Wednesday, December 21, 2011

THE GIFTS OF BEING LIBERTARIAN (CHRISTMAS 2011, PHILIPPINES)


‘Tis the season of gifts. I’m talking about Christmas of course. I thought for this 2011 season to discuss the blessings of my being a libertarian.

But first, let me give credit for this article idea, to Harry Santos of HarryLeaks.blogspot.com. I just hope this doesn’t overshadow his article when he comes around to publishing it!


PRE-RAMBLE

I’m really just a boy from the Philippines who has been awakened to the true nature of government. Perhaps my being libertarian doesn’t make me any happier than others, nor does it make me ‘better’ than others ― although I argue below that some aspects of my character are improved thanks to it. But this newfound awareness is more than just about feeling happy or vain.

Dane Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) differentiated Judaism from Christianity, by pointing out how the former had to do with worldly happiness (bountiful harvests, plenty of sons and daughters, etc.), and the latter was precisely about carrying one’s cross without hope for better days on earth.

Now I think Kierkegaard was a really depressed dude, and I’m all for material prosperity and good social relations, but he makes a good point that his beliefs were to be believed not for any apparent gain but simply because they were right and true, which is how I feel about libertarianism. I could not do otherwise.


GIFT 1: A HUNGRY KID IN AFRICA? NOT MY FAULT

As kids, we were told to finish our meals, because many people in the world are starving.

Read this (opens in new tab) 

for a hilarious The Onion article on hunger! 
We tend to think that the enjoyment of whatever wealth we have is subtracted from other people’s joy. The fact, however, is that poverty in one place is not the effect of prosperity elsewhere; rather, the conditions for prosperity existing elsewhere are not yet established.

The ‘trickle-down effect’ is ridiculed by those who’d like to see government redistribution instead. However, ‘trickle-down’ is a misnomer, implying that, yeah, let’s let the rich folks accumulate more money for themselves, some of it will eventually get to the poor.

Actually, when an entrepreneur or investor gets to keep more of their capital, this makes for jobs and incomes now even though profit for these ‘capitalist pigs’ comes later, if at all. Furthermore, products come into the market, as affordable to the consumer as the production process allows (the more previous savings, the more efficient).

More jobs, more wages, more consumption. Can we really call this system ‘trickle-down’?


GIFT 2: WOW! CAPITALISM

Reese’s Pieces come from these? Fuck yeah!
The last few weeks, I caught the History Channel’s ‘Modern Marvels’ twice. Man, I love that show! Seeing how cola and chocolate come from obscure fruits, and are transformed into their familiar version by a very meticulous and capital-intensive process, and how consumers have an endless variety of products from which to choose, I couldn’t help but raise my fist up high in saluting freedom!

I wouldn’t have as beautiful an appreciation were it not for the time I’ve devoted into studying the ‘boring’ field of economics, free-market economics that is.


GIFT 3: MY EYES HAVE OPENED

In ‘JFK’ (1991), D.A. Jim Garrison’s wife complains that in pursuing the Kennedy murder trial, he has changed. To which Garrison responds:
Of course I’ve changed. My eyes have opened... I had a life too, you know! You can't bury your head in the sand like an ostrich, Liz! It's not about our well-being, our two cars, our TVs and your kitchen! It's about our kids growing up in a shithole of lies. I'm angry! My life is fucked because of it. If you could see it that way, you'd see your life is fucked too.

I’m not quite as deep in shit as Garrison was, but what has happened to me is that I’ve been freed of so much, truly so much, bullshit. Even when facts are accurate, the interpretation of such is likely wrong.

Becoming a libertarian, contradictions cease being contradictions. How is it that being held up by a petty thief is wrong, but being taxed unwillingly by a government, every fucking day, is accepted? But the two instances are both outright theft, I have realized.

All this nonsense dressed up as rhetoric from politicians, who are deluded themselves into believing the stuff that comes out of their mouths. Each time you read from their hack columnists about how climate change caused Typhoon ‘Sendong,’ or how ‘stimulus’ will bring the economy back on track, you’re being fed a lie, or at best, a fallacy.

It’s a liberating feeling, to be among the few who know better, who recognize media for the gag show that it is. This adds to my feeling of being elite, sure, yet please indulge me this, for all the opposition and misunderstanding I encounter.


GIFT 4: APPRECIATING MARKET POPULARITY

I’ve always been a snob when it comes to the arts, specifically music. And because of this elitism, I could very well have become a fascist, thinking that, because the lowest common denominator is crude and shallow, there is a need for Plato’s ‘philosopher-king’ to be in charge, to make the right decisions and thus uplift society.

Top-down approaches to social change never work, I know this now. What’s more, the philosopher-king-dictator is in a quandary as to how to make decisions that are ‘better’ than what the masses would make otherwise.

As Ludwig von Mises said:
The entrepreneur’s [or consumer’s] commercial attitude and activity arises from his position in the economic process and is lost with its disappearance.

To be a genuine music snob, you have to know 
counterpoint. Listen to one of the greatest 
examples of it here (opens in new tab).
No matter how abhorrent commercial trends may be, in music, fashion, food or whatever, this could not be turned around by inflicting coercion on those who don’t know better. A national leader may be of the opinion that the music of J.S. Bach is the supreme intellectual achievement, but does this mean that imposing his preferences by the threat of a gun will bring ‘enlightenment’ to the masses?

If there is a ‘need’ to educate and refine the populace, it does not follow that government is the institution to do it. In fact, people should be educated precisely about the dangers of government.


GIFT 5: NOT BEING AS MUCH OF A JERK

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ECONOMIC CALCULATION AND WHY YOU CAN’T THINK OF WHAT TO GIVE THIS CHRISTMAS (PHILIPPINES 2011)


Check out this article for some really awful gift ideas!

The past two days saw me wandering around the mall. I still have yet to buy gifts for two members of my family. Awhile ago, in desperation, my mind turned to the great economist Ludwig von Mises.

In his 1920 essay ‘Economic calculation and the socialist commonwealth,’ Mises forever refuted the possibility of the state ever allocating economic resources in any meaningful way, apart from what remains of markets, where individual preferences manifest via prices.


“WHAT WOULD HE/SHE WANT?”

As a child, Ludwig von Mises never got 
what he wanted from Santa. 

This would one day lead him to his 

economic calculation argument 
against state control of resources, 
i.e. socialism.
I applied this theory to my attempts at shopping: The reason it’s so difficult to buy gifts that are genuinely appreciated by the beneficiary (i.e. apart from counting ‘the thought’) is because the gift-giver is pretending to know what another person wants, even though the person who best knows is the beneficiary themselves!

Sure there are some successes in gift-giving, where you buy something that the person hadn’t quite come to buy themselves yet. Or you might have access to the gift that the person doesn’t. Or you might have more money. Or something.

But by and large, people have to settle for token gifts, or gifts that could have been better chosen in some way or another. This is why I am proposing a new system to the whole gift-giving process.


MY PROPOSAL

Instead of giving gifts, it would be better for each individual to list down people to whom they would normally give gifts. Let’s say you’re able to think of 10 people. Next, list down things that YOU would like to receive.

If you buy all these things, in the name of your friends and family, you’ll be a more satisfied recipient, won’t you? And if everyone does this, people would be a happier bunch at Christmas!
“Alright! Just what I wanted!”


WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN?

Of course, kids are usually economically deficient, and would be ‘lugi’ in this new system, unless their parents/guardians tell them:
“Fuck surprises; come with me to the store and choose what you want among all the toys around.”


FINAL HIRIT

Sure I’m being slightly ironic here, but there’s a lesson to be gleaned: if it’s hard enough to look for gifts for people you know, how much more difficult, nay, disastrous is it for vote-seeking bureaucrats to satisfy the people.