Archive for February, 2010
Think of Greece as California: Every year an irresponsible and corrupt bureaucracy awards itself higher pay and better benefits paid for by an ever-shrinking wealth-generating class. And think of Germany as one of the less profligate, still-just-about-functioning corners of America such as my own state of New Hampshire: Responsibility doesn’t pay. You’ll wind up bailing out anyway. The problem is there are never enough of “the rich” to fund the entitlement state, because in the end it disincentivizes everything from wealth creation to self-reliance to the basic survival instinct, as represented by the fertility rate. In Greece, they’ve run out Greeks, so they’ll stick it to the Germans, like French farmers do. In Germany, the Germans have only been able to afford to subsidize French farming because they stick their defense tab to the Americans. And in America, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are saying we need to paddle faster to catch up with the Greeks and Germans. What could go wrong?16 comments
About a year ago, I posted that the Android OS was going to free me from Windows (and Office.) Unfortunately, the g1 was a gigantic POS, so that didn’t happen. However, in the meantime something fortunate did happen:
I dumped a giant glass of iced tea on my laptop.
During the two weeks of my PC repair, I was forced to move off Outlook and start using the powerful tools that Google provides (free) in their apps products. End of two weeks, and I was off Outlook entirely.
Zoom forward a few months from that point and I’m bored out of my mind (funny how that happens in a real estate broker’s life during the Nov-Dec months.) Out of this sheer boredom, I decided to install Ubuntu (linux) on an old PC laptop we had sitting around.
I’m writing this blog post on that machine. Ubuntu is incredible. This 5 year old laptop with 512kb of RAM runs faster than my 1.5 year old PC w/ 3gb of RAM and lightning fast processor. I can’t wait to replace buggy Vista with Ubuntu on my fast machine!
So…I put it to you: Find an old laptop in your house, download Ubuntu, install it, and give it 2 weeks. Ubuntu is ready for prime time. You belong in the cloud, and there’s no reason to be bound to an OS.
I’d love to hear feedback from anyone/everyone willing to give Ubuntu two weeks1!9 comments
The American People will take Socialism but they won’t take the label –Upton Sinclair
I believe that the American people will want the label of “unfettered capitalism” but will not necessarily adopt the economic system. Americans like government in small doses but they like (and mostly trust) their government. The morality of the argument for voluntaryism, while sound, will be difficult to adopt. Those of you, who believe that government is the problem rather than the solution, should never stop saying “I told you so” when Statist policies fail but you would do well to remain aware to the fact that Americans like a little bit of government. That is how we can thrive amidst chaos.
Let’s talk about how we might prepare ourselves for the next 20 years:
I don’t believe we’re in a depression nor even a recession nor do think the 1930’s were a depression. Rather, I believe we’re in the middle of a huge economic shift like the one we experienced in the early part of the 20th century. The economic decline of the 30s and the current economic decline was a fallout from a shift in technology. The economic decline of the 1930s was some 25 years after the implementation of the assembly line at Ford Motor Company. It took that long for the economy to absorb the shift from a mostly agrarian society to a manufacturing society. It was no easy shift, either.
Critics in the 20’s and 30’s claimed that we couldn’t eat machines but crop yields increased “spectacularly” in the twentieth century. Domestic food production was so efficient that, despite what Willie Nelson said 25 years ago, American farmers were quite prosperous. The market rewarded those who improved our lives by moving us along roads, on top of the water, and through the air…faster and cheaper. Americans wanted to travel because we were already well-fed.
Is it any surprise that the current economic decline happened some 25 years after IBM’s introduction of the PC? Is this really a “failure of capitalism”, as Van Jones might have you believe, or an unexpected response to the Fed trying to prop up a an economy that was shifting away from mature industries and towards growth industries? I don’t think we’re recessing, I think we’re progressing to a more abundant society and I think the internet is one of the technologies that will help us get there.
A business school professor introduced me to this “shift” in 1987. I can’t remember his name for the life of me but I can hear his booming, provocative voice asking us what our parents’ professions were and what our intended professions might be. Our answers were predictable. Plant managers’ kids wanted to be accountants. Coal miners’ kids wanted to be stock brokers. Farmers’ kids wanted to be IT architects. That professor accused all of us of being guilty of wanting to make “nothing” with our lives…
…and then he told us that it was perfectly fine. He described our generation of business school students as being on the precipice of (what he called) the fourth factor of production; information. He described an information economy that sounded like something out of a George Orwell novel. Bewildered, I saw this crash coming way back in 1987 when I thought “who the hell is going to buy information?”. I was right about the crash but wrong about the reasons. This is the fallout of a shift in the economy and, like my professor, I think that’s perfectly fine.
I still am unclear about how to really profit from this information revolution but I see entrepreneurship alive and well in that sector. Make no mistake about it, the Government will try to find a way to control this growth. Soon, you may hear that the internet is so essential to our nation’s commerce that we can’t afford leave its maintenance and operation solely to “for-profit” enterprises. When that won’t work, they’ll just jail the innovators for being too successful. Reject that tyranny lest I have to say “I told you so”.
This is the second part of The Dawn in America series. Read the first piece here I’ll offer some more thoughts about opportunities in the future.9 comments
Short bleg to all you BHBers out there. When I was in non-profit fundraising, one of the cardinal rules was that long letters – 12 to 18 page letters – perform better than short fundraising letters.
But I wonder whether the same principle holds true for direct mail letters where you’re selling a service. I send out direct mail letters for my law practice to people who’ve recently been arrested for various alleged offenses. Wonder if I should be sending out longer letters. Right now my letter is two pages…
Any thoughts?13 comments
[This is an essay I wrote in the mid-1990s, an attempt to explain to libertarians, especially various flavors of devotees of Ayn Rand, why the idea of a minimal state must always fail — just as the minimal state as envisioned in 1789 is failing right now. The argument holds up well, I think — though I am by now less lean-look’d a prophet. It’s just that no one wants to hear it… –GSS]
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming
The first thing to do is laugh, of course.
We stare tragedy right in the face, so close to it we can smell its stale breath, and it is reaching for us.
Everything we say should not, must not, cannot happen — every bit of it does happen. Teenage gang-bangers with AR-15s car-jack Sally Suburbanite and toss her baby out the window. Middle-aged speed freaks imprison their own mothers and force them to write bad checks. One-hundred-thirty-five years after emancipation, people are owned as slaves and the value of their labor is stolen from them. The falcon cannot hear the falconer and Vicky Weaver and 81 Branch Davidians lay slain.
Should not. Must not. Cannot. Does.
And there’s plenty more, of course, and every bit of it is tragic. Except us, for we are tragic and ridiculous. We wag our fingers and deliver pithy little lectures on morality. Or we wag our fingers and deliver pithy little lectures on utility. And we argue amongst ourselves and hone and polish and perfect our pithy little arguments until they are fit to be inscribed on parchment. And we wag our fingers and deliver them from whatever soap-box we can find.
And until lately no one was listening. And even though we have contrived a nearly perfect roadmap to civilization, it is being incinerated in a conflagration of savagery.
So laugh, damnit. Laughter is what’s left when every other precious thing is gone…
Our tragedy arises not from the precious things that have been taken from us, but from the precious things we have spurned. They have not beaten us yet, but they are winning. And they are winning not because of their strength, but because of our refusal to do battle from our strength. We have crippled ourselves, and in doing it we have given them an advantage they could never have gained on their own.
Without remorse — as a matter of pride even — we have conceded their most basic premise, and they are using our own power to destroy us. To destroy civilization, really, to raze in twenty years what is still unraised after twenty centuries. The worst specimens of humanity are full of passionate intensity, and they stand unopposed.
And who could oppose them, taking account that we are one among them? Indeed, I have seen the enemy and I’ll be damned if it isn’t us!
And I have a lot of nerve, haven’t I? You were gracious enough to invite me into your mind, and I repay your hospitality by blaming you for everything on Earth that’s wrong. There ought to be a law…
Which team are we on again…?
Which team do we think we’re on?
Why, we’re the people who fight naked savagery, of course. Right…? Yes, yes, of course. We fight that naked savagery tooth and claw, hammer and tong, sixes and sevens and nines. By god, we hate that naked savagery. Don’t we…?
We hate it so much we clothe it in bright-striped tails and call it Uncle Sam. We stick a feather in its cap and call it blood pudding. Or something. But we can’t bear that naked savagery, and we won’t let it bare its head around us.
And when we go up against an AR-15 with a pen knife, it’s just not right that our tail lights vanish in the distance.
Just not right!
There ought to be a law, damnit! Better yet, a bolt of lightning ought to shoot down out of the angry sky to smite the wicked. All of them, all at once. Today, if it can be arranged.
And yes, I am making fun of you. And of me. Of all of us, and all of our forebears. We sought to civilize savagery by inventing an inhibited form of savagery, and we deserve everything we’re getting. It’s right, it’s just, and it’s predictable to nine decimal places.
What did we do wrong?
Instead of renouncing savagery, we sought to rationalize it.
We are no less savages than the gang-bangers or the federal falcons, we’re just not as good at savagery. We don’t revel in our naked bloodlust, we hide it behind a fig leaf and argue to ourselves that we are not bloodthirsty, that our spasms of sadism are right and necessary and justified. We are inhibited, and where they can kill casually on a whim, we can kill only after beating our breasts for months or years. But kill we do, smiting the wicked in the name of the Greater Good.
Those naked savages are capricious, but we clothed savages are deliberate. They brutalize on impulse, but we have sound, detailed, carefully considered reasons for our brutality. Their crimes are random, but, by god, our crimes are justified!
How could they not be? Look at all those philosophy books. Look at that immense pile of law books. Listen to those orators, the finest minds of the West. After twenty centuries of civilization, how can what we do not be justified?
Because it’s not. Because it’s grounded in a savage premise. Because what we have dared to call civilization rejects caprice and replaces it with dementia. And, my gentle and long-suffering libertarian friends, you are not exempted from this charge.
In fact, I think I’m going to run you in. You look peaceful enough, but why should I take chances? I’m going to drive your wrist back up against your shoulder blades and frog-march you down to the station-house. How about a strip search? How about a cavity search?; can’t buy that thrill, now can you? How about some sleep deprivation to give you the opportunity to reflect upon your right to remain silent? And while you’re locked up for months, awaiting your speedy trial, I think I’ll seize and sell your assets. Teach you a lesson. Let you know who’s boss.
Should not. Must not. Cannot. Does.
And the question is: if I can do all that vicious stuff to you, why can’t you do it all right back to me?
The savage answer is: because I have an AR-15 and you have a pen knife.
The allegedly civilized answer is: because I have a sanction and you do not.
Meet the Third Thing, gentle readers. A decidedly behind-the-scenes political operative. The man behind the curtain, so to speak.
When I come to arrest you, there is only you and only me. I am like you and you are like me. We are equal as things, as equal as two rocks or two cans of soup or two kittens. You can jump a little higher than me and I can run a little faster than you, but these are merely differences of degree. There is no power or potential that you have that I lack, nor do I have any special capacities that you do not have. We are equal. If I have the right or power or capacity to do something to you, then you have the right or power or capacity to do it right back to me.
So how is it that I have the right to use pain compliance on you and submit you to a cavity search, but you lack the right to do those same things right back to me?
For this brutality to be justified, there must be some Third Thing present with us. There is you and there is me, and if we are alone, then we are equal. If we are not equal, then there must be a Third Thing in the room that confers upon me super-human powers and consigns you to sub-human responses.
Before, there were two rocks, and they differed in color, weight, dimension, density and mineral content, but they were equally rocks. Neither rock was more rock than the other. They differed in measurement, but they were equal in their rockness. And then the Third Thing appeared on the scene and suddenly one rock was ultra-rock and the other became infra-rock.
And where the gang-banger steals and sells your car and justifies it by pointing his AR-15 at your surrender reflex, the statesman steals and sells your car and justifies it by reference to magic or mysticism or undiluted insanity. The gangster acts like a savage, like a two-legged animal. But the statesman attempts to act like a god, like Dionysus drunk on the nectar of his own imaginary righteousness.
This is important, perhaps the most important thing I have to say. We are not talking about what one can do; the gang-bangers are walking object lessons in what human beings are capable of doing. We are not talking about what one ought to do, not here. What we are talking about is what one can justify doing, the set of actions one can rationally defend taking with respect to other people. We are talking not just about human social interaction but about human social interaction that can be rigorously defended in persuasively valid terms.
In other words, we are talking not merely about politics but about political philosophy. We are ignoring the savages and the gang-bangers; their political philosophy is nothing more than “might makes right”. We concern ourselves here with those political philosophies that presume to reject, to rise above “might makes right”. We concern ourselves with you gentle libertarian, with the charming little bungalow you’ve made into your ideological home.
“Might makes right” is a crude attempt at a philosophical distinction. The argument runs, “I have martial prowess or superior weaponry, therefore I am different from you. My domination of you is justified, just as I am justified in the dominion I claim over my horse. Because I have the ability to inflict pain upon you, you are no more than a beast to me, without liberty, without rights, without autonomy. You are a thing, an extension of me, and I am fundamentally distinct from you.”
We might wish that savages spoke and reasoned that well, but that’s what they’re saying, however incoherently. The distinction itself is idiotic; a human being is not changed into another thing by acquisition of a skill or possession of a chattel. And it’s worth pointing out that the savage himself does not believe it. He wouldn’t offer up his incoherent explanation if he did. We don’t dominate horses in the same way we dominate non-living things, but we do dominate them to a degree, and we don’t bother to rationalize our domination to them. The savage must declare that you are a beast because he knows you aren’t.
And the statesman, although he is marginally more coherent, also makes philosophical distinctions that do not bear up to close scrutiny. For example, he may say, “My domination of you is justified because you have consented to it in every particular.” He will hold up his empty hand and say, “See here? See this Social Contract? You’re committed. You’re obliged. I have your consent.” Meet the Third Thing.
Or he might say, “My domination of you is justified because I have been selected by god himself to guard you from the exponents of evil who falsely claim to have been selected by god himself to protect you from me. It’s the Divine Right of Kings.” Meet the Third Thing.
Or he might say, “My domination of you is the will of the people, the little people, the common people. The weak. The halt. The lame. The children…” Meet the Third Thing.
The zeitgeist, the spirt of the times? Meet the Third Thing.
The practical benefit of uniform law? Meet the Third Thing.
The individual’s natural right not to be injured? Meet the Third Thing.
The consent of the governed? Meet the Third Thing.
The purity of the race? Meet the Third Thing.
The inevitability of one-world Socialism? Meet the Third Thing.
And we can traverse our way down the tree of philosophy until we arrive at a pitiful little proto-statesman with a shaman by his side. He will tell us with a devout solemnity that he is justified in claiming domination over us because he alone possesses the sacred ceremonial amulet. Meet the Third Thing in its undiluted form…
For the Third Thing, ultimately, is insanity defended with devout solemnity. There is no Social Contract imagined by you but binding upon me. There is no Divine Right of Kings. Every person is possessed of free will, but there is no accumulation of that will, and the voluntary support of many or even most people does not justify anything. There is no zeitgeist. Neither your convenience nor mine justifies our domination of our neighbors, or each other. You have the capacity to act in self-defense, but it absurd to argue that this somehow prevents future injuries. “The consent of the governed” could only have meaning if the consent were explicit and unanimous. The “race” has no rights. Neither Socialism nor any other creation of the mind of man is inevitable. And, finally, the sacred ceremonial amulet is just a rock suspended from a rope.
These are all products of the imagination. They are wholly products of the imagination. They are all extremely elaborate, often very confusing, pantomimes of philosophy. They all concede that “might makes right” is not a philosophical argument; it is brutal, unsavory, and, as above, idiotic. And the question that each one of these creeds — and many others — is an answer to is this:
How can we dominate people without claiming that “might makes right”?
It’s a good question. A noble question. And the people who have striven to answer it have been, for the most part, proud and noble people. The answers they’ve come up with have been demented, of course, but that’s unavoidable: the question is demented.
When the gang-banger invites you to stand on the curb while he drives away in your car, “might makes right” is his only justification. And when the cop invites you to grab your ankles so he can search your rectum for contraband, “might makes right” is his only justification. No one volunteers to be pushed around against his will. “Volunteers against his will” is a meaningless construct. And “dominate without ‘might makes right'” is also a meaningless construct.
The question the political philosophers don’t ask is: how can we elicit the cooperation of people? They don’t ask it because the answer is obvious; we all know how to elicit cooperation. The problem, they say, is: what about people who will not cooperate?
Well, what about them? We’re not asking whether or not one has the right to retaliate — respond “like for like” — to injury. We’re asking whether or not you have the right or power or capacity to dominate me, to break me like you’d break your horse to saddle. If you don’t, then we must either find a way to cooperate or part company. But if you do, then we are not the same kind of thing, we are as unlike as you and your horse, and “might makes right” is the only philosophical justification for your actions.
This is vital: one person cannot dominate another without deploying superior martial prowess, superior weaponry, or both. To dominate means to rule by force. There is no other way to rule, and there is no justification for ruling by force except force, “might makes right”. The Third Thing is the means by which philosophical proto-savages attempt to convince themselves that brutality-for-a-cause is in some meaningful way distinct from ordinary random brutality.
The Third Thing is the thing that stands between the political philosopher and his own recognition that he has not renounced savagery, he has merely rationalized it.
The Third Thing is the things that, you say, joins the two of us when you claim that you are right to do to me what you would insist would be wrong for me to do right back to you. If you can arrest me but I can’t arrest you, there must be some distinction between us, something that makes us not equal, and that distinction is the Third Thing. If you can imprison me but I can’t imprison you, there must be some distinction between us, something that makes us not equal, and that distinction is the Third Thing. If you can punish me — for my own good, to teach me a lesson — but I can’t punish you, there must be some distinction between us, something that makes us not equal, and that distinction is the Third Thing.
In order for you to claim any justification for your domination of me, you must insist that there is some distinction between us, some right or power or capacity that makes you super-human and renders me sub-human. This distinguishing property, whatever it is, is the Third Thing.
And, whatever it is, it is imaginary. It does not exist. We are equal. You are what I am and I am what you are. We are equally human, the same kind of thing, and there is no basis in evidence for claiming that we are in some way distinct.
And where the savage says, “I am distinct from you because I have a weapon in my hand,” the political philosopher insists, “I am distinct from you because I have nothing in my hand, nothing but an unreadable book and a sacred amulet.”
The Third Thing does not exist. And because it does not exist, there is no defensible creed of the domination of one person by another. You can try to dominate me, but you cannot argue that you are justified in trying to dominate me. There can be no such thing as the just domination of one person by another.
And our charming little bungalow turns out to be a house of cards.
And our pithy little lectures turn out to be carefully crafted nonsense.
And we have taken on that naked savagery and fought it by wrapping it in the raiments of our impenetrable verbiage. And the emperor is not merely naked, the emperor is just another naked savage.
And I have seen the enemy and I’ll be damned if it isn’t us…
Ayn Rand said that libertarianism leads to anarchism, and this is correct. If we adopt her own admonition that one must never initiate violence, we must conclude that every form of government is invalid, since every form of government is a coercive monopoly on the dispute resolution business. If instead we argue that each person owns his own life, then we must conclude that every form of government is invalid, since every sort of domination of one person by another is an attempt to express ownership — rightful use or disposal — of the person being dominated. And if we wander into my corner of the universe, Planet Third Thing, we discover that every form of government is invalid, because every form of government is validated in imagination alone, in dementia.
Kind of a problem if, like Rand, like Nozick, you want a state at any price.
But Aristotle said we must follow the argument wherever it leads. Well, what if we do? We arrive at anarchism, of course. Not for any affirmative reason, but simply by the process of elimination. There are good, sound, well-reasoned arguments for affirming anarchism as a political philosophy, but they’re beyond the scope of this essay. But we have kicked the stilts out from under two millennia of political philosophers, and their living exponents are probably not very happy about it. We have shown that their basic question — how can we dominate people without claiming that “might makes right”? — is nonsense. What can we say to them when they demand to know, as they will, “Well then, what does make sense?”
What does make sense…?
Rationality makes sense, of course. Claiming to have a different identity as a thing because you carry a weapon makes no sense, obviously, and there is no end of snickering to be had at the expense of those stupid, stupid savages. But claiming to have a different identity as a thing because you uphold a peculiar idea or carry a ceremonial totem also makes no sense, and we refrain from snickering only because the advocates of these sorts of positions are barely visible behind the fog of their rationalizations. But what makes sense, obviously, is acting upon things according to their own true, unchangeable identity.
Anything else is insanity, and it is a testament to the foggy facility of the political philosophers that it is necessary to say that it is insane to attempt to act toward human beings as if they were something else.
I am discrete, separate, detached. I am not a part of you and you are not a part of me and we are not together parts of something else. I am free. My actions are initiated and controlled solely from within my body, operating on the direction of my mind. There is no circumstance by which you or anyone else can assert control over my mind or my body. I am sovereign. My body is a dominion over which I alone am master — not as a matter of right, but as a matter of physiology. I have the capacity to defend my life from any peril that presents itself, and there is nothing you can do, short of killing me, to deny me the power of self-defense. To dominate me, you must use force, and your use of force is your admission that I am not your property to do with as you choose.
And you are just like me. We are alike as things, equal in our separateness, our freedom, our sovereignty. We are alike in our equal possession of the power to act in self-defense, and we are alike in our ability to comprehend that we have this power. Considered as things, we are the same thing, and there can be no rational basis for concluding otherwise. We can conclude differently, or pretend that we have, but we cannot justify such a conclusion in reason.
We cannot dominate people without claiming that “might makes right”. And we cannot rationally claim that “might makes right”. Ergo, we cannot in justice attempt to dominate each other. We can do it, if we want, but cannot justify it in reason.
Trying to justify domination, trying to rationalize it with the Third Thing, has unhappy consequences, as we can see all around us. Again it is absurd that we need to say this, but we do: operating from insane premises results in insane conclusions. It’s not the gang-banger with the AR-15 who is crazy, it’s the political philosopher who stands on the curb sputtering, “Should not! Must not! Cannot!”
What doesn’t make sense is striving to contrive ever more absurd Rube Goldberg machines, senseless contraptions that enable you to drive away in my car but forbid the gang-banger to drive away in yours, all without anybody getting hurt. You can do this if you want, but it should surprise no one that the trousered, inhibited savages will lose every battle to the uninhibited, naked savages.
And what does make sense is to renounce savagery. This is what the political philosophers has been aiming at for 2,000 years, and it’s no stain on them that they missed a target they couldn’t see and could barely imagine. Civilization is the slow march to the recognition that each of us is separate from all the others, that each of us is free from all the others, and that each of us is sovereign to rule over our own lives. We have risen from the animals, and the animals have never tired of demanding that we rejoin them. But we are human — unique among creatures — as we leave the savagery of the animals behind us.
What makes sense is to acknowledge that we cannot actually dominate one another, that we stare tragedy right in the face whenever we try to dominate one another. What makes sense is to devote our incomparable minds to discovering ways to live together without attempts at domination. We can do this, of course. We already do it almost all of the time. And I can name dozens of simple and effective non-coercive ways of dealing with people who insist on attempting domination. That is also beyond the scope of this essay, but it is sufficient to say that it is possible for human beings to find ways to get along without pushing each other around at gunpoint. And again this is an absurdity that is necessary to state: we can live without killing each other. In peace, in harmony, in prosperity, in splendor…
The bay-trees in our country are all wither’d
And meteors fright the fixed stars of heaven;
The pale-faced moon looks bloody on the earth
And lean-look’d prophets whisper fearful change;
Rich men look sad and ruffians dance and leap,
The one in fear to lose what they enjoy,
The other to enjoy by rage and war:
These signs forerun the death or fall of kings.
William Shakespeare, Richard II
We rub our eyes at the dawn of a new millennium, and for this reason if for no other, people are awake to the possibility of new and better ideas. We have them — a nearly perfect roadmap to civilization — and we are skilled at conveying our philosophy.
Our appeal as libertarians to the rest of the political spectrum is our immense consistency. They see us from a distance, and we appear to them to be monolithic in our advocacy of human liberty. Well we are, almost. But that little bit of corruption, that tiny little claim that force can sometimes be justified, will in due course destroy the rest. Just like the last time.
Savagery does not make sense. The proto-savagery called statesmanship does not make sense. What makes sense is the renunciation of savagery, the renunciation of “might makes right”.
We can convince them of what is right. Probably we can’t convert them by the busload, but they are listening to us, and they never were before. We can tell them about the Third Thing all day and all night, describe it in perfect and loving detail, and in short order they will stop listening; they’ve heard it all before, after all, and the competing brands of imaginary amulets are kinder, gentler and more forgiving. Or we can strive to convince them of what is really right. But first we have to discover it.8 comments
Anyone who has read this satirical piece knows that my writing turned macabre this past year. One weekend, one book, one article, and one website dramatically changed the way I look at the world and it inhabitants. It has been painful to watch my political party regress from Bob Taft to Teddy Roosevelt in less than 25 years. It is crushing to watch REALTORs and mortgage originators cheer for professional slavery rather than to muster up the courage associated with the rugged individualism that made this country great.
It has been said that it’s always darkest before dawn so while it was pitch black this past summer, I remained confident that Morning in America was nigh. Rick Santelli fired the outburst heard ’round the continent and glimmers of light came by way of tea parties and election upsets. As the economy sputtered, the previous and current administration acted like looters amidst a blackout but people have caught on to their theft- and they don’t like it.
It’s gonna get a lot darker before the dawn and I’ve never been so optimistic in my life. Here’s why- collectivism is a failed philosophy. For all its noble efforts, the unintended consequences of collectivism stifle the indomitable American spirit of reward for creativity, ingenuity, and innovation. We saw collectivism fail here, here, and most recently here. Now, the average guy in the street knows it, too.
Remember the Stockdale Paradox and you’ll remain optimistic with a keen eye to the circumstances as they unfold. Now, hold on to your hat because…
It’s gonna get uglier so be prepared. I think great opportunities will go to the prepared. The day that emerges from the dawn will be so bright you’ll swear that global warming isn’t a hoax. Here’s how I see the next cuppla years playing out:
- Real estate may decline, even more. While the lower end of the market has already declined to utilitarian value, the affordable housing organizations will (finally) attack that which artificially inflates markets; zoning regulations. Rather than convert old military bases to detention FEMA camps, the impending currency crisis will force the Federal government to divest itself of real estate holdings to replenish the Treasury. Developers will have an opportunity to build housing that people can afford to buy or rent. The Reds Greens will try to attach deed restrictions for those developments, in order to advance a new way to redistribute wealth, but their original supporters will sacrifice the collectivist ideology for the immediate need to house people. The free market will find new disciples in the most unlikely of places.
- Sovereign debt is going to default en masse. Greece is just the beginning. Ireland, Portugal, France, Italy, and Spain will set off a chain reaction that dismantles the European Union. The masters of the Old World will tighten the screws while the people take to the streets. Americans will be horrified when they see this. I think Americans will demand drastic spending cuts from our government. The American people will wonder why we borrow money from other nations to offer free military defense to those very same nations. America may selectively default against those nations in a bi-partisan demonstration of disgust: the leftists will cite human rights and the neo-conservatives will giggle in delight that they can “harm” the Chi-Coms and Islamo-Facsist States through the most unconventional of weapons- the debenture.
- Americans will respond to this default of our sovereign debt with a HUGE demand for government to be reduced drastically. The sovereign default and subsequent currency collapse will be the light that shines brightly, exposing all of the cockroaches in the room. NO will become the new YES for politicians but it still won’t be enough. Woe betide the politician that expands existing entitlements programs come election day.
- The U.S. Dollar will be devalued but so many other currencies will have collapsed it won’t feel too painful (unless you buy stuff from or travel frequently to Switzerland). Financial pandemonium will last for about two weeks until the most likely technology emerges with a solution backed by the most likely institutions. Tin-foil hat theorists shouldn’t worry about the One World Currency because demand for competing currencies will rise and the most likely technology will find a way to partner with asset protection firms.
- Domestic oil exploration and drilling will grow as the supply gets restricted as aresult of the mistrust propagated by the sovereign defaults.
- Public property divestiture will offer big opportunities for the most entrepreneurial of real estate and finance professionals. Private real estate finance will boom as demand for capital explodes and commensurate returns will reflect the risk associated with the local projects. Think locally, invest locally will be the new normal in real estate finance.
- Certain companies are going to thrive so the stock market won’t necessarily stay down. While the world will wonder about the safety of dollar-denominated assets, they’ll be worried about the euro, the yen, and the yuan, too. I suspect investors will get really smart, perform the due diligence required, and invest for longer terms. I expect trading volume to drop. You may see annual stockholder meetings held in Madison Square Garden rather than an office board room on Madison Avenue to satisfy that demand for activist capital.
I have a lot going on in my head about the future. I’ve already written some 1800 words and I feel like I’m just getting started. Let’s call this a series and I’ll break it up into a bunch of segments. As always, your feedback is most appreciated.17 comments
1. Google Voice
I know there’s been some sporadic discussion here about Google Voice: whether it’s useful/wise to use as a business phone number, and about the quality of its transcriptions.
I’ve been very pleased with it in terms of the call routing functionality, and the integration with my Droid and Google Contacts.
The transcriptions, true, are sometimes hit or miss. Lately they’ve been more “hits”. I practice in Raleigh, NC, with its share of both southern and other accents. Yes, certain voicemails turn out to be gibberish when transcribed. Frankly, I don’t know that I’d be much better if I were personally transcribing the voicemail myself, let alone leaving it to the warm embrace of Google’s computer systems!
But here are four of the most recent voicemails I’ve gotten, unedited except for the removal of certain identifying information:
Voicemail 1: My name is [name]. My number is [accurate!]. Once I have a question regarding a limited driving privilege. If you can give me a call back. I’d appreciate it. Thank you.
Voicemail 2: Hey, This Is [name]. I’ll talk to my probation officer and he wants me to give you the number is that you can call him as name is [name]. His number is [accurate!] thanks bye.
Voicemail 3: Hi Damon, Damon, this is [NAME] I was just calling to get a confirmation that you had indeed received my [BADLY TRANSCRIBED NAME OF A FORM] from my insurance agent. If you could please return my call. At [NAME]. Thank you.
Obviously the names are not even transcribed properly, but the rest of it is pretty good. These are short voicemails. Longer voicemails where the subject matter is more complicated tend to be less accurate. But usually Google is able to accurately transcribe the name of the offense/crime the person is calling about. This is a big help in my line of work when you’re sitting in court and wondering whether you need to run out to return the call! A speeding ticket can probably wait. A drug trafficking case… that requires an immediately reply.
2. 1-800 numbers and local businesses
On the one hand, I’ve read and been told that 800 numbers can signal to potential clients that your business is “established” etc. etc.
But I guess I’m torn. First, I’ve been using one online service – Grasshopper – that lets you pick 888/877 etc. numbers and route them to your office/cell etc. My experiences have been decidedly mixed. Set-up was easy. Cost is low. But it takes, in my view, too long for the phone call from the potential client to actually ring to my phone – time during which the client could give up and call someone else. In addition, Grasshopper’s web interface is slow, complicated, and not intuitive for me to use.
Any thoughts out there about whether having a TOLL FREE number for a local business in this day and age where many people are calling from cell phones and being charged minutes anyway is worthwhile? I operate almost exclusively in the 919 area code.
3. Blogging Software
A while back I recommended Ecto for Mac OS, a desktop blogging publisher/editor. It is pretty good, and I can see why some people here use it.
I did want to put in a plug for MarsEdit. I believe I had tried an earlier version and found it buggy. But the current version is very stable, and there are are only a few annoyances.
On the plus side, I like the editing and preview functions much better on MarsEdit than on Ecto. It also seems to use fewer resources, and not hang up as frequently when sending the post to the actual blog. It’s a cleaner, more “Mac” kind of software.
On the downside, it seems to have trouble handling future posts. For Raleigh Criminal law blog and my Raleigh Bankruptcy law blog I generally make a week’s or month’s worth of posts at a time, and set them to publish one at a time each day over the period.
MarsEdit’s “set date” function is imperfect, and sometimes messes up the future dates.
I have no relationship with the folks who make MarsEdit or Ecto, so this is purely my opinion regarding the usefulness of either software package.
Voluntaryism vs Social Democracy
Two quick polls: First, all those who enjoy belonging to a society that provides some minimal safety net for the least among us, please raise your hands… Ahh, I see some hands going up. Very good. Second, all those who occasionally enjoy being forced to do something against their will by threat of a gun, please raise your hands… Right, masochists aside I see no hands raised. Very good. The problem is, you cannot have one without the other. Thus spoke the Voluntaryists.
On Monday night I was invited by fellow Bloodhound Brian Brady to attend a debate entitled Voluntaryism/Market Anarchy vs. Democratic-Socialism held in a little hot bed of thought and cafe called Cafe Libertalia. It was an engaging evening spent listening to the point / counter-point discussion on the very legitimacy of government itself. You can gain a more detailed understanding of Voluntaryism here and of Social Democracy here. (Although if you’re a regular reader of BHB you’ve no doubt gained quite a bit of free-market, Voluntaryism philosophy from our Greek emeritus: Greg Swann.)
I must be honest in admitting that I know quite a bit less about Social Democracy philosophy than I do Voluntaryism, and the debate was of little help. The team on the Social Democracy side presented a less than cogent argument for a society wherein free markets and democracy exist in ever changing ratios, as dictated by the people themselves. When asked, the speakers could not name a single society where this system currently exists. When pressed, they admitted that the countries currently attempting it are abysmal failures. But this did not dissuade them from the idea that it could exist. Their logic – such as it was – stemmed from the idea of pure democracy (one man, one vote) and concluded that the majority would decide which means of production should be left to the free markets and which to the nurturing womb of centralized government. “How can you be against that?” they asked. “We’re not advocating government take-over; we’re saying it should be up to the whole of the people to decide government’s role in the economy.” When asked what coercion should be applied to those in the minority who might disagree with the majority decision, they answered by questioning the meaning of coercion. I’m not sure if that’s a straw man argument or circular logic, but it leads nowhere either way.
Their crowning point was that coercion exists in a free market too, just as it does in a system of government. Example? If you don’t pay your property taxes (system of government problem), you are eventually led from your home at the point of a gun. Similarly, if you don’t pay your mortgage (free market problem) you are also eventually led from your home at the point of a gun. When the spuriousness of comparing an involuntary agreement such as taxes with a voluntary agreement such as mortgages was pointed out, this was their response: “If I were to video the outcome of both events and show them to you, you would not know which was which; therefore, they are the same in the end.” (Leave it to a theoretical physicist to conceptualize an experiment wherein the proximate cause of events can be excluded from an analysis of the outcome.) Truly embarrassing.
The Voluntaryists drove home their main argument: each of us is solely and 100% the owner of our selves. By logical extension, we are then also the owners of the fruits of our efforts. Thus: property rights – which are the core of true free market philosophy. With this I have no quarrel. If, at any point, you believe you have the right to take from me against my will then you must necessarily believe that we are not the sole and 100% owners of our selves. This leads to an obvious question: “How much of me do you believe you rightfully control?” This is not a difficult argument to win and by my estimation the Voluntaryists did so, despite some rather clunky analogies.
If you’re still with me, you might ask why I am posting on such an esoteric subject. Two reasons: first and foremost, if you are in the real estate industry you are a business owner (at least to some degree) and so this should not be esoteric to you at all. This is a subject matter that cuts to the very heart of entrepreneurial effort and reward. Again, Greg does a much better job than I at making this link clear, but clear it should be. There is a growing and manifestly important debate growing in our country, and whether the terms are used or not, that debate is over Voluntaryism vs. Social Democracy. My second reason, however, is more direct. Based on my title it should be obvious what result I foresee if we are to follow the philosophy of Social Democracy: an eventual citizenry comprised of have-nots (with the possible – probable? – exception of those elite by whom the means of production are directed). But what about the end game of the Voluntaryist philosophy?
To be more precise: even if we were to all agree that an absolute free market system is the desired outcome, is it attainable? I cannot bring to mind any society that has existed over time – on any acceptable large scale (nuns in a convent live in a very direct form of communism, but that does not prove the viability of communism on any scale) – which has not formed a government in deed if not word. In other words, if Voluntaryism is the ideal to which we aspire, is it actually attainable or is it more accurately a yard stick by which to measure progress. A progress necessarily gained by halves, but never in total?50 comments
Cathy’s listing Friday, a classic North Central Phoenix luxury home. I was shooting interiors for her today, and saw this as a part of her staging:
Building the single-property web site for the home, tonight, I realized that in six months or fewer, I’ll be repurposing content for single-property iPhone/iPad apps, as well. I doubt you will have read anything like that in any repackaged regurgitant from self-styled real estate experts, but it’s where we’re all headed.4 comments
Heap CRM’s recent announcement that you can now fire off Event templates from an email got me jizzing a little.
I’ve played a lot with the CForms wordpress plugin and knew that it allowed for 2 interesting things to happen after a form submission.
1. Cforms will show a custom thank you message directly after form submission and this message will take html.
2. Cforms will fire off a custom message to any admin email address of your choosing.
So, starting with the latter…
Knowing that Heap allows a series of events to be scheduled based on some code inserted into an email, I created a CFORM and got to tweaking a custom email message that would be sent to my heap dropbox address for creating a new lead.
You’ll see in the example below that the Subject of the admin email is configured to display the “Name” field entered by the visitor. And the body of the email is configured to include Heap’s code for firing off an event template (along with some other variables, of which there are delightfully many to choose from!)
So in this example, a new lead is created in Heap and a follow up series of events that I’ve pre-configured is kicked off, along with the scheduling of any number of email messages.
The lead could have also been auto assigned to a teammate based on the short code, which might be a nice feature for any broker considering building a multi agent contributor, multi niche focused blogsite. (Imagine embedding a different agent branded cform for on pages created for each neighborhood in your market area. Then consider reaching out to a prospective recruit and promising them that all leads from that page will be routed into the custom CRM solution you’re going to be giving them. [at the whopping cost of an additional $5/month!]
And Then… the Lead Gets Subscribed to an RSS Based Blog Broadcast!
At this point there were already excitement streaks in my undies, but then I realized that I’d also want all of these “leads” to be subscribed to the RSS based newsletter I had set up in Aweber…
Enter CFORM’s silky smoove ajaxy custom HTML thank you message! Simply embed the script for your Aweber form as your form submission thank you message with a little trickery and you’re good to go. What trickery? Here’s an image of the custom thank you message displaying the aweber form.
Summing It Up In Terms of Cost
- Subscription to Heap = $9/Month for First User, $5/Month for Each Additional.
- Heap is way more user friendly, flexible, and affordable than industry standards like Top Producer.
- Aweber = $19/month. You can add multiple rss based broadcasts (one for each niche within your site).
- CFORMS = Free! (download from DeliciousDays.Com)
Wanna See It In Action?
CLICK HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page for a glimpse at the user experience. As a bonus, [and because I’m too lazy to build another example ] you’ll also get a peak at retechulous mortgage lead generation approach.4 comments
“… learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.” — The Cluetrain Manifesto, Chapter 1
Until I resigned yesterday, I was a Web marketing consultant for the US distributors of UVEX products for 7 years.
Last week, after the IOC demanded that we remove anything Lindsey Vonn related from the US web site, I posted a limerick to UVEXsports.com congratulating Lindsey for her downhill win without using her name while simultaneously exposing the IOC’s shameful tactics.
(This is an organization that goes out of its way to menace local pizza joints that use the word “Olympics” in their names. )
By Friday, my rejoinder had been picked up by SlashDot and from there, landed on BigPicture.com (Barry Ritholtz’s blog), which was picked up by USA Today, and just this morning the NY Post ran a blurb (which noted that the post was now gone without explanation).
This, of course, was exactly the reaction I was hoping for and the commercial justification for the post. Easily half of the comments were a variation on “Good for you. Screw the IOC. I never heard of UVEX before, now I will buy your stuff.”
The IOC, apparently, was not pleased.
The saddest part of the reaction from UVEX’s German management (knuckle under and kill the blog) is that it reinforces to the IOC that its strong-arm tactics work.
At the same time, UVEX rejected an opportunity to grow their brand by empowering a human being to speak on their behalf in a human voice, which — as Doc Searls and company pointed out in the Cluetrain over a decade ago — is a powerful way for brands to leverage the Web.
People reacted to that post because we are sick and tired of big business using lawyers to get their way whether or not what they want is legally, morally, or ethically justified. We all know that it doesn’t matter who is right, what matters is who can pay the most lawyers the longest and that is rarely the little guy.
The “Streisand Effect” is a way to fight back, and in this battle, “the little guy” can include brands that learn to find their human voice. When that happens, when people realize that there are real people behind a logo who agree with them and respect their views, and they are entertained in the process, brands are rewarded with new, loyal customers.
Too bad that UVEX lacked the bälle to keep the conversation going.6 comments
My favorite Uncle, Fighter Pilot Dick, sent me this video the other day. I was flabbergasted, which is hard to accomplish lately. I then sent it to a couple of folks for whom I hold much respect, to gain their takes. Both of them are fellow Hounds, Brian Brady and Tony Gallegos.
I thought Brian’s most cogent reply to me during a little back and forth emailing, was the following: Note: The link in Brian’s quote was added by me. It goes to the original video. The embedded video here is the same, but has some CNN commentary up front.
I know the FDIC went out of its way to issue a Press Release, denouncing the guys at Thing Big Work Small. I know those guys fairly well (had a few beers with them at the CAMB convention this summer). The FDIC denounced the video as “factually incorrect”, a day after it came out…then…
One West Bank, who bought the IndyMac portfolio for $1.55 Billion, earned 1.57 billion in its first year of operation. Now Jeff, youi’re a bright guy…what kind of bank earns 100% ROI in one year?
This video explains a whole lot, though I suspect I may be late coming to this party. Considering the reply received from Tony, who said he didn’t know the details of the transaction, I’m thinkin’ maybe we’ve all been missing this particular brick in the wall.
Though CNN doesn’t bollix it up too much, the really good stuff starts around 1:45 on the video. Would love to hear your take.7 comments
Okay, I don’t like dual agency. The more I’ve thought about it, over the years, the more I see that it cannot possibly done in a manner that it is actually fair to both parties. And that ignores the perceptions of the principals.
The one little bit of glue holding the Rube Goldberg machine of dual agency together is the fact that very few consumers even know what it is. Many times, I have had to explain dual agency to people who were either going through it or had in the past. Not surprisingly, none of them had been fully-informed by their agent about the risks of dual representation — although many of them suddenly understood what had smelled fishy to them.
My argument would be that no fully-informed consumer would embrace dual agency, but there are exceptions: People who want to take unfair advantage of the other party. There is a name for the role you would play in that scenario, as the Realtor: Shill.
Not only is dual agency exceptionally good for cheating one of your clients — normally the buyer — it’s also excellent for leaving the impression in the minds of both buyers and sellers that you yourself are a cheater, a liar and a person of egregiously low character. That’s some first-rate marketing, Jasper!
Here’s my take: As a very easy baby-step on the road to raising your own standards for the benefit of your clients, swearing off dual agency can’t be beaten. There’s a lot more you can and should do, and BloodhoundBlog is full of ideas for raising your standards. But there is nothing else you can do that will communicate to your clients your commitment to putting their interests first as compelling as renouncing dual agency. And no matter what else you might do, if you do not renounce it, you’re still going to look like a snake to anyone who actually understands dual agency.
So as a step toward informing consumers about what is really going on in a dual agency transaction, I thought I would make a commercial about it. The spot would feature a bunch of Realtors extolling the benefits of dual agency — to them. At the punch line, the video would link to a landing page explaining dual agency in detail.
[Two or three of our contributors are in the web site business. If one of y’all wants to build this landing page/landing site, I have ideas. For example, it could feature a “pledge” page for Realtors. Agents would pledge never again to do dual agency, and the site could reward them by linking back to their own sites. You could offer a badge for those who pledge, also, earning a link back. A site like this could hit PR5 in no time.]
Anyway, here is the beginning of a script for this commercial. I’m posting it here to induce you to add to it.
- I like dual agency because… buyers don’t have to go to the trouble of finding their own agent.
- I like dual agency because… communication between sellers and buyers is so efficient.
- I like dual agency because… busy home-buyers don’t have to waste time looking at other houses.
- I like dual agency because… it just cuts down on the confusion.
- I like dual agency because… I get paid double!
And like that. The premise is simple: You’re a Realtor selling dual agency on the basis of its advantages to you, not to the consumer. If you want examples to draw upon, the comments threads to every post on dual agency are ripe with puerile rationalizations for facile self-dealing.
There’s an even more fun step after this, but you don’t get to play at that level unless you suggest ideas for the commercial script. So get writing.17 comments
I occasionally blog on UVEXsports.com.
Most of my posts were links to stories about Lindsey Vonn, who uses UVEX stuff. We hope famously.
The IOC called and told UVEX to stop using any mention of Mrs Vonn on UVEXsports.com and that included my posts.
This is known as the Streisand Effect, and it is one of the coolest things about these here Interwebs. If you love the players but hate the corporate game the Olympics have become, please check it out, leave a comment and send a message to the IOC.7 comments
With the announcement today of the fact that the Department of Justice has approved the deal inked last summer between Microsoft and Yahoo, came a flood of e-mail into my inbox this afternoon.
“What does this mean for search?”
“What does it change?”
“Do we need to focus our organic search efforts more on Bing now that they are poised to power the results of Yahoo?”
” Will they be a REAL competitor of Google?”
“How will Google respond…or have they already?”
“How might this play out in the long run?”
Well, the truth of the matter is that I have been studying this on and off since last summer. Ironically, the Microhoo deal was announced while I was on my way to British Columbia to speak at the Real Estate Webmasters conference. The topic continued to be the buzz while I flew on to San Francisco to speak at Home Gain Live Nation. Why is that ironic? Well…I am just now finishing up the details of going to speak at the second HomeGain Nation Live event as well as going to speak on SEO at the RE/MAX convention. Gonna make for some fun times on the panel at HomeGain in the afternoon and some fun conversations at RE/MAX as well. I am stoked for both. But I know that interest will be there and questions will be asked by a lot of folks in the hallways… 😉
So while I have a lot to say about the merger (after all, I am the nerdy “read the patent applications, hiring patterns and etc sort of a search engine enthusiast…hehe), I am going to embargo most all of it until I speak at these events. I will say the following:
1. Competition is good. It inspires innovation and spurs creativity if it is TRULY competitive.
2. Bing has some MAJOR relevance issues with their search results that need to get cleared up.
3. Google has a whopping lead in market share currently will the combination of two non competitors automagically transform them into a competitor?
4. How much leverage does Microsoft’s vast market presence in the PC market give them? Do you still Bing because your PC came loaded with it?
4. Yahoo has used paid inclusion in its organic search results in the past, making them ummm less than organic. 😉
5. Users crave relevant results for every search that they do across the entire spectrum of searches that they do.
6. Will search tools now provided by Yahoo still be there this time next month??
None of this has changed in the past 7 or 8 months.
We (in the search industry)have known this day was coming. The basic principles of search engines do not change with this merger much like the fact that the laws of gravity still apply if Boeing merged with Airbus.
There are still hundreds of variables in the algorithms employed by search engines. There are still only so many of those variable that are RELIABLE indicators of an authoritative website on a specific subject.
So while it is fun to speculate, that is not what I am paid to do with search marketing. At its core, I am paid to consult with clients on how to adapt, quickly and efficiently to the REAL conditions on the ground and in the results.
I am going to now open the floor to collective dog pound.
What think ye, hounds?
What are your thoughts now that a Bing powered Yahoo search is (essentially) days away? What does it mean in the real estate industry? Does anything REALLY change?7 comments