Archives for category: freedom

My previous post was about the parallel fate endured by those who had experienced nazism/fascism and/or communism.

My point being that nazism/fascism had been powered by the feelings of those attempting to regain their previous, higher, status while communism had been powered by the feelings of those not allowed to ‘move forward’ by the social constraints paralyzing their societies.

Currently, people are ‘confused’.
Some say communism had been better than nazism – for various reasons.
Others find various excuses for the way both regimes had treated the general population and, mainly, the ‘dissidents’. Or, specially for the nazi, the ‘differents’.
There is, though, a convergence point. Nominally, at least. All sides declaratively abhor the violence employed by both regimes.

To add to the confusion, after the 2007 financial meltdown, more and more ‘concerned individuals’ have fingered capitalism as the main culprit for all the tragedies experienced by humankind in the last century and a half.

For me, this is the straw which will break the camel’s back.

Nazism/fascism – which is nothing but a ‘condensed’ form of corporatism, is bad.
Communism – a similarly centralized manner of social decision making, only differently sold to differently feeling masses, is also bad.
Capitalism – a decentralized manner of resource allocation, is considered to be more or less equivalent to both nazism/fascism and communism. All three of them have been declared equally criminal…

Then what?
What are we to do next? Hang ourselves in despair?
Reheat either fascism or communism?

Or look forward than our own noses?

Both those who had followed Hitler and Lenin/Stalin were feeling desperate. Desperation drives you to do stupid things. And there are plenty of unscrupulous people willing to profit from this kind of situations.

Do we really want to prevent ‘unpleasant’ experiences?
Then we need to go beyond blaming the likes of Hitler and Lenin/Stalin.
They should be dealt what’s rightfully theirs, no doubt about that.
But we also need to make sure that the ‘run of the mill’, the ordinary people who make things work in this world, no longer feel desperate.

How to do that?
Taking into account that contemporary capitalism seems to be faltering?

What was the common thing between nazism/fascism and communism?
The fact that decision making was concentrated in a very small number of hands? Which had led to both regimes ending up in abysmal failure?

What is the apparently unstoppable trend in our contemporary societies?
The apparently unstoppable wealth polarization?

Then let’s tax ourselves out … America worked fine during the ’50s and ’60, when the highest marginal tax was 91%…
Yeah, only those years had been followed by stagflation.
And let me remind you that communism can also be interpreted as ‘100% tax followed by a comprehensive redistribution’. And it also failed.

Then how about ‘libertarianism’? No taxes, no government…

But how about less extremism? Of any kind?

How about remembering that liberal capitalism has made possible all that we have today? Liberal as in free-market capitalism, of course.

Free market as in competition working both ways.
Entrepreneurs competing among themselves for clients AND resources. The workforce being, of course, a resource.
The ‘compensated’ workforce representing the bulk of the clients…

What we seem to have forgotten today is that the circle must be round. If we want the ‘show to go on’, of course.

If some of us concentrate too much control over the rest of us – either way, the circle becomes lopsided. And everybody has everything to loose.

No matter whether this happens as a consequence of nazism/fascism, communism or even capitalism.

At least, capitalism has proved to be manageable.
Let’s make it work, again.

Until we discover something better, of course.

“Please” is an attempt to maximize your chances to get something.
“Thank you” is an attempt to maximize your chances at ‘second helpings’.
“I’m sorry” is an attempt to ‘reconnect’ after committing a ‘blunder’.

All of them, simultaneously, serve the individual uttering them and knit the community.

But there’s something which sets one of them apart.
While “please” and “thank you’ are ‘upfront’, “I’m sorry” has a more ‘hidden’ nature. And is a lot less used…

Both “please” and “thank you” have a very clear message. “I want/am grateful for something’ and ‘I acknowledge the fact that I cannot function/exist by myself’.

“I’m sorry” is far more complex and a lot less upfront.
‘I acknowledge not only that something went wrong but also that I have anything to do with the occurrence’. And ‘please do not banish me for what I have done’!

If we dig deeper, we’ll find some more ‘intricacies’.

“Please” and “Thank you” are ‘face to face’. You know what you want/are grateful for and by uttering them you transmit that information to your audience. Those who might fulfill your wishes or have already done that.

“I’m sorry” identifies you as the ‘culprit’. Or, even worse, tells the ‘victim’ that something nasty is going to happen.

It is here that things become really interesting.
Conscience is a function. A feature which helps the individual. To survive and to thrive. In order to do that, conscience must – first and foremost, to take care of itself. To protect and cherish itself. More about how it does that in my next posts. The point of the present one being that is far easier for ‘conscience’ to ‘please’ and ‘thank’ rather than to ‘apologize’.

First of all, ‘gratification’.
1.0 versus 2.0.
Getting what you want/need versus avoiding punishment.
Which is never as direct.

The ‘buried head’ fallacy.
‘What if/maybe they never find out’?
‘Who did it’ or even that it had happened at all …

The ‘I cannot afford to appear weak’ fallacy.
Or the ‘I cannot afford to accept having been wrong’ situation.

That’s why it is far easier to say ‘I’m sorry’ after stepping on somebody’s toe than to leave a sorry note on somebody’s windshield after denting their fender in an unsupervised parking lot.
That’s why it is far easier to apologize to a a coworker than to admit guilt, as a CEO, in a shareholders meeting.
That is why it is almost inconceivable for a dictator to publicly admit an error which had been committed under their watch.

“We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”

The words, attributed to John Swindon by Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais were supposedly uttered sometimes in 1880.

Nowadays, back in 2019, more and more people blame the MSM – main street media, for the sorry state the contemporary society finds itself in.
In fact, those who consider the media to be the source of all evil have been numerous, and focused, enough to elect somebody from their ranks to the highest office in Washington…

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not naive enough to pretend that journalism is any different from any other human activity.

And this is exactly my point.
Journalists are humans. Like all of us.
There is no way that they’ll behave any different than the rest of us.
The day to day practice provides ample proof that far too many of us currently “are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes”. Sometimes even without being aware of it… but that is another issue.
While it is true that too many of the journalists function as “intellectual prostitutes”, the same thing is valid for the members of too many other professions.

Then why do we – all of ‘us’, demand that journalists behave any differently from the rest of us?
Why do we accuse them for not being saints when we are sinners ourselves?
Our sins are lighter? Have less impact?

Are we so thick in our vehemence against journalists that we are deaf to Swindon’s real message?

“We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”

I thought I had it all figured out.

I had already learned that individuals needed to preserve their self esteem. The good opinion they have built about themselves during their entire lives.
This being the reason for which most self made people see their own efforts as the main reason for their status. While being adamant that Lady Luck had played no role whatsoever in their advancement…

I had also observed that all imperia had eventually failed. No matter what kind of imperia… Political dictatorships, commercial monopolies, abusive families…
For no other reason than dictators’/patriarchs’ tendency to drive away those who don’t kowtow to their opinions.
Which attitude effectively empties the structures led by authoritarian figures of any ‘alternative’ expertise. Of any other expertise but that of the leading figure. And since no expertise was ever infinite – not even Napoleon’s, the end of all imperia had been sealed from the moment when a single will had imposed itself over the entire structure.

OK, from the outside everything made sense. The added figures matched the measured total.

But something still bothered me.
As a constant rebel, I perfectly understood those who chose to leave instead of bowing to the higher authority.

But why act in a dictatorial manner in the first place?
Why drive away all those who might come handy in a dire strait?
Why not replace those who choose to leave with equivalent people? Instead of favoring increasingly obedient ones?
Specially when speaking about very intelligent people… and very few individuals have ever arrived at the top of any complicated structures only because Lady Luck had a crush on them …

Yesterday, when discussing the subject with my father – we each support different political parties and Romania had just elected it’s president, he told me: “You had been lucky enough to never have had to make a compromise. That’s why you can afford to think like this!”
We were using Romanian. I used ‘can afford’ to convey what he said to me because I’m not aware of a closer English equivalent. Maybe I could have used ‘allow yourself to think like this’…
Anyway, that was the moment when it struck me.

That past ‘compromises’ tend to compromise our ability to see the forest for the trees.
That whenever somebody aired an opinion which even slightly contested any of the compromises we ever had to make in our pasts we perceived it as an aggression. As if our self esteem was under assault. No matter that the ‘assailant’ had no way of knowing that we had to compromise our own beliefs at one point.
The simple fact that we remember that moment is enough. We’ve found ways to soothe our souls. We’ve already have invented excuses. Otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to function… But we’ve never been able to really come to terms with ourselves. We’ve never forgiven our own weaknesses. Never assumed them in earnest.

And this is how past ‘mistakes’ continue to haunt us.
Preventing us from accepting advice.
Because ‘deep down’ we feel the urge to continue the path we have already chosen’. That being the easier way to preserve our psychological well being. Our mental consistency…

Further reading:
Cognitive Dissonance
Customer cancels Zomato order for sending non-Hindu delivery boy.

Liberty is freedom from being constricted, in any way, shape or form. Period.

Liberty is more of an adjective rather than a verb. A situation more than an action.

Liberty can be attached to a space, to an agent or to both.

A free space would be a space where no constriction may occur, whatsoever.
A free agent would be an individual entity outside any constriction, whatsoever.

Mathematically, both definitions are possible.
Philosophically, both definitions are imaginable. By philosophers, of course.

Oscar Hoffman, a Teacher, kept telling us, his students, “For a proposition to be true it is not enough for it to be logically correct. It also has to make ontological sense. For those of you who don’t remember what ontological means, a true proposition must describe something which has to be at least possible”

In the real world, where there is no such thing as absolute freedom, liberty has to be first noticed/invented. And then constantly negotiated.

‘No such thing as absolute freedom?!? But liberty is a (God given) (human) right!!!’

Do you remember what Hoffman had (just) said about things which can exist in practice and things which can exist only in our minds?
Liberty might be a right – for those who enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean that everybody has it. And, even more important, that there is – or ever will be, something even close to absolute liberty.
If you don’t believe me, try to fly off a balcony without any ‘mechanical’ help. Or stop eating for a day or two. The Earth will surely ‘constrict’ you back towards its center and your stomach will certainly constrict itself for lack of food. And both Earth and stomach will constrict you back to reality.

‘OK, so no absolute freedom for individuals. How about ‘free spaces’?’
‘As in spaces where no constriction, whatsoever, may be exercised?’
‘Well, that would be possible. If a space is completely empty… no constriction might be exercised in there, right? On the other hand, as soon as something, anything, populates that space, constrictions start to appear. For instance, since no two things can simultaneously exist in the very same place, the mere existence of a speck of dust in a whole stadium induces the restriction that no other speck of dust may exist in the very same spot. Sounds trivial, true, but this is it… No absolute freedom. Not for individual agents and nor for spaces.’

‘Then why are writing a post about ‘Free market’? Doesn’t make much sense, isn’t it?’

Let me finish with liberty before going any further.
I mentioned earlier that liberty must be first noticed and then negotiated.
You see, right or no right, liberty is, above all, a concept.
We’d first observed that a flying bird is freer that a crawling worm and bam!!! We realized that some of us were freer than the others. Then that freer groups/societies fared better than the more ‘stifled’ ones.
But only where liberty was more or less spread around, not concentrated in one hand. Dictatorships – where all liberty is concentrated at the top, are way more fragile than any democracy. I’ll come back to this.
Now, for the negotiation part.
‘Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins’. And vice-versa. Only this is rather incomplete.
Let me examine the situation where you are a person who likes to swing your fist. In the air, not with any aggressive intent, of course. So you were swinging your fist, after you had determined, in good faith, that there was no nose close enough to hurt. But what if I am a ‘nosy’ guy? ‘Nosy’ enough to bring my actual nose inside your reach? You having to restrict your swings – or to go somewhere else, isn’t a limitation of your freedom? An absolutely unnatural limitation of your freedom?
Has it become a little clearer? What I mean by negotiation when it comes to individual freedom?

OK, time has come for me to go to market. To the free market!

A market is a place. Obviously, right?
A place where people trade their wares. Because they have noticed that it is easier for each of them to do what each of them do better and then trade the results of their work instead of each of them providing everything for themselves. As in everything each of them needs. Or fancy.

Initially, markets were far from being free. First of all, supply was sorely limited. Transportation means were practically nonexistent so supply varied seasonally and was severely influenced by weather, soil and other similar factors. And, maybe even more importantly, supply was influenced by the sheer will of the most powerful ‘free agent’ who happened to be around. Or, more exactly, supply was heavily influenced by the whims of the most powerful free-agent who happened to be around.
Don’t believe me? Then consider the extreme famine experienced by the Bengalis in 1943. Or by the Romanians during the last years of Ceausescu’s reign.
Slowly, people have learned that freer markets tend to be a lot more stable than the less free. ‘Freer’ markets meaning freer from both exterior and interior limitations. For a market to become free(ish) the participants need to have a big enough pool of resources at their disposal and to be wise enough to organize themselves in a ‘free’ manner.

And what happens when at least one of the two conditions remains unfulfilled?
Time has taught us that while markets tend to be limited in space and that some of the participants tent to impose themselves over the rest there is one dimension where the liberty of the market is very hard to be limited. ‘Liberty’ here meaning that things tend to evolve more in their own terms rather than ‘according to plan’. Or according to anybody’s wishes.

Whenever the available resources dry up, the participants to the market move someplace else. Or die of starvation.
Whenever a market looses too much of its freedom – as in some agent controls too much of what is going on there, the market itself no longer functions properly. Whenever too many of the participants loose their ability to determine their fate/future they slowly become ‘sitting ducks’. Not as much easy to hunt down but actually unable to feed themselves.
And since hunger is the best teacher, they either learn to fight for their freedom or… die of starvation. Pol Pot’s Cambodia would be a good example, even if somewhat extreme. The fall of most communist regimes also makes a compelling case for what I have in mind.
Even more interesting, though, is what had happened to the American Automobile Industry. General Motors and Chrysler Corporation, once the dominant stars of the market – along with Ford, had to be rescued by the government. Quasi monopolistic positions tend to be bad for the monopolists also, not only for the rest of the market. Given enough time, true enough…

You might have figured out already that I don’t believe yet I find a lot of inspiration in the Bible.

I’d like to discuss today the subject of Eve.
Many people are adamant that she was instrumental in Adam being banished from heaven. That she was conned by the serpent into convincing Adam to commit the first – and most important, sin. Into disobeying God, his Father.
Hence Eve – and all her daughters, are the culprits for us, men, having to ‘toil for our daily food’. Outside of where we have been meant to live, the Paradise…


Then, if Eve was the root of all evil, why had God chosen Virgin Mary – Eve’s granddaughter, as the vessel for his beloved Son? For the instrument of our salvation?

Furthermore, if we treasure virginity – something which only man can spoil, then how come it is Eve – the entire womenfolk, who is considered the origin of sin?

Let’s move forward to the really hard questions.

Eve engaging in conversation with the serpent resulted in both Adam and Eve learning the difference between good and evil. In both Adam and Eve becoming full fledged, self aware human beings.
And what was wrong with that?!?
Becoming conscious was a bad thing? Thinking with our own heads is sinful?

I remember that, as a child, I had always experimented what was verboten. Except for the obvious things, of course.
And used the trick on my own son. Whenever I wanted him to try something, I led him to believe that that thing was dangerous or out of limits. For him, of course.

For a (free) market to function, at all, it needs active economic agents.
Which economic agents need, in their turn, certain amounts of concentrated resources at their disposal. A certain amount of ‘capital’. Regardless of who owns it. Or disposes of it.

In this sense, no matter where each of them finds itself on the individual to socialist spectrum, all societies are ‘capitalist’.

On the other hand, individual capitalists – economic agents, do not need a free market to thrive. The do indeed need a market to sell their products/services, only that market does not have to be free. On the contrary, even.

OK, no monopolistic market has survived for long. And all monopolies have eventually failed. Even those who had grown ‘too big to fail’!

But go and tell this to any of those who happen to be at the helm of a monopoly… be it of economic or political nature …

People had walked the Earth ever since they had climbed down the tree. Or had been created, whatever scenario each of us prefers. And their walking had resulted in the existence of trails.
After a while, some of them had became more powerful than others. They called themselves ‘kings’, assumed the property of everything in their grasp and built roads. They actually needed them to administer their property… Their private property….
Hence all roads had started as being private. Since everything belonged to the king…
In time, kings learned it was far easier to hire somebody to do their work. To administer their property. From that moment on, the roads had no longer been built by the kings but by their governments. But continued to remain private!
Flash forward to modern times. People have realized – some of them, anyway, that democracies work far better than any authoritarian arrangement. Regardless of the state being organized as a republic or as a constitutional monarchy. But most roads were still being built by the government. ‘His majesty’s government’ – as they still call it in Great Britain or a government “of the people, by the people, for the people”.
In the last half century or so, private roads have made fresh inroads into our lives. Some people have started to build them and others to accept them as the new normal.
Are we headed back to the old normal? Where people had to defend themselves because there was no government to do it? Or didn’t care about the private citizens?

Because of their very nature, centralized systems open up vast areas of opportunity.
For those who bother to identify them, of course.

The internet.
Huge amounts of information only a few clicks away.
Students find it easier to compile their term papers. Or to just click and paste them.
Powerful individuals/organizations have found yet another way to further their interests:

A long-running Papuan separatist movement has flared in recent months, sparking fresh calls for self-rule.
But with access to the region heavily restricted, social media has become a key source for the foreign press.
One expert told the BBC the apparently co-ordinated campaigns were seeking to skew international views of Papua.

The government.
A mechanism put in place by nations to manage the day to day survival of the social mechanism.
The more centralized, the more efficient. At least apparently…
Centralized China is decades away from the more ‘lax’ India. According to certain benchmarks, of course…

Individuals, no matter how smart and or powerful, can achieve only so much when acting alone. That being the reason for people coalescing in nations.
Also for economic ventures. People working in concert are more efficient than individuals toiling on their own. When led by a somebody who is simultaneously smart, charismatic and ‘organizationally skilled’ the results can be utterly fantastic.
A corporation might even become powerful enough to resist government.

The FBI Wanted a Backdoor to the iPhone. Tim Cook Said No.

Only some governments are more determined than others.

Apple drops Hong Kong police-tracking app used by protesters.

How else to explain what’s going on but by remembering that all centralized systems are simultaneously manned and surrounded/watched/accessed by individual people?
Who identify the various opportunities presented by the increasingly centralized structures which bloom around us.
Who use them to further their goals, whichever those might be. Who choose which goals are worth pursuing and which are better abandoned.
Who determine, individually, what decision must be made in each situation.
Who use whatever the power they have at their disposal in such or such manner.
Who allow others to use them in a centralized manner. Or not….

Explainer: How Trump used the U.S. government to chase conspiracy theories

NB. The last example I used can be substituted by countless others. Trump just happens to be ‘on top’ the still most powerful, and looked up to, government on Earth. Furthermore, he had been democratically elected into that position. Hence his actions – and his government’s reactions, illustrate perfectly the situation we find ourselves in.

Like it or not, some people, a minority, have more clout than others. Than the demographic majority. That’s a fact.
Check Vilfredo Pareto’s principle, if you need more theoretical background.

Things tend to survive.
From the moving object which ‘wants’ to conserve its linear trajectory and speed – Newton’s first law, to the survival instinct which is manifest in all living organisms.

Those with more clout than the others, the elites, are included here. Among the things which want to survive.

As humans, the elites are endowed with consciousness. They are aware of their own status. And of their own fragility.

In time, they (should) have learned a few things.
– They are not infallible. Neither individually and nor as a class.
– When things get really bad – revolution grade bad, they have the most to loose. Regular Joe has nothing to loose but his shackles while the ‘landed gentry’ has everything to loose. Even if land itself has nowhere to go.
– The best way to preserve elite status is through the cunning use of the law.

The point being that these three ‘pearls of wisdom’ must be kept in balance. Whenever one of them is forgotten, things go south. Revolution grade south.

Let me deal with the last but not least one.

Any Law is nothing but the formal expression of an already existing reality.
It doesn’t matter whether that reality is ‘hard’ or ‘virtual’, all it has to do is to be ‘real’.
For example, Newton’s laws describe a portion of the physical reality which surrounds us. The penal codes, all over the world, are the formal expressions of the prevailing mores in each of the respective countries and territories. And both physical reality and prevailing mores are actual realities, even if the first is ‘hard’ while those belonging the second category are virtual. Both have consequences, hence both are real.

OK, very nice. Your theory covers the kind of laws which attempt to describe already existing realities.
But what about the laws which attempt to ‘regulate’ the future? For instance the laws which prevent us from smoking in public places or those which mandate us to pay a portion of our income at the end of the fiscal year? Where is the reality described by these laws?
In the head of those who had come up with them in the first place!
‘They’ had somehow managed to convince us to accept these laws. Which means that ‘their’ convictions had been strong enough to produce consequences. Hence their convictions had been ‘real’.

Among the laws which regulate the future are those which attempt to conserve the already present situation. Starting with the various Constitutions and all the way through to the anti rioting legislation.

If you look close enough, the special status of the elites has a special place – even if not always mentioned as such, in all these pieces of legislation.
Which is not necessarily bad. After all, we’ve already learned that elites do have a role to play in the well being of the social organism we all belong to.

The whole thing boils down to how protected those elites need to be?
In order for them to be able to properly play their role.

We are now faced with another question which needs to be answered.

‘Their role’?

To lead the masses? Where?!?

How about ‘to maximize the chances of survival’? For both the society as a whole and for them, the elite class, as a very important part of the whole?

Let me remind you of the ‘three pearls of wisdom’.

The elites are not infallible.
They are the ones with the most to loose. Hence they are the most interested in maintaining the status quo.
The most efficient way to insure stability is through the wise use of the law. Which must be written wisely and obeyed respectfully.

Hence it’s the elites which mostly need to act wisely.
They are the ones who need the most to constantly adjust their actions according to the consequences obtained.

‘OK, very nicely put.
But what has any of this to do with ‘laissez faire’?!?’

Laissez faire is, above all, an attitude.
A mental frame-work. A blue print, if you want.

An attitude which mandates each of us to do as we please, for as long as we don’t encounter adverse reactions.

For instance, this attitude would allow any of us to shoot ourselves in the foot, if we don’t mind the pain. Or shoot somebody else in the foot if he doesn’t protest.

And this is the real problem with laissez faire.

It cannot be written into law.

‘ ‘Shoot somebody else in the foot if he doesn’t protest’… What does that mean? There are laws against bodily harming others…’

Yes, true enough. But before any law is enforced, somebody has to notify those called to enforce that law…
If the hurt person is in no position to call the ‘cops’ or the ‘shooter’ is powerful/skillful enough to avoid the unpleasant consequences of his actions…

On the other hand, laissez faire is essential.

People do need to be free. It’s their nature to explore every available opportunity!
Specially so for the elites.
Remember their role? To maximize the chances of survival?
How would they be able to do that if nobody is allowed to do as they please? To explore, that is!

Hence the true role of the elites.
To constantly adjust the meaning of laissez faire to whatever happens around them.

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