A Response to Anti-Property

Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.
– Frank Zappa

Let’s break this down and refute it.

Frank Zappa says “Communism doesn’t work…”

I agree with him. 🙂

He then goes on to imply that if people did not like to own things, communism would work. Perhaps this is true. People see an inherent value in their work. Mostly, this is because it is a trade that naturally results in ownership of whatever is the object of the trade. Could it be any other way? Sure. We could trade our labor for something we do not own but what would be the point? Perhaps some higher good is attained through this.

The problem with this ‘higher good’ is that it is an inherent contradiction to natural law. This is so because whether or not a communist likes the notion, we already own something. We own our labor. As such we are not predisposed to trade it away without expecting a value in return. We call it “our” labor because it is ours. If we choose to trade it away for nothing in return we are continually losing property because our time is limited and our labor is therefore at a premium.

Communism thinks all property is bad news. The bad news for communism is that the mere existence of a person constitutes the ownership of property, specifically one’s labor. Communism would require us to think of this relationship between a person and his labor as arbitrary and even sinister.

The problem with this view of labor is if a man trades the labor he owns for a product he doesn’t or a type of non-payment, he has no say over what is done with his labor by any recipient that isn’t himself. He has no responsibility over his labor, yet paradoxically he can be accused and convicted by the law on a point over something he did or produced.

I want to stress that if a man cannot keep what is his by natural law, being naturally his due to the reality that it would not exist as a singular object if he had spent none of his labor on it, then he takes no responsibility for how it is used or in what manner or proportion it is distributed.

This may not seem like much of a problem to the “From each according to his ability, to each according to their need,” crowd, but if one owns nothing then by what law (since law is always based on identifying the responsible party) is their any evidence that can stick to a man being accused of a crime? I admit, this is an unlikely scenario. Men will most likely continue to be held responsible for their actions, by law or at least by social convention. However, if men are able to be accused of a crime then immediately they will see there is an inherent value to ownership for two reasons. One is simply that natural ownership is the only mechanism by which a grievance is upheld in a legal proceeding. If men own nothing, men cannot be robbed. Nor can men rob. Secondly, and more eminent in our discussion is that a man naturally feels if he can be accused of a crime over something he did (labor) and have some thing stripped from him as punishment, he finds he did own whatever was taken after all and therefore feels it only fair that his ownership of a thing, and in retrospect his labor, ought to be recognized by the state. Furthermore, he ought to have been, by right, entitled to put said thing to work gaining interest or up for sale or something, anything that brings to him the benefit of natural ownership, which would immediately translate for him as a natural right; since after all the right can apparently be stripped away by the state under the right circumstances. The notion of natural right would imply to him a principle of fair treatment under the law – an equal treatment based upon the natural state of man as having agency (the capacity to make morally responsible decisions) and by extension being naturally entitled to his labor resulting from agency (liberty) and by further extension expressing that ownership of agency in the only natural way that is apparent to the law or social contract – owning and being responsible for the product of said labor.

In conclusion, yes, men (as in mankind) want to own the product of their labor. This is true especially since there is no guarantee that any else’ labor will be beneficial to them or more importantly that anyone else will labor to produce anything at all. On the other hand, one man’s labor cannot be expected to produce enough for everyone else’ need. It may be enough for himself and his family. As such, a man is properly and reasonably expected to produce what he can for a limited number of people he elects to be responsible for. There is no other assured means by which he and those under his care will eat or live. Again, he has no guarantee of anyone’s work but his own and logistically he cannot be expected to produce enough for everyone in a given population.

Retrospectively, I agree with Frank Zappa’s above quote, in a way. I will, however, tweak his statement to something I find more accurate.

Communism doesn’t work because the expectation of equal labor does not guarantee equal labor.

For this reason, socialism is the closest we will ever get to communism. And, of course, in socialism the government owns all labor.

The Big Gulp vs the Dollar

The free market is not just some anti-government force against redistribution and progressive taxation. Grant it, people who are skilled in wielding the tools of free markets aren’t ecstatic about those two things. The free market is really just the everyday activity of regular people. What do we do every day? We move. We decide. We use. We click. We take advantage of technology and conveniences afforded us by visionaries and entrepreneurs. Then we get in our cars or on our bicycles and ride to our places of business where we put those moving, deciding, using and clicking skills to work, trading them for income. The trade is the important part. We aren’t trading clicking per se. We are trading value, which we trade for more value.

The work that a human mind can provide is valuable to an employer or a potential buyer of a product. What you get in return is value. If you thought it was a piece of paper called the Dollar someone at sometime decreed to be valuable, think again. Money represents preexisting value. Even with the paper manufacturing, the printing, the graphic designing and the distribution channels that go into it, the dollar is still worth nothing to the average person except as a convenient way to trade current value for preexisting value.

The dollar, or legal tender anywhere, represents work already done. A logger may not have the necessary fleet of trucks to transport wood across the country, but a trucking company for hire will get the job done. How will the logger pay the trucker? I suppose he could pay the trucker in wood, but that would be terribly inconvenient for both the logger and the trucker. After deciding how much wood the transport of said wood is worth, the trucker would have to transport both the original load contracted and a whole new load of wood in payment. This would put a wrench in transport deals struck with other businesses, not to mention what to do with all the wood. I suppose the trucker could burn it for warmth, assuming he has a fire place and the time to sit back and enjoy the fire with his family and the new found freedom from losing all the contracts with other businesses in need of a trucking company that isn’t tied up transporting its own payment in wood. ‘Nuff said. Then there is the logger. The now sluggish trucking operation he once counted on isn’t meeting the logger’s time table decided upon by him and the recipient of the original wood order. Not to mention, the logger must now spend of large amount of valuable production time just gathering and loading wood as payment that could be sold as product if a more convenient trading solution existed – such as the Dollar.

If this little anecdote shows us anything, it’s that a dollar is not wood. It is not value. It represents value. It also represents the labor (moving, deciding, using, clicking) put in by the logger and the trucker. Without the labor there would be no product. Still the Dollar, while not valuable per se, is valuable to the economy. It should be clear from the anecdote that without the convenience afforded laborers and business people by the Dollar, the economy might never have reached the fluidity of movement required for the rate of growth and subsequent spread of general wealth that made the United States the primary driver and director of the world economy.

The free market is just the everyday survival activity of regular people. We get from it what we put into it. Perhaps surprising to some people, the free market is not a building. It’s not even a business district and it certainly isn’t a neighborhood association. It is the beneficial interaction between individuals with regard to survival activities. People need heat, hence the logger. People need food, hence the dairy farmer. But the logger cannot eat wood, the trucker is growing tired of the Big Gulp and the cold dairy farmer is not going to burn his wood fences for heat. The mutual benefit of trading becomes immediately apparent to all parties, and there we have the basic blueprint for the economy and the free market.

All these everyday activities of regular people are essential to production and exchange and even more essential is production and exchange to everyday activities. Without trade we would literally have to eat our own labor. And that’s bad news to guy who makes Ginsu knives.

The government, on the other hand, is analogous to a parasite that siphons value away from the free market requiring more labor (survival activity) to achieve the same results. This is why the government is always an enemy to free activity, but is generally regarded by free marketeers as a necessary evil. It makes sluggish, tedious and sometimes dangerous an already grueling struggle for survival. So if the free market seems anti-government at times, that’s because it’s hand feeding a biting parasite.

How Do We Judge Rights?

Rights are not principles per se and should not be treated as such for good reason. The idea of ‘rights’ does not stand alone but exists as part of a hierarchy starting, not with rights, but with ‘meaning’ at the foundation. The hierarchy pyramid has meaning at the bottom, after which follows principle which sits on top of meaning and liberty on principle and rights on top of liberty.

This puts ‘rights’ directly in our line of sight, being on top, so we think about them the most. This is why rights are so easily used by politicians to evoke an emotional reaction in a group of potential voters.

If liberty is an effect of the cause known as ‘principle’ and principle is an effect of meaning, then meaning is necessary for a lasting, effective principle or set of principles and effective liberty is dependent upon lasting principles, not fading ones.

The principle in question is that all men are equal. The meaning comes from the idea that ‘God created’ all men equal. If the premise ‘God created’ is true, then the conclusion all men are equal is objectively true. Therefore the existence of God is the anchor of the moral principle that we are equal and gives meaning to it.

If God does not exist, there is no real anchor for the idea that we are all equal since we weren’t created that way. Mere evolution provides no basis for equality among sexes, races, peoples or even blood types or any other criteria. We can make no assumptions about our alleged state of equality except to assume it for its own sake. But to do so is fiction. It renders meaningless the hierarchy starting with meaning then principle, liberty and rights because it removes meaning and the remaining upper pyramid sits on nothing. There is no foundation for rights.

We must examine the foundation of our beliefs concerning rights. But this examination goes in the opposite direction as well. With the existence of objective meaning (given from God’s existence) comes certain implications for the rest of the pyramid. Namely, that our liberty is real and not an arbitrary fiction maintained by any governmental body or political organization. Our rights then are not entirely ephemeral and should not be used in fading fashions and purely argumentative disputes. They should not be used to create less tangible rights constantly redefined by or for the groups they are intended to protect. Rights should be as immovable as the rest of the pyramid and new rights should be drawn from the underlying pyramid. If there is no relationship between a newly proposed ‘right’ and the principle of actual liberty (given from actual equality) it should be rejected or at least meticulously examined in how it affects liberty. Its origins also should be carefully considered. If a new right’s origins are not from the revolutionary idea that liberty is actual liberty, just what are its origins, and would its acceptance ultimately deny actual liberty no matter how good it sounds?

Turn the package around

The most important information for any food you buy IS NOT ON THE FRONT. The front is where they sell the food, the back is where you look to find out if you should buy it.

I still don’t know for sure if food additives are bad for you and I doubt I ever will know. Companies that sell these items aren’t motivated to expose their products. I get that. So all these things may be bad for us but how do we know? Mostly, I think we have to rely on peer reviewed studies but guess what, the people doing these studies could have some awkward relationships with the organizations that supply grants to do the studies. None of this is done for free and the money could very easily come with strings attached.

The rule for me when it comes to additives is just to trust my own common sense. It tells me that the food I should put in my body shouldn’t have ingredients I don’t know anything about. I call this the “100%” diet. Telling people to “turn the package around” is just my way of advocating for it (explanation below). By 100% I mean all one thing. Broccoli, for instance, is just one thing: broccoli. Kale is kale. Spinach is spinach. Pineapple juice is just pineapple juice, right? Well hold on. Look at the ingredients list. See that xanthan gum? See that added cane sugar? See that carrageenan? It isn’t just pineapple juice, is it? So your 100% pineapple juice diet may not be 100% pineapple? That’s exactly why you need to read the ingredients of everything you pick up from the shelf at the grocery store before it goes into your cart. While your at it, check the nutrition facts. Once you get in the habit, you learn a lot about food. You may even start checking out websites with articles about food. Then you start to realize that it’s hard to know if anyone really knows what they are talking about.

That is why, just to be safe, I advocate for the 100% diet which simply says nothing added, nothing preserved. All foods are 100% themselves. That is why organic is probably best as well since no pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics are used. However, I think even if you cannot eat organic due to budget restrictions you’re doing just fine to eat 100% minus organic. Organic can be expensive and you shouldn’t let it stand in the way of you going 100% otherwise. This isn’t a diet you’re likely to find on some popular website. This is just my own version of other diets that advocate a no additive diet lifestyle. I’m not a “food” blogger of any kind. I just think people need to start reading ingredients and asking questions. I’ve been telling people I know to do just that for some time. Occasionally, we all buy something that looks healthy but if we would turn the package around and look at the back, we would see that the ingredients tell a different story.

So I repeat. Turn the package around.

How “modern” liberalism is removed from the philosophical roots of the American founding.

I think the terms ‘classical liberal’, ‘libertarian’, and ‘conservative’ have a lot in common, with few differences. Some of those differences are bigger or smaller, but if you closely examine the result of their tenets, not just the tenets themselves, I think you find the same philosophical foundation. Namely, that men have no natural ruler among men. God alone fills that role. And even if you are an atheist, if you are also say, a libertarian, you believe that we must maintain a society where man is as close as possible to his natural state of self-governance. Theists would say that man should be as close as possible to living only under God’s commands and not man’s. The difference being that the theist finds no succession of rule because all are “created” equal. The libertarian atheist acknowledges that man ought to self-govern as much as possible because all men ‘simply are’ equal due to his or her having “agency” and therefore being personally responsible for all ensuing decisions. These two views are not much in contrast. The result often plays out to the same end. Namely, that men ought to be ruled as little as possible by other men.

Personally, I make the argument that there is no logic to who should or should not rule whom, without the basis, or at least the ad hoc assumption, that all men are “created” equal. At the very least, I would call “equal by instance” a stronger foundation than “equal by coincidence.” Either way, all of this is by far opposed to “modern” liberalism which denies any foundational philosophy and clings only to the authoritarian elite for his or her own economic well-being – a practice that is far removed from the social “freedom” that they claim to hold to while unconscious of the Orwellian contradiction.

The Best Being Ever

Question: What is the best being of whom you can conceive? List any and all qualities.

Go ahead. Think for a moment what this person would be like. Would this person, for instance, unconditionally love people? Would this person make everyone happy? What would that look like? Would this person eat only a raw, organic, vegetarian diet? Would this person need to eat at all? What needs would this person have and how would this person go about fulfilling those needs? Would this person consider the needs of others whilst meeting this person’s own needs? Would it be preferable if this person had no needs?

These are just my questions to get the engine oiled, so to speak. Answer these if you wish, or ask your own. I am absolutely interested in even the smallest details at which you arrive in the process. If you care to take the time, I appreciate your participation.

How We Influence Politics, Whether We Mean to or Not

May one influence a political system that is so far removed from reach? When it comes to politics-as-usual, most people would likely agree that in general we feel powerless to change politics from being so “usual”.  Is there a way to do it that isn’t morally reprehensible, or that will not end one’s anonymity from public eyes? In search for an answer to this question a simple, perhaps forgotten, truth emerges.

The principle of market participation all starts with the most basic economic unit – a person. More precisely a person’s will.

Unfortunately, everything is politics. This is so because politicians have made everything their business. We make it our business when we make decisions about whether or not we will participate in some market niche.

Observe, if you will, that when one buys a ticket to a movie, one influences a string of causation threading backward from the cash register, to the bookkeeper, to management, to the theater’s CEO where is determined the fate of the cinematic production in question. From here, the string does not terminate. It continues its trek perhaps even to the hills of Hollywood where directors and producers must collaborate to make their art palatable to Main St. (average Joe) so that Wall St. (the CEO) and Hollywood can make money.

It is simple. If one will not support the content of a film, one will not buy a ticket to it. On the other hand, if a person buys a ticket but finds the content disagreeable, that person receives a refund. If people refuse to buy tickets, or if there are too many refunds, the theater makes no money. It must rotate its show schedule to make room for movies that make money.

We live in and among constant market participation. On what and where a person spends money is an expression of what that person intends to support. The American public education system, which is regulated by the same government in which resides the politicians that Hollywood likes, is a big factor in why we generally feel powerless about what happens in Washington. We, as economic actors, must understand this principle if we intend on having a political say. Economic actors must carefully choose their screen actors, in so many analogous words.