Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hammett and Me

It's always fun to talk about Dashiell Hammett. Nick and Nora Charles were his finest creation. If it weren't for the sparkling Depression-era magic of Nick and Nora (The Thin Man), their cocktail parties and speakeasies, deluxe hotel suites and inherited wealth, there'd be no Chris and Peachy. I got lucky in life several times, enjoyed every minute of first class accommodation, fine restaurants and nightclubs.

Of course, Hammett was a far superior writer. That doesn't bother me. Happy to write my little adventures, a modern tale of wealth and privilege, which are not interchangeable or synonymous. The privilege in question is daring, buckets of it, personal and professional. Having money is a curse or blessing, depending on the circumstances. In my third novel of Chris and Peachy, money blows up in their faces. Won't have any in the end, flat broke, except for a beach house and an office on Sunset Boulevard. If they want to eat and drink, they'll have to go back to work as private investigators for hire, a fourth book for sure.

Last night I agreed with Cass, bemoaned my overly honest mansplaining of sexuality. It was natural to use the first person voice, a tradition of hardboiled "dicks" (take that any way you like, it's a convention of the genre to use that truncation; police detectives are "bulls"). It's a manly occupation, despite Hollywood's insistence that goofballs and OCD pooftahs can do just as well. Not true. Detectives deal in life and death, carry a gun for specific reasons.

Finally found Chris a really cool weapon, a compact SIG P320, low recoil 9x19mm, no safety, just draw and shoot. Peachy's Ruger is the sort of weapon a girl would like -- well, a girl who likewise knows no compunction about killing in self-defense or slightly ahead of the curve. People like this exist. They're difficult to get along with, unless they ignore you.

Great fun writing. Also heartbreaking, thrilling, fearful, tender, and sexy. Fifteen years ago, I had to explain without blushing that I was a modern Jefferson (never mind why). Now, it's Dashiell Hammett, an infinitely easier job :) that seems to take infinitely more time, over a year so far -- writing every day, seven days a week, hammering hard men and healthy women on the page, whether it sells or not. I expect to be banned altogether. Something amusingly noble about that, when you think about it, guilty of thought crime.

Wilda knew. "You've had sex before," she remarked, after reading A Portrait of Valor. Yup. It had to be honest, if I was to remain faithful to who Chris and Peachy were, especially Chris, a Marine Corps officer, war hero, tough guy, proud to be a man. Not overly bright but a man of action -- a far better man than I happen to be, which is the privilege of an author, to project an ideal character, someone worthy of the days and weeks and months it takes to breathe life into fiction. People don't do this for drippy shit that meanders like a slow sewer, says nothing about life on life's terms, what men want from women and are willing to fight for, if they must. Anything worth having involves fighting for it, sooner or later.

https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Peachy-Files-Cable-Blount/dp/197392630X

Friday, August 11, 2017

Never loved?

I've been wanted, craved, needed -- uniformly with buyer's remorse later -- but I don't recall being loved, except perhaps by my mother. She would smile shyly and happily whenever we were together, often laughed when I smiled in reply or said something silly to amuse her.

Puzzles the heck out of me. Janet loved me, but we were only 14 and it was cloying. I was too young to be loved -- excuse me, too vain and stupid, because I sent Janet away, told her that I didn't want to go steady. I believe it was the only time that a girl loved me. Had I stayed with her, my life would have been vastly different, far less crazy and reckless and idiotic -- in view of which I'm glad that lovely, innocent Janet escaped my initial senseless march to perdition as a teenager that commenced shortly after I told her we were quits.

Now I'm old and unloved, too ugly to expect any tenderness. Too evil to accept expressions of good wishes or long distance warmth. I adore women, always easy for me to partner them one way or another, to the extent that they find themselves drawn. Smart ones back away, thinking of Mary Lou in particular but not uniquely. Many women are sharp enough to want money and control. I was impossible to control, chronically broke, easily bored.

For those reasons I was almost always pleased to be married. Whether I was fit to be married is a separate question. Some wives made my life easier than others, but it was never easy for them. My best behavior was in short supply, and all four wives often made uneasy sacrifices to patch me up before, during, and after a disaster or two. Queenie stuck like glue through thick and thin, until I betrayed her. Bizarrely, she still feels some sort of admiration for me, while simultaneously blowing a raspberry of ridicule, because she knows how fragile I am. "Unfit to survive," she casually remarked in a recent email.

True enough. I was unloved and unlovable because I'm substandard, approximately half a man. Two of me pasted together might equal a normal person. I was a major chick magnet, but women soon saw how little I could do in the world. They tried to help me, then became frustrated, worried, resentful and disgusted.

It is impossible to help an artist, fumbling his way to perdition.

Why it had to be and continues to be hell is inexplicable. In fairness to the Fair Sex, it was equally painful for men to befriend me. They learned to say little and buy me a beer, have a meal together, no further artistic or financial business to transact. I praised and encouraged everyone in my life. They seldom believed that I meant it, although it was never a lie. I knew how hard it was to create something. It was easy and natural to see goodness in others, even if they were lightyears away from me, like stars in the night sky that I enjoyed and respected. I saw hundreds of them. My life was rich with stars of stage, screen, music, science, law, and the written word -- supremely talented people who achieved things I couldn't. I was a lowly director, a "plumber" as the bombastic Canadian producer scoffed, before he fired me. I was fired many times, humiliated in tabloids, blackballed at Warner, kneecapped by Columbia.

A failed director. Only half a man, remember?

The remnant of the half is now writing. Slight misstatement. I've been writing for as long as I can remember. Perhaps less awkwardly now, after 20 years of doing little else. Yet it's there in every breath and every dream when I sleep -- the deep, unquenchable thirst to direct, to paint the screen with the talent of others in front of and behind the camera. I learned to not do technical jobs, because other men are better with cameras, sound, and editing keystrokes. The only thing I can do is to direct -- and to do it, I need support staff, restaurants, hotel linen, retakes and leisure to change my mind, to see something else that asks everyone to attempt the bizarre, difficult, unlikely, often the impossible.

Now at the height of my powers, nothing has changed. Unwanted and unloved, I paint the page with the bizarre, difficult, unlikely, often the impossible and slanderous. I had to write a letter of apology to an honored friend because I lampooned the Bureau. Other friends turned two blind eyes, cheerfully bought a book that they won't read, to encourage me. Perhaps one man sees value in my work. Single digit sales are an echo of the past, films never exhibited.

Bottom line: If you have talent, any size or shape, fight for it and never quit, right or wrong, loved or unloved, until your life is ended. Artists only get one shot at life. Live as fully and freely as possible, price no object.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Reply to Clifton Knox

Clifton:

"intellectual property"
Broadly consists of three types: patents, copyrights/trademarks, and trade secrets, the first two of which are granted and enforced by the state, the third defended by employment covenants and nondisclosure/noncompete contracts backed by civil litigation. Coupled with the proposition that "Ownership is a type of ethical system," it is implied that you view the state as ethically justified. That's debatable, and I'll address it later after reading the entire document. For now, I'll quote two items I think you should consider:

Sadly, a moral principle never reaches beyond itself. Its ethical arms are too short, extending no farther than one man's soul, one man's purpose and lifespan. We have to look elsewhere for political guidance, because the thing at issue is "a nation of laws and not of men." [Laissez Faire Law, p.42]

The philosophy of law is a separate branch of science, independent of ethics. Moral inquiry pertains specifically to the interests, powers, and dilemmas of an individual, epitomized by the question: "What shall I do?" Legal philosophy addresses impersonal administration of public justice, litigation among parties in dispute, the combined might of a community, and custodial guardianship of certain individuals who are unable or legally prohibited to conduct their own affairs. [The Constitution of Government in Galt's Gulch, p.121]



"The argument is as follows: abstract boundaries define all property. Abstract boundaries are ideas which require moral agreement."
I believe this is erroneous twice. I owned fenced land that was defined by measurement from legally found benchmarks derived from sections, county boundaries, state boundaries, national legislation, U.S. Constitution, and (ultimately) taxation, public finance, and military strength to defend the integrity of territorial claims. Such physical boundaries are creatures of the state, right or wrong morally. The abstraction, if any, is ascribing to government police power a moral consensus that does not exist and never has.

re Locke
It is vain to advance a philosophical argument pertaining to natural rights, expressed for instance in the Declaration of Independence. I trust that you're aware it became a dead letter with ratification of the U.S. Constitution by an extremely small plurality among the 20% of colonial Americans who were eligible to vote for state politicians -- a landed minority elected by a landed minority. After the Civil War, it became settled law that Congress was uniquely entitled to define "the general welfare" and property claims of all kinds, without considering Locke, the Founders, or anything other than majority rule. Helvering v Davis, 301 U.S. 619

"In all arguments, self-ownership must be assumed"
Even in the abstract I think this is false. I'm sorry to be quarrelsome, and I trust you'll merely reflect that there are reasonable arguments for interests other than self-ownership as a first principle.

"all men act in favor of their own individual evaluation of what might serve to maximize their own personal well-being"
Patently false. It is not descriptive of history or the preponderent social mood.

"each person has property in their body as an abstract moral matter"
Agreed. The crucial question is liberty, not property.

"scarcity is no longer valid as the sole determining factor"
Sorry. You contradict yourself here. Individual life is scarce; only one. In a broader context, liberty is so scarce historically and likewise in the current state that it is impossible to say with certainty whether it exists at all, except in a defacto and unenforceable anarchy that the state cannot control.

 “The moral concepts of ownership rests upon belief."
Absurd.

"rules of just and moral ownership must be agreed upon mutually and in advance"
Sigh. You say it must be so, yet never was in history and cannot be so. I wonder if you've read Madison's Federalist No. 10, that there are contending classes, landed and propertyless, and that government must be framed to balance and frustrate such interests, to deny domination by a single faction actuated by self-serving advantage.

"boundaries are ideas"
My fences are physical boundaries, defended in the first instance by vigilance and ultimately by a gun. In the context of life on life's terms in the city, boundaries are defended by locks, concrete walls, vaults, alarms, thousands of sworn LEOs and thousands of armed guards.

"a person owns his or her body in all moments through time"

An empty statement, a truism at best; patently false in the current state. I wonder if you know anything at all about the police power? (legislation, regulation, zoning, taxes)

"Labor is the most scarce of all primary means of production"
Categorically false. Capital is scarce, not labor -- not even the labor of a single genius.

"If a person were to move onto a piece of never settled land"
Irrelevant to the developed world. Even in Locke's time, it was a cruel nonsense to justify colonial conquests and expropriation.

"why is it not ethical to homestead intellectual property which is wholly abstract and is formed from abstract boundaries as well?"
I freely grant that you (any sentient being) have an absolute moral right to spend your time and talent to achieve whatever may be possible, with or without state power.

"Ownership itself is strictly a moral idea which must be seen as a means of governing the relationships and interactions between humans. It derives its usefulness from its ability to resolve conflicts."
I hope you reconsider the rights of children. As a student of philosophy, my most cherished mentor was the former chairman of the Dept. of Philosophy at the Univ. of Wisconsin, a truly wonderful man who gave me a single problem to address: The rights of children. I've written on the subject many times, but I am also a parent, charged with the custody of my daughter, not exclusively, but in combination with my wife and (however incompetent) the state. We have endeavored to protect our child from debilitation by the state, and more than others, we have succeeded in that duty. See it as such, I implore you, that parenthood is a duty. On the question of conflict resolution, I cannot share your enthusiasm for abstract law -- and I say that as an experienced legal actor and corporate counsel, intimately familiar with equity and common law. I warrant that parties do not come willingly to resolve a conflict. Never.

re Kinsella
Fucking idiot, never had a shred of respect for him.

"As more of a good is used, the marginal benefit diminishes."
What you want here is Hermann Heinrich Gossen's theory of diminishing returns; satiety. Marginal utilitarianism is the whole of modern statecraft, following Bentham, Mill, and the Fabians. Wrong crowd to follow if you care about individual life and liberty.

"Cwik points out quite adeptly the example of crude oil. On the market today, oil is a high demand resource with limited availability and limited reserves. Thus, oil is a perfect example of a so-called ‘scarce’ resource. However, it was not always scarce. For example, today oil is a scarce good. However, several centuries ago, not only was oil, not an economic good, it was an 'economic bad.' If oil were to come bubbling up from the ground, it could destroy one’s crops and result in the starvation of one’s family."
-- as would a tornado or drought. I have 15 years of experience in the Oil Patch internationally, fully appraised of the domestic market. There is not a single well anywhere on earth that's drilled or produced without government license and regulation. You really need to bone up on the police power, or at least take a gander at supply and demand with respect to the price of oil. Supply is nothing. Demand is everything in oil.

"researchers, artists, and writers must eat food to survive while they work to produce new inventions or original works"
I am intimately familiar with this problem. Original works are not automatically a source of wealth. I can show you a long list of screenplays, novels, inventions, and valid business ideas that found no market, primarily for competitive reasons and market dominance by persons and institutions hostile to new ideas ("not invented here").

"Ownership is an ethical system specifically for helping individuals to self-govern"
Again, I'm happy to acknowledge that each person is morally free to act as he thinks best. It does not translate into law, does not reflect history or the current state of affairs.

"All property then must be considered intellectual"
There are many who are propertied and have the intellectual depth of a toad.

"Communists hold that all men own property communally"
Attacking a straw man achieves nothing. You might as well argue that fascists like Hitler deprived people of their lives and property, as did FDR, and so too George W. Bush waging discretionary war in Iraq to seize their oil fields and benefit Israel. Vietnamese nationalists led by Ho Chi Minh cited our Declaration of Independence as natural rights justification for rebelling against French colonial rule, asked for U.S. support. Fact.

"A person is free to exercise any and all actions that benefit the owner up and to the point where it infringes negatively on the ownership of others"
You don't need Cwik to expound negative rights. Easily the most common shibboleth of the libertarian creed, summarized in Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). It fails for two reasons. First, it is a utilitarian proposition lacking substance, says nothing about liberty beyond an artificial equality of persons, any and all, stupid and brilliant, frightened or confident. And worse: NAP is the death knell of all legal inquiry, due process and reasoned adjudication.

" little is known about the effects of copyright protection on innovation and creativity"
Rubbish.

"objects in the world present themselves as either merely ‘present at hand’ or useful"
Subjectivism does not advance your claim of property rights. Gives screwballs and mystics equal standing, defeats rational inquiry.

"One may observe with any level of scrutiny to discern the 'property-ness' of an object and will fail to find it. The only place one may look to discover if a thing is property is within the mind of an individual."
I very sincerely regret that you elected to say that. Might as well say that lawful possession is a mental phenomenon unrelated to documentary evidence and law enforcement; that all medicine is an act of imagination, no anatomy or product labels involved; that anaesthesia and sterile surgery are all in the mind of the patient and doctors, no recourse to fact.

"the rules of ownership which establish the notion of 'property-ness' require collective agreement"
Now you have surrendered to the mob. What the fuck?

"Ownership is a moral idea"
Listen carefully. An assertion is not an argument.

"ownership of intellectual property must be considered moral and just as well, regardless of the morality of any given legal system"
I can understand that you want to assert a moral claim. I'm in favor of morality, particularly in the personal exercise of liberty, often in rebellion against or apart from mob rule expressed in social customs, legislation, and brute power of overwhelming force, whether criminal or "patriotic." There is no moral dimension in obedience, except as default evil, the cowardice of going along to get along, practically the whole of human history in a nutshell.

Personal note: I moved my family to the Missouri Ozarks a couple years ago. Perhaps you can understand why. No building permits. Salt of the earth neighbors. Well established property lines, volunteer fire department, coop electric utility, very little government.

-------------------------------------------------
COMMENT SECTION:

"People must be free to determine the conditions under which they live"
Floating abstraction. What people? Vote to enslave negroes? Vote to give negroes endless free shit like food, shelter, transportation, education? Tax de rich till theys rich no mo!

"People tend to extend certain rights to other people that they wish for themselves"
Mistaken notion, a fact not in evidence, not even in the Ozarks. Crime is crime. Child abuse is child abuse. You can't win by claiming universal concordance and fair play.

"people must be free to set up private legal/arbitration/guild/union systems"
Dear God, another assertion. What people? A fucking medieval guild? Closed shops and tyranny by union boss? Failing grade for stupidity.

"enforce IP just like financial institutions enforce commercial contracts"
Nothing happens without the state to enforce contracts.

"You cannot get loans from creditors when you engage in negative behavior with financial products."
Nor can you get loans if you have no assets, are disabled, born stupid, unemployed. Nor is property created by finance. Perhaps you don't know how new industrial projects or IP are funded. Has nothing to do with loans or financial products of any kind.

"a rivalrous good is one that can only be used or consumed by one person at a time"
I am so sorry you have been seduced by concepts like this. Whether we like it or not, all men are rivals in life, for property, women, children, market share, prestige, self-esteem and praise. Some flip into religious fervor because they can't get any traction in gainful activity, have to bullshit for a living, suck pennies from frightened sheep. Popes and bishops did more to harm humanity than armies of conquest, and Islam threatens peace like no other quack creed in history -- for a reason that will never be ameliorated -- threatened to the core by their cultural and intellectual inferiority as primitives, little better than African savages.

"private property owners must consider and obey to a great extent the particular views/culture of the society he lives in. They can not simply start enslaving people"
Echoes Machiavelli, the reigning prince must not to anything to undermine the confidence and loyalty of his subjects. The current state is a colossal clusterfuck, endless entitlements, unsustainable pledges worldwide for the unearned benefit of other nations and world trade that does not benefit any American industry or entrepreneur or average US household. We have voted ourselves onto an irredeemable gravy train of bread and circuses, all enslaved to the laughable proposition that interest rates will remain at zero forever and there will never be a day of reckoning.

"There are some basic circumstances which dictate much of human behavior. These do not change. However, my position is that once the land and property have been obtained by one set of rules in society, that society may not return and remove the property simply by creating a new round of rules."
In some abstract realm of morality, right? -- not at all what happened since the Civil War, certainly not what happened since 1965 civil rights legislation, modern affirmative action quotas, socialist mandates and penalties, eminent domain, asset forfeitures, 50% taxation, and a total of 40% GDP drained by federal, state and local payola to public workers, public contractors, public welfare, compulsory public education, and consensus that defines moral obligation as forced surrender of private property to the state, to advance the public good.

"what society entitles an individual to today cannot just be confiscated tomorrow unless the person is willing to go along with the confiscation"
What planet do you live on? The nation is divided irreconcilably, balanced on a knife edge between confused conservatives and hysterical Marxist looters -- conservatives unwilling to stand like men, say fuck you, we're going to cut government spending. They're cowards. Do you have any idea of what happened in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mexico? Expropriation.

"If this guy is a neighbor of yours this means that he is a member of the same society, i.e. you have a shared moral code."
I am appalled that you think this is true.

an orderly society absent the state
Finally you say it. Belongs in the first paragraph of the paper, not hidden in a comment. It demolishes everything you argued and explains why you want a moral consensus. You have invented nothing. Remove yourself from authorial voice, do properly neutral scholarship. George H. Smith does it, one of the most boring people you can read, CATO buffoon. Expert on everything libertarian and atheist and anarchist. Zero original contribution of thought.

"The first rule must be that coercion is not allowed."
You and I are done. It turns out that you don't care what the state does or doesn't do, because it is coercive by nature. Like communists, you'd sign off on an ideal government that did what you wished it to do -- despite what anyone else wants -- because you think morality trumps the rule of law.

I doubt you know what 'the rule of law' means. Has nothing to do with votes, or elections, or legislation, or political appointment of judges. It predates the Constitution and the Declaration of 1776. Try Magna Carta, 1215 A.D. Eight centuries of precedent, implicit in everything you think you know about property, orderly society, shared hope of justice.

Sigh.

Thirty years ago I exchanged correspondence with Milton Freidman who, at the time, was at the Hoover Institution. I alerted him to a set of ominous trends, and Dr. Friedman assured me all was well, because the rate of increasing debt was more or less in line with growth. Here is what happened instead --



 State, Local, Federal, and Government Agency debt, in trillions, over 200% of U.S. GDP
(does not include household, commercial, corporate debt, unfunded entitlements, interest)

Friedman was wrong and I was right. Worse, Friedman made a personal appearance at an ISIL conference sponsored by Laissez Faire City when I was LFC's poet in residence. Friedman said Fabianism was "an old worn-out philosophy" that would yield to libertarian principles (NAP).

Do  you know what Fabianism is? -- municipal water, sewer, and electricity -- multiplied by Carter and Clinton and Obama to include guaranteed mortgage lending and free health care.
Freidman was wrong twice. Think about it.

Do not address me as if I was a fellow student.
Do not reiterate or explain anything.
You did not pass the examination.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Superior Race

Sunni Maravillosa made the remark years ago that she was "vaguely aware" of who Wolf DeVoon was, because we were both published by the same weekly webzine, along with Pierre Lemieux, Tibor Machan, Objectivist renegade Billy Beck, and many others.

I mention it because I was "vaguely aware" of who Ilana Mercer was, until I began to poke around on Facebook recently. I was delighted to discover that she has the gift of sparkling speech, and it prompted me to search for video, to hear what Mercer sounded like. She was fascinating in several respects. I felt like I had part of my brain removed, and I'm not entirely certain that I could hold my own with Mercer in a debate. Ann Coulter? -- no problem -- but the mercurial rabbi's daughter from South Africa > Israel > Canada, who advertises herself as "paleolibertarian" in line with Walter Block and the Auburn mafia led by Lew Rockwell, is a force of nature, as spectacular as a midsummer lightning storm.

I agree with much of what Ilana Mercer thinks and says in print or video. However, she made a podcast remark that went past the pale and drew blood. I don't doubt that it was offered as honest recitation of fact, but it deserves to be discussed. Explaining why all of George Bush's neocon foreign policy advisers were Jewish (Wolfowitz, Pearle, etc) the magnetic Mercer was unruffled, said that Jews held prominent roles in government and other fields because Jews are superior beings. Forgive me if I failed to quote her exactly, but Jewish superiority came through loud and clear to my simple goy ears.

As an admirer of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, okay, I can roll with it an inch or two. Jewish heretic Baruch Spinoza gave me a moral commandment that should be chiseled in stone: "All things noble are as difficult as they as rare."

But that's it. Everything else Jews have done in America has led to ruinous pain, especially in foreign policy, monetary policy, investment banking, psychiatry, publishing, conservative talk radio, network television, and filmed entertainment (my special area of interest).

I don't doubt that Jews are superior beings. Prof. Joseph Juhasz gaily pointed to the fact that practical engineering of atomic weapons was done entirely by Hungarian Jews -- "the Chosen People," he explained. Not making it up, Joe said it to me and meant it.

Ashkenazi Jews score higher than Asians on IQ tests, top of the food chain intellectually. They are clustered in New York, Philadelphia, and Hollywood, deciding who works in showbiz, who gets published, and who doesn't. There is a pipeline from Mossad to CIA, Congress, NSC and the White House. Israel sets our foreign policy. Krugman and Krauthammer are superstars.

As a descendant of Prussian-French blockheads, I have a difficult time holding my own with sparky Jews. It took me forever to divine a simple proposition: "Justice is the armed defense of innocent liberty." Not a hope in hell it will undo the damage done by Rawls and Rothbard. I've taken it on board that my work cuts no ice, sells no books, and will die when I do.

That's fine, no problem. But what Jews did to Hollywood is unforgivable.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Ugly Side of Anarchy

Conservatives are alternately disgusted and worried about young "anarchists" throwing rocks at cops in Berkeley and Portland. That's small potatoes, not a big problem.

The narcotics threat is infinitely worse. It took a strike force of 600 Feds and local crime units to round up 60 hard guys who were paid-up members of the East Coast Crips network, most of them wanted for serious felonies, connected to a NY prison gang. Multiply that by 20 states minimum, thousands of killers still at large, coast to coast. Add MS-13 and five or six Mexican cartels. There may be as many as 100,000 dangerous men on our streets, armed to the teeth, cash flow positive from drug dealing. They have a million retail customers, each of whom has to commit petty crime to fix an addict's craving to get high, or at least stave off the nightmare of withdrawl another day or two. Maybe another million are involved in the meth scene and widely-prescribed pharmaceutical opiates, some reckless morons using both.

It's difficult to estimate the number of Americans who smoke pot, maybe 20 million. These geriatric gentlefolk are easy meat for the DEA, but harder to find and not much of a public threat. Ditto millions of drunks, most of whom are employed, driving buzzed and texting a pal for laughs. Add them all together -- hardened gangsters and addled dopes -- it's perhaps 33 million (10% of U.S. population) on the wrong side of criminal law and sobriety. The impact on women and children is horrible. They suffer grievous harm financially, psychologically, and often physically. Many are destined to become permanent wards of the state.

That's not the BIG problem -- however awful drug and alcohol abuse are.

We're dumbing down the next generation at an alarming rate, a combination of "education" in American schools and endless waves of obscenity in mass media, digital connectivity, and propaganda emanating from public servants and political operatives. Many tens of millions have been hosed with hate. Their children are being raised with the conviction that America is fundamentally evil, by reason of our (somewhat) free market in finance and (somewhat) splendid military strength. Folks are apt to over-estimate how strong we are in reality. Seven of our ten aircraft carrier strike groups are in port for repairs. The Air Force is flying antique fighters and tankers. We need replacement equipment and new recruits for a U.S. Army that did too much with too little money. There are never enough Marines.

Americans are confused about who's doing what to who, specifically with respect to politics and retail democracy. Foreign powers have little impact on us. Hollywood and New York are homegrown threats to the general welfare and domestic tranquility, broadcasting evil day and night, 24/7/365. It doesn't matter whether the sauce de jour is Donald Trump, or a college sport gab fest, or the latest excuse to get high on big screen "entertainment," or crime news, sanitized to conceal a one-sided race war that's decidedly obvious and that no one wants to discuss. Much easier to feel wronged by law enforcement, courageous people who put their lives on the line to defend us, an increasingly impossible duty. It escapes notice that cops are hamstrung by paperwork and due process, spend much of their time testifying in court after a lonely shift answering calls for domestic battery, directing traffic around a car accident, while deeply worried about stopping a stolen car because odds are they'll have to kill or be killed. The life of an LEO is nonstop horror and boredom, dealing with drunks and dead babies, gang wars, raving lunatics, theft, shoplifting, fistfights, stabbings, and noise complaints.

It's important to understand that cops and U.S. military are few, about two million -- vastly outnumbered by bureaucrats, government contractors, public school teachers, doctors and nurses poorly compensated by Medicaid, Medicare, and VA appropriations. We have more postal workers than cops, a larger army of municipal garbage collectors and janitors than soldiers and sailors and airmen. Public service comprises about 40% of economic activity, if you count all the IT people involved in making government more complicated and expensive than it otherwise might be.

Does all this government achieve anything?

Yes and no. Compliance with regulations and tax accounting kills American jobs, makes us dependent on China for cheap goods, reliant on imported oil and foreign bondholders. It's nice to be "the cleanest dirty shirt" of global finance, to cover our endless stream of public borrowing and government largesse. As goofy as it sounds, U.S. Treasury instruments are considered good collateral that can be rehypothecated and leveraged, employing thousands of traders who get to skim a nice seven-figure annual income, come what may, from "dark pools" of derivatives estimated at $1 quadrillion in notional value. Hard to grasp that it's all built on Treasury debt that cannot be retired and keeps growing in size, not including our unfunded entitlement problem and a hopelessly bloated Federal Reserve balance sheet.

The positive aspect of fat U.S. federal, state, and local spending is an illusion of Normalcy, some success in assuring the American people that cops and firemen will respond when you need them to clean up a relatively small tragedy. National Guard part-time citizen soldiers can be deployed to deal with big problems, hurricane, flood, or race riots. The government is ready to handle a lot of pain, albeit too little too late to save anyone's life or property.

Does it make sense to spend 40% of our productive output on government?  Oops, that's the wrong question. It's a fiction of economic theory that government spending is a component of notional Gross Domestic Product. In reality, the private sector (60% of GDP) is 100% of our productive output -- and even that's exaggerated by incomes paid to finance, insurance, and real estate scalpers. So, productive work struggles to carry the "sterile" half of GDP -- and fails to cover the total cost of lavish bureaucracy and entitlement payola. That's why government has to be deficit financed, issuing more and more debt each fiscal year. States and localities are caught in the same trap. Higher taxes kill job creation, put more people out of work.

All perfectly dire, no way to turn back the clock and put government on a diet -- however, that's not the worst of our troubles. American liberty (anarchy) is a widely spread fabric of American culture, shared by federal, state, and local government workers, because they too are private citizens just like us, determined to be as free as possible in the direction of their lives, who to marry, which home to buy, how to feed and clothe and amuse their kids. They get sick, visit the doctor, attend churches and support charities, mow the lawn, no different than anyone else. Working for a government agency doesn't make someone less anarchist or more responsible at home. They drink. They watch TV and binge on chili cheese nachos.

THE UGLY TRUTH

The fundamental problem with American anarchy, all of it, from career criminals to the cops who try to stop bad guys, is our universal displeasure in facing facts. We became addicted to flattery, brainless amusements, and sleepy indifference to American history.

Let's discuss flattery first. DId you invent iron smelting, steelmaking, internal combustion, interchangeable parts, mass production, fractional distillation, and ten thousand other ideas that put an affordable vehicle in your driveway? -- nope. Did you invent radio, television, semiconductors, digital processors, packet switching, or liquid crystals?  -- nope. Most of the stuff we use in daily life was an international effort involving basic science and industrial technology that evolved over centuries of trial and error, capitalism, competition, and wars for possession of raw material, especially oil, rubber, copper, bauxite, magnesium, nickel, zinc, titanium, etc. Wars were fought over food and water, fruit, transportation corridors, religions, and something as stupid as animal pelts. You stand on the shoulders and buried corpses of hundreds of millions of warriors, thousands of scientists, tens of thousands of crackpot inventors and ruthless stock market frauds. It's still happening today, stock market manipulation in particular. Pensions and individual investors are going to be kneecapped again, depend on it. There is a quiet trade war underway for scarce rare earth metals. Your individual contribution to prosperity is zero, no matter what your job, and the purchasing power of a buck is subject to change without notice. Not that long ago a "buck" was the skin of a male deer. Doe skins were "half a buck." Could you feed yourself without the grocery store supply chain, mechanized agriculture, and imported oil? Don't flatter yourself.

Brainless amusements are so thoroughly familiar and comfy that it's almost impossible to imagine life without pro sports, movies, TV, digital games, smart phones, and social media. None of it is necessary (like food and water and sanitation are). None of it makes you any smarter or wiser. Without advertising, it all collapses, and advertising is the first thing to go in a deep recession. Same thing with higher education. A degree in sociology or urban planning is worthless if the public purse snaps shut. Folks have lost sight of what the "business cycle" and "reversion to the mean" imply for discretionary spending on Star Trek conventions, binge viewing, multiplayer fantasy warfare, gay nightclubs, and elective cosmetic surgery. You are one paycheck from losing that leased Camaro or F-150. Government jobs have a little more security, but fun and games vanish for everybody in a deep recession.

That's why American history matters. We're living in an era very similar to the Roaring 20s, or rather at the end of it, fantastically inflated market values. Uber has never made a penny of profit, and they burned through $4 billion. Same thing with Amazon, microscopic margin and loaded with unpayable debt. Ditto shale drillers, automobile manufacturers, airlines, casual dining, department stores, malls and specialty retailers. Most gas stations are independently owned no matter what the sign says in front, and they squeak by on convenience store sales of cold beer, overpriced potato chips, cigarettes, lottery tickets, and watery fountain drinks. A big dip in sales (or a flash mob of looters) would be enough to shut their doors and turn off the gas pumps, lay off the minimum wage staff. Same thing at McDonald's and Burger King, barely profitable with bargain menus during boom times, unsustainable in a crash.

The last time we had a serious recession was NOT in living memory, unless you're 100 years old, which means you were 11 or 12 years old when the market crashed in 1929, old enough to understand and remember. For the rest of us, it's a question of American history. The crash was an overture to ten years of truly awful widespread poverty and hunger. Maybe we're in a different situation today? -- okay, maybe -- but I'll remind you that the Great Depression was the cause of worldwide war, which sounds particular terrifying today because so many nutso dictatorships have (or can easily obtain) nuclear weapons.

So. The ugly side of anarchy is not so much what might happen next, but rather how we got ourselves into this mess. Americans voted for bread and circuses. No one forced it on you. We became accustomed to the best of everything, available for the asking. You don't even have to work at a job. Crime pays. Social Security pays and Medicare pays. SNAP and welfare benefits pay. I hope you know that 2/3 of federal spending is mandatory "entitlements" that can't be cut without public outrage, instantly voting into office a socialist Congress to spend and borrow our way back to the American Daydream in defiance of reality -- because a bad recession at home means economic disasters abroad. Foreign bondholders will cash in their enormous stack of Treasury bonds, while we're trying to sell more. It's a solid concrete barrier to sustained or increased domestic spending to fend off pain during a recession.

What to do about it is simple. Use your liberty to prepare, and for heaven's sake please stop watching television and bitching about Donald Trump. He had nothing to do with LBJ's Great Society, Carter's Community Redevelopment Act, or Obamacare and expanded Medicaid. It is undeniably likely that a crisis will bring another silver-tongued FDR to power, so watch out for bank holidays and public works programs, defunding military strength and readiness.

And worse, the 1930s multiplied gangsters, armed with machine guns, paying graft to cops and Democrat political bosses. Bad idea to relocate to Chicago or Philadelphia now. Detroit is already destroyed. Baltimore is next, no crisis required, and I worry about Newark, Queens, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Laws of Nature and Nature's God

It was wonderful to be born in the United States, and like most kids of my generation I said the Pledge of Allegiance in school, one Nation under God. I was compelled to attend Sunday School and catechism class in order to be confirmed in a Protestant church, more or less in the tradition of the Founding Fathers. My education pertaining to the American Revolution was idealized, a Declaration of Independence and Washington crossing the Delaware.

Later in life it became interesting and important to study everything more closely. Pilgrims purchased slaves and captured Indians to trade for more slaves. The Revolutionary War was a financial and political disaster. Everything the Founders did turned to crap, especially in the Federal Convention of 1787. Supreme Court decisions went from bad to worse, decreeing that Indians were in a permanent condition of pupilage and Negroes were inhuman. It led to Civil War with nearly a million casualties; cost five times the GNP of 1860. Worthless paper money, income tax, wars to grab territory and force trade, domestic regulation of commerce and power to compel obedience in matters of private life all flowed from the Civil War.

I made a special study of the Gilded Age. Railroads were financed with European loans and a ludicrous "curb market" for worthless securities. Conspiracies of money and corrupt politics opened the door to another bout of civil war, pitting farmers against bankers, consumers vs. producers. The Supreme Court held that the police power of Congress was an unlimited writ of arbitrary will. Regulatory agencies bloomed, liberty ring-fenced and strangled.

It's not unnatural to seek the genesis of that result. I came to see that it was one phrase in the Declaration of Independence, "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God" that entitled us to form a government of our own choosing. Quite a claim when you think about it. Signatories to the Declaration believed themselves competent to understand God's eternal blueprint.

I made a close study of natural rights doctrine and came to despise it. Far more important to the evolution of a just society were the interests of children, our "innocent posterity" as the Declaration explained, a specific justification for war. Eventually it was expanded to include the welfare of women and children worldwide. We sent missionaries, diplomats, armies of conquest and occupation, foreign aid. At home, every state, city and village created schools to educate children and supervise their moral development. The story of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn was a saga of truancy and delinquency. In the 1930s, it was The Dead End Kids, in the 50s and 60s a wave of fashionable beatniks and smiling hippies. No matter what our government attempted to do for children, it led to woe. Today's situation is hopeless and irreversible, a nation of digital zombies and precious snowflakes crying for a "safe space" in college. Millions are employed in street crime, obscenity, socialist agitation, and fantasy roleplay, given a blank check that broke our economy and punished productive enterprise. Entertainment is not a productive industry. Neither are armies of teachers, politicians, and drill sergeants.

In reaction to the modern mess, roughly one-third of America has pledged allegiance to God again, loudly devoted to scripture, prayers, "young Earth" geology, and the defense of Israel no matter what it costs, as if Israel was our 51st state, more important than the other fifty put together. In desperation, evangelicals voted for Donald Trump.

Our innocent progeny have never been so ill-served. Talk radio host Dennis Prager proclaims that we are in another civil war. He's an old man, a true believer in myths: E Pluribus Unum, One Nation Under God. His rear view mirror is a kinescope, gazing at Ozzie and Harriet, can't see what happened to Ricky Nelson, one of the disgusting delinquents who dishonored his parents and the Obedient Generation of television households, advertisers, NFL football, and Thanksgiving dinners. Today, Prager announced happily that Trump is "a conservative dream" -- which is true, but not in the sense that Prager meant. Donald Trump is a TV personality, no different than Barack Obama. Trump's presidency is toast because he's not Obama.

It's folly to bemoan ignorance or denial of Natural Law and God-given Rights. They have zero weight in legislation, merely an empty gesture in the Constitution that prohibits religious tests to hold public office, which is universally honored in the breach. No politician dares to admit that he's an atheist or freethinker. Paul Ryan was compelled to disavow Ayn Rand.

Worse -- power politics rule the world, and we're outnumbered by those who have no Judeo Christian God to complicate their aspirations. The only way to prevail would be nuclear war, incinerating their innocent progeny and our own, a final and irreversible farewell salute to Nature.

World map according to population by BoAML