December 30, 2013
Yesterday I was again dumbfounded watching a video made by Stefan Molyneux. I can't help feeling that there is something very wrong with this person. He made one of his "the truth about" videos which could easily also be replaced by the title "the trash about" because what again followed next was a total trashing of the person in question. Since Stefan Molyneux does that quite frequently I'm wondering, and I'm by no means alone in this regard, if there is something pathological about this self acclaimed philosopher.
In this video Molyneux starts with asking for donations which should make it somewhat obvious that he's also running a business. Personally, I find it somewhat flabbergasting why someone would donate money to him. That aside. Next he warns about hero worshipping which is a little ironic coming from a guy who quite clearly wants a fan base. He remarks that he gets 3 million views a month on his channel and that a 50 cent donation per show is a fair price. People viewing him as an expert of some sorts is advantageous for his business endeavors. Still, you really shouldn't hero worship.
Then he aims his sights at Mahatma Gandhi. Supposedly others asked to do a review of him which apparently Molyneux is happy to oblige. Gandhi is of course largely viewed positively as a father of a nation. A revolutionary pacifist who preached non violence. He's viewed as a spiritual man, as an icon. Stefan Molyneux however, manages to produce the exact opposite which is quite fascinating for analyzing his character. The switch to a highly negative conclusion, the search for negative associations in order to trash and smear speaks volumes about Molyneux himself.
Around the 9 minute mark Molyneux delivers his first blow. The intro revolves around Gandhi's personal life and how he preached abstinence yet then he remarks that Gandhi had (sexual) relationships with under aged women more or less framing him as a pedophile and hypocrite. I have no idea what his source is since mainstream media such as Wikipedia doesn't mention this. The character assassination however has commenced.
Around 15 minutes in Molyneux turns to history. Before the British colonized India the country had fallen to slave economics, more or less softening the dictatorial rule of the British who brought a higher standard of civilization. He mentions that in a nation of millions there were only 70.000 British troops at any given time and that many Indians collaborated. I find this fascinating since Molyneux insinuates that if the Indians would have formed a cohesive rebellion and expelled the British by their sheer numbers they could have done so easily. Yet when Nelson Mandela picked up arms and started a rebellion in his own country against the racist apartheid regime Molyneux labels him as a terrorist. This clearly shows the hypocrisy of Molyneux, the premeditation and setting the standard where it suits you.
23:45, Gandhi was a racist. When a young Gandhi was in the British colonial army in South Africa apparently he spoke in derogatory fashion about the Zulu people in South Africa which is a bit peculiar since Indian people also have a darker skin tone if I'm not mistaken. Again Molyneux doesn't list a source and this isn't a mainstream fact. A Google search doesn't reveal any scholarly sources. There is a book written by a G.B. Singh who makes these allegations but who turns out not to be a Hindu but a Sikh. Is there political and religious rivalry here?
34:45 Gandhi is a murderer of Zulu's. This is what Molyneux claims. The British Army clashed with the South Africans and people died. I have no doubt people died during violent conflicts in South Africa but does that prove Gandhi is a murderer? Molyneux himself quickly backs down and states next that Gandhi participated in those military actions which reveals that he has no evidence that Gandhi pulled the trigger himself as a soldier. Yet he doesn't retract the murder allegation in full.
Then 37:35. He states: 'Gandhi was no philosopher.' Then another follow up of character assassination: 'Gandhi was a witch doctor with regards to science.' Well, Gandhi never took up studies in science and as a Hindu he would have been brought up in that religion. An American or European would most likely be brought up as a Christian in that time period. Enormous shortsightedness on the part of Molyneux. Again there's also a great deal of hypocrisy involved here because if you would emphasize using science and technology in full for the betterment of humanity Molyneux would categorize that as 'Marxism with robots.'
Finally at the 38:25 mark Molyneux mentions that Gandhi allowed his wife to die by refusing to administer penicillin. This is actually the only example he lists that is documented to some degree although the article also mentions that his wife said that 'it was her time go.' Was there one last request on the part of his wife? I don't know the exact circumstances of her death, does Molyneux?
What this video amounts up to is just a deliberate methodology of character assassination and this isn't the only one by far. If you visit Stefan Molyneux's YouTube channel you'll find many videos with the title 'the truth about .....' and what follows next is a highly critical, one sided examination and ultimately condemnation of the person the video deals with. What basically happens here? Molyneux shows no reluctance of accepting the title of philosopher but is he really worthy of such a distinction? What really happens here is that Molyneux elevates himself as some sort of philosopher by trashing and downgrading others. That isn't the hallmark of a philosopher, that's the hallmark of a pathological narcissist.
What is a narcissist? (From Wikipedia.) Some people diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are characterized by unwarranted feelings of self-importance. They have a sense of entitlement and demonstrate grandiosity in their beliefs and behavior. They have a strong need for admiration, but lack feelings of empathy.
Symptoms of this disorder, as defined by the DSM-IV-TR include;
* Expects to be recognized as superior and special, without superior accomplishments.
* Expects constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others.
* Envies others and believes others envy him/her.
* Is preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence.
* Lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others.
* Is arrogant in attitudes and behavior.
* Has expectations of special treatment that are unrealistic.
At first glance, does Stefan Molyneux begin to qualify for said features? Well, yes! Look at a number of his videos or podcasts. He's no where near the level of Gandhi or Mandela but he downgrades them like if they were punk kids in his neighborhood. Molyneux never led nationwide rebellions against oppressors yet the air of authority he ventilates suggests he is of a higher category. He was never a member of a people that had to deal with colonist overlords yet he pretends that these same people who sought freedom and respect for their basic human rights could have done so without any form of violence and if you're very close to achieving such a thing as Gandhi did then he still manages to put you away as a common criminal. What Molyneux does isn't normal. It's pathological.
I'm not the first to notice this by far. Others such as the website FDRLiberated.com have detected the absolute condemnations as well. One dominant feature of a narcissist is called "splitting" in psychology. It's an all or nothing type of thinking. An individual's actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground. This is basically what Molyneux does. Remember, he makes Gandhi and Mandela as 'all bad.' In the final analysis there's no middle ground. His views on economics follow an identical path. Molyneux is a libertarian, he thinks the government is force and coercion while the free market is voluntary and beneficial to all. Again no middle ground.
I'm no psychologist. I'm not qualified to make a professional judgement regarding the mind and mentality of Stefan Molyneux. I do hold the opinion that he's a pathological narcissist. Seeing that Molyneux has a huge fan base and that he basically makes a living of donations from his fans maybe we can work something out. If Molyneux puts up a donate button to be evaluated by a registered clinical psychologist I would be happy to donate. You know, splitting the difference...
December 28, 2013
Koch Brothers Exposed is a hard-hitting investigation of the 1% at its very worst. This full-length documentary film on Charles and David Koch—two of the world's richest and most powerful men—is the latest from acclaimed director Robert Greenwald (Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price, Outfoxed, Rethink Afghanistan). The billionaire brothers bankroll a vast network of organizations that work to undermine the interests of the 99% on issues ranging from Social Security to the environment to civil rights. This film uncovers the Kochs' corruption—and points the way to how Americans can reclaim their democracy.
What can you do to fight back? Get the film. Host a screening. Tell your friends. Get the Koch brothers out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
10 Shocking Facts on the Kochs
1. Koch Industries, which the brothers own, is one of the top ten polluters in the United States -- which perhaps explains why the Kochs have given $60 million to climate denial groups between 1997 and 2010.
2. The Kochs are the oil and gas industry's biggest donors to the congressional committee with oversight of the hazardous Keystone XL oil pipeline. They and their employees gave more than $300,000 to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2010 alone.
3. From 1998-2008, Koch-controlled foundations gave more than $196 million to organizations that favor polices that would financially enrich the two brothers. In addition, Koch Industries spent $50 million on lobbying and some $8 million in PAC contributions.
4. The Koch fortune has its origins in engineering contracts with Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union.
5. The Kochs are suing to take over the Cato Institute, which has accused the Kochs of attempting to destroy the group's identity as an independent, libertarian think and align it more closely with a partisan agenda.
6. A Huffington Post source who was at a three-day retreat of conservative billionaires said the Koch brothers pledged to donate $60 million to defeat President Obama in 2012 and produce pledges of $40 million more from others at the retreat.
7. Since 2000, the Kochs have collected almost $100 million in government contracts, mostly from the Department of Defense.
8. Koch Industries has an annual production capacity of 2.2 billion pounds of the carcinogen formaldehyde. The company has worked to keep it from being classified as a carcinogen even though David Koch is a prostate cancer survivor.
9. The Koch brothers' combined fortune of roughly $50 billion is exceeded only by that of Bill Gates in the United States.
10. The Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs accused Koch Oil of scheming to steal $31 million of crude oil from Native Americans. Although the company claimed it was accidental, a former executive in this operation said Charles Koch had known about it and had responded to the overages by saying, "I want my fair share, and that's all of it."
December 16, 2013
December 15, 2013
This sunday morning I was again dumbfounded by a video Stefan Molyneux put up on his YouTube channel. Actor Paul Walker who died a couple of weeks ago in a horrific car accident got a kind of eulogy by the aforementioned person. While it may seem natural that some people comment on Paul Walker's passing and within that framework I of course mean his family, friends and colleagues who worked with him oddly enough Molyneux nowhere near belongs in that category. So why does he has the urge to comment on Paul Walker's life?
It gets even more absurd. While the first 4 minutes in the video above are focused on praising Paul Walker's accomplishments as a human being and have a sense of spirituality combined with the warning of the temptations that making a lot of money can bring to a person (which is ironic since Molyneux is a free market fundamentalist) Stefan remarks at 4:36 in the video: "don't mean to dump on the dead," but this is exactly what he does next. What follows next is really a type of condemnation. Molyneux has to mention that Paul Walker dated not one but two 16 year old girls as an adult. More or less condemning him of pedophilia.
Why this sudden change in direction? Why make such remarks at this time when Paul Walker's family and friends are still grieving? Why would Stefan Molyneux do such a thing? Actually, this isn't an isolated incident. After Nelson Mandela's passing he felt the same urge to make a video critique which I personally responded to in this blog. On the day of this writing Nelson Mandela was laid to rest but again that didn't stop Molyneux to make scathing comments and condemn Mandela as a communist and terrorist.
Personally, I was raised not to speak ill about the recently departed. That has a deeper meaning. You give the people who mourn time to heal and regain their composure in life. Apparently such notions are completely lost on a 47 year old male whose real objective is seemingly to gather more attention to himself. If you ask me I would categorize that as pathological. Why else would Stefan Molyneux make 'eulogy' videos as an outsider that basically lack any empathy for those that deeply cared for the person? Isn't that just narcissism?
Another success story from the garden. Pumpkin. Never tried that plant before so everything was new to me. Of course I read up on the plant on the internet but in reality the learning curve is much more extensive. Awesome plant though in many ways. I had a small bag of seeds so I started with 2 seeds and both came out in late April, beginning of May. It was still unusually cold around that time so it wasn't until late May that I put both plants in the ground. One went next to a compost bin the other in the corner of my garden in the picture above. The plant does require lots of fertilizer. What I didn't really foresee is that the plant can get huge. 5-6 meters easily. I also mistakenly thought the fruit itself would stay close to the ground and roots, not so. On both plants the pumpkin developed 3-4 meters from the roots. In the picture above I discovered that a huge pumpkin had grown within the hedge of my neighbor's.
The shot above is from the other plant that had grown over my fence and into the park. The plant makes many (male and female) flowers that require pollination by bees. You can just make out that there are 2 pumpkins developing but one didn't make it. It's also recommended to only grow one pumpkin as the plant can direct all its energy towards that one. It took months for the pumpkin to really grow to size and it was really well into autumn before they started to ripe. The end result however was spectacular. I gave both pumpkins to my sister in law who knows how to prepare them for different meals. At first I thought they smelled a bit funny that's why they also became a gift but it's not bad to eat. Right now I'm really a bit smitten with the plant and I intend to grow them again next year. It does require some looking after with fertile ground but the roots go so deep that watering isn't much of an issue in moderate climates. Great plant.
December 12, 2013
The truth about Stefan Molyneux is that he is a right wing market extremist and a borderline psychopath. Thought I'd give you my conclusion in the very first sentence. Last week Nelson Mandela passed away and within days Molyneux came out with the video above. It's filled with condemnation of Mandela's life. A typical right wing smear tactic is to start about anything left wing or progressive and immediately associate it with a death toll. Stefan here does no different. Right of the bat he mentions that Nelson Mandela was a communist and a terrorist. I was raised with an understanding that it's not polite to speak ill of the recently departed. Apparently Molyneux has no such reservations which speaks volumes about his character.
Lets examine some of the claims Molyneux makes. Did Mandela take up violence? Yes. Was he associated with a communist group? Yes. It's all very well documented. Nelson Mandela took up arms after the Sharpeville Massacre. The only political movement willing to assist was, yes, left wing. Not so strange actually since the white South African government was of course right wing and conservative in the early 1960s. What were his options at the time? Could Mandela have joined the right wing apartheid regime and have his human rights respected by being a good capitalist and obedient black man? Would the racist government officials have said: 'we will give you a pass Mandela?' Of course such finer details are completely lost on Molyneux.
Let me rant on. While non-violent resistance is of course recommended and should be employed first is it totally outlandish to think that the South African black man was also entitled to self defense? I mean, they were regarded as second rate human beings and when they protested a bunch of them were killed in their own land. Aren't they entitled to defend their lives? Let me present another theoretical scenario. If in the United States some rampant group of African Americans or Latinos goes on a killing spree and murder dozens of white people, how long do you think it will take for the white people to take up arms and defend themselves? How long would it take for the bullets to start flying? With some 300 millions firearms privately owned in the U.S. a violent reaction would only be a matter of time. Yet when a South African black man resists Molyneux here quickly labels them as terrorist.
As mentioned previously, generalize and lumping everything together is favorite right wing smear tactic. Molyneux also makes the connection between Nazi Germany and socialism, probably to boost up the 'left body count.' I've seen others do it too while most scholars of course agree that the National Socialists during World War 2 were in fact right wing fascists. It's difficult to understand for some but a group can label themselves as something but in reality be far from that description. You can have 1 or 2 elements of socialism while the other 8-9 out of 10 are not. Fascism is described as the merging of state and corporations with a national identity. Even Hitler was supported by an industrial elite. The biggest give away? If Nazi Germany was left wing and socialist, why would they fight with left wing Soviet Union? Again, such things are completely lost on Stefan Molyneux.
Did people die in the Soviet Union? Yes, nobody is disputing that. Lenin and Stalin were dictators who quickly perverted the higher ideals of Marx. Not so strange since both men were robbing banks even before they got into power. Do criminals make good politicians? Generally they don't. Mao and Pol Pot were also probably full blown psychopaths, but did all left wing governments produce immense death tolls? No, far from it. In western Europe many left wing parties have taken up positions in government while never regressing in to dictatorships. In South America the people in Venezuela and Ecuador democratically re-elected their socialist leaders. Things are not black and white.
But wait. Did right wing political groups kill people? Were there right wing dictatorships in history that eliminated their opposition through violence and murder? Yes... Pinochet comes to mind. Videla of Argentina. Noriega of Panama until he stopped playing ball with the U.S. The Contras in Nicaragua. The Shah of Iran who was installed after a right wing C.I.A. sponsored coup when democratically elected social-democrat Mossaddegh was overthrown. Molyneux doesn't even remotely contemplate such matters because that doesn't help his right wing cause.
How was the U.S. and Canada, home of Molyneux, founded? Basically all the land was stolen from their original owners, the Native Americans. In 1890 they did a headcount, only 250.000 Native Americans remained where once millions roamed across the continent. Most of them killed by disease and bullets. How about the African slaves that help build the U.S? Does Molyneux keep a body count there in those cases? No he doesn't.
People like Stefan Molyneux are basically con artists. They reason and pick those things that work in their favor and basically ignore or deny those things that don't help their self interest. Molyneux is an advocate of the Austrian school of economics and Libertarianism. Basically they are conservatives on meth and steroids who mindlessly blame the state for any failings of free market capitalism. So when atrocities are committed by right wing governments they just blame the construct of a state and pretend that their free market which is still based on money and profit will magically create a peaceful society. Pure bullshit. When the bottom line is money and profit you'll always have people bending or breaking the rules. People like Stefan Molyneux want to hand over democracy to private unaccountable dictators in the market place just because they want to make more money. Human needs and human rights, did Stefan Molyneux make a case for that in the video? Did Nelson Mandela in his life?
Watch closely how market fundamentalist Stefan Molyneux reasons and how he generalizes small economic textbook examples to the real world. Trade is voluntary but if you don't want to trade you can go live in the woods according to this great 'philosopher.' What's also hilarious is that Molyneux turns into a drama queen after Peter Joseph labels his ideas as truncated and simplistic and claims he engaged in an ad hominem attack. Molyneux himself had no problem labeling Peter's work as 'retarded,' 'for bong smoking hippies' and 'marxism with robots' in previous videos. All ad hominem attacks. It shows what kind of disingenuous con artist Molyneux really is.
December 11, 2013
After seeing Stefan Molyneux's latest hatchet job on Nelson Mandela I think it's time that this borderline psychopath gets more attention in the blogosphere. Watch this video by Peter Joseph which is a culmination after a debate he had with Molyneux. The latter just about manages to twist, distort, smear the other person's position in every way possible. So the question arises, is Stefan Molyneux a deliberate con artist or pathological bullshitter? My take is that he's both.
December 10, 2013
December 4, 2013
November 7, 2013
Second trophy from my garden, tomatoes. The species is called 'Tiny Tim' and I planted around 10 seeds. With the unusual cold spring here most of them didn't make it outside which was a shame. Maybe the Tim was developed in warmer climates? Maybe a greenhouse will produce a bigger yield but that is something for the future. Only one plant managed to survive and it grew to around 30 centimeters high and then made many flowers. The flowers develop into the fruits of course and in that regard the plant delivered and then some. Think I had around 40 (small) tomatoes from that single plant. Really impressive.
November 4, 2013
In the beginning of this year I planted a lot of seeds off different plants. It's kind of like a new hobby I'm developing and each year I find it more fun. I have a decent sized garden, 8 by 4 meters roughly but just over half of that is covered by tiles or occupied by some big trees. The areas used for growing stuff is actually relatively small.
Anyway, the plant in the picture is a gherkin. Family of the cucumber. I had around 10 seeds that I cultivated and practically all came out of the ground. That was inside and later on I repotted them and put them outside. With the unusual cold spring we had here in the Netherlands only one plant survived which was a shame. When summer and higher temperatures finally arrived the gherkin did fantastically well.
From July till a 3 weeks ago the plant managed to give me 10 well-sized fruits. I even gave away most of them to neighbors and friends because I got fed up eating them. Five more fruits were on the plant when autumn set in and the plant could manage no more. The gherkin delivered, and then some. I'm really impressed with this plant and although it likes a more warmer climate then my country I suspect that with a greenhouse the yield would be even bigger. Fun stuff.
October 27, 2013
September 7, 2013
September 3, 2013
June 11, 2013
May 29, 2013
May 12, 2013
May 2, 2013
April 25, 2013
April 20, 2013
A realistic look at the economic calculation problem.
By Neil Kiernan
The economic calculation problem is at the core of debate between free market advocates and socialists. And because a Resource Based Economy suggests distribution of resources to people absent a price tag we find ourselves not only being labeled socialists, but the same arguments being leveled at us that are leveled at socialists. So we have the economic calculation debate. At it's core is the question:
“Will we be able to efficiently distribute resources absent the price mechanism?”
First lets get some background on the positions of the Austrian/Free Market school of thought and then talk about how this relates to our own arguments on the subject.
So how does the price mechanism supposedly function insofar as distributing resources?
The idea behind the price mechanism is that in in the market resources will be given a value by the market. This value would be calculated based on the cost of production which includes resources expended and labor. And then finally consumer demand. The theory is that if a producer of a given product charges too much for that item then no one will buy it. Hence forcing the producer to lower the cost. Competitive forces also play a part here as rival producers of a given product will vie for dominance in the market by offering competitive prices.
So breaking this down into an analogy:
Bob produces widgets. Bob calculates a price based on the cost of the resources that were used in making his widgets, including how much he had to pay his employees at the widget factory. He of course wants to make a profit so he charges a price that is above and beyond the costs involved in production. If he gets too greedy then people instead may buy a rival product that has a lower price.
So Mises and the other Austrian economists basically contend that this is the most efficient way to distribute resources. And in fact is the only way that would actually work. Lets get into why.
Ludwig von Mises argued in a famous 1920 article "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth" that the pricing systems in socialist economies were necessarily deficient because if government owned or controlled the means of production, then no rational prices could be obtained for capital goods as they were merely internal transfers of goods in a socialist system and not "objects of exchange," unlike final goods. Therefore, they were unpriced and hence the system would be necessarily inefficient since the central planners would not know how to allocate the available resources efficiently. This led him to declare "...that rational economic activity is impossible in a socialist commonwealth."
“Without money to facilitate easy comparisons, socialism lacks any way to compare different goods and services. Decisions made will therefore be largely arbitrary and without sufficient knowledge, often on the whim of bureaucrats.”
But what about the inefficiencies in the price system? Just how good of a job does it actually do when it comes to efficiently distributing resources? Lets take a look.
Mises suggests that no rational prices can be reached without a price system. But are rational prices actually reached within a price system? No. The reason? The entire price engine is driven by the profit motive. And profit by no means depends on rationality.
First of all, lets talk about advertising. Advertising has evolved over the years into what amounts to outright brainwashing. They specialize in ensuring that consumers have irrational desires for products that they do not even need. Or are even harmful to them! The work of Edward Bernays in assisting the cigarette companies in their quest to give women the irrational desire to smoke is an example I have frequently brought up on V-RADIO. Documentaries such as “Psywar” and “Consuming kids” really dig deep into the very dark reality of advertising and it's ability to target our minds in a way that causes us to feel “needs” for objects that have no rational purpose.
One such industry is the fashion industry. A never ending cycle of convincing people that unless they wear certain clothing, (and more specifically are willing to pay a higher price for it) they are worth less as a human being. The $3,000 hand bags mentioned in “Zeitgeist: Moving Forward” are just one of many absurd fashions that resources are devoted to. A company named Louis Vuitton will also be happy to sell you a shoulder bag for $8,000. A pair of sneakers for $1,000. Or a belt for $3,000! The price mechanism has attached to it elements of social stratification. This brings us back to the reason that Air Jordan shoes that were purchased at Foot Locker were somehow more valuable then those purchased at K-Mart. Solely because the person could afford to pay the price. It was therefore more fashionable.
The fashion issue goes beyond clothing. Accessories. Cars. Houses. Etc. The entire system is designed to tell people that the higher price paid the better. But we are not talking about the higher price paid meaning the better the product. We are talking about an industry that convinces people that the higher price someone paid the more value someone has as a person! Psychological and Sociological research is done by advertising firms to plug their products into our self esteem, our attractiveness to the opposite sex. And our status within society. If your carrying a $8,000 shoulder bag then it means you are superior on a fundamental level to the person carrying a $30 shoulder bag.
The price system is subject to corruption in other ways. Planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence of goods is also built into this system to ensure that people are forever in stores moving inventory. Products are made to break down or to not be easily fixable intentionally for the sake of profit. The price to fix a given product is set in such a way to artificially make it more expensive to simply repair an item then it is to buy an entirely new item. The price system creates the motivation to do all of this contradictory to the ecological and environmental impact of such wanton production. Because it is a system for an economy with profit as the motivator producers of given products are encouraged to find as many ways to cut corners as much possible when it comes to ecological safety of their products. Products are made without recycling in mind because a product that is easy to take apart to be recycled is in many cases easy to repair. This would allow the consumer to simply repair their products rather then buying new ones.
The price system because it is based solely on the whims of consumers also permits the production of goods completely irrespective of the long term effects of using up given resources. The consumer at the counter of a store does not consider, nor are they encouraged to consider the long term implications of their purchases. What will buying all these plastic products do to the environment? What if this useless junk I am purchasing has resources in it that will be required for mankind's survival? What impact will the fact that I purchase a new I-Pod every year have on my grand children? Or their children? None of this is taken into account in the price system.
Because you want to be able to offer your goods at the lowest possible prices the price system also encourages worker exploitation. Wal-Mart's goods made in sweat shop factories can be offered at a far lower price then products produced locally. And the profit motivated price system will only serve to perpetuate this. Outsourcing to more and more desperate economies where people are willing to accept a lifestyle no better then conventional slavery.
Another example of corruption of the price model is when businesses collude to sell a vital product at an ever increasing price. Take the oil industry. The oil companies formed a cartel to cooperate on what the price of gasoline should be. They agreed to compete by no more then a few cents at the pump. The benefit of this is that profits in all of the oil companies collectively went up to record heights. It was to the benefit of everyone in the cartel to see this happen. And because gasoline is not an optional commodity they were able to get away with it. It was not as if the consumers could simply choose not to drive to work.
A further proof of the price mechanism's failure is that outside of the stores that sell these products there are often homeless people lying on the street. People who could feed themselves for MONTHS if they had even a quarter of the money spent on a single item purchased at the prices above. When it comes to a system of allocating resources the billions of people starving on this planet are a testament to the absolute failure of the market system to give any option to these people. There is no mechanism in the market or the price system that will distribute resources to these people despite the fact that technologically we could provide for them.
When attacking any centrally planned system, the Austrian economists point to examples such as the various instances of mass starvation supposedly created by centrally planned economies. They point to death camps and gulags as the inevitable solutions of failed centrally planned economies. That when scarcity exists we will be forced to somehow depopulate. Of course they leave out that a great deal of these death tolls were created by fascist regimes trying to stay in power. But they go on to heap praise on the market system with it's price based economies with an absence of death camps and gulags. They leave out of course that even in the free markets there would still be huge pockets of poor and starving people. The “death camps” of the market system are places like Africa. Where hundreds of thousands of people starve every day. The price system has no place for people who cannot find ways to be useful to people who have more. Basically, suggesting that centrally planned economies lead to starvation ignores the blatantly obvious truth that the market system does the exact same thing. But far more insidious is that the entire time people are inclined to think it is a fair system that is leaving all these people to die. And even encourages people to think that it is somehow their fault for dying. If they just worked a bit harder or started their own business they would be fine. They sell everyone the pipe dream that they too can be rich and famous if they just apply themselves. And this delusion helps everyone agree to be part of a system where 1% of the population has 40% of the wealth. And where statistics are greatly against people who are not part of that 1% ever becoming part of it.
It's ironic that the same incident of the rules suddenly changing in the book “Animal Farm” that was supposed to be a story about communism applies just as well to people living in a capitalist system.
“All animals are equal. But some animals are MORE equal then others...”
Mises and his disciples stated that centrally planned economies fail due to the fact that the resources would be distributed according to the “whims” of bureaucrats. And that apparently instead we should allow resources to be distributed according to the “whims” of consumers. Consumers who's “whims” are being controlled by a profit motivated system. If we were talking about a world of infinite resources this might work. But as was demonstrated earlier, the “whims” of consumers in a profit motivated world are not by any means rational. And the fact that there is anyone anywhere who on a whim will buy an $8,000 shoulder bag while people are starving outside of the store they purchased it in is testament that the price mechanism is not efficient at all. And that “rational” prices are not being achieved. There is nothing rational about an $8,000 hand bag. Period.
So lets look at the obstacles that Mises and Hayek suggest we will never be able to overcome.
The knowledge problem: Will we be able to effectively get the information we need as far as the needs of our consumers within a society? Mises seems to think that this is an insurmountable problem. That we will never be able to get enough information to be able to make rational decisions about what to produce. This like many other Austrian theories is obviously way out of date. Information technology is vastly superior to anything that Mises would of even conceived of in the 1920's when he said this would be impossible.
The other notion that is presented by Hayek is that people would have no incentive to share information they have. Which simply does not make any sense. Obviously in a resource based economy the incentive is we want to eat. We want shelter, clothing, etc. So we share that information so that the system works.
Another argument against Austrian economists from Wikipedia:
“It has also been claimed that the contention that finding a true economic equilibrium is not just hard but impossible for a central planner applies equally well to a market system; As any Universal Turing Machine can do what any other Turing machine can, a system of dispersed calculators (i.e. a market) has no in principle advantage over one central calculator.
Austrian economists emphasise that a central planner cannot have access to all the necessary information (including local conditions, know-how and changing individual preferences) to feed into such a central calculator.”
As I have already illustrated earlier the price mechanism has many failures and is far too open to corruption. So they were never operating from any sort of superior system to begin with. As pointed out above there is no special advantage to mankind operating as a mob of people making economic decisions based on whims. And the claims that any centrally planned economy would fail due to lack of information is based on a completely out of date idea as far as what information any central planner would have access to.
The idea that desires are infinite or irrational:
This concept basically works on the assumption that people's desires are infinite and are not trackable or understandable. And this assumption is flawed. The needs of human beings are in fact calculable. And in fact once all of the noise that has polluted the “desires” of mankind is gone, (advertising, fashion, etc.) deciding what to produce will be far easier. The reason it is hard to calculate now is because mankind has an inflated idea of what it “needs” that is based largely on the conditioning we are given through advertising from the earliest ages. This entire industry of convincing people to consume things they do not need will vastly change the amount of resources expended. I have already felt this myself as my own consumption habits have changed once I became aware of the vast propaganda machine that was put in place to make people believe that the act of consumption in of itself was an expression of freedom. I watch now as people chain themselves to debt for endless amounts of junk that is designed to be sure to fail as soon as it is paid off. My entire perspective changed on what I buy and why. There is no reason the rest of mankind will not experience this as well.
So what is different between what we suggest and other “centrally planned” economies?
Well first of all, all of those systems advocated force or coercion to achieve their goals. Every one of those systems were run by people who did not understand the environmental impact on human behavior. They relied on laws, prisons, etc. to deal with the inevitable problems that arise from circumstances of scarcity.
Secondly, and more importantly the points that Mises and Hayek used to point to failings in those systems do not apply to ours. There are no “whims” being used to decide the allocation of resources. All of those systems were microcosmic attempts at human opinion based central planning. As pointed out previously it was at the “whims” of bureaucrats. And no such whims will exist in our system that is based on the scientific method. Every citizen of the society would be acutely aware of the state of resources on our planet and the implications of their consumption.
Thirdly, the technology available to us is vastly superior to what was available at the time that any of these monetary thinkers were contemplating their limitations.
Even without the modern technology we have today this was achievable. In early 1970 the government of Chile asked a British operations research scientist named Stafford Beer to develop a system for tracking information all over the country for the purposes of a computer controlled economy. The system was highly advanced for it's time and did work. It was called Project Cybersyn. When I was doing research on it I was not surprised to see that several conservative bloggers have made really bogus reports as to it's success. But without fail people who were actually involved in the project came forward and refuted the nonsense that was being portrayed. Chile had decided to nationalize it's copper production. In typical “economic hitman” fashion the United States didn't like that very much and eventually went out of it's way to cause problems for the socialist Chilean government. The following is from one of the accounts of someone involved in the project:
“Across Chile, with secret support from the CIA, conservative small businessmen went on strike. Food and fuel supplies threatened to run out. Then the government realised that Cybersyn offered a way of outflanking the strikers. The telexes could be used to obtain intelligence about where scarcities were worst, and where people were still working who could alleviate them.(ref Andy Beckett/Guardian)
The interconnected telex machines, exchanging 2,000 messages a day, were a potent instrument, enabling the government to identify and organize alternative transportation resources that kept the economy moving.”
Because of project Cybersyn, the Chilean government was able to keep their economy running using a fraction of the resources previously demanded. And the strike that was an attempt to get rid of the president who had the audacity to think that Chilean copper should be used for the people of Chile failed.
I am hoping to get someone who was involved in this project on V-RADIO at some point. But suffice it to say, with some ancient telex machines they were able to keep their economy moving. And that technology is dwarfed by the capabilities of our information technology now. More complex versions of Project Cybersyn's style of cybernetic management are already being used by blue chip corporations all over the world to maintain their own infrastructures.
In conclusion, it is important to remember that the Austrian school of economics and the opinions of Ludwig Von Mises are not infallible. They represent limitations that are set by men who have limitations in their understanding of the capabilities of technology. Those limitations are inherent in mankind as technology always manages to exceed our expectations. The Wright brothers were making flying machines while the intellectuals of the day were being paid to write books about why man would never fly. It is important to understand when your dealing with people who are advocates of this school to remind yourself that the Austrian school of economics is a fringe philosophy. It is not embraced by the majority of economists and is in fact rejected as a mainstream school of economics because of the attitude in the philosophy of throwing one's hands up in the air and letting everything just play out what way it may. “It won't work because Mises said so!” is not an argument anymore then continuing to quote the physics experts who said man would never fly would be a viable argument today. Something to consider when people are quoting Mises as if they are quoting something empirical and infallible:
"Mises wrote of his economic methodology that "its statements and propositions are not derived from experience... They are not subject to verification or falsification on the ground of experience and facts."
So in other words. He made it up. This is why Austrian theory is rejected by the mainstream.
During my presentation during the Agora conference I used the analogy of a space ship. When a space ship is going on a prolonged trip there is no free market economy set up on board to determine how the resources on board will be used. They are calculated by scientists on the ground before the vessel ever gets underway. Though mankind lives on a really big spaceship we call earth, the more our population grows and the more our technological capability to impact our environmental conditions the “smaller” the earth effectively gets. In a situation of limited resources allowing the “whims” of anyone to determine resource allocation would not only be dangerous. They would be suicidal. And the danger of anyone “owning” those resources exclusive to themselves with a profit motive as a factor would be obvious. Nobody should have such power. You wouldn't let anyone own all the oxygen on a space ship you were on. The oxygen should be considered the common heritage of everyone on board.
In the end I have noticed a trend while debating these topics. People don't want to consider that they might not be free to buy whatever their hearts desire. The market system and it's price mechanism allow people to continue to look at resources as something that will always be at the store waiting for them. They see people like us pointing out these limitations and they project that we would want to enforce some limitations on them. They fail to see that no matter how free they believe they are if there are only six ounces of a given resource left on the earth they don't have the right to take seven. Not because we are going to force anything on them. But because there are only six ounces left. And if great care is not taken in the use of those limited resources nobody will have access to them.
Then there is the very real issue of the "Golden Billion" effect. A theory that points to the fact that the "Western world" is consuming resources at a rate that far exceeds the rest of the world. It is through imperialism that we have maintained this circumstance of a few privileged countries gaining all of the benefits of civilization while we loot resources out of any country that might wish to use it's own resources to better itself and the standard of living of the people in it. In an article called: "A clash of civilizations: A possibility?" by David Bryan he describes this issue:
"Under the once popular “golden billion” theory, people living in the economically advanced European nations, Japan and the United States enjoy in full measure the fruits of civilization at the expense of their less lucky brethren sweating elsewhere in the world. These days this “golden billion”, is being increasingly diluted by a steadily widening influx of migrants coming in from the Third World which means that we are now talking about a considerably larger number of “privileged” ones whose comfortable existence the rest of the world may no longer be will to ensure. Which may also mean that we are in for a new redrawing of the global map say, by China, which is working so hard to get rich and is already setting its sights on global leadership."
The people you see who are addicted to the lifestyle that they have brainwashed themselves into believing is "fair" are trying desperately to ignore the fact that we cannot hold on to 40% of the world's resources in the hands of a small percentage of the population forever. And we can only keep that hold through imperialism masked as "Making the world safe for democracy..." There are not enough resources for everyone on the planet to live the wasteful lifestyle of the average American. World wars have always been the means by which these struggles for dominance have been waged. From the Roman empire to WWII. And with technology getting more and more dangerous we are now looking at destruction on a scale never seen before.
Mankind has to rise above this idea that fighting for the position of dominance in the world economy is acceptable. We need to rise above the idea that any one nation should be better off then the majority of nations. The reality is that the lifestyles that we enjoy in the 1st world are not due to the magic of the market system. The entire system is upheld through imperialism. And the rest of the world is not going to put up with that forever. The market system spreading to such a global scale would either A. set the stage for an apocalyptic WWIII or B. drag the standard of living of everyone on the planet down. The market system hinges on the idea of equal opportunity. And there quite simply is no equal opportunity for the entire world to live the wasteful selfish lifestyle we do in the west. The resources do not exist for this to happen. But a society designed using the scientific method to come to rational values, strategic access of goods, and an egalitarian approach can provide a great lifestyle for everyone.
The price mechanism is no more based on rationality then a bureaucracy arbitrarily deciding how resources should be expended. And neither the whims of bureaucrats in a centrally planned economy nor the whims of consumers in a price mechanism profit motivated economy are sufficient for adequately deciding how resources should be allocated on a planet with finite resources. We don't as a species have the freedom to use resources irrespective of what impact it will have on the earth we all live on. And that is why we must use the scientific method for social concern if we are going to survive.
April 15, 2013
Gathering momentum. I put a few Cucumbers and Gherkins outside in individual pots but unfortunately they didn't make it. Found out later that they are mediterranean plants who need a lot of warmth and they are best to keep indoors until (high) summer.
April 10, 2013
2 weeks into the game. I must confess that I had an accident and the tray holding six small pots on the left fell on the ground one morning when I opened the curtains. Managed to save the Gherkin but the 3 cucumber seeds didn't make it. Winter came back with a vengeance here in the Netherlands around that time and we had 4 weeks (well into April) of extreme cold. But in this picture the only thing lagging behind a bit are the Paprikas which still have foil over the cups.
7 days later. The Oregano, Lemon Balm and Gherkin are already coming out of the ground like crazy. We had a brief but warm period in the beginning of March so probably that contributed to the rapid growth. The transparent plastic foil also easily get you that greenhouse effect that the seeds need.
In late February I planted a bunch of seeds. I was at Ikea around that time and they had these cute breeding kits with cups, soil and seeds of course. Those 3 green cups contain the herbs Oregano, Parsley and Lemon Balm. Didn't leave it at that. I went to a garden center next and got some Cucumber, Gherkin, Bell Pepper, Cherry Tomato and Cayenne Pepper seeds as well. Not all of that is in the picture. But in any case, this was just after seeding and wrapping foil over the pots. Week 0 if you please.
March 17, 2013
Been a week now since I visited ZDay 2013 here in the Netherlands. The guys over here from the Zeitgeist Movement had made a schedule over 2 days! Quite remarkable. So they had speakers on saturday and sunday as well as workshops. Saturday was quickly sold out, due in no small part of speaker Willem Middelkoop who is a frequent guest on television and isn't shy about criticizing the current economic system.
I visited on sunday and the location is quite lovely. Have been there before during the 'Witte de With festival' in september last year. Hope the Zeitgeist guys in Rotterdam can use that location more often. Anyway, first I listened to a lecture by Robert Schram who's a Zeitgeist member and talked about our current socio-economic system. That lasted for about an hour. Then I visited a workshop 3D Printing led by Thijs.
In case you're wondering, 3D printing is the way of the future. The machine that you can buy these days uses plastic (at the moment) to make objects. I've seen videos that some people used the machine to make gun parts! If other material can be inserted like a type of metal, carbon fibre or crystals of some sort than it becomes even more revolutionary. Limits in construction would be pushed further. This technology holds tremendous potential.
Fantastic work by all the Zeitgeist members involved! We are moving forward...
March 16, 2013
PositiveMoney. More and more people are catching on that our current financial system is basically a debt machine which you can never pay off. I only briefly looked at the website and they have a few good ideas but I didn't see any real solution of the money creation. Money is still loaned out, probably at interest. And that is the debt machine.