A response to the "Occupy Movement"

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Why I'm no longer a Democrat...

In responding to recent posts and comments from Randy Crutcher, Parke Bostrom and Don Allen, I first reiterate that with Entrepreneurial Humanism and Fractal Economics I'm not trying to create yet another ideology for debate.

I'm trying to get as quickly as possible to a level of consensus on principals held in common that makes effective action possible, and I'm willing to take seriously any plans or structures that might work better than the ones I'm proposing.

What I'm hoping is that, at some point, this dialog will move from critiquing bits and pieces we question or don't agree with to something like "Okay, there's more I agree with than disagree with here, and it could conceivably work. What would the next step look like?"

I read all of Matt Stoller's piece "Why Ron Paul Challenges Liberals", and found more there that I agree with than don't. I think his fingering of long standing Liberal/Dem ties to war financing and centralized control are right on the money, and Obama is acting them out as clearly as I can imagine possible.

I've had it with supporting tax & spend government as the answer for virtually all social problems, and I've had it with the Democrat-enabled war, torture, assassination and imprisonment machine. (Look at this Glen Greenwald piece if you have the stomach for it...)

But I'm also not in support of some Conservative/Libertarian rhetoric that goes something like "If we just close down all the social programs and get the Gummint the hell out of the way of a free, unregulated market right across the board, everything will turn out fine."

I think that Americans have been too long in the thrall of push-based consumerism, as well as Big Daddy government, to be able to cope with true freedom (including the freedom to fail catastrophically,) and all the responsibilities that go with it, delivered in one fell swoop.

I think we must first undergo a period of building the 'muscles' of personal integrity and effective cooperation while weaning ourselves from government aid and corporate/government control of the marketplace.

That's why I'm pushing the principles of Fractal Economics and an American Consumers Union, because it would give us some kind of framework for building those muscles - both individually and as a community.

I also see this as an implicit answer to Randy and Parke's challenges of the "Buy American" thing.

No, I don't advocate buying American made stuff, regardless of its quality or the integrity of its manufacturing process, simply because its American and we're the good guys so it must be the right thing.

But I do see it as a place to start, an opportunity to cooperate across long standing ideological boundaries, to make enough of a difference in our economy that we can actually see and document that difference, and to use our cooperation and its results as the basis of further cooperation in advancing a common set of values - all within the existing market structure, and without passing laws forcing other folks to do likewise.

I'm calling this conscious mutual acculturation - the process of starting with a set of common principles, putting those principles into action, documenting the results, and using this documentation to support more action which, over time, changes the fundamental fabric of the culture in which we live.

It may also be a response to Don's theme (my term) of "We can only change ourselves."

My view is yes, we can only change ourselves, and yes, when we change ourselves (e.g., our buying habits, our willingness to act for something beyond our own convenience,) in conscious cooperation with other selves, we create changes in our world that support and compound our individual efforts.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Of sparrows and empires

[I sent the below letter to the local paper, but I figured Bob might also want to post it here. I found Obama's press conference comment to be remarkably honest.]

In 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney's wife chose the following quote for their annual Christmas card: "If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"

Asked about the quote, Cheney said: "It did not refer, or should not be taken as some kind of indication, that the United States today sees itself as an empire."

Donald Rumsfeld said: "We don't do empire. We're not imperialistic. We never have been. I can't imagine why you'd even ask the question."

It appears President Obama is not as timid as Cheney and Rumsfeld when it comes to describing America's future role in world affairs. On Thursday January 6, Obama became the first U.S. President to hold a press conference at the Pentagon. He said the following:

"Over the past 10 years, since 9/11, our defense budget grew at an extraordinary pace. Over the next 10 years, the growth in the defense budget will slow, but the fact of the matter is this: It will still grow, because we have global responsibilities that demand our leadership. In fact, the defense budget will still be larger than it was toward the end of the Bush administration. And I firmly believe, and I think the American people understand, that we can keep our military strong and our nation secure with a defense budget that continues to be larger than roughly the next 10 countries combined."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Various comments and reactions

I have had various reactions to recent postings. I am not sure if these reactions could be organized into a single piece of prose, and I have not had the time to try, so instead I have collected them into a list.

Bob [wrote]: "I truly believe that we must come to grips with the basic human conflict of individual vs. collective good."

Can you provide an example of this conflict that involves neither externalities nor charity? (Regulating externalities being a proper function of government, and providing charity being a proper function of a free [non-governmental] society.)

Bob: "Reaching the point where enough people have resolved this conflict to create a culture of cooperation will, in my belief, be as great a leap in human evolution as the emergence and success of the Cro-Magnon brain that replaced the Neanderthal brain."

Or, to quote John Adams: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Or Benjamin Franklin: "[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."

More [albeit mostly religious] quotes here:


Bob: "I believe that the workable answer to the corporate capitalism/fascism we have today is "fractal economics": an economy based on small to mid-sized businesses applying a common set of ethics and principles, operated by employers and employees who are applying these same principles in their daily lives, and serving a customer base also applying these principles in the use of their purchasing power."

Shades of the yeoman farmer? (As also noted by Randy Crutcher.)




Tangentially, what would a fractal national defense policy look like? Hint, read the first half of the Second Amendment.

Bob: "The push-based market is dominated by corporations dedicated to generating profit without regard to the impact on human beings and the world in which humans live."

The push-based market is dominated by consumers who buy products that are marketed and sold in a push-based manner.

Bob: "I propose that we call the parent organization the American Consumers Union, the local affiliate the Humboldt Consumers Union, and that we create and copyright/trademark logos for them right away. [...] This phase of fractal economics is less thought-through in my own mind, but it starts with a trademarked/copyrighted logo and mission statement."

Are copyright and trademark appropriate tools to use in a fractal economy, or are they instead the tools of a hierarchical, top-down power structure ("thou shalt not!")?

Bob: "I also agree that the Federal Reserve is really private enterprise masquerading as "government for the people by the people". I think the whole system of government creating debt (bonds) out of thin air, then creating more debt by borrowing money against them at interest from banks is the greatest and longest-running con game in American history."

But if we get rid of the Federal Reserve System, how will the government create jobs, stimulate the economy and wage war?

More here:


Don Allen: "The first three are sublimely interconnected and are the key to all effective social change. (1) There’s a perceived difference (Bob says "conflict") between our notions of individual and collective good; (2) The resolution of this difference necessarily happens within the individual – i.e., it can’t happen anywhere else than within the individual; and (3) In order to resolve this conflict, the individual must redefine (for oneself) such terms as "peace, prosperity, well-being and contentment."

This resolution does not necessarily happen "within the individual" (although I believe it should happen within the individual). In my opinion, the crux of the problems we face today is that government is resolving (or trying to resolve) these problems that should be resolved at the individual level. (Perhaps this is what Don meant.)

On job relocation vs. job creation:

Bob: "For example, with a loyal customer and disciplined customer base, ultra-efficient cars could be produced using parts from relatively small contractors, assembled in relatively small local/regional plants, and pre-sold to customers who know exactly what they want."

As I watched it, the primary message of the "Made in America" video (and there were lessor messages as well) was that buying American made products would create jobs in America at an acceptable cost.

It might be worth pointing out the difference between creating jobs and relocating them. Why should I relocate a job from overseas by buying American made products? Perhaps one product is higher quality, or lower cost, or manufactured in a more eco-conscious manner. And those are all good reasons to prefer one product to another, regardless of where the products are made. But I don't see any inherent reason (unless one subscribes to the religion of nationalism) to prefer domestically manufactured products. For example, a great deal of military hardware is manufactured in America. Does that mean that that military hardware is inherently good?

At the same time, if other people choose to voluntarily purchase products made in a certain location, I support their right to make that choice for whatever reason, even if I do not agree with their reasons. Similarly, I oppose government barriers to international trade.

Randy: "What is most interesting to me about this is not so much the nationalism of 'Made in America' but the fact that people are passionate enough about their nails to make them so they won't jam in the nail gun. [...] Those businesses with a passion for quality, energy efficiency and proud and happy workers will be the winners wherever they are located."

Bob: "I agree with [Randy's] comments here and on the 'Made in America' post about passion as an essential ingredient of a new economy (rather than trying to patch and whitewash the old one.)"

As Bob and I discussed earlier, government does two things. It forces people to perform certain actions, and it forces them not to perform certain other actions. It is difficult to be passionate when your actions are forced.

On totalitarianism:

Bob: "When the 'Bad Guys' hold people indefinitely without charges, without counsel, we call it totalitarianism."

I've heard the following definition of "totalitarian": A government is totalitarian not when it controls everything, but when it believes that it could control anything it wanted to, if it wanted to. The Bill of Rights defines clear limitations on the power of government, yet those limits are sadly ignored by our government and our society. When you look at indefinite detention (basically the suspension of habeas corpus), and numerous other laws coming out of D.C. (or Sacramento) it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we live in a totalitarian society, where for any given societal problem, most politicians believe there is a legislative solution. Habeas corpus was the only liberty that was secured in the original Constitition prior to the adoption of the Bill of Rights. And Congress and the president just suspended it.