Uh Oh

So I spent the day at my ‘new apartment’ today… and, well, I could get realllly used to this!

I spent an hour or so swimming and poolside reading, a bit of time in the gym, and the rest of the time in my apartment, overlooking the pool with a nice view of Bangkok, working on my laptop.

Once I get high speed internet installed, and my wireless router, where I can then sit poolside while working on my laptop… well… like I said, I could get used to this!

Actually, the best part is that every day at 12pm I am not awakened and cringe at the phone call from the front desk, “will you be checking out today?”… to which my answer, more often than not, is “uhh, can i stay one more night?”, then go back to sleep.

But FEAR not! The journey definitely doesn’t end here just because I am enjoying not packing and unpacking my backpack every other day for a few days. I don’t want anyone thinking that I am going to just be staying somewhere, collecting useless material items and getting a dog and joining a local golf course or something lame like that…

In fact, no sooner had I moved in here than I had read an article by an associate of mine, Doug Casey, which I was so excited about I immediately contacted him about involvement… essentially, I would work with him to go visit some smaller, 3rd world countries and try to convince them to move to a very unique form of government where there is essentially really no government… the country would be run like a company, with all the citizens as shareholders… with the country even listed on a stock exchange, with tradeable shares.

I have been thinking about this for years and was having some difficulties with some of the solutions but when I read Doug’s ideas I felt like he may have answered a number of the things I was having trouble putting together.

So, anyway, I could very well be off to Eritrea, or some other small country at a moments notice… so I’ll just enjoy the sun and the pool and being in one spot for however long it lasts… I doubt it will last long.

In the meantime, I think Doug’s thinking on this issue is so important I will post it here… if you have the time and are interested to know how we can actually make this world practically paradise, rather than the near-hell we are very quickly headed for, read this:

The Spectrum of Politics

The terms liberal (left) and conservative (right) define the conventional political spectrum. But the terms are floating abstractions, with meanings that change with every politician.

In the nineteenth century, a “liberal� believed in free speech, social mobility, limited government and strict property rights. The term has since been appropriated by those who, while sometimes still believing in limited free speech, always support strong government and weak property rights and who see everyone as a member of a class or group.

Conservatives have always tended to believe in strong government and nationalism. Bismarck and Metternich were archetypes. Today’s conservatives are sometimes seen as defenders of economic liberty and free markets, although that is mostly only true when those concepts are perceived to coincide with the interests of big business and economic nationalism.

Locating political beliefs on an inaccurate scale, running only from left to right, constrains political thinking. It’s like trying to reduce chemistry to the elements with air, earth, water and fire.

Politics is the theory and practice of government. It concerns itself with how force should be applied to control people, which is to say, to restrict their freedom. It should be analyzed on that basis. Freedom is indivisible, but in the abstract it can be seen as composed of two basic elements: social freedom and economic freedom. According to the current usage, liberals tend to allow social freedom but restrict economic freedom, while conservatives tend to restrict social freedom but allow economic freedom. An authoritarian (they now style themselves “middle-of-the-roaders�) want both types of freedom restricted.

But what do you call someone who believes both social and economic freedom should be allowed maximum rein? Unfortunately, something without a name may get overlooked, or if the name is only known to a few, it may be ignored as unimportant. That may explain why so few people who believe in both of these dimensions of freedom know they are libertarians.

A useful chart of the political field would look like this:

A libertarian believes individuals have a right to do anything that doesn’t impinge on the common-law rights of others—basically anything but force or fraud. Libertarians are the human equivalent of the Gamma rat, which bears a little explanation.

Some years ago, scientists experimenting with rats categorized the vast majority of their subjects as Beta rats. These are followers, who get the Alpha rats’ leftovers. The Alpha rats establish territories, claim the choicest mates and generally lord it over the Betas. This pretty well corresponded with the way the researchers thought the world worked.

But they were surprised to find a third type of rat as well, the Gamma. This creature staked out a territory and chose the pick of the litter for a mate, like the Alpha, but didn’t attempt to dominate the Betas. A go-along-get-along rat. A libertarian rat, if you will.

My guess, mixed with a dollop of hope, is that as society becomes more repressive, more Gamma people will tune in to the problem and drop out as a solution. No, they won’t turn into middle-aged hippies weaving baskets and stringing beads in remote communes. Rather, they will structure their lives so that the government—which is to say taxes, regulation and inflation—is a non-factor. Hippies used to ask: suppose they had a war and nobody came? Personally, I would take it further: suppose they had an election and nobody voted, levied a tax and nobody paid, imposed a regulation and nobody obeyed?

Libertarian beliefs are strong among Americans, but the Libertarian Party has never gained much prominence, possibly because the type of people who might support it have better things to do than play political games. Even among those who believe in voting, many tend to feel they are “wasting� their vote on someone who can’t win. But voting is itself another part of the problem.

None of the Above

Since 1960, the trend has been for an ever smaller percentage of the electorate to vote. Increasingly, the average person is fed up or views elections as pointless. In some years, better than 98 percent of incumbents retain office. That is a higher proportion than in the Supreme Soviet of the defunct U.S.S.R., and a lower turnover rate than in Britain’s formerly hereditary House of Lords, where people lost their seats only by dying. The political system in the United States has, like all systems that grow old and large, become moribund and corrupt.

The conventional wisdom holds that this decline in voter turnout is a sign of apathy. But it may also be a sign of a renaissance in personal responsibility. It could be people saying: “I won’t be fooled again, and I won’t lend power to them.�

Politics has always been a way of redistributing wealth from those who produce to those who are politically favored. As H. L. Mencken observed, an election amounts to no more than an advance auction of stolen goods—a process few would support if they saw its true nature. Protesters in the ‘60s had their flaws, but they were quite correct when they said “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.� If politics is the problem, what is the solution? I have several answers that may appeal to you.

The first step in solving the problem is to stop actively encouraging it. Many Americans have intuitively recognized that government is the problem and have stopped voting. There are at least five reasons many people don’t vote:

Voting in a political election is unethical. The political process is one of institutionalized coercion and force; if you disapprove of those things, then you shouldn’t participate in them, even indirectly.

Voting compromises your privacy. It gets your name in another government computer.

Voting, as well as registering, entails hanging around government offices and dealing with petty bureaucrats. Most people can find something more enjoyable or productive to do.

Voting encourages politicians. A vote against one candidate—a chief, and quite understandable, reason many people vote—is always interpreted as a vote for his opponent. And even though you may be voting for the lesser of two evils, the lesser of two evils is still evil. It amounts to giving the candidate a tacit mandate to impose his will on society.

Your vote doesn’t count. Politicians like to say it counts because it is to their advantage to get everyone into a busybody mode. But statistically, one vote in scores of millions makes no more difference than a single grain of sand on a beach. That’s entirely apart from the fact that officials manifestly do what they want, not what you want, once they are in office.

Some of these thoughts may impress you as vaguely “unpatriotic;� that is certainly not my intention. But unfortunately, America isn’t the place it once was, either. The United States has devolved from the land of the free and the home of the brave to something more closely resembling the land of entitlements and the home of whining lawsuit filers. The founding ideas of the country, which were intensely libertarian, have been thoroughly perverted. What passes for tradition today is something against which the Founding Fathers would have led a second revolution.

This sorry, scary state of affairs is one reason some people emphasize the importance of joining the process, “working within the system� and “making your voice heard,� to ensure that “the bad guys� don’t get in. They seem to think that increasing the number of voters will improve the quality of their choices. That argument compels many sincere people, who otherwise wouldn’t dream of coercing their neighbors, to take part in the political process. But it only feeds power to people in politics and government, validating their existence and making them more powerful in the process.

Of course, everybody involved gets something out of it, psychologically if not monetarily. Politics gives many people a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves, and so has special appeal for those who can’t find satisfaction within themselves. We cluck in amazement at the enthusiasm shown at Hitler’s giant rallies but figure that what goes on here, today, is different. Well, it’s never quite the same. But the mindless sloganeering, the cult of personality and a certainty of the masses that “their� candidate will kiss their personal lives and make them better are identical.

And even if the favored candidate doesn’t help them, then at least he’ll keep others from getting too much. Politics is the institutionalization of envy, a vice that proclaims: “You’ve got something I want, and if I can’t get one, I’ll take yours. And if I can’t have yours, I’ll destroy it, so you can’t have it, either.� Participating in politics is an act of ethical bankruptcy.

The key to getting “rubes� (i.e., voters) to vote, and “marks� (i.e., contributors) to give is to talk in generalities while sounding specific and to look sincere and thoughtful yet decisive. Vapid, venal party hacks can be shaped, like Silly Putty, into saleable candidates. People like to kid themselves that they are voting for either “the man� or “the ideas.� But few campaign “ideas� are more than slogans artfully packaged to push the right buttons. Voting “the man� doesn’t help much, either, since these guys are more diligently programmed, posed and rehearsed than any actor.

This is probably truer today than it’s ever been, since elections are now won on television, and television is not a forum for expressing complex ideas and philosophies. It lends itself to slogans and glib people who look and talk like game-show hosts. People with really “new ideas� wouldn’t dream of introducing them to politics, because they know such ideas can’t be explained in sixty seconds.

I’m not intimating, incidentally, that people disinvolve themselves from their communities, social groups or other voluntary organizations; just the opposite, since those relationships are the lifeblood of society. But the political process, or government, are not synonymous with society or even complementary to it. Government is a dead hand on society.

Using the “A� Word

One of the most important books I’ve ever read, and possibly one of the most profound ever written, is The Market for Liberty by Morris and Linda Tannehill. The book is a cogent, well-reasoned presentation of how society would work in the absence of government. But nowhere in the book is that system named. What might it be called? I knew one of the authors, Morris Tannehill, and asked him why he never used the word anarchism in his text. He allowed that although the concept of society being organized on principles of voluntarism and laissez-faire was acceptable to most people of good will, the name for such a system, anarchism, had been purged from the vocabulary of those who wanted to be taken seriously. George Orwell recognized the force of such purging in 1984, where he had his dystopian state reducing the number of words in the dictionary every year. A concept without a name is hard to grasp.

By definition, democracy means “rule of the people,� monarchy means “rule by one,� oligarchy means “rule of the few,� and so forth. Anarchism means only “no rule.� It doesn’t mean “chaos,� “disorder,� or “violence.� Like so many words, its true meaning has been misappropriated and twisted. The popular perception of an anarchist is a man dressed in a black cape skulking about with a round bomb, fuse lit. And certainly there have been violent anarchists, just as there have been violent Americans, violent Christians, violent parents and violent doctors. But that’s never been an essential or even an accidental characteristic of any of them.

Paradoxically, anarchism is the gentlest of political systems. It is the political manifestation of the ancient Chinese Taoist philosophy, what philosopher Alan Watts called the “watercourse way,� where everything flows unrestricted, at its own pace, to its own level. Some have suggested that I abstain from using the word anarchy because it carries so much emotional baggage and arouses atavistic fears. But ideas should speak for themselves, and semantics should be used to clarify, not obscure, their meaning.

In many ways, reality is just a creation of widely shared opinions. Nothing should be accepted just because it exists, including the state. Concepts take on lives of their own, unless someone challenges them. And the concept of the state is sorely in need of a challenge.

How to Go There from Here

Like the weather, everybody complains about politics, but nobody does anything about it. What can and should be done? In my view, a gentle shift to the right or the left has no hope of success. The Reagan administration had many ideological conservatives in its ranks whose battle cry was “If not us, who? If not now, when?� They had some limited success in rolling back the state in a few areas, like firing striking air traffic controllers and reducing maximum income tax rates, but were ineffectual overall. In fact, their main success was in expanding state activities favored by conservatives, like the military, the DEA, customs, NSA and CIA, while leaving most of the liberal establishment intact.

The experience of Third World countries probably gives the best hint of what will happen in the United States soon. Third World governments have tried every conceivable variation of the socialist theme. Without exception, they ran their societies into the ground. It’s rare that a downward trend can be turned around once it is underway, for the same reason it is impossible to stop a boulder once it starts rolling downhill. They only stop when they’ve hit bottom. There is no reason the United States will be any different. It will just take longer, since the U.S. has so much capital and now has a more pronounced antiauthoritarian tradition than any other country.

A renaissance in liberty is more likely to occur in some country that’s already been devastated by collectivism than the United States. I’ve made it an avocation to try putting theory into practice by meeting with Third World leaders and presenting them with a plan to revitalize their bankrupt countries. What’s to be done with basket cases?

In essence, I suggest that 100 percent of the government’s assets, which typically means almost everything in these countries, be put into a public corporation, with the shares distributed pro rata to every man, woman, and child in the country, although extra shares would necessarily be given to those in authority (as an inducement) and a percentage put in trust for the next generation. A modest number of shares would be sold on major world markets to generate capital and establish a market price.

Since government assets theoretically belong to the people, it’s only fair to give them directly to their owners. This is important, since most “privatization� plans floated today feature auctioning off government assets, which ensures that only the rich, who have the money to bid, and the government, which gets the proceeds, benefit directly.

Distributing shares directly to the people puts the power where it belongs, but it’s not enough. It would also be necessary to:

Spin off all state industrial and agricultural enterprises to shareholders, while reserving perhaps 30 percent for distribution to current employees, both to encourage loyalty and to act as a golden handshake for the many who will be redundant.

Allow the formation of unregulated stock exchanges, where the above shares can be traded and capital raised for new enterprises. Permit the establishment, without regulation, of private and foreign banks.

Take 100 percent of government gold and foreign currency reserves and use them to make the national currency completely convertible to all holders. It would soon become the world’s most desired currency. Citizens would save it, not look to dump it for tangibles.

Abolish all duties, subsidies, exchange controls, taxes, ministries, bureaus and regulations, with no exceptions. Ex-government employees could liquidate shares to sustain themselves while they found productive work.

The government would serve no function except to protect residents from common-law crimes of force and fraud. But private police forces and courts would be allowed on an equal basis. Schools and all other useful government functions would be “spun off� like all other assets.

In every case, it’s not a matter of “doing something,� but simply of getting rid of laws, like a decades-old encrustation of barnacles, that make it impossible for the market to give people what they need. One thing that wouldn’t be either needed or wanted is aid from foreign governments. As it always has, such aid only serves to entrench the old power structure. So counterproductive is aid that it’s amazing people of good will even consider it. The answer lies in laissez-faire and freedom.

Should any country do something even approaching this proposal, its standard of living would surpass America’s in only a few years, and the country would be inundated with foreign capital, labor and entrepreneurs. What are the chances of it happening? Don’t plan your life around it. But stranger things have occurred, and the leaders of several countries I’ve approached may try it, if only out of desperation. It would make them legitimately rich, domestically loved and figures of world stature. That certainly beats waiting for the next revolution to put them up against the wall.

A similar plan would work in the United States; but America has become one of the most conservative countries in the world, with a power structure for which “change� is no more than an election-year buzzword.