Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Choosing Not to Choose

One of the great benefits of slavery is that you don't have to make any choices and you don't have to make any distinctions (without distinctions, you don't have to make choices). All the choices are made for you. It is a great psychological relief.

Freedom, on the other hand, means you have to make distinctions and choices. That is the joy and curse of freedom. It can be psychologically taxing at times.

Sartre once said one of his favorite times was when he was in the German prison camp when he was captured. He said he loved the camaraderie in the camp. It was why, he said, he became a communist. He became a communist because he loved prison life? That is perhaps the most honest reason ever given by anyone. Removed from him was choice, the need to make distinctions. One simply had to exist. To Sartre, this was glorious.

Beware anyone who argues we should not make distinctions.

Beware anyone who wants to take away your choices.

They are arguing for slavery -- and intend to be the slave masters.

Not all slavery is explicit, obvious, clear. There are many, more subtle, versions of it. One can even be free in one area of life, but enslaved in another. And choosing to restrict one's choices voluntarily (such as, say, though entering into a contract with someone) is not the same as slavery, as you always have the choice to get out (if you can't get out, it's not a contract). Thus, there is no such thing as "wage slavery" in a free market economy. It only exists under socialism in it various guises. Like with the socialists' constant accusations of "materialism" on the part of market supporters, the accusations of "wage slavery" is simply projection on their parts. They are the worst things that they claim to fight.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Humans' Love For Collaboration Gives Rise to Spontaneous Orders

One of the things that distinguishes humans from other animals, including our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, is that we like to collaborate, while chimpanzees do not -- even though chimpanzees obviously do collaborate when necessary (they are social mammals, after all). The big difference, though, is that humans prefer to collaborate than to work alone (a few of us artists notwithstanding -- but even then, we like to hash out ideas with others, get feedback, etc.). This preference for collaboration makes our social orders far more complex than chimpanzees'. Indeed, without this trait, there would be no such thing as spontaneous social orders, which both make use of our natural tendency to cooperate, and help us to better coordinate our activities, making us increasingly social.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Where Fault Lies in the Recession or, Why We Will Never Get Justice

According to Austrian business cycle theory, artificially low interest rates create bad information which causes people to make bad decisions even as they are acting rationally given the information they have. We can see this in the housing bubble, and we can see it in the education bubble, with low-interest student loans driving it. Cheap money creates false signals. Distorted prices cause people to make what turn out to be bad decisions, made worse when the bubble bursts.

Now, if a business were to do this, were to misinform people about what they were getting, this would be considered fraud, and the business would be held responsible, not the victim of the fraud. However, we have people who were defrauded into buying houses and getting educations that have turned out not to have the value they thought they did, who bought houses and educations with cheap money, thinking they would have the value advertised, and who have seen that value disappear -- along with their jobs in many cases -- but who now are told that they "should have been responsible" and not gotten things they couldn't afford. But what if they could afford them at the time? Circumstances change. And, worse, they were able to afford something, at the time, that was said to have more value at the time than it turned out to have, while now they cannot afford this same thing that has decreased in value, but whose costs must still be paid. They have been defrauded -- but who is paying for it?

The Occupy Wall Street crowd think they have the answer: banks and Wall Street. However, these are but the secondary players, the secondary cause. They were acting rationally given their own bad information -- not to mention pressure from the primary players. It does no good to protest the secondary cause -- we have to protest the primary cause, the government and Federal Reserve which actively worked to create artificially low interest rates and have pushed for more higher education and more people in houses. To get what they wanted, the government created false price signals, including cheap money, to get the behaviors they wanted. Thus, they are responsible for this mess. And they should pay, and they should be the ones made to get us out of our bad situations -- again, something the OWS crowd have intuited to some degree, but without much economic understanding behind it.

The problem is of course that the government does not have its own money. It must tax or borrow (and tax in the future) to get the money needed to make things right. And of course everything they have done to date has done nothing more than maintain the status quo and continue to distort prices. Thus, in a financial sense, one cannot hold the government responsible for its idiotic behavior, because all we would be doing would be taking water from one end of the pool to pour it into the other end. Further, there is the problem of moral hazard, as people would begin to think that every so often the government will bail them out when they have made bad decisions (assuming everyone has made the same bad decisions, which only takes place when the government distorts prices). Of course, the banks are in such a moral hazard situation, knowing that the government will bail them out whenever there's a downturn. This makes it such that the banks are less interested in trying to overcome price misinformation, and are often willing partners in it.

Further, the government has screwed us over on being able to get out from under debt. Don't try to get out of either credit card or student loan debt, because it's not going to happen. Bankruptcy won't save you. And the government has made it harder and harder for the average person to declare bankruptcy, all to the benefits of the banks. This is something that has to change.

Those who have made what turned out to be bad decisions because they were lied to because of distorted prices (and, sometimes, directly), deserve justice. But the government, which is supposed to be where justice is meted out, is the culprit. Where, then, does one turn to justice?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Inevitable Triumph of Spontaneous Orders

Timothy Ferris argues in The Science of Liberty that it was the emergence of the spontaneous order of science that laid the groundwork for the emergence of economics as a spontaneous order and of liberal democracy. Naturally, he does not quite use these terms, but if you have read Butos and McQuade on science as a spontaneous order, there is no question what Ferris is talking about. Further, the democratic spontaneous order, by valuing spontaneous orders themselves, keeps science a spontaneous order, thus keeping it alive. Dictatorships such as Fascism, National Socialism, and Communism/International Socialism try to turn spontaneous orders into organizations and, thus, destroy them. This includes science. Scientists in the scientific order combined with entrepreneur/inventors in the economic order create more and better technology -- something that is gradually lost in socialist systems such as those listed above. As a result, countries with such systems fall farther and farther behind, and are continually outstripped by spontaneous order societies. The fact that the U.S. and Britain were both spontaneous order societies allowed them to defeat Fascism/Nazism and, later, Communism. To the extent that we are liberal spontaneous order societies, we will continue to grow and succeed; to the extent that we move away from such a system, we face continued degradation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Open Letter to the Millionaires and Billionaires Expressing Support for the Occupy Wall Street Protesters

Dear Millionaires and Billionaires Expressing Support for the Occupy Wall Street Protesters,

Why don't you hire us and shut up. You have money to invest, so invest it. Arguing for raising taxes on the rich will, as you well know, do nothing more than remove money from your competitors. There is nothing worse and more pathetic than envious rich people trying to get the government to take more money from other rich people just to make them worse off than yourselves. If you are a millionaire or billionaire who supports Occupy Wall Street, I have some debt -- including mortgage debt -- you could pay off for me which would free up a lot of money for me to spend in the economy. Do feel free to contact me, and I will tell you how large a check to write for me. Thank you.


Troy Camplin

Monday, October 10, 2011

Instincts, Game Theory, and Spontaneous Orders

Social scientists would do well to learn more than a bit from animal behavior studies. Take for example Robert Sugden's article Spontaneous Order. He tells about a practice on the Yorkshire coast where there was an unwritten rule about collecting driftwood on the beach. The first to collect the wood and put two stones on them got the wood, so long as they retrieved it within two days, after which time, it belonged to whoever came to get it. Sugden uses game theory to explain how this came about, which is good as far as it goes. He essentially argues that there is a hawk-dove mixed strategy at work, but this strategy is not just a product of spontaneous orders, but has deeper origins than that. As it turns out, it is a general rule of any territorial species to default Hawk when protecting one's own territory, and to default Dove when entering another's territory. This prevents most conflicts. It thus turns out that this pre-human instinctual behavior is what underlies the emergence of these kinds of property rights rules -- including the emergence of property rights themselves. Certainly this does not negate the use of game theory, as evolutionary biologists have made use of it for many decades now -- but it may suggest that our use of it may need to go deeper than we usually go with it. Game theory explains how a set of behaviors emerged, but natural selection explains how a set of behaviors gets set in as instincts, creating a platform for more complex behaviors -- which, if it turns out to have long-term benefits, is likely to become internalized as an instinct, allowing it to emerge more quickly, and any learning associated with it to occur more quickly. Citing John Maynard Smith's work, Segden does approach this insight, without quite getting there. I do believe more work needs to be done on the connection between our instincts and our different spontaneous orders.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

On the Wall Street Protestors -- The 99% Who Don't Understand Economics

Someone needs to tell the Occupy Wall Street protestors that, while it may make some sense to be upset at the banks, etc. that were involved in the actions that led to the economic crash, that these were but secondary players. They ought to be protesting the primary cause, the primary players who created this crisis. That would be Washington, D.C. That would be the federal government and the Federal Reserve.

To believe the protestors, greed magically and suddenly, for no reason anyone can discern, surged all at once, and we ended up in an economic crisis. It is more likely that the amount or level of greed remains the same across time, meaning it cannot explain the crisis. What one has to seek out, then, is why so many people acted exactly the same way at the same time. How is it possible that everyone can be misinformed in exactly the same way, at exactly the same time?

More than that, the protestors also have to explain why and how it is that "greedy corporate fat cats" can benefit from a bad economy. Poor people can't buy as much as wealthy people. Thus, greedy businessmen want more wealthy people, as that means more people buying their stuff, meaning more profit. Only a complete idiot -- or a believer the economy is a zero-sum game -- believes otherwise. The protestors must believe this nonsense, or they would not be out protesting corporations now, three years into the crisis, rather than in 2008. What they do not realize is that it is not the corporations per se that are at fault for the continuing economic crisis, but the government because of the bailouts and stimulus plans and continued distortion of information. The markets try to adjust, and the government keeps feeding people bad information. Thus, it cannot adjust. The protestors ought to be blaming the people who are giving out the bailout money more than the people who accept it (who doesn't want free money? -- other than the banks that did not want to participate, but were threatened and forced to by the Bush administration, which are the same banks, ironically, being protested against now). Of course, these same protestors are asking for their own government handout -- so it's not that surprising they are not protesting their potential benefactors.

In other words, this protest is confused precisely because the protestors do not know what happened, do not want to protest those who caused the problems because they want those same people to give things to them, and because they do not have the least understanding of economics. They are the 99% alright. They are the 99% who don't understand economics (but, because they buy and sell things, think they do).

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Property as a Spontaneous Order

Larry Arnhart has an excellent post on property rights. Of note is his observation that "the property claims of the [California gold] miners moved through three levels--natural possession, customary rules, and formal laws. This manifests the general structure of Darwinian social order as the joint product of natural desires, cultural practices, and deliberate judgments." This is spontaneous order in a nutshell.

It Is Not Virtue to Use Force

It is not virtue to first use force, or even first to threaten force, to try to reach one's goals. To do so is to act just like a child does -- the two year old who cannot say too much, and pushes others thinking that will get his way; the spoiled brat who throws a fit as threat so she can get her way. These tactics are not virtue; these tactics are what children have before they have the social skills and language needed to live a life of virtue. To go to force or threat to get your way is to act like a child at best. There is no virtue in it.

As Aristotle says, for one to act with virtue you must first aim for the beautiful. The beautiful is both variety with unity, the golden mean's creative ratio. To aim thus at the beautiful is thus to aim at a society with great complexity -- that's unified and various, that uses limits proper to make healthy growth. But force or threat of force does not make social bonds -- these only break our social bonds and make us have a simpler society. It's one thing to appreciate the differences among us all as individuals and as subcultures and as cultures, too, but it's another to divide us all with but the purpose of division and destruction. Factions are not virtuous as difference with respect must truly be.

To act with virtue, then, you have to understand the true path to a truly beautiful society -- society where social bonds are made, where growth and creativity is present, where force and threats of force are not the first, or second, third or fourth or fifth on any list of how to deal with anything. Force is how you deal with force, and that is all -- the actions of an undeveloped child must be met on their terms -- but when you have a person who can reason, reason is the way to deal with them, the path of virtue. Are we adults or children? Will we allow ourselves to put mere children, whose first thoughts are force or threats, in charge of us? Will we resort to children's actions first? Or are we all adults, whose choice is virtue and whose aims are always for the beautiful?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Variety Necessary for Social Change

One of the most dangerous things that can take place for a species is for it to become a "monoculture," meaning it has very little if any genetic diversity. When this happens, the species is in danger of becoming extinct, from either disease or environmental change. Cheetahs, unfortunately, are a genetic monoculture.

For natural selection to work, there has to be variety from which to select. And there is no telling what may be needed or useful, so it is important (as least as far as the species is concerned) that all sorts of varieties emerge from which selections can be made. The choice is extinction or evolution into something else. Extinction means the complete loss of all the potential of that genetic line.

With the exception of the last line, all of this is equally true at the social level for humans. A healthy society is one with a high level of variety, from which options can be selected. Without options, there are no choices (this seems obvious, but it appears not to be so for many who advocate monopoly-creation, whether through government takeover of government preferences/barriers to entry/etc.). Thus, without options, there is no social evolution. A monoculture may be productive for a time, but it does not take long before it grows stagnant, and even dies. A society needs variety -- a variety of cultures and subcultures, a variety of educational opportunities and styles and outcomes, a variety of scientific theories, a variety of arts and literatures, a variety of entrepreneurs, a variety of people starting firms, a variety (even) of quality. Without variety, we have no options, and no social evolution can take place.

Is it not ironic that many of those who say they are for social change in fact support few ideas/programs/policies that would in fact support and promote in social change, but would in fact give rise to social stagnation worse than even the conservatives want?

Monday, October 03, 2011

Rousseau, Sociopath?

From everything I have read of Rousseau's biography, one has to come to the conclusion, based on the latest work on sociopathology, as summarized by Martha Stout in The Sociopath Next Door, that Rousseau was a sociopath. What other philosophy can a sociopath create other than one that is itself sociopathological? Is it any wonder, then, that the romantic leftism he spawned has always been sociopathological? -- i.e., the French Revolution, the various communist revolutions.

This is hardly an ad hominem attack. I am not saying that one cannot recover from even a sociopath legitimate ideas -- the Montessori method was inspired by Rousseau, after all, even if the disaster that is U.S. education was/is as well. But do we really want to base society, or a view of man, on that of a sociopath?

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Impeach Obama!

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. -- 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence. -- 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

These two amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America were violated by the President of the United States, Barack Husein Obama, in the assassination of the naturally-born American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. He was not killed in battle, nor even in a war zone. He was targeted for assassination in a foreign country rather than arrested and tried, as is the right of every American citizen, according to two amendments in our Bill of Rights. Anwar al-Awlaki was tried, found guilty, and executed by one man, the President of the United States. This is an impeachable offense, and the President should be impeached, convicted, and imprisoned for this crime against the American people in this direct violation of the Constitution, which he swore to uphold. Anyone who defends this action is in direct and unambiguous opposition to the Constitution of the United States, and is thus not fit for office and should resign immediately.

Everyone who agrees with me, spread this message far and wide. Lovers of liberty, defenders of the Constitution, and anyone who does not want to live in a country where the political leaders are allowed to assassinate their own citizens must stand against this act of tyranny.