Friday, May 13, 2011

From Each According to Obama's Needs, To Each According to His Desires

There are two things about the market that are -- or might as well be -- magic. We discussed one of them in yesterday's alternately appearing and disappearing post: the "spontaneous order" that far surpasses the ability of any human -- or group of humans -- to allocate scarce resources with alternative uses in an efficient manner. The second is its godlike -- and I use that word advisedly -- ability to "create something from nothing."

First of all, there is no value in the absence of human beings. Because we value -- i.e., desire -- an economy comes into being. Now, desire is based upon a lack -- or perceived lack -- of some object, power, or state of being. A person who wants nothing engages in no economic activity.

It is through spontaneously trading with one another that aggregate value increases -- just as if something has been created from nothing. Note that this cannot occur if a central authority tries to undertake the fanciful project of determining peoples "needs," then providing for them.

"To each according to his need, from each according to his ability" is a recipe for stasis and impoverishment. For one thing, people do not value what is given to them, with the result that what they are given diminishes in value. What one is "entitled to" becomes simultaneously priceless and valueless, like soundwaves or gravity.

But there is also no increase in value without rules for gettin' it. This is why war and plunder do not result in increased value -- because they satisfy desire by simply appropriating value created by someone else, in a zero-sum game.

Our tea party-hearty founders were acutely aware of the long history of governments sustaining themselves in this manner through the power to tax -- which, in the wrong hands, is simply the power to get what one wants without having to undergo the formality of working for it.

Thus, the statist works a kind of counter-magic, in that he too gets -- but does not create -- "something from nothing" by purloining the slack of others. Instead of recognizing the market as the great generator of value, he uses it as a means to his own private ends -- for example, Obama's personal desire to provide healthcare to illegal aliens and to people who want to use their own scarce resources to satisfy other desires.

The latter may be stupid -- eg. omnipotent adultolescents who don't believe they'll ever get sick -- but why is this Obama's problem, much less mine? Unfortunately, the only way for an adultolescent to grow up is to learn the unyielding ways of the world. Shielded from these ways, he can stay a liberal forever.

Which I suppose is the point. Obama's ruling desire -- and the desire of the left in general -- is to see his ideology enacted into law and backed by the force of the state. This is a stance to which the believer in representative democracy can have no fundamental objection, for it is simply a case of the people getting what they deserve.

The problem is that the left uses democracy in order to put profoundly undemocratic policies into place -- similar to the "one man, one vote, one time" rule of pseudo-democratic tyrants.

After all, no living person ever voted for Social Security, and none of us have a say in various other leftist desires that have become our perpetual obligations, i.e., public employee unions, agricultural subsidies, state-run arts and media, the state education/indoctrination monopoly -- really, all of the countless extra-Constitutional activities of the federal government, which, once in place, are beyond the reach of citizens to eliminate.

The end result of leftist polices is the institutionalization of their desires, in a one way flow between citizens and statists. Yes, there is of course some incidental flow of value back to the citizenry, but usually much less than what was extracted from us. Few people deny that the citizenry gets good value from the legitimate activities of the state, e.g., police, military, public health, and, to a lesser extent, the judicial system.

Unfortunately, the latter has been systematically corrupted by leftist desire over the past fifty years, so it no longer provides the value it once did. A judge was once a figure of respect instead of likely ridicule, e.g., Sotomayor, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Kagan, O'Connor, Souter, and the rest of those dingbat tools of the left.

But this is no different from what Democrats have attempted to do to the judiciary from the very beginning of the country. Hamilton foresaw this in Federalist 78 -- that the judiciary was the weakest branch of government, and the most susceptible to populist and demagogic mischief. Slavery and Jim Crow were kept in place by Democrat presidents appointing Supreme Court justices who codified the desires of racists, just as today the institutional racism of the left undermines black progress.

The problem is that, while the Supreme Court is a coequal branch of government, it has no power except for the appeal to intrinsic rightness and truth. It has neither the executive sword to compel nor the legislative cash to bribe and seduce. Rather, the judiciary is there to protect us from these lesser forms of power through an appeal to truth and rightness only.

But what if people do not value truth and decency? Then truth has no voice in the judiciary, and your little experiment in representative democracy is over.

Note that when law is reduced to desire, we might as well concede that the game is lost. For there can be no compromise between what the Constitution says and what the left wishes for it to say. The latter is no longer the rule of law but the tyranny of unrestrained desire.

What is the origin of the rule of law? If we consider it only as the formality of arbitrary custom or "collective desire," we will eventually go off the rails, because customs and desires naturally change.

This is the whole basis of the left's argument that the Constitution doesn't really mean what it says, and even if it did, we don't have to pay attention to it, since today our desires are different. For example, we want the word "marriage" to no longer refer to the union of man and woman. Reality must bend to our desires.

Note the deep hypocrisy, for a liberal would never say this of laws he supports, such as the "right" to abortion, or the new constitutional "right to healthcare" discovered by Pelosi, Reid, and Obama. Likewise, don't even think about tampering with Social Security, for that is a sacred right of man!

This whole tyrannical enterprise is upside down, for the left has to undermine our legal foundation in order to compel us to build their beautiful penthouse on top. Through this sinister pettifoggery, our constitutional rights are transformed into unconstitutional obligations. Forever.

In real life, we cannot rely upon either the state or our fellow citizens to do right by us. Or, we can rely on them to the extent that they are bound by the rule of law. But the local rule of law is of no abiding value unless it is rooted in the nonlocal MetaLaw. Not for nothing does our Supreme Court building have a marble frieze of Moses the Lawgiver.

The Law behind the law is misleadingly referred to as "natural," but I would prefer to call it either the MetaLaw or perhaps the Cosmic Law, i.e., those laws that are authorized and handed down by our Creator.

For only if there is a Creator can there be any universally applicable law. Otherwise we are ruled by custom, opinion and convenience, which in the end devolves to power, not truth.

Truth subordinated to power ends in Crucifixion. Conversely, power subordinated to Truth is Resurrection.

So here is my desire: let us rededicate ourselves to the unfinished work for which our vertically living predecessors fought and died herebelow. Let us never, ever allow their selfless defense of our noble ideals to have been in vain. For if we permit this to happen, then government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall have perished from this bitter earth.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Worst Things in Life are Very Costly

Ever notice how the best things in life are unplanned and serendipitous? Of course you have. I gave up *trying* many years ago, and have been floating on the slack plane ever since....

Since when? I don't know. Was I just born this way, or reborn this way? That's one reason I hesitate to offer advice to people, since it may be analogous to advising them to be 5'11'', or have blue eyes. Taking credit for certain things might be just another form of imaginary control.

But I do distinctly remember -- this was when I was teenage moron -- that Death was a real gamechanger. It wasn't a result of any morbid preoccupation, just the spontaneous understanding that Death places everything in perspective and renders 99% of our activities, ideas, hopes, plans, and dreams rather trivial -- just distractions at best. If you really know you're going to die, it changes everything, every day.

I remember reading Ernest Becker's Denial of Death with great enthusiasm. In it he confronts the paradox that man is simultaneously fashioned in conformity with the Absolute, and yet, must die.

In other words, unlike any other animal -- or god, for that matter! -- our very lives are made of transcendence, even while knowing that in the end we return to dust. What's up with that? Was it really all just a dream? How can an animal awaken to this marvelous world of truth and beauty, only for it to be trumped by an Absolute Negation? How can the negation be more real than the thing it negates?

Why am I on this line of thought? I have no idea. Now that I'm on it, though, might as well follow where it leads.

I guess it all started when Vanderleun linked to a resonant passage by Sippican Cottage:

"In a hundred years the most important man you ever met is anonymous. In a thousand everyone is. We cobbled together a life around the table where we break the bread, and for a few thousand times we were as one. I saw your face in our children's faces. You said you saw mine. The universe passed the plate, and we put in our offering. We are poor, but it's enough."

Which provoked in me the thought: In the absence of death, humans would have no perspective on anything.

If terrestrial life were eternal, it would render everything meaningless, in the sense that value is usually a function of scarcity. Which means that the existentialists -- including Becker -- have it precisely backward and upside down in suggesting that the meaning of death is the death of meaning. Which, when you think about it, makes no sense, for how could meaninglessness mean anything?

Of course, it took at least another decade for me to figure this out: that death is indeed the key, but not in the way existentialists imagine.

Since Death is the existential key to the siddhi, it should come as no surprise that it has a central place in Christianity. For only in Christianity does God submit to Death, which is the only thing that can transform it from the existential negative of Becker and other existentialists into an ontological positive that shapes and transforms our lives in a beneficial way.

To be "born again" is to die to the old existence -- to give Death its due, and surrender to its grim reality. We die before we die in order to be reborn on another plane where death does not rule the night.

It is interesting that in one of the Upanishads, Death is the teacher. This is certainly a step in the light direction, but learning from Death is a very different thing from God taking on and becoming Death.

In the Katha Upanishad there is a kind of parallel to the Abraham/Isaac story, in which a father prepares to give his son to Death. Nachiketa journeys to the house of Death, where a courteous Mr. D. proceeds to instruct him on the ways of the cosmos.

Nachiketa says to him that "When a man dies, there is no doubt: Some say, he is; others say, he is not. Taught by thee, I would know the truth."

Death replies that "even the gods were once puzzled by this mystery," which is "subtle" and "difficult to understand." Similar to Jesus' forty days in the desert, Death offers the boy various inducements to abandon his quest, but Nachiketa holds fast. "Tell me, O King, the supreme secret regarding which men doubt. No other boon will I ask."

Please note that this is not strictly analogous to Christianity, which is a religion of descent, i.e., Incarnation.

Rather, yoga is a naturalistic religion that teaches the way of ascent from our side of the vertical. I won't rehearse all the details here, but the key to the innerprize lies in essentially dying to the world and realizing the indwelling nonlocal spirit behind or above the local ego, i.e., the unbroken circle of ʘ behind the partial and fragmentary (•). Does it work? Of course it works. But at a steep price.

One of these prices is the separation of spirit and body, in direct contrast to Christianity, in which the soul is the form of the body.

From another perspective, we might also say that God is the form of the cosmos, without limiting him by such a conception (i.e., he is not only that form, for he is the container that cannot be contained).

All of this is related to our discussion of economics. I hope. After all, in the ultimate sense, it is through the "economy" that we try to postpone death while we spend 70 or 80 years putting our affairs in order.

Through the unplanned activity of the free market, we are provided with various goods -- food, shelter, medicine -- that no individual could have planned. Free markets are very much analogous to life, which must involve both anabolism (building up) and catabolism (tearing down).

For example, a recession is nothing more than an economy tearing down a bunch of inefficient businesses and redistributing a lot of poorly allocated resources.

The leftist believes that this Death can be avoided by propping up and resuscitating the latter with a flow of stolen revenue. It works, in the same way that giving cocaine to a dying man will perk him up for awhile.

Likewise, our public education system has long been in its death throes, but liberals will never pull the plug and allow it to go out with some dignity.

Truly, our whole system of government is on the brink, like a severely obese patient. Some say the patient needs to lose weight. Others insist that if we just shovel some more food in, he'll be okay. Who is right? Who is denying death?

Does foreign aid work to resurrect dying economies? Does the War on Poverty heal dying subcultures? Or do these nations and cultures simply become addicted to the treatment? Yes, there is a "Keynesian multiplier," except that it multiplies pathology, dependency, and dysfunction and puts off the d'oh! of wreckoning.

For I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker (Eliot). But why was he holding my candy bar? We'll never know.

This is why there is an ironyclad law at work here: no matter how much the government spends, it must always spend more because of the negative multiplier of liberal programs. This explains, for example, why my son gets such a better education at a funding-starved private Catholic school than he would in a public system that spends much more money.

So liberalism is always a lose-lose proposition, in which they want to have their crock and make us eat it too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Evolution, Interior Capital, and the Cosmic Economy

What is an economy for, anyway? Just for meeting our material needs? Yes, but a free market economy does so much more.

It's analogous to asking what a human being is for. A Darwinian will say, "to pass along his genes to the next generation." Obviously a human being does infinitely more than that, which is precisely why the theory of natural selection falls so short of being an adequate explanation of man. It doesn't mean the theory is false. Only that it is a piece of the puzzle.

No one set out to "create" the "free market" (in the aggregate sense). Rather, it was simply an unintended consequence of freedom -- of people just doing what comes naturally -- in a context of stable law and private property (which are more apparent and objective) and more subtle, subjective factors such as trust, self-discipline, delayed gratification, hope, belief in progress, faith in the reality and reliability of the material world, and a rich moral tradition that values all of these latter terms.

In fact, capitalism has little to do with material resources and everything to do with what I call interior capital. This explains how resource-poor but pneumatically rich nations such as Japan and Israel are such economic powerhouses, while countless resource-rich but pnuematically poor peoples remain mired in poverty (and on micro level, one could say the same of the poorest places in America, all of the economically backward cities that have been run by liberal Democrats for decades). For these evolutionary stragglers have not learned the secrets of how to create wealth.

Two of the most intriguing subtexts of Money, Greed, and God have to do with creation and evolution. One of the most odd and unexpected characteristics of a free market economy -- and one which liberals still struggle to grasp, or at least pander to their crassroots who don't get it -- is the ability to create wealth from subjective factors alone. The second is its ability to evolve, which is not at all dissimilar to the ability of Life as such to transform and evolve in such shocking ways.

Bear in mind that for a radical Darwinist, "evolution" is not the purpose of natural selection. Rather, it is a side effect only of an intrinsically random and meaningless material process.

The same is true of the free market. Left alone, it comes up with novelties far too diverse to ever catalogue, at such a rapid rate that one generation's luxuries become the next generation's needs. This results in the left's continuous redefinition of "poverty," for in their sour worldview, one generation's luxuries are the next generation's entitlements.

The irony is that in so doing, the leftist undermines the only system that could have created these luxurious new needs to begin with. A stagnant socialist economy doesn't innovate, so one doesn't have to worry about its novelties provoking envy in those who cannot yet afford them.

It is a commonplace to note that man's moral development does not keep pace with his scientific development. But is this actually true? As a matter of fact, I have no fear whatsoever of nuclear weapons in the hands of people capable of creating them from scratch, e.g., the Americans or Israelis.

Rather, the nations and peoples we worry about wouldn't have the ability to build a toaster without poaching on the knowledge of the West. Somehow the irony is lost on the Iranian mullahs who, like the rest of us, rely upon "Jewish physics" to assemble their bomb. Muslim physics couldn't produce so much as a suicide belt, let alone telephones, computers, and airplanes.

The free market definitely leads to unintended externalites with which we must cope, both positive and negative ones. No one planned for air pollution, but neither did anyone plan (i.e., without the entire unplanned scientific superstructure) for the means to cope with it.

And yet, the advanced economies that resulted in so much pollution have arrived at the most successful means to minimize it, mainly because we can afford the luxury of worrying about the environment.

But it is equally critical to bear in mind that positive externalities have a hidden cost that can even exceed the negative type, because we embrace them with such unambivalent enthusiasm, meanwhile failing to realize that we are messing with the very nature of man.

Contemporary examples are social media and video games, which seem to have an effect on the very structure of the brain. I see what the latter do to my son, and try to minimize his playing with them, especially at this age, when his brain is still being assembled. (Another example: have birth control pills contributed to the visible increase in wimphood?)

Man lives in the transitional space of the imagination, and to the extent that the imagination is foreclosed in childhood, there may be no getting it back. One is literally exiled into this impoverished country we call "the world," forever chasing after sensation and other phantoms that cannot satisfy.

In an advanced economy, sexual differences take on much less importance. In premodern economies survival is dependent upon a biological division of labor, i.e., farming and child-rearing. And just because a woman can adapt to a modern economy, this doesn't mean she can so readily overcome her womanhood. Likewise, a contemporary man has countless options through which to avoid the developmental burden of manhood. But is this a good thing?

Back to the subject of interior capital. Just as evolution would have gone nowhere in the absence of a "hidden reserve" of genetic potential, the free market would have gone nowhere in the absence of a hidden reserve of psychospiritual potential.

In other words, both natural selection and the free market are mechanisms through which potential is actualized. Conversely, in, say, the old USSR, no one was truly allowed to achieve his full human potential. It was literally against the law -- if not the written then certainly the unwritten law. Indeed, a saint or independent genius would have likely ended up in the Gulag. (Note that left wing PC is just such an unwritten anti-evolutionary law to enforce a static ideological solidarity in the group.)

Likewise, we are told that great leaps in genetic evolution cannot occur in the absence of extrinsic factors such as cladogenesis, i.e., isolation from the group. Otherwise species tend to be static, which is another way of saying that evolution does not occur.

Transposed to human reality, we can see at a glance how isolation from the group -- or what we call individualism -- is the great facilitator of evolution. For only individualism unleashes the full range of human potential and creativity. Bands, tribes, and kinship groups do not innovate or evolve. Rather, there must be something analogous to punctuated equilibrium that accounts for the Great Leaps of mankind.

A committee did not arrive at the theory of relativity, rather, only a solitary genius relatively isolated from the group. To be sure, the group is always necessary -- a point we have always maintained -- but it must be the type of group that not only allows but nurtures and promotes individualism.

Is it possible for individualism to cross a line into narcissism, grandiosity, entitlement, and even sociopathy (i.e., violence toward the group)? Yes, no doubt. Which is one reason why we must always maintain the group/individual complementarity, in contrast to extremist libertarians on the one end and solipsistic and entitled leftists on the other.

Socialist economies are run by committee. Instead of allowing the spontaneous order of the market, they arrive at some pretermined outcome -- say, "universal healthcare" -- and proceed to impose it from on high.

Does it work? No, never, not in the real economic world. For one thing, these systems must parasitize the ceaseless medical innovation that can only occur in a competitive and profit-driven economy. If the entire, worldwide medical system were instantaneously relieved of free market forces, the unintended consequences would be catastrophic -- analogous to unilaterally eliminating our nuclear arsenal. For we would be unilaterally caving in to the arsenal of health disasters awaiting each of us, and which require constant innovation to keep up with.

I'd better stop. Work to do.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Genesis Myth of the Left: I Want, Therefore You Work

Why are liberals so resistant to economic truth? Truth is a realization. Once realized it cannot be unrealized without damaging the psyche. You cannot put the truthpaste back into the tube. Thus, truth is part of the temporal irreversibility of the cosmos, which moves forward and not back.

This is one of the deeper meanings of Genesis, in which humans are exiled from paradise. Looked at it more abstractly, it clearly memorializes a catastrophic realization that expels man from a prior and more harmonious mode of being. One could say that it marks the transition from childhood innocence to the burdens of adulthood, or from unconsciousness to self-consciousness, or from unity to division. According to Kass,

"If read historically, it it shows how and when human life got to be so difficult. If read philosophically and anthropologically, it reveals the basic and often conflicting psychosocial elements of our humanity, thus making it clear why human life is always so difficult. And if read morally, it enables us to see clearly and to experience powerfully the sources of many of our enduring moral dilemmas and much of our happiness."

But since the secular left regards our own wisdom tradition -- the very tradition that gave rise to the precious civilization they devalue and undermine -- as so much superstition, they end up not only blindly reenacting our founding myth, but failing to even draw its philosophical, anthropological, psychosocial, and moral lessons. In trying to reinvent the wheel of karma, they simply get rolled. Every time.

What is the founding counter-myth of the left? One could cite a number of possibilities, but certain themes emerge repeatedly in Rousseau, Marx, Keynes, and other deep stinkers. Is there a unifying strand beneath them all? Dennis Prager says that it almost always involves naivete about the nature of evil. Others might say that it revolves around the political legitimization of constitutional envy.

In the modern world, it often comes down to the systematic effort to superimpose rationalism (in the vulgar, tenured sense) and scientism over the soul, thus sMothering it in a kind of "monstrous trivia," if one may put it thus (cf. the French Revolution, which combined the height of sterile reason with the depth of vibrant barbarism; likewise Nazi Germany, demonstrating how the most "advanced" culture lives quite easily with the most depraved impulses).

For example, our latest troll would simplify politics by consulting brain scans in order to know how to best govern man. No need to read the Founders, much less all that complicated stuff by Aquinas, or Locke, or Burke. The aforementioned people were really just "closed off to experience," and if you don't believe me, there is a barbarous neurologist somewhere who can prove it!


Not for nothing are our adversaries called the terrible simplifiers.

In the real (i.e., qualitative) world, "A life of sinless innocence and wholeheartedness is virtually impossible for a human being, thanks to freedom, imagination, reason-and-speech, self-consciousness, and pride, and in the face of neediness, sexuality, ignorance, self-division, dependence, and lack of self-command" (Kass).

Please note that these are all existential conditions that the mature person realizes and accepts. Which means that there are millions of immature souls who neither realize nor accept them.

For example, another central theme of the left is the failure to accept the awful gift of freedom. Of course they conceal this beneath layers and layers of pretense and sophistry, but when you penetrate to the heartless heart of the matter, the leftist is really telling you that he knows better how to ruin your life, and that decisions made by a central authority are superior to those made by you morons. Believe it or not, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid know better how to take care of your health than you do.

Genesis poses a challenge to the proud man's rational self-sufficiency, helpfully informing him that if you go there, you will experience an epic FAIL. It "challenges the human inclination to try to guide human life solely by our free will and our own human reason, exercised on the natural objects of thought" (Kass).

Go ahead, if you must. Just bear in mind that you may not have enough time left once you reach the end of that ontological nul de slack. Consider yourself fortunate if you hit that wall by the age of 30 or 40, which will give you sufficient time for a midcourse correction.

Note that ADAM, or man as such, epitomizes our existential situation. On the one hand, he is constituted of dirt ('adamah means ground or earth). This is our horizontal being.

But on the other hand, man has been inbreathed a spirit of life, thus meaning that our very existence is an intersection of vertical and horizontal vectors. This complementarity breaks out in diverse ways, including time/eternity, form/substance, wave/particle, absolute/infinite, male/female, heaven/earth, sun/moon, etc.

Such complementarities are not resolved, but lived. They are not riddles to be solved but mysteries to be savored. To "demystify" them is to commit cluelesside, or autoflimflammery.

"Progressive" visions of paradise are not actually in the future. Rather, their source is in the ontological past, only naively projected into the future. This accounts for the curious inability of the leftist to appreciate the ironyclad law of unintended consequences, for this beastly law is obscured by the innocent beauty of their political fantasies.

Remama, in paradise man is free of the annoying baggage of manhood. He has no shame, no guilt, no envy, no conflict, no want, no knowledge of death or scarcity. It is Marx's workers' paradise, minus the work.

Which reminds one of the infant who indeed lives in a primordial paradise in which wish is instantaneously converted to its fulfillment. I cry, I eat. The credo of the left! (Which of course ignores the reality of the exhausted mother and taxpayer who make it possible for the recipient to maintain his edenic omnipotence.)

Now, back to the subject at hand, the childish economic myths under which the left habitually labors -- the fantasies for which they fight. Richards conveniently lays out a Top Eight for us. They include

1. The "nirvana myth" (i.e., the paradise myth as discussed above).
2. The "piety myth" (i.e., the naive idea that good intentions lead to positive outcomes).
3. The "zero-sum" myth (failure to grasp the strange idea that free markets create more wealth for all).
4. The materialist myth (a projection of the junk metaphysics of scientism onto economics).
5. The greed myth (including the myth that the state is somehow not greedy).
6. The usury myth (touched on in the previous post).
7. The "artsy myth" ("confusing aesthetic judgments with economic arguments").
8. The "freeze-frame" myth (i.e., that there is some economic norm which leftists can achieve by manipulating the whole economy through centralized authority -- not dissimilar to the myth of centralized climate control).

To these I would certainly add Hayek's knowledge problem, which truly is the Fatal Conceit of the left; also the myth that there is this thing called an "economy" separate from the individuals who use their freedom to derive value and increase aggregate wealth by serving one another.

I've run out of time so I'll have to belaborate on these points later.