Monday, December 28, 2009

When will there be no rules?

There has been a lot of talk in the Zeitgeist Movement about our principles and how we should be holding to them. Some people go so far as to saying that we should be implementing the proposed policies that the Venus Project advocates for society right away. There is a good deal of mistrust and fear of authority figures in this movement because we recognize that authority has been abused, and it has lead to a lot of societies problems. And in many cases even taken lives. I am on board with that and I completely understand. However, are we ready to eliminate authority within the Zeitgeist movement? Some people have suggested that we should for example remove moderators on our forums and other communication mediums. I have heard similar arguments for why we should have no rules. And that there should be no kicking or banning of anyone using our communications systems no matter how rude, crass or outright destructive they have become.

They site the Venus Project's eventual goal of having a world with no laws or government as reasoning for this. But they are missing a very important issue, and putting the cart before the horse. Our goal is to eliminate the need for these institutions of authority by addressing the root causes of the behavior in question by controlling the environment in such a way that eliminates destructive behavior before it starts. When it comes to our moderators and administrators in the Zeitgeist movement, we don't have any control over what the environment of those who participate in communication mediums is like at home. So it is impossible for us to solve these problems in that way.

Authority is a natural phenomena in our current society. Lets examine for a moment what authority is.

n. pl. au·thor·i·ties
a. The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge.
b. One that is invested with this power, especially a government or body of government officials: land titles issued by the civil authority.

2. Power assigned to another; authorization: Deputies were given authority to make arrests.

3. A public agency or corporation with administrative powers in a specified field: a city transit authority.

a. An accepted source of expert information or advice: a noted authority on birds; a reference book often cited as an authority.
b. A quotation or citation from such a source: biblical authorities for a moral argument.

5. Justification; grounds: On what authority do you make such a claim?

6. A conclusive statement or decision that may be taken as a guide or precedent.

7. Power to influence or persuade resulting from knowledge or experience: political observers who acquire authority with age.

8. Confidence derived from experience or practice; firm self-assurance: played the sonata with authority.

Now, we do give our moderators and administrators authority in the following sense.

"a. The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge."

Our moderators have the ability to enforce the rules of the forums they preside in, to exact obedience from people who are not following those rules. To determine and judge if someone's behavior should cause them to be removed from those forums.

The rules that they enforce are there to prevent people from being abusive to other users. Or destructive to conversation and the exchange of ideas.

Some might argue that we shouldn't need those rules or the moderators in a chat room devoted to enforcing them if we really believe what we do about society. The problem is, and this is proven all the time in our forums, chat rooms, etc. is that even within the Zeitgeist movement we have not yet changed our own values enough to be able to do this. If we had, there would be no conversations or arguments about banning. Not because there would be no mods or rules. But because no one would be behaving in a way that would lead to anyone wanting them to be banned in the first place.

Now there is another way that we see authority in the Zeitgeist Movement. For example the authority that Jacque Fresco has as the progenitor of the Venus Project.

"a. An accepted source of expert information or advice: a noted authority on birds; a reference book often cited as an authority."

Or the authority we get when we quote his work:

"b. A quotation or citation from such a source: biblical authorities for a moral argument." (Don't panic anti-religion folks, it's just an example.)

There is also the authority that we give Jacque based on his credentials.

"7. Power to influence or persuade resulting from knowledge or experience: political observers who acquire authority with age."

So, we have people with authority within the Zeitgeist movement. All of that authority exists specifically to help us achieve our goals. Whether it be preventing someone from being disruptive and preventing us from being able to have good discussion or being knowledgeable on the subject of the Venus Project. We defer to Jacque Fresco on the subject, because he is an "authority" on the subject.

Now that we have touched on what authority is, let us explore what being an "authoritarian" is.

1. favouring, denoting, or characterized by strict obedience to authority

2. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) favouring, denoting, or relating to government by a small elite with wide powers

3. despotic; dictatorial; domineering

Now, there is a lot of this word being thrown around. Generally in a derogatory manner. There are people who believe that no authority should exist, and anyone who uses authority should therefore not exist either. I don't believe we have any authoritarians in the Zeitgeist movement's group of moderators and administrators. We do have people who are an "authority" in this sense:

(Stating both so that this quote makes sense)

"a. The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge.
b. One that is invested with this power, especially a government or body of government officials: land titles issued by the civil authority."

Usually when people are using the word "authoritarian" are usually using it as an attack on people who they feel are abusing authority. They point to people like Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, etc. We don't have any authoritarians in the administration of the Zeitgeist Movement. We do have some authorities.

I understand why people in the movement have prejudices against people in positions of authority, as they sometimes turn into authoritarians. But lets take a moment and think why authority actually exists.

Authority, and power over people ebbs and flows all the time in a natural setting in the value system we currently have. When a group of people engage in a conversation at a table in a restaurant there are still roles assigned. Some people are more dominant then others. Sometimes this is just because someone might be more knowledgeable about the subject everyone is talking about. So therefore people are deferring to that person as an "authority" on the subject based on their knowledge. Like the example I presented earlier of Jacque Fresco. Eventually in a Venus Project society we hope that everyone will be "authorities" in this sense on most subjects. And that people will naturally defer to people who know more then them about a given subject because they are anxious to learn.

Sometimes however someone takes control because they are an authoritarian. Generally that person will dominate the conversation, engaging in debate but using intimidation and social pressures to dissuade any argument from the rest of the people participating. They will use Ad Hominem attacks, making fun of anyone who is their opposition. People will let these people run the conversation out of fear that they might be the next victim of those tactics. And in fact sometimes might even help him enforce his "rule by humiliation of all opposition" to further try and secure their own position.

Now this effect is very subtle. And most people don't talk about it. Many people don't even think about it. But it is there. And you will find people will be very uncomfortable when you point out that behavior. Rather then rewarding you for pointing out the problem with communication and how one person is kind of dominating the conversation you will find yourself looked at very strangely.

It is much more subtle at a dinner conversation. But there are other applications of authority that people have problems with. Lets take violent behavior. There are people who would prefer that there were no police. They vent all sorts of negativity at police officers and talk about how much the world would be better without them. They think back to the last time they got a parking ticket or whatever and sigh. So why do police officers exist?

Because of our value system, people struggle and fight one another as second nature. The fight for dominance in of itself is a reaction to scarcity. If your the strongest animal in your pack or group you will always eat first, and the most. This is not "human nature" but a reaction to the circumstances in our environments and we in the Zeitgeist Movement know that. However to simply rid ourselves of police officers right now would not somehow make authority go away. Because police officers were created to protect people from the abuse of authority that can go on in every day life. People who have a problem with police officers are failing to look at the root causes of why police exist.

I know very well that the power that police officers have has been and will continue to be abused at times. The police officers are also products of their environment. Their environment includes dealing not only with the freedom loving people of this society, but constantly dealing with the absolute worst people of society. Rapists, pedophiles, etc. Their duty is something very dangerous, they are underpaid, and under-appreciated. And in fact in some cultures you are glorified for killing them. Their duty often includes getting shot at, chasing criminals down busy streets to try and get them off the street so they don't hurt anyone, etc.

So why do police exist? They exist as an "authority" to protect us from people who would try to use authority gained over us with violence or coercion.

Removing all of the police and laws in the world without eliminating the value system would not suddenly rid us of all authority. The authority instead would be given out to he who had the biggest gun, the strongest punch, or the biggest gang. I was a delegate to the Libertarian National convention, and ran for Congress as a Libertarian. I am well aware of many silly laws. But there are still plenty of laws that are there to protect people. And until our value system is changed removing those laws would not protect us from authority.

Lets take the law against assault. If there are no laws and no police that means no specific entity has the right to defend you or attempt to protect you from being assaulted. So that means in this fist fight your having the person with the authority is whichever of the two of you happens to be more skilled in hand to hand combat, or maybe just bigger. And the "authority" is not removed from the situation. It is handed over to the person who beat you up. And with no law or police there is no "authority" to punish your attacker. And they will be free to head out into the world and find another victim.

So, what does this mean for the Zeitgeist movement?

Recently we have had a few interesting controversies concerning some people who have made it their hobby to find new and inventive ways to victimize people on our Ventrilo and Mumble voice chat servers, and in our IRC chat rooms. There are people who are fed up and want to see people banned for obviously destructive behavior. There are people who argue that banning people goes against the principles of our movement.

Lets clarify something. And this is very important. The Venus Project does not condone aggressive, abusive, and destructive behavior. The Venus Project's position on that is very clear. And while we feel that laws and police are not good long-term solutions, it doesn't mean that we should remove these protections until we can change the environment in such a way that eliminates this behavior at it's root cause. And as previously stated we cannot control the environment that the people who come into our chat rooms and other communication mediums live in there really is no way for us to apply our principles to solving that human behavior.

There are people who say they don't like the behavior or our mods, but they are not looking at the root causes of that behavior. And that is the behavior of the people they are banning. If people were not behaving in a destructive fashion in the first place nobody would be getting banned. If you don't like the behavior of the moderators then the way to change it would be through changing the behavior of the people who are being disruptive. You will see less and less "authority" being used when people truly are enlightened.

The answer to the question of "So when are we going to get rid of all these moderators and rules in the Zeitgeist movement?"

When the value system of all of the people who participate on our forums is such that nobody would ever think of being intentionally malicious in debate. When every member of the community takes responsibility for actively confronting that behavior when it happens and makes it clear that it will not be accepted or tolerated.

So take a moment and think about the nature of "authority" and how it develops in typical community setting. Just like at that dinner table we described earlier some one will have the authority. And when there is no rules to prevent that authority from being abused it will simply be abused. When you take the authority away from the moderators, you are just handing it to the people who are the reason the rules and moderators exist in the first place. At first you will think there is no authority and everything is working fine. But eventually the pecking order dominance will be established. And that won't be settled by rules that are set up to try and protect equality and fairness. The rules will be like they are in any primitive social circle. Complete with "popular" and "unpopular" people. People who pick on others and people who are picked on.

And in the name of protecting "free speech" for the person shouting obscene language and slinging personal attacks we will lose a dozen or so participants who might of constructively added to the conversation. Because most people will be too intimidated to take part in the conversation out of fear of being pushed around by the actual authoritarians. Or they will just get fed up and leave. Effectively the "troll" will have more power to ban and mute anyone they see fit. And they will be quick to single out anyone who stands up to them. And with no system in place to protect the masses from any backlash the "troll" would dish out nobody will stand up for anyone brave enough to stand up to them. And in the "troll" system of doing things people will actually be socially rewarded for helping the "troll" punish those who confront him. Does any of this sound familiar?

Coercion, force, fear tactics? Isn't that the authoritarians we are actually worried about?

Some of the behavior of "trolls" reminds me of the description of the mental illness known as Conduct disorder.

"Conduct disorder is a psychiatric category marked by a pattern of repetitive behavior wherein the rights of others or social norms are violated.

Symptoms include verbal and physical aggression, cruel behavior toward people and pets, destructive behavior, lying, truancy, vandalism, and stealing.[1]

Conduct disorder is a major public health problem because youth with conduct disorder not only inflict serious physical and psychological harm on others, but they are at greatly increased risk for incarceration, injury, depression, substance abuse, and death by homicide and suicide. After the age of 18, a conduct disorder may develop into antisocial personality disorder, which is related to psychopathy.

For more information on that, follow this link:

I had completed this entry but I decided to add another very important insight I have had with regards to freedom movements in general. As many of you know, I was a delegate to the national convention of the Libertarian party, and ran as a candidate for Congress under that same banner. I learned a lot from the election. And the reason I had initially become attracted to the ideas of Libertarianism because of Congressman Ron Paul and his bid for the presidency. Congressman Paul had started his political career as a Republican, and then went to the Libertarian party for one run for president there. He returned to the Republican party afterward, and I often had wondered why.

My understanding of that became very clear when I attended the convention. Here was a group that was so concentrated on fighting authority that they were utterly unable to do anything meaningful to that end. They were all so paranoid about authority that they couldn't even accept leadership within their own movement for the purpose of fighting the abuses of authority. What his has lead to is that the Libertarian party though well intentioned is wrought with constant infighting as a "mob" of people all fighting for their individualism can't accomplish anything that requires more then a few like minded people to achieve.

I have seen fear of authority go so far as to blind someone to the fact that they are fighting authority up to and including the authority of anyone to stop them from hurting other people. One anarchist in particular who I remember being a leader in the Libertarian party was constantly talking about the evils of authority and authoritarianism that he would call it out anytime he saw it. But when I got to know this person I found out that he was a horribly abusive and controlling to the ladies in his life, committing acts such as stabbing his wife over the use of the computer. It was evident to me why that person hated authority. He hated the idea that anyone might stop him from doing whatever he wanted whenever he wanted to whomever he wanted. I also remember very clearly arguing with people that stated the government should not of used it's authority to end slavery, as they were violating the private property rights of slave owners. To hear that spoken out loud by a cognitive human being was another major proof to me that we must be careful in our pursuit of freedom.

We are a movement who works together towards specific goals. This means that on projects there are still going to be project mangers and people with the responsibility to organize information and ensure that meetings and conversations go smoothly. If we ever want to accomplish anything as a movement we are going to have to recognize this fact. We of course will watch our authority figures and ensure that they are not abusing their authority, but we also need to watch ourselves and make sure that our own insecurities are not clouding our minds on the issue.

My mother raised me to be a critical and analytical thinker. She taught me to question authority, she cited the example of the platoon of soldiers that were commanded to go to ground zero when we tested our first atomic bomb and what happened to them. However, she also cautioned me not to reject authority out of hand. The cause of liberty is a great one but liberty from tyranny and liberty from sanity are two very different things. And it is not sane to think that we can proceed without a lot of cooperation, organization and some authority.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Why are we not ready to build a venus project city?

After my last show I got some rather scathing words from a critic. On the Zeitgeist forums he called himself EricR. His take my show was rather harsh. So much that a lot of people posted to tell him so. I am going to do my best to make my point here without sounding bitter. But what he did actually helped give me information to further prove my point.

I don't really want to get into any personal problems I had with what the person had to say. But what I will bring up is the most relevant points. And that is that someone who believed themselves to be part of the Zeitgeist movement stated the following things:

In response to my statement that we seek to feed and take care of everyone:

“Provided there is enough to go around. I do not want my standard of living to go down from where it is now. If there are not enough resources to distribute that my standard of living will go up, then I don’t want to have to share.”

“My primary concern is whether or not the application of science for the most efficient distribution of goods and services worldwide would make my standard of living and the standard of living of my family go up or down. If down, I want no part of this movement.”

“I could give a rip about the egalitarian values. I mean hey, if we can feed the masses that would be nice. But it’s not the primary objective for me. I make good money under the present system and my family does fine. To me, TZM should be about science, period.”

In response to the issue of getting people on board:

“Again, real world versus fantasyland fiction. How is TZM going to convince people that they should give a rip about the needs of others? Only way is through education and propaganda, unless you propose we genetically engineer out the selfishness genes. Personally, I think that genetic engineering of humans “A Brave New World” style to shape values would likely be necessary. But then, I’m an engineer and I advocate science for the benefit of mankind.”

In response to the issue of self sustaining technologies:

“I’m not in this movement for that. As I have said, egalitarianism is not my primary motive. If I wanted this tripe I’d join Greenpeace, the Environmental Liberation Front, PITA or any number of the leftist eco-terrorist groups out there that spew forth hypocrisy from all orifices.”

When I suggested he was kind of selfish:

“Yep, I'm selfish. I'm also educated, have a good job, and am doing just fine under capitalism. Really, I can't complain, my life has been pretty damned good. Gettin' ready to go pick up a HoneyBaked ham for our Christmas celebration. Yeah, I know, Christmas is bunk. But I did it when I was a kid, and I turned out fine. Figure I'll give my kids the same opportunities I had. They'll have enough time for the realities of the world when they grow up.”

Now, why is this relevant as to why we are not building cities?

Well, this person considered themselves a member of the Zeitgeist movement. They had some very harsh critique to offer about what direction we are taking and what direction we should be taking. He is also an engineer. And it is likely that such a person could end up on one of the disciplinary teams we talk about in the future of the Venus Project.

The problem is, it is very evident that they do not understand or embrace the concepts of the Venus Project. We still have people in our movement who think along the lines described above. Yes, this is only one man, but he is not alone. The attitude of the person presented above is the very attitude that leads to corruption. There is no place for selfishness in the Venus Project. And anyone who thinks they “turned out just fine” but still feels that they are only interested in this path so long as they have to make no personal sacrifices is clearly not on the same page.

This is dangerous to any efforts to start building the city. Anyone who still holds this value system would be highly destructive to the social environment that we need to achieve our goals. People who “don't give a wit about egalitarian values” are actually the reason we have this problem in the first place. This is why education, and spreading the word is vitally important at this stage. If we don't have a solid foundation of the values needed any city that eliminates scarcity will still end up corrupted and destroyed. The Soviet Union is an example of what happens when a community comes together to build a community based on principles they don't truly understand.

We have to be damn sure that everyone gets why the things this person said are wrong. And not just because anyone told them they are wrong. We need to be sure that people fully understand and comprehend why they are wrong.

Now I would like to talk a bit about my experience in the chat room during Peter Joseph's radio show today. As it is also pertinent for a different reason.

We have another serious problem in that the maturity level of everyone in the movement is not yet conducive to following this path. Today in the chat room I talked about doing a show about this subject. Someone else took offense to that. He happens to be part of an effort to build a city now. The exchange that went on following this lead to some rather negative exchanges. Among them was him telling me “We are going to build it whether you agree with it or not...” and when I asked him to provide debate he said “I don't have to debate you.”

Eventually another person got involved by telling me to “shut up” and calling me names and other assorted nonsense. People started to weigh in on both sides. Some people said we should just ignore them, other people said we should drop the subject, etc. etc. etc.

Now, once again I am going to stay out of any of my personal feelings on the issues presented. However, this again was another serious example of my point being proven for me. If our value structure was sufficient, nobody would be telling me to “shut up” or making statements like “I don't have to debate it.”

I ended up continuing the conversation in the chat room. But not because I was getting upset as some people thought. I felt it was an important case study in the exact problem I was trying to voice. Several people in the chat room agreed and I continued. Eventually one of the people trolling was banned. The other eventually left after saying “I am leaving chat so I don't have to deal with your whining”.

I am sure many of you remember my previous show about Ad Hominem debate tactics. And how these tactics would never go away if we don't take a stand against them. I am sure that many people reading this are now focused on the people who were “causing the drama” as it is normally said. However, they are not looking at another important culprit. And that would be the people who were trying to socially pressure people into dropping the topic. And would of preferred that we take the topic elsewhere, or simply stopped talking about it at all. Unfortunately this does not solve anything. And in fact in many cases the people who think they are being “peacemakers” end up turning to aggression themselves when they start attacking the people having the heated conversation.

I remember talking on a previous show about the “don't cause drama” issue. Basically the example I give is if your at a party somewhere and someone comes in and starts making everyone feel uncomfortable, the person who stands up to them generally is the one who is blamed for “causing” the strife. This distracts away from the real issue, which is whatever they are debating. In this issue we are talking about building a Venus project city now or later. It gets heated so rather then people endeavoring to tell people to calm down, call trolls trolls and discourage that behavior, they are content instead to just tell everyone to drop it.

Another complication in this is the self-appointed “peacemakers” often say “well your both at fault, so you should both shut up.” even if both parties are not both at fault. They don't want to lose face with either person so they don't really analyze the situation far enough to get to the core of the issue.

Why is this pertinent to why we cannot build a city?

We have to be able to have disagreements without resorting to name calling. We also have to be able to have disagreements where name calling is taking place and the community involved with the conversation stepping up as a whole to condemn that behavior.

There were a lot of people in the conversation who said “Well why don't you just ignore them?” Well the first point I would say is “We shouldn't have to ignore anyone.” and the fact that we do further proves my point. We as a species, even in this movement do not have the values we need yet to be able to succeed.

In addition, in the future we are going to get into a lot of situations where “ignoring” the problem is not going to be an option. Honestly I don't feel it should be an option now. If there is dissent, that needs to be addressed, promptly. When two people get heated with each other and you tell them their issues are unimportant and they should just drop it they still leave the situation both feeling offended. It solves nothing, and in fact encourages both people to simply take their problems elsewhere, to other parts of the movement. What could have been dealt with right then and there can spread like a virus and cause divisions in the movement. Skills in conflict resolution must be cultivated. And resolving not to resolve anything is like saying not talking about pollution will make that problem go away.

Pollution is a good analogy, because we are talking about social pollution at this point. I have watched as well intentioned “freedom movements” use this lack of resolution solution and find themselves doing OK because of it in the short term. But down the line the small cracks that develop in the unity of the movement get bigger and bigger. Eventually these cracks turn into damage that is often irreparable. People who decided that a bit of peace at the moment is more important then outright war later find that it is now too late for them to heal the gaps that have been created.

We have a lot of growing up to do, within this very movement. And that needs to happen well before we start building anything. If we can't conduct ourselves well in an internet chat room, and our only solution to this sort of behavior is to try to “ignore it” then how are we going to handle important meetings on the subjects we need to discuss in the building of a city?

The reason this is more then just a discussion about words, is that this behavior itself is a serious problem. It leads to things like the person who sabotaged our recent meeting on Ventrilo. That was another example of how we couldn't “ignore” them.

Now, finally I will talk about the reasons we are not building cities that Jacque Fresco has already given.

We anticipate a collapse. Not an if, a when. Any such communes will immediately be the subject of scrutiny and propaganda as the system tries to save itself from it's own shortcomings. After a collapse any such community will be plundered and destroyed. We cannot make plans for just a few of us. We need to save everyone, or in the end we will save no one. This is not to say that there is not a place for research centers and experimental cities. But we have to take into account that any ill-thought out project will serve to give ammunition to our opposition. Just as many of the failed communes does for Communism.

I will be doing another show on a related topic here. But next I will be talking about just how asleep a lot of people are.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why is the Venus Project not Communism/Socialism?

After several requests by listeners to talk about the differences between the Venus Project and Communism/Socialism I have been researching this topic for some time. This is also why I have not done any radio shows yet this month, as there was a lot of research that went into this. I wanted to be very sure that I knew what I was talking about.

First of all, let me begin by talking about Karl Marx and his vision. I read “The Communist Manifesto” to be able to understand the direction he was considering. I feel that he had his heart in the right place. And many of his observations about the problems with capitalism are right on track. Let go over a few

Most of Marx's work talks about the conflict between the “bourgeois” which basically is a word for the “ruling elite” and owners of the means of production, and the “proletariat” which is a word for the working class. The people who actually do the work. In his descriptions of these struggles he details how the elite exploit the working class and always seem to end up sitting around most of the day making money just because they happen to own some land or factories while the workers sweat and toil to make money for them.

From the Communist Manifesto:
“In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed — a class of laborers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital. These laborers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.”

And further:

“The average price of wage-labor is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the laborer in bare existence as a laborer What, therefore, the wage-laborer appropriates by means of his labor, merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence. We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labor, an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labor of others. All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the laborer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it.“

This basically talks about how in the capitalist system the people who have all the money will only give us a share of it if it in some way brings profits to themselves. And when they do so they are only inclined to do so enough to keep the laborers in a state of living that permits them only to always be dependent on that labor to be able to survive. We are watching this happen today as labor unions lose their power to do much about outsourcing and automation. Marx's points are made even stronger when you take into account technological unemployment. Technology's power to put people out of work was tiny in comparison to what it is now. And as Marx points out, the elite are only inclined to employ people so long as it is profitable.

Marx further goes on to attack private property in such a way that I believe many of us in the Zeitgeist Movement would agree with.

“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.”

Marx here basically exposes the utter hypocrisy of the Capitalists to say that there is some sort of “freedom” being taken away when Communists/Socialists take private property away from the elite. The real motive behind capitalists defending private property is defending their right to exist as a few who get to live lavishly thanks to the work of the many.

“The lower strata of the middle class — the small tradespeople, shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants — all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialized skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production. Thus the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.”

This statement pretty much blows a huge hole in the Free Market capitalist theory that small businesses will be able to compete with large corporations. This statement above is kind of the crux as to why the notion that competition alone will prevent monopoly is absurd. It talks about technological unemployment. Some of the arguments that were used to debunk Marxism were valid before technology achieved what it has today.

Problems with Marxism:

Marx had an incomplete idea. From Wikipedia: “Karl Marx never provided a detailed description as to how communism would function as an economic system, but it is understood that a communist economy would consist of common ownership of the means of production, culminating in the negation of the concept of private ownership of capital, which referred to the means of production in Marxian terminology.”

This lack of detail left the idea wide open for interpretation and therefore corruption. I will get into some examples of that corruption here. Lets take the example of Soviet Russia.


When Marx envisioned how the socialist revolution would come about, he initially figured it would happen in the most advanced capitalist countries. At the time of the revolution that took place in Russia the conditions were certainly not in line with this criteria.

From Wikipedia:
“In Russia, the 1917 October Revolution was the first time any party with an avowedly Marxist orientation, in this case the Bolshevik Party, seized state power. The assumption of state power by the Bolsheviks generated a great deal of practical and theoretical debate within the Marxist movement. Marx predicted that socialism and communism would be built upon foundations laid by the most advanced capitalist development. Russia, however, was one of the poorest countries in Europe with an enormous, largely illiterate peaseantry and a minority of industrial workers.”

This kind of set the system up to fail from the beginning in these conditions. Resources were already scarce from the start. This is the reason that Marx generally figured that his system would work best in an already advanced capitalist country which could then convert it's resources to the new system.

What ended up happening in Russia was a series of problems often seen on a smaller scale in communes. You cannot take the capitalist infrastructure and just decide to “share” the already flawed system and expect it to work. You also cannot expect people to just “volunteer” to do messy jobs. The whole system depended entirely too much on labor with very little incentive.

What Marx wanted to see was what he called a “Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” which basically meant rule by the working class. This was never actually realized in Soviet Russia, and is generally never realized in any other Communist/Socialist state. Some sort of harsh regime always convinces everyone it is necessary before such a great world where everyone gets a say in their lives can truly exist. Kind of like the pigs in animal farm. This ruling class starts off on the right road. But eventually as the limitations of resources become clear the people who are in charge of their distribution tend to find themselves in the position of making sure they are on top. This is what critics and former citizens of Soviet Russia referred to as the “nomenklatura”.

Who were the nomenklatura? Well they were basically the pigs from animal farm who changed the rules from “All animals are equal” to “Some animals are MORE equal then others.” For those of you who have not read or watched animal farm I will define it further.

From Wikipedia:
“The nomenklatura were a small, elite subset of the general population in the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries who held various key administrative positions in all spheres of those countries' activity: government, industry, agriculture, education, etc. The nomenklatura was analogous to the ruling class, which Communist doctrine denounced in the capitalist West.”

Basically, you are looking at a group of elites, who choose and appoint themselves. If you want into this exclusive club you have to be sponsored by someone already in it. And once in your continued livelihood was utterly dependent on that sponsorship as you could always be replaced.

From Wikipedia:
“Because a client was beholden to his patron for his position, the client was eager to please his patron by carrying out his policies. The Soviet power structure essentially consisted of groups of vassals (clients) who had an overlord (the patron). The higher the patron, the more clients the patron had. Patrons protected their clients and tried to promote their careers. In return for the patron's efforts to promote their careers, the clients remained loyal to their patron. Thus, by promoting his clients' careers, the patron could advance his own power.”

So what do we have here? Just nobility under another name. A bunch of elites stacking the leadership of the country they are leading to ensure they are always on top. Now, before the Capitalists declare victory I would point out that in the strongest capitalist country on the planet, that being the United States the situation is no different. We just are better at hiding this fact in layer after layer of political donations and favors. In the communist system your direct superior was your sponsor. In the capitalist system corporations are your sponsors.

In any case, these people were widely seen (and resented) by ordinary citizens as a bureaucratic elite that enjoyed special privileges and had simply supplanted the earlier wealthy capitalist elites. Just business as usual.

Now, when this system just as any other system starts to have problems, it turns to fascism. Even though this is entirely against the core concepts of Marx's beliefs just as it was in theory against the founding father's of the United State's beliefs.

From Wikipedia:
“Western criticisms of the Soviet Union and Third World communist regimes have been strongly anchored in scholarship on totalitarianism, which points out that communist parties maintain themselves in power without the consent of the populations they rule by means of secret police, propaganda disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, repression of free discussion and criticism, mass surveillance, and state terror. These studies of totalitarianism influenced Western historiography on communism and Soviet history, particularly the work of Robert Conquest and Richard Pipes on Stalinism, the Great Purge, the Gulag, and the Soviet famine of 1932-1934.“

So, tell me if the above statement reminds you of anything else? Oh yeah...the capitalist United States. The difference is as I described before, the elite here in this country can achieve all of this while still maintaining the charade that we are supposedly all citizens of a free country. The fact that the government doesn't officially control the media in the United States only makes them more powerful. As the average citizen has no reason to even consider that their news might be propaganda.

Comparing this system to the Venus Project:


1.We (meaning the Venus Project and Communists) both think capitalism sucks.
2.We also agree that private property is a bad idea.
3.We both tend to feel that we should share the resources.


1.Communism does not focus it's efforts on eliminating scarcity. Instead it kind of assumes that there is enough for everyone. And when this proves to be false rather then seeking solutions using the scientific method it just turns to fascism and tyranny.
2.Communism fights for the rights (or claims to fight for the rights) of the working class. We want to eliminate the need for a working class entirely.
3.Communism doesn't address the very real problem that people will not be inclined to work nasty jobs. And therefore does not recognize the importance of automation.
4.Communism still depends on the concept of law to keep people in line. And in fact is very harsh in it's pursuit of people who step out of line. The Venus Project feels that we should instead be focused on eliminating the root causes of criminal behavior at their source. The Communists also still use prisons as a means to solve this problem rather then treating people who behave abberantly as sick patients.
5.Communism in implementation tends to end up falling into the same traps of corruption. Mind you, if they were actually doing what Marx suggested they wouldn't have this problem.
6.Social stratification is still part of the Communist implementation, leading to a new “elite” all over again.
7.The communist system still uses money. And as always this can and does get used as a tool to make sure that some people have more then others.
8.Communism does not utilize the scientific method. And decisions are still made by unqualified statesman with half-assed opinions on any given subject rather then well educated experts.
9.Education at least in Soviet Russia consisted of a lot of propaganda designed to ensure that everyone was in love with it. In the Venus Project our education will be rooted in enhancing the critical and analytical thinking of the people of the world so that no one will ever be foolish enough to be taken in by another fascist ploy again. And when problems are encountered, rather then trying to cover them up or attacking people who show that the system is flawed we will embrace these findings and adjust our society accordingly.
10.Self-sustaining technologies should have been the top priority of any society that would try to share the world's resources. In the Venus Project ideal they would be.

In closing, Communism/Socialism both started off as promising ideas. And I think that if they were implemented exactly as their creators envisioned they would stand a far better chance of success. I feel that we in the Zeitgeist movement and the Venus Project could stand to learn a lot from their mistakes. I also feel that we will probably have a lot more luck finding allies in these movements then in the capitalist side of things. Most people seek out socialism out of a true love of the idea of everyone working together and sharing the world's resources for the betterment of all mankind. And we would certainly say that is a step in the right direction.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bahhh says the sheep!

So I stumbled on this video today and I wanted to share it. It reminds me of a video that I once watched of someone interviewing people in Florida after they voted in the primary. This particular video was taken from a crowd of people outside a book signing for Sarah Palin. People in freezing cold literally in line outside the building to meet her. When asked relevant questions about why they supported Sarah Palin, in many cases they had no answers of substance. And could not even answer questions about what Mrs. Palin's positions on critical issues were.

This is what we are up against. These people are seduced and hypnotized by the beauty contest that is the political system.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Repost of the review of "Economics in one lesson".

This is a re-post of an old Zeitgeist Forum post I wrote in response to someone trying to de-bunk the Venus Project. They stated that technological unemployment was a fallacy, and they suggested a book called "Economics in one lesson" as being a good source of the reasons why. Since this is the companion post to one of my earlier radio shows I figured I would re-post it here.

In this thread:

This video was linked: (NOTE: Video has since been changed to "private" for some reason so the link no longer works)

In which the person who is trying to debunk the activist orientation guide suggests this book:

In later debates I had with him in the comments on his various anti-Zeitgeist pro-capitalism videos on youtube when I asked him why he never touches on the breakdown of cyclical consumption caused by technological unemployment (A matter that most Free Market economists usually avoid like the plague because there is no solution to it in the Austrian system for reasons I will give later) he then said that is why he suggested the book. So I went to the book and looked up the author's attempts to "debunk" what Austrian economists call the "fallacy" that technology has an impact on unemployment and therefore causing poverty.

What follows is my analysis, and proof that not only does this book not present any suggestions that solve the issue of technological unemployment as it exists now, that it is based on archaic notions that no longer apply.

First of all, let me state that Free Market economists reject using the scientific method to analyze the economy. They reject the use of statistics, mathematics, and any form of collected data on the subject, claiming that there are far too many variables for any such data to be useful. So instead they use what they call "logical deductions". A fancy way of saying that they "guess".

As a Libertarian and former Free Market/Austrian economist myself I remember well what changed my mind and woke me up to the fact that this concept could not work anymore in our modern society. I will share some of that insight here.

This book is basically an attempt to state that what most mainstream economists feel is fact is actually fallacy. In addition to other alleged fallacies it talks about unemployment caused by technological advance claiming that it also is a fallacy.

Like most publications written on the subject of Free Market Economics this book is very old. It was published in 1946 and quotes other books as source material that are far older, some of which are centuries old. This is not at all uncommon with books on this subject. I would first of all point out this is true of most books about systems that wish to solve the issue of poverty. And the theories they come to are generally as outdated as the scientific books of their time. This is just as true about the work of Karl Marx about Communism, and the authors who describe Socialism. What all of these authors have in common is no way of understanding what technology would bring to the table hundreds of years past their time.

"C H A P T E R V I I


AMONG the most viable of all economic delusions is the
.belief that machines on net balance create unemployment.
Destroyed a thousand times, it has risen a
thousand times out of its own ashes as hardy and vigorous
as ever. Whenever there is long-continued mass unemployment,
machines get the blame anew. This fallacy is
still the basis of many labor union practices. The public
tolerates these practices because it either believes at bottom
that the unions are right, or is too confused to see just
why they are wrong.

It would be rather hard to see why they are wrong because in the short term even when Capitalism was healthy they were not wrong. It did create unemployment and therefore poverty.

The belief that machines cause unemployment, when
held with any logical consistency, leads to preposterous
conclusions. Not only must we be causing unemployment
with every technological improvement we make today, but
primitive man must have started causing it with the first
efforts he made to save himself from needless toil and

This in of itself is preposterous. Primitive man didn't have a monetary system that forced him to work for someone else to provide for himself.

The author then quotes a book from the year 1776, and eventually gets to this part:

"Things could be blacker, for the Industrial Revolution
was just in its infancy. Let us look at some of the incidents
and aspects of that revolution. Let us see, for example,
what happened in the stocking industry. New stocking
frames as they were introduced were destroyed by the
handicraft workmen (over 1,000 in a single riot), houses
were burned, the inventors were threatened and obliged
to fly for their lives, and order was not finally restored
until the military had been called out and the leading
rioters had been either transported or hanged.
Now it is important to bear in mind that in so far as
the rioters were thinking of their own immediate or even
longer futures their opposition to the machine was rational.
For William Felkin, in his History of the Machine-
Wrought Hosiery Manufactures (1867), tells us that the
larger part of the 50,000 English stocking knitters and
their families did not fully emerge from the hunger and
misery entailed by the introduction of the machine for the
next forty years."

Those darn rioters. I mean really, being angry about 50,000 people being reduced to poverty for forty years! The nerve of some people. In the typical Free Market Capitalist fashion, the fact that 50,000 people were reduced to a state of poverty and starvation for forty years is simply not relevant. Why should their former employer care about that?

"But in so far as the rioters believed, as
most of them undoubtedly did, that the machine was permanently
displacing men, they were mistaken, for before
the end of the nineteenth century the stocking industry
was employing at least a hundred men for every man it
employed at the beginning of the century."

I am sure that was some measure of comfort to those 50,000 people who were reduced to a state of poverty for forty years. It's all ok now right? Imagine what forty years of poverty and starvation would do to 50,000 families? The Free Market economist later would go on to point out that it's ok, their system eventually balanced everything out. What the people who suggest this book fail to see is that we propose a system where nobody has to be in poverty ever. And where progress further ensures this rather then ensuring that incidents like the ones described in this book continue.

The book then goes on to make more examples of how eventually after an initial period of poverty the industrial revolution's innovations in labor would eventually create more jobs then were previously present. If you take any concern over the damage this does to the human beings out of the equation then this could be considered an acceptable loss. The author's archaic understanding of the limits of how much technology could do to reduce the need for labor if not get rid of it entirely is clear.

He does go on to point out some of the more absurd practices that were put in place to protect jobs by labor unions. Although in many cases these demands were completely unreasonable, it is a natural reaction in a society where unless you have a job you are completely incapable of taking care of yourself. The failings of the Capitalist system become more and more clear the more you read.

"One might pile up mountains of figures to show how
wrong were the technophobes of the past. But it would do
no good unless we understood clearly why they were
wrong. For statistics and history are useless in economics
unless accompanied by a basic deductive understanding of
the facts—which means in this case an understanding of
why the past consequences of the introduction of
machinery and other labor-saving devices had to occur. Otherwise
the technophobes will assert (as they do in fact assert when
you point out to them that the prophecies of their predecessors
turned out to be absurd): "That may have been all
very well in the past; but today conditions are fundamentally
different; and now we simply cannot afford to develop
any more labor-saving machinery." Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt,
indeed, in a syndicated newspaper column of September
19, 1945, wrote: "We have reached a point today
where labor-saving devices are good only when they do
not throw the worker out of his job/'"

The example that the author gives to prove that the assertions of technophobes of the past were absurd comes a bit later, and I will get to it. What I wanted to point out however was that the technophobes were not wrong in their predictions. They just saw the problem as being a lot closer then it was. The author goes on to erect a strawman to try and discredit them by making the absurd insinuation that people would go so far as to say that in the interest of saving jobs that trains should be abolished in favor of having men carry goods on their backs. Finally after the typical ridicule employed by most Austrian economists who wish to distract from the failures in their logic (like the people in the video) we finally get to the analogy that is supposed to solve all of this.

"Theories as false as this are never held with logical consistency,
but they do great harm because they are held at
all. Let us, therefore, try to see exactly what happens when
technical improvements and labor-saving machinery are introduced.
The details will vary in each instance, depending
upon the particular conditions that prevail in a given
industry or period. But we shall assume an example that
involves the main possibilities.
Suppose a clothing manufacturer learns of a machine
that will make men's and women's overcoats for half as
much labor as previously. He installs the machines and
drops half his labor force.
This looks at first glance like a clear loss of employment.
But the machine itself required labor to make it; so here,
as one offset, are jobs that would not otherwise have existed."

So here we have it. Apparently any loss of jobs caused by automation will be fixed by the jobs created by the need to manufacture the machines that do the automation.

So in this instance we are talking about sewing machines that are replacing workers in the clothing factory. The author suggests that the labor needed to create the machines will create jobs that will replace any jobs lost. This logic depends entirely on the idea that whomever is making money making these machines is not also using automated technology to create the machines in the first place. The entire motive behind using machines is to raise your profits by not having to pay wages. And to raise efficiency because machines don't take days off, get sick, have unions, or ask for a cut of the profits that were made by their work. Machines are quite content to just be maintained. We had a name for human workers who were forced to be content with that. We called them slaves. This becomes an issue later in our modern circumstances and I will get to it shortly. Remember that in our era, machines make machines. Ask the unemployed auto workers in my home state of Michigan about this.

"At this point, it may seem, labor
has suffered a net loss of employment, while it is only the
manufacturer, the capitalist, who has gained. But it is
precisely out of these extra profits that the subsequent social
gains must come. The manufacturer must use these
extra profits in at least one of three ways, and possibly he
will use part of them in all three: ( 1 ) he will use the extra
profits to expand his operations by buying more machines
to make more coats; or (2) he will invest the extra profits
in some other industry; or (3) he will spend the extra
profits on increasing his own consumption. Whichever of
these three courses he takes, he will increase employment."

Option 1 is the most likely. However in addition he will likely also put money into research and development of ways to minimize the workforce he must employ even further. And to automate his business even further.

Option 2 also does not create new jobs either in our modern society where most companies will also be doing what I suggested in Option 1.

Option 3's effect on employment in a world of automation is actually minimal at best in our modern times.

"In other words, the manufacturer, as a result of his
economies, has profits that he did not have before. Every
dollar of the amount he has saved in direct wages to former
coat makers, he now has to pay out in indirect wages
to the makers of the new machine, or to the workers in another
capital industry, or to the makers of a new house or
motor car for himself, or of jewelry and furs for his wife.
In any case (unless he is a pointless hoarder) he gives indirectly
as many jobs as he ceased to give directly."

This equation that is supposed to create jobs has already been proven to have the bottom falling out of it more and more every day. The more automation and it's temporary rival outsourcing prevail as the industry standard, the less consumption on the part of the person making profits in this fashion fixes anything. This person in turn going out and buying products from Wal-Mart does not help the workers who were put out of work by machines and people being exploited in third world countries at all. In fact, it only perpetuates this downward spiral. As it gives the profits from your business to another business that is doing the same thing. This is a great game of keep away from the average person. And it ensures that the rich will always be rich, and the poor will always be poor.

"But the matter does not and cannot rest at this stage. If
this enterprising manufacturer effects great economies as
compared with his competitors, either he will begin to
expand his operations at their expense, or they will start
buying the machines too. Again more work will be given
to the makers of the machines."

Already debunked. More profits will be given to the makers of the machines. Some will be work will be given to those who maintain them. But if those people are building machines to automate your business you can be damn sure they are also building machines to automate the construction of their own products. Huge leaps and bounds in this technology have been made since 1946 when this book was published.

"But competition and production
will then also begin to force down the price of
overcoats. There will no longer be as great profits for those
who adopt the new machines. The rate of profit of the
manufacturers using the new machine will begin to drop,
while the manufacturers who have still not adopted the
machine may now make no profit at all. The savings, in
other words, will begin to be passed along to the buyers of
overcoats—to the consumers."

Cyclical consumption has already broken down. You will be lucky if the consumers can afford to buy the overcoats at even the reduced prices that the author assumes will happen. In many cases industries clearly work together to ensure high profits by not competing too fiercely to keep the overall prices and therefore profits of their products high. Remember the artificially created gas shortage? Gas stations competed by a difference of a few cents at best. Gas companies that were price gouging figured out that people don't just want gasoline, they NEED it. So they competed by maybe a few cents at a time. The prices did eventually drop. But not because of the reaction of the consumers as far as how much gas they bought. It's the attention that this suddenly brought to the alternative sources of energy that we SHOULD be using. This is another example of how Capitalism, the monetary system, and the profit motive bring only enough progress to ensure more profits. And not to benefit mankind. The huge efforts that gas companies go to to ensure that the public never finds out about better technologies are a perfect example.

"But as overcoats are now cheaper, more people will buy
them. This means that, though it takes fewer people to
make the same number of overcoats as before, more overcoats
are now being made than before. If the demand for
overcoats is what economists call "elastic"—that is, if a fall
in the price of overcoats causes a larger total amount of
money to be spent on overcoats than previously—then
more people may be employed even in making overcoats
than before the new labor-saving machine was introduced."

So here we have the "assumption" that more people are going to buy coats just because they are cheaper. And more of the already debunked notion that more labor will be created by making machines that eliminate labor. (Man it's hard to even type that, it frankly is just so stupid.) It does not address the fact that technology now has the ability to remove so many jobs that consumers will not have jobs to buy the products in the first place. (Which I might add, causes the service sector that sells products to hire less and lay off more that in turn causes even more unemployment and therefore even less products being purchased.)

"What machines do, to repeat, is to bring an increase in
production and an increase in the standard of living. They
may do this in either of two ways. They do it by making
goods cheaper for consumers (as in our illustration of the
overcoats), or they do it by increasing wages because they
increase the productivity of the workers. In other words,
they either increase money wages or, by reducing prices,
they increase the goods and services that the same money
wages will buy. Sometimes they do both. What actually
happens will depend in large part upon the monetary
policy pursued in a country. But in any case, machines, inventions
and discoveries increase real wages."

This assumes first of all that an employer is just going to raise the wages he pays out because the workers productivity has increased. As the ethics in business are overthrown by more and more creative applications of greed the opposite is true. Outsourcing more then anything else proves that this entire notion is a fallacy.

Lets talk about what outsourcing really is for a moment.

Essentially with the advent of superior technology, the worker has to compete with automated machines. An employer in a Free Market economy will have no regulations at all to tell them what they have to pay or what benefits or even living conditions their workers can demand. The corporate elite have already learned their lesson on how to avoid unions. Where do you find workers who are willing to work for whatever you will give them, that are satisfied with just enough money to survive?

Well, in nations that are desperate for any kind of work. Bangladesh, India, Mexico, and China just to name a few. The workers in these countries are more then willing to accept a substandard near-slavery lifestyle because it is slightly better then the starving to death lifestyle they had previously. Once again the same as it was here in the United States during the great depression. It is only a matter of time before the "global economy" that "Free Trade" creates will force Americans to accept the same standard of living as their "competition".

Free Market economists of course always justify this by saying "Oh...but nobody is FORCING these people to work for them. They could just go work somewhere else!" as if people who live in impoverished nations have a choice. They have no more choice of where they are employed then the people did during Jaque Fresco's childhood during the great depression. Scarcity of employment always leads to abuse of the workforce by the employers who realize they hold all the cards. This is exactly what was going on that caused labor unions to come into being in the first place. The only means by which labor could force companies to change their policies was to ask their political figures to pass laws to protect them, or to strike. Striking would force the employers to straighten up or lose profits when their production halted. However once a certain level of poverty is reached striking is no longer feasible. People living paycheck to paycheck cannot afford to stop working for any reason. (Believe me. Doing that now.)

To imply that workers can choose not to work and therefore not feed or care for their families is like implying that a gunmen who is threatening your family is doing no wrong because you could always choose to let him shoot them. Anarcho-Capitalists of course claim that there is no coercion. But threatening to take someone's job and therefore their life is most certainly coercion.

The choices are eliminated when the elite get together and work together to create a situation that collectively forces the labor force to accept a lower standard of living. It benefits Chrysler for example, if they agree to work with Ford and GM to ensure that no worker can expect be paid more then fifty cents an hour to make car parts.

Technology also played a serious part in this. There was a time when the overhead that would be added by sending your production overseas and then selling your products locally would be too much to make it worth it. Advances in shipping technology have long since eliminated this complication.

Free Market Capitalists tend to blame all of the problems of outsourcing on government regulation and intervention. And they claim that without government these problems would vanish. The part that I always find hilarious about this contradiction is that these same people are often the same ones complaining about the fact that our government is owned and operated by corrupt corporations in the first place. The government is a corporate owned institution. The notion that it is doing anything but facilitating the corporations ability to exploit the common man in the workforce is absurd. It is equally absurd that this would all just go away without the government. With no regulations at all, it only makes having more money more powerful. Not less.

The same is true of the media. Free Market Capitalists of course favor no regulation of anything, including the media. So if companies want to control public opinion all they have to do is buy it in the form of radio/TV stations. This minimizes the ability of any politician intent on challenging the establishment like my friend and mentor Senator Mike Gravel, or Ron Paul, or Dennis Kucinich from ever getting elected to challenge them. It also keeps pesky news outlets from reporting it when their products are found to be dangerous or are created through inhumane work practices.

Fascism that is created by Capitalism gone awry is even more insidious then that created by Communism or Socialism. The reason why is that at least in a Communist or Socialist state the control is obvious. In a Capitalist society they need no guns or tanks to control you. They simply buy that control. And the more "Free" the market is the more free they are free to do this.

To get back to outsourcing, I remember a conversation I had with a friend of mine from Mexico. We hung out online a lot playing video games together. At the time I was watching a lot of Lou Dobbs on CNN and his coverage of the outsourcing of American jobs and how it was destroying the local economies. I asked him what he thought of it. He in turn asked me first what I thought about it. I told him that the companies are claiming that the reason for outsourcing was that Americans had no worth ethic and were lazy. He started laughing on the voice chat so I asked him what was so funny. He went on to tell me that there were just as many lazy people in Mexico as anywhere else. He pointed out that what they really wanted Americans to compete with was the Mexican's desperation and therefore willingness to accept whatever scraps from the table that corporate America was willing to throw at them for working long days with no benefits. He went on to describe the average standard of living of most Mexicans he knew who ended up working in American owned factories. Needless to say it was not a house with a two car garage, cable TV and a refrigerator full of groceries.
The conditions in some of the other countries for workers that are essentially underbidding the workers in other countries are in many cases far worse. In some countries parents sell their children into slavery in factories where they are literally chained to the floor to prevent them from running away. Products made in these conditions can of course in turn be offered at extremely competitive prices that no business can stay afloat and compete with, so they can "choose" to either go bankrupt or also do business with these companies.

Even more appalling then this, is the attitude of some Free Market Economists on this issue. I remember being kicked off the air of a Libertarian/Capitalist internet TV station once for playing a documentary that exposed the inhuman labor conditions that American businesses were exploiting to maximize profits. The argument that ensued between me and the person who did the kicking included him making fun of me for caring about people in Third world countries, and calling me a "bleeding heart liberal". Mind you, this is the same person who said that it was wrong of the United States to intervene in the matter of slavery...

When you speak of these things in these circles it's like you are speaking blasphemy for even bringing it up. It's ironic, because these same people claim that the consumer will somehow bring balance to the economic forces that will prevent these kinds of exploitations. How are they to do this if they are not informed? If it is in fact considered inappropriate to do so? Even when people are informed, rarely does the consumer who is driven by the same scarcity induced greed ever inclined to shop differently. The average citizen of the United States is well aware of the abuses that go into the production of products offered in places like Wal-Mart. (And now most department stores). And whats worse as the industry standard continues to drop to slavery or automation products that not produced in this fashion become hard to find even if you want to buy them. And as the economy falters further, eventually you are once again given that "choice" of either buying these products or not having food and other nessecities at all. (Yep, in that situation now myself.)

Now, back on topic. The notion that wages will increase somehow because of all of this innovation is silly. The entire motive behind using machines in the first place is to eliminate wages entirely. The notion that taxation and tariffs are the entire motive for outsourcing is equally weak in comparison to the huge profits made by employing workers for 10 cents an hour with no benefits. Not only because of the differences in the economies of the country, but because of the difference in currency values. The simple fact that companies are actively seeking to employ people in these countries on a vast scale is proof positive that this notion is another "fallacy". (Get used to that word when debating Anarchists, Anarcho-Capitalists, etc. They use it about as often as the word "the".)

Finally on to the epically outdated conclusion:

"If we have devoted considerable space to this issue, it
is because our conclusions regarding the effects of new
machinery, inventions and discoveries on employment,
production and welfare are crucial. If we are wrong about
these, there are few things in economics about which we
are likely to be right."

This is the only part of this that is accurate. They are wrong. And it is why a resource based economy is now crucial. The previous notions of economics no longer apply anymore then an elevator man applies to the operation of an elevator.

In closing, this book not only fails to address the issues of the breakdown of cyclical consumption caused by technological unemployment, it fails to make any points that are still relevant to what our future holds.

Yes some "technophobes" panicked too early. But the Technophobes of the 1930s probably didn't even have the capacity to imagine or even understand just how much more powerful technology has become since then. Just as the authors of Austrian economics, Communism and Socialism were equally ignorant.

There was a time when Austrian Economics could function. But the notion that it would create a utopia of wealth for everyone was always questionable. And the more advanced technology becomes coupled with the more greedy corporations become in it's application the more this gap will be created.

Austrian Economists often quote "The Road to Serfdom" but fail to see that although Socialism can create new serfs, Capitalism is headed down that road as well. The workforce is going to be desperate to make itself useful. They will have to accept lower and lower standard of living to compete with machines. And eventually the vast majority will be completely obsolete.

The solution that would be offered that people who cannot find work should just open businesses of their own falls flat on it's face when you consider that the whole reason many people are not employed in the first place is because nobody is buying products because nobody is employed. In conditions such as these (if you can find the capital to start your business in the first place) how can a small businessmen hope to survive? They can't. Ask the vanishing mostly self employed middle class about that.

I know this post was long winded, but it is a complicated issue.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The morality of owning “life”.

Over the course of my time in the “freedom” movement I remember very clearly being drilled on the importance of “private” property. (They usually quote the founding fathers, who's concepts of private property included the right to own other human beings...)I still believe that what I call “personal” property is something that people should be entitled to. Your basic needs of life, clothing, etc. Basically meaning that these items for one's personal use are not something you should be asked to share. Not that it should matter as it should be relatively easy to deal with getting those items for everyone. What I am talking about in this article is the morality of owning life. Lets consider for a moment the various aspects of this.

Owning ideas:

We developed the patent system to protect the little guy who came up with a good idea from having his idea being taken from him by someone with more money. This band-aid solution to one of the glaring problems with capitalism was well intentioned originally. But the definition of what a patent is, and what it's applications are has been changed to benefit those on top. This shows itself in many ways. But as Jacque Fresco points out, one does not really “invent” anything. To say that you do implies that the capacity for any effect your invention produces was not present beforehand. I remember as a young boy believing that Ben Franklin “invented” electricity. He didn't invent it. It was already there. Imagine for a moment if Ben Franklin went and patented electricity? There is of course merit to a person benefiting from the work that went into their research, but they still have an incentive. If you invent a device to solve one problem or another you still get to use this item. Your life will be improved significantly because of this. This could be something as simple as inventing a TV remote so you don't have to get off the couch to change the station. How does it hurt you not to give this invention away? Now, consider that if society at large considers giving one's inventions to all of mankind for equal distribution and use how many more ideas will be openly exchanged? Your TV remote design given freely and your neighbors better mousetrap design given freely?

Now the dark side of this notion of one having a “right” to own their ideas is when these ideas could be used to save lives. Or when withholding these ideas would actually lead to the deaths of other human beings. Should someone be able to “own” someone's ability to live or die? Let's look at some ways this manifests in our society.

Owning freedom:

So how does one own freedom? I was checking my mail the other day and I keep getting mail from Ron Paul's “Campaign for Liberty” which is a well intentioned movement despite it's devotion to “Free Market Capitalism”. I donated a good amount of money to Congressman Paul's campaign during his time running for President. He pulled out of the race and took the money he had left (reportedly about four million dollars) and started a new organization to assist freedom minded candidates. What started to annoy me is that every publication I get from them involves them asking for still more money. There are pre-addressed envelopes in every letter with suggested amounts of money to donate. Why do we have to invest in civil rights? Why should any effort involving the rights of human beings be something one has to spend their money on? Shouldn't such efforts be an “inalienable right”?

But they are not. Corporations own the media. The media is a tool to push their agendas towards whatever profits them. Whether this is brainwashing kids to want to eat McDonald's hamburgers or Halliburton influencing the people to vote for politicians who will take us to wars where they will profit for feeding the troops. The Patriot Act proved that civil rights go to the highest bidder. As the government moves towards fascism in preparation for the collapse of the system, our rights are eroded away. The flawed capitalist system needs fascist laws that take away the freedom of people to be educated as to the truth of what is going on to protect itself from what will happen when the poor finally wake up to the truth of their own slavery. The notion that we should have to “donate” to people like Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul in the first place is totally absurd. The fact that unless the supporters of these exceptional politicians happen to have enough money to push the agenda of civil rights and basic freedoms those ideas will not even see the light of day is absurd.

So should people be able to “own” the government? Of course not. But anyone who doesn't realize that the poor results experienced by politicians like Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, and even Ralph Nader is a glaring example that out governmental system is owned by the monetary system is naive And as long as there is a money system wherein the means by which people are exposed to given candidates and their ideas can be bought and sold someone will always “own” freedom. Take a moment and seriously consider the implications of what this means. With the right money, you OWN the government.

As a further manifestation of this problem, lets again consider patents. Originally the concept of a patent was to protect an inventor from someone with more money capitalizing on their idea without giving them some form of compensation. This was a band-aid to an inherent flaw in the capitalist system that did serve a purpose at one time. There were restrictions on patents. At one time it was illegal for example to patent living organisms. Then someone was permitted to “own” freedom in the form of helping politicians get elected or stay elected who loosened patent laws on living organisms. And many other things including genetics. Lets look at some ways that this manifests.

Owning food:

So, in our monetary system people often support themselves by selling food. On a smaller scale the resource exchanges for this can be quite good for a local community. When this gets out of hand you end up with companies like Monsanto who will settle for nothing less then patenting all of the world's seeds. And therefore could eventually own all of the produce in the world. At first your thinking: “Well what's wrong with that? I mean they patented it right?” How did this start? Well Monsanto started genetically modifying seeds for profit. Eventually they were able to lobby (with money given to politicians of course, “owning” freedom) to gain the right to patent their work. This lead to eventually legalizing the patenting of living organisms. The story with Monsanto just gets worse, as they have been allowed to sue farmers who had the misfortune of Monsanto's patented genetically altered crops finding their way onto their land by way of cross-pollination. In other words, carried by bees. The farmers in many cases were bound by court order to destroy their seed stores. Which for a company like Monsanto that makes their money from selling seeds is of course good for them. Farmers retaining their own seeds and therefore not needing to buy more is of course not good for Monsanto. Right now Monsanto is trying to lobby for international patent laws so they can also sue people in other countries whenever their patented work finds it's way into their fields.

Now, the Monsanto stuff aside, break it down to the most simple levels. Jacque Fresco described the great depression as a time when people were lying in the streets. The stores were still full of products but nobody had the money to buy them. Consider for a moment the morality of allowing people to die of starvation when your sitting on a stockpile of food? But it's “your” food right? Obviously I don't advocate that people should just be able to take food from someone who took the time to make it. However, I would say that we need to heavily consider the notion of making the basic needs of life into any profit making venture. Because as soon as we allow it to be “private property” it can be denied to people for any reason that person sees fit.

Owning Health:

Patents rear their ugly heads again in the form of companies who patent medicine. And worse, they patent the genetics of human beings who are immune to certain diseases! When this is done, if a researcher wants to use these genetics in their research they have to pay a fee to the company owning the patent or risk a lawsuit. For trying to make something to aid humanity. Consider the morality of “owning” a critical piece of data that could save lives and therefore being able to profit from it's use?

In an article published May 15th, 2000 in the New York Times by Gina Kolata entitled “Who owns your genes?” it was detailed that a few men were found to be completely immune to HIV because of a genetic mutation. As soon as this was discovered companies involved started getting patents on the genetics of these men. The men in question have to fight to get any of the money themselves that may arise from research using their own genes! So rather then coming together as a species to fight this threat to all of humanity, we are wasting resources and time on finding out who gets the paycheck?

Source Article:

Now, consider for a moment what this means exactly. A cure for a disease that is killing thousands of people could exist in your own genetics. If you are not the “owner” of your own genetics then you could even be sued for daring to use your own genetics in research. I doubt that people really think about what the implications are. How many researchers could be working hard on the cure for AIDS who maybe just don't have the money to PAY for the right to use what someone OWNS that could save lives? What kind of a person do you have to be to be willing to hold back vital information that could save thousands if not millions of innocent people to be sure you get money out of it? In this instance we are not even talking about someone owning the rights to their own research. These are just scientists or other institutions who were fortunate enough to get to the patent office before anyone else did to claim ownership of genetics that are not even in their own bodies. All in the name of profit.

So lets talk about health care. I don't even have to go into just how much money is made in the health care industry. Peter Joseph pointed out most eloquently the amount of money that is made in the Cancer “treatment” industry that made plenty of money causing my mother's kidney's to fail with chemotherapy leading to her death. It's the notion that someone can be denied care if they don't have the money. The notion that someone can “own” medical care as if it is something to be bought and sold. Once again, I don't advocate forcing doctors or other medical institutions to work for free. But I would say that we very much need to consider this sort of thing as a problem for all of humanity to come together and solve. Medical researchers shouldn't have to be fighting for grants to survive. They shouldn't be put in positions where they have to keep whatever company “owns” them in business by providing them with intentionally misleading research.

Owning the truth:

What I mean by owning the truth is owning the media. We approach our media as money-making institutions. We have already addressed how the profit motive basically turns to bile anything it touches. Consider for a moment how much money is made in the media industry. And also consider that people can “own” large quantities of the industries that bring us our news and information. This gives them immense amounts of power. They determine what politicians we hear. They determine what products we hear about. They determine what perspective on world events is shared with us. The ability to control what politicians are heard before elections ensures control over who gets into government. The ability to control what perspective we see in world events allows them to control the public's perspective on wars, the environment, terrorism, etc. Free Market enthusiasts will tell you that this is all balanced by the public. That we as consumers can ensure that the news is not fraudulent, because after all if it isn't we can just change the channel and that media outlet will be forced to shape up. I find this concept highly naive The average consumer is not going to be able head to the front lines in Iraq to verify whether or not troop deaths or civilian casualties are being correctly reported. The average consumer is not going to be able to personally investigate every company that released a dangerous product who happens to have the fortune of owning interest in the media. (Example: Watch the documentary “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism” for details of Monsanto covering up an investigative report into their use of harmful growth hormones on cows to enhance milk production through using their money to influence FOX.)

If you own a news station, do you have the right to lie to the public? The funny thing is in the example I just offered they took the matter to court and found that apparently it is not illegal to print or release false news. But if you happen to have the money to make your news outlet shiny and attractive to the consumer eye, they will trust you. So, is it moral for people to “own” the news? Or should events of interest to mankind be something free of the profit motive?

Owning life:

I remember one of the loudest opponents of my Resource-based economy caucus in the Boston Tea Party calling it the “death camp caucus” because of his feelings that any attempt to distribute resources would fail without the price mechanism. And that this would eventually lead to death camps when we would supposedly have to exterminate large quantities of the populace to make up for the lack of resources. I guess I would say that there are already death camps. These camps are not organized by fascists with guns (At least not obviously.) They are organized by medical institutions who refuse to treat people who cannot pay. They are organized by the food industries who refuse to feed people who cannot afford to pay. They are organized by rich companies who knowingly increase the wealth gap forcing people into poverty by eliminating jobs to maximize profits, intentionally rendering an ever-increasing portion of the population unable pay for the services I just mentioned. As I have always said before, the insidious thing about the evils of Capitalism is that these “death camps” are invisible. The agenda of the few being weighed over the many is not as obvious as Nazi's rounding up people and putting them in gas chambers. It is buried under mountains of red tape and other distractions in the media. And the funny thing is, they say that it's the only “fair” way.

I am reminded of the movie “Space Balls” where a group of fascists decided to solve the problem of a lack of breathable air on their planet by trying to take it from other planets. I was wondering the other day how long it will be before there is a new “utility” company in the form of a service that pumps breathable air into your home for profit because the environment was destroyed in the name of profit of the companies that saved money destroying the earth. Can you imagine getting your “air” bill in the mail along with your electric and gas bill? Can you imagine being unfortunate enough to not be able to pay it? Ah, but these “air” companies OWN the clean air! You can't ask them to just give it to you. The same is obviously true of clean water. As clean drinkable water becomes more and more scarce it won't be long before the profits in that industry skyrocket.

I say it's time for mankind to stop making the needs for survival into a profit-driven business. I say it's time for mankind to consider how this will inevitably lead to corruption of these institutions. And that if this cycle continues all the money they made will be useless when the earth is given over to the cockroaches.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ad hominem, a serious threat to all intellectual debate...

I wrote this a long time ago on the Zeitgeist Forums, and I think it bears repeating here.

I am writing this here as it is clear that debates on this forum just as many other forums like it is fraught with a plague that chokes to death intellectual discussion. And hinders the purest forms of communication. An open exchange of ideas where the goal of both participants is to further their understanding of the subject.

As was pointed out in Zeitgeist, we tend to equate being "wrong" to somehow being inferior. This results in the topic of the conversations presented becoming a conflict of egos and reputations rather then an exchange of information to reach conclusions.

Miyamoto Musashi was a great swordsmen, perhaps the best of his time. He used to say:

"Today's goal is to defeat yesterday's understanding."

The form of debate that I wish to expose for what it is and ask that we all apply social pressure to eliminate from our communication is called Ad Hominem.

"An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument to the man", "argument against the man") consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the source making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. The process of proving or disproving the claim is thereby subverted, and the argumentum ad hominem works to change the subject."

Essentially, lets say two people are arguing. We will call them Charles and James. They have an audience who is listening intently to the debate.

Charles: "Look, I am telling you the sky is blue during the day."

James: "You are wrong, I declare that the sky is in fact purple during the day."

Charles: "Look at this photo. I took it yesterday. It proves that in fact the sky is blue during the day. Timestamped and everything..."

James: "Well...why should I accept photographic evidence from someone who cheats on their wife?"

Charles is winning the debate. James decides he cannot defeat Charles's logic and evidence presented. So to attempt to "win" the debate he decides to direct the conversation towards Charles's illicit affairs in an attempt to discredit Charles as a person. Thereby distracting the audience from the weaknesses in his own logic and lack of evidence.

This is a fairly obvious example of Ad Hominem, but if you look closely you can see it all over the internet in particular. When you are not face to face with someone it is easy to distract people from the original point because now everyone is focused on the new "subject". When Charles eventually retreats in shame or frustration then James will have "won".

Sometimes people will call each other "stupid" during debate to come to the same conclusion. Or will switch to personal insults and "flames" to further their defamation of the person defeating them. And particularly if they are teamed up with a pack of "trolls" this can be very effective. The intellectual exchange is buried somewhere underneath the piles of bile created by the "trolls". The audience either allows these trolls to convince them that the person is discredited, or they just stop reading the thread altogether.

Rarely will people stand up to these gangs of intellectual thugs because they don't want to be next. This allows this kind of behavior to isolate and bring down one person at a time. Eventually a forum is left with nothing but it's social "clique" of "elites" who are on the top of the pecking order. And anyone who speaks outside of what they like will be punished into submission. And what is even worse, the social structure sets up a "reward" system for participating in the hateful behavior. It's the "in thing" to pick on this person.

Some people simply refuse to participate when this is going on. I say this is the worst thing to do. The "society" of our forum should come together and expose this behavior right away. And make it very clear that it will not be tolerated.

I honestly feel that the battle against Ad Hominem ruining intellectual debate and is important to every aspect of our movement. The notion that being "right" or "wrong" has social implications and consequences is one of the most powerful things holding back mankind.

I used to moderate for a chat room that frequently had trolls. It was a Libertarian chat room so they would hide behind "free speech" as their right to be mean to any member who they saw fit to pick on. They would frequently manipulate the owner of the chat room to allow them back in when they would be kicked or banned for their behavior. What the owner failed to see was that allowing this just furthered the bad behavior. So he asked me to come up with a rule that would prevent this from being an issue. The trolls would always accuse me of kicking them or banning them just for disagreeing with them. Some of them had gotten a hold of some issues of my personal life and felt the need to bring them up whenever the debate was going badly for them. When the owner would finally take a look at what was going on, he would just see me, the one person being isolated. And therefore would identify me as the problem.

Eventually I came up with the rule. And that was no Ad Hominem. Period. We unbanned everyone and simply enforced the rule that you were not allowed to in any way use personal attack during your debate. You could disagree all you wanted to. But you could not under any circumstances refer to some flaw in the person themselves as a flaw in their debate.

It was amazing how quickly the trolls lost interest in the chat room. It absolutely paralyzed them to have such a rule and to have it enforced. This also exposed what I had been claiming all along. The people using this debate tactic were rarely there because they actually cared about the subject matter. They like many other dysfunctional members of our society would just surf the web to look for people to bully from the safety of the internet.

It also opened intellectual discussion in such a way that huge progress was made in the general understanding of the people in the chat room. With the "ego" no longer being a target for debate suddenly people started having discussions to further their understandings, not to prove their understanding was better then some other person.

I urge the moderators of this forum to consider what I have pointed out here, and to apply this same rule to the forums. And I urge the members of our movement to actively seek out and destroy Ad Hominem and ostracism in the forums and in the chat rooms. Both of these things are tools of the same system that has kept mankind in this ridiculous state for so long.