Thursday, April 16, 2015

Water, licenses, same banana

Few would connect the water shortage in California with the stickers/plates/cards problem of the Philippine Land Transportation Office. But they both illustrate the inescapable consequences of price control.

By favoring government use or dictation of resources, a subsidy is in effect created. This constitutes price control because the concerned resources are made available to the coercing/monopolizing body at less cost/effort/competing demand than if these were obtained through bidding among free entities.

Step by step, ooh baby

Ludwig von Mises explained the stages of price control. At first comes the shortage of goods. What is obtained cheaper, is used up faster. What’s more, the artificially low price serves as a signal to investors and producers not to divert resources to the sector. So no, high prices are not the devil, they are the best incentive for people to supply the desired good. It is by this principle that yesterday’s luxury product, whose broad appeal is yet uncertain, becomes available to the masses to the point of being taken for granted.

The next stage of price control is the attempts at rationing. Which does nothing to sustain supply, since no prices are involved. After rationing comes outright state takeover to replace those greedy capitalists who are said to have caused the shortage in the first place. Again, without prices as guide, much is wasted, not just in the particular controlled sector but in other sectors which otherwise would have been patronized by consumers had a market been present.

What if?

It’s left for us to imagine how private driver certifiers would fare. Maybe they would have done away with rectangular pieces of plastic altogether, who knows.

And where would Californians have lived had there not been such a huge water subsidy to draw people to arid lands? Such alternate realities might seem unpleasant in their unfamiliarity, but this is no reason to maintain policies contributing to economic disasters. We can trust people will get by, if not thrive, without them.

Libertarians make the best friends. Really.

Get away from him!
He asked wholl build the roads!
Because you expect higher standards for them, libertarian fluff pieces are the worst. Case in point, this one claiming libertarians make the “most awesome” friends. Can we really expect people, just because they say they advocate free markets and all, to treat people better, have a sharper sense of fairness, etc.?

Truth is, the scope of ‘libertarian’ would not exclude those with a ‘fuck the world’ attitude as long as they’re left alone, or those who condone anything as long as it has the semblance of legality in the libertarian sense (e.g. racism).

Those of erroneous ideologies can very well be the kindest, most decent people you know, but for one reason or another, fail to extend their personal attitudes to society as a whole. This points to intellectual error with no implications as to what kind of a friend they are.

Humans are complex beings. They can truly believe and understand the implications of freedom and the state, but still act in repulsive ways, such as nagging, talking down at the help, compulsive correcting (e.g. this article, this blog even!), Facebook stalking, etc. You name it.

A generalizing of even libertarians is a mistake. A potentially harmful one, in fact. Consider your career (“Oh, he understands entrepreneurship. He must be a brilliant worker! I’ll hire him!), finances (“He hates central banking, so he must know where to put my life savings!”), and of course your social life. Because if you are going to decide on your social circle based on each person’s understanding of political matters, you are by the nature of scarcity going to exclude people whom you’d otherwise recognize as your truest of friends.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

When is Cheryl’s birthday? Or, we’re all dumbasses

I’ve never been good with solving puzzles like the Cheryl birthday one from Singapore. When I first read it, I was even doubtful that there existed a logical solution to it, what with the bad grammar. But there is a method to solving it involving merely a step-by-step elimination process (first discover what Albert could know for certain; next, Bernard, then again Albert). So simple in hindsight!

To me, this is a reminder to stay humble. I may think I know my shit, including when it comes to political philosophy, but what seems sensible and clear-cut may from a higher point of view appear insufficient if not erroneous.

Having said that, I doubt supporters of the state are of this higher point of view. That’s kind of the point; this lesson in humility applies to everyone, including those who think they know what’s better for others and would support violence as a means of achieving it. You may have solved Cheryl’s birthday, but valuation processes spanning a community remain beyond your capacity for knowledge.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Christianity as power

In a recent speech, Doug Casey shows that he does not comprehend Christianity apart from the general dictum of being kind to others. And taken at face value, without first-hand inspiration itself, one is likely to be misled by the Gospel into self-abasement and world shunning, as Casey suggests and abhors.

Slave* origins

One must first realize that the virtue of meekness, as mentioned in the beatitudes, developed among humans as a necessary, desperate means of coping with what one could not control or change. For instance, death, or some other transition of states, is inevitable. Christianity compensates for such mortality by a not illogical association with qualities of eternity, as humanly knowable.

Let it go

Instead of attaching to the fleeting, one lets go, with good humor**, of moments as they pass. Instead of approaching things with fragile presumptions, one grasps their ‘is-ness,’ and is content. Instead of burying one’s scarce resources in the ground, one puts them into productive endeavors or loans them for interest***. Instead of striking back when harmed, one learns something of themselves and can only give back gratitude. One seems to assume the properties of light, by applying their will to a longer timeframe.  

Inherit the earth

Humility is an admission of our finite power, which itself is an indication of, and means of, empowerment. If you read Mario Puzo’s ‘The godfather,’ you can observe this principle in practice in the character of Vito Corleone (who as a mobster is no less a part of the same hypocrisy as politicians, but that’s beside the point).

Contrary to what intelligent critics of Christianity such as Doug Casey may say, mystical insight could be considered an extension of principles readily observable in the world, rather than their negation. Superlatives such as ‘oneness with God’ or ‘eternal truth’ are understandable when taking into account the supra-cognitive (yet all-too-human) faculty everyone possesses, but such words often mislead those who remain seekers of external (‘objective’ or literal) ‘Truth’ rather than internal (‘subjective’ or figurative) truth.

* By ‘slave,’ I mean in a position of weakness or lack of control, not necessarily from oppression by other humans, although Nietzsche explains the historical origin of Christianity this way. It’s the psychological aspect, and not the specific situation, that is our present focus.
** The ability to laugh goes hand in hand with one’s recognition of the transience and insufficiency of consciousness, preconceptions, words, etc.
*** Interest itself illustrates the worldly application of the beatitudes. Rather than consuming for the now, one inhibits one’s self for future satisfaction, and thus derives profit. It could even be said that one’s capacity for self-inhibition (lowness of time preference) is commensurate with their foresight.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Conductors and central planning

She was the greatest piece of ass
I’ve ever had, and I’ve had ’em
all over the world!
Am I right?
Picture from Wikipedia.
Butler Shaffer has a point with regards to conductors being “useless” in an orchestra. They don’t actually emit sounds, right? And apparently they can play the keyboard while supposedly leading the orchestra. So why not get rid of them?

But a piece of music remains a conductor’s vision, or of whoever is entrusted to bring their understanding of a piece to the performance.

Shaffer is not a music guy, which is apparent not so much in his dismissive attitude to conductors, but in his reference to “reading the notes” as basis for playing a work, the interpretation of which actually could or would vary or clash to a great degree, among players in the same orchestra.

Apart from rehearsals in which players are instructed about tempo, modulation, etc., a conductor maintains the pace during a performance in a way that gives the right tightness to specific sections. Their success can be somewhat gauged by a consistency in the running time of takes of individual movements.

If one were to dismiss the role of a conductor during a performance on account of the principle of a central dictator not being effective at allocating resources, why not get rid of the composer and sheet music as well? Then the question becomes, will the product, however improvised and guided it may be, be preferred to another product more or less improvised and/or guided?

The individual listener may be the judge, but for specific masterpieces, some trained individuals are more capable of bringing out the spirit of the work in a particular fashion, for which the listener may choose to trust them.

We can liken a conductor to a judge, who not only presides over a dispute, but also after a resolution, oversees the carrying out of his judgment.


See what a difference the ‘useless’ conductor makes, in these two interpretations of the opening movement of Bach’s Saint Matthew passion.

Conducted by Philippe Herreweghe

Conducted by Karl Richter

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

100% proof that Jesus rose from the dead!

“Couldn't evolution be the answer to how and not the answer to why?” – Stan Marsh, ‘South Park

This past Easter I saw, through related links on Facebook, several articles in the vein of ‘Evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.’ I was curious enough to give in to the clickbait, and sure enough, found such ‘evidence’ wanting by any half-decent standards, e.g. use of Bible citations, which is no different than claiming King Arthur existed on the basis of the Camelot legend.

The pitiful thing isn’t so much the attempts at convincing one’s self that what one wants or what one is susceptible to believe is true. It’s that, the use of some kind of historical or observable ‘proof’ as basis of faith or even just as added support, goes completely against the whole point or meaning of faith (as I understand it, at least).

Such an argument is just the other side of the coin of atheists who use evolution and the Big Bang to ‘disprove’ God. Reducing things to material explanations is no explanation at all, but neither is reducing the supposed almighty to a performer of ‘miraculous’ tricks.

For those who believe, it is enough that they themselves vouch for their belief. But I pose a question: If you are given incontrovertible evidence that what you believe to have happened in history, actually never happened, what becomes of your faith? Your life?

This ‘falsifiability’ test creates a distinction between static (falsifiable/facts-dependent/positivist), and dynamic (non-falsifiable/facts-independent/theoretical) beliefs. And what varies among individuals is what idols they settle for, most of which are derived from mere historical hearsay*.

* “Many a statement made by the founder of a religion was originally meant by him merely as a conscious fiction. But the poverty of language in primitive times, the pleasure derived from short, pregnant, rhetorically effective sentences, and consideration for the less educated, childlike minds of his hearers, led, or rather misled, the founders of religions into expressing in the linguistic form of a dogma what they themselves took only in the sense of a conscious fiction.” – Hans Vaihinger, from ‘The philosophy of ‘as if’’

Friday, March 27, 2015

Why do we need government? To protect us from government of course!

Study central banking, and this caricature ceases to be clever.
Listening to this Peter Joseph critique of Stefan Molyneux helps me understand the problem I have of conveying ideas about the market. The desire for justice, fairness, order, etc. is projected onto the state by default. 

A mythological ‘They’ as savior

Not really the state, but some ‘They’ should be there to fix things, and this privilege goes to those with the illusion of being officially representative of people, and this is perceived as more legitimate than the manner in which non-crony market leaders represent consumer wants.

Politicians as higher species?

All people are flawed, and having a flawed minority elected by flawed voters could not solve the perceived flaws of markets. In fact, political mandate enables the monopoly behavior responsible for such shoddy services perpetuated by the state and carelessly associated with the market.


An overnight abolition of the state without a corresponding better understanding of the implications of coercion on human interactions would just lead to a new replacement state. However, such a hypothetical situation is unhelpful, as in reality, the obsolescence of the state would occur gradually, so much so that government offices won’t suddenly disappear, they would just be too incapacitated to require people to pay for services under pain of imprisonment , and when competitors pop up who can provide such services more satisfactorily, these competitors won’t be shut down. 

In that way, no mass unemployment will occur, services won’t be interrupted by complete industry newbies, and for a long time thereafter people will call ‘the state’ as such even without its primary characteristic of coercive monopoly.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Viral Sto. Niño Parochial School speech NOT about free speech

There is no violation of ‘free speech’ in the viral issue of the salutatorian of Sto. Niño Parochial School being prevented from finishing her speech. It was the (private) school, following its administrative rules, that had a final say on what students were to discuss.

That is not to say that there would not be consequences to the school officials’ refusal to allow the student to say what she wanted to say. It turns out, the issue of alleged cheating that they wanted to cover up has been all the more publicized, and the backlash will take years to undo, if at all.

People are held accountable for a lack of transparency. That is all one could take away from this story. To make this an issue of curtailment of speech is misleading, giving people the idea that they can say whatever they want, regardless of venue and the wishes of those who do have a right to dictate a venue’s purpose. This is no less abusive than government restrictions on the use of private property for expression.

Looking back at Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy

Society, even at a municipal level, is not built by one man. At most, there can be certain figures representative of the prevailing mentalities in a populace. So when we consider the recently late Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, he does not deserve too much of the praise nor of the blame for the emergence of this city-state with its paradoxical mix of free-flowing capital and violently suppressive authoritarianism.

The apparent contradiction between this combination of capitalistic and fascistic forces stems from a disregard of the processes that make for ‘good’ society. For Lee Kuan Yew, and those who submitted to his vision, it was assumed that the discipline required for market players to succeed was reflected in ‘cleanliness,’ even if the latter was imposed by the threat of harsh penalties.

Lee represented, not created, prevailing mentalities

Little thought is given to the (very likely) possibility that Singaporeans gave Lee their consent, to the degree that his values, wrong or right, mirrored theirs. It wasn’t strict prohibitions per se that made for the fabled order and organization of citizens, but rather, these citizens already believed and practiced as Lee decreed.


And in fact, the imposition of petty prohibitions is indicative of Singaporeans’ lifestyles, the dullness and unhealthiness of which make for an inevitable implosion. The strength of the country’s criminal underground is already a sign that this prohibitive mentality is corrupt.

Even though the Singaporean government’s totalitarian practices have not made for a backlash of upheaval, the consequences of rejecting freedom as a means of order must occur.

Free markets > Making money

Singapore is considered a ‘capitalist haven’ mainly because capitalism is associated, inadequately, with money, specifically, international finance. But the country could not quite be considered a ‘free market,’ until people recognize the market as including seemingly trivial consumer choices such as chewing gum.

Sustainable society requires an implicit understanding of markets, not just in the sense of acquiring material goods, but in determining all that one does. A ‘strongman’ can only do so much good to the degree that his subjects welcome the consequences of their free acts, and not by how limited they are in action by him who thinks he knows best.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The two-way test of justice

From Mine is better.
How do you tell if a policy is just or unjust? There’s what I call the two-way test: If you impose a policy on one party, say, ‘greedy profiteers,’ you must also consider imposing a complementary policy on the other party, say, ‘the little guy.’ Turns out, many of the policies we accept as ‘karapat-dapat’ are... not pretty.

1.       If you impose a minimum wage to be paid by an employer, you ought to impose ‘minimum amount of labor’ to be done by an employee. Well, that seems fine, right? People ought to do the jobs they’re paid for. But, is it fair to require a minimum amount of work, or minimum quality of work, under pain of imprisonment and/or fines? Incompetents and people still gaining experience would not just have a hard time finding work, they could be imprisoned. What justice!
2.       If you require stores to allow returns of purchased items, the store should have the same right to demand to return a customer’s money, even if the customer is perfectly satisfied with their purchase. What justice!
3.       If an employer is not allowed to fire an employee at will without a supposed good reason, then an employee should be required to stay in a job even without good reason, however horrendous the working environment and incompatible the job entailed. What justice!
4.       If obsolete industries are protected on the basis of ‘saving our jobs,’ consumers should be required to stick to passé services and technologies, however counterproductive these may be. For example, don’t send mail through your smart phone! Go find an internet café and send your messages through a desktop computer. Or better yet, because internet cafés themselves did replace post offices and libraries, we should be forced to go to these places regardless of their inadequacy relative to the internet. What justice!
5.       If a country can inhibit immigrants from finding work, then other countries should likewise set inhibitions. Say, anti-immigrant sentiment results in regulations contra immigrants seeking employment. These same anti-immigrants should be barred from availing of opportunities abroad, not just jobs of course, but also imported consumer products, outsourced customer service, and vacations. What justice!
6.       If you charge someone for using ‘your’ idea, then, right now, stop whatever you’re doing. Don’t even breathe. Because it’s all been thought of before.* What justice!
7.       Now for the big one. If the state can tax, then anyone can offer a service and demand payment for it. Similarly, if anyone claims the right to determine quality standards, be this the FDA, the SEC, etc., then anyone can claim this same right, however unrealistically high their expectations, and on this basis reprimand those who fail to comply.** What justice!

Positive legislation, when driven to its logical conclusion, is absurd. Under prevailing views of ‘the law,’ unique people with their own various views and preferences are reduced to either ‘have’ and ‘have not’ entities, which determines how society prejudges them.
‘Social justice’ is most dehumanizing, and makes for very arbitrary, and counterproductive, social systems. In connection with this, the only worthwhile legislation seems to be that which repeals previous legislation.

* Looking at it this way, what constitutes ‘intellectual property’ is very arbitrary. The matter boils down to inherently non-conflicting thoughts.
** Sure, everyone wants the highest quality of anything, but to demand this under pain of shutting one’s business down or imprisonment, rather than ensuring the conditions that allow quality products to flourish, e.g. competing quality certifiers, defeats the purpose.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Child abuse and political obedience

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now believe that might makes right.
I’ve occasionally seen the meme that goes: 
“My parents spanked me as a child. As a result I now suffer from a psychological condition known as ‘respect for others’.” 

As undoubtedly disagreeable this would be to most people, I’ve not seen it criticized or commented on much. I’m guessing this has to do with, apart from not wanting to confront friends on Facebook, an inability of people to elaborate their opposition, which they nonetheless feel to be justified. Plus, the mocking irony of the meme might even elicit agreement in those who never thought much about it.

So I came up with the following alternate memes:

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now get what I want 
by imposing my will on the helpless.

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now take my revenge 
on my parents, or failing that, 
on those physically weaker. 
Failing even that, I take it out on myself.

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now submit mindlessly to authority.

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now question no wrong.

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now am politically ignorant.

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now would rather fear, than be free.


Just because fostering discipline in non-adults is difficult, does not mean force is ever an option. Education by putting someone in a position of less power, creates bullies, tyrants and an unthinking herd.

Related article:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The problem in Mindanao, among other places

There are plenty being blamed for the botched arrest of the Marwan dude that resulted in 44 policemen being killed. The president. The police chief. Cabinet members. And of course, the MILF. But there is a more fundamental problem which is, incidentally, related to other social ills.

I am referring to a system that allows a small minority, in the name of ‘the people,’ to acquire and divide spoils. This is a system most tempting and beneficial to those inclined to impose their wills on others.

We grieve for those who, in dealing with threats to society, pay most dearly. In a sense, they die for their country, a country captured by monopoly interests, to be sure, but their country nonetheless. However, the existing monopolization itself creates threats, whether from within, or from those most capable of challenging – and negotiating with – such a monopoly. The people lose out either way.

Mindanao will achieve peace to the degree that this is realized.