Culturalism · Economic History · Federal Government

The Cult of Conventionalism

I hope this will be the last (contemporary) political post made on the blog for a while. As much as the topic is compelling, one cannot escape the feeling of its overall vapidity. We observe representatives voting to object to an election in small numbers, knowing well in advance the act is mere grandstanding to avoid what harsh realities a corrupt system has foisted on the people. They “do their part,” even while the finishing glaze was conjured up weeks ago.

Strangely enough, there is a different kind of electoral moralization going on in D.C. and state capitols around the country: that of defending convention. Not long after the fury blew up on Capitol Hill, empowered libertarian representatives quickly rushed to “defend the Constitution” by joining with Democrats and ratifying the results of an obviously corrupt election. These are the same characters frantically warning about excess spending, surveillance, and endless wars, yet the critical moment is simply too trying for their sensibilities. So instead of taking a principled stand to favor what they believe, the route is one of guarding the system and status quo.

What makes this behavior especially confusing is the purveyors’ own knowledge that they are waging a losing battle by being good town watchmen over modern day malevolence. The reason spending does not come down is because the decision gets devolved across fifty different states, all with various projects and payoffs lined up for fulfillment. Wars are similarly driven by money, and continue to be pushed by the uniparty majority despite public opposition. Such programs are not going anywhere on the basis of libertarian idea-spreading, and certainly no Balanced Budget is forthcoming.

Keeping all that in mind, what exactly do these steady tradition enforcers get in exchange for their complicity? The simple enough answer is as follows: an opportunity to flaunt moral self-righteousness by being “right” because they warned folks in advance. If the rest of us had only listened to the libertarians and conservatives, somehow the cities wouldn’t be burning, racism would hardly matter, and decency might reign supreme. Now that all is ashes, we should turn and recognize our steady friends who wouldn’t allow the structure to collapse, not for all the ideological triumph in the world.

Perhaps an addendum here should speculate as to whether the system defenders cultivate a martyr complex in their minds to feel better about the collapse of convention. It would certainly jive well with the sacrificial themes of those Abrahamic religions they follow, in which the upright are cut down while preaching forgiveness and respect towards their enemies. Thus they can die (or devolve into the political deserts) knowing their honor was bright, and the other side is wrong or sinful.

Now let us pose one final query: should the more radical Rightists somehow seize power in the future, what shall the libertarians and conservatives do? Will they yet lament the collapse of the system, which holds the bulk of their spiritual wealth, or simply revert to becoming grifters aligned to that triumphant cause?    

Like Descartes, I leave the answer to my dreams.

Culturalism · Economic History · Federal Government

Is AOC Actually Wrong?

Ever since her victory in the 2018 Democratic primary over incumbent corporate Dem Joe Crowley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been the prevailing fodder of Conservatism Inc. They love yukking it up over her air-headed takes on the issues, and lamenting the seemingly-delusional slide of her millennial supporters towards socialism. As irrelevant as she happens to be in the grand scheme of things, they simply can’t let go of the entertainment factor.

The latest iteration of their guffawing comes in the form of the following tweet, in which she gets angry at people dismissing her as a do-nothing social media icon:

Of course we have the obligatory Cernovich reply below, which, coming from the biggest Twitter prostitute of all, drips of smug hypocrisy:

Much as we might like to dismiss AOC’s complaint, it feels rather legitimate in the context of modern politics. Sure, she mostly makes big statements and tweets, but then again, what politician doesn’t do the same? Trump certainly is guilty of this, and for that reason alone he may have lost considerable support. Take a look at these examples:

So he’s “closely monitoring” a situation as the country tears itself apart, just like he promised an executive order on birthright citizenship, and the classification of AntiFa as a terrorist organization. Then we have Jim Jordan screeching about Big Tech, all while planning to do nothing, These are supposedly “strong” indications of action, but in the end they manifest as nothing more than empty words, just like AOC’s public proclamations. The deceptive smoke blows both ways.

If we examine democracy from a broader perspective, this is not exactly new. Politicians have always made large declarations about their intentions or ideas to do something, for the simple fact that election or reelection depends upon visibility and assumed competence. A leader who chooses to play it safe and focus on the policy wonk aspects is liable to be smothered, as the media will not report anything beyond the headline, apart from C-SPAN at least. Thus these short messages are strategic, even if they amount to little in the end.

The relative “problem” caused by AOC is not so much “only tweeting,” but rather the manner in which she has somewhat dislodged the established “conservative” alternative media from its fine pedestal. Prior to her rise, the leftist burn-bringers online were largely made up of the Young Turks or ripped segments from cable news. While useful, these sources lack the power of an indignant and uncompromising opposition. AOC on the other hand injects a certain vitality into the narrative which they cannot control, especially in regards to the role of government versus corporations. That is the main issue.

Tweet on, and do nothing.   

Federal Government · investing

Can Bitcoin Be Regulated?

One of the great cultural nuances of the internet is how everyone can be right. Providing you are convincing, or at least look the part, most effective dissent will get chucked out the window, along with any need for respect. In point, we have the prototypical messaging of the Bitcoin-promoting community, which often argues that digital currency is beyond government regulation or control due to algorithms and encryption. They have some credibility, but as with all things deemed to “beat the system,” there are major exceptions which must be considered.

To start, the idea that crypto transactions can simply fly under the radar is muddled by known IRS actions. The federal government has already issued warnings to thousands of people about failure to report crypto gains to the IRS, and significant penalties lurk for those who flaunt such warnings. We also have the recent indictment of John McAfee for allegedly hiding cryptocurrency assets. Thus from a reactive standpoint the State is already gearing up for the long haul fight.

Perhaps more immediately, reports suggest the government seized around $1 billion worth of Bitcoin connected to the controversial Silk Road marketplace, whose founder Ross Ulbricht was given a life sentence for numerous alleged crimes. That’s a small but noticeable chunk of the overall coin value, and it’s not the first time Uncle Sam has held a stake. Other governments such as Bulgaria have snapped up digital currency in the past, with the leaders in Sofia holding 200,000 bitcoins at one stage.

Ruling out these sorts of criminal situations, what of the more obvious methods for centralized regulation? Governments could begin requiring trading firms like Coinbase to meet specific standards of licensure and tax reporting, much as investment companies are required to do. They might also go after crypto miners, placing restrictions or taxes on their Morian mainframes These are hardly out of the question when we examine the history of the State, and its insatiable desire for money.

By this I don’t mean to suggest crypto is a bad idea; in fact, I own a great deal and will continue adding. Just avoid becoming too drunk on the swill of lolbertarianism. As Ronny boy might say, “The government wants what it wants.”

Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

Can Free Market Healthcare Work?

One of the silliest debates in the last ten years has been that surrounding healthcare. Progressives screech about the need for broader Medicare coverage, and conservatives extol the virtues of “free market reforms” to bring down medical costs. In both cases, they miss the mark by fixating on the delivery of insurance rather than an elimination of health issues in the first place.

For the purposes of this post, let us consider conservative arguments. They will typically join libertarians in advocating a rollback on insurance regulation and hospital restrictions, along with less government intervention in the economy. Many will note that in 2013, government spending was already 48 percent of the total for healthcare, and yet costs do not seem to be coming down. They might even point to the historical example of Nelson Rockefeller, who tried to expand government coverage of people under Medicaid, but had to abandon the program after it became too expensive.

These are all valid concerns, yet we run up against several problems. To begin with, as long as hospitals find it difficult to deny care to those who cannot pay, fellow travelers will end up footing the bill. Private insurance already acts like a placeholder of sorts for the government in these situations, but they simply amp up premiums on others to support the weaker links. Further complicating matters on the insurance side is the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, which granted sweetheart exemptions to the insurance industry from federal antitrust laws, making it harder to prevent price gouging.

At least for the purer conservatives and libertarians, antitrust restrictions are a troubling question, appearing to some as a needless restriction on liberty. Others term them “anticompetitive,” and claim such legislation was only implemented to benefit industry actors who were losing market share. The front is thus not unified, although the House did vote overwhelmingly to approve a repeal of McGarran-Ferguson in 2010, only to see it die in the Senate.

The bigger issue being left out of the free market argument is the effect which lifestyle has on personal health. It’s easy enough to note that people must take responsibility for their own diet and exercise regimen, but this view fails to acknowledge contributing health factors sourced in other areas. If we fail to properly regulate food production, for example, we might well have hog waste getting into the water supply, if not the ham itself. The consequences have been algal blooms and massive fish casualties, yet who knows how many humans might already be affected.

Permitting high levels of added sugar in cereals or snacks is another problem. Sure, people are responsible for their own actions, but children will be capricious over what they want. In some cases, those kids might have been raised consuming junk, and not know any different. The mere availability of unhealthy foods might also result in them being consumed because of convenience, particularly if there is no existing market for healthier alternative in close proximity.

Sensible regulation is an obvious solution, with the EU providing baselines, but conservatives and libertarians will often come out against any further government control – while also demanding free market healthcare. Clearly this poses a problem. If people are eating garbage products because “it’s good for the economy,” then they will likely drive up costs after developing conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Unless care is entirely individualized, with people “only paying for what they need,” and those unable to pay getting denied service, even private sector insurance will end up subsidizing them through risk pools and higher premiums. In other words, everyone gets charged more.

Thus we are left with a conundrum. Either we must overhaul food production and environmental protections to prevent disease in the first place, or make everyone pay out of pocket for their needs alone. As long as insurance plays a leading role however, the latter idea remains a wistful thought.