The End of the Great American Fantasy

american fantasyThrough all of my life there has been an odd and persistent bias on the part of otherwise honest Americans:

What America does overseas is always good and right. We do not speak against it.

The protests against the Vietnam War were an exception to this, of course, but that break from tradition involved less than half the country. Those people were quickly brought back into the mainstream, And they have supported more or less all subsequent US wars.

This belief – that US foreign actions are always good – is falling apart as we watch. I take this as a good thing, as one should not believe in Santa Claus forever.

The Polarization Trick

But before I explain how this great American fantasy is failing, let me explain the trick that has kept it going:

There is a polar opposite to the fantasy of angelic foreign affairs – the demonization of US soldiers. Americans generally see in polar opposites: Either the military is sacred, or else it is wholly evil.

Once you get people strongly polarized, they’ll stay that way – always opposing the other side and never seeing the truth in the middle.

So, nothing I say here today should be taken as an indictment of individual American soldiers. As with any group of people, some are better and some are worse. Some became soldiers with good motives (to protect people). Some few joined with bad motives (to kill and dominate). But the majority joined for a mundane reason: They needed a job. And more or less all of them joined when they were quite young.

So, aside from a few monsters, I am not going after soldiers. They’ve got plenty to deal with on their own and I’m not interested in making things harder for them.

It’s time to step away from this false polarization and to start looking for the truth. And, as I say, I think the great American fantasy is falling apart. Here are my reasons:

Reason #1: The military-industrial complex is too troubling to ignore.

Americans still remember that President Eisenhower warned them about the military-industrial complex killing their freedoms. And while many of us try not to think about it, we all know.

The US government has troops in most of the countries in the world. Very few of us, myself included, can name all of the wars we are currently involved with. On top of that, we know that the military – and hundreds of private companies that work for them – are spying on all of us at all times. We may try to pass it off with cheap slogans, but we know the truth.

To cap it off, the US government has now given itself the right to permanently jail and even kill US citizens, without a trial, so long as they first call them terrorists.

Reason #2: We’ve seen the government start wars.

Those of us old enough will remember that the State Department suckered Saddam Hussein into the first Gulf War. I won’t recount all the details, but they used a diplomat named April Glaspie to set it up. The story has been confused since then (four versions of the crucial transcript now exist), but lots of us saw it in real time.

We know from WikiLeaks revelations that that there were US Special Forces in Syria a year or more before last year’s almost-war, arming the rebels and training them to fight.

There can be no question that the US stands behind the current troubles in the Ukraine. If this YouTube recording is to be believed, we have US diplomats deciding who should be in power after the takeover… a takeover they staged during the Olympics when Putin would be restrained.

This is no defense of Putin, of course, but it is obvious that the US Department of State is setting up and tearing down governments. That’s a very dangerous line of work.

Reason #3: The Intimidator State lives among us.

The line between military and police in America is all but gone. Police departments sport military equipment and are filled with former soldiers. They use military tactics.

The public increasingly sees cops as dangers, not as friends. A young man recently commented to me, “Cops are bullies,” and he had good reason to think so. Being assaulted by a cop erases a thousand episodes of cop-worship TV.

A few honest and helpful police officers do still exist, but they are steadily disappearing, at least in my field of view. Police=Threat is reality to a huge number of Americans, and not without cause. Merge that with the military, and the image of the soldier-saint fails.

In The End…

I think we have to admit that foreigners are not crazy to see the US government as a threat. Some of them may be stuck in the polarization trick, but they are not wrong to think that our political class is dangerous. We think that too.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

How Many Lives the Government “Eats” Each Year

I like to look at things from an outsider’s viewpoint – to notice things that most people pass over. And I usually find these things more or less by accident. For example, take a quick look at this formula:

government spendingThis looks like physics or economics, but I actually ran across it in a legal case. As it turns out, this is the formula to determine the monetary value of your life.

That may sound crazy, but it’s absolutely true.

Officially termed “the monetary value of human capital,” this calculation is used every day in courts of law to help determine various awards – typically when someone is injured and prevented from working.

What struck me as interesting is that this formula could also be used in other ways… like for government for example.

Government is the biggest business on the planet – by far. (We examined how in FMP #32.) And government functions with money.

So, I decided to use arithmetic to determine the cost of government – not measured in dollars, but in human lives.

Think of this as a currency conversion: dollars-to-lives, rather than the usual dollars-to-euros or dollars-to-yen.

And, again, this is not a new trick; it’s done every day in courtrooms across the globe.

The Numbers

The figures I’m using come from the US government (mostly the Census), between the years 2008 and 2010. (Spending is for 2010.) Everything shown below is plain old math, not fancy statistical analysis.

Here are the necessary figures:

Average per capita income: $39,138

Average number of working years: 40

Per capita lifetime income (income times years) = $1.5655 million

Total US government spending: $3.55 trillion

So, dividing total government spending by average lifetime earnings, we arrive at the following:

Government spending consumes the lives of 2.27 million people, annually.

Properly, we should say, “The US government consumes the entire life earnings of 2.27 million people, every year.”

It may seem a bit dramatic to express the numbers this way, but these are real numbers, and they reflect the situation accurately.

These figures, of course, are only for the national government. State and municipal governments consume plenty as well. In all likelihood, total government consumption in the US is somewhere between 3 and 5 million lives per year.

If these numbers seem impossible to you, run them yourself. It’s not hard.

The plain truth is that, every year, government in the United States consumes the entire lifetime efforts of several million human beings.

Talk of so-many trillions, percentages of GDP, quintiles, and age brackets are confusing. This is the simple truth:

Several million lives are sacrificed every year to feed the US Leviathan.

Perhaps a motivated statistician could find some fault with my numbers, but still, there they are. And if my amateurish calculations are off by 10%, should we really feel better, knowing that only 2.043 million of us are sacrificed to Leviathan every year?

The next time you hear confusing talk from a politician, think of these numbers. Millions of lives are being drained dry – cradle to grave – every year, to keep their beast fed. That cannot honestly be denied.

What Does This Mean?

It is for you to decide what this means.

I suspect that you’re rather horrified, which sets you up for a classic choice on how to deal with this new idea:

  • Fight (“That’s wrong!”),
  • Flight/Evasion (“That’s a conspiracy theory!”), or
  • Freeze (“I don’t understand”).

And note that I am making no comment here on the quality of government spending – you can make that determination for yourself – I am merely stating its cost.

You’ll have to decide what you think about this. If you’re unsure, look up the numbers and run them for yourself. That will give you a better understanding.

The Non-Monetary Value of Life

Human lives, of course, have far more than simple monetary value. The most important things in life are not measured in dollars.

That, however, only makes the damage worse.

Why worse? Because we are limited, physical beings. When we’re sick, or sleeping, or far away, or falling-down tired, those “more valuable than money” things seldom show up.

When people are forced to work double shifts to pay the government, their energy for the things that transcend monetary value is sucked away.

Most working Americans go from morning till night. Even when they go on vacation, they are really only recovering from their workload – getting back to even.

That means that most of the super-monetary value of their lives is lost; they have no time and energy left over to do the more important things.

Leviathan Has a Cost

Governments always present themselves to people as saviors, but everything they do is paid for with money. And the ultimate source of all that money is the people who are supposedly being saved.

In order to pay that price in the United States (others are similar), the entire earnings of several million lives are required every year.

No, three million people are not beheaded in the town square, but that many lives are spent every year – by people paying half their life, every year, for their entire working lives.

Leviathan eats several million lives per year, and no matter how we spin it, the numbers remain.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Top 5 Reasons I Stopped Caring About Politics

stop caring about politicsWhen I was young, I felt a need to understand politics, and I spent time studying. But as time progressed, I received diminishing returns on that investment. And in the past few years, I have given it up altogether.

These days, my concern with politics is limited to things like these:

  • Who is making war, and where?
  • Where is the crime occurring in my area?
  • Are there laws that will force me to move my businesses offshore?

Beyond that, I’m really not interested. I see the headlines, but I seldom read the stories. And I’m very happy saying, “I haven’t looked into it,” when people ask my opinion on the day’s ‘news.’

Here’s why:

#5: It eats up a horrifying amount of time and energy

Seriously, start counting the number of hours you spend on this stuff. How many hours listening to political radio, watching political TV, and reading political newspapers?

Then start thinking about the intense energy you spend on it. We all have limited reserves of energy; do you really believe that politics is the highest and best use for yours? What about using your energy to build your business? Or to nurture your children? Or to help a neighbor? There must be a dozen things that are more important than obsessing over the votes of congressmen or Supreme Court judges.

#4: It’s an addiction

If imagining yourself dumping politics makes you feel bad, you probably should dump it.

Try it: Imagine your life, devoid of all politics. How does it make you feel? Empty? Forsaken?

The truth is that millions of us are addicted to politics. People can’t pull themselves away from it – it’s the script that runs in the back of their minds 24/7.

The political addiction is so bad that even strongly religious people spend more time on politics than they do on God. Politics is the obsession of the age.

#3: It doesn’t change anything

There was a popular bumper sticker in the 60s that read: If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.

Let’s be honest and admit that the bumper sticker was true. Even the best examples – such as Reagan on the right or Obama on the left – have failed to change much. Government is bigger than ever, the US government is involved in more wars than ever, and the Constitution is being trashed in more ways than ever before. This is progress?

And what of the vaunted elections that they always promote? Personally, I think Alvin Toffler was right when he called them “reassurance rituals.” But, that aside, it is certain that elections are tightly controlled. In the US, two parties firmly control who gets on a ballot and who doesn’t. Everything is scripted; everything requires approval of the party. (The situation is slightly less bad in Europe.)

And please understand that ‘the government’ is far more than 600 faces in DC – it is millions of people in thousands of offices, all pulling together to get more of your money and to spend it upon themselves and their departments.

But even while politics doesn’t actually change much, it does keep everyone locked inside the system and servicing it. To illustrate, here’s a quote I never could forget, and that I hope you’ll never forget either:

Let them march all they want, so long as they continue to pay their taxes.

– Alexander Haig, 1982

So long as everyone obeys the government, why should it care about their complaints? Americans are nearly 100% obedient, so why should the government bother changing anything at all? There is no need.

Politics doesn’t change anything, because its actual goal is to keep the populace reassured and compliant. And in this it has succeeded brilliantly.

#2: In the end, it’s about violence

Here’s a passage from my novel, A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, that expressed this idea:

Coercion is the sine qua non of politics; the thing, without which, politics would not be politics. Indeed, if you remove coercion, politics becomes something else – economics.

Politics cannot exist without force. In the end, it rests on violence. No matter how much they color everything red, white, and blue, violence or the threat of violence underpins it all. As Jim Rogers once wrote, “Somewhere in every process of taxation, a pistol is involved.

Politics – government – is based upon a single transaction: Taking money from people against their will. Everything else they do falls apart without that.

You may think me rude for pointing this out, or you may come up with justifications for it, but the statement stands: Governments take money that they didn’t earn, by one type of coercion or another. If not, taxation would be voluntary and government would be just another business.

I don’t like dealing with violent enterprises.

#1: Politics is a relic of a barbaric past

Being that I study the ancient past, I can trace men ruling over men back to about 6400 BC. I can trace a government that resembles ours back to about 5000 BC.

So, what else from two thousand years before the Pyramids still rules the lives of men?

If there is any example on Earth of humans failing to evolve, this has to be it.

Men no longer pull plows. They no longer start fires with flint. Nor do they pull sleds or wooden-wheeled carts or rely upon animals for power. We have learned to write, to invent, to navigate, to cover immense distances, to drive, to fly, to reach into the heavens…

And yet this one relic of a primitive past remains. And please don’t tell me that it remains because it is good – people complain about government more than they complain about cancer.

To illustrate government’s barbaric nature, consider this: Thousands of people like me would like to experiment with different ways of living, but we are forbidden. No one is permitted to leave the game. If you try, large armed men will assault you and lock you in a cage, or perhaps they will merely steal your money from the bank you entrusted it to. But in either case, government sycophants will solemnly inform the world that you are an evil-doer.

No exit is permitted and all escape attempts are met with violence. How is this not primitive barbarity?

IT’S YOUR CHOICE.

So, there you have it. You’re big boys and girls and you can make your own decisions, but I have to tell you: I am ever so happy with mine. I am less stressed, more productive, and a clearer thinker.

Every so often, a friend asks me to examine a political issue. And, nearly always, I politely decline; it makes me feel the same as when my mother wanted me to eat liver.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Government Against the People: It Gets Worse In the Late Stages

government against the peopleAll governments – communist, capitalist, fascist, monarchy, theocracy, whatever – survive on the skim. They take money from productive people, by force or threat of force. However prettied-up or justified this fact may be, it remains the central fact of rulership.

It’s a simple but disturbing truth: A late-stage state’s modus operandi must always be “government against the people” – an MO that is inherently predatory. And it’s not because the participants are all sociopaths (though many are).

At most times, governments try very hard to skim quietly, as with payroll taxes, where the producer’s money is taken away before he or she ever holds it in their hands. That’s also why tariffs were a traditional tax – the average person never saw it, and didn’t feel violated.

But when governments are massively over-extended, they lose the luxury of the quiet skim and become more aggressive. This is simply what happens in long-established, monopolistic institutions, like governments. They spend wildly to make themselves look good, then find they need more money. Not willing to cut their spending, they have two choices:

  1. Debasement of the currency, which they always do first. But this trick never works for very long, since people do engage their minds when conducting commerce and adjust their prices to counteract the debasement.
  2. Squeeze the producers dry, any way they can.

The Problem of Legitimacy

You may wonder why the governments don’t just cut their spending. That would seem an obvious choice. But they can’t cut spending without tarnishing their image as the mighty protector and the great fount of human compassion. People pay taxes willingly because of this high and mighty image; lose the image and you lose tax compliance.

Think about it: the governments of the West portray themselves as the saviors of the weak, the healers of the sick, and the fixers of every problem. But if they stop paying off the poor, there will be riots, and the producers will get hurt. No longer being protected, they may no longer consent to having their money taken away from them day by day.

Governments function on legitimacy more than force. If they lose their legitimacy, they are done. Therefore they cannot cut spending.

The Philosophy of “Government Against the People” at Work

Our Western civilization is at a late stage, just like Rome in the 5th century, or Greece in the 3rd and 4th centuries BC, or like the Egyptians and Sumerians before them. The same basic suite of problems engulfs them all at these stages, but we will use Rome as example, since that is the closest to us in both time and temperament.

Take a look at the two graphs below.

This one shows the Roman debasement, which involved mixing cheap metals (such as lead) into their silver coins:

government against the people

Now look at this one, showing the debasement of the dollar, which involved the creation of debt-based currency:

government against the people

 These are essentially the same chart, showing the same phenomenon.

What came next for Rome was the abuse of the producers.

Rome taxed in very different ways than modern governments, so I won’t take pages to describe it all, but I will give you a few highlights:

  • The local elites who were charged with collecting taxes couldn’t keep up with Rome’s demands and started running away. Rome couldn’t find anyone willing to accept these very high positions, no matter how much prestige was attached.
  • People adapted to avoid taxes, and Rome passed new laws in response. (This helped create the serfdom of the middle ages.)
  • People ran away to the Germanic and Frankish areas that surrounded Rome. To illustrate that fact, here’s a quote from a man named Salvian the Presbyter, from about 440 AD:

Thus, far and wide, they migrate either to the Goths or to the Bagaudae, or to other barbarians everywhere in power; yet they do not repent of having migrated. They prefer to live as freemen under an outward form of captivity, than as captives under the appearance of liberty. Therefore, the name of Roman citizens, at one time not only greatly valued, but dearly bought, is now repudiated and fled from, and it is almost considered not only base, but even deserving of abhorrence.

I could go on at length, but I think you get the picture. There were taxes on income, taxes on sales, arbitrary taxes, farm taxes, plain confiscations, and so on. If you had a friend close to the emperor, you had a chance to be ignored, but if not, you were mercilessly bled dry. (And even a friend with the emperor’s ear might not help.)

Your Choices Now

I think it’s quite clear that we’re in the same civilizational stage as late Rome. What happens to us won’t be identical, but it will be similar. The one great advantage we have now is information. If we pay attention, we are able to see what is happening before it hits. We can also adapt to avoid most of the consequences. We may not like it that we have to adapt repetitively, but history doesn’t give us many options – late stage mega-institutions will behave like late-stage mega-institutions.

And in the short term, the “Government against the People” philosophy is not going to disappear. In fact, it’s likely to get much worse. Our choice is to get out of the way, or not.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

[Originally published at Nestmann.com]