Conscious Resistance – An Interview with Paul Rosenberg

Paul Rosenberg interviewMark Wallace (http://capitalistexploits.at/) interviews Paul Rosenberg:

I have yet to meet Paul Rosenberg, but I’ve followed his work for years. He’s a brilliant thinker, and from what I can gather via my communications with him, just a damn nice guy!

Paul knows a lot about a lot of things. An adventure capitalist with a broad range of interests and experiences under his belt, current passions include philosophy, theology, history, psychology, and physics. This diverse interest base is reflected in his extensive repertoire of published titles, including A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, The Words of the Founders, and Production Versus Plunder, not to mention 55 engineering and construction books.

Paul is speaking at our Aspen Meet Up, along with Doug Casey and others in August. Sharing a scotch and some intellectual discourse with these two gents will easily be one of the highlights of the year for me!

I love reading Paul’s work because I inevitably learn something. That’s always a good thing!

WARNING: If you’re offended by free-thinking, believe government is an honourable institution or are otherwise inclined to think that what you hear from the mainstream news outlets is “mostly the truth”, then you should not read any further. I’d also go as far as to say you are reading the wrong blog.

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Mark: Paul, you’ve said that, “The meaning of modern existence has devolved to nothing more than comfort and status; discovery is a non-factor. All modern man seeks are food, sex, and comfort, and he/she devotes his/her life to nothing more than mundane things.”

I interact with a global base of friends. Thankfully most of them are not deluded by materialism and empty desires. However, it seems that the majority of the Western world (and increasingly the developing world) has been lulled to sleep by technology, mindless entertainment and a stripping of even the most harmless of tresspassings by overbearing nanny states.

Give us some historical perspective on this. Has this happened before? How does it end?

Paul: Yes, it has definitely happened before, especially as civilizations teeter on the edge of collapse. I generally use the Romans as an example, so I’ll just go with them:

The end of Rome was famously called a time of “bread and circuses,” which simply means “handouts and entertainment.” Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Rome’s fall. It comes from a man named Salvian the Presbyter, in about 440 AD:

The authors of base pleasures feasted at will in most places… all things were filled and stuffed to overflowing. Nobody thought of the State’s expenses, nobody thought of the State’s losses, because the cost was not felt. The State itself sought how it might squander what it was already scarcely able to acquire.

This was written after Rome had already been sacked once and when the last emperor was just a few decades off. To me, it sounds a lot like our times.

How it ends is a fascinating study. I actually devoted most of my newsletter’s current issue to this question, but I’ll try to summarize here:

The obedient citizens end up going down with their empire, and are crushed when it evaporates before their eyes.  But there are other people who either leave or are spat out of the system. If they find new sources of meaning in their lives, they may create a better civilization in the ashes of the old. That’s actually what the early Christians did as Rome fell. They (along with stoics and cynics who merged with them) created a better way of life in Europe, building the first large economy that functioned without slavery.

Mark: Directly related to the last question is the imposition of fear upon the populace to “control” it. You quote Robert Ringer, who said, “The results you produce in life are inversely proportional to the degree to which you are intimidated.”

You yourself have said that “systems for harnessing fear currently dominate life on this planet.” I couldn’t agree more. The perfect example of this is organised religion. The fear of eternally burning in “Hell” is enough to keep billions “in line”, and adding to the coffers of their repressors on a regular basis!

What is it in our makeup that leaves us so susceptible to fear-based control?
Paul: Human body chemistry inclines us to over-respond to fear. If we walk through a forest at night and see a large shadow moving toward us, we instantly fear that it’s a bear, or some other danger. In reality, it’s more likely a tree branch in the wind, but we jump very easily to fear. That’s just something we have to deal with, if in no other way than remembering that our fear impulse is too strong, and that we must compensate for it.

In addition, there are people who want to manipulate and make use of others. And they work hard at magnifying and manipulating this weakness.

So, part of it is wired into us and part of it is stoked by manipulators.

Mark: You wrote a great piece called The Suppression of Happiness, in which you said, “To restrict peaceful humans is to directly restrain their happiness. It also directly restrains their talent, and that impoverishes the future, including billions of humans yet unborn. It is among the worst crimes imaginable, yet it is presented to us as an essential.”

To me this is all about control, once again. Give us some more colour on why those in power continue to increase their control and restrictions on our behaviour. How do we free ourselves from the “controllers”?

Paul: There are, unfortunately, people among us who seek power over others. Probably all of us have felt the dominance instinct at some point in our lives, but the vast majority of us learn that it’s an ugly, destructive way of life and we get over it. But some people are wired differently and think of domination as their proper role. These people will always go after power. So long as there are systems that allow them to control and reap from everyone else, they’ll work full-time to get their hands on its levers.

But beyond the systems that empower these people lies a second problem: Normal people obey them! The immoral power-grabbers are consistently rewarded by people who generally care about morality. That’s the insanity of our time. We all know that the rulers are liars and thieves – people say so openly – and yet almost everyone obeys them just the same. It’s crazy, but it’s everywhere.

As for freeing ourselves, the first step is simply coming to grips with these facts. But the second step is the crucial one, and the place where many people fail. And that step is to act on what you know. It really doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you break your inertia and do something. A lot of people are glad to sit around and complain, but they never get out of their seats and act upon the world directly. And until they do, they’ll never free themselves or anyone else. There is no substitute for action; it’s what changes us and what eventually changes the world.

Mark: Paul, I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine who was born in a socialist country. We were discussing taxation and wealth disparity. My friend was asking why those sitting with billions should not be made to help those less fortunate. I think we can all agree that homeless children and poverty are terrible things, but my argument was based on the morality of “taking” from one individual forcibly, and “giving” to another. My libertarian beliefs prevent me from imposing my will on others, no matter the justification.

My friend brought up Brazil’s street children. It’s a terrible situation, but I reminded him that whilst these children are living in slums and on the street, their government is squandering billions of tax dollars on the World Cup! We have the means to cope with poverty, hunger and myriad other issues. Lack exists only due to competing agendas.

Can you help me frame this argument without coming across as a “greedy, heartless capitalist?”

Paul: The first problem with your friend’s question is that is sets a “starting position” that is both deceptive and manipulative.

This argument starts with an assumption that the state is beyond question and that any failures must be attributed to someone else. They don’t say that, but it’s included in their question. If there are starving kids, it could never be that the state was hurting them. Such a thought wouldn’t register in their minds.

This is dogma, the same as medieval people holding their Holy Church above all question. The Church was an idol to them and states are idols to modern people. It is the very same thing.

This idolized state system steals half of what every working person makes. Working people are trying to do the right thing and are stripped bare for their efforts. How about some compassion for them? Why don’t they matter? And what about some compassion for their kids, who suffer along with them?

But these thoughts don’t register, because the state is an idol, and while one may critique its parts, the state as a whole is only questioned by crazy, dangerous people. In other words, by heretics.

Again, this is exactly the same closed-minded dogma that kept medieval minds in chains. It may even be worse now.

As for the billionaire, sure, it would be a good thing for him to help the poor. But almost all rich people do help others. What the question says, however, is that the state should take this person’s money by force. That’s simply theft, and theft is immoral, even when an idol does it.

Idolatry has not gone away, it merely wears new clothes.

But the worst thing about the state system is that it stifles actual compassion. Taxation destroys the ability of working people to act upon their compassion, which would create a virtuous cycle in them. The state robs us of that, which is a very big deal.

Compulsion is the opposite of compassion, and is by nature its enemy.
Mark: Paul, one of your stronger quotes was, “Your rulers are immoral, rapacious, and unrestrained. They are building a hell for you and your children right now.”

To further that you said, “Big Brother did not come with elections and clear choices; it came riding on the usual human weaknesses: fear, greed, and servility.”

We spoke about fear earlier. There’s a lot to be afraid of, it seems, but I have to imagine that peaceful resistance is still the best way to combat evil. How do we actually implement this? Do we just all stop going to work, paying taxes, cooperating with our repressors?

Paul: The passage “They are building a hell for you and your children right now” was about mass surveillance and the abominable things that are following it. It’s far worse than people understand. But even in this case, we can protect ourselves if we act, rather than waiting for someone to give us a free fix. But unless you are doing something, you’re being eaten, day by day. It’s as simple as that.

As for resistance, infinite possibilities stand before us, so long as we stop looking for some ‘leader’ to give us a plan. There will be no “blueprint” to follow. Either we remain as individuals or we don’t. And if we don’t, it’s only a matter of time until we become the enemy.

If we are to resist peacefully, as you correctly say, we must act on our own. Each of us must summon his or her courage and act without taking comfort in being led. But once enough of us do, systems of violence and compulsion will fail. The Albert Einstein Institute has been publishing lists of ideas for years, and that’s merely a starting point.

Mark: Paul, what’s the tipping point where populations finally say “enough is enough”? How do revolutions start and how is change affected when the time finally comes?

Paul: Actually, revolution is not a good model for us, it’s a political model for taking over power. I know that people use it in other ways, such as “The Ron Paul Revolution,” but I try to stay away from it. I even wrote an article called Against Revolution once.

Our model is that of the early Christians. I’m not saying this to promote religion, by the way, it’s just that they’re the best example I know. As Bruce Lee would say, “Take what is useful, wherever you find it.”

And, to be clear, the people I’m talking about lived in the 2nd and 3rd centuries; before the Catholic Church existed. Here’s what historian Will Durant wrote about them:

… a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with a fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known.

This is what we need to do if we want to win: Multiply quietly, build order while our enemies generate chaos, persist, endure, and in the end triumph.

The usual revolution model has the appeal of a fast victory. Permanent change, however, doesn’t come via shortcuts. If we want true liberty to win, we’ll have to do it the slow way. We’ll need to change minds one by one, build better ways of living, love one another, and endure.

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Paul has a sharp mind and a keen understanding of history. We need to understand the past so that we don’t simply keep repeating it. That’s been the pattern throughout much of human history, unfortunately.

As mentioned in the intro to this post, Paul will be joining us in Aspen August 8, 9 and 10 for our next Meet Up. You can get more details about the event here.

Mark Wallace
http://capitalistexploits.at/

 

What the World Would Be Like Without Capitalism

slaverySome people say that the search for profit is abusive, heartless, evil, and so on. I’m not particularly in love with profit for its own sake (and I certainly don’t think it justifies abuse), but a reflexive condemnation of profit is deeply ignorant.

The truth is, “profit” killed the ancient abomination of human slavery. To eliminate the ability of people to profit would draw slavery back into the world. And we obviously don’t want that.

Here’s why:

Slavery Was an Economic System

What is not understood is that slavery was the foundation of economics in the old world – such as in Greece and Rome.

Slavery was almost entirely about surplus. (Surrounded by creative justifications, of course.) It was a type of enforced thrift.

An undeveloped man, left to himself, will spend almost all of what he earns. If he does earn some surplus, he’ll likely spend it on luxuries, frivolities, or worse. Until he develops a strong character, little of his surplus will remain for other uses.

A slave, on the other hand, never holds his earnings in his hands and therefore cannot spend them. All surplus is transferred to his or her owner. It was precisely this kind of surplus that made Rome rich.

But then Christian Europe came about. Prior to that, I cannot point to a single ancient culture that forbade the practice; it was seen as normal. So, for Europe to expel the slavery it inherited from Rome was a monumental change.

Europeans replaced slavery – slowly and because of their Christian principles, not because of a conscious plan – by doing these things:

  1. Developing personal thrift. This required a strong focus on building up virtues like temperance (self-control) and patience.
  2. Replacing the enforced surplus of slavery with profit. That is, by mixing creativity in with their commerce: innovating, inventing, and adapting to get more surplus out of commerce.

Under a new system that was eventually tagged capitalism, thrift and creativity generated surplus, and no human beings had to be enslaved.

A World Without Profit

On the other hand, we have recent examples of what happens when a culture forbids profit: the “socialist paradises” of Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China, and the enslaved states of Eastern Europe. (Among others.)

These examples are bleak indeed, featuring the enslavement of everyone to a ruling party.

Profit provides an incentive to work, and when it is gone, not only does work suffer, but those who want to get ahead have no honest way to do it. And that drives them either to despair or to crime.

If you eliminate profit – innovative, rewarding commerce – you get slavery. The form of that slavery may vary from one case to another, but it will be slavery of some type.

This result is the same, by the way, whether the elimination of profit occurs via communism (make a profit, we shoot you) or fascism (all profit-making is taken over by friends of the state).

The core issue is surplus:

  • If surplus can be gathered by average people via honest means, slavery can be eliminated.
  • If average people are not allowed to create and hold their own surplus (surplus being skimmed off to the state and/or state partners), slavery of one sort or another will be the result.

Profit is simply a tool – a way of generating surplus without the enforced thrift of slavery.

You cannot get rid of both slavery and profit. You can eliminate whichever one you wish, but you’ll be stuck with the other.

Profit Rests on Virtues

To live in a civilization that prospers by profit, we need to move beyond gorilla-level instincts like envy. We need to develop self-control, patience, and a focus on more than just material possessions.

It’s a shame that the West has turned away from traditional virtues over recent centuries. If the Church that previously taught these virtues was found to be wanting, we should have replaced it with something better, rather than casting everything aside and pretending that virtues were nothing but superstition.

If we ever lose enough of our virtues, profit will lose its protections, and the ancient way of slavery will return.

What we do matters.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Collapse of Capitalism: The 9 Plagues

collapse of capitalismLet me be blunt: The collapse of capitalism is approaching.

Or, perhaps better said: Our marginally capitalist, partly-free market systems are approaching a massive collapse.

Not because of what capitalism is, mind you, but because the powers that be have bastardized it.

Capitalism can bear many distortions and abuses, but it is not indestructible.

And, make no mistake, the ‘capitalist’ system we have today has been massively corrupted, so much so that it’s sagging under the load… and will continue to do so until the proverbial straw breaks its back.

Collapse of Capitalism: The 9 Plagues

  1. The average producer is being stripped bare. In the US, for example, the total take of taxes has not risen dramatically, but fewer and fewer people actually pay them. There was a big uproar during the last election cycle over the fact that 47% of working-aged Americans paid no income tax. That means that the half who do work (read suckers) are paying the whole. And more than that, they are also paying for the many millions who are on food stamps and disability. Producers are being punished and abused, made into chumps.
  2. Thrift is essentially impossible. I’ve explained this in detail previously, but a hundred years ago, it was possible for an average person to accumulate money. Mechanics, carpenters, and shop owners slowly filled their bank accounts with gold and silver. It was common for them to make business loans and to retire comfortably. But now, all of our surplus is drained away to capital cities, where it is poured down the drains of welfare, warfare, and political lunacy. Money has been removed from the hands that made it, and moved into the hands of non-producers, liars, and destroyers.
  3. In 2008, US federal government regulations cost an estimated $1.75 trillion, an amount equal to 14 percent of US national income. Let me restate: Simply complying with regulations costs American businesses more than $1,750,000,000,000 (that’s $1.75 Trillion) every year. This, again, is money taken out of production and wasted on political lunacy.
  4. Small businesses are being squeezed out. Take a look at the two graphs below, and understand that as small businesses are squeezed out, only the large corporations remain. These days, only the largest and best-connected entities are able to get their concerns dealt with (by the politicians they fund). Small operations are cut off from the redress of their grievances and are crushed by taxes and regulation. And don’t forget the comments of Mussolini:

    Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.

    While there may be no dictator, state/corporate partnerships are taking over commerce in the West.

    The Collapse of Capitalism
    The Collapse of Capitalism

  5. The military industrial complex is out of control. Their lobbying, fear-mongering, and spending can only be characterized as obscene. Dwight Eisenhower was right when he warned us about this in 1960. It is sad beyond measure that so few Americans took him seriously. Trillions of dollars and millions of productive lives are being spent on the war machines of the West. Never forget that wars destroy massively and produce nothing.
  6. All the Western nations now feature large enforcer classes, composed of bureaucrats, law enforcement units, inspectors, and so on. In the US alone this amounts to several million people – none of whom produce anything, and all of whom restrain producers from producing. Millions of people are paid to restrain commerce.
  7. We now have a very large financial class in which blindly aggressive people make millions of dollars. The problem is that finance is not productive. It may allocate money in beneficial ways (though it often allocates mainly to itself), but it doesn’t actually produce anything. At present, the allocators get the big bucks, and the producers get scraps.
  8. The modern business ethic has become about acquisition only. In more enlightened times, it was also about creating benefit in the world, or at least creating newer and better things. Mere grasping is an insufficient philosophy for capitalism; it leads to dark places.
  9. Every nation on the planet is using play money and forcing their inhabitants to use their play money. Moreover, they have super-empowered a small class of Central Banking Elites, who make fortunes on their currency monopolies, and who are entirely unknown to the producers who unwillingly (and unknowingly) purchase jets and yachts for them. Our money systems have brought back aristocracies; a class that is both hidden and immensely powerful.

I think the point about the collapse of capitalism has been made with these nine points: The West has built a hyper-political culture built on lies, misdirection, fear, avarice, envy, and sloth. (Avarice, by the way, is a mindless craving for gain.)

So What’s Next?

That’s up to the producers. Everything hinges upon them. The game, as it is, depends entirely on them being willing to accept abuse.

All that is necessary to fix this is for the producers to stop being willing victims. Simple, I know, but there is a problem with such a sensible idea:

The producers are convinced that their role in life is only to struggle and obey.

Modern producers believe that the ruling classes have a legitimate right to tell them how much of their money they are entitled to keep, which charity causes they’ll be forced to contribute to, which features their car is required to have, and much, much more. Why? Simply because those other people are in “high positions,” and they (the producers) are in “low positions.” An evil assumption has been planted in their minds:

It is right for important people to order me around.

The productive class holds all the real power, but they are nearly devoid of moral confidence. So, they are abused without end.

Right now, a parasitic ethic rules the West and will continue to rule so long as producers play the part of the suckers. If this continues, what remains of capitalism will grind to a halt and will be overrun by a Neo-Fascist arrangement – not the dictator and swastika variety – but one where the state and powerful business interests merge into one unstoppable and insatiable force.

On the other hand, if ever the producers wake up from their moral coma and reject the role of doormat, they will build a society embodying the ethics of production. It almost sounds impossible, I know. But it is has happened before and could happen again.

It’s up to us.

Paul Rosenberg
Collapse of Capitalism: The 9 Plagues
FreemansPerspective.com