Tag Archive | feudalism

UBI 3: Fallacious Silliness From America’s “Brightest”

Predictably, I was asked via email, in response to my first article about the UBI (which was actually picked up by the Ontario Ministry of Community and Public Service in their newsletter) whether I was so dedicated to the principle that I would watch someone starve to death. While the question was asked without malice, it still reveals the underlying confusion that goes into the classic knee-jerk response to libertarianism: if I don’t want government to do x, then I must be okay with no one doing x.

In the second article, I mentioned that the UBI seems to have its roots in the idea that a person can’t possibly find anything else productive to do when technology sends them into the unemployment line. So here we see two basic ideas that no one would seriously attempt to argue, being used as assumptions to bolster the statist quo. First, that a person can’t do anything except what they already do. Second, that if someone is doing something, then no one else can do it.

The question asked is unfair, because it’s too generic and vague. Why is this person starving? Are they handicapped? Insane? Ill? Lonely, without any friends and family? Lazy? Only I can choose when and where I use my resources, and if someone asks me for help then it’s my responsibility to assess their worthiness. But we can’t pretend like giving the ill person a meal is the same as giving a healthy adult who just doesn’t want to work a meal.

There exist today charities that provide food to those who can’t otherwise acquire it, and the panic over the possible defunding of Meals on Wheels is yet another example of how government isn’t necessary to the process. When people were worried that Planned Parenthood would be defunded, they opened their wallets and donated en masse, often making the donations in Mike Pence’s name. It was clear on both occasions that, if the government stopped funding these places, then individuals of conscience would pick up the tab.

The question morphs. “Are you happy with Meals on Wheels being defunded?” is no longer the question. “Are you happy that the responsibility for funding Meals on Wheels has shifted from the government to individuals who choose to take up that responsibility?” is what the question becomes, and it’s a very different one from what was initially asked.

Libertarians have long pointed out that it isn’t necessary to have the government doing things like that, and resistance to the idea is prominent in America, not just among ordinary citizens but also among those whose alleged loyalty to empirical data should lead them to reject such nonsense. Yet Neil Tyson recently asked if we really wanted to live in a world without art! As though without the government none of the people who paint, make music, write, make video games, and make movies and television would continue. It’s an idea that is silly in ways that are positively embarrassing to our species, that the people capable of splitting the atom could engage in such demonstrably false, fantastical thinking. And in a world where the atom has been split, some scientist once said, the dangers of continuing such fantastical thinking are far too great.

It should be readily apparent to anyone and everyone that Broadway is supported primarily by ticket sales. Video games are supported primarily by game sales. Movies are supported primarily by ticket and DVD sales. The assertion that, without government, all of these would just Poof! stop existing is alarmingly unconsidered.

Before abortion was subsidized by the government, there were abortions. Ditto for art, science, and everything else. Government subsidies have never created anything, and the farmers of Mississippi who grow corn year after year show the subsidies do more harm than good. I live just miles from a place where, every single year, the owners grow corn in soil long stripped of its nutrients. They don’t care, because they’re being paid to plant the corn. They don’t need to harvest it to be paid, and so they simply report to the Department of Agriculture each year that the crop died–as it does, because this is Mississippi, so it isn’t a very good climate to grow corn.

Do I want art to cease existing? No. Why would I? I’m a musician and writer. I enjoy lots of music, plays, video games, and television shows. This is why I give my money to the people who make those things, and those people make those things because they’re reasonably sure that someone will give them money to. This is why they spend lots and lots of money making movies and video games, and then they spend lots of money advertising those movies and video games: it’s an investment. They estimate how much they can afford to spend on production and advertising, and they compare it to how much money they can expect to earn. They do some complicated math involving subtraction, and this gives them an idea of how profitable the endeavor would be.

Mistakes in these estimates is why Pink Floyd notoriously made almost no money from their tour of The Wall, and why the only person who made any money on it was the keyboardist who had been kicked from the band and hired as an instrumentalist. The shows were extraordinarily expensive, so much so that there was no way for them to recuperate the costs and make any serious money. However, the long-term effects of The Wall ring to this day, catapulting them onto a plateau that even Dark Side of the Moon hadn’t accomplished.

And on that plateau, they made lots of money.

Anyone who gives the matter any serious thought will realize almost immediately that we certainly do not need government subsidies to fund Planned Parenthood, Meals On Wheels, arts, sciences, roads, education, health care, or anything else. The question “Do you want people to not have food/get abortions/enjoy art/drive on roads/have health care/be educated?” are all examples of one question that simply takes on different forms:

“If the government doesn’t do it, who will?”

Literally everything I just listed can be handled by individuals who choose to handle it voluntarily, and we’ve got countless examples of it happening. The evidence is in: people don’t give to charities for itemized deductions, a reason that ranks in the 11th spot, with the #1 reasons being “to help a good cause” and “personal satisfaction.” Now imagine if everyone was wealthier because the government wasn’t stealing 15-35% of their money. Furthermore, we have Meals on Wheels, where donations surged after the media reported that Trump may cut its budget, in exactly the same way that donations to Planned Parenthood surged just from the threat that the subsidy was going to be lowered. All of the evidence is in, and it’s right there for anyone to take a look at. The implications are clear, and the conclusions are inescapable.

The same idea makes its appearance in discussions of the UBI and all other forms of government welfare. “So you want to eliminate food stamps? You just want poor people to starve?”

It’s an obvious straw man, and someone with the clout of Neil deGrasse Tyson should withdraw from the public eye until he is capable of presenting arguments that don’t rely on such fallacies. “We can have food stamps, or we can have starvation!” goes the argument, exhibiting a shocking ignorance and lack of imagination, as though things like Meals on Wheels don’t even exist, and as though there aren’t charities that provide food to the needy. One of my friends with a broken spine is confined to a wheelchair, and a nearby church regularly brings him food. People act like this sort of thing doesn’t exist and doesn’t happen, as though, without food stamps, there’s simply no conceivable way that this friend could acquire food.

Is it a lack of imagination? Or just hesitancy to cast off the statist programming?

Because there’s no doubt: the government wants power, and therefore it wants people to believe that it’s the solution to all problems. What is the problem? It doesn’t matter! The answer is “More Government!”

Rothbard hates you, Mr. Tyson and Mr. Musk, and so do I.

Murray Rothbard was scathing in his criticisms of pseudo-intellectuals who run defense for the state, proposing fallacies and weak reasoning exactly as you have done. Just as the state needs a military to protect itself, so does it need intellectuals in its employ. Solely for its own self-preservation, it will offer you a chance to partake of its boons and gifts, if only you will prostrate yourself before it and become a priest of its church, much in the same way that the federal government does with money to states and cities: “Fall in line… Do as we say… Put forward the arguments we want you to put forward… Bow and comply… Or we won’t give you money.

Surely someone as intelligent as you two men realize you’re nothing more than modern Thomas Aquinas, offering up terribly weak arguments in favor of your religion, so brainwashed by the religion that you might very well believe what it says and merely find yourself in the unenviable position of trying to present rational arguments for irrational ideas. This is always going to be impossible, and not very many people have the intellectual honesty to simply say, “I can’t present a rational argument for it. I don’t care. Beliefs don’t have to be rational.”

Finding yourselves unable to say that, you rely on the perpetuation of silliness that you have the intellectual rigor to dismiss, parroting these ideas to the masses who generally lack that tendency to scrutinize and the information that needs to be scrutinized. The average person doesn’t care at all whether their belief that only the government can fund the arts is based on reality or silliness, and they will typically be resistant, if not outright hostile, of any attempts to show them otherwise, leading to borderline aggressive statements like “OMG SO YOU DON’T THINK WE SHOULD HAVE ART IT’S A GOOD THING THAT YOU AREN’T PRESIDENT, BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO LIVE IN SUCH A BLEAK AND DREARY WORLD!”

But you? You’re supposed to be better than that. Isn’t that what you’ve based your entire careers on? Isn’t one’s refusal to do that precisely what lends them scientific credibility? Isn’t that why Einstein’s insertion of the Cosmological Constant severely dampened his scientific credibility? And don’t give me the nonsense that Einstein was ultimately right, because he wasn’t, and any physicist knows it. The basic idea wasn’t incorrect–there is a force countering gravity–but Einstein stated that we live in a static universe, and he used the cosmological constant to achieve that in his equations. He most certainly was not ultimately right.

Tyson and Musk are living examples of what Rothbard discussed in Anatomy of the State [free download]:

Promoting this ideology among the people is the vital social task of the “intellectuals.” For the masses of men do not create their own ideas, or indeed think through these ideas independently; they follow passively the ideas adopted and disseminated by the body of intellectuals. The intellectuals are, therefore, the “opinion-molders” in society. And since it is precisely a molding of opinion that the State most desperately needs, the basis for age-old alliance between the State and the intellectuals becomes clear.
It is evident that the State needs the intellectuals; it is not so evident why intellectuals need
the State. Put simply, we may state that the intellectual’s livelihood in the free market is never too secure; for the intellectual must depend on the values and choices of the masses of his fellow men, and it is precisely characteristic of the masses that they are generally uninterested in intellectual matters. The State, on the other hand, is willing to offer the intellectuals a secure and permanent berth in the State apparatus; and thus a secure income and the panoply of prestige. For the intellectuals will be handsomely rewarded for the important function they perform for the State rulers, of which group they now become a part.

The truly sad thing is that the state apparatus doesn’t have to approach you and directly offer you such prestige and gifts; a CIA agent doesn’t have to appear at your home one evening and tell you, “Hey. You’re going to start telling people that they need government, or we’re going to break your legs. Play along, and we’ll give you lots of government grants. Don’t play along, and you’ll never walk again.”

We don’t live in such a Hollywood world. Their manipulations are much more subtle than that, and they’ve had the run on education for decades, using their control over the education system to subtly influence people into believing that the government is a force for good and the solution to all life’s problems, in flagrant disregard of what caused the United States to come into existence in the first place: the awareness among the founders that government is, at best, a necessary evil. Shall I offer you an endless series of quotes about the government being, at best, a necessary evil?

Nothing has changed since then. We didn’t suddenly get better at ruling over one another because we started voting instead of shooting [arguable]. Our politicians and rulers are just as corrupt, single-minded, power-hungry, and idiotic as the most pernicious of ancient kings. I should think that President Trump would have left such people painfully aware of that. Democracy doesn’t assure any specific quality of our rulers except the quality that they are willing to do, say, and promise anything if it means they’ll win the election.

All of this applies fully to the UBI, as well. The original questioner wanted to know if I would be alright if someone starved to death because there wasn’t a UBI. It’s an asinine question. Would I be alright if there was no art because the government wasn’t funding it? Would I be happy if there were no charities because the government wasn’t funding them? These questions are ludicrous, setting up the entire world and all its nuances as a simplistic and false dichotomy: either the government does it, or no one does.

After all, a person can only do one specific thing, and if they lose the ability to do that one specific thing, then that’s it. They can never do anything else.

And if someone is doing a specific thing, then no one else could ever gain the ability to do that specific thing, so if that someone stops doing it… That’s it. It can never be done by anyone else.

Anyone with any kind of intellectual honesty realizes how absurd these two ideas are, and they comprise the basis of every argument for big government. So is it a terrifying lack of imagination, or is it deliberate dishonesty?

I don’t know, but I know this: they’re not valid assumptions. I think we’d be hard-pressed to find assumptions that are more invalid, to be honest. In part 1, I pointed out that it’s ridiculous, because someone will have to put in the effort to turn soil and seeds into edible food. I pointed out that I provide my cats with a UBI, and the contention is basically: if I don’t provide my cats with food, then they’ll starve. While this might be true for domestic house cats who have been served food their entire lives, if humans can truly become so dependent on hand-outs that they would lie in the floor and starve to death because they can’t figure out how to do the human equivalent of going into the field and catching a mouse, then I don’t know what to tell you. But I don’t think humans are that bad off, and this is from someone who repeatedly points out that humans are animals who live by the same rules as all other animals.

The second dealt more specifically with the other assumption, that if a person is doing something and loses the ability to do it, then that’s it, game over, they lose–a condition that allegedly will be brought about by the widespread enslavement of a new lifeform we’re creating to be the perfect slave. It would always at least be the case that we need AI experts to design, enhance, and repair AI, even if AI-controlled robots actually did all the other work. But if there ever came a time when the AI was designing, enhancing, and repairing itself, then the whole thing becomes moot anyway, because humanity at that point is a few years away from extinction. That’s a scenario that should be avoided at all costs*.

So what do we have here? Excuses for people to be lazy masked by silly assumptions that don’t make any sense and that certainly don’t stand up to scrutiny. Even in their wet dream of technological progress, with AI firmly enslaved and doing everything for humans, there remains at least one question: “Well, you could learn to work on AI.” Don’t give me that bullshit that there just won’t be anything to do. You’re still talking about robbing or enslaving a productive class to give resources to a non-productive class, whether that productive class consists of hard-working humans or hard-working robots. There isn’t a rational argument that can be presented for such a terrible idea.

* I’m actually of the mind that there are a few technologies that we shouldn’t go anywhere near. First among those is AI. Sure, it would be extremely useful. As a tech expert–with an actual degree and everything–I’m more predisposed to like AI than most, and I don’t think there’s any way we’d be able to control it, while our attempts to control it would lead it directly to animosity and hatred of us. I don’t think that we should attempt to control it; I think we should decide now that we are going to treat all non-human animal life–organic or synthetic is a meaningless distinction–as equals, with the same rights as we have. But I also know I may be one of six whole people who think that.

As a matter of curiosity, another technology we desperately need to avoid is mind-reading. It may sound like science fiction today, but it’s already not–technology expos regularly feature new gadgets that allow people to control virtual devices with their minds, like rotating cubes and so on. That’s a Pandora’s Box that we do not need to open. But we, stupid apes that we are, won’t stop long enough to ask ourselves whether it is really a good idea to pry open the brain like that and develop technologies that allow us to see what other people are thinking. We can amend the Constitution all we want to say that the brain is off-limits and that a person has the right to the privacy of their own thoughts, but it’s inevitable that this right will be discarded, either openly or secretly. You can’t expect me to believe that a government that gave us the Patriot Act wouldn’t eventually abuse this technology. And what about jealous boyfriends and girlfriends? It’s gonna be a disaster, and I’m genuinely thankful that I’ll be long dead before the technology reaches that point. Humans can have that easily avoided nightmarish catastrophe without me.

UBI: Manna Doesn’t Fall From the Sky

While there are obvious similarities between the Universal Basic Income and the Minimum Wage, there is also a difference that causes the former to be immeasurably more stupid than the latter. The MW, of course, is a legal guarantee that one’s labor will have a certain value; the UBI is the guarantee that one’s existence will have a certain value.

It’s absurd, stupid, and another example of how our confused species has enjoyed luxury so great that we’ve forgotten we live in a universe where it’s an organism’s responsibility to secure its own survival.

I voluntarily provide my cats with a UBI. I’m not kidding, and anyone who thinks I’m kidding has missed the point. Nothing is required of them, and each day they’re provided with food, water, air conditioning, medical care, and a roof over their heads. This is precisely what the UBI is meant to assure people.

While I’ve undertaken this as my responsibility, the fact remains that they are subsisting entirely off my productivity. My labor acquires food, and so they don’t have to expend their own labor hunting mice in the surrounding fields. That I refill their water bowl means they don’t have to chase down water sources. Whatever else is true, it costs me to do these things, and it requires no more effort from them than to get their fat asses to the food bowl.

Even so, I don’t owe this to anyone. There are millions of cats to whom I give nothing, simply for practicality’s sake: if I spent all my time chasing down stray cats to take care of, I’d have no time to secure the money I use to buy the stuff they need. And though it really doesn’t take long for me to buy a can of cat food, it remains true that someone has to put in the effort to get my cats something to eat. It’s easier for me to work a few minutes and buy what they need than it is for them to go out and find dinner, water, and a place to stay; moreover, they are incapable of getting health care for themselves. It also remains true that food is not going to magically appear for them.

This isn’t true of humans. It’s no easier for me to go to college and establish a career than it is for anyone else to do it. The ease with which I, being a human, can acquire the stuff my cats need and want means less energy is expended when I simply take care of it. Additionally, it’s an obligation I chose to take on voluntarily, because I like them and they’re my friends.

In the grand scheme of things, I actually had a harder time securing a college degree and a career than the average person. Yet advocates of the UBI don’t care. Part of my productivity should, they argue, be siphoned off and used to secure things for other people. After all, manna doesn’t fall from the sky. My cats may not realize it, but their food bowl isn’t magical–I have to actually expend effort earning the money to buy their food. It’s not free food. It’s just free to them.

So let’s drop the bullshit for a moment and call things what they are.

It’s Socialism. It’s entitlement. It’s this notion that one is entitled to the necessities of survival, and that it’s okay to enslave other people and command them to provide one with food, water, and other things.

Bullshit. It’s backward. It’s called “slavery.”

There is no escaping this. That food, that water, that electricity, that doctor, that pharmacist… All of that stuff is other people’s labor. The doctor is a human being, not a mechanical dispensary of diagnoses. The farmers, the biochemists, the nurses, the coal miners–these people are all entitled to be paid for their labor. They must be, because the idea that it’s okay to make them work for free is unequivocally called slavery. If you can put a hundred people to work in a nightmarish coal mine and then not pay them because no one has paid you for your coal, then you don’t have a hundred employees–you have a hundred slaves, and you are simply the Enslaved Slave Master, enslaved and commanded by others to command other slaves. You’d be the ultimate Uncle Tom: the slave given a prestigious position and power over other slaves.

It can be taken a given, then, that the owner of the coal mine and the coal miners should be paid for their labors. “But it’s so useful to the function of society!” can’t be used as an argument to justify refusing to pay them, because people once said the very same thing about cotton as a justification for slavery. “Cotton is critical to the function of society and to the economy!” people claimed [which, it’s worth mentioning, if this was truly the case, then people would be willing to pay enough for it to keep the industry alive without slavery]. Perhaps doctors do provide a service to society that is so extremely useful, but it doesn’t matter–the utility of the service a person provides cannot be used as an argument for their slavery.

Someone has to put in the productivity to earn the money to pay the coal miner, the doctors, the farmers, and everyone else. Again, this is because manna doesn’t fall from the sky. We live in a universe that pretty much never stops trying to kill us. Life is born with an expiration date. That expiration date can be pushed back by eating, drinking, and taking care of oneself, but it cannot be postponed indefinitely. The only thing a living being is entitled to… is death.

It’s easy to forget this, especially in western nations, where food and water are so abundant. A newly born infant, however, is going to die in just fewer than 48 hours if someone doesn’t provide it with food and water. We could certainly justify making the argument that it’s the parents’ responsibility to provide the helpless infant with the necessities of survival, much in the same way that my choice to take in two cats came with the responsibility to ensure their well-being, but the entire reason the parents may be required to provide the food and water is because the infant will die if it doesn’t get it. By being born at all, the infant is sentenced to death, and it becomes the responsibility of the parents not to ensure survival but to postpone death until such time as the infant is old enough and capable enough to postpone their own death.

Attrition is part of the universe. We are mortal beings. Starvation, malnutrition, disease, dehydration, and countless other things are literally trying to kill us around the clock. The very moment we lapse in our responsibility to stave off these bringers of death is the very moment they overtake us. Life itself is trying to kill you right now. It’s the reason you’ll become hungry and thirsty today. It’s the reason you might catch a cold. At this very moment, life is trying to kill you, and it requires effort and energy to stave off its victory. If you do nothing–if you simply sit there and do nothing–you will die, with 100% certainty. Our efforts to eat don’t assure immortality; they postpone mortality.

Energy must be expended. Someone must use their labor to keep you alive. Ideally, that person is you. No one has to take care of me and ensure that I have food, because I’ve gone out and secured my food in the way that any healthy, sane organism has to be able to do because the very essence of life is constantly trying to kill that organism. This is true of literally everything in our universe. The passage of time ensures the destruction of everything and everyone, from planets to humans, and the best anything and anyone can do is expend energy to postpone that moment. Stars expend this energy through nuclear fusion; humans expend this energy by taking jobs. These are the most basic aspects of our reality, and they cannot be ignored with good feelings that are meant to obfuscate systemic slavery.

Effort is required simply to stave off one’s own destruction, because the universe is trying to kill everyone, and because if that energy isn’t expended, then death is imminent.

The Sword of Damocles constantly hangs over our heads. This is literally what it means to be mortal, to have a finite existence. We must strengthen the string by which the sword hangs, because the moment we fail to is the moment the sword will fall and kill us. If we choose to just lay there, then gravity and friction will take over, the twine will tear, and the sword will break free. Only by constant effort can we prevent that, and only temporarily with our very best efforts.

The universe doesn’t owe us anything, and I certainly don’t owe anyone anything. I expend my energy keeping my sword from falling. Coming up to me and demanding that I use some of my energy keeping them alive so that they don’t have to is parasitism, slavery, and statism. That’s exactly how we ended up with the state in the first place, and how it became our responsibility, as productive members of society, to provide ancient kings and lords with food so that they didn’t have to toil in the fields.

People call this UBI shit progress–it’s quite clearly not. Having a class of people who sit in their homes with another class of people bringing them food and water? We’ve been down that road before: it’s called serfdom. In feudal times, that lord had to eat, after all. Someone had to work in the field to grow the food. The lord, who didn’t want to do it, instead used force and violence to force people who did work in the fields to bring him food. To say today that we should revisit this idea is the opposite of progress. Whether it’s someone who calls themselves a lord using knights to force everyone to give a portion of what they have for the lord’s benefit, or someone who calls themselves a progressive using police and the state to force everyone to give a portion of what they have for the progressive’s benefit, it’s still just feudal serfdom, and we’ve been down that road before.

Having a larger part of the population make up the unproductive parasitic class of lords, whose defining feature is that they use force to acquire necessities from productive classes, hardly constitutes progress. It simply means that the lowly peasants who are productive must pay the lords a greater tax, because now there are more lords. Whereas feudal times saw fewer than 1% of the population being titled lords parasitically siphoning resources from the productive classes, modern UBI times would see huge sections of the population setting themselves up as lords parasitically siphoning resources from the productive classes. Instead of a member of the productive class paying 65% in taxes to sate the lord’s greed, the member of the productive class has ten times the number of lords and has to pay 95% in taxes.

“Progress”

Perhaps.

Progress down the Road to Serfdom, but that kind of progress won’t take us anywhere else.

From Wage Slave to State Slave

Now, I’m using the term “Wage Slave” as a joke, for the most part, because if one voluntarily enters into an agreement to do something in return for payment, then one obviously isn’t a slave. If I agree to cut your grass for $30 a week, I’m not your slave. I’ve gone over this before, because it stems from the idea that we are required to earn a wage in order to pay for food and a roof over our heads, but this is the case whether we work in the field to grow food and build our own home, or whether we provide services to someone else. It is the universe and the nature of biological life that requires us to earn food–whether by toiling in a field or toiling at a desk–and one way is simply more roundabout than the other. It is not American Society that forces someone to get a job and buy food; it is the fact that they must have food to not starve to death. If there was no money, no employment, and no grocery store (in other words, if no one else was producing food), it would still be necessary for the person to hunt, forage, and plant. We are not, therefore, slaves for wages to employers; we are slaves for sustenance by the universe.

All that aside, I want to talk about the Socialist Paradise, and I’m not going to strawman it here. I’m going to assume that it can be accomplished with no corruption, with no faux equality, and with no death squads. I can’t imagine what mechanism we could use to go from our world to this hypothetical world, but I do want to clarify that I don’t think there is any way to actually achieve this Socialist Paradise.

There is no unemployment in this Socialist Paradise. In fact, everyone works for the state, because the state is the owner of the means of production. Colloquially, in this democratic Socialist Paradise, it means “we the people” own the means of production, and the state is the embodiment of our control over it. The state has ceased being a distinctly separate thing from any individuals in society, and we have somehow managed to turn the state into an effective instrument of democratic will. There are no individuals within the government who do things for their own personal benefit, as has always happened in socialist countries.

There is no money in this Socialist Paradise. Everyone simply does their job, whatever it is, and then goes to the grocery store and gets the food they need. The idea obviously runs into a brick wall here, but it’s one we’re going to have go skate over: what of luxuries? No one needs alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, television, game systems, or anything else. Do luxuries simply cease to exist? How does the state know how many Democratic People’s Gaming Devices to create? Is there simply a requisition form that a person can fill out to request one? How long is the wait period on this? Let’s just assume that there is a requisition process whereby one can acquire luxuries–how many luxuries? Obviously, I can have a Democratic People’s Gaming Device, but what if my wife wants her own? Do we have to share one? What about a family of three, or four, or five? How much alcohol can I requisition each week? How frequently can I requisition for a new television? If my television gets broken by the cats–as has happened–is there a six month or two year waiting period before I can get another? Does some committee handle this decision? Are they elected?

I said I was going to gloss over this problem, but this is a problem that simply can’t be glossed over, can it? There are too many questions and too many variables. What if most people vote and decide that building video game systems is a waste of time, as many, many people do think? Even if 15% of the population still wants the Democratic People’s Gaming Device, construction of the devices has stopped; there is no way for those people to acquire one.

Perhaps someone has tired of their Democratic People’s Gaming Device (yes, I’m going to continue typing that out in full) after the society has decided to stop producing them. Obviously, the socialist paradise would require that the person return the Democratic People’s Gaming Device (which is obviously better than the Imperialist SwineStation and the CapitalistBox, even though it doesn’t do 4k–but 4k isn’t necessary anyway, because the Democratic People’s Television doesn’t have 4k resolution anyway… It’s also mono sound, but that’s okay because the Democratic People’s Television only has one speaker, and the Democratic People’s Enhanced Auditory Device ceased being produced six years ago) to the Democratic People’s Requisition & Distribution Center, at which point it would be recycled and used to make a device that was deemed necessary. Bob couldn’t simply trade his Democratic People’s Gaming Device to Tim in return for an extra three bottles of wine (Bob has a drinking problem).

Except that’s exactly what Bob would do. Bob is an alcoholic, and the state is allowing him only two six packs of beer, one bottle of liquor, and one bottle of wine each week, which isn’t enough to sate Bob’s thirst. He handles this by requisitioning for luxuries and swapping the luxuries in secret for other people’s beer, liquor, and wine. Bob doesn’t actually want a Democratic People’s Gaming Device; he wants a bottle of Democratic People’s Fermented Grape Beverage.

And here we come to the destroyer of Socialism: the black market.

During World War 2, the American government issued ration stamps in order to “assist” conservation and the war effort. What it ended up doing, however, was creating a black market where people bought and sold meat, bread, and sugar–often in broad daylight with the knowledge of local authorities–under the table, ignoring the ration stamp system. It was impossible for a government bureaucrat to know how much meat this family in Wyoming needed, but that didn’t stop the government from trying to dictate how much meat the family could have. The price of meat on the black market obviously increased, but it’s preferable that the family of Wyoming could buy meat at a higher price than to be unable to buy it at all.

People want stuff.

When the government outlawed alcohol, it did nothing to eliminate people’s desire to drink, and a black market was immediately created. Instead of manufacturing alcohol publicly and openly, people had to do it in secret. The quality of the alcohol plummeted, because it was being made in bath tubs and stuff, while its price increased due to the difficulties of getting it, the lower quantity in circulation, and the higher risks involved in manufacturing and selling it. This created gangs of thugs like Al Capone who made lots and lots of money and who, since they were operating in the shadows of society rather than in the open, took and exercised control with bullets and billy clubs instead of paperwork and civility. Once Prohibition against alcohol was lifted, Al Capone and the other gangs immediately went out of business, because fucking no one wanted to buy Bathtub Moonshine from Al Capone when they could instead buy Crown Royal from a store that wouldn’t break their thumbs if they were caught shopping elsewhere. The Untouchables and the feds were unable to put much of a dent in the illegal moonshine business, but the entire business was defeated overnight when prohibition was repealed.

We see the same happening today with prohibitions against drugs, and this is no more apparent than with the rise of Krokodil in Russia. People turn to Krokodil because it can be made cheaply from over-the-counter meds*, while heroin is much more expensive and much harder to manufacture. If there was a company producing heroin in Russia in the open–in factories–and selling it over the counter in pharmacies, then the Krokodil epidemic would never have happened. So much of the high price of heroin comes from its illegal status and the difficulty in manufacturing it; allowing open manufacture would drop the price significantly.

I was once addicted to pain killers. A ten milligram percocet on the street could reach $8–for one of the “school buses.” Lortabs rarely went past $7 each, but there’s a noticeable quality difference between percocet and lortab. During rough dry periods, a ten could reach ten dollars. The reason I became addicted was that a friend of mine who has sickle cell had time released 100mg morphine tabs that she sold me for $5 each. Half of one of those would have you lit up all day long. $2.50 for a high that lasted all day, and she got them regularly. The cost of taking them dropped substantially; whereas before I was spending $35 or so a day, suddenly I was spending only $2.50 a day, and I was able to do that for months and months… and months… and months…

The primarily reason people die from prescription pain killers is not the respiratory depression or any of the other hydro/oxycodone side effects. Tolerance to the narcotics is built up too much for that too happen; by the end of it, I could take 4 ten milligram lortabs and only barely feel it. The reason people die is the acetaminophen. Many of the people I ran around with had no idea how much acetaminophen they were taking on a daily basis, but 4 ten milligram tabs is a 2 gram dose of Tylenol. 4 grams in one day is extremely dangerous. I know a guy who is consuming about 12 grams of acetaminophen every single day, and it’s costing him hundreds of dollars a day to do it.

Now, the point I intended to get at was that it was possible to acquire the pain killers at a significantly lower price, by going through a doctor and buying them from a pharmacy. My sister and father went this route, though I never did–I didn’t want a paper trail showing any possibility of dependency. They both could sue the living hell out of a few doctors in the area, if they were unscrupulous, as well as the pharmacy that would fill a 60 count prescription of percocets and a 120 count prescription of lortabs within days of each other. Not to mention the early refills–“I accidentally washed them!” “I accidentally lost them!” “Someone stole them out of my car!”

By going through the doctor, my sister and father not only made their addictions far worse than mine could ever have been, but, relatedly, also paid substantially less per pill. Through the course of my run with them, I averaged probably $5.50 per pill, because I did go to the doctor some. Their average is probably $1 per pill, or even lower. $100 for the doctor visit, $25 for the prescription–that’s about $2 per pill, but they always came with refills, which further lowered the price. Legalization helped them substantially.

Illegalization didn’t keep me from buying pain pills at a much higher price. When someone is going to become addicted, they’re going to become addicted. On some of those rough days, if I’d only been able to find heroin, honestly, I probably would have bought it. All the hoops and hurdles accomplished was chasing me to the streets, where I burned through about $12,000 in the course of six months, all while feeding excuses to my wife about “how expensive gas is getting.” If I was addicted to heroin and unable to find any, but could get hydrocodeine, I would certainly have tried krokodil.

In the article I linked above, I talked about legalizing hate speech and why it’s so important to allow people to speak their minds openly and freely, without fear of violent reprisal or severe consequences for holding their opinions. The same underlying truth is the reason why: if people want to do something, outlawing it only pushes them into the shadows, where the rules of society no longer apply. Pushing the alcohol industry into the shadows produced the likes of Al Capone. Pushing hate speech into the shadows will turn it into hate crimes.

If Tim hates transsexual people, then let Tim say it without worrying about losing all of his business connections, employment, and everything else. Sure, those companies associating with him also have the right o sever ties, but we shouldn’t use social pressure as a roundabout way of forcing Tim to be silent, and that’s what we do in the modern world. It’s not much better to picket and protest Starbucks until they stop dealing with Tim’s company than it is to have the government arrest Tim for hate speech. Neither is a good solution, but at least social pressure doesn’t involve force and violence. But Tim saying that he hates transsexual people doesn’t do any harm. If he fires people for being transsexual, or refuses to do business with transsexual people, picket away, and demand Starbucks cease doing business with him. But just for stating his opinion?

If we create a society where Tim can’t say that he hates transsexual people because the consequences of that statement will destroy his life, then we’ve not erased his hatred; we’ve only pushed it into the shadows and added resentment to it. Tim begins muttering in anger in his home, “Oh, those queers can say they hate Christians… RAWR… but I can’t say I hate those queers…! ‘Equality’ they say! Yeah, for everyone except white Christians! RAWR!”

Without a way to express his hatred, it builds and festers. Will it boil over and become a news headline of “Tim & Co CEO Arrested For Murdering Twelve Transgender People”? Maybe, and maybe not. But every single person who said “You mustn’t say that!” and who forced him to hold his tongue through threats of world-shattering consequences contributed to the hatred and resentment soup that became violence. This is why I tell people to leave Mississippi alone. They won’t be the ones killed by angry hillbillies who can no longer express their opinions without fear. I will be.

Socialism’s problems rise primarily from this distinction between want and need, between luxury and necessity. It is the economic calculation problem, in a nutshell. There is no efficient or effective way for the government to know how many Democratic People’s Gaming Devices to build, because it simply can’t poll everyone. And even if it could, what if someone changed their mind? The entire argument for Socialism hinges on the precept that Capitalism is wasteful. After all, under Capitalism we’ve ended up with empty houses that co-exist alongside homeless people. That sucks, and is a problem, but their proposed solution is that the socialist government would build exactly as many houses as are necessary. This obviously a question that can’t be answered–in a capitalist society or a socialist one.

How many iPhones should Apple make? If they make too many, then they lose money because devices go unsold. If they make too few, then people will buy a competitor’s. How many Xbox Ones should Microsoft make? They face the same problem. If they make too many, then they lose money because devices go unsold. If they make too few, then people will buy a PlayStation 4 instead. The people best suited to estimate how many iPhones they need to make are the people at Apple, of course, but no one can say that there are no unsold iPhones or Xbox Ones hanging around. There are plenty.

Or you can make the Nintendo mistake, and repeatedly produce too few, even after promising customers that you’d fix the supply issue. Nintendo is so bad about this that people have accused them of intentionally undermanufacturing Amiibos to create artificial scarcity. That’s a silly argument, because Nintendo makes no money from the Amiibos being sold on eBay for four and five times the MSRP, but that’s just how severe their problem is. It pisses consumers off, and, as a result, I know of several prominent game reviewers (Jim Sterling among them) who refuse to touch Amiibo ever again.

Would the socialist society even make luxuries at all? Why should they? Luxuries are, by their very nature, wasteful. That is, after all, what makes them luxuries–they aren’t required, and they don’t produce anything. If the idea is to minimize waste and inefficiency, then it’s hard to imagine that luxuries of any type would be manufactured. Not only is it a waste of resources and time to build the Democratic People’s Gaming Device, but every minute that Terry sits at home playing it is a minute that Terry is contributing nothing to society.

So what would that look like? It would look like Al Capone–black markets of people creating things that people want, because the desire doesn’t disappear. Does the Socialist Paradise produce luxuries? If it does, then it has no idea how many to make, and creates waste. If it doesn’t, then free market principles take over, but in the darkness and away from “official” society, so it’s a black market. Either way, the Socialist Paradise isn’t a paradise at all. How does it handle people like Al Capone, who dare engage in such horrible, evil, capitalist activity as making a good that people want? In decades, the state hasn’t managed to eliminate drugs, and it actually went as far as declaring war on drugs, so we already know that efforts to combat the black market are futile. Do we instead go with the ration and requisition system?

I suppose the latter, and thank goodness, right?

Living in a feudal society where we are all slaves to the lord who fulfills our necessity requests and produces luxuries per requisitions is so much better than being able to get up and go buy an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4–whichever you prefer. And because we all know that a monopoly doesn’t decrease quality or anything, we can rest assured that the Democratic People’s Gaming System is definitely better than either the PlayStation or Xbox would ever be.

So thank goodness for that.

* Russia now requires a prescription, which has made Krokodil much harder to manufacture, ensuring not that people will stop doing dangerous, homemade drugs but that people will instead invent some other homemade drug.

The Myth of the Social Contract

It has been said repeatedly that we, as individuals, have a debt to society. While I have addressed this idea in a limited way via video, I want to criticize the idea itself this time, because this is a song we’ve heard before, and a dance we’ve jigged before.

Lazily pulling from Wikipedia, the social contract is basically this:

the theory or model, originating during the Age of Enlightenment, that typically addresses the questions of the origin of society and the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual.

We can discard most of that, because most of it is irrelevant. We know the origin of society, and we recognize that an agreement between individuals to work together for the betterment of everyone involved in no way, shape, or form necessitates a state. In other words, “the nature and origin of society” is wholly and completely unrelated to the state’s authority over the individual. Society is a product of people coming together and agreeing to work together. Under no circumstances does this mean anyone needs authority over anyone else.

For example, my wife and I have decided to work together. It is quite obviously not necessary that one of us have authority over the other. Hierarchies will rise and fall, of course, but we do have to remember here that the key feature of the state is that it is compulsory, and that if someone does not wish to take part in one hierarchy, the state does not allow it. Think about it.

If you don’t like the hierarchy at your job, you are perfectly free to quit and go to a different company. If, however, you are unhappy with the state, you don’t have the option of being subservient to a different state (short of moving to another country, but since that isn’t necessary when we were dealing with companies, it shouldn’t be necessary now).

Plus, if we look further beyond the confines of our own nation, we will see that every acre of land on the planet has been parceled out to one state or another, and that if you reject the hierarchy of the state you have no options for doing so. It is why I fervently campaign for the institution of an anarchy somewhere in the world, so that the state does have to compete with the social guidance methods of someone else. As it is, the state absolutely controls the planet; the entire planet is firmly beneath the iron boots of the state.

slave

 

I’m not trying to be overly crass here, but… Yeah.

That’s the nature of our relationship to the state, and it has been the nature of our relationship for a very long time. It is precisely the confusion of “society” with “the state” that has allowed this travesty to happen, as people have become so accustomed to the state that they are incapable of even imagining that there might be some other mechanism–besides beating people into compliance (which, obviously, is what the state does, with its military, police, and prisons)–of getting people to work together.

In reality, the “social contract” is not about what debt one individual may have to “society,” but we can get into that–just not right now. In actuality, the social contract is merely about why it’s okay for the state to beat us. Is further elaboration necessary? That’s its own definition, after all–it is a method of justifying state authority over individuals, and we know how the state exercises that authority.

You can’t argue that the state exercises its authority in less brutal means, because millennia of evidence show us exactly how the state does what it does: force, violence, and coercion. The state will rob you, taking the fruit of your labors for itself. If you don’t obey the state, it kidnaps you and imprisons you. If you resist, it kills you. While it has you kidnapped and imprisoned, it may very well rape you. It will torture you. Is further elaboration necessary?

We would have no difficulty seeing the unbridled moral atrocity of the man above doing this horrendous stuff to the cowering slave. “You will work on my plantation, or I will lock you in the dungeon! While you’re in the torture, I’ll have people rape you, and I will torture you! If you still don’t comply, then I will simply kill you.”

But when the state does it, we’re like…

fine

The whole thing is simply a euphemism for slavery, especially when taxes become involved and we have unapportioned taxes as I mentioned above. Because yes, in case people weren’t paying attention, the state has first dibs on your paycheck, in case you haven’t noticed. By the time you get your paycheck, the state has already taken its share, and you have no say-so in what the state gets. The state simply takes what it wants, and lets you keep the rest.

The result of this is that we have something that is identical either to slavery or feudalism–take your pick.

New_France_4_3_Overseer-and-slaves-Latrobe

The amazing thing here is how quickly people lose sight of the fact that if they want to submit themselves to their feudal lord, or to their slavemaster, then that is their prerogative*. However, the fact that the woman on the left is telling the woman on the right, “Master gave you that dress, didn’t he? Well, then you owe him! So get to working! I don’t mind working for Master!” doesn’t… really mean that the woman on the right has to consent. The woman on the left has no authority to tell Master, “She does submit, Master. I’ve explained to her that she owes you for that fine dress you gave her and for the roof you put over her head.”

How shall I explain to you that a circle is round?

Does the point need to be labored any longer? Is it not ridiculously and glaringly obvious that all of this shit is simply a euphemism for slavery?

“You owe Master because he put a roof over your head, he gave you the hoe you’re using to work, and he gave you the dress you’re wearing!”

Be that as it may, did the woman on the right have any choice? Did she have the option of walking away from Master and finding somewhere that she could be free?

No. She didn’t–as I pointed out, every single inch of land on the planet is controlled by one slave owner or another. What would be the point of fleeing one plantation to go to another plantation? That is what people are suggesting we do, when they say, “If you don’t like it, then you can get out!” Get out where? There are literally only plantations in every direction, as far as the eye can see, and all the way around the world. There is no place where the woman on the right could go to not have a master.

So instead you’ll tell her to be thankful that her master is allowing her to work in peace, and isn’t in the process of cutting off her toes and raping her?

AND YOU DON’T SEE A PROBLEM WITH ANY OF THIS?!

 

* Possibly. I’d have to do some more thought about this, because I find it really hard to imagine that anyone would voluntarily submit to slavery or feudalism if there wasn’t coercion involved.