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A Plea for Citizen Journalists

The Forth Estate, the modern press machine, is a failure. The same people who are supposed to keep tabs on our elected leaders/rulers are in fact in bed with them. Hints of this total dystopia are given occasionally by news that is slanted in a particular way not to expose the truth, but to assassinate the character those that are fighting for the truth.

How is one supposed to take a movement seriously when those participating in the movement are made to look like intolerant, ignorant racists (most of the Tea Party are not) or hippies who just want to smoke marijuana (the Occupy movement is not about that)? Both movements are in some way focused on corporate greed; however, both movements have had their messages in one way or another high jacked by the press.

Would you help a movement that is presented in a bad light? Be it FOX News on the right, making Occupy members look like drug-addled hippies looking for a handout, or MSNBC on the left, making Tea Partiers out to be right-wing fascists out to start a race war, there is no excuse for those in the press who pledge to present an honest report on the issues.

Turn off those TV sets. Put down that newspaper. Citizen journalists are here working diligently and honestly to give an honest, clear, clean, and uncensored view of what is going on. We are publicly funded (that means YOU) and are here to give the unbiased reporting that originally made this country great.

We are only driven by shining a light on this media blackout on the truth meant to keep up a sick delusion, where the people keep losing and the wealthy corporate media interests keep winning.

However, this mission is at the expense of our health and sanity. It’s not that we do this willingly; we do this for the same reason one becomes a priest, the same reason one toils in a animal shelter taking care of the unwanted, the same reason one opens a soup kitchen. Citizen journalists do this work because they feel they can no longer sit idly by and live with the delusion that our Fourth Estate, our modern press machine, passes off as news. We are trying to smash this delusion and inform the American public. This is a plea. This is a call. We need your help on this one. Working for a better tomorrow, today. Everyday.

Credit: Tim Anderson, “A Plea and a Call from Citizen Journalists,” with a Creative Commons license

[Editor’s note: For anyone in a position to contribute financially, donations are accepted at the OccupyHistory’s WePay page.]

How Do We Accomplish Liberty?

What is the “Plan” for accomplishing liberty? How do we get it done?

This question, posed often by those both sympathetic and hostile to full human liberty and its implications, is one that sadly reveals to a great degree the success of our societal pro-government conditioning. Even after the realization of the moral incumbency of free action by each individual, we still instantly think in terms of imposing such a condition through hierarchical edicts from the top down. Since liberty is, itself, the absence of any such coercive external imposition this makes going about it tricky and counter-intuitive.

Using the political process to accomplish reductions of government violations of natural rights is completely acceptable from a moral point of view, even when deceptive. This is because doing so can not be reasonably construed to constitute consent for the system itself, and the implementation is merely that which is morally incumbent (a condition of free exercise of rights). Therefore, voters being deprived of the violations of individual rights to which they are accustomed as resulting from the political processes have not been deprived of any valid expectation. Ultimately, however, such a strategy for ending or reducing the state and its crimes against rightfully free individuals will fall short of accomplishing a lasting solution. It will fail because of the way the process itself is at odds with the ideals of liberty.

It is important to understand that the operating capability of the state does not rest purely on implemented or threatened force. If it did, it would be very limited in the scope of its effective control, and it would have to operate out of the public eye. The real “lynch-pin” for the state is that it rests on the widespread perception of its legitimacy, and the expectations of the people all around us in our churches, businesses and families. They spring into its service as enforcers (knowingly or not) with social reprisals against anyone who questions not just a particular government action, but the validity of our being subject to its rule at all.

That’s why the path to complete liberty is to undermine this concept and perception. We must do so slowly but surely until it becomes the same as a “flat earth” idea. Like the truth-based advances in human progress that preceded this one, it is a huge uphill battle against all of the weight of tradition and institutional inertia. However, once the social reprisals faced by the average person for supporting the use of state violence outweigh the social risks for opposing the state, it’s “game over” and we’ve won. We can see an example of this dynamic in the recent past with the example of racial segregation.

Encouraging People to Choose to Be Free

That understanding presents a much different long-term strategy, and one that requires uncomfortable conversations in our personal lives. To move the evolution of humanity forward toward liberty in a lasting way, we can all do a great deal without ever stepping in a voting booth or holding a campaign sign. People’s relationships with others are incredibly important to them. We can point out tactfully and calmly the reality of government force in a very personal way. We can explain to them that the schemes of state solutions with which they agree, are being imposed upon millions who do not … at the barrel of a gun. We can point out that among these millions is the person with whom they are speaking at that moment and profess to care for. Does this friend or family member really believe men with guns should be permitted to force you to fund their solution to a problem, or to put you in a cage if you refuse?

People are not accustomed to having to answer for this in their individual interactions. When people start facing this reality and its individual implications more often, then those social risks that come with supporting the state will start to outweigh those that accompany its rejection. Once the point is reached when the average person has more social fear attending support for the state than they do about denying its purported legitimacy openly, then the war will have been won. No amount of threats, subversion or naked force will be able to stem the tide of human progress away from this archaic means of social organization at that point. The idea of the state will be relegated to the dustbin of history with the other outmoded and pre-scientific solutions that proceeded their well-deserved demise.

Credit: Spencer Morgan, “How Do We Accomplish Liberty?” with a Creative Commons license

Government-Sponsored Income Inequality in the U.S.

Robert Shiller via Washington’s Blog:

There have been political changes in the US that allow the extreme high end to garner more wealth. Ultimately, it represents a failure of our society to take account of the fact that the extreme high end can lobby and can organise for its own interests, and we’ve let it happen.

[…]

You might think that in a system of majority voting, the middle class and the poor would dominate and would prevent this kind of inequality from developing. But it hasn’t been that way — it’s been even less so that way lately, especially in the US.

Shiller doesn’t give concrete examples, so allow me to list a few.

  1. Wall Street bankers, through their lackeys Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke, threaten Congress with the end of the world if the banks don’t get bailed out. The banks get bailed out.
  2. Wall Street bankers insist that the American economy can’t be competitive unless Wall Street banks remain Too Big To Fail. Financial reform is gutted and banks are allowed to become even bigger.
  3. Even after the bailouts, banks remain insolvent, so bankers lobby for accounting rule changes that allow them to hide their insolvency. Banks get their accounting rule changes.
  4. Even after the accounting rule changes, banks are still in terrible financial shape. So the Federal Reserve pins interest rates at zero percent so that the banks can generate giant profits by borrowing at zero percent and buying Treasury bonds.

Et voila! You have more obscene profits and bonuses on Wall Street just two years after Wall Street corruption and incompetence blew up the American economy. At the same time, Main Street still suffers with stagnant wages, high unemployment, and rising food and energy costs.

“Let them eat credit.” Indeed.

Liberals always paint this as an issue of tax policy and campaign finance reform. But that is a naive view. Where there is money and power, it will find influence. The Wall Street—Washington cabal is far too deep and intertwined to be restrained by campaign finance rules, and they will always find a way to push the burden of higher tax rates onto the middle class while buying loopholes for themselves. The revolving door between Wall Street and Washington is far more pernicious than any campaign contributions. Hank Paulson was a Wall Street multi-multi-millionaire before he came to the Treasury and used his position to bail out his Wall Street buddies. And Timmy the Tax Cheat knows that he’ll have a seven-figure Wall Street job waiting for him as long as he does Wall Street’s bidding as Treasury secretary. That kind of giant personal wealth incentive makes any campaign contributions seem quaint by comparison.

I simplify this somewhat by focusing on Wall Street, but the same principle applies obviously to government contractors, ethanol makers, TSA nudie-scanner makers, and every other industry funded, subsidized, or mandated by politicians handing out Other People’s Money. Every department of the government is filled with bureaucrats at every level hoping to get rich by doing favors for, and then landing a cushy job with, private industry.

The answer was set out for us by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution. Only restraints on the scope and breadth of what the government can do will prevent the rich and powerful from seizing the levers of government for their own advantage. The government our Founding Fathers gave us was never supposed to be allowed to bail out private banks or manipulate interest rates for the benefit of the wealthy. The way to restore representative democracy and reduce government-sponsored inequality is to restore limited government.

Credit: W.C. Varones, “Government-sponsored income inequality in the U.S.,” with a Creative Commons license

Something the Media Have Overlooked

The Occupy movement has been attacked from all angles, criticized for its lack of leadership and a singular purpose, and written off as an insignificant urban camping trip for a few neo-hippies. While those elements do exist within the various groups holding public land in cities across the United States, there is something which has been overlooked. At the very heart of it, this movement is an exhibition of classical American patriotism in action. It draws upon the rich tradition of our founding fathers, who advocated dissent as a patriotic duty, who were skeptical of banking institutions becoming “too big to fail,” and who warned against expanding government to a point where freedom would be trampled by federal bureaucracy.

In the two weeks that I have been here, camped out with people from varied demographics and walks of life, I have seen and heard evidence which both substantiates and undermines the attacks made by members of the media and the political machine. It is an inevitable byproduct of true democracy that the very worst of opinions have, at the very least, the right to be spoken. It is an idea widely attributed to Voltaire that, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” However, for all of the inflammatory rhetoric that appeals to the revolutionary aesthetic of a few individuals, there is a majority of rational, patriotic Americans here who wish to restore their nation. They hold to the truths of liberty and freedom. Truths which are now abridged by the love of money and power. They see their country being overrun by corrupt private interests which hijack the democratic process and poison the government. They read in the Declaration of Independence that, “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.”

It is now that time, when the people rise up to return control of the government to themselves. In contrast to the Arab Spring and the violent revolutions taking place overseas, this movement is not a revolution, but rather a mission of restoration. It is not a rebellion but a return to democracy. Those that seek to limit the voice of the people and bypass democracy with private corporate contributions in an attempt to usurp power and serve their own selfish interests shall be exposed and defeated. It is a truly American ideal which the citizens now work to reestablish and while the Media continue to highlight the conspiracy theorists and anarchists, those who are here, occupying Dallas understand that what they are doing, they do it because it is a patriotic duty.

Credit: Presto, “Something The Media Has Overlooked,” with no copyright claimed

Presto is a member of Occupy Dallas, an affiliate organization of the Occupy movement demanding greater accountability from public and private institutions.

Why Self-Organized Networks Will Destroy Hierarchies

Hierarchies are systematically stupid and inefficient, for the following reasons.

1. Hayekian information problems: The people in authority who make the rules interfere with the people who know how to do the job and are in direct contact with the situation. The people who make the rules know nothing about the work they’re interfering with. The people who make the rules are unaccountable to the people who do know how to do the work. Consequently, all authority-based rules create suboptimal results and irrationality when they interfere with the judgment of those in direct contact with the situation.

People in authority make stupid decisions because the people who know more than they do are their subordinates, and the only people who can hold them accountable know even less than they do.

The only way the people doing the work can get anything done is to treat irrational authority as an obstacle to be routed around, the same way the Internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it.

2. Groupthink: Hierarchies systematically suppress negative feedback on the results of their policies. As R.A. Wilson said, nobody tells the truth to a man with a gun. Hierarchies are very good at telling naked emperors how good their clothes look.

Hierarchies also systematically suppress critical thinking ability in their members. Psychological studies have found that people in positions of authority become less likely to evaluate communications based on their internal logic, and instead evaluate them based on the authority of the source.

3. Opacity from above: A major theme of “Seeing Like a State,” by James Scott, is that states try to make populations “legible” from above, and hence more amenable to control. We might add a “seeing like a boss” corrollary about the analogous phenomenon inside hierarchies. The problem is that such legibility is very costly, if not impossible, to achieve.

Hospitals are a good example. Most of the paperwork that nurses are required to fill out results from the fact that management doesn’t trust them to do what it wants them to do without some independent means of verification. But the paperwork is worthless, unless management operates on the assumption that those same nurses can be trusted to fill out the paperwork honestly. It all boils down to the fact that management knows their interests are diametrically opposed to those of the nurses, but there’s no way to actually get inside the nurses’ heads and look out through their eyes and thereby overcome this fundamental agency problem. So bosses constantly look for new, ineffectual gimmicks to get around the problem, resulting in endless layers of new paperwork that are as useless as the old paperwork.

Conclusion: To the extent that hierarchical organizations leave subordinates with freedom of exit, they are not coercive in the same way that the state is. But given that hierarchies are artificially prevalent because of state policies, and those who work within them do so as a necessary evil resulting from artificial constraints on the range of competing opportunities, the hierarchy resembles a microcosm of statist society, in which the agency and knowledge problems of authority internally mirror the irrationalities created by state authority in society at large.

So long as the predominant production methods required large aggregations of capital beyond the means of individuals and small groups, and corporate hierarchies were propped up by state ones, the cultural pathologies of hierarchy were surmountable. But technological change is rapidly eroding the requirement for capital outlays, nullifying the advantages of capital ownership, and increasing the vulnerability of hierarchy to external and internal attacks by self-organized networks.

So hierarchies, increasingly, lack the resources to compensate for their handicaps — even with help from the state. The state will only bankrupt itself, along with corporate hierarchies, in trying to prop up the old order.

Kevin Carson, “Why Self-Organized Networks Will Destroy Hierarchies — A Credo,” under a Creative Commons license

C4SS Research Associate Kevin Carson is a contemporary mutualist author and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online.

Review: The Conservative Nanny State

Dean Baker. The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer (LULU, 2006)

It is a myth that the rich, or market conservatives in the author’s lexicon, unremittingly favor the operation of free markets with absolutely no government intervention. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. The author examines several key areas that show the lie of the idea that the rich favor free market outcomes. What they favor is governmental protection of their status and privileges. For example:

1. Both the gov. and professional organizations limit the numbers of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals, including the entry of foreigners. At the same time, rampant and/or illegal immigration floods lower-wage employment markets and some technical jobs. On the one hand, wages are artificially high, but suppressed on the other to the detriment of the greater good.

2. The Federal Reserve uses monetary policy to increase unemployment and thereby lower wages of the lesser skilled, while limiting the inflation detested by bankers.

3. Corporations are entirely government creations, yet conservatives obscure that point which permits unchecked CEO pay. In actuality the government could mandate governance rules that would likely curtail CEO pay excesses.

4. Copyright and patent laws in essence grant monopolies to the detriment of the free flow of goods and services, which can in fact be harmful as in the case of restricting the availability of needed medicines.

5. Conservatives support legislation to restrict the ability of individuals to seek redress in courts for harm under the name of tort reform. In actuality lawsuits are a market form of regulation in lieu of government intervention. Obviously, protecting the rich trumps market principles.

6. Free market advocates supposedly advocate choice. So why is there such fear on the part of private enterprise of people choosing Social Security and/or signing up with Medicare for both health care and prescription drugs? The fact is that private business is highly inefficient compared to those programs and can’t really compete. Therefore they look to government to limit choice.

7. True conservatives have always had low regard for gambling and certainly insist on its being heavily taxed. But when it comes to Wall Street speculation, which is what day-trading is all about, they turn a blind eye to taxing and thus limiting the undisputed harmful impact of speculative transactions.

There are a few more examples by the author, none of which can be seriously disputed. The book has the tone that things could be different: just point out the hypocrisy of the rich and reform will follow. Really?

The author can hardly be unaware that we live in a class society in which the major institutions with the task of inculcating the idea that markets are neutral and work for us all, namely educational and media institutions, are basically owned or financed by the rich. A few dissenting, fringe views are permitted here and there, but basically major dissent concerning the justness of our society is dealt with swiftly: removal or exclusion from school or job, or flagrant suppression.

The situation is more than just setting forth the facts before the public. Probably never before in our history has market ideology so permeated our society and given the rich so many effective tools to disseminate information favorable to their class interests. As far as any effective forces opposing this situation, can anyone honestly say that the Democrats at this point are willing or even want to reverse any of what the author points out any more than do the Republicans. The answer is “No.”

Credit: J. Grattan, “But don’t the rich deserve coddling by the government?” published with permission