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?

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.