Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

WHY?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Common Good

By Puck T. Smith


Scene: A city street. A woman in a business suit is standing at a crosswalk waiting for the light to change as light traffic crosses the intersection. Diagonally across the intersection a destitute homeless man is huddled in a disheveled pile of filthy blankets. The are a few other people walking in the area. As she waits a large sedan pulls to the curb nearby. A well dressed man get out of the back seat and approaches her as another man sits at the wheel. 


Well dressed man, approaching the woman: Excuse me, miss.


The woman, looking up at him: Yes?


Well dressed man: Do you see that poor man over there?


Woman: Yes.


Well dressed man: It's a shame.


Woman, moving to cross the street as the light changes: I suppose it is.


Well dressed man, entering the crosswalk with her: Something should be done to help him.


Woman: It is very sad.


Well dressed man: Indeed. To think a society as rich as ours would have people in such wretched conditions.


Woman: Yes, it does say something about us.


Well dressed man, as they step up on the onto the curb from the crosswalk: I glad to hear you say so. I represent an organization dedicated to addressing the problems like these that plague society and we need your help.


Woman: I don't understand.


Well dressed man: Well, we have an important program to improve the situation, but it requires a great deal of money to implement and administer.


Woman: Well, if your asking me for a contribution I'm afraid I just don't have any money to spare.


Well dressed man: Miss, I need $100 from you.


Woman: Well, I don't have it so please excuse me.


She turns to walk away, but the man steps into her path.


Well dressed man: Miss, give me $100.


Woman: I told you, I don't have it. Now get out of my way.


Well dressed man, continuing to block her way: Miss if you don't have the money on you I will be happy to give you a ride to your bank to make a withdrawal. It's for a good cause.


The woman tries to dodge around him, but the car the man had gotten out of pulled up to the curb beside them. The driver opens the rear passenger door from the inside and the man begins to manhandle her into the car. The struggle for a moment and then the man pulls out a large pistol, points it at her face and cocks it. 


Well dressed man: Why are you making this so difficult. Don't resist. Do you hate poor people or something?


The woman screams. A few people nearby look up, but do nothing as he pushes her into car, slams the
slams shut as the car speeds off. The woman is a state near shock. 


Well dressed man: You should not resist, it will only make it worse. Why do you not want to help your fellow man? Have you no compassion?


Woman, with anger and fear in her voice: Where are you taking me?


Well dressed man: To your bank to make a withdrawal.


Woman, with an expression of panic on her face: How do you know what bank I use? Who are you?


Well dressed man: We know a great deal about you. As to who I am, it is not important. Our organization does not draw attention to individual members. Who we are is not important. All we asked it that we judged by our actions and results.


Woman: This is wrong, you have no right to do this to me.


Well dressed man: Miss, it is not a matter of rights, I have the authority.


Woman: What authority?


Well dressed man: I was appointed by the organization's Executive Committee who were duly elected by the members and supporters of our organization. Our General Assembly has authorized them to collect money for the poor and the have given me the responsibility to execute their decision.


Woman: But I had no part in that. I'm not part of your organization and I'm certainly not a supporter.


Well dressed man: Miss, because you have chosen not to participate does not relieve you of your obligations as outlined in the General Assembly's by-laws. Perhaps you'd care to change your mind, pay your share and become a part of the process.


The woman looks at him, speechless. 


After a few minutes, the car pulls over to the curb in front of a branch of the woman's bank. He opens the door and steps to the curb with his pistol still drawn. A few people nearby watch curiously, but none approach. He motions her to get out of the car. She slowly steps out and stands by the car. He motions with the pistol toward the entrance to the bank. Suddenly she kicked him in the crotch with all her might. He doubles over and she runs down the street. 


Well dressed man, raising his pistol, even as he is still bent over: Stop! Don't make me shoot!


She continues running. He steadies his aim and fires the pistol. The bullet hits the woman in the middle of her back. It explodes out the front of her chest in an eruption of blood and tissue. She falls face forward to the ground, dead instantly. 


Well dressed man, pulling himself upright: It's her fault, she made me do it. She should not have resisted the common good.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fort Knox

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Kablam!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mutual Aid Alert!

This from my friend Jim Davidson's Facebook notes.

My friend Lori Remp lives in Spring township, Berks county, Pennsylvania. That's quite near Reading, which is not terribly far northwest from Philadelphia. Lori prefers to keep her children in the Wilson school district, though possibly that's a court order related to the divorce.

She and her two daughters have been suffering verbal, mental, emotional, and physical abuse from her ex-husband. Apparently he is currently paying about $620 a month for child support. Naturally, it is impossible to keep bills paid and feed three people with this amount of money.

Lori has been suffering severe depression since November of last year. She needs emotional support, and a sense that she is going to find her way through.

Lori writes, "I cry almost everyday, and I feel so hopeless some days, because I know I can't do it on my own, and yet I cant work right now!!! ... It is sooooo frustrating!!! ... I pity my girls bc all they do is see me cry, and then they either get mad at me, or it brings them down too!!!!"

Also, her car is broken down, so she needs help finding better transportation.

In the area of self-help, Lori has been trying to sell a garage full of her furniture, but Craig's List is not generating any results. So if you know anyone who might help her get paid for the furniture, that would be a blessing.

Obviously, Lori's situation is not the typical "mutual aid response team" case of official oppression or abuse of office. She isn't fighting the courts, though her ex-husband has threatened to take her back to court over custody. (I think that would actually be a blessing to her, since she would likely keep custody and gain further child support.) However, her needs are simple enough that anyone can help out.

I would like to get a ChipIn fundraiser started for her. Of course, I continue to not use PayPal, so I won't simply go start that thing. But if someone reading this page would do so, that would be a beginning.

Anyone in the state of Pennsylvania (or is it a commonwealth?) would be very welcome to contact Lori directly, or through me. I'd like to show this person some of the love we share in the work we do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Plane and simple

Friday, July 22, 2011

I am not "we"

I am not "we." I did not incur the debt. I do not owe one single cent of it. My signature is on none of their fraudulent instruments. It is their problem and they are trying to fix it by destroying what little value is left in the US dollar--and all other currencies for that matter. There is nothing you nor I nor anyone else is going to be able to do about it.

Call me a doomsayer, but I am convinced it is at most a matter of a few months before shit is really going to start coming unglued. This is the culmination of 100 years of either colossal ignorance or diabolic intent (or some malignant symbiosis of the two). There is no one in any position of power who has any clue about how to manage the Frankenstein clusterfuck of fractional reserve central fiat banking at the exponential culmination of compound interest.

All paper is on the verge of reverting to its inherent worth. I intend to be completely out of it by the end of next week with the exception of day-to-day living from my paycheck. My money will weigh a lot, shine and be well hidden.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What You Don't Know Is Killing Your Neighbours

What You Don't Know Is Killing Your Neighbours
by Jim Davidson on Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 3:43am

Economists know about a problem that you cannot solve. It is called “the calculation problem.” The reason you cannot solve this problem, calculating the market clearing price of every good in the world on every market, is because you do not have the necessary information. The nature of the calculation problem is that you *cannot* have the information, because it isn’t available. Market clearing prices are discovered by buyers and sellers in free, unregulated markets, all the time, by the choices of those in the market.

As is often the case with these sorts of things, it is actually worse, in reality, than you might imagine. My friend from Colorado Springs, Keith Hamburger, writes, "The calculation problem is almost certainly even more intractable than presented by Ludwig von Mises. He wasn't aware of the modern mathematics of recursive feedback systems known as chaos/complexity theory when he did the majority of his writing, as it hadn't been developed yet. With every individual having an infinite number of things they can value, and each of those things being infinitely variable and only ordinally measurable, and their values changing moment by moment, and every action or bit of knowledge of billions of individuals influencing the values of each and every other individual, it is absolutely impossible to predict what is the 'correct answer.' There are not enough atoms in the universe to build a computer that is capable of modeling economics."

You may imagine that you are smarter than me, and I’m quite willing to grant it for purposes of discussion. You may believe you are smarter than everyone else, and I grant that, too. But the smartest woman in the world cannot know the needs and wants and temporary emergencies of seven billion people. You cannot know what you need to know to solve the calculation problem.

Yet you demand that we all turn to the government to force our neighbours not to buy things you don’t want them to buy and not to sell things you don’t want them to sell. You demand regulations and prohibitions, you demand price controls, you demand quality controls, and you shriek and gnash your teeth.

It is tiresome. Did prohibiting abortion work? No, it failed. It failed to prevent abortion. It also prevented women from getting abortions in clean clinics, and put them in back alleys being butchered by amateurs.

Did prohibiting alcohol work? No. It failed. It failed to prevent alcohol consumption. Carrie Nation’s dream of a country where women were not beaten senseless by drunk husbands never came to be. Prohibition made bathtub gin contaminated with lead (because it is cheaper to make a still with lead pipes) widely available. It made organised crime much bigger. It justified the existence of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other national police and espionage forces. But it failed.

Does prohibiting marijuana work? No. It fails. It is currently in the process of once again failing in Montana where dim-witted legislators have hit upon the idea of making criminals out of at least 28,000 of the roughly 30,000 marijuana prescription card holders they demanded be registered in a previous law, after the people of Montana voted 62% in favour (in 2004) of a legalisation scheme. Will they prevent weirdness, as one legislator at a Republican party "Reagan-Lincoln" event recently schemed? No. They will prevent orderly trade and commerce, they will drive the production and use of marijuana underground, they will turn over to federal authorities all the names and addresses they so cruelly demanded, they will gleefully build taxpayer-funded cages to put their neighbours in and gleefully distribute federal block grants to the states to fight the "war on drugs" and with greed all over their chins eagerly accept their cut of civil asset forfeiture money from robbing their neighbours at gunpoint.

And you never learn. You never learn that the government is not real, it is only a fiction. You never learn that the men and women who work for the government are simply men and women. They aren’t superhuman. They have no magic wands. They cannot know enough information to solve the calculation problem.

You demand that we all pay more for everything because you insist on regulations. Well, each American household pays about $15,000 more per year due to regulations, a recent study says. (Cite: http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=19869 ) On top of that, each American household pays roughly a third of their income in income taxes and payroll taxes, plus another ten percent in other federal taxes, plus another ten percent or more in state and local taxes. Every American would be two to three times wealthier with much less government, and the cost of everything in the market would be reduced with less regulatory and tax burden.

But you don’t care. You don’t care because you demand that the government solve all your problems. You don’t care because you are smarter than everyone, and you know better than your neighbours. You don't care because what you do care about is *important* and what I care about, free people having freedom, doesn't matter to you.

So your government puts 2 million Americans in cages every year for non-violent non-crimes. Your government incarcerates more individuals in total than any other nation in the world and a higher percentage of its population than every other country in the world. Your government tortures people to death. Your government detains people without charges. Your government searches private homes without warrants, without probable cause. Your police and federal agents plant evidence, lie, cheat, steal, rape, murder, and you don't care. Your president has authorised the execution of American citizens without trial. Your president has declared, as commander in chief, at least one soldier (Bradley Manning) guilty without benefit of a trial.

You don’t like the free market because you are a hateful, violent state supremacist. You don’t want free neighbours to express differences of opinion, you want to force them into line.

People are orderly when it pleases them to be orderly. But they aren’t always orderly.

The question is: are you willing to wait for the spontaneity of order by choice, or do you insist upon the calamity of order by force?

And if you force everyone into line, then you get to answer two more questions: Who does your state kill? Why?

The above essay was first written as a comment to a socialistic state supremacist environmentalist on some blog somewhere. Personally, I blame Kent McManigal for putting me on that track. I have above acknowledged Keith Hamburger for the chaos theory comment. While making acknowledgements, I should like to thank Jennifer Lewis for her work researching the $15,000 per household article. If you people were on Facebook, instead of reading this Web 1.0 Libertarian Enterprise, you might like to join our group there.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Support?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Historical Comparison

One of these things is not like the other.

Historical Perspective.



Wikipedia

Turd's Bottom

Turd Ferguson and I are both calling a bottom, so it's gotta be, right?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Is $39.00 The Bottom?

I have no idea.

Something is going on...


I know nothing.

Among the things I watch are the London Fix and NY Spot price of silver and the silver to gold ratio based on the same exchanges. In this chart blue in London, Orange is NY, pastel is the ratio and dark is the price.

My intuition tells me something is trying to converge on 38 or 39ish. My intuition also tells me some sort of bifurcation point is approaching.

I repeat, I know nothing.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What is a dollar?

On April 2, 1792, U. S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton reported to Congress the precise amount of silver found in Spanish milled dollar coins in common use in the States. As a result, the United States Dollar was defined as a unit of weight equaling 371 4/16th grains (24.057 grams) of pure silver, or 416 grains of standard silver (standard silver being defined as 1,485 parts fine silver to 179 parts alloy). It was specified that the “money of account” of the United States should be expressed in those same “dollars” or parts thereof.

Wikipedia


371.25 gr = 0.848572 oz = 24.0566 g.

On April 8th silver closed at $40.93/oz.

That means it would take 34.73 Federal Reserve Notes to buy 1 United States Dollar's worth of silver.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Freedom, Bigotry and Civil Rights "Law"

NOTE: I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge writers such as Walter Block, Butler Shaffer, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and Stefan Molyneux in helping me clarify my thinking. And a special thank you to Facebook user Julie Canny for prompting me to write this note.

If there are no functional differences between races or genders with respect to the ability to perform a given job and there are no state enforced barriers to entry into the market place, the employer who discriminates based on race or gender is putting himself at a competitive disadvantage by depriving himself of competent workers and risking public backlash.

If I and another entrepreneur were in the same business, producing the same goods or services and my competitor either would not hire women or racial minorities or paid them less that their white male counterparts he would be shooting himself in the foot.

All I would have to do is either hire those he wouldn't at a slightly less rate of pay than he gives his white men or hire his existing women and minority workers for more than he is currently paying them and slightly less than he is paying his white men.

I would then have lower costs and could undersell him, not to mention I would have the public's goodwill working for me and against him. It would not be very long before my business would more profitable than his and my market share would be increasing while his diminished.

At that point I would be susceptible to the same market forces that allowed me to put him out of business. Since I was more profitable than him and making more money, it would be in my interest to increase the pay of my women and minority worker to a comparable level with their white male counterparts or I would be just as vulnerable to the same tactics as I had used against my competitor.

This can only work in a free market with no barriers to entry. The reason it was not happening prior to Civil Rights Act of 1964 was that there were (and still are) high barriers to entry in the market. Licensing and regulation impose costs on businesses. Existing firms have already passed the hurdles and can afford to operate in the restrictive environment. New businesses have to overcome them, preventing easy entry by new competitors.

Similar dynamics apply to retailers and those providing "public" accommodations. Stores, motels and bus companies, for instance, do not prosper by turning away customers. Women and minority money spends just as well that of white men. If someone has a restaurant or a bus company and they refuse service to minorities all a competitor has to do is serve all comers.*

And when you think about it, forcing a racist or misogynist to serve or hire people he hates keeps the bigot in business. If people were allowed to discriminate openly the public would know who the discriminators were and would be able to shun them, putting them out of business.

I realize this runs counter to most everything people are taught, but people have been taught that free markets are bad things, so they cannot grasp how they actually operate and do not understand that freedom will always triumph over bigotry if it is given the chance to do so.

Forcing compliance does not foster virtue, it only breeds resentment and resistance.

Virtue can only arise when people are allowed to choose it.

-----------

*I do not have any cites handy, but I understand that "whites only" restaurants and "back of the bus" were not imposed by the restaurants and bus companies--at least not all of them--but by legislation because the discriminators could not compete with those who did not discriminate. Rather than face competition, they lobbied for laws restricting it.

While I have not found any "hard" cites I have found a few "soft" ones that suggest it.

http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/the-reincarnation-of-jim-crow/

http://www.independent.org/blog/index.php?p=3709

Anyone who reads this and has solid references would have my gratitude if they would share them. Also grammatical or spelling correction and fact checking would be appreciated as well.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Yes, But What About...?

Question: Does Anarcho-Capitalism have a solution to [insert pet issue here]?

Answer: Yes. The aggregated expression of distributed human choice through market behavior.

If people continue to express their lack of care and foresight through their economic decisions nothing will change. Forcing compliance on uncaring and unenlightened people will accomplish nothing.

If people begin to express wisdom through that same process then nothing can prevent positive change.

In either case, no amount of coercion can prevent human choice from expressing itself. Humanity gets the world it chooses. No law can ever stop that.

----------

Definition of terms in the order they appear, both above and in these definitions:

1) Anarchy: Without rulers, not without rules.

2) Capitalism: A system of social organization based on free choice, voluntary exchange and respect for property.

3) Market behavior: Voluntary human interaction in a social context.

4) Economic: Of, or relating to, human choice and human action in the material world.

5) Property: The claim of exclusive control and use of resources.

6) Resources: Those things required for the continuation of life and the improvement of its quality, including, but not limited to, material, psychological, social and spiritual needs.

If you define any of those terms differently we're not talking about the same thing. I do not claim the "right" definitions, I am simply letting you know the ideas I am trying to convey when I use those words. If you want a semantic argument talk to Noam Chomsky. If you want to discuss ideas then I'm listening.

I would be remiss if I did not credit Ludwig Von Mises, Butler Shaffer and Abraham Maslow for the clarity they have brought to my thinking.

Control Is Bad, MKay?

Roads Unfit For People


Roads Fit For People

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mutual Aid Alert!

You may have, by now, become aware of the Individual Sovereign University and our plans for a conference coming up in early March 2011. If you were one of the 444 plus members of "Friends of Shaun Lee" during its brief existence, you may be aware that our dean of community relations, Shaun Lee dickerson née Anderson was pushed down the stairs by her husband very early on the morning of Saturday 8 January 2011.

She called 911, but the 911 responders were lied to by her father-in-law, a former FBI agent and a very violent man himself by some accounts named Larry dickerson. Larry then confiscated her cell phone and turned off the wireless router provided to her by IndSovU. She then threatened to go to the neighbours and report him for kidnapping. This tactic succeeded in getting the router turned back on, so she was able to contact friends using the laptop provided her by IndSovU for her work through her foundation Legacy of Many Seeds.

A group of us immediately leapt into action, alerted by Mark Quon to Shaun's cries for help on her Facebook profile. I rounded up Brad Spangler and headed to Jefferson City to help Shaun collect the Jeep she's been using (also provided by IndSovU) and get herself and her children to safety. Bill Stone also headed to Jeff City from his home in Des Moines.

As you may already have heard, Shaun's father in law then apparently arranged for several members of her mother's family to perjure themselves in claiming that Shaun was crazy, on drugs, or abusing alcohol. She was involuntarily transported by Cole County sheriff deputies to the Columbia, Missouri medical centre where she was to be held for 96 hours on psychiatric evaluation.

Thanks to the coordinated efforts by a great many of her friends, dozens to hundreds of phone calls were made to the hospital. Her blood and urine tests came back entirely clean of all drugs and alcohol. Her knees were x-rayed by the hospital, and she was otherwise examined. Bill Stone, Brad, and I got in to see her after a short time. She was released to our care late on Saturday night, so we took her to a restaurant for some food, and she checked herself into a hotel room. The next morning we got her some crutches and helped her get situated in Kansas City.

Things continue to not be well for Shaun. She prefers that her situation not be described in detail, as it may compromise her ability to get custody of her children. That seems like wise legal strategy, to keep information output to a minimum.

So, rather than go into detail about what has happened so far this week, I'd like to ask that friends of mine consider the following objectives, and take related actions.

Goals
1. Shaun wants full custody of her children.
2. Shaun wants her property restored to her.
3. Shaun does not expect any reconciliation with her violent husband.
4. IndSovU would like to continue to support Shaun Lee and her work at Legacy of Many Seeds.
5. indSovU would like to have a successful conference in early March.

To advance these goals, you can do the following:
Actions
1. Share this note.
2. Tell the story in your own words on your blog, on your profile, or in your own note.
3. Ask your friends to contribute to Shaun's cause.
4. Post this ChipIn link: http://donnelly.chipin.com/mypages/view/id/09df5402dad44862
5. Follow this link to various links with the story thus far: http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2011/tle603-20110116-01.html#letter02
6. Send Shaun your love, your expressions of friendship, and send prayers on her behalf.
7. Register for the IndSovU conference http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2011/tle603-20110116-01.html#letter02
8. Buy merchandise or classes, or offer classes for sale at IndSovU.com
9. Donate to IndSovU at our chipin link: http://slf.chipin.com/jim-davidson-sings-firework-by-katy-perry-for-individual-sovereign-university

Competent attorneys cost money. So please help Shaun with her custody battle to get her three young sons away from her violent husband.

You may not have any money to give. You may have given as much as you can. That's okay. The drummer boy had no gift to bring, but he brought a song, and it was gratefully accepted. Make your song today about Shaun's plight. Please tell your friends. Please ask them to help fill the ChipIn.

Even small amounts make a big difference. Plant seeds today to have the legacy of a brighter future. Nurture those seeds you have planted, and see to it that they grow.

Thank you.



UPDATE: An anonymous donor will match all donations to Shaun Lee's chipin over the next 48 hours (starting Sun night Jan 16) up to $3,000. So if we can raise $3K for Shaun over the next 48 hours--till Tuesday 1/18/2011 11:59:59 PM, she will get double that! And she desperately needs it to retain the lawyer she feels she needs to get her kids back.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The "C" Word

The "C" Word

by Puck T. Smith on Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 11:26pm



When capitalism is outlawed, only outlaws will be capitalists. ~J Neil Schulman


Libertarianism is of course compatible with capitalism; and we should not equivocate with over-semanticizing. ~Stephan Kinsella


Stephan, is there really such a word as "semanticizing"? Certainly there should be -- in fact, there is now. By decree. ~Michael Morrison


Not withstanding J Neil Schulman's characterization of "the few involved in internal ideological debates at the Center for a Stateless Society,"(1) Gary Chartier has given three definitions of capitalism(2) which can be very useful in those discussion where the term arises:


capitalism-1

an economic system that features property rights and voluntary exchanges of goods and services.

capitalism-2

an economic system that features a symbiotic relationship between big business and government.

capitalism-3

rule — of workplaces, society, and (if there is one) the state — by capitalists (that is, by a relatively small number of people who control investable wealth and the means of production)


I call these definitions useful, not because they give a clear meaning to the term--the contradictions among them as stated give lie to that notion--but because they are representative of how the term is used by various people. As a lover and student of words and language from my early childhood I have long known that many disagreements stem not from fundamental conflicts in positions or principles, but from imprecise language no realization of the danger of this imprecision.

C.S. Lewis, another lover of words and language who, despite his ideological emphasis and however one may disagree with his religious views, is widely regarded by many, including me, as one of the masters of linguistics and literature of the 20th century, presented an eloquent and concise exploration of this theme in his masterpiece of Christian apologetics, Mere Christianity:(3)


The word gentleman originally meant something recognisable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone "a gentleman" you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not "a gentleman" you were not insulting him, but giving information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman; any more than there now is in saying that James is a fool and an M.A. But then there came people who said - so rightly, charitably, spiritually, sensitively, so anything but usefully - "Ah but surely the important thing about a gentleman is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behaviour? Surely he is the true gentleman who behaves as a gentleman should? Surely in that sense Edward is far more truly a gentleman than John?" They meant well. To be honourable and courteous and brave is of course a far better thing than to have a coat of arms. But it is not the same thing. Worse still, it is not a thing everyone will agree about. To call a man "a gentleman" in this new, refined sense, becomes, in fact, not a way of giving information about him, but a way of praising him: to deny that he is "a gentleman" becomes simply a way of insulting him. When a word ceases to be a term of description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object: it only tells you about the speaker's attitude to that object. (A 'nice' meal only means a meal the speaker likes.) A gentleman, once it has been spiritualised and refined out of its old coarse, objective sense, means hardly more than a man whom the speaker likes. As a result, gentleman is now a useless word. We had lots of terms of approval already, so it was not needed for that use; on the other hand if anyone (say, in a historical work) wants to use it in its old sense, he cannot do so without explanations. It has been spoiled for that purpose.


Capitalism has undergone the type of "spiritualization" Lewis described. Originating from the proto-Indo-European root "caput, meaning 'head'—also the origin of chattel and cattle in the sense of movable property"(4) Its use in the modern sense is often attributed to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, however capitalist as a value-free, descriptive technical term preceded Marx and Engels by twenty-five years and capitalism in the same technical sense preceded them by seventeen years.(5)

I consider Marx and Engels to represent the point wherecapitalist and capitalism crossed the threshold. Previously the terms were analogous to gentleman in the original denotative sense. Since Marx and Engels they have acquired connotations which indicate more the opinion of the speaker with respect to that spoken of instead of the object's objective characteristics. Depending upon who is using these terms they have been reduced to little more that compliments or insults, shorthand for unspoken diatribe and polemic.


Nevertheless, the words refuse to die however that may be desired and however lacking they have become as conveyors of meaning. It is for this reason I regard Chartier's definitions as useful. For those of us engaged in the war of ideas it can be fatal to make enemies of those who are not our enemies and to think we have friends among those who are not our friends. Consequently, whenever the termscapitalist or capitalism arise in discussion it is critical to clarify the terms.


For many these terms mean little more than exploiter andexploitation. For others it is a code word for freedom. If I argue the goodness of capitalism while understanding it in the sense of Chartier's first definition, a system comprising property rights and free exchange, while another decries the evil of capitalism from the belief it is represented by Chartier's second and third definitions, I could be seen as praising exploitation while to me the other is condemning freedom. We have become enemies, when in reality we share a common love of freedom and an equally common loathing for exploitation.


Conversely, there are certainly those who regard the second or third definitions as positive. In a discussion of capitalism, where the term is not clearly defined, I may sense an ally in one actually favors plutocracy and statism while my advocacy of uncoerced voluntary exchange would represent to them lawlessness and chaos. The lack of clarity may find me standing side-by-side with the enemy of all I hold dear.


Consider, then, the value of clarity and precision in the use of words. The language of our ideas can be a bright flare blazing above the battlefield dispelling the fog of war.


1) J Neil Schulman.

http://www.facebook.com/jneilschulman/posts/177945172236854

2) Gary Chartier.

Advocates of Freed Markets Should Embrace “Anti-Capitalism” http://c4ss.org/content/1738

3) C.S. Lewis.

Quoted by Glenn Slaven. C.S. Lewis on the abuse of the English language http://glenn.typepad.com/news/2003/08/cs_lewis_on_the.html

4) Wikipedia.Capitalism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism#Etymology_and_early_usage

5) ibid.

Monday, January 3, 2011