YouTube, Taxation, Voluntaryists, Conquest, & Economics (25m) – Episode 268

Episode 268 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: YouTube’s copyright claim system and the trouble that its causing; why libertarian types complain about what government spends its ill-gotten gains on; voluntaryist time-traveler solutions to the problem of Hitler; the peculiarity in descendants of conquered people sharing in the religious/political sensibilities of their ancestor’s conquerors; the value of economics in shifting moral outrage from market actors to government actors; and more.

Listen to Episode 268 (25m, mp3, 64kbps)

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On Voluntaryists IV

One notable difference between voluntaryists and coercivists are the former’s insistence on tackling issues from their root, largely dug deep in a coercive foundation. Coercivists prefer to hack away at the branches with nary a concern for those whose lives and liberties they may be violating. Drug addiction is a problem of traumatic childhoods and broken social bonds. You can either examine and deal with the root, or throw guns and prisons at the branches in a futile attempt at solving the problem. Likewise for “illegal” immigration, human trafficking, terrorists, business cycles, and every other socio-economic problem that stems from utilizing coercion. Voluntaryists know better, if only the world would listen. And that’s today’s two cents.

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The Beautiful and Scary Practice of Moving Closer

Life is full of all kinds of stresses, and each of us has habitual ways of reacting to those stresses — we procrastinate, run to comforts, lash out or distance ourselves from others, try to exit from a stressful place, mentally complain about others.

The sad effect of these habitual reactions is that they move us further away from others, and from the direct experience of the moment.

Let’s take a quick example: If you are hurt by the way someone is acting, your habitual reaction might be complaining about them, taking offense, getting angry (all of these or a combo). Then you shut them out, closing your heart to them, moving away from them.

The effect of this is that you’ve now distanced yourself from the other person. And I submit that this is the cause of most of our relationship problems, work issues, violence, racism, political strife, and wars.

Closing our hearts to others and creating distance from them out of habitual reaction to stress is the heart of aggression, violence and pain.

We do the same thing when it comes to our direct experience of the moment — if we’re bored, unhappy with our situation, unhappy with ourselves, stressed or tired … we habitually try to find comfort in food, drink, drugs, online distractions, TV or videos, shopping, porn, drowning everything out with music, and so on. We are moving away from the present moment, shutting out the world around us.

Moving ourselves away from the direct experience of this moment, out of habitual reaction, is the heart of our unhappiness and disconnect from life.

These are all based on the same problem — we have habitual reactions to stress, and those habitual reactions move us further from other people. From life itself. From ourselves.

Today, I’d like to offer you a practice that I’ve been exploring myself: the beautiful practice of moving closer.

It is scary, shaky, and transformative.

It goes like this:

  1. Notice that you’re feeling some kind of stress — anxiety, pain, struggle, frustration, overwhelm, sadness.
  2. Notice your habitual reaction to that stress: you procrastinate, try to exit, shut someone out, complain, run to one of your comforts, hide, quit, run away, lash out, yell, hit, medicate, etc.
  3. Refrain from indulging in your habitual reaction. Instead, just remain still. Instead of complaining, do nothing. Instead of spinning around a narrative about the other person and shutting them out, do nothing. Just refrain.
  4. Breathe deeply into the sensations in your body. When you refrain from your habitual reaction, you are left with an energy in your body that still really wants to do the habitual thing. It will be a strong urge. You just sit still. You do nothing. But you breathe deeply and relax around the energy in your body. Notice how it feels, in your torso. Be curious about it. Stay with it. Be present with it. Welcome it. Give it compassion.
  5. Now, move closer. Someone else stressing you out? After refraining from complaining about them, move closer to them. Open your heart and be fully present with them. Be completely loving. Yes, sometimes you have to physically protect yourself — but that doesn’t mean you have to shut down your heart. You can love the person who has hurt you, without letting them continue to hurt you. Maybe it’s not a person but a situation (or yourself) that’s stressing you out. You are filled with discomfort and uncertainty. You refrain from your habitual reaction, and instead you move closer to the direct experience of this moment. You open your heart to the world, and love it as it is. You love yourself as you are.

Continue to move closer. Continue to reopen your heart. From this place, see what action you need to take. Not from the place of habitual reaction.

It’s an incredibly beautiful practice. And yes, it’s filled with shakiness. That makes it even more courageous.

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How Hard Would It Be To Enslave You?

Do you believe you’re free?

Ask yourself how hard it would be for someone to enslave you – politically, emotionally, financially, physically, relationally, mentally.

Do you have debt? We may no longer have debtor’s prisons, but for all intents and purposes, you are one collection away from losing your choice.

Do you have compromised character? While you live a lie, you must beg for others to accept your version of reality (H/T to Ayn Rand). You have become their slave.

Do you give in to bullies or crowds? If you don’t stand up for yourself now, how long will you be able to resist when you face real pressure?

Do you work for someone else? How many paychecks away from dependence are you?

Do you spend wealth instead of investing it? Are you building a future of independence or a future dependent on continued luxury?

Are you borrowing someone else’s values and purpose? How will you stand for yourself in any relationship with others? You will be at the mercy of others.

Do you take things you haven’t earned? The bill from the benefactor comes due at some point.

Are you dependent? Will you keep what independence you do have when things get bad?

Are you unskilled? How will you be able to take care of yourself without turning to dependence?

Are you ignorant? How will you know you have been led astray if you cannot think and do not call on wisdom?

Are you shortsighted? You will not see the consequences that will leave you in chains.

These are all questions which come back to character. In the end – as great thinkers from the Romans to today have told us – it is what keeps us free.

“How hard would it be to enslave you” is the same question as “how virtuous are you, and how virtuous are you willing to be?”

Many of these are questions I ask myself. I hope they can be helpful to you.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Market Failure Theory as Reproach to Government Practice

The theory of market failure is a reproach to the free-market economy.  Unless you have perfect competition, perfect information, perfect rationality, and no externalities, you can’t show that individual self-interest leads to social efficiency.*  And this anti-market interpretation is largely apt.  You can’t legitimately infer that markets are socially optimal merely because every market exchange is voluntary.

Contrary to popular belief, however, market failure theory is also a reproach to every existing government.  How so?  Because market failure theory recommends specific government policies – and actually-existing governments rarely adopt anything like them.

What do I have in mind?

1. When markets produce too much of something, market failure theory tells governments to impose corrective taxes that correspond to the severity of the excess – then let people do as they please.  In the real world, in contrast, governments normally pass a phone book’s worth of regulations.  They rarely consider the cost of the regulations, and almost never just let people bypass regulations by paying a high fee.  Thus, you can’t buy your way out of an Environmental Impact Statement or heroin prohibition – and if the theory of market failure is right, this rigidity is deeply dysfunctional.

2. When markets produce too little of something, market failure theory tells governments to provide corrective subsidies that correspond to the severity of the shortfall – then let people do as they please.  In the real world, in contrast, governments tend to directly run industries with alleged positive externalities.  Public education and health care are the obvious example, but the same goes for national parks, government lands, etc.  Furthermore, government firms routinely offer even non-rival products for gratis or next-to-gratis – even when the products have clear negative externalities such as road congestion and subsidized energy.

3. While the theory of market failure abhors monopoly, actually-existing governments do much to stifle competition.  This is most grotesque for real estate and immigration, which most governments view with dire suspicion, but perhaps most blatant for occupational licensing.  Again, if negative externalities were the real rationale for these restrictions, governments would just impose taxes – then let everyone build, move, and work as they please.

I could go on and on, but general point is that market failure theory does more than complain about markets; it also tells governments how to repair them.  Any government that fails to comply with these impressively precise instructions ipso facto fails.  Indeed, non-compliant governments are a textbook case of government failure.  And while the severity of this government failure varies, every known government fails severely.

*Contrary to poorly proof-read textbooks, markets can yield social efficiency even if these assumptions are violated.  A polluting monopoly is the classic example, but there are endless others.  Standard assumptions are a sufficient, not necessary, condition for social efficiency.

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Jeptha’s Knob

Nobody asked but …

Events always have consquences.  Take for instance the creation of Jeptha’s Knob, the highest point in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky.  One of the proximate consequences is that I live on a ripple of the huge meteor strike that formed Jeptha’s Knob.  My roofline is about one thousand feet above sea level.  I have dubbed my neighborhood the Anderson Alps for the rings of precipitous ridges radiating out from that ancient event.

The point I want to make, however, is that causes and effects may be realized over vast amounts of time.  In this example, the consequences stretch over millions of years.  There have been innumerable effects before me, there are effects while I am here, and there will be uncountable effects after I’m gone.  We are each swimmers in a stream of space-time that goes on to eternity.

The Jeptha’s Knob Meteor was just one among myriad causes which went on to generate multitudes of effects.  The complexity dwarfs our imaginations.  The inexorable advance of change is astounding.  Even though Jeptha’s Knob has been there for millions of years, it changes every day, every minute.  Stasis is only an illusion.

— Kilgore Forelle

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