Culturalism · Economic History

The Usufruct Concept

In the course of compiling a section of the new socialism book focused on “conservative realism,” I came across a term which was uncharacteristically unique: usufruct. My initial reaction upon seeing it could be summed up as skeptical; I actually figured it was nothing more than a typo, albeit without the friendly red lines of MS Word’s liberal dictatorship. Closer investigation revealed that it refers to a very special idea: the relative status of private property.

Most readers of this blog come from Western countries such as the U.S. or U.K., both nations with storied histories of the longtime struggle to protect property against greedy usurpation by monarchs. Americans in particular are adamant about their rights to do with property what they wish, even as the wretched scourge of HOA’s and property taxes fester well and strong. To us, the notion of being told what to do with our property is outrageous, and bound to result in furious town hall meetings, or angry “letters to the blogger” until such “socialist” wrongs are reversed. Seldom is any other reality considered.

But a lack of appreciation for different models does not mean they magically cease to exist, especially over time, as objectives and crises change our perspective. Here the usufruct proposal gains far more relevance, particularly whilst we wrestle with the issues contained by migratory patterns and environmental degradation. Put simply, it refers to the contrast between Eigentum (private property) and Besitz (possession). In the former, one is free to do whatever he pleases with the terrain, including sales or destruction. Besitz on the other hand means the individual can use the land for his creative or business purposes, but not at its expense or defilement. As one writer notes:

“To have a thing as one’s ‘private property’ means that one can do what one likes with it — can sell it, injure it, or destroy it at will. To have ‘possession’ of a thing means usufruct, that one is entitled to use the thing, to exploit it, but subject to the will and supervision of another, the substantial ‘owner’, whose ‘private property’ it is.”

This supervision and ownership is conceived of typically to be the State, or perhaps a community and people. It theoretically allows folks to develop and advance personal wealth (as opposed to socialist stagnancy), yet prevents them from selling out to foreigners or poisoning the soil with their habits or business practices. Failure (or disinterest) in using the land means it will revert back to the community and be parceled out to another aspiring cultivator, one who must of course be native to the region.

Although a strange concept, we are almost forced to assess how it might help address certain problems currently affecting Western countries. Conservatives have long lamented the decline of identity and culture, yet they also insist on a property system where any foreigner with money can waltz in and purchase land, upsetting the traditional balance of that location. Leftists complain about environmental decline, while also advancing open borders and refusing to seriously explore the possibility of degrowth. Both are victims of their own beliefs, and doomed to failure because of those precepts.

Maybe usufruct is their saving grace.


The Witcher’s World

I admit to not having fully lumbered through the video game franchise known as The Witcher. At one point several years back the original game was in my possession, yet the unorthodox combat style made it difficult to grasp, much in line with my Lost Odyssey experience. Nevertheless, the underlying ideas and world were intriguing, so I eventually checked out the novel that started it all. More recently, I battled my way through the graphic novel omnibus, a tome that features some very interesting commentary on the matter of perceptions and illusion.

One of the first tales erupts after Geralt (the Witcher) meets a wayward hunter (Jakob Ornstine) and proceeds to travel with him. During their time together, Jakob recounts the story of his lost love Marta, presenting her as the embodiment of an innocent passion stolen away by dark creatures known as the Bruxa. Marta’s ghost leads the men to a mystical house that appears to warp reality, and there an alternative narrative is presented by the feminine spirit. She claims that her father sold her to Jakob, a violent man who beat and raped her. Driven to find true love, Marta began an affair with the blacksmith Talton, who would be killed in a fit of jealous rage by Jakob, after which Marta herself was killed.

So why does Jakob still believe in this seemingly delusional narrative? Perhaps it is due to the curse which Marta placed upon him. Alternatively, it could simply be a way of perceiving reality based upon position. Still more, they are operating inside a house of illusions, so who is to say what can be true?

Adding further complexion to the issue is Jakob’s behavior towards the succubus who Geralt encounters in the house. After the Witcher enters a rage at his perception that she led him into a trap, Jakob castigates him:

“No! You weren’t thinking at all! You can’t treat a woman that way! Women are divine creatures, Witcher! They command our respect! No man can understand a woman, not ever! Their reasons are too mysterious! Too chaotic! We must accept them for what they are. And accept that their lives are far too short. They can be taken from us at any time.”  

In contrast, Geralt notes that Witchers do not understand passion as humans do, and so the sex act occurs absent a deep emotional bond. At the same time, when recounting a story of love to Jakob he mentions visiting a prostitute who accepted his money for her service and then paid it back afterwards. Hence he carries those silver coins for their meaning to the present day. Again a conundrum. Is love only possible outside of money, or is money itself love?

Towards the end of the book, a very crucial line is dropped: “Illusion. All is illusion.” I immediately connected this short statement with our present world. We are creatures constantly pursuing an ideal, whether created in our own minds or the commercial fun labs of the corporate elite. We can be in abusive relationships and call it love, or transactional actions more deserving of the term. Depending on religion or affiliation, we can witness the same event and interpret it in drastically separate ways, almost like we live in a house of glass.

God forbid any fool would cast stones.

Culturalism · Economic History

Veblen Goodness

Last weekend I finished the book Overdressed, which probably seems like an odd choice for one like me. To be fair, I do own a few bathrobes, yet little in my wardrobe comes near the likes of Imelda Marcos, or some Zoomer shopping haul queen. I basically buy what I need, and keep a few unique items around for the rare occasion when fanciful taste is needed. It would certainly be nice to have more, but I simply have not gotten around to caring enough.

Obviously many people disagree, and in many cases with good reason. They’re not the question at stake. Instead, the book’s author dropped a term I had never heard of, even though it manifests in the real world remain as anything but uncommon: the Veblen good. The word’s namesake lies with Thorstein Veblen, an early 1900s economist who became associated with the progressive movement for his non-Marxist critiques of capitalism. Put simply, the term refers to a product which defies the laws of supply and demand by becoming more desired as it increases in value.

For many, the very idea is problematic. Of course supply and demand remains undisputed; just look at Chinese imports and general technology: they all went through the price floor as production and sales picked up over the years. But other goods do not. Rare wines, whether real or fake, are craved, even as they sell at millions on the bottle. Luxury cars can be priced well over the threshold of a townhouse’s mortgage loan, and still people chase the driver’s seat. One might even claim something similar for stocks, which can become overpriced mammoths and still attract the barking madness embodied by those pursuing extreme wealth.

Whether Veblen goods are a consequence of effective marketing by the rich to sell their lifestyle as being superior, nothing changes the underlying reality of how such products come to control our lives. Think of how many folks you know driving spruced up trucks or Hellcats simply to get them to and from work. There’s hardly any street racing or hard construction involved in use of those vehicles, just a fair-weather attempt to impress others.  But whatever emptiness may clutch the actualized routine of luxury ownership, the prices continue being raised to great joy from buyers. I will have something everyone else doesn’t, goes the grey matter, along with countless more cerebral motherboards.

I suppose it’s like grinding an axe against the hordes of development at this point. Nevertheless, at times my heart wonders how much worse off we would actually be if folks did more with less, and treated what they had not as objects, but family. A few more monks, and a lot less celebrity.


Investigate This Thoroughly

Despite having owned my current vehicle for over two years now, I didn’t bother to use the CD player until recently. Whenever confronted with a long drive I typically listen to music or simply conjure up new plans for content and research. Last week things changed when I randomly decided to checkout The Book of Five Rings in audiobook form. I usually don’t mess with that format because it is difficult to take notes while driving, but this departure from tradition proved worthwhile.

The book is written by Miyamoto Musashi, a samurai and poet active during the 14th and 15th centuries. It is a brief text, but one principle repeated incessantly across the pages in various forms is the phrase “You should investigate this thoroughly.” A casual reader might assume Musashi’s dogmatism is simply meant to convey the importance of his book or stature, while those more attune to his Buddhist persuasions could argue the phrase relates to some pursuit of truth or balance.

Neither assessment is essentially wrong, yet I believe there is a more universal lesson beyond the specific audience and context. As noted before, we have limited time to cultivate concrete understandings of particular perspectives or subjects. Many folks simply dally-fance around, spouting information they gleaned from someone else because the impetus to uncover and master on an individual basis proves too formidable. Thus the mind scarcely has a chance to reach its higher level potential, and emotional rage swiftly replaces comprehension. For normies such positions appear committed and admirable, largely because they do not see past the preliminary veil.

When Musashi instructs readers to have a thorough approach in their study and experience, he turns back this entire modernistic proposal. The more one reads and interacts with the world, the less is he able to embrace knee-jerk, talking-point reactions to every issue. It becomes clear to him that life is more complicated than simply a crude dualistic perspective, and in fact the manifestations we come to know are usually assembled by a chain of other events. Successfully exploring so as to forge those networks in the mind allows a person to truly appreciate the eternal query of why, rather than distracting with predictably public noise.

I encourage all of you to attempt the same method in life. As I think back to some of my “classic” YouTube content, I must concede that while it was entertaining, the drive to present an all-inclusive message on some matter was undermined by a hesitation to wait and learn. Nowadays, I will often make a new recording if a not-yet-published piece lacks information discovered only after it was put together. Yes, the process is tedious, however the outcome unquestionably superior.

Live long and be thorough.


Pick a Color

A news story crashed across the fragile sense of our reality recently, and I found myself feeling rather baffled. For those not aware of the specifics, a 65-year old Filipina woman was accosted and attacked by a male assailant while two security guards in a nearby building watched – but did not intervene. According to observers from the Internet dot com, the response of these guards was absolutely unacceptable. How exactly could they not step right up and help her?

Yes, how indeed? Putting aside questions of whether they, as unarmed guards, had any prerogative to get involved in accordance with corporate policy (almost certainly not), can we not agree their guilt was absolute and unimpeachable?  Does any doubt exist?

I reckon so. See, the story proposed a nasty conundrum for those intense believers in the race-based politics of now. The victim was of Asian extraction, while our villainous perpetrator hailed from the Afro-American community.  Since the paleskin could not be blamed for her plight , at least outside the usual appeal to Trumpism creating cultural violence, leftists scrambled to blame the security guards for their supposed cowardice and misogyny. Many comments on Huffington Post declared themselves as beings absolutely prepared to break up the confrontation, in stark contrast to those “weak men.”

Leaving aside the potentially sexist implications of men being compelled to intervene on behalf of the opposite sex simply because of “muh wahmen”, how would the image of intervention look if someone more racially  unacceptable took part? What if an oppressor-appearing phenotype like Goldberg dashed to the old Filipina’s rescue…would he be justified, or  condemned to horrendous assault in the public sphere? Let’s remember that videos can be clipped, and news agencies never apologize for their incessant destruction to the individual’s reputation. I cannot say for certain my actions would be interpreted as socially justified, especially when we consider that Asians are at times included in the ranks of the pseudo-Aryans, and otherwise with oppressed POC. The world is left to choose.

If nothing else, the scenario should go far to explain the ridiculous malleability of race and identity in the political field. People become what is useful to the elites based upon a given point in history. While America established clear delineations between whites and blacks during the slavery period, Brazil’s minority European population encouraged swirling to undermine the centrality of one black identity. Today, leftists want race to be a useful token for righteousness, but only to the extent that it fits their specific agendas. Other minorities who oppress blacks are white, and black people who target other POC are misogynists or rage pillers unable to overcome white supremacy. Soon enough, the darkest soul from Central America or India will be forced into the pale cultural corner, all for politics.

So the caravan moves on.


Age and Ideology

Someone asked me the other day to provide discourse about my own political ideology. For most people, at least those who follow politics, the answer is pretty simple. Democrat or Republican. Conservative or Liberal. Those simple designations wrap matters up, allowing life to go on, and the safe belonging in a electoral family to generate warmth. It’s OK, because I’m with the good guys, the affiliation assures.

But life is a tad more complicated. When you sit down and begin hashing things out, the talking points prototypically spewed by earnest partisans sound rather hypocritical and contradictory, even if they seem backed by absolute belief and conviction. I know because they used to be my own words. During the healthcare debate of 2009-2010, I proudly wrote discussion posts for my business class advocating against “socialized healthcare,” citing whatever source available (funded by insurance companies) that would indicate such a model was disastrous. I seldom looked at anything on the other aside, assuming it was made up of lazy leftists who wanted to control people’s lives.

Why? Because the GOP said so, and conservative talk radio chimed in agreement. Furthermore, I had been exposed to enough Ayn Rand to know that the private sector entailed everything good – while the State was pure evil. Just like a young liberal might blindly support the Democrats going to war as long as they are Democrats, I was passionately committed to my personal version of the truth, because I wanted to know it was true.

It is crucial to understand how the youthful mind of the ideologue works. During those first years of development, I was forming a wall of confirmation around myself that would help preserve the comfortable pod of experience I assume life should be. It was only when I started looking at sources of every different persuasion, including those previously dismissed as the byproduct of “loser liberalism,” that my perspective changed. I began to understand how complex issues happen to be, and the wisdom in examining them not from the standpoint of kneejerk and glib outrage, but a holistic, inquisitive approach.

Ideally, age will naturally bring about this change, but it is no hard guarantee. With our hectic work schedules and social commitments, the lull of stagnant thinking can be rather sultry, even as the greying nears. Find a quick explanation and be done is the standard, much as before. Thus we see the importance of aging bound inseparably to learning. To free your mind, you must be always curious, and consistently humble, not just now, but throughout life.

Go on, and explore.