Friday, July 10, 2015

Buying into God

With our metacosmic economic principles in place, perhaps we are in a position to address the perennial question of what a fellow profits if he gains the whole world and loses his soul.

Let's see: profit is what remains after costs are subtracted from value. Therefore, The World minus Your Soul = the Bottom Line.

Speaking of profits, I see that Pope Francis just called capitalism "the dung of the devil." But I wonder if that is what he actually said, for the piece later quotes him as referring to "the unfettered pursuit of money" as "the dung of the devil," which is something else entirely.

For example, Greece -- an anti-capitalist pile of devil dung if ever there was one -- is clearly engaging in an unfettered pursuit of money, the difference being that capitalism actually earns the money by producing something people want. Conversely, Greece produces nothing anyone wants and wants to be paid for it.

Robbing a bank is an unfettered pursuit of money. Offering things people want at prices they can afford is definitely fettered, as any businessman knows. Among other things, it is fettered by production costs, by taxes, by regulations, by competitors, by consumer preferences, and by civil law.

Where but in a socialist tyranny is the pursuit of money unfettered? Even Obama- or Clinton-style crony capitalism is somewhat fettered, unless you believe people send all those millions to the Clintons with no expectation of a return on their investment.

Anyway, back to the econo-pneumatic question posed in paragraph one. As awkwardly alluded to at the conclusion of yesterday's post, time is the economics of eternity. What I mean is that there can be no economics of eternity as such, being that by definition it has no scarcity.

Unless, as I suspect, time and eternity are actually complementary, in which case you might say that time is like a limited supply of eternity. Perhaps it's easier to conceptualize vis-a-vis finite and infinite: finitude is like infinitude bounded and thus limited.

Of which it seems we all have a kind of vertical recollection, as exemplified by mystics everywhere and everywhen. What I mean is that the mystic reverses perspective, as it were, in such a way that the infinite is seen in the finite, the eternal in the temporal, the absolute in the relative, the slack in the conspiracy, etc. Or just say creation.

If this weren't the case, then Jesus's ultimate profit-and-loss statement would make absolutely no sense to us. Of course we would trade our soul for the world, since it would amount to trading nothing for everything.

However, without coming right out and saying so, Jesus implies that this would be a bad deal, because we would actually be trading everything -- or something of infinite value -- for nothing -- or something of finite value, for all the finitude in the world does not add up to a single drop infinitude, which is a quality, not quantity.

Which reminds me. Adam raised a Cain. Or Cane, rather. Rosebud...

In short, bartering away the soul would be a core catastrophe, a spiritual blankruptcy, an eternal mortgage with a fatal balloon payment.

There are numerous other allusions to economics in the Bible. In fact, what is religion but a form of exchange with God? It is never a one way deal. For example, the whole thing starts with a contract between God and his people -- who become his people by virtue of the contract.

Likewise, God "gives" his son, but not without a price. The mystery there is that he does exactly what he says we shouldn't do, in that he sacrifices infinity for the sake of finitude.

More generally, the whole concept of sacrifice -- present in all religiosity -- entails an implicit awareness of spiritual exchange, however warped. For example, the Buddhist sacrifices the ego to nirvana, the leftist our prosperity to his resentments, the Islamist innocent men, women, and children to his transcendent sadism.

And now we are perhaps in a possession to grasp the perfect nonsense on p. 252, e.g., either pay your deus or be nilled to a blank, the rend is now redeemable on your mirromortal garment, and no body crosses the phoenix line lest it be repossessed and amortized. However you say it, Eloha, that's a good bye for the Love that removes the sin and other scars.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

The Economics of Eternity and the Core Catastrophe

Warning: I am not entirely sure this post is fully half-baked. While there is no doubt something to it, I didn't have time to give it the once-over to make sure it makes perfect nonsense. So, proceed at my own peril.

As Sowell says -- and it's amazing that anyone actually has to say it -- "life does not ask us what we want." Rather, it "presents us with options."

Again, there are scarce resources with alternative uses, and economics deals with making decisions about these alternative uses.

Which got me to thinking. If truth calls out to Truth, then what Sowell just said should resonate in a higher key, i.e., the Octave of Spirit.

Now, what would be the scarcest resource of all? As far as I am concerned, it is my life, because there is only one. But this immediately extends to the people I care about, because there's only one of them too.

More generally, Christian metaphysics begins with the principle that the individual is of infinite value because he is an individual, but in any event, we see an economic principle at work here, since value is linked to scarcity.

I suppose if I could walk over to the Quickie Mart and find a wife identical to the present one, she wouldn't be so precious to me. This no doubt sounds a little coldblooded, but she would have the same option at the Bobstore, who knows, maybe even a newer model.

Now, a human life is the ultimate in alternative uses, at least under conditions of political and economic liberty. Most political systems constrain those alternative uses, which, even when not done directly, is accomplished indirectly via the economic system.

What I mean is that in the past we have discussed the the psychoanalytic concept of "idiom." According to this notion, everyone has his own particular idiom, a "psychic organization which from birth forms the self's core," and furnishes an implicit logic "of the familial way of relating into which we are then raised."

Here is the link to economics: "As adults..., we spend our time looking for objects of interest -- human or material -- which can serve to enhance our particular idioms or styles of life -- perpetually 'meeting idiom needs by securing evocatively nourishing objects.' Being willing to risk exposure to such transformational objects is for Bollas an essential part of a healthy life: the readiness to be metamorphosed by one's interaction with the object world."

To express it in economic terms, we begin with our intrinsically scarce self, which is not so much an individual but an on-the-way to it, i.e., individuation. Or in other words, it exists in form or potential, and it is up to us to spend or allocate our time wisely by choosing the objects and relationships that actualize our latent selves.

"The contrast is a refusal of development and self-invention, of open-endedness: the state of psychic stagnation. Bollas saw in what he called the anti-narcissist a willed refusal to use objects for the development of his/her own idiom, and a consequent foreclosure of the true self. The result can lead to what Adam Phillips called 'the core catastrophe in many of Bollas's powerful clinical vignettes... being trapped in someone else's (usually the parents') dream or view of the world.'"

I don't remember the term "anti-narcissist," but it is surely a vital concept, for just as the person can be trapped inside his own reflection, he can be trapped in someone else's. Either one results in a foreclosure of development and a loss of real freedom. Life is literally reduced to a waste of time, and a waste of time is a waste of life.

For what is a human life? From the perspective of pure abstract (modern) liberalism, it is time + freedom. But neither of these has any real meaning at all, because they have no ground and no telos. Thus, they are reduced to the nothingness of existentialism, AKA nihilism. Thus the credo of the left: come for the nihilism, stay for the power.

(Hetero)paradoxically, this leads to the conclusion that life is either of no value, or only of the value we -- or the state -- give it. Which goes directly to why the left has no compunction about diminishing our freedom or about turning us into anonymous wards of the state. Everything follows from one's initial assumptions.

Which leads to the Economics of Religion. What's that about? Clearly, a religious person and a secular person will have radically different ideas about the value of the individual and the proper use of time.

For example, we used to have a leftist troll who made much of his theory that free will doesn't actually exist. However, Marxists have been making this argument ever since they first climbed out of the toilet, just as radical Darwinians make it today. Indeed, you could probably trace it back to some ancient Greek sophist, but if man isn't free, then time has no value, because we don't really have a choice in how to use it.

This pathological idea permeates the left. For example, one of the ineradicable clichés of the left is that "poverty causes crime." This contains the buried assumption that the criminal has no alternatives as to how to spend his time. Rather, he is just a machine. But if he is just a machine, please remind me why we are supposed to give a fuck about him?

Again, the value of a person is predicated on the idea that he is certainly not a machine. It is the left that turns individuals into machines, or classes, or genders, or races. I don't do that, although I will acknowledge that leftist anti-narcissists do this to themselves by the millions.

For example, I will sadly concede that Al Sharpton, or Barack Obama, or Louis Farrakhan, or Eric Holder, are "just" black men. But I deny all responsibility for reducing them to such a paltry category, or inflicting this core catastrophe upon them. Rather, I want all men to have the opportunity to be one.

I suppose you could say that time is the economics of eternity, in the sense that eternity cannot be scarce, but renders itself scarce in its temporal reflection herebelow. It is because of this dialectic between time and eternity that life is precious, and that there are good and bad ways to spend our allotment of time.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Information Destruction and Time Distortion

Does economics begin in number or quantity, or only end there? I've told the story of how I flunked out of business school, one reason being Economics. There was Econ 1, followed by Econ 2, and I somehow got past those.

This was followed by Money & Banking, which I literally faked my way through. I think I mentioned that at some point I realized the professor didn't actually read our papers, only mark them. Therefore, I began literally writing stream-of-consciousness nonsense, and would receive it back with a checkmark on top, just like everyone else. Thus, I succeeded in passing (barely) the course without actually learning anything.

This was followed by... whatever comes next, and that is where I hit the Wall. To be precise, I didn't actually flunk out. I just stopped going in the middle of the semester. Phase One of my adventure in higher education had come to an end, nor was there any Phase Two on the immediate horizon. I took it as confirmation that I was ineducable, and I can't say I disagreed with the verdict.

One thing I like about Sowell -- and the Austrians in general -- is that there isn't much math. In this 700 page book, there are almost no numbers except for the pages. The same is true of Hayek or von Mises. Instead of numbers, they deploy common sense, logic, and an understanding of human nature. Take away those three, and you're left with a Paul Krugman.

Put another way, all the math in the world will get one no closer to the truth if one lacks common sense, consistent logic, and a sound anthropology. For example, a Marxist lacks all three; in fact, he lacks all four, being that he has no math either. Keynesians have a great deal of math, and a form of logic that I suppose makes sense given its assumptions. But it lacks all common sense, and applies to a different species than man.

Here is an example of a basic non-economic lesson I learned from Basic Economics: that there are no economic solutions, only trade-offs. This is so because we live in a world of scarce resources with alternative uses. To choose one alternative is to exclude another.

But this is where politics comes in. Remember, the actual cost of something is its foregone alternatives. Take a barrel of oil. Or a cow full of milk. They can be used for gasoline or cheese, plastic or cream, vaseline or yogurt, kerosine or whey powder, fertilizer or butter, etc. Oil and milk have numerous alternative uses, and no person or bureaucracy could ever determine the most efficient way to apportion between them.

Which of course doesn't constrain the left one bit. Why? First, because they only tell us what they plan to "give" us, never what we are trading for it.

Second, remember what we said about time. None of us knows how long we will live, but this doesn't mean we order our lives as if we are going to die today or on some specified future date. Not so the politician, who orders his decisions to the next election and no further.

However, note that this doesn't apply to decisions the politician makes about his own life. For example, a Barack Obama places his own children in a private school, but meanwhile condemns less fortunate children to dysfunctional public schools.

Why? Because Democrats are beholden to the teachers unions on election day. They cannot afford to alienate such a special interest, anymore than they can afford to alienate other selfish and/or low-information groups, from homosexual activists to bitterclittoring feminists.

Thus, we can put forth the axiom that politics shortens the time-horizon, whereas wisdom is generally a consequence of expanding it -- for example, taking care of one's health, or saving for one's retirement, or not pretending one will be 25 forever.

Another point is that prices are simply messengers. Again, an economy is actually a vast information-processing system, with fluctuating prices conveying information about a thing's relative scarcity, and allowing us to plan accordingly.

But what if we don't like the message? In the real world, there's not much one can do about it. For example, I would love to own a pair of speakers costing $100,000, but that's not going to happen. Why? Because the price is prohibitive.

And as Sowell says, all prices are prohibitive in some sense, for this is their very purpose. My actual speakers are more in the range of $5,000. That's not prohibitive for me, but it will be to others. And even if it isn't prohibitive, most people would prefer to spend the money on other things.

I have a note to myself that liberals also pay attention to prices, except that they prefer to shoot the messenger. They especially like to shoot messengers with vital information about the cost of medicine, housing, and higher education; they try to kill the messenger by subsidizing these things, which, in the long run, inevitably results in more Bad News in the form of higher prices.

Often the left will personify the message, attributing it to "greed" or "corporations," or globalization, or what not.

Which they then sell to the low-information crowd, again, in the context of that shortened two- or four-year time horizon. As such, we could say that the left is an organized conspiracy to 1) destroy information, 2) distort time, 3) deny tradeoffs, and 4) put in place a system of perverse incentives which will redound to the very conditions from which the left will promise to save us come the next election.

Now, one mark of civilization is the gap between now and then; to diminish this gap is to reduce us to barbarism. In order to call ourselves civilized, we must be capable of impulse control, delayed gratification, self-discipline, awareness of trade-offs, and acknowledgment of unintended consequences. The left works at cross-purposes to all these things, which is why it is ultimately an anti-human project of re-barbarization. The best evidence for this is found in any city run by Democrats.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Life and its Alternative Uses

Today's column by Sowell contains a few zingers. He cites Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said that "a good catch phrase could stop thinking for fifty years." That's a Dávila-worthy insight, in that the left is a mansion of many clichés.

And once inside a cliché, it can be difficult to leave, because the doors lock from the outside. To paraphrase Dávila, there are words we use to deceive others, and more importantly, words we use to deceive ourselves. It is the latter which ensnare us, for which reason "the only man who saves himself from intellectual vulgarity is the man who ignores what it is fashionable to know."

Today, for example, it is fashionable to think it courageous for a sick man to convince himself he is a woman, or to direct animus toward the one race that has, for whatever reason, contributed so disproportionately to the welfare and betterment of mankind. Modesty and good breeding forbid a gentleman from crowing about such an unmerited blessing, but what is the alternative when these barbarians insist you are a devil instead of a benefactor to all?

Oh well. "Intelligence, in certain ages, must dedicate itself merely to restoring definitions" (Dávila). You know, like marriage. I don't give a fig about soccer, but the other day my son asked who I wanted to win in the World Cup. I promptly answered "Japan." I didn't tell him it was because if Japan won, at least children would be spared the spectacle of some musclebound freak kissing her "wife." I remember when perverted old men had to pay good money to see that sort of thing.

Prejudice? Of course. "Prejudices defend against stupid ideas" (ibid.). One man's prejudice is another man's Collective Wisdom of Mankind. After all, we are descendants of the very people who held that particular prejudice. I am personally grateful my mother wasn't encouraged -- or bullied -- to "explore" same sex attraction in college. I mean, it's unsettling enough to think of one's mother having an opposite sex attraction.

"No one wanted to be a slave," writes Sowell. However, until the spread of Christianity, this was never a principled opposition.

Rather, "their rejection of slavery as a fate for themselves in no way meant that they were unwilling to enslave others." There is abundant anthropological documentation for the fact that the mentality wasn't "slavery is morally evil" but "enslave or be enslaved." So a slave didn't so much want to be "free" -- an abstract category that didn't exist -- but simply be the guy with the slaves.

In the link above, Happy Acres Guy alludes to the same thing vis-a-vis collectivism. Think about it: in the zero-sum economic world of the left, the wealthy man is a kind of criminal whose success has come at the expense of "the poor." Therefore, the leftist aspires to be the mirror image of the corrupt plutocrat via state power. Like the erstwhile slave who enslaves, Obama is the man of once modest means who now wields his power like a corrupt mafia lord.

Likewise the Clinton crime family. For them there is no possibility of clean power. Rather, they wish to seize power by any means necessary under the pretext that it will only be used for the benefit of the anonymous multitude of hapless rubes. The leftist convinces himself that his lust for power exists because it is in the service of others. Which is very much like the slaveholder who rationalized that without his paternalism, the childlike and ineffectual slaves would be incapable of caring for themselves.

Speaking of which, Dávila reminds us that power doesn't corrupt, rather, that it "frees up latent corruption." Power did not corrupt George Washington, or Calvin Coolidge, or Winston Churchill, or Harry Truman.

Back to our discussion of the metaphysics of economics. Much of it comes down to the principle that an economy is not really about money or wealth, but rather, about information. This is why we can say there is such a thing as "economic truth."

In a free market, for example, a price consolidates and conveys a vast amount of information about how much of a thing exists and how many people want it -- or about its scarcity and desirability. If too many people want what is too scarce, then the price naturally rises. But at the same time, because of the rising price, more people will be willing to jump in and produce the scarce thing. You can make something a "right" -- like healthcare. But that will hardly make it less scarce.

Especially if the state gets involved and decides the price is "too high," as in college, housing, and medicine. Of course, the state can do nothing to alter the actual cost, which costs what it costs. Reducing the price of diamonds won't magically create more. To the contrary, in the long run it will inevitably result in fewer diamonds. Money doesn't talk. Rather, prices talk and money listens, flowing to where its return will be greatest.

But the real link between metaphysics and economics has to do with time. Recall our definition of economics: the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses. And the flow of scarce resources into this or that use will have a cost. But what is this "cost" in absolute terms? We can't say the cost is this or that amount of money, because that is related to a host of factors, and always changing.

Thus, the real cost of anything is the value of its alternative uses. That's a tricky one to wrap your mind around, but you can apply it to life itself. For example, what is the "cost" of watching television? It is simply the forgoing of whatever else you could have done with the time, which is gone forever. Time is the ultimate nonrenewable resource.

So, I wrote this little memo to myself in the margin: the real value of your life is what else you might have done with it. So choose wisely, my friends!

Monday, July 06, 2015

Meta-Economics or Econo-Metaphysics

I am about to attempt something that probably can't be done, but human thought should always flirt with the impossible, shouldn't it? Otherwise it's like... like what Lao Tse says about the best way to control a bull: just give it a large pasture. The fences are still there, but the bull doesn't notice.

Similarly, any leftist who imagines he's a "free thinker" is simply unaware of the fences. A conservative is someone who ventures out a little further and notices all the barbed and electrified fences with snipers standing by ready to prevent escape to the NorthWest. A PC liberal, like the East Germans, would call the fence an "Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart."

Fortunately, I wasn't really paying much attention in school, so I never fully assimilated the perverse ways of the Conspiracy. Therefore, I never internalized the Wall, or at least it remained rather porous. Now it's just a tourist spot, like Hadrian's wall.

It started yesterday, when I glanced over at Thomas Sowell's doorstop, Basic Economics. It's one of those books that is so full of ideas and information that it's impossible for the non-specialist to take it all in. So I thought I would thumb through it and try to refresh the old memory.

But then I got another idea from left field (or right brain), which was to scan the book from a higher perspecive. In other words, the first time around it was necessarily a view from the ground. But what if we take flight and reframe it from the perspective of metaphysics? This is something Sowell himself would never do, and yet, the book is so full of "essential truth" that it would be a shame to confine it to economics.

Indeed, even though they have nothing else in common, Sowell and Schuon do share the characteristic of being so extraordinarily essential, meaning that they always get right to the essence of things, with no extraneous equivocating, excess verbiage, or academic BS. As a result, they provoke a similar sensation in my nonlocal resonator thingy, despite the radical difference in subject matter.

"I wonder," asked Bob, "if one essential truth speaks to another?" One difference between them is that Sowell is describing the exact dimensions of the real fence that surrounds us, being that we are unavoidably clothed in finitude.

On the other hand, Schuon is clearly speaking from beyond the fence, or better, deploying the forms of universal metaphysics to express formless insights that transcend it: he is using language to say what cannot be said, whereas Sowell uses it to say the most that can be said on this side of the Wall.

But even Sowell would say it's not really an impermeable wall. Rather, one of the points he makes in the book is that the state fails (among other reasons) because it imposes binary or categorical law in an incremental universe. Therefore, it can never reflect the reality of things.

As for Schuon's essentiality, Nasr captured it well, writing that his works "always go to the heart and are concerned with the essence of whatever they deal with. Schuon possesses the gift of reaching the very core of the subject he is treating, of going beyond the forms to the essential formless Center."

As such, "To read his works is to be transplanted from the shell to the kernel," or "from the circumference to the Center."

Now, this is utterly at cross purposes with the left, in that it insists there are no essences and certainly no Center, no Absolute, and no Universal -- with a few incoherent exceptions, for they do regard homosexuality and "whiteness" as essences, the former a sacred one, the latter demonic.

Let's consider Sowell's rock-bottom definition of economics (via Lionel Robbins): Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses. That's it. Can't get more essential than that.

Why is it essential? Ironically, he alludes to the Garden of Eden which, whatever else it was, wasn't an economy. Why? Because there was no scarcity. Therefore, one of the consequences of the fall is to plunge us into economics! Which gives new meaning to the "dismal science."

Now, the first thing you clever readers will notice is that the left, in denying the fall, also denies economics -- or economic reality, to be precise. You can't actually deny economics because the ineluctable truth is that the things we want are scarce and have alternative uses. Or in other words, this isn't Eden or Heaven. You could even say that Genesis 3:17 introduces man to grim economic reality, i.e., toil and sweat if you want to eat.

Back when I was a liberal, I was sadly influenced by a loon on the radio named Michael Benner. This was back before meaningful talk radio, and when radio stations had to devote a portion of their airtime to "public service." They would do this during hours no one was listening, usually between midnight and 5:00 or 6:00 AM on Sunday and Monday mornings.

Being that I often worked the graveyard shift in the supermarket, I would imbibe his political and spiritual wisdom while stocking shelves. One of his key principles was that there is no such thing as scarcity. If I recall correctly, he said something to the effect that scarcity is just a mental limitation produced by the capitalist mindset.

Sounded good to me! For it meant that I was entitled to be prosperous, but that someone was just stealing it from me. Indeed, it looks like he hasn't changed one bit since I listened to him in the late '70s and early 80s. Speaking of essential truths, one of his is that -- and this is weird, because he even clothes it in a Schuon-like appeal to the Perennial Philosophy, Esoteric Philosophy, and the consensus wisdom "from all cultures and all times about the Spiritual Reality."

In any event, one of the essential truths is that we may magically "manifest and refine form," or turn wishes to horses. For example, the only real challenges to abolishing world hunger forever are "fear of change and the will to do it anyway."

Not only is there no scarcity in his world, but he also has the secret to ending war. How? "The Great Dichotomy of Life is not so much a conflict between good and evil as it is a choice between harmony and discord, between Unitive Love and separative fear." As such "We must feed and educate our 'enemies' — give them bread and books." ISIS is not evil, just in need of a happy meal and a good summer read.

Enough of that grotesque nonsense. Here is Sowell's pithy definition of scarceness: "It means that what everybody wants adds up to more than there is." Simple as.

However, what is the real source of this disconnect between "want" and "have?" It is that human desire is infinite, while the objects of this desire are finite. Therefore, all economics, from Adam Smith to Barack Obama, is a way to allocate the resources. If it isn't done via prices, then it will be done in some other way, e.g., rationing by state bureaucrats.

Liberals like to ridicule "supply-side" economics, but consumer-side economics is just a mob of open mouths and empty hands. In other words, What I Want does not magically transform into What I Have. If that were the case, then Haiti would be the most affluent place on earth.

In order to get from want to have, there is a little thing alluded to in Genesis which comes down to being productive. The things we want don't produce themselves, as in Eden.

You could say, with the the left, that we have a "right" to healthcare. No doubt true in a sense, in that you have the right to take care of yourself. But you do not have the intrinsic right to compel someone at gunpoint to care for you. The trick is to induce this person to, get this, voluntarily do something for your health, i.e., to get him to produce the desired output without placing him in chains.

Well, we didn't get far, and now I gotta get some WORK done. To be continued....

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