Economic History · Federal Government · Personal Finance

The Ministry of Normal Existence

I’ve spoken before on the trend of the government and corporations essentially becoming one and the same. This is not “corporatism,” as many lolbertarians will smugly insist. It does however spell disaster for the future, and most especially in the short-term. The difficult part is ascertaining what precisely individuals can do in a strategic manner to protect themselves from this great scourge.

First on the list of grim tidings is the story emerging about Bank of America. The company, which currently occupies a position as the second-largest bank in our country, has been caught serving as a dutiful underling for the State. According to Tucker Carlson, BOA reviewed the private transactions and records of customers to determine if they had taken part in the DC events last month. What’s more, they were casting a wide net, going after people who had no indications of involvement with that scenario.

Even the greatest liberal humanitarians should find fault with this behavior. Corporations that rhapsodize about protecting customer data from breaches or marketing can simply turn around and hand it over to the powers that be, all in the name of security policy. There is no bar or threshold requirement, only the shrill declarations of politicians who lie frequently to generate hyperbolic sympathies. Not to mention what throngs of young fools will buy it all absent questions.

But problems fail to end there. Various airlines have already moved to ban passengers affiliated with the controversial protest, effectively crafting their own no-fly lists out of thin air. Bear in mind that these people have not been convicted of any crime; they simply hold a political opinion now considered to be toxic. Yet the desperate calls for regulating out-of-control corporations seem strikingly quiet, largely because people stand to benefit politically from such disenfranchisement.

So what is the proper solution? One might point to the notion of a protective rights bill, though this will require passage through the upper house, where finance and tech lobbying has no limit. Alternatively, a push for nationalization and redistribution of profits to the poor could feasibly scare the larger firms into better guarding individual liberties, though I certainly think they will fight on all fronts to defend the sniveling worship of power.

After all, it is a tremendous drug.

Economic History · Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

What Happens To Bitcoin Post-Dollar?

This is more of a thought piece than anything else, though I’m sure it will rile up a lot of Bitcoin HODLs and “technical analysts.” Much as I own (not enough) of the shiny algorithm coin,  the entire way we go about perceiving future currency seems rather warped. It’s a question requiring a bit beyond the typical wide-eyed enthusiasm of liberty advocates and the general freedom rabble.

For a long time, the theory of Bitcoin promoters has been that its limited cap of 21 million units serves as a safe store of value versus the highly-inflated dollar, which shows no signs of stopping its brrr-a-thon. Coin baggers predict that their currency will continue to rise as governments spend and borrow, perhaps at some point replacing the classical concept of “fiat” or paper money. Folks who have bought or continue to purchase before Bitcoin’s rise to a dominant financial position will be rich, while others are left with largely worthless investments.

But there’s one problem of sorts. These Bitcoin pumpers are basing their wealth and success on its exchange rate with the U.S. Dollar. In other words, to be a Bitcoin “millionaire,” you must assess its value in accordance with the same fiat currency that is supposedly unstable. Selling out of Bitcoin to realize some of this wealth means holding large amounts of an inflationary currency which continues to rise along with the president’s signature on spending bills.

Now, a skeptic could argue he will buy gold with his Bitcoin, but this is highly inconvenient for global transfer and transactions where the price point is less than a full ounce of yellow metal. Furthermore, gold itself is giddily valued in line with the dollar, despite the fact that its supporters believe fiat to be unstable and inflationary. A goldbug I knew even tried to diminish the validity of S&P 500 returns by claiming they were based in dollars instead of gold, despite arguing for gold on the basis of dollars.

This brings us to an important query: what happens if the dollar actually collapses, or ceases to exist? Does gold continue to “store” value? Is Bitcoin still worth a lot of money relatively, or does it adopt a dominant position attune to the dollar, albeit with less inflationary tendencies? And what happens to the people who failed to purchase crypto when it was cheaper in dollar terms? Are they doomed to scraping out an existence with whichever fiat currencies remain, or trying to collect a monthly check of 0.00000000001 BTC to afford the good consumerist lifestyle?

No one can really know. The future might be crypto, but that scenario could end up being unpleasant, depending on who possesses a bigger account.   

Economic History · Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

The XRP Smackdown

There has been much gnashing and simping over the announcement of an SEC lawsuit against Ripple, one of the more controversial cryptocurrencies on the market. For some, the move is confirmation of their fears that XRP is a scam, and carries with it an advisement to purchase Bitcoin. Others are holding the line, suggesting the storm will work itself out and leave Ripple stronger than before.  

I tend to be in the latter category, perhaps driven in part by my long-time holding of the currency, but also because the lawsuit itself seems rather like a rather flimsy last-ditch attempt at relevance by Jay Clayton, the outdoing SEC chairman and historical big bank shill. Take a look at the government’s statement:

“We allege that Ripple, Larsen, and Garlinghouse failed to register their ongoing offer and sale of billions of XRP to retail investors, which deprived potential purchasers of adequate disclosures about XRP and Ripple’s business and other important long-standing protections that are fundamental to our robust public market system.”

The SEC’s argument hinges around the idea that Ripple should have been registered as a security (like a stock) rather than a currency, and thus their practices are problematic under federal law. They claim that the coin’s coming into existence with an existing trove of units rather than gradual mining of new ones pushes it outside the cryptocurrency category, as buyers were purchasing coins from the company itself.

Much as this might seem devastating to XRP’s future, it runs up against an obvious issue: the government previously granted Ripple the status of a currency, and thus will have to go against its prior declarations. While the SEC has won lawsuits against other altcoins in the past, this was following the release of a 2017 directive on their part, a rule which post-dated the ICO of Ripple. Thus Jay Clayton and Co. will need to prove XRP was running afoul of existing rules despite the relatively uncharted waters of cryptocurrencies in federal code.

Another obstacle for the federales surrounds the openness of the global community. Although Uncle Sam might well crackdown on firms like Ripple, other jurisdictions could opt for looser restrictions, or perhaps adopt XRP for themselves. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that smaller countries begin to use Ripple, and geopolitical opponents may well do the same. In any case, the nature of crypto makes it difficult for a single bureaucratic move to put the kibosh on all hope.  

Of course this could just as easily be investment white-knighting on my own part, but at least the cheap price of Ripple makes any future collapse largely nonthreatening.

Culturalism · Economic History · investing · Personal Finance

What Value Money Really Has

One of the most annoying aspects of reading historical texts involves being exposed to concepts which are simultaneously exciting and depressing, on the latter point because you realize the information will likely never have widespread acknowledgement. Such truths remain distant and untouched, at best exposed on occasion by the lone examiner to his motley crew, who may not actually be interested. But still he must do so, because otherwise the wisdom will be lost to a larger portion of the population.

I admit to feeling this way following my run through several political works by Feder. Although somewhat dogmatic at times, he manages to break down the question of currency and usury in a manner which countless lolbertarians and Marxists fail to do, despite their public acceptability. What’s more, the discourse doesn’t demand an excessively unmerciful slog through the miseries of Das Kapital, or any “free market” equivalent.

At the heart of Feder’s advocacy is the notion that debt-financed capitalism (which he calls Mammonism) creates slaves out of people and destroys nations. Folks are tethered to their debtors and spend long swaths of life attempting to serve the objectives of the banker class, in many cases falling into utter destitution during the process. Even traditional socialism is blamed for this, insofar as Marxists make deals with private corporations to issue interest-paying loans for state projects.  Thus the outcome remains subservience and poverty on the leftist front as well.

In contrast, Feder demands the eradication of all interest on loans, replacing such private measures with offerings by the State, with only the principle to be repaid. The implications of such policy are substantial, even in the context of our modern age. If the government cannot borrow on interest, it seems probably that our debt would be much lower, as U.S. interest on liabilities alone was $404 billion last year. Furthermore, interest-free loans by the government would have certainly softened the 2008 crisis, when many people lost their homes due to the machinations of the Adjustable Rate Mortgage.

On money itself, he describes paper currency as essentially a voucher representing – but not holding within – the value of what labor has been performed. So in effect a person who pays for their car to be washed is actually purchasing the value innate in the service, which can then be exchanged by the washer for other goods or services. The result is more of a barter system than the “money is money” arguments we see strewn across popular discourse. From here we get to the nationalist concept of a currency being backed by labor or productivity, as opposed to gold or merely the printing press.

Towards the end of his tract, Feder endorses a wealth tax, and makes an interesting argument about inheritances. He dismisses the concerns of those who might not be able to pass on wealth by suggesting what they should care about is raising their children well enough to live successfully in the world. Taken in the context of the “Affluenza ” case some years back, his logic is quite interesting.

Because the info is unique, I may find a way of including it in the possibly upcoming book on Rightist socialism. Time will tell.

Culturalism · Personal Finance · Uncategorized

Monuments To Nothing

As a teenager I rode the local commuter bus to college in the days before I could afford a car. It was an interesting experience, particularly due to all the interesting characters I would come across, from government-paid drivers ranting about the dangers of socialism, to the historically butthurt claiming fares were racist. On an especially rainy day, when the bus was emptier than usual, a guy about my age struck up conversation about philosophy and life. “Mark,” as he called himself, was concerned over the decay of society, a matter being expressed in various forms, but especially so with the bland nature of architecture, which he saw as communicating nothingness and unoriginality. We ended the discourse at my stop with a handshake, and ventured off into that somber world.

I only saw Mark once after that day, this time in passing, but his message has struck me as immeasurably profound with each passing year. Even a cursory look at new developments tells the undoubting tale: the objective is functionality, not art or community. Take a glance over here, for instance:

Pretentious vinyl siding rushes about the landscape’s face, displacing any alternatives, such as wood, stone, or brick. The colors are drab stains of white or gray, cut through only by the random placement of windows giving no evidence of skilled impression apart from the tablet-fed blueprints of Toll Brothers and their associated clan. The double back doors are imprisoned by cheap-looking baby gates drilled into the siding – a final insult for those unwilling to pay for the full wooden deck model. Those so fortunate to spend the additional $20,000 can relish their descent into a yard of astro-turf grass, green and cordoned as expected.

What prevails in these models is a stark sense of disinterest in creating the classical vignette of a close-knit neighborhood. The homes (or townhomes) stand there to serve as miserable and costly testaments to the need for proximity to a commuter route, and thus Wonder Bread on the table. Anything else is beneath slight importance. After all, with “smart” devices and the surveillance witch machine, why should anyone care about their fellow residents?

The basic necessities approach pales utterly in contrast to traditional German-American visions in the Midwest, which were driven by a sense that neighborhoods and buildings ought to forge ties between those within, and reflect the dynamism of community. While house models might have been similar to start with, the final touches insisted on showcasing the unit as representative of that family. The neighborhood as a whole was meant to inspire common pride and unity, as opposed to mainline consumerist isolationism.

In many respects, modern architecture highlights our civic and cultural slouching towards mediocrity. To have something unique, one must become a collector, or maybe restore the ancient structures yet remaining. Trying to select a custom model in new residential areas is next to impossible, because everyone is expected to be the same, and observe rules issued by the tyranny of a HOA. Conformity now holds paramount importance, with the vestiges of uniqueness best expressed by a new set of wheels—themselves paid for by overextended credit and bitter squalor. Defiance only comes on the heels of financial turmoil.  So we distance ourselves, obey post-liberal rules, and settle behind the big screen for the brain-melting ganache of Netflix.

Perhaps Mark was righter than he knew. I’d like to tell him so, but that would require a world build upon  community.

Culturalism · investing · Personal Finance

The Cost of Prosperity

For at least the past thirty years, allegiance to market liberal economics in the West has been colored by a mostly bipartisan support structure. Conservatives embrace capitalism wholeheartedly, while mainstream leftists operate under the Clinton-Blair-Renzi deluge of “Third Way” thinking. Skeptics do exist, yet even they carefully align criticisms to fit the neo-liberal sphere, certifying that the principal concept of meritocratic expansion is not too harshly eradicated. Because for all of its faults, the liberal economy is seen as the “best of the worst,” just like democracy seems to be the safe option for nation-state organization.

The threat of such ideological complacency rests with petty dismissal, not only of opposing viewpoints, but individual human lives. We see this most vividly with the destruction of traditional agriculture. After India liberalized its markets in the 1990s, the country saw a wave of suicide on the part of farmers reaching over 250,000 people, with the cause attributed to their inability to compete. Although free markets allegedly make products cheaper – allegedly – they also contribute to the conditions under which smaller producers may struggle to survive. This is due to the manner in which neo-liberalism causes farmers to compete with large, GMO-empowered companies who strive to corner the market with expensive seeds and equipment that drive agriculturalists into debt. All it then takes is a drop in commodity prices for the little guy to lose his family farm and fall into despair.

On the latter point, the “it’s good for the economy” argument related to pricing of goods hides major cynicism. Cutting out pesky regulations and tariffs may result in cheaper products for the world at-large, but these basic (and typically lower quality) items look rather toxic when they come at the expense of one’s livelihood. In line with the India example, Syrian farmers were left destitute after Bashar Al-Assad signed a free trade agreement with Turkey that flooded the Damascus world with cheap imports. Think too of Midwestern Americans being able to afford a fancy smartphone thanks to globalization, while working a minimum wage job to replace the factory’s closure. Goods may be cheaper, but so are wages, or employment itself.

Where quality is concerned, the issue goes beyond a thing’s basic utility. GMOs and preservatives might have theoretically allowed us to feed much of the world by diminishing the risks inherent to poor harvests or malnutrition, but are the costs worth it? America for example has incredible rates of deadly disease tied directly to the typical Burger’s horrendous diet. Greasy and processed foods seem convenient, and still the outcome is destructive. We have lost sight of concrete natural cycles in order to feel like nothing impedes the bustling of everyday lives, and our jobs which have no meaning.

Affordability can also reduce the value of an item, even for the classes who are better-positioned to enjoy it. The more we accumulate, the less individual possessions matter, leading some down the path of aggrandizing products simply to extract value from a paycheck. “I have money so might as well spend it,” becomes the zeitgeist of distilled existence. Then on the opposite spectrum we see those made poor by liberal prosperity, who must compensate by describing their own lifestyle as a dynamic dungeon escape towards the mythical land of Minimalism.

Imagine if instead those souls worked the soil they stood upon for the food in their mouths, the love under their roof, and the belief clasped to their hearts.  

Culturalism · investing · Personal Finance

Does Gold Really Have “Intrinsic” Value?

Hanging around investing circles results in the brain being peppered by a plethora of loaded talking points. These might include specimens such as “Value Investing,” or “Contrarian Growth,” themselves miniature tribes to help organize the sphere of economic debate. An especially lovable variety is the claim summarized as, “Gold is better because it has intrinsic value.”

Yet does this argument stand up in the real world? The term “intrinsic” is defined as “belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing” by our frat bros at Merriam-Webster. Applied to gold, the concept becomes a little bit dicey, to say the least. To be clear, Burl Ives’ beautiful metal can be employed to build a variety of modern technologies, so in that realm its naturalistic state may hold value, providing of course that no replacement substance is found. Other metals such as silver enjoy similar advantages, although they do not necessarily track the same price levels as those bright yellow blocks.

That being said, as a firm medium of exchange versus the mocked “fiat currency,” gold’s worth should be called into question. Currencies or assets are ultimately worth something based upon how individuals (or large groups) value them. In the United States, our government has long since adopted a policy of monopoly money inflation, but this doesn’t mean people ignore a $20.00 bill lying on the sidewalk. The piece of paper holds value due to perceptions of the institution behind it. Because America remains a major world player with powerful military resources, we have not been relegated to the status of the Zimbabwean Dollar or Argentine Peso, even against eternal criticisms by Austrian-leaning economists. Inflation is of course real in the United States, but our country’s position prevents it from becoming as  visibly horrible and destructive as it might otherwise be. Were the nation to lose its international standing, or if large swaths of the population suddenly reject paper money, this would of course change.

Gold on the other hand appears safe because there is a limited known supply on earth, and it cannot be printed by central banks. True, but technology exists allowing scientists to create the metal in a lab, and while it is presently cost-prohibitive for businesses, could a powerful government with the ability to print endless sums of a (valued) currency not pursue the endeavor, and succeed in flooding the market? There is also the possibility of more sophisticated approaches being developed to reduce the expensive nature of the process, which would radically disrupt the metals bazaar.

Placing all else aside, gold like any paper currency retains value largely due to how people perceive its worth. If we take the extreme scenario of inflationary and societal collapse peddled by libertarians, the glistening doubloons will only matter for those who wish to have them, or folks seeking to construct things from the metal. Most people are liable to be interested in bartering for guns and food, two resources less popular in the Wonderful World of Mike Maloney. Not to mention the influence of private armies who could well issue their own currency, enforced as always by the barrel of a gun.

With all this I seek not to dismiss the importance of precious metals in an investment portfolio. My own includes them (but more so silver), and concentrating your resources into one asset alone is risky. It is however crucial to not drink deeply of the popular swill pushed by gold marketers. Last time I checked, most (if not all) are taking payments in that crisp-smelling green paper doomed to make our bank accounts absolutely worthless.  

Stay safe and take the Gold Pill.   

Culturalism · Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

Is Economic Decentralization Actually Good?

Among libertarian circles in the United States, there is a stalwart love for the concept of the gig economy model. The late politician Harry Browne openly advocated that employers should sack their workers and rehire everyone as independent contractors, while Gary Johnson was arguing for the Uberization of everything just a few years back. Their logic holds that getting outside government restrictions allows individuals to earn more, and companies to spend less. It sounds almost like a win-win scenario across the board.

Of course things are far more complicated in the applied economic sphere. As much as 1099’s and “zero hours contracts” are streamlined to begin with, the State has not cooperated with matters going forward. Contractors are thus left having to put aside money throughout the year in anticipation of a tax charge that would otherwise be taken out from the regular employee paycheck.  The result is people (especially the more youthful) getting shafted when they forget or fail to accumulate enough in savings to meet the annual tax bill. In theory the model is more efficient, but also dangerous to the average person’s financial picture.

Being off the hook for standard deductions can also increase the chances of having to purchase health insurance directly as a consumer, without any employer subsidies. Again, the model sounds great, though participants need to be careful about the type they buy. Cheaper health insurance plans and health sharing programs can elect for special rules to delimit their liability for conditions otherwise insured by federal mandate. An example of the shortcoming centers on the story of a diagnosed cancer tumor being deemed a preexisting condition, allowing the Medi-Share plan to deny financial support for medical services. The patient managed to successfully appeal, but at the cost of stress from a five-figure treatment bill.

High personal costs are often accompanied by unimpressive pay for gig workers. Although a top-performing delivery or rideshare driver can theoretically bring in over $1,000 per week, this is liable to demand long hours and no off days due to the nature of the market. Of course none of the money totals are guaranteed like a regular worker’s paycheck, so the pressure level can be astronomically higher, leading to mental health issues. Tie everything to the need to maintain one’s own car, and the picture becomes solidly grimmer.

The other issue with gig mania is the propensity for the leading firms to suppress individual freedoms. While Uber and Lyft have long been heralded as a way for the market to beat back the corrupt taxi union cartels and their big government supporters, they also permit a few silicone nerds to control service access. Uber itself recently admitted to banning 1,250 riders from the app for not observing corona mask restrictions. That’s over a thousand people who can no longer use the taxi service because their name and info has been blacklisted, and doesn’t include the political figures banned from their cars as well. A traditional cab would allow you to pay in cash, hence even those marked for derision would have the option to ride.  

So yes, decentralization has granted us enhanced freedoms, but in a twisted, cynical way. No longer must we tangle with the machinations of payroll; instead, one can simply stress and struggle to conserve money before STILL filing taxes amidst those April flowers. Hours are flexible, but so is the ability to even make a living. The greasy, unkempt medallion taxis have been replaced by loyal contract vehicles, but watch what you think, or they’ll pass on by.  

Ahh, the taste of liberty!

Culturalism · Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

The Internet Entitlement Mentality

A visible phenomenon I’ve witnessed over years as an online personality is the general peevishness shown by younger people towards any information on the internet with a price tag. They have no problem adding stuff to the cart on mom’s Prime subscription, but once outside the safe zone of parental compensation, everything seems too expensive. Not only that, but the very act of placing an item for sale is responded to with derision and outrage, as if the seller has some nefarious or insincere motivation behind their storefront.

It’s worth chasing an explanation of just why this behavior occurs. To start, we must recognize that few present partakers had any role in the creation of the internet machine, and even less possessed the intellectual capacity to even conceptualize it before Internet Explorer was the bomb. Those higher IQ folks who did join the party managed to create a fairly-accessible model, bound up in their idealism and general libertarian philosophy. They obviously monetized the juggernaut with advertisements, but as far as regular browsing and access, one doesn’t pay per page, or per download, save through subscription to a service provider.

Consequently, young people have been brought up with the idea that all content is free, unless of course they wish to donate to a pair of yoga pants on OnlyFans. Millions of hours on YouTube, an open access encyclopedia, and free educational services make youthful souls believe only their own mindset is a limitation, not money or credit. So naturally the moment a person attempts (even if they didn’t) to generate some return on their offerings, the digital liberty peepers are back to screech about “grifting,” or “taking advantage of us.”

The former claim strikes as rather odd, because such behavior seems more attune with a person asking for donations which are unneeded, or using corruption in government to profit. On the flip side, presenting some products for purchase at low price tags, with the option to return digital options within a week for refund, hardly falls into the same category.  If anything, it simply displays a reality containing the sacrifices of life, particularly when hours are poured into a single work. Gaining a modest (and often negligible) return from that effort is the principle, one that many of course reject outright. As for the secondary possibility, no one is forced to buy, yet they still grumble.

Part of the issue might relate to differences between creatives and consumers. The first squad understands the struggles of late nights, edits, curriculum-building, research, and design. They have lived the casualty time now lying as distant memory, and wish to recuperate a sliver of what’s lost, more in honor of those hours spent than for financial reasons. Our latter friends simply view the finalized piece and hide behind their glistened frustration that someone might make money, or is simply daring to do so. “It should be free,” becomes their long-standing cry, as castigation for merchants with the gall to become better rise upon lips.  

At the end of the day, the entitlement mentality will only worsen if jobs become scarce in the future. Deprived of money – or at least more than a pittance – the Zoomer-tier Moolenials shall rain spiritual anger down upon the independent content creator, banishing him to parts unknown, where attention is little and peace of mind abundant. Then the angry freedom fellow will mozy on to Amazon, and add some more items to his mom’s cart, perhaps now funded by that seductive Freedom Dividend.