Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Woah... Life. POW!

I've barely had time to blog the last couple weeks... In some ways this is incredibly exciting, though I definitely hope to get back to being able to write as well.

After I left SmartSound, I've experienced an explosion of good fortune. I've been contracted by the Ludwig von Mises Institute to re-work the media component of their website, which I started a couple weeks ago and is going very well, moving even more quickly than I expected actually. This past weekend, I scored a film for the Institute for Justice (which I will post on YouTube & embed here when they have released it to the public). I'm also about halfway done producing a film to present to the various pro-freedom outlets... It's been so busy around here that I've had so little time to do anything else besides work.

I like it!

The past year has sometimes felt so lazy overall, what with working 4 days a week at the software company. But at the same time, I've had a significant amount of time to read, write and educate myself. I've cultivated very serious intellectual hobbies and moved to what I certainly feel are new plateaus in my knowledge of history, economics & the philosophy of liberty. I've managed to become connected - if only tangentially in some cases - with some of the major players in the preservation of individual liberties. I've made friends within the movement.

My hope is that I can simply keep up what I'm doing and turn what has been really great short-term fortune into a long term success.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Letter to Bail Out the People

I'm doing a video project on the subject of police brutality & why we should be far more concerned about the government than any instances of citizen-induced violence. As I was searching for some more images and media to incorporate, I ran across a website sort of tailor-made for the G20 protesters.

Unfortunately, like so many others, including my roommate's father last night (and my own father for that matter), they have confused the ideas of laissez-faire, free market Capitalism with State Capitalism or Corporatism.

The organization is ultimately rather economically confused at any rate, considering they are rejecting corporate bailouts, but yet not the idea of bailouts in general, which they think should just have gone to "job creation", which mystically happens without funneling through existing corporations because they were advocating one of the great depression-prolongation techniques of FDR: the Works Progress Administration.

So I wrote them a letter... Here it is:


While I agree with some of your positions, I wanted to express my dismay at seeing the conflation of completely different ideologies as well as the dismally poor understanding of basic economics displayed by your organization.

Firstly, "Capitalism" is not the system of economy employed in the United States. We have what is commonly referred to as a "mixed economy", or more aptly described as Corporatism. Laissez-faire, "free-market" Capitalism should not be a term used to describe the current state of the United States *ever* as it has not even partially existed in this country for 100 years.

In a laissez-faire economy, NO COMPANY would be getting tax-payer funded bailouts of any kind, nor would something as entirely crucial to the market as interest rates be set arbitrarily by a government backed entity such as the Federal Reserve.

In fact, if your goal is to oppose corporate bailouts, you will find many friends among the myriad free-market economists at the Ludwig von Mises Institute (who's numbers include Peter Schiff & Mark Thornton, among many others in that camp who accurately predicted & warned of the housing bubble as early as 2002 when then Fed Chairman Greenspan was busy lowering interest rates & printing money exactly as we are doing today). You will also find many friends among other free market groups such as the CATO institute, who produced & printed the following: - warning against the bailouts and so-called "stimulus" packages.

It upsets me to see free market capitalism & corporatism conflated as they are fundamentally oppositional concepts, and because it obscures the reality that government intervention in the market always results in negative and often severe consequences, whereas allowing individuals the freedom that is their birthright as Americans to own property, trade with each other and pursue happiness in the ways that they deem best is a beautiful thing. Confusing the two is unacceptable.

Secondly, I wish to point out that redirecting "stimulus" spending at WPA-like job projects will have absolutely no different a net effect on the economy than giving all that money directly to AIG. For the government to hand out money to anyone, it first must take it from someone else by force. What's worse, for every dollar the government spends, economist Robert Barro points out that the actual "multiplier" is 0.8 - meaning each dollar spent by government results in a net loss in value by 20%.

This is NOT the way to prosperity.

Additionally, invoking Martin Luthor King as someone who dreamed of a world where everyone had a government-guaranteed job is misreading his message of liberty in the extreme. Dr. King envisioned a world not where people engage in a never-ending game of using government to steal money from Group A to give to Group B - which is exactly what you're talking about when you "demand" that jobs be provided regardless of utility and upon pain of jail - but rather that every INDIVIDUAL should have the right to participate and pursue their own success, based on the content of their character and the merits of their abilities - rather than being kept out of the market by the racist laws in place in the 60s.

King's message was freedom and equality under the law, and absolutely NOT a demand of handouts or special treatment. It seems insulting to his memory that you would invoke his name in a way so contrary to the message of freedom.

Lastly, I must touch on the economic reality, which is simply not possible to avoid with legislation. The mess we're in now is precisely because politicians & their willing accomplices do not understand this simple fact. There are clear reasons the jobs are currently unavailable to much of the United States population, and unfortunately, this cannot be fixed until we recognize the problems intrinsic to allowing government to set interest rates, and to use the hard earned income of American citizens to pick winners & losers and grant political favors to large corporations. As long as the power structure exists, the major players will always find a way to use it to their advantage. And that's exactly what we're seeing. Goldman Sachs just had a hugely profitable quarter on the taxpayer dime; especially impressive given the fact that they likely would have been liquidated and bought by smarter, more savvy competitors who were not overleveraged and who protected their business better during the boom were it not for the special favors of government. It should come as no surprise then, that Goldman Sachs was President Obama's 2nd highest individual campaign contributor.

It is no coincidence that regardless of the anti-corporate rhetoric, large corporations will always have an advantage as long as there is power to be bought & sold.

Conversely, if your organization were to support true reduction of concentrated power across the board; lower taxes for everyone, no bailouts, no borrowing & spending far beyond our national means, no picking winners & losers in the market and perhaps most importantly, no more allowing private bankers to control the supply of money & the interest rates of the United States... I can assure you that more jobs would be available, and there would be less power concentrated in the hands established big-business and thus substantially decreasing their ability to protect their own interests by using the law, zoning, taxation and other means to destroy their potential competitors.

With that in mind, I wish you the best of luck in the fight against corporate bailouts. Keep it up! But please, if you could refrain from using the term "capitalism" in any situation where you actually mean "corporatism", I would greatly appreciate it.

Yours in Liberty,
Sean W. Malone

The next video project I do will be on Corporatism vs. Capitalism. It's time for people to stop and wake up to the reality that when we were all taught of the "mixed economy" in grade school, we can't turn around and pretend it's all "free market" now.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

An Ode to Barry

Barry F. Seidman and I have crossed paths before on Facebook. In fact, I was tempted to break down an entire "conversation" and expose the glaring contradictions and rejections of reality that so pervade this man's thought. I actually started to once in a word document, but eventually gave up feeling simply overwhelmed by his incredible idiocy. He introduced himself as an "anarcho-communist, libertarian socialist", in what proved to be the most asinine juxtaposition of contradictory concepts ever uttered to me.

He believes that...

"...resources need to be distributed fairly to all people on the planet" accordance with his sense of social justice, and that he's;

"talking about equalizing the usage of resources, both natural and man-made"
but that also:

"I never said I was advocating for a "planned economy." I am very much AGAINST such an economy."

Where could I begin? He wants a top-down organization of resource "distribution" without bothering to offer a single means of accomplishing such a feat, and also rejecting the state & central planning... Well... He could have 2/3 if he wanted. If he'd dropped the top-down "distribution" bit, and let resource distribution occur naturally as a result of trade, he could reject the state & central planning and be just fine............ Except he would still need money in order to facilitate such trades.

Alas, he also rejects money.

Then, of course... He's an anarchist:

I am, again, an anarchist/socialist.”

Except... Strangely, later, he explains that in fact:
"I am for an inclusive, direct democracy.”
“… And I am not advocating for anarchy."
His understanding of economics is so woefully poor, and he was so painfully aggressive; dominating an entire thread on my Facebook page essentially talking to himself (as he never addressed any of my actual points or those of my actual friends in any meaningful fashion), to such a ridiculous extent that I started losing earlier comments when Facebook hit it's thread limit of about 150... Depressingly, many of the earlier comments were from the people who's opinions actually had merit and were worth having discussions with.

At that point, I just wanted him to go away... So, as Barry likes to remind people now, I offended his delicate sensibilities by calling him names. My ire was piqued about the time I made this comment:
"And for the record, you raving fucktard, you aren't engaging in "dialogue". You are rehashing and rehashing and rehashing the same bullshit you've been telling me for a year with out EVER. ONCE. Addressing the logical inconsistencies that I've pointed out. NOT ONE GODDAMNED TIME BARRY.


You ignore, you omit, you distort, and you do nothing which could remotely, under any circumstances be considered making "reasoned" arguments for your points. You argue from authority, you set up straw men and you argue semantics - ALL, so you can avoid having to deal with reality on any meaningful level. You have done this repeatedly throughout our exchanges and they aren't helpful or even meaningful to me... They are not the exchanges of a person worthy of much of any of my time, except I so despise the things you claim to believe that I would spend the rest of my life combating you if I had to.

I don't have to however, because your ideas are asinine, poorly constructed and wrong."
Yeah... I mean... I was pissed. You would have been as well. From then on, I've mostly avoided him. At some point, certain individuals are so completely and utterly incapable of actual reason, much less honestly dealing with reality in a constructive way that it's too depressing to talk to them.

Barry thinks that provoking people until they become outraged and call them a fucktard constitutes an ad hominem logical fallacy - thus discrediting a person's views... Problem with that is... I did address all of Barry's "arguments" repeatedly, with sound logic & empirical support. I am about to do so again. I didn't say; "Barry, you're wrong because you're a fucktard!" No... Very important distintion... I said; "Barry, you're wrong, here's why - and oh by the way, you're also a fucktard." Feel free to complain about the lack of civility, but my suspicion is that there are few sane people on the planet who would have had more patience given what transpired.

HOWEVER..................... Yesterday, Center for Inquiry chap, D.J. Grothe posted some news piece about Obama's Nobel Peace Prize. It sparked some discussion, which led to a tangential bit on economics, at which point, none other than Barry F. Seidman appeared and opened with this gem:
"Oh No! Sean Malone is on this thread. Sanity, beware.. we are about to hear from the right wing capitalist ambassador of Randian Selfishness, Rothbardian Foolishness, and Friedman-esque regressiveness."
Yeah... What about ad homs?

You'll note that Barry doesn't actually address the arguments I make, or even bothers to familiarize himself with the major writers in the field he pretends to be critiquing. A self-described Communist who'd never heard of the term "Tragedy of the Commons", and is otherwise completely unfamiliar with the last 70 years of economics & philosophy of liberty. In fact, when I suggested that he actually read the primary textbook on Capitalism by George Reisman to at least get a clue what he's even debating, his reason for avoiding it is:
"Reisman was a Austrian School Capitalist. Why would I believe a priest trying to teach me about God if I am an atheist?"
Frankly, speaking as an atheist who has engaged with pastors on dozens of occasions, this is about the most retarded thing anyone could say.

would you listen to about religion but a Priest!? When people are deeply involved in a particular philosophy and have a master's understanding of the subject of course you go listen to them! If you want to go learn about Buddhism, you talk to the Dalai Lama, if you want to learn about Catholicism, you go to the Pope. These ARE the experts. If you disagree with their arguments, fine - I do - but at least you've based your critique on the best arguments in favor of their ideas by the best representatives possible.

What you shouldn't do is ignore the people who know what they're talking about in favor of the improperly understood, 5th or 6th hand versions of their arguments by people who are already biased against it.

Oh and... Of course, rational economics isn't a religion at all, and apart from Barry's ignorance on the topic, has many hundreds of years of well-constructed theory and verifiable proof behind it... Especially the Austrian school position that Reisman espouses. So Barry's analogy above is not only crap on its own, but it exposes his intentional avoidance of anything approaching real thought on topics with which he's not familiar.

It's better (in his mind) to only read descriptions of Capitalism by its detractors and then call that "objective".


Anyway, things progressed and I engaged him more than I should - cause really, he's one of about 3 people who I've ever met in my entire life who exhibit this strange combination of massive ignorance, incredible stupidity & tireless, dogged, aggressiveness that I often can't help myself but to make an attempt to help them.

He goes on and on about how Capitalism is evil, does his schtick... As is expected, ironically while admitting that he recognizes the difference between Capitalism & Corporatism (while still managing to get the history of Corporatism confused with Mercantilism, but whatever)... Finally, he asks me a series of questions.......... I know he's not really interested in a response, but sometimes, it's simply important to do all the same.

This sort of thing has been a long time coming, and I don't know if it was really worth spending so much time on, but it's done now and that's that. So here we go...

Barry asks:

1. "What is capitalism, really?

(Laissez-Faire) Capitalism is a type of market economy defined by spontaneous-order arising from respecting private property rights and voluntary, non-coerced trading relationships. Allocation of resources is decided by individuals freely determining prices, production & investment in capital goods with relative success or failure being determined generally through competition.

In short it is just the label we ascribe to a population's-worth of individuals trading with each other absent government intervention... It's pretty much that simple.

Every society that I'm aware of on the planet has started with this type of system. Naturally, humanity isn't always great about respecting private property, because it's often a lot easier just to punch someone in the face and take what you want. Thus over time (and sometimes not much time at all), anarchy deteriorates as soon as people realize that instead of offering mutually beneficial exchange, they can position themselves on the winning side of force and get what they want without any intellectual work.

Honestly, Irwin Schiff's parable "How an Economy Grows (and Why it Doesn't)" covers the essence of these ideas pretty clearly, and would be about Barry's speed since he obviously has no interest in reading Reisman's "Capitalism".

Point is... Respecting private property means that theft by individuals (robbers) and theft by groups (governments) is unacceptable. It also means that clearly defined, private, individual property rights are the way to eliminate the "might makes right" state of operation that much of the world is in.

You need to understand more than just this to understand though... For instance:

Value is Subjective

To understand free enterprise capitalism is also to understand that, contrary to the arbitrary ideas on value expressed by Marx (and Adam Smith!), value is subjective and ordinal, and *not* based on the Labor Theory of Value. I have yet to figure out how anyone can not understand this, but alas, many don't - most especially and necessarily, socialists. I've already covered some of the silliness of the Labor Theory of Value in depth here: "People Actually Still Believe in the Labor Theory of Value!??" so I'm not too keen on getting into the whole thing again.

However, it's entirely crucial that you understand that what you and I each like, want or need at any given time - for whatever reason - is different. It's not only different person-to-person, but when we rank our preferences they are different day-to-day, even minute-to-minute!

For example: Today, at the moment this is being written, it's 6:40pm in New York - my brother is probably thinking about having dinner... He might want a slice of pizza, or Chinese, or fish... I have no way of knowing and don't really care anyway. He might want food now. However, for me... It's only 3:40pm for me here in Los Angeles and I don't want dinner right now.

If we were to both seek out a full meal right now and found someone willing to provide it for us my brother might offer to give up more in exchange than I would, because a full dinner might be representative of his current preferences at a higher ordinal position than mine.

In a few hours, after he's already eaten and when I'm now ready to have dinner, perhaps this situation will be reversed. But within that arrangement, just as a I can't know when he want to eat, I can't know even what dinner is specifically wanted. Nor can he know what I will want in 2 hours (if I even know myself!). What is clear, however, is that the price we're both willing to pay for the same goods is subjective and dependent on many variable factors which are constantly changing over time.

Money is Important for Many Reasons:

The real problem though (especially for Barry), is that ordinal preferences cannot really be expressed accurately, efficiently or while compensating for time-preference inconsistency without an abstracted medium of exchange... In other words... We need money.

Money not only is necessary for trading goods & services with different utility and time-sensitivity, not to mention being absolutely crucial to division of labor... It's also *the only way* to obtain information about relative scarcity & value of resources.

To further illustrate: Imagine that you have grown apples & I have raised chickens. Now imagine that you want one of my chickens. You have two ways of dealing with me, assuming you respect that it was my work and time that resulted in those chickens being available at all. Seriously... You have only two ways to get what you want:

  1. You can use force, try to overpower me and take my chicken.
  2. You can offer me something in exchange that you believe I will value and hope I voluntarily agree.

That's it.

Now imagine that I don't want your apples right now... What if, in fact, I have a surplus of apples from previously trading one of my chickens to another apple-producer? Without money you have a BIG fat problem, don't you?

Without money, you have to try to convince me that your apples - which I know will turn rotten before I am able to eat them - are worth one of my chickens, when we both know they aren't. You have either to convince me that there's some reason for me to give you the chicken - be that sympathy, friendship, pity, or because you're going to offer me something in the future (referred to as generalized reciprocity by anthropologists) - or you have to try to take the chicken with violence.

The beauty of using money, is that you can now very easily offer me the promise of providing for my needs in the future, while getting what you need now. Without money, this is impossible.

Barry needs to understand that money is not something that enslaves people or is evil, but rather the opposite entirely. It is what allows me to be a media producer and without having to also grow my own apples & raise my own chickens, and also without living a life of violence in attempting to acquire apples & chickens. It's also what allows us all access to decentralized information that no one person could possibly know about with regards to the relative supply & demand of various resources.

It is an incredibly important tool. Possibly, the most important one humanity has ever invented.

Moving on...

2. "So why did the State NOT lay off at all (even before the 1920s and the introduction of the Fed or later with the New Deal and Keynesianism)?"

Because a hell of a lot of people REALLY like having power over everyone else.

One would think that in a world where in the last 100 years over 262 Million individuals have been killed by their own governments, and a similar number have been killed in wars fought for control, that this would be obvious. It's the bad part of human nature that can only be stopped by reducing centralized power and try as best we can to keep individuals in control of their own violence-free destinies.

I do appreciate that Barry recognizes that the early 20th Century in America was anything but a laissez-faire wonderland. The Industrial Revolution in the U.S. saw the ugly return of mercantilism, government-sanctioned cartels, special privileges to favored firms and rampant bribery & corrpution that one might expect with so much new-found political power over the economy.

Amusingly, Barry answered himself as well... Apparently he was being rhetorical.

3."Because there was no level playing field and the rich demanded the state help protect THEM!"

He's almost entirely right about this.

The rich did & do demand that the state helps protect them and keep them from having to compete with others. Enter: Mercantilism & corporatism............ (Not capitalism, and certainly not free enterprise.)

HOWEVER.... Barry really needs to drop the idea that a "level playing field" is even possible. It isn't.

First off, it's a meaningless term, because it basically encompasses many different aspects of life that are simply not predictable, manageable or remotely alterable.

I work in media production - many of my friends grew up in Los Angeles, have family connections to the entertainment industry, started out with much more money and have had a lot more opportunities than I started with... So? I also started with experiences that they didn't have either. Should we be idiots and pretend that won't always be the case? We're all individual people, and no matter what your wishful thinking dictates, our lives are always going to be different in literally thousands of ways.

Secondly; assuming we managed to take every single person on the planet and miraculously give them a perfectly equal starting point, within less than a generation just as a result of unequal talents, unequal desires & motivations, social skills, work ethic, and the thousands of other things that make individual people different from each other, you would see completely different outcomes for everyone.

One of Barry's big philosophical shortcomings is his failure to realize that - collectivist wet-dreams aside - no one is actually "equal", and no one ever can be. Thus, while it's important to demand liberty and legal equality which allows people to make use of their talents as they see fit, expecting (and much less trying to force) "equal outcomes" is absurd and quixotic.

4. "So, if the well to do have such political power, and we have even a minimalist state, how can you keep the inherent inequality capitalism produces to NOT lead to the use of state power to keep the wealth in the "right hands" or to keep wealth out of the "wrong" hands like women, minorities, etc?"

Well, first off, this problem is drastically worse in socialist economies... With the exception of the straggling useful-idiots and faux-socialists who've never actually experienced socialism or honestly even visited former socialist nations, I don't think there's really anyone alive who doesn't realize this... But no one really needs to take my word for it, since it has been quite conclusively proven to be the case over the history of the 20th Century worldwide.

Of course Barry will reject this because Milton Friedman, just like Reisman, is an "Apologist" for Capitalism, and naturally we wouldn't want to have to debate the arguments of those who actually know what they're talking about. But if he'd ever actually bothered to travel outside the United States, and saw some of the real world, he'd know that Friedman was right.

Does the Soviet Commissar reward virtue? Do even American presidents? No. Of course not. Yet you regularly write as if the alternative you're presenting is better, and it simply isn't.

In fact, if you look at any of the nations that have experience socialism, it's much, much worse. Far from preventing corruption, those nations ran on it - and the reasons for this are pretty easy to understand. I'd suggest everyone read Hayek.

But to more directly answer the question... YES it's true. Without actual anarchy - the rich & politically connected will always find a way to manipulate whatever power exists, through money or favors, or through quid pro quo, if not simply by getting themselves elected into high positions of authority. However, this is a problem regardless of what system you start out with and certainly isn't endemic to what Barry calls "Capitalism".

As long as there is power to be manipulated, it will be used by those best in a position to turn it to their benefit.

Now... I'm terribly sorry that I cannot offer an economic system in which every human being involved is perfectly kind & generous and no one cheats each other or tries to use force to get what they want, and I'm sorry that I cannot offer Barry a reality in which resources are not scarce and where every single person can just get whatever they want whenever with no cost and no effort.

I'm not actually offering a "utopia" at all. Violations of liberty still need to be policed and if you want to survive & prosper, you are still gonna have to get off your ass and work for it.

Unfortunately, that's the physical reality we're stuck with. As much as we all would love a system where everyone can get everything, we don't get that until we repeal the laws of physics & thermodynamics and we are capable of producing an infinite supply of goods. I can't help you with that. The best I have to offer everyone is a system by which the vast majority of people are free to associate with each other, trade with each other based on their own subjective values and who's property is appropriately recognized and respected as social norm. Fortunately for me, in every case where this idea has been implemented, even imperfectly, the standard of living of ordinary people has skyrocketed.

Minarchy as the United States Constitution provided, enshrining limited government & protections for individual liberties and private property *at least* managed to slow the growth of state power long enough for the majority of Americans to become extremely wealthy by any historical standard you wish to use.

However, collective ownership of resources does the opposite!

What I really can't understand about Barry, is that if he were actually concerned with equality of outcomes, he should love Capitalism. He should love it precisely because economic liberty is the engine of mass-production which has brought the standard of living & ultimately the power of the poorest people in the world up dramatically. You don't get much more decentralized and provide more real power to individuals to control their own destinies as in an economically liberal system defined by private property & free trade.

If the poor can own their own businesses & homes without fear of their possessions being stolen by some kleptocrat (as is common in many parts of the world), then they can build on their skills and ideas to dig their way out of poverty - and of course we can always help with charity and personal assistance. Without such protection however - if they are denied the right to own property - it's only ever the politically connected who will be able to prosper. That is the very nature of a kleptocracy.

Now here's where it gets cool. Not only am I trying to present a logical case, my expectations also actually have as close to economic "experiments" as you could possibly find in the real world if we start looking at a number of economies throughout history. Here are some of my favorites...

Hong Kong:

"Positive non-interventionism was the economic policy of Hong Kong during British rule. It was first officially implemented in 1971 by John James Cowperthwaite, who observed that the economy was doing well in the absence of government intervention... According to Cowperthwaite: "In the long run, the aggregate of decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralised decisions of a government, and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster.""


"Hindu rate of growth is a controversial and derogatory expression[citation needed] used to refer to the low annual growth rate of the economy of India before 1991, which stagnated around 3.5% from 1950s to 1980s, while per capita income averaged 1.3%.[1]... The slow India growth rate is better attributable to India's socialist policies (sarcastically called Licence Raj) rather than to a specific religion or to the attitude of the adherents of a particular religion."


"The privatization of state-owned firms is virtually complete, with only the port and the main power plants remaining in government hands. The constitution requires a balanced budget, and the protection afforded by Estonia's intellectual property laws is on a par of that of Europe's... Estonian economy was one of the fastest growing in the world until 2006 with growth rates even exceeding 10% annually. Despite some concerns both in and outside of the country, the Estonian economy and its currency remained highly resilient and solvent."

But there are so many more!! East vs. West Germany, Russia vs. United States, Cuba, Venezuela, Chile, Portugal, Sweden, Singapore... The list is long and I could go on for quite a while.

In each case, one thing becomes painfully clear: The more control the state or "society" has over the economy, the worse off people are and the more corruption & bribery become the only means of survival. The more individuals are free to make their own decisions, the better off they are.

Now. I know what Barry is about to say: "But Sean, I'm not a statist!! I'm an Anarchist and reject state socialism!" But let's be honest; what other kind is there!?

Barry has consistently failed to answer that.

The idea of "socialist" anarchism is a joke. To evenly "distribute" resources (as opposed to the natural process of decentralized trade), you REQUIRE a distributor! This bullshit Barry presented of Takis Fotopoulos' Inclusive Democracy is piffle at best. Democracy *IS* government, regardless of whatever utopian anarchist labels you apply to it. The Wiki article he linked leaves nothing but unanswered, and catastrophic questions:

"According to the ID project, economic democracy is the authority of demos (community) in the economic sphere — which requires equal distribution of economic power."


"Therefore, all 'macro' economic decisions, namely, decisions concerning the running of the economy as a whole (overall level of production, consumption and investment, amounts of work and leisure implied, technologies to be used, etc.) are made by the citizen body collectively and without representation."
But....... HOW!!!!????

The problem here - and this gets us back to Barry living in magic-land - is that there is simply NO MEANS of accomplishing an "equal" distribution of resources, through a democratic process *without* a state!

Barry doesn't get to have his supposedly-anarchist cake and eat it to.

Even with a "pure" or direct democracy, you have to have people in positions to set up polling places, or secure voting websites, you'd have to have people to count the votes, then you have to have people to enforce the outcome of those votes, or else any democratic decision is absolutely worthless anyway.

To illustrate: Imagine that "society" collectively decides (with a 100% voter turn out in a direct democracy) that everyone will work 6 hours a day, and we will get 2 months of fully supported vacation time each year. Now... Imagine that I am happier working 8 hours a day and don't really like taking vacation (inconceivable to Barry, I'm sure), then WHO IS GOING TO ENFORCE THE DEMOCRATIC DECISION!??

If Barry was an anarchist or libertarian at all, then the proper answer is;

"No one. Since there is no centralized authority, and people are free to do what wish, then they cannot be told how much to work, how often, how hard and on what things."

Except... Saying "No one" would be completely incompatible with the ideas of socialist redistribution or democracy!

If no one is capable of enforcing democratic decisions, which would be the case in an actual anarchy, then I can go my own way, associate with whomever I want, work as little or as much as I want and trade with people to mutual benefit... And there would be no "redistribution" because there's no means of accomplishing such a thing. Barry really doesn't get that any redistributive system requires a massive, extremely centralized and very powerful state to operate.

When anyone starts talking about "decentralized power", what they need to understand is that individualism & is the only way to accomplish that.

Collectivism offers the opposite of decentralization. And sure it can start with direct democracy like Barry's high priest Takis Fotopoulos recommends, but ultimately the ideal society is still based on taking from some people who produce goods and giving them to someone else. By collectivizing the means of production & denying private property, Barry is basing his ENTIRE worldview on the idea that humans should deal with each other by merely taking what we want by force.

Everything he's ever said to me is nothing but a web of contradictory nonsense... But the inclusive democracy page got even better! More from the article:

"However, "micro" economic decisions at the workplace or the household levels are made by the individual production or consumption unit through a proposed system of vouchers.""
Vouchers = Money.

The only caveat here is, unfortunately; vouchers are really crappy money - money that is only transferable for a limited number of goods instead of proper money which is transferable for any type of good. It's a lot like the USSR rejecting free market pricing of goods in favor of central planning resource distribution and then using the Sears-Robuck catalog to determine how to set prices. Money provides incredibly important information about relative value & scarcity... The Communists couldn't avoid it, and so embarrassingly, they needed to cheat by looking at prices set freely in order to figure out what to produce themselves. Didn't work out that well... But anyway...

When Barry tells me that he rejects central planning, and also rejects money, and when what he offers me instead is... Societal control of resources through direct democracy and "vouchers", does he really not realize how insanely contradictory that is?

Barry acts as if changing the name of ideas changes the ideas.

Truth be told though, this is a remarkably common theme with socialists of all stripes. I can handle the misguided ideas that unions should run the show, or that central planning sounds like an idea that would work, but what I simply cannot fathom, is the lack of a middle to their reasoning process.

For Barry, at least, it always works like this:

  1. Uncover (or make up) a "problem"
  2. Theorize a solution without leaving the house
  3. ??? No coherent means of accomplishing the solution
  4. Utopia.
Unfortunately... Everyone kinda actually needs the coherent "how will this actually work?" part.

I can't very well say that I'm going to go rescue some stranded orphans on the top floor of a burning skyscraper, and then conveniently omit that since I can't actually fly, I need a giant ladder and a fireproof suit. Likewise, Barry can't tell me he wants to see evenly distributed resources and "equality" without admitting that any attempt to accomplish such a redistribution requires a forceful central authority.

Honestly, I'd respect him a hell of a lot more if he actually would just admit that he's nothing more than a totalitarian. At least Peter Singer recognizes that accomplishing the outcomes he'd like to see for the world needs massive government power... It's really scraping the bottom of the barrel when I'm praising Singer's ethics.

Barry, take note.

5. "How do you keep corporations which consider themselves to be "persons" - which are large entities far more powerful than any individual - from not using state power to protect their wealth?"

Uhh... You eliminate the state power.

No company make me set foot in their stores if I don't want to... However, if we grant a politician the power to set zoning rules or to collect taxes, then anyone who's wealthy or connected enough can petition that politician to zone out their competition and to take taxes from me to keep them afloat anyway.

See: Goldman Sachs, GM, Chrysler, AIG for national examples...

The problem isn't the corporations or their "individual" status (which might be a little weird sometimes but is more semantics than anything else), but excessive state power. Remove the power, and you remove not only the incentive to influence but the possibility that it can do any harm if so influenced anyway.

[Also, I should probably say that if you do have a state, it should protect all individual's property from theft. I usually think that goes without saying, but with Barry, it seems necessary. The state just shouldn't be used to insulate corporations from competition and from their own failures, or to provide special benefits.]

6. And if there were NO state whatsoever, how do individuals keep companies in which they do not own as workers from distributing the wealth the way THEY want to?

I'm really not sure how to answer this question.

Again, no one "distributes" wealth in a free market. There is no organizer or planner... That's the point! Wealth is acquired through the free exchange of goods and services; those who are successful at providing high value to their customers are rewarded by greater wealth. There's no magic to this... If you and I both made cupcakes for a living and mine taste & look like paste while yours are delicious and beautifully designed, most people looking for cupcakes will go to you. Even if we offer the same price (which would obviously be a mistake), you would wind up with more wealth than I would as no one would buy from me and everyone would buy from you.

At that point, you've accumulated whatever money & wealth you were able to obtain through voluntary, mutually beneficial exchange (you get money, enabling you to buy stuff you like and makes you happy :: your customers got cupcakes that tasted great and made them happy, win-win), and so now you can "distribute" your wealth however you want and it's none of anyone else's business at that point.

So... I mean... Barry asks: "What's to stop them from distributing wealth as THEY want?"


If said wealth was obtained by voluntary trade and offering goods & services of value to other people, it's absolutely not my concern. If wealth was obtained through force or theft, via government taxation or robbery or any other means, then that's another issue entirely and needs to be resolved either through contracted mediation or courts & police.

Additionally, I'm really not sure what Barry's so afraid of... Surplus wealth is an extremely good thing, it's what enables the world population to grow & prosper. If you're concerned about rich people "hoarding" wealth, exactly how does that work? Rich people aren't Scrooge McDuck... They aren't swimming around in vast silos of gold coins keeping money out of the population (in fact, given the declining value of the dollar, I almost wish they were!).

No, in reality, there's really only three things you can do with money:

  1. SAVE: In which case surplus money almost always goes into a bank, which in turn lends it to regular folks the world over so that they can start or expand businesses, buy cars & houses, take a vacation... This is all good.
  2. INVEST: More or less the same as what the bank does, only more self-directed and which carries both greater personal risks & possibilities of reward.
  3. SPEND: In which case the surplus money goes right back into the economy and into the hands of people who make or do the things you want - from food service to foot massages to childrens charities. The recipients then face the same 3 choices, ad infinitum, making the whole thing completely interconnected.
I'm supposed to be afraid of any of these? Or am I to be afraid that someone might direct their surplus wealth to causes I don't agree with?

Sometimes the outcomes aren't what I want. Hell, millions of people go to see Michael Moore movies, buy homeopathic "medicines" and spend their money on a thousand other things I think are retarded.

So what?

A free society means that it's not up to me to force them to expend their resources on anything. All I can do is offer better ideas, persuasive arguments and better value.

7. How does capitalism lead to a society where there are no companies, corporations or rich people who can buy armies and weapons to keep others "in their place?"

How does socialism lead to such conditions?

Ironically, out here in the real world, global trade makes people more interconnected, not less, and thus much much less prone to warfare! Thus David Friedman made the observation that (with some incredibly minor exceptions) no two nations with McDonald's franchises have ever gone to war with each other, now known as the "Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention".

This idea eventually turned into the "Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention", found in Friedman's book "The World is Flat". More specifically and accurately, the point is that interconnected supply chains make the costs for warfare increasingly high for companies involved. Global Capitalism actually reduces the incentives to go to war for everyone involved since you all have a stake in cooperation.

With the case of Dell, the production of a single computer encompasses multiple suppliers located in dozens of different countries. As a result, Dell's business is greatly effected by political instability in any one of these countries. In the meekest scenarios, their suppliers will need to shut down for a few days until whatever violence passes - causing time delays & shortages... While in the worst-case, warfare would destroy suppliers and force Dell to completely revamp their production process, which is extremely costly, time consuming and which very likely would reduce quality - which in turn hurts their sales.

It's not companies or "rich people" who are very likely to go to war with each other at all... There's very little incentive there. The incentives in a free market are very much skewed towards peace - since trading is mutually beneficial and no one can have a monopoly on violence, starting a fight only means you don't get what you want and risk massive losses (and possibly death).

Sure you can imagine a world where firms are fighting each other over scarce resources, but with clearly defined private property, and the absence of any one hegemonic government, the reality of such an event is incredibly unlikely.

I mean... Perhaps the Iraq War is about oil. I think it's more about ideology, personally, but let's roll with that. Let's say Haliburton & Exxon-Mobil are behind it all. How costly is it to them to lobby or bribe the politicians who send a trillion dollars worth of U.S. Military might overseas? A few million? A few billion perhaps? The bulk of the cost is borne by the tax-payer, obviously. But what if the U.S. had no such military power to offer - what if either there was no national military on that scale, or what did exist had rigid rules on engagement and could by easily challenged by the American people if those rules were violated?

Would it be worth multiple trillions of dollars to Haliburton & Exxon-Mobil to hire a military force on their own for those purposes? Exxon only makes about $40 Billion a year in revenue (which they also have to distribute to investors!)... Is it even possible for them to start a massive war? Would their shareholders accept or tolerate it? Would the international community, or even rival companies let them get away with it?

No. Of course not.

The only reason that any war might (and I'm absolutely not saying that it is) be supported by any corporation is if its costs could be passed off on to someone else. Someone like a tax-payer who has no choice. Now, a laissez-faire system, even one which has a government maintains a separation of economy & state - so Haliburton & Exxon have no cause for bribing politicians anyway, and in an anarchy, there would be no national military.


On the other hand, a socialist society breeds poverty and misery from it's poorly reasoned economics. The abolition of private property and the centralized control over resources also results in much less opportunity for division of labor, ever-diminishing quality of life and more importantly, societal disconnectedness. In order to survive, I am now subsisting almost entirely on the products I can create with my own hands or trade for in a local black market. This is nothing if not provincial and territorial.

In such a scenario, there's plenty of reasons for people to go to war.

If you're not trading with many people, but rather your entire livelihood is predicated on taking from those around you, it's only natural that when you run out of people to take from where you are it becomes necessary to move on... As Germany did to Poland & Europe, as Russia did to Afghanistan, Finland, Sweden, etc., as China did to Taiwan & Vietnam...

Now, the real crappy part is - I'm more of an anarcho-capitalist than anything else and yet obviously I recognize that with no government, the only thing standing in the way of people organizing armies in order to initiate force against those who have stuff they want is the rest of society who uphold their right to live coercion free. I'm also quite aware that the vast majority of human history is filled with such occurences. Of course... I also realize that any anarchy runs the same risk... But if authoritarianism taking over is a risk in an anarchy, how much more of a "risk" is it in a system that's designed with an immense amount of power concentrated in the hands of a couple people?

More to the point, however, an anarchy filled with people who respect private property and expect that theirs is respected in return, and who's lives are dependent on mutually beneficial exchange, and which has completely decentralized production requires that we all do our best to get along and enjoy the benefits of diversity and spirited competition. By contrast, an anarchy filled with people who demand equal outcomes and reject private property have no reason to do anything but escalate their regular thefts against others.

As a friend of mine recently noted at a gathering of Anarchists in San Fransisco:

"Anarchists ask “Permission to board?” and Socialists just come on and eat your Wheat Thins. This is how you can tell them apart."
Which do you really think leads to more war?

It'd be nice if Barry was honest enough to accept the historical reality, but it'd be equally cool if he were actually smart enough to understand the implicit reasons why the real history of the world lines up with exactly what one might logically expect. War is the biggest disrespect of individual sovereignty imaginable. It says: Not only do I not recognize your right to your property, I'm so disgusted by you that instead of even taking it, I'd rather just destroy it.

But if no one owns anything, who cares if it gets destroyed?

If history is any guide, really... No one.

8. Where is there any such a capitalism?

Well this is actually two questions in one isn't it?

If the question is: Where is there such a capitalism that does exactly what Barry wants, and provides some automatic "distribution" of resources that you deem to be equal?


But, where is lassez-faire, or mostly laissez-faire capitalism?


You just have to look a little more closely than most people bother to do. A child's lemonade stand, a garage sale, direct sale of an old car, artists selling paintings in Union Square or at Venice Beach, hot dog vendors, the dude growing & selling pot at the college dormitory...

There are entrepreneurs operating under government radar everywhere. In each case, they are using their skills in an attempt to provide some utility to their fellow human beings - which they do out of directed self-interest. Utility is provided by anything from refreshing lemonade on a hot day, to convenient lawn-mowing services saving you time, to original art that brings you joy. In each case, they are:

  1. Dealing with you voluntarily - you can buy their products or not, no guns and no threats of jail if you don't.
  2. Respecting that your money is your property, and they are expecting that you realize the lemonade and paintings are theirs.
  3. The means of production - the lawnmowers, the paintbrushes, the citrus juicers - are privately owned and controlled.
  4. Prices are freely determined by both buyer & seller agreeing on terms.

Free people, voluntary exchange, private property & ownership of the means of production, free price system.

There are examples of this found everywhere, even if Barry is improperly equipped to see them.

It's just sad that the really important stuff isn't often allowed to simply be free from force in the same way. But the truly sick thing is that in Barry's world forcing other people to provide the means of your survival is morally right, whereas obtaining the means of survival by offering those who can provide it something of value (to them) in voluntary exchange is "misanthropic" and evil.

As I said before... For Barry... Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace, State is Anarchy...

The joke, is that after all this Barry probably still won't even get it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tom Palmer on Liberty

"Market's rely on respect for other people."

Excellent discussion of freedom, liberty and markets.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Medicare Denies MORE Claims than Private Insurers!

Well ain't this just a kick in the teeth for "public-option" & government run health care fans...

Check out the following chart (via Andrew Breitbart's new Big Government website) taken from the American Medical Association's own 2008 National Health Insurer Report Card:

Look carefully there... Medicare denied 6.85% of all claims in the year covered by the report.

This is not only higher than any one of the "private" insurers (which again, I want on the record in scare quotes because the government has a massive amount of control over them as well), it's 59% higher than the average denial rate (3.88%) of private insurance companies!

Seriously... I've spent the last 6 months or so deflecting these ridiculous arguments time and time again about how bad the insurance industry is because the "for-profit model means that it denies people claims" all the time. The arguments for this are all absurd, since the for-profit model means they actually need customers... But setting that aside, the non-profit, government-run Medicare program - which is the largest and most insanely expensive insurer in the nation thundering in at $800 Billion a year (plus some $60 Trillion or so in promises granted that we have no way of paying for as a country!) - denies the most.

In sheer numbers, of the total denied claims cited by this AMA report, 83% were denied by Medicare.

...And THIS is the model for a nationalized health care system designed to combat the "rampant" denial of service by the private insurers?


Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum... Curtains.

Melding Interests

In just a few short (short!) days, I will no longer be a music editor for SmartSound.

I am a little nervous about yet another round of uncertainty so soon (under a year), but so it goes when you are starting a career I guess. My employers have had excellent things to say about my work... Andy Muson, VP of Music (my boss) gave me a recommendation letter stating:
"Sean Malone has been a valued employee at SmartSound since February 2009. He has quickly learned the skill set for a complicated and detail oriented system. His position involved the management and oversight of outside programmers/suppliers for SmartSound plus coordinating the results of that work with our in-house team to implement in all related procedures. He has performed his work to the highest standards and I would recommend Sean for future employment without hesitation."
The CEO of SmartSound also wrote the following:
"Sean joined the staff in February as we were ramping up some new music library partners. In the eight months he’s been with us he has proven himself a highly motivated, self-starter who is able to grasp complex issues and reduce them to what is necessary to get the job done very quickly and efficiently. He is bright, amiable and a good team player. It is also clear he is an accomplished musician.
I can strongly recommend Sean. I believe that even in this economy he will not remain on the market very long, and if he were still available, I would hire him back without hesitation were the economy to recover sufficiently for us."
I've definitely enjoyed working with both of them and everyone else at this company. It's been a great change of pace actually working in the software industry instead of directly in entertainment if for no other reason than the rest of the crew on this side of the fence are a lot more sane, intelligent and decent people.

I have often been critical of the entertainment industry at large, though not nearly enough on this blog, I think because when I write essays here it's often my escape from the hassles of freelancing & working as an entertainment professional.

In just the past 3 years, I've seen a boss literally throw a full bottle of "Teas Tea" in anger at another partner while his back was turned. I've seen severe sexual harassment not only go unpunished, but instead witnessed the management's response of threatening the victim with termination if she did not sign a non-disclosure agreement and sign away her rights to a lawsuit. I've put up with bosses creating highly politicized office environments in which almost on a daily basis, we were to laugh at the stupidity of republicans (which I have to agree is often funny) and yet canonize virtually all democrats & prominent "liberals". In a year, only one time did I ever actually challenge one of the intra-office propaganda mailings and I suspect my credibility with some of my peers was hurt by it (although admittedly the bulk of the response was more along the lines of, "wow, you've really thought a lot about this issue but I don't really understand what you're talking about now!"). I've seen immense amounts of financial irresponsibility in everything from purchasing musical supply & equipment at retail prices (which I don't even do most of the time!) to $200,000 holiday parties, to keeping bottles of Grey Goose around the office for employees to enjoy when working 20-hour days. I've seen some laughable attempts at "organization" and work flow which wouldn't pass the efficiency standards of a 50-year-old truck.

All in all, I've seen a lot of absurd behavior by people who's success has been tied to who they knew and not their skills or intelligence.

So getting away from that for the past year to work here at SmartSound has really been wonderful. The management is great, the company has a good, future-oriented idea, and the atmosphere is relaxed and intelligent. Obviously it would have been nice to have had a bit more work, and to be full-time as I'd always expected, but otherwise I think it's been a good run. It's also given me some time to write essays and blogs and research & learn thing and develop the intellectual interests that are so important to me.

And that, in turn, has led me to my current plan of attack...

When I first went off to graduate school, I had no specific goals other than to write some music and work in entertainment. Now I do. I've realized over the past two years that I'd be wasting my time & talents by continuing to pursue a career devoid of intellectual meaning. It's no longer just "enough" for me to work on music & media production for just anybody with any message, and instead, it's time for me to start focusing my efforts on producing actually good film and multimedia projects dedicated to the support & defense of liberty.

I believe strongly now that I'm in a relatively unique position to do so, as well. Unlike most of the people currently involved in the production of this kind of material, I have an entertainment, rather than a communications or journalism background. This is a benefit in several important ways, I believe. First, while I personally care deeply about content and demand very high standards in logic & empirical support for the ideas I represent, I also recognize (and am sometimes frustrated by) the fact that most people care much, much more about the presentation of those ideas.

Unfortunately, I find that a great deal of the think-tanks that produce the kind of well-researched, properly reasoned contributions to policy & philosophy in the world are also some of the worst at presenting their ideas in an exciting and persuasive way. There are a lot of reasons for this in my opinion. First is because (as I noted in my recent essay commenting on the broad faults of Socialism) the solutions being offered by a free society are much more difficult to "see" directly than anything a government or authoritarian might do. It's easy to see, or at least imagine, how a man would be able to just "run the economy" and the wrong man - i.e. George Bush - would do it wrong, and the right man - i.e. Barack Obama - would just fix it. The truth, of course, is that no man "runs" it at all! It's merely the end result of billions of people on planet earth engaging in mutually beneficial trades.

The problem though, is that billions of individual people pursuing their separate interests driving everything that's good in the world is very hard to see, whereas one powerful guy in a nice suit giving prepared speeches (especially one who is on television more than any other human in recorded history) IS visible. Too visible...

Much like, as I mentioned via email to Jeffrey Tucker this morning, most of the problem with opposing things like Cash for Clunkers is that CNN can always find someone to interview who's excited to be buying a new car with a $4,000 bonus... And most people see that as positive. After all, that's someone getting something they want with the help of government... Hooray! But they never show the millions of poor people who are now relegated to taking the bus because the used car market suddenly lost 750,000 units. They also don't show how 2 years from now, taxes will have to be raised yet again in order to pay for the program since the money has to come from the taxpayer's own pocket ultimately anyway. It's very difficult to show all that, but I truly believe that it's not actually impossible.

So my goal is to find a new position within a respectable organization or as a regularly working freelancer helping to direct, produce and guide libertarian media into being of much higher quality, more emotionally hard-hitting and meaningful, and as a result; more persuasive - by making the difficult into a reality - by exposing the unseen to people who aren't used to seeing it.

Thus far, I've been more talk than action on producing multimedia simply because I've been working as an entertainment professional on everything else. I have bills to pay, after all! ;) But now's the time to make the change.

It's an exciting time, indeed. (PS... help finding said position is definitely appreciated!)