no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

My Country Went to War on Terror and All I Got Was this Lousy Police State

September 30th, 2011

Exactly two years ago yesterday I wrote that the threat of terrorism is essentially non-existent. This is not because the Alphabet Soup Agencies are doing a spectacular job keeping us safe, it’s because even despite all the Imperial meddling around the globe, there just aren’t very many would-be terrorists. If the terror threat was credible, we couldn’t stop it.

Not much has changed since then. In fact, there are so few actual terrorist threats (probably because there are so few actual terrorists) that the FBI has to manufacture its own terror plots, and then take credit for saving the day.

Let’s put things in perspective.

You are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist attack

 

In Favor of Free Markets: Freedom as an End in Itself

April 14th, 2011

It’s often argued that eliminating such-and-such a federal department will make us richer. Or that removing this-and-that tax burden will let us keep more of our paychecks. You’ve heard it before. It goes something like this:

If we get rid of the onerous taxes on the middle class, the regressive taxes that disadvantage the poor, the myriad regulations which hamstring businesses (the right-libertarian does not qualify, but the left-libertarian will probably refine the definition to include “small business, cooperatives, etc. in lieu of capital-intensive, oligopolistic industry) we’ll all be richer.

Depending on the degree of “libertarian” you’re dealing with they may add optional conditions like:

And just for Karma points, let’s stop dropping bombs on kids in Pakistan and funding death squads in South America, and you know what else, it doesn’t really matter if we put another man on the moon…

I’m with you so far [1].  But the argument concludes that we just axe all this stuff and your net income goes up, voila you are richer and then this becomes some sort of justification for the “free market”.

Wrong.

If you are going to be better-off in a free market, it’s not simply because you’ll be “earning more money”.

It ain’t about that 10% or 20% that Uncle Sam takes out of your paycheck every week.

Your nominally “higher” income isn’t going to matter much [2]. There will certainly be discomfort in the short- to medium-term as generations of capital misallocation are revealed all at once. But prices, like water, eventually find their level. So, the fact that you might have “more” money is probably not going to matter.

Nor is it about the paltry few cents that you pay for dozens of programs you probably vociferously oppose, (e.g., public health clinics, welfare for displaced/redundant labor force, mass transit, free birth control for high school kids or low-income people, crappy artwork in public places, etc.) but in the grand scheme of things don’t amount to a hill of beans.

If your primary objection is that the government is ripping you off a few cents on every dollar that you earn, if your strongest talking point is simply, “Well, we could all be richer”, don’t act surprised when people look at you like some bougie sonofabitch who’s just using the rhetoric of “liberty” in order to appeal to that me-vs-the-world selfishness with which you’ve been indoctrinated since kindergarten.

So this is a terrible argument: not only is it objectively incorrect, but it relies on gross exaggerations (if we stopped paying welfare – of course without examining or addressing the root causes of the poverty in society, we’d be richer!), and also because it espouses the very worst aspects of consumerism.

What matters in a free market is the opportunities which freedom presents.

In my estimation it is these intangible effects of such a shake-up that will really improve everyone’s lot in the long-run.

Deep down inside I’d like to believe that we all want freedom, security, a modicum of material comfort, leisure time to spend recreating and enjoying with our friends and families. Money-blind, though, so many have been brainwashed in to believing that these “luxuries” can only be purchased, and the price is perpetual labor & toil to make ends meet and provide for the occasional escape. But that ain’t freedom, and it ain’t security[3] either.  It’s a very, very poor substitute at best.

Imagine the freedom to enjoy your life. Real equality of opportunity. The wherewithal to carve your own destiny, rather than trying desperately scrambling to fit perfectly in to some cookie-cutter pre-fab box that’s been forced in front of you like you’re the next interchangeable and totally replaceable piece rolling down the assembly line of life. And if everyone else could do the same? especially if the poorest & least-fortunate among us could substantially improve their lots as well?

The most important part about a free market is not that you will make more money (because you probably won’t, but that won’t even matter!). It’s the freedom, stupid! It’s working within a society, shaping those institutions which foster the freedom, security and well-being which is what we all really want (not that bullshit illusion of prosperity known as “The American DreamTM“); a world where it doesn’t take 50+ hours of nose-to-the-grindstone or mind-numbing, paper-pushing, rubber-fucking-stamping “labor” to provide for your family, all the while barely making ends meet.

You can’t buy freedom. And you can’t really replace it.  Understand that freedom contributes to real wealth, not the other way around, and that we need to be working towards freedom as an end in itself and not towards monetary wealth as some proxy or substitute for what we really deserve.

1. Setting aside the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing arguments, of course, viz., some advocate policy with sleight of hand that really means, “Lower taxes for me, but not for thee!” in a close-minded zero-sum mentality; they just want a bigger piece of the pie and they are not at all interested in making that pie bigger. It’s easier to just take someone else’s.

2. Prices (including the price of labor, a/k/a “wages”) might rise because of the psychic effect of “more money”. But they might fall as barriers to entry, previously enshrined in law & tax code, have been removed, and competition prevails.

3. I can’t help but recall Franklin’s famous quote about those who would trade liberty for security. Right now it seems we’ve done just that. And if you look around at the jobless rates or the foreclosures or the number of people on this earth who are starving or living on $2/day or less, well it’s hard to argue that anyone is really very “secure”, either.

The American Dream (TM)

January 31st, 2011

White picket fences and matching flatware, brand new cars every three years, clever coffee tables, two cell phones per person all supported by a nine-to-five which atrophies your brain and body, simultaneously. Cookie-cutter mass-produced and marketed to be everything they’ve conditioned you to think that you want. This is The American Dream™.

White picket fencesThey manufactured The American Dream™ and covered it with slick marketing and fancy jingles and bright shiny packaging and taught you, convinced you that it was your dream and then they solid it to you and you f*cking bought it. Hook. Line. And sinker.

This is The American Dream™. It isn’t your dream. Probably isn’t even close to your dream.

It never was.

And the sooner you realize that, the better off you’re gonna be…

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics