While the government centralizes its power and control, individuals will find more solutions by fragmenting and decentralizing their lives.
It’s a matter of history that the public school system was structured around making good workers during the Industrial Revolution. The Prussian system cranked out people ready to get on the assembly line and produce goods.
George Carlin nips at this in his take on the “American Dream“:
“They want obedient workers.
“People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept these increasingly shittier jobs, with the lower pay, longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime, and the vanishing pension that disappears the moment to go to collect it.”
The savvy despots know while there is the old way of scaring the population into submission with the very real threat of violence, that can lead to civil unrest and revolutions; the new way of scaring the population with the dangers of something else, is a tune that gets mice to march into the traps willfully.
Communists used to be that universal terror. That one lasted for decades.
Then there were some small-time players like guns, drugs, lyrics in music… those only served to divide people: emboldening some while pacifying others.
Then came “the terrorists”. Much like the communists, people were shown footage of the horrors they inflict on the innocent and felt the need to both be terrified, but also take every possible measure to defend themselves against it. That’s how the US got the Patriot Act.
Now we have a virus. People were generally united in the concept of flattening the curve. No questions asked about when the curve actually started in their respective countries to see when the peak could hit. Just a Machiavellian “whatever it takes” attitude toward protecting one sector of people from sickness.
That lasted for a little while, but as time passed, the government controls were amplifying. It went from stay home, to defining what could be sold, what businesses could remain in operation, to fines and arrests for those who dared to go outside without a mask.
People have a breaking point. Some jurisdictions are pushing that limit. Michigan is definitely one of them. Protests emerged there because Governor Gretchen Whitmer imposed one of the strictest stay-at-home policies:
Her directive forbids the in-store sale of paint, outdoor goods, and other allegedly nonessential items at large retailers.* (Home improvement stores can remain open, but they have to tape off those sections from customers.) It shuts down lawncare services. It bans travel between Michigan residences. It prohibits “all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household.”
Historically, there’s a corollary between the heavy handedness of policy and public rebuke.
The more high-handed the ruling classes were, the more likely they were to be targeted by rumors and revolt. The riots persisted longest, [Samuel K.] Cohn writes, “where elites continued to belittle the supposed ‘superstitions’ of villagers, minorities, and the poor, violated their burial customs and religious beliefs, and imposed stringent anti-cholera regulations even after most of them had been proven to be ineffectual. Moreover, ruling elites in these places addressed popular resistance with military force and brutal repression. By contrast, distrust and rumours of purposeful poisoning abated where elite attitudes and impositions changed.” As Königsberg and other Prussian cities were rioting in 1831, the authorities in Berlin loosened the local cholera regulations; the government and middle-class charities also organized relief efforts. Berlin did not riot.
The biggest miss here was the opportunity to appeal to the common interests and cooperation of individuals without the threat of violence and punitive measures. South Dakota remains one of a handful of states which are not imposing state-wide lock-downs and quarantines. Like the Swedish experiment, the economy remains pretty much open, with people left to make their own assessments of acceptable risk.
The governments at varying levels and around the world are finding the sweet spot between public panic and pacification. To George Carlin’s point: They want you to be fearful enough to submit, but not exasperated enough to revolt.
All that being said, a few observations can be made:
1. The battlefield of ideas can be a bloody one.
The two things that have successfully turned the US economy inside out was the prospect of terrorists invading the US and this virus.
Both have lead to a welcomed expansion of surveillance and privacy violations.
The money dedicated to this is astounding. The funding given to the Department of Defense, the National Security Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security since 9/11 is not chump change. The US has gone deeper into debt on the grounds of “national security” than any other measure.
Couple that deficit spending and debt with the latest stimulus package and you have an additional $2 trillion in debt.
But wait… there’s more… a second round of “Stimulus” is being discussed. If this isn’t the final stake in the coffin, I don’t know what is.
It introduces was appears to be a 12 month UBI (universal basic income) program.
Every American age 16 and older making less than $130,000 annually would receive at least $2,000 per month.
Married couples earning less than $260,000 would receive at least $4,000 per month.
Qualifying families with children will receive an additional $500 per child – for up to three children.
Those who had no earnings, were unemployed, or are currently unemployed would also be eligible for the stimulus even if they didn’t file a tax return.
Those who were not eligible in 2019 or 2018 but would be eligible in 2020, could submit at least two consecutive months of paychecks to verify income eligibility.
It would turn the real estate market on its ear. This would be retroactive to March 13, 2020, allowing those who made payments in April reimbursements for their payments, and could continue for up to a year (possibly longer if extended):
Full rent payment forgiveness for your primary residence
Full mortgage payment forgiveness for your primary residence
No accumulation of debt for renters or homeowners
No negative impact on their credit rating or rental history.
It would establish a relief fund for landlords and mortgage holders to cover losses
It would create an optional fund to finance the purchase of private rental properties to increase the availability of affordable housing.
This is a very clear example of the government breaking the economy’s legs, and people clamoring for a crutch!
I’ve always maintained that the greatest threat to the US was never a military one. It’s one of ideas. If those ideas can scare the politicians into tanking the economy, then it’s a trickle-down effect where the individuals can be scared into tanking their liberties. Then countries like China just wait for the inevitable collapse.
2. The battlefield of ideas is where individuals can win.
The power and control mechanisms are gradually consolidating and centralizing. Of that there is no doubt. But each person is their own decentralized entity, unencumbered by collective bureaucracy. Sure there are regulations that come from the top down, but this is where the individual wins.
Rules get set, and they are like castle gates. It keeps the big stuff out, but they aren’t waterproof, or even impenetrable by small animals.
This is just a hunch but I think the state is more concerned about keeping people from making home runs than making those base hits. In fact, I think they give people a pass on the base hits to throw them crumbs.
Rather than trying to break down the castle door with the big home run, it might make more sense to seep through the castle door one little win at a time.
What would that look like?
In the words of the great Joe Dirt: Life’s a Garden, Dig it.
If each of us were to plant a garden, in the same community, how would you see that playing out? Everyone grows the same thing? That doesn’t do anyone any good.
One person grows garlic, another potatoes, another berries… now you have a mix of different things. I can trade my carrots for your potatoes. At a very basic level, that’s what this is. If each of us were to go in a different direction, or better still, several directions, our path becomes more fluid.
The “supply chain” isn’t actually a chain of linear links at all. It’s a web. Similar to blockchain, it’s not centralized. The image attached to this illustrates the difference between centralized, decentralized, and distributed.
Dr. Donald J. Boudreaux wrote an inspiring piece for the AIER (American Institute for Economic Research) critical of Missouri Senator Josh Hawley’s statement: “We must also move decisively to secure our critical supply chains.”
On its face, it sounds powerful, and probably right. But it’s predicated on a very shallow understanding of how the global market actually works. The government sees things in this false dichotomy of “essential vs non-essential”, but that’s not the market.
Dr. Boudreaux writes:
Suppose that tractors are declared to be among the inputs that are part of the “critical supply chain” for ensuring that we Americans can reliably produce our own “critical” foods. Which inputs are “critical” for the production of tractors? Metals, plausibly, are critical. But is rubber? What about paint? (Unpainted farm equipment will be rapidly ruined by rust.) Which of the multitude of ‘beneath-the-hood’ parts of tractors – components such as fuel pumps, carbon-fiber hoses, the ceramic used in spark plugs – are “critical?”
The market is a vast collection of different points of supply and distribution. Our task then, is to find those, and redefine what it is to be “essential”. The more diverse you and I can make our endeavors and offerings, the more enduring our pursuits become.
If each of us can find our place in the market’s web, and protect these investments or endeavors, we can realize a new level of independence and prosperity.
I can’t tell you what those businesses are, or which one is right for you, but I sure would love to brainstorm some ideas on how we can collaborate and get started! There’s work for us all to do. If our work is connected, let’s see how we can help one another out!
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