American Divisions

There are probably about 60% of Americans now that believe in a much more authoritarian government. About half of those are on the far right and half on the far left. Then there are the 40% in between that are split between more or less authoritarian. Yet somehow we must all find a way to live together in the same country.

Few people are truly evil. Everyone has those they care about. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters. Extended families. Best friends and acquaintances. They try to be good people, however they may define good. Some are taught what is good by their families. Some in church. Some in school. Some from learning and making up their own minds.

Throughout most of history, and far before, people were defined by what group or tribe they belonged to, a collective identity. America is the only country that was founded on the basis of ideas, not identity. The individual, not the group.

Yet these days it seems as if we're doing our best to throw all that away. You are now to be defined by your immutable characteristics. The color of your skin. Your sex. Whatever victimhood you claim. This is a huge step backwards. A retreat from civilization. A battle of all against all. How are we to build a better country on this basis?

Why A Government Run Market Can’t Work

First, we have to accept that there is no perfect system possible. People are people, for good and ill. All we have to work with are incentives.

People who gravitate towards working for, with, or through government almost all have an urge to power, to control what people do. Whatever area of power a government is authorized to operate upon, the boundaries of that area will do nothing but grow … and grow and grow.

People who do not pay for what they get almost always abuse and/or overuse it, no matter how vital or trivial. Anytime you give something to people for “free,” they will never say they've got enough of it. There will always be a demand for more.

Everyone as a buyer wants to get the most they can for the lowest cost. Everyone as a seller wants to get the most money they can for what they sell.

People also tend to be caring, to be generous when they can afford to be, to think they are doing good, not only for themselves but for the people they care about and even people in general. But people think they know more and are more competent than they really are. They tend to oversimplify the complex and make the simple complicated. Either that or abdicate the authority to choose for themselves to those they deem smarter, more powerful, and better informed than they are. However, no one can know more or can be more concerned about any individual's needs, wants, and desires and how much they value what things, in what proportion, than that person themselves.

While there are always exceptions for every rule about human nature, these are pretty near universally true.

Anything that you try to set up that doesn't take *all* of these into account is going to fail to achieve its stated ends. It will do too much or too little. It will result in the wrong things being done at the wrong times done by the wrong people with the wrong information. No one will be happy with the results.

Top down, command and control, never works in the long run. Even in the military, which comes closest, the best structure delegates detailed decision making to the lowest level possible, to the ones with the most knowledge about the actual situation at that specific place and time in the context of the operational goals.

Micromanagers at the top in the military get a lot of people killed. Micromanagers in any large organization waste assets and misdirect efforts, whether it's in a government bureaucracy or a company. They simply *cannot* know enough to make the best decisions for others. No one, even with the most powerful computer and big data, can. It's hubris to think otherwise.

The best system to get the most good for the greatest number is no system at all. To let those who know their own situation best make the decisions. Who know what they value and how much and what their own personal goals are.

Then use the general benevolence of people to help those who cannot help themselves. Their desire to maximize their gains, even in the emotional sense, is tempered by wanting to get the most for their time and money and so weed out the grifters. To decide for themselves which charity is doing the most good in the particular area they care about with what they are given, which means low overhead and minimal waste.

Government, by its very nature, cannot be efficient. It cannot take individual situations into account. It cannot change directions swiftly under changing conditions. It cannot operate under anything but bureaucratic structures with all the power grabbing fiefdoms and resource wasting procedures that it inevitably results in.

To try to put something important under the control of a system that ostensibly tries, but simply cannot be, all things to all people, while wasting valuable and scarce resources in people, facilities, and money is an incredibly bad choice.

My Problem With Anarchists

The anarchist position is that the goal is to have no government, only private businesses providing all services currently handled by governments, including and especially police, courts, and military defense.

Each person would voluntarily pay for whatever amount of each service they think they need, contracted with whatever company or combination of companies they choose. Over time, these companies would develop agreements on how to work with each other when needed and would rise and fall individually depending on how well they did at actually providing those services.

Criminals will pay just restitution for their crimes as decided by independent arbitration, and any other penalty that the arbiter thinks is just and will be carried out and enforced by the security company you or any arbiter contracts with.

Civil complaints will also be decided by arbitration with the same understandings.

All of this will be handled via universally and voluntarily accepted just means without infringing on anyone else's rights and no force will be needed or used against anyone but the offending party in criminal cases or losing party in arbitration cases, and no security company will interfere with enforcing the judgments reached by an arbiter or by another security company, who are all held to the highest standards by their contractees.

People would be motivated to interact peacefully because their overriding concern is about maintaining their reputations so that others will be willing to keep interacting with them. If there's a danger, people will voluntarily band together to do whatever it takes to defend what is right and just.

More just? Yes.

Possible? Only if you can successfully get from here to there where you have multiple competing institutions, each of which has to be individually capable of maintaining the strength needed to successfully defend everyone from enemies both internal (criminals) and external (other countries, gangs, mobs, etc.) within their purview for both the current and foreseeable future, as well as the actions of all security companies and all arbitration settlements being universally recognized as definitive and enforceable by all parties that could possibly be involved on any side in any dispute.

But human nature isn't going to change and neither is the rest of the world, even if you could get any part of it to change over.

That is what I see no possibility of, for all the desirability of the end goal, and what no anarchist has made even a stab at actually laying out, step by step, that I've ever read or heard.

I read that these institutions will develop themselves … but how does the change over actually take place? Saying that it just happens somehow and everything else is going to pause while it's going on doesn't cut it.

I read that everyone will accept the arbiter's judgments and the actions of these security companies as all being beyond reproach, that people are only going to pick companies based on what's right, not necessarily what's best for their own personal immediate interests, that there will be no conflict between these sterling characters and businesses … but that's not how real people act.

I read that everyone is going to realize what is actually in their own best long term interests and be willing to pay for it … but they haven't been up until now. What fundamental part of human nature is going to change and what will change it?

In some ways, anarchists are a mirror image of the statists. If everything just worked the way it's “supposed” to then everything would be just wonderful.

But it never does. People persist in being the same kind of people they've always been. Reality doesn't change simply because someone thinks that's the way things ought to be.

Accepting the realities about human behavior, desires, and motivations has to be the bedrock of any human endeavor that has even the least chance of success. That means accepting that the bad is just as real and just as basic as the good.

Paying For a More Perfect Government.

The basic ethical ideal of a perfect state is that perfect justice is always perfectly done, but how do we pay for it?

People are not always rational. Miscarriages of justice will happen. Getting the just restitution (and costs) due actually paid by those found liable in civil or criminal cases is not always possible. People want what they want but they often don't want to pay for it until and unless they actually need it themselves.

A person who's never been in trouble with the law or has never been offended against often doesn't put a lot of value (and value judgments are always subjective) into the ongoing operational costs of a justice system. On the other hand, a person who has been sued or charged with a crime, rightly or wrongly, or has been offended against, suddenly puts a lot of value into a justice system that will give them the outcome they want, whether actually just or not.

That's simply human nature.

Accepting all this reality means that there is no perfectly just system possible. It then becomes a matter or looking at the various possibilities and finding the trade-offs that come closest to it.

Voluntaryism is great but is rarely sufficient.

The general benefits of a justice system are amorphous. They often can't be pinned down to what person gets what value or even what that value is.

A person who owes, whether to the justice system for costs or to the person to whom reparations are due, may simply be unable to ever pay them.

And all of this doesn't even start to consider the ongoing costs of a military capable of defending a given geographical area in today's world.

So it may be that some sort of tax is the most just feasible way of distributing those costs.

Then the question becomes what kind of tax.

A head tax would be the most just, based on the assumption that everyone's life is of equal value. But the reality is that many people would be simply unable to pay an equal portion of all the costs associated with even a minimalist government.

So we need a measurable characteristic that will, as justly as possible, also take into account a person's ability to pay. The monetary value of something, especially when we're considering monetary financing of a system, is the next best way.

But how do we determine an objective value for something in and of itself? We can't, since value is subjective. The closest we can come is the value that two people place on something at the time when it is actually transferred from one person to another.

That brings us down to another two choices. The tax can be assessed on the sale itself or, for durable goods or land, an ongoing assessment.

Both of them have significant problems. For a sales tax, who collects it? How do you enforce it? For durable goods or land, what do you do about the fact that some assets depreciate in value over time and others appreciate? Who decides the value at any given time? And, once again, how do you enforce it?

At this point, I've got more questions than answers. Some sort of compromise among all the possibilities has to be reached. Some sort of answers have to be decided upon. But I don't feel competent to declare what those compromises and answers *should* be.

Our Most Dangerous Enemy – The Sun

A little sidetrack into what may be one of the most dangerous natural catastrophes that will hit today's world that almost no one knows about.

Most people at least sort of know what a solar flare is – a burst of radiation emitted by the sun. What they don't know about is called a coronal mass ejection (CME).

A CME is an actual physical plasma (positive ions and free electrons) that is released from the sun carrying an incredibly powerful electromagnetic potential. They are fairly common and can range in size. But the sun is a big thing and the odds of any particular CME hitting the Earth itself are fairly small. A big one is generally thought of as a 100 year event, meaning in any particular year the odds of being hit by one is less than 1 in 100.

Prior to the electrical age, their only observable effect was the huge auroras, caused by the interaction of the electrically charged plasma and the magnetic field of the Earth itself, seen much farther from the poles than they would normally ever be. Beautiful, but possibly scary to people who had never seen one – like a big comet or supernova.

But what happens when those massive electrically charged particles interact with a conductor of electricity? I won't try to go into the complexities of how electromagnetic field effects work, but the long and short of it is that they create a current flow in any conductor. What happens when you have more current flowing through a conductor than it was designed to handle? Short circuits or even physically melting altogether.

Your home or office's circuit breaker panel is made for the purpose of handling overloads in anything it's connected to by physically breaking the circuits. Power strips and dedicated grounds are for dealing with power overloads or drops in the electrical power grid itself, such as from a nearby lightning strike.

A CME is like a universal lightning strike that hits everywhere at once and can last for days.

The last one we got hit with, in 1859, took down the entire world's telegraph system. The next one could take out almost the entire electrical/electronic system that so much of the modern world is utterly dependant on, both on Earth and in space.

Power and satellite companies get solar weather reports just like Earth weather, but the vast majority of the population knows absolutely nothing about it and would only have an average of 3 to 4 day's warning to understand and prepare to whatever extent is possible. The only reasonably sure protection is by physically disconnecting from any power source, and securely grounding everything that could have an induced current flowing through it for the entire length of time it takes for it to pass.

Unfortunately, there's no way to ground most electronics. Few installations have a dedicated ground circuit and nothing mobile (including cars and trucks – yes, they'll get hit too) is designed for it to be done at all. For small electronics the only possibility is a faraday cage – entirely enclosed in a well grounded conductive, usually copper, netting. Not many of them around and not something you can whip up in just a few days. Personally, I've got enough conductive wire for making jewelry that I could probably put something together in a few days big enough for my computer and a few small things, but that's not common. Available wire supplies to buy would be gone within hours of knowing one's coming, bought by people who already know the danger and what to do about it.

It may not happen tomorrow. It may not happen in the next 50 years. But there's no question, it will happen.

Read More https://mygauntlet.com/

Prices And Controls

When or anyone unilaterally decides how something should be priced, you are dictating to everyone what they can and can't do, what they can and can't buy, what they do, or do not want.

Labor and material cost are far from the only inputs into the price of something at any given place and time. What people are willing to pay tells manufacturers where and where not to invest and how much or how little of it to produce. Prices dictate profits and the potential for profits is the incentive for why a person or business makes something in the first place or looks for ways to make it better or cheaper.

Capitalism, in purely economic terms, is really just an acknowledgment that there is often an investment (capital) needed in order to make something or to offer a service for sale and that those who come with the investment (capital) should reap a reward for their investment.

Investment is simply savings, delaying current buying (consumption) in the expectation of having those savings work to give you more money in the future.

Free markets require the ability to invest, i.e. capitalism, but the reverse isn't necessarily true. Simply because you are allowed to invest, doesn't mean you are participating in a free market.

Free markets are what empowers people to create opportunities for themselves, not some super-governmental body dictating prices and products. Countries do not trade. People trade. Businesses trade. Stop trying to interfere with their ability to do so in the way that each one of them decides is best for *them*.

Currency and Inflation

So what is inflation? Where does it come from? What does it actually do?

Whether it’s paper currency (fiat currency, that isn’t directly backed by anything of value), digital or even physical clams, it’s what we use for trading with other people when the economy is too big to do direct trades of I have what you want and you have what I want. It also allows us to store earnings for later spending or investment. If the clamshells are pretty enough, you can even wear them as is. Which, incidentally, works for Gold and Silver too, but that’s a topic for a different post.

So let’s set up a simple example. You have 100 people with an average of $100 each that have, on average, $95 worth of stuff (physical goods, services, etc) to sell. That works out pretty well. Everyone can pretty much get what they want with something left over for saving or investing in increased future productivity. But two of the people, let’s call them the Freds, realize that they can set up a printing press and get more money to spend without having to actually work for it or take it directly from the other 98. So off they go, and before you know it they’ve printed an additional $1000 worth of bills that you can’t tell from the original. Now they get to go on a buying spree.

Of course, the amount of stuff available for sale hasn’t increased, or at least not by nearly as much as the money supply. Next thing you know people can’t get what they want because the Freds already bought it with all of their “extra” inflationary money. So the next time around, they realize if they want something they’re going to have to be willing to pay more for it. The prices start to go up. And up. Those who sell for more have more money to buy with though, so they’re not too bad off. Eventually, it all settles out to where the prices and dollars available equal back out. Ah, but those Freds still have their printing presses.

Now, let’s look at something interesting. At first glance, it seems that it all comes out in the wash and nothing really changes. But that’s not what happens in reality because of the time it takes for that money to work it’s way through.  Who really benefits the most from the inflated money supply? The Freds, of course. They got to do their buying at the pre-inflation prices. The people they bought from (usually big business) get the extra money when the prices haven’t gone up nearly as much as they eventually will. The big losers? The average Joe has to pay the inflated prices long before the extra money cycles through the economy enough times to get to him. So the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.

What Does Free Mean Anyway

Free to try, free to succeed, and even free to fail. Your choices, your responsibility … unless you’re talking about free pizza for dinner. Just let me know when and where :).

What’s the Solution

The real problem is that there are NO solutions possible to most human problems. There are only tradeoffs. Even so, people emotionally demand the impossible and that’s where the ideologues step in with their invalid premises and promises.

The only thing that is unlimited is human desires. All resources are finite and their most efficient economic allocation is learned through the mechanism of prices. Some win, some lose but most people, on average, improve their lot. No politician or appointee or committee or any other human-created group can possibly have sufficient information to more efficiently allocate those resources.

That is assuming that people actually have the freedom to make their own decisions as to what they really want and at what price they’re willing to pay for it, no matter whether or not that’s what some elite thinks they do or should want.

The self-proclaimed elites on all sides insist that they are the ones who should decide what people can or can’t have or do because they are so much wiser or more moral or more caring or whatever label they chose to use. They may mean to rule well, but they do mean to rule. What they do with the economy is just one of their tools.

The Morning After The Night Before In Ferguson

A Grand Jury is created to decide if there are grounds for criminal charges to be pressed against a person, if they are criminally liable for what happened. It’s a more formal procedure than a common court based indictment, but it also goes into more depth and can last much longer.

As with any court proceedings, the question is solely about whether one specific person in one specific case acted with criminal intent or willful negligence. “Society” is not on trial, nor is any subgroup such as police officers or members of a given race.

Justice is blind. Justice for one is justice for the other. It’s not an emotional plea for “fairness.” Justice does not take into account any matters of race, creed, sex, or any of a number of other irrelevant pieces of information.

A Grand Jury is to decide if the physical evidence and testimony of witnesses is sufficient to recommend going forward with an actual trial. Has a crime, according to the law, been committed?

The pertinent law in Missouri:

563.046. A law enforcement officer in effecting an arrest or in preventing an escape from custody is justified in using deadly force:

(2) When he reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes that the person to be arrested

(a) Has committed or attempted to commit a felony; or

(b) Is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon; or

(c) May otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.

In other words, an officer can use deadly force when it’s necessary to prevent bodily injury or death to himself or others.

I’m working my way through the evidence right now, so more later.