Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Iron Chancellor was a Pacifist Compared to U.S. Neocons

Otto von Bismarck, Germany's "Iron Chancellor". 
Can't you tell what a sweetheart he was? 

“The Balkans aren't worth the life of a single Pomeranian grenadier.” ― Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck was known as the "Iron Chancellor" of Imperial Germany. He often scoffed at politics, and declared that some issues would not be resolved by majority votes but rather by "iron and blood." By his own admission, he led his nation into three wars in which 800,000 people died. He lamented that these actions were a barrier between him and God. The Nazis loved him so much that they named their best battleship after him!

He sounds like a pretty ruthless character, and history usually judges him as such. Though that may be true, I find Bismarck to be a judicious, humble, and even populist figure compared to the neocons who presently run the foreign policy apparatus of the United States in both establishment parties.

Both they and Bismarck show contempt for democracy. Americans have voted for whichever Presidential candidate promised them peace since the early 1990's but all we seem to get is more war no matter what they campaigned on. See this video where Gore and Bush literally changed positions on foreign policy after the latter was elected. They care even less for what voters want than he did!

Bismarck's moral superiority to today's neocons really shines when you consider the amount of hubris each displays in using the military might of their nations. Obviously, Bismarck was no shrieking violet. But at least he understood that there where areas of the world which were not worth intervening in, even areas as close to Germany as the Balkans. In their extreme arrogance today's neocons have sent our nation's soldiers to just about ever mud hole on earth with absolute confidence in their ability to re-order those societies in what they consider "our" interests.

That these grandiose and bloody adventures have uniformly failed to achieve their visions has not deterred their enthusiasm to play God with the life and treasure of our nation. They act like they have some kind of Divine right to rule the world, using as an excuse fighting the "terrorists" that they themselves, along with their allies in the Arabian Peninsula, created.

The other area which shows the Iron Chancellor to be a much more moral man than the typical neocon today is their respective attitudes before God. Bismarck at least understood that there was a God to which man would be accountable. In the over-whelming hubris of today's neocons God is not a factor, but they don't hesitate to use the name of God when it advances their aims. Unlike him, they seem unrestrained by the fear of God. They act as though God is only an information warfare tool at their disposal!

Obviously the central state is very useful to such warped minds. Our goal should be to decentralize the military to such an extent that it becomes impossible to embroil the nation in endless, ruinous, and pointless foreign wars. The blue book on localism below outlines how such a nation's military might be constructed, as well as identifying all other ways in which power is centralized and what ought to be done about it. The red book defends the view of government proposed in the blue book on a philosophical basis from the two extreme political ideas which might oppose it- anarchy and the central state.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Trouble in Catalan

Catalan has declared independence from Spain. Throughout this process the Spanish government has acted about like the Chinese government would behave - with total inflexibility and threats of force.

The "enlightened" EU members refuse to recognize Catalan. In the end we see that some huge centralized structures may put up better fronts than others, but their interest is in accumulating control which is the antithesis of individual liberty.

I am not a secessionist myself, in the sense that I don't want to secede from the central government, I just want to greatly reduced its sphere of influence. But I am a secessionist in the sense that I believe what the Declaration of Independence says about the right of communities of humans to alter or abolish a form of government which no longer fulfills its just purpose - protecting their God-given rights. This right of secession is meaningless unless it stands whether or not the offending government declares it to be legal or illegal.

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 was influenced by the Fascists of the Franco administration. Naturally it puts "National Greatness" over "Human Freedom" in its priorities. But by making it illegal to leave Spain no matter how antagonistic the relationship is we find there was no particular reason for Madrid to treat Catalan with respect or equity. Paradoxically, when it is legally recognized that a province can leave a central state, it sets in motion forces where that province is treated in such a manner that it will tend to not want to leave. When the central state attempts to enforce the fiction that leaving can't even be discussed much less attempted, it will set in motion forces which lead to the dissolution of the nation.

One of the pillars of localism is that relationships between governments at various levels should be voluntary.  And if a sub-unit decides that it wants to change the unit it is in then there should be a legal process by which this can be done. Agreeing in advance on the terms under which a split can occur not only makes inevitable splits less painful and bloody, it can actually reduce the chances that a split is necessary!


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?

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.


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.