Monday, August 1, 2011

Braveheart: Freedom, My Arse

I wish I could shoot lightning bolts of freedom out of my arse.  I'd wear a cape and call my self Red White and Blue Dart.

Freedom isn't something you can spread with a gun.  It's an idea that can energize our actions.  Men are free the moment they decide to be.  You don't have to ask permission to get it.

Braveheart blew my freaking teenage mind.  The carnage was all a teenage boy could hope for, but the message of freedom was something so foreign, although the word "freedom" vomits forth from the lips of politicians like the magic honey of re-election.

Just before the scene where Wallace says "they can take our lives, but they can never take OUR FREEDOM," a couple of the fighters talk about deserting.  Putting away their weapons and going home.  That, to me, is freedom.  The ability to say "hell no."  To be able to live your life, to use your time and resources as you see fit.

Imagine a soldier today, throwing down his gun, and saying, "I ain't got no quarrel with the Muslims.  I'm going home."

It's happened. "Since 2000, about 40,000 troops from all branches of the military have deserted"

All of our wars that have supposedly "made the world safe for democracy" have at the same time made it less free.  Not only has the U.S. overthrown/assassinated democratically-elected leaders, rigged elections, and propped up dictators of the worst sort; but the American people have become sheeple.  We don't want freedom.  We want wealth.  And we're willing to take it by bombing other countries, and taxing the justly rich.

It's time we start living like that great American—Henry David Thoreau.  I don't mean we need to live in woods.  Thoreau went to jail for refusing to pay his taxes.  He refused to pay for an unjust war.  We need to join him.  We need to say "hell no, you can't use my money to bomb Muslims.  I ain't go no quarrel with them."

I am not brave enough to go to prison.  But I will not be stand idly by while neocons wage war in the name of my country.  Sometimes, the bravest are those who refuse to fight.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Are The Smurfs Communists?

From The Washington Times
Pop quiz: Who uttered the famous maxim, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs?”

A) Karl Marx

B) Papa Smurf

C) Both A and B

The correct answer is “C”

The video was made by a highschooler, and he keeps saying "there were no economics."  What he means is "there was no monetary exchange."  Economics, like physics, cannot be abolished.  Market forces work even in markets that are not free.

Wikipedia refers to it as "The Smurfs Totalitarian Controversy."

Communism, like other utopian ideas, work much better as cartoons.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

3D is a stupid fad

Tired of watching movies in 3D?  Try these 2D glasses, which convert 3D movies into 2D.

This video nails the idea that 3D cannot be taken seriously.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Inception: The Myth of Monopoly

Inception (Two-Disc Edition) [Blu-ray]
You Are The Mark
There is an idea in the movie Inception that you probably didn't even notice.  It probably seemed like a familiar idea, one that you had heard before.  It seemed so natural, so logical, as if you'd always believed it.

A foreign, nonsensical idea has been planted in your mind, so deeply, that you have never thought to question it.

But it was a lie.  A foreign idea, put gently into your brain so that you would unquestioningly accept it.

Here's the movie's premise: Mr. Saito pays Dom Cobb to break up Robert Fischer's monopolistic company.

Did you notice it?  Or did it sneak past again?

The Dream
This idea that Inception strengthened, was planted in your brain years ago, when you weren't paying attention.  Sometime while you waited for the bell to ring for recess, and you wondered if that cute girl in the desk a row away had looked at you first, or had caught you staring, and you held your bladder to see which would go off sooner: your bladder or the bell.  An idea was implanted.

Whether or not you made it to the bathroom before you wet your pants, you were probably tested on this idea, to strengthen its grip on your mind.

You have always thought that monopoly meant a big, greedy, business that took too much of the market share.  You thought that anti-trust legislation had been passed to protect us from these evil monopolies.

But until the 20th century, a monopoly was considered a governmental interference on the free-market.  That is, until government took over education.

Government says its schools exist so that everyone, even the poor, can get an education.  Why, then, are middle-class kids forced to go to government schools? Why is truancy treated as a crime that requires police involvement?  Government performs inception in its schools.  They fill young children's minds with myths about governmental history that borders on religious indoctrination. These ideas make our children  "good" citizens.  Not citizens who ask critical questions, but citizens who walk through life like it's a dream, and don't wake up and start demanding answers.
Reality sucks!
The Reality
Monopolies have always been created by government.  King George III's two-cent tax on tea was levied to raise revenue for the Crown, through its monopoly, the East India Company.

Our government followed the King's example, by giving monopolies to the Post Office, AT&T, the Federal Reserve, and so on.  Lysander Spooner, a businessman who was audacious enough to open a postal service that competed with the Post Office, brought down the Post Office's prices by 70% through competition.  The government created a law to smash Spooner's business.

The government does not foster efficiency, lower prices, or create better products.  The government crushes entrepreneurs, creates monopolies, and increases prices.  Always.

We should, therefore, not be surprised that anti-monopoly legislation has always been used as a weapon to destroy efficient, low-cost businesses, in favor of inefficient, high-cost businesses.  The company that cannot compete with better products and lower prices, lobbies the government to crush its competitor, who "unfairly" provides a superior product at a lower cost.

This is why the FEC recently targeted Google.  Google did not shoot anyone, or burn down any buildings to get a huge share of the market.  Google virtually created the market it now dominates.  It provides the best service, at the lowest cost (free).  And for that, it will be punished.

Big companies are not monopolies.  They are rich, but frightened, and ready to crumble with the next innovation that they are too slow to adopt.

In a free market, the largest corporations are never safe.  If they do not keep prices low, and innovate, some smaller company will come out with a better, or cheaper product, and put the big dog out of business.  These big companies know this, and so they lobby Congress to pass laws and regulations that make it too expensive for small companies to enter their field.

So big companies can only become monopolies with the help of the government.  In a free-market, their market share is a free-for-all.

Your Totem
Dom Cobb in the movie Inception claims to be able to create mental defenses to protect against mind crimes.  We, too, can take this movie, which nonchalantly strengthens the idea of non-governmental monopoly, and use it against itself.

Inception is a perfect analogy for how government crushes competition, and screws the consumer, for its lobbyists.

Mr. Saito paid Dom Cobb to break up Robert Fischer's company.  In plain English, Mr. Saito (a failing business) paid (lobbied) Dom Cobb (the government) to break up (file anti-trust suits) against Robert Fischer (Google, or another great company).

I'm the government.  And I'm here to help.

Remember that, and your mental alarms will always go off when the Dom Cobbs of the world try to "protect" you against monopoly.

Further reading:
Anti-Trust, Anti-Truth by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Monopoly and Competition by Murray N. Rothbard
Myth of Natural Monopoly by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Fear of Monopoly by Brad Edmonds
Monopoly Prices by Ludwig von Mises

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Star Trek: Money is the root of freedom and prosperity

Star Trek (Three-Disc Edition) [Blu-ray]This post is going to bring on the wrath of the nerds, but I welcome their feedback:

Money has long been blamed for all the ills of the world. But we should thank God for money. Civilization and freedom are built on money. The humans in Star Trek do not use money. This topic has been covered by others, but I'd like to add my arguments to the necessity of money and the problem of scarcity.

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the show, decided that he did not want money in his universe. Aside from the headache this has created for staff-writers, it also illustrates the point that money will not go away without severe consequences—unless the creator of the universe abolishes it.

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

Money Is Good
With money, any person can trade goods or services with any other person within the country. When money was gold-based, people were free to travel anywhere in the world and trade with anyone because gold is demanded everywhere.  Dictators understand this, which is why money is one of the first things to go under a tyranny (see Khmer Rouge). Central planners don’t want pesky individuals messing with their grand designs.

Money makes up one-half of every transaction. When it is abolished, transactions can only take place under a clunky barter system, which cannot escape the coincidence of wants. All other economic decisions are made by the central planners. The U.S. government has not outlawed money, but they got rid of the gold standard, restricting Americans to trade within the U.S.  And they have created a monopoly over money (outlawing competition), thus effectively taking control of 50% of the economy (they have actually delegated this power to the Federal Reserve, which is a private corporation that has no accountability to the people).

Money makes economic calculation possible through the price mechanism. Prices are determined by supply and demand. High prices tell producers that people want the good, so they should dedicate scarce resources to it. Low prices tell them to use their productive energies in other endeavors. Prices help consumers budget, so individuals can calculate the best way to stay out of poverty, and save their way to prosperity.

Money and the price system made America the freest, most prosperous country in the world (a position that is eroding in self-destruction). This came about by the division of labor and free exchange made possible by money and a free market. The destruction of money and the price system resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union and other communist countries.

Abolishing money would not create prosperity and equality, it would simply destroy the price system, making it impossible for individuals or governments to figure out whether they were conserving resources or wasting them.  Star Trek could accomplish this if it either made everything in infinite supply, or reduced demand for all goods.

Endless Supply = No Money
On the supply side, Star Trek introduces technology that could arguably limit the need for money. Replicators “can create any inanimate matter, as long as the desired molecular structure is on file” at virtually no cost, “but it cannot create antimatter, dilithium, latinum, or a living organism of any kind.” A replicator could conceivably replicate itself, making it possible for everyone to have one. Then each individual could replicate almost everything they need.  Because prices are determined by supply and demand, the price of all replicable goods would be reduced to zero.

Non-replicable goods would still have a cost. These items could be bartered for, but again we run into the need for a coincidence of wants, which would make money convenient.

No Demand = No Money
In Star Trek, humans have "evolved" into these altruistic beings, so that they no longer desire personal gain.  This is reminiscent of Marx's new socialist man, who would work for the good of the collective.  These "good" humans are contrasted with Ferengis, who are portrayed as backward and greedy race, and appear to be a caricature of Jews
Prominent ears and nose. Lust for money. Just a coincidence.
If humans no longer have personal needs, there is no longer individual demand, only the collective good.  Thus a centralized ruling body can decide what is best for society without anyone grumbling about their lower standard of living (for government monopolies by nature destroy wealth). But as long as humans are mortal, they have to deal with the problem of scarcity (though lobotomies and brainwashing in combination might convince citizens of the Federation to believe otherwise).  Self-preservation may be selfish, but evolving away from it seems like an evolutionary dead end.

The Incentive Problem
Even with replicators, time would still be scarce. Humans have about 100 years of life. Time and life cannot be replicated. It would be extremely difficult to incentivise an individual to work if he could easily replicate anything he needed. Most of us work to get money, so we can buy the things we need. A replicator would nullify most of our money needs, and with it our incentive to work.

Holodecks would virtually nullify the need for an entertainment industry. Combined with a replicator, almost every conceivable need can be met without any work, and therefore without any cost, or need for money.

It is difficult to dispute that, in the real Star Trek future, all thirty-year-old males may well be living in their mothers' basements, enjoying an endless orgy in their holodecks. If you dispute this, consider how many thirty-year-olds are at this moment living in their mothers' basements so they can play MMOs and watch Star Trek. Now imagine what would happen to those young men if they could bang a virtual Uhura three times a day. If they ever needed a bathroom break, they could just take a dump in their replicator and turn it into a bologna sandwich.
Hi mom!
Who’s going to get an engineering degree, or risk their lives exploring deep space in these circumstances? If you only got 100 years, why risk dying this year when you got an Uhura waiting in your mom’s basement? In this case, it appears Star Trek makes an exception for human replication to mass produce red shirts.

A Possible Currency
A solution may come from the travel industry. It appears that instantaneous travel is still impossible in Star Trek. They still have to explore at the snail-pace of warp speed. Couple this with the inability to replicate dilithium, and you have yourself a scarce commodity that could be used as the basis for money.

People could trade dilithium certificates for goods and services that could not be replicated. The luxury of travel could keep peaceful trade necessary.

Trade = Peace
Trade engenders peace. If you don’t know how to make bread, you have an incentive not to kill your baker. On a larger scale, nations that take advantage of comparative advantage by trading with other nations become richer, meaning they enjoy a higher standard of living. On this scale, economic incentives help prevent war. It doesn’t make sense to bomb Japan if you drive a Honda, or Finland if you use a Nokia.

A self-sufficient man who has no need for others has no economic incentive not to kill. He has moral incentives, true, but economic incentives are important. Germany, for example, tried to copy the self-sufficiency of the U.S. so that it could wage unrestricted war. By cutting off trade with other countries, Germany impoverished itself, i.e., it lowered the standard of living of its citizens.

An immoral person with a replicator and a holodeck may decide that it’s more fun to kill and rape real people rather than holo-people. Or, the Federation may decide that Ferengis are corrupting the youth with their philosophy of greed, and wage a war of extermination upon them.  There would be little economic incentive to restrict violent impulses.

Heaven By Edict
Let’s go back to scarcity. What if we could get rid of every scarcity? If there were no death, no time limits, no pain, no hunger or need to eat, and unlimited space, we would not need money. We would also be in heaven. As long as we can die, there will be a need for money and trade.

When people want to abolish money, what they really want is unlimited prosperity. They want heaven, the garden of Eden, the abolishment of death, hunger, and suffering. But these things do not come about by act of congress, or the dictates of a tyrant. We strive toward them everyday with product innovations that come about in a competitive free market. One day we may all really get replicators and holodecks, but such a blissful future will only be possible with the help of money, and the beneficial exchanges made possible by it.

Listen to another Trek song by Jonathan Mann

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to Train Your Dragon: The War State

(Spoiler Alert)
How to Train Your Dragon (Single Disc Edition)What does a giant dragon-eating dragon have to do with the war in Iraq?  What can a cartoon teach us about the dangers giving up freedom for security during a time of war? If the cartoon is How To Train Your Dragon, quite a bit. 

The movie begins with a war state (i.e. a society that centrally plans its economy to more effectively wage war) and ends with a free state (based on voluntary trade).  This dichotomy realistically represents the inherent contradiction between war and freedom, and between war and prosperity.

Viking Economy
Viking children in the movie are raised from youth to be soldiers, similar to what the ancient Spartans practiced.  In Sparta, children born with birth defects were tossed headfirst into a chasm.  While the Viking society does not go to this extent, both operate under the same assumption that the safety of the collective is more important than the liberty of the individual. The lives of Viking children are highly regimented, and straying from the status quo is discouraged.

The cradle-to-grave control of the children's lives demonstrates that Viking economy was highly centralized.  Many war states tend to push for more and more control of the economy, even though centrally planned states have always lost in wars against economically free states.  Free states win, because a laissez-faire economy is able to respond much more quickly to changes in demand, with higher-quality and more affordable goods—even if the demand is for war goods—than a centrally planned economy.  Each individual knows what he wants better than anyone else, even so three-hundred-million people are better able at making economic decisions that affect themselves better than a single president, or a small group of intellectuals.

The desire for centralized control, in the face of its inefficiency, may be attributed to the hubris of the state’s leader.  A person who thinks he is wise enough to sacrifice another man’s life for the sake of the collective will have no qualms appropriating a business.  To the warmongers, businessmen, like soldiers, are just more fodder for the cause.  The economy, instead of being a myriad of individuals benefiting from an incalculable volume of voluntary transactions, becomes enlisted—another group of grunts following orders.  Instead of being motivated by personal prosperity, every individual is coerced with the threat of death from abroad or punishment (including death) from home.

War Propaganda
The enemy must be dehumanized before rational people can become convinced to kill.  Thus any interaction with the enemy is forbidden, and befriending the enemy is labeled treason.  The state publishes propaganda to convince the people that the war is just, and that the enemy deserves to die.  In this vein the Vikings prohibit any peaceful contact with the dragons, and teach the children from and early age, using only state-approved books, that dragons are evil.  Hiccup’s father disowns him after learning that he is a “dragon-lover.”

The inhabitants of a state continuously at war become savage and brutal.  Being taught to hate, and to not think critically, from an early age, creates several generations of people who have grown up not knowing freedom or peace.  These people know only war, and have ceased even to have hate in their hearts.  Worse than hating their enemies, they cease to feel anything for them.  Killing becomes a sport, a fun past-time.  Brutal and bloody games are invented as a coming-of-age ritual, to prove one’s bravery and courage.  This kind of blood-thirst is horrifically described elsewhere.

Americo-centric Bias
The dragon society is built around America’s view of war.  Americans see themselves as liberators.  If we could only get rid of whatever evil tyrant who rules over this or that country, then we could live peacefully with them.  Kill the big bad dragon, and they’ll greet us as liberators.  Unfortunately, as wikileaks recently revealed, America often supports dictators, until it becomes politically convenient to assassinate or overthrow them.

Peace and Prosperity
Once the big bad dragon is killed, the societies do mesh together, and correctly show the benefits that peaceful trade has over war.  During wartime, the ruling class of Vikings was able to command an extreme amount of power, and the dragons got to steal the Vikings' fish and sheep.  But during a time of peace, the Vikings were able to trade their surplus food for the services of flight and fire that the dragons had to offer.  Peace fosters prosperity, and a free-market provides huge incentives to avoid war.  Genius and economist Ludwig von Mises put it simply:

“If the tailor goes to war against the baker, he must henceforth produce his bread for himself.” (Human Action p. 828).

The dragons, for example, were unable to raise sheep or fish for themselves.  By cutting themselves off from this trade, they had to make desperate attacks on the Vikings or else risk starvation.  Similarly, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a desperate attempt to secure a supply of gasoline, which they were unable to produce domestically.  Gas had been available during peacetime, but was cut off because of the war.

Both societies benefited more from peace, though the ruling elites benefited far more during war (for example: Viking leaders got to dictate every phase of a Viking's life, and the king dragon got to eat for free.) For this reason, the ruling class has to convince the masses that war is in fact for their benefit, though those who prosper are generally a few politically-connected businessmen and politicians (think military-industrial complex, the guys who make Viking swords and catapults).  The propaganda that war is good for the economy has been ingrained so well through our public education system (which teaches that WWII got us out of the great depression), that most Americans believe it.  This falsehood is easily disarmed again by Mises:

“War can really cause no economic boom, at least not directly, since an increase in wealth never does result from destruction of goods.” (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 154)

This movie realistically illustrates that the war state is diametrically opposed to freedom. Offensive, imperial wars necessitate massive amounts of lives and money, which are only available if a sovereign can coerce vast amounts of money from his subjects.  And if that is possible, freedom has already gone by the wayside.  For a free people will quickly end a war if they see it cutting too sharply into their liberties (economic and political).  People in bondage to a tyrant do not have the freedom to end war.  Their money is taken regardless of their protestations.  And if conscripts toss their weapons to the ground and refuse to fight, they are shot.  Or eaten, in the case of dragons.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ghostbusters: How the Government Destroys Entrepreneurship

Ghostbusters Double Feature Gift Set (Ghostbusters/ Ghostbusters 2 and Commemorative Book)I just watched Ghostbusters again, and man, that movie has aged well.  The script (co-written by Dan Akroyd) was full of clever dialogue.  The acting was great, Bill Murray is always at the top of his game.  Has that guy ever been in a bad movie?

I loved it even more now that I'm an anarcho-capitalist.  The movie pits struggling entrepreneurs (the Ghostbusters) against a meddling and incompetent government (the EPA).

Dan Akroyd (Stantz) and Bill Murray (Venkman) have a discussion in the beginning, when they decide to go into business for themselves:

You're always so worried about your reputation. We don't need the University. Einstein did his best stuff while he was working as a patent clerk.'They can't stop progress. STANTZ (not cheered) Do you know what a patent clerk makes? I liked the University. They gave us money, they gave us the facilities and we didn't have to produce anything! I've worked in the private sector. They expect results. You've never been out of college. You don't know what it's like out there. VENKMAN (with visionary zeal) Let me tell you, Ray, everything in life happens for a reason. Call it fate, call it luck, Karma, whatever. I think we were destined to get kicked out of there. STANTZ For what purpose? VENKMAN (with real conviction) To go into business for ourselves.

(emphasis added)

This conversation could just as easily been about government jobs vs. private sector jobs.  It takes tremendous effort, risk, and sacrifice to go into business for yourself.  Akroyd's character has to take a third mortgage on his house to get the business up and running.

Business picks up as they start busting ghost heads, until all hell breaks loose.  But it's not ghosts that are the problem, it's the government.

An power-mad EPA inspector Walter Peck (played by William Atherton) comes to shut down the ghost storage grid.  The first encounter goes like this:

May I please see the storage facility? VENKMAN Why do you want to see it? PECK Well, because I'm curious. I want to know more about what you do here. Frankly, there have been a lot of wild stories in the media and we want to assess any possible environmental impact from your operation. For instance, the storage of noxious, possibly hazardous waste materials in your basement. Now either you show me what's down there or I come back with a court order. VENKMAN (he's had it) Go ahead! Get a court order. Then I'm gonna sue your ass off for wrongful prosecution. PECK (exiting) Have it your way, Mr. Venkman. VENKMAN (shouts after him) Hey! Make yourself useful! Go save a tree!

(emphasis added)

Venkman's threat to sue Peck is an idle one.  Because the government has a monopoly over the court system, it is nearly impossible to successfully prosecute them.

Peck returns with a police officer, and threatens to have the secretary arrested for "interfering with a police officer."  He orders the storage grid to be shut off:

If you turn that thing off we won't be responsible for the consequences. PECK On the contrary! You will be held completely responsible.

This is typical.  The government interferes with a private enterprise, and then blames that enterprise when their own actions cause the disaster.

This power trip may sound fantastic.  But you must remember, Nixon established the EPA.  There's obviously something sketchy about them. And here are some real-life examples of the EPA gone wild:

The EPA ignores science
The EPA wants the authority "to shut down every kind of industrial activity or construction project nationwide."
The EPA is responsible for the Challenger disaster.
The EPA regulated milk and dairy products, because they contain "oil" (natural fats, not exxon stuff).
The EPA destroys a small American surfboard business (a must read)

So the EPA releases hell on earth, and the Ghostbusters go to prison.  They then have to beg the mayor of New York to "allow" them to do their jobs.

It was great to see a realistic depiction of government meddling in the movies.  Entrepreneurs are the real heroes.  Government just gets in the way.  If the Ghostbusters had simply been left alone, the ghost apocalypse would not have happened.

It would be safe to assume that the zombie apocalypse will come about through government intervention.