There’s always something to howl about

Archive for July, 2011

Being an Entrepreneur is Kind of Awesome

MSNBC ran a pretty cool article on me (and another lawyer) and about how an increasing number of young lawyers are starting their own practices.

In general, it was a good article. I hope I didn’t come off as too much of a braggart. People – at least anonymous commenters in the Intertubes – focused on my revenue claims, and not on my basic message which is: 1) anyone can do what I did and 2) State Bars should make it easier for people to do what I did by lowering the costs and barriers to entry.

It’s entirely absurd to me that someone should need to study three years in law school before being able to practice law. That’s not how it is in most other countries, including other countries that follow the common law tradition.

Lawyers in America have built up a frightful monopoly. An ABA executive pooh-poohed my suggestion. That’s fine. He’s part of the establishment. What else would he say?

What is sad to me is that so many other run-of-the-mill lawyers believe that these rules help them – the same rules that saddle them with enormous debt, that prevent them from marketing, the same rules that in the name of the Rules of “Ethics” privilege large firms.

I think people prefer to be secure, rather than free, even if that security is an enormous burden that prevents them from being rich, too.

The wonderful thing about the article is that I’ve been contacted by a couple of dozen entrepreneurial types across the country and am planning a free webinar. That’s pretty cool!

Anyway, thanks also for all the feedback on my website! I have randomly selected a winner who will receive a $100 gift certificate from Amazon. Since feedback was anonymous, I can’t disclose who won the certificate. But, trust me, someone received it. I’m a lawyer, after all!!


A Virtual Real Estate Broker Who Declares Freedom – An Anathema

This virtual real estate broker hereby declares freedom. Freedom from the traditional bricks-and-mortar business models that worship the institutions of the real estate industry. I have always been an iconoclast who is bored by the weekly office manager giving his inane speech about “get out there and get those listings.” I have always been sensitive to lies being clothed with smiles and the we’re-here-to-help-you pep talks by brokers who fully intend to get rich off all the ignorant agents they are using.

The very institutions in the real estate industry that claimed to take our membership money to help us . . . have become behemoths intent on supporting their own executive salaries and bonuses. Associations created to protect consumers have become massive organizations that manipulate and deceive the very people they claim to protect.

Like the saying, “Trick me once, shame on you, trick me twice, shame on me,” agents all across the United States seem to refuse to take responsibility for their own futures. As if they had no discernment at all, behaving like lambs to the slaughter, they glibly obey their traditional brokers and their associations, going to the office everyday like automatons, attending unproductive meetings, standing around the water cooler, chit chatting about some property that another broker sold, making a couple of cold calls, looking at the MLS online and surfing the Internet for hours under the guise of working.

Of course, they would defensively deny all this, but it is far too common today in the big offices. Not just big offices, but many offices around the country, even small ones. Greg Swan is quite right (talk about an iconoclast) when he wrote, “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.” See The Unchained Epiphany. Greg goes on to claim that he is “a rude, crude and vulgar man,” but I find his views refreshing, and of course his views (and mine) will be despised by the traditionalists.

I am a man who loves freedom. I love freedom in how I do business and who I work with. I love the way technology and the Internet has facilitated my freedom, but it’s not about the tools: It’s about freedom.

Free from working for idiots (come on, who hasn’t work for an idiot?). Free from blunt business models that no longer work. Free to earn my commissions without giving so much away to a broker who does nothing for me. Free from boring conversations while standing around in a beautiful building (that is probably going into foreclosure). Free from mandatory floor time (OMG!). Free from holding open houses that don’t sell the houses (while lying to listing clients).

Virtual Real Estate BrokerFree to develop my own unique business model that suits my work habits and my gifts.  Free to work whatever hours I want.  Free to be creative.  Free to write and format and publish my own eBook to my unique niche, like the one shown here.  Free to do things no one else in the building is doing.  Free to succeed or fail on my own.  Free to enjoy my success and financial rewards, because I created and built the business without interference from brokers trying to get into my wallet every time I turn around.

Free to use technology and Internet marketing systems I create and therefore own. No one can take my business from me. I love that kind of freedom. I love being a virtual real estate broker. What a contrast to the traditional brokerage models that slowly suck the life out of their agents and then expect their agents to thank them for letting them live.

As Dennis Miller often says, “I don’t want to get on a rant here,” but far too many agents in the country are watching the train go by and wondering why their business isn’t thriving. “It’s the real estate recession!” Oh, right. That’s a good excuse. There are a thousand excuses, but how about just taking personal responsibility? How about doing something to make your future bright? How about finding a business model that really works today and working it hard? One would not think this is such a novel concept, but apparently it is.

In my business, part of my time is spent recruiting agents, and in this process I’ve learned a few things along the way. Agents all around the country are whining but unwilling to make the hard changes necessary. Some have suggested that real estate agents are just plain lazy. There’s some truth to that. But many are not lazy. Still they are more than ready to “poo poo” any new idea, all the while wallowing in the pigsty that they complain is no longer producing for them. What, the phone isn’t ringing off the wall anymore? What, people with bags of money aren’t walking into the office anymore? Surprise! The entire industry has morphed, and it’s not just that some agents didn’t see it coming–they still don’t get it even though it is here.

I love the real estate business. I love the new ways to market myself and my business and connect with buyers. The old way of writing a newspaper man a check and telling him to get me clients was soooo boring. And stupid. Now I have to take personal responsibility to build my business. I love my freedom as a virtual real estate broker.


God Bless America

A few years ago I sold a very small condo to an Albanian family who came here having won the immigration visa lottery. They showed up in Texas with suitcases and two daughters. Both the father and the mother worked to provide for the family. The mother worked in the housekeeping department at a large Hilton Hotel. The father worked in the Deli department at Wal-Mart. The two girls enrolled in public school and started studying. The first thing the girls needed to do was learn to speak English as there are no Albanian bi-lingual programs at the Houston Independent School District. The oldest daughter started her American schooling as a 9th grader not speaking English in a very tough high school.

I met the family when this daughter was a rising Senior. She was in the top 10% of her class.

US Flag image:

About a month ago, I received an email from this daughter, now married and with child on the way.

Long story short- Inspections for the oldest daughter and her husband’s home are next Saturday.

I love a job where you can serve your heroes. Happy Independence Day.


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.


Private ownership of the land is the source not just of our freedom but of our civility and of our humanity itself

Kicking this back to the top. Happy Independence Day! — GSS

This from my Arizona Republic real estate column (permanent link):

The “cap and trade” bill that passed in the House of Representatives last week contains within it the seeds of a national building code. It rarely rains in Phoenix and it rarely fails to rain in Portland, but both cities will build new structures according to the dictates of some Washington bureaucrat.

Drive along 19th Avenue in Phoenix and you’ll pass block after block of condemned houses. They were taken by the city for the planned light rail expansion, now delayed. The neighbors are left to fight off the kind of vermin vacant homes attract while they worry what that blight is doing to their home values.

In Glendale, the city government is doing everything it can to prevent the Tohono O’Odham tribe from developing its own sovereign land as a casino.

The essence of the freedom we celebrate on Independence Day is the free ownership of the land. The Hoplite Greeks fought and died to protect their own lands. The Roman Legionnaires fought and died because their farms were their own property. A Cincinnatus — or a George Washington — lays down his arms because being a dictator is nothing when you can instead be a freeholder in the land.

The essence of our freedom is the free ownership of the land, and yet everywhere we turn, private property is subjected to one law after another, and everything that is not forbidden is compulsory instead.

This is a grievous error. The men who become Brownshirts or Klansmen or Khmer Rouge — the men who make up murderous mobs — are men without land. It is the husbandry of the land — each man to his own parcel — that most makes husbands of us, that sweeps away our willingness to live as brigands or rapists or thugs.

By robbing the private ownership of the land of its meaning, the state is, by increments, robbing its citizens of their humanity. No one burns down his own home, nor his neighbor’s home. But when the time comes that we all seem to own our homes only by sufferance, none of us will have anything left to defend.

Further notice: I posted an audio tweet on this topic, as well.


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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Happy 4th. of July fellow independence seekers

On this day of celebration of our nations independence I think it is only right that we take a few moments to think of our own personal independence. Today is the day we should take off the yokes that we allow to harness us and become independent of our own masters. If not now when?

For a little musical enjoyment today I am including a older Dave Alvin song I hope you enjoy! The video is a recent live performance in Atlanta.

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What would Greg Swann do? Integrity, transparency and Web 2.0

Kicking this back to the top in response to Chris Johnson’s post on bribe-offers from vendorsluts. — GSS

Hey, y’all! Are you in the mood for a truly incredible offer?

You’ve seen the kind of single-property web sites we do at Dozens of pages. Hundreds of photos. Maps, movies, PDFs, off-site links — the works!

What if I were to tell you that you could have a single-property web site just like ours — with your choice of style templates and your own domain, hosted for a year — all for just $99.

Or, for just $99 more, I’ll mimic your weblog’s theme. Your single property web site will look just like your weblog — to promote and protect your brand identity.

That’s actually not a bad business, and I already have everything I need to start it. The software we use to build our single property web sites is called engenu. I give it away for free, but no one uses it. If I built it to be forms-based with everything hosted on our servers, it would be easier — but much slower — for end-users, and I could make a ton of money milking Realtors by selling them the same thing over and over again.

Why not do it?

Because it’s a piece of everything I hate in the real estate industry as it is presently comprised. It’s the vendorslut syndrome in action. I write a piece of software, then sell it to you over and over again, taking a huge profit every time you pull out your credit card. You get pitches like this every day — with the difference being that our single-property web sites are a lot richer in content than the ones you can buy from sleazy vendors.

I’ve been wanting to write a post about leadership in the I don’t like hierarchies, or none beyond the sort of adhocracy that works so well in the Web 2.0 world. We are thought leaders at BloodhoundBlog because we think wisely and well — and write wisely and well — about issues that most other people prefer to skirt.

But: I don’t kid myself: We don’t have any huge influence — nor do I want one. We have a healthy influence on thoughtful people, which I like a lot, and we have a nagging influence on the ninety-and-nine — the people who want to work better and to do better. My own interest in abstract leadership doesn’t stretch very far beyond that.

But in the comments to my post on vendors offering bribes to real estate webloggers, Jay Thompson said this:

[T]he people that become my clients swiftly come to understand my goals, motivations and integrity.

It’s an interesting statement, because it goes against what we already understand about the Web 2.0 world. Most of the time, the people who are considering hiring you as their listing or buyer’s agent, or as their lender, will not take the time to personally explore your “goals, motivations and integrity.” They are shopping for an agent or a lender, yes, but the buying process consists not of looking for reasons to accept and embrace you, but, rather, of looking for reasons to reject you. They pick the person they want to talk to by eliminating the ones they don’t want to talk to.

In that same comments thread, Bloodhound Teri Lussier says:

I would not want the people that matter to me — personally or professionally — to ever question my character.

And that’s exactly the right way of thinking. In the Web 2.0 world we each of us must be above reproach because we will not get the opportunity to issue the “But, but, buts” that undergird the defenses we devise for objectionable behavior.

Watch: This is me in May of 2007:

This is real life inside my skin: When Inman Connect rolled around in January, I took a little poke at it. No big deal, except I had just started posting as a guest blogger at the Inman Blog, a position I have since resigned. Some sleazoid insisted that I wouldn’t say the same thing in Inman’s salon. And that would have been, true, too — until he said it. Instead, I wrote an extended evisceration of all things trade show — at Inman Blog. I didn’t care if I got fired as a guest blogger, but I did care that anyone could even think that the fear of getting fired would serve to silence me.

Here’s a slice of the trade show evisceration:

The is all atwitter about this week’s Inman’s Real Estate Connect in New York, but the coming week owns an embarrassment of trade show riches. Also on tap this week: The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And, best of all: The Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco.

These are all basically vendor shows, despite the hype — or, rather, in support of the hype. The big announcements will come from Apple, of course, and much of the ‘news’ coming out of the other two shows will be fun to make fun of. At BloodhoundBlog, I get no end of mileage out of the goofy crap corporate weenies try to foist off on long-suffering Realtors.

The goofy crap is the true purpose of all of these shows, and far and away the biggest profit center. And from the vendor’s side of the table — like the casino’s side of a Blackjack table — they’re a good bet. On the punter’s side of the table, the camouflage of meaning will come in the form of keynote speeches and breakout sessions — providing uncomfortable chairs as a welcome respite from the hours and hours of aimless walking up and down the aisles of vendor booths, each one offering cheap pre-printed promotional premiums in support of very costly unbreakable contracts for useless, goofy crap.

If any of the webloggers who were offered bribes — and I now realize I have no idea how many real estate webloggers might have been offered bribes by sleazy vendors — want to establish beyond all doubt that they haven’t been bought, the solution to their problem is to be found in one simple question: What would Greg Swann do?

A reputation for integrity is earned, not presumed, and if there is any possibility of doubt about my integrity, it’s my job to clean the slate. You see me doing exactly that in the matter quoted above, but, if you pay attention, you will see me doing it all the time.

Now the cartoon cowboy’s retort to a challenge like this is, “I don’t hafta prove nuffin’ to nobody!” That’s right. But if my reputation has been soiled, if I don’t work to clean it, no one else will do it for me.

The fact is, whether they admit it or not, these webloggers have had their reputations soiled. You can argue that this was not the intent of their immediate benefactor, but this changes precisely nothing. So what would I do, if I were stuck where they are now?

What would Greg Swann do?

Starting with the bribe “gift” I liked the least, I would write reviews of the “gift” products, one by one — on the pages of AG. Both Jay Thompson and Russell Shaw insist that they have never been told what they cannot write on AG. But Benn Rosales wrote in a BloodhoundBlog comment, “[W]e ask that our writers not endorse products for Ag, but rather do it on their own sites.” That suggests that the first such review might be very interesting. In any case, I would establish my independence by establishing my independence beyond any possible quibble or doubt.

But, of course, first I would renounce the damn bribes altogether, again on the pages of AG. I like the idea of writing the reviews enough that I just might do it here. I have nothing to prove in this matter, but the fact of the bribery itself is revolting to me. In any case, taking expensive “gifts” from people you write about is exactly the sort of behavior that should call your character into question. If your plan is to earn a reputation for integrity, it were well not to seem to be seen selling it in public.

But that’s all one. I’m not talking to them, I’m talking to you. People almost always dig in, in situations like this, when they’ve thoughtlessly made the wrong choice. A moment’s thought would have made all the difference: “Why would vendors want to give $64,000 worth of merchandise to real estate webloggers?” That’s not a hard question to answer, but you have to think of it before you can hit upon the obvious objective of the beneficent vendors. But now they’re trapped by their acceptance of the “gifts” — which was also part of the vendors’ objectives.

That’s their problem. Here is your problem. You need to figure our how to keep yourself out of this kind of mess. This sort of dilemma is not new, and it is not rare. If you take the PR-whores like Inman “news” and Realtor magazine and combine that with the sleazoid vendors they pimp for and then combine all that with the vast, tentacular National Association of Realtors and all of it reptilian subsidiaries — you have yourself some excellent enemies! The whole thing is like a huge tar pit, and if you dip your toe in anywhere, you’re very likely to be trapped forever.

I suppose I could write my own code of ethics for wired Realtors and lenders. But the trouble with any sort of Tablets-of-Moses proscriptions is that people treat them as being exhaustive. Why shouldn’t you put advertising on your weblog? Because it implies that you don’t make your living in real estate. Why shouldn’t you make fun of your clients in amateur videos? Because you don’t like it when salespeople make fun of you. Why should you never, ever even seem to take a bribe, disclosed or undisclosed? Duh.

I don’t even think it would help to ask, “What would Greg Swann do?” — although that certainly would provoke that critical moment’s thought.

But here’s what I do, inside my own mind. It’s the Golden Rule, only backwards: How would I see this — and what would I think about it — if the tables were turned? What you are considering doing may not actually be morally wrong, but if it would smell bad to you from the other side of the table, you need to think it through some more.

The time of your life is your sole capital, but that’s an inexact statement. Your life, in essence, is your awareness of your life — experienced now, remembered and anticipated. When you do something you know in advance is wrong, you have to make war on your own mind. You have to renounce your real-time awareness while it is happening, pretending to yourself that something else is happening instead. And then you have to try to paper over the memory of what you have done — even though it calls itself to your attention again and again. This is self-destruction — the deliberate and on-going dismantlement of your one, real, irreplaceable life.

I think it’s possible that the sanest, most healthy thing you could do is to print out the paragraph just above this one and then tape it somewhere where you have to read it at least once a day. It may not be the most important thing I have to say, but it is the one that will make the biggest difference in your day to day life.

Take a look at yourself as your potential clients will see you on the web. If you don’t like what you see, fix it. If you don’t like who you’ve been — fix that. But if you don’t sculpt and burnish your reputation for integrity in everything you do, you probably won’t have a chance to explain yourself later.


Happy Independent’s Day…

Kicking this back to the top. Happy Independence Day! — GSS

Our wedding anniversary today. I’ve always thought that the best way to celebrate the things that really matter in life is to do the things that really matter in life, so I’m spending the afternoon and evening with my best-beloved, but I have a home inspection to attend to this morning. To work is to live, and, in Phoenix or in Las Vegas, we’ve always worked on our anniversary. On top of everything else, it’s a symbol of who we are together, why we work so well together.

Meanwhile, here is my favorite Independence Day clip, the fireworks scene from Moscow on the Hudson:


It’s the first day of July and the first day of the third quarter. Do you know where your goals are?

Track ’em.

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