Tag Archives: libertarian philosophy

Against Equality (#equality, #inequality, #stoicism, @AllenThornton2)

From “Remarks on the Stoics” by Allen Thornton (link):

Suppose that you were the only person in the universe. You could exist in the most perfect paradise without reflecting on your good fortune. You could suffer hunger, thirst, and pain and not complain about the “unfairness” of existence. Notions of good and evil, just and unjust, cannot exist unless there are other people and other lives. When we judge these matters, we usually look no further than our neighbors. Americans call people poor whose standard of living would be considered quite high in China. They take for granted luxuries that were unimaginable 200 years ago. A time may come when our descendants will consider our lives horribly brutal and short, but we do not complain so long as we live about as well as those we see frequently or know about.

It would be simple to understand the Stoics’ view of reality if we didn’t have to deal with other people. But people can steal from us, make demands on us, depend on us, and interact with us in thousands of ways. The question of our relations with other people is the most complicated one in any religion or philosophy. Epictetus explains how a Stoic can maintain his serenity in the face of obviously predatory people. He cites the case of a thief who steals your clothes. “Do not admire your clothes and then you will not be angry with the thief. Do not admire the beauty of your wife, and you will not be angry with the adulterer.” He reasons that the thief “does not know wherein man’s good consists, but he thinks that it consists in having fine clothes, the very thing which you also think.” The Stoic knows that a man’s good is in his will and character and not in anything external to him.

His logic is an example of a greater truth: Inequality leads to harmony; equality leads to conflict. We are constantly told that the opposite is true, but we should consider the relations between people. Trade and commerce depend on the fact that individuals place a different value on money. If the grocer didn’t value the bag of flour less than the customer, he wouldn’t sell it. Suppose the bag were worth a dollar to the grocer and a dollar to the customer; then the grocer would have no incentive to sell it. But the grocer values the bag at less than a dollar and so both the grocer and the customer can increase their wealth by the trade of one dollar for one bag of flour. Or suppose a rich man wants to hire a person for a job and two qualified applicants apply. The applicants are not in conflict with the rich man but with each other. Or suppose a man is in love with a beautiful woman. He is in harmony with other women and with homosexuals because they do not value the woman the way he does. Their feelings toward her are completely different from his. He feels the most hatred and ill-will toward another man who also loves the woman. Conflict is in direct proportion to equality. Of course, politics turns everything on its head. Groups of similar people with similar values combine to exert pressure to achieve political ends. But even in this case, the group is simply trying to obtain something from the government at the expense of other groups who want the same thing.

Government Is A Death Cult… (#statism, #socialism, #misanthropy, @BarackObama)

…and socialism is its economic philosophy. (ZeroGov.com)

All government is ultimately a death cult and the celebration of its most concentrated efforts to maim and kill men, women and children is, frankly, outrageous. If you think that the twelve years of war and trillions wasted has been a boost to the economy, you may want to open your eyes and look around.

Outstanding.

No Sooner Do I Open My Mouth… (@RustyRockets, #fascism)

Just two days ago in a conversation with friends I used Russell Brand as an example of what might be described in common parlance as a “disgusting, worthless human being.” Of course, I don’t abide by such attempts at objective value judgments these days but nonetheless I wanted it to be clear that I didn’t think Brand’s… brand… met my needs in any meaningful way, and I was additionally suspicious of his ability to meet the needs of many others.

It’s worth reconsidering that point now. I value the reservation of my right to reconsider and change my mind on something and here is a wide avenue with which my foot could journey into my mouth. In other words, he still isn’t perfect as far as meeting my needs go, but this little consideration shows me maybe he’s a bit more of a right old chap in my eyes than I could first see (The Gaurdian):

Noel once expressed his disgust at seeing a politician at Glastonbury. “What are you doing here? This ain’t for you,” he’d said. He explained to me: “You used to know where you were with politicians in the 70s and 80s cos they all looked like nutters: Thatcher, Heseltine, Cyril Smith. Now they look normal, they’re more dangerous.” Then, with dreadful foreboding: “They move among us.” I agree with Noel. What are politicians doing at Glastonbury and the GQ awards? I feel guilty going, and I’m a comedian. Why are public officials, paid by us, turning up at events for fashion magazines? Well, the reason I was there was because I have a tour on and I was advised it would be good publicity. What are the politicians selling? How are they managing our perception of them with their attendance of these sequin-encrusted corporate balls?

We witness that there is a relationship between government, media and industry that is evident even at this most spurious and superficial level. These three institutions support one another. We know that however cool a media outlet may purport to be, their primary loyalty is to their corporate backers. We know also that you cannot criticise the corporate backers openly without censorship and subsequent manipulation of this information.

The long lead up to this revelation I find to be hysterical. The best comedy, such as that of George Carlin, typically offers such a treatment to deathly serious subjects such as the inanity of fascism.

Reminder On The Death Of “Fugitive” Marc Rich (#MarcRich, #capitalist)

Marc Rich died today in Switzerland at age 78 (Bloomberg.com).

Marc Rich, even in death, is remembered for being a “fugitive.” While his exile to Switzerland may have been self-imposed and motivated by avoiding legal entrapment in the United States, he is better remembered for being an outstanding trader of commodities, with a creative knack for getting around arbitrary political boundaries and conflicts to connect buyers and sellers of desired goods.

This aspect of Marc Rich’s life, along with his legal prosecution and other items of interest, were discussed at length in my review of The King of Oil, the official biography of Marc Rich published in 2010, three years before his death.

Brilliant Economist Proposes Bold Solution To Education Crisis From Comfort Of Keyboard (@noahpinion)

I saw this on the Atlantic Monthly’s website, written by an economist (/physicist? /finance professor? /midget wrestler?) named Noah Smith. He came up with a plan for solving the nation’s college education crisis. I am so out of touch, I didn’t even know the nation was having a college education crisis! There are too many crises today, it’s hard to keep up with them all so I hope you’ll forgive me.

Anyway, I read through it and my take-away was that economists like Noah Smith have given up on the whole “voluntary social cooperation” style of getting shit done and have decided it’s more effective to just crack a few whips and get people on board with their objectives that way:

So here’s my idea for increasing the supply of college: A system of federal universities. Currently, we have no such system, but it is not unconstitutional. After all, the federal government runs the United States Military Academy at West Point. My idea is simple: The federal government provides start-up funding for a large number of new universities, offering attractive salaries to professors.

I just realized something. Racism isn’t unconstitutional, but if we don’t amend the Constitution, pronto, someone might decide that the fact that racism isn’t unconstitutional is reason enough to be racist.

Why federal universities instead of state universities? State spending is likely to focus on the existing state university systems. But that will have a limited impact on total college availability, for two reasons. First, increased state funding for existing universities may simply displace alumni funding or tuition funding. That could lower the net price of college, but would have a limited impact on enrollment. Second, there are many geographic areas that don’t yet have elite universities, or only have a few (Ohio comes to mind, as well as much of the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest). Federal universities could fill these gaps. Finally, it’s very difficult to coordinate policy between states, and if we want to create new universities on a large scale, only federal government can do it. [bold emphasis added]

Damn straight! We don’t want any of these puny, fancy-pants small scale universities. If we’re gonna get serious about this crisis, we gotta put our big boy pants on and hire the big guns, FedGov-style!

My take? Dragooning national labor and capital into massive social development projects at the federal level is a great idea, Noah. And I agree, public goods, like education and pyramids, can’t be built any other way.

It’s like I’ve always said– if it’s good enough for the Pharaohs, it’s good enough for our education system!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy Noah Smith’s glowing praise of a man who is “an important and positive figure in America today,” Michael Moore. I love being helpful.

*UPDATE* (11/19/12)

I stand corrected! A reader is also a writer and e-mails in a correction:

It is unconstitutional for the government to be racially biased–See the Equal Protection Act of the 14th Amendment. It’s why affirmative action is getting to the court so much these days.

I think I might still have a technical case in saying that the Average Joe isn’t prevented from being racist by the Constitution itself, but this is close enough that I might as well retract that little bit of wit.