TEODESIAN.NET Blog


Overvalued and undervalued

Last modified on March 17 2016 09:31:06 UTC by doge
Simon Black has an interesting article about whether the Singapore market is relatively "cheap" at roughly 1/1 Market cap/GDP. While this seems superficially like a decent measure, it falls down upon closer analysis.
  1. GDP is a flawed yardstick; you should subtract rather than add government spending. Use Mark Skousen's Gross Output measure where you can.
  2. Single indices do not necessarily reflect the total output of a country, but neither do aggregate measures like GDP/GO. A more thorough analysis would divide up the gross output by that covered by the relevant market sector(s) represented by the index you look at.
  3. Using indices, while good from a hedging against Macro trends POV, is never gonna net you the large gains you can get from value investing in individual firms. To use this approach with individual firms, you would need to further subdivide your analysis into 'how much of a share of output does this firm represent versus their market cap?' Doing so you can actually make a pretty good spreadsheet and sort from top to bottom as to "who are the winners and losers" in the overvalued/undervalued game.
Real investing takes careful planning and thought, not buying indexes and wishing. But doing the homework isn't really that hard if you know what statistics to look for. Like in Moneyball, the game can be won if you look at the right parameters. For value investors, overvalued/undervalued is the most important parameter.

Of course, other relevant statistics exist; nobody would buy a heavily undervalued buggy whip maker in 1912 (except to strip the assets and liquidate it). Earning potential and more traditional measures like P/E should influence your winnowing past 'undervalued or overvalued'.

Libertarian Paradise

Last modified on January 25 2016 23:37:01 UTC by doge
or, one weird trick to get libertarian eyeballs

So, Robert Wenzel decided to shake the hornets' nest to pump up his SEO, and cover for his lack? of praxeological understanding. This time, he decided to discuss "punishment in a libertarian society". In particular, he has managed to get a vocal critic (matt@occidentalism.org), who himself is either fuzzy-headed, playing dumb (I hope), or simply unaware of the answers to his questions. I believe these comments to be instrumental to understanding this issue, so let us examine them in detail.

The authority of the property owner, you say, is total.

Wenzel's critic is making a valid point here; no person's authority over anything is total at any time. The Native Americans and Palestinians can tell you all about that. Your authority over what occurs on your property (and others property) is equivalent to your ability to defend it against reprisal or aggression (or to overcome others' defenses). This is one place where David Friedman has an edge over some libertarians; considering authority over property absolute is as ridiculous as Keynesian econometric modelling. Truly easement free property exists only in fantasy, just like neoclassical models.

Mind you authority is not "rights"; though when one thinks of "rights" you realize the perfect rebuttal to Wenzel's position; the rebuttal comes from Mr. Libertarian himself, Walter Block, in his 'evictionism' argument about abortion. If it is possible to eject trespassing fetuses and so forth nonviolently, then it is illegitimate to do so violently. In the case of the dying mother, it is not possible, so abortion is legitimate. In the case of the profligate mother and the inconvenient baby, it is illegitimate, as nonviolent alternatives exist (wait some months).

Apply this to the 'Murder Tresspasser/Thief' argument. It is not legitimate to murder a child who is taking your apple and obviously is defenceless against your reposession of the apple, etc. It is legitimate to slay the child if he shot at you when discovered pilfering, and you could not reasonably disarm/capture him to effect it's immediate cessation. The deliberate de-escalation of situations is one of the key pillars of libertarian theory, but an unstated one by many.

My personal conception of libertarianism is as such:

  1. Private Property, like locks in a software system, are the only way to sanely share resources over time without corrupting the underlying resource into uselesness.
  2. The Non-Aggression Principle - Do not initiate force against others' property, unless yours has already been aggressed upon by said other.
  3. The Non-Escalation Principle - When aggressed upon, never use more force upon the aggressor than is warranted to prevent future aggression.
Mind you, I consider this to be the letter and spirit of the new covenant, which is why I am a Christian. I am not sure that I have heard the 'non-escalation principle' stated formally anywhere, but this should be an obvious axiom to the vast majority of libertarians. It should also be obvious from a Praxeological point of view that de-escalation would tend to result in more prosperity, as less labor and capital would be destroyed than otherwise. Similarly, not acting to prevent future aggression will mean more labor and captial destruction than otherwise, so self defense is clearly beneficial to society.

It is fair to say that a Private Property Society won't protect you against terrorism and crime, or guarantee you charity or healthcare either.

This is the whole of the discussion right here, as I believe this is the root of Wenzel's misunderstanding. Lack of a formal state can be better, the same as, or worse than a state-run environment. Belief that the "system" men live under is even mutable is a common fallacy amongst newly minted libertarians. No, it is like Doug Casey has noted; there are only two rules: "do as thou wilt, but be prepared for the consequences". This is the only reality.

You live in anarchy right now; the state is simply another affectation much like private mafiosi call themselves "legitimate businessmen".

Now, will people be less apt to get shammed by mafiosi were these legitimacy myths not floating about? Likely, and this would probably lead to a better society, regardless of what we call it (Private Property Society, etc).

However, we will always be plagued by some particular ignorances and superstition; this is an inescapable part of the human condition. Busybodies with wrong ideas will always be dangerous. So are the Jerks and Parasites staffing the state and filling the ranks of the 'urban primitives'. This will always be so.

The true state of society is what traction good ideas have versus foolishness; and by that measure, for all it's warts, the USA is still on top. We don't have more NAP advocates and Misesians here than elsewhere for no reason at all. It's because of the intellectual captial and traditions established by the hard work of our ancestors.

Given time, this too shall change. The real fight is to make sure we do not regress into foolishness, wherever and however that might occur. As many Misesians note, the Whig view of intellectual history is false. Our intellectual climate can and does regress frequently. Our capital conditions and standards of living would be soon to follow.

I challenged you [Robert Wenzel] previously to admit that under your idea of libertarian punishment it would be permissible to molest children as a libertarian punishment, but you dodged it by saying child molestation would not happen in a Private Property Society. It is obvious why you would not concede this point - because upon concession any non-degenerate person would reject your idea of a Private Property Society. Time to go back to the drawing board.

Going "back to the drawing board" with regard to punishment in a libertarian society would consist of this: Realizing that punishment is merely another praxeological action. It is done not for any non-existent superstition such as justice, the rule of law, or even vengeance. It is done because they preferred to act in such a fashion at the time and with the information at hand; e.g. "I could get away with it." Crazies under anarchy or the state will engage in such foolishness at an undiminished rate, until the situation dissuades them from such. If a criminal organization such as the state can suppress such behavior, it is not a stretch to assume a private organization would be as capable (or incapable) as well.

Punishment as a concept is useless; Darrow's "resist not evil" should have convinced most Libertarians of that long ago. Look to the myriad legal codes of history; you will find a striving to reduce conflict, justice be damned. At the end of the day, a bad peace is better than the best war. This is why libertarians still pay protection money to the empire, despite decrying it as evil.

To arrive at a consistent worldview, one must simplify. Doing so you will realize concepts such as punishment, justice, "rule of law", and vengeance are of little use. Figuring out what concepts, ideas and actions do and do not escalate aggression is more useful to followers of the "nonaggression principle" as a path to a better future. To Wenzel's credit, this is a point he touches on; staying away from the aggressive and thereby not needing court services and restitution in the first place is always better. The battle not fought is the greatest victory.

So, the path to personal freedom is clear, and do-able right now through wisdom and intelligence (Harry Browne was big on this -- see "living free in an unfree world"). However, "freedom for the masses" is much more likely to come simply by technology; this should come as no surprise, considering that capital accumulation has been the only thing capable of lifting the masses out of privation in the first place. Similarly, the path out of privation in the past was always available to the wise and intelligent (create capital), much like the path to freedom is available now.

Suppose we came up with either of the three following innovations, and they were cheap and widely available:

  1. Uninterceptable, undecipherable to 3rdparty communications, such as would be effected by quantum entanglement + encryption. This dovetails into teleportation, as information = energy = matter.
  2. Effective invisibility devices, and shields against waves and particles of varying forms (invisibility is a 'special case' of force fields).
  3. Man-portable open-source armaments capable of smashing most offensive military equipment, including ICBMs. This is the closest to reality; note what the Afghanis have pulled off in the last 15 years with clones of Soviet Junk. Rapid Fabrication tech is also rapidly making arms control for such things impossible. Just wait until you see the first open source heat seeking missile or railgun.
Many of the state's scams seem close to impossible in such an environment. Everyone could be as free as they wanted to be. You'll note that much of the clever strategies used to secure liberty right now focus on the same; concealing things from the state, or becoming a (relatively) unappetizing meal.

Even with the masses freed by technology bad ideas, busybodies, lackwits and reprobates will still exist. We will not have a perfect world, just a better one; one where foolishness is much, much harder to get away with. To Wenzel's credit, I think this is more-or-less what he was trying to get across about a free society.

Note that this is the magic of voulntary cooperation summed up; free competition in goods and ideas winnows out the bad and exalts the good. Ideas and products evolve like the organisms that make them. Whether they go in the direction that empowers and frees humanity or warps us into one of the many other failures haunting our planet is entirely up to us. Fighting this natural evolution with the 'unnatural selection' of coercion simply results in ideas, products, services and people that are inbred or deformed at worst and stagnant at best.

This is why the market is called "The invisible hand". It truly is "god's law", in that it is the final court to which there is no appeal. All attempts to frustrate it is merely Canute screaming at the waves. This is also why I do not advocate activism; evil/stupid is self-liquidating. The structure of reality guarantees that -- the only question is when and whether you get wiped out by said liquidation (or go short bad ideas, and ride to the top).

It is worth noting that even in an environment where unnatural selection is the norm, hybrid vigor *still* creates hardier creatures than otherwise. So, even if you are surrounded by Authoritarian busybodies or corrupt parasites, do not succumb to the urge to believe in the prevailing foolishness. Recognizing the truth will always make you stronger and freer than the rest; and without your example the others will never know better.

UPDATE

Bionic has responded more or less how I expected; by calling Wenzel out for his fuzzy headedness. Wenzel responds with more Fuzzy-Headedness.

UPDATE II

Wenzel is beginning to come around. It is possible he's been 'playing dumb' the entire time, which would be consistent with his drama-generating SEO tactics so far. That said, he's still not articulating things as clearly as will be necessary to dismiss his critics.


Thoughts on Ian Murdock's Death

Last modified on December 31 2015 11:07:16 UTC by teo

The tinfoil side of me notes that ianmurdock.com redirected to google.com last night. I saw some archived/pastebin stuff supposedly captured from his twitter about blogging his repeated harrasment, extortion and beatings received at the hands of police thuggery on twitter shortly before his demise (see news for this day), but his twitter was already deactivated/deleted by then, so who knows if even that stuff is legit. Most news I've seen posted on his death seems rather mum about that stuff, but commenters brought it up on reddit, slashdot, etc.

In any event, it is likely yet another example of a man driven to desperation by the crime gangs that call themselves the government. I suppose the government has been lucky so far that the people they've ruined in tech so far have usually chosen suicide (like Aaron Swartz) or been incompetent at striking back (like Joe Stack).

If history is any guide, the script the government is writing for itself eventually creates monsters like Zawahiri and Bin Laden out of educated men with resources. This time, of course, it will be on the homefront, and it will no doubt be used as an excuse to further accelerate police state measures. Indeed, the FBI, etc. all now say their greatest threat they are watching for is "domestic extremists", as if they know that the tyranny they rub in our faces 24/7 is bound to piss *somebody* off.

Living in the USSA is like watching a slow motion train wreck daily for me.


Praxis

Last modified on August 31 2015 09:07:49 UTC by teo

I've noticed recently a tendency by some to attribute all that goes right or wrong with their life to chemical interactions within the brain, as if your hormones are your destiny. If you are a mindful or educated individual, you may realize some problems with that line of thinking right off the bat, but I can understand the allure of this idea for explaining away certain things in one's life that are painful to reflect upon.

Just as with all ideas seeking to refute the concept of praxis, it is self-contradictory in the barest logical sense - the very notion that you can believe that choice doesn't really exist implies a choice in and of itself. The only escape from this logical conundrum requires a type of nihilism that, if true, creates a reductio ad absurdum where any action on your part is wholly unneeded, as whether or not brain chemistry leads to 'destined' action or not is meaningless anyhow. This creates a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy of mindlessness, where you become controlled by your emotions (chemical interactions that influence preferences for acting in one way or another) as you see no benefit to using your mental faculties to restrain or embrace those impulses, leading to more or less choosing your actions by 'default' instead of with purpose.

The consequences of this strategy should be apparent, yet again, to anyone paying attention. If one has not even considered the ends they wish to achieve, how can they evaluate whether or not any given means is suitable to achieving it? This kind of existence will instead produce privation for the most part, as any action that might bring someone out of privation under this mental model will be purely accidental.

I bring this up mostly as a reflection on not only my contemporaries, but also from recently reading an interesting, if flawed account of the mindsets common to the most impoverished citizens of Great Britain. In Dalrymple's accounts, he constantly speaks of a failure in many in the "underclass" to take responsibility for any of their actions, as if Khorne suddenly possessed them before they beat the snot out of their girlfriend. Dalrymple rightly scoffs at this supposition, as those possessed of this rage seem perfectly able to control it when heavily armed police surround them. This implies, of course, that this behavior is not due to understanding and internalizing an idea I have criticized above, but rather using it as an excuse for their own failure to choose proper means for coexisting with their fellow human beings.

Of course, where Dalrymple goes off the rails is when he advocates basically jailing and beating this behavior out of them (an impulse shared by those on both the authoritarian left and right), which though a common response, has been empirically disproven as a viable method for combating behaviors one person or group views as undesirable in society. It is, however, good at murdering a large segment of the population and increasing privation in general (just as with pretty much all violence, as less hands make for heavier lifting). No, instead he should have concluded the book in a manner logically consistent with what he was seeing (and indeed advocating to his patients when he would converse with them). The recent changes in mindset for people brought about by what the Daily Bell calls the "Internet Reformation" is a far more indicitive model for what works to combat these ills in society. In fact, this line of argumentation is precisely the one Ron Paul makes in his most recent book advocating for an end to war.

With all that above in mind, I suppose what I'm really attempting to say here to all those who think that all their life is just chemical interactions on the wall of Plato's Cave is that this idea is self-contradictory and, if truly false, will actually lead you to material harm. Still not convinced? Let's make use of Pascal's wager: What is the downside to believing you can have praxis and acting accordingly, even if what you consider to be conscious action is really just an illusion? I can answer that question for you, as the answer is none.

In addition, you are likely deluding yourself if you believe your actions are caused purely as a reaction to stimulus. I see girls I'd like to bone on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean I go out and rape them, because I know that doing so wouldn't actually benefit me. Damn, how could my brain chemistry had failed to move me so! It's as if my thoughts just 'took a hold' of me and allowed me to control myself, despite what chemical signaling was telling me to do!

If there's any chemistry that is in the brain responsible for anything, it is at least that which enables you to choose to embrace or reject the chemical signals you are receiving instinctively. It is literally the key to the conceptualization of consciousness... at least the non-spiritual ones.


Emigration From Consistency

Last modified on August 30 2015 13:10:36 UTC by teo

TL;DR - If you think that libertarians should be pursuing second best solutions, expect controversial, preference laced conclusions.

Anyways...

I'd like to comment upon a recent article I came across thanks to the Bad Quaker and the Freedom Feens. Here is the article in question; it regards Hoppe's controversial take on Immigration being a form of "Forced Integration".

From my reading of Hoppe, I'd say Nico is actually in violent agreement with him, except as it regards Nico's personal preference. I've noticed many get the impression Nico did here from reading Hoppe, so I can't say I'm really surprised to see this. Really, to me that sounds like it needs explanation from Murphy in 'plain' english for most to understand Hoppe's writing. The same thing has been said at various points about Mises, especially as it regards Human Action.

Hoppe's position to me seemed to be that:
Given societies with welfare states, free immigration doesn't increase the freedom of people in that nation, just as having 'squatters' on your land doesn't increase the property owner's freedom. Taxpayers in welfare states understand why this is so, though immigration is not the root cause (as the 'tea party' might posit), the welfare state is. Furthermore, in a free society, if you didn't want people on your property it is your right to exclude them from it. Nowhere in Hoppe's writing does he say you should bar them from your property -- indeed, as Nico suggests, some property owners would likely build roads and allow free passage, as it would benefit them to do so. Hoppe, of course, would also advocate for the abolition of the welfare state. Indeed, without one, free immigration wouldn't even be a problem as there isn't any 'free riders' (something Hoppe lists as an unassailable argument in the beginning of his article).

This, however, is not the context in which Hoppe is speaking about what the 'libertarian' position should be on immigration. Instead, in the insane world of modern democracies, basically the choice is between unconditionally raising taxes in response to free immigration in order to pay for immigrants who wish to partake of the welfare state (to not trample as much on the 'right' to travel) OR restrict immigration so that the poor taxpayers aren't raped as badly by the taxman (to not trample as much on the slaves' 'right' to property). Note here that I say as much, as in all welfare states, there's inevitably going to be ostensibly 'public' places where the public is not actually allowed to go, and because the taxpayer is always screwed, the only question is "to what degree?"

Thus, Hoppe comes down on the side of the taxpayer, as any 'right' to travel on anything other than your own property implies the violation of others' property rights, which is what the NAP stems from -- I own me (and thus the fruits of my labor), right? Still, I can't say I'm surprised Nico doesn't get this, as in another article I find him defending intellectual property thusly:

Since intellectual property always needs a medium, the intellectual property owner effectively has the right to control to some degree how people use their physical property.
Say what? Wishing for people to employ ideas how you wish them is an unrealistic assumption at best. Indeed, he even defeats himself by repeating the idea that "the Medium is the Message;" this implies that your intellectual property wasn't the property at all -- it was the medium. Much better libertarian defences of intellectual property exist, some even note the consequences of scarcity (or lack thereof) on this property.

In any event, just as with all 'second best' solutions under the state, any 'solutions' to the immigration 'problem' stomp on somebody's liberty. The actual flip side of Hoppe's argument is that it would require a police state to restrict immigration in a Welfare state, as many will predictably want to partake when someone is giving out free goodies. Your personal preference then determines what the 'libertarian' position should be. That is pretty much the central catch 22 for all liberty 'activists' in the USA, which is why I am not one. Sure, I'll advocate for abandoning the execution of actions which lead to increased privation all day, but I am not everybody. I hold out no hope for liberty in anyone's lifetime other than that which they make happen for themselves. Whether or not they do it at the expense of others is their choice, and a choice the stoics know all too well the rewards of.

There's nothing logically inconsistent with that, other than perhaps not acknowledging, ultimately, that there is no good solution under certain systems, so personal preference is the best you'll get there. Hoppe's essay is suffused with acknowledgement of this, though he is likely wrong regarding assignment of this preference to society at large, as is noted in Nico's commentary regarding whether most would prefer Hoppe's imperfect solution. The fact that there is so much controversy still in the USA regarding immigration suggests there is no real consensus on the issue, though I understand Hoppe standing on the side of the taxpayer in a welfare state.

Really, this is just another manifestation of the 'thick' versus 'thin' libertarian debate, though most self-described 'thin' libertarians probably aren't actually very 'thin' in their personal preferences, whether it be Hoppe, "Robert Wenzel", "Bionic Mosquito", Chris Cantwell or Ben Stone. I know I'm not. Hoppe is merely willing to state his preferences openly in his works, which is why Hoppe has been consistently good at providing trolling material for use either to attack or defend anarcho-capitalism.


Price Controls Come To The Internet

Last modified on August 08 2015 14:19:19 UTC by doge

So it looks like we are going to get net neutrality.

This should be opposed for the same reason all other price controls are, namely because they are not capable of accomplishing their stated objectives (stimulating supply or demand for products of a given quality).

The notion that all packets should not be interfered with by those who own the private property that said packets travel about on is a price control; namely it is a price floor. Not filtering anything (and ergo maximizing the traffic on your infrastructure) implies a higher cost of doing business with said infrastructure than can be achieved with filtering, tiered pricing, etc. This in turn creates a minimum price for all firms on the market, namely how cheaply can I lay cable or make a wireless network.

Guess who has the easiest time doing that? Large firms that get volume discounts, and can cajole local authorities into coercing easements on people’s property, be it through brand clout or straight up bribes. So it’s fundamentally going to do what price floors always do — enlarge monopolies, impede small business and create a shortage of consumers (the people who would have bought the lower priced service which they are now prohibited from doing).

Price floors always create shortages of consumers, while price ceilings create shortages of producers. This is a law of economics that has been known for hundreds of years.

In summary, if you prefer to lock the poor out of a market completely rather than allowing them to get some utility out of an inferior good, impose a price floor. The effects of the minimum wage upon structural unemployment (it increases it) is the classical example of this phenomenon.

If you want a good to never be produced above the quality threshold implied by the price ceiling (and ergo deny those who can afford it a higher standard of living), then impose a price ceiling. In extreme cases, when the ceiling is lower than the cost of the factors of production for even the shoddiest quality of some good, shortages occur and famines result.

All law is fundamentally price controls. Consider that every time you are advocating one policy or another — It is socially desirable to have a shortage of murders, so I advocate making it’s cost prohibitively high (a price floor). This is imposed implicitly by our courts system's overhead and so forth. Similarly, society wants a shortage of hit-men, so a price ceiling of $0 is imposed (outlawed).

Do I want a shortage of internet service providers, or conversely to limit access to the internet for our poor brothers? no. So, I don’t advocate regulation on the internet. Stimulation of supply via force always encourages lower demand, which defeats the purpose of higher output. Stimulation of demand via force always encourages lower supply, which defeats the purpose of higher demand. As such, these controls make sense only in cases where both demanding and supplying a good or service is considered universally undesirable.

That’s the classically liberal perspective — lassiez faire, lassiez passer.

For the moral perspective, it’s a clear violation of “Love thy neighbor as you love thyself”. It is not loving behavior to interfere in the behavior of two individuals/organizations that are interacting at arms-length (a contract), and harming no third party with their actions. Interference is only moral if coercion is involved — one of the parties does not consent to the deal, or a third party is harmed.

Nobody is explicitly harmed by traffic prioritization supposing this is laid out in the contract as the nature of the agreement, which is is in most ISP service contracts. Regrettably, few actually read said contracts, much less anything at all. So they naturally become upset when they realize the marketing material they read that convinced them to purchase was not a full disclosure, like the contract is. While that is indeed a shortcoming of the firm in serving their customers adequately, it is not a legal harm, as the customer had every opportunity to understand the nature of the relationship, had they read the contract.

So these customers get upset and rail against these companies, and advocate government force to change the relationship into what they believe the relationship should be. Basically, shoving guns into business owners' faces to cover for their customers inadequacies (insufficient care/reading comprehension). Much of government action is this at work — violence to cover up more mundane sins. This underlines the old adage that "The government breaks your legs and then hands you crutches".

It is a pity they are not more bold as sinners. Simply mugging people would more quickly remove from society those who wish to maintain or improve their standard of living through violence.

So who's next on the chopping block? My guess is the shared hosting industry. The same logic used to justify "net neutrality" can be used to mandate equal shares of resources on shared hosts, which would annihilate the profit margins of many of our largest customers. Shared hosting relies on under-delivering and over-delivering to customers based on traffic; if a specific amount of traffic is mandated, you may as well head over to any dedicated server firm with your website.

This does result in the occasional case of overloaded servers and site downtimes; but let's face it -- these bargain basement programs offered by various shared hosting firms aren't exactly advertising themselves as top-quality products either.

As a marginal firm, I would prefer to have a low quality vendor that works 80% of the time rather than one I can't afford which results in no online presence whatsoever.

This is why $1/month hosting exists. Cutting corners and making a shoddy product is often the only way to serve marginal consumers. As such, don't advocate for levelling -- pay more for quality products and live in peace with your less fortunate neighbors.

I guess the final injustice coming soon to my professional field is going to be licensure of techs and programmers, as the old guard will quickly be upset by downward wage pressure. This will be due to people flocking to the tech field in droves, as it's one of the few "freedom zones" left in professional America. Maybe the political class will throw in some hyperventilation about cyberattacks too.


Season's Beatings

Last modified on August 08 2015 14:19:19 UTC by teo
The Christmas Police State Song

The Bill of Rights roasting on an open fire,
Jack Boots standing on your neck,
Welfare carols being sung by a black,
And cops dressed up like SS-kimoes.

Everybody knows a ticket from some angered po,
Flash Bangs make the season bright.
Tiny tots in the ICU from hard blows,
Will find it hard to sleep tonight.

They know the SWAT Team's on its way;
They've locked and loaded goodies with which to slay.
And every mother's child is going to cry,
To see if pigs really know how to fly.

And so I'm offering this simple phrase,
To kids from one to ninety-two,
Although its been said many times, many ways,
Stop Resisting... F**k you


Don't Dry Gulch me, Bro!

Last modified on August 08 2015 14:19:19 UTC by teo

As is often the case, reading an article online has provoked some long form thought from me today. This time, it's the continuing saga of GGC, which seems to be causing many to rethink the notion of what it means to expatriate.

The optimistic part of me wonders if people are starting to get that it's not the locale of tyranny that you need to escape - it's what the Freedom Feens call 'Horizontal Enforcement' - the tyranny of the mindset that needs to be escaped more than anything. Most importantly, it means more fully internalizing the libertarian philosophy that many folks understand and agree with on a logical level. Moving to a community of "like minded freedom lovers" sounds like asking for trouble if even one of them hasn't fully embraced the implications of liberty within a world of limited knowledge.

It should not be lost on the reader that the most successful "expatriation for liberty" project, despite it's flaws, still appears to be the Free State Project in New Hampshire, of all places. Why? Note the age of the movers and shakers there. This is part of what Ernest Hancock calls "Generation Next," the wave of people who were young enough when the love-o-lution came about to be able to actually throw off their indoctrination - the mental plasticity is just so much greater when young.

Now, sure, you may be saying, the real blame here lies with those who haven't internalized what it means to be a free, beautiful human being, as Ken Johnson has been accused of. Still, the tired truism that it "Takes Two to Tango" appears apt to me here, as unfortunately, years of indoctrination and propagandizing have left so many scars on even the most "hardcore" among libertarians. If this wasn't true, then how could insights from people like Doug Casey, Anthony Wile, Bill Bonner, etc. learned "the hard way," and repeated ad nauseum to their contemporaries still seem to bounce off the libertarian community in general? Oddly poetic that in a society supposedly plagued with narcissism, reflection is the hardest thing to do. One hopes Ovid is laughing in Elysium.


A possible future for cryptocurrency

Last modified on August 08 2015 14:19:19 UTC by doge

Zerocoin is the best hope I've seen so far for getting true anonymity in a bitcoin-like digital cash. It accomplishes this with Zero Knowledge Proofs.

Zero Knowledge Proofs for the Layman is here.

Regrettably, it appears development on this project has more-or-less stalled. ShadowCoin claims to have cribbed a bit of the work, but I see no evidence of it being used to obscure transaction amounts, etc.

Zerocoin has one weakness, though. The issuer must be trusted. This works out if you are the one creating your private coins from previously public ones; however that is probably enough to get you put on the 'naughty list' in certain regulatory climes.

That said, I believe a Homomorphic Encryption Scheme could be used to overcome this difficulty. This sort of scheme allows for modifications to some block of ciphertext (say, a blockchain?) without actually having to know the contents. As such, you could have a blockchain that is fully obscured to it's users.

The only weakness there would be the original setup of the blockchain itself. This could be overcome by witnessed/notarized creation of the private key, and it's subsequent destruction (as it would not be needed to read/write new transactions).

Effectively the blockchain becomes a large binary blob that is written to via a homomorphic encryption scheme, and that can only be read by inference through a zero-knowledge proof scheme. And then only enough to know the amount of coins in your account has changed (did I come out from the $50 or $100 branch, as in the Ali-Baba example).

So the mathematics are finally ready to be put together to create Eris' golden apple. I pray somebody gets the time to put it together soon.


PHD Secrets to Elite Thinking

Last modified on August 08 2015 14:19:19 UTC by teo
A Book Review of the War Commentaries by Julius Caesar

Recently I've had the opportunity to read through Caesar's war commentaries, which have undoubtably had quite the impression on many people throughout history. His writing style certainly helped this "Great Man" to become highly aggrandized both in his time and even now. This prospect was obviously not lost upon the man himself, as his writing is unashamedly good at advancing his own positions. As such, this stands out as probably one of the finest works of propaganda documented from the ancient world. Still, as with any good propaganda, there were many lessons and truths to be found there for one reading between the lines (or, of course, to ensare one with partial truths).

The largest thing that stood out to me was the laser like focus he had on attaining his ends and the clear thinking he had on using suitable means to obtain his ends. Though not stated in his book, if you do some searching, you can see that he was aspiring to be his generation's Alexander the Great. Supposedly his realization at the age when Alexander had the world prostrate before him filled him with a great sense of shame for not having achieved the same greatness yet (which pretty much guaranteed megalomania with that as your desired end). Despite what many would consider having a literally insane goal (as many elites thorought history do), he showed remarkable sanity in the pursuit of this goal, actually choosing things to do that would ensure he achieved this goal.

Immediately upon deciding his goal, he did as much as possible to win glory and fame among the people and politicians who wielded the most power. For him, this meant becoming a great general on the military side and a consul on the civilian end of the political spectrum. Both of these goals, like his primary goal, were pursued logically and effectivley. Two examples show this acumen quite clearly.

First, in combat he preferred using the size, ability and technology of the troops he had at his disposal hardly ever for purposes of more than skirmishing, unless conditions favored him winning a "pitched battle" involving the main body of both forces (due to favorable terrain, etc.). Instead, this force was used, much as the Security Services of the Modern State is used today, to induce surrender via hunger and/or terror in his foes before even striking the first blow (note here how I specifically talk here about the Security Services and not the modern conventional armies, which have comported themselves most incompetently for the greater part of the last century continuing to the present day). While there is nothing new here in the theory of warfighting (see Lao Tzu, etc.), it is still an instructive example of what to do in War (and what not to do in Pompey or the Gauls' case).

In regard to becoming a consul, though not touched on terribly much, he was certainly keen enough to ally with those who were from rival factions where their interests intersected, evidenced by the "First Trirumvirate" and mentions of his former bond of marriage to Pompey's relative. This of course, was supplemented by the usual politician stuff, such as liberally spreading favors about to ensure loyalty to him. Later, after crossing the Rubicon, his positioning and constant delagations of peace towards Pompey's faction, though really a cynical ploy preying upon Pompey's hubris, did much to make him look like the "good guy" among both people already inclined towards him and those loyal to Pompey (once they had Caesar's army breathing down their necks). All these things cast the die in favor of him.

Basically the man really knew how power "worked" in society and acted accordingly, to spectacular results. The only hole in his whole plan was inherent to the goal itself, as the only means suitable to achieve his ends were guaranteed to make him powerful enemies and generate blowback for him once his goal was achieved. Indeed, once he achieved his goal (a topic he couldn't write about thanks to Marcus Brutus), he really didn't seem to be able to do anything constructive with it (just like pretty much everyone else whose goal is simply to gain the power, not to use power as a means to some other end).

It should go without saying that the above insights go well with some of the meditations Marcus Aurelius had upon power, as he was in a similar position but had the benefit of time and age to be able to reflect on what brought him success and failure once in a position of power.

Other than the above, there were a few other things of note here, specifically more on how the practices of the time for gaining and maintaining power really haven't changed materially from then to now. The US Empire still demands hostages to blackmail conquered nations into doing our bidding, though it is now done via the security services and the financial sector. If you want to see this in action, then consider the ongoing NSA and CIA spying, coup generation, etc. from basically the foundation of those groups. Also note that pretty much every subservient nation to the US has to keep their gold on deposit with the New York Federal Reserve, which promptly re-hypothecates the gold into Corzine Vapor.

Similarly, his impressions of the Gauls and the nature of man stand out quite clearly, as the Gaulish thirst for freedom was not criticized by Caesar, but instead taken as a given, as men would naturally prefer living according to their own conscience as opposed to Roman slavery (which was frequently the rallying call of the Gauls). At least then the elites were quite open about their aims to enslave the populaces they were invading, which today has to be grotesquely evaded with neologisms like "Humanitarian Intervention" since we now pretend not to be a racist and sexist society of primitive tribalists (except on game day).


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