no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Comments on Comments #12

April 4th, 2008

Tony comments on “How Much is a Kitchen Worth?“. He astutely notes some of the risks involved in renovating, and says that he expects some return for the installation of hardwood floors,

[P]rimarily through the effort involved in installing and the disruption during the process. (The latter is huge.)

It’s also important to remember that these TV programs generally foot the bill for all the labor which is a substantial component of the price of renovations, and they do it quickly. These factors minimize the material and non-material costs of renovation, and bundle them up with the awe-factor of being on a nationally televised program. As Tony indicates, for many people contemplating a renovation, the non-monetary costs involved are often substantial.

I think the bottom line is that some non-zero return should be expected for most renovations, provided they more closely align the property with its comps. But I think the pie-in-the-sky returns mentioned on these TV shows are a thing of the past.

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One of my posts, War Tax Resistance and Agorism, drew some criticism from The Picket Line, a tax-resistance advocate. Picket Line concludes:

I think we probably agree more than we disagree when it comes right down to it, but I’m too impatient to wait for the perfect solution. I’m eager to start right now with less-perfect but still practical solutions, hoping that although “there simply aren’t enough” of us to defund the government right now, thanks to me there’s one more than there used to be, and in order for that “enough” to ever come about, people like me will have to decide, one-by-one, to be the next not-yet-enough one.

My sentiments are that tax-withholding is not an imperfect solution, it’s not a solution! But before I’m accused of being combative and argumentative (I probably am!) I agree with the spirit of tax resistance, I also agree that success needs to be built one man at a time (hopefully at some point it goes viral). But I still maintain that the direction of change is agorism. (I do not yet have a solution for practical agorism.)

If you’re resisting taxes that are used to pay for war, why aren’t you resisting taxes that are used to pay for all the other evils perpetrated by the State? It’s like saying, “Well, if only the State weren’t engaged in these empire-building wars of aggression abroad I wouldn’t have a problem paying my taxes.”

The taxation is evil, in itself. It’s not evil because of the ends towards which those funds are applied.

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In response to “What is Your Obligation to Your Lender?“, Logan has responded:

I encourage you to re-read my original post without emotion.

Pot, meet Kettle. Kettle, Pot. :)

I clearly was not talking about people who can no longer afford their mortgage payments; I was talking about people who can afford their mortgage payments but because they are in a negative equity situation freely choose to abandon their promise to a lender (not necessarily a bank, by the way) and borrow again to buy another property and simply walk away from the first property.

Logan has juxtaposed the property leapers into the argument, and therein lies the problem: the focus of my posts has been primarily on “people who cannot afford their payments,” not on property leapers. Specifically, I said “Let me make one thing abundantly clear: I’m not talking about people who are trying to dump a property that they can easily afford, just because they’re upside-down.” I don’t know why Logan decided to flip the script on me and start talking about something else. Hilarity did not ensue!

I’m not aware of a property-leaping epidemic but I’m sure there have been a few attempts here and there. In any event, it would be prohibitively difficult for all but the most qualified buyers to do something like this, profitably. And it probably wouldn’t be worth it in the long-term. I believe I called this “financial suicide.”

I am not a “bank-apologist” or “state-apologist”, but I am a lender myself. Lending and borrowing are a natural part of capitalism, if not a defining part of capitalism. A lender uses money (the principal) to make more money (the interest and fees). Similarly, an investor uses money (the investment) to make more money (the dividends/royalties/rental fees, etc.). There is nothing inherently evil in these two types of capitalist activity; but, there can be evil in how human beings and organizations of human beings behave in such capitalist activity. And such evil can show up on both sides of the transaction. All I was trying to point out in my original post was that evil does lurk in the hearts of borrowers as well. The property leaping by a healthy borrower done to avoid TEMPORARY negative equity is a great example.

It’s a “great example” insofar as red herrings are concerned. But it’s not what I was talking about, except for perhaps insinuating that I have no soft spot in my heart for the banks which have been bending people over for years; something about 1913 rings a bell…

Logan, I’m well-versed in the intricacies of capitalism. Before I considered myself an anarchist, I was an anarcho-capitalist, following the vulgar libertarian path back to Rand. I’ll be one of the last people to tell you that lending and borrowing money is wrong and I will never advocate usury laws. But I’ll be among the first to tell you that the current system of fractional reserve banking is nothing short of fraudulent. There may be some bad apples among the borrowers, but they are dwarfed in number by the bad apples among the lenders, who are of the Barry-Bonds-didn’t-know-he-was-on-‘roids variety.

Allow me to explain: Barry says that he never knew he was juicing. This is bullshit for a number of reasons, but principally because only an idiot so dependent on his body and health for his livelihood would put unknown substances into his body. If he didn’t know, it’s because he didn’t want to know. And if he didn’t want to know, it’s because he already knew!

If bankers didn’t know that what they were doing was wrong, it’s because they didn’t want to know. And if they didn’t want to know, it’s because they already knew, or should have known. Another way of looking at it is like this: If they didn’t know they were taking on piles of bad debt, it’s because they didn’t want to know. And if they didn’t want to know, it’s because they already knew!

But it’s not wrong because the government permits or encourages it, right? Wrong! The sanction of a government lends no legitimacy to an illegitimate act! It doesn’t require to strenuous an application of reason to conclude that loaning money into existence, out of thin air, and then asking to be repaid plus interest is in many regards a worse deed than simple counterfeit or theft.

Logan wholeheartedly ignores this charge (for at least the second time) that bankers are profiting from pure monetary inflation/debasement. Moreover, he has neglected to address my response to his own position on “The Golden Rule,” which seemed to be of paramount importance in his last comment, apparently it applies to borrowers, but not lenders.

At this point, I am not interested in any further commentary which does not contribute substantively to the discussion, as it pertains to the nature and morality of the banking system and/or the source from whence it derives profits.

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Franc responds to a common criticism of anarchists: our ideals are utopian, and hence impossible.

If Anarchy cannot “work,” then government itself, which must obviously have been created from a state of Anarchy, also cannot “work.” How can an unworkable system produce a workable system? The reverse can happen, of course. A skilled carpenter can create a botched piece, but an unskilled carpenter cannot create a masterpiece. If the initial Anarchist state of affairs was “unworkable,” then where was the potential in this “unworkable” society to create the “order” of government?

So, statism is also utopian in nature, and any criticism on that ground is inherently contradictory.

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Coyote wants to know if anyone can solve problems without government anymore. I just read about how the public utilities in Michigan have spent record-breaking amounts of money lobbying in Lansing to secure price increases and thwart competition. Charming. One point that Coyote makes with which I disagree (and I rarely disagree with him, so this might be semantics) is the idea that it would be appropriate for private citizens to buy a bunch of land, and then donate it to the federal government to preserve the parks.

Here is an idea: All you folks who are worried about these “treasures” can pool your money and buy the properties yourselves. That way you can either take charge of the preservations or donate the land to the government to do so. This is how many public parks came into being in the first place, from private donations.

I prefer his first proposal. Take charge of the preservations privately. If the land is given to the government, we can expect market distortions and there is no good reason to believe that it will be managed or preserved adequately. Furthermore, once the park becomes “public” in nature, the burden of its upkeep is spread among all taxpayers. I would rather have the land donated to government, than have government simply take it, but what I really want is for fictional entities to stop “owning” land, and making everyone else pay for it.

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At The Distributed Republic, Mark lists a number of ways to replace the safety nets and programs currently provided by the government, and concludes by asking:

With the exception of blatantly coercive acts–waging offensive wars, intimidating other states or individuals, confiscating property–is there a single function of the federal government that couldn’t be replaced? If not, why wait?

Mark! I’m not waiting, but the government is. The simple, short answer is that the government won’t voluntarily disband. It will either be overthrown (violently, or otherwise) and be replaced by another government, or it will crumble under its own weight, presenting the opportunity for the markets to fill the void.

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Enjoy the weekend.

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no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics