Sunday, July 30, 2006

Capitalism DNE

[Friend], you're under the mistaken impression that pure capitalism exists.

Actually, I apologise. You're under the mistaken impression that pure capitalism can exist.

The fact of the matter is that every facet of a capitalistic market virtually requires a government to exist.

The term "virtually" means "almost, or seeming to, but not in fact".

In other words, a capitalistic market de facto requires government intervention to exist. I say "de facto" (in fact) rather than "de jure" (in absolute reality) because a pure capitalistic market could exist absent government intervention.

In theory. "And in theory, Marge, communism could work." - Homer Simpson

I'm delighted to reference that quote because a pure, non-governmental capitalism could exist in the exact same way a pure communism could exist. Only if all men were perfect angels, rational, deliberate, and altruistic.

Unfortunately, such men don't exist. Actually, my personal opinion is that we're fortunate that if such men do exist, then they're exceedingly rare.

In fact, in any market even marginally capitalist, the actions of every individual are toward monopoly. If you want to see multiple examples of this you need only observe American history. The nineteenth century was rife with individuals who used the very free market then extant in a manner that can only be termed "rapacious". John D. Rockefeller, a hero to libertarians, was one of the rapacious. So was Thomas Edison. He paid slave wages to workers to test numerous ideas (few of which were his), which he then patented largely by means of men armed with baseball bats.

The end goal of anyone involved in a free market is a monolopy. If a monopoly cannot be acheived (whether because of law or simple economic roadblocks), then an oligopoly (or cartel... like OPEC) is sought. As I recall, a number of airline executives came under fire for price fixing within the last few years. A free market in action.

Leaving aside the fact that every individual within a free market acts to destroy the free market, let's discuss the various factors that define a free market, shall we?

To define the market, we shall have to observe the market in action. An individual, let's call him Stanley, leaves his home and walks to market. On entering the market he walks among the various stalls searching for the product he wants to buy. Having selected a vendor and a product he offers to purchase said product. The vendor names a price. Stanley hands over the money, receives his purchase, walks home, and enjoys it.

In the eyes of the incognizant (uninformed) it would appear that the government had no place in that transaction. There were no bureaucrats, no policemen, not even a lowly meter maid. How wrong you would be, should you hold such an opinion.

1) Stanley leaves his home.
Right here we have a definition of property. Is a government required for one to hold property? In fact, realty? No! So long as you are young and healthy, you can defend your holdings against any number of menaces! Provided, of course, that they come one at a time and are weaker/less well armed than you. Stanley is fortunate to live in a governed society, one with taxes and an armed police force. He can leave his home unattended and unarmed in his person with no unreasonable fear of robbery. Lucky Stanley. A government exists to prevent a truly free market exaction; namely that someone stronger than he would take whatever he couldn't protect.

2) Stanley walks to the market.
Again, Stanley need not fear robbery. Those armed forces defend not just his home, but the roads he travels on. Wait... did we cover how those forces were paid? I believe taxation is in order. The basic and traditional form of taxation... why, governments tax trade! The original market town, from which the modern "market" takes it name comes from the medieval French villages deliberately founded by feudal lords for the purpose of developing trade so they could exact tariffs and so fund their wars! My goodness! It's almost as if the "free market" wasn't free at all!

And... those roads he was walking on. Were they free? Who paid for them? If they're constructed and defended (particularly defended), who pays for that?

Once upon a time roads were paths that existed because people walked on them. They were taken for granted.

Then someone invented "the wheel" and roads became a necessity that had to be maintained. Who maintans them? How does he recoup the cost?

Toll roads maintained by private companies can get expensive. I hear there's an argument over "freedom of the 'internet'"... I'm not sure what that's about. Apparently there are these "tubes"...

Perhaps Stanley's government has evolved in its way of thinking. Perhaps instead of taxing direct trade they feel that they'd be best off assessing wealth and taxing those who benefit most from the existence of government. Why, that would be an "income tax". My oh my. It's almost as if Stanley lives under the aegis of a kind and liberal government, one that doesn't tax the poor to benefit the rich (as was the case with, say, pre-revolutionary France, which fell shortly after the, odd... after the American Revolution, which championed individual liberties and fair government and... it would appear, a market governed by reason rather than greed).

3) Stanley selects his product (among a competition of products) from a vendor (among competing vendors).
Rockefeller is proof enough that without government intervention there would be neither competition among products nor competition among vendors. Having only one choice means having no choice. You think you live in a free market? Try changing high-speed internet vendors. It takes force to prevent others from using force.

Government is, or should be, the use of force for the common good.

4) Stanley hands over the money.
Hold the phone! What? Who? Money? Money, or "specie" or "scrip" is an artificial construct given a defined value by an outside authority! What authority?! On occasion, a non-governmental body has issued some item of value or promisory note that was so reliable that it had value as currency. Perhaps a bolt of cloth was as valuable as an amount of coinage.

Such occasions are exceedingly rare. Few and far between are the private organisations disinterested enough that they can produce a valued coinage.

Government steps in again.

Where government doesn't exist, barter rules. Individuals meet to trade goods. Malcom has barley, David has wool. They trade, both are happy.

But what if David doesn't WANT barley, and Malcom doesn't WANT wool. Well, they're fucked. Unless there exists a medium of exchange both can agree on.

Stanley can hand over coins for his product because he is certain of their value. So is the vendor. Because the value of the coins is certified by an external authority. The "gummint."

Those poor bastards.

5) Stanley purchases his product.
It's not apparent, but Stanley has written and signed a contract with the vendor. The contract is such that the vendor guarantees to hand over a product of certain quality in return for a certain value of specie. Stanley has guaranteed to hand over a certain amount of specie in return for a promised good. They've concluded a non-written contract, wherein a cerain good is promised in return for a certain value. What happens if Stanley is ripped off? What if it turns out the product he sought is not the product he got?

Once upon a time in Denver he would have had four options. a) hunt down the rat and kill him. b) pay others to hunt down the rat and kill him. c) cry and deal with it. d) try and deal with it and die. Stanley is fortunate to have a government that enforces contracts. Even unwritten ones.

Every time I go to K-Mart (as rare as I can manage), I am guaranteed to receive the product I think I'm buying. And every time you go to a shady mechanic and get ripped off, you have the option of suing his ass because there's a government around to enforce what he should have done. ie. what he said he'd do.

6) Stanley walks home.
Amazingly, he doesn't get beaten and robbed. Those cops are good at their job.

7) Stanley enjoys himself.
Ah, that Constitutional Liberty, "Pursuing Happiness". Stanley is damn lucky to have a government that prevents others from taking away that liberty. He can sit in his home, certain in the knowledge that no one will burst through his door and rob him (government thugs or private criminals). He knows that he got what he paid for because the government is on the watch for people who lie and break their word. He rests peacefully because his government watches the roads he walks on.

Stanley's entire environment is an artificial construct maintained by the government he supports. It is entirely unnatural, and wholly beneficial. Nothing about it is free; it is bought and paid for by the people who participate in it, and the only thing that maintains it is their vigilance, ensuring that no one person or group comes to dominate and control it. Because, being an artificial system, it is enitirely and easily susceptible to manipulationand abuse.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


I feel strongly about pacifism. I feel strongly that it is wrong.

An individual wrote that, "[All nations have militaries]... Except for those nations who don't have militaries. Costa Rica abolished their military about 60 years ago; and have happily avoided becoming involved in any of the numerous regional conflicts since.

"Costa Rica feels they can afford to abolish their military in large part because they believe that the US military will prevent them from being conquered by any ambitious foreign government. It's easy to be a pacifist when someone else with a lot more money and high technology is prepared to do any fighting you need done for you."

Someone else replied "Who would do this for the US?"

I felt moved to respond:

In a nutshell you have the essence of pacifism. A pacifist can only survive so long as ahe never encounters someone willing to kill him. Your basic thug will kill whenever he feels he can get away with it. Your basic thug is the essence of humanity. "He is not me, he is not of my family, therefore I can kill him" is the only over-arching principal that the human primate is born to.

The pacifist can only survive to feel that he is better than others if another being is willing to defend him from the thug. That being is the policeman. From "polis", which is Greek for "city", the policeman is the personification of civilization. He lives to enforce all those rules that are not bred into the bone; he enforces the pax civilis; the policeman lives and breathes the ideal that we are more than animals. We are born to accept family and kill who is not; the policeman says, "You must accept that there are those who are not family, but you may not kill them". That is civilization; the recognition that you cannot kill someone just because you don't know them.

Or perhaps I should say, that is the first rule of civilization. Because some people do have to die. Atticus Finch, against his principles, took up a gun to kill a rabid dog. Janie Crawford took up a gun to kill the man she loved. In both cases, the individual that died was mad; and in the original sense of the term. They were rabid. A virus had driven them insane such that they would attack any creature they encountered.

There is no subduing such an individual. You cannot reason with him. You cannot convince him that violence is wrong. Whatever the processes that might have ruled him, they are gone. There is a disconnect such that "to see" = "to kill".

The sad fact is that the human individual is a fragile being. In standing upright, we sacrificed our strength. We stood upright because we developed large brains. Our women needed large pelvises in order that they could give birth to our intelligent children without dying. We walk upright because we can think; it is not the other way around.

Along with our physical frailty, our intelligence comes burdened with another sacrifice; a complex mind can be damaged in many ways.

Whereas a dog must be cruelly mistreated or infected with a vile plague to go insane; a human can go insane just by tilting his head. The result is Jeffrey Dahmer. He is Charles Manson. He is Jack the Ripper. He can be perfectly rational, yet at the same time be vile beyond imagining.

These individuals will not stop. They cannot be argued with. There is no cage that a man cannot escape from, given time enough.

There are individuals who must die. This necessarilly means violence.

The ideal of pacifism is flawed because it assumes all men are angels, and that they wish they were. Experience teaches that they are not. Experience teaches that controlled violence is the only means to survive. Eschewing violence on principle is suicide.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Homeopathy. Bunk.

[quote="A person"][quote="Another person"]
If your healing is triggered by something 'not physical' then why do you need to buy a bottle of it?

I do believe in the, so called, "magic feather" effect - but I would never try to take advantage of someone else by trying to [b]sell[/b] them a magic feather.[/quote]

"my healing" is no different from yours (barring physiological chemical differences)... and I don't [b]need[/b] to buy a bottle of it.

Just because the original physical ingredient is no longer traceable, does not mean there is no link to the "essence" of the ingredient (see: homeopathy) [/quote]

Man, I was thinking I'd scan this and go to bed, but I just have to respond.

If water were to somehow retain some "essence" of those items it has had contact with, then water retains the essence of far more than just those items homeopathic practicioners add to it. Let's try, for example, urea. Yeah. Fish piss. All the time. Every bit of water you touch has been in contact with piss. And piss is bad for you. There's really no two ways about it. Either it's uric acid, bad. Or ammonia, also bad.

How about shit? Feces. Like the stuff monkeys throw. That's full of bacteriat would love nothing more than infect you and, unfortunately, kill you. Pungi stakes are a relic of Vietnam. Yeah, they'd dig holes and fill them with sharpened wooden stakes and smear those stakes with coprolitic material. Those stakes would cause minor injuries that would then get horrifically infected. Yeah. Fish shit, too. Water has come into contact with piss and shit over and over nonstop for billions of years. And yet... somehow, drinking water doesn't kill us. Despite the fact that water somehow retains a kind of "essence" of piss and shit.

And I don't think you can claim that we're somehow immune to the essensical effects of piss and shit because urine and feces lead to, for example, cholera.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

It's only a theory...

Dumb fundies.

"If evilution is so right, how come it isn't a law yet? It's only a theory!"

So is gravity, you twit! You're ignorant. Keep your dumb off of me.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Action Movies

Having waxed rhapsodic on action in the past, I believe I may do so again.

When it comes to action movies, I believe a degree of the sublime was reached by Die Hard. It lacks the choreographed martial arts of Jet Li, or Jason Statham's The Transporter, but it is the rare action movie with a plot. There's a story, character arc, the works. It's the only action movie where the hero has any depth.

Which is not to say that I don't enjoy choreographed martial arts, far from it. Few things bring me more joy than to see people doing things very, very well, whether that be dancing or fighting. Indeed, the common reference between the two ("Wanna dance?", Todd Hockney, The Usual Suspects) has become so cliché that the actual relationship between the two is sadly ignored.

I speak, of course, not of the dancing you'll find in clubs or, in the European fashion, discothèques. That is more along the lines of mutual groin massages to a beat.

No, I speak of dancing wherein the participants are aware of, appreciate, and give full meaning to the terms "lead" and "follow". One partner initiates a movement, the other responds to it. Each, whether as lead or follow, provides a framework of movement and response. To say that the lead directs the dance and the part of the follow is merely to embelish defines a style of dancing doesn't do justice to the subject. When the follow responds, she cannot know with certainty what her lead intends. Her "embellishment" may go in a completely new direction. Hopefully, the two each move in unexpected directions, each challenging the other not only to move appropriately, but adapt and respond that they each form a pattern of movement and response; all of this reaches its own peak when dancers can spontaneously do this not only in response to one another, but in response to the music as well.

Now we return to martial arts. What we see in the movies is a beautiful lie, just as the dancing you see in movies is a lie. Dancers will never have a clear, open space in which to practice their art; they will never move cleanly and beautifully to the music. An exception to this may perhaps be found in Be Cool, when John Travolta and Uma Thurman dance to the Black Eyed Peas in an exclusive LA clubs. Never having been in an exclusive LA club, I don't know if the dance floor might be crowded. And they manage an open free form dance wherein the partners respond to one another; I recall they also pay direct homage to their dancing scene in Pulp Fiction.

To return to martial arts yet again; the lie we encounter in Kung Fu movies (if I may expand the umbrella of that term to include martial arts movies which don't limit themselves to the martial arts of southern China) is that fights are extended affairs, that the fights are clean, even tidy, that fights don't quickly degenerate into ugly brawls, wrestling matches where the winner is the bigger brute rather than the more elegant dancer.

Because we'd prefer that the elegant dancer wins. We love those stories in which David smashes Goliath. We fail to recall the many runts Goliath pounded to jelly because that's the expected outcome. We want the dancer to win because his movements are beautiful, not because he should in fact win.

Returning to the analogy of fighter as dancer, recall that I said that the dance is one of response between partners who have to learn what the other prefers, anticipate and respond as the dance proceeds. An example of a fighter so doing occurs in an obvious fashion (far too obvious, in my opinion, a weakness of this man's movies) in Jet Li's Kiss of the Dragon. He fights a titchy little Frenchman with a fondness for powerful roundhouse kicks. Because he's so good at them, Li can't defend himself effectively, and so has to maneuver his opponent into a realm where he simply doesn't have room to use his favored technique. Then Li kills him; again, he does so by anticipating a maneuver the Frenchman used earlier that had put Li on the ropes earlier in the movie (some sort of fancy kick set that puts the Frenchman in the air, allowing Li to grab his legs and plant his head on the floor, breaking his neck).

Now I'll speak more on the topic of The Transporter, which does an excellent job as a martial arts action movie (to distinguish it from, for example, the action movies of the governator). The fights are choreographed, but with a degree of, if not subtlety (because subtlety can almost never be applied to these movies), then at least skill. The hero must be outnumbered, because he's so much better that a one on one fight can never be a true challenge. If our unarmed hero can best multiple opponents with guns and axes, how challenging can any one opponent be? Well, to be honest, if he's very good and very big, any one opponent can be a real bitch to defeat.

So he fights multiple opponents, and rather than diving in and doing the same thing over and over, as when Jet Li simply uses pipes to take out the inner leg of pairs of opponents time and time again in Kiss of the Dragon in his single mob fight, Statham rather has to put himself in an environment to his favor or altar it in such a fashion.

For example, he finds himself in a bus depot fighting multiple opponents. Rather than face groups of four in the narrow lanes between the buses he enters a bus, whose terrain favors the single skilled opponent. When he later finds himself outnumbered and surrounded, in fact held in a half-nelson, in an open area, he has to struggle until he discovers open troughs of dirty motor oil. Suddenly, he's transformed the arena into an indescribably slick morass and covered himself with the stuff. When he then removes the pedals from bikes for some reason kept nearby (in terms of the plot, absurd. But they do provide him with a means of stability on a 100 square foot pool of motor oil. So that's all right) he's able to whoop booté. I have to wince many times at the end of that fight. Being kicked anywhere by someone wearing those pointy bike pedals... But being kicked in the face? Not even the French deserve that. Well, not all of them.

So that's where I stand on kung fu movies. I enjoy the shit out of 'em. Although I'd kind of like to see a movie where the fighting actually degenerates into a wrestling match. Wait... we have that. The last fight in Lethal Weapon. Man, that's a good fight. Very much an 80s movie, but a good fight.