Hi, my name is Zeno Izen and I am running for President of the United States of America. I have developed a simple plan to restore freedom, peace and prosperity to America. Here is that plan:
Step 1: Every U.S. citizen with a Social Security number will receive, by U.S. Postal mail, an unactivated plastic debit card. The details of the accounts that these cards will access are a technical matter that will be worked out before this plan is implemented.
Step 2: Citizens will have a short period of time to activate these debit cards, and the accounts that they access.
Step 3: At an appointed moment, which may or may not be revealed in advance, each citizen’s account will be credited with a sum of money. The amount of money is a technical detail that will be worked out before this plan is implemented. Hypothetically, the amount is mostly irrelevant, though it will need to be significant enough to qualify as a windfall for the average citizen. Numbers between $10,000 and $100,000 are probable.
Step 4: The U.S. federal government will cede power to the States, and declare itself dissolved.
Step 5: A period of adjustment will ensue.
The benefits of this plan will be many. The velocity of money, and the vitality of the economy will increase dramatically as citizens will be motivated to spend what money they have as soon as possible before its value drops to zero. All sides of political debate will be satisfied by this plan as well, as redistributionists on the left will be directly compensated and minarchists on the right will see their domestic agenda implemented in full.
At the same time, the results of this plan will be unpredictable to the degree that manipulators of the economy, along with entrenched totalitarian interests, will not be able to fully retain their power. Prices and currencies will swing to extremes as the results of this plan ripple across the globe. Innovators and small time players will find themselves knee deep in opportunities, which will disrupt society and make resources newly available in the fairest way possible: according to wit and competitivity.
My plan will initiate a new global golden era based on merit and voluntary association. This is what everyone wants, perhaps excluding those deeply invested in the status quo.
So vote for me for President of the U.S. or whatever other office you want. I ain’t on the ballot and my budget is zero, but I’ve got a slogan and it is thus:
“Vote for Zeno Izen motherfuckers! He’s got the Plan!”
It’s Sunday morning on the day before Halloween 2011. About a week and a half ago I wrote a vampire story that I thought might be good to post here for Halloween day, but then I realized two things. 1. The story isn’t ready. It reads like an actual short story, but compared to what I was trying to create, the thing is more like an outline. 2. Halloween is the worst time to post a vampire story. The world is glutted with horror fiction on Halloween day.
So, instead I’ve decided that I’m going to post a few paragraphs of economic/current-history musings (or ramblings, as the case may be) and follow it up with some old material that I posted at another blog many many years ago.
What the hell is taking so long with this decline of civilization? Hyperinflation, totalitarian government, grand-scale urban rioting and other Really Bad Things seem to be always looming in the distance. No one, of course, can really be sure what the future holds, but I think most observant people can agree that major changes are afoot. Just the simple fact that there isn’t any money left to maintain U.S. and European governments indicates that adjustments need to be made. Adjustments that are being drawn out in an excruciating way by politicians and central bankers who seem to think there’s any kind of fix to sovereign debt problems. (There is a fix, yes. It’s called “time.” The balm of time, though, is perfectly counteracted by picking the scab off over and over again.)
Here in America, I think there is a great debt of suffering that the general population owes. We don’t owe this suffering for any moral reason, or spiritual or mystical. I’m talking about simple cause and effect. For many years, our way of life has been like a tissue-padded bra. Our abundance was false, our voluptuousness prosthetic. Pyramids of perfect fruit in every supermarket, a thousand varieties of breakfast cereal, glittering richness of entertainment options, a robust, complex national infrastructure, military dominance of the globe, cars, bars, restaurants, movies, blue jeans, handbags, paid time off, pensions, dependable emergency services, single family homes, clean white sheets and drive-through service have all been part of our lives and lifestyles because of credit. Visa cards and Treasury bonds provided the liquidity that kept this cruise ship afloat. That liquidity has receded, but we still try to find ways to live as though it hasn’t. As long as our central banks and the consumer herd keep forestalling the inevitable–a much lower standard of living–we all risk the acute pain of a rude surprise.
These are not novel concepts. There are hundreds of other people, across all media, saying the same thing every day. My point is that this is taking too long. I certainly don’t want to suffer, or see others suffer. And I can always use more time to prepare. But, the slowness of all this is an additional agony.
The wisest thing of all our choices, collectively, would be to institute a nationwide policy of personal restraint. For instance, a spartan Christmas season would help a lot. What if we all just gave each other handmade cards this year? Don’t spend a dime? Just for this year? What would happen? I don’t know. It could make things worse for the economy, but that might actually be a good thing. Running the ship aground once and for all would show us what we have left to rebuild with. And in any case, it might have psychological benefits for the U.S. population. It feels good to be proactive, even when the proactivity is imperfect. Also, our consumer culture has been driven in a large way by feelings of smallness and disatisfaction at the level of the individual. The world is too big, and we are too small, so we distract ourselves with buying and spending. Feeling some amount of historical control might feed the soul hunger that has been a major motivation for all of this borrowing.
Something like this will never happen, though. Humanity takes the path of least resistance as predictably as water finds the lowest ground. This is easy to see in the very synthetic Occupy Wall Street assemblies. Lots of people may show up because it seems like something to do, but that’s as far as it will ever go. In the long run, collectivism never works. Individuality is far more powerful. Agreement is scarce, cooperation rare. Mass movements do erupt, but not often with long term agendas. It’s easier for the crowd to express inarticulable anger than to create something. To create requires the individual.
That’s why I really believe that a global market-based anarchy is the best thing for us all. But that isn’t happening any time soon, either. No, nothing great will be happening for a while. First we have to slog our way through this slow motion disaster.
This was posted at another blog in October of 2007. Even back when I wrote this, I thought the idea was somewhat obvious. As far as I know, though, I’m the only one that’s ever vocalized the idea seriously. Probably because the idea offends too many basic cultural values. Oh, if we could only get past that kind of crap.
A Solution to the Steroid Problem
Steroids have been a part of sports for years now, and they are here to stay. Not only that, but steroids are just the beginning. Soon enough we will see robotic and genetic enhancements to the human body that will let athletes perform at many times their natural capabilities. As science marches on, records will be smashed over and over again. Are you ready for the 200-mph fastball? How about the 1500-home-run career, or the two-minute mile? Not even science fiction is the limit in the world of athletic competition, because whatever can be engineered will be put to quick use on the playing field.
The only uncertainty is how the rulemakers of the various sports leagues will treat these advancements. The current trend is to prohibit technological ability-boosters, to banish them into a hidden sphere. With steroids prohibited, honest players must compete against cheaters, standards of achievement become skewed and sports fans can no longer be sure who is a true winner and who is a juiced-up manbeast taking advantage of an unbalanced situation.
It’s as true in sports as anywhere else, prohibition is terrible mistake. The difference is that, in sports, to ban enhancements is twice the error. Drug users tend to fail in the real world, but the opposite is true in sports–at least over the short term. Steroid users will always win against their more honest opponents, and those who follow the rules will never break the records set by more-than-human competitors.
But while prohibition is a foolish policy, it is clearly necessary to exert some sort of control over these substances–not to mention whatever else might be on its way down the research pipeline. Whatever is allowed will become an immediate standard. If one man quadruples the size of his pitching arm with stem cells, then everyone else will have to do it just to keep up. In competitive situations, what is not prohibited becomes obligatory. It would be terribly unwise to ask our up and coming athletes to destroy their bodies just so that they can play a game.
The best solution then is to partition our sports. There is no reason we can’t have separate leagues in each sport, one that allows any possible enhancement, and one that allows no enhancements at all.
The benefits of a system that separates sports into enhanced and non-enhanced leagues are plain.
A main improvement under this system will be that performance enhancement will come out of the closet. No parent will have to lecture their children on the dangers of steroid or amphetamine use because these risks will be openly illustrated by the scores of sports heroes who will suffer from brain cancer, abnormal hair and sudden coronary explosions.
As cyborgenics become available, we will also see athletes with robotic limbs and bits of facial circuitry. Admittedly, the fact that these physical upgrades will be introduced to us by famous sports figures may actually add an element of romance to the technology. However it’s also an undeniable fact that when once these things are invented, there will be no way to stop their infiltration into our culture. It is better to have the gear tested in full public view under high-performance conditions than to have them sold to us “as is” by less-than-honest marketing hacks.
Wearable computing and cyborgenics are things of the near future. As a species, we have lived through the introduction of many new technologies, and it’s about time we began to get this process right. Consider the automobile. How many years, and how many lives, passed us by before we saw the invention of seat belts and air bags? Or take an additional example–genetic engineering. The citizenry tend to fear this technology and clamor for regulation that is much more dramatic than necessary. In either case, the legislation on these innovations has been either too late or too quick.
But in the case of re-engineering the human body, we have the luxury of a class of people who will willingly test these things and do it at their own expense. Considering the entertainment value that comes as a bonus, why not let them?
There are many more possible benefits of this idea, but I will add just one more. When performance enhancement is brought out in the open through league partitioning, we will no longer have to suffer the heartbreak, or witness the disgrace, as our beloved athletes are inevitably caught cheating at their games. Episodes such as our ongoing suspicion of Barry Bonds, and our shock at the downfall of Marion Jones will no longer haunt us, and we will be free to enjoy the diversions of sport once again.
There’s a premise that I’ve accepted as true since I was in high school. The premise’s survival in the face on many years of new information tends to suggest that the premise has some validity.
The premise is this: The human system, as a whole, is anarchic.
Yes, we have nation-states. Yes, we have corporations. Yes, we have elites. Yes, there are people in charge. But, try as they might, there is no single entity that has absolute control over humanity.
At the very top of the global social ladder, there are opposing interests, offsetting forces and competing entities. And, as this is the top of the pyramid, with nothing governing it, the churn here is subject to the laws of emergence and market dynamics.
And as above, so below. From the yacht clubs of Massachusettes to the black hole of Calcutta, governance exists in pockets. Control exists in finite zones that emerge within an overall system of anarchy. And if these zones are seen as discreet bodies within the anarchic system, we can see that they emerge and behave according to the laws of the system that they inhabit.
In other words, a government is the product of a free market.
Empires rise and fall. Kings are as subject to economics as a business owner. Certainly, a king may control the money supply in his realm, but he can’t violate natural law. A king can’t print money indiscriminately and avoid the consequences any more than he can hover in midair.
Between kingdoms there are natural laws, too. As von Clausewitz said, war begins when diplomacy fails. Between individuals a fist fight might result from failed negotiations at a tavern. Of course, there are laws pertaining to that. But what law stops one nation from invading another? Only alliances, quasi-influential international bodies and other artifices have any effect on international relations. These artifices are the product of an anarchic system.
So, seen from the moon, we realize that we already live in a free market system. When anyone talks about, or lobbies, for market freedom they are doing it on a local basis. To work for free markets is a dismantling process, an uncovering of human layers to reveal what lies below.
But let’s remember that these zones of control are temporary. They may last for a long time. Just as an overfunded business can operate at a loss for years on end, a government with faulty financial policies can run for a long long time. But in the end they will fail. No entity, coporeal or corporate, can evade the laws of its environment.
“Nature Bats Last” says the bumper sticker. It’s really true. And if we believe that market forces are natural laws, then the agorist has already won. His only struggle is with his local situation.
Here’s something I don’t get. Maybe someone can explain it to me.
As a generalization, both scientific atheists and Abrahamic monotheists tend to be inconsistent when it comes to their preferences of socioeconomic organization. Most of your central planners in history seem to have been atheists–Marxism and communism are definitely atheistic systems. And most of those who still stick with these concepts in the modern era also seem to be atheists. Your Christian left-anarchist is an anomaly. Liberal Democrats I suspect–I haven’t looked up the stats–have more atheists, or at least agnostics among them. And it’s my perception that Liberal Democrats tend to be more liberal in their religious belief and believe that evolutionary theory is true. I base this perception on the fact that Liberal Democrats take the non-religious side of the abortion discussion. That alone indicates a liberality in religious belief. But yet, Liberal Democrats tend to be less friendly with free market ideas, more open to state programs, and generally more on the central-planning side of the economic discussions.
Meanwhile, more conservatives (whether Conservative Republicans, or otherwise) are religious, and conservatively so. I’d point to the abortion discussion again to support this assertion. And, again, conservatives have a greater tendency to be free market oriented, rhetorically if not in actual fact. This can be seen in a rough sort of way by comparing various elected persons’ party affiliation with their position on the funding of various governmental (and non-military) projects, such as universal health care, welfare programs, student loans and so on.
I’ll skip over the rest of the logical development and give you my central point: in America, a substantial number of non-religious people have faith in centrally planned civilization while a substantial number of religious people are opposed to central planning, and presumably believe in the power of emergent market processes to create an organized society.
This seems inconsistent to me. To be religious, by which I mean to believe in a single scriptural god, tends to deny the emergent processes of nature. If God is the decision maker for all reality, and evolutionary theory is not true, then emergent market processes are anomalous. Why would markets be able to find equilibrium, and develop into non-planned organization when the rest of nature does not do the same thing?
And to be non-religious tends to accept evolutionary theory–a concept which describes a natural world full of life that has come about without intent or central planning. Why in a world where life emerges in the absence of a supernatural director would we insist upon fallible human beings to design and execute our economy?
To my point of view, and regardless of your religious beliefs, I would expect that you either believe in orderly emergence or you don’t. I can understand believing in a perfect God that micromanages reality and how that is consistent with free market beliefs, but I don’t see how you can then throw out evolutionary theory. And I can see how you can see the natural world as a beautiful orderly accident without a god, but I don’t see how you can then allow imperfect and corruptible human beings take charge of an economy, which is often as complex as any ecosystem.
The haters, man, the haters. I fucking HATE them. To begin with, they’re collectivists. They can’t stand individualism or anything else that reminds them that they are dependent on the herd. As soon as a real man steps forward and takes a risk, the haters SWARM upon him, trying to pull him back into the herd or if not that, kill him outright.
In the long run it’s these haters, these collectivists, these weak-willed man-children that slow humanity down.
I know you don’t want to be that guy. But I’ll admit it’s not easy to be an individual, to walk boldly into the future, taking the lead, swallowing fear in order to make something real out of this fleeting existence.
With that in mind, I’d like to share a couple of things that I’ve found inspirational lately. Firstly is the famous quote by the great American saint of Brass Balls, Teddy Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
“Well I’m shouting bullshit; I’m raising the flag of Bold Action. Fuck excusing yourself from life’s challenges, from its hardships…from its bounties and rewards. The things that are difficult and uncomfortable are the things you should be doing. Healthy diets, two jobs, clocking over time at work AND the gym, gambling a year’s savings on an entrepreneurial pursuit, educating yourself, cancelling your cable and your world of warcraft account to reduce distractions – ACTION. Think ACTION. Don’t shrink from the challenge; assault it with the bayonet of your whole being.”