Cultural Hegemony and False Consciousness

Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, indeed, but with a false consciousness. The real motives impelling him remain unknown to him, otherwise it would not be an ideological process at all. Hence he imagines false or apparent motives. Because it is a process of thought he derives both its form and its content from pure thought, either his own or that of his predecessors. 

Frederich Engels letter to Franz Mehring, July 14, 1893

One of the consequences of pearl-clutching and hand-wringing over a so-called free speech ‘crisis’ on college campuses was blowback to postmodernism. Popularized by some of the members of the “Intellectual Dark Web” who have wondered if thinkers like Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida could be the root causes to shameful incidents such as Bret Weinstein‘s Evergreen State tribulations and the assault on Charles Murray at Middlebury College. Conflated with Marxism, the right-leaning commentariat has seized on a narrative that college students have been radicalized by academics preaching postmodern thought and Marxist economics, and a few jumps later make the connection to “identify politics” exposed by left-leaning political parties. An entire intellectual movement is thus rendered another dumb talking point: postmodernism has something to do effete intellectuals aligned with wimpy Gen Zs with green hair who hate free speech and love Bernie Sanders.

Postmodernism has much to offer, and while just as imperfect as any system of thought, its dismissal as an intellectual blind alley is unwarranted, and its conflation with Marxism is just not right. It is unclear how this connection was made. Maybe there seems to be overlap due to postmodernism building upon Neo-Marxist critical theory (with origins in the Frankfort School), or perhaps it is just that postmodernism provides the analytical tools that breakdown the underpinnings of a society’s organization and, once exposed, leaves Marxism as a potential cure for social injustice. Maybe these ideas are simply fellow travelers, with leftists who like both relativism and redistribution.

Regardless, there has been a lot of recent dialogue in the media about the ideologies that underpin the far-left who have seized upon the anti-Trump/anti-Republican moment to forward a socialist agenda. They say there is a rich, white patriarchy with nearly absolute power that both exploits and discriminates against women, every race, every gender, every sexuality, and every non-Christian religion. Few agree with the extreme far-left — at least not right now (more on this in a moment) — but there is sympathy for the positions in the center-left deranged by Trump’s Presidency.

If as bad as the far-left claims, why is the US so stable? The answer for why the lumpen proletariat has not fallen into open rebellion: false consciousness.

The term “false consciousness” refers to the Marxist idea of the working class taking on the values of an elite wealthy class, despite those values not being in the best interests of that working class. The people in that group just do not have the perspective to recognize they have subscribed to a set of rules and adopted values that work against them. Mainstream Democrats attempted to riff on this idea by applying it to working class voters who vote Republican and, therefore, against their economic self-interest — an idea that has recently come back after its brief appearance in the mid-00’s, thanks to the Trump election. Ironically, all it takes is a bit of postmodernist thinking to destroy an argument like this: How do we know the society’s cultural values did not predate the stratification of the economy? How do cultural values end-up being neatly distributed by economic class? Why should a voter only vote based on economics? Is it so hard to imagine that other values are held to be more important than a person’s economic self-interest?

A stronger far-left argument in the same vein is the idea of cultural hegemony. This is the idea that a ruling class exhibits influence over culture, in addition to government and the law. Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist political philosopher, challenged orthodox Marxism arguing that capitalism was not only a political and economic concept, but a cultural one encompassing multiple aspects of a society. There are always laws, police, and armies to enforce order. But there were also the ‘softer’ aspects of the society that worked in lockstep with the dominant capitalist class. There are educational institutions, churches, and employers. There are families and neighborhoods. There are arts and entertainment. All of these elements use a language and follow social norms that support the hierarchy’s internal order, presenting incentives to every person to cooperate or to live with consequences of going against the grain. With that element of individual consent — coupled with the illusion of participatory democracy’s mass elections — the working class reified capitalist values in that culture, ultimately serving the dominate capitalist class. Thus the capitalist domination, or hegemony, over a culture.

Do not dismiss Gramsci because he was a Marxist. There’s a lot to be said about cultural hegemony, and thinkers like Douglass North (on institutional influence in keeping order in a society) and Deidre McCloskey (on popular ideals and their impact on economic development) have explored similar analyses.

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On August 14, 2018, Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote an OpEd in the Wall Street Journal announcing the “Accountable Capitalism Act” that would hijack the corporate decision-making of the largest corporations in the US, expropriating those businesses to serve Democratic Party ends. The ideas behind this bill are sinister and wrong-headed, and the consequences are potentially disastrous, as clearly argued by Richard Epstein and the Mises Institute. On August 23, 2018, the Washington Post reported that Bernie Sanders announced plans to introduce legislation that would force companies with 500 or more employees to repay the government for any government benefits paid out to employees. Again, this is a taking of private property for left-leaning ends, a virtual blank check to dispense government largess. Both Warren and Sanders are potential presidential candidates, riding the wave of fascination with socialism. Many political commentators believed Bernie Sanders could have defeated Donald Trump by mobilizing younger voters in the key swing (or purple) states where Hillary Clinton lost. The groundswell for ‘democratic socialism’ is ominous. Indeed, the always compelling Peter Schiff has presented a hypothesis that the Trump Administration’s probable failure coupled with a major recession will set the table for socialist-leaning Democrats to win the Presidency and Congress in 2020.

A country in which legislation like that of Warren and Sanders, two mainstream politicians, could even be suggested seems to reveal, at the very least, a weakening in capitalism’s cultural hegemony. Going back to Gramsci, the cracks in capitalism’s dominance may be even greater, and may serve to explain Sanders’ presidential campaign — something that had been a phenomenon to the commentariat in 2015-16.

Gramsci’s strategy for Marxism was for the working class to develop its own influential culture to counter that of the ruling, capitalist class. Today if there is a so-called ‘ruling class’ in the US, it is a cultural-intellectual-political elite in continuous discourse with the world through media, entertainment, commerce, and politics. It is not strictly a capitalist elite like in Gramsci’s day; in fact, this contemporary elite seems to be dominated by the left, perhaps not far-left socialists but certainly a center-left neoliberals. The media is full of people on the left. Higher education is the dominated by leftist intellectuals and administrators. The coastal elite in the US are blue state urbanites, centers of banking, professional firms, and corporate headquarters in New York City (Wall Street and media), Boston (biotech), Washington DC (media, law/lobbying, and career politicians and bureaucrats), Los Angeles (entertainment), and the Bay Area (Silicon Valley). The influence of Hollywood alone, with egalitarian political messages and moral values embedded in its content, must call into question capitalism’s hold over America. This is an elite that tolerates commerce and private property, and is too eager to promulgate collectivism, social justice, and equality of outcomes.

The inevitable impact of left-leaning elites is openness among the electorate to socialism, battering the once dominant cultural position of capitalism. Even if you take issue with the idea of a left-leaning elite, consider that there appears to be a new kind of “false consciousness” at play.

Entrepreneurs, financiers, and corporate leaders seem to go out of their way to virtue signal. Like the Cultural Revolution, some rich people feel they have to publicly confess their crimes and ask Congress to tax them more. Nearly every major corporation makes donations to nonprofits, encourages volunteering, supports its employees doing community service on company time, and strives for an inclusive workplace and diverse workforce. Perhaps the 2007-08 Financial Crisis that caused a loss of faith in neoliberalism, or perhaps it was the constant hounding in the press about income inequality. As a result, aspiring to get rich is nothing one will publicize or else be excoriated in social media. Getting rich is something one may want to hide from the rest of the world. Self-interest is anti-social, and the current cultural moment makes a person feel guilty to be well-off.

In other words, entrepreneurs, financiers, and corporate leaders are no longer part of the dominate class by virtue of their status; to be part of the dominate class, these former elites must adopt the values of the culturally dominate class which go against their economic self-interest. These acts of contrition simply reenforce the far-left and its sway over culture. In this way, the groundwork is laid for more socialism in the US.

Engaging in a career, building-up your human capital, putting yourself and your capital at-risk, and being a steward over your assets. Maximizing shareholder value, following fiduciary duties, and adhering to contracts and the law. These used to be the values of a dominate class. Perhaps it is just the working class Trump voter and those entrepreneurs and business people in the red states who are the last holdouts of the old cultural regime.

Perhaps a flirtation with socialism and the inevitable disaster of its policies will cause a swing against statism and a backlash against the culture that undermined individual rights, free markets, and private property.

Copyright © Burgett Capital, 2018

What Comes After God and Country?

The life threatening condition of statism and superstition: Hang on to individualism for dear life.

Selfless devotion and blind faith is just being used as a means to an end.

Theory and application. The problem with many theories is they are disproven in practice. Communism in a pure form does not make sense given inherent greed. Anarchy in a pure form will not work in practice given mankind’s barbarism. That is why governments religions exist: controlling the ungovernable, preventing against barbarism. Like an anthill, mankind cannot exist without its hierarchy. More practical political theory has us balancing our individual greed while maintaining order, as law and morals are constantly tested and interpreted, revised with the times in order to maintain this balance. We need movies and TV shows dealing with the breakdown of civilization, and the fear we all live with stems from our suspicion that this is all temporary. If the government falls and there are no men with guns to enforce its laws, and then church’s doctrines are no longer adhered to, then what becomes of the individual?

God and Country. Faith and Nationalism. Sources of pride, way of identity, type of membership. The Hobbesian contract is we escape barbarism by joining a nation. Like gang membership in prison, you better your state but have to accept the trade-offs that limit your autonomy.

Governments and churches are finite. Many existed in the past and all that remain are histories, artifacts and ruins. These are entities of coercion, things we are born into. The few who say no are persecuted. When those few become a significant minority, change begins to occur. Taking the US as an example, the end of slavery, women’s suffrage, the end of US apartheid, and the beginning of the recognition of gay rights are all examples of social movements that forced a better civilization. While many times religious organizations are advocates of these changes, the overall position of mass religions (demi-nations on to themselves with millions of followers and a hierarchy of governance) favored status quo. These civilizing movements co-opted government. They are an example of spontaneous ordering. Watch how marijuana legalization will occur in the US. A few activists start in a few states, a door is opened with medical marijuana, full legalization occurs in a few states, and eventually you will see decriminalization as a Class A drug.

Individuals have always shaped civilization. The mindset that a person is being looked after by some greater power, be it Jesus Christ or the US Senate, is a fiction. We tell ourselves these fairy tales to sleep well at night. In our guts we know a big stone house filled with food and assault rifles is the best way to sleep well at night. We have all seen chaos in the world. We all know how quickly order could break down.

This is the problem that comes from the ever-present ruler. Mankind will never govern itself unless it starts slowly. The early history of the US may have been an inadvertent experiment in greater self-governance. Western civilizations all have a degree of it, yet the complexity of modern civilization was accompanied by governments expanding into every aspect of life.

Copyright © Burgett Capital : 2007-2018

The Hazards of Political Belief Spectrums

The broken terminology employed in modern political discourse fuels crazed tribalism. 

The graphic above is from a discussion on a UK website called The Student Room. Burgett Capital believes this is a good representation of the parameters of political beliefs reflected in contemporary society: communism on one end and fascism on the other. Clearly, the maker of the spectrum must be from Canada, but this graphic could be applied to any democracy. (Burgett Capital’s only other comment on that graphic would be the Republican party belongs far closer to the Democrats than “Nazi” Germany. President Bush was one of the worst recent U.S. Presidents, but he does not deserve to be pictured next to Hitler. That’s just ridiculous.)

The traditional spectrum shows us the limits of left-right thinking. There’s an entire world of political philosophy outside of that continuum. The greatest flaw in the political continuum treats government as a priori.

Better political spectrums add another dimension.

Political Compass B.jpg

Again, one can quibble with the distances between some of the political figures and labels on the spectrum, but this graphic seems to do a better job at capturing the diversity of political views. Totalitarianism and anarchy are the polar opposites, though Burgett Capital takes issue with an implication that economic security and personal security would be maximized in a regime headed by Stalin or Hitler. Yes, nothing to fear but the boot of the state.

So perhaps the problem is this whole undertaking of attempting to categorize the myriad belief systems, political parties, and historical leaders across an array based upon two (or four) concepts. It’s a complex mapping problem, so any solution is bound to be messy.

Why is this important? For one thing, if you look at enough of these spectrums, you start to see many are designed in a way that reveals political opinion. Anarchy is put on the left, put on the right, or entirely ignored. The politics of the designer are always around the middle. Like the porridge Goldilocks chooses, the position they want you to land on is “just right” — far enough away from Hitler and other crazies, just over the centrist border of tending left or right.

Spectrums are pregnant with labels. When labeling occurs minds shut off. Upon mention of anarcho-capitalism, minds shut off. Both words have negative connotations. Some people would confuse a voluntary society with nihilism or primitivism. Others would jump to some form of plutocracy where corporate interests rule, like the dystopian future imagined on the TV show Continuum. One can see the labels being dealt like cards as people reason by analogy.

Murray Rothbard, in his book Society and State, wrote,  “I define anarchist society as one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of any individual.”

“Fiscally conservative” is a lie when it comes to describing Republicans, who are just as prone to support huge government spending for wealth redistribution (beyond social safety net, the party supports entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare) and the high taxes needed to support a huge standing military. The desire for lower taxes and less regulation is conflated with the GOP being supporters of “economic freedom” (an equally problematic term, discussed below); but there is a critical difference between making legislative changes at the margin that lower taxes or pull back government interference in the market place (the Republican’s historical approach) and a political philosophy that favors self-direction, free exchange, and legal rights of ownership.

“Economic freedom” is a rhetorical trap libertarians fell into. Economic freedoms are things like the right to earn a living by making choices of what a person does with their time, the right to engage in any kind of commerce involving free exchange, and holding legal rights of ownership over the money and property a person gains. By distinguishing those rights with the label “economic” from so-called “political freedoms” (free expression, religious freedom, due process, etc.), the concepts of economic freedom tend to take a backseat. What could be more central to someone’s life than what they do with their time? We all work for a living and navigate in commerce, and we certainly have more economic activities on any given day then political ones. That is not to say political rights are not vital, the point is that all individual rights are vital.

Copyright © Burgett Capital : 2007-2018

Trump and the Inflection Point

President Trump? Sweet Christmas! The Cubs in the World Series and the end of world must be near.

The GOP managed to keep the Senate and the House, making for an absolute disaster for the Dems. Hillary Clinton is done as a politician, and the press is beginning to reveal just how incompetent her campaign was. The Sanders rebellion was a sign of disaffection in the core, and the normally reliable get out the vote by the Democratic machines seemed to have stalled (just based on the turnout numbers compared to President Obama’s victories).

Burgett Capital believed the polls. Last night was stunned disbelief.

Was the GOP establishment even more disappointed? One can suppose there will still be divided government, but there’s enough political connection to take care of business on healthcare and tax reform. Still, it is hard to see how this is going to be a smooth four years for the United States and the rest of the world. Trump’s platform is awful — popularism aimed at the worst aspects of the American political mind. Needless to say, the anti-trade, anti-immigration, law and order, and military tough-talk made Trump look unelectable. Of course, the left is already making with Hitler comparisons (and as they say, once you invoke Hitler you lose the argument). President-elect Trump is an awful manager and his supporters are the peasants who want to storm the castle. The media and pollsters succumbed to groupthink (as did Burgett Capital), as if saying, “This man cannot be President!” — but all of the miserable and angry people in the south and the midwest had other ideas.

The Tweets and press conversations from Election night were entertaining. Burgett Capital will admit to the guilty pleasure of watching all of the smug, Millennial hipsters at Hillary’s rally in New York crying and looking disgusted as the returns came in; yet, truth be told, there is more commonality and sympathy with them than the average Trump voter. There is also all of this noise about Clinton winning the popular vote but still losing; the problem with this ‘injustice’ is everyone knew the election is won on electoral votes, and so the campaigns needed to be waged to win electoral votes. So 5 million more Californians and New Yorkers voted for Clinton; they mean nothing after the last vote that put her on top of the electoral college. If you do not like it, start another amendment to the Constitution.

The third party voters are already getting it. Burgett Capital supported Gary “Aleppo” Johnson as the Libertarian Party has a platform closest to current ideology. Perhaps a Clinton victory was just assumed, so the desire to say, “Hey, don’t blame me, I voted Libertarian for national offices and Republican for state offices.” Besides, there was no chance Illinois would have many people wanting to “Make America Great Again” as this is a state that seems to relish bad government. But, in all seriousness, scapegoating third party voters is unfair. Ballot access laws make it next to impossible for third parties to get a foothold in this country. The only way they stay on ballots is through getting votes in elections. Third party voters want something that is better than what the GOP and the Democrats offer. Someone who truly believes in a party’s platform should not be shamed into being a ‘tactical’ voter, forced to vote for the lesser of two evils. If you want someone’s vote, present a platform of ideas that appeals to that person. “Wasting your vote” was probably what the Whig Party spokesmen said about Republican voters in the 1850s. Maybe the Whigs will make a comeback … Hillary may want to review their platform now that she’s done with the Democrats.

The rest of the world has to be puzzled. It is amazing how much goodwill this country can accumulate and then waste. Post 9/11, we have the world’s support and admiration, and then blow it on Iraq, Katrina, and the 2007-08 Financial Crisis. President Obama is elected and credibility is somewhat restored, as there is more multilateralism and respect for international institutions. The War on Terror is waged more sensibly with special ops and drones (though Burgett Capital still opposes military intervention). The US stays out of Syria. The US comes close to trade deals in Europe and Asia. The 2016 election cycle starts and there’s the GOP’s freak show of way too many candidates. The money falls behind guys who would just lose to Clinton, and they all sound the same. Except one — the one everyone thinks is just trying to keep his celebrity alive. This felt like protest votes that builded upon angry voters, and when the last ‘establishment’ guy was gone the GOP was stuck with Trump.

Oh, how the media laughed. Thank you, Democratic Party, for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, so safe, poll tested, and middle of the road it stood for nothing new. Nothing new at all offered to a country full of malcontents who were trained to think life only can get better, and can never get worse. Sander’s rebellion, fought almost to the convention, was a sign the core was not behind Clinton.

Trump and all of the damage he will do in the next four years falls squarely on the political elites running the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. These two parties are unraveling, with every two to four years seeming like a ‘mandate’ election only for the tables to turn again. The platforms of both parties are pasted together agendas from special interests who probably do not want to be in bed together. The question Burgett Capital asks is, “Is 2016 going to be recognized as the real inflection point for the major US political parties?”

Like World War One trench warfare, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have fought a war of attrition since the early ‘90s: Clinton is rebuked in the 1994 midterms with GOP majorities in Congress after winning a landslide in 1992; Clinton is re-elected in 1996 and the GOP slowly loses seats in Congress in that election as well as 1998; in 2000 the Presidential election ends up being a tie decided for President Bush, with some more losses by the GOP in the House and the Dems taking back the Senate; post 9-11 in 2002, the Republicans end up picking up seats in Congress and win the Senate; in 2004, also a ‘war time’ kind of election, John Kerry losses to Bush in a fairly close election, but the GOP runs the table with majorities in both chambers of Congress; in 2006, Bush’s political capital is gone, and there is sweeping victory for the Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate (not to mention a majority of governorships and state legislatures). By 2008, the table is set for President Obama, who beats John McCain in a landslide and further strengthens the Democratic Party’s positions in the House and the Senate. Commentators called that election ‘historic’ and a ‘new alignment’ similar to Roosevelt’s coalition of special interests under the Dems in the 1930s. Yet, not even two years into Obama’s presidency, we have the 2010 election where the Democrats suffered massive defeats, with Tea Party Republicans taking the House and expanding in the Senate. In 2012, President Obama is re-elected over Mitt Romney in a landslide, with the Democratic holding the Senate and the GOP holding on to the House against gains by the Democrats. That success only lasts two years, as once again the GOP made huge gains in the Senate, House, and in numerous gubernatorial, state, and local races. In 2016, we have Trump and the GOP losing seats in the House and the Senate, but the GOP holds on to majorities in both.

If any pattern can be detected, it is that in stable times there seems to be an equilibrium between the parties, working under a divided government that does not do much except maintain the status quo. Times when one party appears to make gains over the other seems to trigger a rebuking in the next election, especially if national setbacks and political mistakes can be used as campaign issues. That neither party can hold a majority even after major electoral successes suggests very strongly that voters do not really align with those parties politically, but rather opt to simply vote for change when given a reason to do so. The seesaw, back and forth between the parties are just nonpartisan voters picking people they like (or voting against people they do not like). For example, look how Trump stole blue collar workers, suburban women, and even Spanish-speaking voters away from the Democrats. In 2018, it is likely the GOP losses the Senate and seats in the House as people react to the Trump presidency. In 2020, if Trump really makes a hash of his presidency, many of this supporters from 2016 will go against him.

In economics, the concept of a market structure following ‘perfect competition’ is one where incumbent firms come and go having no barriers to entry or exit, with each firm offering the same fungible product, each firm operating with access to all relevant information about its market, and each firm making $0 economic profit because, in the end, each firm is a ‘price taker’ — it sells its product at whatever amount the consumer is willing to pay. Does this state sound like the position of every card-carrying Democrat and Republican politician? They come and go, they offer the same ideas so not to be seen as a radical outside of the party, they are completely attuned to voter information, yet success (measured in political power) is short lived, with voters going for another option the minute more is asked of them.

The election of Trump could signify the end of one or both parties, and if it does the next four years will be worth all of the pain and aggravation. Unfortunately, Burgett Capital thinks the most apt comment for the 2016 election is a quote from H.L. Mencken: “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

Copyright © Burgett Capital : 2007-2018

Sentimentality Is Not Ideology

“Classical liberal” is just a better brand of statist. Here’s to hoping democracy will be the final form of government in history.

To most democracy is revered in holy tones. It is the cure all of any nation’s ills. It is sacred.

The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution are great documents of enlightened thought. The achievements of the founding fathers of the United States seem to be unparalleled by history. Revisionist critiques have pointed to the economic interests of the founders as drivers of the Revolution, but that does not take away from the unique rights-based egalitarianism established in the nation. Historical relativism is not a defense for the continued subjugation of women and the monstrous institution of slavery, yet after the conflagration of the Civil War the founders‘ system of government provided for a mostly  peaceful transition to better equality under the law over the twentieth century.

Many will argue, that the founding of the United States was a beacon of light in the eighteenth century that led to an overall advancement in human freedom throughout the world. Suppose we take that position as granted: there were no other liberalizing forces in the world in the eighteenth century besides the United States (which is, of course, ridiculous, but let’s avoid getting into the historical arguments over impact of the US on world history; it’s clear the impact was a positive one from the standpoint of human freedom and how much of an impact is a debate for another day). If the US was the sole force for a rights-based government that ensured a wide array of freedoms to its citizenry, does that mean the founding fathers should occupy a supreme position in our moral and political beliefs? Are the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and all of the writings of the founders (such as The Federalist Papers) perfect expressions of the values needed in a free society? Are the writings of the liberal philosophers who influenced the founders, like John Locke, also deserving of eternal veneration? For the sake of argument, let’s refer to all of these convictions as adulation for the founding.

Lest anyone think this is a straw man argument, in the US there is ample evidence of adulation for the founding in rhetoric, party platforms, and political treatises. The Tea Party movement appeared fanatical about the founding. Libertarians, Constitutional conservatives, most Republicans and conservative Democrats are often not far from viewing of the founding of the United States as a holy event. This is not to take away from the achievement or the fact the US developed into a great nation. The question is was the nation envisioned by the founders an ideal expression of human freedom?

Burgett Capital contends true advocates of freedom should not be trapped in any system of government, especially one imagined in the eighteenth century. This is where the Objectivist, the Minarchist, and the Anarcho-Capitalist will part ways with the Libertarian, most of whom believe the level of government we had in the nineteenth century was just fine. Yet the US allowed slavery to continue for another 77 years, engaged in a number of foreign wars, and committed a genocide on American Indians. There was never a golden era of freedom, peace and prosperity brought about by a close adherence to the founders’ vision.

Burgett Capital argues adulation of the founding is actually a barrier to human progress. Looking into the past for some ‘golden age’ looks the absolutely wrong way; the concern of ideology should be looking forward towards advancing humanity in a contemporary world.

A religious devotion to the founding fathers is as ignorant as a blind worship of FDR or Reagan. There was never a ‘pure’ time of Libertarian ideals. Outside of the Bill of Rights, the Constitution is a blueprint for a federal government with expansive powers. The “necessary and proper” clause gave carte blanche to the government for all manner of laws. Even a literal reading of the Constitution tells us Congress gets to regulate all commerce over state lines. Leaving aside how the activist Supreme Courts of mid-century used this provision to allow the federal government to regulate virtually everything it wants to regulate (except buying health insurance; that’s just another tax), the freedom-loving founders gave Congress an incredible power to limit the inherent right of individuals to engage in free exchange simply because one person is in Delaware and the other is in New Jersey. Also, consider the provisions on eminent domain allow for a seizure of private property by the government, greatly undermining the legal concept of property ownership. Finally, the Constitution puts government in the business of issuing patent protections restricting the usage of ‘intellectual property’ even though private causes of action under common law would have allowed for disputes involving copyright to be resolved.

The federal government has been an evolving and changing entity, and that process started as soon as the Constitution was ratified in 1788. Marbury v Madison (5 US 137) was decided in 1803, establishing the doctrine of judicial review and clarifying the role of the judicial branch. Political rights in the US expanded over time though new laws, amendments to the Constitution and decisions by the Supreme Court; however, the Supreme Court’s subsequent interpretations of the Constitution allowed for government to have unchecked power over individual economic liberties, concentrated power in a Federal government (at the expense of state and local governments), and an Executive branch wielding the administrative, police and military power of that Federal government with marginal Legislative oversight.

In the 20th century, social justice and equality trumped individual freedoms as the Executive and Legislative branches established by the Constitution created a social welfare state supported by coercive transfer payments, unneeded rules and regulations that tend to discourage entrepreneurship, and a crony capitalist system that encourages rent seeking through political access, perpetuating the wealth and power of elites rather than supporting a free marketplace with a level playing field.

In ordinary discourse, democracy is presented as a cure-all for any nation’s ills, and lack of democracy as the cause of all troubles. Nation building exercises invariably lead to free elections. Burgett Capital will never argue that popularly elected government is not better than all other forms of government seen so far. However, reverence for democracy masks the sins of democratic governments. Burgett Capital argues that the social contract among a nation’s people should be driving at governmental obsolescence.

To maximize freedom, this means someday the Constitution gets put through the paper shredder. Adulation for the founding is a dangerous form of rhetoric because it elevates the Constitution to a holy book. We need to see things for what they are: ultimately, even a strict constructionist approach to the Constitution demonstrates the document’s coercive tools to limit individual freedom. As a social contract, there is no expiration date, no termination clause. The Constitution assumes the permanent necessity of a state, an eternal master of its populace. While going back to a government based upon a strict interpretation of the Constitution would be better than the current state of affairs, it is Burgett Capital’s contention that backwards-looking arguments will never persuade a contemporary citizenry. The better case is made in a forward-looking path that dismantles government in a peaceful, democratic, and legal manner.  For this to occur, people need to believe a better civilization will come from a society of a truly free individuals.

The late 20th century saw the beginning of the decay. Democratic governments in the world have swollen with power and influence, both over their people and the people of other nations. When power is concentrated it leads to bad things: extremely bad (if not evil) in the case of a dictatorship. Yet democracies have their share of issues, both historically and in this current age. The latest folly called “the Bush administration” is a perfect example of a government abusing its citizens.  A handful of fools have involved the United States in two wars that made the world less stable, more dangerous, and may lead to even more war.  We have weapons that can extinguish life on this planet and all because we humans persist on being members of a nation-state.

Forget asteroids, climate change, and viral outbreaks; today, government with unchecked power is the greatest hazard that humanity faces. Like organized mass religion, the idea of government at its origin met a necessary and beneficial need. The collective tribe (or community, or village, or territory) needed to leadership to enforce customs, protect the weak from the strong, and mobilize the people in case of war. With the spread of democracy came the idea that government was “of the people” — which probably was more meaningful in ancient Athens (where few men voted, so exerted real influence), or America at the founding (where voters were white, male owners of property); a modern nation with millions of voters makes representative democracy even more indirect. The citizenry, content with its material comforts, prefers to leave unquestioned that the democracy can only do good. Ask someone, “Why does the US have so much wealth, so much material comfort?” Burgett Capital expects the average American to point toward democracy rather than open markets, relatively low taxes, and relatively less government intervention.

Even at times when the populace becomes more engaged and turns out to vote for a leader they see as change agent, politics conspires against them. For example, President Obama was thought to be a very different kind of leader than President Bush, yet there was little change in US foreign policy direction. Even from the standpoint of domestic policy, President Obama’s signature healthcare legislation is based upon a Republican plan in the mid-90’s. The political debate, played out in media, painted a picture of extremes on both sides: Democrats holding-up the law as some great milestone in social justice (when, in fact, it is both corporate-welfare and an unfair tax on the young people in the country, yet another handout to the Baby Boom generation); Republicans acting as if the healthcare law created a single payer system and nationalized the hospital industry.

Who really benefits from dividing people in these distorted debates? Clearly, it’s a leadership class — a class that typically comes from the upper reaches of our society. Not every politician is rich, not every politician is well-educated at elite schools, and not every politician comes from a family that also served in government; but the majority of career politicians meet two or all three of those descriptors. Just like any professional, career advancement takes both skill and a professional network. In the United States, the two party duopoly, the revolving door from government service to lobbying, and the constant fundraising cycle of elected representatives has resulted in a class of professional influence peddlers. Information asymmetries between the general public and the political class results in a system resembling plutocracy. While some will make the same assessment and scream for more social justice in the form of government redistribution, Burgett Capital sees representative democracy in its current condition suppressing individual freedom and subverting markets through government intervention.

The so-called “right” and “left” popular political parties ultimately support a status quo of large, powerful central government  The leftwing parties exploit our human instinct for compassion, perverting our culture’s egalitarian notions that call for equal rights and opportunities into an “equality of outcomes”. What started as social safety nets have evolved into full-blown entitlements that redistribute wealth across income classes and generations — handouts to palliate the voting masses. It is no wonder the Social Security and Medicare programs came out of an era when the US system was contending with totalitarian states with centrally planned economies. Thus created the welfare state: the masses are provided for at the price of their unquestioning devotion to the state in terms of taxes and freedom. Beyond the distortions to the market, the perverse incentives of taxes, and the unintended negative consequences of social welfare programs, there is the horrible injustice in wealth redistribution. The most insidious part of the left’s belief system is that government should deem when to take private property from one person and give it to another. People with guns will come to your house and imprison you if you refuse to pay the taxes that support the payments to your neighbor — or, even more absurd, pay the taxes to service the debt rung-up by past generations that did not want to pay those very taxes.

The rightwing parties exploits citizens’ fear of others, playing the role of the ’tough guys’ who constantly proclaim their love for cops and the military, jingoist and statist to the end. After the inevitable conflict with fascism in World War Two, the US remained in a state of full military mobilization in order to instill an international system of commerce protected by the US and its allies. Even after the dismantlement of the Soviet bloc the US has remained fully mobilized, ready to fight multiple wars at once before having to resort to weapons of mass destruction. The “War on Terror” only ensured that this state of mobilization would continue. So we see this mindset of “security justifies anything, no matter what the cost” in action all the time, and yet we always seem to end up in a world that is less safe. Communists and terrorists are useful tools for fear mongering. While there is no question there are some barbaric regimes on this planet (e.g., North Korea, Iran, Syria), the idea that we need to have standing armies in place forever seems ridiculous. The right sees to it there is no international discussion about disarmament, much less any effort to stop the export of conventional weapons.

For both the right and the left, the common ground is perpetuating strong central governments. Governmental systems with unchecked domestic power will also be assertive militarily. Governments that redistribute income and regulate commerce are prone to intervene in other individual freedoms. The fact that popular elections are held every two years or so simply serves as window dressing. Large political parties with broad platforms and similar ideology do not represent a real choice. While citizens are always free to protest, advocate, organize, fund raise and ultimately elect different leaders, the question remains when we will reach a tipping point where this begins to occur en masse.

Entropy is unavoidable, decay irreversible. Progress in history takes place when the old modes of beliefs — in this case, our benevolent democratic governments — are seen as the thing that plagues us.

We are all going to rue the day we decided not to question, not to argue, and just accept this state of affairs. As developing economies accumulate more wealth and access to resources, what happens when the standard of living in “developed” nations begins to fall? Does the political class respond in a way that advances humanity (i.e., dismantling systems of taxation and social welfare, and disarming itself, so that maximum freedom will thrive) or does it respond to what the mob will call for (protectionism, more handouts, and war)? Put another way, do large national democratically elected governments come to a logical end, or do they fight to the bitter end?

The democratic/welfare/military state will be peacefully dismantled by its citizens, ending with a whimper and not a bang.

Copyright © Burgett Capital : 2007-2018

Devolving Centralized Authority, Evolving Human State

Political futurism: The state’s devolution will only better humanity. What could the next 100 years look like?

I’ll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall;
I’ll slay more gazers than the basilisk;
I’ll play the orator as well as Nestor,
Deceive more slily than Ulysses could,
And, like a Sinon, take another Troy.
I can add colours to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machiavel to school.
Can I do this, and cannot get a crown?
Tut, were it farther off, I’ll pluck it down.

William Shakespeare

Henry VI, part 3 | Act 3, Scene 2

Sadly, Gloucester’s soliloquy of ambition would not make a contemporary Washington powerbroker blush. Looking at history, a hegemon does not simply surrender power. Power trumps ideology as a movement becomes a junta, which turns into a ruling party. Like a virus, the ruling power imprints itself on government, rewriting laws, redesigning the economy, and reshuffling institutions in order for the DNA of a country to become one with the ruling party. While we may not see it, our Democrats and Republicans have done this in the United States, a political duopoly of two statist parties who agree on many more things than they disagree:

  • Military empire? You bet!
  • A central bank that caters to Wall Street? Check!
  • Industry capture of the legislative and regulatory process? Sure thing!
  • An economic system that favors vested interests and established players? Heck yeah!
  • A complex tax code full of corporate welfare and middle class handouts? Thumbs up!
  • Welfare programs to palliate the poor masses? Sounds good!
  • Electoral and campaign finance reform? Hell no!

Even so-called informed people are plugged into an ideological version of ‘The Matrix’ where they cannot see U.S. politics for what it really is. Red states and blue states are fake polarization — distinction without difference — and political discourse focuses on a lot of fringe issues that never move the needle on bettering the lives of most Americans. Nothing will begin to change until a critical mass of population in this country gets both politically astute and morally vigorous.

The first steps are advocacy of (1) a political ideology that is both coherent and places the highest value on individual rights in the broadest possible sense, and (2) a humanist moral framework or a religion that, at the very least, is tolerant of others and seeks to improve the human condition through private, non-coercive actions.

Today it is regarded as a fantasy to dream of a world with no governments and no religions that have been state-sanctioned and militarized, probably just as ridiculous as some unwashed, toothless peasant harvesting wheat in the middle of France in the 14th century dreaming of a world where King Charles V or one of his decedents no longer holds supreme power in his country, or where a person can opt not to adhere to the Catholic Church’s  dogma and, instead, select another religion or, heaven forbid, choose not to believe in myth. His fellow peasants would laugh at him, for there will always be kings and we all must worship God in the manner required by the Church’s high clerics.

Government will be dismantled over time. This is more than some GOP tough talk or libertarian-conservative posturing. While a rollback of the federal government to the 19th century is an amusing thought experiment, there is a lack of practical application to the 21st century that makes this idea idiotic. Nevertheless, like kings, on a long enough timeline the end of government will occur, and it will be well before the sun goes into supernova and destroys our solar system. Government is simply a means to an end, so federal, state and municipal governments will exist so long as they are needed by a society. The end of history will truly take place when humanity has evolved past the need to be ruled. This will not happen overnight, but a truly free populace should be the goal of every government claiming moral coherence. The grand design of Western civilization has been the creation of citizens who are ends in themselves, self-actualizing in their lifetimes, seeking fulfillment of their desires during their all too short lives. We are not born to serve, or to never question why, or to be trapped in a permanent underclass.

The devolution of government must be a peaceful transition, as government itself is a form of violence and the answer to violence cannot be more violence. An anarcho-capitalist does not support violence or any form of coercion, so the end of government must be done through its mechanisms, a collective dismantling of laws through democratic action. This is about having a logical and coherent approach, winning the argument and changing minds, seeking to persuade and not intimidate or deceive. It may take 100 years or even 500 years, but it will occur. It’s simply a question of evolution.

This evolutionary approach towards an anarcho-capitalist society would require a less doctrinaire approach towards limiting government. Many near-term actions can help in the evolution toward anarcho-capitalist society: The Department of Education and Department of Energy can both be disbanded. National defense can be cut and right-sized for defense and not an empire. The Patent and Trademark Office and US Postal Service can be privatized. Social Security and Medicare should be means tested. The tax could should be amended to do away with corporate and middle class welfare.

However, due to the state of humanity and the world, we come to the harder calls, such as the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As time goes on, you can probably privatize the CDC, disband the CIA and merge its functions with the Department of Defense, and break-up the FBI and leave it to state agencies. The Federal Reserve is also a hard call, given its a lynchpin in the world’s economy as the sole issuer of the world’s only reserve currency. The eventual resolution of the European financial crisis will strengthen the euro, and the growth of other national economies will lead to an emergence of other hard currencies (such as the renminbi, the Indian rupee, and the Brazilian real) and greater international economic integration. As US dollar floats in value with the value of other hard currencies based on the performance of this issuing economies, the Fed’s efforts to manage the US economy through manipulation of the money supply will be less effective, if not futile.

It is Burgett Capital’s contention that the evolution of humanity will lead to a devolution of government. The beginning steps in the devolution of government could occur in three waves in the 21st century:

  1. 2013-2030 — Continued international economic development and integration, with major trade treaties, the maturation of the emerging markets of the ‘90‘s and ‘00‘s the growth of Africa as an emerging market, and a liberalized government in China. A fiscal crisis and high inflation lead to shift in US party platforms, leading to de-centralization of the US government where federal functions are severely curtailed and/or moved to states and municipalities, defense spending is dramatically reduced, and the Federal Reserve’s powers are scaled back. Taxes and regulation are dramatically reduced to allow for the US to foster a more entrepreneurial, high-tech economy. The two-party duopoly ends as multiple political parties are created, and coalition governments take hold in the US.
  2. 2030-2050 — Biotech and information technology advances lead to dramatic improvements in lifespan, abilities, and productivity, further making people less dependent upon centralized power structures. Health improvements, access to food and water, and the need for more education leads to a declining world population rate for the first time in history. Religious identification begins to wane in Asia, Africa, and South America. Countries in Western Europe and North America liberalize immigration policies and further integrate their economies with a single currency (now an entirely electronic means of exchange), leading to more diverse, tolerant societies.
  3. 2050-2100 — Integrated economies and leaps in technology lead to a weakening of national borders and demilitarization. Low birth rates lead to immigration reform in all countries, leading to the growth of “world citizens” who immigrate and tie themselves to multiple countries. Improved information technology eliminates language barriers. Access to limitless energy (fusion; spaced-based solar collectors) eliminates competition for fossil fuels and results in cheap, fast world transportation. Robotics leads to a higher quality of life as people have more autonomy on how they spend their time. Asian and African countries begin to follow the West’s example of diversity and toleration. In most countries, large religious orders have given way to a myriad of smaller spiritual movements and new religions/sects which are mostly oriented toward self-improvement of their members and to charitable causes, with little influence on politics and society at large.

Blog posts on the rationale for each of these waves will follow (eventually).

Copyright © Burgett Capital : 2007-2018

The Tea Party

The kettle boiled but then cooled pretty damn fast. What happened? An analysis of the short-lived Tea Party movement.

The “Tea Party” movement received intense media attention when it emerged in early 2009. Derided by popular media but coddled by conservatives, the movement shaped the outcome of the 2010 midterm elections and has since lost momentum. From an anarcho-cpaitalist point of view, the movement had many positive characteristics at its beginning, but a lack of clear and consistent ideology spelled its doom. Despite the efforts of its stakeholders, the Tea Party has become a tool of the GOP and will ultimately disband as a movement in a few years. At this point, the movement’s likely place in history is someplace between the National Silver Committee and the Reform Party.

The Kettle Boils … 

In the beginning the Tea Party was an organic movement, much like Occupy Wall Street. It’s origins are most likely traced to Congressman Ron Paul’s campaign to be the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2008. The “tea party” began as a series of protests over the $430 billion in bailouts from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) of 2008 and the $830 billion in “stimulus” as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The movement’s name was reportedly inspired by CNBC’s Rick Santelli’s on air tirade that called for a new Tea Party to protest a government run amuck. Given these origins, the Tea Party appeared to begin as a libertarian movement, emphasizing the need to address crony capitalism and the influence of special interests on government. The Tea Party was against the actions of both major parties, including the Bush administration’s reckless fiscal policies. As the movement grew, additional protest themes were added: lowering taxes, ending excessive regulation, and curbing the power of the Federal Reserve.

Being composed of frustrated Republicans and libertarians, the Tea Party had a natural overlap on positions typically seen in the Republican Party’s platform. Spokespeople for the movement were careful to distance it from the GOP so to remain an issues-centered movement. The GOP was in the wilderness in 2009, wincing from the Democrat’s taking of the White House, the Senate, and the House. The Tea Party appeared to provide a means back into to power.

The Kettle Whistles…

As the nation began to understand the factors that led to the 2008-09 financial crisis, there was justifiable anger across the populace, both right and left. A calamity of bad government policy, cronyism, and huge financial players following incentives, average citizens who followed rational decisions regarding home ownership and employment decisions ended up getting screwed in the housing and stock market crashes, and the resulting recession and flat economy that followed. The bailouts of big banks and the auto industry left many of these people wondering, “Where is my bailout?” The disaffected person with a conservative political bent was a natural Tea Party supporter. These people wanted to let the world know they were angry, and rightly so.

Although the Tea Party was extremely critical of President Bush, it moved into partisan territory as President Obama’s administration dealt with the recession and aftermath of the crisis. The fiscal stimulus on top of already burgeoning deficits created another wave of angst among small government advocates. But it was President Obama’s goal of addressing the underinsured and ballooning healthcare costs that provided the Tea Party with another casus belli. Billed as a “government takeover” of healthcare, the healthcare reform debates provided the Tea Party the fuel it needed to grow. The bill’s focus was really health insurance and provider payment reform, but the analogy to “socialized medicine” was too easy for pundits to make, so it would be simple for the average conservative. The GOP, which had the stated goal of making Obama a one term president, was quick to follow the Tea Party’s lead on this issue.

The new wave of Tea Partiers (or Tea Baggers, using Bill Maher’s expression) were more traditional right wing and populist. Tea Party rallies become forums for all grievances. While never a pure ideological movement, the new wave of self-identified Tea Party supporters seemed to bring anti-immigration and “culture war” baggage to the movement. At this point, media coverage of the movement had increased, showing the white men in tricornered hats holding extreme anti-Obama placards with swastikas. At the same time the moronic and racist “Birther” movement was active, and rightly or wrongly the Tea Party’s supporters had an association with those wingnuts. Also, the divisive Sarah Palin was still “blowing up” at this time, and she tried to associate herself with the movement in order to capitalize on her celebrity. The popular media was quick to highlight Palin’s association with the Tea Party. To address these image problems and to refocus the key messages of the movement, leaders of local Tea Party chapters spoke in glowing terms of how all types of people were active in the movement (not just angry white guys) and that Tea Party supporters were reportedly “well read” in the Founder’s writings, carrying copies of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution with them, discussing Ayn Rand and Austrian Economic Theory at their protests.

The left reacted to the Tea Party’s success, pointing out ties to the Koch Brothers and other deep pockets, and claiming the movement was just “astroturf” and not grassroots. The left’s talking heads positioned the movement as some stratagem by the GOP to take advantage of a populist cause which was started in reaction to the GOP’s policies of the last decade. This is when you started hearing a lot about how blue collar conservatives vote against their economic interests by supporting low taxes on the rich and less of a welfare state, as if the Tea Party members were stupid to espouse well-reasoned principles. Of course, the truth is likely to be found someplace in the middle of those views: the average Tea Partier was not an armchair scholar of political economy, nor was he or she a knuckle dragging puppet of the richest 1%.

It seems hard to deny the movement started organically, but its rapid growth in 2009 led to the movement being more structured. A number “supporting organizations” emerged  (The Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots, and Freedomworks) that were run by political operatives with structured fund raising operations. While claiming there was no centralization or formal party structure, these supporting organizations undoubtedly influenced local Tea Party groups and provided a national communications strategy, ostensibly speaking for the various chapters of the movement. These organizations have been successful in keeping the movement focused on tax reform, opposition to “Obamacare,” balanced budgets, literal adherence to the US Constitution, and ending bailouts.

Upon the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in early 2010,  “Obamacare” galvanized the Tea Party movement against the President and the Democratic Congress. This was the opening to integrate the Tea Party within the GOP’s camp. Note that this seems to be a matter of debate: Some claim the Tea Party was always a Republican tool and so it was easily subverted by the GOP. The better argument is the movement was truly organic, and its success allowed it to influence the GOP in 2010, pushing the Republican Party’s platform towards the Tea Party’s positions on key issues.

The Tea Party platform was memorialized in the “Contract From America” (created by a supporting organization of that same name that reportedly aggregated input from Tea Party adherents across the country in order to create a platform):

  • Any new bill must have a basis in the US Constitution.
  • Ending the cap and trade programs to curb industrial emissions.
  • Amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget and a 2/3 legislative vote to increase taxes.
  • Tax code simplification, with a limit of 4,543 words – the length of the original Constitution.
  • Downsize the federal government, ending programs that do not have Constitutional support and moving more programs to state and local administration.
  • Capping federal spending growth every year at a rate not to exceed the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.
  • Repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
  • Energy policy deregulation and energy independence, a.k.a. “All of the above” policy.
  • Requirement that spending earmarks added to bills pass a 2/3 legislative vote.
  • Tax cuts, including repeal of “all tax hikes” on “income, capital gains, and death taxes”.

It should not be lost on anyone that while much of the platform repeats popular Tea Party themes (with some corny, simplistic ideas added like a word limit on the tax code, possibly inspired by overuse of Twitter), there was a sudden addition of two of the GOP’s all time favorite hits: ending cap and trade and deregulation of energy, otherwise known as climate change denial. This certainly smelled funny.

In the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party punished more moderate Republicans by defeating them in primaries and fielding an impressive number of Congressional and gubernatorial candidates. Granted, there were a number of notable imbeciles in this field, such as Carl Paladino (candidate for NY governor), Christine O’Donnell (candidate for Senate in DE), and Sharron Angle (candidate for Senate in AZ), all of whom lost their races. However, some likely future GOP stars emerged from this class: Marco Rubio (Senator from FL), Rand Paul (Senator from KY), and Mike Lee (Senator from UT). In addition, many incumbent Republicans were quick to align themselves on Tea Party issues, most famously Paul Ryan (Representative from WI and VP nominee) who, in his recent past, voted in favor of small government gems like the Medicare Part D legislation, the TARP, and the auto industry bailout.

The Tea Party was the main element in the GOP’s electoral success in the 2010 mid-terms, notably taking the House of Representatives by adding 63 seats and pushing up its minority in Senate by six additional Senators. Not only was this just reminiscent of 1994, but these huge gains took place only two years after a “realigning” election in 2008, where the Democrats had both the White House and significant majorities in Congress. This quick reversal of fortune proved that 2008 was a fluke and not a realignment of any kind.

However, the 2010 midterms were quite possibly the apex of the movement. The Tea Party Caucus of 61 Congressmen (all Republicans) was soon a lightning rod for media attention. The “no compromise” nature of the Tea Party had spread to the GOP, leading to political gridlock and national frustration over the tone of discourse and the ineptness of the political class, coming to a peak during the debt ceiling debate in the fall of 2011.

The Kettle Cools Off … 

The Tea Party movement seemed to lack a meaningful role in the nomination of Republican presidential candidates in the 2012 cycle, with Tea Party Caucus chair Michele Bachman falling flat on her face as a candidate. Although not a member of the Tea Party Caucus, Representative Ron Paul’s presidential campaign took leadership on most of the issues that were near and dear to the hearts of libertarians and Tea Party supporters. Ron Paul would support most Tea Party positions, and to his credit is also anti-war, pro-immigration and anti-Federal Reserve. These are issues the Tea Party opted to punt on in its “Contract” which surely means there would be no agreement within the movement’s supporters on those issues, which is an important consideration to remember. The Tea Party lost steam in the nominating process because the libertarian portion of the Tea Party supported Paul while the more traditional conservative Tea Partiers backed the likes of Bachman, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney. With the end of Ron Paul’s campaign and his impending retirement from Congress, the libertarian minded Tea Party supporters appear to have lost their ideological leader. Mitt Romney’s nomination put many of those libertarian leaning Tea Party supporters into the position of making a vote against Obama rather than one for Romney.

Since 2010, the number of Tea Party local chapters has decreased and support for the movement has declined. The problem is the same one the Reform Party and Occupy Wall Street faced: populist movements fueled by anger lose steam. This is because anger is not ideology and opposition is not policy. Spewing a bilious tirade about Obamacare is much easier than addressing the hard choices that have to be made in order to dismantle a complex corporatist, welfare and military state. After all, what else could the Contract From America imply but some fulfillment of those three noble aims?

A bullet point list of feel-good ideas and tough talk still requires some kind of ideological underpinning. But the Tea Party movement’s central failing is that lack of coherent ideology. To be a movement seeking change on a national scale, there should be a consensus against corporatism, the welfare state, and the military empire. Yet the Tea Party is only somewhat critical of two legs of that accursed three legged stool: corporatism (as far as bailouts and tax reform; other government largess is not as worrisome) and the welfare state (implied by the manic commandment that ‘Thou shall balance thine budget’). It is striking that entitlements — which will eventually bankrupt the United States unless reformed — are not taken on directly by the tough talking, straight shooting Tea Party. But then you see why: a 2011 poll by the Washington Post found 70% of Tea Party supporters opposed any cuts of Medicare or Medicaid, suggesting a breakdown in basic understanding of what it will take to balance budgets and cut taxes. This is a classic case of the horrible politics of populism: give me everything and take nothing from me (reminding one of this fabulous movie scene). However, to the extent it represents Tea Party positions, an important exception to this criticism are the policy positions described by Freedomworks on its website, which seem to follow a more libertarian-minded approach.

Lack of centralization was always heralded as the Tea Party movement’s greatest virtue; yet, without leadership its followers are easily subverted. The addition of the pro-energy industry points to the Contract From America seems to demonstrate this. What did energy independence have to do with bailouts and taxes? It is hard to believe the average Tea Party member had a position on energy policy. A well-informed person knows that reforming the energy policy is code for more profits for oil and other energy companies with close ties in the beltway.

The national spokesmen for the Tea Party painstakingly emphasize that the movement has no positions on foreign policy or cultural issues. But without a position on these issues, Tea Party supporters are easily drawn into support of conservative statists. A recent Cato Institute paper by David Kirby and Emily Ekins concludes that, “[r]oughly half the tea party is socially conservative, half libertarian — or, fiscally conservative, but socially moderate to liberal” which has moved the GOP to become “functionally libertarian, focusing on fiscal over social issues.” Burgett Capital argues the conclusion is more likely the obverse: the GOP has moved Tea Party supporters into the big tent, making them functional Republicans, getting their support for continued statism, culture war issues, and the military state.

A Tea Party supporter may point to the documents from the “founding of the nation” as its ideological basis. This is the common ground of many US libertarians and traditional conservatives: reverence for the Founders as a path to utopia. The former believe the Federal government we wanted to form in 1787 was an expression of Apollonian perfection, while the later are comfortable making a literal interpretation of the US Constitution, as they would any passage of the Bible. The problem is this approach is ahistorical, ignoring over 200 years of legislation and constitutional interpretation. Longing for the past is pointless, as the eggs cannot be unscrambled, meaning a new approach is necessary, starting with the current system of government and figuring out to dismantle it peacefully and without too much social disruption. Furthermore, the emotional reverence for the founding may actually imply a world that would be objectionable to the average Tea Party adherent. A literal read of the Constitution means no standing army, no Medicare, and no laws passed “defending marriage” or outlawing drugs. Most libertarians worth that label would be fine with that outcome; how many self-identified Tea Party supporters, especially the traditional conservatives, would be willing to live in that country? Furthermore, the Constitution never outlawed corporatism or statism in the United States; the 10th Amendment implied the states themselves could pass any laws they wanted so long as they were consistent with the Bill of Rights, meaning high taxes, crony government contracts, huge deficits, and private bailouts would simply occur at a state level and not a federal one.

The idea of angry, salt-of-the-earth Tea Partiers in their tricornered hats reading the Federalist papers and speculating if the TARP was consistent with the original intent of the framers reminds one of a scene from the 1988 film A Fish Called Wanda” when Wanda confronts Otto about his idiotic decision making, calling him ‘stupid’:

Otto West: Don’t call me stupid.

Wanda: Oh, right! To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I’ve known sheep that could outwit you. I’ve worn dresses with higher IQs. But you think you’re an intellectual, don’t you, ape?

Otto West: Apes don’t read philosophy.

Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don’t understand it.

The reverence for the founders and literal readings of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution do not provide the Tea Party with a strong enough ideology in terms of the 21st century, making it not only ultra-conservative, but borderline delusional by taking an untenable position that the Federal government’s role should simply be scaled back to the level it was in the 18th century. This looks the wrong way in history, and from an ideological point of view it does not go far enough. Religious devotion to the Founding is as ignorant as a blind worship of FDR or Reagan. The Federal government has been an evolving and changing entity, and that process started as soon as the Constitution was ratified in 1788. Energies should be directed away from sentimental wish fulfillment and history lessons, and toward devolving the welfare, military and corporate state while maintaining an open international economy, ensuring maximum freedom and opportunity for personal fulfillment and self-actualization for all.

The Kettle Will Be Emptied … 

There are lot of Tea Party themes an evolutionary anarcho-capitalist can agree with, but the movement’s lack of ideological coherence spells its doom. Ultimately the Tea Party will fade away in a few years. A political movement simply cannot be sustained without strong ideology.

For example, the Tea Party does not take positions on foreign policy and national defense, a huge failing. How do you go back to strict adherence with the Constitution and not take a position on the US military empire of today? How would the revered founders react to permanent bases in Japan, South Korea, and Germany? Of saber rattling with Iran? Of the 12 year occupation of Afghanistan? This fence sitting in a tricornered hat is very telling. The Tea Party talking heads spin this by arguing the movement does not want to take positions on foreign policy because that would dilute the focus on fiscal and budgetary issues. Yet 20% of the national budget is defense and security related. What is more likely is self-identifying Tea Partiers range from isolationists to Neocons, and taking a stand means losing voting numbers and dollars.

The same is true for the culture war issues. Ron Paul seems to be a great guy, but a true libertarian should never support someone who wants to curtail a women’s reproductive choices. The Tea Party avoids gay marriage, drug legalization, and abortion rights like a third rail, knowing full and well the libertarians and the traditional conservatives will never agree on those issues. The same is true about immigration reform, where the populist conservatives seek to scapegoat immigrants. The Tea Party proudly espouses a devotion to freedom, yet it is only willing to go to the mat on economic freedom, and does not advocate broad freedoms for all people. This is why it fails.

At the end of the day, the Tea Party movement cynically wants as many supporters as possible, just like the Republicans and the Democrats. The politicians and political operatives invested in the movement want Tea Party supporters to vote and contribute to those candidates and causes that further the general set of goals implied by the Contract From America, which is now solid GOP dogma. Foolishly the Tea Party thinks its influence over the GOP will continue, but in 2010 when the Republican Party said “me too” on the Contract From America, the independent movement ended and the Tea Party as a political subdivision began. Lip service to the Constitution and tough talk on fiscal policy are paid by the GOP, so Tea Party votes and contributions go to further the GOP’s traditional ends: crony capitalism benefiting the defense and oil industries, conducting idiotic culture wars, and keeping dead ideas like Neoconservatism alive.

Copyright © Burgett Capital : 2007-2018

Stagnant Real Income caused by Stagnant Human Capital

The inevitable, painful march of developed economies and “emerging markets” to equalize their standards of living.

Paul Kennedy’s “The Rise and Fall of Great Powers” that’s central premise was every empire in history fell due to economic weakness and an over burdened military. The fact is this country is still the only super power (despite media hype, China is two countries: the cities on the coast are basically a colony of the US, with the other 90% of people living in the third world, and a military more suited for mid-20th century warfare). America’s biggest challenge is getting its economy to grow at a rate that will allow the public sector to de-leverage – it’s already been happening in the private sector, as the debt run up in the bubble years is being paid off along with growing corporate and household savings.  The problem is the government’s tally, which is really everyone’s problem (meaning the entire world).

As of 2010, this is a $15 trillion economy with $14 trillion in Federal debt, but if you count $5 trillion for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHFA, and $2.8 trillion for municipal debt, government has totaled-up almost $23 trillion in debt. That’s 153% of GDP, and we should all remember that debt represents future tax, tariffs, fees and other receipts.  Currently, governments collect $4.5 trillion in revenue but overspent by $1.5 trillion, so unless the US economy is going to grow rapidly in the next 10 years, there is no way to maintain US Treasuries as a AAA credit and the dollar as the reserve currency unless the US gets its fiscal house in order. This is not even getting to ‘off balance sheet’ liabilities from state employee pensions and the massive future demands of entitlement programs (Medicare and Social Security).

There is no escaping this. Burgett Capital is pleased to see the debt and deficits have everyone’s attention, yet the political discourse in this country is a joke, with two parties that are almost ideologically identical, and a media that caters to this ‘red/blue state’ nonsense in order to sell commercial time. It feels like we are listening to debates from the last century, full of cliche, rife with labeling, and based on simplistic reasoning. The Republicans think low taxes solve everything while the Democrats justify a status quo with outdated Keynesian policies. The Tea Party movement is a shallow mask for angry, white suburban rage that seems to think the only problems are ‘bailouts, welfare and high taxes” and not our bloated defense spending to maintain an empire no one seems to want, and transfer payments from Social Security and Medicare going to a generation of recipients who have taken the most and given the least (i.e., the Baby Boomers).  Time to ask the Baby Boomers, “ask not what the country can do for you …”

Liberals and conservatives are going to be forced to go beyond this idiotic rhetoric in the next few years. History is happening, and Burgett Capital would not be surprised if the bi-party hegemony ends in the next 10 years. There is no question entitlements must be cut down to safety net levels, income taxes will have to go up, and defense spending has to get cut. President Obama is right in that we have to invest in the future but Burgett Capital would argue against letting the government make industrial policy. It would be far better for government to lay off corporate taxes and regulation across all industries (and, of course, eliminating corporate welfare to industries like oil, coal, agriculture, and banking). Investment has to flow toward what’s demanded by the global economy; not to what we think we want to supply to the global economy.

Alas, and the end of the day, what is needed is a better investment in human capital. By ‘human capital’ Burgett Capital refers to people. In short, the economy needs to grow more rapidly in order to cash the checks the government needs to write in the next 100 years, and to date a huge portion of the US workforce has not been up to the task. It is certainly not their fault; the structurally unemployed and underemployed, and the mortgaged poor, have all been perfectly rational in their decision making.

Ultimately, the US got into this mess because primary and secondary education slipped and rates of college grads have not increased in 30 years, leading to stagnant real income growth for the bottom 90% of taxpayers. As of 2011, the US has 9%+ unemployment because people do not have the skills the global economy demands. One can try to can blame companies for exporting jobs until learning (1) the US does more manufacturing than ever and most of it is due to technological advancement, and (2) the national appetite for blue collar jobs has waned; in reality, the US also outsources huge portions of its farm labor, domestic services, and basic labor services to ‘foreigners’ as well, the only difference is they travel to America to perform the work.

Cheap home ownership has been a way to palliate the masses who have watched the rich get richer (as an alternative, Burgett Capital suggests the US government follow the Roman example: sponsorship of quasi-gladiatorial games and week-long festivals and orgies, which will be far less expensive and much more fun).  Since the late ‘90s, Federal programs encouraging home ownership have caused a misallocation of capital and labor toward an unsustainable industry (residential housing) and away from higher, better uses. The fact capital has been malinvested is an enormous blunder in itself, but there was also a severe misallocation of human resources. Housing was subsidized and demand was enhanced above its market equilibrium, and people took jobs and built careers in meeting that demand.  In making those decisions people were being perfectly rational, responding to incentives and acting in their self-interest.  Little did they know the system was built on flimsy ground, and with the collapse of the residential real state market millions of people were out of work, causing a wave of lowered consumption impacting other industries.  But the core of the problem is stagnant real wage growth. Government just had the wrong solution; it wasn’t making housing cheap; it should have been allowing human capital to be enhanced.

Of course, it is easier to give things away than to fix something, so any solution has to start with the fact the US system of primary and secondary education is broken, and the US is losing future potential artists, teachers, engineers, scientists, doctors, entrepreneurs and professionals. If the US desires more human capital, that means its schools have to be improved. Burgett Capital contends that it is utter nonsense to try to pin the lack of growth in college graduation rates on cultural/societal issues like broken families, video games, overweight kids, and uncaring parents. Tough childhoods have been with us since the dawn of the human race and, if anything, lives of children have gotten markedly better over the last 100 years. Burgett Capital argues schools have failed due to too much federal control, the dominance of teachers’ unions, and the general lack of competition among schools.

In summary, the failure of government-dominated education to equip people to operate in a global economy leads to vast portions of the populace looking at stagnant wages, so the government tinkers in the housing market to make for cheap homes and creating an asset bubble which employs millions of people, which then pops causing a recession that puts even more people out of work, leading to the US government stimulus that takes it up to 25% of GDP and running a massive deficit, further bloating long term debt, and leading to … well, Burgett Capital suspects another financial crisis due to these accumulating failures of government.

Copyright © Burgett Capital : 2007-2018

Archive 2: Postings from the first version of burgettcapital.com

Syria, Anarchism’s Bad Brand, and Libya: Early experiments in essays for which Burgett Capital begs the reader’s forgiveness in advance of reading.

Syria

“The world’s policeman.” “Military interventions against war criminals.” “Nation building.” “Dictators violating international laws.” “Just wars.” These (and similar) phrases leap from the mouths of politicians when making the case for war.

In late August, the Syrian civil war finally surfaced as yet another potential military intervention by the United States. Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime, aligned with such stalwarts of civilization like Iran’s theocracy and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, reportedly unleashed chemical weapons on civilians supporting the rebels. Burgett Capital believes dictators like Assad are an affront to humanity, and the only surprising thing was Assad held off using these weapons since the civil war began in March 2011. With over 1,500 killed, this was the type of action that raised the profile of a civil war that had all been forgotten from popular media coverage. President Obama and the United States have been shamed by allies such as France, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and Israel for not directly supporting and/or intervening on behalf of the rebellion to overthrow Assad. Since the Arab Spring, the US has moved cautiously in these regime changes, only getting itself drawn into the Libyan conflict. In Burgett Capital’s opinion, President Obama’s “line in the sand” on chemical weapons was an attempt to placate US allies and keep Assad in check. The US has been wise up until now to stay out of this war. Unfortunately, the line in the sand was crossed by Assad, and the US was put in a position to “uphold its international creditability” in the face of China and Russia opposing any opposition.

The Syrian civil war is no simple conflict of two sides, but many sides, all of them non-appealing and leaving one to consider the least worst option. For more information, The New Republic’s John Judis provides an excellent overview of conflict and the questions facing the US. The war has all the signs of another colonial set of borders imploding into historical tribal and religious factions, much like Iraq after the US invasion or Afghanistan after the Soviet Union’s withdrawal. These types of internecine tribal/religious ware are “no win” situations for the US and its allies. The most perplexing question seems to be whether the US and its allies would want any side in Syria to prevail. With al Qaeda elements within the rebellion aiming for the establishment of another fundamentalist regime to harbor international criminals, the real question is whether the US and its allies should attack both Assad’s army and the al Qaeda-aligned rebels. The drone strikes being carried out in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen are targeted assassinations of al Qaeda leaders and fighters; why not hit them in Syria as well?

These are the kind of questions that trouble people. A rational person can quickly see the problems with bombing Syria, which is why public opinion polls in the US and the UK, the two countries the bore nearly all of the burden of the war on terror over the last decade, show a strong majority opposed to taking military action. In addition, French public opinion polls also show a majority in opposition to attacking Syria. Citizens in the countries whose governments are calling for war are able to do the moral arithmetic: the Syrian civil war is terrible but it has nothing to do with the US, France, or the UK. There are no vital interests at stake in Syria, the outcome of the war is unpredictable and no side will be a friend to the West, so the average person cannot understand why such an action is needed.

It is also likely the average citizen understands the unintended consequences of war. A Tomahawk missile can hit a school or a market full of innocent civilians. When military targets are hit, the unlisted soldiers who die are people who do not make policy or control regimes. Syrian soldiers are most likely drafted, i.e., compressed into service, or are trying to support families on the wages of being a soldier. When civilians and unlisted soldiers are killed by the US military, it is very easy to imagine the families and friends of those victims feeling those people were unjustly murdered by the US. This is how the terrorists of tomorrow come into being.

There is this concept of a “measured response” being bandied about, a euphemism for violence people need to see through. Syrians will die in these attacks no matter how limited or measured. Citizens in the US, France and the U.K. should understand and take accountability for the fact tax dollars paid to those governments fund these attacks. Whether people like it or not, when Syrian civilians and lowly enlisted men are killed, the blood is on the hands of the taxpayers and citizens of that country.

The UN has not weighed in on Syria because many other nations do not believe sides should be taken a civil war. As a result, pro-war arguments have shifted to international law and human rights. In Burgett Capital’s view, pointing toward international law or human rights protection are spurious arguments, masking the true motivations for military action. There has been no shortage of monstrous war crimes committed during civil wars in the past ten years. If upholding international law was truly important, then why did so many western countries sit on the sidelines during the civil wars in Uganda, Somalia and Darfur? Burgett Capital argues that those that support attacking Syria have world views clouded by ideology, each offering disparate justifications for war. There are religious zealots who are either fanatical Israel supporters or simply anti-Islam, who jump at any opportunity to take down a Muslim army. There are neocons who want to maintain a US military empire at all costs, seeing this as another opportunity to show US muscle, keeping the Russians and Chinese in check. Finally, there are the statists who see the conflict in terms of preserving status quo: keep the Executive branch powerful relative to Congress, support Israel, work with old guard NATO allies, and send indirect messages to the likes of North Korea and Iran. These arguments are at best feeble and remind Burgett Capital of the kind of conservative groupthink that brought Europe into the First World War. Even credible newspapers with respectful editorial boards seemed to have bended themselves into complex justifications for military action, for example, see this horrible op-ed from The Economist.

The dialogue around Syria is incredibly bizarre. The Pentagon has cautioned against military action, and the political class debate how to make such a strike on Assad without tipping the balance in the civil war to the rebels. If Assad’s leadership is targeted, it seems clear that a successful strike will tip the balance in the civil war. If Assad’s regime is overthrown and a Taliban-like regime emerges in Syria, both al Qaeda friendly and vehemently anti-Israel, this so-called measured response will go down in history as another huge miscalculation by the US, similar to the 1953 Iranian coup d’état and the 1963 South Vietnamese coup: actions thought to further US and allied interests, only to cause more war and chaos in the future. Stranger still, the Tea Party Republicans, so demonized by the left, have had a louder voice than far left peaceniks in calling for Congressional approval of any military action.

Has sanity prevailed? It did in the UK as Prime Minister David Cameron’s effort to involve Britain in Syrian attacks was voted down in Parliament. In the US, after a week of the Obama administration attempting to make the case for war (in an eerily familiar feel to the build-up to the Iraq invasion), President Obama made the wise choice to seek Congressional approval while others in the administration claimed this was merely a formality, with a Congressional vote being purely advisory. While so-called foreign policy experts may argue that the US baking off such an attack would hurt US credibility abroad, Burgett Capital argues that if Congress votes down any measure to attack Syria and President Obama follows his legal obligation to only make acts of war under legislative mandate, the world will see how a free democracy functions. The world will see the American people as fair-minded and reasonable, more so than the political class that is over them. Given the blood of innocent Syrians may be on American hands, paid for by American taxpayers, it is only fitting elected representatives of the people vote on this action. For US citizens, Burgett Capital urges you to write your Congressmen in opposition to military action

Since the end of the Cold War the US has been of two minds about military conflict. In Kosovo and Somalia, the US attempted to intervene to prevent human rights abuses, while sitting on the sidelines for several other slaughters. After 9-11, blood and treasure was spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the end result only worsening those countries, which is likely to lead to more turmoil in the future, including blowback to the US and its allies. Since President Obama was elected and the drone program was escalated, ‘war on terror’ military action has been lower profile but more widespread. It is Burgett Capital’s contention that terrorism is more akin to organized crime than a guerrilla movement, so the use of drones and special ops makes far more sense than wholesale invasions and occupancies. However, al Qaeda, pronounced brain dead by the President during the election campaign in 2012, was recently evoked during the NSA domestic spying scandal, with a 2002-style elevated threat announced in early August.  President Obama needs to clarify this position. If al Qaeda and its ilk are active threats, and Assad’s regime is at war with elements of al Qaeda, it seems any attack on Assad is self-defeating. Being the world’s policeman is no longer a luxury the US can afford given both its financial situation and far flung military obligations, so the focus needs to be in providing actual defense for the US, and not more entanglement in foreign adventures.

Burgett Capital takes the view that if the US and its allies wish to cleanse the world of thugs, dictators, and war criminals, the world is going to be an ultra-violent place for decades. Like cockroaches and rats, killing a few never really solves the problem, and the source for these cancers on humanity comes from repressive governmental, cultural, and religious traditions that have to evolve over time. War has the side-effect of bringing a civilized nation into a more barbarous state. The chaos and pain inflicted by the US on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan could be attributed to the crimes of 9-11, and the chaos and pain of 9-11 can be attributed to dozens of US interventions on the Middle East since the Second World War, including propping up thugs and dictators who abused their countrymen. Using violence to counter violence simply creates a viscous circle, and for western countries to escape this cycle, militaries need to be purely defensive while engagement with other nations needs to be diplomatic, commercial and cultural.

Anarchism’s Bad Brand

Is there such a thing as an evolutionary anarchist?  One could think that may be a Libertarian but, unfortunately, the Libertarian ideals are constantly hijacked by Republicans and, now, the wacko Tea Party (that does not stand for much besides being angry).  I once knew a classmate who referred to Libertarians as ‘anarchists with credit cards.’  I thought that was funny, but in truth Libertarians seem to be wrapped up in the political philosophy of the Founding Fathers and see government as a permanent condition.  An anarchist sees a world where there is no hinderance by government — even a minimal government.  But there’s two kinds of anarchists: one sees a world with no government or private property (social anarchism), and one sees a world with no government but with people still having private property (individualist anarchism).

The anarchist movement of the 19th century was against both government and private property, with ideals rooted in socialism.  A number of these anarchists were bombers and assassins, famous for killing President McKinley and the Haymarket riots.  Since then anarchists are dismissed as crackpots and extremists.  This is wrong; I believe a true anarchist respects the natural rights of others and would not impinge on those rights — and, especially, use force — for political ends.

Humanity can evolve toward a world with less government, as we start seeing the current world’s organization will be bad for the future of our species.  War and material shortages are the fuels for governments, and from the standpoint of an individual neither of these conditions bode well for his or her future.  National governments should give way to more state and local governments (because we need them due to the uncivilized condition some of us are in), with units getting progressively smaller and more voluntary.  At the same time, hoarding and greed would be generally discouraged and seen as barbaric.  The criticism of free market thinking is that its a shill for the hyper-rich and plutocrats; a criticism often justified — too much Libertarian rhetoric is around low taxes and free trade.  Today, no one would ever believe a rich person would limit how much wealth they could gain; yet, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have devoted their fortunes to charitable causes.  Yet, the market has a way of shaping lifestyle.  All 6.9 billion people in the world can’t live like upper middle class Americans; what would happen is over time resources are allocated according to supply and demand, and while some may be poor it would be increasingly harder in a truly free market for certain groups to maintain an abnormal level of wealth.  Those with rare skills, entrepreneurial talent, and existing wealth would clearly continue to reap greater rewards than others, yet an enlightened society would also realize that creating generational wealth has to be self-regulated.  If not, I think society can self-regulate: the hoarder who keeps taking could be boycotted and its rivals supported.

The pursuit of wealth leads to innovation and the advancement of mankind.  Free markets allow for the pursuit of science and exploration.  We should be proud of the Western world and have no reverence at all for primitive cultures or, especially, cultures that encourage transcending a material world in pursuit of religious or humanitarian needs.

Property ownership is a natural desire and we should be free to contract for as much of it as we want.  People should be free to self-actualize as much as possible through “contracting” with others.  This would be an entirely free market with no regulation, taxes, or tariffs.

There are limits in an anarchy as certain things may be much worse. Criminal enforcement is the biggest challenge to an anarchy, but there will never be a perfect system.  Harming someone else or their property requires redress.  A legal code would exist but court systems would be private and enforcement of the law would be carried out by contracted security professionals, carrying out the judgment of a court.  This may sound absurd to people who believe we need a legislature to make laws.  However, the common law presented a great tradition of resolving disputes among people and could easily be continued by private forums of resolving conflicts.  An anarchy would not take place apart from history, so the laws of the past could still be drawn upon for guidance.

An anarchy is unthinkable today because we have too many people who are, for the most part, savages.  They are in every country.  These are people who cannot self-govern let alone act in a civilized manner toward others.  But most people in the world are not savage. Most people do not need fear of a government to stop them from harming other people or stealing their property.  The majority of us have to suffer because we are not truly free.  We are forced to follow laws that govern our morality, pay taxes to support programs that will never help us, face death through war, and work in a capitalist structure whose deck is stacked against most of us.

Maybe we need some government today.  But humankind’s goal should be to abolish government.  This is just another way of saying that our idealism should be geared toward civilization and not barbarism.  The West should take leadership by increasing freedoms and decreasing the role of government in people’s daily lives.

Libya

Rarely.

Let’s not engage in this Orwellian doublespeak about “intervention” and “coalition action” to enforce “international resolutions.”  This is embroilment in a civil war, and as big an asshole as Gaddafi is, there no assurance he’s going to be overthrown or, if he and his thugs are taken down, that the usurpers will not be thugs as well.  This all feels like politicians trying to gain points in France, the U.K. and the U.S. by intervening in a war that the media has painted in black and white terms: Gaddafi is bad, the rebels are good, so the western powers are going to start bombing.

Apparently, there is no longer any debate that a President can attack a foreign country without Congress declaring war.  What an outdated, silly notion it must be to have checks and balances.

No government has the power to predict the future. There are no secret lairs of geniuses running probabilities and constructing virtual scenarios that foresee every outcome. The decision to launch missiles in Libya was based on the same idiotic groupthink that got the US into Iraq and Afghanistan. Check the polls. Get confirmatory evidence this makes sense.  Bombs away!

Burgett Capital would hate to see Gaddafi slaughter innocent people in Benghazi, but it is not the place of the US to decide that outcome. Playing this game of picking winners brought the US into an empire and all the costs that go with it. And why not intervene in Bahrain?  Instead, the US let its Saudi client state send its army in to quell the rebellion.

But the economy is rough and these Middle Eastern movements are a feel good story.  It just seems that we’re are forever bound to war in the Middle East, which brings me back to my favorite lines from Orwell’s 1984:

“In accordance to the principles of Doublethink, it does not matter if the war is not real, or when it is, that victory is not possible. The war is not meant to be won. It is meant to be continuous. The essential act of modern warfare is the destruction of the produce of human labor. A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. In principle, the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects. And its object is not victory over Eurasia or Eastasia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.”

Copyright © Burgett Capital : 2007-2018

 

 

Archive 1: Postings from the first version of burgettcapital.com

The Arab Spring, frustration about political arguments, and Nietzsche: Early experiments in essays for which Burgett Capital begs the reader’s forgiveness in advance of reading.

The Arab Spring

Most major world events are unpredictable.  The protests in the Middle East came out of nowhere and we have no idea what they will lead to.  Tunisia and Egypt threw out their strongmen; Bahrain, Libya and Morocco may do the same.  Will this spread to Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia?  Will these countries end up being fledgling democracies with a Muslim flavor, or will they become like Iran?  Who replaces the strongman, a mullah, another general, or a real politician?  Regardless, the volatility of the region and the world just increased.  At some point this is going to get bloody, and the US can do fuck-all because we’ve had our fill of Middle East intervention, thank you.  The first order analysis spewed by the US media tends to focus on young people using Facebook to overthrow corrupt tyrants, bringing about a democracy through sheer determination.  It’s admirable without question, but i can’t help but wonder who or what fills the vacuum.  The tradition is dictatorship and theocracy; the popular uprising in Iran in 1979 resulted in an autocratic theocracy wearing a veil of democracy.  Everyone sees the irony that democracy spread to these countries and the US did not even have to invade them, but I don’t think we ought to be too quick to celebrate.  Those dictators were prime A douche bags, but who (or what) will replace them?

By the way, where is that gang of super-humans lead by that mastermind and arch villain Osama bin Laden in all of this? It really makes the 9-11 overreaction look so ridiculous.

The chances of these revolutions being good for the world are low.  This has nothing to do with oil prices in the short term.  Oil prices skyrocket upon any excuse.  The zealot’s hand may be revealed soon in some of these uprisings, feeding the need for the poor and the ignorant in those countries to have something to hate.  Revolutions are often followed by war on neighbors.  France’s revolution was followed by the Napoleonic Wars.  China’s revolution was followed by a bloody intervention on the side of North Korea.  Iran found itself in a war with Iraq.  War is always the best excuse for tightening control over a populace, and a new government may wish to occupy the masses in order for them to forget their recent revolutionary zeal.

In this case the targets will be Israel and the West that’s been intervening in the region for decades.  I’m mostly concerned with Egypt as it was under Mubarak’s reign we avoided any full scale Arab-Israeli conflict.  But, once again, the policy of coddling dictators — even for peaceful ends — will come back to haunt us.  These changes will also help China extend its influence in the region now that the Russians no longer have imperial aspirations.  My greatest fear is if any of these new regimes end up being crazy enough for war, there may be a cause for Israel to use nuclear weapons. The Israeli bomb is the best insurance that the West will intervene – again – in an Arab-Israeli conflict, furthering this pointless centuries long Christian – Muslim cold/hot war.

Pointless Political Dialogue

You’re at a dinner party and the subject of politics comes up.  Immediately you know the political beliefs of the people who are impolite (at best) and afflicted with borderline personalities (at worst). This is the “talking head” syndrome where people pretend they are on a so-called “debate” on Fox News or channel their inner-Rachel Maddow.  “Look, there’s no question that blah blah blah.”  “Look, I know the face of evil blah blah blah.”

Meanwhile most people sink into their little uninformed corners and wait for the horse shit tossing contest to end.  It is easy to like people like that — they are just being sensible or polite.  Many of us are not good at confrontation because we tend to get pissy and nasty.  It is usually best to sit and listen but, at times, one will be drawn into the horseshit hurling and contend with Savvy Urban Left and the God-Loving Suburbanite Right.

People who think they are political in the US hate it when you tell them there is virtually no ideological difference between Democrats and Republicans. Or they grant the point but never really think about it. There’s a loss of objectivity in our political debates in that if you put the Dems and GOP on an ideological scale that starts with old-school commies and ends with anarcho-capitalists, they are someplace sitting together right in the middle, rubbing elbows.  It’s Coke vs. Pepsi.  The distinction is in policy and not in underlining beliefs.  You can point to  extremes within each party — the ‘wingnuts’ — but the big tent platform of each causes the a diluted message and agenda, and the extremists are not even that far from the base.

Burgett Capital has more respect for Greens and Socialists than anyone who would label themselves Democrat or Republican.  At least those individuals have done some higher-order thinking on it.  Like religion, it seems most people pick a party based on what their parents supported, like having a religion jammed down your throat and never asking why (a whole other topic).

When attacked for not wanting so much government, Burgett Capital recommends pointing out that government is not an a priori condition in our existence.  Once upon a time in the magic land called “Europe” most people where serfs who crawled around in the mud working on farms, eating rabbits and squirrels, being pressed into military service and (if lucky) dying at the ripe old age of 45.  Do you think those poor creatures could imagine a world without King and Church?  What would they say about our world?  We are in a similar state of barbarism, dealing with wars, taxes, and a nanny-state.  But there does not have to be a national entity governing us.  I think it is easy to imagine a future where there is a free market anarchy where people look back and laugh at all the sheep who voted for Bushes, Kennedys, and Clintons.

Consider a thought experiment:  Let’s say the dinner party has 20 people at it.  Now imagine the 20 people are put on an island together (like on the TV show “Lost” except without the Smoke Monster and The Others).  That island has no competing civilizations or nation states. All 20 people add value to the community, providing what they can and living on what they can earn. Could those 20 people get by on a simple set of laws and mores, and without an elected, established leader with power over the other 19?  Yes, assuming those 20 are all civilized, educated, non-psychotic people. The same is probably true for an island of 200 people. Maybe even the population of 2,000 people can get by on this system. But when you get to 20,000, there are bound to be enough uncivilized and psychotic people who will harm others. What is the percentage of “uncivilized people” among us? What percentage of people steal, are violent, do not work, or are just dangers to themselves? Like a heckler’s veto, it’s this small minority that gives us the need for criminal law that have to be enforced on behalf of the civilized. Enforcement requires a day-to-day administrator and government is born. At its basis, government only exists because we have uncivilized people among us. Clearly, the greater the assurance a populace does not break laws, can be self-sufficient, and not produce psychopaths, the less government is needed. Unless we are regressing as a species (and that argument may be made by some people), on a long enough timeline the need for government goes away.

Taxes are coercion, and they are the very fuel of the state. Not paying taxes means a man with a gun shows up your home and takes away the majority of your freedom. Burgett Capital will not side with a Republican on anything other than ultimately lowering and abolishing taxes in the long-run; in the short term, to deconstruct the state, taxes may need to be raised to pay-off debts and honor social service commitments (after all, holding true to contracts is the very basis of any functioning economy, and even if those contracts were made by a democratic republic government on behalf of its citizens, the commitment must be honored by those individual citizens).

“Pro-business” is not the same as being pro-capitalist and a ‘free market’ supporter. We should be free to pursue self-interest and accumulate property by lawful means. The minute someone owns land, a building, equipment used as means of production, or similar investments, that person becomes a capitalist. There is gigantic difference between our system today (crony capitalism, allowing elites to benefit from rent seeking) and a truly free market. Republicans and Democrats do not support free markets; they are statist parties that support a plutocracy where those with government access succeed beyond their needs, with a large number of educated people profiting from the system but kept at a level of subservience (wage slavery), and most living a step or two above poverty, with too many at the bottom living on handouts and fighting over scraps.

Nationalists against free trade are totally insane, living in some time bubble in 1959. Too many otherwise smart people on the left long for the days of all of those great factory jobs coming back to the US with swelling ranks of union members (ironically, if those jobs do come back from emerging markets, it will be because conditions in the US resemble those of emerging markets: weak currency [the dollar no longer the reserve currency], low cost of living due to collapsed asset prices, and accommodating government policy that will benefit owners more than citizens). Automation is bound to displace the vast majority of factory workers anyway. Anti-trade is left-wing elitist sentimentality, probably aimed more at going after votes than actual policy. Besides, have you ever worked in a factory? It is mostly mindless, draining work. Mankind will be better off when no one has to work in a factory — whether in Ohio, Mexico or China. Until that day, free trade is the best way to realize efficiencies in production though comparative advantage.

One thing the Democrats and Republicans will agree on (and try to one-up each other on) is the love for our military. The peace movement in the US is a failed undertaking, and we should all regret that. Right now, the meta-threats of war and terrorism are reasons Burgett Capital will grant having government. These are symptoms of the sorry state of our world, having the same pointless ethnic, religious, and territorial scales we have had since the Stone Age. A strong military is the classic “libertarian” point of view (especially in the US, where even the anti-government community seems to give a pass to a powerful military), but this has never been a propensity toward fascism. Libertarians do not believe in aggression and seem to love the idea of strong defense. Nevertheless, when ‘defense’ is construed into pro active interventions and invasions, or when the concept of defense is extended to multiple nation states and causes, the result is more like the British Empire than a vigilant  volunteer defenses force imagined in the libertarian mind. We only have a military to protect against external threats, but its continued existence must scream “We are all savages” to us. If anything could regress, it would be the size, sophistication, and killing power of the globe’s militaries. At the very least, disarmament of mass-killing weapons is a policy everyone should support.

Healthcare and education would be far better off without government involvement  but neither major political party will ever let that happen. These are areas people scream each other about.

The young suburban set (or soon-to-be suburban set) is usually obsessed with education given their blinding biological urge to breed. Suddenly, with the chance to free ride on other people’s money, they say, “What could be wrong with public schools?” The US spends more per pupil each year but has seen an overall decline in results, so throwing money at the bureaucracy is not a solution. Given the wealthy educate their children privately or in elite public school districts in suburban enclaves, upsetting the status quo is unlikely. The egalitarian left makes sanctimonious arguments for more money for children, never suggesting to take the money from the rich school districts and give it to the poor ones (rather, we must make the pie bigger and not take away the swimming pools, film clubs, and lacrosse teams of the suburbs!). The right is better on this issue, with the GOP supporting educational reforms like vouchers. Unfortunately, the religious fanatics have also infiltrated the right, wanting to get tax dollars for schools that will indoctrinate more than educate. Nevertheless, a free education market without teachers’ unions and school bureaucracies that has multiple schools competing for tuition dollars would tend to create a better product, i.e. better prepared kids who add to a more educated and civilized populace.  Want proof?  America’s colleges and universities are the best in the world. These institutions compete for students and are funded with tuition dollars and private foundations (sure they receive some government handouts but you can also certain most could survive without them given fundraising prowess). Even the large state schools operate like private institutions, e.g., a state college’s funding and governance is more similar to that of private college than a public high school. Most colleges and universities also compete for the best instructors and scholars without the interference of a legally protected trade union.

Healthcare has been intervened with by the government since the dawn of modern healthcare.  Staring with licensing laws that provided competitive advantages to certain professions over others, the story of the healthcare industry in the United States is a story of an industry beholden to government policy and macroeconomic trends. Like education, immense cost does not translate to wellness and the healthcare system in the US is the best in the world … provided you have money. Still, the science and skill being advanced by the US healthcare industry will accrue to the benefits of all people in the long run. Getting rid of tax policies and government-sponsored payment programs will ultimately lower costs. The demands of the international economy and consumers demanding more value and better health really spell the end to the healthcare system as it stands today. The system is in the process of rationalizing itself from its inefficient and resource-wasting past, and yet another program extending insurance coverage with some scheme of taxes and fines (i.e., President’s Obama’s healthcare bill) is not going to help that process; in fact, it will probably just delay it.

Moral Floundering

The pursuit of self-interest, the self-determination of every person, and the realization of a person’s own moral code are the highest orders of being a human being.  Burgett Capital argues Friedrich Nietzsche best-identified the nobility of defining and acting on a self-defined moral system.  He railed against notions of meekness, piety and equality.  To Nietzsche, a “good” moral belief valued life-enhancing notions that would make a man heroic, similar to values reflected in the literature and myths of classical Greece and Rome.  Calling Christianity a “slave morality” Nietzsche observes that Western culture demonizes the man who desires wealth, power and fame, and is aggressive and self-centered so that he can obtain his desires.  While this may be less true today given the prevalence of hedonism and consumerism, Western values are still geared toward Christian values and lefty, egalitarian notions like equality, fairness, and social engineering.  Nietzsche calls for man to define his own moral system and embrace life-affirming values that affirm his individual power.  Or, turning to psychology, think of Maslow’s hierarchy and its pinnacle of self-actualization.

Merely following the law or abiding by societal norms does not make someone a moral person.  Morality is about self-governance and has no repercussions when it is violated.  Western society and cultural norms are mostly superstitious and repressive nonsense we can thank Christianity for.  Luckily religion is dying out in most places — slower in the US, furthering its national reputation of being a bunch of idiots.  When events like 9-11 take place Americans suddenly become cognizant of God and country — or at least it becomes “vogue” — but love of country doesn’t tell someone how to comport themselves. A flag on your car

Religion has always worked hand-in-hand with government.  Burgett Capital believes organized religion is a barbaric tradition that only serves to further divide people.  In fact, for most of history religion was government.  It has always been a system of control that has masked itself through spiritualism and other superstition, appealing to mankind’s fears and taking advantage of the ignorant and weak.   Religion attempts to kill the individual by immersing him or her in a meaningless mass of “brothers and sisters” where no single person may stand out … except the religious leader.

To advance humanity we have to move away from slave ethics and embrace our individual power to impact history.  A group of people with a strong morality do not need a Big Brother, whether he wear a uniform or a cleric’s robe, to watch over them.

Copyright © Burgett Capital : 2007-2018

Fiction: Unemployed@home – ’90’s Dotcom Story

—– Forwarded Message——-

From: Bruce Sauser <bruceysauce@earthlink.net>

Date: Mon, 04 Mar 2000 20:56:53 -0500

To: <markw@thorhammerfinancial.com>

Subject: Re: Jon’s November Newsletter

Mark:

This is what I was telling you about.

BS

—– Forwarded Message——–

From: Beth Cutler <beth_cutler@gswcapital.com>

Date: Sun, 03 Mar 2000 20:56:53 -0500

To: <bruceysauce@earthlink.net>

Subject: Re: Jon’s November Newsletter

Hey B – your favorite newsletter strikes again. What’s worse is he calls me every week asking for $$.

Lunch Friday?

Beth

—— Received Message——-

From: Jon F. Ward <solutionsward@hotmail.com>

Date: Fri, 01 Mar 2000 11:13:34 -0500

To: Jon’s Distribution List

Subject: Jon’s March Newsletter

Hey everyone!  Happy March (?) and word up to my hommys!  It’s Jon, “solutions” Ward just checking in with my monthly newsletter to all my friends, business associates and network.  I’ve attached a version in Adobe Acrobat in case you’d rather read a nicely formatted hard copy – but, come on – let’s save the trees folks!  Please forward to anyone else who would be interested or is in the biz, or visit my personal homepage at www.jonsolutionsward.com.

What’s New

It’s now been 10 months since my departure from seniorbuffetlink.com.  I left on the best terms with its principals, some of whom are on this distribution (hey Sebastian, Tomas, Dunkirk, Dean and Julie!).  I will say I checked out the site and it didn’t look quite as fresh as it once did.  For instance, where are the hyper pop-ups I suggested? Where is the 5 minutes of opening video animation of the old people in the buffet line?  What about the ultra-strike color scheme?  What’s with those big buttons on the right screen side?  Remember, I still have 100,000 stock options in your company!!  You guys have got to push the envelope and think out of the box to bring the paradigm shift necessary to unlock the true ROI in aggregating demand in the senior, all-you-can-eat market.  Kendra Bloomberg, who is a great HTLM jock, and I would love to help.  Call me if you want to do a consulting engagement (cell, 410-352-6724).

And that goes for the rest of you!  We have to remember that we Internet professionals have to push the envelope to bring off this lifestyle and commercial revolution.  We need to set an example for the rest of the corporate world, showing those button-down accounting types what the 21st century of business will be like.  With bandwidth and processing power increasing by orders of magnitude each year, I foresee a world in which a consumer never has to leave his home and can do everything on the net.  When that day comes, we will all live the American Dream.  I’m ready to do my part … and receive the ROI I deserve for my efforts!

So I guess that’s a long way of saying I still don’t have a full time position, and it appears the Valley’s job market is softening a bit.  I’ve surveyed a lot of job postings and there seems to be an increase in marketing and business development professionals (like myself) as well as web designers and programmers.  I’m not worried, as it seems it was always the case that the rest of the country was behind the Internet’s rapid speed of innovation.  My resume is also attached so, as always, feel free to forward.  10 months is a long time, especially in the tech world.

So that’s not to say “solutions” Ward is not without his share of thoughts, insights, and adventures.  I do not want to let you down.  Also, for those new to the list, feel free to visit my website for archive copy of past newsletterswww.jonsolutionsward.com or www.stanford.edu/alums/links/JWard91.  Post comments & questions as well.

The Solutions Index

So let’s start with my review of new business developments and start-ups to keep your eye on, for marketing, joint venture or investment!  As most of you know, I’m a Stanford MBA, so I have a good handle on this and stay pretty plugged in (literally!!).  I spend 20 hours a day on the net or on my cell phone, and I love to distill my thoughts.

So as you’ll remember from my July newsletter, my foray into day trading didn’t go quite as well as I hoped.  First of all, have any of you ever tried to negotiate out of a margin call?  I think this just proves that the brokerage firms will be rendered into dust by the daytechs and the suretrades.  I only got hooked into these greaseballs when I was with priceline.com, and made my first big IPO splash.  This Goldman Sachs asshole in New Jersey called me and said that the value of all my positions in my Solution’s Index (see www.jonsolutionsward.com/investing/solutionsindex) had gone below the price I bought them at margin, and I needed to wire $20K to them or else they’d start selling.  Now does it make sense to sell low?  Of course not!  But I turned the table on them: I asked this hotshot broker if they would loan me another $20K so I can add to my position while all of these stocks were low.  It’s called a value play.  He said no, of course, so the next thing you know I’m bargaining with Amy the call center manager at Citibank, trying to get a $20K extension on my Visa.  She was more polite at least, but not forthcoming with the dollars.  Seeing a future fortune evaporate, I called this broker back and said, “Hey, give me a break and maybe we can do some business.  I have a lot of Silicon Alley contacts.”  (Yep, that’s you Tony!  How ya doin’?)  He insisted on the cash, so I hung up on him.

So later that week I found out Goldman Sach’s lawyers are about as bad as their brokers. Needless to say, I was forced to take drastic measures to save the Solution’s Index.  Practicing what I preach, I liquidated all my holdings in old economy stocks.   Mutual funds are for wimps, so I never played with those.  I was foolish to diversify in ’97, and I missed substantial ROI because of it.  I looked at each company I owned and evaluated it based on the rules of the impending Wired world.  So I dropped my Wal-Mart stock because I do not think they have a sufficient online strategy and will soon be rendered into dust by their more virtually integrated, online-real time competitors.  So I also sold my shares of GE for the same reason – do you realize that in the year 2000 you still can’t purchase a turbine jet engine online?  Why maintain a sales force in this day of age?

So I added to my positions in onlineautostore.com, the UK online cigarettes store faggots.com, and Mike Allen’s 3rd company pretend.com, which just went up last week (nice site Mike, but your click-throughs are still a little funky.  I’m ready for an engagement.  Call me on my cell 410-352-6724).

Have you seen the slick sites put out by specialty retailers such as blendersandmixers.com or cheapbathroomproducts.com?  Wow!  They’ve got the buzz, the look, the guerilla marketing and the right VCs and angels.  These are fast companies ready to put brick and mortar competitors like Bed Bath & Beyond out on the street.  With lower price points by 10%, why would you ever buy a juicer at a mall?  So I’m ready to get some shares flipped to me when those IPOs come.  I’d love to have founders shares of those babies – I could easily buy that vineyard in Sonoma I’ve had my eye on!

So I also bought 10,000 shares of crakerbarrel.com, the down-home restaurant chain’s Internet commerce spin off.  This is perfect brick and click.  They actually let you design your own rocking chair on the site and will FedEx it to you for next day delivery.  Now that’s brilliant!  Do you realize the potential market for this?  There are over 10,000,000 trailer households in America (source: company website) – so imagine the potential: let’s say only 40% of those households buy, and there are two people buying per household, and the average retail is $50: 4,000,000 x 2 x $50 = $400,000,000 in sales!!!  And that’s just rocking chairs!!!  They also sell rustic candle holders, authentic woven wall art, and patriotic t-shirts & country music CDs!

Business Advice: The Revenue Conundrum

So a lot of start-ups get panned for not having a “revenue model” by the beancounters and analyst greaseballs.  Of course it takes time to ramp-up, so I think these critics are a bit hasty.  Nevertheless, we have to be realistic: businesses need to have sales.  We’re all in this together, so maybe start-ups should cooperate more and give each other business.  That way we can show revenue to these picky investors, and buy the time to get to the scale where the true ROI is.  We can all provide each other consulting services and then show that service as revenue.  After all, there is a lot of embedded knowledge among us that can be helpful.

So, as an example, Jackie Sue Mentoff-Yun’s meat.com (a B2B/B2C that does online ordering of rare meats to restaurants and consumers) could advise Larry Dobby’s yourdinner.com (a site that takes its users through a decision tree that helps them decide whether to cook, order-in or go out to dinner & what they should eat) on his menus, and Larry can advise Jackie Sue on the types of meat she may want to sell.  Larry bills her $1,000,000 and Jackie Sue bills him $1,000,000.  They pay each other and keep their cash intact.  End result: 2 start-ups with $1mm in revenue!

Let me know your thoughts.  I’m thinking of turning this into a full-length article for Wired.

Consulting Solutions

So I’ve been offering my services to several companies, and I thank all of you for your advice and assistance in finding new associates and friends.  As you know, I’m consulting with George Pietro and Ann Smith-Gunthrie on their arthritis-management geared website chronicarthritis.com.  They also own the nationally recognizable number 1-800-772-ACHE.  Their main competitor for this space is arthritis.com, the most frequently entered URL in this realm of online chronic pain searches (source: Excite), run by a Stanford alum I know named Mike Sachs (yo Mike!).  I’ve been trying to get them to merge without much success.  First, both companies have a combine burn rate of $2mm a month on a combined $100,000 in revenue, so we had to get financing in.  The first round VCs refused to put any more money in, and strategic partnerships were plenty but cashless.  Banks are too slow and bureaucratic to offer fast companies like these lines of credit, so I hit every contact I have in the VC and angel world.  After 2 weeks, I only got offers of equipment leasing from my friends at Cisco Capital and HP.  Thanks to Ruleesh, Maggie, Aton, and Franklin, but we have all the servers and routers we need.  We need some operating capital to make this merger happen!

I finally hooked into this outfit called Big Plains Capital.  So this is some private fund for some rich family in Tulsa.  Do you believe it?  Oil money.  They can offer up to $5mm in mezzanine financing.  So their main banker, who will remain nameless, flew into SFO last week and I picked him up and took him to the Soma Starbucks (hey Lucy and Furock!) for a meeting. I start out with the Jon “solutions” Ward standard opening and schmooze approach.  I tell him who I am and what I do.  I tell him about my previous 5 tech start-ups.  Then I pitch the concept: oldies getting all their arthritis needs fulfilled online, just by using a mouse and typing on a keyboard!  I tell him about the principals at the companies and the obvious synergies of the merger.  The ROIs are huge.  I think it was a great pitch.  Of course, I also threw in little relishes to make him comfortable.  For example, I refer to him as “sir” instead of his first name, trying to play-up to his rural Midwest sensibilities.  (See more of my pitch best practices at www.jonsolutionsward.com/tipsoftrade/artofthepitch).

So – big surprise — this guy is totally clueless.  The first sign was during my pitch, when he kept asking for all this minor financial detail, like “what’s the current ratio”, and “what is their IGR.”  I was like “Hey, let’s not get lost in the details yet, sir.”  He sat there looking puzzled, wearing a tie (!), and seeming uncomfortable in Starbucks.  So I finish up and he’s like, “Great, I have another meeting now, so what’s next?”  First, I wanted him to sign an NDA before this went any farther.  To my dismay he says, “I’m not signing anything.”  I’m like, “What?!  No NDA? You have to sign one!”  I mean, who doesn’t sign an NDA?  It’s pro forma.  I talk to this hick smartass and he tells me he looks at hundreds of deals a year and just doesn’t sign NDAs because usually there’s nothing proprietary to protect.  I tell him “How do I know you won’t steal chronicarthritus.com’s business plan and other proprietary information?  You can take it to an online healthcare behemoth like Drkoop.com or MDsays.com.”  The bumpkin just laughed, like it was a joke.  I said, “Hey, sir, you want to miss the biggest boat to sail in the online arthritis market, that’s your prerogative.”  Well, it was all for nothing.  But, hey, I know a bunch of these Palm Beach types with plenty of bucks … lots of clothing biz money from New York!  So George and Ann, don’t lose faith.  We’ll all look back on this and laugh someday.  Call me on my cell — 410-352-6724.

 New Technology Solutions

Hey, who has a digital camera?  This technology is bound to revolutionize corporate communications, and eventually the slow, non-tech consumers will catch up.  Invest and go for options in these companies now – SurePic, MyDigitalPhoto.com, and MonkeyLenseNet.  Billions, if not trillions, will be spent in this area by corporations in coming years.  I predict from now on it will be a standard business custom to email your picture around to people you’ve never met.  Why?  Because putting a face with a name is important in high-tech, high-touch businesses.  This will really get those old farts into the ‘net.

So let me be one of the first to introduce myself by photo:

      Jon “solutions” Ward – March, 2000

Personal Biz

So my house in Palo Alto is for sale by owner.  I’m asking $600,000 for it.  It needs some work, particularly where my waterbed exploded and flooded my in-house gym.  It’s a great place, but the best thing is it’s wired for business.  That’s right – a few years ago I spent $30K for a T-1 line, meaning I’m all that on this block!  I’m selling it myself because the real estate brokers didn’t think that my T-1 line added at least $100,000 to the value of my place.  One was like, “It’s a 3 bedroom ranch.  Who’s going to move in here?  Larry Ellison?”  No, but the next big guy behind the next big thing will buy it!  It’s served me well these past two years, but a studio apartment in Soma is fine with me – like I’m ever home!  Besides, San Fran has all the new start-up action!  Anyway, so I need to sell it quick, so call me on the cell if you have any leads — 410-352-6724.

So more weird news – My racing yellow Porsche 911 was stolen last week.  You’ll all remember I bought it with the proceeds of my bonus from the site launch of shavedteenagebeaver.com in ’99 (hey, Franco, you’re keeping that looking good, but there’s too much hot pink and royal blue on the site. And who’s that ‘Angela’ by the way?  I loved her school uniform … well, better leave it there!  But guys, I gotta admit, she’s a hottie! cell — 410-352-6724)  Anyway, I left it in front of the Matador in San Mateo and, after having their fish taco special and talking on my cell phone for an hour, I went out and  — voom – it was gone.  I guess they must have pick pocketed my keys when I was inside, because they were gone too.  I was so engaged in my phone calls I must not have noticed the guy swipe them from me in the middle of the restaurant!  Crime is a drag, and we all need to be careful.  Luckily, my car was fully insured, and I still have my Jaguar XJ-6, though it was recently keyed when I was in Berkeley.  Anyway, State Farm should be delivering a fat check my way soon.  Luckily, I took my Goo Goo Dolls CD into the restaurant with me – I’d hate to lose that disc because it totally rocks!

So on the personal front, I’m putting a special shout-out to my defense lawyer, Bobby Gains at Thurmond Ellis in downtown San Jose.  As a lot of you know, I’ve been questioned by the police about the disappearance of my former girlfriend-fiancé Monika Zubowski.  Monika is a former waitress-actress and Polish émigré.  I brought her into the biz in ’96 when I was at amazon.com.   At the time, she was just off the plane and was working as an exotic dancer near the Oakland airport.  We hit it off and I saw her considerable talents in meeting organization and facilitation.  As a result, she gained considerable monies in the IPO, and then spent most of it a Mustang 5.0 and another breast enhancement.

Most of you know she ended our relationship after those cocksuckers (sorry Dean!) atseniorbuffetlink gave me the shit can.  Anyway, Bobby G. helped me when I was accused of stalking Monika when she worked at Faultline BrewPub up in Walnut Creek, and we all know that was a bullshit claim.  Everyone knows I love a good microbrew and oven-fired basil chicken pizza, even when offered over an hour away.  So what if I only went there when she waitressed, or went out with her friends, or had a date, or went to get her paycheck?  I’d just fire up my Dell at the bar and hang-out talking on my cell phone. Is it stalking when I’m working?

So last year when I was arrested outside Monika’s house at 3 AM, that was just a misunderstanding.  Unfortunately, I had an 8-ball of coke and a 9mm Berretta on me, so that didn’t look too cool to the police. I was holding both for a friend, and that’s the truth. Luckily my lawyer got me off, and I’ve followed to terms of the TRO and my probation to a T.  I mean, I’m a successful tech exec, right? That bitch means nothing to me!  (Sorry to my buds at womynpower.org … hey, by the way, Cindy G. says you didn’t pay her for that engagement we did for you guys.  She subcontracrted me, so I need her to get paid so I can get paid.  Let’s get it done!  Give me a call on the cell 410-352-6724.)

Anyway, I haven’t seen Monika since she moved to the San Fernando Valley to start her acting career.  I swear to God.  The cops are treating me like a suspect, and it isn’t fair.  So, now I’m OJ (sorry Julan and Rufus!) because her roommate and new boyfriend haven’t seen her for a week, and they found her car abandoned in San Luis Obispo.  I just don’t get the police mind.  They’re fascists who’ll never make it in the new, wired world.  Anyway, that weekend I was camping down in Carmel and trying to learn how to surf.  All the cuts and scratches I had on me were from hitting ocean rock near the shore, and going through a pine forest.  I called at least 30 people on my cell and talked to them when I was there, including someone from Microsoft!

Conclusion

That’s a wrap.  Remember I check my email (solutionsward@hotmail.com) every hour and the cell phone (410-352-6724) is always on!  Next month’s issue may be delayed if formal charges are brought against me.  Nevertheless, I’m still available to work from anywhere.

So that is the true miracle of the Internet: my laptop and cell phone will work anywhere, so if I leave the country I’ll still be here to participate in our common effort to wire the world.  Don’t let financial scandals or criminal accusations deter you from using my services or making me a principal in your next start-up!  I’m ready to add the business solutions you need from anywhere, even from Algeria or Venezuela!

Copyright © Burgett Capital : 2007-2018

Fiction: Message Intercept

Forward:  CIA East Europe Desk

          DODI, Europe Group

          NSA-CISD

          DHS, Border Patrol

Re:       Message (Intercept F2035-09-12-T-R)

Attached: Decryption, Routing and Translation Logs

From: NSA-WTIM, Eastern European Services

Memo: SENDER and RECEIVER names unknown and Routing still under analysis. Results to be forwarded to distribution in 48 hours. RECEIPT was prevented.  CIA-EED and DHS-BP to advise on sending edited/planted text to RECEIVER.  Unencrypted and Translated Text to Follow:

……………………………………………………………..

I must say I’m surprised the Industrialist Forces of Darkness have not located and neutralized you. The last I heard was that Homeland Security Border Guards had obtained a warrant from a military court to take you outside of US borders for ‘questioning’ — i.e., sodium pentazocine and a forced 24/7 VR feed at the HyperMax in Diego Garcia. Your continuing survival provides hope for all those who still Agitate.  As our now dead colleague Rand Faulkner once said on the eve of The Great Raid on the Human Biogrowth Labs, “Hope grows each time someone stands against aggression and de-humanizing technocracy.”

As for me, all I can say is Military Utopia — ha!

I, for one, am off the mandated happy pill medication and now spend my days in grim silence.  As you may expect, it’s very dismal here as the war reaches its final days.  Most people have attempted to flee the city or take shelter underground.  Siege guns can be heard echoing through the streets of this once-great capitol city.  They seem to grow closer now — perhaps only 10 or 20 KM away.  Food riots are common, and the Archduke has declared martial law once again.  The air war continues overhead, though I can really only hear it.  When out looking for food, I’ve seen Mirage Mark 57s flying in full burn, but I can’t tell ours from theirs.  A week ago, an enemy transport was shot down near my ghetto, and I striped it for provisions and other tradable valuables.  This was the highlight of my life for the past year!

Though I live in relative calm – usually wired to some VR display of now-extinct farm animals, or some other pastoral scene to comfort me — news of my sanity is greatly exaggerated.  People who spread such rumors must be dealt with harshly.  Being a minor enemy of the state is one thing; it’s my purported mental condition that keeps me from service in the Archduke’s Royal Armed Forces.  Never mind politics, that’s surely a death sentence.  In fact, our casualties have been so high in recent months I now understand our armies are mostly composed of Chinese mercenaries that the Archduke has hired from Major General Chou Min Lai, the latest dictator of the People’s Democratic Republic of Manchuria.

I imagine the war may go on a few more weeks, as the Mullah slowly encircles the capitol and air superiority is ceded to him.  I’m sure you know the Mullah’s armies have suffered heavy losses thanks to the Archduke’s 12-day lease of US orbital weapon platforms.  For the past several nights, I’ve watched particle beams raining down from the sky on the northern suburbs, where the Mullah had been massing his forces for their final assault.  I usually indulge in a Turkish coffee (the irony isn’t lost on me) and watch the sky from my attic window.  The attacks look like randomly cascading lightning storms; only the beams are perfectly straight, colorless, and soundless.  Oddly, the sight is quite picturesque.  Mandatory acknowledgment propaganda widecasts have shown some of the results of the Archduke’s rented hardware: lifeless landscapes of blackened troopers, melted hovercraft, and exploded armor.  I wonder if the Archduke gave himself the honor of placing the first fire call to the Orbital Pentagon.

It is but a setback for the Muslims. But for our small population of devout, we would have been vaporized months ago. Now the satellite lease will expire in 3 days, and the US won’t renew it for fear of escalating its lukewarm war with the Mullah.  Meanwhile, fresh Muslim reinforcements are coming from India, freed from quelling a Hindu rebellion against the Mullah’s inept cousin, Yazid Muhammad the Red.  According to a recent VOA netcast, these are General Siad Bashir’s forces.  They are mostly Egyptian and Libyan, are well trained and equipped, and have seen combat before in South Africa, Greece, and the Indian sub-continent.  Bashir is an armored tactics-wiz, in the tradition of Rommel and Patton.  The underground’s intel indicates he has 150 Powell Supratanks that the Mullah captured in the Conquest and Subjugation of Israel.  In support, he has 500 light hover-armor, 3 motorized divisions of heavy shock troops, an air cavalry brigade, a division of paratroopers, and several detachments of Elite Forces.  This will overwhelm what is left of the Archduke’s forces.

This is good news, I suppose, as I will probably be summarily executed in the next purge anyway, accused of plotting some putsch that never really existed, mostly so our benign monarch can dispose of threats to his own power base residing inside his regime.  It’s Machiavelli for pre-schoolers: agitators are always sacrificed with the successful, ambitious and power-hungry officers and ministers who are the Archduke’s true targets.  It is all for show, guilt by association for the unfortunate royalists.  Anyway, I should have been killed a long time ago.

The Mullah’s rule will be a light touch in comparison. I view the Mullah’s invasion as a potential liberation and chance to return to the political and economic principles of the Collective.  Data indicates many of the people in this nation share that view, despite the obvious religious frictions.  There are only a few royalists left, and most people understand the Archduke started and escalated the war against Islam.  Removal of the war-mongering Archduke can only help our nation, for he is a known evil. I feel the Mullah may be amenable to the Collective, and that he may allow an autonomous, socialist democracy to the extent there are no conflicts with the Laws, Mandates and Holy Canon of the 2nd Umayyad Caliphate.  I realize this is a Faustian bargain, as rights would be curtailed in the short-term.  After all, once all the fighting in Europe is over, it is inevitable that the Mullah and his fundamentalist clerics and generals will require a strict adherence to Islamic dogma, and the destruction of all non-Muslim cultural icons.  As time goes on, we expect they may even require conversion at rifle point in furtherance of the Mullah’s Holy Vision of Worldwide Islam … the vision seen from his famous Night Visitation from Muhammad during his first hajj, proclaimed the next day in Mecca and seven days later in Medina.

We may gain time to throw-off their rule, peacefully or otherwise.  Perhaps we can stage a general strike when the Mullah and the US finally go to total war, which our human and AI analysts feel is inevitable in the next 24 months, especially if Russia is invaded again and US economic interests are threatened.

But now we seek only to live another day so, alas, I get ahead of myself.

Of more immediate concern is my fear the Muslim armies may get out of control in sacking the city, and will indiscriminately slaughter infidel non-coms, just as they did in Odessa, Frankfurt and Bombay.  Data indicates the Mullah’s Persian and Turk armies are generally more disciplined than the Arab, African, and East Asian.  Yet, even they have been known to massacre after sustaining heavy battlefield losses … but who hasn’t?  I suppose our chances are better in a sacking — after all, in a stalemate, the Mullah could always sneak a Silkworm past our antiquated ABM shield, or even barrage us with airbursts of re-engineered EBOLA 21.  We’d prefer to deal with the scimitars and AK-700s, as stabbing and shooting on a limited basis is much better than widespread hemorrhaging, or being vaporized on an aggregate basis.

No matter what, the ending is bound to be bloody, as you know the Archduke will go to any length to survive.  I do not expect the Mullah to be merciful either, as this war has been a personal duel from the beginning.  I believe this was not fully reported in the West, but early in the war the Archduke ordered an assault on Kuwait City with nerve gas fired from one of the Automated Gun Ships purchased from the Brazilian navy.  He hoped to assassinate the Mullah himself and thereby de-stabilize the caliphate, causing a break down into factions and civil war in the vacuum of power.  It was a daring gambit, but the intel ended up being soft, as the Mullah was actually at an air force base in Algeria that day.

Nevertheless, the Archduke ordered the attack.  We were able to intercept a video relay taped from a Chinese recon satellite: the unmanned Gun Ship unloaded its ordinance in the middle of the harbor, rapid firing missiles and cannon, all chemically-tipped, into the gleaming towers and mosques of Kuwait City.  It was only able to attack for 7 minutes before air defenses sank it.  Despite the attack’s brevity, reports stated nearly 700,000 were killed, including most of the Mullah’s immediate family.  The Mullah vowed vengeance, and placed an execution fatwa on the Archduke.  So in losing this war the Archduke knows he’s a dead man.  As one of the most ruthless leaders alive today, and I fear what he may do in the final days of this invasion.  Exile is not an option for him, and he will fight to the death and take as many of the enemy as possible with him, along with his poor subjects. The Archduke has always walked a path soaked in blood.

Not unlike the life approach of the subject of your latest biography, eh?  Thank you for sending me the draft of the manuscript; as a true debunking of this Western idol, it will probably be a great success in Agitation circles.  I can add some facts about Saint Phillip of Denver, for I knew him prior to my banishment from the West.  Saint Phillip’s book of Christian prayer and transcendental meditation was very inspiring, written before he became a member of NASA Special Ops and one of the most brutal soldiers ever to hunt the Zone.

You asked me if I had any stories about him that had been largely censored.  There are a few stories that I believe you should research.

During World War VI, Saint Phillip lead British commandos in a bloody attempt to rescue Field Marshall Thomas Reese’s prized yorkie and information symbiont — Flambeau — who was held captive by Bolivian Nazi Separatists backed by the cloned-descendent Bill Gates 5.  You’ll recall Gates 5, from its base in Uruguay, had launched an insurrection in Bolivia after its cloned-brethren Gates 9, the provisional ruler of Bolivia, was assassinated by Maoist intellectuals.  The Maoists seized power and privatized all industry, including the Gates’ nanotech operations.  The Gates factions engineered a Nazi coup d’ etat in the western provinces to reclaim the factories, and thus began the Bolivian Civil War… all to be single-handedly settled by Saint Phillip.

Naturally, the West intervened to prevent a further fascist domino effect – Gates 3 and 14 controlled Argentina by then, seizing control after the first Chinese nuclear strike on the West.  Participating US/OAS forces were under Field Marshall Reese’s Anglo-American Military Command based in Brazil.  Flambeau was Reese’s back up in case he was assassinated.  Brilliant that central command backed-up Reese’s information in the dog’s genetic code; foolish that the counters missed the genetic-veterinarian was a Neo-Nazi operative.  Anyway, the rescue of the yorkie was quite daring, as Saint Phillip and his team used a US-loaned X-111 Orbital Fighter-Bomber to bypass Bolivian air defenses from the upper atmosphere, and land in the middle of the military fortress after a Mach 6 descent.  The SAS commandos had US military-issue Grenadier Battle Suits, which were new at that point and not widely employed.  The X-111 appeared out of nowhere and set-down, debarking Saint Phillip and 25 SAS commandos.  After a 20-minute firefight, 1000 Nazi militiamen and 500 Bolivian regulars lay dead.  Flambeau was rescued, given walkies by Saint Phillip and then placed on the space plane.  The Nazi leadership — all Gates puppets — had surrendered to Saint Phillip, but as this was a non-Geneva Code controlled conflict, Saint Phillip ordered battlefield executions for all of them.

This was probably enough to end the short-lived Nazi movement in Bolivia.  This is what makes Saint Phillip’s decision to set-off a tactical nuke in the middle of La Paz so shockingly brutal, even for a Westerner.  The story goes that after securing the fortress, Saint Phillip ordered an end to the EVA, and then disappeared for 20 minutes.  Upon his return, he ordered the Orbital’s astronauts to make a rapid ascent, but to stay geo-synched to the city even though it exposed them to a greater risk of SAMs.  Once en route, he instructed his team to look down at the surface and tell him if they saw anything, at which point he remote detonated the 2 MT nuke from low orbit.  Now, was he showing a strange sense of humor here, or was he trying to mentor his troopers in lessons of war?  I suppose we’ll never know, but I understand now from UN occupational forces that the local birth defect rate in La Paz is only 30% (after stillbirths).

Saint Phillip’s exploits off the battlefield are also heralded.  After all, the Roman Catholic Church ordained him a saint after he devised Paradigm 13, the bio-engineered adrenal hormone that increases aggression by 1000%.  He first used a raw form of Paradigm 13 during the Mullah’s sea borne raid of Italy during the Peloponnesian Conflict.  Meant as a diversion by the Mullah in his conquest of Greece, he landed forces that would attack and sack Rome.  The Mullah wished to demoralize the West by attacking its most historic city, and believed that Italy would have to withdraw its troops from Greece.  It is said that it was the Pope himself who enlisted Saint Phillip to lead the defense of Rome.

Saint Phillip was given command of a brigade of Italian Special Forces assigned to the Church, and he ordered them to take Paradigm 13 during the first hours of the invasion.  Though every soldier eventually died of congestive heart failure within 72 hours of the dosage, the violence they inflicted on the Muslim armies was legendary.  The adrenal hormone, when combine with Battle Suits, special ops training, and Saint Phillip’s cunning leadership, resulted in the worst violence witnessed in Italy since Roman times, and one of the worst defeats ever suffered by the Mullah’s armies.

The dosed ISF troopers faced Algerian and Moroccan conscripts armed with old AKs and M-27s, serving as the invasion’s vanguard.  Assigned to establish 5 KM perimeter around the LZ, most of the troops were only 18 or 19 years old and never saw combat before.  They expected very light resistance, and did not know ISF had been deployed.  First, Saint Phillip coordinated hit and run attacks that killed Muslim officers and NCOs. He then ordered more aggressive attacks, until the enemy troops became frightened and confused, and began a massive retreat, defying offshore orders.  Due to the hilly topography of the Roman suburbs, most of the fighting was at close quarters with Multiguns, Chainguns, and Smart-Grenade Launchers.  The next series of attacks were structured to drive the Muslim forces into a closed valley where an ambush was prepared.  Consequently, 3 entire Muslim divisions were lost, and the friendly-to-enemy kill ratio was 1:500 – mostly because no prisoners were taken, once again.  It was said that the dosed troopers eventually ran out of ammunition, so began hanging captured enemy on pine trees with the eviscerated intestines of other fallen enemy soldiers.

The Mullah had never lost so many so fast, and with the 2nd NATO Alliance waiting to intervene if non-conventional weapons were employed in Italy or Greece, the Mullah gave up his Italian adventure and settled with a naval blockade.

Afterward, Pope Innocent XIX and Saint Phillip became close friends.  In addition to sainthood, Saint Phillip was given command of the Templars, which has been built to 12 legions of mercenaries, and mostly Chinese and US equipped.  I understand his latest project is designing an automated air defense for the Vatican, complete with a PB Weapons Platform in geosynchronous orbit over Rome.

I hope your AI is able to locate and decrypt this message accurately.  This is a blind message coded to one of your AI avatars.  With Worldwide Total Information Management in place, nothing is really safe anymore.  CIA-AI agents have caused havoc on our net, comgrid and VID/VOX networks.  Messages are intercepted, recorded, analyzed and – in some cases – even altered to spread disinformation, propaganda and confusion. They have been especially aggressive in nations belonging to the caliphate.  I have resorted to using old fashioned e-mail (it’s AOL v.285.7 modified with French military encryption software), that is sent via ancient Warsaw Pact phone lines which, I am told, are sometimes missed in WTIM’s data sweeps.  Thus, I ‘backdoor’ all messages onto the worldwide comgrid from “unknown source” origin.  The message-software I use will piggyback on corporate data traffic for a number of days until there is little or no chance to trace origination from first entry onto the comgrid.  Therefore, the delay on getting this should be 4-6 days.  I believe this will work for the time being, until counters are made available that will beat or, at least, temporarily fool WTIM.  Please follow a similar protocol in your reply, especially as you are lying in the belly of the beast, as we say in the hinterlands.

If I do not respond to your next message, you will know why.  Keep Agitating!

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