I have always wanted to find a way to use the title of this album as the title of a title of a post; well, here it is. None of the following topics is significant enough to merit an individual post – but I want to clear my mental inbox.
When Life Really Stinks
Perhaps more than any other post, my recent post on the forced famine in Ukraine has really remained with me. When thinking about people living in impossible situations (picture Iraq or Syria), I try to put myself in the position of a father sending his children off to school, not knowing if they will return safely; of a husband seeing his wife off to market, carrying the same burden of possible finality; of the breadwinner living in a place in which the economy has been destroyed.
The following – taken from the author of the book Bloodlands – has struck me and is what has stuck with me:
First weeks of 1933: with starvation raging through Ukraine, Stalin closed the borders of the republic such that the starving couldn’t flee, and closed the cities such that the starving couldn’t beg. As of 14 January, citizens were required to carry internal passports. The sale of long distance tickets to peasants was banned.
No food left to requisition, so none left to eat. No way to flee. Nothing left to do but die...in place.
In Soviet Ukraine in early 1933, the communist party activists who collected the grain left a deathly quiet behind them…Ukraine had gone mute.
The stillness: bodies barely able and eventually unable to move…yet alive…for a while longer; the body automatically consuming first its fat, then its muscle; fathers unable to do anything to provide or protect.
The lifelessness: there are no cats or dogs – all have been eaten; the birds have been scared away because to remain meant to be eaten; the livestock and chickens gone long before.
The silence: not a creature was stirring because there were no creatures left to stir; not a human was stirring because there was no energy to move – all energy was diverted to the body automatically consuming itself.
People in Ukraine never considered cannibalism to be acceptable. Even at the height of the famine, villagers were outraged to find cannibals in their midst, so much so that they were spontaneously beaten or even burned to death.
The author wrote of the cannibalization by permission – the mother telling her children to make a meal of her remains after she dies. He also wrote of the pre-meditated cannibalization – killing the infant in order to eat.
I think about people stuck in such impossible situations. I always try to put myself into the frame of mind that says I must not make ethical judgments when impossible choices are the only ones offered. This doesn’t mean condoning, it doesn’t mean to suggest what I might do in their place; it means accepting the impossibility of the situation.
But sometimes getting into this frame of mind is harder than at other times. I can mentally get there with the first type mentioned; not the second.
Enough of that.
Why do they Hate Customers?
One-hundred percent of the people on earth are customers. Well, except for those who live totally and completely off the grid and grow or kill everything they eat and make everything they wear from materials they find in nature, etc. In other words I doubt there are more than three exceptions on the entire planet. So, just say 100% for rounding.
I recently had some feedback, bashing Wal-Mart – the typical stuff: they aren’t fair to suppliers, they aren’t fair to employees, they are cut-throat with competitors.
I will caveat my comment: Wal-Mart, like every major corporation, probably gains much more from corporatocracy (the relationship between large companies and the government) than it loses. But this rambling isn’t about that.
It also isn’t about the employees, suppliers or competitors. The employees and suppliers are not forced to work at Wal-Mart. Full stop. As to the competitors, they have no property right in customers.
Which gets to my point. Add up all of Wal-Mart’s employees, suppliers and competitors – they have 1.3 million employees in the US, I have no idea how many employees of suppliers or competitors but let’s say all of it adds to 10 million people. Out of a population of over 300 million customers. Yes, I know, not all 300 million of them shop at Wal-Mart; however Wal-Mart directly has impacted the competitive nature of every other retailer.
Virtually every individual in the United States benefits from Wal-Mart. Even if one grants that 10 million people suffer because of Wal-Mart (I do not), why are so many people desirous to take it out of the hide of the three hundred million who benefit?
There is no better democracy than the vote of the customers’ dollar. There is no better freedom than the vote of the customers’ dollar.
So, I wonder: why do they hate customers? I think it must be because they hate freedom.
The Apple, the Tree, and Voices for Liberty
I write very little anymore about Rand Paul – this has been true for quite some time (in the last twelve months, I find exactly two posts labeled with his name…well, now three). This doesn’t mean I don’t pay some attention to what he is doing, it just means I don’t view him as much more than another politician – with my interest these days solely due to my deep respect for what his father has accomplished.
I never found him to be a worthy successor to the work his father has done. My first post was prompted by Rand’s decision to endorse Romney – he could have been a contender, meaning there was a calling waiting for him to take up; instead, he chose another path – the path of least resistance that will result in the least benefit to freedom.
Sometime later, I suggested he could be the next Reagan – obviously not because of his speaking ability. Despite his shortcomings on principle (relatively minor at the time – compared to today), his was the best voice to place on the stage in front of the masses to lead the country out of the mess left by his democratic and very liberal predecessor.
I have been somewhat sympathetic to the Walter Block view that – whatever his shortcomings – Rand will be at least slightly less the warmonger than anyone he will face in the Republican (and likely general) elections….just as I am certain that had McCain or Romney or Hillary been president instead of Obama, the US would have done even more damage globally.
All of this is background for the latest: Rand has recently joined 46 other senators in an effort to scuttle any negotiation with Iran. He wants to increase defense spending significantly. In other words, he has gone full and complete neo-con – not even pretending be concerned about his father’s base anymore (yet I know many will remain fooled).
I can’t say that I lost faith long ago, as I never had faith. However, I think Rand has completely fumbled away the natural advantage he had – the one I anticipated when I wrote that he could be the next Reagan. He has almost completely wiped away any USP he had at one time. Now, he cannot be differentiated from any of his peers.
The good news? It is nice to see Justin Raimondo finally giving up – a few years too late, but it seems he has finally seen the light.
Raimondo went much farther than Block…at least as I recall. Block could hold his nose in support. Raimondo was using both arms for a bear hug.
I have such high regard for Raimondo’s work regarding war and empire. I hope his awakening sticks – fooling the innocent is not something any anti-war or libertarian thought-leader should engage in.
Only Force Brings About Order
It seems the idea of governance absent (or even outside of) the monopoly force of government is impossible for some to comprehend. I do not mean that they do not embrace anarchy – the fear of children living without parents (metaphorically) can be overwhelming. I mean that they cannot even conceive of any governance possible or available outside of that brought on by government.
Again, this tidbit is prompted by feedback to one of my posts: is it so difficult to accept that the market brings governance? Do what you say, when you say you will have it done, for the price you commit; those who are most efficient transforming resources into desired products are rewarded, those least efficient are punished.
Considering we all have to work to eat (imagine the beneficial effect on governance if this simple statement was properly put into practice), meeting the demands of customers (or employers) in an efficient manner is a sure-fire way to achieve a significant measure of governance.
Of course, there is more – family, church, neighborhood, culture, etc. All provide governance without government.
Again, how far one takes this is secondary to my point: you don’t want to ride the train all the way to the anarchy station? Jump off at the stop called minarchy (actually there is no such stop, as there is no such place; the train just slows down for several miles so you jump off wherever you like, as the term cannot be defined objectively).
But, is it so difficult to see that we live in a world with many forms of effective governance that are not government?
Speaking of the Train to Anarchy
Why is it so difficult for milquetoast / left / bleeding heart / Cato / pseudo-libertarians to at least mention in their writing something about the ultimate objective somewhere during their pounding the table for interim steps or inserting all of their “shoulds” into libertarian theory?
Just say it: the removal of the initiation of aggression in all its forms from the law of the land is the objective. Go ahead and prescribe whatever interim measures you want – your personal jumping-off point in the several mile non-train-station of minarchy. Just mention that the train can and should continue?
Is that so hard?
This isn’t a question of the perfect getting in the way of the good. As has been well-noted by Rothbard (the name that shan’t be mentioned), slavery wasn’t abolished by not talking about abolishing slavery. How can you ever hope to hit the target if you aren’t aiming for it? At least mention the target, will you?
It is simple, and won’t take more than one or two sentences in your posts; mention the abolition of the initiation of aggression as the ultimate objective.
That you don’t do it suggests that we are not on the same train, as we are not even going in the same direction. Enjoy your ride to being controlled by another – we part ways here.
Austrian Pissing Match
One of the regular intellectual tussles in Austrian circles regards money and credit and between the idea of free banking and 100% reserve banking. Such was the case recently between Selgin and Salerno.
Why can’t we all just get along? What is so hard about saying let’s leave money and credit and banking to the market, subject to nothing more than the agreement between the contracting parties? Because anything else requires the initiation of force. And the initiation of force – certainly frowned upon by libertarians – I suspect is also not very consistent with Austrian economic thinking.
So no more “I am for free banking backed by 100% gold”; or “let’s work on the second best option – helping central banks become more efficient…but I really like free banking, trust me.”
Just a simple statement: leave money and credit to the market. No legal tender, no government backing, no conditional free banking, no using free banking as a shield to offer policy prescriptions. No conditions beyond contract.
Just a free market in money and credit. Develop this concept; advocate for this. It would be sufficient.
I have had many good dialogues with individuals presumably from or otherwise sympathetic to life in Eastern Europe. I have learned so much from these conversations.
Often they get bothered by writers who complain about US imperialism without condemning all other aggressions. A regular recent example is regarding Ukraine – where saying something bad about the US is automatically saying something good about Russia. I am stretching this criticism a bit, but not much.
One of the individuals with whom I have enjoyed (and gained much from) such dialogue is Norbert Szolnoky. He commented regarding my recent Daniel McAdams post – along the lines noted above. I offered a very thorough reply, yet have heard nothing back.
Norbert, let’s talk.
It’s the Jooz!
Write something about the evils of twentieth (or twenty-first) century history and don’t blame it on the Jews, and watch out. Not that I have been bombarded, but once in a while I get a comment about my timidity in failing to point out that the Jews did it, the Jews are in control, it’s all Jews all the time, etc.
Which Jews? There are, what, 13 – 14 million Jews on earth? Are they all in on it? All controlling the other 7 billion?
To my knowledge, none of the following were / are Jews: Stalin, FDR, Mao, Hirohito, Mussolini, Churchill, Hitler, Pol Pot, Truman, LBJ, Bush (either one) Clinton, Obama.
I can accept the shorthand of “the state.” If you want to blame the murder of 200 million in the last hundred years on any “group,” it is clear that the group in question is the state. I suspect most employees and advisors of most of the above “states” (as represented by the governmental leaders in the list) were not Jews. Most if the individuals who did the deeds – the boots on the ground – were not Jews. Many of the most vocal supporters of these criminals were not Jews.
“But,” you protest, “they are controlled by the Jews.” “The Jews control the media; the Jews control the press; the Jews have the money.”
Individuals act – or not. They don’t have to be puppets if they don’t want to be. They don’t have to swallow the swill offered – “Just say no.” There are plenty of billionaires that aren’t Jews.
Was Stalin a puppet of the Jews? Mao? If not for the Jews, both men would have been Gandhi? I would fall out of my chair laughing, except that between the two of them they killed about 100 million. Did I miss Hitler dancing to the tune of Hava Nagila? No comment.
Now, someone will scream – “so you’re saying the Jews had nothing to do with it?”
I will ask, which Jews, when, what? I know for a fact that there were numerous individuals who were nominally Jewish within the power structures of many of the above-mentioned tyrants. I know for a fact that there were infinitely more non-Jews in those same power structures.
I know for a fact that millions of Jews were killed by several of the above-mentioned tyrants. Did they voluntarily die for the cause? Did these Jews “do it”?
Individuals act. If you need a label, label the state. Focus your blind rage on this real enemy.