The Year I Fell Awake: My Walk Across the Country; 1984 – 1985

I am a bigot of self-awareness. The year I fell awake, I was waking across the country: from Fort Lauderdale to LA. I lived with the homeless. I ate with the poor. I stood with people who had nowhere to stand. I appreciated a tarp as a thankful respite from the storm. I was grateful for the cardboard box that shielded me from the sun. Near the end of my journey, I was so very thankful for any kind word; anything just to keep my encouragement up and look for the next day.

At the apex of this self-imposed misery, some things started to make sense. I realized that we’re all miserable – we’re all suffering. Maybe not in the same way. Maybe not from the same things. But we suffer. It’s the one quality that brings humanity together – makes us so aware of what’s left undone, what’s keeping us from being whole. Before I started my journey, my disposition was to shun people who I thought were narrow-minded; souls who ignored the misery of others. But then, I said to myself, “Who am I not hear their suffering as well? Just because I don’t agree with them, doesn’t mean they are any less human.” Were I really a humanist, I would not shun anyone. Instead, I should open my arms and embrace every last one. But – alas – I’m a fraud.

I was really never homeless. I just took it upon myself to BE homeless for about a year because I had it in my mind that it’d be cool. But under that bullshit, late-teen idealism of mine, I had a home to go home to. Anytime I wanted, I could get a motel room, a shower, sleep on a nice bed, and – BAM – I’d be on a jet going home. Here’s another thing that I discovered about myself. I’ve never been a very forgiving person. I’m still ashamed to admit that through my life, I’ve been deeply envious, darkly vindictive. I hate the haters for hating me; and I hate myself for hating them. I guess the one silver lining to my self-discovery is that I know myself. I know my weaknesses enough that I may be better if the time comes that I must be better. All I need is more experience – fall awake even more.

I’ll need a big bong hit to figure all of this out – listen to some old Hendrix…

If you can just get your mind together
Then come on across to me
We’ll hold hands an’ then we’ll watch the sun rise from the bottom of the sea
But first
Are you experienced?
Have you ever been experienced?
Well, I have…

The more you change, the more you realize that you’re just the same. Only through true self-awareness can we control the animal in us that can make misery so fucking intolerable.

1984_terri-patches_on-las-olas-ft-fauderdale
1984: I began my journey in Ft Lauderdale. Somewhere off Las Olas Blvd, I ran into “Terry” and “Patches.”

The photos in this post are of companions that I traveled with through Florida taken by a journalist who just happened to be doing a story about the homeless. In the top photo is Rick – the dude passed out on a cot. He was a professed “addict of everything” – and he lived up to that profession. He died about three days after that photo was taken. He said he was a Vietnam war vet, but he was too young to serve (he was about my age). I think he was just really messed up. In the bottom photo, Terry with the light hair was from New York. “Patches” said he was from Virginia, but his accent said he was from up north. These guys were very generous and patient with me. I could tell that they had a backstory that they didn’t want to talk about. I think “Patches” may have been a vet, but I never found out if he served in any war.

For the Common Good of the Community

What’s not to get here? The preamble of the Declaration of Independence is pretty clear about this one point:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

What it means is that the founders of the United States of America believed that ALL people must have access to the things that give life, liberty, and happiness – regardless of class, economic situation, religion, race, or creed. Bonum commune communitatis. And yet, we support a system that restricts all that is good to the limited few who can afford it.

A shocking number of American voters are ready to install a man for President who is the epitome of wanton corporate greed. I’m not a poor person myself. I still collect royalties from various projects I have had the pleasure to produce. And I still work. I haven’t taken a penny of unemployment benefits in more than 40 years. I have never used food stamps, never had the need for Medicare, and at my age, I’m not even taking Social Security benefits – because I don’t need them. Yet, when I strike out in support of Bernie Sanders (for instance) the first image that some conservatives think is that I’m a taker. To be honest, I think most of these supporters depend on the very same benefits they complain about.

When I use the word “Socialism” to describe the famous preamble, I feel like the lone surviving mole in a game of Whack-a-Mole. The very same people who malign me as a “taker” are ready to line up to call me lots of other funny little names. First off, most of them don’t even realize what they’re saying – much less understand what the word CAN mean. The good folks at People’s World have posted what I believe is one of the better, wider responses to the question: What is Socialism? But it is important to note – this country has implemented many socialistic concepts for the greater good. My father was like a lot of these guys who tote guns and sing praises of the Grand Old Party. He was also a proud, card-carrying member of the Steamfitters Union Local 638. Funny how things change, but don’t.

I hope, somehow, the majority of American voters will realize that the common good means freedom. I hope that someday we realize that “Life Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is more than a patriotic slogan. It’s a promise.

il Duce Trump

Amazing isn’t it? The more audacious he is the more ardent his followers become. I know at least one – a woman that I know through a friend of mine. Sez she: “Trump is the best thing to happen to America in a long time.” Actually, forever. We’ve never had fascist that has resonated so well with the radical right of this country. We’ve never seen a Donald Trump because we’ve never before tolerated one to get this far. He is categorically the closest thing to a Benito Mussolini type fascist we’ve ever seen.

From a WaPo op/ed penned by Dana Milbank (Dec 8):

Trump’s chin-out toughness, sweeping right-hand gestures and talk of his “huge” successes and his “stupid” opponents all evoke the Italian dictator’s style. Monday’s breathtaking announcement that he would block all Muslims from entering the United States has many pointing out the obvious fascist overtones.

Milbank isn’t alone in his worry. Ted Koppel took the unusual approach to appear on Fox News the other day with this barb:

Well… the fact of the matter is that he and Benito Mussolini have this sort of arrogant approach in which they say very little in terms of substance, but the manner in which they say it gets the crowds excited.

Back to the woman who thinks that Trump is god’s gift. I pointed out his well-known racist remarks and asked her if that was a reason to worry. “No,” sez she. “He’s no more a racist than anyone else.” HUH? Then I ran across an op/ed by Josh Marshall on the Talking Points website.

I continue to believe that Trump’s embrace of racism, anti-Mexican immigrant bigotry and Islamophobia is largely opportunistic. My only hesitation in calling it cynical is that I think Trump may be the type who, once he finds something convenient to say, then starts to believe it.

Opportunistic racism. I was gobsmacked. That’s like saying you’ll sell your soul for a beer. Hate for fiat however misdirected, may seem logical for one driven for power. Machiavelli (another Italian) pointed this out in his treatise The Prince:

Men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, for everyone can see and few can feel. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are.

So, in other words, we can say anything to get ahead, so long as the illusion of the eye is maintained. Yep. Sounds about right. And it comports well with the one from Mussolini himself:

You must always be doing things and obviously succeeding. The hard part is to keep people always at the window because of the spectacle you put on for them. And you must do this for years.

Il Duce Donald.

Barry Goldwater Was Right

I recall my dad’s quips about Barry Goldwater – laced with profanity and superlative, he had some pretty harsh things to say about a man he though betrayed the country. My dad wasn’t what you’d call a hardcore Republican, but he definitely sympathized with “the cause.” Which is weird because my dad was also an atheist. But I digress. Imagine my surprise as I grew into adulthood to find that although Barry wasn’t the more statesmanlike of statesmen, he had some pretty insightful things to say about the Radical Right.

A set of them comes from a speech he gave in 1981, summarized in the New York Times, September 16, 1981. In this first clip, he despairs over the Radical Right’s unwillingness to compromise. Tell me if you think this sounds familiar:

There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom.

In the same speech, he goes on to decry how they control the political dialog:

I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?

This is 1981, mind you; the very apex of the movement that Jerry Falwell dubbed the “Moral Majority” and that Pat Robertson tried to appropriate for his own presidential bid in 1988. Although Falwell and Robertson did not have compatible views on Christianity, they were in lock step where governance was concerned. They envisioned a CHRISTIAN United States of America. That’s probably why Goldwater rankled at the pressure he and other “old school” Republicans had to endure for political and financial support.

I’m sure that as he saw the closing years approach, Goldwater became somewhat bitter about how he was thrown aside by the Radical Right. That bitterness comes out in this well-trod, oft-cited Goldwater gem from John Dean’s book Conservatives Without Conscience (2006):

Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.

Yet, there’s a better, more prophetic view from an interview published in the Washington Post, July 29, 1994.

When you say “radical right” today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.

Given all of the evidence – the vitriol that has surrounded Obama since Day One of his administration, the hateful things that the Radical Right has committed against Hillary Clinton and other Democrats (and even several Republicans) that the soul of the Republican Party is no longer has the best interest of America and for Americans?

The Latest GOP Furor

I have always wondered how so many Germans could fall for Hitler’s hateful drivel. After watching GOP presidential candidates, and in particular, Herr Donald, now I understand. Now I know. It’s shocking how a highly evolved society like America can devolve into such utter hateful ideas. They can’t win on pure ideology: Trickle Down obviously does not work. The Christian divide is only making things worse (e.g., Gays, Abortion, Education). Obamacare has proven to be a better alternative over what Americans had before. The science for Global Warming and Climate Change is accepted by everyone except the GOP/Tea Party. The Hitler gambit is the only option. In Germany, they blamed the Jews. Now they want to blame Muslims.

The Unknown Unknown

I just saw the “The Unknown Unknown” – yeah. A bit delayed. But now, more than ever, I’m thinking about who we will give the keys to the front doors of the White House.

I’ve always thought that people like Donald Rumsfeld scare the lights out of a candle. Media has made him seem anti-social and driven by pure arrogance. Like his cohort Dick Cheney (who, in my opinion is a watered down version of Rumsfeld), he’s right and to hell with anyone who doesn’t agree. But with Rumsfeld, you can’t watch this film without appreciating the definite gravitas of the man.

By contrast, Cheney is a pure manipulator. All that matters is that he pulls off his political machinations convincingly enough so that the core believers still believe. With Rumsfeld, I can see the manipulation, but there is a prow-like determination that slices through argument and debate with something that feels like clarity. To be sure, it is Rumsfeld’s clarity; what else should he be concerned about; bolstered by cold, steel-minded analysis.

Through the crystal eyes of the news media, we saw Rumsfeld often wholly unapologetic and wrapped in this enigmatic double-speak philosophic (e.g., the unknown unknowns). He is parroted and ridiculed as a master of confabulation. He is tagged along with Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz as one of the chief architects of a disastrous war in Iraq, and the principle deconstructor of the image of American civil rights, post-911.

That’s what we do with our war leaders – celebrate them and hold them aloft when they win, criminalize them and bury their image when they lose. That’s what happened to Rumsfeld, who – aside from this film and a few public appearance – has tried to stay buried. Cheney, on the other hand, is a zombie – angry hands bursting out of the grave with yet another tirade about why he was right.

There’s a part of me that admires Rumsfeld. In the sharp contrast, Rumsfeld stands above as a true believer. Pure patriotism fuels his bubbling self-confidence and steadfast determination. You must admit, this is the kind of guy that you want in the foxhole with you. This is the kind of commander you want on the front line. This is the kind of person you want making tough decisions and pulling triggers when they need pulling. But that’s the front line. The seat of governance is another matter.

By the way, the soundtrack by Danny Elfman is freaking cool. Nice music to listen to with the news channel volume turned off.

Lessons from Greece: Austerity and Trickle Down Economics Do Not Work

There are pundits who use Greece as an example of how not to run a country. I’ll use Germany on how not to make lasting unions.

Germany’s financial institutions – the lenders, investors, regulators, negotiators, and politicos – are the ones driving the lesson of austerity. It’s been a hard lesson for Greek politicians. But it’s been a painful one for the common Greek people.

The Greek economy has gone through the shredder – contracting by a stunning 25% since austerity measures have been put into place seven years ago. This has not helped Greeks repay their debt and it has actually made things a lot worse. It’s true that Greeks have a poor record on tax collection and that tax reform is probably long overdue, but at this point of the game, how do you squeeze water out of a rock?

Yet, even as the pain of poverty laps up around the legs of the common Greek worker, the Germans have demanded even more austerity measures than before – and this was during earlier negotiations. This is why we’re at the Grexit scenario – a full or partial departure of a valuable NATO partner.

What does a “Grexit” mean to us? According to some folks who keep eyes on global strategy issues, Greece is already sliding closer to Russia, which is bad for NATO. If you care at all about global military strategy – something bad for NATO means that it’s probably bad for US.

Americans should also take heed that austerity doesn’t work, trickle-down economics doesn’t work (period), and unrest follows when things get bad enough.

What does austerity do? It shrinks payrolls, reduces worker benefits, and in the case such as Greece – it tends to eliminate good paying jobs. And what happens when you shrink payrolls, reduce worker benefits, and eliminate jobs? Economies tend to not grow.

What does trickle-down economics do? For the common worker – nothing. But it does ensure steady cash flows to the wealthy. Do the wealthy spend money? Sure. But as our own experience has shown us, the outflows are no nearly enough to bolster real economic growth.

Is it any surprise that Greeks have revolted over the thought of handing over BILLIONS of Euros to creditors in the form of interest payments? The Greeks have rejected Euro bank polices that would chain common workers to decades of debt repayment. More power to the Grecian people – they’ve figured it out.  And they’ve put a name to their suffering and it is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The list of credits should also include the cadre of heartless “profit at any cost” financiers who are squarely responsible for everything that happens next.

In the U.S., we have a name to put to our lackluster economy and horribly distorted distribution of wealth and it is every Republican, Tea Partier, and Libertarian who has put their name of government shutdowns and forced budget sequestration. Like the Germans, the GOP has repelled civil policy-making and, thus, repelled civil negotiations with the workers of America.

Americans have learned, as have the Greeks, that the ideology of austerity and trickle-down economics is bad for economies, bad for workers, and bad for civil society. Austerity and trickle down economics do not work – they’ve never worked. It’s time that we stop believing that they ever will.

Marijuana Nation Rising

Another study is out: Americans believe that marijuana (pot) is less harmful than alcohol. A summary of the study was published by the Washington Post with this summary:

A new Pew survey out today provides yet another illustration of the failure of America’s drug war. By a nearly five-to-one margin, Americans agree that alcohol is worse for you than marijuana.

Which begs the question: why is it still treated like a controlled substance in more than half of the states? MONEY.

But just saying that doesn’t define the problem enough. Like Deep Throat, we have to follow the money to find out who profits from control. When you arrive at the bottomline (and there’s always one in these types of things) you find that the prohibition of Marijuana is driven by people who profit from control.

  1. Pharmaceutical companies. They stand to lose a big chunk of revenue – both from legal and illicit sales of their products. In a Marijuana Nation, people who need it can get it; people who want it, can have it – without fear.
  2. Beer breweries. Like big pharma, major beer producers could see some erosion in revenue as people turn to smoking joints rather than consume 6 cans beer a night.
  3. Private prisons. They could lose the inflow of tens of thousands inmates who still go to jail for minor possession violations and cultivation.
  4. Law enforcement unions. The “war on drugs” draws funding from federal grants and bonds, therefore legalized marijuana means many municipal and state law enforcement could lose a chunk of funding. The shortfall may also be transitional as resources are refocused on other law enforcement priorities.
  5. Petrochemical companies. Possibly the biggest losers in a Marijuana Nation. One well-known theory claims that companies like Dupont, Allied Chemical Corporation and Hearst Paper Manufacturing Division of Kimberly Clark, just to name a few, were the first to profit from prohibition. It is completely true that the “hemp” version of marijuana was once a global cash crop for centuries – and the beauty of it is, it is destined to be so again.
Washington Post
Pew survey: Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.

Yes. Here in the United States of America, special interest groups who are willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to protect billions in revenue. And they have been very successful for many decades. Shocker, right? Survey anti-pot groups websites and postings: the same weird logic and false information that comes from lobbyists who have also profited from prohibition. Ah, but now I’m starting to sound like one of those hemp conspiracists. Some folks don’t agree with the idea that industries might conspire against another industry to leverage a business advantage. Alternet’s Steven Wishnia posted Debunking the Hemp Conspiracy in

2008 with a impressive study that reveals a gradual social intolerance for the plant that led to prohibition.  

Why, then, do
so many people believe in the “hemp conspiracy”? First, it’s the influence of The Emperor Wears No Clothes ; many people inspired to cannabis activism by Jack Herer’s hemp-can-save-the-world vision and passionate denunciations of pot prohibition buy into the whole “conspiracy against marijuana” package. Another is that many stoners love a good conspiracy theory; secret cabals are simpler and sexier villains than sociopolitical forces. The conspiracist worldview, a hybrid of the who-really-killed-the-Kennedys suspicions of the ’60s left and the Bilderbergs-and-Illuminati demonology of the far right, is especially common in rural areas and among pothead Ron Paul supporters. Most people don’t have the historical or political knowledge to dispute a conspiracist flood of detailed half-truths. – Steven Wishnia, Alternet

For all his snakiness,

Wishnia makes a few good points. But his rationale is too precise; his conclusion is too clean. Yes, potheads love a conspiracy, but he forgets (or doesn’t want to acknowledge) that conspiracy is like folklore; there’s always just enough fact to stick out like a smoking bong.

Consider the effect that a restored hemp industry could have on textiles and other industries. Hemp is quite useful, used for centuries in the manufacture of everything from rope to canvas to clothing. Hemp production would end absolute control over textiles and other hydrocarbon dependent products. Domestic hemp production might decrease our dependence on foreign textiles. Note also that cultivation of hemp is cheap and environmentally sustainable. If that’s the case now, could it also have been the case when Marijuana was made illegal?

By the way, hemp is marijuana is cannabis. Same basic plant, same prohibition, different names.

My favorite marijuana conspiracy is the one that says that smoking weed will increase incidence of disease. The Hearst “yellow journalists” loved to poke at that, and it’s actually true – to a point. The fact is, anything done in excess is bad for you. What about moderate use? Moderate users have been smoking pot for centuries. If there were any direct effects from smoking weed (e.g., cancer or other disease) we’d have empirical data. But we don’t. Do you know why? Because there is no direct effect. NORML released this well-written and fairly comprehensive report on various medical studies. So this amounts to ‘another’ bottom line for legalization: no conclusive evidence, no direct cause-effect relationship between Marijuana and disease. Here’s a link to the NORML report: http://norml.org/component/zoo/category/cannabis-smoke-and-cancer-assessing-the-risk

Stoner Laughing
Ed Rosenthal declared that the successful legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington last November have “cured” him of his need for medical marijuana. Raw Story

When the Tea Party first emerged, I was inspired by their platform to limit government’s reach and let me live my life as I choose. As an adult, tax paying citizen, I am entitled to make decisions about my personal enjoyment. As long as my choices do not infringe on the rights of others, then what I do is my business, nobody else’s. Unfortunately, the Tea Party was hijacked by the Christian social agenda and got sidetracked by a dozen other little agendas that never made sense to me. Yet, the dream lives on. 

Twenty states and the District of Columbia now have laws legalizing marijuana in some form (see MAP). Colorado and Washington state have recently granted full legalization for recreational use, while the others issue individual permits for medicinal use of marijuana. Support is strong for major changes and I believe that very soon, Marijuana will be granted federal legalization. 

Now is our chance to end this wasteful and horribly distorted prohibition. More of us need to stand up and speak up. Marijuana nation IS rising. But it needs our constant vigilance.  

Book Review of “The Road to Serfdom”

The core of Hayekian philosophy is not conservatism; at least not the way American conservatives claim. Did they read Hayek or are they just pretending?

Humanism is a progressive philosophy. The goal is to improve yourself and the society in which you live and upon which you are dependent. For society to thrive, you need a sense of community that is engaged and supportive. It is not enough to improve yourself; as a member of the community, you must also be concerned with social responsibility.

Humanists do not accept the status quo if the status quo means that people are suffering. For that reason, you’ll find a humanist agitating for change and ways to end suffering. Invariably, even among humanists – there is disagreement on the details. Both Freidrich Hayek and Karl Marx were Humanist economists. One advocated for controlled capitalism, the other for communism. What they wanted to achieve was similar, how they thought we could accomplish it was very different.

Which brings me to a kind of conundrum when I meet conservatives who use The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek as a Christian uses a bible – high velocity, with intent to do bodily damage. This book is said to have spurred the Tea Party and the Ultra Conservative movement.  In 2006, the book appeared on Martin Seymour-Smith‘s list of the 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written and made HumanEvents.com’s list of Top Ten Books Every Republican Congressman Should Read.

If only they would read it. If only they truly understood what Hayek was trying to accomplish, perhaps they would realize what an utter fraud the leaders of the Republican Party (and the Tea Party) have committed. And the fraud? To say that they have blended Hayekian philosophy into the late not so great brand of American conservatism is nothing more than mere bullshit.

For backstory, Hayek is considered one of the intellectual leaders of the libertarian brain trust. Among the things contemplated were the limit of government’s role versus the range of freedom for the governed. Frankly, I have no problem with that notion. Government ought to stay out of personal lives and focus on governance. While Hayek message is also cautionary (at a time when caution was needed), it is the degree and the way that he makes his case that is troublesome.

The bullets had barely stopped flying in Berlin when many intellectuals and pundits declared that socialism was a fait accompli – an accomplished fact; a thing already done. The enemy, often characterized as rampant capitalistic oligarchies propped up by royalty or riches (take your pick), were on the run. Surrender was inevitable. History tells us another story. Not only did the oligarchs survive, they reformed during reconstruction. Which was good, for a while. But then even stronger cabals were formed, but that’s a story for another time. 

Hayek was among an opposing group – people like Jose Ortega and John Dos Passos – who feared the rise of socialism, but for different reasons. Ortega believed that given any opportunity, “mass man” would swell up and destroy the intellectual world in a fit of rage. Dos Passos was originally enthralled by socialism, but he became disillusioned by what he saw in Stalin’s Russia.

The trouble with an all-powerful secret police in the hands of fanatics, or of anybody, is that once it gets started there’s no stopping it until it has corrupted the whole body politic. I am afraid that’s what’s happening in Russia. – Dos Passos

Hayek took another turn. He believed that all forms of collectivism were doomed to failure — including collective bargaining. He pinned socialism as the greatest threat to individual liberty. It was on that point that he harps the most. In his world, all forms of socialism should be rejected by freedom loving people. So broad was that brush that he included simple things like government giving money to the old and infirm so that they could buy food and shelter. 

If it wasn’t pure democracy and absolute capitalism, Hayek had nothing kind to say. One chapter is nothing more than a long run-on rant about communism, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, and despotism. On the first read, it seemed like one lumpy and wholly inaccurate mess. On redirect (by a friend who has read other works by Hayek), I find that he rails against ideology for the sake of ideology. It’s not that he has a problem with socialism, per se, but that he worries about the dogma that historically follows it. Given historical examples – the Soviet, Mao’s China, North Korea – he makes a point. The brush, therefore, is even wider than I originally thought.

What confounds me is that Hayek points out weaknesses in collectivism without serving back weaknesses in capitalism (for example). Let’s agree that there are many examples where central planning, or collectivism, has failed; 1960s American experimentation with urban planning comes to mind. But post-war Japan is a great example where short-term collective/central planning was extremely effective for raising up battered economies. 

It is true that the virtues which are less esteemed and practiced now — independence, self-reliance, and the willingness to bear risks, the readiness to back one’s own conviction against a majority, and the willingness to voluntary cooperation with one’s neighbors — are essentially those on which the of an individualist society rests. Collectivism has nothing to put in their place, and in so far as it already has destroyed then it has left a void filled by nothing but the demand for obedience and the compulsion of the individual to what is collectively decided to be good. – Hayek

As an interesting footnote to my study, there was a chapter – nine, I believe – where Hayek seems to support the idea of government sponsored social insurance, including health care.

As history shows, socialism did not sweep Western Europe, but it did roost. Through free elections, the people of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and France reformed as mixed economies which allowed extensive private enterprise alongside substantial state enterprise and government intervention. This outcome was probably deeply disappointing to Hayek.

Who imagines that there exist any common ideals of distributive justice such as will make the Norwegian fisherman consent to forego the prospect of economic improvement in order to help his Portuguese fellow, or the Dutch worker to pay more for his bicycle to help the Coventry mechanic, or the French peasant to pay more taxes to assist the industrialization of Italy? – Hayek

And yet what the fisherman, the mechanic, and the peasant decided to do has worked out very well them, hasn’t it? Which then causes me to wonder, what the hell is he worried about?

I’m not an economist, so maybe I missed something, but “The Road to Serfdom” seemed to be more about Hayek’s philosophical views rather than an articulate analysis of competing systems. But I don’t think that this is the result of false advertising on his part. I believe Hayek sought to balance the rush to collectivism and wanted to fill what he perceived as a lack of complete discussion.

Consider how he contrives conflict. In one breath, he says, “…money is one of the greatest instruments of freedom ever invented by man,” but by another, he spouts that “it is money which in existing society opens an astounding range of choice to the poor man.” How does this work, that a poor serf may be caused to admire the “astounding” array of choices at his feet? Call me stupid, but I’ve always thought that the lack of money restricts choices and constricts possibilities. Isn’t that the center argument of the spiral into poverty? Isn’t that the very spiral that has caused gross imbalance of wealth? Isn’t this imbalance at the core of discontent among the masses especially as the lack of choices become acute?

If Hayek doesn’t understand the plight of the serf, then how can he advise us on how to avoid serfdom? Maybe it is because he never intends to deal offer advise; perhaps this book is as it appears – a collection of belly aches that ascribes to no ideology whatsoever.

Speaking of gastronomical distress, I believe mine is caused by reflection and realization that the current brand of conservatism believes that they have accurately portrayed his work. Seeking gravitas, they have exposed their ignorance. Therefore, the fraud is not Hayek’s but everyone who says that they have read his book and can give a good account why it must be held as the grail of the new American neo-conservative movement. I hope they do better on other subjects.

Stop Blaming “GOD” and Start Believing in Humanity

Source: Wikipedia
One of many depictions of “God.” Depending upon your influences, God is piloting a spacecraft, operating a holy button machine, or playing a cosmic organ at church.

As advanced as we pretend to be, we still have some pretty amusing superstitions. Well, actually some of them are pretty damned tragic. Like the one that says “god” will come down from heaven one day and lay waste to all people who don’t believe in her. Poppycock.

As an avowed Atheist, I do not believe that an all-powerful deity will swoop down and do anything – except maybe to stop by Area 51 and find out why the “angels” never reported back (TIC). But seriously, rain down from heaven to lay waste on the puny unbelieving humans? And yet, from altar, dias and pulpit we hear it proclaimed; idiot Chicago area Republicans declare it; citizens fear it: “god’s” punishment is ongoing in all form of murder, mayhem, and mischief.

Judeo-Christians are not alone. There are many religions that “believe” this is precisely what “God” (or “Gods”) are supposed to do; that death and mayhem on a grand scale is the purview of the great deity – a pox on you if you don’t embrace it. I’ll bet some clever shaman in the high tundra about 10,000 years ago came up with that idea first – to reign in a restless tribe. Probably the same wanton loin clothed bastard that told other men that women cannot be trusted. But I digress.

Sadly, there are ample examples of people declaring death and mayhem in the name of God (or Allah, or whaaaatever). Take a picture of that – we’re talking about men (e.g., terrorists from Chechnya and Waziristan, and gun-toting knuckle draggers from the Ozarks) driven out of their minds by what they believe to be the spoken word of their god. Personally, I have a problem with the picture of an otherwise beneficent all-powerful being really giving a rats-behind about little old me. Suffice to say, god’s wrath is a tragedy to those who are the victims and a pathetic waste to those of us who have learned control our impulses and now work toward a more sustainable solution.

Puzzling that Islam – like Christianity – truly tries to espouse peace (read both Koran and NT Bible to find appropriate passages). A vengeful god goes contrary to Christian belief that Jesus Christ was sacrificed on the cross to atone for sins for all time. So what is the problem? A root division within the faith? In Islam – you have influences of Medina and Mecca; differences in interpretation regarding the disposition of “Kafir” (non-believers). In Christianity, there’s the (in)famous division between Protestants (the Reformists) and Roman Catholics. I sat in a bible study once where Lutherans were clucking off about the “evil” of the Vatican; then (on the same day) sat through a Catholic seminar on the unsettling (and unholy) divisions created by reformists. But is that really the cause or merely a symptom?

GodI recently participated as the representative atheist in a “cross-denominational’ table talk at a local university (you know us heathens, we love universities). My assertion is that there is a root division – not within the house of “God” but within the house of humanity. Those who hold reverence to a deity commit the heresy of surrendering human rationality; of denying their human capacity to solve problems amicably without the veil of ‘belief’ to cloud choices. When we hide behind “god” we surrender “god given” freewill for mob action; we merely go with the flow regardless how we really feel. Later – when we are honest – we realize guilt, diminished individuality, foolishness; but we’re back at it again the next worship day – rattling the sabers of faith in homage to god.

The reaction from my fellow table talkers was somewhat subdued, but I took pleasure in one Catholic lady who stepped up to me and said, “You know, you are right. It is a heresy to proclaim punishment in the name of God.”

“Why do they keep doing it,” I asked.

“Because they don’t know any better.”

The absolute real solution to the problem: stop blaming god and start believing in humanity. Take personal responsibility for your actions and stop asking god for permission to do the right thing.