Sound of Freedom: Paul Rosenberg featured on the Orion Talk Radio Network

sound of freedomJoin Ryan Brooks of The Sound of Freedom as he interviews Freeman’s Perspective author Paul Rosenberg on a variety of topics including:

  • What Paul means when he says he lives “outside the Matrix”
  • The good side of economic collapse
  • The problem with hope
  • The BIG problem with the public school system
  • How and why to ‘Go Galt’

… and plenty more.

Click here to enjoy The Sound of Freedom show (opens in a new window at youtube.com)

For more information about The Sound of Freedom radio show, click here.

The Strangest Secret: Why You Should Run Away

why you should run awayOne of the more instructive experiences of my life occurred when was when I was a teenager, barely sixteen years old.

My dad, whom I had previously considered to be incredibly over-protective, put me on a cross-country bus and sent me, alone, to visit my grandmother, some two thousand miles away.

For two straight days I was on my own, surrounded by people I had never met, in places I’d never been, and thrown into situations that I could never have expected. The experience did something to me: I learned about a strange world and how to get along in it, alone, with no one to run to.

The benefits I felt from this trip didn’t have to do with traveling. This wasn’t about getting from point A to point B – this was about wandering through the unknown. And that was an idea that rather bothered me.

During my youth, there was a common idea that moving around was a bad thing. You were supposed to stay in your place unless you had a good reason to do otherwise. People who moved around were considered suspicious and even dangerous. The benefit that I felt from wandering clashed with what I had been taught.

When I returned home from this journey, I returned to the regular American distractions of sports, school, and all the other shiny objects that grab at young people’s minds. But I never forgot the strange feeling that stuck with me from that journey.

Sometime later, I came across a passage in Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona:

I rather would entreat you to see the wonders of the world abroad, than,
living dully, sluggardized at home, wear out your youth in shapeless idleness.

That wasn’t precisely what I had felt on my adventure, but it was close. It would be some years before I would travel seriously, but I decided right then and there that I would make it my life’s goal to see the world.

That experience, which I’ve come to call The Strangest Secret, is not unlike Earl Nightingale’s message of the same name. Both concepts lead to a rich and fulfilling life.

Defining the Strangest Secret

At some point after I finished school, my intellectual curiosity bloomed and I began reading in earnest. And as I did, I found out that other people had discovered value in wandering, much like I had. Soon enough I discovered that I had only seen half of the picture – the actual virtue I had felt was about much more than wandering.

Eventually, as my mind matured through study and experience, I began to understand what this strange virtue really was. And then, to my deep surprise, I began to find this odd virtue – commonly considered to be an undesirable trait in my youth – was present in the lives of the greatest men and women of all time.

The first people I found it in were the great spiritual leaders: Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, the Apostles and Confucius. I found it fascinating that all of them partook of the same ritual.

Later I found more religious leaders that had done the same thing: Martin Luther, Jan Hus, Thomas Aquinas, and others.

Over time I learned that the world’s great philosophers and poets had also been initiated into this strange rite; people like Diogenes, Pythagoras, Sappho, Cicero, and the great John Locke.

The great men that shaped Western Civilization also shared in it: Peter Abelard (the founder of modern learning), John of Salisbury (who defined the rule of law), Stephan Langton (the author of Magna Carta), Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and others.

If you keep looking, you even find that many of the world’s greatest authors, musicians and inventors make the same list: Victor Hugo, Daniel Defoe, Frederic Chopin, Leo Tolstoy, John Dos Passos, George Orwell, Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla.

Exactly what is this transforming, empowering and strange secret? It is this: The virtue of running away.

“Running Away” as a Path to an Exceptional Life

If you were raised at all like I was, the idea that running away is a virtue will trouble you. I’m sorry about that, but when you find one thing that the greatest men and women of history have in common, you might want to examine it, regardless of how it makes you feel.

None of us lives entirely by ourselves (nor should we), but living with others inevitably leads to a web of expectations imposed upon us, a web that quickly engulfs every aspect of our lives. These people aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong; this is simply what happens among groups of people: they learn to expect things of you, and you learn to expect things of them.

But this web of expectations also locks us in place, and because of it, we too-easily come to see ourselves as playing a certain type of role in life. And this is what the great men and women broke out of. Do you remember how many times Jesus criticized people for being “hypocrites”? What he really called these people was actors – as in playing a role on a stage.

Separation frees us from the roles we’ve grown accustomed to. By running away, you strip off the accumulations of your lifetime and find yourself underneath.

Break Away from the “Web of Expectations”

I’m not telling you to abandon your family, of course; obligations to spouses and children are not things to be tossed aside. But I am telling you that at some point in your personal development, breaking away from your web of expectations is critical. If Moses and Buddha and Abelard and Sappho and Franklin couldn’t release their talents without it, you probably won’t either.

Beside, once you get over the terror of it, you’ll be forever glad that you did. You will reclaim the real you from the expectations – even demands – of the people who have surrounded you. And in time, even those people will probably be glad you ran away. They’ll more than likely freak out at first, but if you come back a better person, they may get to like him or her better than the old, fits-our-expectations you.

I have a friend I’ll call Pete, who desperately wanted to expand his life, but just wasn’t getting any traction. After multiple frustrations, he decided to move himself and his young family – for an indefinite time – from the American Midwest to a small town in the southern US… somewhere entirely different and a thousand miles distant. He contacted an acquaintance at the destination, and asked for some help finding arrangements. He and his wife took a brief scouting trip, and they just moved, without even a clear job offer.

Years later, my friend recounted that it was a frightening adventure, but that without it he never would have clarified his understanding of himself – too much of what he had been doing and thinking was intertwined with the desires and opinions of others. He needed to be someplace where, in the words of an old bluesman, he was “nuthin’ to nobody.” And within a few years the man’s life had indeed changed, and very much to the better.

Somehow, sometime, you need to face the world as “nuthin’ to nobody,” and re-assess who you are.

Maybe the idea of running away still troubles you. If so, that will be your issue to work through – I can’t do it for you and I wouldn’t try. All I am telling you is that there is something very important here, something of pivotal importance to the best men and women of history. What you do with it is your choice.

What places do you want to see in your lifetime?

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

“The Strangest Secret: Why You Should Run Away” was originally published at EarlyToRise.com

The Failure of the Libertarian Movement

libertarian movementTurn on a television after midnight some time and watch the churches that offer prayer for the sick, the depressed, and the overwhelmed. At first you’ll probably be put off by it and angered by hucksters who are selling things that they can’t possibly deliver. But if you stay with it for a few minutes, you may see something important.

Look at the people in the pews. Don’t just classify them as a group of stupid people – look at them – see the individuals. These are people who know they need help. They know that they are in pain, that they have failed to become what they should be, that they have hurt others, that they are lost in the middle of a confusing world, and that they don’t know a way out.

These people are not morons. They know that dipping slips of paper with their names on them into holy oil is silly. But they overlook the stupidity, because they’re desperate for help. And don’t kid yourself, they do get some temporary help from these places. Yes, they are also removed from their money, but if they go to that church, they will be surrounded by people who will try to help them. Humans are clever creatures, and when they try to help each other, they often succeed. (This help will come from the other attendees, not the guy with the holy oil.)

You can complain all you like about the huckster, but he’s only in business because people have nowhere better to turn. They’re sitting in front of the TV at 1 AM because they are depressed, guilty, desperate, and they need something.

SO…?

So, what if there was a group of people who had the answers to these problems, who knew how to eliminate the pressures that caused them? And what if those people didn’t have the sense to recognize it and spread it? How would you describe them?

Well, take a look in the mirror, Mr. and Ms. Libertarian, because that’s you.

I was one of the early libertarians. We were engineers and analysts and financial experts. We knew math and analysis, science, and the intricacies of law. If you wanted to know how property rights led to increased financial output, we could tell you immediately. If you asked aloud why central control of commerce led to shortages, five of us would turn around to enlighten you. But we were insular; we were contained. We didn’t appreciate that we held the world’s cure in our hands.

I’m not trying to be critical here; I was a part of it all. But the truth is that we missed the biggest philosophical opportunity of the century; we failed to see how our new truth applied to millions of people who needed help so badly that they’d put up with TV hucksters.

Our Enemies Judged Correctly

We really should have known. We’ve all had the experience of people embedded in the state system flying into a wild rage upon hearing our ideas. We thought we were just talking about economics, but they acted as if we were trying to destroy everything they loved.

Our enemies thought our ideas were far more powerful than we did.

And they were right; we didn’t appreciate what we had.

If our message is ever understood by average people (and it isn’t hard to understand), the systems that treat them like farm animals will simply vanish. They have a stunning amount to gain from our discoveries, and whatever pain they take along the way would be a joke compared to what the existing system lays upon them.

So, yes, our enemies’ judgments were right when they flew into malicious rages. And if we are grudgingly accepted by them now, it’s because we’ve been limited to abstract and confusing areas like finance and politics.

Simple Truths

How many personal problems do you suppose thrive on low self-esteem?

How many personal disasters happen because people are afraid to act on their own judgment?

The answer to both of these questions is “most of them.”

So, why are self-esteem and judgment at such abysmal levels? The answer is simple: Because the state and its agents are dedicated to this result. They’ve been doing this since their inception, and they have no other choice. Can you imagine trying to get tax money out of people who felt perfectly confident in themselves and their own judgments?

Governments are necessarily against human will. If they can’t make us feel that our desires and judgments are shameful, their entire operation will collapse. Their game requires Joe Average to feel insecure and flawed.

Our enemies were right to freak out. Now it’s time for us to agree with them, and to start fixing the world.

We hold the cure in our hands. It’s time to break out of our bubbles and start distributing it. Once people see that the pressures crushing them are artificial, they will begin shrugging them off.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

The Shocking Results of Continuous, Systematic Abuse

the shocking results of continuous, systematic abuseWe Americans like our movie heroes: Tough, free thinking, adaptive, willing to defy authority to save the people. The problem is, no one ever acts like that in real life. Cheering Arnie or Chuck or Sly is a long, long way from doing something heroic yourself – and the current batch of Americans are not so big on that. (Nor are Europeans, or most others.)

One of the great Roman writers called the Romans a “royal, rebellious race.” Likewise Americans, especially in the West, had a real tradition of unflinching individualism. But, as in Rome, American virtue has been lost, while stories of the virtue remain.

21st Century Westerners obey. They do as they are told. They feel free to complain, but they never stop obeying.

You know the script that people try to follow: Do well in school, rebel a little, wear the new shoes/jeans/accessories with the popular logos, get a university degree (take student loans to do so), get a job at a big firm with great benefits, buy a house, vote, send your kids to daycare, watch TV, and so on.

Systematic Abuse: The problem is that the “Obedience Script” isn’t working out very well.

Please consider these recent reports:

There are many more statistics I could add, including some pretty horrifying stats on obesity, huge percentages of people living on government checks (on both sides of the Atlantic), and astronomical government debts being laid upon generations yet unborn.

The script isn’t working out very well, no matter how much it is shown on TV. You have to wonder how much pain it will take before people will decide to give it up.

(A big hat tip to Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog for a great set of links.)

Paul Rosenberg
The Shocking Results of Continuous, Systematic Abuse
FreemansPerspective.com

The Real Problem with Conspiracy Theories

conspiracy theoriesIt seems that applying the tag “conspiracy theory” to something is the new way to get rid of it quickly. Evidently, people have been trained to stay away from anything given that title, assured that they will be embarrassed and ridiculed if they don’t gain some distance.

But while this association trick is of some interest, it really isn’t our subject here. Our concern is the problem built into conspiracy theories, not how the words are used as a weapon.

I’ll pass up the easy criticism of wild, irrational conspiracy theories. While these criticisms are legitimate, the risk associated with such theories is fairly minor; any serious, independent observer can see through them. The real problem with conspiracy theories is not easy to see – it is implied rather than directly stated. I’ll give it to you in brief, and then explain it more carefully:

The real problem with conspiracy theories is not that they are scary – it’s that they are too comforting.

My concern with conspiracy theories is not whether they are true or false; it is their implication that the world is being controlled. There is a strange comfort in the idea that the world is controllable.

The hidden thought embedded in most discussions of conspiracy theories is this:

The world is being controlled by evil people. So, if we can get rid of them, the world can revert to control by good people, and things will be great again.

This thought is false. The world is not controlled by any group of people – evil or good – and it will not be. The world is a large, chaotic mess. Those groups that do exert some control are merely larger pieces in the global mix.

The worst conspiracy theories take this hidden thought to an extreme, with a thought process that goes something like this:

  1. We had a glorious and just past.
  2. We lost our glorious days.
  3. It must have been someone’s fault. (“It was our own fault” is excluded, since that would require painful reflection and repair.)
  4. A plausible theory is inserted here, defining a clear villain or group of villains.
  5. Once we get control away from the villains, our glorious past will return.

This formulation is false, for several reasons:

  • The world is massively complex, and is simply not suited to control.
  • No type of control produces golden ages, and what is controlled suffers damage. (I’ll explain this in future issues of the monthly Freeman’s Perspective letter.)
  • Glorious times are created by good people and a tremendous amount of hard work; they don’t come easily or automatically.

This idea, of the world not being controlled, is troubling to most of us. Nonetheless, it seems to be the truth. The good guys don’t control the world and the bad guys don’t control the world. The world is a big, complex mess.

The Guy Who Would Know

I happen to know one of the world’s great intelligence analysts. He has written innumerable classified briefings, over several decades. We see each other at meetings from time to time and chat if we can.

At one of these meetings, we took a few moments to discuss the chaotic actions of intel groups worldwide, which led to a question I had been waiting to ask: Is there anyone who can see the big picture? Anyone with a clear view of what’s really going on?

His answer was unambiguous: “No, Paul, no one really knows.”

So, my friends, if this guy, a super-experienced, high-level intelligence analyst, can’t see what is really going on, and doesn’t know of anyone who can see it – much less being able to control it all – then forget about secret groups intelligently pulling strings world-wide. Such mega-villains do not exist. They make wonderful characters in mystery novels and movies, but they aren’t real.

I fully understand that this can be a troubling thought, but there is every reason to think that it is true, regardless of how it makes us feel.

Yes, there are groups that oppress people and control things – that skim away people’s production and manipulate their lives – but they do this locally, not world-wide. Furthermore, they are not able to control things very completely; there are always people and groups who slip through cracks.

And, it gets worse…

They Are Not Smarter Than You

When we think of people secretly running the world, we may think of them as evil, but we also think of them as highly intelligent. This also is false. And, for most of us, it is doubly scary to think that the guys trying to run the world are not only immoral, but have very mundane minds as well.

The people who have tried to control the world have rarely been geniuses. Even the most successful of them weren’t all that smart. Stalin was ruthless, for sure, but he was not exceptionally bright. Neither was Hitler, neither was Mao, neither were Alexander or the vast majority of Roman Emperors.

Ruthless does not equal smart.

Rulers are called “genius” because armies obeyed them, or because their soldiers had superior weapons and reasons to fight, or because they killed the opponents of a specific cause. But these are not characteristics that can be associated with genius. Real geniuses have never been big on wielding power over others.

To buttress this point, consider this: How many ‘great rulers’ sowed the seeds of their own destruction? (Attacking Russia in autumn… how stupid is that!?) Read serious biographies of the wannabe world controllers; you’ll find that most of them shot themselves in the foot.

Perhaps a few of the central controllers have been quick thinkers, but most of these people didn’t gain their positions by being smart – they gained position by some external advantage, mostly by being born to it, in one way or another.

The Crucial Importance of Structures

Think about the elite of our time: The Bushes, members of the House of Lords, Hillary Clinton, or the students at top Universities who routinely become the leaders of media and government. Then think about the central bankers: Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Schroders and their various sponsors. Then consider this:

Almost all of these people have obtained power via birth, family connections, or some other type of advantage. They are not there solely because of merit.

As for elected officials, it is a big mistake to imagine that they are in their positions due to merit, regardless of the fact that people vote for them. Winning an election is not about virtue; it’s about manipulating crowds. You win an election by scaring people away from your opponent. Beside, everyone knows that politics is incestuous and that almost every politician lies continually; that’s hard to construe as merit.

The elite are not superior, except at remaining ensconced in structures of power. And those structures matter far more than do their occupants.

A New Understanding of the Ruler

So, if ruling types don’t control as much as we thought they did, and if they’re not especially smart, our assumptions about them should change.

Consider things from the ruler’s standpoint. If they are not really in full control and are not super-smart, they would have to think thoughts like the following, at least from time to time:

1. We must preserve the structure or we can lose everything. If the structures of the world failed, the rulers would not be able to rebuild them. The proof of this are the various dark ages; once the old order failed, it stayed dead. New structures eventually rose up, but not the old ones. The ruling elite, if they understand this at all, will be driven to preserve their existing structures.

2. We must maintain an image of being powerful and wise, or at least as being admirable. Knowing that they are not inherently superior, but that they hold superior positions – positions that ultimately rest upon the agreement of the masses – the elite have to carefully maintain some type of elevated status and to make sure that the masses continue to care about that status.

Another human factor, that plays in the elite, as well as it does in anyone else, is simple denial. Because the loss of their structures would ruin them, they find ways to avoid taking such thoughts seriously. (Humans are very good at this.) So, when they say, “No one saw this crisis coming,” they may be telling the truth, at least as far as they know it. Neither they nor anyone in their circles would entertain such thoughts. Likewise, they may not see the next crisis until it hits them.

And, because most of the elite are subject to self-reflection like the rest of us, they have to find ways to discount the masses. Even if this is as small as calling most of their domain “flyover country,” they need to make some sort of distinction between themselves and the people they rule. Otherwise, they would have to face the fact that, being no better than the mechanic in Cornwall, they yet control his existence from cradle to grave.

[Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from our flagship newsletter – Freeman’s Perspective – Issue #4: “The Real Problem with Conspiracy Theories.” If you liked what you read, consider taking a risk-free test drive. Not only will you gain immediate access to the rest of this issue (which includes two examples of real conspiracies later proved true), but you’ll also be able to enjoy the entire archive – more than 500 pages of research on topics of importance and inspiration to those looking for freedom in an unfree world. Plus valuable bonus reports and all new issues, as well. Click here to learn more.]

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

What Is Liberty Exactly?

what is libertyMore or less every modern politician talks about “freedom” or “liberty.” Actually, they don’t talk about it as much as they use it as a magic incantation. They go on at length about “our free country,” but if you could get them to define freedom, that definition would be something along the lines of “what we have.”

Once we’re past such self-praising nonsense, we’re still left with the original question: What is liberty exactly? And then the trouble begins. There are dozens of definitions. This is a problem. We’re all going around talking about liberty, but no two of us mean precisely the same thing. If you’re looking for reasons why liberty gets so little real traction in the world, this would be a good place to start.

So, it’s about time that we clarified what we mean by these terms. And, since I’ve spent decades pursuing liberty, and since no one else seems to be addressing this, I’ll take on this chore myself.

First of all, I’m going to treat “liberty” and “freedom” as the same concept. After all, the word freedom comes to us from old English and liberty from old French, and they both mean the same thing: unconstrained.

The problem with unconstrained lies in the fact that we are constrained by the natural world, by everything from gravity to rocks to weather. Nature constrains us. Yet, we don’t feel oppressed by nature – it isn’t trying to hurt us or limit us, it simply is what it is, and we can use it as we wish too. Our bodies are part of nature, after all.

It is when other people force us to obey, use violence against us, or simply intimidate us, that we feel constrained and abused. (Which tells us all we really need to know about the nature of liberty and humanity.)

So What Is Liberty?

Here is a precise definition for freedom/liberty:

A condition in which a man’s will regarding his own person and property is unopposed by any other will.

That is the bedrock. From there you can add other aspects if you wish, but you cannot deviate from this core and still be talking about “liberty.”

For example, Thomas Jefferson used the same core idea (notice the inclusion of “will”), but added a political aspect:

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

The great John Locke also held to this core, but took it in a more philosophical direction:

All men are naturally in a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man.

Personally, I like a very plain version of the same sentiments:

We should be allowed to do whatever we want, so long as we don’t hurt others.

I generally call these statements as Lockean, since John Locke was the first person to clearly define the concept of liberty in modern times. But, that’s just my preference.

These statements are clear, and they define liberty. No more really need be said.

You can ignore manipulative “freedom to” statements like Franklin Roosevelt’s famous Second Bill of Rights, whose proposed ‘rights’ included the right of everyone to their own home. This, of course, would require the enslavement of builders, suppliers and taxpayers. (Roosevelt never mentioned that side of the equation, of course.)

There’s only one thing which I will add to this discussion, and that is this: None of us have a monopoly on Lockean liberty.

Anyone who holds to Locke’s formulation is your brother and sister, and you must accept them as such.

We are past the time when we can be insular (if there ever really was such a time). You don’t have to agree 100% with the Ron Paul people or the free-market anarchists, or with anyone, but if they accept the core statements above, you must accept them as joint heirs of the Lockean liberties.

If you think someone is wrong, you can ignore the difference of opinion, or you can, respectfully, correct them. Better still, you could laugh at your joint human frailties and move forward together. What you may not do, is to cast them off as idiots; you may not resent them for honestly disagreeing. If they believe in John Locke’s liberty, they are your allies, not your enemies.

If we can’t do that, we don’t deserve to succeed.

Paul Rosenberg
What is Liberty Exactly?
FreemansPerspective.com

Could an Inside Sneak Attack on Bitcoin Destroy It?

attack on bitcoinThis is important.

I’ve been warning about an outside attack on Bitcoin for some time, but the biggest threat may come from inside: from people who profess to love Bitcoin.

The people I’m talking about don’t love Bitcoin itself, and they don’t love the freedom it brings, no matter what they say. Instead they love the money they hope to make by becoming the new techno-riche: successors to Zuckerberg, Gates and the rest. (Yes, that’s an unfair thing for me to say, but I’d also be willing to bet large on it.)

The people I refer to are a neo-plutocracy – insiders who wish to institutionalise Bitcoin, making billions for themselves while turning it into just another version of PayPal.

The Attack on Bitcoin begins…

One long-time bitcoiner has been warning for some time that this group controls the Bitcoin Foundation. He describes them as “regulatory statists.” He has analyzed their backtalks since their beginning and has been telling anyone who would listen that they wished to politically co-opt the Bitcoin market.

At last weekend’s Bitcoin conference, he was proved correct.

Robert Wenzel of economicpolicyjournal.com reported this, directly from the conference:

The most important vibe I am picking up at the event is that there are many money players who want to get Bitcoin up and running and are willing to play by government rules, that is, register all accounts they open and take down the name, DOB and social security number of Bitcoin buyers and sellers… Many of these players argue that it is impossible to battle the government, [one developer] told me that “It is a period to build the baby and not send it to war.”

No sooner than that passed my screen, I got an article entitled Winklevoss twins on Bitcoin: Time to work with the Feds. The article quotes Cameron Winklevoss (one of the Facebook twins) saying this at the conference:

I don’t think anyone wants a fight – I think everyone here wants to build Bitcoin, to work with regulators, cooperation is really the way forward.

Let’s be clear about this:

Bitcoin is a new thing. If it is forced into the old mold of politics, regulation and control, it will become just another tool of an oligarchy. And the prospective Bitcoin oligarchy are precisely those people who wish to shove Bitcoin, against its nature, into the same old statist, plutocratic mold. The result would be a few dozen insiders getting very rich and leaving the rest of us back where we started.

Regardless of the new plutocracy’s creative justifications and their fear-based scenarios, Bitcoin will be neutered and co-opted by governments and bankers if they get their way.

This is the largest single threat facing Bitcoin at the present time. Fear and greed work, and corruption follows with them.

I am not alone in this, by the way. Bitcoin expert Mike Gogulski has come to the same conclusion, writing “the Bitcoin Foundation is TOXIC and must dissolve.”

An unnamed “old radical” warned about precisely this in 2012.

The inside threat to Bitcoin and therefore an insider attack on Bitcoin is real, and was on open display over this past weekend.

What do to

If bitcoiners are serious about human liberty – as opposed to the same old crap in a new wrapper – they must turn hard against this neo-Plutocracy and their promises of an easy way out. Nothing great comes easy, and important things are more often killed by their supposed friends than by their enemies.

I will close with a comment Martin Luther once made to a young assistant who was asking God to save them from their enemies. Please take it to heart:

We can handle our enemies. God save us from our friends.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

The Bitcoin Threat: Real or False?

bitcoin threatAn increasing number of people have complained about governments and central banks in recent years, even using the word “tyranny” to describe them. They are, of course, called names in the establishment press: conspiracy theorists, mainly.

Calling someone a name, however, does not erase their argument (at least not among rational people) and both the governments and the big banks stand accused.

Up till now, however, these accusations were never accepted by the general public. The average guy really didn’t want to hear about the evils of government money. After all, that was the only thing he had ever used to buy food, clothes, gasoline, cars, and so on. He didn’t want to acknowledge the accusations because he feared what might happen to him without his usual money.

Now, however, we have a brand new currency (called Bitcoin) available to us: something radically different. This gives us a new way to directly address the subject of monetary tyranny, providing a clear test for the governments and money masters of the world:

If they are truly NOT tyrannical, they will leave this new currency alone.

If they ARE tyrannical, they will attack the new currency because it eats into their scam.

In other words, Bitcoin is a test for “the powers that be.” The way they deal with this new method of exchange will reveal their true nature.

If they ignore Bitcoin, they refute the charges of tyranny. If they attack it, they verify those charges.

After all, what honest reason could there be to attack an inherently peaceful tool for transferring value?

Prospective Reasons

Reasons to attack Bitcoin have recently appeared in the “public square.” Here are the three most popular ones, each followed with some analysis:

It can be used for money laundering.

Of course it can be used for money laundering — ANY currency can be used for money laundering. Currencies are neutral — that is their purpose! Currencies are valuable precisely because they can be exchanged for anything else — that’s why we use them!

Moreover, dollars and Euros and Pounds are used for money laundering every day. Consider the recent money laundering crimes of HSBC and Wachovia/Wells Fargo. These banks laundered hundreds of billions of dollars for violent drug cartels. And consider that this amount of laundered money is several hundred times the value of every Bitcoin in existence.

No one from either bank went to jail. Neither bank was shut down. Neither bank suffered more than a minor fine. So, how much of a concern can money laundering really be to governments and banks? Clearly not much.

But, since they accuse Bitcoin of being used for bad things, let’s be clear about the situation:

  • Every mafioso uses government money.
  • Every drug smuggler uses government money.
  • Every terrorist uses government money.
  • Every pornographer uses government money.
  • Every criminal of every type uses government money.

They also use the telephone system and the mail and banks and a wide variety of government services. But government money is good and Bitcoin is bad?

The argument fails.

It could destabilize the current system.

A tiny, new currency is a threat to the long-established king of the hill? Comparing Bitcoin to dollars, Euros and Yen is like comparing an ant to a dinosaur. This is a threat?

Please understand also that no one is forcing anyone to use Bitcoin. If you don’t think it’s a great idea, you don’t have to use it. If its price movements (relative to dollars) bother you, you don’t have to use it. How is that destabilizing to the current system? It is entirely separate.

And what of the current system? It was falling apart on its own before the Bitcoin program was ever written. And I could go on at length on the insane levels of government debt, hundreds of trillions in derivatives, rehypothecation, and innocent people being forced to bail-out failed banks.

The current system has massive problems, but none of them can be blamed on Bitcoin.

This argument fails also.

Bitcoin provides no customer protection.

Well, no, it doesn’t. Bitcoin is a currency, not a legal system.

What is implied by this argument is that the government banking system does protect customers. That is an outright lie. People are ripped-off via the banking system every day. And more than that, consider what happened just a month ago in Cyprus: Thousands of innocent people were ripped-off BY the banking system — purposely — all at once and without recourse. This argument is, really, an insult to one’s intelligence.

And I should add something else: If Bitcoin is used properly, the crime of identity theft (a big problem with government money) vanishes – there is no identity available to be stolen.

So, again, the argument fails. Only those people who believe anything a government says will buy it.

In the End

In the end, it is said, we judge ourselves. Bitcoin has now put governments and banks in the position of judging themselves. They will write their own verdicts.

It should be interesting to watch.

The Bitcoin Threat: Real or False by Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

The Forbidden History of Smuggling

history of smugglingSmuggling has been one of the most common economic activities of all time, yet it is all but absent from the historical record. Smuggling has fed the poor and provided a half-decent living to the workers of the world when they faced no other choice but grinding poverty. It was the one way to get affordable goods.

Smuggling was the one and only ‘discount store’ at nearly every place and in every period of history. It made life bearable. One of the very few historians to acknowledge smuggling writes this:

“Smugglers and their customers probably outnumber legal traders in many societies around the world; this is nothing new, they always have.”

Most of the products that have been smuggled were not the usual fear-inducing things like drugs, weapons and slaves. In most cases, the forbidden commerce involved salt, wool, fabric, tea and brandy.

Cooperation: Humanity’s Norm

Humans cooperate. This has been true as far back as we can see and it remains true. Left to their own devices, most people tend to get along. One of the great proofs of this – and one that I’ve never seen presented – is the fact of ancient trade.

Like smuggling, long-distance trade is also mostly absent from the history books. Some references do exist, of course, but grossly out of proportion to trade’s importance.

Humans always trade – at all periods of history and with every reachable group. People trade without ceasing, reaching out to distant peoples who look different, speak differently, live differently and worship different deities. And they have done this since long before the dawn of history.

Cooperative trading began thousands of years before there were states, treaties, or any other such institutions to “protect property rights.” For as long as humans were humans, they gathered up valuable goods, figured out how to transport them, and took off to find far-off strangers to trade with. On the other end, strangers were welcomed. They were not routinely robbed (though that did sometimes occur). The people on the far end took their goods, asked about other goods that could be obtained, and made deals to exchange their surplus goods in return. Soon enough, young men were making the trek in reverse. Trade flourished and life on both ends improved.

This is ubiquitous in the archaeological record. These traders are the real heroes of history. Their lives and work contributed to human happiness far more than that of any king or prince. No one told the traders that they should go and seek others and no one authorized them; they simply went and traded because it was beneficial and natural to do so.

The Forbidden History of Smuggling: The Obsidian Traders

Let me establish this point with the case of obsidian, a naturally-occurring volcanic glass. Here is a photo of obsidian:

History of Smuggling: The Obsidian Traders

When broken, obsidian leaves a very sharp edge; so sharp, in fact, that obsidian is still used for surgical scalpels. This characteristic made it highly useful for knives, scrapers and arrowheads.

The great thing about obsidian, from an archaeological standpoint, is that its source can be determined by its chemical makeup. By sampling the hardened lava from ancient volcanoes, the point of origin for obsidian can be clearly determined. So, we know where it comes from, and, of course, we know where we find it.

Obsidian tools can also be very accurately dated by a hydration process. That is, by measuring the absorption of water into its cut surfaces. This can be done with a simple light microscope, and the process has been refined with multiple experiments.

So, we can tell where obsidian came from, where it ended up, and how long ago it was cut or broken for use as a tool. In combination, these things allow us to map and date ancient trade routes.

The resulting maps of ancient trade are so surprising that they still have not made their way into the common mind. For example, the map below shows the near-East obsidian trade routes of approximately 8000 BC, and there are others going back to 14,000 BC.

History of Smuggling: Early Trading Map

As you look at this map, consider this: This trade was conducted five or six thousand years before the Great Pyramid was built. There was no Egypt, no Sumer, no Babylon or any of the other famous “first civilizations.” Egypt and the rest are closer in time to us than to these obsidian traders.

And, of course, these maps show only the ancient obsidian tools that have been found so far. There remains much more to be discovered.

This obsidian trade – which covered modern-day Cyprus, Turkey, Armenia, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran, an arc of approximately two thousand miles – was conducted by individuals who simply loaded up, went out and found ways to cooperate with strange and distant peoples.

If you refer back to Freeman’s Perspective Issue #6, you’ll find a detailed report on Ötzi the Iceman, an experienced trader who lived in the Alps in about 3,300 BC. He also came before Sumer, Egypt, and the rest.

Another example: Even though trade was looked down upon by the agricultural Romans, the trade in and out of Rome was immense. As Professor Lionel Casson reports:

The Roman man in the street ate bread baked with wheat grown in North Africa or Egypt, and fish that had been caught and dried near Gibraltar. He cooked with North African oil in pots and pans of copper mined in Spain, ate off dishes fired in French kilns, drank wine from Spain or France… The Roman of wealth dressed in garments of wool from Miletus or linen from Egypt; his wife wore silks from China, adorned herself with diamonds and pearls from India, and made up with cosmetics from South Arabia… He lived in a house whose walls were covered with colored marble veneer quarried in Asia Minor; his furniture was of Indian ebony or teak inlaid with African ivory…

Everywhere we look in history – if we are capable of gaining an unobstructed view – we find traders improving human lives: motivated by their own desires and cooperating with strange people, far from home, and with no powerful organization threatening to punish those who might mistreat them. Again, these are the true heroes of history.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Editor’s Note: This article – The Forbidden History of Smuggling – is an excerpt from our flagship newsletter Freeman’s Perspective – Issue #20: The Forbidden History of Smuggling. If you liked what you read, consider taking a risk-free test drive. Not only will you gain immediate access to the rest of this issue, but you’ll also be able to enjoy the entire archive – more than 500 pages of research on topics of importance and inspiration to those looking for freedom in an unfree world. Plus valuable bonus reports and all new issues as well. Click here to learn more.

Thomas Jefferson: “We Failed”

Thomas Jefferson failedThomas Jefferson – one of my long-time heroes – was convinced that he and his friends blew the chance they had to establish true freedom in America. I know that a hundred thousand self-praising textbooks, speeches, pundits and songs claim that Jefferson and the rest established freedom, but that’s NOT what Jefferson thought, and that is NOT what he said. (You can choose whom to believe for yourself.)

Nearly fifty years after the Declaration of Independence, he was of the opinion that the founders did not fully live up to the moment presented to them.

Here is a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Cartwright on June 5th, 1824. Jefferson’s words are in plain text and my modern paraphrasing of the lines are in italics:

Our Revolution presented us an album on which we were free to write what we pleased. Yet we did not avail ourselves of all the advantages of our position.

The Revolution gave us a shot at real liberty, but we blew it.

We had never been permitted to exercise self-government. When forced to assume it, we were novices in its science. Its principles and forms had little entered into our former education. We established, however, some (but not all) of its important principles…

We weren’t prepared for what we had to do.

We think experience has proved the benefit of subjecting questions to two separate bodies of deliberants. But in constituting these bodies, [we have] been mistaken, making one of these bodies, and in some cases both, the representatives of property instead of persons.

We thought our legislative structure would protect us, but they were bought-off right away.

This double deliberation might be obtained just as well without any violation of true principle, either by requiring a greater age in one of the bodies, or by electing a proper number of representatives of persons, or by dividing them by lots into two chambers, and renewing the division at frequent intervals, in order to break up all cabals.

What we really needed was something that would break up parties and factions.

George Washington said almost the same thing about parties, by the way. Here is a section from his Farewell Address of September 17, 1796, with my paraphrasing again:

All combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character…are of a fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction; to give them an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party.

All political groups are fatally dangerous. They gain inappropriate force and displace the will of the people.

A small but artful and enterprising minority of the community, and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans, digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

Small groups of clever and dedicated men will corrupt the actions of government, making it serve their own ends.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then address popular ends, they are likely to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to usurp for themselves the reins of government.

No matter if these groups do some good things, they will still take over government.

I think history says that Washington was right; parties did destroy the public good, and continue to do so.

And here’s what Samuel Adams thought about the citizens allowing small groups of men (like parties) to choose candidates for them:

I hope the great Business of Elections will never be left by the many, to be done by the few; for before we are aware of it, that few may become the Engine of Corruption–the Tool of a Junta.–Heaven forbid!

And to confirm the corruption of Congress that Thomas Jefferson mentioned, here is a letter that Samuel Adams wrote to his friend Richard Henry Lee on January 15th, 1781:

Is there not Reason to think that even those who are opposed to our Cause may steal into Places of the highest Trust? I need not remind you that Men of this Character have had Seats in Congress from the beginning.

And just to add one more voice, here is what Benjamin Franklin said to the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1787:

I believe, farther, that this [constitution] is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.

There is more that could be said on this subject, but it is almost superfluous. What matters is that we get the primary point:

The best of the American Founders were fully convinced
that their shot at freedom would fail or had failed.

So, what does this say about all those fancy speeches and songs about “the land of the free“?

And if we don’t have freedom, what is it that we do have?

Paul Rosenberg
Thomas Jefferson: “We Failed”
FreemansPerspective.com