The You and I Economy

 

An “unfettered” free (hello redundancy!) market means you and I are unfettered in how we spend our dollar. “Unfettered” means unfettered by government, and whoever profits by our dollar must also serve us by producing exactly what we want to be produced, in the quantity dictated by us and our spending choices.

So where is the evil?

Well, what if businesses invest unwisely? That brings harm, doesn’t it?

Because government invests more wisely?

When an individual or a company makes a bad choice only the individual or the company is affected, and they lose by it, learn by it, or go out of business (assuming they aren’t bailed out by government.) When government makes a bad choice it does not go out of business–it lives to make more bad choices. The negative consequences of those choices are felt across entire industries, or across the whole economy from one side to the other.

So, how can you be afraid of business malinvestment, but not government malinvestment?

The nonsense of government incentives to hire

We already use our money to provide incentives to hire… by spending.

All government does is reallocate money that would have been spent to do precisely that, away from taxpayers. Consumers already encourage hiring. Every time you spend a dollar, it encourages the recipient business to do more of what it’s doing: produce more of that product, provide more of that service to more people, etc.

More, at some level, means the need for more work. There is no such thing as a limit on the work that needs to be done. For that to be true there would have to be a limit of things that consumers desire. But  I think you and I both know… there is no such limit. 

An economy where you and I make the decisions

The free market is the only truly consumer-centric system. It is purely democratic. In such a system, government doesn’t dictate what to produce, or how much, or what price to make it available at. But neither does business. The consumer decides, by spending his dollar one way or another. Businesses exist to serve those needs. That’s all they do. The ones who serve us well thrive. The ones who don’t serve us don’t get our dollar.

All that government interference into the economy accomplishes is to divorce the consumer’s dollar from what we would collectively pay for and spend it on something else instead. All it can accomplish, therefore, is the exact opposite of what we, collectively, would have accomplished by our own choices. It keeps businesses alive that we don’t particularly care for. It prevents innovation, by continuing to produce things which, if the funds were left in the channels that we had designated for them, would have been made obsolete or irrelevant. It hires people we would not hire, and prevents the hiring of people we would hire.  It creates artificial demand for things which we would be more careful or frugal about putting our money into, and prevents wise investment into longer-term investments and savings (things which actually empower us).

It does all of this based on the ancient notion that the government is our ruler, wiser than, and ethically-superior to, us. But do we really believe that? Under a non-monarchical, non-dictatorial system we are supposed to decide what is best for us, and government merely act as our representatives to protect us from crime and foreign aggression.

Are there evils in a free market? Of course! No one cries out louder than me at some business engaged in wrongdoing, or using deceptive or fraudulent tactics, or manipulative advertising, or has bad hiring policies, or uses toxic, chemical-laden products. But herein lies the power: in a free market, we can withdraw our dollar from that company and cry out for others to do the same. Then, when that company’s profits begin to slide, it can either change its ways, or surrender market share to new companies who do things better and give consumers more of what they want.

Would a government-run company or department or bureau do the same? Would they even care? What would be our recourse, if we no longer wanted to do business with that department?

Sorry Shirley, you’re stuck with them.

Businesses might do unwise, or inefficient, or unethical things, sure. But they pay for that. There are consequences. They are answerable to us.

When government does something unwise, inefficient, or unethical it blames it on its supposed “opponents” and carries right on the next day, doing more of the same, and there’s not much we can do about it. So under which system do you feel more empowered?

On Life after Death, the Nature of God, and the Inadequacy of Scripture

(Notes from Dan Simmons – The Rise of Endymion)

 

Speculative fiction, in the hands of a master, can blow your mind.

For me, Dan Simmons is such a master. Woven into his 1997 novel, The Rise of Endymion, are some nuggets of Buddhist wisdom that purport to answer some of humanity’s biggest and oldest questions, such as what is the human soul, does it survive death, and why (most) humans fall short of attaining their true potential.

Here, extracted from the fiction for your contemplation, is a selection of the insights. I don’t pretend to understand them all, but I know they make me think, and that, in my estimation, is the highest complement you can pay to a piece of speculative fiction.

Contemplate the following, and say goodbye to your mind as you know it…

On Life after Death

A Zen koan:

A monk said to Tozan: “A monk has died; where has he gone?”

Tozan answered: “After the fire, a sprout of grass.”

It means: the monk is dead as a doornail. But it also means that the monk has gone nowhere; life has gone nowhere–it continues on in a different form. Nothing has been removed from the balance of life in the universe. Where is the dead monk? It is like ice becoming water or even better, water returning to water.

No individual is reborn; all things are subject to anicca, the law of mutability.

Anatta (no-self): Buddha denies there is any such thing as a personal entity known as a soul – therefore, there is no immortality of the soul.

On the Nature of God

God is another name for the conscious “we-know-not-what” (i.e., God, Love, Force, etc.) It is an aspect of the universe, but unbound by time or space. It is both created by consciousness (not only human) and itself creates consciousness. It is stitched of quantum stuff, woven with Planck space and Planck time, lying under and around space-time. It is neither mystical nor metaphysical; it flows from and responds to the physical laws of the universe. It is structured from thought and feeling. It is an artifact of the universe’s consciousness of itself. It is a composite of a hundred thousand sentient races across billions of years of time.

Satori: a total and intuitive insight into the fact that love is a real and equal force in the universe, as real as electromagnetism, weak nuclear force, gravity. Love is a binding force of the “we-know-not-what”. Human beings are only recently evolved from our primate cousins and have not yet gained the sensory capacity to see clearly or enter the “we-know-not-what”.  Some humans with an open heart and mind have caught rare and powerful glimpses of it. The something is touched by all of us who have wept with happiness, bidden a lover goodbye, been exalted with orgasm, stood over the grave of a loved one, or watched their baby open its eyes for the first time.

The Something is under and above the surface of our thoughts and senses, invisible but present, like the breathing of our beloved next to us in the night. It is actual but inaccessible, which is why our species invents myths and religions, extrasensory powers, telepathy and precognition, demons and demigods, resurrection and reincarnation, ghosts and messiahs… this is all almost-but-not-quite-satisfying bullshit.

The Inadequacy of Scripture, and What True Satori Looks Like

The four statements of the Zen Sect (Bodhi dharma 6th c AD) are the perfect way to find the Something:

  1. No dependence on words and letters

Words are light and sound, the Something is to be found in the deepest secrets and silences of things–in the place where childhood dwells.

  1. A special transmission outside the scriptures.

Artists recognize other artists as soon as the pencil begins to move. Musicians can tell other musicians apart from the millions as soon as they begin to play. Poets glean poets in a few syllables. When you burn away the words and images you are left with the gold of deeper things: the dark flame that burns in all things. You must see them with the belly, not with the eye; with the bowels of compassion.

All scripture lies. The Bible lies, the Koran lies, the Talmud and Torah lie, the New Testament lies, the Sutta Pitaka, the Nikayas, the Itivuttaka, the Dhammapada lie, the Bodhisattva and the Amitabha lie, the Book of the Dead lies, the Tipitaka lies. All scripture lies, not from intention or failure of expression, but because they are reduced to words, because they use words in the place of perception of the Something. All the images, precepts, laws, canons, quotations, parables commandments, koans, zazen and sermons in these beautiful books ultimately fail by adding more words between the human being who is seeking and the perception of the Something.

  1. Direct pointing to the soul of man.

Zen is the closest to understanding the Something because it clarifies its absence. When you meditate on pointing without a finger, or creating art with no medium, or hearing a powerful sound in a vacuum of silence, you are on the Path.

  1. Seeing into one’s nature and the attainment of Buddhahood.

You do not need decades of zazen, or baptism or pondering the Koran to do this. The Buddha nature is the essence of being human. Flowers all attain flowerhood, a wild dog or a zygote each attain their doghood or zygotehood. Any place is granted its placehood. Only humankind struggles and fails in becoming what it is. The problem is that we are self-aware. How well would the eye work if it could see itself?

The Buddha understood that we can sense the Something by silencing the din of the everyday. Satori is a great and satisfying silence after listening to an inescapable noise for months on end. But silence is only the beginning of hearing. Learning the language of the dead is the first task of those who enter into the Something medium.

Jesus of Nazareth entered it. His voice is the clearest of those who speak in the language of the dead. He stayed long enough to move to the second level of responsibility and effort: not just hearing but learning the language of the dead. He learned it well enough to hear the music of the spheres. He was able to ride the surging probability waves far enough to see his own death and was brave enough not to avoid it when he could. We know that while he was dying on the cross, he learned to move through space and time and appear to his friends and disciples in the future.

Liberated from the restrictions of time by glimpsing into timelessness, Jesus realized that he was the key–not his teachings, not scriptures based on his ideas, not adulation of him, or not changing the way people thought of God. Just HIM. Jesus, a human man whose cells carried the decryption code to unlock the portal. Jesus knew that his ability to open the door was not in his mind or soul, but in his DNA.

During the last supper Jesus asked his followers to drink of his blood and eat of his body. He was not speaking in parable or asking people to symbolically reenact it for centuries to come. He was literally trying to share his DNA with his followers so that they would be able to perceive the power of the Something. And some of them did. But confronted with perceptions and impressions far beyond their power to absorb and unable to turn the language of the dead to the language of the living, these disciples turned to dogma, reducing the inexpressible to sermons, tight rules and fiery rhetoric. The vision paled, then failed. The portal closed.

On the supposed clash of civilizations between Muslim world and the West

I don’t see a clash of civilizations at all.

Civilization (singular) is a human creation, and one of its greatest. Civilization is nothing more or less than the organization of society under the rule of civil law. It is the enforcement of rights. On the personal level, it is the implicit understanding that we get what we want from other people by entering into discussions and agreements with them, not by putting guns to their head.

Civilization is the understanding that the opposite of rights is the monstrous wrong of using physical violence to obtain our ends, and the legal protection against it.

The very word clash seems to imply an unresolvable impasse between two equal forces. Well, there can no more be a “clash” between civilization and its opposite, than there can be between food and poison. Only one sustains life. Continue reading On the supposed clash of civilizations between Muslim world and the West