Sunday, February 20, 2005

Toward an Ideal Society

Much as economicists construct ideal models of economies from which to make baseline deductions toward real economies I feel it is necissary to make a model of an ideal society from which to make base deductions toward real societies.

Also, just as the economist must make assumptions to make ideal models work, so too must we make assumptions. The first assumption of course shall be what constitutes an ideal model in the first place. I feel this is probably the most reasonable assumption to make, using a razor of enlightened self-interest it is fair to say that an ideal society would be that which maximizes freedom and minimizes human suffering. This is a fair assumption to make because each individual would like the greatest amount of personal freedom and the least amount of suffering for themselves, thus it can be said that the perfect society would be that which allowed each and every individual maximum freedom and minimum suffering.

Now, toward that end we must make two further assumptions.

Number One, That every individual has full knowledge of the eventual consequences of all their actions. This is necissary to prevent externalities of unforseen consequences, and is fundamentally the same as the economicists assumption of fully informed producer and consumer.

Number Two, That the laws of this society immutable, inalienable, and invioable. That means that it is impossible to repeal or violate its laws.

This ideal society however, has only seven laws divided into two parts. The first three are liberatory prohibitions, or those prohibitions which are necissary for freedom to be maximized and suffering to be minimized. That is; they are freedoms from. The next four are axioms of autonomy, that is freedoms of or to.

The First Three Laws:

1.) Freedom from Oppression, Dominion, and Coersion.

2.) Freedom from Harm, Violence, and Injustice.

3.) Freedom from Privilege, Poverty, and Hunger.

The Next 4 Laws:

4.) Freedom of Voluntary Association and Assembly.

5.) Freedom of Thought, Speech, and Conscience.

6.) Freedom of Self-determination.

7.) Freedom of any action not in violation of any other Freedom.

Notes: In law 3, privilege is meant to mean much the same as "equality of opportunity", it also makes it a prohibition against racism, sexism etc. Law Seven can also be stated: "Freedom of any action not in violation of another's freedom."

This is the baseline model of an ideal society, by which all societies may be judged, and all may be compared to gauge their progress.

More to add later.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Full Text of the Letter I have sent to DNC chairman Howard Dean

I have a bit of advice to offer, partially in hope that you will adopt it, and partially out of warning as to your chances of winning should you not adopt it.

The primary problem with the Democratic party is that it has lost the entirety of its voice, by abandoning the constituency it nominally represents and by losing its ability to articulate its goals clearly and ways that appeal to all americans.

To put it bluntly, moving "rightward" has cost you the last two elections. Even moderate republicans and independants do not want "Republican Light".The entire Kerry campaign read like this: "Same taste, less carbs."
You need a wedge issue that is not a reaction to conservative policies, but is a voice of its own. I know of such an issue:

The constitutional right to a job at a living wage. This would be a new mandate for progressives, and the Democratic party in particular. It would become a supercession to the New Deal, and give the Democratic party a new legacy, not to mention credibility and relevancy.

The advantage of pursuing this as the primary campaign goal of the democratic party is this, it appeals to both progressive ethic, and conservative populist ethic. Most conservative americans, from moderate to hardline believe that everyone who can work should work, and most also believe that a person ought to be able to live decently by the fruit of their labors.

This is the primary reason for their opposition to entitlement programs.
If you present this correctly, and push it as your primary agenda, you'll have an unbeatable wedge issue. What can the Republican party come up with that's even compareable? Privatising social security? Anti-homosexual agenda?

It pales in comparison to ensuring an elimination to unemployment and poverty.

So, in conclusion, I urge you to adopt this as your party's primary agenda throughout the next 4 years, and for the next election. Should you not, then not only will I not vote for you, I will encourage everyone I know, everyone I meet, not to. Failing to find a significant legitimate voice will simply relegate your party to non-relevance, and I will do my best to ensure that it will happen with utmost swiftness should you not become an actual party of opposition.

Sincerely,

Matthew Crisp
http://ubericarus.blogspot.com/

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EDIT AND POST SCRIPT:

Consider this the opening salvo of the "Fuck You, I Won't Vote For You" Campaign.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Social Security: An Open Letter to Bush, Democrats, the Media, and everyone else who hasn't bothered to bring this up.

Recently President Bush has chicken littled to the effect that the social security is in dire straits. From democrats I hear very real and valid criticisms to the effect that he is in fact pushing a false agenda (this president? *gasp* Say it ain't so!) He has also said "I will listen to anyone who has a good idea to offer." I haven't heard much in the way of other ideas from anyone in the media. It is true that social security is headed for hard times, or at least it's likely to. The numbers the administration provides assume a ridiculously low level of growth, and they also stress that social security will be "solvent", which is quite simply a lie. Even using their own figures, SS would be able to pay out 70-80% of benefits it does now, in the year 2042.

I would like to answer his request, though. I have an excellent idea for fixing social security. It doesn't require raising taxes, you could phase in putting up to 1/3rd of it into private accounts, and you could *increase* benefits.

Interested yet?

Good, stay with me: Using this idea, you could even exempt extremely low income families from paying it, and have enough money to give them credits as if they had paid in, thus allowing them more disposeable income, and more of a chance to get ahead. You could make it to where people no longer have to work after they retire if all their income is derived from social security. And the best part is: Social security will never go solvent. Not in 2042, 2082, 2142, never so long as our entire economy doesn't go solvent.

So what is this utopian sounding idea? What massive overhaul will it require?

Simple: Eliminate the $90,000 wage cap on social security deductions, and count all income (excepting income derived from retirement accounts and tax free municipal bonds) toward those deductions (currently non-wage income is not counted, so retiers get off scott free). Working people generally make somewhere between 20-100k, so roughly all of their income at every level they are likely to earn in their life is taxed for social security. I'm currently paying social security on all the income I make, why not just make it a universally obligatory deduction? You could actually probably lower the percentage of the deduction (i.e. lowering taxes) just by making the rich non-exempt. Hell, just to make it fair, you could raise the retirement income requirements for recieving social security up to $250,000 a year, and still have alot left to work with.

So, in conclusion: Why the fuck hasn't a single Democrat mentioned this? Because they're fucking pathetic. That's why.

So much for the opposition.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Handmaid And Rome

Decided to publish this here on my blog, rather than seek publication for it. If anyone would still like to re-publish this article in a magazine or such, feel free to contact me.

We face a problem of epic proportions, caught between two forces which by their nature set upon each other and the fabric of society.

I am of course, talking about sex.

Or rather, the social tendencies of the politics of sex. Principally at the moment there are only two dominant paradigms at work and thus two extremes vying for supremacy: The forces of reaction, and the forces of commodity fetishism. The Handmaid and Nero.

Firstly I will describe the latter because it is newer to us, and less conceptually understood as a social paradigm. It starts in the aftermath of the various sexual liberation movements; Women’s, queer, and the more general sexual liberation movement at large. It must be noted that society has largely abandoned the further pursuit of any of these revolutions, with the exception of queer liberation.

However, from the outset queer lib has been primarily pursued by queers alone, and it is their singularly different nature, and therefore nature of revolution, that has forged their solidarity and continued their struggle.

The difference is this: That the character of the other revolutions was by nature reformist. That is; society already had a place for feminine, heterosexual, and familial roles. In contrast, while society now tentatively adopts the basic humanity of homosexuals, it still does not accept them as such, and harbors no role for them in its fabric.

The nature of women’s lib was more radical in aim than that of the general sexual revolution. The latter sought primarily to widen the dialogue concerning sex, and simply remove its semi-taboo nature, a tendency that was already in place and thus merely hastened. The women’s movement had more ambitious goals, and can only be said to have accomplished reformism while attempting more radical change –Full equality, parity, and the abolishment of patriarchy.

So one may ask, why did these revolutions fail? What went wrong?

Part of it can be blamed on the inevitable reactionaries, but they actually play a much smaller role than is usually suspected. Their opposition would be much less effective if not for an unfortunate side effect of the aforementioned liberation movements: The full capitalist commoditization of sexual identity.

This type of commoditization differs from previous types, such as arranged marriage, in a very significant way. It completely subsumes the sexual identity of women and men, straight and gay, adult and child. Previous commoditization fell under what might be called a “traditional economy” of sex; That is to say that social mores and custom dictated appropriateness, roles, and identity.

The new paradigm however, dictates fully that sexual identity shall be defined primarily by the degree and method in which it can be exploited for monetary gain. It is not yet at the point of fully legitimizing taboos such as prostitution and sexual abuse of children, but already the lines have been drawn thin. Such acts already create much capital for the legitimate economy through their notoriety. The media sensation, while serving at present to reinforce taboo’s also serves to desensitize us to them, and to profit from them.

Pornography plays a similar role, having gone mainstream, marketing a mythology of desirable sexual traits, habits, and endowments. Indeed it may yet prove to produce western society’s version of the ampallang –The shaved snatch.

Perhaps however, the most grievous act of this new zeitgeist is the selling and exploiting of sex and sexual identity to children. It is often not only explicitly and plainly presented, but is not only tolerated but fetishized.

Don’t believe me?

A few names come to mind: Lindsay Lohan, The Olsen Twins, TATU, and of course Britanny Spears; Who’s blatantly sexual smash singing career took off at age 16, and while her videos clearly are designed to entice men sexually, indeed likely much older men, her biggest buyers are overwhelmingly teen and pre-teen girls.

In fact, one may find calf-high leather boots, mini-tees imprinted with thinly veiled sub-sexual slogans, panties with the same, etc. in stores catering specifically to the 13 and under crowd. Their fashion is alighted with sultry letters proclaiming themselves “Bad Girls”, “Sexy”, “Hussy.” Even cartoons marketed to littler girls, such as Totally Spies, feature boy-obsessed, full-breasted, midriff-bearing, materialistic protagonists.

So to review, before women’s lib the social iconography of our society defined women in terms of what they could offer men: A good housewife, obedient, and a loving mother. Post lib, the woman is free to express herself…

…In sexual terms of how she can please men.

Our society has entirely confused the concept of sexual liberation with blatant exhibitionism. Yes women can now talk openly about sex, they can wear shorter skirts, flash in public without being lynched, wear thongs, shave their snatch, and even drunkenly snogg another straight girl for the collective amusement of an audience of men!

That is a change of fashion, not of condition.

And what of men? Are they victims too? Certainly, they are still fostered to treat women as less than full individuals, only now they are sexually “empowered” half-persons. Our iconography still cultivates a predatory sexual self-image in males, places lust before love, tits before a mind, a “slut” before a real person, and machismo before real gentlemen.

In effect the result has been to liberalize sex, and liberate no one, while adding to this, the wholesale exploitation of our desire and the death of intimacy. I define intimacy as the psycho-sexual rapport between equals, thus I’m not lamenting monogamy or “decency” (whatever that may mean), or too much else. I stand behind a person’s right to have as many or as few sexual partners as they like; to be risqué, kinky, queer, or what have you. But I demand that they have real connection with each other as un-coerced equals and that they don’t have a mass manufactured sexual identity.

Now let us turn to the opposing force of reactionaries. If left un-opposed and their aims allowed to follow to their inevitable conclusion, it would paint a picture not dissimilar from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” They too would exploit your individual and social sexual identity by keeping it wrapped in the chains of their ideology. Thus while one force says freedom is exhibitionism, the other says that freedom is slavery.

Both forces, allowed to continue robbing civilization of its Eros, lead to a basic denial of humanity and the re-conceptualization of people as chattel. It is to deny a portion of a person’s genuine self, thus enabling both lives and sexuality to become cheap.

What is required then is a new sexual revolution. The act of sex having gone from private life to private capital has made commodities of us all. We must stand fast against this, proclaiming our refusal to be diminished in such a manner. Let us reaffirm our commitment to true equality of the sexes, and to equality of sexual orientation, let us revolutionize our desire.

By fanning the fires of Eros, may we set alight the course of Civilization.


On the Philosophy of Poverty, and the Poverty of Philosophy

Interesting long flamewar I had with a true believer in Laissez-faire the other day. Mostly shouting and insults, but some things struck me.

While I certainly do not believe capitalism is the end all to be all of economics, I certainly prefer it to some command economy based on a the insanity of a worker's party. I much prefer living in a bourgeoise democracy than a "communist" dictatorship. And it doesn't take a genius to realize both from seeing the results, to even reading cursory Marxist/Leninist theory, that they had their heads up their asses when it came to positing what should replace capitalism.

So for all true believers in laissez-faire a few notes for you:

1.) The closest we ever got to the system of laissez-faire (and it was pretty damn close, the closest you're ever likely to get in a real world circumstance), was England in the late 1700's to 1800's. And for the average working person it sucked shit through a straw because you got screwed daily, and if you put up any resistance, or tried to argue for better wages and/or working conditions, you got thrown into the massive army of the unemployed. These scenes are what caused Marx & Engles to write what they did in the first place. Roll a die with 1000+ sides, unless you rolled a 1, you were likely to be one of those people getting screwed. So much for your dreams eh?

2.) It can never happen again. The structure of mass corporate capitalism, investment and monetary capitalism, not to mention the state of international trade and development has not only surpassed the laissez-faire system, but pretty much made it impossible to impliment. Even if you could re-impliment it, it would not hold, because of the tendancy of competition to decrease and the tendancy of surplus to rise (which are still elements under our present system).

What do I mean by tendancy of competition to decrease? Well, lets take company A, which owns dominant share in market B. You start up company C, to compete with company A in market B. You both comprise the totality of this market, Each next player in this market, in order to successfully compete with either of you, requires more startup money than the last player, to successfully wrest a percentage of the market from Company A or B's grasp. This would happen even if you started from a position of perfect equality from the standpoint of the first players, with equal amounts of the market. Because each would invest to different amounts of return, and thus achieve different shares of a market, eventually dwindling out those who recieved the lowest returns. What happens in reality, is that eventually competition in a market reaches an equilibrium, where there is not too much, nor too little. This is the Coke Vs. Pepsi phenomena, smaller players are kept out of the game, by keeping competition low among the big players, thus limiting price competition and ensuring they both (or sometimes even more than two dominant players in a market) retain market dominance.

The standard reply to this criticism is what Shrumpter called "The Torrential Gale of Creative Destruction", or rather the ability of new technology to create new markets. However, even a cursory glance at the history of how this effects both class mobility, or the holdings of various major companies proves this false on the face of it. It's little more than a light breeze, and generally only upsets the larger players which are unable or unwilling to buy into the new technology, and they in turn get bought or mergered with the dominant players who do. This still in effect limits competition, and causes it to decrease and approach equilibrium. Even when you look at new startup companies in an existing market, they tend to have been started up by another large company seeking to enter into a new market, with the advantages of new technology, not by smaller players. Smaller players who enter into new markets tend to be bought up by larger players in existing markets. That's not to say that some don't survive this, and that old dinosaurs don't die off, but rather that they are the exception and not the rule.

Tendancy of surplus to rise refers to the surplus value of capitalist accumulation that cannot meaningfully be spent on goods and services, and can thus cannot be sufficiently absorbed by the economy. That is, if you make 10 billion dollars, in personal income, there's only so much you can spend on widgets, even luxury widgets, and as more and more of the economy becomes concentrated upward in this fashion, the more likely that economy is to become stagnant. Even when you consider that they can put this money into investment purposes rather than widgets, that only exascerbates the problem, as it causes the surplus to rise even more, by creating dominant returns on investment to those who allready hold large chunks of surplus capital. The ultimate effect, if not allowed to reach equilibrium, is a deflation of demand, and astronomically rising inequality.

3.) That I might use marxist analytical tools, does not mean I am a raving Marxist/Leninist. That Soviet Communism failed, that Marx was an idiot when he called for a "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" or even that his works had limitations, do not discount some of the major contributions he made to examining the structures of economies and social structures.

4.) There are not only two alternatives on the plate here. There is not a dichotomy between Free Market Capitalism and Communism. The cold war is gone, get over it. There have been lots of different types of economies, and even ones that don't make economic "sense" still lasted thousands of years. Even laissez-faire could come back in the event of a total collapse of our current economic structure, (and what I meant by "it can't happen again" in the first place, was that you cannot work backward and impliment it), even traditional economies could make a comeback. The Soviet Union could have lasted 1,000 years despite being evil, corrupt, and stupid. It's not like the Roman Empire didn't fit those adjectives compared to our current understanding, and it's not like the Greeks weren't highly enlightened, and blessed with the best society in comparison to their contemporaries, and their society still got beat out by the unenlightened and armed.

5.) You (as a laissez-faire true believer) suffer from the same thinking that makes die-hard Marxist/Leninists unbearable. You extrapolate single instances to apply to the whole, you believe in a "one true way", and you ignore what the results of your ideology would be to the suffering milions, followed to their logical conclusions. Another point which makes you both mirror images and unbearable: anything less than total obediance to your ideology is "tyranny".

Concluded for now, until I feel the need to rant about it again.

EDIT:

Oh, and one other thing, what do I believe will replace our current form of capitalism? Who the fuck knows.

What I do believe, assuming the human race survives to see it, is that you will eventually see the destruction of economics as we know it, by technology which allows for cheap ubiquitos energy, and cheap ubiquitos churning out of widgets with, cheap ability to produce both technologies. Such a point will make scarcity obsolete, and thus make capitalism more or less irrelevent, but also the traditional ideas of communism and socialism as well. The caveats to this are: That capitalist, statist, or other types of ownership of this technology must be entirely disallowed, and that we must actually structure our economy to become obsolete in order to adequately pursue this, and finally: that we must not kill eachother off in the process.

It may very well be our current form of capitalism that produces this, or something that comes out of a General Protective Liscense. It may take 1,000+ years, and 30 more types of economies to produce this.

It may also never happen.

Its the last one I'm worried about most.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

In other news, I'm pissed.

Specifically, I'm pissed off that people actually believe the media fueled drivel concerning politics. I even dislike using the term "Progressive" and "Conservative" in the previous post. Why?

Because they're fucking meaningless terms.

What is a progressive? What is a conservative? Sure, when we think of politicians we can easily identify the ones that describe themselves as such through their rhetoric. But that's primarily due to succinct psychological pandering. At least with, "Capitalist", or "Socialist" or "Religious Fundamentalist" I know what the fuck you're talking about.

But conservative? You can't say that conservatives are defined by: Family Values (what, non-conservatives don't have families, and don't have values thereof?), or Small Government (Anyone looked at the deficits of the last two conservative presidents?), or Free Market (rampant protectionism), etc. etc.

Liberal? What the fuck's that, Clinton cut welfare funds, signed NAFTA, campaigned on a fucking "Third Way" platform for fucks sake.

And the people who BELIEVE all of this crap.....my fucking God....I...

I just want to stab them in the face repeatedly with a poorly sharpened #2 Pencil.

For of the love of fuck, if you get all of your political news from your favorite right wing talk radio show, or Michael Moore, or from watching talking heads bitch at eachother on TV, please...finish the job and just fucking lobotomize yourself. And FUCK YOU IN THE EYE for voting you stupid shits. You don't deserve to meaningly participate in a naptime discussion in kindergarten, much less anything resembling self-government, you dimwitted fecal brained jargon pails.

And I swear to Allmighty Bob the next time I hear someone say "Red State" or "Blue State" or "Compassionate Conservative" or "Tax and Spend Liberal" or whatever other little fucking "clever" buzzword you swallowed from your souless kleptocratic overlords, I will soddomize your fucking eyesockets.

---The Non Mechanical Man.

How the Progressives can win next election, and not even feel that bad about voting for Democrats.

When it shall be said in any country in the world, my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive;... when these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.

--
Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

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So, are you burnt out and depressed about the Bush win?

Sad that bigotry won the presidency?

Think we're all doomed?

That the whole Democratic party is just as bad, and a bunch of spineless weasles to boot?

Don't fret, I have a surefire solution. A counter-zeitgeist for the anti-gay agenda and pure banality that won the last election: A Constitutional Ammendment Guaranteeing a Right to a Job at a Living Wage.

This is not only a surefire win for the democrats, if they adopted it as their platform, it's a surefire win for everyone who's fed up with them. Quite certainly going more rightward hasn't won them anymore elections, because even republicans don't want republican light. Fuck, Kerry's platform was more or less "Same Flavor, half the carbs."

So, this a really sneaky, and guaranteed to be successful way to inject progressive ideals back into the mainstream dialogue. Don't worry about a "Republican New Deal", they can't offer it. Honestly the only reasons the democrats can actually offer another "New Deal" is because they still have members that don't totally bend over to their large financing interests.

So, why is this a sure win?

One, because the Republican party can't come up with anything better. Which would you vote for if you were those reclusive undecided voters: Privatizing Social Security? Or... A constitutional right to a job at a wage you can live off of? Considering that 1 in 4 Americans falls below the ridiculously low federal poverty guidelines for their household, that's 1 in 4 Americans who're likely to vote their goddamn economic self-interest. "Gee, should I vote for privatizing social security and slashing social programs, all to benefit growth for the kleptocrats.... or should I vote for the immediate pay raise?" You figure that one out.

But wait, it gets better...

Two, A 2001 poll showed that 8 in 10 Americans support creating temporary government work programs for the unemployed. That's 82% of Republicans, 90% of Democrats, and 83% of Independants.

Three, A right to a job at a living wage cuts across both Progressive, and Conservative ethic. Thus the great neo-con fear: that someone would appeal to the inherent populism and nativism of the old-right, to take it to its actual logical conclusion --shafting the kleptocrats. Consider this, conservatives are allways those bitching about people on welfare not working and all of that bullshit, right? So, we as a nation put a high value on work, conservatives perhaps more so. But, 7 out of 10 poor people in our country actually work for a living. So successful has this political distraction been, that while we've moved millions off of welfare rolls, we've done nothing to actually improve wage conditions. And with wages falling across the board, for those who actually work for a living, (as opposed to those living off of rents and interest), along with jobs getting sent overseas, the time is now right to awaken that sleeping giant. Lets face it, you have to be nuts to politically oppose a guarantee that everyone whom is able to work shall have a job, and it shall be decent, and pay a wage you can live off.

Four, this is having your cake and eating it too. It's a progressive ideal, but also a staple of old-right populism, it appeals to the middle class, the lower class, the working class, the poor, the unemployed, the retired, pretty much everyone who isn't a CEO. You can vote your concience, because honestly, what better ticket is there at the moment that has a snowball's chance in hell of winning, and still vote for a party that will actually win. Sorry, hate to tell you, I love the Green Party, but It won't be next election, or the next 20, that they win a Presidency unless they stop running a national candidate and start pushing harder and harder into local candidates.

Five, This will get the momentum going. A giant, lambastic progressive win. People will forget the fucking New Deal, and instead be saying "Kids, when I was young, we pushed hard and got a guaranteed right to a job and and end to poverty, I wept when it happened."

Six, you'll be able to rub it in the faces of neo-conservatives and the DNC, and every other soulless bureaucrat for the next 20 elections.

So, in conclusion, while this is the cure to the Gay Marriage Ammendment, we must also take care that it doesn't end up like the Gay Marriage Ammendment, in the dustbin of History.

So, say "Fuck you, I won't vote for you." To your Congressman, unless they immidiately support this.

Hey, that's kind of catchy. I'm calling this the "Fuck you, I won't vote for you." Campaign.