The Morality of Socialism

For some reason in the news recently there has been a great deal of discussion about socialism, most often with respect to the Obama health care plan. Before I start ripping into socialism as an idea, I think it’s important for me to point out that I see virtually nothing in any Obama policy that smacks of socialism.

Socialism as a theoretical framework is quite simple to disprove on moral grounds- by any classical argument in favor of the inalienable right of property. However, the people who advocate for welfare programs tend to disagree on the grounds that property is not an inalienable right. Moreover, they will argue that there are people who need help, who are unable to help themselves, and that the agency to help them may as well be the government. Especially since the government is in the business of taking responsibility for its citizens. So the issue is not as clear-cut as many conservatives will claim it is. In fact, I would say pretty much everything is more complex and nuanced than any conservative in the media has the neurons to understand. On the other hand, conservatives do tend to be conservative because deductions from moral frameworks make sense to them, where a liberal instead prefers arguments from emotion, relativism, and pragmatism in chaos. This is not to say that the political strategies they use reflects these paradigms, in fact it tends to be the opposite, where conservatives use smear campaigns, evocative language, and outright lies, and liberals use deliberate logical arguments from effect, which are principally arguments from pragmatism. It is somewhat sad that nobody seems able to reconcile theory with pragmatism- it’s not terribly difficult as long as the theory is sufficiently complete and the points where it is flexible are known.

Anyway, modern “socialism” is really a question of whether liberal democratic welfare programs are morally justified. The conservatives throw hissy fits and cry socialism, and the liberals claim it will address the issues. The conservatives claim the government is going to increase taxes to finance wasteful programs, the liberals claim big business is screwing everyone over and Big Daddy government must step in to save us.

First of all, I would like to point out that both sides of the argument are intrinsically linked, like two sides of a coin. Capitalism allows for owners and shareholders to profit from their businesses and holdings, which can through some wrangling be framed as waste. Conversely, the government can take some of the money in circulation through commerce and salary in sales and income tax, and that can be framed as a waste. There is a finite amount of money in circulation, and claiming that it is a waste when party :X acquires it is erroneous. My reason for this is that it is the nature of money to be spent. Government taxes, in large part, recirculate back into the economy because the government pays for services, in very large part to parties in their own country. Similarly, big business takes its money and either reinvests into itself, pays off its suppliers, or ends up in its employees and executives’ bank accounts. It could be said that overseas commerce and outsourcing “leaks” money, but that is absurd. In the act of paying for labor, a service or act of production is purchased in return, which presumably is worth more than the cost of the labor or it wouldn’t be worth making. If this product is then sold, a profit is made, and also the worker now has a little cash to spend which will recirculate. This process in economics is called the multiplier effect, where one dollar actually does a great deal more than one dollar’s work in the course of a year because it changes hands many times. So this issue of “it’s a waste if X acquires money” is really a question over who has control of that money. The one who controls that money has just that measure of extra power. So, which entity would you vest that power in? This is the fundamental question of welfare programs.

Now, as much as it pains the anarcho-capitalist in me to say this, you don’t necessarily want a company as they exist today to handle some concerns. Development of civilization proceeds in many dimensions, not just technological. The invention of the check caused a revolution of the “web of trust” between people and financial institutions. Before that network existed, credit as we know it was inconceivable. It was a recipe for being ripped off, and the economy was locked into a coin-or-barter mode, except between friends. In truth, it’s not as clean as the development of a technology, for example laws against usury and distrust of Jews and all this nonsense. Anyway, my point is that social development of society allows things which could not have happened before in a similar way that technological development does, it’s just as absolute as “the invention of the airplane- 1904- now we can fly!” It is my belief that government is one of those features that has been evolved over time, and whose evolution is not yet finished. At some time in the future we will not need it anymore, but given our current level of societal development and technological capability, it is most likely a necessary evil. This is not to say we should not try to develop past it as quickly as possible.

Karl Marx was unquestionably a brilliant man, although his theories are not exactly the font of human social development. Nevertheless I think he may have contributed at least one very important idea to the body of human knowledge. When the power of production drastically outstrips the wants and needs of an entire society, then we will have a utopia, materially at least, where everyone has everything they want. The social side is a separate issue, and is in my opinion infinitely more important to creating the sort of utopia that all theoretical political science is predicated upon producing. Now the question is, what is the best method of reaching a stage when we have that sort of productive power at our fingertips? Is it welfare programs, or by technological innovation? My favorite new and upcoming technology is rapid prototyping- check out RepRap. This one technology has the power to obviate material products at a stroke, by having a ubiquitous machine that can produce nearly anything. More advanced later versions will follow quickly, using that very device, and we may well have a true make-anything-machine very soon after that. Now, Marx believed that this world would be Communist in nature. I would react that communism is essentially capitalism where money is no longer relevant in day-to-day life. The best explanation for this is that goods and services change hands so easily that the monetary system is not worth its upkeep.

Those who argue that there are people who are poor and destitute need to be helped by the government providing welfare programs are reacting instinctively, their conscience is grating against the injustice. To some extent that’s fine, although it gets a little out of hand when you see this righteous indignation that some people are fabulously wealthy while others are poor. In any reasonable world there will be a set of choices which anyone can choose from, some of which will result in poverty. I don’t mean to say that all poverty is controllable- there are many, many unfortunates who had no opportunity to do anything else. The mentally ill, the handicapped, the people saddled with medical bills unexpectedly, there are all kinds of possibilities for being poor beyond all control. One stance is that the problem then becomes to differentiate between the deserving and the undeserving. My issue with this position is that any judgment on who is deserving and who is not is made by an agent who will lack a clear and objective metric. So whoever chooses to help one or more of these people is excluding others for subjective reasons. The only way this could possibly work is if it is entirely acceptable for those subjective reasons to be valid, and subjectivity is not something a government should EVER mix itself up in, because then corruption and misuse of public resources will run rampant. So private organizations should pick up the slack, offering resources where they can or choose to, and if they exclude someone for subjective or arbitrary or even completely bone-deep-corrupt reasons, it’s not morally nice but it is entirely within their purview. The government, on the other hand, by reserving the use of force restricts itself to a much higher moral standard that is virtually impossible to meet for beings with human-level intelligence, much less a conglomerate of them. A corruption of the use of force is a terrible, terrible moral crime, while a refusal to give alms to a beggar, however deserving, is not a big deal. Any policy the government might use to help the poor is subject to a host of issues stemming from this problem. But then, so does everything the government does, so it’s not like this will deter them.

My central point is that pragmatism at the expense of ethics is a bad idea in the long run, no matter how good your intentions. The poor and the underprivileged are much better served by advancing technology and social progress than by any attempt to simply hand them their daily bread. Now, I would be open to an argument that instituting government health care is itself a push towards social progress, but that is a very different type of argument than nearly all arguments being put forth in its defense, which tend to run something along the lines of “evil insurance companies! government good! Simple solution!” With the other side pretty much barking the reverse, and decrying that the solution is just as simple. It is not simple, and I hope to hear some real arguments for a change, instead of catering to the reptilian brain of people too stupid to think their way out of a wet cardboard box.

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The Contradiction of Freedom

Freedom appears to be the favored subject among my readers, so here we go into greater detail.  First of all we need to establish what I mean when I use the word.  By “freedom” I am referring to unencumbrance in the transformation from desire to reality.  This is distinct from the idea of “liberty” or the fulfillment of all intrinsic rights to the satisfaction of the individual being considered.  I believe the issue of maintaining liberty to be a solved one- however, the issue of freedom certainly is not.  The fact that there are no slaves, no wanton executions in the developed world, etc. etc. indicate to me that the fulfillment of basic liberty is not even particularly difficult if the conditions are right.  Freedom, on the other hand, is more difficult to work with.  The reason for this is that reality itself necessarily impinges on our freedom.  I want to be able to fly around, but gravity says I am not free to do that.  In my common definition of “freedom” I don’t consider such possibilities on the grounds that they are physically impossible.  It is a childlike idea that we should have absolutely everything that we want in a direct transmission from wanting to having.  However, it is not at all a childish idea of freedom that you should be able to make any choice you wish, including both the costs and the gains from that choice.  For example, I could choose to invest millions of dollars in inventing a sleek, compact jetpack that would enable me to fly around to my satisfaction- there is a considerable cost to this venture, and no certainty of success (risk is itself a cost), but I am free to try and free to succeed if that’s how the dice fall.

In this line of thinking, a direct transition from desire to actualization should be the default state of reality.  If an item I want has a cost associated with it, then I can pay that cost and have it without qualms.  This is not the situation of “I want, therefore I should have”- I cannot stress this enough.  Too many people are walking around in that sort of entitlement-based fantasy world.  However, if the demand is reasonable and I am prepared to deal with whatever costs, risks, or other consequences that arise from my decision, then the only thing standing in my way is a bunch of unnecessary human barriers.  If I want an apple and am prepared to endure the cost, given the circumstances, then I should have one.  Now, the circumstances can cause the cost to vary tremendously.  If there’s a grocery store then I only have to pony up the dollar or so required to buy it.  However, if I’m in the middle of nowhere, then the desire to eat an apple requires a more complex plan involving obtaining an apple seed, growing the tree, and then harvesting the apple and eating it.  It just so happens that this is a great deal of cost and effort for quite a small reward, which is why it is much more efficient to have consolidated apple farms which grow apples efficiently in large numbers and sell them to distributors.  Rather than the large investment of personal energy to acquire a tree’s worth of apples, I only have to pay for a fraction of that effort due to the scale of apples being produced.  If I’m an apple grower, this system is also to my advantage because if I grow a lot of apples, each apple costs me less to produce, and because I make a profit on every apple (or else I wouldn’t sell them) then the more apples I sell the more money I make.

This is all fairly typical free-market capitalist thinking so far.  However, the crunch comes when we consider that the government must necessarily introduce barriers to this system in order to do, well, anything at all.  Let’s suppose the existence of a government that has no barrier-producing authority.  Nobody has to take it seriously because it has no money since it can’t institute taxes, and even if it did institute taxes, nobody has to pay them because it has no power to enforce compliance.  THe only type of action such an agency is useful for is advising, and concerned parties can listen and take its advice when it is to their advantage to do so.  If this government started a campaign using volunteers to spread awareness about brushing your teeth, and it worked because it demonstrably improves your dental hygiene and health, that’s all it’s good for.  However, my usual case is that this is all government should be good for, because this isn’t actually a government- it’s a very weak and ineffectual DRO choosing to occupy the nonprofit niche instead of actively pursuing customers.  The idea that government should somehow be fundamentally nonprofit is just laughable.  Most people say that if you have a for-profit government, well that’s just loosing the dogs for corruption the likes of which has never before been seen.  They actually have a point, but the tricky bit is- that’s my point.  No company has a police force with the authority to arrest you if you don’t comply with that company’s policy.  If they did, they would be in exactly the same position as any typical government, minus the checks and balances that most modern governments have.  However checks and balances are like band-aids on a gangrenous wound- government just fundamentally will not be ethical, non-corrupt, balanced, fair, what have you, because it has the authority to seize as much money and power as it can grab.  It may have to disguise its efforts, but under the guise of national security or some other necessity it will do what it pleases.

So now we arrive at the contradiction of freedom that political scientists agonize over so much.  People want freedom, but they appear to need a government to secure those freedoms.  At the same time, in the act of securing their freedoms, the government itself must necessarily impinge upon those freedoms.  I understand the difficulty of wrestling with such a dilemma, but you’re wasting your brain cycles.  What you’ve got there is a conundrum of the first order- totally unsolvable with the same type of thinking that created it.

Here is the logical analysis of the argument in question: 1) People want to be free.  2) Freedoms are insecure in a state of nature.  3) Governments secure freedoms.  Conclusion: We should have a government.  The solution is brutally simple: the premise that governments somehow reduce a state of nature, or that governments act to secure freedoms.  Indeed, governments have only ever acted to reduce the freedoms of individuals beneath them.  Perhaps at times those citizens were under the impression that they were being aided in some fashion, at times perhaps a large majority of them were so deceived.  However the simple fact of the matter is that if what a government offered was so valuable then rational individuals would sign up voluntarily.

The proof that individuals can create extremely complex systems that are able to fulfill their needs is evident in government itself.  Government’s methodology is fine, with the single vital exception that participation is mandatory, and will be backed up by force.  In return, however, the government promises not to take everything you have, only a fraction such as one quarter or one third, which will be put toward projects you have essentially no control over.  Once again, I have no issue with any of these projects in and of themselves.  There may even be circumstances where actions as severe as the war in Iraq become necessary (they definitely were not in this case, but government idiocy is a side effect of the fact that the government retains power no matter what, even if the parties in it change).  Governments should offer services at a fair price, in a manner that its citizens will be prepared to pay for them.  One possible strategy is to have a single subscription model, requiring a third of your income, to which you must subscribe in order to legally inhabit land that the government in question owns.  As a subset of this government’s ownership, it is possible to own land.  We are approaching a fixed model of the US government where it’s essentially the same, with the critical exception that participation is voluntary.  Granted, the costs involved depend on your circumstances.  If the (rather impractical) stance of having a subscribe-or-leave policy were instituted, then you would probably stay just to keep what property you have, such as a house.  However, this solution presumes the existence of a government with the power to simply lay claim to your property as desired, and can use that threat to coerce you to subscribe in one final death throb to stab its superior and would-be-ethical successor in the gut.

So we arrive at the same contradiction for iteration round two.  In order to create a free society it is necessary for people already living under governments to somehow act as though they were not, at exactly the same moment that the government decides to relieve itself of its coercive power in favor of a voluntary or contractual model.  This is never going to happen.  So, the statist theorizes, in order to make a free society, you have to use coercive force to make them free, yes?  So we need a government to, not secure our freedoms, but force us to participate in our free society.  No.  Absolutely, definitely not.

The whole issue here is the idea of power.  The idea that a problem requires power to solve it, or that power is ever a solution worth choosing.  I am referring to power as the exercise of coercive power.  This is to distinguish it from freedom, which is the ability, or the facility, to accomplish something.  Using the definition from earlier, technology very clearly extends our freedom by enabling new courses of action that were previously physically impossible.  However, actions are morally neutral.  By creating new actions that were previously physically impossible, new crimes and new options for the use of power exist as well.  This is a cliche, but the invention of the blade creates both kitchen knives and swords.  The same holds true for everything up to and including F-22’s, although it’s hard to see how some of the more elaborate and expensive pieces of military hardware have any use at all beyond blowing stuff up, if that.  I digress here, but I am actually referring to the fundamental technological components in each case.  Technologies such as avionics systems in advanced fighter jets can be used in civilian planes and other places as well.  Simply that the F-22 and civilian planes are superficially different is taking advantage of the fact that, unlike primitive tools like kitchen knives and swords, they look and act very differently.  Although, if you looked into it, you would likely find that the design of cookware and the blacksmithing of military edged weapons were, and are, extremely different, although the fundamental technologies were the same.  Anyway, my point is that an increased availability of facility and options doesn’t actually get you anywhere in terms of the freedom versus power conflict- it only allows the scale to tip farther in either direction, irrespective of which way it is currently tipping.

I am aware that framing the discussion as “freedom versus power” seems to present a foregone conclusion, but keep in mind that I am referring to freedom as the ability to do subjective work, whereas power is the ability to have others do subjective work on your behalf.  While it is highly likely that the subjective work you have them do will not serve their own interests, there is no reason why this could not be the case.  I believe the origin of centralized authority was in the fact that disparate forces united to a common purpose can accomplish far more than they could individually, even though this means a subsuming of the individual’s judgment to whatever authority is making the decision about what must be done.  So when the scale tips toward freedom, by this logic, it appears that we are being modest in our desires.  We can’t accomplish as much in total.  I suspect this is why, in times of distress such as World War II, nations bond together.  States tighten up and hunker down, and the civilians set to work for the greater good, for fear of annihilation due to defeat in global war, but still a unified and powerful force.  It appears to me that this outcome is simply a result of economy of scale.  The issue, though, is that people are not cogs in machines, and we don’t necessarily respond well to economy of scale on the human level.  We don’t all want to eat the same food, even though it would be most efficient in the grand scheme of things to consolidate all the vast sprawling food industries into a single entity (if we utterly disregard politicking, management inefficiency, balance in parallelism, competition, and a ridiculous number of other factors) and have everyone eat well-designed vitamin and carbohydrate supplements with tap water.  It would cost virtually nothing, and free up so much human capital, labor, and time to other pursuits.  Unfortunately, as a side effect, everyone would have to live on vitamins and carb pills, which is clearly an undesirable situation.  However, on the other side of power, it’s clear that if we consolidate power too much, then human error becomes magnified.  If we consolidate absolute power in one leader then there will be fluctuations not only in that leader’s mood and ability, but also in the variation between leaders, where one person’s thought and personality can have profoundly different effects than another.  We get the good-king bad-king effect, with the good kings working steadfastly for the good of the people, and the huge contrast with the bad kings merrily chopping everyone’s heads off, starting wars and economic crises, and putting a pall of fear over the whole country.  So we see a continuum between power creating efficiency in terms of economy of scale, but inefficiency in terms of the magnification of human error.  Freedom, by contrast, limits the absolute utility available to the sum of the group in question, but also limits the effects of human error to the bounds of the party concerned.  If you want to smoke crack until you overdose- feel free.  You’ll probably be dead, but that will be the total extent of the damage you cause.

The issue with this description is that it isn’t entirely accurate.  In the freedom scenario, people still form together in groups and organizations, they just do so voluntarily only.  As a result, people in control of those large groups might still have a significant amount of power to direct and affect a large number of people.  However, and here is the critical difference, every single one of those people is free to leave at any time.  As a result, we get both the benefits of applying centralized power, and the benefits of freedom’s damage control.  If the leader is being totally ridiculous and irrational, he will either be replaced by those sensible enough to recognize it or everyone the crazy bastard has power over will jump ship and do business with someone else.  This creates a huge incentive for leaders to be effective, but also limits the damage if they are not.  It is the judgment of each person with whom they become involved, and also who they permit to have power over them, and to what degree.

Mandatory participation where each person has significant involvement and power, such as democracy in small communities, approaches this situation, but unlike mandatory democracy it scales to societies of any size.  With the possible exception of small groups in isolation.  However this is because it is assumed to be true in small groups in isolation, so the complex contracts are not worthwhile to make, resulting in stereotypical independence anarchy- the desert island scenario that statists like to employ so much.  However this fails too because the same system could be applied, and in fact would be if the situation became dire enough.  The Lord of the Flies scenario is unrealistic for rational beings (of course, there is some possibility that the circumstances caused them to become irrational) because when a problem arose, a solution, whether systemic or responsive, would be created even if there was only one individual to implement it.  This only fails when the rest of the group is behaving similarly, but treating each other as problems to be solved, resulting in never-ending conflict.  Eventually they’ll figure out how to trust one another, or kill one another first, just as barbarians of old did.  However the idea that appointing a leader prevents this type of worst-case scenario from playing out is shortsighted because the leader could easily be the cause if he tries to direct them in ways their own reason tells them are bad, and they have the independence to resist.  Anyway, this whole paragraph addresses an edge case which is increasingly rare in modern society, and irrelevant with regards to any community, city, state, national, or global scale.

The Fallacy of Composition

The fallacy of composition is an especially effective and insidious mental tic that affects many decisions made in society.  To go over the basic nature of the fallacy quickly, it means to ascribe properties to a group as a logical result of the composition of that group.  When described that way, it seems perfectly logical.  However we arrive at such propositions as “I shall get all the strongest men in my army, and they will form my strongest unit.” (example originally used by Madsen Pirie in How to Win Every Argument)  Now in a sense this is true.  If you are looking to make a military unit that is adept at moving large amounts of freight.  However military units aren’t strong in the same sense that men are strong, and this misapplication of semantic significance leads to the fallacy.  If you wanted a strong military unit you need things like discipline, competence, efficiency, morale, ability to survive in tough conditions, and so on.  If you were to convert the desired properties appropriately, such as specifying that you want to select men for their ability to work together, keep morale up, survive, or whatever else you’re looking for, and those skills are commutative, then you might be getting somewhere.  As I said earlier, if you got 100 men who are adept at lifting things, it is the case that the group of 100 men will be adept at lifting things because every member within it is, and direct action is commutative.  For example, if you have 100 people playing ping-pong, it is correct to say the group of 100 are all in the act of playing ping pong.  However, I didn’t specify if they were playing each other, other people, or if there are only 100 people playing ping pong (they could be 100 among many more).

This seems like an obvious fallacy, used as above.  How could anyone fail to notice that?  Well this same logic, or illogic, is used in countless places in modern public discourse.  For example, whenever anyone argues that it is moral for the government to give money to group X, they are probably utilizing it.  For example, charity.  There is a soup kitchen that feeds homeless people and needs money.  Or some other program to help the homeless, the needy, the hungry in foreign countries, etc. etc.  They probably say or otherwise imply something along the lines of “it’s a kind act to give your time or money to help other people, therefore it’s moral for us to help them.”  Consider the actual significance of the statement: because it’s moral for an individual to give money to charity, it’s moral for society.  Now, while that might (arguably) be a proper application of individual-group semantic conversion, consider that the “society” as a semantic identity is not a decision-maker.  “Society” cannot actually do anything because it is just a vague/y specified conglomerate of individuals.  Things can happen to a society, in the same way that I as an agent can drop a ball or eat a sandwich.  But the sandwich cannot act in such a way to determine whether or not I eat it.  In order for “society” to do anything, there must be some agent controlling that group- implying the existence of a government or controlling body.  So what you’re really asking is whether it’s moral for the government to give money to charity.

This is a sticky issue for many people, but consider where the government gets its money from.  Taxes are involuntary.  If taxes were optional, nobody would pay them.  If you presented people with the option of A) Taxes, get complete government services, or B) No taxes, no government services, a great many would choose to live independently.  This is unacceptable for governments because it actually puts competitive pressure on them.  They actually have to offer value to get people to stay with them, they have to somehow convince recalcitrant customers that their product will help them.  Every company would really rather have a guaranteed income backed by threats of persecution.  Now, among the people who gave their money voluntarily, knowing the mechanism through which it will be filtered before eventually being spent,  I have absolutely no issue with that money being spent on anything at all.  I can have an issue with things they might do with it, of course.  If they use that money to buy tanks and attack people, we’re going to have a big problem.  But I don’t have an issue with the basic operation of such an entity.  However, government taxes are basically bold-faced theft.  Worse, they’ll try to convince you they’re doing it for your own good.  If it really was for my own good, then you wouldn’t have any issue with me choosing or not choosing your service.  If it’s really going to help me, I would choose it anyway, wouldn’t I?  Even the Mafia at least has the good decency to be honest with you.  They want your money, and they’ll beat you up if you don’t give it to them.  The greatest subtlety of the mob is calling it “protection money.”  The government actually believes it is protection money- it’s called National Security and Homeland Defense.  I’ll be totally honest with you, I really don’t see any significant threat that isn’t actually created by the government itself.

While it is true that there are terrorists, who may or may not hate America, it is certainly true that they are ascribing specific characteristics to Americans that are based on actions taken by the US government.  By the same token, many Americans are ascribing characteristics to Muslims or Middle Easterners based on the actions of a few extremists.  While some would call this simple generalization and stop there, I think it’s more detailed than that.  The thought process is a back-and-forth interplay between the individuals in the group and the conception of the group itself, a sort of repeat fallacy of composition, over and over again, getting worse and worse each time on both sides.  Like telephone played with abstract sketches in a kindergarten art class.

I’m getting a little off topic, and just found another instance of the fallacy of composition somewhere in the tangent sea.  Anyway, the government is not subject to the same type of moral analysis as an individual.  Neither are corporations.  They are groups, not individuals.  Moreover, moral laws as applied to individuals will apply to each individual in that group.  Moral laws for groups will apply to the entire group.  So, the government, as any group, would be virtuous in giving to charity if the money belonged to it in the first place.  Using charity as a justification for theft is just ridiculous.  However that’s exactly what the “generous” politicians are asking you to do.  Let’s say they convince some people that it’s a good thing for people, and therefore the government, to give to charity.  Fine.  Then why isn’t the politician, and why aren’t the individuals so convinced, going and donating money to charity instead of voting to force others to do so against their will?  And why isn’t the politician simply asking people to donate to a particular charity, as opposed to asking for taxes to be spent in that fashion?

Seizing Property

I just read an intriguing article which talks about Bush’s recent executive orders to enable the secretary of the treasury to seize the assets of anyone who is in any way, directly or however indirectly, interferes with Iraq or Lebanon.  While I agree that this is the utmost insanity, I have a more interesting argument to make than merely discussing the lunacy of the politicians of the day.  Here is a quote from the article linked above:

“While both orders bypass the Constitutional right to due process of law in giving the Secretary of Treasury authority to seize properties of those persons posing a risk of violence, or in any vague way assisting opposition to US agenda”

Oh, so the problem is that the Secretary of the Treasury now can do it without due process.  Meaning that they don’t have to notify you about how they’re just about to freeze and then steal all your assets.  It’s that they won’t permit you to hire a lawyer that this article is bemoaning.  While this is indeed bad, I think we’re all missing the point somewhat.  Shouldn’t the Secretary of the Treasury simply not have the power to just reach out and grab whatever they feel like?  Shouldn’t the government simply be unable to outright steal everyone’s assets?  The offhanded way that this article ignores the fundamental crime that is being committed here is disturbing.

On other current news, the government is handing out $700 billion to banks.  OK, so let me get this one straight.  You reserve the right to steal from citizens at will, and you restrict yourself by having little bits of paper which sometimes say you do, and sometimes you don’t.  However . . .  Unfortunately this makes perfect sense because the average citizen hasn’t the capital to siphon down from the great pie-in-the-sky that is government funds.  Fiscal governments raise barriers to entry.  Laws.  It’s what they do- they make regulations and restrictions, and they throw money around.  The bailout, the executive orders, everything, the whole deal is just business as usual.  Can you imagine how poorly the American government would be doing right now if it were a company?  If citizens had the option to leave and go to a competitor without dealing with the huge barriers to entry which are actually barriers to exit, they would be gone.  All the features the US government offers have become corrupted in recent years, from the Constitution to the balance of powers to the services rendered.  However they don’t care, quite simply because no matter what, they will keep their revenue stream alive.  That’s the purpose of taxes.

I’m going to cite Stefan Molyneux’s example, perhaps again, but I can’t be bothered to check.  Let’s say there’s a paperboy.  He goes from house to house and delivers papers.  Part of his job is to try to sell subscriptions to more houses.  If the paper offers more value to consumers then he sells more papers, and everyone is better off.  The consumer gets the paper, he gets paid, and the publisher makes money.  Now, let’s give this model a twist.  Let’s turn the paperboy into a government force- say the paperboy has the force of arms to walk up to someone’s house and tell them, flat out, that they are now subscribed to his paper and will pay the subscription cost.  He doesn’t care what they do with the paper- they can burn it for all it matters.  But they must subscribe and receive the paper, or there will be consequences.  For example, let’s say he can have them thrown in jail for failure to comply.  In the short term, you’ll see a massive increase in the number of subscriptions.  This looks like a fan-fucking-tastic idea.  True, some people get thrown in jail, but on the whole the economy is being stimulated, and so many more people are getting newspapers than they used to.  They’re keeping up to date, they’re reading, they’re becoming more international.  Of course, the paper no longer has any incentive to print anything at all- they could give out blank sheets of paper for all they care.  They have more subscriptions than ever, and are growing explosively.  If the paperboy is ethical, he might exercise his power to make the newspaper print good stories, but how do you judge that, and are you need boards and standards, and so on…  Of course, the paperboy is making a lot of money since he’s the crux of the operation- or at least him and others like him.  Of course, this puts the paperboy in a powerful position, giving him the option to push hard for more money, exploit his employer, turn corrupt, etc. etc.  Crime- at least, white collar crime, is a result of this crevasse created by the government.  For example, if the paperboy is trying to help people with his power, he might demand that people receive the paper in order to give the publisher more money with which to hire more reporters, editors, etc. to make more and better stories.  So everyone enjoys the paper more, lots of people are receiving it, and everything is just dandy.  This puts our paperboy squarely in the naive liberal point of view.  This is fantasy.  You can’t put the cart before the horse and expect it to go.  You can’t legislate that the machine will work.  You let people who want the machine to work fix it so it goes.  If nobody wants the machine to go- if it’s uneconomical to run it, then it shouldn’t be run anyway.  By demanding that people receive the paper, you’re skewing the incentives to screw over the consumer, or buyer, and thereby alleviate the burden on the seller.  If you expect them not to take advantage of that, you’re stupid.  The way to stop them is to regulate the seller, too, but now that crevasse is widened and you’ve made everyone worse off, and introduced counterproductive protocols and immense complication.  If it gets too complicated, you might even create niches for specialists to help people navigate and cope.  It’s madness.

Can you think of any parallels between this example and, say, the school system?  The stock market?  Other systems or government programs?  Can you guess why they use contractors whenever they actually need to get stuff done, and done well?  I have a thought experiment for you.  Let’s say that the government didn’t issue defense contracts.  Do you think that the defense contracting companies would even attempt to make weapons the way they do when they’re being paid for their effort?  How do they expect to make money?  Do you think these people just want to make weapons, and they would do it anyway even if they wasted millions or billions doing it?  Of course not.  Now, if there was a legitimate reason for those weapons to be built, agreed upon on a sufficiently massive scale to make the general public want to pay for their production out of their own pockets, they could be made.  But I don’t believe a situation like that has ever occurred without being created in the first place by one or more governments screwing their citizens.  I don’t want a company representing me to attack anybody- what a complete waste!  But of course that’s just the point.  The government doesn’t actually represent anybody.  Even if you wanted them to stop representing you, you can’t.  QED, they don’t represent you.  The reasoning behind this is very simple.  Let’s say you’re in a conversation with three other people, and one of them is telling the other two about your opinions.  At any point you can simply declare that person incorrect and retract their right to represent you, granted on a very temporary basis.  If they keep going and say, “No, I represent you.  You don’t get to argue with me,” they are clearly the problem.  I mean, seriously, does anyone actually think this is a sane way to run a conglomerate of millions of people?  At the end of the day, this stuff is truly simple, but so many people are being misled.  Like the “terrorist fist jab,” it would be hilarious, if it weren’t so sad.

Gradual Anarchism

You know something that I never really understood about the common stereotypes of anarchists is that everyone seems to think anarchists are violent.  This seems to me like claiming that all people who read Harry Potter are violent.  There are violent people who read Harry Potter.  Sure, there are violent people who are anarchists, probably because they’re looking for an excuse for their violence.  It’s just that the other anarchists aren’t up in their faces saying “don’t do that or we’re going to shoot you.”  That tendency has nothing to do with anarchism.  In truth, I would bet there are virtually zero violent anarchists, and there have never been very many at any point in history.  Anyone who thinks along the standard anarchist line, that the government exercises violent, coercive force and is inherently corrupt as a result, isn’t going to want to employ those exact methods.  The punks who just want to do whatever they want aren’t anarchists- they’re just criminals who want cheap redemption.

Real anarchists are depending upon the rise of individualism.  Even if nobody else does, they’ll continue to do their own thing, including paying taxes, dealing with bureaucracies, etc., whatever is necessary to survive in a corrupt environment.  However, when enough people start finding themselves, and start to feel the chafing of arbitrary power, we’ll find ourselves free soon enough along the very channels of corrupt power that has been such a problem so far.  Government is an adaptive entity, and it really has no choice but to deal with the objective reality set before it in the natures of its citizens.  If they’re weak, uneducated, and passive conformists then government has a freer hand to exploit them, their money, and the peoples of other countries with that money.  However, the converse is also true.  If the citizens are capable, intelligent, and rational, and value their freedoms then the government has little choice but to accommodate them.  Governments can change much faster than they would have you believe.  For example, the US government is structured to put the brakes on radical change, such as by having the senate serve six year terms, and having Supreme Court justices serve for life.  While this was a great design mechanism for smoothing out swings in popular opinion, if 90% of the country was committed to a personal philosophy of freedom and individualism the changes would become evident very quickly.  Even the most well-entrenched Supreme Court justice would blanch at the prospect of supporting an infringement on that national psyche’s doctrine.  In fact, 90% is massive overkill.  My point is that gradually growing the philosophy of anarchism is the only effective way to truly make society free.

My position on anarchism is quite mild.  Yes, anarchism is a great idea in the sense that an absence of mandatory, arbitrary government power is a good thing.  Yes, public order is not that difficult to create in a stateless society, in fact it’s probably far, far easier.  I suggest only one change from the current model of government, but it’s something of a doozy for those who haven’t thought along these lines before.  The Change: Participation in government must be completely and totally optional.  I need to clarify this point- I am not referring to (cue nasally voice) “oh, you don’t have to vote, that’s fine.”  No, I mean that if I decide not to participate that I pay no taxes, I get no services, and you have no moral authority to imprison or otherwise punish me if I disobey your laws.  You might choose to do so anyway, but then at least we’re clear that you are using hired men with guns to abduct me from my home against my will.

Let that soak in for a bit.  What if you could just choose to not be involved with a government?  A lot of people would continue as before, but then they chose it.  I have absolutely no problem with that.  Hey, after a few years maybe the government will have changed enough under its new optimizing influences that I might even rejoin it.  It’s certainly got a good basic blueprint- the Constitution and balanced powers and such.  Regarding those optimizing influences, if government participation is completely optional then I can withdraw from it and then go and create my own organization that fulfills some of the same functions, but of course, mine will do them better and cheaper or nobody will join me.  Maybe I’ll advertise the fact that my government has an extremely minimal set of laws that are clear and easy to understand.  Obviously the entire structure of my organization will be open for the public to peruse, or else why would anyone bother to trust me?  I could be asking them to agree that if they ever smoked pot, they’d agree to spend 20 years in in a rape gulag jail.  Who would want to join that?  More importantly, as owner of this government, I don’t want to have to build jails if there’s any way I can avoid it but still promise my customers law and order.  It’s in my interest to make participation as enjoyable and painless as possible, providing as many services as possible for as little cost as possible.  Apply this type of reasoning to every aspect of running a government and you’re approaching how awesomely powerful a solution The Change is.

The truly beautiful piece of this solution is that a “democracy” is where everyone gets to choose what they want.  The government’s sick perversion of this idea is that, rather than choosing what you want, you get a vote which is part of a mass decision-making process.  And whatever decision is reached by the masses, stands, irrespective of whether you like it.  Can you imagine if this same logic applied to other areas in your life?  “What am I going to have for lunch?”  The vote says the nation wants to buy hamburgers.  Therefore, you must have a hamburger along with everyone else.  It’s insanity.  If you wanted a hamburger you could just go out and buy one.  Or if you would prefer a sandwich or salad or anything else you can just go get that instead.  However, if you want something too esoteric then you’re going to have to work pretty hard to find or acquire it because nobody is going to be selling. it.  However if you think this exotic dish will appeal to a lot of people you can start your own company and sell it yourself.  Afterwards if lots of people do like it, then they can just go get it- from you.  Why we think freedom is great for insignificant decisions like what we’re going to have for lunch, but when we get to the really important decisions it’s vital that we be slaves is just beyond me.  Well not really- the obvious answer is that there’s not that much cost-benefit ratio in controlling what you have for lunch, but in taking half your income to buy weapons there is a massive niche.  The beauty of freeing people from their mandatory government participation is that they can be free in the ways they want to be free, and constrained in the ways they want to be constrained.  I guarantee that there will be at least one government (if that’s what you call it) for every significant niche.  Rather than voting into a massive pool, you vote with your feet and join wherever you like.  And if at any time that government displeases you or screws you over, you just leave and join somewhere else.

We are approaching the conception of a Dispute Resolution Organization, but we’re not quite there yet.  These governments will necessarily need to cooperate because of the nature of their environment.  Their customers/citizens might be dispersed throughout a certain area.  Although I can imagine a DRO basically owning an entire city and everyone in it belonging to that DRO.  That model could definitely work.  Perhaps that’s the future of communism, where everyone’s needs are taken care of by producing to the extent of their ability.  Anyone who wants to join that city can do so.  I suspect that there would be a severe shortage of high-capability individuals, but maybe there’s a solution to that problem that our future communist DRO will find.  Anyway, in the event of an incident involving individuals from different DRO’s, the organizations would represent their customers.

Let’s say somebody is accusing someone else of theft.  Obviously both DRO’s want to have conclusive evidence that their resolution is just, one way or the other.  They don’t want to let a guilty person go unpunished, and they really don’t want to punish someone who’s innocent.  Let’s say they conclude he’s guilty and the DRO’s make an agreement.  The thief’s DRO will fine him the value of the TV plus damages and legal fees, as per his contract to pay fines if he is found guilty of a crime, and give it to the victim’s DRO, who will then give the victim the value of their TV plus pain and suffering damages or whatnot.  If the thief is unable to pay these fines, then their DRO will cover the damages in the form of a loan and give the thief an honest chance to earn it back.  If the thief is a serious repeat offender for crimes more serious than just petty theft, the DRO will probably terminate service because it’s cheaper to have model citizen customers, and he’s not helping the DRO or anyone else.  Of course now you’re probably asking why the thief should care that his service has been terminated, since now he can steal whatever he wants and no DRO is going to punish him.  Well, he has the slight problem that if he was to be murdered then nobody would look into his death, except maybe DRO’s interested in finding out if one of their customers did the killing, or possibly some charity organizations.  He has no representation for wrongs against him, and no services provided by DRO’s.  However, more seriously, businesses have absolutely no incentive to trust him, and simply won’t do business with him, or they might charge more to compensate for the risk of dealing with him.  He might find it impossible to find somewhere to live, buy food, or get a job.  However DRO’s would have great incentive to pick up people like him, even though they’re a bit riskier than longtime customers, and might have to pay a little more for equivalent services, they get exactly the sort of basic representation and credibility they need.  Also, a DRO  would presumably  be designed to deal with new customers, providing the right incentive structure to make it more advantageous to be honest and forthright, while at the same time being enjoyable and providing valuable services

I have yet to meet someone in person who has conceived of the possibility that government participation doesn’t necessarily have to be mandatory.  If the topic shows up, usually I am met with either apathy or a “but you have to vote” mentality.  The latter group is especially annoying because their response clearly indicates they totally misunderstood my argument, and they can’t even visualize the idea of not being a part of a government.  Clearly you don’t have to vote, and though it’s probably a good idea, that’s not what I’m talking about anyway!  Give the people the option of choosing their government, or creating one that suits their needs, rather than merely giving them a vote to move a colossal mass of humanity just that fraction of an inch.

Organic Personal Economics

Economic behavior is perhaps best described as the most natural form of interpersonal behavior.  Remember, I’m referring to personal economics not just stock indices, so any exchange of value works.  Status being the most traded commodity in social interactions.  My intent is to convince you that human economics “just works” without any need to control or use coercive force.  It is an automatic balancing feedback loop which corrects itself against objective reality all the time.  One person, or even a large group of people, is unable to compete with such a swarm intelligence.

Consider the law of supply and demand.  While hailed as the fundamental principle of monetary economics, if it’s taught as such then the students will fail to see that the same principle applies in countless other situations.  Supply and demand is simply one instance of a self-correcting system to maximize the gain of the seller by maximizing the value given out to buyers.  The guy who wants the last iPhone the most can prove that quite simply by being prepared to pay the most for it.  If prices are too high, competition drives them down because supply is too high, if they’re too low then supply diminishes, increasing price until an equilibrium is reached.  This same type of system applies to everything from evolution to the water level in a toilet.

I’m going to make an extravagant claim.  I don’t have any problem with vote-buying as a concept.  This is a perfect example of a self-correcting (and therefore adaptive) system- i.e. the market, working within an artificial environment created and manipulated by a government.  The government has created a commodity that did not before exist- votes.  They clearly have personal economics implications on everyone, including within that the fiscal economics effects of voting.  So votes clearly have value.  Everybody has one, and indeed gets another one in each election.  Just as a thought experiment, what would actually happen if vote-buying was completely legit?  Well, you say, the rich people get all the power because they can just pay anyone they like and they’ll vote however their buyers want.  Me: Yeah.  So?  It’s a completely voluntary exchange, obviously the person with the vote in question was only invested in their first choice to the extent they are prepared to be bought.  Proper forms of value for both parties will be created, even if a little creativity is required.  For example, I imagine a third type of commodity would appear- the purchase of a non-vote, cheaper than a positive vote in the opposite direction, but gives voters the feeling of not having helped the enemy.  What about maybe a futures vote market, trading on the value of a vote.  I’m not going to even guess what price the market would find for the average Presidential vote- there’s an absolutely impossible Fermi problem if I’ve ever seen one.  But let’s just say that the going rate is $1,000.  Clearly, buying other peoples’ votes is therefore an expensive proposition, because you need to win or else you pretty much wasted $1k for each ineffective vote.  If you’re part of the ultra-wealthy class, and you stand to gain a ton of money by electing some uber-corrupt politician, I say by all means pay people like me to make that a reality for you.  It’s not going to be cheap, and the more corrupt that politician is, the more you’re going to have to pay me, but I can be bought.  Let’s look at the 2000 election.  I hate Bush with a burning passion, but if he offered to pay me $80,000 to vote for him I’d be on the fence.  If he made it $100,000 then I’m his.  I don’t like him, never agreed to support his Presidency, but unless Gore was prepared to give me some competitive compensation I’d have to go with the $100k.  Of course, at that price the man is completely unelectable.  You can’t pay off, say, ten percent of the country at $100k apiece- that’s 30 million Americans, totaling $3 TRILLION.  Not to mention the fact that every opposing party is going to be using the same tactics, both driving up the price of the otherwise neutral votes and decreasing the number of those votes available.

Going back to the self-correcting system.  If we have the problem of an ultra-rich upper class taking advantage of all the poor people, then the way I see it, allowing those rich people to get value from their money by buying votes seems like a damn good way to even out the class divide.  Think about it.  The poorer you are, smaller amounts of money have a greater amount of proportional value.  That’s why poor people are prepared to work more cheaply.  The same principle applies to the starving man being prepared to pay more for food.  So we have the ultra-rich, interested in a commodity which the poor people will have a large quantity of, in direct proportion to the class inequality currently present.  If we have an extremely unbalanced society where 1% are billionaires and everyone else is broke, we have lots of people prepared to sell their votes to a small number of people with all the resources and motivation to buy lots of votes.  If it’s more equal, we have fewer people with mass-vote-buying capability but at the same time we have fewer people whose votes can be bought cheaply.  Self-correcting.  You can never arrive at a more equal, fair, and free society through centralized control as a Communist would have you believe, because they are ignoring the stark reality of personal economics.  If prices are fixed to be affordable, they’ll disappear and then the good in question will be unavailable- and obviously if they’re too high nobody can afford it.  Centralized control creates self-reinforcing loops increasing the inequality in society.  Letting go of control creates self-correcting loops, decreasing the inequality in society.  This entire mechanic is a product of free choice, in bold because it is damn important.  If you have choice, you will pick the option you prefer.  If you can’t, you don’t.  It truly is that simple.

OK, let’s look at another one.  Crime.  If there is a problem of any kind, then you should have the free choice to respond to that problem in any way that your heart desires, be it retarded or brilliant.  This is really just a specific case of the above example that you should be able to do whatever you want anyway.  In the case of crime, maybe you want to hire a security guard, maybe get an alarm system.  Maybe you think that all the options available are too expensive to be justified for a small risk in your area, I don’t know.  However, what I will tell you, is that there exists a solution which you, yes you, will pick in response to your environment, even if that solution is to do nothing.  If there are no solutions available then the incentive is there for you to go out and make one to sell to other people.  Even if it sucks, there are no other options, so you’ll make an absolute killing.  And then someone else has the fantastic idea of doing the same thing a little cheaper, and random guy #3 says no, I have a better idea, etc. etc. ad infinitum.  If crime is a problem, you will take steps to address that problem while taking into account the exact nature of the issue, the circumstances, and all other factors which might contribute to your own personal utility.  To touch on a current issue, perhaps that means acquiring a weapon of some sort.  If lots of people make that choice then the burglar’s personal economics obviously changes, like it does for all changes in their environment.  If X% of the houses they burglarize contain angry and armed homeowners then Y% of burglars will stop being burglars, or never become burglars in the first place.  The same clearly applies to muggings, bank robberies, and all other types of crime, or even any other problem at all.  The institution in question will simply take steps to safeguard themselves relative to the risk.  If the risk is high because security everywhere else is low then it pays to have lots of security relative to elsewhere.  After that, the institution really doesn’t care, whether everyone else increases their security as well.  However if they do then crime becomes a crazy strategy and falls to negligible levels, and then security can be relaxed.  If you’re guarding priceless artifacts then obviously you need more because the potential payoff is greater.  If it’s just your house you can have less, but if you choose to outfit your house with proximity activated popup autofire machine gun turrets, that’s fine, whatever floats your boat.  However, it may turn out that your popup turrets themselves represent a problem which I need to solve.  So I decide to ask you to not use machine guns to defend your property in case my dog should run into your yard.  Perhaps my gratitude is insufficient payment, and it may be worth my while to give you outright compensation in exchange for depriving you of your gun turrets.  Maybe I go door to door in the neighborhood asking for donations to end the tyranny of the machine gun turret maniac down the street.  Perhaps I just buy a mortar and blow up whatever gun turrets you may happen to purchase.  Not a realistic choice, especially for me, but a possible choice, so why not?  Then you decide that that is just too much and you pay some organization with an economic interest in being arbitrary (DRO perhaps) to mediate our argument, and get you some compensation for the blown up gun turrets.  Hey, maybe you even pay them off.  Then I tell the world that this or that DRO is getting paid off, here’s my proof, their entire enterprise is shot and they are out of business.  Or, you pay all the legal fees and whatnot and I am charged with blowing up your stuff.  I hire someone to represent me, and so on and so forth.  We can do whatever we want, and we aren’t harming anyone but ourselves.  However, the moment you implicate some huge centralized control agent such as the government, our little dispute involves everyone in the entire country to some degree in the form of courts, consistent laws, and taxpayer money.  Get rid of it all- back to a state of nature, baby!

In a state of nature, personal economics rules.  The problem with “state of nature” is some arbitrary connotative association that in order for us to live in a state of nature, we have to be savages who just barely invented the wheel.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the economy when we were, in fact, savages who just invented the wheel.  Absolutely nothing- it worked perfectly.  There wasn’t a hell of a lot to trade, there was no useful medical technology, and a whole myriad of other problems.  But the personal economics of the day were absolutely without parallel in the modern world.  You could do anything you wanted.  It just so happened that the environment made severe demands upon you which led you to choose certain courses over others due to the risk of death, which nowadays we find barbaric.  You don’t decide if you want to eat pizza or a sandwich and worry about risk of death in either choice.  We are living with the products of thousands of years of personal economics, and the further we go the more we distort those personal economics with coercion.  This is why all countries and empires must fall.  Very simply, an agency of centralized control has, by definition, sufficient power to increase its own control.  If the controlling agency lacks the ability to actually do anything in either direction then it’s not much of a controlling agency, is it?  And, anyone given a choice will pick the one they prefer.  Therefore any group given controlling power must therefore use it maximize their own value.  Depending on everyone involved with coercive power to consistently choose to act against their own interests, indefinitely, is a losing bet.

Allow me to reframe this in a different context.  Consider your average corporation, I often use McDonald’s as a corporate empire example (I never eat their food, but they’re an interesting empire).  Is there corruption in McDonald’s?  More importantly, do you care?  Your choice is very simple: they offer you food products and you offer them money.  Nobody is forcing you to buy their stuff.  After you’ve made your deal, your business is concluded.  What they do with the money is no longer your concern.  They could burn it for all you care, in the same way that you could just burn your Big Mac- they don’t care.  If it should turn out that a couple McDonald’s executives stole $100 million from their company, why should you care?  If the corruption ever gets so bad that their products increase in price, or their employees quit, or whatever else should happen, then that’s just a few more of those factors that go into your decision to buy or not buy.  Even if you work at McDonald’s, you are offered a certain pay in exchange for specific services.  As long as those executives don’t cut into your paycheck one cent, or make your job one whit more difficult, why do you care?  Now compare this situation to the government.  If a couple government officials ran off with $100 million there would be an uproar.  This type of thing actually happens all the time, they just don’t ‘run off with it’ because they have more creative, subtle, and above all effective ways to profit.  But if they out-and-out stole it there would be a storm.  This is because the government applies an interesting abstraction to taxation which decrees that, while you must give them the money or be thrown in jail, you also have some claim over it even after you have given it to them.  This makes it that much easier to take, and also leads you to believe that you aren’t actually being coerced.  A bunch of other people voted to say that your money should be taken and used to do X, but the spin is that you have the power to vote as well so it all evens out.

Of course, if they actually were providing you with value for value then the government would be completely optional in the same way McDonald’s is.  I hate McDonald’s food, but they aren’t going to throw me in jail for not using their services.  The government, however, will.  And they will go so far as to use the money they stole from me to pay for the cops to go get me, the cell they would keep me in, and to line the pockets of the legislators who mandated that I should be jailed.  If the government actually did provide useful services such as law and order, a just court system, health care, and whatever else, then let them make participation completely optional.  Let’s have multiple available citizenship plans.  Liberty service has no taxes, but you agree to abide by the laws and regulations and in return you will be defended by the police and military, and given fire services, hospital service, and a number of other vitals, including 1 vote.  Bronze service costs 10% of your income, you get 2 votes, and several other services such as school services, libraries, etc. plus everything on the liberty plan.  Silver service is 25% of your income, you get 5 votes, free health care, whatever, you get the point.  Gold service is 50% of your income, you get 10 votes and a number of other services to compensate for the increased.  Then there’s Patriot service, for 75% of your income plus optional donation-based bonuses, you get 30 votes plus direct contact rights to your representatives, the option for low-level leadership positions within the government, guaranteed employment, whatever you like.  You don’t have to buy any of them, of course.  But if you want, you can.