Saturday, January 20, 2018

Digital School Days

The biggest trend I see for the future is the meltdown of governments at all levels combined with a decentralizing, individual-empowering exponential growth in technology.  States, in other words, will self-destruct while people get smarter, stronger, healthier, and freer — they will get a lot smarter, a lot stronger, a lot healthier and from this, freedom from the state will be a natural evolution.

There will be efforts to resurrect states but the attempts will fail.   Too many people will recognize the futility of trying to secure their well-being under a monopoly form of government — a government that threatens violence against nonviolent individuals such as taxpayers.  As social organizations, states are headed for extinction while technology, in spite of its downsides, will be our liberator. 

The warnings we hear from Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Bill Joy, Julian Assange, and others about AI’s threats shouldn’t be dismissed, but never forget: The one organization that makes any intelligence an existential threat is the State.  The most obvious example is the cartel arrangement banking achieved with the Federal Reserve Act and the incalculable wreckage the Fed has made possible.  As long as Google, Facebook, and other tech giants are kept separate from the State their power is subject to competition and other free market forces.  For more details, see The Fall of Tyranny, the Rise of Liberty

The evidence for this dual-trend is bountiful, though it isn’t always obvious.  When it is obvious, I like to call attention to it.

Which brings me to my grandson’s recent snow day off.

He’s in the seventh grade of a government middle school with relatively small class sizes.  He’s with us, his grandparents, when he’s not in school and his first-string supporters (his mom and her partner) have to work, which means we see him quite often.  This in itself is wonderful.  Like most kids he’s quite comfortable with technology.

When his mom dropped him off that snowy morning he went straight to the couch and pulled out his iPhone.  I fixed him his morning drink and went off to do some work of my own, then came back to see if he needed anything.   

Right away I knew something was off.  There were no hysterics coming from his phone, yet he was focused intently on it.   What I heard sounded like a man giving a lecture.  Then I heard music, but not his music.  His music was Spiderbait’s Black Betty.  This was Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

He was watching a Tedx Talk given by Notre Dame student Jackson Jhin.  The subject: What makes popular music popular?  Jhin discussed how predictability and variability, along with repetition, distinguished noise from music.  During his talk he took Canon and made it noise, and took the sound of a coconut hitting the ground and made it into music.  Very instructive and entertaining.  

The bigger picture: My grandson was doing his classes from home, on an iPhone, while sitting on a couch and taking occasional sips of coffee-milk.  His teachers were conducting school over the Web.  Most of his classes required little typing and could be done from a smartphone.  He did his science class from a laptop only because he could get it done faster that way.

He and the rest of the middle school were homeschooling.  He finished everything by mid-morning rather than late afternoon.  There were no school buses, parent drop-offs, parent pickups, sitting at desks in classrooms, none of the usual distractions that hurt academic performance.  No wondering what, or if, he ate during the day and whether he got enough exercise.

He was learning through instructional videos that were often entertaining and which could be played again if needed.  I found it overwhelmingly appealing.

I asked him: “Wouldn’t you like to do this every day?”

He said, paraphrasing, “Definitely.  What I would really like is take only those classes I would need for my career.”

“Which is still architecture, right?”

“Yeah.  So I would be taking engineering and math, and nothing else.  What I think would be an ideal educational program would be to devote the first five or six years of school to the broad basics, then concentrate on courses that are needed for your field.  If you wanted to expand your interests you could do it on your own.”

“I like your idea,” I said.  

I have a daughter who finished high school as a homeschooler, and with the time saved she worked in Mexican restaurants where she learned to speak Spanish fluently.  Hispanic friends tell me she speaks without an accent, too.  Her language ability is proving to be a big asset in her medical career.

It isn’t AI that is threatening the human race but the wasteful schooling kids are getting.  The benefits of homeschooling are so enormous that it’s a virtual certainty it will be the gold standard of education in the near future.  

Classrooms of the future

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Born on the Tenth of January

If Tom Cruise was Born on the Fourth of July, then he can thank Thomas Paine, who it can be said was born on January 10, 1776 with the publication of his incendiary essay, Common Sense, that argued for independence from England.  He priced it cheaply (two shillings), argued passionately, and wrote in a direct style so that readers could understand him. 
It was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history.  As of 2006, it remains the all-time best selling American title, and is still in print today. [Wikipedia]
Common Sense relieved the political constipation of the Second Continental Congress, which was stalled between reconciliation and independence.  The 77-page pamphlet blasphemed the English king as a royal brute and obliterated the arguments opposing independence.  Further, it presented the issues in a tone of utmost gravity:
The cause of America is, in a great measure, the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances have, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all lovers of mankind are affected . . .
The stakes were high.  Paine was calling on Americans to save the world, not only through arms but by repudiating their saintly icon, George III, who in truth was nothing but a “crowned ruffian,” as all monarchs were.   John Locke had argued that states exist to protect man’s natural rights; Paine argued that they were instead born in “naked conquest and plunder.” [Conceived in Liberty, IV]   Independence would also free America from Europe’s wars and quarrels, whereas the current colonial alliance would “set us at variance with nations . . . against whom we have neither anger nor complaint.”

Common Sense swept through all 13 colonies and established strong support for secession, enough, at least, to kick Congress into action.  John Adams, who hated Paine, later conceded that “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”   Murray Rothbard concluded that “Paine had, at a single blow, become the voice of the American Revolution and the greatest single force in propelling it to completion and independence.”  [Conceived in Liberty, IV]  “So gripping was Paine’s prose,” writes Jill Lepore in The New Yorker, “and so vast was its reach, that [John] Adams once complained to Jefferson, ‘History is to ascribe the American Revolution to Thomas Paine.’”

But of course almost no one does.  He is listed as one of the less significant founders, when he’s listed at all.  When Benjamin Franklin died in 1790 at age 84, some 20,000 people attended his funeral.  When Paine died in 1809 at age 72, six people paid their respects, none of whom were dignitaries.

A mostly self-educated man, Paine went on to be the 18th century’s bestselling author, and one of the most reviled.  He mercilessly pummeled the hypocrisy and abuses of government elites and their distain for commoners.  As he wrote in a footnote to Rights of Man, “It is scarcely possible to touch on any subject, that will not suggest an allusion to some corruption in governments.” 

Rights of Man II condemned English law and politics, for which he was tried in absentia for seditious libel while living in France and, ironically, arguing in the French Assembly for sparing the life of Louis XVI.  During his trial the Crown’s prosecutor accused Paine of being a traitor and a drunken roisterer who had vilified Parliament and king.  Among the evidence he cited was a letter Paine had written to the attorney general in which he stated, “the Government of England is [the greatest] perfection of fraud and corruption that ever took place since governments began.“

For four hours his defense argued that Paine was innocent by virtue of freedom of the press.  It carried no weight with the Crown’s handpicked jury — all wealthy, plump, and respectable men filled with icy hostility toward the defendant.

Paine on Religion

One book, The Age of Reason — the first part written while he awaited execution in a French prison but was spared by a bureaucratic blunder — has served to relegate him unjustly to academic obscurity.  In presenting his case for deism, he attacks organized religion, especially Christianity and the Bible.  He rejects the creeds of all churches, and he rejects the national institutions of all churches, for they were no more “than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

What really bothered his critics was the manner in which Age was written.  “By presenting [his arguments] in an engaging and irreverent style, he made deism appealing and accessible to a mass audience.”  [Wikipedia] The low price of his pamphlet ensured a vibrant market, and the British government feared it might spark a revolution among the downtrodden.  Printers were prosecuted for publishing or distributing it.  

Among the educated his views were not regarded as radical.  John Adams, for example, had privately written that the Bible was "full of whole cartloads of trumpery." James Madison said the fruits of Christianity were “pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity.… Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”  

In 1787 Jefferson had advised his nephew, Peter Carr, to "Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.”

Adams, Madison. and Jefferson it should be remembered are forever entrenched as American founders.

For Paine the word of God is not found in any written work, but in nature, which he referred to as the Creation:  “The Creation speaks a universal language, independently of human speech or human language, multiplied and various as they be. It is an ever-existing original, which every man can read. It cannot be forged; it cannot be counterfeited; it cannot be lost; it cannot be altered; it cannot be suppressed. It does not depend upon the will of man whether it shall be published or not; it publishes itself from one end of the earth to the other.”

Paine’s Integrity 

There are elements in Paine’s political writings that appeal to statists of varying degrees.  Was he merely a pen for hire?  For the most part, at least, I would say no.  Yet, though he bashed government throughout his writings, he was one of the first, in 1783, to call for a stronger central government.  As I wrote earlier, “[H]is idea of strengthening the Articles of Confederation was to ‘add a Continental legislature to Congress, to be elected by the several States.’ When he was asked to propose his suggestion in a newspaper article, he declined, saying he ‘did not think the country was quite wrong enough to be put right.’”

His solidarity with liberty came in 1786 with his essay on paper money.  “When an assembly undertakes to issue paper as money, the whole system of safety and certainty is overturned, and property set afloat. Paper notes given and taken between individuals as a promise of payment is one thing, but paper issued by an assembly as money is another thing.  It is like putting an apparition in the place of a man; it vanishes with looking at it, and nothing remains but the air.”  He went on to enumerate many of the evils of paper money.

There are excellent biographies of Thomas Paine, one my favorites being Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations by Craig Nelson.  It has the page-turning quality of a good novel and is now available on Kindle. 

I’ve also published a script about Paine, Eyes of Fire: Thomas Paine and the American Revolution.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Smile, the future is coming

I’m sure there will be some shocking events in 2018, but I have no idea what they will be.  There are too many wildcards in the mix, with one big one taking center stage: States.  

The civilized world, such as it was, took a nosedive after the Sarajevo assassinations in 1914 ignited the political tinderbox in Europe.   To pay for the massive slaughter that followed, states abandoned gold and turned to inflationary finance and borrowing, in addition to heavy taxation. Very importantly, as Rothbard notes, World War I also served as the excuse for 
a "war collectivism," a totally planned economy run largely by big-business interests through the instrumentality of the central government, which served as the model, the precedent, and the inspiration for state-corporate capitalism for the remainder of the 20th century.
For the big shots running things, the war required issuing outrageous lies, suppressing dissent, and everything else except actual combat.  The nightmare of trench fighting they forced upon American men.  “You die over there while we get richer over here,” Wilson and his gang were in effect saying to the conscripts, while peddling “Liberty” Bonds.   Yet, as humanitarian episodes throughout the war made eminently clear, especially the Christmas Truce of 1914, the soldiers were mostly eager to fraternize not kill one another.  Ironically, they might’ve written war’s last chapter had they refused orders to continue the killing, thereby fulfilling the prophecy of H. G. Wells that it would be “the war that will end war.” 

But when peace stands in the way of big profits, the banker/state alliance usually wins.  Quoting Ferdinand Lundberg from America’s Sixty Families, G. Edward Griffin writes in his masterpiece, The Creature from Jekyll Island, that
the total wartime expenditure of the United States government from April 6, 1917, to October 31, 1919, when the last contingent of troops returned from Europe, was $35,413,000, 000. Net corporation profits for the period January 1, 1916, to July, 1921, when wartime industrial activity was finally liquidated, were $38,000,000,000, or approximately the amount of the war expenditures. More than two-thirds of these corporation profits were taken by precisely those enterprises which the Pujo Committee had found to be under the control of the "Money Trust.” [ A handful of Wall Street banks, primarily those in the Morgan ambit]
The point of bringing all this up is that states are powerful organizations that sell their services (various forms of coercion) to the highest bidders.  If the price is right laws will be passed, relaxed, or ignored.  If a war is needed to get the public behind some scheme, a Lusitania will sink, a Twin Tower will collapse, with some targeted enemy taking the blame.  

Rothbard had it right — states are criminal gangs writ large. 

There are times when I picture the state as analogous to the loose cannon that broke free from its fastenings and menaced the lives of the warship crew in Victor Hugo’s novel, Ninety-three.  The crew at least recognized the threat of a ten thousand pound cannon on the loose that “leaps like a panther, has the weight of an elephant, the agility of a mouse,” whose “terrible vitality is fed by the ship, the waves, the wind. . .”  I can’t imagine a crew feeling reverence for such a monster.

Failsafe projections

None of us feel comfortable without some idea of what lies ahead, so allow me to offer a few projections that require no crystal ball to make.  I can predict with a high degree of confidence that:

1.  Most people will not take any interest in the origin and nature of money.
2.  Most people will not seek to understand the role of money in a market economy.
3.  Most people will not take any interest in central banking or the American state’s central bank, the Federal Reserve.
4.  If questioned, most people will agree with the “experts” that a central bank is absolutely necessary to manage the economy, otherwise we would fall prey to financial crises or depressions.
5.  Most people will continue to believe rising prices are a natural outcome of a market economy, with the puzzling exception of digital gadgets.
6.  Most people will continue to believe economic and foreign interventionism is a Good Thing, if executed by politicians of their preferred political party.
7.  Most people will continue to believe in government-provided free lunches.
8.  Most people will continue to believe in the government’s number one free lunch, public education, which like all government free lunches needs more funding.
9.  Most people will continue to believe that victims of U.S. invasions hate us for our freedoms.
10.  Most people will continue to believe we need the state, however corrupt and burdensome, because otherwise we would have chaos and the strong would dominate the weak.

And finally, I remain optimistic about the future of the world, and so should you.  Why?  The coming government default and the exponential pace of technology.  It will be a seemingly autonomous process of shifting power from the state to the individual, and it’s already well underway.  For a detailed discussion, see my little book, The Fall of Tyranny, the Rise of Liberty.

The State Unmasked

“So things aren't quite adding up the way they used to, huh? Some of your myths are a little shaky these days.” “My myths ? They're...