Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Respecting the Rich, Then and Now

I noted some time ago that the correct interpretation of a certain well-known passage from the Bible seems to me to be not that it is particularly difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, but that it is difficult even for the rich. Hence the astonished: "Who then can be saved?" This appears to imply that the rich were held in high esteem among the disciples (also in a spiritual sense), and at no point does Jesus oppose this view.

Here is another historical remark on the general perception of the wealthy, this time more unambiguous in its conclusions:

"It is sufficient for the present purpose to observe in general, that power and riches commonly cause respect, poverty and meanness contempt, though particular views and incidents may sometimes raise the passions of envy and of pity."
- David Hume, "An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals"

I would risk saying that a more accurate claim would be: "It is sufficient for the present purpose to observe in general, that power and riches commonly cause envy, poverty and meanness pity, though particular views and incidents may sometimes raise the passions of respect and of contempt." Was Hume mistaken in his observation, or is it possible that it is only since the mid to late 19th century that the world has been infected with the Marxist virus of unqualified, envious hatred towards the prosperous and successful? Or, on a hopeful note, perhaps reality is not quite as bleak as I see it in this regard?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Contract is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength

It will probably never cease to amaze me that people of all kinds of political persuasions so eagerly and so easily buy into the practice of describing the voluntary, contractual society as "atomistic", "individualistic", "egocentric" or "selfish", while at the same time describing the society based on the divisive principle of coercive wealth transfers and the parasitic principle of making successful entrepreneurs into expendable milk cows as "cohesive", "brotherly", "compassionate" and "caring".

If there is a perfect example of how unabashed propaganda, unreflective repetition, wishful ignorance or subconscious self-deceit can usher into existence and keep in circulation even the most flagrant Orwellianisms, then I suppose it has to be it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Mundane Idea of Individual Liberty

If "ideological thinking" is to be defined as concerned with grand, comprehensive sociopolitical visions, which aim at assigning everyone a role in the all-encompassing "social organism", then libertarianism, with its basic, almost self-evident precepts, known to most of us since our sandbox days - keep your mitts to yourself, don't punch others, don't grab other people's stuff, live and let live - appears to be as non-ideological as any such precepts can be.

And, if "ideological thinking" is to defined as largely based on utopian fantasizing, then it seems to me that libertarianism qualifies as the voice of the most mundane and platitudinous common sense, consistent with our most ordinary notions of interpersonal decency. Incidentally, the same applies on the intellectual level to the school of positive economic theorizing that most libertarians subscribe to.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Very Short Q&A on Money, Banking and the Great Recession

Q: Why do states and their clients in the banking sector demand control of the money supply?

A: Because it allows them to:
1. Engage in the inflationary redistribution (taxation without legislation) of the purchasing power of money in their own direction.
2. Monetize (inflate away) their debts.
3. Create credit out of thin air and be paid interest on nothing.
4. Push taxpayers into higher income tax brackets by increasing their nominal (but not real) income.

Q: What are the side effects of initiating and sustaining the above processes?

A: 1. Falsification of economic calculation (inability to compare profits and losses of engaging in any given business activity).
2. Discouragement from saving (and thereby from healthy investment, savings being the source of sustainable business credit).
3. Continual erosion of real incomes.
4. Distortions in the capital structure (malinvestments) leading to boom-bust cycles.

Q: Do the above explanations account for the emergence of the current "Great Recession"?

A: Yes.

Q: What should be done in order to get out of it as quickly as possible?

A: 1. The free enterprise profit-and-loss system should be allowed to bankrupt the insolvent banks and restructure their debts by auctioning off their assets and/or turning them into managed mutual funds.
2. Ditto for the insolvent governments.
3. No new money should be printed and/or created in the form of virtual bookkeeping entries (in order not to sustain the processes described in the answers to the first two questions).
4. Debts and deficits should be decreased.
5. No "government investments" should be undertaken, since these are necessarily at best zero-sum games, unconstrained by the proft-and-loss strictures, and would further drain the vital forces of the already weakened private, wealth-generating entrepreneurship.
6. Prices and wages should be allowed to fall to pre-boom levels (or even lower) in order to reflect the post-boom scarcities of goods, re-enable sound economic calculation to occur and allow the labor force misallocated during the boom period to be re-absorbed into the labor market.
7. Saving should be encouraged in order to allow efficient, but politically unconnected entrepreneurs to access the credit needed to reallocate the malinvested capital to the uses consistent with consumer preferences (especially time preferences).

Q: What should be done in order not to allow such recessions to happen again?

1. Legal tender laws should be repealed.
2. Central banks should be abolished.
3. Taxes on commodities trading should be eliminated so that commodities might regain their position as sound monies.
4. Competitive currency issuance should be allowed.
5. Governmental bailouts should be prohibited.

Q: Have the above solutions been tried and found effective?

A: Yes, they were followed during the most economically prosperous periods of human history. The spectacular economic downturns of the 20th and early 21st century, including the Great Depression, the stagflation of the 1970s, the Dot-com Bubble, and the current Great Recession, are the result of moving away from them over the last 100 years.

The Organic Order of the Web

It is encouraging to see how widespread and univocal the protests against the so-called "anti-piracy agreements" are. It is uplifting to see how everyone seems to realize that the creative power, the spontaneous beauty and the unparalleled efficiency of the Internet consists precisely in the fact that it approximates a pure free market community more than anything else. We all know this, we have all experienced this, and that is why we realize what it would mean to lose it.

Perhaps most importantly, we realize not only that we do not need any "Internet police" or any "Internet regulatory office", but also that any attempts to expand the competences of the would-be organizations of this sort are immediately going to be countered by the spontaneous efforts of cyber vigilantes (the so-called "hackers"), thereby creating a huge positive externality for the global community of Internet users (with nobody calling for its "internalization").

The hopeful bottom line of all this is the following - if the Internet continues to exist in its present, largely libertarian form for the foreseeable future, while playing an ever more prominent role in our everyday lives, then at some point it might dawn on its users at large that when it comes to the preconditions for their smooth, effective and socially beneficial operation, there are no essential differences between the virtual reality and the "real" reality. And then the nov-violent protests we are witnessing nowadays might successfully spread into more tangible realms.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bastiatian Thought Experiment No. 3

Imagine a world whose inhabitants generally, if not always consciously, believe that the whole of morality boils down to a single precept - size matters - from which it follows that an act of robbery committed by a few becomes an act of social virtue when committed by many, that an act of counterfeiting performed by an individual becomes an act of financial prudence when performed by an "institution", and that an act of murder committed by a person becomes an act of heroism when committed by "society". Now ask yourself a question: how would such a world look like and how would it differ from our world?

Pogadanka o kryzysach i przedsiębiorczości

Moja pogadanka na temat zależności między kryzysami gospodarczymi a zjawiskiem przedsiębiorczości, przedstawiona 5 stycznia na spotkaniu wrocławskiego Klubu Austriackiej Szkoły Ekonomii. Zachęcam do pozostawania na bieżąco z działalnością tego i innych klubów ASE.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Market Failure

Institutional apparatuses of violence, aggression and coercion never tire of confiscating the hard-earned profits of entrepreneurs, ordering them to comply with thousands of mutually contradictory regulations, disallowing them to produce a host of commodities that their clients eagerly want to obtain, disadvantaging them by granting subsidies and monopolistic privileges to their corporatist cronies, and branding them traitors of society and inciting others to hate them whenever they attempt to salvage more of the fruits of their labor. And then, having succeeded in breaking their spirits, sapping their energy and killing their charitable instincts, they triumphantly proclaim the long list of things that entrepreneurship and private effort apparently cannot accomplish.

In view of the above, I ask all people of good will to recoil from giving any credence whatsoever to the propaganda of "market failure", "entrepreneurial inefficiency" and "private inadequacy". The ultimate way to prevent the institutional apparatuses of violence from overcoming the collective action problem (and it needs to be admitted that they are very good at it) is to utterly stop believing their mythology and start really acting on this disbelief. The only true reason why a free society might fail is that so many have been brainwashed to believe that it will.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ten Popular, But Not So Self-Evident Claims

Below is a list of ten claims often made in the mainstream press that are usually presented as more or less self-evident. More specifically, claims 1-3 are the province of those normally identified or self-identifying as "the Left", claims 4-6 the province of those normally identified or self-identifying as "the Right", and claims 7-10 the province of both.

I list them here in order to emphasize that, at least as far as I am concerned, far from being self-evident, they are actually in dire need of rational justification, and, despite what I would like to think of as my ongoing, honest attempt to find one, I am so far not aware of any. Here is the full list:

1. Wealth inequality is inherently bad.
2. The moral status of a given claim depends on the number of claimants.
3. Discrimination in one's private space is not a right.

4. Contingent cultural factors can generate objective and enforceable duties.
5. Institutional permanence usually implies moral worth.
6. Sacrificing oneself for a collective construct can be an act of heroism.

7. There is such a thing as noble coercion.
8. In the area of social service provision, coercion is the ultimate guarantee of success.
9. Order in society is a function of organized violence.
10. Self-sacrifice is a moral virtue.

I do not intend to suggest here whether any of these claims is true or false. What I do intend to suggest instead is that none of them can be accepted at face value, if only for the reason that defiance is the intellectual self-preservation instinct.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Irreducible Holism

In this paper I would like to explore some issues surrounding ontological reduction, as advocated by the friends of physicalism, and its relation to conceptual reduction, which the said persons generally seem to eschew. It is my intention, and my hope, that the remarks contained herein will shed some new light on those scientific and philosophical programmes that include ontological reduction as one of their foundational assumptions. More specifically, I want to hint at certain general methodological and ethical implications of the research projects (both in the natural sciences and in the philosophy of mind) that aspire to explain the nature of complex phenomena within a physicalist setting, and offer their brief analysis.

Furthermore, I am going to argue against the feasibility of an all-reaching physicalist framework for accomplishing the abovementioned task by attempting to show that a certain set of concepts bridges the ostensible gap between ontological and conceptual reduction; these concepts, which I shall call „irreducibly holistic‟, appear to me to be unamenable to a physicalist treatment in which the metaphysical and semantic components are supposed to be clearly separable. Within the ambit of irreducible holism, as I shall argue, ontological and conceptual reduction are inextricably bound together, hence if the latter is impossible, then so is the former; and since I take irreducibly holistic concepts to be insusceptible to conceptual reduction, physicalism with respect to them (and thus physicalism per se) turns out to be untenable.

[Read More]

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dlaczego (obecna) strefa euro chyba jednak pęknie

Odpowiedź twierdząca co do znacznego prawdopodobieństwa pęknięcia strefy euro w jej obecnym kształcie wynika z eliminacji wszystkich głównych alternatyw jako mniej prawdopodobnych.

Jeśli długi świńskiej strefy zostaną zmonetyzowane, deficytowo-dłużna pokusa nadużycia zostanie usztywniona, a wynikająca z niej monetarna tragedia wspólnoty jeszcze ściślej zinstytucjonalizowana. Innymi słowy, tymczasowe "zażegnanie" obecnego kryzysu długu przygotuje jedynie grunt pod nadejście kryzysu jeszcze głębszego i szerszego, a obietnice zaostrzenia dyscypliny fiskalnej i budżetowej wewnątrz UE okażą się bezsilnym pustosłowiem. Zwieńczeniem serii tego rodzaju kryzysów musiałoby być otwarte bankructwo strefy euro, bankructwo nie wprost (hiperinflacja), lub usunięcie ze strefy euro grupy świńskiej, a następnie bankructwo tejże.

Czy ten ostatni scenariusz nie pozwoliłby przetrwać eurowalucie w zmniejszonym, "odpowiedzialnym" gronie? Może by pozwolił, ale, po pierwsze, oznaczałoby to odrzucenie ambicji polityczno-gospodarczych UE w ich obecnej formie, a po drugie - biorąc pod uwagę fakt, że z czysto gospodarczego punktu widzenia politycznie nieustosunkowani obywatele krajów-płatników UE w dłuższej perspektywie raczej stracili, niż zyskali - z dużym prawdopodobieństwem nastąpiłaby wówczas w obrębie tegoż grona duża presja społeczna na powrót do silnych walut narodowych (albo czegoś lepszego, ale o tym za chwilę).

Jak wreszcie rokowałby scenariusz, w którym Bruksela skutecznie wymusza dyscyplinę budżetową krajów członkowskich i z sukcesem przeprowadza projekt "integracji fiskalnej"? Biorąc pod uwagę, że wiązałoby się to z rozszerzeniem mocno etatystycznej polityki fiskalnej na cały obszar UE (w tym przede wszystkim na kraje, których przewagą komparatywną jest stosunkowo większa wolność gospodarcza), jak również de facto z odrzuceniem w ramach UE panującego w świecie przez ponad 100 lat modelu "państwa narodowego", rezultatem mógłby być wybuch potężnej niechęci społecznej w większości krajów członkowskich do dalszego pozostawania takowymi. Dość wspomnieć, że na przestrzeni ostatnich dwóch lat stosunek medialnego głównego nurtu do eurowaluty i samej UE zmienił się z bezkrytycznej czołobitności w asekuracyjny dystans. To samo stało się z ich ogólnie rozumianym odbiorem społecznym. A jako że zjawisko pod nazwą "państwo narodowe" występuje powszechnie w świecie od ponad 100 lat, podczas gdy zjawisko pod nazwą "waluta w pełni fiducjarna" od jedynie 40 (a "w pełni fiducjarna waluta unijna" od raptem 10), za bardziej prawdopodobne od politycznej sterylizacji państw narodowych uważam przywrócenie w gospodarce światowej standardu kruszcowego (nawet jeśli jedynie w formie Bretton Woods bis), co również jest nie do pogodzenia z przetrwaniem strefy euro w jej obecnym kształcie.

Więc, summa summarum, jednak się nie kręci. Co było do okazania.