Pulling the Wool

At the Democratic National Convention this week in Charlotte, NC, we got the chance to see two amazing things.

1. Why we’re not a Democracy

2. How the Democratic leaders mislead their followers into thinking their voice actually counts.

The Founders of the United States understood that a pure democracy is a dangerous thing.  As Neal Boortz, a talk show host in Atlanta often says “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner”.  So last week the Democratic party somehow makes the decision that they want to remove “God” and a reference to Israel out of their official Democratic platform.  OK – stupid political move but whatever – it’s their platform.  But here’s where it gets rich and where the curtain is pulled back.

Having received a whirlwind of blowback from across the nation, one of their delegates stands up and says he wants to suspend the rules and make a motion to reinsert these two things back into the official platform.  Clearly someone up on high made the decision that they had to do this.  It’s all scripted.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is presiding over the moment and leading from the stage.  He clears the motion and takes a “voice vote” from the convention hall delegates.  All in favor say “ay” all opposed say “no”.

The audience is split about 50/50 on the first voice vote.  The mayor is perplexed.  Apparently it’s not going as scripted.  The delegates didn’t get the message that they needed to get this passed and out of the way.

He takes the vote again.  Again the audience voice votes but this time the “no’s” are even in stronger opposition – sounds like 60/40.  The mayor on live TV is visibly a little nervous because it’s not going as planned (ordered).

As if to prove what an example of Democracy in action we have here, he takes the voice vote a third time.  This time the “no’s” are overwhelmingly more than the “ay’s”.

He asked for the vote, he got the vote, BUT the vote wasn’t what the party wanted or needed to hear.

Without wasting another second, the Mayor simply decided (ruled) that in the “Opinion of the Chair, two-thirds having voted in the affirmative.. the measure is passed”.  The audience boos.  Clearly he was simply concluding the vote the way they wanted to have it concluded.

What did we see and learn here.

1. This is why we’re not a Democracy on purpose.  Democracy is nothing but mob rule.

2. The Democratic party only pretends that they want to hear the true opinions of their delegates by staging this show that the vote actually counts.  Their position clearly goes like this:  We’re going to take a vote and if we hear what we want we’ll pass the vote – and you all will think your voice actually matters.  But if we don’t hear what we need to hear, we’ll just keep voting until we get the result we want”.

The Democratic party lies and misleads the very people it portends to care about.  They say they’re for mob-rule but but it’s worse than that – what they’re really for is nothing short of dictatorial power.  It’s all just for show.  How do we know this?

The vote what pre-decided Politburo style.  The Mayor was simply reading the pre-determined and scripted words from the teleprompter.  The leaders don’t give a damn about what their delegates (voters) actually want – just get in line and be good little soldiers.

Here’s a link to the story with the video of the moment and here’s the photo of the teleprompter the Mayor was reading from.  Draw your own conclusions.

Photo Credit: Carlos Amezcua, Fox 11 News

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Prescient Ayn Rand

Today is my 500th post.  When I started Anthidote in 2006 I did quick reviews of things I liked.  That evolved into more long-form essay style posts on subject matter that interested me.  That evolved into pulling in travel photos from adventures around the world when I blended my personal blog with this one.  For the 500th post, I thought I’d make the subject matter a little bit heavier again since we’re in such an important year in the history of the USA.

I’ve been a fan of Ayn Rand since 1993 when I read Atlas Shrugged.  That book change my life and clearly it has also has an affect on millions of others as well.   In mid-July President Obama gave his now famous speech wherein he basically openly exposed his belief that the collective is more important than the individual (when if he would simply acknowledge that successful individuals freely trading with one other automatically makes for a strong collective).  It’s as if he and his like-minded crowd keep pushing on a door that is marked “pull”.

What continually amazes me is how Ayn Rand foretold so much of what is happening in the world because she had witnessed (lived it) already it first hand growing up in the old Soviet Russia, which she has described as a truly terrifying place the likes of which modern Americans have no real understanding.  How could someone born say after 1990 have any real concept of what tyranny feels like or looks like?  It’s the stuff of history books as far as they know.

There is a scene in Atlas Shrugged that is so similar to Obama’s ridiculous speech last week that I thought I’d lay the comments side by side.

Obama:

“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t…. look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.” (Enthusiastic Applause from the audience.)

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t  build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

Now look at this scene from Atlas Shrugged – a scene where a government “official” is stating that the smart industrialist Hank Rearden somehow doesn’t deserve credit for inventing the metal he invented.

From Atlas Shrugged:

“He didn’t invent iron ore and blast furnaces, did he?”

“Who?” 

“Rearden. He didn’t invent smelting and chemistry and air compression. He couldn’t have invented his Metal but for thousands and thousands of other people. His Metal! Why does he think it’s his? Why does he think it’s his invention? Everybody uses the work of everybody else. Nobody ever invents anything.”

She said, puzzled, “But the iron ore and all those other things were there all the time. Why didn’t anybody else make that Metal, but Mr. Rearden did?”

Looking at Obama’s comments, he loves to talk about roads and bridges.  Is that what Obama believes is the reason people are successful?  Because the country invested in roads and bridges? A lot of countries have roads and bridges – so what?  What Obama fails to grasp is that it’s is smart, competent people that make the world a better place not only for themselves but for virtually everybody.   It’s not because their country invested in roads – hell North Korea has roads, Venezuela has roads.

The absolutely amazing thing about Atlas Shrugged is that no matter what decade you’re in, it reads like it comes straight from today’s headlines – and today more than ever unfortunately.  The good news?  At the end of the book when the government has completely screwed everything up they finally realize that the only way to set things straight again is to get out of the way and let competent individuals forge the new path (again).  It’s a mentality shift that some have made and some other haven’t.   In December 2011 I wrote a piece here on how we should be grateful for entrepreneurs instead of casting them as somehow the bad guys sticking it to everyone else.

Sticking with the “mentality shift” theme, there are two movies worth checking out before the election that shed light on the realities of the day – the first (2016 Obama’s America) dives into why Obama thinks the way he does and how he sees his mission as President to “fundamentally change the United States of America” by essentially realigning the USA in the world.  The second (Runaway Slave) deals with the black experience in America after almost 50 years of Democratic party allegiance.

2016 Obama’s America

 

Runaway Slave

I know a dentist that keeps copy of Atlas Shrugged on his front desk where the patients check in.  The deal he offers his patients is that they can take the book for free on the condition that they pass it on to someone else after they’ve read it.

Criminalization of Cash?

Just a thought… Could cash ever become criminal?  I read an article this a few days ago and it’s not a ludicrous question.

Money has dramatically changed in my lifetime.  Many of us keep some cash in our pockets but most of our money is “out there” in some form or another in a digital world.  Do you really even know how it all works or how it is tracked? Sure you get a statement each month but so what – Bernie Madoff’s clients had statements and Jon Corzine said he didn’t lose a billion and a half bucks – he can’t find it.

In 2010 Italy banned cash transactions over 5000 euros in the name of austerity.

In 2011 Italy lowered that to 1000 euros.

In 2012 Spain banned cash payments in excess of 200 euros.

On another side, big exchanges of money such as purchasing a home or payroll are handled by direct bank to bank transfers and direct deposits.  Even micro payments are now handled digitally with things such as Square.  Paypal is now commonplace – I remember not too long ago when even this was weird – even people who used it sometimes wondered how your email could tie to your credit card or bank then magically money would move.

The next widely accepted step even beyond Square is surely is payment via cell phone – go to the store, bump your phone, payment happens, digits move.  This is all convenient but who would have an interest in being able to track every single financial transaction in your life?  Who out there would like to control this?  The answer of course is governments.   People are sovereign beings – that is they are responsible for their own governance at the individual level.  More often than not the one thing in the way of individual sovereignty is government.  Governments want to look at the world as a collective and their objectives are to try to manage overall society.  This is fine until it becomes more important than the individual where it becomes OK to steal from one individual to give to another without the consent of the first.

This doesn’t square well if you are an individual, especially if you are an individual who has the gall to believe that you are first and foremost in charge of your own governance. So what does the everlasting discussion between individual and government have to do with cash?  Given that our governments are led by people who create more problems than they solve (then campaign to get re-elected to solve the problems they created….) and need you cooperation in order to accomplish whatever it is they want to accomplish, it’s not out of the question that one day cash transactions would be illegal because cash (cold hard cash) is the last tool that allows the individual his/her own sovereignty.

Individuals are going to have to start strategizing for a future reality.  What do you do?  Where do you live? Passports?  Proxies?  It’s already started – thanks to overbearing laws, regulations, and outright theft by governments, people are looking at the world and looking for intelligent ways to deal with this.  Even back in 2009 Tim Ferris had a blog post on “How to Become Jason Bourne” and there are many sites on how to manage a world where government is too big for it’s britches.

In a world where everything is online and going online and where everything is tracked down to the I.P. address and beyond in order to discern patterns, is it that ridiculous of a premise to say that one day money will not be outlawed by cash money would be?  What would happen if that happens?  Could it evolve a private currency among like-minded individuals on a local level (your immediate community)?  Would there possibly be a private form of currency between individuals on a national or international level?  A million things I never thought would happen in my lifetime have happened just in the past five years and boldly – who can say what solutions will present themselves to sovereign individuals down the road.

Governments the world over print money and we throw around the terms millions, billions, and trillions now almost interchangeably – people become numb to it and corruption happens right in front of your eyes.  Taxpayers are bailing out governments who in turn bail out taxpayers who in turn pay taxes to send back to governments who then bailout companies and on and on.  For example, American taxpayers bail out the bankrupt FHA which in turn set rules on lending to the same taxpayers that just bailed it out.  What is happening from Greece to Italy to Spain, to Portugal to Germany to the USA and a host of countries in between is the lenders and the borrowers have become the same people.

That can’t last – at some point the volleyball hits the sand and when governments go into existential crises they do (and will do) whatever they have to in the name of self preservation.  So in an age when you don’t actually need cash to pay for something,  the last step a government can take in completely having control over an individual is to criminalize cash (in the name of convenience, obscurity, or some other innocuous stated purpose).  Fiat currencies are losing the faith of the holder and at some point we’re going to have to actually make fiat currency solid again.  And even though we might not “need” hard cash, a world without that tool of exchange would not be good.

Here’s a scene from the future if cash is criminalized  – Let’s say you’re a “problem” citizen who still thinks individual rights hold substantial weight –  On Monday you have money in the bank and on Tuesday with the push of a far away button you don’t.

Misdirected Arrows

Having just seen last year all of the occupy demonstrations, my wish for the new year is that more people worldwide, and especially in the USA, will realize that the economic problems we are seeing in the world stem not from Capitalism but from Government and government intervention in what should be free markets.

While I get the beef the occupiers have, I have it too (anger at crony business for example), but so many people have their anger focused on the wrong place.  It is ignorance in the most caring sense of the word.

The occupy crowd (and the population in general) should not be upset at Capitalism or at the too easily contrived “fat cats”, they should go to the source of the problem which is Government.

Markets naturally self-regulate.  Why?  Because Buyers and Suppliers of anything have to both agree before any product or service can be bought or sold.  If one or the other cheats, lies, or otherwise doesn’t offer value they will naturally be eliminated or otherwise ignored.   The good and the bad word gets out.

The minute an outside party to the transaction gets involved and alters the relationship (screws with the free market) it is no longer a free market but a manipulated market.  Look around – do you not see Government intervention and manipulation in markets almost everywhere?  Housing, Health Care, Food, Labor, Stocks, Banking and on and on.

Look at the United States – we have a Constitution, a founding document of the nation that sets forth not what the Federal Government can do but rather what it cannot do.  This is somewhat unique to the USA and what has up until now set the USA apart from the rest of the world by levels of degrees when it comes to economic productivity.  The first job of the government is to protect your liberty, life, and property rights, and the first job of the President is to defend the Constitution.  We have a Congress that passes laws that regularly interfere  with your liberty and property rights and a current President that routinely tramples on the Constitution.

The problems we’re seeing in the USA and in many parts of the world are not stemming from Capitalism – on the contrary – its the lack of Capitalism that is pushing everything down.  When Capitalism flows freely the markets would take care of themselves.  If Government would get out of the way of interfering in markets so many of the nations economic issues would naturally resolve themselves.  Resolving economic issues leads to resolving many social issues.

Do you really need a far-away Federal bureaucrat deciding for you what you should buy, when, and for how much?  If you support this sort of a world, maybe there are a few countries for you where you could relocate, but the Constitution in the United States lays out the terms and conditions of the country.  It is clear that many people also confuse the role of the Federal government with the role of the States (ex. Dept of Education).  So many people lose their minds when you say we should get rid of the Federal Dept of Education – but think about it, what business does the government have being in the business of educating children?  That is not a role of the Federal government.  (As a side note, if you think about it again, you’ll realize why the Federal government like to have a hand in education.)

So while nobody like crony capitalism (hardly a free marketplace either), the occupy Wall Street Crowd and most Liberal Democrat voters have their arrows and frustrations pointed in the wrong place.  They should really take a clearer look at from where these problems stem and if they want to occupy something they ought to direct their energy at voting out people in the Federal government that are creating the policies.   The Federal government is the entity creating the problems then coming forth with “solutions” for the problems they create.  Enough – just vote out the wrong people and do your best to vote in the right people.  When you elect people like Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Barack Obama, and the like, you get what we have now.  I’ll even throw in George W. Bush because he too abandoned free market principle as she said “to save the free market“.

So in this theme, spend 15 minutes checking out the above insightful video from Peter Schiff who went down to one of the occupy protests to see if he could have a dialogue with the people there.  You can see in the video that the crowd wants to just spout out quick slogans or blame zillionaires for making too much money, but Schiff sympathizes with them, calmly shoots straight with them, and shows them that their anger really needs to be put squarely on Washington DC and the politicians who create policies that do not let markets self regulate.  He is fair in his analysis and I hope here in 2012, in what is easily the most critical election year of your lifetime, more people everywhere understand that free Capitalism is the solution, not more Government.

Remember that at least in the USA the government governs at the consent of the governed.  How many Americans no longer consent to the current state of the Federal government and will vote out the wrong people this year?

Video from Reason.tv

Grateful for Entrepreneurs

Going into 2012 and looking back on the past few years, I have to say that I am grateful that we still have entrepreneurs in the USA, and more of us (especially the occupy crowd) should also reconsider just how lucky this country is that so many people start businesses.  The funny thing about starting a business (I too have done this and it is NOT easy), is that when you’re starting up you have to struggle and fight for every inch, every client, every deal but when you make it somehow “everyone” thinks it was overnight and that life is then so easy.  The whiners don’t see the years of toil, sweat, worry, sleeplessness, risk, and tuna sandwiches – they only see the “today” and think somehow it’s not fair.

Entrepreneurship is hard and it’s not for everyone, but at least be thankful for those who trail blaze instead of vilifying them.  The occupy crowd whines about how things aren’t fair while they drink lattes and make cell phone calls.  They don’t have a clue about fairness.  You know a place where everything’s fair?  North Korea.

The President (and many other leaders) so often preach about the honor of public service, even to the point where they propose special school loans that an be forgiven if you choose to go into public service.   Why not flip this around and offer loan forgiveness for those that start businesses and employ others?  That’s public service.  People that start companies are pillars of public service – not the guy at the DMV.

In the next round of Congressional and Presidential elections I hope we get back to electing into office representatives that understand  that this country can be stronger and more stable through entrepreneurship, and we put in place a general attitude that thanks those that start companies and employee others rather than punish them with over the top regulation and taxes.   Imagine a country with no entrepreneurs.  What would you have?  How would you grow – hell how would you eat!   

I am grateful for those among us that took the chance to start companies that ultimately went on to employ so many.  That is what we should be encouraging in this country.  So this holiday season and into the New Year, let’s hold entrepreneurs up with reverence and put gratitude where it belongs – in the hands of those that make lifestyle possible for so many others.  If you ever start a company you’d want the same treatment.

Language and Politics

For a while now it has seemed to me that in the USA (and perhaps to some degree in other countries) the two main political parties, Republicans and the Democrats, have been using almost the exact same language to describe the other party and themselves.  Republicans come to the arena with the idea of less government and less taxation while Democrats generally show up with the idea of larger government and higher taxes. Then there is the Tea Party that comes in to the Right of Republicans and advocates MUCH less government and MUCH less taxes. These are very different schools of thought but nonetheless when I hear Republicans and Democrats talk, they all seem to be packaging themselves and the other side using virtually the exact same language.

Language is important to keep in mind in a time when anybody can manipulate almost anything to be in favor of or against even using the same set of data:

Look at these words and try to tell me if they are used by the Republicans or Democrats when describing the other:

decay… failure (fail)… collapse(ing)… deeper… crisis… urgent(cy)… destructive… destroy… sick… pathetic… lie… liberal… they/them… unionized bureaucracy… “compassion” is not enough… betray… consequences… limit(s)… shallow… traitors… sensationalists…

endanger… coercion… hypocrisy… radical… threaten… devour… waste… corruption… incompetent… permissive attitudes… destructive… impose… self-serving… greed… ideological… insecure… anti-(issue): flag, family, child, jobs… pessimistic… excuses… intolerant…

stagnation… welfare… corrupt… selfish… insensitive… status quo… mandate(s)… taxes… spend(ing)… shame… disgrace… punish (poor…)… bizarre… cynicism… cheat… steal… abuse of power… machine… bosses… obsolete… criminal rights… red tape… patronage

Now look at these words and tell me who is describing themselves:

share… change… opportunity… legacy… challenge… control… truth… moral… courage… reform… prosperity… crusade… movement… children… family… debate… compete… active(ly)… we/us/our… candid(ly)… humane… pristine… provide…
liberty… commitment… principle(d)… unique… duty… precious… premise… care(ing)… tough… listen… learn… help… lead… vision… success… empower(ment)… citizen… activist… mobilize… conflict… light… dream… freedom…

peace… rights… pioneer… proud/pride… building… preserve… pro-(issue): flag, children, environment… reform… workfare… eliminate good-time in prison… strength… choice/choose… fair… protect… confident… incentive… hard work… initiative… common sense… passionate

Who said what?  If you bend toward the Republican/Conservative school of thought you likely thing the first set was said by Republican about Democrats and the second set by Republicans about Republicans.  If you lean towards the Democrat/Liberal mentality you probably see those words in set one as perfect describers of the Republicans and the second set as a valiant choice of words to describe the Democrats.

In the end it’s marketing and packaging.  In order to cut through the noise you have to have a solid understanding of reality, or what works and what doesn’t at it’s most basic level.  More importantly when it comes to politics I think what you really need to understand is the concept of unintended consequences because politicians are big on pushing ideas that often in the end actually have the opposite effect of what they intended because they forget to factor in human behavior.  I let you try to figure out which party I’m generally talking about.

By the way – have you ever taken the world’s smallest political quiz?  Takes 30 seconds.  I’d bet no matter what you think you are you all come down on the same result.