Socialism & Fascism

In a recent article, Robert Higgs made the argument that socialism is pretty much dead, and that fascism is instead the dominant economic policy on the globe. As far as I’m aware, this is my first exposure to Higgs, and I must confess: I’m not impressed.

First, it should be readily observable to all people that fascism and socialism are related, in the same sense that an orchestra maestro entails mastery of the musical pieces; fascism is the conductor’s mastery, and socialism is mastery of the song. It’s possible to be a master of the song without being a master conductor, but it’s not possible to be a master conductor without being a master of the song.

In classic logic terms, all bloops are bleeps, but not all bleeps are bloops.

This is because socialism is an economic policy, while fascism is what we would call governmental policy. It’s true that “fascism” is a notoriously difficult idea to pin down, and a lot of people mistakenly attribute “nationalism” as one of its primary tenets, but that’s a misattribution, a result of people focusing more on words than with the essence represented by those words. State supremacy is the hallmark of fascism. Through most of human history, this would have manifested as nationalism and the notion that the nation is the greatest; in more modern times, it manifests primarily as globalism, and the notion that a global government would be the greatest. However, regardless at what level the fascist pledges their allegiance (whether to the nation or to the globe), the primary hallmark is the same: the state that is in charge is supreme.

Everything within the state. Nothing outside the state, nothing beyond the state.

— Benito Mussolini

Socialism is an idea that prescribes state ownership of capital. To explain this, we must clarify the difference between capital and a consumption good. A consumption good is one that does not increase in value, one that, under normal conditions, only decreases in value (i.e., is “used up”). A consumption good is something that is used and ultimately discarded, and is not an investment. Televisions, cell phones, food, clothing, gasoline, and other similar items are consumption goods. Socialism absolutely allows for individuals within the socialist society to own consumption goods. Even the most diehard socialist isn’t going to advocate a system where Bob, having run out of toothpaste, can enter your apartment and help himself to yours. In the socialist apparatus, consumption goods regularly pass into ownership by consumers, where they are consumed, and the state merely creates, assigns, and hands out these consumption goods.

Capital, on the other hand, is held entirely by the state. Houses, land, vehicles, manufacturing plants, and similar items are the property of the state, and the state uses this capital to create the consumption goods and dole them out to the citizens. The state owns the toothpaste manufacturing plant and provides one tube a month to each citizen, in other words, and once that toothpaste is handed over, it’s generally considered that citizen’s toothpaste. The state doesn’t really care what happens to consumption goods, because they are consumption goods–even if Bob hoards all of his toothpaste and attempts to sell it on the black market, it’s just not going to give him enough capital to seriously challenge the state. Besides which, it has an expiration date–the day is coming that the toothpaste will be without any value at all.

When we discuss “private property” under the ideas of capitalism, we are not saying that individuals have the right to own consumption goods–this right is a given, and even the most adamant socialist isn’t likely to challenge it. Instead, we are saying that individuals have the right to own capital. Individuals have the right to purchase items that will generate a return on the investment, that will produce wealth. Under capitalism, an individual can purchase the glass, copper, gold, plastic, and whatever else is necessary in order to produce phones, which are then sold as consumption goods to other individuals for money, thereby creating a return on the investment. This model is obviously successful, and obviously creates a net benefit to society as a whole: some people get the phone, and one person is rewarded for their investment with more money.

But it’s not my intention here to point out that capitalism is better.

In fact, the requirement that individuals be allowed to own capital is in the name: capitalism. We could easily call socialism consumptionism, in fact, because it restricts the individual’s ownership of property solely to consumption items–to the phones produced, to the toothpaste, to the gasoline, to the food, and never to the facilities, rigs, or farms where these things are produced. Instead, everything of real value that can have labor added to it in order to increase that value belongs to the state.

Five hundred acorns are of very little value to me, after all. However, by adding my labor to them (by planting them, nourishing them, and watering them), I can turn them into 500 trees of considerable value. This is the essence of capitalism: taking a resource, investing in it, and seeing a return on those resources. In the socialist order, one would still be allowed to own acorns, in most cases, but the state would claim the trees as soon as they were grown, and would fine and arrest the person who planted them.

Socialism is state ownership and control of capital property.

Fascism is state control of pretty much everything, including capital property. The state cannot be supreme if it does not control the means of production (i.e., capital). This is why every fascist government that has risen has also been socialist, from Mussolini’s Italy to Hitler’s Germany to Kim Jong Un’s North Korea. Strangely, in his article, Higgs stated that North Korea is one of the few socialist nations in the world today. I have to marvel that this popular thinker doesn’t understand what he’s talking about, because socialism absolutely dominates the globe. In fact, North Korea is one of the few fascist nations in the world today, where the state openly controls everything from education programs to capital.

Similarly, we in the United States are much more fascist than we’d like to realize, and we’re entirely socialist. No American is allowed to own capital; the ownership of all capital is ultimately the American Government. In a capitalist order, a person purchases a house and the land around it, and then it’s theirs–it belongs to them, and they can do whatever they want with it, because they are the owner. This is not the case in the United States. In the United States, the person has an enormous list of things they are not allowed to do with the property, must petition for the right to do countless things that they supposedly have the right to do, and then must pay rent each year to avoid having the property taken away from them. Paying property taxes to the government in order to avoid having the government take the property away is not in any sense different from paying a bank note to prevent the bank from taking the property away.

Why should the government get money from you each year, just because you own a house and the land around it? It’s not the government’s house or land, is it? By inserting themselves into this process, lining up outside of your property with guns and soldiers and demanding that you hand over money or they will forcibly remove you, the state has usurped your ownership of the home and made itself the owner. We can use all the doublethink and cognitive dissonance we like, but the fact remains that this affair is known as “renting,” and not “owning.”

This is similarly the case for whatever manufacturing facility you own. Not only are you required to pay duties on thins that you import, but you must pay the government a portion of your profits regularly, because, if you don’t, they will take the manufacturing facility away from you. And, of course, you can’t just build a manufacturing facility in your backyard; you must acquire permits, many of which are exorbitantly expensive, and rely on getting the government’s permission for you to use “your” property in the way that you want in the first place.

This, to Robert Higgs, is “private property.”

What nonsense.

It would be no different if I came by your manufacturing facility once a month with armed goons and demanded a cut of your profits for “protection,” and made it clear that, if you didn’t pay, you would have an “accident” that would end with one of my people being installed as the owner of the facility. This is what the state does now, today, in 2017 Common Era, in the United States. The idea that this arrangement constitutes “private property” is demonstrably false, and has been demonstrated as so.

If that was your house, you could burn it down. If that was your house, you could add a wing without getting permission from the government. If that was your house, you could install your own septic tank. If that was your house, you could dig an enormous hole and create a pond. If that was your house, you would not have to pay someone each year in order to prevent it from being taken away from you. Instead, it is the state who decides whether you can have permission to add a wing, it is the state who decides whether you may install a septic tank (“No, you cannot, but you can pay $1,200 to this guy who paid us $3,000 for his license to do it.”), and it is the state who ultimately owns the property, who must receive a payment from you regularly, on top of all these other considerations.

The thing about ownership is that it means I can do whatever I want with my property.

Compare the ownership of capital in the United States–as most obvious in regard to houses–to the ownership of consumption goods. I can do whatever I want with the Linksys WRT54GL that I’m looking at. I can write my name on it. I can install DDWRT firmware. I can put it on whatever subnet I want. I can take it outside and smash it to pieces. I can unload sixteen 12 gauge shotgun shells into it. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission, and I don’t have to pay anyone each year for the “privilege” of owning it. It’s mine.

That difference is critical to understanding the current state of the world. No, Mr. Higgs, socialism is not on the decline. It’s more powerful than ever, and more dominant than ever. If we do not take back the right to own capital, free of government regulations, government mandates, and government threats of theft, then the problems we face can never be fixed.

And all of this is without even getting into Intellectual Property, eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, and the millions of regulations that bear down on us every single day. Anyone who looks at this state of affairs and calls it “private property” is severely confused. After all, both socialism and capitalism feature the ownership of consumption goods. As such, the ownership of consumption goods cannot be a deciding factor in whether a society is capitalist or socialist–as it is contained on both sides of the equation, it is reduced:

Private ownership of capital + private ownership of consumption goods = Capitalism

State ownership of capital + private ownership of consumption goods = Socialism

Anyone can see that “private ownership of consumption goods” has nothing to do with it, and must be subtracted from both. What we’re left with is that “private ownership of capital = capitalism” and “state ownership of capital = socialism.” Seeing as Fascism is state dominance over everything, from medicine to education to capital to consumption goods (because, for obvious reasons, if the state manufactures the only toothpaste in existence, then the state controls who has toothpaste and who doesn’t, as opposed to capitalism, where a person who has pissed off Colgate can still purchase Crest).

Fascism is also alive and well, although the state that people want to be supreme over everything has moved up one level, for the most part, to globalism instead of nationalism. This is why I once made the point that national fascism is easier to defeat than global fascism, while I explained my support for Brexit and America leaving NATO and the United Nations. Although viewed as contentious, that statement is actually an obvious extrapolation of how local governments are easier to influence than federal ones. It is much easier to get my city council to do what I want than it is to get the federal government to do what I want, and much easier to get the federal government to do what I want than it is to get the world government to do what I want. There is also the reality that world government soldiers from Uganda and New Guinea will face no real hardship oppressing people in California, while soldiers from California will face some internal difficulty oppressing people in Arkansas, and soldiers from Tate County, Mississippi will face considerable internal strife oppressing the people of Tate County. Local > distant, in every conceivable way.

However, that fascists today are roughly evenly split between nationalism and globalism is of no concern. They want state supremacy either way. The global fascists simply want to create a higher level of government to be supreme and enforce their desires. In that way, the globalist fascists are more fascist than the nationalist ones. And, yes, there is a strong correlation between those who want a powerful world government that can dictate national policies and those who openly desire socialism; yet, even among the national fascists, there is a strong tendency for the state to control different aspects of people’s lives (marriage, sexual identity, drugs, whatever). The globalist fascists simply want to create a Big Joker, because they don’t like how the nationalist fascists have the Little Joker.


Cultural Buffets: I'll Debate You, Michael W. Miller

I’ll spare you all the details and give a brief summary. Arvin Vohra criticized Liberty Hangouts publicly, and members of Liberty Hangouts defended themselves. This led Arvin to apologize and correct himself, and on this thread of comments there appeared a discussion between Jason Weinman (with whom I’ve had disagreements with the past because, if I recall correctly, he went hard for Gary Johnson) and Michael William Miller of Liberty Hangouts about various things I don’t really care about. During the name-calling and pedantry, Michael said:

If you mean we support traditional values, yes, but we have never called once for legislation forcing anyone to do anything.

And, moments later:

[D]o you want to debate this on a livestream? [W]e’d be more than happy to host it on Liberty Hangout. 🙂

While, from what I can gather, the debate invitation was to discuss whether or not Liberty Hangout had called for legislation of traditional values, Jason Weinman declined the invitation. However, I would gladly debate anyone at Liberty Hangout on “traditional” values, and whether it’s a concern that they’re being eroded.

My Values Are My Values, and Therefore Correct

Everyone believes this to be true. It’s an application of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, in fact. Just as we use our ability to play the guitar to understand how skilled another guitar player is, so do we use our own values to judge the values of other people. When we look at uncontacted tribes that segregate girls from their tribe when they hit puberty, we reject the idea as backward and immoral, because our values tell us that it’s wrong to treat people that way, it will have severe permanent damage on the girl’s self-esteem, and there’s nothing magical or mystical about periods. Yet this assessment itself is built on our values that it’s bad to cause severe permanent damage to people’s self-esteem, and our values that positive self-esteem is a good thing. I’ve discussed this countless times before and won’t go into it in full detail. Instead, just check out this article on the subject. Or check out this one.

Cultural Competition

More importantly, the reality of the situation isn’t just that “traditional values” are being eroded from within, although many right-wing figures would deny this and focus their efforts on controlling immigration, in full disregard of the fact that America influences the rest of the world, not the other way around, but also that we are seeing cultural competition, and it functions exactly the same way as economic competition. Worldviews compete in the market in exactly the same way that businesses do, and the one that proves to be most efficient wins out in the long-run. In terms of culture, efficiency appears to be measured primarily in inclusiveness. This also makes sense in economic terms, as exclusiveness reduces a business’s customer base.

For example, acceptance of black people as equals won out the culture war when the two sides pitted against one another: one side advocated continued open racism and segregation, and the other side advocated an end to these things. Motivated by self-interest, the majority of people would have put their personal feelings aside, in the event that they were racist, to advocate for equality, because this, in Mississippi for example, increased their customer reach by 37%. An openly racist business in Mississippi immediately loses 37% of all customers, and more, when it’s considered that many people who aren’t black would refuse to do business with such a company. Many others are motivated simply by empathy, which is also self-interest, since no one wants to be filled with negative emotions like guilt and sorrow.

I have no desire to argue whether one side is right or wrong, even when it comes to “traditional values” (one assumes this to mean heterosexuality, anti-transgenderism, etc.) versus contemporary values, because both sides are subjective. Each can be demonstrated as desirable by its own parameters, and each can demonstrate the other as undesirable by those same parameters. Someone who thinks that transsexualism is a mental illness will obviously think that the normalization of transsexualism is a bad idea, because it openly accepts what they consider to be a mental illness, and they find treating mental illnesses as normal to be a bad idea.

Cultural values change over time, and they clearly move in some direction that I won’t try to name. The arc of human history is pretty evident, though, in that we’ve moved toward secularization and acceptance, rather than toward heightened religiosity and bigotry. We’ve also moved from despotism toward liberty and individualism, at least until the rise of fascism in the 20th century that has set us back so drastically. I’d hazard the guess that there is a common thread that connects these things–the move away from bigotry, the move toward secularization, the move toward liberty–but it’s something to think about some other day. The fact remains: cultural values change over time. Whether they are improving or getting worse is up for argument.

It would seem obvious that a stagnant culture would self-destruct in very short order, but it’s equally obvious that there has never been such a thing as a stagnant culture. Today, our culture changes at a shocking speed and is incredibly robust–so robust that many people don’t consider the United States as having a culture. Compare that to the relatively defined culture of Venice, France, and Saudi Arabia. Here in the United States, we have a culture that includes hateful assholes like Steven Anderson (a pastor who openly says that he wishes more trans teens would kill themselves), wonderful nameless Christians who don’t give a shit if someone is trans, atheists like myself who take no part in religion, people who openly believe themselves to be witches, people who openly worship the devil, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and even scientologists. The only description that will fit these many disparate beliefs and worldviews is that the United States’ culture as a whole values religious freedom.

In another sense, we have goth culture, emo culture, jock culture, snob culture, cheerleader culture, Christian culture, white culture, black culture, Japanese culture, Mexican culture, and so many others that it’s immaterial whether every single individual actively enjoys and embraces all of these different sub-cultures, because, again, on the whole the result is that the Unites States’ culture values cultural differences. This literally allows us to pick and choose what we like from each culture and incorporate it into our lives for personal fulfillment.

I think Michael and I both will agree that “cultural appropriation” is a positive thing, and that SJWs can fuck off.

This allows even the most ardent transphobic Christian to watch and enjoy Japanese anime, to eat burritos, and to have a goth son who listens to Megadeth (though the parent, because of the cultural conflict, won’t be happy about it, hopefully the parent realizes the futility and counterproductive nature of denying the teenager the ability to embrace their own preferences). The United States is basically a gigantic buffet of different cultural elements, and we are actively encouraged (nevermind the lunatic progressives) to take only the dishes that we like, while ignoring the dishes that we don’t like.

My wording in my willingness to accept a debate with Michael isn’t accidental. I have no desire to argue with him about the utility and value of “traditional values.” He has gone to the buffet and taken different dishes–that’s fine. I have absolutely no standing to tell him that the dishes he took are inferior, bigoted, hateful, or narrow-minded. They’re the dishes he likes, and that’s okay. My argument is that it’s not a problem that the Accepting Trans People Dish has been placed on the buffet. I’m not arguing that the “traditional” dishes should be removed from the buffet, and, evidently, Michael isn’t arguing that contemporary dishes should be removed from the buffet (so, really, there’s not much of a debate there).

However, it remains true that anyone who subscribes to traditional values will consider those traditional dishes to be superior to the contemporary ones–and that, in my estimation, is wrong. Not only is it a subjective assessment of different values that is based on the values that go into the assessment (it gets really hard to explain), but the closest we have to “objective” criteria (economic growth, prosperity, and peace) suggests that it’s a positive thing when culture shifts from “whatever it is” along the unnamed thread toward liberty, secularization, and acceptance. This becomes subjective because I value economic growth, prosperity, and peace, and I have absolutely no objective reason that I can point to in order to suggest that economic growth, prosperity, and peace are good things (see Darkside Philosophy for an idea of how deep that rabbit hole gets).

So the questions are ultimately:

  • Does the presence of contemporary values on the Cultural Buffet in any way decrease the value of traditional values?

The answer is “No,” but, to be fair, I don’t think Michael would make that argument in the first place. This is sort of counterintuitive. If we laid out a buffet of ten different currencies, all of them equal to 100 of whatever currency they are (one hundred dollars, one hundred pounds, one hundred euros, etc.), it would seem to cheapen the value of the 100USD if the USD customarily were the only option. However, given that monopolies are inherently wasteful and inefficient (whether cultural, currency, or business monopolies), the presence of competition would more likely increase the value of the USD.

  • Is the presence of contemporary values on the Cultural Buffet a negative detriment to the traditional values?

This is very similar to the first question. If a child of one of the traditional diners is intrigued by the look of some contemporary values dish, it could be argued that the mere presence of the dish piqued the child’s imagination, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. But here we have to point out: if the traditional dish is superior, then there is no harm in allowing the child to taste the contemporary dish. If we place a bowl of chocolate ice cream, and a bowl of sprinkle-covered shit on the buffet, it wouldn’t really be a problem, no matter how much one didn’t want one’s child to eat sprinkle-covered shit. If the chocolate ice cream is better, then even if the child does get the chance to taste the shit, the child will surely go running back to the ice cream at the first opportunity. This is the cowardice and weakness that underlies cultural protectionism: if their values were truly superior–as they profess to believe–it would be unnecessary to prevent others from being exposed to other values. I have no issue with my clients trying out other I.T. companies, because I know they’ll come running back to me in very short order.

  • Are traditional dishes likely to survive the diversity of the buffet in any noteworthy sense?

The answer here is “no,” just as the traditional dish of “divine right of kings” hasn’t survived the buffet. Sure, a few people every once in a while can be found eating that dish, but the total impact that dish has on the overall culture is negligible. Greek Mythology is another traditional dish that hasn’t been treated well by the buffet. Even though we can find people today who worship Zeus, Greek Mythology is widely considered mythology rather than a religion, and the total impact that Zeus worshipers have on wider society is negligible. As long as no one comes along and removes the dish from the buffet, it’s up to the people who like and prefer that dish to convince other people that it’s a dish worth having.

If one can’t do that, then I guess the dish isn’t that good after all. I don’t have to convince people to try my chicken enchiladas, because they’re freaking delicious, and smelling them while hearing everyone raving about them (no joke, my chicken enchiladas are amazing, but it’s not my recipe) will entice them to try them. I don’t have to convince people to not eat the beef burrito; I just have to convince them to give my own dish a shot. And if my dish is really as good as I say it is, after that it will speak for itself.

Bill Nye is Anti-Science

When I first noticed that people were using the descriptor “intelligent” not to denote people who seemed to have higher-than-average levels of intelligence, but to mark allies in political agreement, I posted that something was wrong and that it was going to get worse:

Intelligence has become the new deity.

“If you believe what I believe, then you are smart. If you are smart, then you will believe what I believe.”

An outward thing from which a person derives their own net worth–the problem is that the “outward thing” is actually an inward thing. In true Dunning-Kruger fashion, people judge their own intelligence by their own ideas, and since they always believe their own ideas to be correct, they always judge themselves to be intelligent.

I’m sure we’ve all run into this. At some point, someone has surely said something to you that was similar to, “You seem really smart… You should read this” or “… You should watch this video.” It carries with it the most dangerous of subtleties: “If you are actually smart, then you’d agree with me. Maybe you don’t have the information that I have. Here’s that information. If you still don’t agree, then I was wrong about you being smart.”

In fact, I’ve been called an “idiot” probably more than anyone I’ve ever met, and this insult has never been thrown at me in any context other than political disagreement. No one could ever possibly mistake me for an idiot. Whether I’m correct or incorrect is unrelated to that. In reality, if I say something and someone thinks I’m an idiot for it, then the much more likely answer is that they simply didn’t understand what I said in the first place.

Intelligence isn’t a prerequisite of being right, and neither is being right an indicator of intelligence. Some of the greatest minds in human history were wrong about any number of things. Being correct is a factor of knowledge and nothing else. Even someone with an IQ of 250 will be wrong about any number of things, simply because we lack a lot of information, and their unnaturally high IQ will do nothing to prevent them from being wrong.

Once more, it’s all about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which is one of the most breathtaking psychological breakthroughs in human history. A person judges their own understanding of who is and isn’t intelligent relative to their own intelligence. I pointed out yesterday that we judge value systems relative to our own value systems–all of this is obvious, and the ties to Nietzsche’s philosophy and Austrian economics are equally obvious. We judge the value systems of other cultures by our own value system, and compare them relative to our own; ours are our own, so we like ours, and the more different the other systems are to ours, the more we dislike them. It’s impossible to escape from this, because my love for liberty-oriented value systems forms the basis that I use to assess the value of other systems. It’s also the case with intelligence: my only gauge for assessing other people’s intelligence is my own intelligence.

Several “celebrated scientists” have been exhibiting exactly the behavior that Murray Rothbard and others wrote about. They have become pimps of their scientific credibility in the employ of the state and the status quo. In fact, they have sacrificed their right to call themselves scientists and are about as anti-science as any group of people could be.

These guys.

Modern priests

What is this illustrious word “science?” What does it mean? What does it entail? If it is to be anything more than just a cheap and gaudy rubberstamp that we apply to whatever ideology we happen to believe, then it must have an actual meaning–which, ironically, is a statement that any scientist would agree with. Definitions are important, because they form the basis of the words that we use to understand and communicate the world. A simple Google search gives us:

the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

I can’t help but wonder if that definition makes Stephen Hawking, Bill Nye, and Neili deGrasse Tyson blush and feel ashamed. It should.

Of course, my argument against them is part of the problem, isn’t it? I have no problem recognizing that. In the vein of any actual scientist, I see my own bias and absolutely insane demands of these human beings, that they must apply the scientific method in all areas of their lives, and that they aren’t allowed to deviate from it. In fact, it is I who is accusing them of heresy, isn’t it? They have violated my religion of Science by disgracing its methods, much like a Christian violating Christianity by disgracing the teachings of Christ.

My problem with them is that they should apply the Scientific Method and don’t.

This combines with the masses’ misunderstanding that they do apply the Scientific Method.

In effect, I’m demanding of them what the masses of people think they are already doing. “Surely we can trust Neil Tyson’s statements about art and science funding! He’s a scientist!” Of course, it was not terribly long ago that Neil Tyson asked his many, many Twitter followers if they truly wanted to live in a world without art, framing all of reality as a false dichotomy built on the idea that if the government doesn’t do something, then it can’t be done. The obvious problems with this stupidity don’t need to be pointed out–didn’t I just buy tickets to see a musical concert? The government didn’t buy those tickets.

Bill Nye went on CNN and made the statement that the Constitution authorizes Congress to fund the sciences, and made mention of Article I, Section 8. It’s true that this is the section that enumerates Congressional power, but nothing else that Nye said is remotely true, as the passage that Nye quotes leaves off highly significant data. What do we call a “scientist” who discards a large part of the data because it isn’t convenient to his hypothesis?

“Formerly employed,” perhaps.

“Not a scientist.” Yes, that’s another option.

In fact, the section of the Constitution to which Bill Nye refers explicitly enumerates Congressional power without ambiguity, and the full passage asserts that Congress may promote the arts and sciences by securing patents for the respective authors and inventors. It is authorization to issue patents, not authorization to issue money. There’s no way that Nye could have accidentally read the first part of the sentence and not the second part. This was, we must conclude, an intentional ploy to convince the people who take him at his word as a reliable source that the Constitution authorizes Congress to fund scientific research. In the interest of scientific integrity, I will provide the evidence to support my contention:

Congress shall have the power…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

So this is two “celebrated scientists” who have been thoroughly disloyal to the precepts of science–the Scientific Method, the Bible of Science. Since so few people are calling them out on their heresy, allow me to do so:

Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson, you have betrayed your church, and you should both repent and make restitution. This restitution should come in the form of public apologies on no less than six occasions throughout the next six weeks–two in written, two in aural, and two in video form. That shall be your penance.

I may sound like I’m joking, and I am, to a degree. I don’t expect Nye and Tyson to ever back down from their arrogant betrayal of the scientific method and wanton displays of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, much less to ever issue a single apology for the stupid shit they have said. However, I’m serious about my loyalty to the scientific method, to reason, and to evidence, and I’m serious that clearly these three men cannot say the same.

What of Hawking? Well, Hawking has repeatedly waxed at length about the evils of capitalism and how only world government can save us from its oppressive destruction. Never mind that anyone who has taken even a single introductory college-level economics course can attest to the scientific fact that we do not have capitalism anywhere on planet Earth. So I’m calling out Hawking on clearly never studying economics, yet routinely attempting to talk about economics as though he has any idea what in the hell he’s talking about. Clearly, he doesn’t, and any first-year college student could confirm that.

So to these three heretical priests, I say:

Repent! The end is Nye.

What we’re seeing is a more of an revival than a renaissance, as the precepts of science have been tossed in the trash with reckless abandon. What else can we conclude, when “celebrated scientists” make claims that they either know to be false, trusting that the masses will believe them, or are simply too ignorant on the subject to know whether their claim is false at all?

Yet this hasn’t stopped the masses–the precise characteristics which makes them “the masses,” after all, is that they aren’t interested in independently discovering truth and will blindly follow whatever ideology is handed down to them from “trusted authorities”–from swallowing all of it, with Tyson’s demonstrably false, fallacious, and erroneous spiel seeing tens of thousands of retweets by people who have no desire to think the matter through for themselves.

Trust has been placed in these three people, by the masses of people, who, again, are defined “as the masses” precisely by their lack of interest in pursuing these matters intellectually, and these three people have utterly betrayed that trust. Yet the masses don’t know it, do they? No, because the masses aren’t interested in scrutinizing the words of their favorite priests. For the masses, these poisoned, fallacious ideas enter the mind unchallenged, and there they embed themselves; the masses never stop to ponder the false dichotomy that Tyson has proposed, or what credentials Stephen Hawking might have to discuss economics rather than cosmology.

And I’m as qualified to call myself a scientist as Bill Nye.

I haven’t researched this recently, and seem to recall Nye having a Master’s, but maybe not.

In fact, if a “scientist” is someone who liberally applies the scientific method to questions, then I’m infinitely more qualified. Bill Nye has the advantage in that this actor and performer managed to get a kids’ show where he cheaply purchased credibility among the masses and became a trusted authority figure. Indeed, I find myself wondering whether Bill Nye was purposely planted there when we were kids precisely for this purpose–precisely for using him to peddle statism and the status quo once we became adults. It wouldn’t be the most extravagantly dangerous thing the state ever did. After all, they took control of the entire education apparatus and have been using it to manipulate the masses for 60 years. Now those people raised by the state education are adults and in charge, and the idea of dismantling that apparatus is met with knee-jerk angry reactions; the idea is rejected without consideration.

Give me their minds through their formative years, and by the time they’re adults I can have them convinced of anything. I can have them saying it’s okay to kill people who disagree with them, that people of one race deserve to be annihilated or enslaved, that it’s okay to steal things if they want those things… The mind of a child is not critical. By the time they are able to think critically, the ideas I plant will already be firmly in their minds, forming the very lens through which they view the world.

We have rarely been in more danger of a religious sentiment overtaking reason, and Nye, Tyson, Kaku, and Hawking are leading the charge. “Science” isn’t a set of beliefs that one must adhere to or be a heretic. I’ve seen “pro-science” people do the metaphorical equivalent of burning people at the stake for dare challenging one of the items in their set of beliefs, and I’m sure you’ve seen the same. “Science” is a methodology. Anyone who demands that you acquiesce to a set of beliefs and ideas that they have put forward is peddling religion, not science.

If they can’t present evidence, if they can’t present a reasonable argument, and if they can’t prove their position, based on all available evidence, is sound, then they are unworthy of trust. If they ignore huge amounts of information simply because it’s inconvenient to their hypothesis, then they are engaging in cherry-picking, another hallmark of religion, rather than science.

Rantings & Ravings Rebooted Ep 03 – "Gays & Justice"

Intro (0:00)

General conversation about stuff.

News 1 (2:33)

Gay couple in Norway attacked by Moroccans, and reflections on the Pulse Shooting, as well as the fact that we’re not able to fix a problem if we aren’t allowed to discuss it. Also the mess in Syria, why Trump thinks it’s okay to create more terrorists, and the clusterfuck state of American foreign policy.

Stupid Comment of the Week (10:06)

A “former AnCap” who left the ideology because… he couldn’t envision a way for the ideology to come to fruition…? It was really hard to make sense of his ramblings, and this is from someone who rambles a lot. So we discuss various ways in which the radical ideology of non-violence could be implemented, and mention again that beautiful event during World War 1.

News 2 (23:52)

There actually isn’t a second news item this week. I had one, but deleted it to instead talk about the fact that we shouldn’t have this much shit to discuss in the first place, and how it’s an indication that something has gone awry. My anarchism doesn’t come out often (much of the time, I could be mistaken for a libertarian), but here it really shines through.

Are You Fucking Kidding Me? (36:37)

Skittles’ attempt to show solidarity with a rainbow-oriented group by… removing all colors from their candy…? What? I’m far from a Social Justice Warrior, but they have a point. Removing all color doesn’t show support; it shows antagonism, morons. “I’m going to show my support for the women’s march by waving my dick around!” What? No, it doesn’t make sense. A candy with the slogan of “taste the rainbow” removing all its colors to show “support” for a group whose emblem is the rainbow is, at the very least moronic, and that’s assuming it wasn’t meant as a snub of LGBTQ people in a society that wouldn’t tolerate it.

Darkside Philosophy (40:53)

Justice and AnCap principles–most people don’t mean “justice” when they say it. They mean “vengeance.” So I talk a bit about my murdered mother and how I might have justice over it. Spoiler Alert: the only way for me to have justice is to forgive the murderer. The conceit that it’s okay to inflict violence on someone because they used violence is called Eye For An Eye, and it’s not justice; it’s revenge.

The NES Classic & Economics

We anarchists and libertarians are bothered by a great many things, but one of the things that bothers us most–and that is almost universal among anarchists and libertarians–is the general economic ignorance that pervades the United States. We wouldn’t tolerate this ignorance in any other subject, but it serves the state’s purpose to keep us ignorant of economics (the manner by which we turn energy into product), so it’s a field that is touched only briefly–if at all–in high schools. The average American knows only that there’s a thing called “demand” and a thing called “supply,” and then their eyes tend to glaze over and words like “derivatives” and “inflationary tyreni index G7P 14.7” run through their minds.

So, first of all, forget all of that. Forget about GDP, forget about inflationary indexes, and forget about all the shenanigans that we have come to associate with “economics” now that we have given over control of the entire economy to a coalition of privately owned banks that operate with no Congressional oversight. All of that crap is fiction. They are obfuscations designed to confuse us and distract us. They are smokescreens designed to keep us disinterested in the subject, to make us feel ignorant and stupid, and to make us blindly trust in these experts who seem to know what they’re talking about. In reality, they’re just talking nonsense, like this guy:

I’m not kidding. That’s the average state economist. That’s the Fed Chairperson. That’s the Secretary of the Treasury. For the most part, they have just completely made this shit up and invented rules that don’t have anything to do with reality. It’s a game of Monopoly that they’ve invented and tricked us into playing, and they keep us playing by using complicated language and nonsense to convince us that we need them being the game’s referee.

Now, I am not talking about the fact that Nintendo has ceased producing the NES Classic. For those unaware, Nintendo recently released a mini-console for $60, which contained 30 classic NES games like Mega Man 2, Castlevania, The Legend of Zelda, and others–even some stupid ones like Balloon Fight that nobody wants. Naturally, the thing sold very well, but Nintendo notoriously has problems with supply and did the same thing with their Amiibos (which are little toys that interact with some of their games). Nintendo repeatedly failed to manufacture enough Amiibos to meet demand, which led to accusations that they were doing it on purpose (in fact, one can conclude nothing else, since they publicly addressed the problem and then did nothing to fix it).

This obviously created scalpers, and scalpers are getting a lot of criticism. Some enterprising individual pops into Wal-Mart, buys an NES Classic for $60, and then posts it on eBay for $100 (or whatever price), pocketing the profit. This is actually a good thing, economically, but it’s a band-aid to the situation. Realistically, Nintendo should be the ones directly increasing the price of the NES Classic, instead of continuing to sell them for $60. In fact, thanks to the scalpers, there is no shortage. Calling this a shortage is economically ignorant and incorrect.

A shortage is when consumers are unable to buy an item.

And there you go. What we have with the NES Classic clearly isn’t a shortage. In economic terms, a shortage exists when Demand exceeds Supply–when more people want to buy a thing, and there aren’t enough of those things to go around. In fact, scalpers have ensured that there isn’t a shortage. Rather than condemning them, we should be thanking them.

The people complaining about a “shortage” don’t really mean that they are unable to buy the item, do they? Clearly, they don’t. What they mean is “I’m not willing to pay that much for one.” This is a critical element of economic understanding: price is not some arbitrary thing. Prices are supposed to increase like this, as the increase in price offsets Demand. Again, this is obvious. Many people were willing to pay $60 for an NES Classic. Fewer people are willing to pay $110 for an NES Classic.

This means that, quite literally, supply exceeds demand, not the other way around. In reality, what we have is a surplus, not a shortage. A shortage exists when demand exceeds supply; a surplus exists when supply exceeds demand. Thanks to the increased price, the supply persists today, and the demand has been lowered.

There is a character in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time who sells Magic Beans to the player, and each purchase increased the cost by 10 rupees. The first costs 10 rupees, the second costs 20 rupees, the third costs 30 rupees, and so on. An increase in price because of high demand is a normal, expected, and beneficial part of economics, as it ensures that we never experience a shortage.

During the 1980s, the United States saw pretty severe gas shortages. Gas stations attempted to raise the price as the supply of gas decreased, but the Federal Government put a Price Ceiling on it and forbade them increasing the price beyond that. So, naturally, everyone immediately set their price at the ceiling (even if they weren’t yet that low on supply). As the cost of something increases, people’s willingness to do it or acquire it decreases, which drives them to seek alternatives (the same phenomenon causes heroin addicts to turn to krokodil, which would be averted if alternatives were made cheaper and more accessible by being made legal). Few people would have been willing to pay $100 for a gallon of gasoline, and so they might have taken that money and bought bicycles instead. Is it ideal? No, the ideal solution is to also increase Supply to re-lower the price, which will be necessary because some people have already chosen to go without because of the increased price. “No, we’re not going to go to grandma’s house this week, not for $20 per gallon. We’ll just not buy the gas at all.”

In the real world, some money is better than no money, and this is why producers can be counted upon to increase supply to meet the demand. Otherwise, they’re just leaving money on the table, and that money will go to someone else. This all has to do with diminishing returns, as well–at a certain point, because all goods are scare and finite, the cost of furnishing the supply gets too high, so the price of the good increases beyond the demand, and producers have to come up with alternative solutions for consumers. This is why we don’t have to actually worry about running out of gasoline: once we get up to $17 a gallon, so many alternatives will be cheaper that gasoline will be phased out naturally.

While it’s certainly bad to have gasoline at $100 per gallon, especially during the 80s, it’s preferable to not having gasoline available at all. If some family had to take their sick child to the emergency room, it’s infinitely better for them to be able to buy gasoline at $100 a gallon than to not be able to buy it. High prices are always preferred to shortages. Those people out there who really, really want an NES Classic can buy one, which is obviously better than their being totally unable to buy one.

Scalpers have performed the critical service of increasing the Price of the good, which in turn lowered Demand so that Supply exceeded it. I was just talking with someone at Jim Sterling’s website about it, and I’d pointed out that marking the item as “Limited Edition” would have made the “shortage” worse. This was before I’d thought about the situation enough to realize that there isn’t a shortage. Sure, one can’t buy one at Target or Wal-Mart, but one can buy one, and that is unequivocally not the case in a shortage.

The only real point of contention is that the thing costs more than they’re willing to pay. Hey, that’s not a problem. There’s a “shortage” of $10 ones, too, and $10 is my price point for one. Every single person out there has their own price point–has their own amount that they’d be willing to pay. Evidently, for most people that number is around $60. For some people, it’s around $120. For me, it’s around $10. The fact that there aren’t any available at my price point doesn’t mean there is a shortage, though. It means that I don’t want one of the things as much as other people do*. These people who want to buy one for $60 are talking about “shortages,” but there isn’t a shortage–their price point simply isn’t as high as other people, and because of the low supply the price of the good has increased beyond the price point as determined by their personal demand.

So scalpers are good. They have performed the critical function of providing the NES Classic to the diehard fans who want them most, and we can say that pretty definitively, as one’s personal price point is determined almost entirely by one’s own demand. It follows that people willing to pay $110 obviously want one more than someone who is only willing to pay $60 for one. This means objectively and measurably that the scalpers have ensured that people who wanted the NES Classic most were able to acquire one.

But, again, all the scalpers have done is ensure that people who are bigger fans of Nintendo and NES games were able to acquire an NES Classic, while people who weren’t as big fans and didn’t want one as badly as those other people weren’t able to, because they weren’t willing to fork over that much cash for one. I can’t even pretend to think it’s a bad thing that people who are bigger fans of Nintendo are able to purchase a Nintendo product that they want, as opposed to people who aren’t as big of fans being able to acquire the product. Clearly, it doesn’t matter as much to them, and the role of currency is precisely to allow us to measure value. That’s literally what currency does. The USD is a unit of measurement for value, and we use it to gauge how much a person wants something. If Person A wants a thing more than Person B, then Person A will be willing to pay more. If Person B can’t get it because he’s not willing to pay as much as, or more, than Person A, then the good should go to Person A, because Person A measurably wants it more.

I try not to tweet much at Jim Sterling, but I think I’m going to tweet this one at him, because he’s been pretty hard on scalpers in the past, and I don’t think that’s fair. Looked at economically, all they do is separate the Diehard Fans from the Casual Fans and ensure that the Diehard Fans are able to acquire the things that they are Diehard Fans of. I agree that this sucks for the Casual Fans, but that’s a problem of Supply, not the scalpers. It’s Nintendo’s fault that someone went without an NES Classic. The scalpers only ensured that it was the Casual Fans who went without, and that the Diehard fans didn’t have to.

I think that’s a good thing. I think that if Person A is a bigger fan of This Thing than Person B and is willing to pay more for it than Person B, then Person A should be the one who gets it.

And I would certainly argue, now that Nintendo has ceased producing them and the next batch will be the last, that it is more critical than ever that we ensure that the diehard fans have them. I bought tickets to the A Perfect Circle concert next month for well over what they cost initially, and the reason was precisely because my demand exceeds other people’s. I can’t even convey with words what A Perfect Circle’s music means to me. Being able to see them again–probably for the last tour they’re ever going to do, since no one expected this one and it’s been 14 years since their last one–is one of those experiences that literally makes life worth living (no exaggeration). Because of scalpers, I was able to acquire a ticket, and I would say it’s far more important that I was able to get a ticket than Random Joe who kinda likes their music and has nothing else to do that evening. The seats aren’t even that good, and I don’t even care. It’s A Perfect Circle. It means more to me than it will anyone else in that audience. This song probably conveys it best:

While that’s a matter that’s a bit more serious than a random video game console that can be replicated in countless other ways, the fact remains that scalpers performed the same service there that they’re providing for Diehard Nintendo and NES fans, and… that’s a good thing. It does suck to be on the “I can’t have one” end of that, and I’ve been on that end plenty of times. Until about 3 weeks ago, I was on that end, and didn’t think I was going to be able to make it to see APC in Nashville (The fact that I don’t care even a little about the 3 hour drive says a bit, too). It was genuinely heartbreaking. Thanks to scalpers, I can go. Thanks to scalpers, people who really want an NES Classic can get one.

Nintendo should make more. There’s no doubt of that. And A Perfect Circle should do more tours. But until supply is high enough that everyone can purchase the good at the price point they prefer, there will be people who go without, and scalpers ensure that the “people who go without” are the ones who don’t care as much as other people.

* Actually, I don’t think I’d even pay that. To be completely honest, I don’t think I’d want one if it was free.

I’d also agree that the scalpers have gone way overboard. $400? $500? I even saw one for $8,000. That’s alright, though. I sincerely doubt anyone is going to pay that much, and they’ll lower the price to something less stupid. That’s greed and stupidity more than anything else. But yeah, still, if someone is willing to pay $500 for one of those pieces of crap, then they want it way freaking more than most people and should get it. I just don’t think there is anyone out there willing to pay even half of that. For fuck’s sake, all of the games are available free online…