Wednesday, June 02, 2021

With friends like Economics, who needs enemies? - The diminishing returns of Economic Thinking

I'll close this series of posts out, by going back to our beginning, noting that America's exceptional 'system' was originally no system at all - at least not as economic policy makers think of such matters today. In America's founding, their primary concern was for preserving that Liberty which naturally follows when individuals in a community are able to think for themselves and interact with each other as they see fit, and so long as none violated the rights and property of another, the long arm of the law remained at a distance from their everyday lives. Such a system as that was only possible where individual rights and private property were understood to be inseparable, and where each person - high or low - was understood to be equal before the law. As James Madison put it in his excellent and exceedingly brief essay on Property:
"In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights."
, and that,
"...Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.
Where there is an excess of liberty, the effect is the same, tho' from an opposite cause.
Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own."
When such a system as that is put in place by a people who understand and respect what it provides and requires of them, it results in a society that is able to enjoy the blessings of liberty - being able to produce, buy, sell, trade, associate, speak and think as they see fit - which gave rise to conditions that were later identified as being a Free Market, born of Natural Liberty.

For all of our establishment Republican's stated concern for 'Free Trade', by way of establishing convoluted govt policies which use the law and extensive penalties under it, to define, limit and mandate what type and quantity of trade will be permitted to the people living under those nations that sign on to such 'Free Trade Agreements', they demonstrate a profound ignorance of Madison's warning that "...Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions...", and serve only to undermine self governance, imperil Liberty and eliminate the possibility of a Free Market existing even in theory.

For all of the so called 'Libertarians' loud claims that removing the hand of the law will magically produce the mutation of 'Economic liberty' (which is to Liberty, what 'Social Justice' is to Justice), they demonstrate their ignorance of why Madison warned that tyranny also follows "...Where there is an excess of liberty, the effect is the same, tho' from an opposite cause...", imperiling Liberty itself, as it cannot result from an absence of that which secures it.

For all of Populists such as Tucker Carlson's stated concerns for 'Male wage earners', teens, young married couples, and most others in society today, when he seconds their concern that "...they don’t see a connection between people’s personal lives and the health of our economy...", which the populist believes justifies giving govt the power to use the economy as a tool to 'fix' how they should be living their lives, they demonstrate a dangerous ignorance of that threat to everyone's liberty which, as Madison continued, must inevitably follow,
"...that government, under which unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward another species: where arbitrary taxes invade the domestic sanctuaries of the rich, and excessive taxes grind the faces of the poor;..."
, and they are willfully blind to the consequences of their 'good intentions',
"... where the keenness and competitions of want are deemed an insufficient spur to labor, and taxes are again applied, by an unfeeling policy, as another spur; in violation of that sacred property, which Heaven, in decreeing man to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, kindly reserved to him, in the small repose that could be spared from the supply of his necessities...."
One thing that economics can demonstrate in devastating detail, is how the unforeseen consequences of actions such as penalizing the rich for buying yachts, leaves hundreds of workers unemployed, and in the fashion of Benjamin Franklin's old rhyme 'for want of a nail, the horseshoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost...' and so on for the rider, the battle and the entire kingdom, all lost. The populist basks in the warm glow of self-congratulations for 'fixing the problems' of other people's judgment, blind to the reality that they are engaging in the very same misuse & abuse of power which they despise the socialist for craving, and to the fact that forcibly depriving someone of their ability to act on their own judgment, isn't made any better by the good intentions that led to it.

Each of these would-be friends of liberty on 'The Right', and of course its deliberate enemies on The Left, are exhibiting a species of Economic Thinking, which abandons the practice of thinking from those First Principles which America resulted from, and instead behave as if there is and can be no dire consequences from treating effects as causes, and attempting to start off in midstream. A brief glance out at the world around us today, shows you exactly where such foolhardy and prideful thinking leads.

The system of ordered liberty which a Free Market blossoms from and thrives in, depends upon an integrated set of philosophical ideas being at least implicitly understood: that reality exists and is not only knowable, but perilous to disregard, which means that we ought to respond accordingly to what we can see is true, and to not pretend that what we cannot know, can be treated as if it is a 'known'.

Through the roots of Western Civilization, the Greeks left us their philosophical method for knowing the world around us, and its equally important ideals to 'Know thyself' and to engage in self-governance; the Romans left us the idea of a Republic of Laws and its animating core idea of Natural Law, and our Judeo-Christian half showed us that neither wealth, class nor ethnicity, add to nor take away from the equal value of every individual life. Neither liberty nor the pursuit of happiness are possible outside of that entire understanding, and consequently knowing the reality of what the nature of being human is, is knowing that we must be at liberty to think and act, while respecting our fellows need to do the same.

Because we once understood and educated ourselves to have and bear that in mind, we in The West were able to form objective systems of law: its laws known and limited to upholding the individual rights and property of its people, while having a systematic means of justly administering them within society, by recognizing that every person is and must be equal in the eyes of the law; all of which serves to uphold and preserve the means necessary for human life to flourish - AKA: the blessings of liberty.

The danger of beginning from the Economic middle, rather than from First Principles
There is no 'economic model' that defines and creates a 'Free Market' such as that, because its true and defining sources are far outside of and prior to the concerns of economics, whose models can only describe factors within that wider scope, which enables it to identify what interferes with, hampers, and harms its operations. To use economic thinking to determine the political thinking which it springs from, is not only a case of the tail wagging the dog, but of expecting that tail to feed and care for the dog as well.

When you are seduced into arguing for which Economic System a society should be organized under (Socialism or Capitalism, makes little difference), you've blindly stepped onto the battleground that the enemy has prepared for you - the question itself implicitly yields precedence to utility and the management of things, over justice and individual rights - and you cannot argue for what is good and true on those grounds, but only for what will seem more useful, which can only work to the advantage of the Pro-Regressive Left (and Right). Such foundations cannot support Liberty and a Free Market, as a system of objective laws for upholding the rights of the individuals living under them, cannot be supported there, and whatever structures might still be remaining from earlier conditions, will rapidly crumble to the ground. See Hong Kong for reference.

Marx didn't just happen to formulate his 'ideas' on the basis of economics, that was his chosen means of dividing and defeating his enemy! It was no accident that he recast the new ideas of Natural Liberty and a Free Market, into the economic straightjacket of 'Capitalism' - that was a necessary step towards eradicating them, and few have been a greater aid in advancing his strategy, than conservatives, libertarians, and business people who actually thought they'd benefit from such narrowed and illiberal thought of 'just dealing with facts'. As some fiend once quipped, 'the capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with'.

It's important that those who sincerely argue for Socialism out of good intentions, to realize that they are not simply arguing for 'a fairer economic system', instead they are calling for an entire political system that will use the force of law to restrict and compel the thoughts and actions of everyone (what begins with permitting what and how some people can produce, buy, sell, trade, is already actively restricting everyone's thoughts and associations), complete with a judicial system whose rules will define 'justice' as being what a powerful few experts from above will declare to be politically correct. Necessarily those rules will not only ignore, but must explicitly violate everyone's individual rights ('those actions necessary for human beings to make choices about, in the course of living a fully human life'), for what the Powers that be demand. The mere existence of such a system is itself a declaration that what is 'Right' or 'Wrong' is nothing more than what is presently permitted or forbidden by those in power, and they will assuredly see your every non-compliant thought and action as being existential threats to their power.

For those who persist in thinking that choosing Socialism is the intelligent and caring thing to do, you would be a fool to not familiarize yourself with Hannah Arendt and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote about exactly that. Alexis de Tocqueville too, who was writing during the time of the ongoing French Revolutions, described the grave danger of thinking of socialism as being nothing more than economic policies, that,
"...Socialism means, Tocqueville insisted, that
the State must not only direct society, but must be . . . the master of every man . . . his tutor, his teacher; that from fear of letting him fall, the state must always be by his side, above him, around him, in order to guide him, protect him, sustain him, restrain him. In brief . . . it is the elimination of human freedom to a lesser or greater extent.
Those are strong words. Socialism, for Tocqueville, portends “a new form of servitude” in the name of protecting everyone against life’s ups-and-down. Paradoxically enough, he argued, this made socialism similar to the ancien régime that the French Revolution overthrew. It too had held that
"wisdom resides in the state alone, that its subjects are weak and infirm beings whom one must always lead by the hand for fear that they might fall or hurt themselves; that it is good continually to constrict, to oppose, to constrain individual liberties; that it is necessary to regulate industry, to guarantee the quality of goods, to prevent free competition...."
Statism in all its variations increases its power by 'abridging', infringing upon, or otherwise abusing and denying the structural supports for Individual Rights & Property, from its political philosophy and those laws written under it, and it justifies those actions by proclaiming whichever issue might seem most useful in appealing to the popular opinion of the moment, and whether that might be 'elimination of private property', or 'govt ownership of the means of production', or 'all within the state, nothing outside of the state', or maybe 'it takes a village', or even a more pragmatic 'make the market fairer!', makes no more meaningful difference than what was the more rhetorically useful tool at that moment.

Socialism, Communism, Fascism, 'Progressivism', Populism, and every other form of totalitarian control over society and its individuals, are more than simply 'economic' policies, and knowing nothing more of an economic system than its stated policies and terminology, is dangerously delusional, and that only becomes possible once the deeper philosophical fundamentals which those ideologies all share, are left out of popular discussion - if you ever wondered what the phrase 'Out of sight, out of mind' meant, that's it (thanks schools!). 

No matter what fine seeming goals you've conned yourself into believing, that is what every variant of Socialism requires of its 'citizenry', on penalty of death. It is not reality, it doesn't conform to what we can know of reality, it forbids ethics and morality, requires totalitarian injustice, and crushes the human spirt, until reaching that point where the system is in complete collapse, and the survivors have to try and recreate society from the ashes of a populace that is horrendously scarred and distrustful. See Russia & Vladimir Putin for reference. The result of such isms is not and never has been 'a fairer economic system' - not in ancient Greece, not in Revolutionary France, and not in any of the nationalist death traps of the 20th Century - but a system where each must be forced to deny what they know to be true, where each must be prepared to comply with anything that those in power tell them, no matter what they might still be capable of deciding for themselves.

When you fail to consider where the ideas that you are playing with fire with came from, you're gonna get burned. Count on it.

Whichever ideological labels you choose to justify your plans with, using differing labels & intentions to establish the same types of 'policies' while expecting that they will somehow make a real difference in how things must turn out, is but an exercise in making distinctions without a difference. If you employ some set of abuses & denials of Individual Rights, as did the communists & fascists abroad, and the Progressives (Left & Right) at home, or the Libertarian and Populists termites who only slightly more slowly reduce us to the same anemic philosophical state - whether they call that creating more 'economic fairness', or 'transforming America', rather than fascism or socialism, that is making distinctions without any fundamental differences.

The central issue facing us today is that economics is the result of philosophy, and not the cause of either philosophy, political philosophy or even of an economy, and using Economics as if it actually has some mysteriously self-contained black box of powers to enable them to escape the consequences of those ideas they want to benefit from without thinking through, dooms society and economy alike. And yet Conservatives, Libertarians, Leftists and Populists, all play along as if their economic policies can and should function as some form of technological Social Science app, suitable for rolling out their every whim to 'fix' the lives of 300+ millions of people - 'for their own good' - with the 'click' of a policy choice. Spoiler alert: That app is going to crash.

Marx's goal of eliminating private property to benefit the proletariat, and the 'Progressive's goal of using regulatory controls to override any & all properties of private property that hinder them from serving 'the greater good', differ only in the speed of 'progress' with which their respective systems will overtake and overrun that society. It is what it is, no matter what you're more comfortable with pretending it 'is', and formal declarations of 'economic policy' differences, changes nothing.

It is not only Socialists that lead us to that same ruin, every 'Economic' argument that fails to hearken back to the philosophical realities it rests upon, serves to undermine, not just the 'Free Market', but the only foundations of liberty that are conducive to an entire society living lives worth living. Whatever glowing exercise in intellectual finger-painting one or another economic ideology might present you with - be it communism, socialism, libertarianism, populism, traditionalism - they all undermine liberty and justice with their every word, and I am really, really, sick of hearing it, no matter which side of whoever's mouth those words are coming out of.

The good news is that returning to First Principles, requires only that you stop participating in their lies, and not hiding the fact that from your family, friends & neighbors.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Does your map distinguish between Progress and Regress? - The diminishing returns of Economic Thinking

If you mistake Regress for Progress, how long can you hope to escape the consequences of having done so? I was told yesterday, and I hear it often, that things can't be as bad as I say, because they could be so much worse than they are... which sounds very much like the fellow falling from the top of the 50 story building, who's heard calling out as he falls past each floor "So far, so good!" - is that really what you want to measure your progress by? The progress and effects of the 32' per second, per second, intellectual freefall that America has been indulging in for well over a century, is easily seen in our lives right now, today, and one of the earliest examples of it can be seen in a SCOTUS decision from the 1930's, Wickard v. Filburn. This decision, from a SCOTUS still reacting to President FDR's threat to pack the court to get the results he demanded (Switch in time saves nine), the Cornell & Chicago-Kent College of Law, summarizes as:
Filburn was a small farmer in Ohio who harvested nearly 12 acres of wheat above his allotment under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938. Filburn was penalized under the Act. He argued that the extra wheat that he had produced in violation of the law had been used for his own use and thus had no effect on interstate commerce, since it never had been on the market. In his view, this meant that he had not violated the law because the additional wheat was not subject to regulation under the Commerce Clause.
Here, in just this one case, is an example of every point I made in previous posts, which, so long as we persist in this 'modern' mode of thinking, will remain as the presiding legal reality in our world today. From precedents such as this, where the SCOTUS ruled against the farmer - his farm, his property, his judgment in securing his family's needs - all was forced to yield to govt economic policy. SCOTUS ruled that it is 'right' (LOL) that your individual rights must give way before what Govt experts, 'those who know best' (know what, exactly? Shhh don't ask such questions), think will work for the greater good. All of that, is reflected in what has been bubbling up into our society today.

Let's map these points together, shall we?
  • Metaphysics: A consequence of having 'those who know best' in society, believing that reality is unknowable, is that understanding what is really true, becomes less of a concern than what 'those who know best' presume Govt could do if given enough power over its people, to do what they want it to do 'for' you. SCOTUS decided that what they imagined policies might be able to do, was given precedence over the inalienable rights which that govt was established to protect.
  • Epistemology: Govt didn't have to show how they knew that Fillburn's growing bushels of wheat for his family would affect the market, or even how they knew that their policy would help the market - it might have, and 'the law' said it had to. *Logically* (without a regard for what is true, there can be no logic, only word games), with no real harm to 'prove', and as assertions of fact were accepted with no means of knowing them to be true, Fillburn should've kept his concern for 'rights' and 'Aristotelian contradictions' to himself.
  • Ethics: If knowing what harm was done, isn't an issue, and proving it is neither a concern nor a possibility, then the 'Right' and 'Wrong' are no more than what the Govt claims will serve the 'greater good', and that's that. To Filburn's claim that his rights were wronged, the court said "Control of total supply, upon which the whole statutory plan is based, depends upon control of individual supply.", which meant that his rights interfered with the Govt's (insane) plan to control the market, so - too bad, so sad. Comply already.
  • Political Philosophy: Hopefully you're seeing the trend here: While Filburn claimed the protection of laws written from the perspective of a self evident reality, where inalienable rights were protected by a govt whose powers were limited through phrases such as the Commerce Clause, and the Bill of Rights, the SCOTUS had recently caved to the modern view of treating written law as a living document ('it isn't what it is'), where individual rights have no fixed identity, and the American innovation of equal Justice for all before the law, necessarily yields to the old 'Justice is what serves the interests of the stronger' - for the greater good. Of course.
  • Political Economy/Economics: With Govt free to trespass upon its peoples rights and property for their own good, Economics is transformed into the systematic gimmickry which most efficiently secures the interests of 'those who know best' in Govt, and of those who have the most wealth and influence over them. 'Economic Principles' which clarify the sources of, and impediments to, generating and retaining wealth in the private property of its people, yields to what serves the politics of popular opinion and the 'greater good'.
Those who think that they can stand upon 'principles!' derived only from the shallows of economic theory... I can only shake my head and wish that I could laugh, because those 'principles!' that are not supported by deep metaphysical roots for their substance and meaning, are just fancy excuses for your personal whims. There is no way to claim some notion of 'economic rights', when your political philosophy has discarded the concept of unalienable rights as such; when there is no recourse in 'educated' society to consider anything but relativistic ethics; when it is frowned upon to believe that anything can be known for certain, let alone be proven, and when adults seriously consider whether it is possible for a man - or a six year old - to identify as a woman, then if you believe that you can take a stand upon 'economic principles' which mean one thing, while being unconcerned that those concepts you've used to take that stand, can easily mean any one thing, and at the same time and in the same way something entirely different, then you are are being endangered by your own thoughts.

I have a friend who identifies as a 'Whig' (mentioned in this post, and objects to even being referred to as a small 'l' libertarian), who is opposed to sales taxes because they are 'unfair to the poorer classes' and is very much for using a graduated income tax, in order to be kinder to the lower classes (he's very fond of the term 'classes'), and to exact a 'fairer share' from the 'plutocrats' (he's also very fond of the term 'plutocrats'), and no amount of argument will budge him from that. And how could it, when any identification of the truth of the matter, requires a respectful treatment of philosophical first principles? Statements such as this one from Henry Hazlitt's "Man vs. The Welfare State" (pg. 219), are simply a non-starter for him, because he simply doesn't like it:
"...The graduated personal income tax should be abandoned in favor of a strictly proportional income tax. The argument against the "progressive" tax rate was conclusively stated as long ago as 1833 by the Scottish economist J. R. McCulloch: "The moment you abandon the cardinal principle of exacting from all individuals the same proportion of their income or of their property, you are at sea without rudder or compass, and there is no amount of injustice and folly you may not commit."
The reason why that argument gets nowhere with him and so many others today, is their refusal to enter into any meaningful discussion of ethics, epistemology and metaphysics, which makes their 'arguments' entirely 'bullet proof' to them, and I'd argue that it has a great deal to do with why the economically minded of today, will go to the greatest lengths to avoid and evade any such discussion of philosophy being prior to economics.

This is a one way process of descent, a plunge in the grip of intellectual gravity with the philosophical equivalent of 32' per second, per second. Now that 'those who know best' have ceased to defend what IS, is, it no longer takes even the appearances of being an intellectual such as Keynes, to finesse a con over reality - the guard rails are down, any call for "Let's raise the minimum wage!", erodes whatever remaining economic, political, ethical, epistemology and metaphysical principles, might still remain to slow such 'progress' down. Of course the reality of those principles remain as solid as when they first began to be discovered 3,000 years ago, but our ability to grasp them, count on them, and benefit from being defended by them, is eroded ever further by every such evasive argument that's popularly accepted because some expert says 'it works!'. At some point, they, and all pretense of them, will be gone, and that'll leave us with no intermediary between those with the power to consume you, and you - just as it was 3,000 years ago, before we first began to restrain the powerful from devouring the powerless.

That my friends, is Pro-Regress. And unless you challenge and reject the philosophies behind what your opponent's 'economic proposals' depend upon, you are battling their tank with a fly swatter, and they will roll right over you - as indeed they have been for the last 100+ years.

It takes willful blindness to not see this process occurring all around us today, as the philosophy that America was derived from, has been traded in for one economic theory or another - whether Marx, Keynes, Rothbard is of no matter - your objections to this policy or that will be met with the admonition that you need to 'be more pragmatic' about this, and of course pragmatically speaking (Dewey again), what is 'true', is nothing more than what 'works' for the moment, and the power of a majority (many who feel something is 'so' - remember Kant?) determines what will be perceived as 'reality', and the Reality is, that because we've settled for being a good little 'economic man', we have no basis to question that, at all. We've left ourselves no means for questioning authorities, or for asking them to prove it, or for questioning morality, or the means of demanding 'proof' for the transactions which you are told only to think of the theoretical efficiency of.

Our replacement of a timeless reality based philosophy, for an economic and transactional view of the moment of man and morality, results in a reality where measures are judged by their popularity, rather than whether they are true, right and just, and that is how America has become satisfied with yawning at the momentous implications of the question of
"So, Capitalism or Socialism?"
Never mind that it is by such means that 100+ million people have so far been murdered at the behest of their own government's political philosophies putting power in the hands of bureaucracies since the beginning of the 20th century, or that they have been able to do so by hiding behind the façade of 'Economics', and treating people's lives as the means of making things 'work'. 

But hey, everyone's entitled to their own opinion, and the opinion that's most popular gets to determine who will live your life for you, right? Aside from how economical that decision might be - does it mean making progress, or regress, for your life? How do you know? And if you ever fall out of step with popular opinion, who will listen to you make your case?

Remembering Memorial Day, once more and evermore

American war dead, Flanders Field, Belgium
Remembering, once again... Memorial Day... it is enough to remember today those who have fallen in defense of our nation. But it's not all we can do, for them or for us, and to leave it there, I think, deprives them, and you, of an important part of what they died for. It seems to me that you can remember them even more completely if you will remember what it was that they gave their lives in defense of. If you remember why it was that their lives came to be remembered on this day, then you can in some sense repay them and also deepen your own position in your own life.

Do you remember what Memorial Day was designated for you to remember? It has changed over the years, but it began as 'Decoration Day', back in 1868, on May 30th, a day chosen because it didn't mark the anniversary of any battle - an important point - as a day to officially mark, what people had unofficially been doing across the land on their own for some while, decorating the many, many graves of those who had 'died in the late rebellion'. After WWI, when many more graves were dug, the day was changed to Memorial Day to remember all of those who have died in service of their country, in all of its wars.

But what does it mean to remember? What can it do? Remember... the members of our lives who were lost can never be re-membered... those who are gone are gone forever, but in the service of... what? Why did they give their lives? Why decorate the graves of soldiers, those who have gone before their time, lives which were violently lost... why? Family and friends will remember their fallen family and friends, they have no need of a national holiday to do that, there is no use for you who they do not know to pretend to remember those you never knew - but that is not what we pause this day to remember.

What did their untimely deaths have to do with your life here and now?

Does their death have any relevance to your life? Asking another question might put us closer to the trail, what relevance can your life have to your nation without remembering why they lost theirs?

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who gave their lives, the 'last full measure of devotion' in the service of the United States of America, but not just to their homeland - any country can do that, and they do - nothing exceptional there.

But we are an exceptional nation, and simple remembrance will not do, because simply defending their homeland is not what they did or why they did it.

Why did they do it? What did it mean?

Maybe it'll help by looking at it from the perspective of the Oath which led them into the military life which put their own lives at risk for yours,
"I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
That is what they risked and lost their lives for, was it worth it? Do you grant their lost lives a value in yours? And that is the heart of it isn't it? Does the life they lost have value in yours?

Well, if you can say the words "your life", as something you live, something which you value and have some measure of control over, then yes, their lives were lost in service of your being able to think of your life as yours, and that - that is something which should cause you a spasmed breath, one abruptly caught in your chest in reverence and awe... that another's last breath was let go as 'darkness veiled his eyes' not just so that you could draw your previous, current and next breath as you wish, but so you could do so in a state of liberty.

Now I think we're getting closer to re-membering them and memorializing their life, through yours. Let's chase that a little further.

What does it take to say 'your life'? What does it take to live your life? What must you do, absent simply having others take care of you, what must you do to live? First off, you must use your head, you must think... but just thinking isn't enough to continue living, after all, you could very well choose to think that by imagining very clearly and distinctly that your shoe would become a salmon if you declare it so, but such thinking would do nothing to advance your life. For your thinking to benefit your life, it must be productive, and to do that it must reflect reality... your life will continue on only if at least some of your ideas help you to transform the reality you face on a daily basis into those materials and conditions which benefit your life... food, shelter, etc, IOW 'nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed'.

For your life, to be lived, you must be free to think, for your thoughts to benefit your life you must see to it that they respect reality - cherish truth -  for your freedom of thought to be anything other than a mockery, you must be free to put them into action, and again, for your thoughts and your actions to be a benefit to you, rather than a mockery, you must be free to retain and use that which your thoughts and actions have produced, and what they produce is called property.

Today, for the lives we remember having been lost, to have meaning and value to us, your life must be able to be lived in the spirit which they gave their own lives up for, that of liberty; the liberty to live your life in the pursuit of happiness in your life.

Those we memorialize today gave their last full measure of devotion in service of the document which makes that possible, the Constitution of the United States of America, a document which outlines the ideas necessary for ensuring your ability to live your life, in liberty and pursuing happiness. They gave their life for the ideas which best reflect the reality of life and the requirements of man living in liberty so that in his life, if he applies his thoughts to actions which serve to produce the materials he needs, that will enable you to live your life and pursue the happiness you seek in life, secure in that property which you expend the actions of your life in producing.

The Constitution was designed to do just that. It was worth fighting and risking death for, because it was seen as the means to securing a life worth living for, for themselves, their families, and their posterity - you.

The Constitution, was designed with a profound understanding of human nature in mind, and was structured in such a way as to give voice to the major perspectives of life so that:
  • - the people at large, concerned in the issues of the moment, shall have a voice in the House of Representatives
  • - the states shall have a voice through those people who have lived successful will have a perspective favorable for preserving everyone's property through their voice in the Senate
  • - these two perspectives shall be combined to use create legislation operating for the benefit of the people, within certain enumerated powers
  • - when both houses agree upon laws, the nation has a voice in the President as chief executive, to reject or sign legislation into law and see to it that the laws of the land are faithfully executed
  • - the law itself has a voice in the Judicial branch which is concerned that laws are applied justly to the people in whose name they were written
These branches are structured in such a way, utilizing the famous checks and balances, so as to have just enough interest in the other branches as to wish to see them function well, as well as to wish to preserve their own branches from becoming slighted and unbalanced.

The founders knew well that most states fall into ruin not under promises of harm but under promises to better the conditions of one group or another for the betterment of all. And so our system is designed to keep each branches desires to 'do good' in check, by the other branches benefit as well, and that none gains power over the others - each must see 'their point' of the other and work together, securing a state that enables you to live your life in pursuit of happiness.

But the people who ratified the constitution didn't think that the original document, which united government into balanced cooperation, was enough to secure the liberty and freedom of the governed, and so they insisted that it also specifically uphold and defend a few key rights, Rights which long experience as Englishmen... and then as Americans deprived of those rights, knew would be required to prevent a new tyrant from turning their government against their liberty 'for their own good'. They demanded the Constitution be amended to secure the peoples liberty to live their own lives, secure in their property and associations and activities which seemed to them to best hold the promise of pursuing happiness through, and that produced the Bill of Rights.

This foundation of government was and is an ordering of ideas, designed to enable each persons actions the liberty to act and secure their property without violating others rights in pursuit of the same, so that each person can have the incredible gift of being able to live their own lives as they see fit.

This is the Constitution which was, and still is, worth fighting for, and risking dying for, because it makes possible the kind of life worth living, lives in which each person might choose to pursue; and the idea of living in service to that, of making not only your own, but others lives livable... is a glorious pursuit, and those in the military who offered up their life in service of it... they are truly worth our pausing on at least one day a year, in solemn remembrance of the life they offered up to make your life a possibility.

Remember them, thank them, and with them in mind demand the liberty to live your life secured under, and securing, those laws which they gave up their life defending, do that, and you will truly be memorializing their lives and making their sacrifice worthwhile.

In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields, Moina Michael replied with her own poem for Memorial Day:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
 That grows on fields where valor led,
 It seems to signal to the skies
 That blood of heroes never dies.

In Flanders Fields John McCrae, 1915.
 In Flanders fields the poppies blow
 Between the crosses, row on row
 That mark our place; and in the sky
 The larks, still bravely singing, fly
 Scarce heard amid the guns below.
 We are the Dead. Short days ago
 We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
 Loved and were loved, and now we lie
 In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw
 The torch; be yours to hold it high.
 If ye break faith with us who die
 We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
 In Flanders fields.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Be aware of what it is that you obey - The diminishing returns of Economic Thinking

If you want to put America first, you've first got to figure out what in the hell it is that you think America is, and what it resulted from, and what it requires in order to continue to exist. If you don't want to bother with doing that, then you are condemning it to an ever deepening hell hole, and no matter what label you slap on it - be it Socialist, Democratic Socialist, 'Progressive' or Populist, Libertarian or Capitalist - it isn't going to alter the reality of what living under a govt without limits, will put into practice upon you.

And yes, you do have the power to do something, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn advised: refuse the lie. Will you take that advice, or will you continue to participate in it, in order to 'do something!' on a grander scale? Some of you are seeing in your own minds right now exactly how to excuse yourself from having to refuse the lie - which is how we first got into the box we're still in - you have to resist the urge to turn away, because we can't climb out of the box, while at the same time reinforcing the sides that are trapping you within it! Your only power - the power which they most fear - is the power to make the Black Box vanish by no longer participating in it... but you have to exercise it.
Are you able to recognize the aliens around you?

What it is that 'they' are so desperate for you to participate in, was nailed by Douglas Murray in his book "The Madness of Crowds - Gender, Race and Identity":
"...although we are being aggravated by a tech world which is running faster than our legs are able to carry us to keep up with it, these wars are not being fought aimlessly. They are consistently being fought in a particular direction. And that direction has a purpose that is vast. The purpose - unknowing in some people, deliberate in others - is to embed a new metaphysics into our societies: a new religion, if you will."[emphasis mine]
To avoid participating in the lie, requires recognizing both the nature of the box, and the philosophy which the box was designed to hide from you, and if you can do that, you'll begin to see the need to identify what it in operation around you, and avoid participating in its spread. Again, as with the Capt. Kirk/Darth Vader meme-mashup mentioned in a previous post, it isn't necessary to have a deep knowledge of the subject, only to know that that deeper knowledge does exist, and that you can access it if the need arises. To come at this from a different direction, think of whistling the 'Duh-duh-duh-DUM!' of Beethoven's 5th Symphony - even though a concert violinist has an almost unimaginably more complex understanding of that melody and how to perform it, you both are easily able to recognize that what you whistled, was Beethoven's 5th.

So with that in mind, here's the melody of Philosophy which underlies every aspect of your life, here and now:
  • Metaphysics: What is, is - and is not. Reality truly exists, and what the lie claims, does not
  • Epistemology: How it is that you know what is, is as. How you are able to identify what you know, and to what degree of certainty
  • Ethics: What you ought to do about what is. Not a list of rules, but those principles which guide how you should act towards others, and yourself
  • Political Philosophy: How Society and its people should engage with each other. Should those essential individual rights identified in our Bill of Rights, limit how government can act towards you, or should those in power be able to disregard them and your life, as they see fit
  • Economics: Managing the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses [within your society]. Is it valuable for you to be at liberty to choose what is worthwhile in your life, or should government decide that for you?
Up until that point when our Founder's era began to pass, though these were all understood to be deep subjects, most anyone would recognize the above as being as true a summary of what volumes had been written on - they'd recognize the tune being whistled. But while that is still true, and America most definitely depends upon you both recognizing the tune and whistling it, those philosophical abominations which fill the air today - Marxism, Post-Modernism, Critical Race Theory, etc. - require those five statements to be obliterated from everyone's minds, and to that end they raise such an obnoxious clatter that no one is able to catch their tune.

So lets look at some of the less obvious ways the white noise has been cranked up to do just that to us all.
  • Metaphysics: What is, is - and is not. We're not talking about the 'woo-woo' 'New Age' nuttiness, or the mess that modernity has made of it (both of which are a fearful flight away from what is), but is something more like the connection between your hand and the flame it's being burned by, and understanding the connection between the two. A conscious understanding of the fact '...That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn', sharpens our ability to identify what is, and what is not. If you think that you do just that fine without giving any further thought to that, then I've got a question for you. If you've given little or no thought to the nature of what identity is (what IS, is as), then what will you say when told that a dollar weight of silver, or a written receipt for that silver, or a piece of paper backed with nothing more than the word 'dollar' written on it, are all essentially the same things, and that you'll have to accept all, any, or only one of them, as payment for your time & effort?

    Sorry, that's a rhetorical question, and if you look at the dollar bill in your wallet you'll see why - We The People have already said that the Fed can say that what the identity of that particular 'is', *really* is, depends only upon what they say it 'is', and you've already given your reply to that: 'Sure, why not?'.

    What's that? You have some common sense objections that you want to raise? Oh, sorry, you see those depend upon taking seriously what Aristotle called the most fundamental of metaphysical premises, his Law of Non-Contradiction, that:
    "... the same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject and in the same respect..."
    , in the same manner and context. But unfortunately for the modern 'economic man', the modern world's founding philosophical voices, such as Hume, Kant, and Hegel, claimed that we cannot ever really know reality as it 'is' because our own minds keep us from ever knowing 'the thing in itself', and so no such contradictions can ever be claimed, and even if you raise them, they (and you) will be dismissed through the aid of what Hegel derided as,
    '[*sniff*]Those are just Aristotelian contradictions[*sniff*]'
    , and quicker than you can say ipse dixit ad hominum viola!: his 'refutation' of Logic with 'dialectical logic' was accepted by the many who much preferred Hegel's words, to their own lyin' eyes, such as the Americans Pearce, Dewey & James. These three sort of worked together to make their tragic contribution to world Philosophy: Pragmatism, and it's not difficult to see why it was soon embraced by the creators of modern fascism, Giovanni Gentile & Benito Musolini, as Pragmatism provided a functional philosophical confirmation bias against reality, with its claim that "...Crudely, truth is “what works.”", which is what enables 'those-who-know-best' to brush off such common sense objections as you might want to make on being told that a weight of silver, and a word backed by nothing, are one and the same thing, with a reply such as,
    "You need to be more pragmatic: what is 'true' is what works - at the moment, and if you can buy something at the store with a paper that says 'dollar' on it, then it clearly works, am I right? So what's your problem?"
    Keep that in mind next time you feel like 'being pragmatic' about something.

    None of those assertions were ever 'proven' of course (if you can't know what is real, what would you prove it with, and how?), but they did make some sooper-dee-dooper complex, convoluted, and ultimately arbitrary explanations of their claims, which "those who know best" eagerly swallowed, at least partly because being able to say "Perception is reality", makes it so much easier to peddle your favorite fantasies as reality. That sentiment, BTW, is a notion which has also been enormously helpful in Modernity's efforts to 'progress' beyond those old outmoded concerns over what is, or isn't, true.

    The metaphysics of that American contribution to philosophy, Pragmatism, is what enabled Bill Clinton to argue that 'it depends upon what the meaning of 'IS', is' without being laughed out of court for saying so (sure, people use that as a punchline now, but the judge didn't then), and we are living in the world we are today, because We The People have let generations of 'educators' teach that miserable excuse for reality to our kids - which, if you didn't notice the name 'Dewey' above, he not only helped devise Pragmatism, but is recognized as the 'Father of modern education'.

    But of course for wll over a hundred years, We The (modern) People have shrugged and turned away at the mere mention of metaphysics, because, you know, "Metaphysics doesn't matter"...right? Well... surprise!

  • Epistemology: How it is that you know what is, is as. Have you ever been told that the results of a study by experts (nutrition, economics, climate, etc.) have confirmed that Govt must act to change our behaviors as experts dictate, and that questioning "How could that data possibly prove that?", is brushed off with 'We know best, the 'Science is settled' and we must act now!'? Such claims as those, and the attempt to act upon them, were once understood to not only be folly, but tyrannical... which is what Adam Smith was noting way back when:
    "...The statesman, who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would no-where be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it...."
    How is it that we've gotten to the point where such complexity is being used to hide inanity, and that pointing out that claiming to know what cannot be known, is less a valid cause for concern about them, than an indication that you are the one who needs to be 'educated' or else 'cancelled'? The answer lies in the fact that since Smith's time, modern philosophers have 'freed' us from being concerned about what 'is' true, and with such '(un)Real world theories' comes the perverse sense that the less that can be known, the more that can be claimed to be known about what is unknowable.

    To understand why, you need to understand the other problem that modernity has with you who dare to question the experts, being that as Kant said, and that our universities use your money to teach you and your children that no one can know what is really true, because we cannot know reality:
    • 'We do not have access to the world as it exists in-itself (what Kant refers to as Noumenon)'
    , sure, it's a problem that Reality is beyond the reach of human reason and understanding - but - Kant also claimed that we can 'somehow' get an intuitive feeling about what's behind that noumenal wall, and when enough of the 'right' people 'feel something's true', then there just might be 'reason' to think that there's some 'truth' to it... which... is one of many reasons for the popularity of polling every opinion the public has, on every little thing.

    Before daring to examine the modern mess of metaphysics and epistemology, you'd better be sure that you have a pretty solid grasp on reality, to begin with. Since their own day, both Kant and Hegel's thoughts have been superseded multiple times over by the latest and greatest egg-headism, and many of those innovations revised still further - not towards reality, of course, only moving ever further from it - to the effect that these objections of mine here, are made quaint by comparison to what is accepted in their stead today. For instance, respected bearers of the modernist standard, such as Richard Rorty, who is still considered to be
    " important American philosopher of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century who blended expertise in philosophy and comparative literature into a perspective called "The New Pragmatism"..."
    , had himself repeatedly said that:
    "Truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with saying."
    , which is itself made quaint by the far more awful things that are said today.

    The upshot of this is that if a reality based Metaphysics has been discarded (and it has), and an Epistemology clarifying your ability to know that what you know is true, has been rejected (and it has), then Logic (Epistemology's key tool) is left without a leg to stand on, reducing it to a tool for rhetorical wordplay and brushing off those inconvenient truths which you - not having the expertise of 'those who know best' - aren't in a position to 'intuitively know'. IOW: Shut up and believe what everyone else believes, or be cancelled for the ideas in your head.

    But... you know, we don't need to worry about silly stuff like Epistemology, I mean, how important can 'How do we know what we know', and 'is or isn't it true', be? Right...?

  • Ethics: What you ought to do about what is. Some of you might be thinking: 'Now wait just a darn minute!', after all,
    'that 'intellectual stuff' about what IS, and how you know it, that's for pointy headed professors! We live in the 'real world' [that is so cute!], and all we need to do to right what's wrong is pass some laws to fix them!'
    Well... how very 'pragmatic' of you, 'good' for you! But tell me, if the Fed decides it needs to adjust factors that affect the value of your wealth by engaging in quantitative easing to keep important 'economic realities' under control (IOW: reducing the value of the dollars you'd earned and saved; AKA: Legalized theft, embezzlement, etc.) - would you tell them that's wrong for them to do? And if so... Why?, and then without ethics, how do you know the why of that 'why'?

    Yep, rhetorical questions again, because that is exactly what we already do, and rather than being concerned about what is ethically right and wrong, they're only concerned about how efficient and effective it appears to be - whether the economy behaves as if 'it works' - and gets things done; their concern is not for ethics, but for serving their purposes with the most effective use of Power. Right and Wrong are concepts that depend upon Truth being knowable (and the Reality it is truthful of), and poor little ol' 'economic man', having conceded that 'philosophy' is stuff that doesn't really matter, has enabled matters of 'Right' and 'Wrong' to become elastic labels for what seems useful, so that 'pragmatically' speaking, if something seems as if 'it works' for the moment, that makes it 'right' - for the moment - which has allowed evil philosophies to prevail (and yes, IMHO, deliberately opposing and undermining our ability to know reality and truth, is evil).

    IOW: What do you mean it's unethical to vandalize a child's sexual organs for propaganda value?! Shut up and do as you're told, or else.

    But don't worry, Ethics is just, you know, philosophy, and that stuff doesn't really matter. What a relief, right?
  • And now we arrive to stand upon that shaky ground whose foundations have been removed, everyone's favorite subset of Ethics, the wonderful world of:
      Political Philosophy: How Society should engage with its people. And no, I don't mean 'political science', or any other such means of evading the discussion of philosophy. Did you want to claim to have an 'inalienable right' to think, speak, act, believe, defend yourself, associate with who you want, and responsibly act as you see fit? Did you want to demand to be presumed innocent until proven (!) guilty in a court of law that operates under objective rules of evidence? Oh, sorry...yeah, mucho humongous rhetorical question once again. You see, these expectations depend upon your having a sound Political Philosophy, which in turn is developed through a sound system of Ethics, which is in turn dependent upon the reasonable reinforcements of Epistemology, which is in turn derived from (and limited by) a Metaphysics that respects reality and reveres what is True.

      We today, have chosen instead to strike away the foundations that our Founders had built into America's bedrock, in favor of building the Administrative State upon the easier shifting sands of that which we've been reviewing above. Without that bedrock, whatever claim you make to 'Rights!' today, depends not upon your grasp of reality and your concern for truth, but upon your being a member of a large enough group to sway the momentary mood of popular opinion, a farcical publicity stunt which trades philosophic roots for what politicians crave most and makes their policies 'work' (or at least 'works' to get those who propose them elected and re-elected). Such 'Rights!' are but the privileged table scraps of those in power, and they alone will determine what power will be used to say what are 'Rights!' and what's 'true'... for the moment, or at least until that popular opinion of the moment changes, as just another means to be manipulated in making the economy 'work' again, and nothing more.

      Lucky for you, rather than wasting time on useless philosophical questions of inalienable rights, the modern practitioners of 'Political Science' apply formulas (which boil down to: restricting this + permitting that = Political Power over you) which their economic policies fit in with just fine. Right?

  • And now, finally, we've worked our way down through the big three of Metaphysics, Epistemology and Ethics, and through that lil' ol' subset of Ethics, Political Philosophy, to reach that snug little nook of thought which is Political Economy, but which we only today know as:
      Economics: Managing the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses [within your society]. This at least is 'scientific', right? I won't even bother calling that a 'rhetorical question', it's just 'No'. While economics, when it was still known as 'Political Economy', was concerned with discovering the sources of, and the political impediments to, generating and retaining wealth, and then how best to manage those scarce resources which have alternative uses. That form of 'Political Economy' had an inherent concern for the philosophical requirements of liberty, Burke's 'Ordered Liberty', or the 'Natural Liberty' which Adam Smith was describing the economic operations of, and its greatest discoveries, such as Say's Law, division of labor, and the pricing mechanism, led to the understanding of how best to 'manage scarce resources that have alternate uses in society' at a distance, and together with the understanding of the widespread harm that political interference in markets produced, by interfering with individual judgments, that led to the knowledge that that political system which was best suited to a healthy economy, was one whose laws upheld and defended the individual rights and property of its people. That is the very thing that led to the realization of the need for a new field of study - there was no field called 'Economics' when Adam Smith wrote 'The Wealth of Nations', it was simply moral philosophy, which, Jean Baptiste Say built into 'Political Economy'.

      But that very understanding of Political Economy was rejected, discarded, and transformed through the later 19th century discipline of 'Economics', with its 'scientistic' calculations of theoretical incantations and 'animal spirits', not to forecast the financial weather, but to surreptitiously create an alternate climate of economic outputs, which are particularly pleasing to 'those who know best' - Cha-Ching! If that seems surprising, you might want to take another look over the preceding bullet points.

      That process was aided immensely by a modern philosophy that had already been greatly corrupted (see above), and its original discoveries were brushed off as belonging to an 'outmoded' past. The Libertarian and 'classical liberal' hero, Utilitarian, turned Positivist, turned Socialist, J.S. Mill, deftly undermined ethics with measures of utility, the meaning of Liberty, and the philosophy behind it. Karl Marx thrived in that climate, and its murkiness enabled him to easily denounce a system of equal justice under the rule of law, and outright reject its cornerstone of Private Property, and by redefining the 'Free Market', into the pejorative of 'Capitalism', he succeeded in replacing a concern for the philosophical requirements of liberty, with the 'scientific' calculations which anyone might theorize would result in useful Economic outputs. Say's 'Law of Markets', which requires a respect for reality in order to benefit from it, was repeatedly attacked, twisted and mocked, which Keynes later finished off (in public opinion) with a public rejection of it. Keynes didn't prove his rejection of course (in fact his theories were easily and thoroughly refuted), but aware of how little people had come to care about knowing what they knew, he was able to use a few artful equivocations, and a complex & convoluted smattering of vague terms like 'animal spirits', to assert it, and since it aided in distancing Economics ever further from the annoyances of Reality, Keynesian Economics was welcomed by modern economists and philosophers alike.

      It's said that 'Politics makes strange bedfellows', but that's downright puritanical, compared to who economics throws together under the sheets, and despite outward appearances, you shouldn't be too quick to assume that Marxism and Libertarianism are all that far apart, philosophically. Both use Economics as their place to begin thinking about the world from - that is their means of dispensing with Philosophy in general, and Metaphysics & Ethics in particular - so as to make matters of efficiency (or 'fairness', 'utility', 'equity', etc.) as being their only standard - a standard which actually means that Power is both their standard and their purpose. Where that 'standard' comes from, or what it means, is a floater of a concept, equally pliable in the hands of both 'isms, as neither is driven by anything more Real than their own personal preferences, aka Desire.

      Libertarianism (particularly the Murray Rothbard branches) selects their preferred standards of satisfaction, from concepts such as 'Liberty!' - which they've already made utterly meaningless by ignoring their philosophical roots in Political Philosophy, and Ethics, Epistemology and Metaphysics - and all that follows from them, follows from that. Worse, Libertarians, after having entirely amputated Ethics, (most often) then say "Hey, do whatcha want, your choice is king, pleasure yourself to your heart's(!) content!", and the Rothbardians even go so far as to dispense with Law, Govt and Intellectual Property (which all Property depends upon, and which all Individual Rights are anchored through), for the idiocy of 'Anarcho-Capitalism' and 'Minarchism' (which plays a part much as Socialism does to Communism), while prattling on about their libertine notions of "Liberty!!!", which in the long run can end in nothing other than a despotism as complete as that of Communism.
  • All of these 'isms cut the philosophic rose bush of Natural and Ordered Liberty off at the ground, and then loudly demand, indeed promise, that it will 'somehow' produce the most amazingly fragrant blossoms that anyone has ever smelled. It is thoroughly pathetic, but it gets them what they are actually after: Power, now.

    If Conservatism doesn't dedicate itself to conserving what is true, which means being willing to identify and cut out its own mistakes and falsehoods, then it is only one more ism dedicated to grasping for the power to impose its preferred mistakes and falsehoods upon us all.

    Saturday, May 29, 2021

    'Freed!' to Box Ourselves In - The diminishing returns of Economic Thinking

    In the last two posts (here and then here), we've gone over how the apparent differences of Left, Right, Libertarian, Populists, who are economically severed from any principled contact with reality, producing only an indistinguishable growth of government power, which none of their supporters like, and yet all continue to urge more of the same to 'change' which has boxed us into the short sighted world of relativism and power. We also looked at the worldview that came before the world of the Administrative State's Economic Black Box, an integrated way of looking at the world which refused to go along with divorcing thought from action, and would not allow Great Britain to use its own black box thinking upon the Colonies, transforming those colonies into The United States of America... and the tell tale signs of how we lost that understanding, and were slowly sucked into the dismal Black Box of economic thinking.

    What's most apparent today, is that we won't get out of the box we're in, by using the same thinking that put us into it, no matter how well intentioned that thinking might be. Populists, who like to think of themselves as bucking the economic elites of the Left and Right, are little different from the economically minded that they imagine themselves to be opposing, and while they often do see that 'something's up!' with what the Left, Right, and Libertarians are ignoring, they venture in no deeper than the same shallow end of the economic wading pool, which the Left & Right are busily splashing about in. Populists are quick to call out those policies and issues which they dislike (Big Tech, etc.), through some form of lukewarm traditionalism and folksy standards, but they do so without bothering to identify what the problem actually is, and so they never identify, let alone refute its premises, and so are unable to call for any meaningful reform of what the actual problem is (such as the regulatory structure which makes and encourages the issue they are calling out). Instead, they invariably utilize, reinforce and grow the very thing that brought about the problem in the first place, as they do when demanding that govt use those same regulatory agencies to enact their policies to force other 'bad people' to behave according to what some half remembered past would have described as being "only fair!".

    The populist's stand upon the divided ground of the Left & Right is doubly dangerous, as their nominal support of liberty and traditional rights is formed around the same economic measures, and the traditionalist grab bag which once had vaguely seemed to at least have a bottom-line, splits their justifications between the two in their calls for using govt power to 'do something!' to achieve what they too excuse as being for 'the greater good'. Case in point, Tucker Carlson stated in the same monologue, that:
    "Socialism is a disaster. It doesn’t work. It’s what we should be working desperately to avoid. But socialism is exactly what we’re going to get, and soon, unless a group of responsible people in our political system reforms the American economy in a way that protects normal people. "[emphasis mine]
    , somehow oblivious to the fact that pushing 'reforms to protect normal people' is precisely the costume that Socialists and every other statist ideology parades around before the public eye in, in order to justify their preferred system's usurpation of your power over your life, in order to create the world that they're convinced that you should want. It must not be forgotten that an 'economy' is made up of all of the choices that you and your fellows make in your lives - what do you think that their reforms of limiting and prohibiting the choices of others in the market, will mean to your being able to make those choices, which you might want to choose for the living of your life? Such considerations as those which segregate thoughts from actions, are what are kept out of sight through the welcome operations of the Economic Black Box.

    That is the very same populist means by which the likes of Teddy Roosevelt first saddled us with the Administrative State to begin with, which, then as now, operates through rationalizations which are just as economically divorced from reality as what they are opposing. Thomas Sowell sums up the implications of that in his "The Quest for Cosmic Justice" (an overview here):
    “In politics, the great non-sequitur of our time is that 1) things are not right and that 2) the government should make them right. Where right all too often means cosmic justice, trying to set things right means writing a blank check for a never-ending expansion of government power.”
    Worse, as they justify their measures with little more than "We The People demand this!", they lead to ever more pandering appeals to the passions of the majority through a more and more democratic process, to use power over a vilified minority, bringing us even closer to, as it was put in Federalist #10, yet another historical repeat of a forgotten lesson, that
    "... democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths..."
    The painful reality is that when you follow matters through to their ends, you find that for all their trumpeting against socialism, and for 'capitalism', or traditionalism, their populist ideals have too few roots in what is real, and serve mostly as props to support their rationalizing the imposition of power over others, for what they passionately see as being useful for (and excused by) the 'greater good'.

    In short, just as 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions', the road to 'Progressivism' is paved with Populism.   

    Freeing ourselves from the Box
    Why does philosophy matter? It matters, because as I noted at the beginning, a proper and valuable use of Economics, can only come at the end of a long train of philosophic thinking about what is, how you know it, what you should do about it, and how to resolve disputes over that and why, and the fields of study which inform us about and help us think about such matters, are the philosophical subjects of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political, legal & moral philosophy, which 'Modern Economics' has virtually banished from modern educational practice, which if taught at all, are taught as words only, with no meaning, integration into, or relevance to their lives. It matters because by our unthinkingly beginning our thinking from the pretext of economic ideals, which itself refuses to anchor its actions down through the ethical and epistemological waters and into the metaphysical ground, we're 'Freed!' (AKA: enslaved) from the requirement to engage in the thought and effort of explaining how our understanding of economics fits or conflicts with our political philosophy, and so any 'necessary' political machinations will be approved of so long as some expert reports that 'it works!'.

    By such actions we are 'Freed!' from the need to adhere to and operate within a compatible system of ethics, as 'Freed!' from that anchor, we feel free to act as if 'the ends justify the means', which ensures that you will drift with what seems useful and 'cool!', and not getting caught is all that's needed for the justification of authoritative reports that 'it works!'. And so of course, the nature of life 'Freed!' from believing that our actions need to be supported by a sound epistemology, which would root their meaning and operations in the 'burden' of logic, and so 'Freed!' from a concern for what the meaning of anything actually is, vapid rhetorical wordplay will do just fine, so long as we can *confidently* say that 'it works'.

    That chain of reasoning is precisely how the Economic Black Box enables us all - Left, Right, Populist - to evade and escape from the requirements of what is meaningfully real and true, it is what assimilates you and your thoughts securely into the Black Box, and that is how 'Economics' has managed to substitute itself for 'philosophy' in our world today: it enables us to brush off questions of Right and Wrong, and even of reality itself, through its supposed expert power to 'do something!'. There is no love of wisdom there, only bargaining with devils so as to get a deal... and in come the walls of the box snugly around you, while telling you that it has 'Freed!' you from those outmoded ideas of dreadful past, which must be cursed and forgotten.

    To escape from the Economic Black Box we've put ourselves into, we've got to learn to identify what it is that it was designed to blind us to. Tomorrow.

    Friday, May 28, 2021

    What came before the Box we put ourselves in? - The diminishing returns of Economic Thinking

    The previous post went into how the unifying nature of the Administrative State's partisan divides, takes in the bitterly divided positions of the Left, Right, Libertarian, Populists, and their desire to 'do something!' for or against 'Capitalism', and outputs an indistinguishable lump of ever growing laws and regulations, bereft of principles, yet packed with promises to do this, and to do that, and do anything else to 'change' the world through govt's truly unlimited power. They all see that the system is not working as they expected, and they all continue doing the very same things to 'fix' it, which are what broke it. As Inigo Montoya might say, "You keep using that word 'America' - I do not think it means what you think it means".

    What it is that all of these economic fundamentalists need to be willing to see, is the fact that 'capitalism' was and still is a rhetorical product of Karl Marx's darkly economic imagination; a tool which he and nearly all economically minded experts since him have expertly used to divert our conversations away from the underlying philosophy of liberty through securing individual rights, which is what Adam Smith was attempting to describe the interrelations of. Yet discussions of terms like 'Capitalism' today, are quickly run through the procrustean bed of modern 'economics', which ideologically turns us away from giving a due regard to those parts (of the whole) of reality which had enabled Adam Smith to observe what he called 'Natural Liberty' in action, and the amazing new burst of wealth which it was producing.

    This Professor gives a glimpse at what such black box thinking necessarily closes our eyes to, even as he too leaves a critical factor out of it:
    "...Natural liberty is not a neatly packaged system of political economy. Marxism is a religious system. Socialism is a control system based on government. Capitalism is a somewhat loose formulation of economic production and distribution, but it is an “ism” and is a system. Natural liberty is a descriptive term that eschews all systems and lets liberty obtain. It is a philosophy of society and human action which requires no system. When restraints are lifted the market works in a manner similar to the laws of motion—though not as precise and exact. The laws of the market are not determined but are formulated from the tendencies of people to act in a somewhat predictable manner. The magic of a free market is more nearly analogous to actuarial prediction, rather than a physical law such as the law of gravity..."
    Did you notice what he left out? Ask yourself this: What was it that enabled those 'laws of the market' to begin operating, where they never had before? Why was there suddenly something there, for Adam Smith to observe and study? To see what I mean, I think it's important to keep in mind that Adam Smith was not an 'economist', but a moral philosopher, and that his revolutionary book was not about 'Capitalism' or even about 'Economics' (two terms which did not exist then, as they do today), but "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations", which - its errors and mixed messages notwithstanding - at least he didn't ignore those wider and deeper depths which are 'pragmatically' ignored in the field today.

    The first stirrings of a Free Market began emerging in the West at the time it was reaching the pinnacle of Greco/Roman-Judeo/Christian civilization's development. Despite the many and often bloody political and doctrinal divisions which spread across Europe, and around the world, our Founder's era benefited from thousands of years of a maturing philosophy of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and law, and because of that their education shared in an integrated understanding of its arts, culture, and religion, which was producing a society that was not only eagerly developing science, but also a political philosophy that in scope and depth was quickly surpassing all that had come before it. Through that foundation, the West had developed the concept of a Rule of Law, whose objective purpose should be Justice, rather than simply order, and through that lens, further principled observations on the nature of Individual Rights and of Govt's proper relation to them, were brought into clearer focus by people such as John Locke, which came to a point in one of the most revolutionary ideas in all of human history: that the traditional idea of government's purpose being to maintain order while also 'serving the interests of the stronger', should be transformed into an entity whose purpose should be to uphold and defend the individual rights and property of all of its citizenry, equally before the Rule of Law.

    That, and only that, and all of that, is what led to there being something to emerge on the world stage for Adam Smith to begin observing, and prior to that there were no unusual amounts of wealth being created, in any nation, for anyone to begin inquiring into! Once Western nations began to recognize the right under law of their people to have (some) measure of liberty in their actions and security in their property, unusual amounts of wealth began to be generated in their markets, and the more secure their liberty was (as was especially the case in Britain & America), the more wealth there was to observe being produced through them. After Smith published his "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" in Britain in 1776, the need for a new branch on our philosophic tree soon became obvious, and what Smith had roughly identified as 'Natural Liberty' which had caused Free Markets to enable the production of wealth, within certain a political contexts, it became better identified as being 'Political Economy'. One of the best efforts in the new field, was Jean Baptiste Say's 1803 work, on 'A Treatise on Political Economy', which greatly clarified and improved upon Smith's rougher pioneering efforts, as Thomas Jefferson noted:
    "...In France, John Baptist Say has the merit of producing a very superior work on the subject of Political economy. his arrangement is luminous, ideas clear, style perspicuous, and the whole subject brought within half the volume of Smith’s work, add to this considerable advances in correctness and extension of principles...."
    , and chief among those extensions of principles, was his 'Law of Markets', or 'Say's Law', which has been the bane of every false economic theory ever since.

    If you believe such a development as a Free Market, is separable from the general culture and philosophy which brought it about (as most 'libertarians' do), I challenge you to find another instance of it in all of the rest of the known history of the world. You will not find any such instance, because none exist. It is unique, and the wealth and power of such a society as that, cannot be overcome from the outside, but it can and will be brought down from within, by losing an understanding of what made it possible to emerge in the first place.

    What I'm not saying, is that people in 'the good 'ol days' somehow knew more stuff. Probably as few people then as now, had an encyclopedic knowledge that extended down into the philosophical depths of all that could be known. But the thing is, there was no need to have that degree of knowledge, in order to benefit from all that was known to them. Why? Because what they knew, was reflected in everything else that they knew of. What was understood by 'all', was that such depths of knowledge did exist, and that what was known in one area, touched on and was integrated into what was known in another, and was reinforced by, and greatly reflected through their common culture of history, arts, literature, etc. If you knew little of a particular matter, then through related issues which touched on it, you had some general gist of it, and you knew what went with something, and what did not, and if you didn't know enough of what you needed to, someone you knew, knew it in more detail, and or could point you to some one, or some book, which could inform you more deeply about it. What was and could be known, mattered, and it was understood that valid concerns, ideas, and criteria, had to either integrate into that whole, or else its poor fit would be rejected, or even laughed off, by everyone you might meet.
    Self Evident, even....

    The closest we can probably get today to that universal sense of a meaningful whole being understood to exist, even by those who have no extensive familiarity with it, might, appropriately enough, best be felt by picturing a meme which has Star Trek's Capt. Kirk yelling 'Kahn!' in it, or Star Wars' Darth Vader reaching out to Luke who's screaming 'Nooo..!' You may laugh, but most people who've reached 8yrs old somewhere between 1976 & 2021, can very likely call those scenes to mind, and fill you in on the stories leading up to, and after them. Even those who know little or nothing of either's movie & TV franchises, still very likely recognize the characters and have a general sense of the story involved in each. And nearly everyone you meet today would, if presented with a scene containing both Capt. Kirk and Darth Vader meeting together in a corridor, would feel an immediate sense of 'WTH?!' on seeing that, knowing at a glance that they not only don't belong together, but that they cannot sensibly be pictured together in the same scene.

    Now imagine, what it would be like if the two characters of Kirk & Vader, represented not just (what's taken today as being) meaningless adventure stories, but represented active links in people's minds into entire histories and volumes of school lessons...meaningful images that were not seen as the stuff of trivial amusement, but as guidance into the more meaningful structures of life itself?

    For instance, there was a popular theme for painters of the period to capture, called 'The Choice of Hercules', which typically had the Greek demigod Hercules deliberating on a choice between Athena, goddess of wisdom, urging him to take the steeper and more difficult high road, as a voluptuous Vice attempts to seduce him to come with her down the easier and more pleasurable low road.

    As nearly any person in America today would recognize the characters of Capt. Kirk and Darth Vader, and understand something of their traits, etc., so would nearly any person living in colonial America recognize Hercules in that painting, and be familiar with the scene it was portraying, would tie it into histories of ancient Greece, significant figures in history and literature that echoed the themes conveyed in that painting, and it would resonate with uncountable school lessons, books, conversations and historical references, which wove together themes from ancient myth, and contemporary issues of virtue and vice, and the importance of moral reflection in making choices. For them - and for us - art was not something that could or should be dismissed as 'mere entertainment' - but where they were aware of that, we are not, we instead (having been subjected to the eclipsing economic mindset), take the pragmatic (ignorant) view that nothing is integrated, all is separate, random and meaningless.

    If they were to come upon some equivalent of a meme mashup, perhaps a painting portraying Hercules' choice as being of no importance, it would have set off, not the trivial chuckle of 'WTH?!', but a sense of foreboding and chaos, and if it was promoted in Revolutionary America as being a serious statement and something to be taught in schools, it would have rattled heart & mind, and set alarms ringing with scandalized discussions throughout the town and countryside that would've made 'woke cancelling' pale by comparison. Not as a pretentious ideological trigger for those who want to posture about as being offended about politically correct positions, but because it would have been seen as an attack upon themes of what it means to be a hero, the importance of making a distinction between virtue and vice, and what the importance of moral reflection and choice are, and would rightfully be seen as being a clear and present threat to every aspect of society, which should be fought back against (see what was beginning to emerge in Germany at that time, with Goethe's 'The sorrows of young Werther').

    Now try to imagine what raising the suggestion of 'transgender story hour for kindergartners' would entail. And yet before you chide them as 'conservatives afraid of change', such was the nature of their world, that making a reasonable argument that the existing system of royal rule had run its course, while demonstrating how a new innovation (a Constitutional, representative Republic, for instance) was a truer improvement over what had always been, that resonated through that same web of knowledge and community, and produced an actual revolution.

    It was that entire system, whole, which made it objectively possible for people to realize that engaging in "the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses" (which is the proper definition of what Economics actually is), would in its proper context, be of great importance to all, but not at the cost of ignoring whether or not those 'uses' are both justified and justifiable. America was not founded upon an Economic Black Box thinking of 'the ends justify the means', America was founded from refusing to allow Great Britain to use its own black box thinking upon the Colonies, the American Colonies became The United States of America, because we refused to go along with divorcing thought from action - and 'No taxation without representation', and Lexington & Concord's refusal to give up their guns, were the thoughts and actions of a people whose thinking was deeply integrated with and into their lives.

    BTW, care to guess who advised Lord North to 'do something!' about Britain's deficits by collecting taxes from the colonies? Adam Smith. God loves good comedy. And as you might guess from that, our Founding era had developed an exceptionalism which had been nipped in the bud in Europe, and our revolution came at the last possible moment that it could have occurred in the West, as the beginnings of that chaos which we see around us today, was already polluting minds through the pens of Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Bentham, and Hegel, who's ideas were helping to spread a materialized and denatured rationalism throughout society, via education, the arts and even the sciences. In Germany the Sturm und Drang movement was bringing something like our meme mash-up above, into the arts, and it didn't take long at all for that corruption to spread to Political Economy as well. By the early 1800's modern 'Economics' began to emerge (the gory details of which are well presented here), as the likes of J.S. Mill, & David Ricardo, and the Positivists, gradually twisted Say's words & meaning, to the point that when John Maynard Keynes came along, he was able to disregard the laws Say had revealed, and the field completed its slide into the isolated black box study that is what modern 'Economics' is today.

    'Economics' is not what the American system of government was derived from or founded upon and it could not have been, and it cannot continue on for long by treating it as if it's a proper basis and guidance for it - that is unsustainable. It, America, Is not that, and can no more be so than a man can successfully identify as a women, or that houses of straw and sticks can identify as a house of bricks. You can make the claim, but the reality is that the political power of the big bad wolf is going to come and blow your house down.