Brett Rants

Freedom Quest

The Final Underground


Banyan tree, from Rainbow falls on the Big Island of Hawaii
Same content as previous, as is next
The import thing about banyans is that their branches grow upwards as well as down, new roots and trunks often start as vines twenty feet in the air, and huge areas ten and tweny feet around become a morass of smaller interconnected trunks

The above images are of banyan trees. And like every other image on this page, they have nothing to do with the following rant... except, perhaps, in that, those are some complicated intertwined branching patterns. And there is no reason to believe that three simple photographic images can possibly do them justice; while by the same token, a few thousand words hardly encompasses the subject at hand.

Don't Call it Anarchy

Lately, I've been looking for a Philosophy of the Self. Eh, I may have always been looking for a Philosophy of the Self and it's only lately that it's taken this particular turn. But whatever the case, at first blush Anarchy seems like a pretty good word for where my thoughts have been headed as of late.

At the same time, I know that I'm not really proposing to live as an Anarchist. I'm not going to blow anything up (not that blowing things up has much to do with Anarchy). I really don't care how the rest of mankind chooses to lead their lives. So, I am not proposing some sort of Universal Philosophy. And in truth, it's actually pretty hard for me to imagine that more than a small fraction of the population would ever willing chose to live as I do (at least, in the foreseeable future, anyhow). As such, it's probably a mistake to use the word Anarchy. Thus, I won't use it for the rest of this essay. But it's still the mental shorthand I use to describe the idea. So, if you are looking to pigeon hole the thought I'm going to be dancing around right from the start (or even, before I get started), well, that should be all the help anyone should ever really need.

Bullet Points to Freedom

Though, in truth, that's probably a bit more proscriptive than I'd like. So maybe, I should kill the directive and reword the list to something a little more self directed.

Politics as Art

Is calling Politics Art too highbrow? Then let me change the subject. Let's talk about Art. See, much easier to relate to.

In general, the type of 'Art' (and I do believe the quotation marks are a necessity) I prefer is:
Or to put it another way, I don't like 'Art' (and there does seem to be quite a bit of this sort of stuff making the rounds these days) that is:
Yeah. I know. Stuff exactly like this website (assuming one is feeling particularly hurtful and nasty).

But whatever, in all of that, one can find (if one is so inclined) the rationale for why I don't like (and/or respect in any meaningful way) Politics, the Legal System, and/or the Society that the prior two have created, you know, on account of it being an incoherent, slap-dash, assemblage of contradictory goals and agendas.

Which is to say, ultimately, I don't like what 'Our Leaders' have created. But to be fair (and this is very generous in a backhand sort of way), I no longer think improvement in the basic structure of society is possible. I believe that complex social interactions inevitably results in what I shall call (so mind the technical jargon) suckage. Thus, although I do think 'I could do that' when it comes to politics (yes, I most certainly do). I do not necessarily believe 'I could do better' (and maybe no one can).

Hence, at their core, I believe Politics, the Legal System, and Society at Large should be treated as a sort of work of collective art. And the parts that one finds displeasing, one should simply walk away from, so as to make more time for the better things in life.

So, just like when I'm spending a day at the Art Museum, I don't spend a lot of time looking at the 'Crap' and tend to focus on those pieces which speak to me. And in no instance am I planning on blowing up the museum, just because I would spend the endowment money a bit differently.

So, do we all kind of understand the basic premise?

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Action // Inaction
Being // Seeing
Standing // Sitting
Writing // Reading
I think that's clear enough. So, I will not belabour the point. And instead, will end this introductory section with another example.

Laws are Opinion

As a hobby, I've been reading Supreme Court Slips (Opinions for the 2015 Term, of which I have two to go out of eighty-one). But not having a Legal Degree and having done precious little legal research over the course of my life other than reading these slips, I am no expert. Oddly, that will not stop me from stating an opinion (though, it will, hopefully, cause me to be rather circumspect in the opinion I present).

All qualifications aside, after reading a four score and one (4 * 20 + 1 = 81, so maybe I said that wrong) Supreme Court Slips, these are my takeaways:
Now, granted, I could probably rant a long time about this particular subject (Supreme Court cases). And soon enough, I probably will. But one thing I don't want to get into at this particular point is the specifics of any particular case. All I wish to say is that I am confident enough, believe in myself enough, and/or am egotistical enough (and probably all three) that I believe my 'opinion' is as close to Truth & Justice as the 'opinion' of any Supreme Court Justice.

Why?

Well, maybe it has something to do with what The Law is all about: it's basis.

Current Law derives from Roman Law (hence all the Latin words and phrases). But the average Roman was not exactly a paragon of moral virtue, which means current law is not exactly about morals and/or virtue (it's about consistency).

To wit, the following 'Legal Dilemma' (I am led to believe) originates in Imperial Rome, but still manages to find its way into many a modern textbook as a sort of History Lesson (though, I will grant I may have added a few extra twists to the problem for the fun of it) .
A slave is in the forum getting his beard shaved by another slave, while still more slaves practice their gladiatorial combat nearby. One of the gladiators is pushed by another gladiator into the barber who slices the neck of the first slave. Given that all of the slaves are owned by separate Masters, who must pay who to make things right.
It's actually a rather fun problem and I'm sure many a Roman Jurist was denied their right to practice at The Bar on account of having never mastered it's intricacies (was the first slave patently worthless because he was stupid enough to get its beard shaved next to armed combatants, the second because he set up shop next to same, and so on and so forth), but of prime importance is the underlying belief that the life of a slave can be reduced to small stack (however small, the size is not important) of silver coins.

And it is in this reduction to silver (as apposed to a reduction to Truth or Justice) where I feel Society has gone wrong.

Road Side Shrine to the God Hwy... or a cross and flowers overlooking a vast expanse of open land

Roadside Altar

I am Ultimately Responsibility for Myself.

I don't really care about the slave in the market. I care about me. I believe this is both a healthy and normal outlook, which leads to this descending staircase of conclusions:
Thus, I am essentially denying the customary equation of:
Human = Human
And applying the metric of:
Human ≠ Human
or:
Human > Human
Obviously, I have a vested interest on which side of that equation I reside. And personally, I find it strange how many folks seem content to get the short end of the stick.

And that's the basic point of view of this rant, which I may or may not elaborate in a more cohesive fashion in the sections that follow.

The only Hero I'll worship is Myself

Being a collection of ideas that relate to the Denial of Unearned Authority.
One does not earn respect by being higher in the hierarchy, but by deserving to be higher.
Is this thing, this method, this person going to hurt me or help me, not based on the authority of another, but what I can see for myself.
The idea is to nurture a jealously guarded Will of the Self that originates in One's Self.

Neither a Master nor a Servant Be

Neither Master nor Slave be. It is harder to walk the Middle Road than one might imagine.
The media has an insatiable desire for spokespeople. But a movement of self-reliance and independence has no need for a leader; and as such, none will be found, except in those who choose to lead their life by example.
But, you know, talk is cheap...

Neither a Borrower nor a Lender be.

I aspire (yes, this is an aspiration) to reject money as a motivator.
Look to where The Money is now and that's who (or what) one must serve in their quest to obtain it.
Large Institutions tend to require money. So, by avoiding money, one tends to avoid those institutions, as well. Or looked at from the other direction, by avoiding large institutions, one's reliance on money is minimized.
Let's look at some numbers, shall we?
200 Human Beings *
50 Year Working Career *
$100,000 Yearly Salary =
$1,000,000,000.00
This is what it means for someone to be a billionaire: to control the collective Life's Work of Two Hundred other Human Beings. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be one of those Two Hundred Human Beings Whose Life has been Sacrificed to the Will of Another.

In every dollar obtained, one pays an implicit tax to the status quo, the Two Percent, the system that is: a tax which one does not have to pay if money can be avoided (i.e. the opportunity cost of pursuing money may be larger than it at first appears). And in the long run, the dividend of going one's own way can be much higher (in having a life that one wants).

Rules are Made to Be Broken.

Rules are made to be broken.
Good rules have exceptions.
And bad rules should not be...
The System doesn't have to work. After all, that's what the proles are for.
There is no need to assume The System works. It may. But it may also be implemented by disinterested third parties (a.k.a. employees), so one might not want to bet on it's efficiency.
Rather than a codified set of laws, I believe in Trial by Jury for all.
Whenever possible, private beliefs should trump public policy
A total devaluation of authority, institutions, historical precedent, and mass appeal.
Science has its citations and law its case studies; but in the end, Truth & Justice simply are and need no other proof.


This would be an altar like thing down by the sea in Hawaii, Heiau, I believe is what it is called, on the platform where offerings as might be befiting a god or certainly what those who placed them there considered important, intoxicants, money, flowers, and behind it all, the setting sun, quite the photograph in my ever so humble opinion

Seaside Altar

Hearing No Objections...

I'm not a one-dimensional being. This rant hardly encompasses the whole of my thought. And even though the idea I am playing with has had a central place in my thoughts for a few weeks now, I'm not going to argue it from all angles. Meaning, I am sure there are many counter-arguments of which I will only try to rebut two.

Complexity Requires Complexity

I like cities, skyscrapers, and computer networks. And these are all examples of large interconnected man-made complexes. Many believe (in fact, the common wisdom seems to hold that) these type of structures can only exist if there is some sort of central control organizing it all. Now, I would hope that the Internet and it's decentralized control would (by itself) be a valid counter example. But I can see how one might feel that a skyscraper (for instance) must have a single controlling entity. However, I don't believe this to be the case. Even those who manage (and/or build) skyscrapers, break them up into smaller units: exterior skin, elevators, lobby, parking area, individual floors, and so on. And without proving it (because I don't think the proof or it's counter -- meaning the position I hold or its opposite -- is provable in any meaningful sense), I am of the opinion that separate and distinct entities could (and would be just as likely given an appropriate legal framework) work more efficiently.

That still seems very unclear to me. So, pardon the irony, and let me refer to the experts.

Adam Smith (a leading economic thinker) was pro-capitalism, because the alternative (being pro-government) would mean endorsing large organizations, which he knew to be inefficient.

Friedrich von Hayek (another famous economist) was anti-communist, for essentially the same reason: communism consolidates power in a Central Committee, which leads to corruption and rule by idiots (though in this last, I may be using slightly different wording than he would have; though, the point remains).

In fact, I'd be hard pressed (although I am sure they exist) to find any pro-private enterprise (and therefore anti-communist or anti-government) economist whose pro-capitalistic rationale doesn't include some version of the idea that Centralized Committees don't work.

Therefore, I am putting forth that individualism (please read this as anti-authoritarianism) is the American Way. And I hold it as a belief that if the laws of the land were structured differently, it would be possible (as in not difficult and with very little negative consequence) to spread out control very-very thinly.

How thin?

Well, I have no problem splitting an airport into individual runways, flight control, fuel delivery, terminal, food concession, baggage handling, and so on; or dividing a rail road network into this station and that station, this mile of track and that mile of track, just as intensively as any skyscraper (as per my previous example).

And though it may be impossible to recreate an Aircraft Carrier Fleet utilizing this method of individual autonomy and decentralized control by the very nature of the Beast, there is no reason to believe that the Beast that would emerge instead would not provide more bang for less buck.

After all, if I believe Capitalism would work in the Skyscraper, Airport, and Rail Road examples, why not for the military, as well?

Hey, here's an idea! Give me the grant and I'll outline my recommendations.

Any takers?


Rural rustic images of decay, these two be, electric meters
green barn door

Ah, the good old days.

The Meritocracy has it's Merits.

I believe in the Meritocracy. But that's an incomplete sentence. I believe in the power of a Self-Organizing Voluntary Meritocracy; and that in the long run, such a system will beat all comers. In short: Note: In a Democracy, everyone's leaders are decided by everyone else; as opposed to everyone choosing their own leaders (which just might be themselves), as I am proposing.

The Blind Leading the Blind

In which it is shown (to my satisfaction, at least) the redundancy of Higher Education. So, a case study, if you will, showing the meaningless (to me) of one often touted (and much maligned) Hierarchical Structure.

First off, no one really believes in Higher Education. Of course, at one time, information was hard to come by. As a case in point, where I grew up, the local library was held in high regard. But even then, they had limited access to Scientific Journals. And there were only so many books on the shelves. But now, with the Internet, I can, at the touch of a button (or drop of a hat, but usually, I forgo dropping the hat) have near instantaneous access to:
So, not that I would use the word 'Communism' to describe the environment, but from my viewpoint the 'Capitalistic' aspects are of secondary importance. To wit:
Anyhow, to me, by effectively utilizing the Internet, one has access to (almost) anything and everything that a person could reasonably expect to gain access to by attending a major University. OK. Granted. This doesn't take into account the social aspects; but often, this just means drinking, so please forgive me if I downplay the educational importance of getting 'slammed' with one's peer group on a Saturday night.

However, with that said (and to be fair, I am all about fairness), there are at least two ways a traditional University Education surpasses the free online equivalent:
In many ways, the subject of Education can be seen as a side rant that I maybe should have broken out into a separate posting. And I'm sure one could argue that an Academic Advisor may have been able to give me some much needed feedback on how to keep this rant focused, you know, if only I had an Academic Advisor to advise me. But we all know the most likely advice any such Academic Advisor would have given would have been to skip this rant altogether. So, that's no good. On the other hand, just going on about how a University can be replaced by the Internet (and has been and continues to be for me) may not seem overly relevant to my broader thesis. So, let me reiterate the main different between teaching oneself and receiving a structured education:

CHOICE

Yes, it is true. In the traditional venue, one can decide many things (where to go, what to study, and so on), but the choices one makes are minimal compared to the things that must be accepted 'As Is'.

In a Self Directed Environment, everything is chosen: Self learning is a totally different animal. Granted, the Institutional Route guarantees a minimal amount of effort, which is one of the reasons I believe employers favour it. But after assuming the same amount of effort has been expended by the student (i.e. the scholar), I believe the self study route rocks the socks off of an Institutional Environment (you know, on an hour for hour basis). So much so, that at a certain level, everyone who goes the Institutional Route must (at some point) switch over to the self study route in order to remain (and/or become, depending upon one's point of view) competitive.

So, why are we hobbling students by forcing them to go the inferior route for most (and often times all) of their educational careers? Well, because that's the way it is, if you want the honest answer. And because, that degree (that piece of paper) is important for social and economic reasons (that have nothing to do with the knowledge and expertise the aforementioned piece of paper is supposed to represent). Trust me, if the degree (that piece of paper) wasn't important, college enrolment would plummet. But it likely would have very little effect on the overall diffusion of knowledge in society.

Eh, but that's just my opinion...


Another sunset, this time with those industrial strength windmills in silhouette, quite the image

Windmills! Tilting at! Get it?

The Social Solution

Knowledge is not conferred by a University. It is earned over time by the self.

By the same token, Institutions as a whole are not the generators of wealth, profit, or progress. Individual people are.

Which begs the question, how can a society be structured to best support its individual members?

And, of course, since this is the Internet, I shall give an astoundingly simple answer to such a complex question.

Rather than support corporations and institutions, society could simply support Individuals.

See, I told you it was simple.

Want to allow individuals to be all that they can be? Then put them in control. That is to say, reduce the influence institutions have over them. Which is to say, cut the power and influence of institutions off at the knees.

Now, the following is just a random implementation as to how one might favour individuals over structures. And in truth, the specifics matter not one wit to me. Further, I'm sure one can argue against it and say it won't work. But one can, also, argue for it and claim that it will work all easy-peasy, as well. And frankly, that's the route I'm going to choose: the optimistic route that assumes the idea speaks for itself. And what is that idea? That simple implementation? Well, I'm glad you asked:

A Graduated Flat Tax
On Gross Receipts
With NO Deductions or Exceptions

1% on First Million
2% on Second Million
100% on 100th Million
101% on 101th Million
200% on the 200th Million
The intent is to create an absolute limit on the amount of wealth (i.e. the portion of society) any one person may control. It really is as simple as that.

The main benefits: Speaking of The Moral Good, I am not a big fan of regulation; and as such, would limit regulation to that which is required to enforce The Moral Good. And here, I find it expedient to explicitly not define The Moral Good, except to say that I hear tell God only required Ten Commandments, so maybe something on that order of magnitude and complexity should be our guide.

Now, many folks like to bring up pollution or the like at this juncture and ask about its limitation. But if 'Pollution' (and once again, I will not define what this means) were to be treated as akin to Murder, Attempted Murder, and/or the like, I'm pretty sure there would be a whole lot less 'Polluting' going on.

As to smaller pieces being better, this is pretty much what Free Market Capitalism is all about. And one either believes in that or they do not. What can I say? I am a believer.

But 'Bigger is Better'?

I recognize that it may be countered that this does not take into account 'Efficiencies of Scale'. But as I view many (if not all) of these 'Efficiencies of Scale' as being artificially created, the argument is not convincing to me. After all, if there are true 'Efficiencies of Scale' then 'Bigger is Better' and we might as well go with some sort of Centralized Control across the board. But historically, this strategy has yielded mediocre results. And once one acknowledges the myopic nature of the Home Office (they only care about themselves and have never put another's interest ahead of their own despite any possible Social Benefit of doing so), there is no reason to value the Central Committee's input (on anything).

In the end, the above is a just a simple example, illustrating how changing something as simple as the tax code could have the effect of overhauling society and placing individual citizens on equal (or at least, equaler) footing with Multi National Companies. Which is to say, the seemingly inherent nature of capitalism evolving into a Corporate Oligopoly is not inherent in the least; but rather, comes as a direct result of the current implementation (i.e. the current legal environment).

Of course, whether or not the above tax code is reasonable or would achieve the results I claim is entirely unimportant, as I'm pretty darn sure such an overhaul is not going to happen in my lifetime. So, it's just a mental exercise.

Besides, if I am arguing (as I am) that individuals acting alone will (or at least can if they so desire) perform at levels that surpass individuals acting from within institutions(1), doesn't it make sense for any Solution to be Individual in nature?


(1): I believe Institutions derive their power from the sheer number of participants. But that the efficiency of those individuals is hampered by their association with said Institutions. So on a person by person level, self directed individuals achieve more than Institutionally dominated individuals. And in a nutshell, that is the main thesis of this rant.


two images of the same beach, one with hammock
one without, I could not tell you which looks more relaxing

Isn't there a better way? I like to think there's a better way.

Individual Solutions

Having no faith in society at large, it makes sense to concentrate on individual action. But in keeping with the rest of this rant, I do not believe there is any meaningful universal recipe for what type of action everyone should take (or even if everyone should take individual action, as some individuals might perform better from within structures) on account of individual differences. See, individual action might seem like a great idea to me, because it is a great idea for me. But you are not me. And so, individual results (and/or needs and desires) may differ.

Still, this wouldn't be much of a section on individual action (and I'm sure I would find the rant lacking in a major sort of way) if I didn't at least try to describe what works for me.

The Big Four

I try to work on each every single day, which is probably more hyperbole than truth. So, what is truth?

A lot (a whole heck of a lot) of the items on the preceding list are (to me) intrinsicly intertwined with the basic necessities of life:
In the end, I'm a big proponent of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which basically says: once the basics of life have been secured, a person will naturally seek more abstract levels of Self Enrichment. I mean, I recognize it's a hard sell to argue that the Meaning of Life boils down to food. But it's, also, difficult to concentrate on complex abstract thoughts (philosophy, meditation, near incomprehensible rants) when one is hungry. And Meditation (or at least, certain forms of it) are all about focusing one's awareness on their own breath. Funny, how important taking that next breath really is. Don't believe me? Might I suggest holding your breath until you do.

But most folks are at liberty to breathe as they will; and so, don't spend much time planning their next breath. Instead, they are much more interested in food, clothing, shelter, and so on and so forth, as they slowly move up the Hierarchy of Needs until they have the time, energy, and resources (call it the inclination) to pursue the more rarefied aspects of life: Love, Art, Philosophy, Science, & the Writing of Rants.

So, how does one ascend that Hierarchy of Needs? Well, as the joke goes:
And counter-intuitively, I find that I feel richer and more alive (which in many ways amounts to the same thing) when I:
Which may be too abstract, so at the risk of repeating myself, let me reiterate:
Action // Inaction
Being // Seeing
Standing // Sitting
Writing // Reading
Or if that's (still) unclear, I strive to Be a Doer. So, also:
Doer // Taker
As in, all things being equal (which they never are), it's preferable to eat that which one cooks for themselves rather than that which some waitress brings to the table.

And that's about it.

Perhaps this rant went astray long ago. But before I end, let me toss out a few final thoughts.
Online, I watch the popular videos, just like everyone else. But in certain specialized subjects, it's only me and a few hundred or thousand others. And that's where I will shine, amidst the company of a few thousand others, not against the untold millions.
When taking on new activities, those that are free or have some potential (however remote) of sending money my way are to be preferred over others. You know, so writing my own blog versus reading that of another.
Of course, that last bit of anti-media propoganda is easy for me to say. I'm not going to lose millions in advertising revenue if you decide to tune-out of the Media Culture completely (or simply turn your back on me and focus your eyeballs elsewhere). After all, as with most of my posts, the only thing I really ever expected to get out of this rant is a clearer understanding of myself for my own individual needs.

Well, that and to entertain our future Robotic Overlords.
The Writing of Fools: Comedy for the 22nd Century and beyond.


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I am not you.
I cannot follow where you have gone.
So it would be foolish of me to try.

Nor can you harness my true power,
Unless you let me roam where I will.

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Brett@Paufler.net