Episode 284 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: how simple and cheap it is to start your very own podcast on the Everything-Voluntary.com podcast network; an article he wrote in July 2018 titled, “People Leave if They Can, And You’re People“; humanity’s history of migration; why you should leave if your environment becomes intolerable; and more.Continue Reading
Penn Jillette shared some fascinating insight recently. Do we not have a natural propensity to be deeply affected by the emotions experienced and portrayed by others right in front of us? Do we not want to either reach out and hold them, to soothe them or on the other end, to smile and to dance with them? Imagine the ability to view someone suffer, in some great way, perhaps someone you know, from behind a sound-proof one-way mirror. Our empathy would be barred, stunted. What if I told you that from an early age we are trained and conditioned to repress this natural propensity due to this barrier? Assuming this is the case, what effect does this have on us as empathetic creatures? Now, you might be wondering what in the world I am talking about. I am talking about something that humanity never experienced until the last century. I am talking about the emergence of witnessing other people’s grief or happiness and not having any responsibility for sharing in it. Never before have human beings witnessed other people’s emotions that were not right in front of them, that is, not until the invention of video recording devices and the creation of cinema. That’s something to think about, and today’s two cents.Continue Reading
I just returned from my Panama Canal cruise. Reflections:
1. As I’ve mentioned before, cruises are in one sense a great test case for open borders. Workers from all over the world come together to run one some of the world’s most sophisticated technology and please some of the world’s most demanding customers. Most of the workers’ lives are harsh by First World standards but great by Third World standards. And wherever they’re from, the staff work together like Prussian officers. It’s a marvel of multinational management.
2. As I’ve also mentioned, though, the entire cruise industry also depends on immigration restrictions. Cruising is affordable because labor costs are very low by First World standards. Under open borders, these well-trained, highly motivated maritime workers would take advantage of the far better job opportunities available on dry land, drastically raising the price of cruising.
3. If you’ve ever wondered if capitalism is turning human beings into machines, taking a cruise will feed your fears. The cabin stewards, for example, spend 10-12 hours a day making every room on their watch spotless. Then they disappear into the lightness belly of the ship, re-emerging the next day to begin their duties again. An occasional shore leave aside, they work seven days a week.
4. If you’ve ever wondered if cosmopolitanism can really function, taking a cruise will feed your hope. Filipinos, Mexicans, Ukrainians, Romanians, Jamaicans, Chinese, Brazilians, and dozens of other nationalities don’t just “get along.” They show more team spirit than any American workforce I’ve seen.
5. Modern American politics vanish on a cruise ship. There’s zero social justice rhetoric or attitude to be found; passengers and crew all take severe inequality for granted. You might think that’s because the customers are demographically Republican, but there’s also zero nativist rhetoric or attitude to be found. Elderly American Republican guests interact amicably with foreigners of every description. There’s no sign that they’re “making an effort” to overcome their xenophobia; they just apolitically accept the cosmopolitan world that surrounds them. The cruise culture runs on good manners and shared humanity, not identity politics. And yes, you really can turn the identity volume dial close to zero – which is where it belongs.
6. What does the crew think about global development in general, or immigration restrictions in particular? I didn’t want to make them uncomfortable, so I didn’t ask… but their actions speak louder than words. I’d guess that 90% of the workers originate from the Third World. The fact that they’ve left their home countries behind to serve spoiled First Worlders is a deafening vote of no confidence in their societies of birth. And when I see the this massive ship running like clockwork, it’s easy to see the wisdom of their decision. Business isn’t perfect, but it far more deserving of their admiration and loyalty than the demagogic governments they’ve left behind.Continue Reading
Why be good?
People have spilled a lot of ink on this one. And there are countless bad arguments (“god commands it!” or “society says so!”) as well as more good arguments than you might guess.
Some are pretty simple – and while they aren’t full, rigorous systematic answers to the problem of “why” in morality, they’re useful heuristics for getting through life.
You might consider being good, for instance, because you want to be able to see the good in the other humans you interact with.
It’s pretty obvious that we project our own worst attributes onto others. As C.S. Lewis noted regarding vices like pride:
“. . .the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.”
The same goes for any of the traditional vices: greed tends to cast the world in a greedy light, hate in hateful light, and so on. Your experience of the world will be cast in the light you create.*
Fortunately, you’ll have also noticed that you tend to also see the virtues in others (courage, generosity, honesty, etc.) when you have been virtuous yourself. And no one can deny that it’s strongly in our self-interest to hope for these things in our fellow humans and in the world we live in.
Remember when you helped that poor person, visited that sick person, comforted that lonely person? I doubt you went out afterwards seeing more of the badness in humanity and the world. We control our experience of life and program it with our actions, so we benefit by choosing to cast clear light.
Again, not a full answer by any means to the philosophical question of morality. But then, maybe the question is not as complicated as the philosophers think. Self-interest tends to justify itself, and there is plenty of self-interest on the side of the virtues.Continue Reading
As I’ve already written, politics swims downstream from culture. Change the culture, change politics. What does culture swim downstream from? Only that which has any effect at changing it: renegade behavior. Culture maintains primarily on tradition. When traditional memes are challenged by renegades, they either survive and persist, or perish. To be a renegade is to push against cultural boundaries both in words and in actions. Thaddeus Russell is correct, we have the renegades of the past to thank for all the political and cultural freedoms we enjoy today. The best way to thank these benefactors of humanity is to join them. Become the renegades that will change your culture, your political environment, and ultimately the course of history. And that’s today’s two cents.Continue Reading
Among the numerous fallacies embraced by socialism, one of the most notable is completely ignoring the value of investment and risk. Socialists love to talk about the value of “labor” and how profit is made on the backs of “labor,” but they ignore the fundamentals of human nature and of how the market actually works.
Labor doesn’t invest in building a widget factory. Labor doesn’t take the risk of widgets going out of style or being supplanted by something new in the market. Labor doesn’t pay for health and safety inspections. Labor doesn’t take the hit of depreciation.
Labor is paid first, before any profit is seen. Labor loses nothing when the factory burns down. Labor makes no investments and takes no risks, and therefore labor is not entitled to share in the reward. Labor makes a direct trade of time and skill for money. Beyond that, labor has no claim on the possible profits which a capitalist’s investment and risk may generate.
To be a laborer rather than a capitalist is a choice. It is a safe choice in which risk is traded for certainty and the possibility of profit is traded for the guarantee of wages. Most people are both laborers and capitalists. We engage in some direct trades of time and skill for money but we also make investments—be it in the stock market, bonds, cryptocurrencies, or even a loan (with interest) to a friend or neighbor.
Profit is not earned through labor. Wages are earned through labor. Profit is earned through investment and risk. The socialist sees this as unfair, but the socialist cannot explain why anyone would undertake a risky investment if there were no possibility of profit. Instead, the socialist is forced to embrace central planning as an alternative to all the productivity of the free market.
The socialist would have “the state” take on all the risk of investment in industry, infrastructure, research and development, and all other such things and then selflessly distribute the profits it will theoretically generate to the people—the laborers—regardless of what role or lack thereof they played in the generation of said profits.
What could possibly go wrong?
Everything, as it turns out. Unlike capitalists, who regularly fail, go bankrupt, and lose everything, the state cannot afford to take such significant risks. The state lacks the motivation of the capitalist and so it recoils when faced with the same odds at which the capitalist would jump. Even if one ignores the corruption and inefficiency which are endemic to all states, the state is just too risk averse to make meaningful gains in any sectors where it has primacy.
The possibility of profit is what makes investment and risk worthwhile. Without it, there is no incentive for investment and risk, and without investment and risk, there is no societal advancement, no innovation, and no wealth creation. People aren’t going to risk their resources unless the reward for doing so outweighs the risk. That’s basic human nature.
Contrary to what you may have heard, socialism doesn’t “work on paper” any better than it works in practice. It just doesn’t work, period. Attempting to remove profit from human existence removes the motivation which drives humanity to improve itself. Even if socialism didn’t fail catastrophically (as it always has when put into practice), it would, at best, still lead to the devolution of mankind as productivity ground to a halt. That’s not a future anyone should advocate.Continue Reading