Dissing the Rich for Fun, Profit, and Public Policy

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“Win-Win World” is an original column appearing sporadically on Thursdays at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Russell L. Roth. Russell is a 30-year marketing veteran and graduate of Jay Snelson’s “Science of Human Interaction” course (he calls it “Win/Win 101”). He has owned and operated businesses in advertising, real estate and internet marketing. He holds a degree in Studio Art from the State University of New York and is seeking a music publisher for his portfolio of original Country/Folk fusion songs. A native of Central New York state, Russell currently resides in southern California with his wife, Valerie. Archived columns can be found here. WWW-only RSS feed available here.

I enjoy going online and engaging anti-Win-Win Worlders in discussions on Objectivism and libertarianism. I strongly suggest it for Voluntaryists, libertarians and Objectivists who have strong stomachs for ad hominem and false premises. Of course, I don’t hope for one minute that my little outreach will end up changing the minds of my adversaries. But it keeps my mind sharp. And by engaging in this public activity, perhaps some onlooker will be given cause to at least ponder what a Win-Win World might be like.

Recently in one of these sessions I encountered an individual who described herself as working for an agency that sets homeless people up with a place to stay. She asked me to take a look at an opinion article written by Daniel Goleman and provide her with my reaction.

Survey Said: Rich Folk Don’t Care

The essay was entitled, “Rich People Just Care Less” and was posted on The New York Times (surprised?) web site. The editorial began: “Turning a blind eye. Giving someone the cold shoulder. Looking down on people. Seeing right through them.”

I knew right there that I was in for a real treat.

So I read on. It turns out that “a growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little power.” Researchers arranged get-acquainted sessions between high- and low-power folks and found that the “higher-status people” showed fewer signals of paying attention, and were more likely to “express disregard” and “take over the conversation and interrupt or look past the other speaker.”

The piece went on to report that this type of activity occurs even when we of lesser power have contact with those of lesser power than ourselves. So it isn’t just the upper 1% of us who are supposedly committing these interpersonal transgressions… it’s everyone but the absolute lowest guy on the totem pole. I guess he has to resort to kicking the dog… if he hasn’t already eaten it.

What’s more, a portion of this “growing body of recent research” indicates that “the more-powerful were less compassionate toward the hardships described by the less powerful.” It went on to say, “in general, we focus the most on those we value the most.” Poor folk are “better in tune with interpersonal relationships because they have to be.”

And the Moral of the Story is…

Goleman, and the researchers, then make the predictable leap: that the findings “suggest implications” in the forming of public policy. No proof as to the veracity of this claim is offered, of course. The connection is not scientifically made. Regardless, the writer goes on to infer this to be the reason for “the insistence by some House Republicans…. on impeding the implementation of Obamacare”. Heavens! You mean the House Democrats, who pushed it, have less social power than the Republicans? If it’s all simply a matter of income, what makes the Dems so damn compassionate?

One more fun surprise. The article admits a good portion of this research was done jointly by researchers at the University of Amsterdam and the University of California at Berkeley.

So you see where I’m going with this. This essay, and the research that spawned it, are textbook examples of liberal prejudice. First of all, “researchers” have no business suggesting and implying anything. All they are qualified to do, and all they ought to do is present the results of their research and let the rest of us draw whatever implications we can from their work. If it’s good solid research, it will speak for itself. Don’t overstep the boundaries of your research by speculating. That’s not the job of a scientist. Of course, no one among us would argue that they are scientists in the first place, I’m sure. But I’m just as sure they consider themselves to be.

One of the things that convinces me something is awry is the fact that the researchers and opinion writer use the terms “wealth” and “social power” interchangeably. Excuse me, but where is it proven that richer people necessarily have higher social power and poorer ones necessarily have less? What exactly is social power, anyway? When did this concept get invented, and who invented it? The article fails to address these issues assuming, I suppose, that these “truths” are a priori. But it seems to me that equating a financial or economic concept (“rich”) to a social concept (“social power”) simply begs some explanation.

No one can accuse liberals of the sin of being overly precise.

Another thing. Taking a step back, is it just me, or do liberals seem to have an unhealthy preoccupation with power? They appear to view social issues in terms of a battle between who they perceive to be the oppressed and the oppressors, between themselves and those who do not share their views, or those who try to hold their feet to the fire of rationalism. Liberals always seem to look for the differences, not the similarities. This is not the outlook of someone who wishes to work in good faith with all interested parties to find solutions that improve conditions. It’s not the outlook of someone who wishes to form alliances and engage in voluntary trade. It’s the outlook of a bully spoiling for a fight. This is win-lose philosophy in action. I am happy to grant their wish.

What’s the Why?

So, since apparently Goleman and the researchers are attaching a positive value to the ability to empathize, in the interest of fairness let’s turn the tables. Let’s now empathize with the rich as well as the poor. As much as I suspect the aforementioned researchers and article author would disapprove, I have done some independent thinking on this. Here are a few thoughts about the results of the study from the standpoint of the “socially powerful”.

Richer folk don’t pay as much attention to poorer folk as poorer pay to richer. Have I overlooked something, or does this not seem obvious and even, dare I say, a bit natural? After all, common sense tells us that we all have this “what’s in it for me?” outlook. Why on earth would I be interested in dealing (trading) with someone who has little or nothing to offer? Why would I not be more interested in dealing with someone who has equal or greater resources than I? This explains both the conclusion and its corollary: poorer people relate better because the potential for reward is so much greater.

Another reason for the apparent disparity in ability to concentrate upon the woes of others – admittedly a more cynical one – might be that many poor people have little to do all day long, other than involve themselves in personal relationships. Most wealthier people have precious little time for social pleasantries… they’re too busy struggling to acquire and protect their resources. Sure, I know that Hispanic “immigrants” clean our toilets. That’s tough work. Some hold down two or more jobs and have large families at home. I’ll bet those guys don’t have time to say “boo”, either.

Here’s one of my favorite explanations for the results of the research. The free market (including ones that are only kind of free, like ours) tends to favor the successful over the less successful. It’s social Darwinism (in its original, non-pejorative sense); societies that value success over failure are likelier to survive and thrive than those celebrating widespread failure. I suspect we are all hard-wired to revere and emulate the more successful, and avoid the less successful. Who wants to take the chance that failure will rub off on them?

As a matter of fact, I think for the purposes of the opinion piece, instead of rich v. poor, more social power v. less social power, the writer should have used the terms “more successful” and “less successful”. And then, of course, they should have defined what they meant by “successful.” This would have removed much of the taint of liberal bias that I am detecting.

Here’s another possible reason for the attention disparity. The successful are continually hit up with pleas and coercive demands to share the proceeds of their success—while receiving little or nothing in return. I think those of us who are less successful have utterly no idea of the kind of pressure this places on the more successful. They may attempt to deal with this pressure by keeping the rest of us at physical and emotional arm’s length. Who can blame them? As the research shows, I’d do the exact same thing myself in their shoes.

Any or all of these ideas could be the reasons behind the findings, such as they are. The author gives us very little information on the sources of this research, its methodology and any possible researcher bias. We are virtually powerless to check it first hand to independently judge the veracity of the findings. Any writing that presents research findings and suggests implications, but doesn’t give you a way to verify, is strongly suspect.

Regardless of all this, when it comes to performing and reporting this type of research, to paraphrase the Borg, persistence is futile. Research into the relationship between the rich and the poor as it relates to the formation of public policy becomes irrelevant in a Win-Win World. Of course, some folks will always gather greater resources than others in such a society. But without a state to act as nanny and redistribute wealth, the “suggesting” about implications on public policy is moot. There will be no public policy. Financial differences between individuals will be an accepted condition. Those wishing to increase their resources, wealth or “social power” will be free to utilize their intelligence and hard work to achieve the desired success. And studies such as the those discussed in the essay will share a place in the dustbin of history.

I can’t hardly wait.


Read more from “Win-Win World”:

Open This Content

Win-Win Doesn’t Mean You Lose Nothing

Send him mail.

“Win-Win World” is an original column appearing sporadically on Thursdays at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Russell L. Roth. Russell is a 30-year marketing veteran and graduate of Jay Snelson’s “Science of Human Interaction” course (he calls it “Win/Win 101”). He has owned and operated businesses in advertising, real estate and internet marketing. He holds a degree in Studio Art from the State University of New York and is seeking a music publisher for his portfolio of original Country/Folk fusion songs. A native of Central New York state, Russell currently resides in southern California with his wife, Valerie. Archived columns can be found here. WWW-only RSS feed available here.

When my kid brother told me he decided to be a libertarian some years ago it made me proud. Even though he was incapable of addressing the logical dilemma, “if a little government is better than a lot, why isn’t no government best of all?”, it was good to hear him espouse libertarian values.

Like many others of that ilk, my brother Harry (not his real name) still clung to the notion of a rudimentary government: police force, military and courts… yada, yada. This I considered workable, as all that was needed for a complete and positive transformation was the realization that ALL government is coercive by its very nature. Reducing it to a shell of its former self does nothing to change this basic fact. This is a big step, yes, but it was all that stood in his way.

What worried me more was Harry’s apparently visceral aversion to Objectivism. He attempted to poke holes in her reasoning at every turn, either unable or unwilling to grasp that Rand believed the same thing that he did; that even she could not bring herself to urge the abolition of the entire state. In any event, as I said, it was good to hear him speak in libertarian terms. His rehabilitation had taken a critical first step.

We lost touch soon after, being adults living 2,500 miles apart, with different families and commitments. Several years passed. Then recently, through the somewhat dubious miracle of social networking, we found one another once again. Harry’s thinking had taken an ominous turn. Now he was railing against “the plutocracy”, as he saw it. Worse yet, he posted that he could not understand all the “bad press” surrounding the term “financial redistribution.” Of course I made a heroic attempt to explain, as one would to a child, that redistribution of wealth was evil because it involved forcibly taking property from those who earned it and giving it to those who hadn’t. (I use sarcasm here because it continues to shock me that so many of us do not comprehend this seemingly simple point.)

We bantered back and forth for several days. On his page Harry continued to grouse about the widening gap between the rich and the poor, and the 1% of the population that seemed to have gotten all the breaks. He continued to insist that the state is all that stands between the abused poor and the ruthless robber barons whose goal in life is to extort and cheat them out of every penny and labor-minute possible. Yes, he actually used the term “robber baron”.

He did still agree that politicians are a big part of the problem. He saw them as corrupt (which they are, but not for the reasons he was thinking) and in cahoots with the corporations and “big money”. Yet he failed to offer any explanation as to how this condition serves the state in its stand on behalf of the abused poor.

Then one day Harry posted the following content on his personal networking page.

I know what you’re thinking. I should have stood back and let him continue to steep in this stupidity; that nothing I could say could change his mind or help him, at least, think more rationally.

But I couldn’t let this go unchallenged. Once again a politician was trying to fan the flames of resentment amongst groups of the citizenry in order to justify higher taxes. What made it worse was that Sanders is obviously quoting from one or more studies but the posting doesn’t say which studies, so it’s much more difficult to check it out independently. Secondly, every time I hear a politician use the term “moral”, or a variant thereof, I want to run like hell in the opposite direction. For I know the term “sacrifice” isn’t far behind.

So on Harry’s post I asked, “According to what reputable study?” (See below for my subsequent posting in response to this particular issue.)

Harry’s reply? Rather than quoting the source and methodology of the study, which any thinking person interested in the truth would have done, my brother unleashed a volley of invective targeting me and Objectivism in general. I won’t amuse you or embarrass him with direct quotes, but let’s just say he accused me of being a “tool” for the top one percent of the income earning population and stated that no one was interested in hearing my views. Although he obviously seemed to feel the exact opposite about the perceived relevance of his own perspectives.

I confess, I believe in fighting fire with fire regardless of the opponent. So I responded by pointing out that if I were an Objectivist tool he was just as equally a socialist tool. I dismissed his beliefs as hate-the-rich and simplistic. In conclusion I assured him that every time he rendered his unsolicited opinion I would respond with my own point of view and if he didn’t like it he was free to unfriend me. Our elder brother who, it turned out, was monitoring our exchange, chimed in with, “Does the phrase ‘useful idiot’ mean anything to you?”

Never let it be said that the Roth boys pull their punches when it comes to expressing their ideological views.

Well, as you likely guess, my little bro took my advice and unfriended not just yours truly, but our eldest sibling as well.

Such is what almost inevitably transpires when illogic is challenged by uncomfortable fact. Those without a rational leg to stand on sooner or later invariably initiate name calling, ridicule and finally, avoidance. They get downright nasty when presented with inconvenient truths, like a cornered raccoon. Then when this fails to intimidate, they run and hide. This is one manifestation of the phenomenon that Jay Snelson referred to as “intellectual immunity”. Most people don’t like their premises challenged.

Whatever one wishes to call it, there is only one viable response to those afflicted with this malady. As Rand said, one must treat people as they deserve to be treated, and let the chips fall where they may.

I bear no ill-will toward my socialist tool of a brother. I simply have no respect for his view that the rich are the enemy, particularly since he failed miserably at defending his view with facts and rational discourse when he had the opportunity. However, the sadness of the situation is not lost on me. If I have lost a brother, so be it. I can do nothing about it except hope against hope that one day he will eschew raw emotion in favor of rational thought. Until then, I’ll be online and available to answer any questions or concerns he may have about free market anarchy – if any.


Not content with simply trading philosophical jabs with my brother, I subsequently did the research he himself should have done prior to posting the above Bernie Sanders quote. Here is my response posting in its entirety.

JUST HOW POOR ARE THE POOR IN THE US?

Many international poverty studies have found that the USA suffers from dramatically high child poverty rates – nearly the worst – among developed nations.

Before you reach for your checkbook or call your Congressman, there are some things you should know.

For example, developed countries commonly use relative measures of poverty that categorize any household below a certain percentage of the national average income as impoverished — regardless of their standard of living. Others define poverty using specific quality of life indicators, but the set of indicators could be arbitrary, and the data gathered by household surveys to determine the extent of poverty could be unreliable. Thus, claims that child poverty is more pervasive in the United States than in other developed countries are at least suspect.

The highly reputed National Center for Policy Analysis issued a study of various methods used (use the link below to see the study), and made the following conclusions.

Using a relative measure can place children in a high poverty group in a particular country. But that country could have a high overall standard of living, like the USA… meaning that the “poor” in the US are actually richer than the “poor” in, say, France or Denmark.

In fact, the study states, of the officially-defined “poor” households in the US,

• 99.4% have a refrigerator
• 75.7% have air conditioning
• 42% have a DVD player
• 36.1 % have a separate cable TV box
• 23% have a video game console
• And so on.

So the next time someone tries to tell you we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country in the industrialized world, have them tell you which study they’re quoting, and explain the study’s methodology. If they can’t, or won’t, ask them to shut up.

The full study: http://www.ncpa.org/pdfs/bg169.pdf

In addition, check out the Cato Institute for reputable studies and articles that explode the liberalist myth concerning the USA’s top 1% income earners.


Read more from “Win-Win World”:

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The 10 Hottest New and Improved Businesses and Industries of a Win-Win World

Send him mail.

“Win-Win World” is an original column appearing sporadically on Thursdays at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Russell L. Roth. Russell is a 30-year marketing veteran and graduate of Jay Snelson’s “Science of Human Interaction” course (he calls it “Win/Win 101”). He has owned and operated businesses in advertising, real estate and internet marketing. He holds a degree in Studio Art from the State University of New York and is seeking a music publisher for his portfolio of original Country/Folk fusion songs. A native of Central New York state, Russell currently resides in southern California with his wife, Valerie. Archived columns can be found here. WWW-only RSS feed available here.

In my first article, “Why We Can’t All Just Get Along” I outlined the dire, unavoidable need to trash the current coercive system of political government (“the state”) in favor of free market anarchy. I called this new paradigm a “Win-Win World,” because it is based on all parties getting what they want out of voluntary dealings with each other.

Since that article I began to think about the many ways in which individuals could ensure their financial success quickly and efficiently in such a world, and identified 10 businesses and industries that presented the highest rate of growth. This article is the result.

The title ends in the words “a Win-Win World”, not “the Win-Win World” for a reason. This is because there is more than one answer; more than one Win-Win World is possible. This article represents simply one example of that which I feel could or should happen in the absence of coercion. I may have missed businesses or industries, or even gotten the whole thing entirely wrong. But… it’s a start.

An obvious key step in transforming the current mess into a Win-Win World is the privatization of everything that is the state: departments, agencies and other entity classes whose stated but failed purpose is to adequately and efficiently provide services to citizens paid for by tax dollars.

Many have a hard time envisioning how this would work and I don’t claim to have all the answers. But we might start with local public utilities. Heck, years ago, my city bought the then-privately owned, local water company and turned it into a government agency; the reverse ought to be just as simple: convert each entity into an IPO. Put it up for sale on the stock market. Whoever wants and can afford to purchase stock in that entity then become the new owners.

What happens to the proceeds from these IPOs? They’re used to finance the fledgling private utility’s transition to a Win-Win World: to improve performance and efficiency; retrain and reeducate workers to think like private employees instead of public ones; streamline processes; upgrade equipment as required; perform any deferred maintenance; create and finance internal, performance reward programs; and much more. It’s hard to imagine any entity of the state that wouldn’t lend itself easily to this scheme. The workers themselves may have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the new Win-Win World… but we have ways of managing that too.

Here, then, is my take on the 10 hottest new and improved businesses and industries of a Win-Win World, in no particular order.


Insurance

Insurance companies form the heart and soul of this new world. Part of this is because insurance companies are dedicated to helping reduce or mitigate loss, which was also supposedly a major function, although ineffectively and incompletely realized, of the state which we have now abolished. Another reason is because the best, non-coercive way to get people to alter their behavior is by impacting their pocketbook. Insurance companies are already set up to help a free market take advantage of this.

In a Win-Win World, all the familiar forms of insurance have survived the transition. But there are some new, innovative offerings as well. Anti-coercion insurance protects you from loss due to force, threat of force or fraud — in other words, theft, burglary, murder, vandalism, assault, misrepresentation, battery, rape, and any of the other injustices commonly referred to today as “criminal.” If victimized by any of these you or your heirs notify your insurance adjuster, who issues you a pre-agreed level of compensation (pending confirmation of the damage and according to the terms of your policy).

Similar to what happens in the event of an automotive accident, your insurance company investigates and seeks to recover damages from the culprit’s insurance company and/or the culprit him/herself. See “Safety and Security” and “Arbitration” below for more information on this, and for a description of what happens should the miscreant put up a fight or attempt to elude resolution.

In regard to premiums, the amounts depend in large part upon your personal or business’s reputation for incurring risk. If you have a history of paying your bills, staying out of trouble, properly maintaining your property with an eye to safety, never practicing coercion and in general comporting yourself as a low-risk individual, your premiums are small and manageable.

Step out of line, however, and soon you’ll find your insurance unaffordable or denied altogether. As we know, insurance companies detest and discourage risk. Why would this matter to you, the “criminal”? Without insurance or sufficient cash of your own, the only way you’re able to provide complete reparation is through forced labor. I’m betting you wouldn’t care for that much.

Regarding that which is currently referred to as a civil matter, a person’s or business’s malfeasance insurance pays damages to the victim. Think of malfeasance insurance as malpractice insurance for the individual or business. It’s simply insurance that protects others from having to pay for something you’ve done wrong, including commission of negligence. This could be as simple as the local restaurant unintentionally poisoning a patron by serving up a nice big bowl of last week’s potato salad. Or your teenager backs the car over the neighbor’s prize rose bushes.

Insurance companies are expert in risk assessment and in a Win-Win World are free to price their services fairly. All the state regulations governing insurance company operations are gone, allowing for competitive rates, fast, effective service and a truly competitive market.

Safety and Security

Security and policing firms, firefighting companies, bodyguards, investigators, emergency medical services… all these entities and more comprise this critical industry. Since in a Win-Win World there is no army, no police force, no government-owned fire department, you’ll have private security officers, EMTs, firefighters and ambulance corps, all competing for your business. For example, the first security company to reach you in the event of coercion is the one that gets paid by your insurance company. The first firefighting team to get to your burning residence is the one that gets paid by your insurance company. In practice this may need to be adjusted so all respondents receive some level of compensation (for example, in the event more than one firefighting company is required to respond to put out the blaze); but perhaps the ones who get to your side first, get a bonus. This could be determined with the help of GPS technology on the respondents’ vehicles, and sorted out if need be, in arbitration.

These heroes are paid not with tax money but with your insurance policy premiums. Your insurance company handles the expense and then, where applicable, seeks to recover the money from the party at fault… if any.

In extreme cases where an accused party seeks to elude having to answer for his acts of coercion, the insurance company may employ investigators and security officers to find and apprehend the fugitive. All monies expended for this process are repaid by the coercer and/or his insurance company. Officers may be needed to keep a flight-prone fugitive from fleeing before full reparation can be made. The behavior of all parties is transparent, monitored and reported to the public. If a security officer or company steps out of bounds, uses excessive force or falsely imprisons, the coercer has recourse via his insurance company and, ultimately, arbitration.

Competing firefighting and emergency medical transportation companies continuously patrol the neighborhoods in order to increase their chances of being first responders and winning a hefty bonus for their promptness. Areas of potential brushfires are monitored by pooled satellite and infrared heat detection technology, perhaps operated by a firefighter’s association serving a large number of member firefighting companies. Once a call goes out, it goes out simultaneously to all member firefighter companies and again, performance is monitored via GPS to verify which companies have actually provided services, and which one receives a bonus for getting there first.

Arbitration

Any disagreement, coercive act or contractual failure can be arbitrated with the help of private firms whose ability to survive and profit depend upon maintaining an impeccable reputation for honesty, fairness and justice. Individuals as well as businesses are able to avail themselves of these services as needed. But the need is managed mainly by insurance companies whose use of these services dominates the spectrum of possible users. Occasionally, an individual may wish to make a claim for damages, such as when the claimant has no, or not enough, insurance — but they’ll have to pay cash for the arbitration service should the ruling not fall in their favor or the case not be accepted for arbitration.

Arbitration firms of a Win-Win World work much like the courts of today except that they are run far more efficiently, of course. An arbitration firm is free to accept or refuse a case, based on the case’s merit and/or potential profit involved. Cash flow comes from the loser and/or their insurance company. Again, insurance companies abhor risk, so most cases are likely settled between the parties, to eliminate the need for arbitration. What’s to prevent an insurance company from walking away in the middle of the arbitration process when it sees it’s going to lose? The free market. Would YOU want to be the client of an insurance company that changes its mind and pulls the rug out from under you in the middle of a hearing?

Performance Assurance & Reporting

Just as the number of contracts or voluntary agreements have exploded in a Win-Win World, so has the need to assure that all parties adhere to the terms of those contracts… or at least, that any failure to adhere to the terms does not result in significant financial loss to the other parties.

This is accomplished in several ways. First, just as is done today with real property purchase agreements, escrow companies serve as impartial third-party distributors of funds according to the terms of each contract.

Second, information bureaus collect, manage and make available data on the parties’ past performance in previous and current contracts. FICO-like scores are calculated for each company or individual indicating that entity’s level of trustworthiness. This assists others in deciding whether to enter into a contract with the business or individual. It is also valuable for insurance companies in deciding whether to insure a business or individual against malfeasance, how large a premium to charge, and how to structure the offer.

Reputation Rehabilitation

With all this information being collected and managed, mistakes are bound to happen. In addition, it’s inevitable that a business or individual might want to improve its performance assurance score. So now there are agencies to help a company or individual “clean up” a less-than-enviable reputation.

Unlike the companies that previously prostituted themselves by creating false positive content and posting it on social networks (a form of legalized fraud), reputation rehab specialists of a Win-Win World are expected to shine a spotlight on the truth…. not spread lies. These agencies work much like PR firms, emphasizing the positive and using the entire range of available media as required.

In addition, these agencies also ferret out and expose lies, whether libel or slander, against their clients, and participate as advisors and witnesses in arbitration designed to assess and assign damages, except in cases where a conflict of interest may exist. In other words, in cases not involving their own clients.

Most importantly, they act as consultants in assisting their clients to improve their trustworthiness scores. Their function here is to suggest strategies for improvement and track and report the resulting improved performance.

Ownership Assurance

Since everything in a Win-Win World is owned by somebody, it is wise to store and manage all of this information in the event the owner wants to sell, or his ownership is called into question for whatever reason. This is done now with the involvement of the state for real property and motor vehicles, for example. But in a Win-Win World, the true objective is not to extort money in the form of taxes and license fees, but rather to provide a resource for positively identifying the owner of a piece of real property or an item or a business.

This comes in handy not only in the case of a proposed sale, in which it’s critical to confirm that the seller owns the property free and clear. It is also helpful should a consumer wish to initiate arbitration proceedings against the owner of an automotive repair shop installing used brakes and charging for new, for example. Who really owns the shop? The ownership database provides the contact information… or at least that of the repair shop owner’s representative.

The ownership database is web-based and available for use by anyone – for a fee, of course. Gathering, verifying and managing the data are a monumental task.

In addition to tangible property, this database service also records and tracks intellectual property. Patent and copyright ownership is assured, and unlike today, does not expire after an arbitrary number of years. Ownership survives the original owner indefinitely via transfer by the owning party to another party, just like houses and motor vehicles.

What about those businesses or individuals not wishing to be displayed in such a database for all to see? Well, it’s a free Win-Win World. But those folks’ insurance companies would take a dim view of clients wishing to hide their ownership and would undoubtedly hike the client’s premium for making it harder and more expensive to be found.

In a Win-Win World, there’s little reason to want to hide your ownership anyway. That’s because there are no income taxes to pay or shelters to preserve, and no one is jealous of your possessions. There’s enough of everything to go around!

Professional and Trade Associations

In a Win-Win World, these groups figure extremely high in the setting of industry-wide engineering, safety and quality standards. Professional licensing and exams remain a major focus (especially since this function is no longer “managed” by the state), as is the development of standards designed to simplify product design. Remember the big fight between 8-track and today’s stereo? How about VHS versus Beta? Inches versus metric? (Jimmy Carter’s “other” miserable failure.) These are extreme examples that illustrate the inefficiency of competing standards. Yes, competition is vital to keeping prices low and selection high. But it’s prohibitively expensive in some cases, such as when standards compete and confuse.

Take Bluetooth, mpeg (video) and jpeg (still images) for example. These technologies have been successful in large part because a bunch of companies in their respective industries got together and created standards that were later adopted by everyone. Bluetooth is a wireless communications standard; mpeg and jpeg are image compression standards. All three are widely used today. What’s the advantage, besides reduced confusion? Risk to developers is minimal because the standards have been voluntarily agreed to already, and no market shake-out is needed to determine which set of standards is to prevail. This helps control costs and thus product pricing. It also helps investors avoid losing their shirts.

In a Win-Win World, professional and trade associations also function as a go-between should you have a beef with a member company, organization or individual. Since the association is in a position to affect a business’s or professional’s reputation, many consumers find it advantageous and less expensive than formal arbitration to present their appeal to the defending company’s trade association. The trade association then works with both parties to arrive at a mutually agreeable resolution.

There’s great economy and efficiency in large numbers, and professional and trade associations in a Win-Win World help bring this to reality for their members without the need for mega-corporations and the risk of complete or partial monopoly. (I know, “partial monopoly” is like being “sort of” pregnant, but you get my meaning.) We cited the example above of the firefighting company’s association providing pooled fire monitoring services to its member companies. The same can be done for private security. Or how about businesses that wish to market their wares cooperatively? Business associations can help make this happen. They can also promote an entire class of product or business for their members, usually when the product or business is relatively new or pioneering.

Infrastructure and Services

Toll roads on steroids. That’s the best way to describe the network of roadways and bridges from coast to coast in a Win-Win World. Each motor vehicle is fitted with a transponder, and sensors are placed alongside or underneath every roadway, every several yards. Each sensor reports your vehicle’s location to the company owning the bridge or roadway, and you are charged based on your actual usage of that bridge or section of roadway.

Utilities behave today much like they did pre-Win-Win World, with product or service use metered, reported to the owning company, and billed out to you, the consumer. The main difference versus today is the multitude of companies competing for your business, and a precipitous drop in pricing thanks to competition in the marketplace.

If you don’t like the service provided by your water company, you can switch to another. The pipeline infrastructure itself is owned and provided by a third party, not by those actually providing the water. They pay a fee to the infrastructure provider based on their usage of the pipeline network. The same concept applies to other services and utilities, such as gas, electricity and cable TV. Gas pipelines, power lines and equipment, and cable infrastructure are owned not by the service providers but by separate companies… perhaps even respective industry groups or associations. This keeps the market safe for competition.

Usage Assessment

With all this privatization of previously publically owned and tax-supported infrastructure such as roadways, detecting, assessing, reporting and computing usage levels are themselves a hot industry. Meters, sensors, and data handling and analysis figure highly in each infrastructure and service company’s business success. New ways to dependably and precisely measure and report usage need to be developed and cost-effectively implemented so the new businesses of a Win-Win World can get paid.

For example, formerly public parks and beaches are now 100% pay-as-you-go, and visitors need to be fairly charged for their usage. The same most likely goes for bike lanes, city sidewalks and “free” parking facilities that used to be financed with your tax dollars. It is unfeasible and downright impractical to engage you in a manual transaction for every one of the many services you now use during the course of a day. Therefore perhaps YOU are fitted with an onboard transponder that says “Here I am – bill me!” to every applicable sensor within detection distance.

The hardware and software needed for this function has to be developed, adapted, designed, manufactured, installed, serviced and managed. That sounds like a whole, entire industry to me.

Education

State-administered education has been scrapped in favor of private schools competing in the level playing field of the free market – competing for the best teachers, administrators and students. No one is left behind, as fees vary widely, along with quality. Schools are once again serious about producing the best graduates, as test scores are used to judge not only the student’s academic abilities, but the performance of the school itself. Parents base their decision on where to place their children in part on the schools’ scores. You might have five or more elementary-level schools all serving the same neighborhood, and the competition is fierce. Scores affect also how much the schools are able to charge… the better the score, the higher the fees.

In addition, web-based schooling has exploded in a Win-Win World, particularly in those few, isolated areas which may not have more than one or two brick-and-mortar schools from which to choose. The web now offers viable alternatives regardless of student location, ensuring heavy competition in even the most sparsely populated of areas.

Privatization Consulting

We said we were listing the top 10 businesses and industries of a Win-Win World, and we are well aware that privatization consulting brings the count to 11. We mention it here because privatization consulting is important to discuss, yet it is a temporary industry; that is, after all publicly owned businesses and entities have been privatized, privatization consulting is no longer necessary. It thus “withers away” (to borrow an oft-used expression from one of the more spectacular failures of human history).

Publicly-owned entities, as described in the first paragraphs of this article, must by definition undergo extreme change to achieve a successful transition to a Win-Win World. Many cases demand radical restructuring of the organization and its business practices and processes. Mass numbers of employees require reeducation, retraining and perhaps re-positioning: reassignment within the company, or placement elsewhere, outside the company. Reforming a government-owned entity into a publicly held business or businesses, from line worker on up to CEO, requires a cadre of specialists to offer managers, supervisors and employees guidance, advice and support. Entire business cultures need to change in order for the newly transformed company to survive in a truly free market.

In a transforming Win-Win World, privatization consulting firms are made up of individuals from all manner of public and private entities. A multi-functional team is assigned to each public entity and is comprised of experts in change management, human resources, business law, marketing, counseling and training. The team formulates a plan and procedure for the public entity’s privatization, and guides it through the process from start to finish. This is an essential but costly, labor-intensive, professional service; the funds generated from the public entity’s IPO should cover the tab nicely.

First Steps

I hope I have provided some valuable information and sparked your interest in the hot businesses and industries of a Win-Win World. The most obvious question is, how do we get there? There is no easy answer. Individuals are typically anathema to change, as I’m sure you have long since discovered through your own discussions about Win-Win, free market anarchy, voluntaryism, Objectivism, libertarianism, or whatever you choose to call it. The resistance you’ve undoubtedly experienced is what Dr. Jay Snelson called “intellectual immunity” – though now I must say I am not all that fond of this term, as it unintentionally implies good health. And nothing healthy is going on in the minds of those who possess it, I am quite sure.

We know why Win-Win seems so alien to most people. It’s so very different than what they’ve been taught is possible. So our task, as I see it, is to teach them otherwise.

Once enough people have been helped to understand why Win-Win is the only path to peace, prosperity and worldwide wellness, the rest will be easy. Once we’re all on the same page, the question then changes from “What?” to “How?” I’m not sure the libertarian movement in Massachusetts and elsewhere has all the answers on how to manage the transition. After all, libertarians argue for less government, not no government at all. Where they would draw the line, that point at which “less” transforms from good into evil, has never been satisfactorily explained to me using a morally or scientifically-based method of reasoning. But perhaps it’s a start. At least it’s peaceful, although nowhere close to coercion-free.

All I know is that at some point, we all have to agree that a Win-Win World is what we want. Then we can begin the joyous but orderly dismantling of the state – in the same spirit as those scores of ebullient Germans who tore down that wall years ago.


Did I get anything wrong? Did I leave any business or industry out of this article? What’s YOUR opinion of the top businesses and industries of a Win-Win World? Email me at russelllanceroth @ yahoo.com with your suggestions and comments. I may parlay them and my responses into a followup article here at EVC.


Read more from “Win-Win World”:

Open This Content

Cry Me a River

Send him mail.

“Win-Win World” is an original column appearing sporadically on Thursdays at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Russell L. Roth. Russell is a 30-year marketing veteran and graduate of Jay Snelson’s “Science of Human Interaction” course (he calls it “Win/Win 101”). He has owned and operated businesses in advertising, real estate and internet marketing. He holds a degree in Studio Art from the State University of New York and is seeking a music publisher for his portfolio of original Country/Folk fusion songs. A native of Central New York state, Russell currently resides in southern California with his wife, Valerie. Archived columns can be found here. WWW-only RSS feed available here.

It’s not often I find myself in a restroom, confronted by something I’ve never seen before. When I do, I have to stop and consider the implications.

This time the subject of my fascination was a small silver plaque, hanging on the tiled wall directly above the urinal I was in the process of using.

Was this plaque announcing that some famous person had also peed in this exact spot? Was it commemorating some important event in someone’s personal history, such as the passing of a particularly troublesome kidney stone?

No, this plaque was celebrating ME.

Specifically, I was being lauded for my wise decision to utilize this particular porcelain facility for the purpose of depositing my pee. Here’s what the plaque read:

This facility [I assume the writer meant the facility management] is committed to protecting and preserving the environment. By using this touch-free, completely hygienic Falcon Water-free system you are helping the environment to conserve an average of 40,000 gallons of fresh water per urinal, per year.

It goes without saying that this made me feel pretty special.

But as I headed to the sink to soap up, it suddenly occurred to me that the process wasn’t exactly “touch-free” OR “completely hygienic” – if you catch my drift. The afterglow of learning that I had just helped to protect and preserve the environment simply by using this facility quickly began to fade as I wondered what else the plaque had gotten wrong.

Preserving That Which Requires no Preservation

I couldn’t quibble about the 40,000-gallons-a-year thing. Falcon had obviously done its homework and I didn’t possess the time or the resources required to confirm or disprove its estimate.

So instead I began to think about whether my actions had really protected and preserved the environment. Was the environment truly any better off for my being here? Was my bodily fluid going anywhere different from where it would be headed had I utilized a more traditional, water-powered unit? Presumably not. So – no additional environmental protection there.

Well, what about the obvious: the water savings? You know, the water that didn’t get used as a medium for transporting my urine to its final destination? 40,000 gallons is nothing to sneeze at. But I didn’t see how this could be construed as “protecting” the environment. Why? Because I wouldn’t exactly classify the use of 40,000 gallons of water as an attack on the environment.

To be fair, 40,000 gallons of fresh water were being diverted from the task of handling my pee to other uses. (Bathing elephants at the local zoo? Pressure washing gum off the sidewalk of some shopping mall?) So I guess my act did qualify as preservation.

But so what?

Water, as we know, is a commodity that’s anything but precious. In fact, it’s one of the most common substances in the entire known universe. I mean, it’s all over the place!

Ahah, you say. Haven’t you heard? There’s a water shortage.

Really?

Just what do we mean when we use the term “water shortage”? Well, it means that water is scarcer at present than at some point in the past, I suppose. But why is this? And whose fault is it, anyway?

Who’s to Blame?

Let’s look at whether we are facing a real shortage. Granted, there’s a drought in Southern California. There’s always a drought in Southern California. Southern California used to be desert. Its natural state is to have practically no water. At some point in the past, water was introduced to the area in large quantities and voila: no more desert. We had enough water at one time. Now we somehow have less. What happened? Where did the water go?

Of course, we know that the water didn’t go anywhere. After all, the earth, for the purposes of our discussion, is a closed ecosystem. The geographic distribution of fresh water across that ecosystem may vary. But the sum total of water on and inside the earth remains, for all practical purposes, the same over time.

What happened was that, over time, the population increased here in southern California. Industry grew. Production and prosperity boomed. And all that progress takes water, among many other things. Slowly but surely, the growing water demand began to exceed the supply. And in the process somebody messed up. They let this happen. Through inaccurate planning, denial, unwillingness to find the money to expand the infrastructure or locate new water sources, or whatever, somebody screwed the pooch.

Can You Guess Who?

That’s right – the same people who willingly took on the job of providing us with an adequate supply of fresh water in the first place: the state, and our state-owned, controlled and regulated water suppliers. These guys have all failed miserably to adequately and consistently meet the people’s need for water.

And it gets even worse. Environmentalists recently successfully pressured Congress into imposing a man-made water shortage (or rather, reverting a large portion of California real estate back to its natural desert state). It did this by refusing to allow billions of gallons of water to be supplied to arid farmland in the northern region of the state. The reason? Worry that the diversion would upset a bunch of 3-inch, minnow-like fish.

Naturally, this reduction to dust of otherwise arable land is expected to decimate the local economy of the San Joaquin Valley and jack up the prices of the fruits and vegetables that will now have to be obtained from other sources, exacerbating the cost and hardship that come with drought. All this because Obama’s state decided that fish are more important than water or jobs. So much for representing the people…

Make no mistake. You and I are not responsible for this water shortage. The state is the guilty party. As expected, Obama would disagree. He’s blaming the drought on — guess what — the evil spectre of global warming.

Someone Owes Us an Apology

Do any of these government folks feel guilty for letting us down? Are they begging forgiveness and scrambling to find ways to right their wrong, to prove our earlier confidence in them was not misplaced?

Are you kidding?

No, they’re doing what the state always does: attempting to shift the blame, changing the rules in midstream (pun intended), creating more regulations and devising more punishments to force obedience.

Here’s how it works. First the state attempts to escape responsibility for the drought conditions by pointing the finger at Mother Nature. Then it makes us feel guilty for using water. This, they figure, softens us up for the “remedy”: assuming even more control over our lives without actually fixing the problem. Now they call a “water emergency”, imposing special limitations on water use by citizens. And God forbid, should you be found guilty of watering your lawn on the wrong day, or washing your car in your own driveway (I guess the water at home is different from the water at your local car wash)… you’ll be slapped with injunctions and fines. Your water supply system will be fitted with a flow restriction device designed to force compliance, and you’ll have to pay the cost. Your water supply might even be cut off completely. And of course this is all backed by the usual coercive methods designed to extract the funds from you should you refuse to pay, up to and including confiscation of your property to cover any fines or assessments.

By the way, businesses are forced to “do their part” as well. In my municipality, restaurants can’t even legally offer you a glass of water at your table. You have to specifically request it.

Yes, your state takes great pride in forcing you to use less water. Here’s what my local government considers its water conservation-related duty:

Our mission is to protect the City of Corona’s water reclamation systems, water quality, our residents, our workers and the environment.

Um… excuse me? How do the above-described methods — limiting and denying water — serve to protect residents, workers and the environment? Seems to me, the best way to offer protection is to provide the damn water. Do you agree?

And it’s not just local. The State of California recently passed a bill requiring metropolitan water suppliers to cut usage 20% by the year 2020. This requirement, and its related costs, gets passed on to Californians, obviously.

This is how the state apologizes for its mistakes. This is how it fixes its failures and rights its wrongs. It shifts the blame to you and the boogeyman of global warming. Why? Because it can. And because it’s easier than finding the wherewithal to build more reservoirs and pipelines and other ways to get you the water it promised you when it took on the responsibility of providing the stuff in the first place.

Your state has violated your trust and made you believe that you are part of the problem. This is more than just simple betrayal. This is abuse.

Why do we stand for this? Because we all want to be seen as protecting and preserving the environment, not as the water hogs the state has told us we are. Yeah, give us more waterless urinals!!!

We’ve been sold down the river, as it were, and we not only tolerate it from our state, we demand it. That’s the really sick part. We’re the ones who have charged our state with doing these things. Is it any wonder the state makes use of the tools we gave it?

Feelings…

There’s another way the state could be treating this situation that would at least feel less violating, and it would achieve the same goal of conservation without resorting to coercion.

Our power companies, while also highly controlled and regulated by the state, at least have a better solution. They use a tiered billing system to encourage conservation, not enforce it.

Here’s how it works. During the summer months when energy usage peaks, the power companies manage the heightened demand with sliding per-kilowatt hour rates rather than levy fines against “hogs”. The more electricity you use, the more you pay per kilowatt hour. This results in huge power bills for heavy electricity use. During one particularly steamy summer we didn’t spare the AC, and for the first month our power bill approached $800!

As you can imagine, we didn’t like this. But we understood that, in the real world of free economics, as demand (usage) increases, so must prices. And so this power situation felt more natural to us. We certainly didn’t feel betrayed or abused. Just poor. So we voluntarily cut way back on our usage. Not because we felt threatened by the neighborhood bully, but because we needed the money for other expenses. Bottom line is, because this model feels more like the way a free, capitalist market operates, it was at least tolerable.

In the region where I live, we also are famous for our traffic jams. But these have been partially remedied by toll roads and express lanes. These are literally pay-as-you go, and they enable motorists to shave significant travel time from their schedules. These options give us a real choice: do we wish to pay “nothing” (except that which is extorted from us in the form of taxes) and suffer a stop-and-go journey on public roadways? Or would we rather pay a bit more and minimize frustration, grief and travel time? The fees are set on some of these toll roads according to day and time. As demand (traffic) increases, so does the rate. Here again, we have a choice and it “feels” right. It feels like a semi-free market.

Back to the water shortage… To be fair, some localities are adopting a tiered system of billing for water usage. But are they eliminating government-imposed restrictions, penalties and police-state tactics designed to force compliance?

Come on, now… do you really have to ask?

To get a picture of how truly insane the state’s police-and-punish model is, think of it this way. When was the last time a business threatened to penalize you for buying too much of its product? Absurd, right? Businesses want you to use as much of their product as you can afford. The power companies and toll roads understand this, if only intuitively. Why don’t the water companies? Because where I live, the state owns the water. And all politicians and bureaucrats understand is coerce and control.

If the state were a business, we’d all quickly fire it as a provider. Why do we put up with its shameful behavior just because it’s the state?

Ending the Water Shortage

This could happen tomorrow, simply by privatizing state-owned water companies.

The whole concept of water as a precious resource to be controlled is wrong and out-dated. Were it treated as a product, there would never be a water shortage… at least not for long. The water companies (yes, I said companies, because in a free market there would be competition for your business) would always be looking for new, innovative ways to get you all the water you need. Otherwise, they’d have no product to sell you. No product, no revenue; no revenue, no profit.

The state has no competitors. It doesn’t care whether you use water or not – so it has nothing to lose by answering “excessive use” with coercion and punishment. It’s what the state does.

This all serves to underscore the differences between the free market and the state. The free market seeks to increase your satisfaction in order to keep your business; the state doesn’t care about your business, it doesn’t care about your level of satisfaction. It cares only about controlling resources that it calls limited and, ultimately, you.

The water shortage, such as it is, could soon be eliminated if usage, not conservation, became the goal. As long as the state is permitted to control the water supply, this won’t happen.

So the next time you feel guilty for using a fresh water-driven porcelain facility, remember: It’s the state that controls the bowl.


Read more from “Win-Win World”:

Open This Content

Why We Can’t All Just Get Along

Send him mail.

“Win-Win World” is an original column appearing sporadically on Thursdays at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Russell L. Roth. Russell is a 30-year marketing veteran and graduate of Jay Snelson’s “Science of Human Interaction” course (he calls it “Win/Win 101”). He has owned and operated businesses in advertising, real estate and internet marketing. He holds a degree in Studio Art from the State University of New York and is seeking a music publisher for his portfolio of original Country/Folk fusion songs. A native of Central New York state, Russell currently resides in southern California with his wife, Valerie. Archived columns can be found here. WWW-only RSS feed available here.

Not long ago a friend of mine asked the question, “Why is there so much violence in the world? Why do we find it so difficult to respect and appreciate each other?” Here is the answer I gave her.

Violence between humans exists because, almost to a person, we have been raised and educated to believe that in order for ME to gain something, YOU must lose. This win/lose mentality is responsible for all inter-human violence and has so permeated our way of thinking that we barely see it for what it is. We believe that violence is inevitable because of competition, natural or otherwise, and we believe the urge to compete for what we’ve been told are scarce or limited resources is a natural state and therefore impossible to abolish.

Because of this, many of us believe that violence may be attenuated or controlled, but violence and the need for it are inevitable and inescapable. This win/lose philosophy is invoked wherever competition exists, which is everywhere.

Siblings compete for parents’ attention and affection, students compete for scholastic fame and acceptance by the best schools, workers compete for the corner office, men compete for the most desirable women, and vice versa, nations compete for land and/or more power, or better natural resources, and different religions compete for the hearts and minds and money of fresh initiates. In the present world, competition sooner or later becomes inexorably associated with violence.

Such is the inevitable outcome of adopting a win/lose philosophy, and it’s given competition a bad name. Is humankind doomed to inflict and suffer violence forever?

Well, maybe not… if humankind can swap one outlook for another.

WIN/LOSE = LOSE/LOSE

Looking at all the wonderful things humans have succeeded in doing – wiping out diseases, catapulting to the moon, building huge cities, forging magnificent cultures – is it too incredible a notion to imagine humans trading a cruel, inefficient approach for a kinder, far more efficient approach? I don’t think so.

The human race (there is only one race, and it is human) may have had brutal and violent beginnings, but it is not necessarily hard wired to commit violence. Violence has helped some of us survive over time, but violence ceases to be a viable survival skill when it involves hurling hydrogen bomb-tipped rockets at your enemy.

Today, when the concept of win/lose is employed, all parties become losers. We need to learn new survival skills, because none of the win/lose approaches we have tried thus far have worked. What’s the definition of insanity? – Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. Plainly, we’ve been doing this for centuries and, just as plainly, the results still suck. Is it not time to try something that’s never been tried before?

But just what is that something? I and many others hold that we need to release our white-knuckled grip on win/lose and embrace Win/Win, in every facet of our lives. Win/Win is simply this: In order for ME to win, YOU must win. If you lose, so do I.

Please note this is not some lame attempt to get you to join a religious cult or give your life savings to some do-gooding charity in the hope that what goes around will come around. No, with Win/Win the returns are assured. With Win/Win we exercise total freedom in entering voluntarily into whatever pursuits or relationships we judge to be in OUR OWN SELF INTEREST… with others who have freely decided to so the same alongside us, in their own self-interest.

In order for me to win, you must also win. What a novel idea! Do you think we can work together to see if we can find a goal or solution or undertaking that benefits all parties who care to participate? It sounds radical because it is. But just because it’s radical doesn’t mean it won’t work. Just because it hasn’t yet been tried doesn’t mean we should never try it.

But how exactly would this Win/Win world work? What would it look like if no one were victimized by lies or force, and all citizens were allowed to labor, keep or spend their money, use, enjoy and hold their possessions as they saw fit… as long as their actions did not result in hurting (lying or forcing) anyone else? Is it possible for the inhabitants of an entire planet to live by the golden rule?

Yup. And I know how.

The only way for this to happen is by employing Win/Win instead of win/lose as the model for all human dealings.

WHY WIN/WIN?

The beauty of Win/Win is that its adoption precludes not only violence, but coercion in all its forms. I and many others define coercion as the use of force, threat of force, or commission of fraud to compel an individual to behave in a way that the individual deems contrary to his or her interests.

So if a thief points a gun at you and orders you to hand over your property, whether or not he discharges his weapon into your body, his demands are contrary to your well-being. He is attempting to force you to sustain a loss. That’s coercion. Likewise, if a used car salesman secretly turns back an odometer in an effort to entice you into purchasing his vehicle, that’s coercion too.

Thank God we have a government to make and enforce laws designed to protect us from such heinous acts of coercion.

Right?

Well, here’s where we come to the really controversial and difficult-to-envision part: simply put, political government cannot exist in a Win/Win world. It’s literally impossible.

GOVERNMENT = COERCION = HASTA LA VISTA, BABY!

Unfortunately, government is so thoroughly, and by its very nature, coercive. It cannot exist WITHOUT being coercive. What’s more, it cannot exist without holding and enforcing its MONOPOLY on coercion.

I don’t think I need to spend too much time talking about all of the coercive acts for which governments are responsible, do I? Here are just a few:

  • Forcing citizens to hand over their money (taxes).
  • Breaking of promises (de facto fraud), as when a politician tells you “no new taxes” in order to get elected, then raises them as soon as he lands in office; or promising to balance the budget when he or she knows that this would be next to impossible.
  • Evicting citizens from their homes to make way for “needed” roads, utilities, even shopping centers. (It doesn’t matter whether the homeowner is paid for the property at the going market rate… forcing the homeowner to “agree” to such a transaction is coercion.)
  • Forcing citizens to serve in the military.
  • Underperforming. Closely related to the breaking of promises, this is the worst, most prevalent form of fraud committed by governments. Why we tolerate it is beyond all reason. When government takes it upon itself to provide citizens with a steady, dependable supply of fresh water, for example, it forms a contract with the citizens promising to do just that. But then it inevitably fails its mission to provide the stuff in ample amounts. Upon breaking the contract, it then adds insult to injury by blaming the users – and even threatening to penalize them for watering their lawns on certain days, or washing their cars in their driveways. This type of fraud amounts to nothing less than betrayal and abuse of the citizens who put the government in power.

These acts all involve the use of force, threat of force, or fraud, against the government’s own citizens – the very people it is said to serve. And yet, we as citizens not only allow this sort of behavior, we EXPECT it from our government, because somehow we believe this supports “the greater good.” We not only expect it… we demand it. Isn’t this sick?

All of these acts – force, threat of force, and fraud – are legal when committed by the government… and illegal when committed by any other individual or entity. Thus we can truthfully say that government holds and enforces a monopoly on coercion. We even expect government to work tirelessly to enforce this monopoly in the mistaken belief that this will protect us FROM coercion. How dysfunctional is that?

Government not only wields coercion, it MUST coerce in order to survive. Don’t believe me? What do you think would happen to a government that woke up one morning to discover all of its power to commit violence, threats or fraud was suddenly gone? Well, this has actually happened many times in history. It’s called a “coup.” And the government that experiences one does not survive for long, does it?

No, when a government suddenly becomes non-coercive it instantly loses all its power to keep its citizens in line through force, threat of force, and fraud. The government collapses and chaos rules… until another coercive government is formed to take its place… or at least, until a military or police force restores order through coercion. Once a government ceases being coercive, it ceases being a government.

And because government is the only “legal” coercive entity, it is a major attraction to those people who seek to live a life of coercion for profit: politicians and bureaucrats. These people wish to force others to behave in a way which they want them to behave. It doesn’t matter whether the politician’s intentions are good or evil. When you wield an inherently evil tool, it imbues evil to your cause, and to you. Politicians forcibly take your money and give it to themselves and others. They are legalized thieves, and experts in the exercise of coercion of the citizens they are sworn to protect from coercion. Truly a Bizarro world if there ever was one.

And the really sad thing is, contrary to what you’ve been taught by government-run “educational” institutions, this thievery and betrayal are wholly unnecessary.

SO WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

So to review, we know that the only sure way to eliminate the suffering caused by cruelty and violence is to eliminate coercion. We’ve seen that government cannot exist without institutionalizing and practicing coercion, and that in order to survive it must hold and enforce a monopoly on coercion. And thus we now realize that the first step in abolishing human-upon-human violence, fraud and suffering must be to abolish political government in all its forms, and instead embrace Win/Win.

Put more directly, the government… ANY government… cannot exist without coercion. Coercion cannot exist in a Win/Win world. Therefore, there is no place for government in a Win/Win world. Government has got to go. PERIOD. Can’t have it. Don’t want it. Don’t need it.

With political government gone, we envision not a COERCION-driven society, but a MARKET-driven society. A society where voluntarism replaces force, threat of force, and fraud.

In the absence of any form of political government, who makes all the decisions? The free market, that’s who. Who makes up the free market? Consumers like you and me, and the businesses that serve them, and serve them well, or perish. For just as there is no more government to regulate, tax, and otherwise handicap businesses in their attempts to serve you, there is no more government to use your money against your will to bail out failing businesses, or grant one group of businesses an unfair advantage over the other in the interest of “leveling the playing field.” Without the meddling hand of government placing unnatural, inconsistent and prohibitively expensive restrictions and requirements on businesses, businesses are left to thrive or die. How? By serving you and me, and either succeeding or failing.

It’s that simple. How’s THAT for leveling the playing field?

And now I can almost hear you wondering out loud, “So with no government to step in, how will we the people be protected from the evils of big business controlling pricing, quality and availability? For that matter, who’s going to protect me and my property from crooks and murderers? Who will maintain order?” Again, my friend, my answer remains the same: the free market will protect you.

In fact, the entities that stand ready to shield you and me from all coercion already exist in large part. We simply need to tinker with them a bit, to enable them to do that in which they excel. And we need to allow them to do what they do.

We know that businesses that fail to keep their customers happy will lose money and eventually die. They will be replaced – put out of business – by other businesses that do a better job. A more cost-efficient job. No business will hold a monopoly for very long; for without government to protect such businesses through bailout, regulation or law, sooner or later, when customers tire of the lack of choice that comes from being locked in to a particular supplier, new businesses will spring up that will offer a choice and foil the monopoly. They will win customers away from the monopolies, restoring competitiveness to the market. This is why we call the free market economy self-correcting.

This frequently happens to a certain extent in spite of government intervention, or when government intervention is partially, grudgingly, withdrawn. One example: who has been slowly putting the US Postal Service, once a government-run monopoly, out of business for the past many years now? How about FedEx, UPS, the Internet? The good ol’ USPS no longer holds the monopoly on getting it there despite rain, sleet, or snow. It hasn’t for years. And it is now suffering because it cannot compete.

When the airlines were “deregulated,” remember how a whole plethora of small, regional and boutique airlines suddenly sprang up? And remember the shakeout that followed, when many of these new airlines discovered they couldn’t operate profitably, yet others of their kind survived? Your choice as a consumer was enhanced by deregulation because competition among airlines increased dramatically. And choice is the enemy of monopoly.

It works the same for car manufacturers, lending firms, cable companies, corner grocery stores and dog-walking services. As long as there’s no government to interfere by bestowing bail-outs or creating new regulations, the failing business will do just that: fail – leaving only the most able and profitable companies to serve the consumer in their superior fashion.

And what do you think will happen when true competition finally rules the market and businesses are no longer saddled with ridiculous, draconian and costly taxes and regulations? The prices of goods and services will plummet.

Conversely, the citizens’ disposable income will soar, as all taxes will be a thing of the past and “pay as you go” will rule the day. Only profitable companies will be allowed by the market to exist, and they will compete intensely for their share of the work force, so salaries, wages and benefits will be high across the board. Employees will be rewarded with hefty bonuses for high performance that directly leads to the continued success of the employer. What could be more fair?

WHAT ABOUT PROTECTION FROM BAD BUSINESS PRACTICES?

But how will this absence of government coercion affect the citizen when it comes to protection of the individual? As I mentioned, the seeds of protection are already present. Businesses will provide the required services, and consumers will vote with their dollars. If these businesses fail to deliver what the market wants, they will die. Only those businesses that perform to our liking will survive.

Here is one scenario of how this might work. There are others, but I like this one the best.

Among the government “protections” to go the way of the dinosaur will be privacy laws (as we know them today). If you take advantage of your neighbor, if you prove untrustworthy or capable of practicing violence… in other words, if you commit coercion… everyone will know. That is, everyone who wants to know will know.

How? The power of the Internet, for one thing. Have you heard of Angie’s List? It’s a fancy blog for customers of local service providers. If you hate the job your plumber did unclogging your toilet, you can post a critique of his foul practices online for the world to see. Future potential customers can then avoid doing business with him. He loses more and more customers. Finally, he goes out of business. Problem solved. And you didn’t have to participate in a coercive system (i.e., run screaming and crying to some judge or big-daddy bureaucratic regulatory government body) to teach him a lesson.

Take it one step further. Say that the plumber was wise enough to purchase insurance in case he ever needed to make good on a failed claim to an unhappy customer… a form of malpractice insurance for plumbers. In the above case, the unhappy customer would present a claim to the plumber’s insurer. The insurer would examine the claim, determine its veracity, pay to make it right, and probably raise the plumber’s rates, much like auto insurance companies do today.

If the customer was unhappy with the decision of the insurer – say, if the insurer failed to make sufficient reparations for the plumber’s actions, in the opinion of the customer – the parties could take the case to a private arbitration firm, which would make the final decision.

Naturally, should the insurance company find itself frequently paying sums of money to cover for their client’s bumbling ways, it would not only raise the plumber’s rates, it may even drop him as a client. No insurance company would want to insure a proven inept plumber. And no consumer would want to hire an uninsured plumber. Plumber goes out of business. One more excellent example of the free market policing itself.

Of course, the plumber is not the only party who must watch his Ps and Qs. The insurance company must deal fairly with its plumber-client and his customer, or risk being exposed as a less-than-desirable insurer, thereby risking its own customer base and ultimately its existence. And in turn, the arbitration firm must scrupulously examine and adjudicate the case of the cheapskate insurance firm, lest word spread that ITS performance is substandard. And so forth.

All parties have much at stake, because competition abounds and there are no government bailouts or protections. Reputation, for both the individual citizen and the operating business, will become everything.

GETTING PERSONAL: THE FREE MARKET AND CRIME

Just as there will be no government to protect businesses that deserve to die, there will be no government to protect those individuals who attempt to practice coercion in the form of murder, rape, theft, burglary, fraud, or any of the activities which today are considered illegal. But how would it work?

It’s so charmingly simple.

First, should you suffer an act of coercion, you would begin in much the same way as described above. Except instead of a poorly performing business, you would now, for example, seek arbitration against a thief who has taken your property. If you can prove your case, the thief – or his insurer – pays you a reparation. This already is far more than any victim usually gets in today’s judicial system.

And what about crime prevention and apprehension of the accused? Enter the private security firm. Citizens would contract with private security firms to offer real, competitive, protective services for their homes, families and businesses. They could do this either directly, with the security firm of their choice, or through an insurance company offering full-service packages of financial and personal protection.

For example, let’s say as a homeowner, I decide to insure my property against coercion (theft, destruction, home invasion, vandalism, etc.) as well as against natural destroyers such as fire, flood, and the like. Naturally it would benefit both me and my insurer to protect my property by installing burglar alarms, closed circuit TV monitoring, and even possibly adding patrols by armed officers, employees of the private security firm that’s working with my insurer to control loss. This protection can be easily extended to include not just property but my family’s lives and limbs. Who needs a corrupt and coercive police force when I can rent-a-cop through my insurance plan?

One might even envision an insurer-provided, personal crime alert device, worn somewhere on the body, or even implanted, with GPS tracking, that could be activated upon the infliction of violence. “Help, I’ve been beaten and I can’t get up!” Private security would already be routinely patrolling your area, and upon receiving your distress call would be at your side in no time. Reaction time statistics for each company would be posted on the Internet, so you and your insurer would have the information you needed to pick the right security firm for your needs and situation. Or, whichever security firm was able to get an officer to your side first, that firm would be the one receiving payment for services rendered. When was the last time YOU had two or more POLICE organizations competing for your business?

As we said above, once the accused was apprehended by security officers (assuming the fool tried to escape), you would seek justice through arbitration. If your accusation “sticks” you are either paid by the criminal, his insurance company, or your own… or a combination. Any paying insurance companies, then, would exact reparations from the thief over time. If the thief had no insurance and no job with garnishable wages, the private security firm would perhaps remand custody of the miscreant over to your insurance company, which would pay you for damages and then indenture the thief until his debt was fully paid.

Here is a very important concept. Note that while force may necessarily on occasion become a part of this process, the use of force in this instance is NOT coercion. Force used to correct an act of coercion is not coercion. It is corrective force.

And in this completely transparent, free market society, the need for corrective force will be rare. In the first place, there will be far fewer financially desperate people because the free market will create prosperity in volumes previously unknown – and also because few individuals will be willing to risk apprehension and punishment, as adjudication and reparation will be imposed far more quickly, efficiently and successfully than when the government was in charge. And finally, people will just be plain… well, smarter. Having been educated by a private and competitive school system, they will have learned that a win/lose life is pointless and intolerable.

And such is the way it would be with every facet of our lives. Everything that’s government owned and controlled today would be part of the free market, subject to all the natural laws of free market economics.

GEE, IT SOUNDS GREAT, BUT REALLY EXPENSIVE!

But where will the money come from to pay for all of the newly privatized products and services once the politicians are run out of town? Well… where is it coming from now? Today a hefty chunk of your income is wrested from you every working year, in the form of state and federal income taxes. Then there’s sales tax, the tax which most of us forget we pay daily because we are so used to it. And don’t forget estate tax. Capital gains tax. Corporate tax, the tax that taxes you twice. And finally, the most unfair tax of all: property tax. You mortgage the next 20 to 30 years of your life for a home to live in, and then the government extorts thousands of dollars from you every year until you die, simply because you own that home. Simply because it CAN. And it does this long after your house is fully paid for: it taxes your property for as long as you own it. And should you not be able to pay your property tax, what happens? The government takes your property away from you.

When it comes to property taxes, it doesn’t matter whether or not you have kids that go to public school. You pay regardless. Even if you do have kids, your kids will only be in public school for 12 years. So chances are excellent that for the major portion of your lifetime your property taxes will go toward educating someone else’s kids.

And whether it’s your kids or someone else’s, they are ALL being trained by government employees to endure, inflict and spread coercion against themselves and others by obeying, supporting and participating in political government. They are being taught, as were you, that this is the only way.

By the way, when all is said and done, would you care to know the total percentage of your income you are coerced into paying each year in the form of taxes – all taxes – assuming you are an above-average income earner in the US? It’s an astounding 61%… and more!

HOW DO WE MAKE IT ALL HAPPEN?

This is all well and good, you say, but this is so radically different from the system we have now, the free market you advocate will never be allowed to come into existence. This is too impractical a solution.

My answer to this is that Rome wasn’t built in a day, either. It happened over time. So can this. We are in the early stages of transformation. I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that right now, the most important and practical thing we can do is simply get the word out about win/lose versus Win/Win. This is a time of awakening.

We do NOT advocate violent overthrow of government in order to bring to reality the non-coercive, free market society we envision. We DO advocate teaching our kids to think critically, for themselves, at an early age, and never to view such phrases as “Because I said so,” and “Because we’ve always done it this way,” and “It’s what God wants,” as acceptable answers to their questions. We advocate treating our children like people and not property; teaching them the golden rule and explaining why it is so imperative in achieving a state of non-coercion, of voluntarism. And we advocate modeling for them the kind of thoughtful, self-interested, non-coercive behavior we want them to exhibit. We also need to talk with each other about these issues, as I am doing now with you. If enough of us understand that a Win/Win world is the way to go, the change will eventually be achieved non-coercively, through societal evolution.

It won’t be easy or quick. But if we truly want to eliminate suffering, violence, fraud and poverty, we must give Win/Win a try.

How could the results be worse than the coercion we suffer today?

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Nearly all of the thoughts that I have shared here did not spring original from my brain. Private citizens, philosophers, economists and a few social scientists (there are not many TRUE social scientists) have been thinking about, discussing and teaching these topics for years. Below I offer a woefully incomplete listing of individuals and works that have helped pioneer and develop this thinking, in the event you’d like to learn more.

Finally, I would like to sincerely and deeply thank Dr. Norman Imberman, for exposing me to these concepts which have fundamentally and forever changed the way in which I think about the world.


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