Friday, December 30, 2016

Sand Castles

Nobody asked but ...

A severe case of the End justifying the Means:  Seize any laudable goal, then build a sand castle around it, ignoring that even the most minor chink in the foundation will evolve into a chasm.  Then beat all critics with the laudability of the still distant goal until everyone is investing all resources in the eternal rescue of the sand castle.  This metaphor is scalable.  It fits sand castles.  It fits full employment schemes, war, infrastructure, the state, empires.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Free Lunch

Nobody asked but ...

What's the difference between the free lunches offered by POTUS-Elect and by POTUS'es-also-ran?  They all would have been prohibitively expensive, were lies, and will never take place.  Consolation?  There WILL BE one or more massively expensive nutrition-free meals, any way we may have gone.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Words Poorly Used #73: Avoiding War

There were a post and a thread of discussion on Facebook today covering the POTUS-Elect's nomination for Secretary of State.  Someone ventured that we (the USA, I suppose) would "avoid war with Russia."  One, we never avoid war, it is the health of the state (per Randolph Bourne), and it is the wealth of the oligarchy.  And it is the joystick of the powerful.  Two, haven't every POTUS and SOS always avoided war with Russia, or did I miss an episode?  Give a little, take a little, but don't break up the game.

Monday, October 3, 2016

State Education: Money

by Verbal Vol
If only it were taught in government schools that currency should be on the free market, like everything else, that competition between consumer chosen currencys is the only way it can't be used against the users of currency.  government monopoly currency is designed through being a monopoly, is made for abuse, theft, and is the dirtiest of money ever, ever, funds illicit wars, is printed to rob the masses, and other abuses of the people using the monopoly currency. And yet the government turns round and says any money that competes with it is illegal, counterfeit, and criminal.  Hahahahahahaha, Oh the cruel evil irony.  (Please add to this thought your wisdom on the topic.)
-- Freya Wilde

Thanks to Freya, for this excellent analysis, and her agreement to let me share it here.
The principle of Freya's holding serendipitously put me in remembrance of a particularly fine piece by Murray Rothbard, in which he lays out how paper currency appeared in the western hemisphere. I have not found a specific citation or occurrence of the piece, but I remember it vividly. It is my plan to give to you a summary.

The summary -- Rothbard contends that money in colonial America was entirely based on the market value of the commodities behind it. The simplest example was gold coinage, and for larger amounts, gold bars.  The colonial governors of Massachusetts were "wag the dog" guys. Whenever they needed a popularity bump, they recruited some ruffians, rode off in a cloud of dust, and created fables (perhaps even true) of vanquishing Acadians or Indians (as they were negligently labeled in those days).  I suppose there was a moderate risk of injury or death for these ruffians, so there were substantial recruitment incentives provided. First there were offers of land. But land was extremely limited, and land once obtained needed wealth for development. Quickly the adventurers-in-chief had to turn to portable wealth for further incentives to rouse the rabble.  Enter gold and silver. But there were only promises, because why give bling in advance to fools who might die mid-adventure.  I suppose there was a moderate risk of injury or death for these ruffians, so there were substantial recruitment incentives provided. First there were offers of land. But land was extremely limited, and land once obtained needed wealth for development. Quickly the adventurers-in-chief had to turn to portable wealth for further incentives to rouse the rabble.  Enter gold and silver.  But there were only promises, because why give bling in advance to fools who might die mid-adventure?

Remember, these govs were making "air promises" to boost their political status, not to defend life and property. In other words, fraud. (See Mission Accomplished)  

Eventually, per Rothbard, the pols saw that leaving the marching minions holding promises instead of solid specie was a dream come true. But they did also realize that an honorable verbal promise was an oxymoron. Enter the written promise, aka the IOU, aka scrip, aka paper currency.

The typical note promised exchange for the purported full amount in gold, not sooner than 1 year hence.

Many of the veterans began to barter these slips of paper for those things for which they could not wait a year -- things like food!

If the mercenary could only get 25% of the face value of the scrip, that meant that he was effectively paying a 75% tax.

I could go on, but I will close by asking how surprised you would be if the government had issued financial notes, paper currency, to cover the speculators' demands for specie. This was a tacit acknowledgement from both sides that someday the paper currency would not be worth the paper on which it was written. But as long as the politicians dodged the bullet, and the speculators got a bearable rate of return, who was going to rock the boat?

Thus was born what eventually became the world's standard for the value of a government's promise -- a revolving theft.  Paper currency was born in fraud, fraud that could be sustained only by more fraud.

After awhile, I find this -- a link to Rothbard's "What Has Government Done to Our Money?" free and online at Mises Institute,

The passage I specifically refer to begins on page 51 of my downloaded pdf version of History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World…

Apart from medieval China, which invented both paper and printing centuries before the West, the world had never seen government paper money until the colonial government of Massachusetts emitted a fiat paper issue in 1690.4, 5 Massachusetts was accustomed to launching plunder expeditions against the prosperous French colony in Quebec. Generally, the expeditions were successful, and would return to Boston, sell their booty, and pay off the soldiers with the proceeds. This time, however, the expedition was beaten back decisively, and the soldiers returned to Boston in ill humor, grumbling for their pay. Discontented soldiers are ripe for mutiny, so the Massachusetts government looked around in concern for a way to pay the soldiers. It tried to borrow £3,000–£4,000 from Boston merchants, but evidently the Massachusetts credit rating was not the best. Finally, Massachusetts decided in December 1690 to print £7,000 in paper notes and to use them to pay the soldiers. Suspecting that the public would not accept irredeemable paper, the government made a twofold pledge when it issued the notes: that it would redeem them in gold or silver out of tax revenue in a few years and that absolutely no further paper notes would be issued. Characteristically, however, both parts of the pledge went quickly by the board: The issue limit disappeared in a few months, and all the bills continued unredeemed for nearly 40 years. As early as February 1691, the Massachusetts government proclaimed that its issue had fallen “far short” and so it proceeded to emit £40,000 of new money to repay all of its outstanding debt, again pledging falsely that this would be the absolute final note issue.

Re-reading The Shipping News

Voluntaryist View -- The Shipping News

It has been 25 years between my readings, but The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx, has gained considerably, surviving a good but inadequate movie, and becoming a How-To manual on pushing through the obstacles toward a voluntary life.  The protagonist, Quoyle, moves from a trailer park life in a desolate part of NY State, back to his ancestral home (that he has never before seen) in a remote part of Newfoundland in the environs of a fishing town named Killick-Claw.  In Killick-Claw, Quoyle lands a job as a newspaper man, with the local paper called The Gammy Bird, writing the column called "The Shipping News."

But enough about the surface detail.  This book is layered, entwined, densely textured from any view. To me, however, the thematic substance is clear.  Throughout the book, Proulx makes casual reference to knots, nets, moorings, connections, tethers, and webs.  Quoyle escapes one web, wherein he is a wrecked man-child with very few prospects, then over a complete cycle of Newfoundland's annual weather cycle, he becomes a man who learns that all of his choices are voluntary, and given time, are mostly to good effect.

There is a subplot in which Newfoundland is going through a similar mid life crisis.  There is a strong anti-big government and anti-crony capitalism vein here.  Proulx wears her heart on her sleeve.  See the following passage spoken by one of her characters, Jack Buggit:
"This business about allocating fish quotas as if they was rows of potatoes you could dig. If there’s no fish you can’t allocate them and you can’t catch them; if you don’t catch them, you can’t process them or ship them, you don’t have a living for nobody. Nobody understands their crazy rules no more. Stumble along. They say ‘too many local fishermen for not enough fish.’ Well, where has the fish gone? To the Russians, the French, the Japs, West Germany, East Germany, Poland, Portugal, the UK, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria—or whatever they call them countries nowadays. ... And even after the limit was set, the inshore was no good. How can the fish come inshore if the trawlers and draggers gets ‘em all fifty, a hundred mile out? And the long-liners gets the rest twenty mile out? What’s left for the inshore fishermen?”
If you're like me, you just wonder how can anyone in Ottawa, Ontario know anything about fishing in the North Atlantic?  The answer, regulate the inshore fishermen some more.  Persecute those you can reach.  Pretend as though the outlaws are not there beyond your puny state.  Instigate programs that will have nothing to do with positive outcomes, but will perpetuate the bureaucracy.  And, by the way, when I use "outlaws" above, I do not refer to criminals, only to those being outside the regulatory fictions.

Monday, August 22, 2016


The word combinatorics is a fancy way of recognizing that we do not live in a single-cell universe.  We live among an infinitely large number of things.  And who is to say where between one thing and another the association stops?  Can you say that you are unconnected with a fortuneteller in Mongolia, or a cloud on Venus, or a rock in the Alpha Centauri System.

I was reading exchanges among NVC (nonviolent communication) students this week, where I ran across some interesting ideas.

The first was that when there are 3 nodes in the communication environ, all agreements take the form of 2-to-1 or 3-to-0.  There is no opportunity for disagreement (absence of agreement), unless 1 of the 3 exits the structure.  I have frequently written here that the only manageable associations are 1-to-1, between 2 members of an association.  But I can reconcile that with the combination of 3.  The proponent of the threesome idea drew a diagram similar to this:

/   \
/      \
/         \

There are 6 ways in which an agreement can reach a majority between two,  A can sway B or B can sway A.  A can sway C or C can sway A. C can sway B or B can sway C.  But if any of these combinations occur, the third node can opt out or in, 1 agreement or 2.  But the one agreement, or the two separate agreements, are all 1-to-1.  In a voluntary arrangement, A cannot dictate what form the agreement between B and C takes -- in other words A cannot control the interaction between B and C, cannot intervene in any practical sense.  The 3-way arrangement can only survive, as voluntary, if each participant refrains from intervening between the 2nd party and the 3rd.  In my opinion, it is very hard for humans to do this.  Rather humans will almost always gang up 2-against-1.

This brings us to the second idea -- nonviolent communication (NVC) is composed of 
  • Observation free from evaluation,
  • Feelings free from judgment,
  • Needs free from strategy, and
  • Requests free from demand.
Viktor Frankl wrote, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."  A friend insisted that we have our filters in place before we get to that space, but it seems unlikely that we do not also have the choice of which filters or no filter or the need to build a new filter in that space.  To the extent that we can keep an open mind, delaying evaluation, that is the extent to which we can optimize non-violent communication and keep our filters in good health.

Feelings and judgment also have a space.  Feelings don't just demand judgment, they demand analysis.  What is causing our feelings?  What, objectively, will resolve the emotional tension?

The same can be said of needs.  We often confuse needs with wants, and thus with emotions.  We often spend huge amounts of time with strategies which are attempts to escape the emotions surrounding true needs and false needs (wants).  Our tendencies is to be content, to know where our next meal is coming from -- maybe our next meal does not need to come from our enemy's table, maybe there is no need to consider another as an enemy because they appear to have a full table.

Lastly, we most often do not need coercion to satisfy our needs.  Coercion turns the simple existence of a need into the strategy of satisfying a need by impairing another's satisfaction of of their need.
In all of these, the trick is expanding the space in which our learning and wisdom can affect the outcome, avoiding externalities that can corrupt wisdom.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Words Poorly Used #75 -- Problem

" ... there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong."  -- H. L. Mencken

Why is this true?  Firstly, we have to recognize that this may not be true in all cases.  After all, it is a simple solution for explaining human error -- a persistent problem underlying other problems.  So, Mencken's observation may not be absolute, but it is a powerful demonstration of what is practically true.  Any one of us may live a lifetime without seeing a "neat, plausible, and correct" solution.  We also may never see a neat (standalone, uninvolved) problem.  Problems come in squadrons entangled in wires, webs, nets, tendrils, embedding goo.  A simple solution tends to render the rest of the mess more impenetrable.  Humans, particularly politicians, exploit problems -- even making them up when no real difficulty is at hand.  More on this elsewhere at EVC.