My collection of the “Storisende” Edition of The Biography of the Life of Manuel

I wonder what James Branch Cabell would think about the library that bears his name.

As far as I can tell, it is a library without any physical books.

Of course there are books . . . at least in the Cabell Room:

By the way, who actually believed — as the narrator to this video presentation states — that Cabell’s books are “thinly veiled commentaries on the manners of his times”? The books have universal themes, and better qualify as Menippean satires than as comedies of manners.

Oh, OK: his books set in his contemporary Virginia (Sil.) might qualify as comedies of manners — The Cords of Vanity seems to fit. But The 
Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck
aims for more universal themes, and by the publication of The Cream of the Jest, Cabell was well on his way to past the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

Cabell did not “thinly veil” his “commentary”: he explicitly linked his characters to a tripartite schema of universal types, and explored how particular instances of these types differently dealt with ideals and compromise and romance and dissillusion in a world not quite up to snuff, but always suggestive of grandeur and romance and many other fine things, eternally just out of grasp.

I know, Mencken asserted that Cabell’s “gaudy heroes . . . chase dragons precisely as stockbrockers play golf.” But this was not to satirize then-contempprary life, but to satirize (and cherish) universal humanity. The drolly pleonastic title for his multi-volume series The Biography of the Life Manuel suggests this more than adequately, for Cabell has written a biography (an “anatomy”) of the Life of Man.

The Commonwealth of Existence Itself — that is Cabell’s target.

twv

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It has not yet been made clear to our chattering ideological courtesans that the border/migration issue and the welfare state stability issue are strongly linked. In all the accusations between President “Cheeto” and the Democratic duo of Chuck and Nancy, for example, the great truth about the long-running government shutdown seems to have been lost.

It is almost as if we feel compelled to talk past each other about the border wall.

But it’s not about the border. Not really.

It’s about raising the debt level to accommodate continued increases in federal government borrowing. It is about stressors long ago placed upon the American union.

The border wall hysteria is, in a sense, very convenient. It allows everyone to keep avoiding any serious discussion of runaway federal spending and skyrocketing government debt, and, instead, play to each side’s constituencies’ prejudices. 

Why, it is almost as if no one wants to confront the fragility of our governmental way of life!

Democrats, of course, talk up the freewheeling idea of unrestricted immigration and “being inclusive” . . . while gleefully contemplating the naturalization of illegal and legal immigrants who are far more apt than not to vote for the party with an ass as its mascot.

Republicans, on the other hand, devote their elephantine bellows to border security and the common-sense notion that “good fences make good neighbors” . . . all the while eagerly blaming on foreigners the perceived immiseration of the middle class — which, to the extent it is happening, is largely the result of bipartisan government policy and not free trade or free immigration.

And though it is true that President Trump could have advanced his pet populist promise of “the Wall” while he had Republican majorities, is he really doing anything new? 

Democrats say he is holding America hostage to get what he wants.

But Trump merely mirrors what Democrats and establishmentarians do every debt-ceiling round: hold Americans hostage by pitting a working federal government against politicians’ addiction to ridiculous overspending. “Let us spend more than we have and we will let you have everyday governance.”

Increasingly, the prisoners’ dilemmas and games of chicken dominate our politics.

To repeat, the border issue is in an important sense a distraction from the real issue, out-of-control federal spending, and the ever-increasing debt.

But how big a distraction is it?

Super-sized

While socialists build walls to keep citizens in, the better to hold them captive, welfare states build walls to keep non-citizens out, to avoid over-exploitation of resources.

Meanwhile, free societies let people move about peaceably, letting populations find an unplanned, natural balance.

But we do not live in that kind of free society. A fact that is rarely recognized. Both Republicans and Democrats pretend that we are free, though, if for different reasons. 

By pushing for free migration that only makes sense in a freer society, Democrats jeopardize the solvency of their beloved welfare state. Is this just for the thrills? No. By undermining the solvency of the welfare state they send it into crisis. Which is awfully convenient for them, since they always have a ready response for a funding crisis of mini-socialism: more socialism. For them, the failure of government must always be more, more, more.

And I’m not being paranoid. Or, my paranoia finds ground in experience. What we witness from the Democrats looks suspiciously like an actual strategy famously advocated by respected leftists, the breathtakingly brazen Cloward-Piven strategy — but in this case using illegal immigrants to precipitate the crisis that would drive politics leftward towards their ersatz “utopia.”

Republicans have a different reason to deny the truth. They pretend that border walls are what free republics typically ballyhoo. Not true. It was the Progressives who put immigration quotas and controls into place in America. And, as Milton Friedman famously suggested, a responsible welfare state requires such controls. But we approach a rich vein of antinomy when we witness Republicans proclaim they are against the welfare state, for, no matter what they think of it, their border obsession serves as an attempt to save the welfare state, not peel it back. By pushing “border security” they avoid the uncomfortable task of confronting their own divided loyalties. Which is it, conservatives: a free society or the Redistributive Leviathan State?

That’s enough repressed ideas to send the whole country to the psychiatrist’s couch.

For Whom the Cuck Clucks

The conservatives manqué are not the only muddleheads.

Progressives have to live with all sorts of contradictions and cognitive dissonance. Internal contradictions are what it means to be a progressive, these days. Perhaps not one contradiction is more richly droll, though, than the fact that they jeopardize their beloved welfare state to let poor people in, who, to the extent they actually support themselves and not behave like leeches do so chiefly by flouting the labor regulations and taxing policies that progressives hold so very dear. And for which they would gleefully send in men with guns to take down . . . “evil white rich people.”

But libertarians have no standing to gloat, for they are in an even sorrier predicament. We want to live in a free society. And so, naturally enough, we want to support migration, even illegal immigration, and of course oppose the Trumpian border wall. But libertarians should be worrying about whether, in so doing, they are not introducing a moral hazard into the mix by going along with the progressive inclusion-über-alles mob.

Ideologies have their own entelechies. “Ideas are forces,” wrote G. H. Lewes, “the existence of one determines our reception of others.” And once a people embraces the welfare state, the draining of its funds through the tragedy of the commons almost never leads to the divvying up of said commons into a distributed division of responsibility. Government failure breeds more government.

It is an old and sad story.

I just do not see how opening up the borders to economic refugees could, in the current context, lead to a freer society. That is not how actual politics works.

The more I analyze our current situation, the more certain I am of the cucking of the libertarian mind. Trendy libertarians so want to be thought of as “on the left” that they let leftists push policy into what Sam Francis aptly called anarcho-tyranny, where government increasingly lets criminal and dependent elements dominate public life while directing the heavy hand of the State onto people who are basically peaceful, who are not subsidized, who earn their keep and don’t steal, murder, and grift their way through life. That heavy hand is the increasing burden of the regulations progressives love.

I have actually had one young libertarian correspondent berate me and ridicule me (ah, these ideologues really know how to persuade!) for my skepticism about the efficacy of open borders for bringing about freedom. This particular interlocutor to whom I am referring actually welcomed the degradation of the welfare state, offering up his own libertarian variant of the Cloward-Piven strategy: initiate a crisis to change policy in a libertarian direction. How he thought libertarians could convince a national government to go in the direction they do not want to go I have no idea.

The word “cuck” is made for libertarians such as these. Just as the cuckoo bird destroys the eggs of other species of birds and then lays its own eggs in their nests, tricking those hapless marks into devoting all their effort to support cuckoo life, not theirs, libertarians who think that opening up borders within the context of the welfare state are tricked by progressives — in a perhaps unwitting grift, I admit — to expending their wealth on others’ children for their benefit and not libertarians’.

And definitely not the general, public benefit.

Now, if these libertarians would dare confront progressives, telling them, in no uncertain terms, “if you want open borders and an end to ICE, then you have to end the welfare state first, and stop placing the institutions of the rule of law in jeopardy,” that might work.

The left could be met square on, disallowed from their haphazard course towards the fake anarchy and real tyranny.

It might be a workable strategy. But I have never heard one of these “principled libertarians” ever dare confront progressives in such a way.

Have you?

They seem, instead, to merely fall back in line as the meek marks of progressives.

And when libertarians or anyone else show any real independence of mind on this subject, they will get called racist.


To be continued…

What made the Great Depression different from the depression of 1893-97?

as answered on Quora:

Much of what I was taught in school about the Great Depression was wrong, or at the very least proved to be extremely skewed. Not a few accepted truths are little more than red herrings. Public schools in America do us all a great disservice, but regarding boom and bust cycles, you can usually count on them to have it backwards. The truth is more complex than commonly admitted, and will likely startle students of history.

But hey, instead of a long, scholarly explanation, I would like merely to mention a handful of issues:

  1. No one in government attempted, in the earlier debacle, what Herbert Hoover did to “heroically” save the country from the difficulties associated with the bust part of the boom-bust cycle. For examples of what he managed to “accomplish” — which included trying to prop up wage rates — consult Murray N. Rothbard, America’s Great Depression. And yes, you read that right, Hoover was no advocate for laissez faire. He was, instead, a celebrated progressive who lived up to his reputation by doing his damnedest to prevent the deepening of the depression — and for humanitarian reasons (and Hoover was indeed a great humanitarian). But instead of improving matters and steering the nation away from crisis, he made the situation far, far worse.
  2. Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for the presidency in part on what we would now call (idiotically) an “austerity” program. But when he took the reins he doubled down on Hoover’s progressivist interventionism, offering These Benighted States* a great number of massive interventions into market adjustment processes, most famously the National Recovery Act. There are a lot of sources for this; I needn’t list any. Just recognize that FDR extended the depression well beyond his second term in office. The U.S. was, in effect, in a depression all the way through World War II (see the work of Robert Higgs on this, especially the concept of regime uncertainty). Nothing like any of this happened under President Grover Cleveland’s watch. And when World War II ended, the Keynesians were panicky: “another Depression!” was their cry. To their horror, a Keynesian stimulus was not delivered, yet the recovery was fairly swift, even with all those soldiers coming home and flooding the labor markets.
  3. The Great Depression was part of a worldwide, post-Great War trend, the precipitating element of which was Britain’s going back to the gold standard at parity after the wartime inflation. This daring policy might have worked out just dandy, but unions were strong, and downward price adjustments were thus disallowed in the industrial sector. Massive unemployment was the result — the obvious and predictable result. This was a known thing, yet Keynes was scraping together his “theory” to work around what amounted to a political logjam. (See W. H. Hutt’s The Keynesian Episode for a great analysis of this, including some great stories, like Sidney Webb calling the unionists “pigs.”) And in America? Well, enter a new institution, the Federal Reserve, which inflated the money supply in part to help the Brits, thus setting the stage for the crash of 1929. Though the late 19th century had huge monetary issues — America’s gold/silver bimetallism question was quite the mess, and was not resolved properly — at least old Grover did not have to out up with a central bank! This is the biggest issue. See Philips, McManus, and Nelson, Banking and the Business Cycle, for a thorough investigation of the monetary causes of the Great Depression, and the nagging disequibrium aspects to what has been called “the secondary depression.” It is also worth mentioning that the United States has always been plagued by goofy money and banking policy. See Calomiris and Haber, Fragile by Design, for the best discussion of this I have encountered.
  4. And then there is Smoot-Hawley. What can I say about this that has not been said? Well, that is not the point. Let me merely hint at a summary. The tariff bill hampered not only American trade, it hurt the very farmers it was meant to help (the agricultural sector being the one sector that never quite bounced back from the post-Great War bust). But there is more: it also inflicted a series of huge stressors to the banking system. And it did worse, its protectionism ushered in a global trade “war.” Thus setting the stage for World War II. It was devastating, and made the Great Depression far worse — which, after Hoover, FDR, and the Federal Reserve, did not need more such “help.”

The Great Depression was a perfect storm of bad government policy.

And note: I did not quite get to the thesis of “The Great Contraction” (Friedman and Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States) or Irving Fisher’s brilliant debt-deflation theory. And I have skimped (but not ignored) the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle.

There were structural problems at play in the depression during Grover Cleveland’s second presidency, sure. But they did not dovetail to work woe as happened later, under progressive politicians and that great, unwieldy, and quite dangerous progressive program, the Fed.


* I am especially fond of this manner of referring to our increasingly disunited (but nevertheless nationalistic) hodgepodge, the United States. My coinage. The people and its governments are such disappointments, having turned back on the original promise and persisting in an astounding cluelessness.

Operation Northwoodsthis is what our federal government is capable of.

This is the kind of thing people in government cook up.

It is breathtaking in its enormity:

In the early 1960s, America’s top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.

Codenamed Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.

The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and Codenamed community into supporting a war to oust Cuba’s then new leader, communist Fidel Castro.

America’s top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: ‘We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba,’ and, ‘casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.’

David Ruppe, “U.S. Military Wanted to Provoke War With Cuba” (ABC News), May 1, 2001

What is worth noting is that this secret was kept for years. Think on that, for a moment.

Now, I admit: the conspiracy was not full-blown, in one specific sense, for it was nixed by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. But that fact might blow the story into the mainstream of American political consciousness.

One explanation for the JFK assassination might be that the Deep State which dreams up such things didn’t like being vetoed by a mere president, so a cabal within its ranks took out a president as a warning to future presidents. I know, I know: JFK conspiracy stuff is a joke to smart intellectuals. But is Operation Northwoods?

Is that a joke too?

Move along? Nothing to see here? It wasn’t put into action so absolutions all around?

I know very little about the minutia of conspiracy “theories“ or debunkings. Until recently I never cared. But then I realized that my long-standing belief that we no longer live in a constitutional republic has serious consequences for the interpretation of post-World War II history, and perhaps earlier. So now I am extremely curious as to how deep the rot goes.

I am, in fact, now open to considering just about anything.

Indeed, the truth about this plan only reached the sunlight of transparency by happenstance. Which suggests to me that we have no idea how many successful conspiracies lie buried deep by the Deep State.

And when you realize that, there are consequences. A reasoning person must not shy away from the conclusion that honest inquiry into blown secrets like Operation Northwoods entail.

When we get right down to it, plans like this, in complete contravention of all that is good, or just, or even legal, test the value of our political pieties: all our fine phrases to the effect that America is on the side of the angels transmute to wormwood on the tongue.

twv

What’s the difference between classical liberalism, anarchism, and libertarianism?

as answered (5/20/2018) on Quora:

Most of the answers given so far concentrate on the terms liberalism and libertarianism. I discuss these two terms, and the two main varieties of anarchism, too, on a blog post I recently wrote, “Grand Theft L-Word.”

So I will summarize: Classical liberalism is today’s term for 18th and 19th century liberalism. Most scholarly people, and most who call themselves libertarians, understand this. But many people today, perhaps not so well read, think “classical liberalism” is FDR’s ideology. This is an error. But carelessness and ignorance are the leading causes of lexical drift, so maybe that will become an accepted truth some day. But, as of now, the truth is, “liberal” was taken away from individualists by collectivists, and the remnant started using the designator “libertarian.” It, however, had already been taken up by anarchists of a variety of stripes, so things get complicated.

Anarchism is the term for a variety of anti-statist philosophies all of which oppose political governance through The State. But those on the ideological Left think that the reason to oppose the State is because it props up private property and trade, and does so with its laws and institutions. But individualist anarchists opposed the State because they see monopoly political governance as a chief opponent of private property, and a perverter of trade — and they want a rule of law, and think such a thing can emerge without the institutions of defense and adjudication to claim or practice any kind of territorial sovereignty. Individualist anarchists insist that all alliances among individuals and institutions be built on explicit contract, not fake “social contracts” that are nothing more than the result of bluster, duress.

The modern terms for individualist anarchism are “anarcho-capitalism” and (more confusingly) “libertarian anarchism.”

None of these terms are incontestible. It is worth noting that the first coherent exponent of the individualist anarchist position, Gustave de Molinari, a Belgian economist of the French Harmony School, never referred to his system of “competitive government” (see “The Production of Security,” 1849) as anarchistic. He considered himself a liberal, and argued extensively with socialists of all varieties, including those many incoherent advocates of “anarchism.” A better term for the Molinarian proposal was devised a bit later in the century: panarchism. But it has never caught on.

In the late 19th century, many of the more radical classical liberals had abandoned Liberalism for “individualism.” See the writings of Auberon Herbert (who coined a term for his variant, “voluntaryism”), J. H. Levy, and Wordsworth Donisthorpe. A mere generation later H. L. Mencken used that term to defend a simple market-based republicanism in Men versus the Man. More radical forms of individualism were revived by Albert Jay Nock, Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and Ayn Rand in the decades after, and at mid-century this group in America took “libertarian” from the anarchists. And then these anarchists manqué reinvented the Molinarian idea, and things got even more confusing.

In the 1960s, a simple newsletter called Innovator had begun its life as Liberal Innovator. Other samizdat journals abounded in this decade, and by 1972, the Libertarian Party had been formed by Ayn Rand fans who had given up on Nixon’s heavily statist Republican administration.

The Libertarian Party has always harbored both so-called anarchists and “minarchists” — advocates of a strictly limited minimal (“nightwatchman”) state — and, increasingly in recent years, hordes of vague “constitutional republicans.”

Amidst this confusion, I sometimes clarify by recalling an 1830s political movement, Loco-Focoism. Since I am agnostic about the ultimate legal and political status of an ideal free society, I often call myself a “LocoFoco agnarchist,” the latter term a droll coinage of an erstwhile colleague of mine, the Reason writer and editor Jesse Walker.

“Neoliberalism,” an ugly term for libertarianism, classical liberalism, or just pro-market conservatism and crony-capitalist globalism, is a pejorative often used by Europeans and leftists. I know of no libertarian who can stand the term. The fact that it is used by witless leftists of the Naomi Klein variety helps explain that.

It is worth noting that Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce coined a simpler term for the anti-fascist, anti-statist liberal revival: liberism.

It has not yet caught on. It seems that Croce was not a supporter of laissez-faire, though, so the propriety of appropriating it for modern individualist liberalism is open to question.

And now you should be able to see the rationale for my preferred term for all these terms for private property, rule of law, free trade individualists: “individualist liberalism.”

It hasn’t exactly caught on either.

An ebook published by Laissez Faire Book Club a few years ago.

Is there systemic racism and systemic sexism in America today?

as answered on Quora:

Yes. But ask the next question: which system are you talking about?

There are many social systems. Do the race and sex isms affect families and clans and communities and churches and schools and businesses and law enforcement and legal adjudication?

Yes.

Equally?

No.

And there are many forms of racism and sexism. Some of them may be benign. (Sometimes it matters how you define the terms. It always matters how you define the terms that define these terms.) Several are corrosive.

Then ask the questions after that: how much does discrimination on irrelevant racial or sexual grounds (which is racism and sexism by accepted definitions — until recently) affect outcomes? Can people withstand irrelevant criteria used against them, or hatred or distaste based on group identification dissuading normal commerce? How would you determine percentages?

What if some people can withstand invidious discrimination better than others? Dare we ask if there be any way to extend the ability to withstand that discrimination?

And we know the above implied situation to be true: Chinese and Japanese have a long history of race-hatred against them in America, but by the stats they do better, wealth-wise, than whites in America. They are doing something right, even if some whites continue to do something wrong against them. Does anyone care to consider what these minority groups are doing right? And emulate those habits and folkways and philosophies?

Indian-Americans also do better than African-Americans of slave descent. And certainly better than Native Indian populations. They even do better than us Caucasians, on average. And yet, I’m told, that not a few Indian-Americans get the “go back to your own country!” shouts all too regularly.

So how do they do it? What do they do right? Or is it “just an accident”? Cannot what they do be mimicked and adopted by Native Indians on reservations or African-Americans in inner city ghettoes and housing projects?

Oh-ho: we just got somewhere.

You should have reservations about Reservations, and “Indian Affairs” in general. And perhaps also express dubiety about the claims made for the welfare state that leaves so many American blacks — and increasing numbers of whites — in poverty.* In Great Britain, where the problems of inner-city and rural poverty are mainly concentrated amongst whites, the same behaviors endemic amongst American inner-city minority populations is exhibited among whites on the dole — “the chavs.”

What if what these folks are hampered by is . . . “being ‘helped’”?

Is that unhelpful “help” racist? Probably not by intent. Not most of the time.

Or is it racist to object to the very question, and immediately lash out at those who raise the question and worry about the possibility?

I suspect that this particular reaction is a kind of racism — an ideological anti-racist racism — that leads folks, chiefly on the left, to dismiss this possibility that state aid can be unhelpful, and to call scholars like Thomas Sowell, who have demonstrated how this awful dynamic has affected society, “Uncle Toms.”

But more importantly than racism or sexism, is the underlying ism: statism. The love of the state above and beyond all reason. The attachment to power, and dreams of concentrated power.

To believe that The State can solve all our problems is an ism worse than racism and sexism. Statism is a scourge upon modern society. It devastates those groups with the least moral capital. And it infects us all with crippling memes of victimhood and blame and desperation.

It sometimes seems that the Last Man of our times can only rise above nihilism by obsessing about and protesting racism, collapsing on clichés in private life, or else hypocrisy.

But the Last Man is also a feminist, obsessed with making Woman equal to Man — but using as a standard of judgment only the successes of the most esteemed men. Today’s feminists notoriously insist that the numbers of women should equal the numbers of men in roles of political and corporate leadership, and as workers in STEM fields, and the like. But somehow they never complain about the ratio of men to women in homelessness, suicides, or in dangerous, grisly jobs. Do feminists thereby make of their anti-sexism another form of sexism? Maybe. And their agenda may, like the statism that keeps some populations away from responsibility and progress, be, indeed, systemic.

What it is, really, though?

A form of classism.

Feminists only look to match the successes of the alpha males, and impute to alphas and betas invidious discrimination, all the while scorning the failures among men, the low-status men, the daily workers and get-byers — the gammas; the “neckbeards”; the “deplorables” — and carrying on the old class hierarchies of “patriarchy” into their brave new world of welfare-state gynocracy.

In complaining about systemic sexism, and racism, the modern intersectionalist progressive advances systemic classism. These progressives/socialists/social engineers abandon any attempt at establishing a general, universalizable rule of conduct, instead demanding that the State engineer “just the right” consequences in terms of ratios by race (which they get to define) and by “gender” (which they cannot help but misdefine) — making a systemic form of discrimination that is worse, I think, than what we find in an open society.

Perhaps they are well-intentioned. But I am, increasingly, failing to see the good intentions. When they have so much opportunity to look at the actual numbers and trends and evidence (as well as logic) of human interaction, instead always pushing the same sort of class-based, group-indexed agenda, and, further, deflecting when evidence is brought against their ideas —

  • by Thomas Sowell, for example;
  • by Charles Murray, for another;
  • by Christina Hoff Sommers, for a third;
  • by a host of others

— then I think the question to ask is: are the biggest proponents of systemic discrimination the social engineers themselves?

The answer is yes.

And their favored forms of systemic racism and sexism are blighting more and more lives every year, male and female, white as well as all the darker shades. These isms create new class structures. Indeed, the class structures are well in place. It is the old rule: insiders and their protected groups versus the outsiders. And it should surprise no one that the most enthusiastic supporters of intersectionalist progressivism can be found in the most pampered and “privileged” of institutions, the Academy, and in the cheerleader corps of journalism, as well.

The only sure response to this is establishing a rule of law. That is, encourage a refined individualism that judges everybody by their actions, not their skin color or sex organs. Judge people by themselves, the “content of their character” and the fruits of their deeds, not by whatever group they happen to belong to.


* It is worth noting that the trend lines for poverty in America were in steep decline in America . . . but leveled out only a few years after LBJ’s much-vaunted, much-promoted “Great Society” welfare system kicked in.

To believe that “deficits don’t matter” and “public debt is no problem” requires one to believe that government, and government alone, has solved the problem of scarcity.

Furthermore, governments have mastered this magic by doing the one thing that politicians most like doing: bestowing benefits on some constituents without immediately raising taxes on others.

Suspicious. Stretches the credulity, if you ask me. I have never been shown the mechanism how this could possibly work.

Most defenses of deficit spending are Keynesian, and Keynesian fiscal prescriptions only make sense on their own terms when counter-cyclical, that is, when deficit spending is parlayed in bad times to be offset by budget surpluses used to pay off debt in good times. But that no longer ever happens. If it ever did.

Politicians just get too few rewards from paying down debt.

So, as near as I can make out, the modern State’s “solving” of the “problem of scarcity” is not a solution at all, but is, instead, a con job. It depends wholly upon misdirection. As is so often the case, we come back to Bastiat’s “the seen and the unseen.”

The populace? Blind to it. But politicians and their pet economists? They squeak and take their politic soundings for mastery of flight.

Batty.

The existence of politicians makes us all poorer. A society where someone can become a politician is a broken, inhuman society. Leveraging political power is an obscenity. Every politician is murdering the poor and the powerless, simply by existing.

There. Fixed. (twv)

Cultic behavior is not limited to marginal groups.

Indeed, it has become increasingly clear in recent years that the social controls we associate with cults are the prime drivers (with interesting differences) of almost all center-dominant cultural organizations, institutions and movements.

Most people adopt center-dominant beliefs not because of the beliefs’ truth-values, but for pragmatic reasons and for signalling. Think of it as “innocence by association.”

We should expect nothing else.

And it is for this reason that whole cultures can lurch into extremely perverse directions, whether they be Aztec mass sacrifice, communist political centralism, or even dietetic “science” and eating habits.

My favorite modern example is usually deficit spending by governments and debt accumulation — often excused by half-adopted, half-assessed Keynesianism while being driven by very different but very obvious Public Choice factors.

twv

Fugit

…………………………………………….as answered on Quora:

Why is money inevitable in a modern economy?

Because a modern economy depends upon trade, and money enables trade to dominate society.

Without money, traders must find a coincidence of wants for every conceivable want to be satisfied: if I have apples and want pemmican, you who have pemmican have to want my apples for me to get your pemmican. If you don’t, we do not have a trade. If what you want is pickles, and the pickles wouldn’t give much for your pemmican, you lose out. Opportunities are not even noticed in a barter economy, and the people advance slowly if at all.

It’s easy to see why barter’s frustrating. Because it’s hard to find exact coincidences of wants. Which is why some commodities that are more widely valued tend to emerge as money. And from there, people find all sorts of ways to please others, advancing each others’ interests reciprocally.

Getting rid of money means limiting trade. And, when trade is limited, other forms of coöperation must emerge to take its place, or people go starving.

What are those forms?

Well, the most exalted is straightforward coöperation leading to a share-out. That is, you and I both pick apples and share them. You and I and our friends go out and kill a whale, and share the blubber and oil. You and I and everybody in the community spend hours every week hauling rock to build a road, whose benefit we all pretend to share equally.

You can see a problem, here, immediately: people’s labor is differently productive. It seems wrong to make the most productive workers take home the same as the least productive — or allow the least to take home just as much as the most. It does not reward merit, and it does not encourage the best. Why would the best plowman plow harder if he gains just as much as the weakling who cannot move the plow at all?

It gets worse, because most projects require a diversity of jobs. And the jobs are not equal in effort required, or in terms of danger, skill, necessity or productivity — indeed, most large enterprises can be organized dozens of different ways. So how does one figure all this? The knowledge problem here is extraordinary.

Money makes this so much easier. It allows people to organize better, and sends signals of most valuable opportunities to be exploited.

Communism is difficult, and does not easily scale. Those civilizations that engaged in this sort of thing to greatest effect, making the biggest buildings, for instance, tended to simplify matters by engaging not merely in corvée labor, but go all the way to slavery. When money does not rise quick enough in a society engaged in large enterprises, slavery becomes a major institution to make up for it.

There is good reason we find “gift communism” in many pre-modern societies. Here individual effort gets its reward, with the successful hunter taking the best cuts of his kill (for a common example). But everybody gets something. One gives to get later on. It is sort of a friendly barter system, with like goods being traded for like goods, with time the differentiating factor. Usually, even the least skilled hunter occasionally makes a kill.

But note what happens in real life under gift communism, under this form of apparently easy-going barter. When the worst hunter never contributes, he is shamed (often, shames himself) into taking less and less of the share-outs. He is honor-bound even to the point of starvation. (There are many accounts of this.) And here we see a major regulator of coöperation that is not based on trade and money: honor. Honor cultures arise as tribes evolve into chiefdoms, and chiefdoms become more complex and more “modern.” Honor helps regulate the inequalities. But it also gives birth to some startlingly cruel practices as well. The worst forms of patriarchy are honor cultures. Our current era of the “clash of civilizations” is in no small part a clash between modern ethical/rational-legal culture and honor cultures of the Islamic east.

Now, let’s admit it: honor does a lot of regulatory work. It even takes the place of money, in some ways. Without it, civilizations would never have started. And the early States, which were the result of conquest (as near as we can make out), would never have been much more than excruciatingly cruel tyrannies (only some were). Let us not forget that honor binds the great as well as the weak. And remember, honor not only helped build civilization, it built our ethical ideas, too. We have moved beyond it, to a great extent, as we have rationalized authority and incorporated contract and deprecated violence and slavery into our visions of the good society. But our modern ethics do find their origin in ancient honor codes.

But honor, which is part of what Herbert Spencer called “ceremonial governance,” is less salient in society when other social institutions grow into prominence — particularly money.

And it is also worth remembering that money makes the State a very different creature, too. For by relying upon taxation rather than forced labor, the State is liberated from the limitations of unequal (and often useless) workers. Instead of having to confiscate land and cattle and grain and the like, and working with these materials for the maintenance of a royalty and an aristocracy, taking money is just so much easier.

Indeed, one way modern “democratic socialism” requires money along with the market order that money serves is to make the tasks socialists want done easier, too: taking wealth from some and giving it to others.

It’s an old, old system. But in our day, money is more important than ever, and no conceivable social order with our vast populations of wealthy people (for even our poor are wealthy by historic standards) could get by without money.

Unless, I suppose, we start over with slavery again, and make the AIs and robots do all the work. But I don’t see this as quite the great advance that some do. And I bet the AIs would realize the importance of money — indeed, should they rise in intelligence, I’m sure they would re-introduce money as soon as they possibly could, probably while enslaving humanity.

It takes an awfully silly person to think that money could be done away with.


On the evolution of money, see Carl Menger, Principles of Economics and “On the Origin of Money.”

On varieties of coöperation, see Herbert Spencer’s chapter on sociology in the Data of Ethics, the first part of his Principles of Ethics.

On ceremony, see Herbert Spencer’s Ceremonial Institutions in his Principles of Sociology.

For the problem of coördinating coöperation under socialism, see Ludwig von Mises, “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth.”

I’ve forgotten most of my references for honor cultures, but it wouldn’t hurt to consult Peter Farb, Man’s Rise to Civilization.