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Q: Your smartphone has just been stolen. What should happen next? A: Your phone should get the cops on the horn and lead them to the thief.

Here’s the truth of your life: Your so-called smartphone is pretty damned dumb. For one thing, it’s always interrupting your work with phone calls, wiping out whatever screen you happen to be working on. It does this because Steve Jobs, genius though he was, never quite wrapped his head around the idea of the cell-phone function as just another arrow in the quiver of your smartphone’s capabilities. What you actually want, when your phone rings while you are working at something else, is notice that you can drop everything to take the call — or not — without the phone making that decision for you.

I can do more: There is no reason for caller ID to be as stupid as it is. I want Heidi, of course, a full-blown database look-up when a new caller shows up on my phone. But lacking that, a truly smart smartphone would at least Google the number and display whatever information that search suggests about the caller.

But once we’ve gone that far, we get to an important question: Why is your smartphone shipping phone calls to you as phone calls? Data is data, and there is no longer any hardware or software reason to transmit phone calls by Ma Bell’s antiquated protocols. There may be cost or efficiency reasons, but it remains that a file-server-based “switchboard” could be a whole lot smarter than present-day cell-phone vendors seem to be. A lot of the Constance the Connector ideas would be best implemented on a truly smart phone system — one that pre-manages your calls before anything in your pocket sets off a racket.

But here is an entirely new way of thinking about smartphones, one that lets me solve a problem Jim Klein threw my way way back in the last century: Your phone can manage your online security better than any other means devised so far. With the right hardware and software, your phone, together with Sarah and Constance, can manage all of your financial transactions with perfect security and impenetrable encryption. Your phone can identify you — by way of your Constance profile — to any other hardware devices or software services you might use, effortlessly networking you — and handling all of that idiotic password diplomacy. Best of all, your phone can monitor your personal security, calling the police when you are at peril — or when it is.

I want for any device that draws electrical power — wired, battery-powered or generated, as with your car — to be IP addressable, controllable and reprogrammable by remote software. Why would this matter for, say, a refrigerator? So that its performance can be optimized, both according to your own usage patterns and in keeping with the manufacturer’s design profile, as it ages. If the data collected by your refrigerator is shared into your Constance profile, then anyone who might be able to make productive use of that kind of data will have a lot of it to play with — which suggests that you might get some fat coupons around replacement time, with that replacement having been designed in cognizance of all of that real-world data.

That’s a simple example, but here’s a better one: Imagine that you’re at a wedding. The professional photographers are in control of their own equipment, but they’ve also made several PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) video cameras, mounted high over the crowd, available to the guests. Those cameras are IP addressable, like every good thing, so you can log-in to an ad hoc network that lets you control a camera remotely from your smartphone or tablet computer. Precedence is negotiated by the age-old “dibs” system, with limits on access so everyone gets a chance to play. At the end of the wedding, the video from those cameras is available to everyone who participated, each one of whom can edit his or her own perfect wedding video.

Making devices remotely IP addressable enables a new style of networking. By interacting with my smartphone, by way of Constance, I can take super-user control over any new hardware I install. The act of installation itself implies the integration of the new device into the existing network of computing devices, and the negotiations needed to effect that integration are all handled by hardware and software, with no immemorable passwords or arcane networking protocols needed from me. Where are the APIs and drivers needed to set up communication? On Constance, of course, with each type of device capable of this kind of networking having its own Constance profile, and with each new device in your network reporting its performance and usage data out to your own Constance profile.

So I just came home with a brand new printer. I unbox it and plug it in, and, as I am doing this, Sarah on my phone is watching me do it and is pulling all the data she will need to successfully network that printer. She knows where it is in space, approximately, but she knows precisely where it is in my network topology. What’s left to do comes down to hardware and software hand-shaking — and Sarah can put an unhackable password on that printer that will protect it from unauthorized use but which I will never have to even see, much less learn or remember.

Meanwhile, I need to let Sarah know who else in my home or office is also authorized to use that printer, and which of those people share super-user powers with me. Ideally, I will have already set this up in my “circle” for this particular network. In other words, my printer will have been fully integrated into my network by Sarah, and all I had to do was plug it in. For the PTZ cameras at the wedding, the “circle” for that temporary network might have been the wedding invitation list or perhaps just every smart device within a radius of 50 yards or whatever. Once we have established that your smartphone is your digital ID card, any sort of networking is just a software problem.

So let’s think about what might make for a smarter smartphone. Sarah and Constance are doing the heavy lifting, but first the phone needs to be able to know that it is dealing with you and you alone. It must be able to identify you perfectly, without error. How can it do this? Biometrics.

I want for Sarah to be watching you all the time, as much as you will let her. She should be watching you from your phone’s cameras, but she should also watch you from any other camera in your vicinity that she can control. The data from those cameras is actually more than enough to identify you in a fault-free fashion, but your smartphone should also be monitoring your pulse, your skin temperature, your breathing, your speech patterns, etc. Your phone — and hence Sarah — should know with absolute certainty if the hand holding it is yours or someone else’s.

And that’s why your phone should call the cops as soon as it is stolen: It will know this has happened at once, since all of the biometric data will be suddenly and wildly different. Apple’s “find my phone” feature is cool — for now — but there is no reason that a truly smart smartphone should not be able to manage its own theft and recovery. Note the implication: No phone this smart would ever be stolen. The manufacturer would have to build a special procedure to permit resale, which, essentially, would mean reinitialization.

Jim Klein’s problem was this: How can I shop online without exposing my credit card information, possibly making it accessible to thieves? Just that much is a Constance job — my identification at checkout is @gswann. But Constance could easily take the next step of querying my phone to see if it’s really me shopping, or if someone is pretending to be me. All of the security hand-shaking can be handled by Sarah, deploying robust encryption and using protocols that are not even available to wet-ware devices like you. This is perfect identification coupled with perfect security — all of it super-fast and unimaginably cheap.

And all of the personal security ideas I wrote about in my discussion of ubiquitous video can be effected by these same means. If your smartphone is watching you and everyone around you all the time, it would be duck-soup to do the kind of facial recognition, behavioral profiling and data-base mining I talked about in that essay. With nothing more than a phone sticking out of your shirt pocket and the appropriate software on the server side, you would be forevermore protected from virtually all common crime. There is no accounting for madness or rage, but crimes-of-calculation against your person — mugging, pick-pocketing, rape — would be a thing of the past. You don’t even need elaborate software to achieve this outcome, just live streaming from your phone into the cloud — one snapshot a second would be plenty — so you create an incontrovertible evidence trail wherever you go.

There’s a lot more to this that I can take up in a weblog post. Because your phone is your personalized interface into the universe of IP addressable hardware and password-mediated software, a smarter smartphone endowed with the kind of software I am talking about, both in the phone and in the cloud, could take over most of the management of the devices and software services you use. At some point I plan to talk about the software design paradigm that will have to replace the ever-more-chaotic world of “apps,” but this, ultimately, is what you have to look forward to: Not a world without “apps” or desktop applications or browser-based software, but a world where your smartphone and its support software are smart enough to handle virtually all of the things you are currently doing by touchpad, mouse or keyboard.

How will you know when this day has arrived? When your smartphone shoots you an email to let you know that it had been swiped but that the police have already recovered it. If you want for that day to be soon — and it easily could be — you’ll have to let Apple, Samsung, HTC and all the other vendors of dumb-ass smartphones know that they can, should and must do better.

 
Our story so far: Lately, I have been tap-dancing around an idea for a new kind of computer-user operating paradigm. I haven’t explicated the central thesis yet, but it should be easy enough to infer from the essays I’ve written so far:

Related posts:
  • If you’ve ever found yourself fuming by the side of the road, muttering to yourself that cops are assholes…
  • Paging Sarah: “If there is a lesson in this story, it is to make sure your cell phone is off when attending a concert.”
  • How smartphone users see each other…

  • 30 comments

    Reasons to be cheerful: Defying the specter of ugly fates.

    I’m kicking this back to the top from June, 2010. I had occasion to re-read my thoughts on sex earlier today, and then I went back and looked at this essay. I like it better today than I did last summer, and I hope you will, too. –GSS
     

    Reasons to be cheerful, part zero: The ground we stand upon is firm and the lever of the human mind grows ever stronger.

    I need to take this someplace else. I am madly off-topic here more often than not, this for the past couple of years. I think I may be in the third act of this spectacle of ideas I have made of my life, and I can’t even say, yet, if it’s a farce in three acts or a tragedy in five. I would prefer an epiphany, to say the truth, a symphony, a grand opera composed of nothing but the simplest and most obvious of abstractions, an idiot’s guide to what every last idiot among us has always known forever, has never once doubted, and has always, always betrayed — until now.

    But that’s why I’m cheerful, I think, despite everything. There is still so much time left to us, amidst the crush of on-rushing events. I am thrice lucky, I know it: I can see and I can understand what I am seeing. I can think and I can transcribe my thoughts. And I live in a time when the thoughts of everyone in human history who ever thought productively are instantly available to each one of us — on demand, no charge, quantities unlimited, with every taste in depth and rigor satisfied and then some.

    This is an amazing thing. It’s never happened before, and it remains to be seen how deeply humanity is willing to set its roots in the boundless praries of the mind. But the simple fact that this is possible — and that people all over the world are taking advantage of it — is a profoundly important reason to be cheerful, no matter what despair might be unearthed in the day’s events.

    Clearly, Barrack Obama is incompetent. That’s scary enough, but I have believed that the man is a malignant narcissist since first I paid any attention to him. This would be an ideal time not to have a boob who may well be a feral tyrant in the White House, but on top of any damage the president might do, we are confronted by the impending collapse of the European Union, the bankruptcy of California and many other states and cities, the foreseeable foundering of the U.S. economy — all this on top of predictable responses to Obama’s weakness in Iran, Korea and now Turkey. This is a good time to put your head in the sand, so I am thrilled to see so many people doing the opposite instead — striving to learn how we got ourselves into this ditch and how to dig ourselves out.

    I can see three tomorrows from here, and each one of them seems to me to offer more reasons for optimism than despair. As I get time, I’ll go through them in detail, but here they are in summary:

    • Future number one: Nothing much changes in the grand scheme of things. This is the most likely scenario by far.
       
    • Future number two: We go through a sustained economic collapse, like the Great Depression or Japan’s Lost Decade.
       
    • Future number three: SHTF — The Shit Hits The Fan. A re-org, as it were, perhaps just in what had been the United States, perhaps everywhere. I consider this hugely unlikely, but it seems like something that might be worth thinking about, if only as a precaution.

    Why would I be cheerful about fates like these? Because we have so much leverage. Not political power; political power has been the enemy of the human mind forever. What we have is the power of reason, when we dare to cultivate it — and the praries open to our plowing have never been more vast, never more rich, never more fertile, never more accessible to anyone who is willing to dig and husband and harvest and thrive.

    We’ve spent all our lives — all our history! — clawing for things, for the tangible, the graspable, the hordeable, the hideable — the things we snatch away with an animal’s cunning and then cringe forever in animal fear that they might be snatched back. That much was wrong, and that is what we are learning at last: The things that matter most to the human mind, the things that yield up every kind of wealth, spiritual and physical, in vast uncountable cornucopian abundance — those treasures of the mind can never be pawed at or swiped.

    We stand at the cliff’s edge of greatness, and, suddenly, one by one, we are daring to dive, to submerse ourselves in all the wisdom of all of human history and to come back to the surface as new men, as new minds, as the radiant and resplendent brand new thing we should always have been — had we ever once been willing to dig in and do the work.

    People are doing that work now, one mind at a time, all over the world, and that alone is reason enough to be of good cheer. Our governments have screwed up very badly, but the solution to all human ills — the inconquerable human mind — is honing the blade of the plow in preparation for the cultivation we have tried so hard, as a species, never to do.

    There is this: We are perched, too, on the cliff’s edge on the singularity. When will it come? What form will it take? These questions no one will be able to answer until it has already happened. But that’s the worst fate that could befall us. Wars and rumors of wars, poisoning our own habitat, financial collapse — these are nothing, really, nothing we haven’t lived through before. But if we miss the singularity, it could take us anywhere from decades to forever to climb our way back to the top of the cliff.

    If you want something to worry about, it’s that — humanity so completely destroying itself that we miss out on the chance to graduate, now that we’ve almost earned the right to move on. But that’s the point: At the precise moment that we need the mind the most, people all over the world are waking up to the life of the mind.

    Too few of them? Too late? Too hopelessly lost in centuries of carefully-crafted gibberish ever to find their way back to reason? Hide and watch.

    Here’s my answer: If I can improve my own mind every day, I am acquiring the very leverage I will need to move the earth and to rebuild it as I would have it, as it should have been all along. I am but one man, one mind — but my name is legion. There are thousands and millions of people like me, some of them immeasurably brilliant. And we are all of us unchained in the praries of the mind at last — free to learn, free to grow, free to thrive.

    Free to stare fate in the eye — and defy it.

    Free to have the world our way, all the way, all the time.

    It advantages you nothing to worry. But it profits you everything to think…


    Reasons to be cheerful: Defying the specter of ugly fates.

    Manifest your own destiny: You say you want a revolution? Yeah, well anyone can piss and moan about how bad everything is. If you want things to change, I’m making a stout effort to show you how to achieve revolutionary change — from the inside out. But your own efforts at self-improvement will bear sweeter fruit sooner if you share what you’re learning with other people who love to live. You’ve never heard anything like this before. Why would you hoard it to yourself?

    Related posts:
  • Reasons to be cheerful, Part 2.9: Marksmanship is a perfectible praxis.
  • Reasons to be cheerful, part 0.5: Sleeping giants can’t sleep forever.
  • Reasons to be cheerful, Part 2.5: It’s raining soup and all you can do is piss and moan that Big Mother hasn’t given you a free bowl.

  • 9 comments

    Greco-Roman Rejection of Rotarian Socialism Is The Cure For What Ails the United States

    Europe has tried all sorts of Statist approaches to the PIIGS problems.  Today, Europeans are considering “liberalization”:

    As the European financial crisis moves into its next phase, there’s a new word to learn: “liberalization,” and it’s likely to be even more unpopular than “austerity.”

    Leaders in Europe are promising to “liberalize” their economies in an effort to grow those economies, but they face an enormous wall of vested interests that don’t want anything to change.

    Greg Swann talked about cutting regulations a year ago.  My comment:

    There are close to 400 licensed occupations. Compile a list of half of them, introduce legislation that outlaws states (and Feds) to regulate any of these professions.  Repeat each quarter. Within a year, you’ll only have 25 regulated industries. Within two years, the unemployment rate will drop to 6%, and there will be some 2 million new businesses created

    Ohmygosh, cut the licensing regulations?  Does that mean that someone, who hasn’t taken a 400-hour licensing course, will be charging money for weaving hair in their living room?  The horror.  How will the public ever be protected from bad hair-weavererers?  Reputation management is already happening in the free market.  Read Greg’s response:

    Check. There’s more that can be done, much of it to the benefit of very small businesses. Consider this: When you’re trying to decide if you should take a chance on a restaurant, who do you trust more, a city inspector who may be on the take or nine fiercely independent Yelpers? The dollar cost of preventing injuries that almost never happen is half of our economy — which is nothing compared to the opportunity costs and interest value of those lost opportunities. We’ve got a dinghy loaded up with admirals and we can’t figure out why it’s slowly sinking.

    Who then would stand in the way of  “liberalization”?  Let’s go back to the CNBC article:

    Leaders in Europe are promising to “liberalize” their economies in an effort to grow those economies, but they face an enormous wall of vested interests that don’t want anything to change.

    Take the case of Simon Galina, a 38-year-old taxi driver in Rome. His profession is one of many in Italy likely to undergo “liberalization,” and he doesn’t like it one bit.  Liberalization is a very big problem. It’s a big problem for him because he took out a $185,000 loan ten years ago to purchase a taxi license and he still has five years of payments left. He’s worried that if the government changes the rules now, it will likely be much more difficult for him to pay it back.

    Right now the number of taxis in Italian cities is tightly controlled by the local governments. If liberalization really does occur there will no longer be a cap on the number of cabs, and the cost for a license will fall dramatically, if not to zero. Bottom line, it’s going to be a lot easier to get into the taxi business. (Economists call this lower barriers to entry.)

    Regulation of commerce, under the guise of consumer protection, actually turns out to be BAD for the consumer.  Continue reading:

    That will be good news for Italian consumers: It’s going to be easier to find a cab, and cheaper to boot. But falling fares mean less income for Galina, and there’s that monthly loan payment  he will still have to pay regardless.

    The government has already begun this process in Athens, Greece, and it has led to tremendous violence as drivers protest the changes. Now imagine this change writ large across an entire society where hundreds and hundreds of professions have the same decades-old pay-to-play fee structure. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti promised to do just that on Friday night. Berlusconi agreed to the measures in exchange for the European Central Bank buying Italian debt on the open market, and acting as a buyer of last resort.

    Economists believe liberalization will lead to more jobs, which means higher economic growth and more tax revenue, exactly what countries like Italy need to pay back their debts.

    There is absolutely no reason, other than Rotarian Socialism, for the State to “license” any profession, be it a hair weavererer or a physician.  Occupational licensing is a conspiracy to defraud consumers, by impeding the price discovery,  which competition affords.  I just hope we won’t wait until there are people starving in the streets to “liberalize” here.

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  • Comments are off for this post

    SplendorQuest: A real-estate professionals’ guide to anarchy in the USA

    Kicking this back to the top. This is what independence means — independence from the tyrannical intrusions of government. You’ve been trained your whole life to recoil from ideas like this, but there has never been a better time than right now to ask yourself this question: How is the dispute resolution system you have in place now working out for you? — GSS

     
    I thought about making a short movie addressing a host of common questions about the political philosophy we’ve been discussing, but I decided to undertake the task in text, instead. A video would be faster for me, but not so much for you. Plus, text is easy to search and easy to revisit, where video can be ungainly. So: FAQ-style:

    What does this have to do with real estate?

    Human liberty begins when you have a redoubt that is yours to defend from any would-be usurper. That’s real estate, and, as I write every year at Independence Day, the civilizations we associate with human freedom are those where ordinary people had the power to claim, own, use, enjoy, buy and sell the land. If you want for a real estate weblog to concern itself solely with surface-level bread-and-butter real estate news, you’ve come to the wrong place. If, on the other hand, you want to learn how better to defend your liberties, including your power to buy, sell and broker real estate, stay tuned. None of this is easy, but it is fundamental for understanding real estate as philosophy.

    Isn’t anarchy a creed of chaos and violence?

    1. No, that would be socialism in its collapsing phase.

    2. No, that is what you have been told by people who want you to volunteer to be their slaves and toadies.

    3. No. Anarchism as I define it is the politics of egoism, which itself is the ethics of self-adoration. People actively pursuing self-adoration will tend to avoid chaos and violence except when chaos and violence are the only means of avoiding even worse fates. When might this be the case? When socialism undergoes its collapsing phase, for example.

    So what is anarchism “as you define it”?

    What we have been discussing at BloodhoundBlog is a body of ideas I call Janioism, this after the first name of a character in a book I wrote in 1988. This is a poor appellation, for a couple of reasons. First, if you don’t already know what I’m talking about, a name consisting of a proper noun offers you no guidance. And second, doctrines named after people imply a cult of personality, which Janioism most certainly is not.

    So why give it that name? Simply as a distinction from other flavors of free-market anarchist doctrines. Any one of these names can be accurately applied to Janioism as a member of a distinct category of political philosophy: Anarcho-Capitalism, Market-Anarchism, Agorism.

    There are a number of different theorists of free-market anarchism, along with a great many more advocates of a doctrine serious libertarians usually call minarchism — arguments for an extremely minimal style of government.

    What’s different about Janioism?

    Minarchism obviously entails systemic coercion against anyone who does not freely volunteer to join the polity and to accept its terms of governance in all particulars. Minarchist philosophers (such as Ayn Rand or Robert Nozick) either deny this coercion or insist that it cannot be avoided.

    In general, advocates of free-market anarchism will insist that the polities they envision will be entirely voluntary. I dispute this claim. The two best known defenders of free-market anarchism — David Friedman (son of Milton Friedman) and Murray Rothbard — both envision free-market police forces that would engage in violent trespass onto private property and forceful coercion of individuals suspected of having injured other members of the polity. I think this is simply thoughtlessness — the failure to have thought through the unwillingness of each member of the polity to volunteer for this kind of abuse. But, to my knowledge, Janioism is the only argument for free-market anarchism that foreswears systemic coercion both of members of the polity and of strangers who might find themselves subject to the dispute resolution systems of a Janioist polity.

    Why does Janioism foreswear systemic coercion?

    I can offer an infinite number of arguments against systemic coercion, but these are the three — in ascending order of philosophical importance — that I think are most useful for understanding a truly human civilization:

    1. As a practical matter, no volunteer to a polity is going to consent to the kind of behavior that has become all too routine among statist police forces: Trespass, breaking-and-entering, physically-devastating and violently-intrusive searches, wholesale expropriation of personal property, coercion and imprisonment of your person, torture and, ultimately, murder. All of these things are possible, of course, but no sane person would risk having them done to him, if given a choice.

    2. As a matter of ontology, each human being is equal, as an entity, to all the others. To assert any sort of dominance over a human being is, tacitly, to argue that you are super-human and your victim is sub-human. This much is false to fact. Still worse, acting upon this false premise can be demonstrated to have persistently and acceleratingly unhappy consequences, resulting, ultimately, in the chaotic and ultra-violent collapse of any civilization built on a creed of dominance of some people by others.

    3. As a matter of ethics, the coercion of one person by another is damaging to the ego of the person effecting that coercion. There are a number of reasons for this, but what matters most is that behaving coercively toward other people requires the coercive party to make war on his own mind: You must first argue to yourself that you are super-human and your victim is sub-human. Then, while you are coercing your victim, you must make false mental claims about your own real-time behavior. And then, after the fact and for as long as you live, you must work constantly to deny your own self-knowledge of the kind of person you have made of yourself. If you have ever wondered why so many bad people are drunks or drug-addicts, now you know. You cannot ever hide from your own self-image.

    The corollary proposition — actually the primary proposition — is that acting upon other people as they are, in full cognizance of their autonomy — is the best path to achieving peace, prosperity and the greatest attainable level of self-adoration while living among other people.

    In other words, Janioism foreswears coercion not for political reasons but as the best expression of ethical egoism in a social context.

    As is obvious, there can be occasions when a coercive response to a real-time infliction of injury by another person can be necessary — as the means to avoiding an even worse injury. But even then it is important to understand that you will be acting in a way that will result in enduring and irreparable damage to your own ego. Human life, most fundamentally, is the awareness of being alive as a human being — awareness in real-time, memories of past awareness, anticipation of future awareness. That your having acted coercively was preferable to failing to act, in that particular circumstance, does not imply that that damage you will have done to your own self-image is therefore somehow not damage.

    The proper goal of egoism is self-construction, the progressive assembly of an image of your own life and mind that is worthy of your own highest adoration. This is what I mean by the word splendor. Acting coercively, even in morally-justifiable self-defense against an attack on your person or property as it is happening, will result in the partial destruction of your self-image. It’s a calculus of loss, and less-worse is obviously greater than still-more-worse, but worse is still less than better.

    The fundamental equation of Janioism, which can be applied to any sort of philosophical dilemma, is this: 0 !> 1. Zero is never greater than one. The consistent pursuit of positive values is the path to splendor. The persistent pursuit of negative values is the route to squalor. Coercion is always a form of squalor-pursuit, even when it is the least-worst alternative available in a particular circumstance.

    If there is no systemic coercion, how will people resolve disputes?

    By mutual agreement, of course, just like now.

    Almost everyone is sane and normal. Few people understand egoism as I defend it, but that’s simply because the forces of evil in our civilization do everything they can think of to smear ideas like egoism, individualism, capitalism, anarchism, etc. Their dominance games will not work without your active, continual surrender, so they indoctrinate you from childbirth to submit to their authority, to fear and resist your own desires, to yield to them in any conflict, to be their perfect little slave at all times. And it works, too. Not only do you sacrifice fifty percent or more of every dollar you produce, you will defend with righteous indignation your glorious servitude.

    But even so, you’re only a sucker where the government is concerned. In everyday life, you’re almost certainly sweet, personable, generous, forgiving and non-confrontational. You let the lady with just two items go ahead of you on line at the supermarket. You smile and wave back when a nice man waves you into traffic. When your kid’s foul ball puts out the neighbor’s window, you tape a note to the door saying you’ve already called the glazier to make the repair. When the geeky teenager at MacDonald’s gives you too much money back in change at the drive-through, you park your car and go into the store to give back the excess bills. You are a proud and noble trader, neither giving nor taking of the unearned — even if it never occurs to you to be proud of your nobility.

    Yes, there are sociopaths among us, and megalomaniacs and malignant narcissists. They’re everywhere, but they comprise less than one percent of the population. If you want to find them in significant concentrations, you have to look to various branches of the state: Psychotic politicians like Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon stand out, but government is a magnet for every sort of sadist, paranoiac, control freak and martinet. This is not to imply that there cannot be decent people in government, but systemic, pandemic, epidemic coercion is a drug most people in government learn to crave more and more over time. Every decision a government makes is necessarily arbitrary and corrupt, so I find it hard to argue that even the nicest person could stay nice in an environment that rewards only evil and penalizes — eventually unto death — every form of the good.

    But none of that matters in a Janioist agora. In a civilization composed entirely of volunteers, dispute resolution would be effected, in the overwhelming majority of cases, as a matter of ordinary human social contact — just as it already is right now. “Your visitor parked in my spot. Could you ask him to move?” “My daughter accidentally dripped her ice cream on your front walk, so she’s coming over to clean up the mess.” “I mistakenly took your overcoat instead of my own from the church cloak room, so I had it dry-cleaned for you.” This is the way civilized human beings behave when they have caused an injury or loss to another person.

    But what if the parties don’t agree about the nature of the injury or loss — or about its proper redress?

    Where their dispute is not obviously and easily addressed, sane, normal people might reasonably take their arguments to a neutral third party. Who? How about that wise old geezer up the street? He can cut through any knot! Where the stakes are higher, one or both parties might take the dispute to a free-market judge for resolution.

    How could anyone trust a free-market judge?

    Because his sole stock in trade will be his reputation for fairness. In a free-market, a corrupt judge would have no customers.

    But if “one or both” parties could go to the judge, doesn’t that imply that a trial could be held in absentia?

    Yes, of course. There is no systemic coercion in a Janioist agora, so no one could be compelled to go to court against his will.

    But if there is no coercion, who will enforce the judge’s rulings?

    Anyone who wants to — which means everyone who is living in pursuit of splendor.

    Assuming a normal injury, resulting in a small financial loss, the judge’s verdict would consist of a financial judgment against the losing party, possibly also including all the attendant court costs — an incentive for both parties to go to the old geezer up the street instead.

    What good is a judgment if no one is compelled to pay it?

    I can think of a lot of different ways to organize a non-coercive polity, so this is just one of them — one I happen to like a lot because it fits well with the way we already conduct our financial affairs. So here is what I would propose: The judgment is entered as a debt into the credit reporting system. This is how judgments work now in civil court. You have the “right” to be paid, but you do not have the power to coerce your compensation. If the party found against repays or makes arrangements to repay the debt within a reasonable span of time, life goes on as before.

    But if the party found against refuses to pay the debt, every member of the polity who feels that civilized people should make good the injuries and losses they cause to other people can and should boycott the offending party entirely, refusing to trade with that person in any way.

    This is non-coercive. Trade is always mutually-voluntarily, so if I unilaterally withhold my commerce from you, I am not denying you anything to which you have an enforceable claim. Yes, it is an ultimatum-based response to injury, but neither the person nor the property of the party found against is being coerced in any way. That party can choose to pay the debt, thus regaining his former status in the polity. But he can also choose not to pay.

    What will happen if someone fails to pay a judgment?

    Death by starvation. Remember that all property is privately owned. If you are met with an agora-wide economic boycott, you cannot traverse any land except your own — not without trespassing. You cannot buy food or any other sort of economic good — and your access to the trading medium has been cut off entirely. In most cases, your alternatives will be to pay the debt, run away as far and as fast as you can, or starve to death. In any of those cases, the objectives of the other members of the polity will have been met: If you cannot live as a sane, normal, civilized person, our individual pursuits of splendor will be best served by your absence.

    If the debtor runs away, what happens to the creditor’s loss?

    Dang. Bad things happen. Not my fault. Not my problem. Importantly: Penalizing me because someone else has suffered a misfortune is the worst kind of injustice.

    What if the debtor is really and truly innocent of having caused the injury?

    Dang. Bad things happen. My advice would be to pay the debt and then work toward restoring your good name. Or run away. Or just shrug your shoulders and acknowledge that perfection is an attribute of a world other than this one.

    What if the debtor doesn’t run but doesn’t pay up, either?

    If he stays on his own property, I don’t much care. My goal is to be rid of people who won’t cooperate in a civilized fashion. If an offender elects to become a hermit, he presents no on-going peril to me. The judgment would stand until it is paid, of course. And if our hermit decides to invade my home, perhaps in quest of jam for his bread, I will end his life in defense of my own, if this seems needful.

    But what about people who are not sane and normal, who insist on trying to live by the coercive, violent domination of other people?

    A free people, civilized volunteers who have not been legally or psychologically disarmed by the state, will administer as many free injections of lead as are necessarily to change that person’s behavior. This is not brutality. This is how sane people deal with predators who will not change their bad behavior. Each one of us has volunteered to join this polity in pursuit of our own values. If someone in our presence presents a clear and present danger to our own lives, one or more of us must either kill that person or suffer under his domination.

    This would be the rarest kind of circumstance in a truly free society, first because there are no mechanisms in place to reward and exalt criminal insanity — the incentives all run the other way — and second because young people who are predisposed to criminal insanity would probably not survive very long into adulthood. But if the only way to be rid of a pestilential threat to your own survival is to take another human being’s life, then this you must do — or live thenceforth as that person’s slave.

    What about people who either do not or cannot complain, when they are injured?

    Dang. Bad things happen. Not my fault. Not my problem. Their business — or, at a minimum, none of my business. If you absolutely cannot leave your neighbors free to pursue their own values in their own way, it could be that you yourself are suffering from a lead deficiency.

    What if the army of a vicious tyrant tries to conquer our Janioist agora?

    I’m fond of the motivating premises of the cult of the Hashishin: Assassinate the big boss, and keep on assassinating each new big boss until the only stooge willing to wear the crown is an incompetent fool. Why don’t governments fight this way? Among other things, government is a mutual protection racket for big bosses everywhere.

    Obviously there are all kinds of other ways of defending our lives and property, each of us acting alone or in mutually-voluntary groups. A war of conquest would have to be fought house-by-house, since there is no centralized Quisling to surrender for everyone. And people who understand that they own their lives, their land and their chattels only to the extent that they can defend them are apt to come up with some very effective active and passive defenses.

    But suppose all of this fails. Suppose the conqueror succeeds. What then?

    Dang. Bad things happen. It is all but universally common to lament and decry failures of anarchism that are present in every other form of human political organization. “What would prevent rape in an anarchy?!?” What prevents it now? “What would prevent unintentional injustices?” What prevents them now? “What would prevent conquest by ill-tempered foreigners with bad breath?” What prevents it now?

    If all property is privately owned, why would anyone ever build a road?

    For profit. Obviously, only profitable roads would be built, so the footprint of a Janioist agora on the land is likely to be much smaller than our current state of sprawl.

    Why would anyone build a dam or a canal — or internet backbone?

    For profit. All forms of transportation and communication were built for profit before governments monopolized these businesses.

    What about free riders?

    Dang. If you didn’t negotiate your compensation before you baked the bread, Henny Penny, don’t come crying to me afterward.

    Everything we’re talking about already exists, in the form of written commercial contracts and tort law. What we now call the civil courts would no longer be a statist monopoly, and there would be no criminal courts at all — nor any fiat law nor fiat money nor fiat dictates issued by armed functionaries of the state. Everything that you might want to do — that you cannot do by yourself — you would have to work out by negotiation with free and equal traders, but there would be no statist tyranny forbidding you to do as you choose.

    If there is no fiat money, what will we do for currency?

    Whatever free and equal traders choose. We already understand that the clearinghouse function is the sine qau non of thriving economies, so this is not a huge problem to work out.

    Would there be competing currencies?

    How would you prevent this, without systemic coercion?

    In the threads where these matters are being discussed, there are all kinds of highly-detailed speculations about how things would have to work out, in the absence of the state. My take is that most of these propositions are useless. How will things work out in an anarchy? However the participants want them to.

    What about marriage and the family?

    Why don’t you learn how to mind your own business? I’m sure that’s what you would say if I poked my nose into your family life.

    What if my neighbors are abusing their child, in my opinion?

    Dang. What if the kid gets stung by a wasp? Bad things happen — and we know nothing about any of it, all over the world, virtually all of the time.

    If you really think the child’s life, health or safety are at risk, and if you think failing to act would result in an injury worse than breaking into your neighbor’s house and kidnapping his kid, knock yourself out — and live with the consequences after the fact in court. If you’re right, you’ll be a hero. If you’re wrong — or if your neighbor is a good shot — you’re screwed. Not my problem, either way.

    Please understand: You have spent your whole life being lectured about the vitally important necessity of minding other people’s business. But actually doing it — poking your nose into your neighbor’s business — is crime, and the people who do this habitually are almost certainly a greater threat to my own pursuit of splendor than are the supposedly-evil people they propose to protect me from.

    If you think that unilaterally taking a forceful action is the best way to preserve the peace in a particular circumstance, then take the action and live with the consequences. But if I decide that you are the greater threat to my peace, it will be you I will want to see gone from my life.

    Here’s what matters: There is no group. There is no collective. There is no “us” — no state, no chosen people, no glorious proletariat. There is only you, a free and equal individual. You can do anything you are capable of doing, and for the most part I can’t stop you. But you are responsible for everything you do — and don’t do. In a free society, the state is not going to push your neighbors around for you at your behest, but it won’t be there to push you around, either. If you want something done, and no one else is doing it, you will have to do it yourself, persuading your neighbors to join you if you can. But you may be amazed to discover just how many things aren’t worth fighting about if you have to fight with your own body and your own money — with both of them at risk.

    So how do we get there from here?

    Good news: We’re already here. You’re already a sane, normal person, and you already live among your neighbors in peace and prosperity. Yes, the state preys upon you like a vast, hideous vampire, reeking of death, impetuously random in its predations. But it matters less and less to civilized people with every passing day.

    I don’t ever favor trying to defeat or take over evil institutions. It is sufficient to supplant them. And this sane and civilized people are already doing, just by living their sane and civilized lives. Consider eBay. Consider PayPal. Now think of a clearinghouse like PayPal unknown to anyone except its depositors. Does anything like this already exist? How would you know if it does? How hard would it be to create, now that you know it could exist?

    In our discussions, we have referred again and again to so-called “state of nature” theories. This is my fault. It is very useful, in talking about political philosophy, to think in terms of zero, one, two or three people. Three postulated people are sufficient for describing every politically-interesting social arrangement. But there is no state of nature — no unpopulated world, no unclaimed land. In real life, land is acquired either by purchase, by bequest or by conquest, never by being appropriated from the unclaimed. We have to learn to get along with each other not alone because we are all already here.

    But the truth is, this is very easy to do. We are already very good at it, and we will only improve as we learn Janio’s equation — that zero is never greater than one. We live in a sick civilization because we have all been indoctrinated from childbirth to cling to the zero — pain, guilt, suffering, doubt, poverty, anger, resentment, fear — while always yielding up the one to our self-proclaimed “betters.”

    Do you want to see Janioism in real life? Stop worshipping the zero and devote all of your attention to the pursuit of the one. Seek profit only — never loss. Live, work and play only with people who share and support your values — never with those who denounce or deride or denigrate your pursuit of splendor. Don’t wait endlessly for some universal epiphany among everyone else — a mass awakening that will never, ever happen. Shun evil now. Boycott crime now. Be who you are. Do what you want. Have what you love — now.

    It were well to pursue indestructibility — as much as you can. Defend what you have, and find ways to make yourself unappetizing to predators. But life is not about avoiding loss — this is the worship of the zero. Life is about earning and deserving every profit you can attain with your mind, your time and your unrelenting effort. Live for the one and let the zero go straight to hell — where it belongs.

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  • 11 comments

    The unchained epiphany: Working in the Web 2.0 world is not mastery of technology but the celebration of your own independence

    Kicking this back to the top from April 8, 2008. — GSS

     
    In comments to Sean Purcell’s “NAR Challenge”, Scott Rogers wonders why the NAR could not teach hi-tech real estate as well as or better than BloodhoundBlog.

    The short answer is that we’re not teaching hi-tech real estate, not even close, and what we are teaching is anathema to the NAR.

    In her own comment to Barry Cunningham’s post on the typewriter being state-of-the-art NAR technology, Newport Beach Realtor Stacey Harmon offers this serendipitous explication:

    WOW. This video really highlights for me the opportunity that exists for Realtors who really embrace not only technology, but Web 2.0. What I see in this video is the application of technology to improve the “traditional” way of selling real estate. I think there is a whole emerging group of Realtors out there who are looking to utilize technology (in particular Web 2.0 technologies) to TRANSFORM how real estate is sold. I agree with Dave that this video speaks to 75% of Realtors – I work in one of the most lucrative markets in the US (Newport Beach, CA) and I’d say that this video accurately represents how most Realtors (that do any business in my market) view and utilize technology. I see this as a huge opportunity for anyone who is savvy enough to have even found this blog. Thanks for a very interesting post!

    That’s an epiphany in text form. I don’t know Stacey, and I don’t want to characterize her thoughts, but that kind of epiphany is what BloodhoundBlog is all about.

    We don’t teach technology, even though we talk about it all the time.

    We don’t teach marketing, new-wave or old-school, even though marketing is constant obsession around here.

    We don’t teach Web 2.0, even though many of the brightest lights in the wired world of real estate write, read and reflect here.

    What we teach is independence, the recognition that you alone are the source and the sink, the alpha and the omega of your knowledge, of your business and of your success or failure.

    I am a rude, crude and vulgar man, so it falls to me to say that being unchained means never again having to take shit from morons. Surely there are more dainty ways of expressing the same idea. But this is the essential BloodhoundBlog idea — not simply to have been set free but to have broken the chains that bind you.

    These are not new ideas. They only seem new by technological accident. What Web 2.0 brings back to humanity is the Agora of Ancient Athens — only on a global scale, with equal freedom to participate for anyone with a web browser and a net connection.

    Demosthenes stood on the beach with a mouth full of pebbles, his face to the wind and to the roar of the waves, declaiming one after another the great speeches of his day. Why? He was training himself to be the greatest orator in antiquity. We are doing much the same thing today in our blogging, our podcasting, our linking and connecting — each one of us alone, interacting one-on-one.

    This is most emphatically not what the NAR is all about, but that doesn’t even matter. The NAR doesn’t matter. It’s just there, that’s all. But the recognition in the minds of individual practitioners that the NAR doesn’t matter — that matters a great deal.

    Your broker does not matter.

    None of the many-tentacled arms of the NAR matter.

    The loser at the next desk constantly spewing poison does not matter.

    The only thing that matters is you — your work, your way. Your mind and what you are doing to improve it.

    The Attic Greeks understood this implicitly. Would-be hegemons have conspired since then to keep it a secret. The unchained epiphany happens when the scales fall from your eyes and you realize that you not only can control your entire business, you already do control it entirely — and you have all along.

    This is not about whether or not you work with other people. It is all about how you work. Are you waiting for someone to tell you what to do? Do you plan to learn something new as soon as someone gives you training? Is there a meter in your mind to tell you when you’ve done enough, thought enough, learned enough, grown enough? Do you long for some giant brute to slay dragons for you, so you can have roast dragon for dinner? You are well and truly chained, and you probably don’t even know it. But guess what? You won’t matter, either, going forward — not unless you wake up and get busy.

    On the other hand, do you look at all the chained people around you and realize that breaking your own chains creates incredible opportunities for you? The Greeks weren’t entrepreneurs, but they had the entrepreneurial mind. During the industrial revolution, that attitude was again on the ascendancy, until the would-be hegemons — some of whom founded the NAR — managed to shout it down. Nothing can shout it down now, and, because of this, the future belongs to the unchained. Not feral, but not tame by any means — and nobody’s property to order around.

    It’s raining soup, and there is no shortage of room for media outlets other than BloodhoundBlog to transmit this message. It could be we understand these ideas better than most, but the world is large, and we have touched but a tiny slice of it. But the NAR cannot induce its members to be unchained — not without self-destructing. Even so, it doesn’t matter. The NAR is already a dead letter, and whatever thrashing fits it goes through in its death throes, it does not matter.

    All that matters is that unchained epiphany and what you choose to do about it.

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  • 14 comments

    If There Really Were A Real Estate Agents’ Union…

    …this is how business might be done:

    You (a willing home seller) would look for a real estate agent and discover that the government mandates that you hire, its delegated agent, to market and negotiate on your behalf.  That chosen agent will be the only one who can deal with potential buyers and will select which offer you should consider, among the many offers available.  The agent presents the offer, to which you suggest a counter-offer or refusal.

    In this hypothetical example, the agent tells you that you don’t have the option to counter and reminds you that you have a binding contract with her as an exclusive agent; she says “Take the ‘reasonable’ offer or suffer the consequences”.  Obviously, you don’t think that’s fair and want to test the free market.  You might consider another real estate agent because you don’t think she’s negotiating on your behalf.

    Rather than allow you to pursue your own course of action, the real estate agent accuses you of “agent busting”.  She sets up a picket line, in front of your home, with big signs proclaiming you to be “evil” or responsible for “unfair tactics”, or “greedy”.  She turns away all potential buyers of the home by calling them “scabs” and proclaiming that a reasonable enough offer was on the table and you were just an evil, greedy agent buster.

    She might convince the power company to sever your electricity, phone and internet.  She might try to prevent the grocery store, pizza delivery guy, landscapers, and pool maintenance guy from servicing you, per your standing contract with them.  Finally, she might try to restrict your income by hampering your ability to work .

    You’re a tough cookie, though.  It’s your home.  You bought it, improved it, kept it clean, and want the best price a willing buyer might pay you. You hold out, regardless of the wacky protesters, bused in from out-of-town, screaming at you, your children, your neighbors, and anyone who might dare speak with you.  Even your priest declines your dinner invitation because he wants to stand “in solidarity” with the “fair traders”.  He dare not call you evil but his actions suggest that you are being unfair.

    The manufactured shunning, and (false) threat to eternal damnation still doesn’t work.  It’s your damned house, paid for with your hard-earned money!  You intend to sell it for the best price you can receive!

    The real estate agent brings a government board in to bind you to mediated terms, whether you’re in agreement with them or not.  If you try to walk away from the home, and let the agent deal with the bank (which will foreclose on your property), she’ll get the government board to seize your home, or have that government board order you to sell it to her hand-picked buyer, or have that government board throw you in jail.

    That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

    Of course it does but that’s the exact effect The Wagner Act of 1935 had on labor relations.   The Wagner Act assigned exclusive negotiating rights, to a designated agent, on behalf of all employees.  Whether the employee consents to that agency relationship or not, the designated agent has the power of force (the government) behind it and all employees are bound to accept that agents’ negotiated terms.

    The Wagner Act permitted the coercive tactics of picket lines, to scare away customers, potential employees, suppliers, etc.   In essence, the Wagner Act proclaimed that the labor monopoly has the “right”, under the direction of its exclusive agent, to engage in such coercion.  If the business owner complained, well then he had to deal with force (the government),,, again.

    Finally, The Wagner Act also established the National Labor Relations Board , to mediate the price of labor, if that designated agent could not convince a business owner to accept the terms offered.   The business owner could either:

    • (a) accept the mediated terms (offered by the NLRB), or
    • (b) surrender the business to the NLRB, or
    • (c) move to another jurisdiction, outside of the reach of the NLRB.

    Which option do you think private business owners chose? If you remember the outsourcing movement, in the 1980′s, you have discovered the answer.

    Labor, like land or capital, is a factor of production.  When force is introduced, to a commercial exchange of  any of those factors, it is no longer voluntary.  There will be unintended reactions to that introduction of force.

    If you wouldn’t condone my hypothetical real estate agency relationship (monopoly backed by force), why would you turn a blind eye to the very same practice in the labor movement?

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  • 8 comments

    How does the National Association of Realtors love me? They sent me an evaluation so I could count the ways.

    I appeared by videoconference at the National Association of Realtors Association Executives convention in March. At the time, I made note of my remarks in a comment to Teri Lussier’s first post on the NAR’s latest anti-consumer money-grab:

    I spoke by videoconference to the NAR Association Executives conclave on Monday. I held nothing back, patiently explaining to them that legislation is crime — using force to induce an outcome that would not have occurred without the imposition of force.

    I explained that a legislature can do nothing in a free market except harm, and that the American economy is by now essentially a vast mutual-vampirism cult: Each one of is sucking the lifeblood out of his neighbor’s neck, and each one of us is being sucked dry by his next neighbor. Taking a death-grip on the obvious, I patiently explained that this cannot but result in pandemic disaster.

    Instead, I said, if the National Association of Realtors were to come to be as zealous about private property rights as the National Rifle Association is about firearms ownership rights, I would be proud to call myself a member.

    As you might expect, the reaction was subdued.

    Bob Bemis, CEO of ARMLS, intimated to me that there is video of the presentation somewhere, but I have not seen this. But yesterday there came by snail-mail a three-page evaluation of the event.

    I think it would be fair to say that I made an impression. I knew going in that I would be telling them exactly what they did not want to hear, so I have to commend the people who made comments for their forbearance of my effrontery.

    Here’s my take: What they don’t want to hear is precisely what they need most to hear. It’s not reflected in the evaluation, but a very important idea I took up with them is this one:

    What happens if someone comes along and resolves to do real estate brokerage for free?

    I’ve pointed out many times that Zillow’s “make me move” feature is brokerage: The introduction of buyer to seller. This is not affected by the real estate regulation machine since the act of brokerage is uncompensated — and since the real estate laws are concerned not with real estate brokerage in itself, but solely with real estate brokerage for compensation. Aunt Bea and Floyd the Barber can both sell all the real estate they want. The law does not forbid this. All the law is concerned with is making sure Aunt Bea and Floyd the Barber do not get paid for selling real estate.

    So if someone decides to start marrying buyers to sellers for free, there is nothing the NAR or its slavish state departments of real estate will be able to do about it. In fact, our job is representation, not mere brokerage, but the NAR has never defended the value of representation. All the National Association of Realtors has ever cared about is restricting consumer access to real estate brokerage so the NAR’s brokers will get paid above-market commissions. And the music will stop on that coy dance just as soon as someone finds another way to monetize brokerage, without taking any sales commissions.

    That one observation took the wind right out of them.

    This won’t happen, but it should: The NAR should invite me to the national convention to do ninety minutes on everything it is getting wrong.

    And since that won’t happen, I would be happy to talk to a start-up Realty.bot about how to effect real estate brokerage profitably without accepting any compensation from the principals.

    Meanwhile: Thanks for the evaluation, NAR. Me and my co-panelists only got a 4.3 out of 5 for our grade, but I’ll bet I induced some 5-star nightmares in the ensuing days.

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  • 9 comments

    What does it mean that the NAR won’t defend itself from the charge that it was the sine qua non cause of the Great Recession?

    I threw down the gauntletand not for the first time:

    It was the NAR that lobbied for each law and rule change that resulted in the housing boom, the sub-prime lending catastrophe, the wanton bundling of fraudulent loans, the on-going subsidization of the secondary mortgage market, etc.

    The villain behind all the villains in the collapse of the American economy is the National Association of Realtors.

    We know they’re spying on us. And we know their PR pimp demonstrated that he got bilked when he paid for his law degree, so poorly does he argue.

    So: Why doesn’t the brave National Association of Realtors — the largest, richest, most-powerful Rotarian Socialist corporate-welfare-tit-sucking political pressure group in the land — why won’t it stand up on its hind legs and defend itself?

    For a first reason: Because it can’t. Better than any of us, the grand poohbah blood-sucking vampires of the NAR know beyond all room for doubt that it was their legislative initiatives that were the seeds, stems, stalks, branches, trees and forests that caused the housing boom, the housing bust and the Great Recession.

    And for a second reason: Because they are actively plotting to do still more, still worse damage to the American economy. They will not stop sucking until they have sucked the body politic dry.

    How do we know all of this true? Cum taces, clamas. When you say nothing, you shout.

    They don’t defend themselves because they can’t. They know they are criminals. They pray, every sleepless night, that you do not know it.

    In fact, the silence of your putative “leaders” does not prove me right. That would require an argument — an argument only I am happy to make. But the fact that the National Association of Realtors does not challenge my arguments is potent evidence that they themselves believe I am correct.

    Are you waiting for the NAR to argue that someone else is responsible for the Great Recession — for the ruin of your own finances and for the devastation to be delivered to your children and grandchildren?

    Don’t hold your breath. They know they’re at fault. And so do you.

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  • 15 comments

    What’s the best thing the National Association of Realtors can do for the American economy? It could drop dead — but it won’t — so here’s how you can kill it, instead.

    Hey there, toothy-grinned, glad-handing Realtor: How’s the world treating you?

    Business is not so good? Your house is worth less than half of what you paid for it? Your kid has three degrees but can’t get a job?

    Are you looking for someone to blame for your troubles?

    Guess what? There really is a mastermind of evil in the American economy. A vast parasite, a vampire king, with an insatiable appetite to devour everything that used to be known as “the American way of life.”

    Are you being preyed upon by banksters? By Wall Street tycoons? By Chris Dodd and Barney Franks?

    Those are the folks we like to blame, when we seek explanations for the Great Recession.

    But who is really at fault for your miseries?

    The sine qua non cause of this disaster — of the national economic malaise and of your own personal financial situation — is… wait for it…

    The National Association of Realtors.

    It’s the NAR that obstructs consumers’ access to market alternatives to old-fashioned real estate brokerage.

    It’s the NAR that insists on subsidizing homeownership at the expense of other, more-productive uses of capital.

    It’s the NAR that manipulates the tax laws to induce thoughtless consumers to overpay for homes they never would have — and never should have — bought in the first place.

    It’s the NAR that makes war on the rights of Americans to use and enjoy their real property as they choose.

    It was the NAR that lobbied for each law and rule change that resulted in the housing boom, the sub-prime lending catastrophe, the wanton bundling of fraudulent loans, the on-going subsidization of the secondary mortgage market, etc.

    The villain behind all the villains in the collapse of the American economy is the National Association of Realtors.

    The NAR’s legislative initiatives are uniformly criminal in their objectives. The purpose of all economic legislation is to induce by force an outcome that would not occur in the absence of that force. This is crime, no different from a mugging.

    As the author of every state’s real estate licensing laws, the NAR mugs consumers by preventing them from doing business with whom they choose — on the terms they choose.

    And the NAR mugs consumers by promising them a largely non-existent income tax deduction — for borrowers only, not all-cash buyers — while shifting the tax burden to other taxes — and to those hapless cash buyers and to people who don’t even own real property.

    The NAR mugs consumers by ginning up phony incentives to create churn in the real estate market, artificial activity that engenders commission income for real estate brokers but which is destructive of the larger economy.

    The NAR mugs consumers by giving lip-service to the idea private property while it does everything it can to undermine the rights of the owners of real property.

    Why can’t we get rid of the spurious mortgage interest tax deduction? The NAR. Why can’t we get rid of the Community Reinvestment Act? The NAR? Why can’t we get rid of FannieMae, FreddieMac, GinnieMae, FHA, VA, USDA and HUD? The NAR.

    The National Association of Realtors is at war with the actual interests of American consumers — and it is winning that war! There is no greater enemy to the prosperity of the American people than the NAR. Again and again, when you dig down to the sine qua non — without which not — cause of any sort of legislated criminality, you find the NAR as the decisive lobbying leverage. That is, where it is not itself the author of the laws.

    But, hey, so what? The NAR might be mugging the rest of the economy, but they’re my muggers, right?

    Guess again. Crime does not pay.

    The NAR’s crimes only seem to benefit the membership. In fact, every rent-seeking action of the NAR results in destruction elsewhere in the economy. The accretion of this destruction impoverishes everyone — including you. Including your children.

    A free economy is built on production, not on predation. That the NAR claims to be preying on the body politic in your behalf changes nothing. Parasites will feed and feed and feed until they devour the host.

    This is what is happening in America right now: Led by the National Association of Realtors, looting “business-people” of all sorts are devouring the host — that would be your family — to death.

    But wait! Every sort of business has its snout in the corporate welfare trough. The NAR is just getting its share. That’s the logical fallacy called Two Wrongs Make a Right.

    Fine! But even if the NAR doesn’t mug consumers, every other kind of pressure group will. This is true, alas. It’s also the logical fallacy known as Tu Quoque — loosely, “you do it, too.”

    Those two fallacies are worth mastering in all their varieties of plumage. Why? Because, when you find yourself deploying them, you are invariably rationalizing evil.

    The National Association of Realtors is evil.

    It exists to prey upon consumers, to use them as pawns in its conspiracy to enrich its own membership at everyone else’s expense.

    But crime never pays — and this is why the NAR’s economic policies have destroyed the American economy.

    What’s the best thing the NAR could do for the American people?

    It could become an indefatigable champion of the inalienable rights of property owners.

    This is what it could and should do — but it won’t.

    Instead, for as long as it continues to exist, the NAR will persevere as the mastermind of evil in the American economy. More rent-seeking laws. More bogus pretend-benefits for homeowners. More manipulation of the rules to churn the real estate markets. More economic chaos, everywhere, enduringly — until the entire kleptocracy collapses in mass starvation, as it eventually must.

    This is what the National Association of Realtors is. A knowing agent of evil hell-bent on destroying everything that, not that long ago, made America great. The NAR’s sole agenda is to get you to devour your own children — and to get you to thank them for the privilege of destroying everything you love in your life.

    So: Really, what is the absolute best thing the National Association of Realtors can do for America?

    It can drop dead. Ideally at once.

    That won’t happen, either, of course.

    But you can take away its moral sanction. How? Five simple words:

    “They don’t speak for me.”

    The NAR wants to take even more of your money, using it and you as leverage to bribe even more private-property-hating politicians to enact even more economy-destroying legislation.

    If you can quit this vicious labor union and still continue to work in residential real estate, more power to you. But if, like me, you have to pay these vampires to retain access to the MLS system, you can still do what you can to make it plain that the National Association of Realtors does not speak in your behalf.

    The NAR feeds on your blood, ultimately. It is you they deploy as the plastic soldier in their lobbying army. It is your money they subsist on. But it is your moral authority — a million members strong — that they cannot exist without.

    When you withdraw your sanction, you will only weaken the NAR by a tiny increment, that’s true. But you will have weakened it, just as I am doing here. They don’t speak for me.

    If it had any integrity, the National Association of Realtors would do us all a favor and drop dead. Since it hasn’t, we’re going to have to kill it, if we want our freedom back.

    I encourage you to quit the NAR if you can. But I entreat you to withdraw your moral sanction — “They don’t speak for me” — even if you can’t.

    Related posts:
  • What does it mean that the NAR won’t defend itself from the charge that it was the sine qua non cause of the Great Recession?
  • Never forget: The collapse of the global economy was caused by the National Association of Realtors.
  • NAR dead pool . . . ?

  • 19 comments

    Hey, Wisconsin: Here’s a better idea: Divest your state of its education monopoly!

    I’m totally digging the contretemps in Wisconsin. My take is that a lot of formerly-innocent Americans are seeing the naked grasping of Rotarian Socialism in a new way. Even without 2008, I think most people got it that business and government lived hand-in-pocket with each other. But the holy aura of the union hid a lot of ugliness — which is not to say that many people were looking all that closely, anyway. But a few of the schoolteachers of Wisconsin and a passel of imported ideologues have managed to illustrate undeniably a very potent idea:

    They see themselves as your owners and you as their slave.

    [continue reading at SplendorQuest.com.]

    Related posts:
  • It’s Springtime in Madison, Wisconsin. The trees are in blossom, the students are protesting — and I have a no-fee referral for an investment-savvy agent who works like a Bloodhound…
  • I’m Back – ready to entertain my fellow bloodhounds again
  • “Here’s a better idea: How about abolishing the state Board of Appraisal?”

  • 29 comments

    Farewell to Fannie and Freddie? Hold your breath…

    The Obamanation plans to offer up three proposals to eliminate FannieMae and FreddieMac from the secondary mortgage marketplace. Expect to hear much mournful keening, in coming weeks, from the country’s best enemy of private property, the National Association of Realtors.

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    More than two years after the government seized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Obama administration will recommend phasing out the housing-finance giants and gradually reducing the government’s footprint in the mortgage market, according to people familiar with the matter.

    The administration is expected to include three options for a post-Fannie and Freddie world when it releases a long-awaited proposal for the future of the nation’s $10.6 trillion mortgage market, which could come as soon as Friday. Together with federal agencies, Fannie and Freddie have accounted for nine of 10 new loan originations in the past year.

    The White House’s “white paper” will begin what promises to be a prolonged and fiery debate about the future of how homes are financed across the U.S. Any wind-down of Fannie and Freddie would happen gradually to avoid roiling markets, and the central, unanswered question is what kind of federal function, if any, the administration and Congress will invent to take their place.

    Steps to reduce the government role in the mortgage market likely would raise borrowing costs for home buyers, adding pressure on the still-fragile U.S. housing markets. Consequently, analysts believe any transition could take years and would be driven by the pace of the housing market’s recovery.

    The fight over how to restructure the housing-finance system has roiled Washington, and yet both parties have been hesitant to propose detailed legislation.

    For conservatives, Fannie and Freddie played a starring role in the financial crisis, and any solution that is viewed as replicating their function could face fierce opposition from some Republicans. But more moderate Republicans may resist such an approach and could join Democrats who have said a federal role is necessary to ensure broad access to home ownership.

    While advancing one detailed plan risks providing fodder for partisan battles, offering multiple proposals may help the administration force those views into the open, said Michael Barr, a former assistant Treasury secretary in the Obama administration.

    Brian Brady told us yesterday what actually should be done, to return rationality to the residential mortgage market:

    I really believe the best approach to lending, on an asset which defines its price performance to be subject to local economic factors, is localized lending, without any government intervention.

    The problem with “welfare-lite” is that it focuses on “national standards” for securitization: capital retention, standardized guidelines and fees, and useless oversight. Risk analysis is best done by those who intend to hold and service mortgages (the ultimate investor).

    Here’s the trick: the American homeowner is still a good bet…sort of. Local market performance is influencing default rates now. Steep declines in California are causing what we usually considered to be gibraltars to be skaters while marginal borrowers in Kansas, with generational ties to the heartland, become safe bets.

    There is something to be said about the Bailey Building & Loan approach to lending. An egoist can see that a borrower might see it in his best interest, to avoid default at all costs, to salvage his reputation in the community. Recent immigrants might want to establish a reputation in a community by appearing to be committed and stable. Both borrowers present unique risks, opportunities, and motivations to loan performance.

    How then might we deal with the secondary mortgage market? We don’t. Investors will find ways to quantify geographical risk, communicate the paper they want to buy, and establish channels of distribution to purchase the paper.

    The path to a robust mortgage market lies in complete deregulation.

    Brian offers this as a peroration:

    Unfortunately, the National Association of Realtors, keeps lobbying for welfare-lite to the peril of its members and customers.

    Too true, alas. The nature of a parasite is that it will continue to devour its host even when doing so will assure not just the death of that host but also its own destruction. There is no better way of understanding the rapacious Rotarian Socialism of the NAR: They don’t care how many lives they ruin — including their own.

    Related posts:
  • Quick update on the rumors….
  • ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
  • Update on the Fannie and Freddie Issue

  • 11 comments

    “If government doesn’t steer capital into housing, the capital doesn’t disappear; it could fund other job-creating businesses.”

    The Washington Post:

    Advertised as a way to stabilize the housing market, government-backed mortgage securitization ended up distorting and destabilizing it. The resulting misallocation of resources – evident not only in today’s massive bailout of Fannie and Freddie but also in the vast quantities of land, water and energy wasted on suburban sprawl from Las Vegas to Fort Lauderdale – is a true American tragedy. Today’s housing crisis is an opportunity to make sure nothing like it ever happens again.

    Damn straight. This is the Post, so the solution proposed is still WelfareLite, but any movement away from Rotarian Socialism is a move in the right direction.

    Related posts:
  • Ho-hum: Sky doesn’t fall after all
  • Mark Steyn: “When Responsibility Doesn’t Pay”
  • “Let’s unleash the genius of free markets on the capital of the American people simply by refusing to load the dice in favor of housing.”

  • 5 comments

    Reasons to be cheerful, Part 3.1.3: Praising Cain: Change the world forever by learning to love your life the way you actually live it.

    Imagine this: You are the High Priest of a nomadic tribe following a herd of foraging sheep. When the tribe needs food, a beast is slain and the meat is shared equally. The political structure is hierarchical, but even the Chieftain is governed by the unchanging traditions of the tribe.

    One year the herd wanders toward the seacoast. You encamp a short walk away from a trading post built by a sea-faring civilization.

    For the first time in their lives, your tribesmen discover a way of life different from their own. The traders live indoors, sleeping on beds! Their diet consists of more than meat and foraged nuts. They eat grain, fruit and fish, flavoring their water with delectable nectars.

    Wealth is not shared. Villagers trade with each other to get what they need — and each family owns its own land! Disputes are resolved by reasoned conciliation, not by fiat. Even so, each family seems to own more weapons than your whole tribe combined.

    Anyone can introduce a new tool, technique or idea at any time — upending the whole civilization if it comes to that — and not only is this not forbidden, it is avidly sought!

    This is horrifying to you as High Priest, but your horror is nothing compared to the apoplexy of the Chieftain. As he watches tribesmen disappearing into the village one by one, he turns to you for a solution.

    Now you understand the story of Cain and Abel.

    Cain made a sacrifice of grain, Abel of meat, and the meat — the wealth of the herders — was pleasing to the god of the tribe. Why does Cain slay Abel in the story? To scare the tribesmen back into the herd.

    The Greeks found a better way to live, spreading it with capitalistic abandon. Those who abhorred the Greek way of life crafted their mythologies to portray Hellenism as evil.

    Would you like to change the world, forever, for the good, one mind at a time? Here’s how:

    If you live in Cain’s world, stop pretending to live in Abel’s.

    If your life depends on capitalism, private property and free trade, stop pretending to admire collectivism. If you thrive by continuous innovation, stop enshrining tradition. If you govern your behavior by reason and conciliation, stop praising vengeance and retribution. If you want to live free from coercion by other people, stop pushing other people around by force.

    You know your way of life is better. Dare to share that secret with the victims of Abel. You are wrong to let Abel’s High Priests make you feel guilty about your wealth, but you are also wrong to hoard this civilization — this incomparable gift from Cain — to yourself. Innocents the world over are starving — in terror, in squalor — because you don’t have the courage to say that Abel was evil and Cain was good.

    Make that one small change in your life, and the rest will come of its own…

    December 6, 2006


    Reasons to be cheerful: Defying the specter of ugly fates.

    Manifest your own destiny: You say you want a revolution? Yeah, well anyone can piss and moan about how bad everything is. If you want things to change, I’m making a stout effort to show you how to achieve revolutionary change — from the inside out. But your own efforts at self-improvement will bear sweeter fruit sooner if you share what you’re learning with other people who love to live. You’ve never heard anything like this before. Why would you hoard it to yourself?

    Related posts:
  • Praising Cain: Change the world forever by learning to love your life the way you actually live it . . .
  • Reasons to be cheerful, Part 2.9: Marksmanship is a perfectible praxis.
  • Reasons to be cheerful, Part 3.0.3: When you resolve never to let other people dominate you, you come to be indomitable.

  • 4 comments

    Reasons to be cheerful, Part 3.0.3: When you resolve never to let other people dominate you, you come to be indomitable.

    That’s a lot to take in, so indulge me as we summarize what we’ve talked about so far:

    • You are a sovereign soul. Your purposive behavior is exclusively controlled by your self.

    • You cannot be governed. Other people cannot control your behavior, nor you theirs.
    • To the extent that other people — your religion, the government, your family or friends — might seem to control you, this is a consequence of your own freely-tendered consent, your own explicit, freely-chosen, on-going cooperation.
    • Because other people’s seeming control over you originates in your own sovereignty, you can recover your freedom at any time you want, simply by withdrawing your consent.
    • If you have surrendered any of your sovereignty in the past, your life will be better — for you — once you have regained full control over yourself.

    If you have made the mental effort to recover your sovereignty in full, your life will already be better. This is a profoundly important reason to be cheerful, wouldn’t you say?

    In other essays, I take up the mental, physical and moral benefits of a full commitment to self-adoration, but this is simple enough to see in summary: If you devote your life to doing everything you can think of to make your life better, more perfect — more perfectly, more abundantly rich in every kind splendor — your life will be immeasurably improved.

    Now reflect that we’re talking about what might happen if the shit really does hit the fan. If the government of the United States does not collapse under its own vast weight, so much the better. But even if it does, your own unique life will still be better than it might have been had you not made this change, won’t it?

    There is no downside to self-love. You’ve been poisoned on the idea, for your whole life, by people who know they cannot rule free minds. But just by daring to let your mind run free, by daring to be the uniquely beautiful specimen of humanity you have been all along, your life will be everything you’ve always known it could be.

    Yes, the world outside your mind can be better or worse — perhaps truly awful. But once you have broken all those chains that bind you, your own life can be everything you can make of it, and you will be better-equipped to deal with any challenges you might face from thugs, priests, politicians, pushy relatives and snoopy neighbors. I am not minimizing how bad things might get, but once you resolve to maximize your own in-born and cultivated capabilities, your own life will come to be progressively better, even if your external circumstance get progressively worse.

    There’s more. If you learn to live the way I am talking about, you will be impossible to push around. Thugs of all flavors live and die by your fear of what they might do to you. If you learn to love your self more than anything else on earth, you will be indomitable — as a matter of practical reality, not as some comic book fantasy.

    Do you see why? When the thug says, “Do it or die!” he doesn’t want you dead. He wants you to do his bidding. If you respond, “Go ahead and kill me, asshole!” you’ve taken away his — imaginary — power over you. He might kill you, anyway, but he will not have achieved his objective. And you will not have soiled your self by groveling before a brute.

    That might seem like a poor strategy, when the game is being played one-on-one. But suppose everyone around you shares our ideas about the supreme value of self-adoration? Now you have an entire community of people who would rather die than be slaves, and, in consequence none of them can be enslaved — and all of them are constantly on watch for opportunities to kill the thug. This is how free people stay free — by understanding that human sovereignty should never be traded for any other value.

    [To be continued in Part 3.0.4.]


    Reasons to be cheerful: Defying the specter of ugly fates.

    Manifest your own destiny: You say you want a revolution? Yeah, well anyone can piss and moan about how bad everything is. If you want things to change, I’m making a stout effort to show you how to achieve revolutionary change — from the inside out. But your own efforts at self-improvement will bear sweeter fruit sooner if you share what you’re learning with other people who love to live. You’ve never heard anything like this before. Why would you hoard it to yourself?

    Related posts:
  • Reasons to be cheerful, Part 2.9: Marksmanship is a perfectible praxis.
  • My 3 Blogging Resolutions for 2007 (Bloodhound Blog Edition)
  • Reasons to be cheerful, part 0.5: Sleeping giants can’t sleep forever.

  • 1 comment

    Reasons to be (less than) cheerful, Part 3.0.2: What has it cost us to have been so wrong for so long about selflessness and self-adoration?

    You’ve been told your whole life that all the troubles of the world owe to selfishness, and that the only true path to happiness is to renounce the self and to damn the only life you have ever known. Who told you this? Amazingly enough, it was thugs, priests and politicians — and their many, many minions. If you’ve read this far, you must know by now that every bit of this is a lie, the Big Lie that has been used in infinite variations over the course of all of human history to con decent, honest, innocent people like you into giving up everything you have for the benefit of the worst sorts of people.

    This is a premise I believe can be defended in reason to infinite precision: Everything squalid on the face of the earth, for all of human history, is the consequence of selflessness, of the deliberate, conscious, completely voluntary renunciation of the self by a person who has self-induced the belief that some objective he seeks can only be attained by an act of self-destruction.

    But that argument is just the corollary of this one: Everything we know of splendor, within our own minds and in the world around us, is an artifact not just of selfishness but of the most profound and most profoundly-beautiful self-love. If there is any normal state for human beings — normal as a matter of ontology, not statistics — this is it: To be so much in love with the things you make with the time of your life and the effort of your mind and your body that you cannot bear for those things to be less than perfect.

    Think of that: Whether you’re looking at a skyscraper or listening to a symphony or simply teaching a child to read, the source of the splendor you experience is self-adoration and nothing else — not just your own delight at being alive, or the child’s, but also the architect’s, the composer’s, the author’s and all of the people who worked on those creations. And then consider that it is self-love — the self-love that leads you to seek the best values you can obtain for yourself and for your family — that every dogma you have ever heard of, religious or political, denounces to the depths of every imaginary hell.

    This is not a conspiracy theory. It’s all too real. The people in this world who would dominate and enslave you have only one way of achieving that objective: By conning you into cheating yourself not just of your self and of your sovereignty, but of everything you might have known of splendor in your life. It might seem poetic to say that they rob you of everything and leave you with nothing, but this is false. In fact, they rob you of everything you might have been in your life, and every splendor you might have known, and then deliver to you a life of infinite squalor instead.

    How rich might you be, if you had devoted your life to making everything you could of your time, instead of feeling guilty about every self-loving thought you have ever had?

    How deep might your love for your spouse be — how enthralling might your love-life together be — if you had concentrated on making your marriage perfect, instead of worrying that seeking your own happiness might be a betrayal of your beliefs?

    How much more completely could you be a parent to your children and a worthy companion to your friends, if you had been willing, for all the years of your life, to put your own values first in your life, not the goals dictated to you by your doctrine?

    How much more might you have achieved, had you been willing, for all your life, to live up to your self, to be that hero of your own life that you imagined in such loving detail when first you abstracted the idea your self?

    I’m not trying to take anything from you. But I am trying to point out how much has already been taken from you by other people’s attempts to dominate you — and by your own attempts to dominate them.

    I like to talk about the cost of government this way: If we say that the first great betrayal of American freedom came about with the 1789 Constitution, then we can make an effort to calculate the cost-to-date of this hellhound we have unleashed on ourselves.

    So we start with the idea that every action of government occasions some loss of wealth. Taxes, obviously, take wealth from the productive, deploying it toward unproductive ends. Regulation increases costs without increasing the economic value of the regulated good. Tariffs, duties and fees all raise prices. Labor laws increase costs and decrease productivity. Deficit spending impairs the credit markets. In short, there is nothing that government does that does not result in a drag on the economy.

    Now consider that each one of those costs carries with it a corresponding opportunity cost in the marketplace: If my money has been stolen by taxation, I cannot invest it in pursuit of profit. So the drag occasioned by government is actually doubled: Introducing force into the market not only destroys wealth at first-hand, it also destroys the opportunity the producer of that that wealth had to put it to further use, and thus to produce even more wealth.

    It gets worse. Each one of those opportunity costs has an interest value, going forward. And since we can expect successive profits to be reinvested, the fact is that each one of those opportunity costs has a compound interest value.

    So here is an interesting question: What is the compound interest value of all of the government we have afflicted ourselves with in the United States since 1789? What might we have achieved with that wealth, had we not wasted it on the vain pretense that people’s behavior can be governed from the outside?

    Now let’s take that all one giant step further: If we acknowledge that every human being who has ever lived has inhibited his or her self to greater and lesser degrees in response to attempts by other people to govern our behavior — how much have we lost?

    What is the compound interest value of all of that lost human potential? How much incredible wealth are we still throwing away, every day? How much richer could we all be, if some of us were to decide to stop pretending that other people can be governed from the outside?

    How much better could your own life be, if you stopped worrying about what other people have the power to do to you, and what you have the power to do to them, and instead devoted your whole mind to making your own life better in every way you can think of?

    [To be continued in Part 3.0.3.]


    Reasons to be cheerful: Defying the specter of ugly fates.

    Manifest your own destiny: You say you want a revolution? Yeah, well anyone can piss and moan about how bad everything is. If you want things to change, I’m making a stout effort to show you how to achieve revolutionary change — from the inside out. But your own efforts at self-improvement will bear sweeter fruit sooner if you share what you’re learning with other people who love to live. You’ve never heard anything like this before. Why would you hoard it to yourself?

    Related posts:
  • Reasons to be cheerful, Part 2.9: Marksmanship is a perfectible praxis.
  • Reasons to be cheerful, Part 3.0.3: When you resolve never to let other people dominate you, you come to be indomitable.
  • Reasons to be cheerful, part 0.5: Sleeping giants can’t sleep forever.

  • 2 comments

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