Reclaim Your Freedoms
Peter Schiff, chairman of SchiffGold, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, Inc, and host of The Peter Schiff Show, fearlessly ventured into the heart of Liberty Plaza during the Occupy Wall Street protests to try and find common ground with the people there. What I love most about this video is not Peter’s bravery in facing the 99% as a more-or-less unapologetic member of the 1%, rather I admire his tenacity and consistency in the conversations with folks who seem to believe, and in fact are likely to have been pigeon-holed as believing that the main reason for the inequality and injustice in our country lies in corporations taking in too big of profits. So as you watch know that there is some oversimplification going on. But ask yourself: Is it the Occupy protesters who are engaging in oversimplification, or is it the media that is oversimplifying their arguments? (I’ll give you a hint: Not all of the Occupy protesters are anti-capitalist!)
As Peter explains, corporate taxes are always passed onto consumers or taken out of workers’ pay. Thus, corporate taxes discourage growth and development in the economy. Personally, I believe growth and development in the economy are a good thing.
Unhindered growth allows for innovation. Just look at the smartphone in your pocket. Any state-run phone company would produce half the product for twice the cost, and it would take twice as long at that! In 1913, there was only one telephone that you could get, and you couldn’t even buy it; you had to rent it from AT&T, which was a state-regulated monopoly.
Fortunately for us, the Market always finds a backdoor or a workaround to allow innovation to continue. It’s just that sometimes these black-or-grey-market innovators find themselves in court for their unsanctioned attempts to increase our choices and our freedoms.
In the telephone market, competition began creeping in in 1956, when the courts overruled an FCC ban on Tom Carter’s Hush-a-Phone, a device which snapped on to a telephone and made it possible for the user to speak in a whisper. That was perhaps the first step in the dissolution of the telephone monopoly.
The Hush-a-Phone decision paved the way for 110 and 300 bit per second acoustically-coupled computer terminals, like the one shown below.
Carter eventually won a decision against AT&T that allowed customers to connect any device to the AT&T network, without the previously required “Protective Coupler”. That was the Carterfone Decision of 1968. This lead to today’s near total deregulation of telephone equipment in the US, something on which the rest of the world followed suit. The communications regulatory bodies in those countries clearly saw the benefits of allowing their citizens to connect new devices which allowed for both voice and data to be transmitted.
Without this kind of deregulation, it’s possible the Internet would have remained a slowly-moving, bureaucratically-controlled project, restricted to use by the oligarchs in government and large corporations, and a select few who could afford to pay for access to the overpriced, shoddy service they would have certainly provided.
By contrast, in our modern-day, largely capitalistic internet ecosystem — although tempered by some degree of cronyism — we now have reliable, high-performance, internet-connected, bluetooth/wifi/NFC-enabled, secure and sleek smartphones for as low as $35, not to mention the infrastructure (internet backbone, up to 13 Gbps) on which to operate them. Don’t believe me on the price? Just check out what Mozilla has done with their Firefox OS phones, meant for emerging markets like Brazil, India, and the Philippines.
The Cherry Mobile Ace Firefox OS Phone featured below was released in December of 2014 for 1499 PHP — Philippine Pesos — approximately $33! But wait, it gets better. Their sale price was 999 PHP, only $22 for a fully-useable, well-designed smartphone!
Personally, I want as many people in the world as possible to be able to purchase and own devices such as the Cherry Mobile Ace. It is a form of empowerment through technology that nary a socialist would promote if they understood that only through deregulation can such things come to pass. They would have to relinquish political power and their thirst for it in order to allow such empowering trends to fully develop. I truly admire anyone with the courage to let go of their vice-grip attachments to such delusions of grandeur as “empowering the masses” by means of appropriating other people’s hard earned money.
Enterprising Entrepreneurs Empower Everyone
Consider what you can do because of Market Innovation and Market Innovators:
- Phone and text your friends, families, and business partners for free using things like WhatsApp
- Send, receive, and manage your money without a bank account or a government ID or anyone’s permission using Bitcoin and a Bitcoin wallet app (there are many options!)
- Record videos and take pictures
- Mix and remix almost any kind of media
- Share and sync files with anyone
- Learn new skills on Khan Academy and through MOOC’s (massive online open courses)
- Get weather alerts
- Get important health information and even diagnose diseases
- Call on your neighbors to defend or aid you in times of crisis through apps like Peacekeeper
- Navigate to new areas easily
- Give and get rides through Uber
- Rent out your home with Airbnb
- And so much more!
All of this on a $22 device. And whether we ever stop to think about it or appreciate it, the credit is due to Free Market Capitalism: People being incentivized to work and provide valuable products and services to one another of their own volition. People doing business without being hindered by regulations or sucked dry by the tax man for some vaguely-defined and for-all-intents-and-purposes bankrupt social contract. Just look at our public schooling systems, modeled as they were after Nazi Germany to encourage compliance, complacency, and the production of anti-intellectual, subservient factory workers. Part of our “Social Contract” is that we are forced through taxes to support keeping children locked down in destitute and soul-crushing environs for hours on end until they are 18 years old. It just drives me nuts. It’s why I celebrate, again, the creeping in of some forms of subversive innovation, creative destruction a la charter schools, for instance, or people that manage to provide a good learning experience at home for their children. It’s why I celebrate kids who do the bare minimum in school while finding ways to pursue their passions and careers independently in the few hours they are left each day. Innovation is not commanded, nor is learning imparted through coercion. To cite Plato:
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
So who is responsible for this mess? The lobbyists and the lobbied are quite suspect. Increasingly, for me, the activists and the politically-active mainstream are too, though. What ‘revolution’ can this incest between the rulers and the ruled conceivably spawn after all? Is the system ‘working’? Have things gotten tangibly better because of the state? It’s a question not-often explored; more often than not it’s denied or dismissed. It seems, instead, that the assumptions and presuppositions of the state are reinforced at every turn. It’s all about 6- and 8-year political dynasties, and our blind faith in the process: We can fix it, next time we’ll win, it’s their fault not ours, and on and on.
It takes a brave and steeled soul indeed to lock eyes with the system and keep on walking. To walk on, to traverse that mental landscape is to say, “Democracy has failed”. And let’s be honest, it has. It’s time to move on. Plutocrats and Peasants is what we are. To be a politician is to be a bought-and-sold man. And to believe so fervently in the potential of another politician, another movement, to pin our hopes on some new Inflatable Jesus Figure each election cycle, are we not succumbing to Uncle Tom Syndrome? I have begun to view and treat Democracy Lovers as I do 12th-Man Football Fanatics. Let them believe they are making a difference, but avoid them like the plague at dinner parties. You’re better off pitching ice to Eskimos.
Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.—
It’s very frustrating living in a world where Anarchy is a dirty word, thought to mean property-destruction by Angsty Anarcho-Communists, and where Democracy and Environmentalism are God and the infidels and iconoclasts are burned at the stake. We certainly have massive socioeconomic and ideological inertia propelling the prevailing, dysfunctional, political machine, but we also have a budding trend of disintermediation, divergent thinking, open-sourcing-of-everything, and a renewed optimism in the world.
It becomes apparent when looking at many of the volunteer-based projects which have benefited humanity, say Wikipedia, or the Linux Operating System. But there are True Capitalists who continue to raise the bar too: Elon Musk is one example. An electric car that goes 0-60 in three seconds, a rocket ship that can take off and land vertically, and a proposal for a “Hyperloop” vacuum-sealed, elevated, maglev transportation system that will ferry people from L.A. to San Francisco in half-an-hour — all from one man. Did I mention he plans to travel to Mars himself in one of his rockets? What an amazing icon, the likes of which Hank Rearden of Atlas Shrugged might choose to associate with from time to time (when he’s not crafting even better steel that is…). And then there’s the shadowy innovators, Satoshi Nakamoto, for instance. Gave the world Bitcoin, the payment protocol for the 5 Billion Unbanked of the World, plus a currency that is virtually (algorithmically) guaranteed to be a store of value better than gold — bless his/her heart!
There are other ways to pursue peace, order, and prosperity for our lands and our communities. The Wikipedia volunteers, Linux developers, Elon’s, and Satoshi’s of the world are building it in fact. By contrast, all statist systems, whether they be socialist, fascist, republican, or monarchistic, reek like last week’s trash. They rest upon the nullification and disenfranchisement of the individual, as opposed to his empowerment. To take from Ayn Rand again:
The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.
If I grow a company from the ground up, hire 100’s of people, a board of directors, offer stocks, and make a profit, am I evil? A popular idea in our world today is that yes, I am inherently evil, that profit is inherently exploitative of, most certainly, my employees, but likely the environment, and the rest of my society as well. What do people think is done with profits anyways? Surely they are never reinvested into R&D, or employee bonuses, or invested in other startups. No. Not a chance.
Check out Peter Schiff here pretending to be a democrat at the North Carolina DNC. What should be done about these evil corporate profits, he asks!
Profits incentivize and propel future business ventures. If you think profits are truly evil, then what you should probably do right now is this:
And while you’re at it, what are you reading this blog post on? Go ahead and destroy that device too if it’s not the iPhone that you just destroyed. Apple made over $50 Billion in profit last year. That’s pretty fucking evil, ain’t it?
Surely the fat cats at the top are keeping all that money for themselves, right? No, actually. Forbes did a breakdown of how Apple is using its huge cash reserves — all from profits — in order to evolve and stay relevant as a company:
Apple’s balance sheet shows $97.6 billion in cash. … That money is going to be used to increase the security that the supply chain offers Apple.
… Apple’s immense cash reserves allows not only an investment in new technology, but they can literally buy the complete run of a specialist part for a number of years, locking out the competition.
It’s because of these profits, the profit motive, and Apple’s tireless innovation, that you have a shiny new iPhone in your pocket. No one else could have done it cheaper. Take away that “extra” cash, and we’re stuck with iPhone 4’s. Nobody wants that. Really!
I find this baseless demonetization of profits tiresome. But, there is another more pernicious form of ignorance to contend with: That people readily dismiss how businesses compete to buy labor. Our naivete in this area leads to the creation of policies which fundamentally harm both minority groups and individuals: i.e., Minimum Wage Laws.
Because markets go where labor is cheaper, artificially increasing demand (i.e. price) for a given unit or hour of labor results in local businesses leaving for greener pastures. “Edgar the Exploiter” is a lovely and heart-wrenching depiction of this effect, the result of our ignorance of basic economics:
Artificially raising labor costs through minimum wages hurts low-skill, impoverished, and minority workers the most. This is why I was against the $15 minimum wage law in Seattle when it was proposed. The law would simply gentrify the service industry, eventually getting to the point that only rich white college kids could work legally.
Instead of lofting idealistic legislation into the congressional fighting pits, as in the example of Minimum Wage regulations, and hoping our proposal comes out on top, we should deregulate the markets so that more people can participate in them. Innovation and wealth-creation cannot be commanded. We should stop trying to limit the market from doing what it does best: Provide us with exactly what we need for a low cost.
If we could also address the issue of suppressed interest rates (which discourages people from saving) and Quantitative Easing via the Federal Reserve (which gradually erodes our purchasing power) the world would be a better, freer, and wealthier place. Alas, you can’t have it all.
But there are some things we can do to expedite the transition to a freer and more just world, routing around the broken political system. We should explore continuous, subversive innovation via disruption, disintermediation, decentralization, and democratization. Examples of this path include:
- Donating to and improving upon Wikipedia and Khan Academy to facilitate the democratization of information around the world.
- Using OpenBazaar to buy/sell goods online in an uncensorable, pseudonymous, distributed marketplace with Bitcoin. The is subversive grey-market activity which serves to deny the state its sales tax revenue and also deregulate the products on the market. In removing 3rd parties from transactions, it disintermediates banking and financial networks too.
- Using 3D printers in local Maker Spaces to print toys, tools, guns, and more using open-source blueprints. This is an example of democratization and disintermediation in manufacturing.
- Patronizing farmer’s markets and paying in cash or bitcoin. This removes middle-men and empowers small business owners.
- Working under the table saves both you and your employer money and serves to disrupt income taxation.
All social services, up-to-and-including Government itself can be decentralized and disintermediated. Taking advantage of any of these or the above opportunities will enhance social and economic opportunities for you and your community while enhancing your freedom:
- Defense and Security can be procured locally through neighborhood-watch organizations, private security firms, and the Peacekeeper App. Private security markets would benefit from deregulation and increased Free-Market Competition first, however. This eliminates the need for a public police force or — in the case of Detroit — fills a power vacuum with members of your own community who are passionate about protecting people.
- Charities and Health Care Sharing Ministries can provide the majority of health care coverage for communities, especially once their members are liberated from taxes.
- Smart Contracts written via the Bitcoin Protocol can be used to replace intermediaries in many levels of government, to rein in corruption, and to guarantee accountability.
Basically, do all that you can to engage in and promote voluntary exchange. And pull others into it. This is the most effective way of ‘agitating for change’, as the progressives would say, to deregulate industry and technology. This will, in turn, enrich the whole world.
Liberate the economy and the state will fade into irrelevance. We think the state is an institution of social service, that it’s there for our own good. But perhaps it’s not the morally-superior, altruistic conglomerate of thinking and resources that it’s made out to be. Murray Rothbard said it best in “What the State is Not”:
We are not the Government; the Government is not us. Society and the State are not the same thing. The rise of democracy has conflated the two further. Consider: If 70% of our democracy approved a measure to murder the remaining 30% it would technically be a democratic decision, justified by the internal rules of the philosophical framework. It would not be considered murder, however, as the ‘subjects’ of the state effectively are the State. Consider how in Nazi Germany the extermination of the Jews was a legal and government-sanctioned act. Statism projects that, as appendages of the state, the ‘murdered’ actually killed themselves. The system is full of such internal contradictions.
“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
When we get down to it, the state is simply the institution occupying a given territorial area which has a monopoly on force and violence. If it commits some social good, then that is ancillary to its existence. The state need be nothing more. It exists through and because of coercion alone: The violent enforcement of the borders, the appropriation of the territorial residents’ wealth through taxation, and the metering out of pre-appropriated, universal human rights to its subjects via the legislature and the laughably-named ‘Justice System’.
Just like as in War, there are no Winners in Statism. It is a zero-sum game. One policy, one person, must come out on top. Compare it to Socialism’s theory of economics, which incorrectly posits that economic activity is a zero-sum game. Of course, if that were true in economics we would have no more value in the world than we did when only 1,000,000 humans roamed the Earth. It is silly to think of 7 billion people — and the product of all their activity — having no more worth than a measly million hunters and gatherers, don’t you think?
Ironic then, isn’t it, that so many Statists proclaim Capitalism to be a dead-end, when really the State is the one that’s dead in the water. Capitalism is a force for good; Statism a parasite. Free Market innovation is the reason we have a world of such wondrous stability and abundance. And luckily for us, there will always be people who wish to build and consume new and better things.
Let’s get the State out of the way. Engage in counter-economics. Obfuscate your wealth. Avoid taxes. Avoid the “Man’s Money”. State your preference for Bitcoin or barter. Shrink the State, or obviate it by innovating around it.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.—
The sooner you do — the sooner you opt-out and start participating in these new, disintermediated models of reality — the sooner we will all be free.
Let us hasten the demise of the State.
If you would like to further educate yourself in economics, Marginal Revolution University has a wonderful, free, and accessible course entitled “Everyday Economics“. (Yet another Capitalist Innovation; and yes, you can pay for more content later if you wish. It’s up to you!)
Contents of “Everyday Economics” include:
- The notion of the Hockey Stick of Human Prosperity, a visualization of the explosive expansion of wealth in more recent human history
- Increased life expectancy as a measure of human prosperity
- Reduced mortality and increased average height, hygiene, sanitation, and technology as measures of human prosperity
- The origins of prosperity, lessons from “The Wealth of Nations”, and other insights from Adam Smith
- How wealth has shifted from being the exception to being the norm
We didn’t used to try to figure out what causes poverty, as we do today. We used to try to figure out what causes wealth. This was Adam Smith’s goal. And you can learn about it for free. Pretty swell, huh?
Please click the “Donate BTC” button up top or the green shield icon below to donate Bitcoin to me if you like my writing. In exchange I promise I’ll have a book someday that you can buy and read..!