Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 Outlook

My life did get better.  Better hasn’t always been easy, and it hasn’t always been fun, but having some control over the helm of my soul in the storm of life has given me no one to blame for my state of affairs but myself.


AM in his post titled A New Year.

Carry on.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/31 at 06:57 PM
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Friday, December 30, 2011

A Non-violent Revolutionary Proposal

Remember that the proposal to quit voting is basically revolutionary; it amounts to a shifting of power from one group to another, which is the essence of revolution. As soon as the nonvoting movement got up steam, the politicians would most assuredly start a counterrevolution. Measures to enforce voting would be instituted; fines would be imposed for violations, and prison sentences would be meted out to repeaters.

It is a necessity for political power, no matter how gained, to have the moral support of public approval, and suffrage is the most efficient scheme for registering it; notice how Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin insisted on having ballots cast. In any republican government, even ours, only a fraction of the populace votes for the successful candidate, but that fraction is quantitatively impressive; it is this appearance of overwhelming sanction that supports him in the exercise of political power. Without it he would be lost…

To effectuate the suggested revolution all that is necessary is to stay away from the polls. Unlike other revolutions, it calls for no organization, no violence, no war fund, no leader to sell it out. In the quiet of his conscience each citizen pledges himself, to himself, not to give moral support to an unmoral institution, and on election day he remains at home. That’s all. I started my revolution 25 years ago and the country is none the worse for it.

My revolution began in 2004.  Will you join me in revolting?

From an essay written by Frank Chodorov in 1945 titled If We Quit Voting, linked via Bill St. Clair and originally from von Mises.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/30 at 11:49 AM
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Confusing Capitalism for a Moral Agent

In a Guaradian piece with the lofty title of The case for moral capitalism, Roger Backhouse and Bradley Bateman attempt to make the case that John Maynard Keynes’ - an economic theorist whose economic theory always seems to entail throwing money, your hard earned money, at a perceived economic conundrum - long ago identified certain moral failings of capitalism are what is ailing the economy, and, if only Keynes’ identified moral failings of capitalism would be acted upon all of the world’s financial problems would be solved.

There’s just one major, and glaringly obvious, problem with Backhouse’s and Bateman’s hypothesis.  Capitalism is nothing more than an economic system, lacking entirely in moral agency, and thus capitalism is simply amoral, like science, or a box of hammers.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/27 at 07:56 PM
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

I Wish You Enough

A friend of mine from Colorado closes her correspondence notes with the phrase “I wish you enough.”  When I received my first note with this closing, being unaware of the phrase, I asked what, exactly, was meant by those words.

She described the meaning of the phrase as an expression of love, caring and a sharing together in all that life brings our way.

There is a poem which gives meaning to the phrase, and also a story, both of which give enough, and not too much.

So, to all who stop by here today, Merry Christmas.  I wish you enough.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/25 at 10:33 AM
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

An Atheist Christmas

CNN has an interesting compilation of essays put together answering this question.

With the holiday season upon us, we asked iReporters: If you’re atheist, agnostic or a nonbeliever of any kind, how do you celebrate the holidays?

The compilation is online under the heading Holidays, minus God, and I’ve read a number of them.

What I found most interesting about these little essays was the following sentiment, which was expressed in one way or another, in a good number of the essays.

Give a gift, make someone smile. It’s about being kind to one another,...

That atheist expression is not at all different than the angels message of peace on earth goodwill toward men, albeit minus the glory to God.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/24 at 10:31 AM
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Ancient Curses Modern Illusions

Live Science brings us news of an ancient curse, discovered in the 1930s when excavating an old well, which was just recently deciphered.

A fiery ancient curse inscribed on two sides of a thin lead tablet was meant to afflict, not a king or pharaoh, but a simple greengrocer selling fruits and vegetables some 1,700 years ago in the city of Antioch, researchers find.

Written in Greek, the tablet holding the curse was dropped into a well in Antioch, then one of the Roman Empire’s biggest cities in the East, today part of southeast Turkey, near the border with Syria.

This is an interesting archaeological find, but in today’s day and age most individuals will understand that this ancient curse is simply a stringing togther of words and nothing more than a wishful and illusory incantation, interesting though it is.

There are individuals, today, who remain under the illusion that curses, ancient or modern, are effective means of action to obtain certain ends, and though the majority of modern individuals will simply laugh or scoff at the illusion of written ancient curses, they remain under the illusion that written laws are effective means of action to obtain certain ends, as the following quote exhibits.

The resident moron of the Fox News Channel, John Stossel, just came out against laws that prohibit and punish the use of cellphones while driving. Does he not realize that these laws are designed to prevent harm to others? They are neither moralistic nor paternalistic. Sometimes I think Stossel is an anarchist rather than a libertarian. Either that or he doesn’t understand libertarianism.

That’s Keith Burgess-Jackson commenting on this John Stossel article, and while Keith is correct that such a law would not be an attempt to legislate morality, which cannot be done anyway, it would be paternalistic.  But more importantly, any attempt to legislate cell phone usage via the law would simply be a wishful incantation with the same ineffectiveness of ancient curse on a greengrocer, a modern illusion.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/24 at 09:35 AM
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Celebrating America by Choice - What’s Yours?

The other night the Lovely Melis turned on the teevee while I was reading and clicked over to Lidia Bastianich’s new show Lidia Celebrates America - Holiday Tables and Traditions.

I kinda like Lidia’s shows, especially when Grandma makes an appearance to taste Lidia’s desserts, but I find her son Joe rather pompous.

Anyway, this new offering of Lidia’s consisted of four (4) segments.  An Italian American Christmas Eve, a Mexican American Christmas Eve, a Chinese American New Year, and a Jewish American Passover.  All four of the segments were interesting in their own way, but I was especially drawn to the segment on the Mexican American Christmas, which focused on the Cortez family of San Antonio, Texas.  The Cortez family owns Mi Tierra Cafe in San Antonio’s Mercado, and have for four generations.

What I found especially interesting about this segment was the Cortez family’s work ethic, which, by all appearances, seems to extend unbroken from the founder’s right on through to the current children and grand-children, and this is well expressed by the current owner Michael Cortez.

“America has a lot to offer to anyone who is willing to work hard,...”  “My grandfather would often say he was an American by choice, not by chance.”

Well said, Michael Cortez.

I’ve not been to San Antonio, TX, but if I ever do wander down that way, I know where I’m going for lunch or dinner.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/23 at 09:38 AM
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Quit Hiding Under a Bushel

Many individuals who grew up in church attending homes are familiar with the children’s gospel song This Little Light of Mine.  The lyrics to said song are simple and repetitive allowing the tune, if not the message of the tune, to be easily retained in the memory.  I can recall the lyrics quite distinctly still, though I’ve come to appreciate the message ensconced within the song in a much more indepth and personal way.

The song and lyrics came to mind when I read the following in the Daily Mail.

David Cameron last night called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead a return to the ‘moral code’ of the Bible…

Mr Cameron declared Britain ‘a Christian country’ and said politicians and churchmen should not be afraid to say so…

Mr Cameron said the time has come for public figures to teach ‘right from wrong’, and questioned whether the Church of England has done enough to defend those values in the face of the ‘moral neutrality’ that pervades modern life.

Though I applaud Mr. Cameron’s boldness in making such statements, considering his audience, I am suspect of his motivations for this boldness, being he is a politician (see my earlier QOTD post from today below).  Mr. Cameron has a tall soapbox so his statements will carry, but what he suggests has been stated before, for example here and here.

Speak up for Christianity, Cameron tells Archbishop: PM calls on the Church to defend ‘values and moral code’ of the Bible

Linked via Clayton Cramer.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/21 at 03:41 PM
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That’s Some Story

Christmas is soon upon us and though the season, today, is rather conspicuously commercial and consumptive, Christmas remains, for many individuals, a day which results in some introspection on the greatest story ever told, because it is some story.

Jack Kerwick, who has a Phd in philosopy and a marked interest in political philosophy and ethics, shares some introspective thoughts on this subject in a piece at the American Daily Herald titled The Paradox and the Promise of the Incarnation which is worth a read if you are so inclined.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/21 at 10:56 AM
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Competitive Governance and Private Provision

There should be no doubt or argument that the main impediment to freedom and individual liberty is the State, no matter its form.  Though this is true, this impediment, the State, is securely buttressed by “we the peoples’” fear of being unsecure in their homes, persons and businesses, resulting in “we the people” abrogating their personal rights to independently secure themselves in their homes, persons and businesses through the ballot box, though this is somewhat tempered by the provisions of the second amendment here in the United States.

“We the peoples’” fear of being unsecure in their homes, persons and businesses is constantly encouraged by the State, allowing the State to don what appears to be the one and only authoritative mantel of law and order, or what is commonly referred to as the monopoly of force posited by Max Weber.

Fear of being unsecure in our homes, persons and businesses is understandable, but is the State, in actuality, the one and only way “we the people” can obtain the secureness desired in our daily lives?  Not necessarily, as this example from Kenya shows.

For BABS, security means much more than guards and cameras. Kenya’s dysfunctional State has failed to provide many services traditionally considered the purview of “public” authorities. BABS runs a growing courier service, delivering domestic and international mail. I ask Ouma what a person could have delivered. “Anything,” he retorts nonchalantly.

BABS also consults for companies to protect themselves against industrial espionage and even helps industry comply with safety and health regulations. BABS has a staff of private investigators and can even be hired to do forensics: physical and digital.

More surprising still, they supply and maintain all the equipment and staff necessary to operate a full-service firefighting outfit. Contracts are typically annual and tied to individual properties – not neighborhoods or cities. BABS will work with your insurance company to lower premiums if you take out a contract with their fire service, since some municipal services are unreliable or just nonexistent.

The above was taken from a posting up at the Adam Smith Institute which is an excerpt from an upcoming book being written by Zachary Caceres.  The posting is titled Law and order in Kenya: BABS Security Services Ltd which I linked to via a blog post at Let A Thousand Nations Bloom titled The Private Provision of Public Goods in Kenya.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/21 at 09:52 AM
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In Contempt Quote of the Day

A poll shows that most Americans don’t think candidates from either party will do a good job as president. I think this is a step in the right direction. Usually in politics, we say one guy is great and the other guy is bad and the they’ll say their guy is great and our guy is bad. But can’t we compromise and agree they’re all awful? Treating all politicians with contempt is the first steps towards a smaller government, because when you hate and distrust them all, you realize how imperative it is to give them as little power as possible.

FranK J at IMAO via Samizdata.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/21 at 08:10 AM
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

“System D”

Last December I linked to a piece in the San Antonio Current on the underground, or shadow, economy in that neck of the woods in a post I titled Galt’s Gulch Under Our Noses, noting that it is not just drug dealers conducting business who are powering the human action of such an economy.

This morning I read an interesting piece in Wired which reinforces the notion that underground/shadow economies; the “System D” referenced in the title to this post; are continuing to exert their muscle on a worldwide scale.

Not many people think of shantytowns, illegal street vendors, and unlicensed roadside hawkers as major economic players. But according to journalist Robert Neuwirth, that’s exactly what they’ve become…Neuwirth points out that small, illegal, off-the-books businesses collectively account for trillions of dollars in commerce and employ fully half the world’s workers. Further, he says, these enterprises are critical sources of entrepreneurialism, innovation, and self-reliance. And the globe’s gray and black markets have grown during the international recession, adding jobs, increasing sales, and improving the lives of hundreds of millions. It’s time, Neuwirth says, for the developed world to wake up to what those who are working in the shadows of globalization have to offer.

Neuwirth has compiled evidence in support of the above statement in his new book Stealth of Nations: The Global Rise of the Informal Economy, and I may very well have to obtain a copy of it, preferably through System D.  I may even purchase two copies and forward one to David Graeber as the subject matter under discussion within the book would make for an interesting and provocative anthropological study, in real time.  No theorizing required.

The Wired piece from which the above quote is taken is titled Why Black Market Entrepreneurs Matter to the World Economy and was linked via a post by Fred Lapides titled Slumdog Economist.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/20 at 09:28 AM
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Monday, December 19, 2011

David Graeber’s Heavenly Anarchism Vision

Over the weekend I’ve been delving into David Graeber.  Who is David Graeber you ask?  According to Bloomberg Businessweek, this is David Graeber.  David Graeber, the Anti-Leader of Occupy Wall Street.

I was spurred to delve further into Graeber after reading the Bloomberg piece, and their pronouncement of Graeber as the OWS “anti-leader,” and fortutitously the The White Review provided additional opportunity to do so in an Interview With David Graeber.

In the both the Bloomberg piece and The White Review interview we learn the Graeber is an anthropologist teaching at Goldsmiths University of London, that he is an activist and anarchist who is considered “exceptionally bright,” and evidently so “revolutionary” in his thinking to have been, one could say, chased out of Yale.

But neither of the above pieces delved that deeply into Graeber’s thinking, so I went searching further and was able to locate a book penned by Graeber which lays out more robustly why Graeber is involved with the OWS movement.  The book is titled Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (pdf of 55 pages) which was published by Prickly Paradigm Press.

While Graeber does indeed espouse a number of solid anarchist principles within his Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, and also provides some interesting anthropological and historical commentary on anarchist society, which will be of interest to individuals striving for individual liberty or at least interested in such freedom, he veers utopianly heavenword when the subject of capitialism is discussed, sugguesting that the need for individuals to work is somehow demeaning and exploitive, suggesting that four (4) hour workdays and four (4) day work weeks will somehow bring about the ability for individuals to dance in the streets attired in silly costumes to the accompaniment of drum circles while their basic needs for food and shelter are met as if they are birds of the air.

I think Graeber is indeed an interesting individual, and quite as bright as he has been declared to be, but his anarchism vision will fail to raise the world heavenward.  Graeber’s intellect, and his further anthropological studies, would be better directed in attempting to search out how free markets; rather than freeloading;  and anarchism could provide the basis for the individual freedom many individuals are in search of.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/19 at 10:12 AM
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Note from My Brother

My brother returned home from Korea, late yesterday afternoon.  I received this note from him just now.

Please draw no conclusions of the death of Kim Jong Il and my recent trip to Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il dead at age 69

Welcome home, Mort.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/19 at 09:07 AM
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Casper the Nosy Ghost

I see, this morning, that Davidson County, Tennessee “officials” are going to be going door to door poking their noses into whether or not Davidson County Tennesseans are prepared for possible disasters.

A community assessment will get underway Thursday across Davidson County…

The Metro Public Health and the Tennessee Department of Health will be using a tool designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to go door to door and check to see how disaster ready you are.

Doug M. points out, comment 10 to this post, Davidson County Tennesseans who are prepared for disasters may also be suspect.

Wait … if folks are as prepared for disasters as they should be, wouldn’t that qualify them as terrorist suspects according to DHS?

Door-To-Door Assessment For Disaster Preparedness

Knock, knock.

Posted by John Venlet on 12/16 at 09:40 AM
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