Wizardly Wisdom Guest Spot #2!

Hello all,

Here’s another bit of audio-only content.  I did another guest spot on Wizardly Wisdom Podcast.  The first one was a blast, but this one is about 20% more awesome.  We spoke about the philosophical underpinnings of the libertarian movement, some historical context for different positions people hold to be “the libertarian position”, and why discourse about this discourse is important.

You’ll have to forgive my rough audio, we had some technical difficulties, but I think the content more than makes up for a little echo and click.

 

Regulations

This is another audio-only post.  Given how out-of-control my life has been with work, my side gig as an Anarchist Consultant, and the birth of my fourth beautiful daughter (and fourth total daughter), I’ve been less able to write things down as I want to be.  So, for now, I’m going out of my way to produce more short-form audio recordings on relevant subjects and release those more frequently.

This is the first of one such post.

Carpe Veritas,
Mad Philosopher

Liberty Classroom: an Invaluable Tool

If you are reading this near the end of November in 2016, you can get some major discounts and provide a great deal of support to the Mad Philosopher project by going to Tom Woods Liberty Classroom and subscribing.  If you are reading this at any other time, you can still provide a great amount of value to the project by doing so.

Tom Woods Liberty Classroom is easily one of the most undervalued resources available on the internet, as it provides a legitimate PhD-level resource on a number of crucial subjects such as history and economics.  The term “legitimate” is important, here, as what most universities provide is only half-true and full of leftist propaganda.  This resource is the closest to comprehensive and the closest to unbiased as can be found.

Click Here to get some coupon codes and subscribe.  This affiliate program is definitely one of the best ways to support the Mad Philosopher project, second only to just sending me Bitcoin directly.

 

Here’s some free samples (the best stuff is behind the paywall, obviously):

the best way to fulfill the maxim “Carpe Veritas” is to subscribe to Liberty Classroom and take advantage of everything such a subscription provides.

patreon-logo

Logical Anarchy Guest Spot!

Today, I have another guest spot I’d like to present.  I feel much better about my performance on this episode than the previous guest spot I had, and I’d like my readers/listeners to check out the work that they do over at Logical Anarchy.

Carpe veritas



patreon-logo

From Value to Voting

Today’s post is a far cry from my original podcast episode (and most popular post to-date). As far as I can tell, all of the points I raised on both sides of that dialogue still apply, but I have had about four years to think about it and have some more ideas to throw around.

Earlier this year, I had a surprising revelation which was earth-shattering for me, but would probably come across to my readers as obvious as the revelation I had in my post concerning surprises, themselves. That revelation is that not only is value subjective, but value is ordinal, not cardinal. Half of you are probably saying “I don’t even know what that means” and the other half are saying “Well, duh.” Cardinality, with regards to numbers, is essentially numbering: “one, two, three…” Ordinality, essentially means that something is ordered; with regards to lists of things, it would mean that rather than using numbers, one would use superlatives and relationships: “This more than that, that more than the other thing, etc.”

This is one of those things that usually goes unexamined by just about everyone, myself included. The reason this comes as a surprise to me is a result of my Marxist and Classical roots. One of the pipe-dreams of the communists is the idea of a scientifically-engineered economy; for a prime example of this pipe-dream, one need only look as far as Keynesian (or mainstream) economics and the arch-Keynesian, Paul Krugman. The only way this fiction could appear remotely possible is if one is capable of empirically evaluating individuals’ subjective preferences. Empirical studies require numbers and raw data, which one cannot acquire if value is ordinal, not cardinal. Therefore cardinal value is taken by Marxists as a given, and usually only unconsciously.

If anyone has worked in engineering in any capacity, they can understand that if one changes something even very minor and unobserved in the design of a building, machine, or piece of software one of two possibilities are likely to occur: either the general design can continue operation unaffected, or the whole system will fail horribly and unexpectedly, resulting in all sorts of confusion and hair-pulling. In this case, I knew intuitively that as I realized this minor difference, it would impact my philosophical comprehension concerning all sorts of things, including but not limited to my reductivist understanding of reality, the psychology of man, linguistic quirks, and the ethics of voting.

I have been careful in my use of language concerning preferences already: pointing out that certain options were “not preferable” or “least bad”, in order to not leave the impression that I would endorse such an option. If I recall correctly, a good example of this quirk is lurking in my post on crime and vice but I could be mistaken. Upon examination, though, I’m not so sure that such a linguistic turn is appropriate. In reality, with value being subjective and ordinal, there really is no such thing as “not preferable” or even “less bad”; instead, there’s simply varying degrees of preference, relative between options that are available. At this moment, I prefer sleep to food and working on this blog post to sleep. When one looks at action in the context of consequences, I generally prefer working my job and getting paid to sleeping at my desk and getting fired. When one looks at general principles, I prefer verisimilitude to fantasy and moral action to immoral action.

I’ve thus far demonstrated a preference for living over dying, pleasure over pain, quality over quantity, etc. At any given moment, given a particular context, I may act in contradistinction to these general preferences: acting in such a way so as to cause pain in the immediate future for pleasure in the long run, for example. If I were starving to death in a desert and the only prospect for food in any redemptive about of time were a bowl of cyanide-laced curry, I may choose to act against my preference for remaining alive given the morbid prospects on all sides. These are just examples, but I think you get the point.

These examples are not examples of a violation of some sort of principle or character trait but are, instead, examples of the subjectivity of human action. Action requires an assessment of the facts at hand, a desire for a particular outcome, and the possibility of that outcome being achieved; it’s a uniquely human activity. As such, even though I have a general preference for such things, the facts on the ground may disallow certain possible outcomes, limiting the opportunities for action to options that are, in the abstract, less preferable than the options usually available.

This, in a way, is informed by my description of ethics. If ethics is the rational investigation of actionable goals, ethics is really the source of a framework by which to determine preferences and actions to be taken to achieve said preferences. It is also informed by my description of responsibilities in my discussion of intellectual property. If one cannot be responsible for the ideas that others concoct from available sense experience, one is not endorsing a particular course of action on a moral basis by expressing a preference by way of action or word. In other words, I would not be endorsing suicide as a moral maxim in the case of a desert with poisoned curry; I would merely be acting on a preference specific to myself and the particular context in which I found myself. Sorry Kant, Aquinas, and other positivists, you’re wrong in this case.

I’m sure most of my readers have played some variation of “would your rather?” In most variations of this game, there is a set of options (usually two) offered with no context. “Would you rather die of exposure to heat or exposure to cold?” or, “Would you rather make out with a movie star or drive a sweet car?” are good examples of such options. Most normal people simply weigh the options based either on immediate circumstances: “Well, right now I’m hot, so it would be a sort of relief and cruel irony all at once to die of cold…” or they weigh the options based on a self-assessment of character, “Well, one set of lips is more or less the same as any other (to me), but I’m never gonna get to drive something like a Formula 1 if I don’t take this chance…” The sophomoric philosophical types (myself included) more often answer with nonsense responses which try to contextualize the options or point out that “Neither option is preferable, so I’d just let whichever one happens first to happen.” I’ve since learned the error of my ways and I’m trying to navigate this new understanding of subjective value.

So, today, I find myself in a convoluted and Kafkaesque context for certain actions and opportunities (or lack thereof) to express my preferences. Any of my readers are likely aware of my default list of complaints, so I don’t need to rehash them today. The reason that list of complaints becomes pertinent today is this: when one is faced with a hyper-inclusive mass-democracy which possesses a monopoly on violence and perceived legitimacy, one is forced to either roll over and take whatever abuse comes one’s way, engage in one-tenth measures to perform damage control, or to fight or flee.

There’s several popular analogies and limit-cases anarchists and statists alike like to appeal to in order to demonstrate some aspect or another of voting. There’s also a lot of cases people throw around concerning whether one has an obligation to vote, whether voting is a violation of the NAP, whether a vote is an endorsement of a particular candidate and everything he will do, whether voting is an act of self-defense or an act of legitimizing the crimes of the state, and so much more; it’s an insane rabbit-hole that I’ve been spelunking in for a while, now.

At the end of the day, though, only individuals act and one doesn’t bear responsibility for the actions of other individuals. As such, the moral and ethical status of voting relies entirely on the nature of communication and preferences. Is voting a means by which one endorses another individual or delegates authority? Or, alternatively, is voting nothing more than a voicing of a preference. If it is voicing a preference, is it voicing a preference in the context of availability, like in a game of “would you rather”, where you have only choice A or choice B? Or is it voicing a preference in the abstract, where you’re offered choice A or B, but you could just say “I’m gonna look for better options”?

For four years, I have been a principled anarchist non-voter. For those four years, my conscience has been clean. This has probably been for a number of reasons: the most primary of which is that, given the ontological framework I was working with, voting was both unethical and immoral. This position was best described, in writing, in my initial post on voting. During that time, I still had a lot of Marxist predispositions I hadn’t yet analyzed or even come to be aware of, most notable of which is the fact that I was an expressivist as opposed to a realist and that value is ordinal not cardinal.

I would love to take my time and sort out all of the answers in as long a timeline as is needed, but this year’s ballot is coming due in a matter of days and I am doing what I can to be as virtuous and as moral as I can be despite access to the truth of the matter. It doesn’t help that previous elections have been presented as a choice between socialism and socialism-lite while this election, if my understanding is accurate, can easily play out to be the choice between real war versus proxy war, full-blown self-destruction and merely bad economic choices, and socialists propagating versus socialists killing themselves or moving away. Really, I’d almost sell my soul just to see the Clintons in prison, anyway.

The way I see it right now, if I fill out a ballot and turn it in, all I have done is draw some lines on paper and send that paper to some socialist who’s going to pretend to interpret those lines in accordance with my preferences. If I’m doing so to voice a preference between one candidate or another, or raising versus maintaining taxes, or using the violent apparatus of the state to force people to by things they don’t want and sell to people they don’t like or to let people mind their own business, I’m simply playing a game of “would you rather” in the context of a world in which there is a violent gang that is going to pretend to be acting on my preferences.

If they actually did act on my preferences in the abstract, they would systematically shut down all operations and auction off assets to make bankruptcy payments to those that own US Federal debt. In more contextualized circumstances, I’d rather use tax dollars to build walls and reduce the flood of welfare-seekers as opposed to subsidizing the importation of the same and I’d rather use the bully-pulpit of the presidency to promote masculinity, productivity, and competitiveness as opposed to death, destruction, terrorism, and weakness.

Admittedly, this looks more like a personal aesthetic choice to me than a moral one. The current opportunity-cost associated with filling out a ballot, for me, is the 45 minutes it would take to consider the options, google a few judges and local representatives, and drop it off on my way to work. Seeing as how those 45 minutes would probably be spent playing DOOM or watching anime, I think I can spare them. I hope, in the future to be so productive so as to be unable to afford that cost. Then I can go back to being a non-voter because I’m going the ethically-superior route for expressing my preferences, a-la Assange.

Yes, I know that the rampant voter and election fraud swamp my singular vote and that the electoral college doesn’t give a damn about the popular vote. Yes, I know that democracy is the least legitimate of all the forms of government (of which, all are illegitimate) and that I’ve said in the past that killing voters might not be a violation of the NAP. Yes, I know that the group of individuals calling themselves “the state” will continue to murder and rape at more-or-less the same rate. All this considered, it doesn’t change the fact that the one-tenth measure of simply saying “I’d rather you rape me a little more gently” would be preferable to just rolling over and taking it.

ready-to-vote

TL;DR: I’ve recently discovered the fact that value is ordinal, not cardinal. Where that would normally mean very little to most people, it has altered my ontology sufficiently so as to make me reconsider a great many things. Most pertinent to this fall is the moral status of voting. I’m writing this blog post to follow up on one of my first posts concerning voting and to kick around some newer considerations I have concerning moral, ethical, and aesthetically appealing action. As always, this is intended to be a setpiece for conversation, not some doctrine to which anyone must hold fast.

Oh, and P.S. I’m going to try and actually make a follow-up post showing exactly how I’m going to vote and to encourage you to do as I do. Spoiler alert: Hilary is evil incarnate and all of the third-party candidates are almost as bad for various reasons.

P.P.S. Don’t forget to support this project on Patreon!

The Downfall Episode 28

This week, I’ve got a treat for you guys.  I was a guest on The Downfall with Jared and Dave!  I wrote briefly about them before, and it was an honor being welcomed onto their show.  I gave them about a week to get all their regular views before posting it here, just so that they could get credit for their quality production, first.

Also, if you’ve somehow missed the repeated announcements, we’re on Patreon!  Please consider incentivizing the production of more Mad Philosopher content; big donors get neat prizes and the ability to influence the direction of the show and if we hit certain goals, the project can expand.

patreon-logo

Coffee and Capitalism

This post is actually brought to you by a sponsor! Coffee By Gillespie is a great site for meeting your coffee needs. If you use Coupon Code “madphilosopher”, you can get 10% off, and it sure beats Starbucks.

20160914_153841

For all of my “complaining” about our sorry state of affairs in today’s statist and war-driven global society, I really wouldn’t choose to live in any other time in history. I kinda’ brought this up in my post righting Robert Reich’s horrifying mistakes and propaganda, but it bears repeating. Just today, I rode my personal self-powered chariot to my climate-controlled workplace, pooped indoors, performed ancient and arcane rituals off of printed media while wearing fine silks, ate foods imported from around the world, listened to several academicians and musicians performing for my satisfaction, and now I’m sipping on a beverage that 10th century kings murdered people over (and my version is infinitely better-tasting than theirs could ever hope to be). In just one day, I’ve accomplished nearly everything that King Louis the 14th had in his entire life… and I managed to do it on a shoestring budget.

That’s right, this post is another love-letter to capitalism. But this one, in particular, is brought to you by that most popular of drugs: coffee. Those of you familiar with the Tuttle Twins or Leonard Read will likely recognize what I’m about to say about this most amazing beverage.

As far as I can tell, coffee has the same origin story most of my favorite foods has: some people were hungry and decided to eat something they probably shouldn’t have… and after a few tries, found a way to eat it that didn’t result in a painful and sudden death. In this case, burning the seeds of a certain berry tree and making a tea out of the burned seeds. Between the caffeine in the seeds, the appetite-suppressing qualities of the beverage, and the fact that it tastes better than the nasty water and ales that the people of the time had to drink, it caught on pretty quickly. I can’t blame them.

Of course, unless you lived in Ethiopia at the time, you’d have to buy coffee from merchants who had the foresight to bring something like burned seeds up to Europe or wherever you happened to live at the time. That type of service would take a long time and it was fairly expensive. Ultimately, only the aristocracy had the ability to pony up the cash to buy the beverage, and only those with the social connections to the proper merchants even had access to a supply of these burned seeds. The workers (peasants) were relegated to drinking the fermented sewage which passed as ale at the time and had very little variety in what was available. This wasn’t a failure of capitalism, mind you, it was merely the stage of development Europe was at in it’s long, slow, climb out of the natural state of man (that is to say, abject poverty).

Of course, if someone wants something and someone else has it, a deal can always be struck. In this case, the demand for coffee was realized as quickly as something could be realized with old-school trade caravans. The fact that certain “brands” of coffee were in higher demand than others, as well as the fact that the demand of coffee relative to other commodities, encouraged farmers in areas able to grow coffee to make more and better coffee. Due to the profit margin associated with the supply and demand, people produce more and better coffee and, as it begins to meet the needs of foreign consumers, the price of this precious beverage actually decreases… until, in the 20th century, the phrase “that and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee” became commonplace. If that phrase doesn’t make sense or if you’re too young to remember it, it means that the “that” being referred to is worthless. Oh, and coffee is super cheap.

Of course, the coffee that was typically priced at a nickel was the cheap American swill that companies like Folgers produced. As a matter of fact, when American soldiers were in Europe during the World War, the coffee makers in Europe were astounded when the soldiers would take their delicious Turkish espresso and add a bunch of water and cream to it to essentially ruin the coffee to the point that it resembled the stuff they were used to back home. With the sudden boom in consumer communication technology following the fall of Berlin, the markets became much more efficient, and Europeans began drinking American swill and Americans began drinking espresso.

In my lifetime, this intercommunication of markets and shifting demands has created what I consider to be one of the “seven (consumer) wonders of the market”. The beverage I’m contentedly and lovingly sipping while writing this post is not your granddaddy’s coffee, just like the weed your stoner cousin is smoking isn’t your granddaddy’s weed. The market has produced a wide array of incredibly potent and delicious (mostly) harmless drugs at a reasonably affordable price, due entirely to the price-finding mechanisms and consumer demand. If it weren’t for capitalism, none of us would have tasted coffee, let alone, created the awesome stuff I’m drinking right now.

As anyone familiar with the marketplace will tell you, there’s always certain trade-offs one can (and even must) make when making an exchange. In this case, if you want convenience, you go to Starbucks (or the state-monopolized dispensary if you’re looking for weed) and pay a convenience premium. If you want the good stuff, you have to know the right people, whether it be the hole-in-the-wall coffee shop or that one stoner who sells pot out of the back entrance of a warehouse, which is a little less convenient, but it’s got much better bang for the buck.

After drinking Coffee By Gillespie and taking a look at their website, I’m comfortable claiming that this is a place that you can get both the convenience (and trustworthiness) of a Starbucks and the quality of that hard-to-find word-of-mouth shop without paying a premium. So far, my favorite roast/source is the “Tanzania Mbeya Highlands Peaberry”, but I haven’t tried all of the samples yet. Of course, my favorite type of coffee is the high-altitude, wet-washed, dark roasts, so this is likely to be my favorite of all the samples, anyway. It’s not as dark as some of the other roasts I like, but it’s got a certain sweetness and acidity to it that you can’t get in a darker roast.

20160914_165800

Anyway, now that I’ve got my coffee-snobbishness out of my system, I want to encourage you to support yourself, the economy, the coffea arabica, and this site all at once by going to Coffee By Gillespie and ordering your own bag of ecstasy (the sensation, not the drug) and using coupon code “madphilosopher” at checkout.

Before I let you go, though, I want to just do a quick rundown of the process by which this coffee gets to your door, because it’s a miracle of the market. There’s a guy in Tanzania or Ethiopia, or some other high-altitude tropical region who gets hired to tend some plants and harvest their fruits periodically. The guy paying him has also hired some people to soak the berries in water or lay them out in the sun until the seeds are easily removed. This guy then sells the seeds to a different guy. The guys growing and washing the coffee beans don’t need to know where the seeds are going or why, all they need is to ply their trade and get paid in order to elevate themselves out of poverty.

The guy who buys the seeds hires a crew to roast the seeds. Again, the employees don’t have to know all the intricacies of the market, only that they are getting paid to roast the beans. Then the guy with the roaster sells the beans to a distributor in a first-world country, somewhere. In order to get the beans from the opposite side of the globe, this distributor pays someone else to ship the beans from one side of the planet to the other. Then the distributor distributes the beans either directly to the customer or to a retail outfit. Either way, you then pay the distributor for these irreplaceable beans and consume them.

Looking at that long chain of laborers, and how much money it cost to get it from the dirt in Ethiopia to your stomach, it’s a wonder that it’s only about twenty bucks. Think about the shipping alone! $20 of gas can get my Prizm from one end of the state to the other on a good day… but this giant-ass ship gets your beans across the ocean for far less. It’s like magic! I’ll get into how that can be the case, later. For now, I want to explore even more intricacies. For example, the tools that the coffee farmers use are produced via similar means: from raw materials to finished product, the tool passes through several stages of laborers and exchanges. And the tools used by the roasters, and the shippers, and the distributors. It’s literally impossible, with the current tools at mankind’s’ disposal, to map out every single one of these relationships required to get coffee beans into your stomach and that caffeine into your blood… and that same complexity applies to just about everything else you use and consume, as well.

So, if no one can map out all of these relationships, how can it even happen? Well, that requires us to backtrack through that entire chain I indicated before. You pay a distributor for a particular batch of coffee, whether it be a $7 bucket of Folgers or a $16 package of “Ethiopia Organic Tencho Cooperative” deliciousness (10% off if you use my link and code). This sends a market signal (along with everyone else making these purchases) that there is money to be made in importing these products for less than that price per unit. Someone with enough money to purchase the roasted beans and pay for importation can then make such an investment. Making that investment sends a market signal to the roaster that there is money to be made in buying and roasting the beans for less than the distributor will pay per unit. Again, the roaster and grower see similar signals. At this stage, the grower needs employees. This sends a market signal to employees that there is a certain amount of money to be made for investing the time and work required to grow the beans, which may be a better option than what else is on the employment market.

As before, it’s not just a single channel of communication through the market, either. All the previously mentioned complexity still applies. Either the grower or his employer must purchase tools, which send those signals all they way back to the miners and lumberjacks, for example. This is where entrepreneurs, such as Coffee by Gillespie come in. What an entrepreneur is, at his heart, is someone who sees different resources available on the market and finds a way to mix them together in a new way that provides more value to others than the individual parts would. To (mis)quote Aristotle: “This whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

All this is only possible, specifically the bag of coffee for $20 despite all of the costs associated with making it and transporting it across the globe, due to economies of scale. It would be impossible to make only one bag of coffee and get it across the globe for less than $2,000, let alone $20. Fortunately, one laborer’s worth of beans produces several hundred bags of coffee and one set of tools can be used by multiple laborers. Ships can carry millions of bags of coffee, and if there isn’t enough coffee to fill the ship, they can fill up the space with other products from other distributors. This profitable sharing of resources is something that’s also too complex to leave up to one central plan or map, it can only happen by individual shipping companies looking at market signals and making the choices that are most profitable for themselves. It just so happens that the efficiency of everyone making such decisions with such information results in all of the amazing products we have at our disposal every day. And the best part is, that guy in Ethiopia whom you’ve never met and never will, would likely have been left to starve to death in the highlands, but has now found employment and a method of survival due to your desire to drink coffee.

I could write and talk all day about all the little details involved in this process, and I sometimes do. I don’t think I’m crazy for that, though, seeing as how Rothabrd and many others have lived their entire lives doing little else than studying and admiring this phenomenon.

Vivat Forum! and Carpe Veritas.

20160917_063544

Podcast List 2016

About one year ago, on the old site, I posted an extensive list and brief set of reviews concerning the podcasts I was listening to.  People still periodically ask me what I listen to, but the old list is out-of-date.  This week, I’m listing my current podcast list and some recommendations for others to listen to.

Podcasts I continue to listen to (in order of importance):

  1. Mad Philosopher Podcast: Yeah, yeah… I know… I listen to my own show, I’m such a dork and a narcissist.  I listen to it the day I upload in order to catch major quality-control issues with the show.  I’ve already caught and re-uploaded several, so the process works.  I recommend everyone listen to what I have to say, too (as any narcissist would).
  2. Very Bad Wizards:  My favorite Philosophy podcast, these two guys are hilarious and relaxed.  Their content is always fresh and informative.  They just discuss issues in ethics and philosophy at random.
  3. Sex and Science Hour:  Brian Sovryn and Stephanie Murphy are back, and they’re better than ever.  It’s really just Sovryn Tech, but with more banter.
  4. Sovryn Tech:  A tech and culture podcast with another paradigm anarchist.  A little thick/left sometimes, but always well-reasoned and intellectual, I think Brian Sovryn has done more for liberty than any politician has, ever.
  5. Primal Blueprint:  I will be discussing this one soon in a full blog post, but over the last few months I’ve made a lot of health decisions, as has my wife, and this podcast is an interesting source of information.
  6. Radical Agenda:  With more passion and rage than even I can muster, the well-read and ever-grounded Cantwell reads the news and gets “triggered”.  Lately, he’s been forced into a corner concerning racism and right-wing politics, but I very rarely disagree with him on anything more than tactics.  He will also occasionally record a stand-alone rant which always has something important to tell someone.
  7. School Sucks Show:  Usually randomly updated, but with long episodes, School Sucks is a show devoted to education and intellectual self-defense.  Parents and educators ought to listen to this show, as well as anyone who wishes to be intellectually literate.  The host keeps it really fun and very level-headed.
  8. DH Unplugged: A weekly discussion of the financial markets by Dvorak and Horowitz.  Very informative about what’s going on in the world, even if one has no skin in the markets.  With these two, I know more about what’s going on than even listening to Cantwell or Sovryn.
  9. Tom Woods Show:  Updated every weekday, I make it a point to keep up-to-date with this show.  Tom is one of the most respectable and most influential anarchists alive today.  Every day he has something new and important to share with the world.  Everyone, regardless of what they believe, should probably listen to his show.  He covers the surface of nearly every topic even tangentially related to liberty and periodically goes super-deep.  I also listen to Contra Krugman, Woods’ other show, wherein he and Bob Murphy teach economics by tearing arch-Keynesian Paul Krugman’s works to shreds.  It’s not a podcast, but since it’s a product by Tom Woods and it far surpasses either show, the Tom Woods Liberty Classroom needs a mention here.  It’ll get you a PhD-level education in history and economics and it’s an excellent tool for figuring the world out.  If you use my link, I get a little piece of the action and it helps keep the lights on over here.
  10. Catholic Stuff you Should Know:  A podcast currently hosted by my former assistant pastor and my current pastor, they cover a wide variety of subjects, all of which are important to living a full faith life.  Lots of fun banter and jokes, lots of educational stuff.  It’s exceptionally fun for a Catholic in the process of switching rites, as my former assistant pastor is a Roman Rite priest and my current pastor is a Byzantine priest.
  11. Personal Profitability Podcast:  This is a podcast put on by a former co-worker of mine from Summer Camp.  It reminds me a lot of “The Art of Manliness” but with more useful ideas about money and less soldier worshiping.  He’s a direct descendant of Baal Shem Tov… which is mostly just an interesting sidebar, but also an indicator that he knows his money, (if you know what I mean).
  12. Philosophize This:  A fun exploration of concepts in philosophy, seemingly chosen at random.  The host has a cleverness about him and a solid grasp of the concepts and contexts he covers.  It’s another great show for beginners, as well as a way to fill in the gaps for more well-read listeners.
  13. The Incomparable: After listening to Robot or Not for a year, they finally sold me on listening to their actual show, and it’s a lot of fun.
  14. The Cracked Podcast:  Just like the Cracked website, but in audio format.  Hilarious, informative, and a little too lefty to be taken seriously.  I have fun and learn a lot of trivia.
  15. No State Project:  I only started listening a couple weeks ago, but it’s a great exploration of the Socratic method and its applicability in the kangaroo courts of ‘Murica.
  16. History of Philosophy Without any Gaps: A weekly podcast that has been methodically plodding through the history of philosophy from the pre-socratics through today.  Each episode is short, easy to understand, and like the name says, has no gaps.  Excellent for both beginners and people who know it all.  I also listen to the corollary podcast History of Philosophy In India which, ironically, fills some gaps left by the preceding podcast.
  17. Partially Examined Life:  The first podcasts I listened to, the Partially Examined life is a monthly exploration of a small group of texts in philosophy.  With a healthy balance of irreverence, humor, and knowledgeably, this show is usually a lot of fun, and teaches me stuff I didn’t know in a field in which I’m generally very knowledgeable.  They approach the text much the same way a seminar class would in college, but with less authorities around.  Since they’ve become the name in philosophy podcasts, they’ve kinda gotten corporate and are trying a little too hard to be “inclusive” in their approach, but they’re still a great listen.
  18. Anime World Order:The snobby older brother to Anime Pulse, AWO updates rarely and sporadically, but I very much enjoy their discussions of older anime, especially since they tend to share similar opinions to my own and expose me to things I’ve missed.  They’ve got an older and more refined taste than a lot of anime commentators out there.  I grew up on 80s and 90s anime, so that’s still where my preferences lie.
  19. Robot or Not: Five minute episodes in which the hosts determine whether or not a specific piece of technology is a robot.  Fun, short, funny.  I disagree with their conditions for being a robot, but that doesn’t take away from the fun.
  20. Rationally Speaking:  An atheist podcast that focuses primarily on cognitive biases, science, and ethics.  On rare occasion they’ll bring Neil DeGrasse Tyson (or some other popular “scientist”) on to shit all over philosophy and religion, but they are usually very nice and even-handed.  One of the main hosts left a year ago, but the remaining host has carried along nicely.
  21. Revolutions:  A podcast that goes very in-depth discussing the history of drifferent revolutions.  I listened to it upon a reader’s suggestion after my post on slave rebellions.
  22. History on Fire:  A podcast from Daniele Bolelli (of Drunken Taoist fame).  He recounts interesting and often-ignored chunks of history from an amusing angle.  The history lessons being my favorite part of the Drunken Taoist, this podcast is pretty awesome.
  23. Downfall with Jared Howe:  Technically part of a larger group of shows (seeds of liberty), Downfall is hosted by a guy I met on facebook who is an absolute genius.  I finally got convinced by a mutual friend of ours to listen to his show, and I like it.
  24. Samurai Archives Podcast: Exactly what it sounds like.  A historical survey of Japanese culture, samurai, bushido, etc.  A must-listen for samurai fans.
  25. The Ex-Worker:  An AnCom production about AnComs.  I still listen to it, even though I’ve had an anti-communist awakening over the last year (alongside Cantwell’s racist awakening).  I am still encouraged by their ability to get out and fuck shit up, even if they are fighting the wrong enemy half the time.
  26. Revolutionary Parent:  Formerly “Powerful Parenting”, this show is almost never updated anymore, as they’ve moved to a new content method.  Their rare piece of content is still worth it, though, as the host coaches people through the methods of peaceful parenting, which is really just NVC applied to children.
  27. Radiolab:  This show (still) keeps just barely making the cut.  Overproduced, frenetic, and excessively liberal, the only thing that keeps me coming back is the fact that every three episodes or so presents me with something I hadn’t known about previously.
  28. Manga Pulse:  A subsidiary of Anime Pulse, a podcast that’s really gone down the tubes since management changed.  Manga Pulse is hosted by a couple guys that live in my hometown of Denver and tend to be a lot of fun whenever they actually upload a show.
  29. Eric’s Guide to Ancient Egypt:  This show is great for me, as I did a lot of reading about Egypt when I was in high school and never had a chance since.  I don’t know if the show’s been cancelled or not, as I haven’t heard much from them since the school the titular “Eric” works at got shot up by a drugged-up leftard.

Podcasts I no longer listen to:

  • Drunken Taoist:  the podcast started getting more and more lefty as I was getting less and less lefty.  With History on Fire being several hours at a time, I couldn’t do both.
  • Rebel Love Show:  Degenerate druggies discussing degeneracy and whining about cops.  Where Cantwell’s technical roughness is easily compensated for his actual content, the technical roughness of the rebel love show has nothing to hold onto for support.
  • Lets Talk Bitcoin:  As I became less enthusiastic about the inanity of the cryptocurrency “communities”, I lost interest in the daily shows about the inanity of the crypto-space.  Still love Bitcoin and still love MaidSafe, but I don’t want to listen to podcasts about regulators regulating what should be free.
  • East Meets West:  I just got bored with them and the other podcasts have overwhelmed my playlist.
  • Art of Manliness:  They started re-treading old roads and shows like School Sucks and Personal Profitability cover a lot of the same material.  The soldier-worship started getting intolerable, too.
  • Matt Walsh:  Since I put him on last year’s list, all he’s done is cry about Donald Trump and about how republicans aren’t warmonger-y enough.  I’d rather just listen to Cantwell.
  • Freedom Feens:  It used to be fun, but MK Lordes really started getting a lot more time (obnoxious feminist), and the program became the 24-hour “Michael Deen slowly dies on-mike while everyone strawmans Cantwell” show.  Ultimately, the daily two-hour shows were just way too much time and way too little content.
  • Anarchast:  Jeff Berwick is a scammy guy and I stopped listening a few episodes after he was seriously entertaining flat-earthers.

Podcasts that have been discontinued:

  • Superego
  • Atlas MD (never officially canceled, but I haven’t seen an episode in a very long time)

cropped-From-Scratch-4.2-Background-and-name.png

Democracy: The God That Failed

Back in college, when Bitcoin was brand new, I was still a techno-optimist trotskyite, and I was only just halfway through Human Action for the first time, I had a weird conversation with an upperclassman.

I was arguing about Aristotelianism and its contributions to communism with a classmate when this upperclassman interrupted and began building a case for restoring a Catholic monarchy. Needless to say, I was neither surprised nor impressed… at least at first. Then, he started using the terminology used in Human Action and really got my attention.

At the end of our conversation, I was far from sold on his case for monarchy but I was willing to read the book he offered me off the shelf in the school library: Democracy: The God That Failed. I read the book and it changed my understanding of the world irrevocably. As a matter of fact, I went back and read the first half of Human Action again, and actually understood it. I wasn’t an immediate convert, though; it would be another two years before I dropped real communism in favor of communism light: republican conservatism.

20160904_072907

Why all the autobiography in a book review? I wanted people to know the reluctance with which I engaged the ideas in this book and the profound change it had on my philosophical moorings.

In this book, Hans Hermann Hoppe begins by exploring the historio-economic history of the rise of democracy, explores econ 101 as could only be taught by an Austrian economist who studied directly under Rothbard, and proceeds to describe the economics behind democracy, monarchy, and natural order. Of course, he makes the same case all Austrians do: “Value is subjective, so I’m not going to tell you what to value, but I am going to show you the relationships between various causes and effects so that you can act on those values efficaciously. So, if you value human flourishing…”

The primary focus of Hoppe is the nature of economics and the incentives that emerge under different political arrangements, specifically monarchy, democracy, and anarchy. I couldn’t do the work justice without approaching a page count comparable to the book, but I do want to give you a preview of what’s in store.

In the case of anarchy, economic incentives parallel the Darwinian reality of nature and, where many argue that is a flaw of anarchy, it is inescapable no matter what social structure one builds on top of that state of nature. For example, survival of those best conditioned to live in a particular environment is one such reality. The way this plays out in the absence of the state is that those better suited to delay gratification, cooperate with others, and defend private property are more likely to benefit from a division of labor, specialization of skills, and technological advancement than those who are less suited to such activities.

In the absence of criminal or political elements which undermine these activities, there will be a natural selective process by which those who have these abilities amass more wealth, social capital, and mating opportunities than those who do not. On a long enough timeline, this will create evolutionary side-effects but even in the short-run, market forces naturally puts wealth in the hands of those best suited to invest it in a beneficial manner. Hoppe notes that this process is, both a-priori and historically, the origin of monarchies.

Any given region with sufficient selective processes will eventually have the most well-adapted stock in charge of all or nearly all the land or other resources in the region, making the entire region one large landlord/renter arrangement. Given that this individual in-charge acquired this position by way of making wise investments and mutually-advantageous exchanges, there would be no reason to cease doing so at this point; this means that the de-facto king will continue making decisions directed at improving the value of his assets which, in turn, increases the quality of life of his tenants.

This means that those in service of the king do so by way of voluntary employment: knights, soldiers, constables, etc. provide for the security and management of the king’s assets in exchange for what amounts to wages and employee discounts/benefits. If, at any point, a tenant or employee is unable or unwilling to abide by the rules of the landlord, they can emigrate or be exiled.

It is this liberty which is at the heart of all the incentives for a healthy economy in a monarchy.  The king, in order to maintain or increase the value of his property, must strive to make it worth the cost of rent for his existing and potential productive tenants to remain and the tenants must make it worth the king’s time to invest in their quality of life. At the point in time the king no longer allows individuals to leave or otherwise undermines their ability to function within the bounds of private property, he invalidates his rightful claim to the property he is leasing to his tenants and becomes something more like a tyrant or warlord.

20160820_074337

With that transition, the people are incentivized to undermine the king’s property value while building their own investments. This leads to “black markets”, political graft, treason, and invitations to foreign kings or barbarians to invade. Such a transition is a death knell for that particular region’s economy and culture. By and large, this is the story of the collapse of the British Crown and Empire. Of course, what came next was less than preferable: the rise of democracy.

In much the same way as when a king becomes a criminal, when a democratic social order is imposed on a people, the economic incentives get turned upside-down. Whereas a king owns the kingdom and has both the natural inclination as well as economic incentive to manage it for the sake of long-term gains, a president does not own the state. Instead, a president has near-unlimited access and control over the criminal apparatus of the state designed for expropriation and market manipulation for a limited amount of time. In such a circumstance, a president is incentivized to raise taxes, secure long-term benefits for himself at the expense of future taxpayers and presidents, and to funnel value into the assets he actually owns and that his friends own.

It’s not just the politicians who are corrupted either. Whereas anarchy and de-facto anarchistic monarchy are naturally eugenic, selecting for those most able to cooperate and produce value for others, democracy is a dysgenic process, selecting for those best able to rile the masses into demanding benefits at the expense of those producing the taxed revenue, those best suited to criminal activity, and actually incentivizing all of the behaviors witnessed in the seediest inner-city slums.

The majority of the text is spent on exploring all off the perverse and dysgenic economic incentives which democracy installs over and above, and in direct contradiction to, the natural order. Given that HHH is the economist and I am not and that he spends about 150 pages on the subject, I’ll leave the rest to him. In the meantime, I want to move on to the final portion of his text.

The final portion of the text is focused on where one could be expected to go in a post-democracy world. Barring a wholesale collapse of western civilization a-la the fall of Rome which preceded the rise of free-market monarchies, it is unlikely that the state will find an appropriate method by which to auction off its properties to the people in such a way so as to undo the undue gains of the corporate entities which have grafted themselves onto the political machine. Instead, modern economic technologies such as mutual and voluntary associations and risk-pools (such as HOAs and insurance companies) can simply begin to compete with the political apparatuses and, due to the nature of voluntary markets, outperform the state and put them out of business, so long as they secure their ability to defend against the states’ violence.

This scenario seems to have a fair amount of potential behind it, given HHH’s economic arguments to the efficiency and efficacy of such a transition. While the arguments are very involved and well-argued, the general theme of the argument is that “The state provides for (or at least, doesn’t wholly disallow) various services, such as the roads, education, security, risk pooling, etc. because there is a demand for it, and in the absence of the state, there would still be a demand for what amounts to our current status quo. He explores the economic incentives that would be in place wile fulfilling those market demands in the absence of the states’ direct influence and the social order that is likely to come about as a result of those demands and incentives.

From what I know of Hoppe’s other works, I think that he finds the outcome he presents to be most preferable. While I have a more traditionalist and rugged individualist bias, which I think would be sustainable in a free-market environment, I find his proposed option infinitely preferable to what we have today. Essentially, we would have all the bourgeois amenities such as grocery stores, roads, internets, common currencies, military defenses etc. without any of the current fallout such as poorly-planned roads, wars of foreign aggression, taxation, and perverted markets.

He makes a compelling case for why competitive insurance agencies would actually manage to provide the services that government cannot in a manner consistent with property rights and individual liberties, all economically-based, of course. The first time I read this book, I was very off-put by his apparent love for insurance companies, but the second time around I realized that he’s not talking about your dad’s insurance companies, the ones twisted and maligned by intimate relationships with state violence and regulations, but real risk-mitigation and risk-sharing pools owned and managed by the people best suited to managing such affairs in a competitive market.

20160825_220208

His cases for what ought to come next seem fairly abstract, and he has been called out on that abstractedness by many other authors. To which he responded with a supplementary essay titled “What Must be Done”, wherein he outlines, step-by-step, what he believes to be the most direct and moral route from here to there in modern-day-America. Seeing as how this essay is far more controverial than Democracy: The God That Failed , this is an appropriate place to bring up the most controversial parts of the book (as if advocating the case for monarchy over democracy and anarchy over monarchy isn’t counter-cultural enough). There is a quote of his, from the middle of the book which has become quite popular in my circles on facebook:

20160904_070843

He also makes the case that a free market will naturally select for what has been the traditional family and lifestyle structure in the West. It’s not too unreasonable to think this, seeing as how that traditional family structure necessarily emerged from the selective pressures extant at the time (pre-feudal Europe) and still seem to have the most economically sound incentive structures built into them, from the a-priori angle. Where it gets controversial is when he argues that insurance companies (in their free-market iteration) will act to mitigate moral hazard rather than promote it and, that mitigation of moral hazard is likely to result in (justified) discrimination against those individuals choosing alternative lifestyles, such as homosexuality, polygamy/andry, extreme drug use, and other things that the cultural “right” views as deviant. This discrimination could be as benign as increased premiums or as intense as a denial of coverage which, in Hoppe’s propertarian conception, would result in physical exile from certain communities. As I’ve covered in my post on LibPar, this does not necessarily mean the end of the homosexual lifestyle or culture, it merely means that communities would have to form around such lifestyle choices and they would have to either be isolationist or able to compete in the marketplace against their more conservative neighbors.

The book is incredibly well-researched and annotated. There are footnotes on every page, some taking up entire pages in their own right. They are drawn from all sorts of references, not just Austrians; Hoppe calls upon historians of every political persuasion, mainstream econometricians, Austrian economists, sociologists, and more. There are a few texts that he referenced enough times that they have been put on my reading list.

20160904_072852

TL;DR: Democracy: The God That Failed is one of the books that, if there were a canon of AnCap literature, would be in said canon. When I first read the book, it neither converted me from my communist ways, nor did it convince me to become a Catholic monarchist as was the intent of the guy that told me to read it. In hindsight, though, it was the only way that I could begin to understand what AnCaps on facebook were saying and gave me something to argue against. As is typical, though, a few years later I could recall the things I had argued against, but had changed my position on all of them. I decided to re-read the book and discovered that, on all the key points at least, I agree with HHH. There are some minor side details and some expressed preferences that I hold contrary views on, but I think this book is a Must-Read, right after Human Action.

Life and Death: A Meditation

A good number of important intellectuals, famous artists, and people I know personally have died or come pretty close in the last couple years. This phenomena is nothing new to me; even in the heart of Empire, humans are subject to the human condition no less than those in Empire’s killing fields. I’ve been faced with this reality a little more than I have grown accustomed to of late and felt I could share my musings here a little more long-form from the offhand remarks I’ve been getting in trouble over.

Before discussing death outright, it would likely be prudent to address that which immediately precedes it: life. As will be addressed in my 95 Theses, there exist two possible ontological realities concerning life. It can either be teleologically directed or it can be a mere gratuitous happenstance. In the absence of what amounts to some purpose and afterlife beyond this one, life is nothing more than a complex chemical reaction that eventually exhausts itself; one’s phenomenological experiences are nothing more than a freak occurrence of matter briefly knowing itself before once again becoming deaf and dumb.

Alternatively, if the Catholics, Buddhists, animists, or adherents of some other religion turn out to be correct, the purpose of this life is directed towards what occurs afterwards. I don’t know how deeply I ought to follow this line of thought for the sake of this post; I think the absurd caricatures most people have concerning heaven and hell or reincarnation are sufficient.

In the case of life being gratuitous, death is equally so. Not even the individual who may be dying has much cause for emotion. In a few moments, there will be nothing left, and there will be nothing left to observe that absence; the universe is (phenomenologically) extinguished in death. Other than waxing poetic or discussing the epistemic impossibility of comprehending such a reality, there isn’t anything more that needs to be said. I guess I could mention that, in a universe in which life and death are gratuitous, moral principles are meaningless, even a prohibition on murder, as the “victim” has nothing to lose by such an incident. In the words of Albert Camus: “There is a passion of the absurd. The absurd man will not commit suicide; he wants to live, without relinquishing any of his certainty, without a future, without hope, without illusion and without resignation either. The absurd man asserts himself by revolting. He stares at death with passionate attention and this fascination liberates him. He experiences the ‘divine irresponsibility’ of the condemned man. Since God does not exist and man dies, everything is permissible.”

In the case of life having a telos, specifically one that motivates human action, then death may yet achieve some meaning alongside life. Death then, depending on the nature of the afterlife, could be a blessing or a curse, contingent on the relation the dying has with said afterlife. Given that the existence or absence of any sort of afterlife is yet unknown by any reliable measure, it would likely be the most prudent course of action to err on the side of rational caution, whatever that may be.

Either way, one type of comment that has gotten me in trouble is speaking of suicide in what some consider to be unaffected or positive ways. I’m no stranger to suicide, having seriously encountered that spectre in my life by way of both experiencing the temptation myself and having friends and family succumb to it. Observing suicide from the clinically detached position of praxeology can provide some insight as to the nature of such a choice. In the language of praxeology, suicide is a result of one of two possible functions: extreme time preference or cost/benefit analysis.

Speaking from personal experience, it can be quite easy to make ill-informed decisions when one has a very high time preference. Ultimately, that which differentiates human action from animal movement is the deliberative and deferred function of rationality. Where a dog will eat whatever activates their appetite, a man can choose to abstain or to eat something different from that which activates his appetites. Each individual has a different capacity for such deliberation. For example, one could usually pass up one bitcoin today if it ensured receiving two bitcoins tomorrow… but if one were to win the powerball, the would likely take half of the prize up-front, rather than taking the full prize divided into several annuities.

How does such a time preference influence the choice to kill oneself? The easy example is that of adolescents killing themselves over the inhospitable nature of school as an environment or bullying from their peers and adults. School may be a 25,000 hour system of dehumanization, but one is typically expected to live for forty to eighty years after emerging from that abuse engine. Bullies and environments come and go, but death is permanent. The decision, then, to kill oneself when still so young is demonstrative of a time preference by which one would rather permanently obliterate oneself (or face eternal damnation, same idea) than suffer the ennui of being a slave for what amounts to a relatively brief time.

A different, but functionally equivalent, example is one I have faced more than once. I have always had a very contracted time preference, and certain bouts of what could appropriately be called ennui could have been fatal for me in the past. In the saving words of Camus (again): “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest – whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories – comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer.” Technically, that question is an open one for me. The only reason I still live is that of a Sisyphean dare: “There is the possibility, however, slim, that tomorrow could be better than today… wouldn’t it be a sick stoic joke if I gave up just before it’s too late? I dare tomorrow to be worse though…” By and large, the number of better tomorrows has outweighed the worse ones.

After spending so many words on time preference, cost/benefit analysis doesn’t warrant much expenditure. Where suicide as a function of extreme time preference is typically the result of a flawed cost/benefit analysis, one which weighs immediate discomfort far more heavily than expected future gains, suicide as a function of cost/benefit analysis is simply one that is better informed. If someone is over a century old and is diagnosed with an inoperable and advanced form of cancer, odds are there will quickly arrive a day beyond which each day will be worse. In an act of stoic virtue, one may make an analysis of one affairs and choose to die on one’s own timeline, rather than that of one’s cancer. There are a great number of historical and literary examples which parallel this one.

This sort of deliberation has, historically, been rejected and discouraged by Christian thinkers and preachers even though, despite argumentation to the contrary, Thomism will defend my position, utilizing the myth of “double effect”. The most prominent basis for such a rejection has been that suicide is an act of despair and despair is the opposite of faith; to reach a conclusion that each day will be worse than the any preceding day and today is the lowest threshold of desirability is to despair in God’s ability/willingness to perform miracles. This is, of course, derived from a naive interpretation of Thomist theology. God has an equal capacity to miraculously improve one’s life tomorrow as He does to do so the moment before one pulls the trigger.

The other argument presented most often from the Christian camp is some variation of “Your body is not your own, it’s God’s; to kill your body would be to steal from God.” While such rhetoric could be eminently useful as a shorthand ethical device (“Would God rather I pursue physical and intellectual virtue with this body, or let it become a shiftless mass of wasted resources?”), the metaphysics of such a claim is either non-actionable or absurd, depending on the formulation. That is not to say that I am opposed to the idea that suicide may be a sin, but it certainly is not a crime.

Of course, when discussing faith and suicide, I would be remiss in not at least mentioning martyrdom. Allowing or intentionally causing oneself to be killed for the sake of furthering an agenda, especially in the case of “Christ’s Kingdom”, is typically what one means when one refers to a martyr in the literal sense. In other words, martyrdom is typically an instance of “suicide by cop/barbarian/jihadi/etc.” whereby one has allowed themselves to fall victim of an ideologue of an opposing faction. I intend to dedicate a full post to martyrdom some other time, but it suffices to say in this context that, if suicide is impermissible for any consistent reason, martyrdom must also be avoided at any cost (possibly other than apostasy or suicide) and a great many “martyrs’ may just be suicides by any reasonable definition. Having faith in God, the afterlife, or the righteousness of one’s cause is insufficient to differentiate between suicide and martyrdom, as suicide is an attempt to escape this life for whatever comes after (and is therefore more appropriately characterized as an act of faith in the afterlife, be it nothingness, reincarnation, whatever) and the only difference is whether one kills themselves by way of their own hand, or the inevitable reactions of others.

From a anthropological perspective, death is the driving motive behind human progress. Every human action is directed towards maximizing either quantity or quality to one’s life, even if that action may be misinformed. It follows, then, that the avoidance of death is what lies, fundamentally, behind the creation of internet, smart phones, cotton underpants, indoor plumbing, drugs/medicine, and whatever other white-bread modern inventions you enjoy. In addition to being a motivating factor, it is also an inter-generational biological process. Human strains that have existed for tens of thousands of years in a particular environment have been naturally selected to exhibit different characteristics due to that environment. Said factors have played a smaller, but more significant, factor in this selective process. Yes, I’m speaking of human evolution.

Human ingenuity has largely mitigated these natural selective processes in the last couple thousand years. One of the few factors which still contributes to beneficial selective processes is the individual detrimental effects of extreme time preference, which can largely only be mitigated by the actions of the individual in question who has such a time preference. As a result, suicide is, in effect, one of the few natural processes which contribute to beneficial breeding selection. This isn’t to say that suicide is a good thing, but it is one of the few factors in human environments that contributes to genetic hygiene.

One other circumstance in human environments which contributes to beneficial selective processes is the adverse consequences of crime and vice. Criminals place themselves in situations where lethal force may be used against them. If not immediate lethal force, social forces tend to reduce one’s ability to reproduce after the fact. Despite the best efforts of progressivism and the state to mitigate the consequences of crimes (such as theft) and vices (using poorly-designed drugs like krokodil or adderal), they have not totally succeeded. The violent death rate in progressive cities such as Chicago is one such data point to illustrate this.

In the absence of the state, these beneficial consequences will become more pronounced: rather than relying on welfare to purchase food so as to subsidize one’s drug addiction, a drug-user will be forced to choose between starvation or sobriety. Those with the capacity for virtue will eschew dependence on externalities and become a valuable member of a community and those without said capacity will not be passing on their genes. A similar paradigm emerges in the case of crime. In the absence of a politically-motivated and violent monopoly on security, jurisprudence, and welfare (such as prisons), criminals will be faced with more immediate and dire consequences. Without getting into specifics, as volumes have already been written about the plethora of options in LibPar, criminals will be faced with the prospect of a more vigilant and aware set of potential victims coupled with the likelihood of death or exile if caught. It is more likely, by orders of magnitude, that those capable of basic risk-assessment and cost/benefit analysis will refrain from making ill-advised decisions while those that are incapable are not likely to reproduce.

This post, thus far, has been largely descriptive: simply observing the ontological state of affairs without making a value judgment as to whether such things are “good” or “bad”. If you, the reader, have found yourself disagreeing with the facts as I’ve laid them out or if your aesthetic tastes have been put off by my sterile approach and you are still reading this, I first want to thank you and second would like your feedback. For the reminder of this already over-sized post, I want to delve into my personal aesthetics and, perhaps, some prescriptive writing.

Life, for me, exclusively finds its meaning in death. If there were no prospect that my existence as such would ever terminate, there would be no impetus for action outside of immediate carnal itches. Even the two deepest passions in my life (my family and philosophy) would likely lack the immediacy which makes me passionate. Rather than investing so much time and effort into relationships or reading, arguing, and writing, there would certainly be an attitude of , “I’ve got time… I’ll do that right after I eat this ten-pound steak and sleep it off.” Rather than frantically devouring philosophical texts or taking on the lifetime (and, in this hypothetical, therefore eternal) commitment of marriage and siring of children, a more causal and haphazard perusal of earthly delights would be in order. I believe I can at least understand why J.R.R. Tolkien, in the Silmarillion, would have the supreme creator of the world grant Man the the “gift” of being able to die, since Man was incapable of experiencing and appreciating the supreme beauty of the gods, as could the elves.

Given my awareness of mortality (having touched death a few times, unintentionally, and having lost friends, loved ones, and acquaintances), I have spent no small amount of time dwelling on the realities expressed above as well as much more that remains unaddressed in this post. Ultimately, as far as I can tell, death is no more or less significant that one’s birth, puberty, bowel movements, or meals. Circumstances of such an event, coupled with the aesthetic preferences of those involved can imbue the event with a subjective emotional quality (happy, sad, etc.) but an objective observer could identify certain facts about the event which may be lost to others blinded by personal preferences.

Regardless of whether life and death are gratuitous or teleologically significant, the reality remains that one’s emotional and aesthetic response to a death is what it is, and bears no moral value whether it be indifference, joy, or anguish. Ethically speaking, how one chooses to express or act upon one’s reaction is purely a matter of goal acquisition. If one wants to maintain relationships with one’s extended family, it may be ill-advised to shout for joy at grandpa’s funeral, for example.

If life and death are gratuitous, the deaths of your friends are to be mourned while those of your enemies are to be celebrated (if you care at all). If life and death are teleological in nature, it all depends on the telos; to a Muslim, animist, Buddhist, shamanist, or Jew, the circumstance of the death of either friend or foe is the determining factor as to whether it is cause for happiness or dismay. Christianity, being a uniquely optimistic worldview, presents a compelling case (and resultant mystery/paradox) that every life and inevitable death is cause for celebration. The resultant mystery is such that human beings are created with the innate and ineradicable desire to add quality and quantity to their lives, while also celebrating the extreme absence thereof. This apparent paradox is resolved by a more diligent exploration of ontological matters, which I will engage in the 95 Theses.

TL;DR: As this post is as concise as I could make it and it is still 50% larger than expected, I don’t know if an abbreviated version is responsible. The general moral that can be inferred from this post, I would hope, is that one should first focus on the categorical and ontological realities of life and death in an honest and descriptive manner before entertaining emotions, preferences, and prescriptions concerning specific cases. I spent so much time addressing this moral, though, that I never got to address the three or so statements I have made recently, revolving around this topic, which raised the ire of people less philosophically involved which motivated this post.

cropped-From-Scratch-4.2-Background-and-name.png

Defending the Undefendable

In the spirit of Rothbard, Walter Block presents a treatise on the relationship between crime and economic manipulation, semi-appropriate ethical indignation and the unintended consequences of using violence to try to prevent those ethically unappealing actions.
In Defending the Undefendable, Walter Block defends the heroin dealer, the speculator, the employer of child labor, and the man who screams “fire” in a crowded theater against accusations of economic perversity and harming the social order.  He does so quite effectively.  After reading this book, one who is educated in economics will have to seriously reconsider support of a minimum wage and legal prohibitions against child labor.
The introduction, written by Rothbard himself, makes it clear that while the people defended in Block’s book are heroes because of the role they play economically and the adversity they face in reducing the friction of a politically-controlled economic system, this is not a moral defense of the particular actions the people make.  For instance, a heroin dealer could very well be a boon to the market and a hero in face of the evils of government while also perpetrating an immoral or unethical act (such as selling poison to people, even if it is a voluntary interactions).
As compelling, concise, and informative as the book is as a whole, there is one chapter, however, that doesn’t seem to belong.  The defense of the “Male Chauvinist Pig” was less an economic defense of chauvinism and much more an incoherent and aggressive defense of feminist talking points, most prominent of which being the importance of abortion.  This defense of abortion is actually inconsistent with a much more compelling case he makes later on in the case of defending “The Employer of Child Labor”.
All-in-all, though, this book is a must-read for anyone who believes in the free market but hasn’t critically assessed their position on “the undefendable” as of yet, people who are genuinely interested in reducing crime and increasing the quality of life for the poor, and those that still believe that government violence can somehow improve the world.  Each chapter is a few pages long, very direct and to the point.

One can acquire the book for free in digital form from the Mises Institute, or purchase a hardcopy at Amazon.  I strongly recommend that you do so.

What Creates Poverty?

Despite my optimistic bluster a few weeks ago concerning my historio-economic status, I’m not exactly happy with my state of affairs. I currently qualify for all sorts of government welfare (which I refuse to take); not that such a qualification is tied to any particular economic measure worth paying attention to, but it indicates my relationship with poverty. The mom’s group at our local parish, which my wife attends, has a median income three times what I make, and aristocratic ignorance runs rampant. So whose fault is it that I’m poor?

I would love to be able to point my finger at anyone, especially government actors, and say “That asshole is the reason people (like me) are poor.” It would be so great if I could shout “eat the rich” and vote myself a raise at the expense of my betters. I wish I could “feel the Bern”. Of course, being in possession of a functioning brain and moral faculties, I am disallowed participation in systematized misanthropia. If I’m not going to blame bullshit artists like Robert Reich or violent criminal kingpins like Obama, who is to blame?

No one.

Unexpected, right? I mean, in some specific cases, it is possible someone is to blame. If someone was wealthy and had everything stolen from them, the thief would be responsible, or if someone was minding their own business and someone else blew-up or burned down his estate, of course the destroyer is to blame. Poverty on the aggregate, though, isn’t really anyone’s fault.

How can this be the case? What causes poverty? In all reality, this question is a case of the loaded question. Much like asking someone, “have you stopped beating your wife yet?” it is impossible to answer the question without addressing the bias inherent to the question.. “How can one stop what one has never begun?” may sound like dodging the question, but it is the correct answer. A similarly disappointing but truthful response is warranted when one is asked, “What causes poverty?”

Whether one is a Kabbalist, Christian, or atheist Darwinian, the natural or original state of the animal called “man” is one in which the ground is “cursed”, “…in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Given my limited exposure to the plethora of alternatives, it seems other cosmologies agree. Whether it be divine retribution for eating the wrong plant or the environmental forces driving the demand for greater intelligence, Man was born out of the absence of wealth. Not only is our species as a whole born out of poverty, but each individual man, from Cain to Trump, were forcibly evicted from their mothers’ wombs, slimy, naked, angry, and cold. In other words, poverty is the natural state of affairs.

If this seems unlikely or excessive to you, I would like to know whether you tend to agree with Hobbes or Rousseau more. Hobbes proposed a thought experiment, in the Leviathan, wherein one would reflect on one’s own nature and proceed to imagine a world without all of the trappings of technology and community we currently have. He quickly concludes that, without things like agriculture and coercive monopolies on force, the state of nature would be resource-scarce and very violent, resulting in a life that is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Rousseau liked the experiment, but disagreed concerning what a world devoid of technology and government would look like. He suggested that the fictitious accounts of native peoples more closely represented the state of nature. He posited that the state of nature was that of a tropical paradise: food in abundance, no natural predators, nothing to do but eat, sunbathe, and procreate.

Both philosophers found their respective states of nature distasteful and used them as excuses for creating totalitarian communist monarchies. I disagree with both of them on both the state of nature and the “solution” to it, but I certainly sound like a Hobbesian at times. Even in the case of Rousseau’s “horrible” state of nature with food just laying around, that food is useless lest someone go retrieve and prepare it. Rousseau ignores this while Hobbes creates a caricature of this reality, wherein one must frantically search for even a berry bush and murder anyone else that discovers it, as well. Either way, though, one will starve if one doesn’t put in the minimum effort to accumulate the level of wealth required for survival.

The common basis of every apocalypse or disaster movie (or video game) is the fragile nature of wealth. The greatest monuments to human accomplishment, such as cities, sprawling farmland, the internet, etc. are held together by several very fragile lynchpins. The infrequency with which cities implode, farmlands dry up, websites go down, and entire populations disappear into the wilderness is, frankly, baffling to me. It really is a testament to human genius that such things could be built and an indication of man’s tenacity that they can survive. This is because the question is not, “What creates poverty?” but instead, “What creates wealth?”

“Labor!” shouts Marx. “Lucky Chance!” shouts Smith. “Fairness!” shouts Rawls. “More violence!” shouts every political candidate this year. There are nearly as many answers as there are political philosophers. This question is a very tricky one. Given my earlier allusion to labor in my example of poverty, one might assume I lean towards a labor theory of value/wealth. This isn’t entirely true, though. One example stands out to me which demonstrates the two major issues with such an answer. There is an older man that lives in my parents’ neighborhood who, nearly every day, sits in front of his house and moves rocks from one pile to another, one rock at a time. He puts in thirty-or-so hours of labor a week but, in most accounts, has accomplished nothing. It is certain that merely moving rocks back and forth did not create any wealth, Keynes’ lies aside.

That’s the first issue; labor does not necessarily create wealth or value. Value! That’s the second issue. If this guy isn’t getting paid and produces no discernible fruits from his labor, whatever motivation he must have in order to do what he does must be intrinsic. Intrinsic to himself, not the action itself. Perhaps he’s mentally ill and moving rocks scratches some mental itch; perhaps it serves some physical therapy role; perhaps he’s just bored and hasn’t discovered video games or drugs yet. The point is he clearly finds value in an activity that no one else does. This is because value is subjective.

Right this moment, I value one hour of my wife performing “wifely duties” more than I would value one hour of a cardiologist. When I inevitably have a heart attack some time in the future, I will likely value the labor of a cardiologist than that of an intimate encounter. The same goes for the Tom Woods Liberty Classroom subscription I got. I value the experience of a detailed series of courses concerning history and economics more than I value the money it cost; you clearly have not yet made the same determination.

Labor is an ingredient for the creation of wealth, but insufficient in itself. Perhaps resources? Saudi Arabia seems pretty wealthy, and that wealth is coincidental with oil availability… North America has a lot of most resources and has always been pretty wealthy (since white people moved in, anyway)… There seems to be a correlation. Of course, oil in the ground is useless unless someone puts in the labor to get it out of the ground and render it usable. Oil is an interesting example because, for the first 99.9% of human history, it was nothing but a costly nuisance when encountered. Only after someone came up with a use for it did oil have any value. Same for uranium, iron, copper, tin, even gold: they are useless without human inventiveness.

Introspectively, I doubt that my creativity, work ethic, and luck can overcome my needs and limitations sufficiently so as to create wealth. I could possibly build an aquaponic microfarm and a reasonable house with which I could tend to my family’s survival. Unfortunately, I doubt that I could amass much wealth by way of tending my garden; my only chance at retirement would be to produce enough viable offspring such that at least one would be willing and able to take on my work and feed me.

This isn’t due to insufficiency in the production method. I could easily produce a surplus of food and find ways to store and preserve it, but a pantry with a lifetime supply of salsa and preserves isn’t exactly what most people consider “wealth”. I can’t clothe myself in salsa, build a house out of preserves, or create electricity from fish scales. What I would need in order to transform my reources and labor into wealth would be to transform my surplus or products into the resources and labor of others.

I know, I know… “Leave it to the anarchist to bring it all back around to markets.” That’s right, the means by which one can convert one’s available resources, be it labor, ingenuity, raw materials, whatever, into wealth is by trading it with other individuals. If I have a surplus of salsa but a paucity of clothing, I can find an individual who has a paucity of salsa but a surplus of clothing and trade the salsa I don’t want or need for the clothing I do. In this way, both the farmer and the clothier are enriched. The enrichment is what’s known as wealth. This is the glory of the market: due to limitations such as marginal utility, human action is able to create a positive-sum game in which everybody wins.

Finding a clothier that wants salsa may be difficult. If, as a community, producers create an abstracted resource with a reliable and stable supply, such as silver coins or bitcoins, this exchange can see drastically reduced friction. This is money, obviously. This money is simply another commodity for trade; if I have a surplus of salsa and my clothier has no demand for salsa, but both he and I deal in bitcoin, I can trade my salsa to someone who wants it in exchange for bitcoin and then exchange that bitcoin for clothing. An added bonus is the permanence of money; I can take something perishable like tomatoes and turn them into something that doesn’t go away, like money. I could keep going for thousands of pages about all of the astounding emergent properties of something so simple as one guy trading with another, but that’s already been done and that’s not the point of this post.

So, the state of nature is that of poverty; the base operating system of this universe we find ourselves in is that of poverty. Wealth is the escape for the natural state of man, something accomplished by the voluntary exchange of goods and services for mutual benefit. Wealth is literally a creatio ex nihilo, a miracle of loaves, by which one takes one’s lack, one’s need, and turns it into something valuable.

“Well, then, why are there poor people? Are you telling me that poor people refuse to provide value to others?” Some of them, yes. Probably a minority, though. More likely, there are certain forces at work which prevent the chronically poor from producing wealth. Some, like my parents’ neighbor, may have biological deficiencies which limit one’s options for creating wealth. I’m not saying that these people are incapable of producing wealth in some way, only that their options are limited and the may not have discovered their remaining options yet. More likely than personal limitations, though, are institutional ones.

No, I’m not talking about boogeymen like “the patriarchy” or “racism”. I’m speaking of criminal gangs which, rather than engaging in market activities (making products and trading them for mutual gain), engage in wealth-destroying activities: a.k.a. coercion, murder, and theft. If I have the ability to produce plants and trade them to others for money, foods desirable for their health benefits, services that are pleasurable, or products which are otherwise in-demand, and someone points a gun at me and threatens to cage or kill me for doing so, that criminal is preventing the creation of wealth.

Of course I couldn’t go a whole post without pointing out how governments are actively destroying the human creature. By using violence and coercion to “re-distribute” wealth, the state takes wealth from those that have created it and subsidize those who don’t. As a matter of fact, it even destroys the ability of some to create wealth. By stealing money and using it to monopolize security, roads, financial instruments, etc. the state destroys the ability of those who actually produce such services to create wealth because they no longer have the ability to voluntarily engage with those who have a demand for such services.

Without getting too involved in economic realities, the amount of bitcoin I must offer to entice my clothier to trade is a function of supply and demand, and the market signals sent by human action on the aggregate. By way of criminal coercion in the form of legal tender laws, mandatory purchases, licensure, and otherwise preventing voluntary exchange of goods and services coupled with theft in the form of taxation, asset forfeiture, everything done by the Federal reserve, welfare, and so much more, the state sends false market signals which result in encouraging bad investments. If that sounds like something more benign than the wholesale destruction of wealth, you need to read about the dust bowl and the 2008 housing crisis, not to mention literally nearly every other bowl, drought, famine, and plague in human history.

It’s not too hard to realize that the state makes laws for two reasons: to make people do things they don’t want to or to make people refrain from doing things that they do want to do. Instead of allowing nature to take its course, rewarding beneficial behaviors and punishing detrimental behaviors, the state subsidizes detrimental behaviors and shields individuals from the repercussions of ill-advised behaviors. At the same time, beneficial behaviors are disincentivized and penalized. So, if “Nothing creates poverty; poverty is the basic reality of the human experience,” is somehow unsatisfying, an acceptable rhetorical move would be to say, “Criminals, by way of destroying wealth, create poverty. The state is the most effective band of criminals and the greatest destroyer of wealth.

TL;DR: The world we live in is one finely-tuned such so as to allow humans to exist, but only barely so. As such, poverty is the natural state of affairs, it is literally this state of nature which drove the creation of humanity as we know it. Nothing creates poverty; what one should ask is “How is wealth created? How does one escape poverty?” To which the answer is “The voluntary exchange of goods and services, a.k.a. the market, creates wealth.” The state, though its innately criminal actions, destroys and prevents the creation of wealth. So, why am I poor? I am poor because I have not yet overcome the impediments to wealth creation set out be the state, whether it be due to laziness, ineptitude, risk aversion, or the insurmountability of the state’s impediment.

946161_1689423741325270_1131117480461641876_n

The Rise of Victim Culture

Today’s Resource Suggestion is some food for thought over the Thanksgiving (state-endorsed genocide day) weekend.  This academic article is a survey of modern academic culture (and the areas of mainstream culture it has infected) and an attempted genealogy of victimhood culture.

Microaggression_and_Moral_Cultures

The main draw for me, and the reason I want to draw it to your attention as well, is the correlation the authors find between the oppressive power of the state and the distancing of a culture from virtues such as honor.

This ties closely to a piece I hope to post in January concerning eugenics, the free market, and statism.  This is good reading for the interim, though.

 

Also, in case you have managed to avoid exposure to the blight that is victim culture, here’s an example:

Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature

The term “fair” comes up a lot these days.  I have only a limited chronological sample (26 years), and I have not always been as aware of its use as I could have been, but it would seem that my generation (unlike preceding generations) never learned to stop using that word.  When I was five, things being fair was a big deal.  Of course, “fair” meant something different to each person, even grown-ups.  The more conservative (RE: less-socialist) parents would try to make each instance one of desert: “who earned what?” while the egalitarian lefty parents would try to implement some form of social justice: “Your brother is younger and smaller than you, so he always gets to go first and gets more candy.”

Of course, when one grows up, a part of that process is the realization that “life isn’t fair”.  This is because “fair” doesn’t exist, and it’s a self-contradictory concept, no matter how one defines it, much like common conceptions of justice.

Today’s resource suggestion is more Rothbard.  This time, it’s the essay “Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature“.  This is a scathing reductio ad absurdum of the very premise of any sort of “equality-oriented” philosophy (feminism, egalitarianism, socialism, progressivism, statism…).

You can read the text or listen to the audio for free, courtesy of the Mises Institute.

Morality and Ethics

It seems that my philosophy posts get less feedback than my more political or religious posts. I find this disappointing but unsurprising. Today, as you could guess from the introduction is a philosophy post.

Deontology and virtue, morality and ethics… I started discussing these relationships last week. It was only briefly exposed and not defended, so I guess I should probably defend those claims. The first claim was that any statement of “should” or “ought”, when concerning a person’s actions, are either ethical or moral statements, without exception. I don’t know if this statement really needs defense, as it it merely a definition. I would define moral or ethical statements, broadly, as statements that concern themselves with how one ought to behave or act.

Moral and ethical statements obviously rely on a framework for a determination of truth value. One cannot say “One ought to voluntarily work towards the extinction of the human race,” without a justification for such a claim. One such justification could be “Human beings are destroying the global ecosystem, therefore one ought to voluntarily extinct themselves.” That justification, though, can only be said to be valid if it is operating in a framework which dictates that moral statements are derived from some cosmic preservation principle (ignoring that humans are a natural part of that global ecosystem), or an aesthetic principle that is dependent upon the one uttering the statement, or a misinformed understanding of how one ought to achieve a particular valued state of affairs (if you value nature, humans ought to extinct themselves). Validity does not necessitate actually obtaining in reality, though.

In order to obtain, the statement and it’s framework must comport to objective reality while also being logically valid and based on factual premises. “Don’t murder because Jesus said so,” is an example of failing to meet these criteria while also stating a moral truth. I argue that “Thou shalt not murder,” is an easily defended and true objective moral fact. However, appealing to something Jesus is purported to have said is not an argument in defense of a statement, it is merely appealing to an authority hidden behind two thousand years of history. Additionally, exclusively using the Bible as a moral framework is impossible; without additional work done outside the realm of Scripture to inform one’s interpretation of it will inevitably result in ridiculous statements, such as“homosexuality and abortion aren’t sins because Jesus never mentioned them.”

If “Thou shall not murder,” is an objective moral fact, it requires some form of deductive or inductive argument to demonstrate its categorical nature and its unimpeachability. There have been numerous arguments made for such a claim, and I don’t feel like pointing them all out. The first ones that come to mind, though, are Kant’s formulation of the categorical imperative in “Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals”, Rothbard’s defense of the NAP in “War, Peace, and the State”, or Ayn Rand’s formulation in “Man’s Rights”. Essentially, the shortest and easiest formulation of “Thou shalt not murder” is thus:

  • Murder can be defined as “killing an individual against their will without first facing the threat of murder from that individual”.
  • The definition of a right necessarily extends to all individuals. If one has a belief in a right they or another possesses, it must necessarily extend to all individuals.
    ∴ If one individual has a right to defend themselves from murder, all individuals have the right to do so.
  • If one denies the right of another to be secure from murder (demonstrated by killing them against their will) one is denying this right to themselves, thereby willing the possibility that they may be killed by another.
  • In willing that another be able to murder oneself, it makes murdering this individual definitionally impossible, as unwillingness is a necessary condition for murder.
    ∴ If one murders another individual (or argues for the legitimacy of doing so), it does not revoke murder’s definitional status as a violation of a right.

I don’t fully agree with this argument, but it is the shortest and most straightforward case for objective moral facts.

Of course, if one is arguing for objective moral facts, they are a deontologist of some sort. Most of which are divine lawyers, trying to figure out God’s commandments based on revelation. While a noble effort, such activities are rarely compelling to those outside of whatever cult the divine lawyer is a part of. Deontology, then, is better suited to pursuing objective moral facts by way of rational and axiomatic inquiry into the nature of reality and of man’s relationships.

Where Kant or any social justice warrior will argue that deontological maxims can be positive statements of rights, I argue that only the inverse is true. One cannot say with axiomatic certitude that “one must affirm life” is an objective, and therefore categorical, moral fact. An example of why one cannot say “one must affirm life” is because it breaks down in limit cases (and some not so limiting cases). For example, if one is witnessing a murder taking place, can one kill the murderer? Or, if one eats something unhealthy or neglects to devote all their resources to the sustenance of the brain-dead or the starving people on the opposite side of the globe are they committing a crime? Pope Francis’ answers aside, I argue that these are obviously not the case. This line of reasoning is what has led to my mantra of “Murder, coercion, and theft are categorically unjust.” This far, these are the three behaviors I have found to be inconsistent with reason in every instance, by definition.

So, “Thou shalt not commit murder, coercion, or theft,” is a deontological objective moral fact. Something that simply exists no more or less than the matter from which my body is constructed, if in a different modality. Of course, as I’ve said before, this is a certainly stronger moral framework than what is seen in mainstream culture, but it is still incredibly impoverished. One cannot necessarily achieve flourishing by simply ensuring that their interactions with others are voluntary, as one may still do stupid and ill-advised things. The agent in question, of course cannot be coerced into not engaging in these voluntary, but ill-advised, actions. They can, however, be discouraged by rational persuasion. Enter: ethics.

Ethical statements, unlike moral statements, are not predicated on objective moral facts. These are positive statements that can be built on top of moral statements. These statements are subjective, based upon positive value judgments. “If one values the virtuous life, they ought to pursue virtuous actions,” for example. Some are very simple: “If one wishes to make money, they ought to provide products or services in trade with those who have money.” Others may be more complex: “If one wishes to prevent fishing entire species into extinction, one ought to purchase the bodies of water in which the fish reside or construct fish farms.” These more complex ethical statements are usually at the heart of the heated debates found on facebook and in politics.

These statements have a common grammar and syntax; they are all if->then statements. The “if” portion of the statement is an assessment of the value in question. Usually the value in question is an aesthetic or pragmatic issue. In other words, it’s either,“I like this thing because it makes me feel good” or “This is a thing that I need/want in order to be fulfilled.” The “then” portion of the statement is the place in which action is informed. Once one has determined the value in question, the “then” portion is where understanding the causal nature of reality can say “this is the way that is most likely to achieve that valued outcome”. In order to utter a true ethical statement, then, one must actually understand the innumerable influences of reality on the particular valued outcome in question, at least sufficiently to make an accurate and informed guess. In the realm of human action, economics, biology, and other areas of philosophy are crucial in generating an accurate “then” statement. The reason I argue this is the case is simple: unintended consequences or acts of ignorance are unlikely to accomplish the valued objective and are more likely to prevent the accomplishment of that valued objective. Walter Block, in his “Defending the Undefendable”, demonstrates this very clearly, concisely, and evocatively.

This understanding of morality and ethics is why I have attempted to eschew use of the terms “good” and “bad/evil”. These words, in our common parlance, and even in philosophy have been reduced to mere aesthetic judgments. There is little distinction between “this pizza is good” and “giving money to hobos is good” or “sushi is bad” and “drugs are bad”. As a basis of morality or ethics, then, these aesthetic judgments are essentially meaningless. I can say, “If you think drugs are bad, then you shouldn’t do them,” but that is the extent to which an ethical statement can be produced based on that flimsy of an “if” statement. If something can be determined as immoral (or unjustifiable, as I tend to refer to it) there is no need to make an additional aesthetic statement about it. If one is attempting an ethical prescription to others, they ought to have more compelling a case for the “if” in question than “it’s icky and I don’t like it”.

Remember, anarchy is a philosophy of personal responsibility. If you want to accomplish an ethical action, such as bettering the livelihood of the impoverished in the third world, one ought to ensure that they are well-informed as to what course of action is most likely to result in achieving that valued outcome. For example, just throwing money, food, and Bibles at them creates a perverse incentive to remain poor and continue to receive free stuff from other people. However, bringing an industry specific to that region (for example some sort of crop or livestock that will grow better in that region than elsewhere or acquisition of a natural resource found in that area) to the people and employing those that are willing to work will improve the infrastructure and quality of life for all of the people in the area.

TL;DR: In the interest of producing valued outcomes and maintaining one’s own integrity, individuals ought to attempt to develop a solid moral and ethical awareness and grammar. In order to pursue this end, an awareness of deontological principles and the causal nature of reality is a necessary skill. Objective moral facts are few in number but categorical in scope: “Thou shall not.” Ethical statements are subjective and as numerous as there are value judgments, but must be informed by the objective causal nature of the universe. Before arguing on facebook about “If we just…” or “If you don’t think this, you’re stupid”, it would behoove the agent in question to assess their aesthetic premises and their fundamental values. After expressing those premises, the discussion is a matter of clarifying the “then” portion of an ethical statement.

Picture

 

An Economics of Ethics

 

 

Yes, the title sounds really bullshitty, but it certainly is an eye-catcher, isn’t it? If you listened to last week’s belated post, you may recall me talking about my journey to anarchism. When I was rounding the bend on my final approach to liberty, I was repulsed by certain environments I encountered and was kinda’ forced to enter the philosophy of anarchism through the back door. The rabid paulbots were throwing temper tantrums over the media ignoring the existence of their messiah. The Libertarians were too busy voting, raising money, pretending to be freedom-minded while also pretending to be politicians and endorsing ridiculous concepts like abortion and gay marriage. The objectivists were being generally surly, demeaning, and staunchly atheist. The AnComs were too busy burning down private property to be bothered by the fact that the government was out to get us all. Most distressing, though, were the AnCaps.

“Wait, ain’t you an AnCap?” Not quite. If you recall my post about the MadPhilosopher logo, I consider myself to be just a straight-up anarchist. Since before I had started this blog, I have been economically literate enough to know that capitalism is, for all intents and purposes, a necessary and inevitable feature of pre-and-post-state societies, but that doesn’t necessarily make me an AnCap. Part of the reason I don’t consider myself to be so is because of the experiences I had with them on my way to liberty.

My first exposure to anarcho-capitalism was under the more innocuous name of “Austrian Economics” when I was reading Rothbard and Spooner. I read these guys towards the end of my communist days, when I was trying to figure out why previous attempts at the communist experiment didn’t work out. I was hoping to find a handful of controls that those dirty capitalists had come up with to ensure that products were manufactured within expected tolerances. For example, if I go to Home Depot, a great number of things are standardized. You’ve got X, Y, and Z diameters of pipes and fittings, and there seems to be the perfect supply available to meet demand; rarely would something run out, but there were only ever a couple dozen items on the shelves… and in communist experiments, people would cut corners to meet the letter of the regulations while putting in the minimum quantity of resources. “Make a million nails,” results in thumbtack-sized nails. “Make this weight in nails,” results in railroad spikes. And when it gets to the point of “Make a million nails that are exactly this size, shape, and out of this material… and if you don’t, it’s off to the gulag with you,” results in everyone saying “fuck it, I quit” and the USSR collapses overnight.

Clearly, I didn’t get the answer I wanted. “Stop making regulations, and let people do what they will… don’t worry, it’ll all work out just fine,” isn’t exactly what a communist wants to hear. I learned a lot, though; it definitely had a pronounced effect on my migration from communism to the Tea Party and then to liberty. I returned to doing research in the Austrian School when I was getting into objectivism, later on, and that’s when I discovered the AnCaps. There was a specific distinction in the rhetoric of the Austrians like Rothbard as compared to the AnCaps I met: awareness of the is/ought divide.

The AnCaps I met, either through their ignorance or a misunderstanding on my part, seemed to equivocate that which is economically advisable as identical to that which is ethically desirable. This was disappointing to me; AnCaps were clearly the inheritors of the Austrian School, but they lacked the moral awareness of their predecessors. My motivation for communism and the subsequent ideological migration was primarily a moral one, as fits in the rhetoric of Aristotle, Aquinas, Marx, and Trotsky, and to hear “That which is profitable is that which is moral,” rubbed me every wrong way. I am totally open to this interpretation being mostly due to misunderstandings on my part, though.

The communist projects, ostensibly, are an attempt at adapting economics to ethics. Ironically, the Tea Party, in their own fucked-up way, are engaged in a similar project: attempting to adapt politics (the widespread application of violence) to ethics. Even Rand and the objectivists are engaged in that project: adapting public consciousness to ethics. So, to see AnCaps seeming to do the reverse, adapting ethics to economics, was so contrary to my methods of reason that I didn’t know how to process it. Now that I’ve mentally acquired my liberty legs, I see anarchism as an attempt to adapt oneself to objective moral facts… something that Christians ought to be more sympathetic to.

In hindsight, I think that I misunderstood mostly due to the paradigm I was operating in, adapting various things to ethics. I think that one thing that didn’t help, though, was the lack of philosophical knowledge on the part of the AnCaps in question. I think I’m gonna try to fix that here. That which is profitable is not necessarily moral. It could be profitable to rob a liquor store, but it’s a violation of one’s right to be free from theft and is therefore immoral. On a long enough timeline, I argue, that which is moral is most profitable. For example, not robbing a liquor store will most likely play out better for one in the long run. Even virtuous things, such as sustainable living or industry, when done responsibly and rationally, are likely to play out well in the long run; investments in oceanic desalinization would have suddenly become incredibly profitable in California in recent years and the same can be said for growing homegrown organic hipster-feed.

What do I mean by this is/ought, ethical/economic divide? As I said, when talking about Paradigmatic Awareness and Moral Ambiguity, one’s actions ought to be informed and rational. Statements of “should” or “ought”, when concerning a person’s actions, are without exception either ethical or moral statements. (Taxonomic note: I consider moral statements to be statements as relate to objective moral facts and ethical statements to be “if->then” statements predicated on value judgments, but that’s a different blog post that hasn’t been written yet.) Moral statements are relatively easy: something is either moral or immoral, depending on it’s status as relates to deontological principles… you know, murder coercion and theft are immoral. Ethical statements are a little more involved, and tend to be at the heart of a lot of angry internet arguments: “If you care about poor people, you’ve gotta vote for this rich guy,” or whatever.

In order to make an accurate ethical statement, one must understand the intricacies of the “if” and have a solid grasp of the way the world works in order to produce the appropriate “then”. This is where economics comes into play. It goes well beyond “if you want to pay rent, you probably shouldn’t buy this meth,” and even beyond, “if you care about poor people, you should probably lift employment regulations so that they can get a job.” For example, an understanding of basic principles of economics can inform decisions that have nothing to do with money itself. This is because economics is about management of scarce resources, not just money. For example, if I have a limited amount of time and I’m trying to maximize my gains in family relationships, self-education, and general pleasure, then I should probably try to generate an overlap in applications: do something educational with the family that isn’t boring as hell. Knowing when to cut one’s losses is another useful piece of information: cost-benefit analysis, risk assessment, utility assessments, etc. are, too.

In other words, it’s not a statement of morality to say eliminating perverse incentives can incentivize productive behavior; however, it is an ethical statement to say “if you want to encourage productive behaviors in moocher and looter classes, then you should try to eliminate perverse incentives.” I’m not talking matters of political policy, mind you. After all, managing the widespread application of violence is immoral and if one wants to make the world a better place, then they should opt-out of political engagement.

Picture

Remember: anarchy is a philosophy of personal responsibility. How can one hold themselves to a moral or ethical standard if they don’t know how to accomplish their goals or even set those goals? If one wishes to travel to a third world country and improve the quality of life of the people there (preaching religious views included, but optional), they ought to understand what behaviors are being incentivized by showing up and just giving things away or doing the work oneself. Without educating and assisting in the development of infrastructure, gifts and labor are more harmful than helpful. Before trying to do good, one must know how.

TL;DR: Economics and ethics are two different fields of study. However, ethics devoid a solid understanding of how the world works is useless at best and misanthropic at worst. As much as statists will try to deny it, economics is an excellent instrument for understanding human action. Basic scientific literacy, including physics, chemistry, economics, etc. is necessary for the development of a solid ethical grounding. This distinction and requirement is important to acknowledge explicitly when discussing economics and/or ethics with non-anarchists, lest outsiders misunderstand.

 

The State IS War

The State IS War

A few months ago, I briefly described a “state of war”. The main focus was on the state of war as pertains to interactions between individuals, but it could be considered a prerequisite to this post on the nature of the state of war as pertains to states.

Hearkening back to “Towards a Definition of Anarchy”, I denounce any institution predicated on or constructed for the sake of coercion, murder, or theft. For now, we will simply define “government” as the very same. Between laws enforced by men with guns threatening murder or imprisonment and theft in the form of taxes, fines, and regulations, it is clear that the common conception of government fits the bill. What are the differences between an individual criminal engaging his victim in a state of war and an institution of thousands of individuals doing so?

The first difference, as will be apparent from readers’ gut reaction to the above statement, is one of public opinion. A random individual pointing a gun in someone’s face because “Smoking is bad for you” would be publicly reviled and may even be stopped by a third party. However, a man in a blue shirt and a shiny badge pointing a gun at someone for smoking is hailed as a hero and many would likely come to his aid if the victim were to defend himself. Admittedly, public opinions on weed are shifting (and the opinion on tobacco is shifting the opposite direction), but public opinion on law enforcement is not. The same holds true for taxation (because you live within an arbitrary cartographic boundary, the state owns your property), laws (those within said boundary are subject to the opinion of the state with regards to morality), standing militaries, etc. So, where one could easily find support in protecting oneself from an individual criminal, the same is not true with institutionalized crime.

Secondly, due to the nature of institutions and collectivist ideologies, the guilt of the crime is distributed across a great many people. For example, one’s intuition is typically such that the grouchy lady making $10 behind the counter at the DMV is not guilty of theft or murder due to her job. Many people, even, do not find the soldiers stationed around the globe or the local cops who are shooting children to be guilty of murder. This intuition can find its root in many claims; “It’s just self-defense”, “it’s for the greater good”, “they’re just doing their job”, and “if you just follow the law, nobody gets hurt”, come to mind. At the end of the day, though, by participating in an institution, one is de-facto endorsing the core beliefs and activities of that institution. If I work for planned parenthood, I endorse eugenics and infanticide. If I work for Starbucks I endorse pseudo-socialist fair trade coffee. If I join the Boy Scouts or the Knights of Columbus, I am endorsing a pseudo-paramilitary organization dedicated to nationalism.

The aforementioned grouchy lady at the DMV, many cops, soldiers, and politicians, etc. are not murdering children or stealing property with their own hands and I am not about to advocate the wholesale slaughter of social workers… but the guilt of these crimes rests more heavily on their heads than the average voter or on those that do not execute their duty outlined in “What is the State of War?”.

Thirdly, related to the first two differences, is the efficacy or success rate of institutional states of war. Between public support, the apparently clean hands of the individuals operating on behalf of the institution, and the sheer difference in tactical assets available to the state versus the individual, the odds are forever in favor of the state. The tragedy of the commons rears its ugly head when MLK and Eric Frein are murdered by the state, the Confederacy is invaded by the United States, the government massacres native Americans and innocent citizens at Ruby Ridge, Waco, Kent State, the list goes on and on. This ignores, of course, the firebombing, drone striking, and nuclear annihilation of civilian targets on the other side of the world and imperial occupation of the globe.

Closer to home, though, one-third of my wages are stolen from my paycheck before it is even printed, due to the institutional efficiency of compliant victims. Across the continent, arbitrary laws and fines are written, levied, and enforced by a legion of bureaucrats and armed enforcers with the public support and consent of their subjects. Driving 76 on the “free”way is a deadly prospect, not because of mechanical or skill limitations, but because doing so legally grants authority to state enforcers to explicitly engage the driver in a state of war between individuals.

So, what is the cash value of these differences? Well, with regards to “What Is the State of War?” not much. If someone, anyone, attempts to force someone else into a state of war, the victim has a moral obligation to kill or permanently incapacitate them. It matters not whether they are a back-alley crackhead, a law enforcer, a mob racketeer (but, I repeat myself), a Nazi, or a Marine. Does this mean we should all start crucifying social workers or killing cops sitting in a Dunkin’ Donuts? Not necessarily. The difference between individual states of war and institutional ones hinges on the difference between individual interactions and institutional interactions; I will write more about this distinction later, but for now I will simply show the result of this difference as applies here.

As is the case for an individual state of war, institutional war ought to be avoided if possible. If one finds themselves living in an institutionalized state of war, whether by way of accident of birth, invasion, or an aristocracy signing some document in a nearby colony at the behest of the French monarch, one ought to take all reasonable action to avoid and opt-out of the state and its inherent war. Anonymity, disruptive technologies, the agora, and perceived compliance are all options which do not require one to abandon their right to live where they may. An option which has greater cost and risk associated with it but with tremendously greater payout is to simply move away. Not to Somalia, of course, but to a more free place; as compared to North America and a majority of Europe, a great many exist. One does not have a moral obligation to leave, but the ought to do what they can to cease support and compliance with regards to the state while also avoiding individual states of war. One such method is to simply leave.

As is the case with individual state of war, one ought to properly equip themselves and conduct themselves so as to be prepared to defend oneself. This requires the formation of a geographically local community centered on the principles of anarchy, with equipment designed to obtain a tactical advantage, an environment of self-sufficiency, and outside the purview of the law. Insofar as these attributes are lacking, such a community must make it as costly and dangerous as possible for the state to operate in said locality, thus discouraging direct acts of war.

One also must try to de-escalate the state of war they find themselves in. This may sound contrary to the preceding prescription, but it is not. In the case of institutionalized war, it is closely tied to the second method of avoidance. If one is self-sufficient and living outside the purview of the state, the state will have little public support in engaging one in a state of war. Additionally, in disseminating the truth of the state and its inherently misanthropic nature, one can garner additional public support, thereby starving the state of its authority. As MLK and Malcolm X’s cultural revolution demonstrates, good PR is key.

Ultimately, when individual agents of the state engage one in a state of war, they are no different than any other man, morally speaking. When a master is beating his slave or a rapist is raping or a murderer is murdering, they ought to be stopped at any cost. What about the interim? When a slave owner is drinking tea, a rapist is at Starbucks, or a murderer is at church, ought one stop them from being able to continue such crimes? In 1940’s Paris, could a citizen of France be justified in shooting a man in an SS uniform who is simply drinking wine? I do not have an answer as of yet.

I do know, however, that that is the basis on which police arrest people after a crime is committed. In which case, if one supports arresting criminals after the fact, they must also support the execution of professional criminals after the fact as well. Additionally, if you believe that, for any reason whatsoever, that the US soldiers shooting SS officers across the European countryside were justified, then the french resistance is as well and those that wish to kill cops in the name of freedom most certainly are as well. If any war in known history (identified by numbers of individuals in uniform killing numbers of other individuals in uniform) can be justified, a freedom-minded individual is equally justified in killing individuals wearing the uniform of their oppressor.

TL;DR: The state, as an institution predicated on the crimes of coercion, theft, and murder, is itself a state of war. This raises serious moral concerns with regards to the relationship between a free individual and individual members of the state. Much discussion is required, especially taking into account statist justifications for war and how they apply to such relationships. A further investigation into the tragedy of enforcement is also required.

Also, for your viewing pleasure: