To be alive means to cope with constant change, just as it is that living means we face death one day. Nothing about us is permanent except the matter we are comprised of (or, at least, that is what we are told by physicists). We are also told by evolutionary biologists that as animals we follow a Darwinian process, ever changing and adapting to better enable species perpetuation. We are limited by our biology, our bodies following a cycle of growth, maturation, and breakdown, all the while a single consciousness seeming to ride around within our heads maintaining a continuity with our pasts through imperfect memory. As lifetimes are extended, it is more evident we seem to change as people over time, with our values, beliefs and personalities shifting to such an extent that the phrase, “I was a different person back then” is a generally-accepted idiom. So constant change is just part of life for us humans. We change until we die, after which memories of us will fade away, forgotten by the generations that follow. This is the human condition–at least the human condition as of the time we live in.
This condition influences and reflects the ideas and values we cook-up in our brains. In the aggregate and on a longer timeline, the same ever changing yet finite condition applies to the products of humanity: philosophy, religion, culture, and the societal structures we build such as states, law, institutions, and language. In our limited lifespans it can be hard to see the impermanence of it all. Once Zoroastrianism was seen as never ending and central to life, as much a part of the world as the moon and stars. Once the Incan Empire was as solid a “truth” as the Andes and the Pacific.
Armchair Mutineer offers a collection of essays, opinion pieces, and fictional stories. This entry marks a new iteration in website’s evolution, just another step in process that will, one day, end.
Armchair Mutineer hopes to entertain and persuade. Since the website began in 2008, its content has been a random walk of thoughts about a better kind of civilization, one of absolute individual freedom, voluntary societal participation, peaceful coexistence in a borderless world, and the continued advancement of science, technology, arts, and commerce. These are Armchair Mutineer’s values: ideas worth believing in and advocating for.
It will be obvious to anyone reading Armchair Mutineer is a “hobby site” written by one person. After years of steadfastly avoiding the first person (in what was, perhaps, a misguided belief that to many sentences with “I believe” sounded grandiose yet undergraduate), I decided to share the original inspiration for making the website.
In 2000, after years of voting for the Libertarian Party, I voted for George W. Bush in the Presidential election that November. I knew the election was close and was primarily voting for Bush because of his position on privatizing Social Security (I always believed that by the time I was eligible for Social Security, I would get back far less than I contributed because means testing was inevitable). As a young person trying to build wealth, the idea of gaining more funds to invest for my future was very compelling to me. I did not think any more than that.
But what’s important here is where I was living. At the time I lived in Palm Beach County, Florida. When everything was said and done, Bush won Florida by 537 votes which was the tipping point for winning the electoral vote. I felt like my vote was one of those 537.
What followed was harrowing for me. For the next eight years of President Bush, I always remembered my lazy vote. The 9-11 terrorist crimes (also a failure of government), resulted in a larger military and surveillance state, rhetoric about clashes of civilizations, invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq which created the terrorists and continued wars of today. There was the passage of another massive middle class entitlement: Medicare Part D, a boon to the pharmaceutical industry and another intragenerational theft. Tax cuts were coupled with massive spending inflating deficits and debt. There was the fumbling response to Hurricane Katrina causing hundreds of deaths and months of misery for thousands of people. To top it all off, Bush presided over continuous Federal Reserve meddling in the economy, which along with crony capitalism and policies favoring easy money for mortgage loans sparked the 2007-08 Financial Crisis and Great Recession. The over-reaction to that crisis and economic contraction appears to have sowed the seeds for an even larger crisis in the future thanks to massive banks, huge public deficits and debts, more government regulation favoring existing players, and intervention in the economy through a hyperactive Federal Reserve.
By 2008, I was disgusted with the state of U.S. politics. I believed I personally contributed to the downfall of the United States by casting my vote for Bush in 2000 who was, easily, one of the worst Presidents in history. I decided my penance would be to double-down on the values I believed in, and do something to advocate for liberty, prosperity, and peace.
A world allowing for maximum human freedom is only one of many possible outcomes in the future. At this point in 2019, it feels like we are beginning to turn away from the values that would enhance human freedom.
A stateless world would not be perfect. Utopia is a flawed and dangerous idea that originates in the minds of a few and requires force and violence to effectuate. The imperfections of anarchy and atheism are their virtues. Materialistically, no states and no religions may be the best outcome given human nature and planetary circumstances. While by no means a deterministic position, evolving toward a world without borders and a single human civilization, a multifaceted, amalgamation of cultures within a common super culture, is feasible and, arguably, a necessary adaptation for species perpetuation.
There would be violence as there will always be people among us who are unable or unwilling to respect non-aggression. There would be graft and theft. There would be inequality. And yet this would still be a richer and more peaceful society than we have to today.
Points of View
When Armchair Mutineer uses the terms “society”, “culture”, and “civilization” without any specific modification (e.g., Roman society, or Japanese civilization), it means these concepts as applied across humanity. Armchair Mutineer takes the position that ethnic, religious, and national identifiers are merely social constructs will fade away over time. Linguistic barriers will eventually be bridged via software, bringing people closer together just as communication and transportation technologies have done in the past.
Armchair Mutineer seeks no alignment with any organization or person seeking political power. Support for or opposition to, and praise for or criticism of, a person, policy, organization, or nation is grounded upon Armchair Mutineer’s worldview. This is not a conspiracy theory website. There is no group of powerful villains we need to battle against. There is no contention that the rich and the powerful deem to make the world a certain way; rather, the vast majority of people merely respond to the incentives presented to them, understanding and acting within the context of their cultures.
Armchair Mutineer’s polemics will largely address the forces that are obstacles to a better civilization: states and religions. Essays may deal with an array of topics related to the website’s point of view. Frameworks may be historical or futurist, theoretical or empirical. This website strives for intellectual honesty and acknowledges its limitations in terms of understanding every subject touched upon. This website is very much a journey toward increasingly refined opinions and arguments.
The state played a vital role in human history. States will continue to be central to history over the next 100 years, perhaps longer. This website advocates for the dismantling of states in order to allow for more human flourishing.
Mass organized religion has shown itself to be another chaotic force to plague humanity. The predominance of religions has waned in the last two hundred years, but religion is still a divisive force. In the United States, pressure to subscribe to a Christian belief system and values remain socially coercive and have figured into nonsensical “culture wars” over basic human rights of marriage, medical research, expression, and reproductive choices. Armchair Mutineer believes adherence to organized religion is a voluntary activity and is perfectly fine so long as that activity stays away from direct and indirect coercion of others. Nevertheless, the world will be a better place when the vast majority of people stop believing in myths and fairy tales.
Are we standing at a crossroad in the evolution of civilization? The high quality of life in the developed and developing world rests upon the achievements of the industrial, scientific, and information technology revolutions of the last 100 years. Despite what we see in the media, today there is more economic, political and religious freedom, and less war, than at any other time in history. Living standards have improved, people have become more educated, poverty has declined, people live longer with better overall health, and racial and other forms of discrimination have rapidly dissipated. By all accounts, society is rapidly evolving and our human civilization on this planet is improving.
The United States, as of now offering a partially free market economy and a relatively strong individual rights, emerged as a superpower after World War II. Engagement through commerce has been the primary linkage between nations, and many new markets opened under U.S. hegemony, primarily to benefit the West with cheaper goods and resources, and with an unintended consequence of laying a groundwork for an interlinked global economy. The late 20th century saw the end of the Cold War, the predominance of the U.S. as a sole global superpower advocating freedom and trade, and the evolution of China toward a freer society. The emergence of a worldwide economic system that transverses national borders and the rapid development and modernization of what used to be called “the Third World” shows more barriers coming down. Armchair Mutineer believes these are all historical signals of a world that could keep changing for the better.
The Malaise of the Early 21st Century
History may show the troubled Presidency of George W. Bush may have been the beginning of the downfall of the United States. President Obama’s administration saw Washington DC become gridlocked at a time when budget deficits and national debt are at record highs, entitlement programs near insolvency, there is low economic growth, and a growing perception among citizens that there is not equal opportunity to succeed in this country. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have an ideology that may address these issues because, in the end, this is a systemic failure of the government both parties built. National wealth led to centralized public education, health, and welfare programs supported by Democrats; while Republicans may complain about social safety nets, there is no serious movement to do away with them. At the same time, low taxes and a global military presence are staples of the GOP that are not seriously challenged by the Democrats. Both parties are statist and assume centralized government is a permanent fixture, holding the debates of yesteryear and offering voters no real choice. Both parties will never disrupt the true purpose of a two party structure: predictable policies that maintain a crony capitalist system that perpetuates big business, big unions, big banks, big military and big government. The “Dempublican/Repocrats” system garners the voting support of most Americans who benefit from that system (directly or indirectly), or simply support it because they do not know any better. The average citizen in the U.S. pays the price for these bad policies by having a diminished life, and in time there will be consequences for this.
The election of President Trump was surely a sign of a state beginning to unravel, the GOP moving to a nationalist-populist party ready to let the mob rule. The reaction of the Democratic Party seems to be a movement further to the left in appeals to ethnic identity and economic class.
The U.S. is only one example of the lack of positive momentum in the developed world. The financial crisis facing the European Union led it to be mired in an inward facing debate. Japan’s economy has been in a deflationary spiral for twenty years due to a failure to deregulate and open its economy to non-Japanese players. Policies in most countries appear to follow an outmoded thought system, still thinking in terms of a “national interest” when people are linked in a global economic system (Brexit being an example of nativist impulses turning into mob rule). Instead of getting closer as world citizens, there is still a tendency to cling to national, racial and religious identities.
Armchair Mutineer’s Hypothesis
The malaise of the early 21st century allowed statism to return and make itself central to our lives. The crossroad we are at seems to be either going back to the world we had in the 20th century, or allowing individuals to have more control over their fates, no longer dependent on social, political and spiritual betters to tell us how to live. Hopefully we will return to the path we were on in the late 1990s.
Putting aside the technological advances, could a European living in the early Middle Ages imagine a world without royalty or alternatives to the Roman Catholic Church? In five hundred years, European society outgrew those two institutions, once seen as eternal. Similarly, government and large organized religions are coercive forces that have caused war and deprivation throughout history, and will continue to cause conflict and chaos in the future. While democracy and capitalism are enlightened systems, it is not hard to see we still have a long way to go. While many fear a dystopian future, Armchair Mutineer prefers to believe humanity’s best days are in the future.
Armchair Mutineer argues our best bet to evolve to a condition where we do not need organized governments or large, organized religions. Civilized people can live without commissars and clerics. We will have an advanced civilization when nearly all people may live peacefully and freely without these coercive forces.