Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My First Audio Project

I read an article from John S. Chamberlain titled 'Ten Economic Blunders from History' for the Ludwig von Mises Institute last week and the audio has been posted online for free download. I really enjoyed the article and I had a lot of fun with the recording process. I plan on doing some more of this type of work in the future. The article and audio are available here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mexican Immigration

Another mid-term election is coming up (yawn) and with it, the old bogeys have been dragged out of cold-storage in an effort to focus the attention of the masses on something – anything! – other than the incompetent avarice of their overseers, and to incite them to GO TO THE POLLS to provide the ruling caste with the mandate they so desperately need as pretense for their continued exploitation. One tried and true motivational scapegoat heard much about these last few years is the ‘illegal immigrant’.

‘Illegal immigrant’ is a broad term, encompassing any individual on domestic soil born in a foreign land who has been unable or unwilling to navigate the often nightmarish, time-consuming or impossible barriers-to-entry placed in his way by the State. However, the illegal immigrants we seem to mind most are the ones who are the most distinguishable from us by linguistic preference or visual appearance. Recently, ‘illegal immigrant’ has become almost synonymous with ‘undocumented Mexican immigrant’.

In this article, I will examine a few of the most common objections to Mexican immigration from the part of those who hold this point of view with the aim of debunking any such opposition.

They take our Jobs!

To ‘earn your bread by the sweat of your brow’ should not be considered the pinnacle aspiration of human existence. It is good for jobs to disappear! Whatever happened to all the Buggy-Whip, Cobbler, or Collating jobs of yester-year? They disappeared. Good! What happened to the people who once filled these ranks? They found other occupations for which they possessed a comparative advantage! If you are unable to find an occupation for which you possess any comparative advantage to society, I have no sympathy for you.

They work here and send the money back home!

Money is not wealth! If we doubled the amount of currency in circulation, would our nation be twice as wealthy? Let’s imagine an extreme example: Let’s say we allow Mexican immigrants in the U.S. to send 50% of ALL dollars in the U.S. to Mexico! What would be the result? Let’s look at two possible scenarios:

1) 50% of ALL dollars are shipped to Mexico with NOTHING given in return. –To understand the effect of this, we need to understand one of the functions of money: to serve as a medium of exchange. The Mexicans (in Mexico) in possession of all of these dollars would have a tremendous claim on goods and services for which no value was provided in return. A catastrophic misallocation of resources! A perversion of incentives! Admittedly a bad situation.

2) 50% of all dollars are voluntarily given to Mexican immigrants in the U.S. in exchange for goods and services, and the recipients of the dollars then send them overseas to friends or relatives. In this scenario, the Mexicans (in Mexico) would still have a tremendous claim on goods and services, but that claim would have been procured by CREATING VALUE in the United States. Those who traded the dollars would only have done so for goods or services which they found worthwhile. It doesn’t matter if the dollars were exchanged for picked fruit, landscaping, neurosurgery or drugs, because value is perceived subjectively. All participants perceive a benefit from voluntary exchange, or it would not take place. What happens next? The Mexicans (in Mexico) will eventually re-exchange the dollars that have been sent to them for -

a. Goods and services in the U.S.A – creating those jobs you thralls seem to love so much.

b. Goods and services in Mexico or anywhere else they accept dollars – only postponing temporarily the return of those dollars to the U.S.A. Even if we assume that these dollars never again see their sovereign soil (not a realistic assumption), we still have lost nothing! Every dollar removed from domestic circulation proportionately increases the demand (job-creating power) for every dollar that remains! No net loss to national prosperity has occurred!

All of the voluntary, reciprocal exchange of goods and services that took place in the second (and more realistic) scenario is what is known as an ‘Economy’; and having more of it is a good thing if you want to live in a prosperous society – even if you are a Xenophobe.

They are supplanting our culture!

Who cares? Mexicans have great food and awesome wide-brimmed sparkly hats! Individualism is cooler than Collectivism anyway – which leads nicely to the next concern –

They take advantage of our social services!

Since there is a great dichotomy in thinking on this subject, I will identify and address two possible viewpoints in my attempt to refute this concern:

1) You think it our (Christian?) duty to provide for any person unable to provide for himself or herself, and thus see compulsorily-funded social service programs as a necessary function of any healthily operating society. I am assuming that the basis of this belief rests on the idea that all human animals have a ‘right’ to such things as medical care, education, housing and fodder - regardless of their ability to pay for such goods or services. I applaud you, Good Samaritan and Noble Utopia Planner! However, if this is the case, what ‘right’ do you have to exclude others from such services based upon which side of an imaginary line they were born? If you answer that some MUST be excluded or the whole system collapses, I have to wryly smile and ask if you really think that setting up imaginary lines on the ground is a more equitable and sensible method of choosing who is excluded from access to scarce resources than unrestrained competition and voluntary exchange.

2) You think compulsorily-funded social service programs are a cancer, an affront to personal liberty and societal vitality – If this is the case, may I assume that you would like to see these systems abolished? If so, I ask you to peruse the historical record and observe that no system of social privilege has ever been abdicated by those who benefited thereby without tremendous resistance. Have you considered that perhaps the imminent (or actual) collapse of the system might be prerequisite to mustering the national will required to bring about change? Might those who take advantage and strain the viability of such systems even be perceived (with enough squinting) as heroes!? Can we at least acknowledge that the root of the problem is the mentality that sets up such perverse systems of resource-reallocation in the first place, and not the poor souls who simply (and inevitably) respond to incentives?

They commit crimes!

Certainly – at a significantly lower rate than our native population. Still, good citizen: I applaud your supreme respect for and abject genuflection to the LAW AND ORDER imposed upon you by your Elected Overseers – MAY THEY ALWAYS BE OBEYED!

My conclusion

Welcome North, my south-of-the-border, brown-skinned brethren! Bring your renowned work-ethic, tasty tortilla-sandwiches, family values and Mariachi music with you! We want you here. We need you here!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Next Year's Resolution

Dear Old Self,

What gives you the right, presumptuous resolution maker, to bind me with your oaths? Is it possible that you have not yet learned that a promise poisons everything? Well! Permit me to spread the poison evenly! I will make a promise to you as recompense for your hubris and conceit in thinking yourself qualified to command me, your self-evident superior: I will foil all your best laid plans and break in pieces all your pretty pictures! 'Your' New Year belongs to me. Do not forget it!

Sincerely,
Your Ghost of Ego Future

Friday, December 4, 2009

Santa Loves Freedom

I have been on vacation in Washington, D.C. for a couple of weeks to visit my sister Neicy. On Thursday, at her invitation, I attended a Christmas party hosted at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she is currently working as in intern in their Occupational Therapy program. I wore a shirt from the Mises Institute with a picture of Jean-Baptiste Say on it and the subtitle: Markets Clear.

The party was going nicely. There was food and karaoke. Neicy and I had eventually ended up in a corner talking with some of her co-workers, when I noticed that Santa was working his way across the room in our direction. He stopped in front of me, and exclaimed, "Jean-Baptiste Say! Mises.org! Fantastic!" I was shocked. I had no idea that Santa loved freedom.

I suppose I should have known. All the clues were there. Could it be mere coincidence that Santa's workshop is located at the North Pole, in an area where - under international law - no state can claim ownership over the territory or the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it? Would it not require a regulation-free environment in order to produce the staggering variety and output of toys required by his international operation? Who better than this man without a country to understand the idiocy of statism and patriotism? Indeed, could any living individual possibly be better acquainted with the human condition than Santa himself, intimately acquainted as he is with the secret actions and desires of all, whether asleep or awake? I learned that Santa has two sons who both work as videographers - one for Reason and the other for the Cato Institute. Santa "cut his teeth" as a young man on the works of Albert Jay Nock and cited as his favorite works from that author his 1935 book, Our Enemy, the State and his 1936 essay, Isaiah's Job.

Curious to learn more, I asked Santa about his political views and got a surprisingly refreshing reply. Santa told a story about a man named Otanes in Persia in the 6th century BC, mentioned in Herodotus' Histories in Book III ch 80-83. It seemed that Otanes took part in a coup, along with Darius and five others, to overthrow the king of Persia. Following the murder of the king, the conspirators argued amongst themselves over what kind of government should be established. One, named Megabyzus argued in favor of oligarchy. Darius argued for monarchy, and the other four conspirators agreed with him. Otanes was opposed to all of this. Herodotus quotes him as reasoning,

"How can monarchy be a fit thing, when the ruler can do what he wants with impunity? Give this power to the best man on earth, and it would stir him to unaccustomed thoughts."

Still, the call for a monarchy carried the day. Otanes, seeing he was defeated, then addressed the others,

“Fellow partisans, it is plain that one of us must be made king (whether by lot, or entrusted with the office by the choice of the Persians, or in some other way), but I shall not compete with you; I desire neither to rule nor to be ruled; but if I waive my claim to be king, I make this condition, that neither I nor any of my descendants shall be subject to any one of you.”

To these terms the six others agreed. Otanes did not participate in the contest to rule others - content to rule himself - and Herodotus noted that to the day of his writing, the house of Otanes remained free.

Added Santa: "That's about as close to anarchy as you can get."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On The New Idol

From "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" by Friedrich Nietzsche
Translated by Walter Kaufmann

Somewhere there are still peoples and herds, but not where we live, my brothers: here there are states. State? What is that? Well then, open your ears to me, for now I shall speak to you about the death of peoples.
State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it tells lies too; and this lie crawls out of its mouth: "I, the state, am the people." That is a lie! It was creators who created peoples and hung faith and a love over them: thus they served life.
It is annihilators who set traps for the many and call them "state": they hang a sword and a hundred appetites over them.
Where there is still a people, it does not understand the state and hates it as the evil eye and the sin against customs and rights.
This sign I give you: every people speaks its tongue of good and evil, which the neighbor does not understand. It has invented its own language of customs and rights. But the state tells lies in all the tongues of good and evil; and whatever it says it lies--and whatever it has it has stolen. Everything about it is false; it bites with stolen teeth, and bites easily. Even its entrails are false. Confusion of tongues of good and evil: this sign I give you as the sign of the state. Verily, this sign signifies the will to death. Verily, it beckons to the preachers of death.
All-too-many are born: for the superfluous the state was invented.
Behold, how it lures them, the all-too-many--and how it devours them, chews them, and ruminates!
"On earth there is nothing greater than I: the ordering finger of God am I"--thus roars the monster. And it is not only the long-eared and shortsighted who sink to their knees. Alas, to you too, you great souls, it whispers its dark lies. Alas, it detects the rich hearts which like to squander themselves. Indeed, it detects you too, you vanquishers of the old god. You have grown weary with fighting, and now your weariness still serves the new idol. With heroes and honorable men it would surround itself, the new idol! It likes to bask in the sunshine of good consciences--the cold monster!
It will give you everything if you will adore it, this new idol: thus it buys the splendor of your virtues and the look of your proud eyes. It would use you as bait for the all-too-many.
Indeed, a hellish artifice was invented there, a horse of death, clattering in the finery of divine honors. Indeed, a dying for many was invented there, which praises itself as life: verily, a great service to all preachers of death!
State I call it where all drink poison, the good and the wicked; state, where all lose themselves, the good and the wicked; state, where the slow suicide of all is called "life".
Behold the superfluous! They steal the works of the inventors and the treasures of the sages for themselves; "education" they call their theft--and everything turns to sickness and misfortune for them.
Behold the superfluous! They are always sick; they vomit their gall and call it a newspaper. They devour each other and cannot even digest themselves.
Behold the superfluous! They gather riches and become poorer with them. They want power and first the lever of power, much money--the impotent paupers!
Watch them clamber, these swift monkeys! They clamber over one another and thus drag one another into the mud and the depth. They all want to get to the throne. Often mud sits on the throne--and often also the throne on mud. Mad they all appear to me, clambering monkeys and overardent. Foul smells their idol, the cold monster: foul they smell to me altogether, these idolators.
My brothers, do you want to suffocate in the fumes of their snouts and appetites? Rather break the windows and leap to freedom.
Escape from the bad smell! Escape from the idolatry of the superfluous!
Escape from the bad smell! Escape from the steam of these human sacrifices!
The earth is free even now for great souls. There are still many empty seats for the lonesome and the twosome, fanned by the fragrance of silent seas.
A free life is still free for great souls. Verily, whoever possesses little is possessed that much less: praised be a little poverty!
Only where the state ends, there begins the human being who is not superfluous: there begins the song of necessity, the unique and inimitable tune.
Where the state ends--look there, my brothers! Do you not see it, the rainbow and the bridges of the √úbermensch?
Thus spoke Zarathustra.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fall of the Berlin Wall

Beginning with Poland in 1989, soviet states began to refuse to cooperate with the centralized oppression of Moscow, setting off a series of largely bloodless revolutions which spread within months through Eastern and Central Europe. Today is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is often viewed as the culminating event signifying the fall of the old Soviet Union.


I would to God that we could see a similar revolution take place on our own soil. But who will be our Poland? Could it be Texas, Vermont, New Hampshire... Alaska? And what shall we tear down in place of the Berlin Wall? Perhaps we could topple the Washington Monument. Still, it must be said that if such a rebellion of states from centralized authority were to be consistent in principle, it could only properly end with the abolition of all forms of state oppression - an end to statism itself - and it does not seem to me that the people of the United States are anywhere near to being prepared for this.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Poland

At the recommendation of a friend, I have been reading James Michener's 'Poland'. For those of you unfamiliar with Michener, his books are renowned for their meticulous research and attention to detail. 'Poland' has so far been an educational and engaging work of historical fiction covering eight centuries of Polish history.

A persistent theme in 'Poland' so far has been the plight of the Polish serfs. One passage in particular caught my attention this morning as I read in chapter six, which covers the political and social upheavals that took place in Poland during the late eighteenth century. The following exchange takes place on page 260 between twenty-two year old Feliks Bukowski (a fictional character of minor nobility on a wife-finding tour of Poland) and the historical Princess Lubomisrka in her palace at Lancut. Feliks, himself the owner of peasants, had for the first time become aware of the difficult life faced by the Polish peasantry, and in a private moment with the older, well-traveled and evidently very well socially networked princess, he expresses his troubled conscience:

"But Feliks persisted: 'Will your peasants be set free?' and she replied evasively: 'Wolfgang von Goethe was the most brilliant man I ever met, master of the universe. But Ben Franklin was the wisest, master of the human soul. I never liked Tom Jefferson much - too revolutionary, too scientific and inhuman. And each one of these exceptional men told me that for the present, some kind of serfdom was inescapable; slavery in America, peasants in Poland. If America thinks it can end its slavery, it will perish. The day when serfs are set free in Poland, it will perish.'"

Reading this, I thought about how the present mode of doing things, even when patently incorrect or unjust, often seems inescapable and irrefutable to those engaged in it. We get used to things the way they are, and in short order it seems impossible to imagine doing things in any other way. The intellectual strategy used by oppressors to justify their actions throughout the course of human history has most often been to make oppression seem inevitable - so that even if it is resented as inequitable, it will be met with passive resignation and tolerated.