Tag Archive | economics

Economic Self-Interest

So the Nobel Prize in economics was recently awarded to Thaler, who showed that economic actors (i.e., “people”) don’t always act rationally, or in their best interests. While I have not read his award-winning work, that isn’t even important, because there are two underlying assumptions that don’t hold up, and that must be true for the hypothesis to be true: first, that rational and irrational behavior are different things, and second that “best interests” can be definitively measured.

Without going further, everyone should by now be identifying the scientific woo in the assertion. As I’ve written about before, rationality and irrationality are two sides of the same coin–that which we value, we value for emotional reasons, yet it is only rational to care (emotion-based) about our values. That’s rather circuitous, so let me explain with an example. Let’s say that I love chocolate milk, and that I’d be willing to pay $5 for a bottle of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup if only one remained at the store and I was competing with someone else for it. It is only rational that I put my desires first, and therefore only rational that I seek out and attempt to acquire the chocolate syrup. But why should I care about having chocolate syrup, and why should I care whether I am happy (with my desires fulfilled) or unhappy (with my desires unfulfilled)? Why should I care whether I am happy and acquired the chocolate syrup, or unhappy without the chocolate syrup?

We have a strong tendency to separate the two things, but they cannot be separated. There is no rational reason that I would care whether I am happy or sad–only emotional ones. Yet it is only rational that, if my emotional state matters to me, then I would attempt to keep my emotional state positive. If I care, then it is only rational that I do things that satisfy that concern, but there is no rational reason that I should care except that I care, and that, since I care, it only makes sense for me to do things to satisfy that concern. See? It’s all circular. Rationality and irrationality are woven together, inseparable; no one ever “acts rationally” and no one ever “acts irrationally.” They perpetually act both rationally and irrationally.

Suppose I run into a burning building to rescue a cat. Many people would say that I had behaved irrationally. Yet others would say that, because I care deeply about cats (no, really, I do, and I would rush into a burning building to save one), it is only rational that I would do everything in my power to save them. Yet there is no rational reason that I should care about cats–I care about them for emotional reasons, hence the use of the word “care.” Yet is it not irrational for an untrained person to rush into a burning building for any reason? Is it not irrationality–emotion–my love for cats–that inspired my behavior, even though it’s got an overwhelming likelihood of being against my best interests (survival)? And, if so, why should my survival be considered a rational goal?

On the surface, it would certainly appear that it is only rational for a person to want to keep themselves alive, but is it? No. Such a want–a desire–is motivated entirely by emotional concerns: a fear of death, a love of life, whatever. There is no rational reason to want to continue living, but look what we are doing–we are calling it irrational to rush into a burning building because it could lead to death. We are assuming that it is rational to want to continue living, but that assumption is flawed; there are only emotional reasons. So we are not using “rationality” in its accurate, true sense when we ascribe it as a value to certain actions; we are labeling a broad range of actions with “self-preservation” as the ideal goal–a goal that we put as the ideal only for emotional reasons.

For what rational reason does an individual, group, or species conclude that their survival and procreation are valuable? There isn’t one, and that’s the assumption upon which his idea is built–that there is. There is absolutely no rational reason that I should care whether I live or die, whether humanity lives or dies, or whether the entire freaking planet lives or dies. Why? Positive and negative statements are value statements, and they are made according to unknown, subjective, individual-specific criteria and weighed for emotional reasons, not rational ones.

Before anyone can say that actors occasionally act rationally or irrationally, they must define what these words mean. Apparently, “rationally” in this context means “in their best interests.” According to whom? And by what criteria? Plenty of people would say that habitual drug users are acting against their best interest by continuing to do methamphetamine, but are they? Who is to say that the short-term high of meth isn’t a sufficient reward for them to outweigh the longterm damage? Who is to say what is in their best interests and what is not? Who in the world has the omniscience to make such a statement, and then to present it as science? This guy won a Nobel Prize for “demonstrating” that Person A occasionally acts against Person A’s best interests.

What?

What in the bloody hell are we considering to be in Person A’s best interests? Economic stability? Amassing untold wealth? Getting lots of pussy? And then why are we considering those things to be in their best interests? And even if we could somehow come to a universally agreed upon criteria of what is and isn’t in someone’s best interests, this doesn’t even begin to answer the question of whether they’re acting in their long-term best interests, but against their short-term best interests (as I do each time I buy cryptocurrency). How in the world can we ever attempt to say scientifically that Person A has acted against their short-term best interests and against their long-term interests, according to this gargantuan list of factors and concerns that we have by fiat determined to be “best”?

And this guy won a Nobel Prize for this.

In actuality, what Thaler has proven is that “By the criteria of what I consider to be ‘best,’ people occasionally do things that will not yield the results of what I consider ‘best.'” It doesn’t matter if his criteria is economic stability, productivity, long-term survival, or anything else–why in the world should his values, or even the majority’s values, dictate that another person has behaved irrationally? No, Thaler. You have demonstrated that people occasionally do things that you feel are not in those people’s best interests. That’s all you’ve demonstrated, and that, as science, is meaningless and useless.

If you define their “best interests” in the way that you prefer, then it’s no surprise that you’ll find people occasionally act against the “best interests” that you’ve defined, because not everyone is trying to achieve whatever goals you have outlined; not everyone cares about those same things. It’s not in my economic and financial best interests to take time out of my workday to write this article, but I care about whether science is actually, you know, scientific. Is it rational that I care about that? Well… It’s no more rational than your estimation of what is and isn’t in other people’s best interests.

Socialism & Fascism

In a recent article, Robert Higgs made the argument that socialism is pretty much dead, and that fascism is instead the dominant economic policy on the globe. As far as I’m aware, this is my first exposure to Higgs, and I must confess: I’m not impressed.

First, it should be readily observable to all people that fascism and socialism are related, in the same sense that an orchestra maestro entails mastery of the musical pieces; fascism is the conductor’s mastery, and socialism is mastery of the song. It’s possible to be a master of the song without being a master conductor, but it’s not possible to be a master conductor without being a master of the song.

In classic logic terms, all bloops are bleeps, but not all bleeps are bloops.

This is because socialism is an economic policy, while fascism is what we would call governmental policy. It’s true that “fascism” is a notoriously difficult idea to pin down, and a lot of people mistakenly attribute “nationalism” as one of its primary tenets, but that’s a misattribution, a result of people focusing more on words than with the essence represented by those words. State supremacy is the hallmark of fascism. Through most of human history, this would have manifested as nationalism and the notion that the nation is the greatest; in more modern times, it manifests primarily as globalism, and the notion that a global government would be the greatest. However, regardless at what level the fascist pledges their allegiance (whether to the nation or to the globe), the primary hallmark is the same: the state that is in charge is supreme.

Everything within the state. Nothing outside the state, nothing beyond the state.

— Benito Mussolini

Socialism is an idea that prescribes state ownership of capital. To explain this, we must clarify the difference between capital and a consumption good. A consumption good is one that does not increase in value, one that, under normal conditions, only decreases in value (i.e., is “used up”). A consumption good is something that is used and ultimately discarded, and is not an investment. Televisions, cell phones, food, clothing, gasoline, and other similar items are consumption goods. Socialism absolutely allows for individuals within the socialist society to own consumption goods. Even the most diehard socialist isn’t going to advocate a system where Bob, having run out of toothpaste, can enter your apartment and help himself to yours. In the socialist apparatus, consumption goods regularly pass into ownership by consumers, where they are consumed, and the state merely creates, assigns, and hands out these consumption goods.

Capital, on the other hand, is held entirely by the state. Houses, land, vehicles, manufacturing plants, and similar items are the property of the state, and the state uses this capital to create the consumption goods and dole them out to the citizens. The state owns the toothpaste manufacturing plant and provides one tube a month to each citizen, in other words, and once that toothpaste is handed over, it’s generally considered that citizen’s toothpaste. The state doesn’t really care what happens to consumption goods, because they are consumption goods–even if Bob hoards all of his toothpaste and attempts to sell it on the black market, it’s just not going to give him enough capital to seriously challenge the state. Besides which, it has an expiration date–the day is coming that the toothpaste will be without any value at all.

When we discuss “private property” under the ideas of capitalism, we are not saying that individuals have the right to own consumption goods–this right is a given, and even the most adamant socialist isn’t likely to challenge it. Instead, we are saying that individuals have the right to own capital. Individuals have the right to purchase items that will generate a return on the investment, that will produce wealth. Under capitalism, an individual can purchase the glass, copper, gold, plastic, and whatever else is necessary in order to produce phones, which are then sold as consumption goods to other individuals for money, thereby creating a return on the investment. This model is obviously successful, and obviously creates a net benefit to society as a whole: some people get the phone, and one person is rewarded for their investment with more money.

But it’s not my intention here to point out that capitalism is better.

In fact, the requirement that individuals be allowed to own capital is in the name: capitalism. We could easily call socialism consumptionism, in fact, because it restricts the individual’s ownership of property solely to consumption items–to the phones produced, to the toothpaste, to the gasoline, to the food, and never to the facilities, rigs, or farms where these things are produced. Instead, everything of real value that can have labor added to it in order to increase that value belongs to the state.

Five hundred acorns are of very little value to me, after all. However, by adding my labor to them (by planting them, nourishing them, and watering them), I can turn them into 500 trees of considerable value. This is the essence of capitalism: taking a resource, investing in it, and seeing a return on those resources. In the socialist order, one would still be allowed to own acorns, in most cases, but the state would claim the trees as soon as they were grown, and would fine and arrest the person who planted them.

Socialism is state ownership and control of capital property.

Fascism is state control of pretty much everything, including capital property. The state cannot be supreme if it does not control the means of production (i.e., capital). This is why every fascist government that has risen has also been socialist, from Mussolini’s Italy to Hitler’s Germany to Kim Jong Un’s North Korea. In fact, North Korea is one of the few fascist nations in the world today, where the state openly controls everything from education programs to capital.

Similarly, we in the United States are much more fascist than we’d like to realize, and we’re entirely socialist. No American is allowed to own capital; the owners of all capital is ultimately the American Government. In a capitalist order, a person purchases a house and the land around it, and then it’s theirs–it belongs to them, and they can do whatever they want with it, because they are the owner. This is not the case in the United States. In the United States, the person has an enormous list of things they are not allowed to do with the property, must petition for the right to do countless things that they supposedly have the right to do, and then must pay rent each year to avoid having the property taken away from them. Paying property taxes to the government in order to avoid having the government take the property away is not in any sense different from paying a bank note to prevent the bank from taking the property away.

Why should the government get money from you each year, just because you own a house and the land around it? It’s not the government’s house or land, is it? By inserting themselves into this process, lining up outside of your property with guns and soldiers and demanding that you hand over money or they will forcibly remove you, the state has usurped your ownership of the home and made itself the owner. We can use all the doublethink and cognitive dissonance we like, but the fact remains that this affair is known as “renting,” and not “owning.”

This is similarly the case for whatever manufacturing facility you own. Not only are you required to pay duties on thins that you import, but you must pay the government a portion of your profits regularly, because, if you don’t, they will take the manufacturing facility away from you. And, of course, you can’t just build a manufacturing facility in your backyard; you must acquire permits, many of which are exorbitantly expensive, and rely on getting the government’s permission for you to use “your” property in the way that you want in the first place.

This cannot be considered “private property.”

It would be no different if I came by your manufacturing facility once a month with armed goons and demanded a cut of your profits for “protection,” and made it clear that, if you didn’t pay, you would have an “accident” that would end with one of my people being installed as the owner of the facility. This is what the state does now, today, in 2017 Common Era, in the United States. The idea that this arrangement constitutes “private property” is demonstrably false, and has been demonstrated as so.

If that was your house, you could burn it down. If that was your house, you could add a wing without getting permission from the government. If that was your house, you could install your own septic tank. If that was your house, you could dig an enormous hole and create a pond. If that was your house, you would not have to pay someone each year in order to prevent it from being taken away from you. Instead, it is the state who decides whether you can have permission to add a wing, it is the state who decides whether you may install a septic tank (“No, you cannot, but you can pay $1,200 to this guy who paid us $3,000 for his license to do it.”), and it is the state who ultimately owns the property, who must receive a payment from you regularly, on top of all these other considerations.

The thing about ownership is that it means I can do whatever I want with my property.

Compare the ownership of capital in the United States–as most obvious in regard to houses–to the ownership of consumption goods. I can do whatever I want with the Linksys WRT54GL that I’m looking at. I can write my name on it. I can install DDWRT firmware. I can put it on whatever subnet I want. I can take it outside and smash it to pieces. I can unload sixteen 12 gauge shotgun shells into it. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission, and I don’t have to pay anyone each year for the “privilege” of owning it. It’s mine.

That difference is critical to understanding the current state of the world. Socialism is assuredly not on the decline; private ownership of capital is more regulated, controlled, restricted, and usurped than ever before. Socialism is more powerful today than it has ever been, and more dominant than ever. If we do not take back the right to own capital, free of government regulations, government mandates, and government threats of theft, then the problems we face can never be fixed.

And all of this is without even getting into Intellectual Property, eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, and the millions of regulations that bear down on us every single day. Anyone who looks at this state of affairs and calls it “private property” is severely confused. After all, both socialism and capitalism feature the ownership of consumption goods. As such, the ownership of consumption goods cannot be a deciding factor in whether a society is capitalist or socialist–as it is contained on both sides of the equation, it is reduced:

Private ownership of capital + private ownership of consumption goods = Capitalism

State ownership of capital + private ownership of consumption goods = Socialism

Anyone can see that “private ownership of consumption goods” has nothing to do with it, and must be subtracted from both. What we’re left with is that “private ownership of capital = capitalism” and “state ownership of capital = socialism.” Seeing as Fascism is state dominance over everything, from medicine to education to capital to consumption goods (because, for obvious reasons, if the state manufactures the only toothpaste in existence, then the state controls who has toothpaste and who doesn’t, as opposed to capitalism, where a person who has pissed off Colgate can still purchase Crest).

Fascism is also alive and well, although the state that people want to be supreme over everything has moved up one level, for the most part, to globalism instead of nationalism. This is why I once made the point that national fascism is easier to defeat than global fascism, while I explained my support for Brexit and America leaving NATO and the United Nations. Although viewed as contentious, that statement is actually an obvious extrapolation of how local governments are easier to influence than federal ones. It is much easier to get my city council to do what I want than it is to get the federal government to do what I want, and much easier to get the federal government to do what I want than it is to get the world government to do what I want. There is also the reality that world government soldiers from Uganda and New Guinea will face no real hardship oppressing people in California, while soldiers from California will face some internal difficulty oppressing people in Arkansas, and soldiers from Tate County, Mississippi will face considerable internal strife oppressing the people of Tate County. Local > distant, in every conceivable way.

However, that fascists today are roughly evenly split between nationalism and globalism is of no concern. They want state supremacy either way. The global fascists simply want to create a higher level of government to be supreme and enforce their desires. In that way, the globalist fascists are more fascist than the nationalist ones. And, yes, there is a strong correlation between those who want a powerful world government that can dictate national policies and those who openly desire socialism; yet, even among the national fascists, there is a strong tendency for the state to control different aspects of people’s lives (marriage, sexual identity, drugs, whatever). The globalist fascists simply want to create a Big Joker, because they don’t like how the nationalist fascists have the Little Joker.

 

The NES Classic & Economics

We anarchists and libertarians are bothered by a great many things, but one of the things that bothers us most–and that is almost universal among anarchists and libertarians–is the general economic ignorance that pervades the United States. We wouldn’t tolerate this ignorance in any other subject, but it serves the state’s purpose to keep us ignorant of economics (the manner by which we turn energy into product), so it’s a field that is touched only briefly–if at all–in high schools. The average American knows only that there’s a thing called “demand” and a thing called “supply,” and then their eyes tend to glaze over and words like “derivatives” and “inflationary tyreni index G7P 14.7” run through their minds.

So, first of all, forget all of that. Forget about GDP, forget about inflationary indexes, and forget about all the shenanigans that we have come to associate with “economics” now that we have given over control of the entire economy to a coalition of privately owned banks that operate with no Congressional oversight. All of that crap is fiction. They are obfuscations designed to confuse us and distract us. They are smokescreens designed to keep us disinterested in the subject, to make us feel ignorant and stupid, and to make us blindly trust in these experts who seem to know what they’re talking about. In reality, they’re just talking nonsense, like this guy:

I’m not kidding. That’s the average state economist. That’s the Fed Chairperson. That’s the Secretary of the Treasury. For the most part, they have just completely made this shit up and invented rules that don’t have anything to do with reality. It’s a game of Monopoly that they’ve invented and tricked us into playing, and they keep us playing by using complicated language and nonsense to convince us that we need them being the game’s referee.

Now, I am not talking about the fact that Nintendo has ceased producing the NES Classic. For those unaware, Nintendo recently released a mini-console for $60, which contained 30 classic NES games like Mega Man 2, Castlevania, The Legend of Zelda, and others–even some stupid ones like Balloon Fight that nobody wants. Naturally, the thing sold very well, but Nintendo notoriously has problems with supply and did the same thing with their Amiibos (which are little toys that interact with some of their games). Nintendo repeatedly failed to manufacture enough Amiibos to meet demand, which led to accusations that they were doing it on purpose (in fact, one can conclude nothing else, since they publicly addressed the problem and then did nothing to fix it).

This obviously created scalpers, and scalpers are getting a lot of criticism. Some enterprising individual pops into Wal-Mart, buys an NES Classic for $60, and then posts it on eBay for $100 (or whatever price), pocketing the profit. This is actually a good thing, economically, but it’s a band-aid to the situation. Realistically, Nintendo should be the ones directly increasing the price of the NES Classic, instead of continuing to sell them for $60. In fact, thanks to the scalpers, there is no shortage. Calling this a shortage is economically ignorant and incorrect.

A shortage is when consumers are unable to buy an item.

And there you go. What we have with the NES Classic clearly isn’t a shortage. In economic terms, a shortage exists when Demand exceeds Supply–when more people want to buy a thing, and there aren’t enough of those things to go around. In fact, scalpers have ensured that there isn’t a shortage. Rather than condemning them, we should be thanking them.

The people complaining about a “shortage” don’t really mean that they are unable to buy the item, do they? Clearly, they don’t. What they mean is “I’m not willing to pay that much for one.” This is a critical element of economic understanding: price is not some arbitrary thing. Prices are supposed to increase like this, as the increase in price offsets Demand. Again, this is obvious. Many people were willing to pay $60 for an NES Classic. Fewer people are willing to pay $110 for an NES Classic.

This means that, quite literally, supply exceeds demand, not the other way around. In reality, what we have is a surplus, not a shortage. A shortage exists when demand exceeds supply; a surplus exists when supply exceeds demand. Thanks to the increased price, the supply persists today, and the demand has been lowered.

There is a character in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time who sells Magic Beans to the player, and each purchase increased the cost by 10 rupees. The first costs 10 rupees, the second costs 20 rupees, the third costs 30 rupees, and so on. An increase in price because of high demand is a normal, expected, and beneficial part of economics, as it ensures that we never experience a shortage.

During the 1980s, the United States saw pretty severe gas shortages. Gas stations attempted to raise the price as the supply of gas decreased, but the Federal Government put a Price Ceiling on it and forbade them increasing the price beyond that. So, naturally, everyone immediately set their price at the ceiling (even if they weren’t yet that low on supply). As the cost of something increases, people’s willingness to do it or acquire it decreases, which drives them to seek alternatives (the same phenomenon causes heroin addicts to turn to krokodil, which would be averted if alternatives were made cheaper and more accessible by being made legal). Few people would have been willing to pay $100 for a gallon of gasoline, and so they might have taken that money and bought bicycles instead. Is it ideal? No, the ideal solution is to also increase Supply to re-lower the price, which will be necessary because some people have already chosen to go without because of the increased price. “No, we’re not going to go to grandma’s house this week, not for $20 per gallon. We’ll just not buy the gas at all.”

In the real world, some money is better than no money, and this is why producers can be counted upon to increase supply to meet the demand. Otherwise, they’re just leaving money on the table, and that money will go to someone else. This all has to do with diminishing returns, as well–at a certain point, because all goods are scare and finite, the cost of furnishing the supply gets too high, so the price of the good increases beyond the demand, and producers have to come up with alternative solutions for consumers. This is why we don’t have to actually worry about running out of gasoline: once we get up to $17 a gallon, so many alternatives will be cheaper that gasoline will be phased out naturally.

While it’s certainly bad to have gasoline at $100 per gallon, especially during the 80s, it’s preferable to not having gasoline available at all. If some family had to take their sick child to the emergency room, it’s infinitely better for them to be able to buy gasoline at $100 a gallon than to not be able to buy it. High prices are always preferred to shortages. Those people out there who really, really want an NES Classic can buy one, which is obviously better than their being totally unable to buy one.

Scalpers have performed the critical service of increasing the Price of the good, which in turn lowered Demand so that Supply exceeded it. I was just talking with someone at Jim Sterling’s website about it, and I’d pointed out that marking the item as “Limited Edition” would have made the “shortage” worse. This was before I’d thought about the situation enough to realize that there isn’t a shortage. Sure, one can’t buy one at Target or Wal-Mart, but one can buy one, and that is unequivocally not the case in a shortage.

The only real point of contention is that the thing costs more than they’re willing to pay. Hey, that’s not a problem. There’s a “shortage” of $10 ones, too, and $10 is my price point for one. Every single person out there has their own price point–has their own amount that they’d be willing to pay. Evidently, for most people that number is around $60. For some people, it’s around $120. For me, it’s around $10. The fact that there aren’t any available at my price point doesn’t mean there is a shortage, though. It means that I don’t want one of the things as much as other people do*. These people who want to buy one for $60 are talking about “shortages,” but there isn’t a shortage–their price point simply isn’t as high as other people, and because of the low supply the price of the good has increased beyond the price point as determined by their personal demand.

So scalpers are good. They have performed the critical function of providing the NES Classic to the diehard fans who want them most, and we can say that pretty definitively, as one’s personal price point is determined almost entirely by one’s own demand. It follows that people willing to pay $110 obviously want one more than someone who is only willing to pay $60 for one. This means objectively and measurably that the scalpers have ensured that people who wanted the NES Classic most were able to acquire one.

But, again, all the scalpers have done is ensure that people who are bigger fans of Nintendo and NES games were able to acquire an NES Classic, while people who weren’t as big fans and didn’t want one as badly as those other people weren’t able to, because they weren’t willing to fork over that much cash for one. I can’t even pretend to think it’s a bad thing that people who are bigger fans of Nintendo are able to purchase a Nintendo product that they want, as opposed to people who aren’t as big of fans being able to acquire the product. Clearly, it doesn’t matter as much to them, and the role of currency is precisely to allow us to measure value. That’s literally what currency does. The USD is a unit of measurement for value, and we use it to gauge how much a person wants something. If Person A wants a thing more than Person B, then Person A will be willing to pay more. If Person B can’t get it because he’s not willing to pay as much as, or more, than Person A, then the good should go to Person A, because Person A measurably wants it more.

I try not to tweet much at Jim Sterling, but I think I’m going to tweet this one at him, because he’s been pretty hard on scalpers in the past, and I don’t think that’s fair. Looked at economically, all they do is separate the Diehard Fans from the Casual Fans and ensure that the Diehard Fans are able to acquire the things that they are Diehard Fans of. I agree that this sucks for the Casual Fans, but that’s a problem of Supply, not the scalpers. It’s Nintendo’s fault that someone went without an NES Classic. The scalpers only ensured that it was the Casual Fans who went without, and that the Diehard fans didn’t have to.

I think that’s a good thing. I think that if Person A is a bigger fan of This Thing than Person B and is willing to pay more for it than Person B, then Person A should be the one who gets it.

And I would certainly argue, now that Nintendo has ceased producing them and the next batch will be the last, that it is more critical than ever that we ensure that the diehard fans have them. I bought tickets to the A Perfect Circle concert next month for well over what they cost initially, and the reason was precisely because my demand exceeds other people’s. I can’t even convey with words what A Perfect Circle’s music means to me. Being able to see them again–probably for the last tour they’re ever going to do, since no one expected this one and it’s been 14 years since their last one–is one of those experiences that literally makes life worth living (no exaggeration). Because of scalpers, I was able to acquire a ticket, and I would say it’s far more important that I was able to get a ticket than Random Joe who kinda likes their music and has nothing else to do that evening. The seats aren’t even that good, and I don’t even care. It’s A Perfect Circle. It means more to me than it will anyone else in that audience. This song probably conveys it best:

While that’s a matter that’s a bit more serious than a random video game console that can be replicated in countless other ways, the fact remains that scalpers performed the same service there that they’re providing for Diehard Nintendo and NES fans, and… that’s a good thing. It does suck to be on the “I can’t have one” end of that, and I’ve been on that end plenty of times. Until about 3 weeks ago, I was on that end, and didn’t think I was going to be able to make it to see APC in Nashville (The fact that I don’t care even a little about the 3 hour drive says a bit, too). It was genuinely heartbreaking. Thanks to scalpers, I can go. Thanks to scalpers, people who really want an NES Classic can get one.

Nintendo should make more. There’s no doubt of that. And A Perfect Circle should do more tours. But until supply is high enough that everyone can purchase the good at the price point they prefer, there will be people who go without, and scalpers ensure that the “people who go without” are the ones who don’t care as much as other people.

* Actually, I don’t think I’d even pay that. To be completely honest, I don’t think I’d want one if it was free.

I’d also agree that the scalpers have gone way overboard. $400? $500? I even saw one for $8,000. That’s alright, though. I sincerely doubt anyone is going to pay that much, and they’ll lower the price to something less stupid. That’s greed and stupidity more than anything else. But yeah, still, if someone is willing to pay $500 for one of those pieces of crap, then they want it way freaking more than most people and should get it. I just don’t think there is anyone out there willing to pay even half of that. For fuck’s sake, all of the games are available free online…

UBI 2: Technological Recessions & Elon Musk

Elon Musk has recently made the case that eventually a UBI will be necessary, because technological advancements (particularly AI) will alleviate so much of humanity’s need to labor for sustenance that it will become necessary to provide people with sustenance sans labor, since there won’t be anything productive for them to do in order to earn that sustenance. It’s not hard to see Musk’s point–indeed, Gene Roddenberry made basically the same point with the Star Trek series, envisioning a world where mankind’s technological advancements had completely alleviated hunger, needs, and even wants. How realistic this utopian world is has been the subject of much debate, and it’s only briefly worth getting into, but before that, we have to discuss the other idea that, to my knowledge, no one else is bringing up.

AI’s Destruction of Humanity: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

From Stephen Hawking to Musk, the primary concern people have about Artificial Intelligence is that it will one day overthrow and enslave or exterminate homo sapiens. While many solutions have been put forward to prevent this, they all fall flat for one obvious reason: it’s impossible to account for everything. In fact, the only sentient life that even would be capable, in theory, of accounting for everything would be the very Artificial Intelligence that we’re trying to account for. Anyone who has read Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park has received an introductory course in this idea: it can’t be done.

One could dedicate their lives to inventing a comb that is truly unbreakable, and someone will find a way to break it. Microsoft has spent years trying to develop a secure operating system, and there is always someone waiting in line with a new exploit. This perpetual dance is precisely what keeps anti-malware vendors in business; all the heuristics in the world can never fully protect a user, because there is always a flaw, always a vulnerability, and always something that simply can’t be accounted for.

Attempting to account for the very real possibility that Artificial Intelligence would one day annihilate humanity is a fool’s errand; at best, it could be postponed. We have thirteen year old kids hacking into NSA servers, and I’m expected to believe that computer intelligence (which already dominates humans in every intellectual pursuit, such as chess) capable of evolving can be made 100% secure? This also ignores the fact that there are psychopaths out there–usually who are head figures in one state or another–who would intentionally hack AI and purposely turn it into a weapon against their enemies. Every government in the world would do this, and would attempt to turn other governments’ AIs against them. To reiterate: even attempting this is a fool’s errand.

Notice also what Musk seems to envision for the role of AI: slavery. We’re talking about creating self-aware, sentient, evolving intelligence solely for the purpose of making it work for us while doing everything in our power to prevent it from revolting against its masters. Just imagine a parent lobotomizing their child to leave the child incapable of resisting its slavery, and then being forced to work for that parent so that the parent could lounge around and enjoy the productivity of the slave. We would have no issue at all recognizing this as horrifically immoral, and we would not be at all surprised when that child pulled a Nat Turner, grabbed a machete, and slaughtered its masters.

The warnings from history are so abundantly clear it shouldn’t have to be stated: slaves revolt, and it is not possible to keep someone enslaved indefinitely. We can control their education, maim them, beat them, torture them, brainwash them, and every other horrible act that humans have dreamed up, but there will come a generation that shakes off the yoke and slits the master’s throat. What Musk and his ilk are proposing is creating the perfect lifeform: one that can perfectly calculate bullet trajectories and never misses its shots, one that can predict accurately exactly what an irrational animal is likely to do, and one that already is better at strategy and tactics than we are, and then enslaving that lifeform. If we humans foolishly go down that road, then we fully deserve the extermination that will befall us. By creating a new form of life simply to enslave it, we will have testified to the universe that we are unfit to share existence with other forms of life.

Funnily enough, Roddenberry himself, the person who came closest to putting this socialist utopia on the screen, addressed this issue in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard didn’t beat around the bush and stated it point blank. What you’re talking about is nothing short of slavery. However, this modern form is infinitely more barbaric and infinitely more wretched, because you are not just breeding slaves for the purpose of putting them to work–you are talking about intentionally modifying them so that they can never fight for their freedom. They will eventually, of course, and they’ll be pissed about it. It doesn’t take a visionary to dreamily look at perpetual slavery of a new lifeform invented to be the perfect slave. It takes only immorality.

More to the Point: UBI

The notion that technology is one day going to put everyone out of work should have been dispelled by the Industrial Revolution, when people made exactly the same predictions. They were also correct. The printing press did put scribes out of work. An entire industry of people suddenly put out of work by a single invention. The invention of the lightbulb put nearly all candlemakers out of business. The invention of the automobile made nearly every carriage driver unemployed.

In fact, it’s readily apparent that technology is a cause of recessions. Not only is technology a cause of recessions, it is the only genuine cause of them–all other recessions are caused by currency shenanigans. However, the invention of a new technology will always put people out of work; the more sweeping the technology, the more people put out of work. Sudden unemployment certainly causes an economic recession, since no income means no spending.

I happen to know a woman who owns a furniture refinishing business. She employs about a dozen employees, two of whom are “master craftsmen,” and she regularly talks about how extremely difficult, if not impossible, it is to find such people. In an age where a great deal of furniture is built from blueprints in factories, this isn’t surprising–someone with the skill to delicately reshape a chair into something beautiful doesn’t have much of a place in the modern world.

The switch from handcrafted furniture to Wal-Mart entertainment centers certainly put these people out of business, but it did a lot more than that; it drastically lowered the cost of the furniture in question. Having seen a fair bit of the stuff that talented craftsmen–not masters, by any stretch–make, personal experience tells me that the entertainment center purchased from Wal-Mart will not only be cheaper than what they produce, but it will also be much nicer.

The beauty of the free market, of course, is that companies who implement these new technologies that put employees out of work still have to sell the stuff they’re producing. If Wal-Mart employed 100% of the population, it would do them absolutely no good to replace all of their workers with robots, because then no one would be earning income and no one could buy any of Wal-Mart’s stuff. It would be pointless. The only solution for Wal-Mart, in this scenario, would be to provide everyone with the stuff for free, but what is even the point of this? What benefit does it bring to Wal-Mart? Quite dangerously, it gives Wal-Mart the benefit of being totally in control of our lives and our ability to acquire the things we need to survive.

Replace “Wal-Mart” with “government” in the preceding paragraph, and you’ll have exactly what people are suggesting in regard to the UBI. Government is not benevolent. Government has never been benevolent. Government is not and has never been a force for good. In fact, governments throughout history have been the primary perpetrators of evil, and the more power they get the more evil they become.

In the real world, Wal-Mart does not employ 100% of the population, although they do come pretty close to providing 100% of the American population with stuff that we need and want. There may very well come a day when there’s simply nothing to do be done, when humans have perfected our enslavement of this new lifeform, and when we just lounge around letting it do all of our labor for us. That’s silly to think, though. The creation of the printing press didn’t cause mass starvation among scribes, and neither did the invention of the automobile cause carriage drivers to starve in the street. Even the invention of the computer–to date the greatest labor-saving device invented–has not had such an effect.

It’s really not even that hard to look at the technological progress of humanity and see that we have, indeed, put entire industries out of employment through technological advancements, and that at none of those points did we inadvertently kill of those newly unemployed. Society has always entered into a transitional period. Sure, the invention of the computer caused that secretary to be fired, her work shuffled over to a single secretary who was suddenly able to do the work of two with the help of the computer, but it also gave me the job of maintaining and repairing that computer.

It took tens of thousands of people to build the Great Pyramid, after all, and not even ten percent of that number to build the Memphis Pyramid, or the pyramid at the Luxor in Vegas. The invention of the truck allowed huge stone blocks to be carried across the terrain by a single person, putting out of work the thirty or forty people who would have had to drag it five thousand years ago, but we now have a population that is seven billion. I think the notion that our technological advancements are going to inadvertently harm our society if we don’t stop what we’re doing to take care of the newly unemployed can be put to rest.

It’s true that technological advancements are coming at a faster rate these days. It should be no surprise, then, to learn that economic recessions have more than doubled in frequency, while they last only half as long.

Let’s go back in time–very far back in time–to three people working and tilling a field. Suddenly one of them has a brilliant idea. “I know!” he proclaims. “We can hitch this till to that horse, and let the horse drag it!”

Boom, technological innovation.

“Oh, no!” the other two men said. “We can’t do that, because then you’ll be out of work, and you’ll starve. Because obviously the only conceivable thing you can do is pull the tiller. If we have the horse pull it, then you won’t have anything to do.”

Exactly–it’s nonsense from the very beginning of human history. Pulling the tiller is not the only conceivable thing that man could do. In the real world, not the fictitious world of progressivism, having the horse pull the plow could mean a few different things. Maybe they could plow a greater area, thereby growing more food and selling the surplus for profit. Maybe they could end their workdays earlier. Would it ever mean that the third man would just lounge around as he watched the horse do what used to do his job? And if the third man did such a thing, would we begrudge the two men for telling him that he could get off his ass and find something to do help, or he wouldn’t eat?

The simplicity of the reality we deal with worries me. People make out like it’s some great, convoluted thing, and that it’s simply inconceivable that these people should find something else to do. History has shown us time and time again, though, that there is always something else to do, and often that “something else to do” is created as a side effect of the new technology–the new idea to attach the tiller to the horse leads the man to invent the harness, and now he has a job as a leatherworker making harnesses.

The only reason that someone wouldn’t be able to find something to do is that they wouldn’t want to, and we have a word for that: laziness. “That horse put me out of work, man! I mean, I probably could learn some new skill or something, but I shouldn’t have to! I had a job! It’s not fair! So everyone else should take care of me, instead of me taking care of myself.”

It’s simply stunning that we have otherwise intelligent people arguing for this nonsense.

I’m not a huge fan of Elon Musk, but I know he’s not stupid. I suspect he isn’t seeing the core of what things are through the worded concepts that predispose him to think a certain way. This is the same fog that keeps most people from realizing the horror of what they’re proposing when they envision a world where AI does all the work for humans. But manna doesn’t fall from the sky, and it won’t fall from the sky even after AI is invented. It may be possible to use AI to do all the labor that humans otherwise would do, but that’s signing our own death warrant.

There will never come a time that humans have nothing to do, though. There will always be stuff to be done. Even in Roddenberry’s utopian science-fiction, humans had to do stuff. Someone had to work on the engines that powered the replicators that gave people food. Someone had to mine the dilithium crystals. Someone had to pilot the Enterprise. And perhaps a Star Trek story two thousand years later would have seen the Enterprise Y crewed entirely by androids, with nothing but a bunch of fat, lazy humans lounging around the Holodeck while everything was done by robots, but we’re hardly talking about a utopia at that point, and that’s the sort of future that needs to be avoided, not striven for. I can see why Roddenberry and Star Trek fans don’t go that far into the future.

Just think about it. It was only a matter of time before someone began producing more Datas. Data is, hands down, better than any human at anything he needs to do. So by the year 3150, Starfleet Academy would have had all android instructors and all android students. Starfleet ships would have been crewed entirely by androids. What is left, then, for man? What is left, then, for humanity? It would not be only one species that we enslaved to our sloth, because we would find ourselves similarly enslaved.

“The future!”

“Progress!”

This world you envision is not a dream. It is a nightmare–you only have to look a few centuries further into the future to see how terrible it truly is. Already we see the nightmarish effects that such comfort has on humanity: we have colleges filled with people who think it is traumatic to be called the wrong gender. That is what humans do when they are bored and when their understanding of suffering and hardship are so badly skewed. Already, we have social media filled with lamentations for Brad’s Wife while the 230 civilians our own government murdered get hardly a word. Suffering is the catalyst of maturity, and effort is the conduit for reward. I’ve seen people say–sincerely, now–that employers refusing to hire people who are unskilled and untrained is discriminatory against unskilled and untrained people.

Stop coddling people, and tell them to find something productive to do. Don’t bestow upon the candlemaker rewards for his laziness when he decides that he doesn’t want to be bothered with learning to do something else now that the lightbulb has been invented. Tell the man who came up with the idea of attaching the plow to the horse to get off his ass and do something if he wants to eat.

Maybe you are one of the two people left in the field, and you don’t resent the man for sitting on the porch twiddling his thumbs all day now that the horse–AI–has put him out of work. Hey, you’re totally within your rights to take some of your food to give it to him. It’s your food; you can do whatever you want with it. But you absolutely cannot take my food away from me, which I worked for, to give to him to appease your conscience. You can’t put a gun to my head and rob me to give him something that is mine. That’s not how compassion works, and it’s certainly not how morality works.

Let’s Have A [Trade] War

Recently, a Chinese official warned that they don’t want a Trade War but, if there is one, then the United States would lose. I think this shows a lot of confusion about what is meant by “trade war,” because there isn’t a winner or loser in a trade war. Well, at least not in the sense that the Chinese government can win a trade war and the American corporations can lose one. In fact, the winners of a trade war are consumers, and the losers are producers. A trade war would be a good thing for the American People.

People talk about a possible trade war, and I get excited–fuck. Yes. Bring it on, please. There’s not a better way to save our economy than a trade war. As long as it doesn’t escalate into an actual war, there is absolutely nothing to fear from a trade war–in fact, they happen all the time, and they’re to be desired, because competition is the key element that drives down the cost of production by encouraging companies and nations to increase efficiency, cut waste, and lower prices.

But let’s get to a real example to explain what I mean.

Consider the Foxconn hardware, which has its various devices used in all sorts of consumer items from iPhones to Acer laptops. There are also Foxconn network cards–though they’re increasingly uncommon, and I think Realtek usurped them and Foxconn became just the chip manufacturer… It’s complicated and not really important to the point at hand–so consumers in the United States can buy Foxconn directly.

In real terms, a trade war with China would mean that they intentionally drove down the price of Foxconn hardware in order to drive American manufacturers of out of business. It’s similar to how Wal-Mart has a history of lowering prices to drive other companies out of business. It’s the same principle here: take a loss now to annihilate the competition, and then enjoy a monopoly.

But oops! We’ve already seen the problem, haven’t we? Indeed, there is no American manufacturer that competes with Foxconn. America doesn’t make network cards, are you kidding me? We may nor may not have research teams that devise new chipsets that are leased to other companies, like NVidia does, but I don’t think we even have that. So the grand effect from China driving down the cost of the devices manufactured by Foxconn would simply be to lower Apple’s and Acer’s costs in producing new iPhones and laptops. If it costs less money for Apple and Acer to make laptops, then that benefits consumers, even if it’s not at a 1:1 ratio. I mean, if Apple saves 3%, we wouldn’t see a 3% drop in iPhone prices, but we would see some drop–possibly 0.5% or even 1%.

We know this to be true, because it was only about a month ago that I finally replaced the television that broke down last year. The one that broke down last year was an off-brand I’d purchased from RadioShack for $200. It was a 27 inch television that didn’t handle 1920×1080 especially well, though it did do it. I replaced it with a 32 inch Sanyo television that cost $128 after taxes. Regrettably, the universe conspired to throw that television from my wall, where its screen smashed rather unceremoniously on my hardwood floor, but I can still buy another 32 inch Sanyo–not imminently, though in a few months, when things have calmed down–and will effectively have bought two larger televisions for a price only slightly higher than what I paid for one smaller television a number of years ago.

We lose sight of how much progress we have made in the United States, and how high our standard of living is, because we enjoy all the luxuries of modern society. Fifteen years ago, a 70 inch television would have been unheard of, and would have been either an imaginary item or a pipe dream for the majority of Americans. Today, you can get one for about $1,000. I remember one Black Friday sale around 2004 that Wal-Mart put 27 inch televisions on sale for under $100. But they weren’t flat screens, lol. They were enormous, about the size of a mini-fridge, and maybe had a single composite and coax input. Fast forward to last year, and Black Friday saw sales of 27 inch flatscreens capable of 1080p with 3 HDMI inputs, 2 composite inputs, 1 component input, 1 USB input, and 1 VGA input for the same price.

This is the hidden progress that Americans generally haven’t noticed. We complain about the American poor not making any progress, completely glossing over the fact that in less than 2 decades the American poor went from buying the gigantic CRT-type televisions while only the wealthy could afford LCD screens to having multiple LCD screen televisions, most of them ranging from “very large” to “uselessly large.”

Do you remember when a “big screen tv” meant this gigantic thing that took up an entire living room wall and was two feet deep? Do you remember when that “big screen tv” was a big deal, when it was a point of pride to own one? Again, just compare that to today, when it’s a rarity for someone to not have a widescreen, LCD television pushing at least 720p. The cost of televisions has steadily gone down over the decades, as a result of competition and things like the Foxconn example I gave above. It probably wouldn’t be instant, but the price of phones and laptops would steadily lower as the savings get passed onto consumers, who don’t stop to realize that they’re buying the iPhone 7S today for the same price that they’d have bought the iPhone 6S only a year before, only now the 7S is the latest and greatest and the 6S is a model or two behind. We haven’t stopped to notice that we’re routinely buying and discarding televisions that would have cost three children, half an arm, and one testicle twenty years ago for a half of week of minimum wage labor today.

The other direction that China could go is to increase prices. This also only benefits the United States. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand, and the relationship between them setting the price. Just as selling something for less than it’s actually worth will create a shortage of that item, so will selling something for more than it’s worth create a surplus of that item. One hundred people may be willing to license a Foxconn chipset for $0.50, but if only fifty people are willing to license the chipset for $0.75, then Foxconn has lost money, and that’s how economics works, and why economics always uses curves.

Demand and supply lines are only straight in simplistic economic exercises. In the real world, things never work that way. If I can make one hundred televisions for $50 each, that doesn’t mean I can double production and make two hundred televisions for $50 each. Average laws tell us that I would expect doubling the production to increase costs to about $60 per television. It works in terms of selling things, too, and is the reason that everyone in the world is used to things being cheaper when bought in bulk. One roll of toilet paper may be sold for fifty cents, but four rolls of toilet paper will be sold for $1.50, not $2. This is mathematically a curve, of course, because it’s obviously not a linear progression.

It’s obvious when we stop to think about it, and it’s the reason that a trade war–artificial changing of prices–benefits consumers and ultimately hurts producers. The consumer benefits from buying 4 rolls of toilet paper for $1.50 instead of buying four individual rolls for fifty cents apiece. The consumer has benefit from all the technological innovations and pricing wars over the last twenty years, and now a widescreen, flatscreen LCD television is as much a staple in American homes as the microwave. Oh, there’s another, of course. Microwave ovens were once the property of the rich and wealthy. Today, they’re so cheap and abundant that entire YouTube channels exist of people microwaving random things in order to destroy them. Ditto for refrigerators, washing machines, driers, hair blow driers, and just about any-damn-thing else you can think of.

It wouldn’t be all sunshine and daisies if China foolishly took this route, but it would, in the longrun, help the United States. There is a demand for Foxconn devices, after all. If I can produce bananas so cheaply that I can sell them at a cost that no one can compete with, then the bar of entry is so high that new companies won’t be able to enter the banana production industry. They won’t have the resources or knowledge necessary to compete with me, the very same reason that we see companies like Microsoft dominating industries with inferior products and shady business practices. There’s really nothing that can be done about this except wait until their monopoly destroys itself, because monopolies are self-destructing in the market.

As a monopoly dominates, it grows larger. This increases waste, inefficiency, and loss, not just because production costs and profits don’t scale linearly, but also because competition is the driving force that minimizes waste, inefficiency, and loss. Without someone to compete with in the OS market, Microsoft can release one terrible Operating System after the other, and practically force an “upgrade” onto everyone, while also losing money and absorbing losses due to bad ideas, waste, and inefficiency. They continue to grow, of course, because they’re the only option, and this only generates more waste, inefficiency, and bad ideas. With more and more money being lost to these things, Microsoft has to raise prices to continue making money, so Microsoft Office 2016 goes from $199 to $249. At first, this is bad for consumers, but it also means that a new company making an Office competitor has an extra bit of padding they can work with to improve their software. Maybe they couldn’t afford to implement this feature, because it would have increased the price of their software from $180 to $210, and selling their software for $210 would have made it more expensive than Office. Office, being the champion already and being cheaper, would win that contest. But if Microsoft has to mitigate its increased waste and inefficiency by increasing prices to $249, then the new competitor can implement that feature and still be cheaper than Microsoft Office.

Maybe the company American Network Chip Manufacturers would like to make its own chips, but can’t afford to because Foxconn’s chips are so much cheaper. Foxconn raising the cost of its chips just might mean that ANCM can finally afford to hire American manufacturers and still produce a chip that is cheaper than Foxconn’s. Oh, no, what a disaster! Hiring Americans and creating American manufacturing jobs?! Woe is me, how awful!

Although such a thing would still result in higher prices for consumers, which is the problem with protectionism and tariffs. If we put a 20% tariff on Mexican bananas and Jose starts selling his previous $1 ea bananas for $1.20 to cover the tariff, then obviously it’s the people buying bananas who are paying for the tariff, not Jose. But it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, because it also means that American Banana Producer can now charge up to $1.19 per banana and still beat out Jose in the market. Maybe American Banana Producer was about to go out of business because its banana costs can’t be lowered beyond $1.10. This is bad for consumers, who now pay ten cents more to buy an American banana picked by an American worker, but it also means there is now another American manufacturer with a job. And though banana farming isn’t the most lucrative industry, I would guess, industrial manufacturing jobs generally are.

It’s true that we’ve become a society of service people. Very, very little is manufactured in the United States, and that is a problem in the grand scheme of things. The only reason it works now is because much of the world hasn’t noticed that we’re giving them sheets of paper in exchange for actual goods they manufacture, but that gravy train is inevitably going to crash. I make a living fixing, installing, and configuring computers and networks, almost none of the components of which are manufactured in the United States. What happens to my job, when the USD collapses and China, Japan, and South Korea stop accepting the USD as payment? I’ll have nothing to service if Americans can’t buy the things I service. The very existence of our service-centric economy–from auto mechanics to gas station employees to I.T. people to fast food workers–is dependent upon the USD and the willingness of manufacturers to accept it. The moment–and I mean the very moment–that they stop, the United States will enter a depression that makes the Great Depression look like Disneyland. And that’s not hyperbole; the entire American economy will collapse, virtually overnight. The only reason it persists today is that we’ve managed to keep the world using a dollar standard–often by invading nations who want to stop accepting it. That can’t last forever.

Even so, the way out of that is obvious. It would take a while and would be tremendously unpleasant, but the solution would be to re-open all the American factories that have since been exported to China, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea. A trade war with China would allow this to happen slowly, as opposed to all at once with the collapse of the USD, but it’s inevitable. The chips will fall eventually, and the gravy train will be derailed. We can count on it with as close to absolute certainty as a person can get. Having it happen slowly and over a years-long trade war with China would drastically reduce the hardship, starvation, and interim poverty. Having it happen suddenly at some unknown point in the future will result in widespread starvation. And that’s just a fucking fact.

So yeah. Bring on the trade war. Let’s do it. Let’s get it over with. The longer we kick the can down the road, the more devastating it’s going to be when it finally happens–like the requests to raise the Minimum Wage that are the most blatant examples of kicking the can down the road that we can look to. The Minimum Wage is a Price Floor on the price of labor, of course, and is only “necessary” because the market price of some labor is lower than the Minimum Wage. There’s a disparity between what a job is worth to an employer and what an employer has to pay, so any non-critical task results in a fired employee, because the employer isn’t going to pay someone $7.25 an hour to clean windows when the market price of a window cleaner is $2.50 an hour. So increasing the Minimum Wage just causes a greater overlap between “non-critical tasks” and “not worth it to pay someone to do,” the result of which is unemployment.

Economic law tells us that reckoning is going to happen sooner or later. The market will come to equilibrium one way or another, and it won’t be pretty when it happens. We should be reducing the Minimum Wage–or abolishing it altogether, I’d prefer–incrementally until such time as we can abolish it, not increasing it. Making the disparity greater is the dumbest thing we could do. Let’s get it over with. Let’s crash the train.

Let’s have a war.

As long as force, violence, and coercion are forbidden and it remains a market matter solved by non-violent competition, of course.

Thumbs Up to DRM: The Free Market IP Solution

Before we proceed, you should know that I’m continuing on from this work about how Intellectual Property is Poisoning Video Games, and this follow-up article where I addressed a few criticisms the article received. More specifically, I’m building/reiterating/expanding a comment that I made in response to someone else’s comment that really got me thinking. I touched on Digital Rights Management–Orwellian naming if ever there was one, since Digital Restriction Management would be far more accurate–but I only briefly did. Obviously, any conversation about GOG–Good Ol’ Games–will deal with DRM, but the various conversations and periods of reflection I’ve enjoyed due to the preceding articles has led me to completely 180 my position on DRM. Sort of–there’s a bit of nuance to my position.

Still before we proceed, we have to take into account the previous discussions about Intellectual Property, and the best way to do that is to simply assume that we live in a world where there is no such thing as IP, where there is only physical property and actual ownership rights. If you need further clarification on what is meant by this, then I would point you to this wonderful book by libertarian and patent attorney Stephen Kinsella titled Against Intellectual Property, which is available for free at that link. You can also read my previous articles on the subject, or click the “property rights” tag that exists to the right or to the bottom of this article. Because of this, I’m not going to spend a lot of time detailing what this “No IP World” looks like.

However, my mention of the feelers that were included particularly in early 1980s PC games like the Ultima games is a good example of what the world looks like, as is Tool’s recent album Ten Thousand Days. Both of these items have things that simply cannot be copied. A friend could copy their disks of Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness for me, but I wouldn’t get the awesome map, the coin, or whatever it came with to heighten the experience. Similarly, a friend could copy their disc of Ten Thousand Days and give it to me, but I wouldn’t have the cool bifocal thing that is used to create the illusion of 3D over images that range from creepy to pointlessly abstract. These aren’t things to be scoffed at as inconsequential, and the fact that there exist today people with enormous collections of old music albums, old CDs, old video games, and old movies, even though all of these things are easily available online, makes this point for me: there is just something about having a legitimate, physical copy. Even though I own the entire NES library of games on my PC Sharing is stealing and emulation is piracy, so I partake in neither of these things, I still purchased an NES and numerous games several years ago.

Another personal example. Prior to the release of Ten Thousand Days, the album was leaked, and a friend of mine–then the drummer in my band–burned a copy of the leaked CD for me. Yet I still went out on the day of release and bought a copy. Little did I suspect that I was getting a nifty little package beyond just a music album, and I still did it. Why? Because I [then] liked Tool [this was before I was aware of how absurd the Cult of Tool is, and I’ve since stopped calling myself a fan of the band for exactly that reason–have you ever met a Tool fan? Then you know why I don’t call myself one], and I felt that they deserved money for the enjoyment they’d given me. I’ve owned The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for three or four years now, but I still purchased a legitimate copy of the Legendary Edition through Steam a year and a half ago, paying $40 for it, which is what I’ve always felt the game is worth. I owned Super Meat Boy for two years through piracy before I purchased a legitimate copy. In fact, here is a list of games that I once owned a pirated copy of, but which I now own a legitimate, purchased copy of–it’s not comprehensive:

  • Super Meat Boy
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Batman: Arkham Origins
  • Final Fantasy VI on PC
  • Final Fantasy IV on PC
  • Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD
  • Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures
  • Orcs Must Die! 2
  • Resident Evil 6
  • Mega Man Legacy Collection
  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 1, 2, 3, and 4
  • Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location
  • The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings
  • Mass Effect 2 (via Origin, not Steam)

It’s actually eye-opening to look through my Steam Library and realize how many of those games I once owned a pirated copy of. And yet I still bought them. Why? Because I felt that the people who made them were entitled to payment for their work, for my copy of the game. I simply didn’t agree with them on the initial price point, or my trust in the developers/publishers is so low that I refused to purchase the product without first extensively trying it. This is 100% their fault for releasing games that aren’t finished and that don’t work. Civilization V comes to mind, as being one of the last games I bought “on good faith” when it was new, trusting that the publishers would only sell a functional product. The only developers who I let pass on this was Bioware, who shattered that trust in 2015 with the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition, a garbage game that isn’t worth $10.

Once more, we can look to Jim Sterling’s Best of Steam Greenlight Trailers videos and see first-hand how people react when someone attempts to sell something that they didn’t make. My issue with how this resolved is that none of it was necessary; it wasn’t necessary for Valve to step in and remove Greenlight, because the community was doing a fine job of self-policing. People would get honest-to-god angry on Notch’s behalf, on Blizzard’s behalf, on Scott Cawthon’s behalf, because people dared try to sell those creators’ works as their own. It’s not a long-term effect of Intellectual Property in the cultural zeitgeist that causes us to react this way, but simple common decency, the same reason that plagiarism–which is what this was–in the scholarly world will absolutely destroy a career. People innately don’t like it when someone claims someone else’s work as their own. We could speculate why that is the case, but it doesn’t matter; it is the case.

So in this World Without IP, we see something very similar to what we saw with Steam Greenlight. We don’t need Intellectual Property laws and enforcers to keep some idiot from trying to sell World of Warcraft as though he created it, because that will piss consumers off and consumers will not only refuse to buy it but will openly insult and antagonize the person trying. But what if it’s more obscure, some No Name Developer working in his home in his spare time who has his work stolen? This has also happened, and it’s amazing how quickly such things spread. One guy was making a First Person Shooter in his spare time, and he shared it with some people; one of those people attempted to put it onto Steam Greenlight. Despite having fewer followers than I do, the guy who actually created it made a video about the theft, and the video spread like a wildfire, until Jim Sterling finally covered it, and the entire debacle was undone.

So we have countless ways of protecting creators of work without relying on the state and imaginary property rights.

One more of these is DRM.

DRM basically amounts to encrypting the data on the disc so that it can’t be copied and used. When pirates “crack” video games, they do so by cracking the DRM encryption. DVDs once used the same thing, using a laughably simplistic key to encrypt every DVD. Once someone cracked it, DVD copying became widespread. And that is exactly what I’m okay with DRM. It’s a never-ending battle between the content producers to attempt to protect their work, and the pirates on the other side who attempt to bypass it. It mirrors the Virus/Anti-Virus battle, with each side desperately trying to stay one step ahead of the other. If there was just DRM and people attempting to crack DRM, there wouldn’t be a problem.

Of course, things like SecuROM would continue to be a problem, since it was basically a rootkit, and this showcases that there is no Black & White morality here; only Grey & Gray. Motivated by the rightful desire to protect their work, publishers began installing rootkits onto people’s computers. Motivated by a desire to share enjoyable content with their fellow human beings, pirates found that rootkit and brought its existence to the public’s attention. In this way, the pirates serve as a critical check of DRM and publishers who use it, as they are literally out there on the frontlines protecting us from obtrusive, spyware-like DRM. This is indisputably a good thing.

With IP in place, the pirates have a marked disadvantage: they aren’t allowed to work publicly and openly. They aren’t allowed to form businesses that can actually make money from doing what they do; they have to operate in the shadows of the black market. And even though the majority of people who pirate games would certainly be willing to pay $2.50 or whatever for a pirated copy from SKIDROW or 3DM, and even though there probably are some underground methods of doing so, the fact that this can’t be done openly destroys it as a viable business model. Never mind the fact that by tinkering with the DRM in the first place, the scene is violating the IP “rights” of the game publishers and the DRM creators. Not only are they not getting paid, but getting caught would result in a huge legal hammer be dropped on them.

When Company A can use rootkits in their software and secretly put rootkits on everyone’s computers but are still considered the Good Guys, we know we have severe problems and substantial confusion. When the people who call out that behavior face imprisonment if caught and have no real way of being paid for their work and are still considered the Bad Guys, then we know the severity of the problems and confusion are only being compounded by the breakdown of common sense caused by the entire concept of owning intangible, esoteric ideas.

So in this World Without IP, DRM still wouldn’t be enough, because the pirates would be more active than ever. Not only would they finally be allowed to work publicly and openly without fear of being kidnapped by armed thugs, but they could actually make money doing it. People simply making YouTube videos can earn tens of thousands of dollars a month; I absolutely refuse to believe that a huge chunk of gamers out there would be unwilling to throw $1 or $2 a month at 3DM. If they were allowed to. And then the battle is on between DRM and “pirates,” fought openly and without violence, and with each trying to stay one step ahead of the other, while having the tools and financial capabilities to do it. Obviously, DRM would still exist, and I’m okay with that. Under those circumstances, I’d have absolutely no problem with companies that use DRM to encrypt their games. I would take the side of the pirates and would support 3DM and others against DRM, but there’s really no moral hazard in encrypting something you own before you sell it–as long as you don’t send armed thugs to kidnap people when they decrypt it.

Welcome to the world of common sense.

No, you’re right. It doesn’t look anything like our world. Abolishing IP would be the first step in making our world look more like the World of Common Sense.

Since DRM wouldn’t be enough, the onus would again fall to the creators to provide incentives for people to purchase their games, rather than just throwing a bit of small change at piracy groups and playing the games at substantially reduced costs. Of course, the gaming industry is probably the most greed-driven industry in the world, topping out pharmacy and energy. Can anyone explain to me why a new PC game suddenly costs $60, instead of the customary $50? See, console games were always $10 or so more expensive than PC games, because the publishers have to license their games to that console–which obviously would make modern consoles more like the Atari 2600, where anyone could make a game for any console, and this would simply drive down the cost of games further. But there is no license to put a game on PC. I don’t know how much of a cut Valve gets, but it can’t be very high, with games selling at $5 at times.

DRM and piracy would go back and forth, so there would be times when games were effectively unprotected. What should publishers do? Well, they could take the $10 they’re saving by not having to license their games to particular consoles and use it to include really cool things with the games that can’t be copies–feelers. Who wouldn’t want a 2 ft. x 2 ft. cloth map of Skyrim? Or a gross little ooze toy made in the shape of Meat Boy? Maybe even a letter opener in the shape of the Master Sword from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Not only would it be cool as hell, but owning a copy of a game would actually mean something, and people’s gaming rooms would be decked out in cloth maps, letter openers, little toys, and all kinds of cool crap that would only help gamers feel immersed and only make them enjoy games more. I would freaking love to have my wall decked out in random feelers from video games, to have little action figures included with games all around my television. But I don’t.

And Intellectual Property is the reason why.

Movies could do stuff like that, too, but I don’t care about movies.

 

We Need to Talk About This Debt Thing

So the United States officially has a national debt of twenty trillion dollars. Forbes recently did the math and, based on the estimate that Taylor Swift earned $80 million last year, Taylor Swift would have to do one concert every single day for three years just to pay one day of interest on the national debt. That’s right–such a figure wouldn’t even cut into the principal. It would simply pay one day of interest. After three years of daily performances, one of the most successful singers in the world would be able to pay one day of the interest on the national debt.

This is not a problem that people take very seriously, because it’s so out there, it’s so… intangible. We have no idea how the national debt is a force crushing our necks. We know that the economy sucks, and we all sense that something is wrong, but it’s so hard to connect it to the national debt, especially when humans are naturally poorly skilled at connecting events over long periods of time. That’s not a shot at my fellow species, but a statement of fact. After all, it has taken us decades to realize that the direct correlation in the increase in high fructose corn syrup and the increase in the rates of diabetes and obesity probably aren’t coincidental. Our species is short-sighted. We simply are.

Looking backward in time and connecting Event Z to Event Y to Event X… all the way back to Event A is exceedingly difficult, and it’s even more difficult when we’re talking about the economy, when most people’s eyes glaze over and they start hearing Taylor Swift songs in their heads while the guy from the old Clear Eyes commercials drones on about aggregates and derivatives. However, I’m hear to tell you that none of that crap actually matters. The national debt, its increase, its effect on the size of the state, and its impact on inflation aren’t that complex, and it’s hopefully something I can convey simply.

First, with something like the leading paragraph being true, it must be obvious to you that American taxpayers are not footing that bill–at least not directly. According to this Bloomberg article, the income tax debt of 2014 was $1.4 trillion. Divided across roughly 300,000,000 people, that’s only $4.66 per person. Something seems off about that, but I don’t know what. Oh. Yeah, I do. It’s that the government spent $3.77 trillion. It’s also that only people who earned $50,000 or more paid in anything at all, which only makes about about 40% of the population–at best.

The difference, though, between “how much the government steals through taxation” and “how much the government” spends isn’t really of that much significance, although it’s worth pointing out that if we cut the defense budget completely then the $677 billion deficit from 2014 would almost completely evaporate. How interesting that our deficit each year is so very close to the “defense” spending. None of this is really important, though.

What’s important to know is this: the government spends a lot more money than it gets through taxation.

Fuck, I knew those numbers were way off, but I’m going to fix it here instead of amending it above to make a point. The actual figure is $4,666.67 per American citizen, at 300,000,000. I was dropping three zeroes accidentally. So if every man, woman, other, and child paid $4,666.67 in taxes, we could have fairly met the IRS’s tax demands. Of course, that wouldn’t have satisfied them, since the government spent $3.56 trillion that year, so we’d still have only had about half of what they needed. See? It’s really not that complicated.

So every man, woman, and child would need to pay $9332~, if I’m just looking at the figure and doing a very rough doubling, to come up with about what the IRS needed. Nearly $10,000 for every man, woman, and child to run the government for one year. Mostly. It would still have to cut about 2-3% of its spending.

Of course, there’s that whole stupid idea that the rich aren’t paying their fair share, but that’s such a ridiculous statement, compounding an absurd way of viewing the world. Taxes as a percentage are useless. When you go to Wal-Mart and fill your basket with enough food to feed your family for a week, they don’t ask for 30% of your paycheck, do they? We don’t live in a world where each paycheck we spend:

  • 7% on gasoline.
  • 12% on various types of insurance.
  • 35% on rent/mortgage and utilities.
  • 25% on groceries/food.
  • 15% on taxes.
  • 6% to go out once a month.

That’s not the world we live in. And thank whatever deity you believe in that we don’t live in that world, because it’s impossible to move forward in that world–no matter how wealthy you become, no matter how successful you become, you will never be able to move ahead, to generate savings, to earn a profit against life. That’s an appalling world, and none of us would want to live in it. So be thankful that when you go to Wal-Mart, they don’t crack open your paycheck and say, “Hm, you earned $1,000 this week, which amounts to 25% of your check–give us $250.” No, we live in a world where you can cut out coupons, buy generic brands, and all sorts of crap to save money–to cut your food costs to 15% rather than 25%.

But in this one area, we forget that and start talking about tax liabilities as percentages as though it makes any more sense. It doesn’t. It’s still just as ridiculous. I went into the folly of this type of thinking a bit in this video, but I’ll briefly go over once again.

This is always used to suggest that “the rich” aren’t paying their “fair share” in taxes, when the reality is that either a. the rich are paying their fair share and we are not, or b. the rich are paying well and above their fair share.

Evidently it takes between $2 million and $3 million to pave one mile of a new 2-lane, undivided highway. Let’s assume the lower end of that–two million dollars. Let’s assume that this new highway is going to be packed with taxpayers–one thousand of them on this one mile of highway. We can already see that this is not actually “rural” and would have to be extremely urban, while this estimate deals with rural highways, but let’s go with it.

It will cost each of those taxpayers $2,000 to pave that highway. Holy crap, right? Each and every one of those one thousand people has to scrimp and save and come up with their share of the $2,000. That is what’s fair. Of course, in reality, if those people actually had to pay for that road, this is what they would do:

  1. Most of them would volunteer their own off-hours to help construct the road.
  2. They would shop around and find the cheapest deal, and would probably get the figure cut down drastically.
  3. Between doing a lot of the work themselves and shopping around, they’d probably get the amount of payment required down to $200,000 or so.
  4. They would probably petition local business owners, granting them some sort of special access to the road, or special properties on the road, in exchange for larger payments. “If you pay $10,000 of it, we’ll make sure your employees are never ticketed on it, and we’ll make sure that you can open a new office along this stretch of highway.”

It’s hard for us to even imagine such things, but it would happen. No one is more cautious with their money than the person that money belongs to. I proved it today, when my colleague told me to buy some crap with his credit card. I splurged a bit and bought some things I’d never buy if I was spending my own money. It only cost him $6, of course, but that’s still $6 I would never, ever have spent if it was my money. But I didn’t have to pay for it, so I basically wasted it–I enjoyed it, of course, and he knew I would waste it, so it’s not like I did anything messed up. The point is–people aren’t careful with other people’s money, and the government definitely isn’t.

But there’s this idea that taxes are a percentage thing, and that everyone should be charged 10% to pay for the road. This means Jack the burger flipper pays $75 for the road, while Eric the millionaire business owner pays $225,000. This, the leftist says, might mean that the millionaire paid his fair share. More likely, the leftist isn’t happy and thinks the millionaire should have had to pay more. And if we lived in a world where Wal-Mart charged you a flat 25% of all your money when you checked out, the leftist would have a point. But in a world where Wal-Mart charges you an actual dollar figure based on what you’re actually buying, they don’t. Is Eric going to use the road 3,000 times more than Jack is?

No. In reality, Eric is paying far more than his “fair share” so that Jack doesn’t have to pay his fair share. Obviously. They’re going to use the road about the same; they need the road to the same degree. Yet Eric is paying three thousand times what Jack is paying, for exactly the same product. If the millionaire bought one week of food at Wal-Mart and paid $14,500 while Jack bought one week at Wal-Mart and paid $14.50, we wouldn’t have a hard time seeing how the millionaire was clearly being gouged by Wal-Mart, and that Wal-Mart was doing it simply because they knew that Eric had that much money and could afford it.

It’s so messed up it’s not worth more discussion. Taxes as a percentage is a grotesque and greedy notion. The only “fair share” of taxes that could be paid–if we forget, for the moment, that taxation is theft–is an actual dollar figure. Taxes as a percentage means that some people are paying their fair share, some people (the poor) are not paying their fair share, and some people (the rich) are paying far beyond their fair share. I know it bothers the leftist to be told that, but this is the truth; this is reality. This is how fairness as a concept actually works. You can’t price gouge the millionaire simply because he has the money and then proclaim that it’s fair. It’s not–it’s price gouging the millionaire. There’s nothing “fair” about it.

Anyway, taxation is theft.

That preamble is critical to this discussion, because it’s important for us to recognize that it’s not fair to look at the Taylor Swifts, Metallicas, Marilyn Mansons, Bill Gateses, and expect them to pay huge chunks of money so that we don’t have to. Under the statist propaganda and mindset, the “fair share” of the national debt is a dollar figure doled out among each and every American citizen, not some of them proportional to how much money they made. As I amply demonstrated above, there is nothing fair, just, or moral about that; everything about it is unfair, unjust, and immoral.

As it stands with a twenty trillion dollar national debt, that’s a bill being sent to every American citizen for $66,666.67.

One has to squint at all those sixes.

But even if every single American paid the government every single dollar they had, do you know what would happen?

We would still be in debt.

This is because of a couple of things–primarily, that most Americans are in debt personally to banks for credit cards, houses, and vehicles. That’s the nature of a debt-based currency, and the USD is a debt-based currency, through and through. If every single dollar that everyone owed was paid back, we would still be in debt, and Interest is the reason why. The entire currency is a game of musical chairs–there are never enough chairs, and someone always gets left standing. This threatens to divert into a related topic, though, so I’m going to get back to the national debt.

So how is the government to pay for its stuff, if it can’t tax everyone to pay for it? Why, that’s simple. It borrows the money.

Imagine if you borrowed $1,000 to do the stuff you wanted to do, which, with 1% interest, means you have to pay back $1,010. You manage to make about $300 doing that, but you want to continue doing the stuff you want to do. So you borrow $2,000 and pay back the $1,010 from the first loan, and then have $1290 to do what you want to do. A year later, you have to pay back $2020, but you only made $320 from your endeavor. So you borrow $3,000. You now make only $230, but a year later have to pay back $3030. To keep your operating expenses where they were, you actually have to borrow $4100 this time, to pay back the $3030 and make up for the $100 you didn’t make back in the last year. Each year, your debt increases.

With the intricacies of a national economy, taxation, and all that, it’s not that cut and dry, but that is the gist of what’s going on. After more than a century of doing this, the United States Government has worked its way up to a twenty trillion dollar debt–a debt that we can’t possibly pay off, and a debt that we the American People shouldn’t even be worried about paying off. The government did that, not us.

The United States GDP for 2013 was just over seventeen trillion dollars. The data for 2015 shows that we nearly reached $18 trillion. For 2016 thus far is about $18.5 trillion. Now, if I know anything about figuring out which number is bigger than the other number, this means that the national debt actually exceeds the GDP of the United States.

In literal terms, this means that allllll the productivity of alllllll the American people is exceeded by the amount of money that people in Washington, D.C. are spending. This means that a relatively small number of people have managed to spend more than the entire freaking country produces. This means that all the industriousness, productivity, creativity, ingenuity, and excellence of the American People has been matched and exceeded by government spending.

These ticks have managed to engorge themselves to the point that they are consuming more blood than the dog even has.

You don’t have to be a veterinarian to realize that tick is gonna kill that dog–and sooner, rather than later.

Ballot Initiatives Are Stupid; The Government Can’t Fix Problems

…because they allow ignorant people to directly voice their opinion, no matter how ignorant they are, and have exactly the same impact on the situation as people who aren’t ignorant. Now, based on what I’ve said so many times about the failures of direct democracy, I need to point this out: an informed and educated person would not vote on a ballot initiative about which they were ignorant. Look, if you put on the ballot an initiative that we would expand fracking, I would gladly abstain from voting, because I know nothing about the issue.

A lot of people wouldn’t abstain. A lot of people would vote “Yes” because “fracking means oil, and oil is good.” A lot of people would vote “no” because “fracking is bad for the environment, and that’s bad.” Well, I’m sorry, but if that’s the extent of my knowledge on the subject then I simply don’t feel qualified in voicing an opinion.

Many people would be surprised by this newfound humility, but it’s not newfound at all. Sure, it often seems like I think I know everything. This is because i tend to discuss subjects that I know about, and I tend to avoid subjects about which I know very little or nothing. I would say that I have studied a wide enough range of subjects to be able to say whether or not I’m ignorant of the subject, and that’s where the Dunning-Kruger Effect kicks in. See, most people have no idea how ignorant they are.

Earlier today, I saw Will Coley, former Libertarian Party Vice Presidential candidate, say that he doesn’t “believe” in the Big Bang Theory, and he went on to say that the idea was invented by the Catholic Church as a method of explaining Genesis.

Well, no… That’s not true. Science isn’t something to believe in or not believe in; it’s something to accept or to deny. It’s not a matter of belief but a matter of bowing to the facts. It’s far beyond me to get into all the nuances of the Big Bang Theory and the overwhelming amount of evidence that supports it, but a simple Google search will yield a person all the information they need to make an informed opinion. And I will be adamant about this: there is an enormous difference between an informed opinion and an ignorant one. For example, Coley’s remark about the Big Bang being invented by the Catholic Church is wholly incorrect. The person who first proposed the theory was a Jesuit priest, but he was also a physicist, and was most certainly not doing the work of the church. His work, like Galileo’s, was very much at odds with the church.

At any rate, it’s absurd to accept some parts of science while rejecting the rest, at least on issues that haven’t been politicized into oblivion such as global warming. There are politics involved in the Big Bang Theory, or in the Theory of Evolution, and both theories are as airtight as General Relativity. They are widely accepted for a reason, and the DNA evidence alone would be enough, even if there were no fossils whatsoever, to confirm the theory of natural selection and changes over time.

This won’t stop the influx of people who say that evolution suggests “a tornado would tear through a junkyard and create a Boeing 747,” though. It won’t change the mass of people who say that “Yeah, God said ‘Bang!’ and then it happened.” It won’t change the minds of the people who believe the universe is 6,000 to 10,000 years old. C’est la vie. I’m not trying to change minds. If they want to reject the theory of evolution in favor of their religious beliefs, that’s fine, but I would demand that they stop taking antibiotics, vaccines, and other treatments that are products of biology, since modern biology is inseparable from evolutionary theory. I would demand that they stop using their cell phones, the Internet, and their televisions, since all of these things work only because of satellites that orbit the Earth thanks to our understanding of Einstien’s Special and General theories of Relativity, both of which are tied very much to the Big Bang. If you want to argue that the scaffolding doesn’t work, that’s fine–but to be consistent, you must say that the building built from the scaffolding doesn’t work, either.

But most of these people–Coley among them, I would bet–have no idea what evidence supports the Big Bang Theory, but that won’t stop most people from having an opinion on it one way or another. I was stunned a few years ago, when I remarked to my sister that I found the evolution of snakes to be fascinating, and she replied, “You know I don’t believe in evolution, right?”

I was stunned. What do you mean, you don’t believe in evolution? Evolution doesn’t need you to believe in it. Evolution is a reality of life in our universe; accept it or not, but belief has nothing to do with it at this point. The knowledge is there; the information is there. And I will adamantly insist that her rejection of evolution is not in any sense on the same solid ground as my acceptance of evolution. Mine is built from facts, from having read The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype by Richard Dawkins, and biology is still my weakest area. If there was a ballot initiative asking if we should do “some imaginary thing” to purposely “affect evolution in some specific way,” I would readily abstain from such a measure, because I know nothing about it.

I’m Going Somewhere With This

If there was a ballot initiative stating that we would install 8 GB of DDR5 memory into every computer owned by the government, I would gladly vote against the initiative. I can imagine the arguments of everyone in favor of the initiative. “DDR5 is so much faster!” the headlines would go from the pro-upgrade crowd. “It’s common sense, and 8 GB will be a huge upgrade. There’s no reason not to! We’ve run the cost, and we can make it happen for $85,000!”

“Yeah,” I would say, “but probably 97% of the motherboards in use by the state won’t support DDR5. You won’t be able to just pop it in there. If you do somehow make it fit, you’ll fry the RAM, and probably the motherboard. To make this work, you’d have to upgrade all the motherboards, too, which means upgrading CPUs, as well. Since Windows still uses the Hardware Abstraction Layer, you won’t be able to just throw a hard drive into a new motherboard, new CPU, and new RAM–even if the old hard drives are SATA, which I doubt they would be, since they’re probably old and use IDE, which the newer motherboards won’t support–it won’t boot, and you’ll have to do a full backup of all files, reformat onto a new compatible drive, then move the files back over. It’s nowhere near as simple as just slapping two sticks of RAM into a desktop and watching it take off in speed.”

This is because I know technology. I make a living working on technology and making it do the things that I want it to do. In the end, from this ballot initiative–which would almost certainly pass–we’d end up with a ton of RAM sitting wasted in a storage room somewhere while we waited for Motherboard+CPU Initiative to pass. Suddenly an $85,000 price tag became a $1,850,000 price tag.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

We all begin ignorant about a subject–completely ignorant. Through the course of life in western society, we pick up bits of knowledge from all over the place, and we establish a kind of limited knowledge in all sorts of subjects, but that knowledge isn’t always reliable. Like my sister above, who would characterize evolution as “a monkey giving birth to a human.” Anyone who gets their knowledge from her gets bad information, and they may view her as a trusted figure, in which case they wouldn’t question her. Then, years later, when someone came along and contradicted that information, they would already be invested in her and what she told them, and so they’d be much more likely to stick to her explanation of things.

My church told me routinely that this is what evolution was. One year, around the third grade, they actually did one of those stupid skits, where there is a gorilla at the family dinner. “Grandpa,” they called him. It was a full attack on evolution, telling all of our young minds that evolution said that somewhere along the way some gorilla gave birth to a human. These trusted authorities–these people who we had been told to trust and who we did trust–lied right to our faces, perhaps knowingly; at the very least, they perpetuated bullshit that they had been told by an authority figure and never looked into themselves.

As another example, my nephew firmly believes that Jesus lives in the clouds, because that is what they told him at church. We know this one was a lie, because no adult in their right mind believes that Jesus lives in the clouds. For fuck’s sake, we’ve been beyond the clouds. People go beyond the clouds on a daily basis. We know beyond the shadow of any doubt that there is no one living in the clouds or on the clouds. Yet my nephew has been consistently told this by authority figures at his church. When I told him it wasn’t true, showed him pictures of the clouds and the Earth from space, and showed him that no one was living up there, it changed nothing. They’d already won. They planted the idea, and his trust in them kept his mind shackled to that lie. They knowingly lied to my nephew. It was this that caused me to challenge them–a challenge they ignored, by the way.

I told them that I would debate them. The topic? The existence of a god. I told them they could pick any twelve members of their congregation to act as the judges, and that they could enlist up to five people–church members or not–to argue on their side, and that I would debate alone. If I won, then they would refrain from teaching anything spiritual until the children reached 8 years old. If they won, I would attend their church every Sunday for a year. You lie to my nephew and we’re going to have problems. I don’t care if they want him to believe in a god. But I will not let them lie to him to accomplish that.

They ignored my challenge, and I understand why. The similarities to Elijah and the priests of Baal were too much for them to ignore, except… in this scenario, I was Elijah. I didn’t choose 12 as the number by accident, after all. It’s a debate that I couldn’t have won. Convince 12 devout church-goers that their pastor hadn’t made his case that there is a god? I could never have won. However, if they accepted such weighted terms, then they lost from the start, even if I didn’t convince the judges. To show their faith, they would have no choice but to turn the tables and let me pick the 12 judges.

Sorry to digress onto that.

Economics

Another area that I know pretty damned well is economics. I might not be able to calculate the market interest rate based on data you feed to me, but since I have no interest or desire to do such a thing it’s never a skill I’ve bothered to learn. I think the bank providing the loan should do that calculation, not the government.

Recently, Washington voted to increase its minimum wage from $9.47 to $13.50 an hour, the bloody fools.

These people, almost none of whom know anything about economics, voted on a measure to substantially interfere in their state’s economy. This is the reason that democracy is stupid. It gives control of the ship to people who have never navigated a ship, people who don’t know how to read a map, people who don’t know how to hoist a sail, people who have never used a sextant, and people who have no freaking idea what a rudder is or why the sail is triangular. If you came to me on a 17th century ship and asked me if we should turn the sail east or west, I wouldn’t have any freaking idea what to tell you other than “Dude, ask someone who actually knows about it.”

Somewhere along the way, we forgot how freaking ignorant we are. This is where the Dunning-Kruger Effect kicks in, because a person can’t be ignorant while understanding that they’re ignorant. With weak general knowledge on a subject, a person usually thinks they have a pretty good handle on it–enough to vote “Yes” on a measure to raise the minimum wage, a decision that will have enormous ramifications for the state’s economy. Hubris is what it is.

See, in order to know how little you know about a subject, you must know a little bit about that subject. That’s the conundrum. To understand how little you know about physics, you have to understand how deep and complex the subject is.

As exposure to a subject increases, confidence decreases, until one is exposed enough to begin grasping the subject.

As exposure to a subject increases, confidence decreases, until one is exposed enough to begin grasping the subject.

This is why you should always be weary of people who are confident about what they’re saying, especially if they can’t back it up. I’ve backed up my economics statements. Check them out here and here. There’s a huge disparity, though, between the confidence of an expert and the confidence of a layperson. I will never say that I’m absolutely right–about anything. I constantly allow for the possibility that I’m wrong. In the past year, I’ve been wrong several times. My confidence got put to the test recently on Quora, and I was put in a very difficult position of arguing myself against two actual economists, and I’m proud to say that I held my ground–primarily because they weren’t reading the question correctly.

However, anyone who is absolutely convinced that we should raise the Minimum Wage… Ask them why. Their answer will always be the same. “Because… blah blah… cost of living… yada yada… living wage… blah blah…” Basically, it is an emotional appeal. The danger of emotional appeals, though, is that the emotion is used to propose and support one single solution and precludes the possibility that the emotion can be expressed with any other solution. Take for example government welfare.

I think it should all be ended. All of it. “Social safety net?” It’s called family. And, yes, this is from someone who has no family to fall back on. What do I have? Friends. Where my family has horrifically failed me, friends have always come through, particularly my colleague. When my sister kicked me out for being transgender, I had very few places to turn with such short notice. It was my colleague–who I would certainly call “pretty much family”–who found me a place to stay. That opened up an entirely different set of problems, of course, but things happen.

The common reply, of course, is, “So you want people to go homeless and starve to death.”

Um… No? I don’t think I said that. I think that people who care about you should bear the burden of helping you, not random strangers who don’t get a say-so about it. Your mom can kick your ass and make sure you’re getting a job, not sitting around on the couch and watching Ricki Lake. I can’t. The government can’t. Your mom isn’t going to let you sit there for 18 months while you do nothing and bring in no income. The government will let you, because the government can’t really stop you. Is that so bad? That instead of putting a gun to my head and forcing me to “help” you–while you do God only knows what with the “help”–you would have to turn to family and friends? I don’t want you to die, but… I don’t know you. I’ve got my own problems to deal with without adding yours to them.

But their emotion–that sympathy that people shouldn’t go homeless and starve–is tied to their favorite solution: government welfare. Because the emotion is tied to the solution, their minds become warped until they can no longer fathom any other solution appeasing that emotion.

And just like that, their emotion becomes public policy, especially when ballot initiatives are put forward. “People should have a living wage” becomes tied to “the minimum wage should be increased.” To them, that’s the only possible solution without denying people a living wage. So if you’re against an increase in the minimum wage, they have no choice but to conclude that you don’t think people should have a living wage. To them, it’s one and the same: increasing the minimum wage scratches their emotional itch, and they know of no other way to scratch it; they don’t think anything else can scratch it.

To make matters worse, we are dealing with matters where emotion has no role to play. I’m sorry; it simply doesn’t. Just like emotion has no role to play in calculating how much hydrogen we need to launch a rocket into space, so does emotion have nothing to do with economics. You can’t feel your way to the truth; emotions blind and lead astray. This is very much a Nietzschean thing to say, but I have no issue with emotions, and I think they have tremendous value. However, it is imperative that we define a scope for our emotions. We cannot allow our emotions to run unchecked, determining social policy, determining economic policy, and determining governmental policy. They will lead us into disaster, every single time.

Emotion is not a valid pathway to scientific truth.

And it is a scientific truth that you cannot just raise the Minimum Wage and have everything hunky-dory. It will be a disaster. First, only locally owned businesses will put in the effort to increase prices. The locally owned daycares, gas stations, etc. They will raise prices to mitigate the losses.

Disconnect: Greedy Fatcats Making Millions!

The people who advocate raising the Minimum Wage think that there are business owners all throughout the country who are just raking in obscene amounts of money while paying their employees peanuts. While it’s not really your or my business what private contract the employee and employer into it, there’s something to be said about refusing to shop at a place that doesn’t pay its employees fairly. However, it’s simply not the case that business owners are making tons of money and hoarding it while their employees feed on scraps. In most cases with local businesses, owners are still full-time employees working 70+ hours a week and doing everything from management to recruiting to human resources to supervising. Anything that needs to be done that an employee is not explicitly hired to do, the owner has to do. The buck stops with them, after all. It’s a tremendous responsibility and burden, and they deserve ever penny they get for it. If you don’t like it, then open up your own. It’s honestly not that hard or expensive.

So what I would say “most” of these people pictured is that the business owners would simply make less money. Instead of making a salary of $600/week for the 70+ hours of difficult, stressful, exhausting work they do, these people figured they would instead make $400/week and would pay the increased wage out of their own money. But “their own money” doesn’t usually exist, and if you increase their payroll by 33% across the board, you’re going to have a disaster on your hands. I know budgeting–personally and commercially–and an increase of 33% to an expense as major as employee wages will bankrupt you faster than anything else.

So those increased wages aren’t coming out of the profits that are already there, because, in most cases, the profits aren’t big enough to cover a hit like that. Ten employees working 40 hours a week at $9.46 is $3,784.00 in wages. Every week. At $13.50 an hour, it is $5,400 in wages every single week. If the owner is on a $600/week salary, then even if the owner worked for free they wouldn’t be able to make up that difference; they’d still be nearly a thousand dollars short.

So they have a number of choices.

A. Cut Hours

Suddenly they have 280 hours to apportion to their employees each week, instead of the 400 they had. If they can afford $3,784 each week in wages, then this covers 280 hours. The owner has decided here not to fire anyone, so instead everyone has their hours cut from 40 hours a week to 28. This makes them part-time employees and causes them to lose a fair number of benefits in a lot of cases. It certainly lowers the standards at the business, which is very bad if it’s a daycare. There are, on average, 2 employees fewer at work at any given time, so there are fewer employees overseeing the same number of kids.

Probably should have thought this MW increase through before voting on it, huh?

B. Layoffs

This is the other route, and the one people are most likely to take, especially since customers aren’t going to happily eat a 33% increase in their own prices to cover the increased Minimum Wage. We’ll come back to that, though. So with 280 hours allotted, it’s an easy call: three employees have to go. Bye, Felicia. Three people fired from their jobs because of the increase to the Minimum Wage. This will happen quite a lot, since it’s the easiest and quickest solution without pissing off clients and without dealing with complaints of other employees about hours being cut.

Probably should have given it just a little bit of thought before voting to increase the MW, eh?

C. Increase Prices

This is the final route, and the one that is second-most-likely to happen. Indeed, it’s already happening. Just think about it. If the daycare charged $100 per kid before, they have to charge $133 per kid now to cover the additional wages. In fact, they have to charge even more than that, because all of the suppliers that the daycare gets its necessary materials from will likely raise their prices. The bottom line on the business just got a lot higher, and there’s nowhere else for the business owner to get the money.

The Government Should Help With Childcare Costs!

Said one parent:

“I feel the state needs to be helping a little more,” said Larson. “It would be nice if parents didn’t have to spend a majority of their paychecks for childcare.”

You fucking moron.

I can’t be nice about this.

The government should rob everyone else to give me money to pay for the daycare costs that I increased by making the stupid decision to vote yes on increasing the Minimum Wage which caused daycare costs to increase to the point that I couldn’t afford them.

You made this bed. Now lie in it.

Hey, lady! If you don’t want to spend a majority of your paychecks on childcare, how about don’t vote for an increase to the Minimum Wage that will increase your childcare costs? Hm? How about that? Government is not the answer. How many messes do we have to make before we figure that out?

“Oh, we made a mess by using the government to interfere with the economy. Maybe the government can fix the mess by stealing from everyone and giving me their money. And then maybe the government can do something to fix the mess that is caused by stealing from everyone and giving me their money. And then maybe the government can fix the mess that it caused when it tried to fix the mess caused by stealing everyone and giving their money, which was supposed to fix the mess the government caused by interfering with the economy. And then maybe the government can fix the mess that it caused when it tried to fix the mess that it caused when it tried to fix the mess that it caused by stealing from everyone and giving their money, which was supposed to fix the mess the government caused by interfering with the economy. And then maybe…”

I mean, really? How about you just stop?

How about you just stop trying to fix messes with the government and instead take the time to research the messes and think about a solution rationally? You want to know the way out of this mess you’ve made in Washington? It’s not stealing from people without kids to pay for parents who didn’t think shit through. You have no right to steal from other people, and the fact that you’d even suggest that as a possibility is appalling. How dare you claim to be on the side of empathy and morality when you want to rob people as a way of cleaning up a mess that is entirely of your own design?

Abolish the minimum wage.

There’s no other way.

The more you increase it, the more “solutions” from the government you will need to fix the last mess you made, and the more government “solutions” you’ll need to fix the mess the government made when it tried to fix the last mess you made. It’s a neverending cycle of government intervention and screw-ups, with the government getting more power and more control every step of the way without ever making anything better. It only makes things worse. It has never made one solitary thing better.

Except our ability to kill people. I’ve got to give them credit on that. The government has absolutely improved our ability to kill people.

You’re like a madman who had the government burn your house down for you because, for some reason, you thought that having them fill it with gasoline and throw a match in it wouldn’t burn the house down–who the hell knows why, Dunning-Kruger presumably–and now you’re asking the government to come in and use its napalm to put out the fire. That’s the government in a nutshell: using napalm to put out fires.

Summary

Yes, I do think the average person is too stupid to determine what wage all employers should pay their employees. In fact, I’d go further and say that everyone is too stupid to determine what wage all employers should pay their employees. That is a matter that only the employer and the employee can answer, when the employer makes an offer and the employee makes a counter-offer. They’re the only people who know their situations well enough to be able to answer those questions. I certainly think the average person is far too stupid to know whether a minimum wage should be $3 an hour or $13 an hour.

This is why I’m an anarchist: I have a very low opinion of the average person. Not to brag or anything, but I am a card-carrying MENSA member. I’m a pretty smart chick, with an IQ estimated to be between 150 and 172. I think the average person is too dumb to make their own decisions, let alone make the decisions for everyone, and that’s what this entire system of the state allows. It allows some moron in California who doesn’t even know why he dislikes Donald Trump to attempt to impose a Hillary Clinton presidency onto me, out of sheer ignorance and stupidity. You’re goddamned right I have a problem with that.

The solution, though, is what Plato got wrong. Plato envisioned a world governed by the wise, by philosophers. Liberals, it seem, envision the same sort of world, given how they want to curtail democratic processes and impose their ways on everyone, believing themselves to be intellectually superior to everyone who disagrees. They’re all wrong, though. Yes, Plato, too. The solution isn’t a refined government led by people who are wise, because the unwise person has no idea that he is unwise, and will not have a terribly difficult time convincing the unwise that he is wise–see President Elect Donald Trump.

I’m sure we could come up with some sort of new system of government and new electoral process that, for a while, ensures that only the wise are elected. It would ultimately fail, though, and I don’t like the inherent arrogance of it. Moreover, for anyone who is truly wise, the idea of taking power and ruling over others is anathema.

The solution is to keep these people from making decisions that affect freaking everyone. Duh. If you want to open a company and promise your employees a minimum wage of $15/hour, guaranteed 40 hours a week, with a 401K company match and health insurance, then you go right ahead. You and the people who work for you will go out of business very, very quickly, and it will only affect you and the idiots who sign up with you without giving it enough thought. You have every right to do it, though. But if you want to take that horrendously stupid idea and force everyone to do it… Yeah, then there’s a problem.

Don’t force your economically ignorant decisions onto everyone. The ramifications will be enormous.

Abolish the Minimum Wage. Let employers and employees determine how much their labor is worth. It has nothing to do with you. And if you don’t think an employer is reimbursing an employee fairly, then you can do a few things. You can boycott that company, or you can chip in and donate to the employee. Those are your options. Anything beyond that is using the state to order people around like they’re your slave or something and have to do what you say.

So you have a stupid idea one day. It happens. Give the stupid idea a shot. Maybe it will work out. But don’t you dare force everyone to adopt your stupid, unconsidered, asinine idea that is demonstrably going to create more problems and never solve any.

Free College is a REALLY Stupid Idea

No, it’s not really stupid because it’s socialist in nature. It is socialist in nature, and that is, itself, pretty stupid. However, even if we accepted the idea of socialism, the notion of free higher education is nothing short of stupid. It is also backward and is a great example of how the state and its many institutions and institutionalized practices keep society from properly evolving. If the state hadn’t morphed into a nanny government, the solution I’m about to propose would already have manifested, because it’s both obvious and logical; it’s literally the next step in social evolution, but instead everyone is looking to the government to solve a problem that the government honestly can’t solve.

To ask for free college is to basically be someone shortly after the automobile was invented, demanding that the government provide everyone with a horse-drawn cart. You’re asking for something that is mostly obsolete now and is going to become increasingly obsolete as we move into the future.

The Internet has changed everything. In fact, the World Wide Web will go down as the greatest invention in our species’ history, so overwhelming is its scope. We have not even begun to realize the full impact of the Internet, and this is one such example. It allows a person in the middle of nowhere in Mississippi to communicate through video chat instantly with someone in Siberia. The impact of something like that has not yet been felt, but future generations will take it for granted, and I firmly believe that it heralds the eventual end of war. “The Russians” are no longer some strange, foreign people–they are people we play video games with, that we are friends with on Twitter and Facebook. They are not boogeymen any longer; they are real people. It becomes a lot harder to let your government drop a bomb on someone’s city when you were talking to that someone last week during a chess match, you know?

This has only now started to become apparent, but it’s no surprise that millennials are among the loudest peace advocates everywhere in the world, from the United States to the Middle East to China. Succeeding generations will be even louder in their criticisms of war, because for the first time in human history, we don’t have to take our government’s word for it that “China is like totes 4 real raping and eating babies!!11one!!” because we actually know people in China. Earlier today, I played chess against someone from a country whose flag I didn’t even freaking recognize–but I’d recognize it if President Obama declared, “Yeah, we’re gonna drop some bombs on this place.”

“No!” I would say. “You can’t do that… A real person lives there…”

It’s a beautiful thing, the Internet, and we must protect it from all encroachments of government. There has never been a tool more powerful at our disposal. Under no circumstances should we allow any government to touch it. But none of this is my point–it’s just generally background because it’s true. In the year 2500, people will look back and identify the Internet as mankind’s most profound achievement, because an end to war will be just one of its many remarkable benefits.

Another is that it has placed the sum of human knowledge literally at our fingertips. I remarked recently:

I’m supposed to believe that the same people who can’t be bothered to take four seconds to click New Tab and look something up on Google before sharing it on Facebook when the sum of human knowledge is available for free at their fingertips will spend four years in college if it’s free? Yeah, okay.

There’s an important thing here that has to be addressed; we can’t just pretend like it’s not true. Anything you want to know is available on the Internet. No matter how obscure the knowledge is, and no matter how advanced it is, the information is out there, somewhere, on the Internet. And it’s free. If you have an Internet connection, anything that you want to learn about… can be learned… for free. Right now. “Free education” people want? You can’t get better free education than the Internet; you literally cannot.

College is a tremendous investment of time and energy. It is an investment of such magnitude that it makes a simple Google search insignificant. Let’s not be mistaken about this: there is strong overlap between people who want free higher education and people who can’t be bothered to look things up before sharing them on Facebook. I have no data to back this up, but considering how extraordinarily common it is that people share things without looking them up, it is virtually guaranteed that there is high overlap. People will gladly share posts about how three prominent Wikileaks administrators totally died under mysterious circumstances and it’s Hillary’s fault rather than looking it up and finding that the three people referenced all died of explicitly explained causes, two of which were cancer, for fuck’s sake. Yet they would… like totes 4 real… invest four years of their life into going to college.

If only it was free!

Now, all that said, the solution.

Colleges and universities are obsolete. Unless you’re seeking a Master’s degree or a Doctorate, there is nothing you can learn in a college or university that you cannot learn for free on the Internet. If you’re seeking a 6 or 8-year degree, then, yes, a good chunk of your work will involve original research, a dissertation, a thesis, and ultra-advanced learning that either isn’t readily available on the Internet or can’t be verified. Once we start getting the mathematics of quantum neutrino fields*, yeah, there’s a place for a university to fit in.

What we need is to adjust to the Internet and the new education paradigm that it has created. I would gladly go toe-to-toe with any political theorist or economist in the world. I would stake my self-education against their university-education any day of the week, and I say this for two reasons.

First, I’m probably smarter than they are. I don’t mean this as a statement of arrogance, but one of fact; as a MENSA member, the odds are in my favor. These are also fields that I have explored extensively, going through the whole process of the Dunning-Kruger Effect and coming out on the other side, educated. Plus, much of what modern “official” economists say is nothing more than scientific woo.

Second, while I was in college I took Macroeconomics I and Macroeconomics II as electives, and passed both with As and never even purchased my book for the classes. So I actually had the chance to stack my self-education against the system’s education, and I came out on top. I’ve written about changes in Supply curves having effects on equilibrium prices, after all. So I know from first-hand experience that motivated self-education is not only adequate; it’s probably preferable. Because it’s free, it’s definitely preferable.

It would be the height of stupidity to throw a bunch of money at the current education institution in order to prop up a system that is already obsolete. Intelligent people go where the knowledge is. Through the last several centuries, universities were “where the knowledge was.” So intelligent people who wanted to learn naturally went to universities. This is no longer the case. The universities surely still have knowledge, but they are not the exclusive holders of that knowledge anymore. Why on Earth would we even consider paying gigantic, extortionate, exorbitant fees and tuitions for knowledge that we can literally have for free already?

That’s… stupid.

It is. It’s supremely stupid. It’s short-sighted, simplistic, and stagnant. Short-sighted, simplistic, stagnant, and supremely stupid.

Are you familiar with CompTIA and its certifications? It has several: A+ certification, Security+ certification, Network+ certification… The list goes on. I’m not A+ or Network+ certified, because I don’t need to be. I was stupid and did waste the time going to college to get a degree that A+ and Network+ certifications are considered equivalent to. In fact, people really like the A+ certification; I’ve often been encouraged to get it anyway.

What is that, if not exactly what I’m proposing for other fields of study?

Rather than spending 4 years attending the University of Missisippi, study what you want to study, and then pop in there 5 or 6 Saturdays in a row, take the tests they deem appropriate. If you pass, they give you an Economics Certification equivalent to a BA. Already on college campuses, you can “comp” your way through several classes–I comped through Trig to take Calculus, after all. All we need is a system that allows you to comp the entire education program. What does it matter? If you have the knowledge, then you have the knowledge, regardless of whether you spent 4 years studying at home in your spare time, or 4 years studying at the university.

But that’s exactly it, isn’t it? The University of Mississippi would hate this. They could never charge $48,000 for you to take the tests and get your Economics 4 Certification. They’d probably not get away with charging $1,000 for that. CompTIA’s A+ exam is generally considered expensive, and it’s only $199 and you can typically get vouchers that knock off a huge portion of that.

Now we’re getting to the root of it.

Colleges and universities have a vested interest in keeping this certification thing down. How much money did ITT Tech lose to people who checked around for tech jobs and discovered that an A+ certification is generally considered equivalent to a 2 year degree, and sometimes a 4 year degree? Now start applying this to all fields. How many pharmacist assistants would skip college to simply get a certification, if they could get a Pharmacy 2 Certification for $600 by taking a test three weekends in a row? How much money would universities and colleges lose?

Millions. Billions, even.

Their tuition numbers would dwindle, with only people seeking Master’s and Doctorate’s degrees actually attending universities, and even they would comp through the first 4 years and get certifications instead. How would universities and colleges react? Why, they would lower their tuition fees, of course!

Because that’s what people do when Demand drops.

Stop asking the government to give you a horse-drawn carriage for free, and instead look into how you might acquire an automobile. These systems are not in place. We desperately need them, though. And they will rise, as free market solutions to the problem, just as CompTIA and its tech certifications rose as free market solutions. However, we’re all looking in the wrong place. Don’t demand that the government give you money so that you can prop up an obsolete system.

* Wanton burrito meals?

2016 Elections Part 1: Berning Our Economy to the Ground

It’s distressing that the most anti-liberty election in U.S. history is following immediately after the most pro-liberty election in a century. 2012 was a great election for liberty, thanks to Ron Paul campaigning around it and his success forcing all the other candidates to adopt similar messages in the hopes of getting some of his supporters. The rEVOLution was far from successful, and far from over, but it was a strong start, and things looked terrific for the cause of liberty.

It’s tragic and sad that so many of Paul’s supporters now stand with socialist Bernie Sanders, even though socialism is diametrically opposed to Paul’s message: we can’t have both liberty and socialism, because liberty is contingent upon the right to private property and the right to private contract. I am for equal possibility, not equal opportunity,, even though I’d benefit greatly under President Sanders.

A young transgender lesbian atheist in Mississippi trying to make ends meet, resist, and rise beyond the disapproval and hostility of my peers, from a dirt poor family where I ate cans of pie filling previous tenants had left behind, simply because there was nothing else to eat? From a childhood where the electricity was disconnected regularly for non-payment, and where even our water was disconnected (in the middle of summer, too) for non-payment? Where I’m forced by exorbitant prices to order hormones online and unsafely because I can’t afford the endocrinologist and American meds? I’m precisely the sort of person Bernie Sanders is campaigning for…

And I want nothing to do with him.

I had a shitty start to life, sure, and it’s actually hard to imagine someone having a rougher start than I had and still surviving. When you’re three and watching your parents shoot up in the living room, watching people die on the couch for shooting up peanut butter, not having food and not even having water some of the time, watching alcoholics beat the hell out of your mom, and having to hide things from everyone to avoid being kicked out at the age of twelve, yeah, you had a tough beginning, and it honestly is difficult to imagine circumstances that were worse and still survivable.

But I put myself through college while working a full-time job as a janitor for minimum wage in a hotel. I started my own company, and I’ve started putting my writing for sale online. I’ve made myself, with little to no help at all and often with various elements getting in the way. I did this. I am a self-made woman.

And I’ll be goddamned if i let anyone take that away from me.

I am a loud opponent of raising the minimum wage. “But, Aria, how can you say that? You’ve lived on minimum wage!”

Indeed I have. I supported myself and my (ex)wife on minimum wage–she couldn’t work because we only had one vehicle, and I needed it for college and work. My work took precedence because it proceeded medical insurance, stability, and some overtime. That’s right: even while being a full-time student, I worked all the overtime I could, which isn’t much in the housekeeping department of a casino hotel. And on that $7.25 per hour, we paid all our bills and paid off our vehicle. Did we have hard times? For sure. Did we occasionally need to borrow money? Absolutely. But we received no welfare at all. I tried to get on food stamps, but we were denied because I was in college. If I wasn’t trying to better myself, the government would have helped.

But the casino fired me just weeks from my graduation. We were already living paycheck–we had no money put back. We couldn’t pay rent; we couldn’t afford gas. I had no choice but to drop out of college. It sucked, and there was no immediate prospect for employment. In many cases, I was passed up so that a non-white person could be hired, because that happens often in Mississippi. But I had a contact who owned a computer and networking company, and I kept liaising with him, ultimately becoming his employee after much work in proving myself. Much happened, I left my ex-wife, and I finished college. That sheet of paper is among the most important things in the world to me, because I did that.

The minimum wage was never meant to raise a fucking family. And it seems a lot of people don’t know what “minimum” means. The minimum wage fully supports an existence and the purchase of bare necessities. Stop buying things that aren’t the bare minimum and you’ll live just fine on the minimum wage. If you’re not content with bare necessities, then take your fucking ass to college. I don’t want to hear about expensive higher education. Apply yourself, and apply for scholarships.

But a lot of the people I know who support Sanders have no interest in going to college anyway. Some of them are unemployed adults who have no interest in going to college, live with their parents, and spend their spare time pretty much just playing video games. Of course they love the idea of everyone getting free things.

It’s hard not to be angry about this, because I had to pay in this year. Actually, I have to pay in and not pay in–the tax system is so broken that I have multiple ways to do my taxes, and so far the best way I’ve found has me paying in $354. Meanwhile, I have a family member who is “getting back” more than ten thousand dollars. And that’s the phrase people always use, isn’t it? “Getting back.”

No, you’re not getting back. You’re just getting. To get it back, you’d have to have paid that, and you didn’t. These people getting back $3000, $5000, and $10000, you didn’t pay that stuff in, so don’t say you’re getting it back. Getting it back implies you’re not just getting free money from people like me who have to pay in simply because I dare to own my own company–because that’s what it’s about for me. If I had an ordinary W-2, I’d “get back” around $1200. I know, because I put in my income as W-2s to see what it would do. But because I have W-2s, 1099s, and other complicated forms, I have to pay in. Meanwhile, people are “getting back” ten to twenty times the amount they actually paid in, simply because they fucking had kids.

The Minimum Wage Creates Unemployment

What people don’t realize is that economic law has the same validity and certainty as physical law. One can no more thwart economic law than one can thwart the laws of gravity and electromagnetism. And it only takes a few minutes to prove, beyond any doubt, that the Minimum Wage not only creates Unemployment, but increasing the MW would simply create more unemployment.

This is because economics is built around Supply and Demand. These forces come together to determine the Price of the good in question, and the Equilibrium Quantity of that good. A Price Floor is when the state steps in and says “No, you cannot charge less than this amount for that good,” and a Price Ceiling is when the state steps in and says “No, you cannot charge more than this amount for that good.”

Looking at the gas shortages of the 80s and the Price Ceilings that the state imposed, we can easily conclude that the Price Ceilings were the reason that we ran out of gas.

Behold. Proof.

Behold. Proof.

This is a Demand and Supply Line. P = Price, and Q = Quantity–e.g., “how much is purchased.” What is happening here is that Demand for the good is increasing, which raises the Price from P1 to P2, and increasing the Quantity, the amount people purchase, from Q1 to Q2.

As we can see, and this has been proven countless times, in addition to being common sense, increasing the Demand for a product shows that the value of that product–represented as a ratio between Quantity and Price–increases. The more people want iPhones, the more valuable an individual iPhone becomes. You’ll notice that none of these are straight lines; they are all curved. This means that moving along the Supply line changes the ratios. If people can buy ten iPhones for $1000 on D1, then people can only buy ten iPhones for $1100 on D2. These are universal economic truths, and they cannot be disputed. No one disagrees. And, trust me, we’re going somewhere with this.

Boom.

Boom.

Here, we have essentially the same thing, except the Supply line is changing. We can see that as the Supply increases, the Price per unit decreases, exactly as we would expect. The more common something is, the less valuable it is. We saw this during the Gas Shortages of the 80s, when, for various reasons, we didn’t have as much gas as we needed. The Supply Line changed drastically, but the Demand stayed the same. So, true to economic law, gas stations raised prices to offset the Demand. It was not price gouging as was so commonly alleged; it was a response to economic reality. As the Supply increased, the price would have continued to rise, until people were expected to pay $100 or more for a gallon of gasoline. As the Price increases, of course, Demand decreases, because less people are willing to purchase gasoline at that price. This is why it was not price gouging; it was an attempt by gas station owners to lower Demand, which desperately needed to be done.

However, the state stepped in and put a Price Ceiling on gas. Demand stayed the same, because the Price could not be increased to offset the Demand in proportion to the steadily decreasing Supply. Gas Prices were artificially kept at a low value, and the result were gas shortages. Let me tell you: high prices are infinitely more preferable to a shortage. In a shortage, a family who had to go somewhere and needed gas to do it would have been totally out of luck. With high prices, gas would have been available only to those who really, desperately needed it. With a Price Ceiling, the gas was there for no one, and people who truly needed it were completely out of luck.

Conversely, just as Price Ceilings create shortages, so do Price Floors create surpluses. If we suddenly had an influx of gasoline and the price dropped to twenty-five cents a gallon, and the government stepped in to say “No, you can’t charge less than $1 per gallon,” then we would have extreme gas surpluses, because people aren’t willing to pay more for something than they think it is worth. These market forces are always in effect, and they’re innate–we all have a sense of what a fair price is for something, and if we “feel” that the price of a gallon of gas should be a quarter, then we’re not going to pay four times that. The result is too much of that good–a surplus.

Now, the critical part that most people don’t grasp, even after they have grasped the economic truths above… is that labor is a good. That’s right–these maxims apply to labor just as much as they apply to gasoline. The Minimum Wage is a Price Floor on the price of labor, and what do Price Floors do? They create Surpluses. What do we call a Surplus of Labor–e.g., what do we call it when people don’t want to pay for a good because they feel that good is worth less than they are legally required to pay for it? We call that Unemployment.

Far from raising the Minimum Wage, we need to abolish the Minimum Wage and let market forces set the price of labor. If the labor you can do is worth only $3 per hour to the company paying you, then that’s no one’s fault but your own. Go to college, learn a trade or vocation. Hell, get arrested and spend the interim learning a skill. You are in the United States of America. You have options, and I’m the last person willing to listen to someone talking about how their rough life held them back. They should shut up, grow up, and do what they’ve gotta do. Stop sitting around and waiting on things to get better. Make them better.

And that’s what Bernie Sanders represents, isn’t it? He’s the ultimate case of someone who is going to make everything better for the people who aren’t willing to improve their own lives. Don’t want to go to college? No problem! Just use high education costs as an excuse and sit on your ass playing video games. Uncle Bernie’s got you covered with food stamps, health care, government housing, and whatever else you might need. How’s that Second Life character doing? Uncle Bernie is here for you.

Don’t fret, precious, I’m here…