Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Worst Idea Humanly Conceivable

I can understand why people are wary of mixing a religious institution with the institution of the state- it is a combination which has historically proven ruinous to both institutions and also to the people they are supposed to serve. This is why the Founders forbade the Federal government from passing any law respecting or prohibiting any religious establishment. The formal unification of the institutions of Church and State, except in the Person of Christ, is a blasphemy.
On the other hand, they made no effort to separate their personal faith from their ideas on public policy and how they governed. Indeed most of them believed that our Republic could only survive if both leaders and people informed their behavior by religion and morality. That despite the fact that those who governed had far less power than their modern counterparts, because the state was much smaller.
The idea we have these days-  that the people who govern us should act as though there is no God or that He is irrelevant to public policy or governance, is probably the worst idea that can be humanly conceived. Do we really want to give a group of corruptible humans a vast amount of power and tell them "act as though there is no God watching over you. Act as if there will be no eternal accountability for what you do"? 
Between the terrible idea of fusing the institutions of Church and State, and the worst idea humanly conceivable of pretending that the knowledge of God is irrelevant to statecraft, is the classical middle ground advocated by Localism. It is the middle ground between would-be tyrants who use the name of God as an excuse for everything that they themselves wish to do, and the radical secularist who would leave us with the thorough and decentralized, paradoxical, chaotic tyranny which comes from a society which sinks into moral nihilism.

Localism's solutions are subtle, and unfortunately we live in times where many people seize on unsubtle, knee-jerk reactions as "solutions" with little thought or reflection. While slaves can get by with little thought or reflection about the nature of government, in the long run free people can't. Consideration of such matters is inextricably connected to the idea of self-governance. Without a balanced and thought-out view of the role of religious faith in governance we cannot have a complete political philosophy. The second book below in particular makes this clear.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Philosophy of Government for Jordan Peterson

A friend turned me on to Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, a Canadian professor known for his reasonable defenses against the excesses of political correctness, as well as his lectures demonstrating that the major themes and archetypes of Christianity are "true" in a higher and valuable sense irrespective of the question of whether or not they were true literally.

We don't know exactly what Jordan's philosophy of government is, if he even has one. But based on everything I have seen and heard from him, he fits the profile of someone who would be a localist. That is, a localist as described in "Localism, a philosophy of government" operationally and the lesser-known "Localism Defended" philosophically.  What he is saying about good and evil, truth and lies, and complexity and dialogue over pat answers strongly points to a human who would agree wholeheartedly about what Localism has to say about us and our government.

Localism is all about a continual process of government adjusting its parameters in order to meet the needs and desires of the population it purports to serve. It respects tradition and stability without being irretrievably bound by it. It is not locked into any particular place on the left-right spectrum, though its inability to enforce large-scale coercion makes it incompatible with authoritarian forms of government from any part of the political spectrum. It is in the middle of the up-down spectrum between the stifling authoritarianism of the central state and the lawless chaos of anarchy.

The quote in the picture above, where Peterson equates evil with the force which believes that its knowledge is complete, is very much in line with what Localism says about humans and government. That is, since no system of human government is perfect, what matters most is the ease with which one can do a "reset".

Since different people are in different places culturally and morally, the right answer for them about where the lines should be drawn may not work for different people in a different city hundreds of miles away. Localism recognizes that our knowledge about what government should do is not complete. The answer will vary as the situation and population varies, and we should be willing to sleep well at night even if people we have never met in a city we have never visited are not doing things the way that we think that they should. Other philosophies of government, including those which prattle on the most about liberty, regularly lack this basic humility. The few over-arching restrictions in localism have the sole purpose of preserving decentralization of political power and thus protecting individual self-determination from all enemies both foreign and domestic.

What I am arguing here is that Peterson's views on humanity and the very nature of our struggle with truth necessitates a view of government which does not ascribe unmitigated virtue to either the common man or some set of "elite" rulers. This is just the sort of balanced view prescribed by localism. I once called it "The Dark Knight of Political Philosophies" because it is not the one we want. It does not flatter us. But its the one we need because it tells us the truth about ourselves whether we are rulers or ruled. We all need "sorting" from time to time because we are not intrinsically good (properly related to truth), we are intrinsically "unsorted", to put it mildly.

Yet even though Peterson equates certainty of knowledge with evil, he believes that truth exists and that the life-long search for it is good. These are the hallmarks of a classical thinker rather than a post-modernist thinker. Localism is built upon exactly those classical rather than post-modernist foundations. It is the combination of the classical view that truth exists and is noble to pursue combined with the humility of recognizing that we will never get all the way there. This exact balance is why I believe that localism is essentially Jordan Peterson's world-view applied to a philosophy of human government. Central-state authoritarianism can too easily come from a classical view of truth without humility, while lawless anarchy springs from post-modernism premises.  Peterson embraces classical thinking but with the intellectual humility which makes it open to improvement and ultimately bearable. This is precisely the localist view of things.

I notice on his lectures about "Nationalism vs. Globalism" he speaks favorable of nationalism. The reasons he gives for favoring it are even more applicable to localism than they are nationalism. He talks about units that the typical citizen is able to relate to. He talks about the broken or delayed feedback mechanisms when the controllers are too distant from the controlled. Every argument he makes for why nationalism fares better than globalism would work even better for localism, even compared to nationalism.

I don't want to oversell it. The first book in particular is from a very American perspective. The second book is more explicitly theistic than Peterson in that Peterson only says the concepts from Christianity are useful while localism posits that we cannot rule out the existence of God and therefore what the existence of God might say about human government. It is not from a view of a "disciple" of Peterson. It is not a "result" of anything Peterson had to say, but rather a confluence of thought from two people who share a similar basic world view in may important respects. Peterson addresses much broader themes and may even find the idea of application of his premises to human government as a tedious and derived topic best left to more narrow thinkers. If that is the case, I am humbly willing to be one of those thinkers.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Reserve Currency Thoughts

The U.S. dollar has been the world's "reserve currency" for decades. Say two nations trade with each other, whose currency do they use? What is Zambia going to do with currency from Yemen? The seller demands payment in U.S. dollars instead of the currency of the buying nation. This creates a vast global demand for dollars. That makes our currency stronger than it otherwise would be, and that's good for us right?

Well, who is "us"? If you are close to the printing presses and you can just print up dollars at will that most of the rest of the world trades their real goods in services for, then its great. You have a magic money machine. Even if you are a regular consumer it means that you can buy products from overseas cheaper. But this short term benefit contains the seeds of economic destruction. Like so many things, what is good in the short term is bad in the long term.

The flip side of what I described above is that it practically mandates that over time production will shift from your economy to other economies. All you are exporting is currency. And because your currency is artificially strengthened other nations can manufacture things at a lower cost than you. In addition, a global reserve currency must be held in very large amounts by other nations to be available to trade. How does this happen? Well, we have to run massive trade deficits.

We buy stuff from foreigners and our currency piles up in their treasury. What do they do with it? Since it is the global reserve currency they can buy things from anyone with it, it does not have to be us. And since we bought things from them and they did not buy things from us we had to borrow the money into existence to cover the difference. So they also buy debt from us- a claim on even more future dollars. That is another way of saying that we are exporting dollars to balance out the trade deficits.

Any currency issued without the gold to back it up is a claim on the future economic production of its citizens. In 1971 France called our bluff, we were issuing dollars without adequate gold backing and we were forced to either quit issuing so many dollars or de-link from gold. The ruling class was not about to give up their magic money machine. From henceforth a dollar would not be a specific amount of already-created value (as it is in for example a gold or silver coin). Instead it would be a promise of a claim on the future production of U.S. citizens. It would be a debt-instrument.

So our ruling class turned dollars into a pure debt instrument and then issued them like mad. There was an initial shock in the 1970s as nations doubted that a dollar backed by promises of the U.S. government to extract wealth from its citizens in the future was as good as a dollar backed by gold. This resulted in crippling inflation. We got past that hurdle by raising interest rates and by making a deal with the woefully corrupt House of Saud. They would only accept dollars in payment for oil and we would defend them militarily. In essence, the oil-rich Arabs hired us to be their body guards.

That tough medicine and hard bargain produced some boom times- but they were increasingly debt-fueled boom times. The long-term consequences of these moves is an economy where good jobs are increasingly difficult to be had as all goods and services which can be produced cheaper elsewhere (due in part to our artificially valued currency) fled the country. So if you were one of those who made a living working capital and were big enough to work that capital anywhere in the world, you won, whether you were good enough or not. If you made a living selling your labor, you lost. If you made a living working capital but you were small so that your capital was bound up in America, you lost. All of this is on average of course.

In the short run having the dollar as the world's reserve currency helps everyone who earns dollars. It helps those who earn a few dollars a little, and those who earn large amounts of dollars a lot. That is easy to see. In the long run though, it hurts those who earn dollars by selling their labor domestically. Those very few who are big enough to earn dollars by hiring people to work capital anywhere in the world are not hurt. They get most of the gain, and basically none of the pain. The pain is born with the working-class and middle-class citizens of the United States. Even the wealthy-but-not-rich and the "barely rich" share in the pain if they have too much of their earning/assets tied up domestically when the blow-back plays out.

Most of us are on a playing field which has been tilted against us by policies which favor global corporations and billionaires over the rest of us. Despite the temporary gain consumers got from these policies, they long term result of them is destructive to our economy and we are now seeing that play out. An orderly and slow withdrawal of the dollar as the world reserve currency is in the interests of working Americans, though not the elites who run the country.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Ebook Giveaway- Next Three Days!

OK, the first book on Localism has been a minor hit, with sustained sales over three years and fantastic reviews. I think the second one is even better, but for some reason I have been having trouble getting folks to even give it a chance. That's why for the next three days I am giving away the Kindle Version. If you have any interest in political theory, and you should if you are involved in politics, then this book is for you.

The number one reason people get fooled again and again by politicians is that they don't have a firm grasp of political theory and ideology, so when a politician does something that should be a red flag they can't spot it until its too late. For example, it is now routine for politicians to refer to an idea as "conservative", but without a firm grasp of the theory behind conservative thought the average voter has no way to know whether or not it is really "conservative" or just cronyism or central statism hiding behind the label.

Much of the book explains why the ideas behind the more extreme versions of libertarian thought are not necessarily correct. This is not to disrespect libertarians but rather help them understand that other premises on which to base public policy can also be rational and moral. At any rate, if any of this appeals to you, for the next three days the book is my gift to you. If you like it, I invite you to give it a great review (if not, nevermind!).

Friday, July 28, 2017

Abusing the Language of Civil Rights Until Respect for Them is Gone

What is a "right"? How are they determined? Even more fundamentally, where do rights come from? These days all sort of people are abusing the language of rights so that whatever social policy they prefer becomes a " civil right". Leftists are the worst about it, but libertarians do it a lot as well. Conservatives not so much, but it still happens.
Let me start by answering the first question, "what is a right?" in terms of what they are functionally. The power to declare rights is the power of tyranny. I explored this at length in the first book on Localism and even more in the second. Once something becomes a " civil right" then it takes it out of the public sphere. It becomes the purview of whoever has the right. For example, if we have the right to free speech it does not matter if what I say is offensive to the majority in my community. They can't pass a law telling me to shut up because by definition a "right" is a claim against the majority. The same thing if they don't like my religion, or that I own a gun. A civil right is an area of life which is not subject to a vote. That's how rights are supposed to work. And they were so essential that the view of our founders was that if a government habitually crossed the line and failed to respect the rights of its citizens then armed rebellion was justified.
The concept of civil rights was so powerful that our founders worked out a laborious process for quantifying them. Not all of them wanted to do that- those who favored a strong central state did not want to spell them out, but those suspicious of a strong central state would block the ratification of the constitution without an attendant Bill of Rights which put them in writing. History has proven them more correct, for our governments frequently violate the rights which are plainly spelled out in the text of the constitution in violation of the Rule of Law. How much moreso if those rights had never been spelled out on paper in the first place?
The Bill of Rights, and subsequent amendments to the constitution, some of which had to do with civil rights, were legitimized through a laborious process of ratification. Everyone had a chance to understand what they were getting, and the majority of citizens, through more than one process, basically signed off on the idea that the federal government they were creating would have large areas of life that it could not mess with. They were recognizing limitations on what they could collectively demand of their neighbors through the new government which they had created. Once these restrictions were in place, it was from time to time the duty of the Judicial Branch to remind the Executive and the Legislative Branch that some action of theirs went too far and violated the compact which established their right to govern.
But this is not what we see going on today. We have lost touch with the original process of determining "rights". The process has now mutated into something which is unhealthy, unsustainable, and eventually chaotic. The process of something becoming a civil right is disconnected from any prior recognition by the people that the label fits. Nor are they now limited to the idea of claims that an individual has against the state. They are now doled out by group identity- that the state uses to limit the actions of other private citizens. So instead of the state being the one limited by civil rights, individuals are being limited by them via state action. Thus what was originally recognized in order to limit state action has become the tool by which the state is empowered to meddle further in the lives of citizens.
These days people just declare something a "right" and demand that it be treated as such regardless of whether or not their neighbors or ancestors ever agreed to be bound by such a view of rights. If some judge backs them up, then its considered that a new "civil right" has been discovered. It's asinine. It flies in the face of the principle of the rule of law, and the consent of the governed, as well as historical truth about where rights are considered to come from and how they are recognized.
This promiscuous manufacture of pseudo-rights will only feel liberating and empowering for an historically brief period of time. What it will lead to is the rapid division of America into "victim's groups" competing for a share of an ever-more-overtly politicized court system. A court system which will squander its remaining public legitimacy attempting to bench-legislate the personal preferences of its judges into "rights". None of us will be at peace as the rules are constantly at risk of changing based on who is up and who is down in this process. Congress will become even less effective than they are as they off-load all responsibility for their tough decisions to the other two branches- maximizing the incumbency of their members.
The end result will be one that the totalitarian state will love- the very concept of "rights" will be de-legitimized in the minds of the people. They will equate the idea of "rights" with the idea of the state pushing them around on behalf of someone else- the exact opposite of what a right is actually supposed to be. Just like flooding an area with counterfeit money causes people to doubt the legitimacy of the real thing, flooding a society with hackneyed pseudo-rights will erode confidence in the very concept. This is why the people who are questioning this proliferation of new "rights" are not necessarily mean people who want to hurt others. No more than people who question whether money is real or counterfeit are just trying to stop whoever holds them from buying nice stuff. Some of us are concerned for the integrity of the process because we understand how terrible it could be were it fatally compromised.
The functional definition of what a right is and the process of how rights become recognized has been hijacked and mutated. The poisonous fruit of these mutations will be cataclysmic if not addressed. And the root cause of the how and the what being mutated is that the where  was first mutated. The populations has rejected the Founder's belief about where rights come from. The Founder's believed that rights were a gift from our Creator. They were only recognized by the people and by the state, not granted by either. Jefferson described the recognition of this source for rights in the mind of the people as "their only firm basis".  It is the view of rights reflected in the Bill of Rights, for it does not say "the people shall have the right to bear arms." Rather it says "the right of the people to keep and bear arms". The right pre-exists the state, and is only formally recognized by it, not granted by it.
I believe that those who cheapen the concept of rights are, whether consciously or not, acting as enemies of the rights which we legitimately have. This is especially true when they refuse to countenance the view of the Founder's as to their source.  This is the idea that the true source of our rights is our Creator, not the people, and not the state.
These days a lot of citizens, especially younger ones, are Theophobic. They have an irrational fear of, and in some cases even a loathing of, God. This irrationality expresses itself on this issue. If the state or the people are the source of our rights, then they can take those away. It's their option. This demotes "rights" into an artificial political construct. If on the other hand, governments and people only recognize rights which are granted by Nature's God (and are present whether they choose to acknowledge them or not) then the failure to recognize them is an offense, not just an option.
This is what Jefferson was talking about in quote above. On the subject of slavery he was complaining that his countrymen where not recognizing the rights of black people to be free and that there would be consequences for their failure to recognize the moral order of the universe. He was right, and Abraham Lincoln said as much in his second Inaugural address - he basically said that maybe this civil war is so bloody and awful because we are paying for our sins of keeping blacks as slaves for so long.
Reverence for God has gone out the window in our culture, and with it is going due reverence for the concept of rights as our Founders described them. Because the proper recognition of the source of human rights would limit their counterfeit application, some of the counterfeiters are unwilling to accept this truth. What they don't want to understand is that it is impossible to sustain respect for civil rights as a concept once it is severed from the idea their origin is from a source greater than mankind. They may long for and demand just government, but they will never for any great length of time have it, for they undermine the foundations upon which it must rest.

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.

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?