done in the name of the free market by salesmen posing as economists funded by those on top now. They will give examples from the 101 textbooks as if these simplistic models could really account for the rapidity of technological change; without any public policy accommodation; without regard for the fact that existing laws (as outlined above) already have a government thumb on the scale regarding the choice of human workers vs. robots. They will cheer for "free market solutions" as if we actually had a free market. There is government intervention everywhere in our economy, telling us what we must buy, telling us what features our products and services must have, and subsidizing government favorites while erecting barriers to competition. This is what government does every day at the demands of some of the very same entities whose spokesmen cry "free market" when a regulation which does not benefit them is proposed!

Not that I am opposed to the free market. In many ways I only wish we had one! I don't want to stop the free market, just regulate the displacement caused by technological change to a sustainable level so that the whole system does not break down. There will be opponents who are truly ant-free market. Some will try to block the use of this growing technology in an effort to keep things the same. But things don't stay the same and if America does not move on we will find that the rest of the world will. The goal should be to use public policy to integrate new technology into our lives, not ban it.

At any rate we are talking about a net productivity gain here which could be very liberating for humanity. Or it could be debilitating for humanity. For example, if those on top continue to game the system to reap a disproportionate share of the gains of changes to law or tech while all the economic losses due to displacement hurt everyone else. We could wind up with a top one tenth of one percent with all the capital, a few well paid professionals to service them in jobs the robots can't do (yet), and the bulk of humanity being turned into "useless eaters". Even if most of us wanted to work for $1 an hour, the facilities of the future will be designed to be staffed by robots, not people. What do you do with five billion people who have no way to earn a living?

I suggest a transition period, maybe a generation, or maybe two, where flexible automated labor (robots) have special rules for corporate capital ownership (these restrictions would not apply to individuals who owned robots for either private or business use). There would be no prohibition on their manufacture or use, only on their ownership by corporations. During this period robots could only be owned by small corporations whose stockholders were actual humans. Corporations could not own stock in these corporations. As a localist, I favor this restriction for all corporations. Corporations are creations of government and as such by nature are an intervention of government in the free market. Therefore restrictions on them are not the same as restrictions on the free market, but rather government regulating creatures of its own making.

These corporations would be for the purpose of leasing robots to other businesses. Companies which wished to have robots do their work would rent them, not buy them. And they would rent them from companies which would be owned by the kind of people who would have formerly been workers! So then this would very much be like the worker renting their own labor out to the company.

These special robot-owning corporations would have to be structured so that there was a cap that any one person could own, perhaps two percent of common stock or one percent for the larger firms. Big banks could not buy the stock. GM could not buy the stock. Bill Gates could not sweep in and buy it all. The kind of people who get access to the stock are the same kind of people whose jobs would be taken by the robots. They could buy it for a relative bargain, given that all the big money of those players closest to the printing press would be frozen out. In this way the economic displacement of automation could be mitigated. Instead of the gains all going to the capital holders and the losses all going to the labor sellers, we can transition out to the brightest possible future. One in which the replacement of human labor by automation leads to winners without losers.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Culture of Self-Censorship

The writer Simon Louvish once told the story of a group of Soviets touring the United States before the age of glasnost. After reading the newspapers and watching TV, they were amazed to find that, on the big issues, all the opinions were the same. "In our country," they said, "to get that result we have a dictatorship, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here you have none of that. So what's your secret? How do you do it?" (Quoted, John Pilger, Tell Me No Lies, Random House, 2004, p.9)
I have an ongoing suspicion that America is not really a free society anymore, but that our rulers find it useful for us to believe that it is. We work harder, and fight harder, for the system if we believe it is giving us "freedom". If we tried to actually do anything which would seriously challenge the system, we learn that the "rights" we thought we had were only there until we tried to use them.

In my home state of Arkansas for example, we have the right to run for public office as independents. It is still on the books that we can and for minor offices we do. But one year eleven of us filed for seats in the state legislature as independents. The result was a flurry of legislation which moved the goal-posts and made it harder to qualify for the ballot that way. The system likes people to access the ballot for offices that matter via large centrally directed organizations- that they can watch/bribe/capture/threaten.

We are still in court over one law they made in 2013 that had already been ruled unconstitutional four times previously. If we "win" the lawsuit it is very likely that all they will have to do is change the law back until the next time federal judges are not looking. In the meantime, they have taken other measures to tamp down unauthorized liberty. You have certain rights under the law- unless you have the effrontery to try and actually exercise them. They are there to make you think you are free, not so you can actually exercise that freedom.

I guess I am not too far on this one from songwriter Frank Zappa who once said...

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”
It is an uncomfortable thought that we are not really free. That is one reason why most of us avoid trying to test those limits, even if we are unhappy with the system as it is. But I am not just talking about civil politics.  For example, I was in an amenable discussion with a young lady who works in immunology. She thinks that it has been proven that vaccines (during pregnancy or in the first 26 months) do not contribute to autism. I am convinced that for people with a certain genetic predisposition, it can. During the discussion I mentioned the story of a CDC whistle blower- a Dr. Thompson.

Thompson said when their data showed a link between vaccines and autism for certain groups they brought a trash can to the meeting room and put it in the middle of the room. Then they threw away all their papers with the inconvenient data on it. He kept some on the sly. You can read Thompson's quote in a Forbes article here, though the rest of the article is on spin over-drive trying to explain it away.

When I quoted that event she strongly denied that there was any pressure on them to alter their findings and that they had the freedom to study any question that they could show had merit. I could tell the insinuation made her indignant so I changed tack. But notice that Dr. Thompson did not say that they were pressured from above either. They did not have to be. They self-censored. They knew what acceptable results were supposed to look like, they knew what the "respectable" position in their sub-culture was on the vaccine-autism link. When the data put them in the position of discovering something on the wrong side of that line they felt the pressure to destroy the evidence- at least what they could- and become "respectable" again.

The people running this theater do not have to pull anyone's fingernails out anymore. I think they will if it comes to that, after all our government has shed a lot of blood lately, but they don't have to. All they have to do is encourage group identity rather than individual confidence and integrity. Then they use various means including the media to let members of the sub-culture know what the "correct" opinions are for their groups. Insecure people want to fit into their chosen group, so they jump over each other to confirm what are supposed to be the group biases. Their sense of self-worth is (improperly) tied into membership in these groups.

So for example, people at CNN did not have to be threatened in order to talk up Obama and Clinton and bad-mouth Donald Trump. The folks at FOX did not have to be threatened to say bad things about Hillary Clinton. Members of those sub-cultures can indignantly protest that no one is censoring their "news" coverage. But that is part of the illusion, No one has to censor them to do those things because the cultural expectations have been set and they will censor themselves to ingratiate themselves to that culture.

To start back on the road to real freedom we need to begin within ourselves. We need to have self-worth and integrity derived from our love of the truth rather than our membership in some group. We need confidence and integrity in the face of a society full of manipulated sub-cultures. We need to have a love of real freedom over slavery which is disguised as freedom to keep the slaves invested in the very system which controls them. Not by pulling their fingernails out, but by methods which are less direct and thus more effective.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Early Genesis, The Revealed Cosmology

If anybody has wondered why my blogging pace has slowed down, it is because my book-writing pace was picking up! The result is the most important book I have ever written, or could ever hope to write. The two books on localism as a political philosophy only have the potential to change the world. Genesis, the Revealed Cosmology has the potential to change people's view of God.


Print Version.

E-book

Friday, January 20, 2017

Guaranteed Basic Income vs. Guaranteed Basic Capital



Throughout human history people have earned income in two ways. One way was selling their labor. The other way was working, or hiring someone else to work, their capital.

In past ages capital was scarce. It was also more dependent on labor as a co-factor necessary to make it productive. You might have shovels, but without men to dig more than one was not of much use to you. Then came tractors. One operator and one mechanic could dig more than one hundred men with shovels.  So what happened there was that once the capital equipment was built the owner of the capital could substitute capital for labor. They no longer needed one-hundred men with shovels, they only needed an operator and a mechanic. The catch was that a tractor with back-hoe was more capital intensive than buying 100 shovels. Two skilled workers and an increase in capital replaced 100 less skilled workers.

For the last two-hundred years or so that did not matter because our capital increases increased overall wealth so much and there were plenty of other things that those freed-up hands could do. Instead of digging that ditch to bring water to the crops, two guys on a tractor could do it while the other ninety-eight worked on an assembly line making products that either never existed before or were very difficult to make in prior generations. In other words, society as a whole got richer by the increasing capital component of production. Those who survived by selling their labor did pretty well in the advanced economies. There was still a need for labor to work capital and the resulting boom of production from labor + capital working together was so enriching to the culture that everything became less expensive (measured in constant dollars) due to productivity gains.

Despite some complaints from those at the bottom, overall if you were a hard worker and a responsible person, you could do OK for yourself, maybe even well. Sure, those who started out with a big pile of capital did even better, but there was opportunity out there for those willing to take advantage of it. Then things started changing.

The number one thing that changed was the monetary system. After 1913, and in particular once those at the top of our financial system freed themselves of the gold standard, we had a financial system divided into two classes- the connected few who had access to vast amounts of money at very little or no cost and the unconnected many who had extremely limited access to capital for which they had to pay a lot in interest. It is easy to see that when you have that division in your economy, over time those with access to vast amounts of cheap money will wind up owning everything and those without it will wind up owning nothing.

We see how this played out in the bank bailouts of 2008. If some generation of your family messes up, they lose the family land forever. If one of these multi-generational global banks messes up, the system does whatever it has to so that they keep their stuff. Those on top use the system to stay on top. Again, it is easy to see what is going to happen over time. Eventually, someone in your family line will blow it and lose your family's accumulated capital. No bail outs for people like us. When Goldman Sacs blows it, the rules get changed so that they get to keep theirs. Again, the result of this system must be that over time the big corporations and governments own everything and the rest of us own nothing.

So one thing that happened was that capital was concentrated not by production, but by being connected to the system. The result has been that instead of most people owning substantial capital, only a few did and everyone else had to exist by selling labor into a market which is increasingly shifting away from labor and into capital.

The second thing that happened was the increasing globalization of labor, not just for blue collar jobs but also white collar jobs like construction drawings. In the recent past, bids for labor were more localized so that pockets of labor could still command high prices even if the overall price for labor was low. Now the labor pool is much more globalized. Capital can go to wherever labor is priced lowest. One may view this as a good thing or a bad thing (as I do in the case where the lowest-priced labor is slave labor from a nation with a captive labor force), but the overall effect of freedom of movement for capital is to put more downward pressure on labor prices.

Now technology is reaching the point where it is filling in so many jobs that there is an excess supply of labor overall. It is not just a question of the labor having the wrong skills, there is less and less place for any labor to go. It is easy to see the day coming when the "Family Doctor", a skilled position, is replaced by a hologram connected to an app which asks you certain questions and gives a diagnosis based on your answers and test results. The same thing is happening on the low end for the few jobs that can't be outsourced, like a cashier at a fast-food restaurant. An attempt to demand higher wages results in being replaced by an automated system. I can see the day coming when workers will be faux-AI robots made by other robots!

Those at the top of the economic heap make their money by working their capital, so they are all for
this change.  Robots complain less than people anyway. For the rest of us, we are being turned into what the harsher and more Social Darwinist members of the ruling class would call "useless eaters". Even if we are healthy people willing to work at a traditional job, there may be few to none to be had at a wage that would make it worthwhile to work. Going forward, we won't just be competing with Chinese neo-slaves, we will be competing with robots.

The shooting-for-pseudo-godhood members of the ruling class have a bit less harsh plan for the rest of us once technology produces a world where mankind has accumulated so much capital that none of us will ever have to work by selling our labor again. We can all live off of worked capital. What is this plan you say? Is it dividing up the massive accumulated capital to each individual so we can all just make a living managing capital rather than selling our labor? Uhhh. No. They and their controlled institutions like the state will hold onto all the capital. After all, how can they be our new gods if the basis of their godhood is diluted by other people having it too? No, their plan is called a "Guaranteed Basic Income" or "Living Wage."

Under this plan, every person would get a fixed income from the government. If they wanted to work in order to supplement this income, and were able to find work, then that would be OK (so long as they paid taxes) but the amount of the Guaranteed Income would be enough to support a person at a low level even if they never worked. Obviously government welfare would be universalized so that welfare programs per se could be abolished.

That sounds very tempting to a lot of people living on the edge in low-paying jobs that they hate (and even those are going away). Get paid by the government for doing nothing, and there is not even any stigma because everyone is getting a check, what is not to love? Everything. It is tempting, as sin often is, but its not the answer. For one thing, it would make us into utterly dependent slaves of the state. They would control whether your family eats or not, even as they want to control your healthcare now. What chance would a population have of resisting such rulers? It would not be "money for nothing". Supplicants would be beholden to the system. And more so each generation as more and more people lost the means and drive to take care of themselves and their own affairs. Ask yourself what its done for third generation welfare families if you think its such a good idea for everyone.

But the imbalance between the value of capital vs. the value of human labor is bound to continue. Its a real issue that ought to be addressed. The localist solution, indeed the solution of any person who wants to remain free rather than be worse than a slave because at least slaves had value to their masters and were therefore not easily expendable, is to guarantee basic capital rather than basic income. After all, the reason for the imbalance in the first place is that those who live by working capital have an increasing advantage over those who live by selling their labor. So its not income that needs to be guaranteed, but capital. Instead of all capital being owned by a few giant global corporations and governments and individuals being left with next to nothing, capital should be re-distributed. Not in ways which would use government force to take from one private person and give to another, but redistributed nevertheless.

For example, the United States government owns a significant amount of land, including vast portions of western states, and buildings and real estate all over the nation. States own mineral rights on public lands, and take property for back taxes that is now being scooped up by those few with access to our financial system's magic money machine for the connected. In other cases, favored corporations get special deals, such as tax credits or relief from certain taxes to operate from a given location. Why not have every citizen partake in the access to state-affected capital which is now available only to the few? Rights to property and rights to freedom from taxes for certain capital or businesses operated from a given location can become a family inheritance. In addition, as with the Basic Income Plan, money now spent on welfare can be re-directed. It can purchase capital assets for the program. Ultimately, when capital is built up enough, that money would not be necessary.

In the Old Testament, there was such land that could be rented out but not be sold. In the fiftieth year it would revert back to the heirs of the original family. Thus one bad generation could not lose the family heritage for all time, only for their own time. All debts were also cancelled. It was called the "Jubilee". Such a system assured that capital would always stay somewhat distributed and it would be impossible for the financial sector to dominate the whole economy. In other words, it would avoid the mess we find ourselves in today.

But it would also have another advantage- even if robots replaced workers no one would have to be destitute. Every family would have capital to work. They could all make some kind of living working their capital instead of just selling their labor. And in this system people would not be beholden to the government for that monthly check. Some would work their capital themselves and become wealthy, others might lease their capital out to someone else to work and go play video games and smoke pot. They would be relatively poor. But in each case, it would be their own choice, but a generationally revocable one.

"Basic Income" is like giving a man a fish. In a world where teaching them to fish is pointless because robots can fish more tirelessly and all the fishing holes are owned by the government and global corporations. It will be a tempting option. But its soul-destroying. Its the opposite of empowerment, it will give the government total control of the citizens. A better answer is for every family to have their own fishing hole. If all else fails, they can rent the rights to fish it to someone who has a robot.

I call for a society in which some capital assets are the irrevocable possessions of families. It should not be a federal program but the unnecessary assets of the Federal Government should be transferred over time to states and counties and from there to individual families which are "family corporations" with their own procedures and rules separate from standard incorporation. These assets should be kept on a perpetual trust basis so long as a family has heirs remaining. Should a line die without issue then the assets could only be purchased by other family trusts, or awarded to new trusts on the basis of another family becoming new citizens in good standing. The rules of society should be reversed from their present biases in which the property of real persons and families is subtly stripped away over time and transferred to artificial persons known as "corporations" and government entities. Instead, the rules should be reversed so that property and capital accrues to individuals and families.

The problem of shifting value between selling labor and working capital is not going to go away. Central statists have their "solution"- a guaranteed minimum income which would leave the masses wholly at the mercy of a merciless state. They will be in a worse position than slaves while those at the top will imagine themselves gods. The localist answer makes every man a lord.











Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Ideas Versus The Man

Some ideas are good in themselves, and others are bad in themselves. Most ideas though are neither good nor bad in themselves, but rather a means to an end. The end can be either good or bad. This class of ideas are rather like tools. Tools are morally neutral. They may be wielded for good purposes or for evil ones. In either case the outcome is not due to the tool, but rather to the person who uses the tool. The tool is not responsible for how it is used, but rather the man should be responsible for how he uses it.

Donald Trump is now the President-elect of the United States. I will pray for him, as I prayed for Barack Obama, though I voted for neither man (why do Americans continue to vote for candidates from the two DC-run, globally funded parties which have done so much to bankrupt the nation both morally and fiscally?).

Though he changes his story so often that it is hard to say exactly what his real policies will actually be, during the campaign he suggested many ideas which a localist should support. He expressed a desire to leave or re-negotiate trade deals which undermined our national sovereignty. He supported de-escalation of tensions with Russia which have come about by the actions of prior administrations acting as self-appointed "world police." He wants secure national borders. He has suggested that tariffs are a viable option for cheating trade "partners". He expressed support for the idea that even our political elites should be prosecuted if they have committed crimes- instead of our current situation where we have a ruling class which is effectively above the law. He said he was opposed to Common Core. He grumbled (vaguely) about the Federal Reserve system. He has declared that many controversial issues should be left to the states.

It really is an agenda that a localist could get behind even though the media has not called it by that name. They are stuck on calling him a "nationalist" even though some of his positions- like leaving many issues to the states and fuming about the federal reserve, actually indicate a man who wants much of government pushed below the national level. A nationalist is the second worst type of political outlook to have - next to a globalist. But Trump is not even pure nationalist. There is some bit of decentralization in his campaign rhetoric. Nationalism is better than globalism. True federalism is better than nationalism, and localism is best of all. At least this side of heaven where government is necessary.

In spite of this I did not support him. This is because I looked beyond the tools the man was proposing to use and firstly considered the character of the man who would be using them. Donald Trump is not a just man. He has never made justice a goal of his walk in life and it is highly unlikely that he will start now. Because the man is not virtuous, his use of the tools that I agree should be used will not be virtuous either. If he follows through on his campaign promises at all, which is very much an open question with him, I fear he will put the proper tools to an improper use. I fear he will give the tools themselves a bad name by his poor use of them. If so, for decades hence the thoughtless masses will not give a fair hearing to the idea that those tools should be used, but used properly. Instead of a real argument, the detractors will say "that sounds like Trump" and sound proposals will be unsoundly dismissed.

For example, tariffs are properly used as a firewall between an unjust economy and your own. It is just and like paying insurance premiums to protect your own economy from going down when the unjust one inevitably collapses. If an economy has a captive labor force for example, a tariff could  make the cost of doing business with them more like a true free market transaction if they actually had a free economy. That is a proper use of tariffs. Another just use of tariffs is when substituted for an even worse tax- like individual income taxes. This is with the understanding that government has to be funded somehow and tariffs are bad but not so bad as what they would replace.

I don't think that is how President Trump would use tariffs. I think he would protect specific industries, not specific just values. I think whoever was good to him would get a break and whoever was not would not. Tariffs are a policy tool, There is just and an unjust way to use them. He is not the man to lean on for a just use of tariffs, or anything else. His complaints about the federal reserve for example, could be turned into a demand for more reckless spending without financial consequences (until the imbalances caused by that become so great that even the fed loses control and the dollar crashes). Every idea he has that I like can be used in a way that I don't like.

I want the tools which he was proposing in his campaign. I probably favor them more than he does. We will see how many of them he was just saying to get elected (which shows how popular these anti-globalist tools are) and how many he is really committed to. But because I do favor these tools, I don't want to see their use discredited. The tools are not to blame for the use which they are put to by the unjust. Rather, the workman who used them poorly is to blame- him and the ones who handed him those tools to being with.