Friday, February 1, 2008

On the Elites

"Let them eat Cake" - Marie Antoinette

I am a long time proponent of free market capitalism. I think it's been the primary driving force for most of humanity's progress over its history. The benefits of free trade are impossible to ignore. However its also impossible to ignore the simple fact that its a lot easier to be successful in a capitalist system if you have something to trade. Ignoring the fact that regulated markets offer much more entrenched aristocratic classes, its not hard to see that People born into wealth have a significant advantage over those born into poverty, and well, that kind of sucks for the poor child. These wealthy have many opportunities that the impoverished will not. Well how can that gap be closed, or how do these impoverished gain access to the opportunites of the elites?

The route of Capitalism offers an answer to that question. A great example is apparent in Wal-Mart. Often attacked, the simple fact is that if you want to maximize your purchasing power (something poor people want especially) the way to do this is to go to Wal-Mart. The competitive forces in the market empowered Sam Walton to spot an inefficiency in the marketplace (The two biggest he utilizes, smart inventory practices to lower overhead, and elimination of wholesalers/shaking down suppliers) and bring consumers into his store. Of course it doesnt end there, in Wal-Mart each of the products you buy was designed in order to beat out competitors and so are cheaper, better made, and now you can buy more with less. The idea being that $50 worth of Wal-Mart product today, was much more expensive 30 years ago (if you account for quality of the good or even if it existed). Electronics are probably where this is most apparent. Capitalism is making goods cheaper. Its enabling impoverished to purchase goods ordinarily only accesible to richer people. They have an opportunity they wouldnt have otherwise had.

The other route is through gov't mandate. The most obvious way is the gov't creates a wealth redistribution system where the elites help pay for many goods of the impoverished. While the immediate reaction is that this is socialism, maybe it is but maybe its also necessary and that shouldnt be a dirty word. The most obvious example of this marketplace for a good at work is the educational system. We use gov't mandates to force tax payers to pool their resources together (married, rich, poor, with/without children) and pay for a school system to educate young children. At a local public school everyone has access to the same exact schooling no matter how much money your parents have. It gives poor people the opportunity to learn what they probably would not have otherwise. Now many studies have been done to the gross ineffeciencies to the public education system, which hemorages money like crazy, but perhaps the major problem is that those studies fail to take into account the benefits of an educated workforce on the economic system as a whole. What metric can you design to account for the repeated benefits large masses of literate people provide as workers v. the alternative a true free market would provide. Perhaps this is partly responsible for much of the Economic growth a society enjoys, as poor people now are empowered with something which can be traded in the capitalist system. And the untapped potential of many people is realized.

These are gov't policies which essentially regulate the free market, and even though they come with the incredible costs associated with Gov't intervention, I am unsure the benefits are completely accounted for, or even if they can be completely accounted for (like with public road systems, public road systems enable the citizens to trade freely amongst themselves, who knows how much economic growth that has fostered at a great expense?). Taking an all or nothing approach to free market capitalism seems foolish. I am unconvinced that a truly laissez faire free market could cause much of the economic growth we've enjoyed over the past two centuries. The usual libertarian counter to these arguments is that "The government gets credit for every advance the free market provides which it has it hand in. (In other words if the gov't were out of these markets all the benefits would be apparant anyway at a far lesser cost, you just cannot see the alternate history.) I don't see it in these instances.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On Politics as Religion

"Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses." - H.L. Mencken

This is hardly relevatory I'm guessing, but every time I watch these politicians get on stage this primary season and totally ignore any and all issues of substance, I'm frequently left with the sense that I'm watching religious ceremonies and theological debates. The facts are basically irrelevent (as with religion) as the debate centers on things like values rather than policy. The most obvious example of this is Barack Obama, who I like (how can you not) and gives very moving and passionate speeches about nothing in particular. Everytime I watch him speak I feel like I'm watching Joel Osteen or Tony Robbins (who basically preaches religious dogma) get up and give a moving sermon on the potential in all of us. His power is clear in the faces of his followers who see some sort of salvation in him. Another great example is John Edwards who gave whatever sob stories he could in EVERY FREAKING SPEECH before dropping out. Only instead of finding God (like most religious sob stories), his subjects just lead miserable lives and need to find salvation through the federal government's help.

I am struck even stronger with this feeling when i talk to my mother and I tell her how angry I am with the Republican party for their massive policy failures over the past 6 years. She listens to what I say, agrees, then argues against my point by painting democrats basically as instruments of the devil. They represent a terrible evil of collectivist thought that will bring everyone down in order to ensure the few people who are left behind are on equal footing. Essentially, attacking Republicans is embracing evil. Of course numerous democrats I've conversed with have the same opinion but reversed. These are highly emotional people making irrational arguments because their very religion is at stake, the political party to which they have allegence.

So what values do these people gain from political affliation? Generalization: Democrats value the idea that a healthy society involves care and compassion for those who are unfortunate, Republicans value a society where people are committed to tenets of honor and discipline. If you attack someone's political affliation you are basically attacking a value system on which they have made very important decisions in their life, you are essentially attacking a philosophy which they have returned to in order to guide themselves through tough decisions. AND THAT IS VERY PERSONAL. It's on par with attacking someone's religious beliefs in some sense, at least for the partisans out there.

Why else would everyone waste so much time and energy on something which they have such limited control over? People passionate about politics are so becuase of the moral superiority that comes with it, or the reaffirmation of the values they believe. Why else would political debate get so heated? Do you really care about Bill H.R. 234 that much? It will have limited impact on your life, what matters is the personal connection you have made to the supporters of said bill and the strength they in turn have given you.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

On Dear Chicago

"Dear Chicago, You'll never guess." - Ryan Adams

Dear Chicago by Ryan Adams is the most depressing song I've ever heard, but its beauty cannot be denied. Achingly sad, with a somber sense of defeat, it is brutal but incredibly insightful. I love it. The man is a genius.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On Worship

"Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship." - David Foster Wallace

So what do I worship? I tried listening to Ayn Rand who promoted the idea of self worship. The idea was fulfilling for only so long. Then i tried worshiping great individuals, who i felt were deserving of my admiration. I tried worshiping women, i've tried worshiping men. I've tried worshiping the scientific method. I've basically tried worshipping everything but god (however i have worshipped natural law which can be considered a god force). All of them have yielded mixed results at best.

Perhaps worship is the improper term. Perhaps a more appropriate term would be LOVE. Of course the problem is we have no choice about what we love. Our body and soul tells us what we love and it doesn't matter what our brain does to control it, all attempts will be inadequete, we have no choice in the matter. I have never really been in love with anything or anyone beyond myself. How much of this is due to my own hang ups and how much of it is due to the world being found wanting is up for debate, but I think it's just really sad. I don't wear it as a badge of honor, I wear it as a badge of shame. It's something that no matter how much I think about it, and no matter how much problem solving acumen I throw its way, I will not solve. It's a matter of the heart not of the brain.

My only recourse is I can attempt to put myself in situations conducive to love and hope it blossoms.

Monday, September 10, 2007

On Being Unemployed

You have a ton of time to just think. You spend all day thinking about things. Irrelevent things and relevent things blur together and all you are really left with is your thought process, with no sense at all of overarching goals or conclusions to make. The only thing that remains is the method, its purpose entirely lost. It gets really really old.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

On the Death of the Republican Party

"We are one nation--that means if we make a mistake, we make it as a single country."- Mike Huckabee
"No. When we make a mistake it is the obligation of the people through their representatives to correct the mistake, not to continue the mistake." - Ron Paul

The fact that the first guy is considered a viable candidate for president and the second a crack pot is the reason why this party will go down in flames, having totally lost sight of anything it claimed to believe in, instead resorting to empty jingoism. This compacted with the fact that Rudy Guiliani (the supposed social liberal, fiscal conservative) spent the entire debate last night laughing at everything Ron Paul said (the constitution, ha ha) means they are dead to me.

What happened? 15 years ago they were talking about things like the contract with america, limited government, and a total contraction of federal power. Now under Bush spending has increased dramatically (yet taxes are lower, the reason is insane deficit spending, essentially stealing from my generation before we even have a chance to earn) more and more departments of gov't are being created and the patriot act has been one of the greatest attacks on civil liberties in years. Add to this Kelo v. New London (not their fault but actually the most subversive development) and the past 6 years have been a total nightmare, with nothing in terms of domestic policy which is a roll back of federal power. Oh yeah there's also the Iraq war which has absurd costs in human life, foreign diplomacy, and the afforementioned loans which my generation will have to pay for later.

What happened of course is 9-11 happened. A republican president, and a republican congress, and an american people rallied behind their gov't wanting them to do a good job. And they fucked up. They fucked up big time. Of course the democrats were either too pussy to actually challenge them on anything or were more calculating, realizing that they could just give the republicans enough rope to hang themselves and take power later. Just spineless politicians at work, with little interesting them other than the quest for power, and the quest to make big important decisions where really more often than not, no one is needed to make such decisions.

So I retire from caring about either of the major parties. They are hollow, and empty and each house only a few individuals worthy of support. All I ask is divided gov't. None of Huckabee's empty buzz words about unity we need fucking DEBATE. So that when one party over steps its bounds, the other party at least has the guts to stand up to it. The less gov't decisions actually made, the better off we all are.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On Happiness

"We shall have no better conditions in the future if we are satisfied with all those which we have at present." - Thomas Edison

I freqently bring up the fact at random intervals that I am not satisfied with my current situation or current circumstances in my life with my friends and family. More often then not I get the same answers again and again. "You're still young. You have so much going for you, things could be so much worse be happy with what you have." Etc Etc. It is at this point I usually realize that most of my aquaintenaces just want me to be happy which is in intself a pretty awesome thing. I want all of them to be happy as well, but what they are describing are not arguments for happiness but arguments for complacency.

It doesn't matter how much things could be worse or how young I am, I have much in my mind that I wish to accomplish. So long as I believe I am on the path to accomplishing these things I am fairly happy with how things are going. If I am not, then I am upset. It's not too difficult to figure out and it's not a statement about you. I just have to do what I have to do. Perhaps your ideas of a fulfilling life are not my own. I will figure this out by trial and error as (Am I crazy but I belive this to be true) EVERYONE DOES. To be happy with what I have means to be ignorant of the world out there, a world that is far more exciting than where I'm currently situated.