Friday, October 26, 2007

War... what is it good for?

Why is war so damn important to the ruling class?

There are a lot of smaller reasons, economic and political, why it might be desirable, why it might be a boon to them.
But right now, they seem thirsty for it, desperate for it. Why is that?

Because the threads of the mythos they have created are unraveling all around them. Even though they have developed a vast propaganda machine, the economic damage to the middle class is too difficult to hide at this point. War is still a psychic force that can mobilize people against their own self interest. Especially since World War II was the grounding ur-myth of the modern mythos.

Every discussion is framed as if we were facing the next Hitler. (Notice how the Japanese are never brought up, even though it's the Japanese that actually got us into the war. I guarantee if Mussolini had been on "our" side in the war, Fascism would be a perfectly acceptable ideology to people)

If "war fever" subsides, if we stop fighting, people will begin to look at their own domestic situation again and demand more of their own capital back. In a subtle way, this was a criticism that the neo-conservatives often levelled at American society after the Cold War ended. "National Greatness Conservatism" seems to me to be a code word for "using war as an excuse to suppress the peasants and keep them in their place".

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What I'm trying to do here consists of a few basic themes:
1. Delineate the situation clearly
This is important because the biggest hurdle we face is one of deception, a false mythology implanted in people by the various propaganda engines of the powers that be.
In order to attack this mythology we have to see it clearly, and not be led astray ourselves. The powers that be have had a long time to improve their techniques of deception and cooption through trial and error.
2. Point out means of escape. Fortunately a lot of the work in this area has been done. Harry Browne and SEK3 come immediately to mind. The good thing about counter economics is that it is something which contains its own incentives for spreading and they scale with the level of statism. But on a psychological level you must also free yourself from traps that keep you stuck in the Red and Pink markets, as FSK so cleverly put it.
On this note, I think that Adem Kupi is on to something with his emphasis on saving as a revolutionary act. (personal disclaimer, he's a friend of mine...)
3. Create the seeds of a new counter-propaganda/counter-mythology. The revolution, such as it may be, must take place first in the hearts and minds of the people. Only then will they do anything worthwhile. Some of this will consist of "preaching to the choir", but also of taking the message and making it more transmissible, whether through pithy sound bites or images.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hypothetical Fun

I was chatting with a friend of mine last night who said "But I want to alleviate suffering right now".
The context was "healthcare"... well one interesting article on that and similar subjects is "Socialism Vs Regulation" by James Leroy Wilson. So, making the other side of that argument, one way to alleviate suffering right now would be to deregulate health care and abolish medicare and medicaid.
It would be better for the government to basically give people money to spend on medical care, within a context of a free market, where people would still have an incentive not to use care they don't need (this is basic economics right here, economizing scarce resources). Right now we have not only a subsidized demand, but also a restricted supply. So of course "healthcare" is terribly expensive. Which forces more people into the pyramidal institutions to pay for their needs.
To paraphrase Robert Higgs, "There are no failed policies in the long run". This is no accident.

So would it be "better" to have socialized medicine? Well, as long as medicine was completely deregulated and unlicensed outside the system, yes, it would be better than what we have now.
But what all these goons in the government want for us is not that at all but an extension of the current system to absorb everyone, and with government in control. Which is Fascist Medicine, for lack of a better term.
Medical taxes will keep going up, especially now that all these Baby Boomers are retiring (and are spoiled people with a vast sense of entitlement - which may come from growing up in an age where government still "worked", before the seed capital of the past had been completely eaten away) which will put pressure on doctors to lower their hourly rates or find other ways to reduce cost, which will create a shortage of doctors and poor, but "free" care for everyone, once you get off the two year waiting list.
Most poor people I know don't need MRIs. They need better jobs and more opportunities for wealth creation.

This same pattern applies to most areas of American society where the government has corrupted it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Blackwater indeed.

"In a corporatist economy such as ours, government funnels lots of money to nominally private firms to accomplish things it might have done directly. But there is no essential difference between those two ways of doing things. What counts is who controls the money.

If the government were to close down the Internal Revenue Service and hire H&R Block to collect taxes, would that be privatization of the tax system? The question answers itself."

- Sheldon Richman

In fact, I'd say that the pure government situation is more desirable in some ways, because there's no particular motivation for malfeasance. And to paraphrase Murray Rothbard, it's better for criminal actions to be as inefficient as possible.
Unfortunately there's no other concise term for this sort of government-business partnership than Fascism, which has been historically tainted.
Tainted or not though, it's the most accurate term for this that there is.

South Park Anna

So... heh. I guess I'm the latest to come up with my south park self:

The error of Transgender Apologetics

(or, how I came to name my blog)

One of the biggest errors that transgendered folk make in my opinion is the "apologetic". They all too often want to explain away why they need to be transgendered. First off, this gives too much ground to the gender normative. What are you apologizing for?
Secondly I think that this arises out of a subtle statism. Statism is, at its core, a desire to make other people do what they ordinarily wouldn't. Once you can establish an excuse or need, you can make other people be nice to you or even give you free stuff.
Me, I'm an anarchist. I don't have to explain why I'm doing this. It is very compelling to me, but either way, it's none of anyone's business. I might want to explain myself out of a desire to be understood by others, but even so, my explanation will be framed in terms of desire and not need.
All I need is for other people not to damage me or my property. But I'd love to have more friends... :)

Welcome, potential friends.

Transgendered Cultural Mythos - A few notes

Most people really aren't very intelligent when it comes to dealing with the transgendered.
Part of it I think is the fact that the animal brains of humans are usually hard wired to ask themselves "can I fuck this?" instinctively. That's why oddly enough, men often find the idea of lesbians arousing. Because in their hind brain they still think they can have sex with them.
So transgendered people, especially MTFs (because of certain differences in gender roles), creep a lot of people out on a deep level. It's a translation of homophobia to a much deeper level (which actually is precisely why our cultural struggle is tied up with the struggle of the larger Gay Rights movement).
An example of what I mean: I saw a blog post recently critical of a geriatric facility for LGBT persons. The title of the post was "geriatric pastures for trannies".
Now why choose that? Because he knew that it would seem more absurd/outrageous to a certain crowd than "geriatric pastures for fags(or dykes)" - in fact those titles might have turned away his audience. But it's still ok to dehumanize transgendered people I guess.
Part of this is also statistical. There aren't that many transgendered people out there, and because of this repression, very few of them are "out". So people haven't become desensitized to our presence and we haven't had enough of an opportunity to show people that we're basically ok, like everyone else is.
This is changing, which is why to people who are hypersensitive to it, it can seem like some explosion of transgendered folk, which might be threatening to those very people.
A little weird feedback loop, but I suppose the gay and lesbian crowd went through it and are in fact still going through it, though they're further along.
But this very statistical smallness means that we're less of a social threat as well, which adds the irony. For instance, the City of San Francisco included full insurance for transition expenses, and discovered that the expense was rather shockingly minimal. People just aren't going to make those kind of major body modifications to such a fundamental part of themselves unless they're really serious about it, at least not in noticable numbers, even if you let them do it for free.
Now, I'm a market anarchist and I don't believe in regulating free association nor in government subsidized health insurance (whether directly or through tax breaks). But the fact of the matter is, if you're going to give these perks to gays and lesbians, extending them to transfolk would be a drop in the bucket, in terms of additional social drag (no pun intended).
The idea that all of a sudden there will be icky freaky trannies everywhere if you let them in the door, just isn't true, even overlooking the fucked up foundation of that thought-formulation.
Eventually, I suspect that it will become mostly a non-issue. It certainly would in a free society.
Even if people in general didn't care for it, decentralism would ensure that it never really touched most people's lives. And in such a society, without fear of self-expression, transfolk would become very "normal" relative to the population (repression always creates reaction) so the people that did encounter them would think little of it, if they even knew.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Usury Vs Just Interest

Most religions and many old-timey social theorists condemn "Usury" in one form or another. Most people believe that Usury entails any charging of interest on loans. If this practice were ended, there would probably be no loans at all, given that the value of money today is greater than the value of money tomorrow.
Of course as an anarchist, I believe that any voluntary agreement between two people is acceptable, provided that violence and deception is not involved. But I think I see a difference between Usury and a free market conception of interest.
The difference is in what is being loaned.
Rather than go into the details of what I consider Usury myself, I'll point out FSK's pretty thorough analysis of the compound interest trap here.
The money shot:
Each loan has the effect of decreasing the number of dollars in circulation, because the payments always are more than the principal*. What would happen if all the banks got together and said "let's collude and offer no more new loans"**? As loans were repaid, there would be fewer and fewer dollars in circulation. Prices would drop. Some people would be unable to pay off their loans. The banks would foreclose, taking possession of real assets, even though the dollars they loaned out cost nothing to print.
* Though his case is not as apodictic as he makes it out to be, because the banks themselves need to circulate currency (through paying their employees and other business expenses). However, if they can make loans from thin air, they don't need to recirculate that much of the currency they receive in payments in order to stay in business.
** (this actually happened with a large number of farm loans at the beginning of the "Great Depression" - there was a literal memorandum sent telling banks to stop loaning and start liquidating after a certain date)

How would this be different in a free market? Whatever was loaned would have to exist as saved money... that is to say money already removed from circulation. It would not be entering and then leaving circulation. The interest rate would have to be less than the loanee thought they could gain through some sort of wealth production in the intervening time period, or they wouldn't take out the loan (precisely because they couldn't count on new money entering circulation and deflating their payments).
On top of this, banks(and other loaners) would be competing with each other to offer the lowest interest rate loans, there being no Federal Reserve to set interest rate floors or ceilings.

All of the interest paid back would come from money they earned somehow; even if they defaulted, the asset would merely be "bought" by the bank indirectly, with the use of the asset being what was loaned temporarily to the loanee.
All of the transactions that the loanee made to earn the money they are using to pay off the loan have increased the total supply of wealth in society... so even though money has technically been shifted around, the total purchasing power of money in circulation has increased, because otherwise people would stop taking loans out. There may be less dollars circulating, but each one would buy a lot more stuff. Denominations could be split infinitely, into cents, mills, micros, as necessary. (Imagine a world where steak dinners were priced in pico-dollars!)
To put it concisely, banks would not be able to funnel money/assets into their own pockets, because all loaned money would have to come from savings, directly or indirectly. Even though a form of fractional reserve banking would be possible, the rate at which it could occur would be severely limited by the risk of bank runs. It would probably fall to a rate equal to a warehousing fee for other items. At that rate, there wouldn't be any banks solvent enough to destroy each other, and the odds of everyone demanding their money at once would be almost nil, because they wouldn't have put their money in the bank in the first place then.

Why couldn't free market banks "create" their own fiat money? Well, they could, but why would anyone use it? If moneys freely compete, eventually a certain money would be chosen as "sound" enough to be acceptable at most places. Most austrian economists agree that would be gold-based, but it really doesn't matter. What matters is that that would become the reserve, and if it inflated too much, something else would replace it.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Great Shell Game

One of the mechanisms by which the political/ruling class endeavors to keep the poor down is by means of deception. In fact, ultimately, deception is the main weapon they have. As many have pointed out in the past, if the working class (and that includes most of the middle class in America, btw) decided to throw off the government, there really would be no way to stop them.

Which brings us back to deception as the main tool of the State.
One of the primary functions of welfare, in my opinion, is to make the State look more necessary than it is. This is agreed on by lots of libertarians in their own ways.
A more subtle idea is that welfare is also used as a prop to explain poverty away. If you ask most "fiscal conservatives" why there are still so many poor people in this society, the answer you'll usually receive (assuming that they aren't racists) is some form of "well, they don't have an incentive to work and develop themselves because of welfare". Now this may have some basis in fact, but I think a look at the third world can be instructive here.
Why is the third world poor? The aid we send them, it's well known, rarely gets to them, and it's usually in the form of grain or milk to aid utterly starving people.
Lack of skill is not an acceptable answer either. The thing that people don't grok on that score is the law of comparative advantage. They could easily produce something more efficiently than we could do it for ourselves. In fact, there would be no sweatshops there if that wasn't the case (And why aren't there more sweatshops here then? See below).
The third world is poor because their governments are preying on them. I happen to agree with Mises that the main way to eliminate poverty is to increase capital invested per head. To do that requires that capital be allowed to move freely and grow without threat of predation. Most "poor countries" are rather egregious about letting crime, both public and "private" but tacitly sanctioned, eat away capital and destabilize markets.
The poor in the western world are poor, because whatever "free" market may exist for people above a certain threshold, the poor live in an extremely regulated, proportionally over taxed (especially considering inflation) environment. There is no free market for poor people, because all the transaction costs that seem minor or are even invisible to someone who has a certain level of access to capital already, are immense to them.
Joe Office Guy lives in an increasingly bureaucratic, but predominantly free market society.
Joe Janitor lives in Zimbabwe.

Welfare provides a dodge, an excuse for the poverty of the poor. It creates antipathy and disrespect for them. "I managed to get a job and make a living, why can't he? Damn bum, taking my tax money."
If the low-end spheres of our society were utterly de-regulated and inflation ended, whether or not welfare was eliminated, you'd see a renaissance, an explosion of productive power that would look like a second industrial revolution and poverty would really be wiped out in our country.
But of course that would rip the lid off a large part of the Government Shell Game, and would reduce profits for the people at the top of our economy (by diluting capital and shifting the labor market in favor of laborers), which is why it hasn't happened, and ultimately, why there is still poverty.