Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Sic Semper Tyrannis


Did you notice last night, on whatever channel you watch the news, the emblem of Virginia? Sic Semper Tyrannis - "This way end all tyrants" (under the image is of young maiden standing on the throat of the tyrant). Well it could have not happened in a better place. The anti-woke revolt may have started.

As one of the anchors said "Let's go Brandon" - BTW if the expression means nothing to you, get hip and read the meaning and funny origin here. (ingenuity of American crowds and media).
Like all revolutions, it took time and a lucky accident (and blessings from above) to get the needed steam, but the optimist that I am, I can see the Cultural Revolution that I fear starting to fade away (maybe). A friend in France told me yesterday "America seems to be on the razor's edge, will it come back before it's lost?". Maybe. 
Sic Semper Tyrannis

Thursday, October 28, 2021

von Mises saw it coming

 This post is a 2018 reprint by the Mises Institute of a speech given by the economist Ludvig Von Mises in 1950 in NYC

His forecast of what was to come is simply amazing and frightening. 
Were it not for the short interlude of the Regan and Thatcher administrations the US and UK would be where the rest of Europe and much of the world are today, but judging from current economic policy proposals we seem to be on track to follow after all.
The case is made so simply and clearly that a child could get it. It would seem that naivete, wishful thinking and/or the propensity to appropriate someone else's wealth are too strong for most humans to resist.

Pass this on in case we can still change enough minds before our children are abandoned to a future of a Chinese-style existence.

The Middle of the Road Leads to Socialism

TAGS Socialism

01/11/2018Ludwig von Mises

The fundamental dogma of all brands of socialism and communism is that the market economy or capitalism is a system that hurts the vital interests of the immense majority of people for the sole benefit of a small minority of rugged individualists. It condemns the masses to progressing impoverishment. It brings about misery, slavery, oppression, degradation and exploitation of the working men, while it enriches a class of idle and useless parasites.

This doctrine was not the work of Karl Marx. It had been developed long before Marx entered the scene. Its most successful propagators were not the Marxian authors, but such men as Carlyle and Ruskin, the British Fabians, the German professors, and the American Institutionalists. And it is a very significant fact that the correctness of this dogma was contested only by a few economists who were very soon silenced and barred from access to the universities, the press, the leadership of political parties and, first of all, public office. Public opinion by and large accepted the condemnation of capitalism without any reservation.

1. Socialism

But, of course, the practical political conclusions which people drew from this dogma were not uniform. One group declared that there is but one way to wipe out these evils, namely to abolish capitalism entirely. They advocate the substitution of public control of the means of production for private control. They aim at the establishment of what is called socialism, communism, planning, or state capitalism. All these terms signify the same thing. No longer should the consumers, by their buying and abstention from buying, determine what should be produced, in what quantity and of what quality. Henceforth a central authority alone should direct all production activities.

2. Interventionism, Allegedly a Middle-of-the-Road Policy

A second group seems to be less radical. They reject socialism no less than capitalism. They recommend a third system, which, as they say, is as far from capitalism as it is from socialism, which as a third system of society’s economic organization, stands midway between the two other systems, and while retaining the advantages of both, avoids the disadvantages inherent in each. This third system is known as the system of interventionism. In the terminology of American politics it is often referred to as the middle-of-the-road policy.

What makes this third system popular with many people is the particular way they choose to look upon the problems involved. As they see it, two classes, the capitalists and entrepreneurs on the one hand and the wage earners on the other hand, are arguing about the distribution of the yield of capital and entrepreneurial activities. Both parties are claiming the whole cake for themselves. Now, suggest these mediators, let us make peace by splitting the disputed value equally between the two classes. The State as an impartial arbiter should interfere, and should curb the greed of the capitalists and assign a part of the profits to the working classes. Thus it will be possible to dethrone the moloch capitalism without enthroning the moloch of totalitarian socialism.

Yet this mode of judging the issue is entirely fallacious. The antagonism between capitalism and socialism is not a dispute about the distribution of booty. It is a controversy about which two schemes for society’s economic organization, capitalism or socialism, is conducive to the better attainment of those ends which all people consider as the ultimate aim of activities commonly called economic, viz., the best possible supply of useful commodities and services. Capitalism wants to attain these ends by private enterprise and initiative, subject to the supremacy of the public’s buying and abstention from buying on the market. The socialists want to substitute the unique plan of a central authority for the plans of the various individuals. They want to put in place of what Marx called the “anarchy of production” the exclusive monopoly of the government. The antagonism does not refer to the mode of distributing a fixed amount of amenities. It refers to the mode of producing all those goods which people want to enjoy.

The conflict of the two principles is irreconcilable and does not allow for any compromise. Control is indivisible. Either the consumers’ demand as manifested on the market decides for what purposes and how the factors of production should be employed, or the government takes care of these matters. There is nothing that could mitigate the opposition between these two contradictory principles. They preclude each other. Interventionism is not a golden mean between capitalism and socialism. It is the design of a third system of society’s economic organization and must be appreciated as such.

3. How Interventionism Works

It is not the task of today’s discussion to raise any questions about the merits either of capitalism or of socialism. I am dealing today with interventionism alone. And I do not intend to enter into an arbitrary evaluation of interventionism from any preconceived point of view. My only concern is to show how interventionism works and whether or not it can be considered as a pattern of a permanent system for society’s economic organization.

The interventionists emphasize that they plan to retain private ownership of the means of production, entrepreneurship and market exchange. But, they go on to say, it is peremptory to prevent these capitalist institutions from spreading havoc and unfairly exploiting the majority of people. It is the duty of government to restrain, by orders and prohibitions, the greed of the propertied classes lest their acquisitiveness harm the poorer classes. Unhampered or laissez-faire capitalism is an evil. But in order to eliminate its evils, there is no need to abolish capitalism entirely. It is possible to improve the capitalist system by government interference with the actions of the capitalists and entrepreneurs. Such government regulation and regimentation of business is the only method to keep off totalitarian socialism and to salvage those features of capitalism which are worth preserving. On the ground of this philosophy, the interventionists advocate a galaxy of various measures. Let us pick out one of them, the very popular scheme of price control.

4. How Price Control Leads to Socialism

The government believes that the price of a definite commodity, e.g., milk, is too high. It wants to make it possible for the poor to give their children more milk. Thus it resorts to a price ceiling and fixes the price of milk at a lower rate than that prevailing on the free market. The result is that the marginal producers of milk, those producing at the highest cost, now incur losses. As no individual farmer or businessman can go on producing at a loss, these marginal producers stop producing and selling milk on the market. They will use their cows and their skill for other more profitable purposes. They will, for example, produce butter, cheese or meat. There will be less milk available for the consumers, not more. This, or course, is contrary to the intentions of the government. It wanted to make it easier for some people to buy more milk. But, as an outcome of its interference, the supply available drops. The measure proves abortive from the very point of view of the government and the groups it was eager to favor. It brings about a state of affairs, which — again from the point of view of the government — is even less desirable than the previous state of affairs which it was designed to improve.

Now, the government is faced with an alternative. It can abrogate its decree and refrain from any further endeavors to control the price of milk. But if it insists upon its intention to keep the price of milk below the rate the unhampered market would have determined and wants nonetheless to avoid a drop in the supply of milk, it must try to eliminate the causes that render the marginal producers’ business unremunerative. It must add to the first decree concerning only the price of milk a second decree fixing the prices of the factors of production necessary for the production of milk at such a low rate that the marginal producers of milk will no longer suffer losses and will therefore abstain from restricting output. But then the same story repeats itself on a remoter plane. The supply of the factors of production required for the production of milk drops, and again the government is back where it started. If it does not want to admit defeat and to abstain from any meddling with prices, it must push further and fix the prices of those factors of production which are needed for the production of the factors necessary for the production of milk. Thus the government is forced to go further and further, fixing step by step the prices of all consumers’ goods and of all factors of production — both human, i.e., labor, and material — and to order every entrepreneur and every worker to continue work at these prices and wages. No branch of industry can be omitted from this all-around fixing of prices and wages and from this obligation to produce those quantities which the government wants to see produced. If some branches were to be left free out of regard for the fact that they produce only goods qualified as non-vital or even as luxuries, capital and labor would tend to flow into them and the result would be a drop in the supply of those goods, the prices of which government has fixed precisely because it considers them as indispensable for the satisfaction of the needs of the masses.

But when this state of all-around control of business is attained, there can no longer be any question of a market economy. No longer do the citizens by their buying and abstention from buying determine what should be produced and how. The power to decide these matters has devolved upon the government. This is no longer capitalism; it is all-around planning by the government, it is socialism.

5. The Zwangswirtschaft Type of Socialism

It is, of course, true that this type of socialism preserves some of the labels and the outward appearance of capitalism. It maintains, seemingly and nominally, private ownership of the means of production, prices, wages, interest rates and profits. In fact, however, nothing counts but the government’s unrestricted autocracy. The government tells the entrepreneurs and capitalists what to produce and in what quantity and quality, at what prices to buy and from whom, at what prices to sell and to whom. It decrees at what wages and where the workers must work. Market exchange is but a sham. All the prices, wages, and interest rates are determined by the authority. They are prices, wages, and interest rates in appearance only; in fact they are merely quantity relations in the government’s orders. The government, not the consumers, directs production. The government determines each citizen’s income, it assigns to everybody the position in which he has to work. This is socialism in the outward guise of capitalism. It is the Zwangswirtschaft of Hitler’s German Reich and the planned economy of Great Britain.

6. German and British Experience

For the scheme of social transformation which I have depicted is not merely a theoretical construction. It is a realistic portrayal of the succession of events that brought about socialism in Germany, in Great Britain, and in some other countries.

The Germans, in the First World War, began with price ceilings for a small group of consumers’ goods considered as vital necessities. It was the inevitable failure of these measures that impelled them to go further and further until, in the second period of the war, they designed the Hindenburg plan. In the context of the Hindenburg plan no room whatever was left for a free choice on the part of the consumers and for initiative action on the part of business. All economic activities were unconditionally subordinated to the exclusive jurisdiction of the authorities. The total defeat of the Kaiser swept the whole imperial apparatus of administration away and with it went also the grandiose plan. But when in 1931 Chancellor Brüning embarked anew on a policy of price control and his successors, first of all Hitler, obstinately clung to it, the same story repeated itself.

Great Britain and all the other countries which in the First World War adopted measures of price control, had to experience the same failure. They too were pushed further and further in their attempts to make the initial decrees work. But they were still at a rudimentary stage of this development when the victory and the opposition of the public brushed away all schemes for controlling prices.

It was different in the Second World War. Then Great Britain again resorted to price ceilings for a few vital commodities and had to run the whole gamut proceeding further and further until it had substituted all-around planning of the country’s whole economy for economic freedom. When the war came to an end, Great Britain was a socialist commonwealth.

It is noteworthy to remember that British socialism was not an achievement of Mr. Attlee’s Labor Government, but of the war cabinet of Mr. Winston Churchill. What the Labor Party did was not the establishment of socialism in a free country, but retaining socialism as it had developed during the war and in the post-war period. The fact has been obscured by the great sensation made about the nationalization of the Bank of England, the coal mines, and other branches of business. However, Great Britain is to be called a socialist country not because certain enterprises have been formally expropriated and nationalized, but because all the economic activities of all citizens are subject to full control of the government and its agencies. The authorities direct the allocation of capital and of manpower to the various branches of business. They determine what should be produced. Supremacy in all business activities is exclusively vested in the government. The people are reduced to the status of wards, unconditionally bound to obey orders. To the businessmen, the former entrepreneurs, merely ancillary functions are left. All that they are free to do is to carry into effect, within a nearly circumscribed narrow field, the decisions of the government departments.

What we have to realize is that price ceilings affecting only a few commodities fail to attain the ends sought. On the contrary. They produce effects which from the point of view of the government are even worse than the previous state of affairs which the government wanted to alter. If the government, in order to eliminate these inevitable but unwelcome consequences, pursues its course further and further, it finally transforms the system of capitalism and free enterprise into socialism of the Hindenburg pattern.

7. Crises and Unemployment

The same is true of all other types of meddling with the market phenomena. Minimum wage rates, whether decreed and enforced by the government or by labor union pressure and violence, result in mass unemployment prolonged year after year as soon as they try to raise wage rates above the height of the unhampered market. The attempts to lower interest rates by credit expansion generate, it is true, a period of booming business. But the prosperity thus created is only an artificial hot-house product and must inexorably lead to the slump and to the depression. People must pay heavily for the easy-money orgy of a few years of credit expansion and inflation.

The recurrence of periods of depression and mass unemployment has discredited capitalism in the opinion of injudicious people. Yet these events are not the outcome of the operation of the free market. They are on the contrary the result of well-intentioned but ill-advised government interference with the market. There are no means by which the height of wage rates and the general standard of living can be raised other than by accelerating the increase of capital as compared with population. The only means to raise wage rates permanently for all those seeking jobs and eager to earn wages is to raise the productivity of the industrial effort by increasing the per-head quota of capital invested. What makes American wage rates by far exceed the wage rates of Europe and Asia is the fact that the American worker’s toil and trouble is aided by more and better tools. All that good government can do to improve the material well-being of the people is to establish and to preserve an institutional order in which there are no obstacles to the progressing accumulation of new capital required for the improvement of technological methods of production. This is what capitalism did achieve in the past and will achieve in the future too if not sabotaged by a bad policy.

8. Two Roads to Socialism

Interventionism cannot be considered as an economic system destined to stay. It is a method for the transformation of capitalism into socialism by a series of successive steps. It is as such different from the endeavors of the communists to bring about socialism at one stroke. The difference does not refer to the ultimate end of the political movement; it refers mainly to the tactics to be resorted to for the attainment of an end that both groups are aiming at.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels recommended successively each of these two ways for the realization of socialism. In 1848, in the Communist Manifesto, they outlined a plan for the step-by-step transformation of capitalism into socialism. The proletariat should be raised to the position of the ruling class and use its political supremacy “to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie.” This, they declare, “cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which in the course of the movement outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionizing the mode of production.” In this vein they enumerate by way of example ten measures.

In later years Marx and Engels changed their minds. In his main treatise, Das Capital, first published in 1867, Marx saw things in a different way. Socialism is bound to come “with the inexorability of a law of nature.” But it cannot appear before capitalism has reached its full maturity. There is but one road to the collapse of capitalism, namely the progressive evolution of capitalism itself. Then only will the great final revolt of the working class give it the finishing stroke and inaugurate the everlasting age of abundance.

From the point of view of this later doctrine Marx and the school of orthodox Marxism reject all policies that pretend to restrain, to regulate and to improve capitalism. Such policies, they declare, are not only futile, but outright harmful. For they rather delay the coming of age of capitalism, its maturity, and thereby also its collapse. They are therefore not progressive, but reactionary. It was this idea that led the German Social Democratic party to vote against Bismarck’s social security legislation and to frustrate Bismarck’s plan to nationalize the German tobacco industry. From the point of view of the same doctrine, the communists branded the American New Deal as a reactionary plot extremely detrimental to the true interests of the working people.

What we must realize is that the antagonism between the interventionists and the communists is a manifestation of the conflict between the two doctrines of the early Marxism and of the late Marxism. It is the conflict between the Marx of 1848, the author of the Communist Manifesto, and the Marx of 1867, the author of Das Capital. And it is paradoxical indeed that the document in which Marx endorsed the policies of the present-day self-styled anti-communists is called the Communist Manifesto.

There are two methods available for the transformation of capitalism into socialism. One is to expropriate all farms, plants, and shops and to operate them by a bureaucratic apparatus as departments of the government. The whole of society, says Lenin, becomes “one office and one factory, with equal work and equal pay,”1 the whole economy will be organized “like the postal system.”2 The second method is the method of the Hindenburg plan, the originally German pattern of the welfare state and of planning. It forces every firm and every individual to comply strictly with the orders issued by the government’s central board of production management. Such was the intention of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 which the resistance of business frustrated and the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional. Such is the idea implied in the endeavors to substitute planning for private enterprise.

9. Foreign Exchange Control

The foremost vehicle for the realization of this second type of socialism in industrial countries like Germany and Great Britain is foreign exchange control. These countries cannot feed and clothe their people out of domestic resources. They must import large quantities of food and raw materials. In order to pay for these badly needed imports, they must export manufactures, most of them produced out of imported raw material. In such countries almost every business transaction directly or indirectly is conditioned either by exporting or importing or by both exporting and importing. Hence the government’s monopoly of buying and selling foreign exchange makes every kind of business activity depend on the discretion of the agency entrusted with foreign exchange control. In this country matters are different. The volume of foreign trade is rather small when compared with the total volume of the nation’s trade. Foreign exchange control would only slightly affect the much greater part of American business. This is the reason why in the schemes of our planners there is hardly any question of foreign exchange control. Their pursuits are directed toward the control of prices, wages, and interest rates, toward the control of investment and the limitation of profits and incomes.

10. Progressive Taxation

Looking backward on the evolution of income tax rates from the beginning of the Federal income tax in 1913 until the present day, one can hardly expect that the tax will not one day absorb 100 percent of all surplus above the income of the average voter. It is this that Marx and Engels had in mind when in the Communist Manifesto they recommended “a heavy progressive or graduated income tax.”

Another of the suggestions of the Communist Manifesto was “abolition of all right of inheritance.” Now, neither in Great Britain nor in this country have the laws gone up to this point. But again, looking backward upon the past history of the estate taxes, we have to realize that they more and more have approached the goal set by Marx. Estate taxes of the height they have already attained for the upper brackets are no longer to be qualified as taxes. They are measures of expropriation.

The philosophy underlying the system of progressive taxation is that the income and the wealth of the well-to-do classes can be freely tapped. What the advocates of these tax rates fail to realize is that the greater part of the income taxed away would not have been consumed but saved and invested. In fact, this fiscal policy does not only prevent the further accumulation of new capital. It brings about capital decumulation. This is certainly today the state of affairs in Great Britain.

11. The Trend Toward Socialism

The course of events in the past thirty years shows a continuous, although sometimes interrupted progress toward the establishment in this country of socialism of the British and German pattern. The United States embarked later than these two other countries upon this decline and is today still farther away from its end. But if the trend of this policy will not change, the final result will only in accidental and negligible points differ from what happened in the England of Attlee and in the Germany of Hitler. The middle-of-the-road policy is not an economic system that can last. It is a method for the realization of socialism by installments.

12. Loopholes Capitalism

Many people object. They stress the fact that most of the laws which aim at planning or at expropriation by means of progressive taxation have left some loopholes which offer to private enterprise a margin within which it can go on. That such loopholes still exist and that thanks to them this country is still a free country is certainly true. But this “loopholes capitalism” is not a lasting system. It is a respite. Powerful forces are at work to close these loopholes. From day to day the field in which private enterprise is free to operate is narrowed down.

13. The Coming of Socialism is Not Inevitable

Of course, this outcome is not inevitable. The trend can be reversed as was the case with many other trends in history. The Marxian dogma according to which socialism is bound to come “with the inexorability of a law of nature” is just an arbitrary surmise devoid of any proof.

But the prestige which this vain prognostic enjoys not only with the Marxians, but with many self-styled non-Marxians, is the main instrument of the progress of socialism. It spreads defeatism among those who otherwise would gallantly fight the socialist menace. The most powerful ally of Soviet Russia is the doctrine that the “wave of the future” carries us toward socialism and that it is therefore “progressive” to sympathize with all measures that restrict more and more the operation of the market economy.

Even in this country which owes to a century of “rugged individualism” the highest standard of living ever attained by any nation, public opinion condemns laissez-faire. In the last fifty years, thousands of books have been published to indict capitalism and to advocate radical interventionism, the welfare state, and socialism. The few books which tried to explain adequately the working of the free-market economy were hardly noticed by the public. Their authors remained obscure, while such authors as Veblen, Commons, John Dewey, and Laski were exuberantly praised. It is a well-known fact that the legitimate stage as well as the Hollywood industry are no less radically critical of free enterprise than are many novels. There are in this country many periodicals which in every issue furiously attack economic freedom. There is hardly any magazine of opinion that would plead for the system that supplied the immense majority of the people with good food and shelter, with cars, refrigerators, radio sets, and other things which the subjects of other countries call luxuries.

The impact of this state of affairs is that practically very little is done to preserve the system of private enterprise. There are only middle-of-the-roaders who think they have been successful when they have delayed for some time an especially ruinous measure. They are always in retreat. They put up today with measures which only ten or twenty years ago they would have considered as undiscussable. They will in a few years acquiesce in other measures which they today consider as simply out of the question. What can prevent the coming of totalitarian socialism is only a thorough change in ideologies.

What we need is neither anti-socialism nor anti-communism but an open positive endorsement of that system to which we owe all the wealth that distinguishes our age from the comparatively straitened conditions of ages gone by.

[This address was delivered before the University Club of New York, April 18, 1950. First printed by Commercial and Financial Chronicle, May 4, 1950; reprinted as a chapter in Planning for Freedom.]

  • 1.Cf. V.I. Lenin, State and Revolution (Little Lenin Library No. 14, New York, 1932), p. 84.
  • 2.Ibid., p. 44.
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

Ludwig von Mises

Ludwig von Mises was the acknowledged leader of the Austrian school of economic thought, a prodigious originator in economic theory, and a prolific author. Mises's writings and lectures encompassed economic theory, history, epistemology, government, and political philosophy. His contributions to economic theory include important clarifications on the quantity theory of money, the theory of the trade cycle, the integration of monetary theory with economic theory in general, and a demonstration that socialism must fail because it cannot solve the problem of economic calculation. Mises was the first scholar to recognize that economics is part of a larger science in human action, a science that he called praxeology.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Perspective from my 70th birthday

 Yesterday I turned 70. The world could care less. A few dear friends did and threw me a party in case I do not make it to 71. Fingers crossed.

Today the world is different: America is legitimately embarrassed by the incompetence of our leaders - watch Suday 8/15/21 videos of people falling off airplanes escaping from Kabul. How could we come to this? Some would say: Simple. History repeats itself: elect an incompetent like Carter (Biden) as a knee-jerk reaction to a personally objectable President like Nixon (Trump) and your fate is sealed. History is not kind to amateurs and incompetents.  Carter should have stuck to Habitat charities, Biden to credit card lobbying.  As with Carter (a real nice person but unfit), we are set for inflation, recession, "malaise" and geopolitical embarrassment (Iran then, Afganistan now), energy dependence (Biden just begged OPEC for help - to his credit Carter knew better than that). Our chief general Millie (Gen. Woke, also the mastermind of Afgan Army and Police training since 2003) was more concerned with promoting LGBTQ and gender studies in our military than in winning strategies and limiting losses getting out of Afghanistan.

I see the world through an old and odd lens foreign to today's younger crowd: 

I grew up in an Italy rebuilding after WWII destruction, I saw the power of a free economy destroyed by socialism and communism in 68-75, - yes, Italy, it has the largest communist party in non-USSR western Europe countries and to this day the highest unemployment outside of Greece in the EU. When I came to the US (legally) in 1970 I saw Black Panther riots in the US and the Student for Democratic Society and associated terrorism, I applauded the welcome sacking of Nixon, the catastrophic electoral response electing Carter. After immigrating legally a second time, I saw the recovery of America with Regan (the "Regan recession" was most painful to me personally, but it worked for the country. I believe that the Regan/Thatcher economic policies are the reason for the difference in today's economies and standards of living of US-UK vs. the rest of Europe). Then I witnessed the corruption of national finances and character brought by Clinton, then Bush's disastrous extension of the Afgan War and the conning of the country to go to war in Iraq, on and on.

From those experiences, I conclude that history is a sequence of ups and downs. Biden has just shown us one of the most costly downs in recent history. Incompetence does not come close to describe it, but should have been expected. The criteria for a person's selection to a task are no longer competence, just woke-fitness. So we, Americans, pay the financial cost (interest on Afganistan and Iraq wars is estimated at 6.5 trillion by 2050 - the kids will pay for it). Afghans will pay a personal price and in the geopolitical future untold numbers will see their world upended.

It is not what I had hoped to enter the end of my days

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Logotherapy - Part Psychiatry Part Philosophy

In my continuing search for answers to the riddle of life, I took the online course Introduction to Logotherapy a subject that has held my curiosity for years since reading Victor Frankl's  Man's Search For Meaning. The course is taught by Batya Yaniger PsyD at the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy in Israel. The course has been an awesome experience.

As it is my habit to really learn anything I read, I developed a mindmap of the main concepts in each chapter of the second part of the book - Logotherapy In A Nutshell, my crumbs trail to go back and search through.  Search away, I hope you find half of the answers I found.

Another presentation of Logotherapy is by Dean Theophilos, MA, LCPC, CRADC, LPCC, LADC, NCC -Licensed Therapist - The Mansio Center, Inc.499 Anthony St. Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Road to Serfdom

In the mid 1940's, as a result of WWII won with the use of centralized economic planning, many US citizens began to believe the centralized planning with a socialist bent was the more efficient way to go forth into the future. Today as we look for concerted action on Global Warming, conflated with a new search for economic justice, the popular thinking seems to be going in the same direction.

The idea that a benevolent bureaucracy elected by and responsive to the people could more efficiently direct society toward salvation, wellbeing, social equality, and morality than individuals pursuing their crass economic interest, is easy to buy into. But I lived through the destruction of industry and productivity in Italy during the mid 60's to mid 70's (lasting to this day) that birthed social democracy and included various experiments in many cities with socialist and communist administrations. To this day, economic opportunity, wellbeing, benevolent public bureaucracies are still to be found. With that history, I understood the warning that Nobel-Price Economist Friedrich Hayek offered in "The Road to Serfdom". 

His book and warning, however, would have been too academic, pedantic heavy-lifting for most readers. In a stroke of luck, the Reader's Digest, the most read magazine of that time (still barely available today in airports' bookstores) published a summarized version of it in April 1945. Millions read it, millions got the point, and America's short love with socialism ended at the ballot box. Most countries in Europe, at some point in the 40's to 90's flirted with the socialist experiment and with few exceptions still pay a high price with economic stagnation, bloated government bureaucracies and loss of their most educated and motivated citizens to other countries.

With this experience in mind, I publish here my extract of The Reader's Digest condensed version of The Road to Serfdom contained in the complete IEA publication below.

The complete version, with more background, introductory notes, references to publications of the time, etc as published by IEA is available HERE

iPhones and Androids have free apps that can read a pdf file to you. After you open the link above you can download the pdf and listen to it at your convenience.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Must Read: from Ryan Holyday of DailyStoic.com


If You’re Angry, You’re Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Here is my latest post on Medium...
It’s ironic that the only thing we all seem to agree on lately is that there’s a lot to be angry about.
On the left, we have the insurgent anger of “resistance.” Race, gender, police brutality, immigration, the environment — unspeakable wrongs are happening right in front of us, they argue — and anyone who can’t see that is complicit. The other side has just as much rage. Just a few weeks ago, Sohrab Ahmari, a Catholic convert and editor for The New York Post became a hero on the right for arguing that the stakes of the culture war are so high that it’s time for conservatives to do away with Christian kindness and civil discussion in favor of seeing “politics as war and enmity.”
If you’re not outraged, they both tell us, “You’re not paying attention.”
Anger, in this way, can seem almost inspiring, even admirable — that it’s a sign of how much you care. The American-Irish political journalist Alexander Cockburn was famous for sitting young writers down and asking them, “Is your hate pure?” If they hesitated, if they squirmed, he wouldn’t hire them. He once asked this question to a young Ed Miliband, who would go on to be the leader of the Labour Party in Britain and later a cabinet member. Miliband replied that he didn’t hate anyone. This, Cockburn smirked as he proudly retold the story, “tells you everything you need to know.”
Yeah, it shows that Cockburn — and the people who stroke our angriest impulses — are only making things worse.
For a simple reason: It’s not controversial to say that most of what is wrong in this world is not intentionally wrong. How could it be, unless you believe that the majority of people are evil? Think about it: Are most people doing wrong on purpose or are they like you — in all the times you have been or done wrong in the past — probably (wrongly) convinced that what they’re doing is right? Obviously anger is not the most effective or appropriate response to these situations.
And what about the cases when wrong is being carried out deliberately? What about actual evil — which sadly is all too real? Here, again, anger isn’t the right response either. Because truly diabolical people are far too nefarious and dangerous for us to approach with anything other than our most rational and strategic efforts. (You don’t foil sociopathy by yelling.)
Yet here we are, constantly being egged on by both sides about why we need to get angry, telling us that our hate should be pure.
If anger was something that made people better, do you think athletes would work so hard to get under the skin of their opponent? Do you think lawyers would try to attack and frustrate witnesses under cross examination? Of course not. It is precisely because anger is blinding, because it makes us irrational, that one opponent uses it to undermine another.
What we need — in sports, in life, in activism — is restraint, not rage.
Oh, but that’s very privileged of you to say, one might think. You wouldn’t be so blasé if things were worse for you personally.
History overwhelmingly disproves the idea that self-composure is a synonym for resignation. George Washington’s defining characteristic? It was, as he often said, the ability to look at things in the “mild light of calm philosophy.” He refused to get upset, he refused to get angry — no matter the insult, no matter the injustice, no matter the betrayal. And it was precisely this self-control that allowed him to direct his efforts towards his great task — freeing a colonial people from the subjugation of a capitalistic imperial empire, to put it in modern language — so it cannot be argued that he simply tolerated the status quo.
History also shows that there are far more effective emotions to incite if your goal is to create action and meaningful change.
A recent exchange illustrates this well. On the eve of his inauguration, President Donald Trump, took to Twitter to attack congressman and civil rights icon, John Lewis.
It was just a highlight of a cycle that was to come: Trump using Twitter to try to provoke someone, with the talking heads in the media (on both sides) taking the bait. Basically, everyone got upset about it.
Except one guy: John Lewis. Lewis could have easily responded with anger to this attack on his character. Instead, he had a moment of self-reflection, calling what he described as “an executive session with myself.”
The following day, Martin Luther King Day, as it happened, Lewis took the high ground in an apparent response to the president. “I say to the future leaders of this state, the future leaders of this nation, of the world — you must never, ever hate,” Lewis said at a memorial breakfast “The way of love is a better way. The way of peace is a better way.”
No one can say John Lewis is “all talk.” Or that privilege corrupted his response. This is a man who had been beaten nearly to death in 1965 as he and 600 people attempted to peacefully march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, to protest segregation. What he learned in a career of effectual political action is that getting angry is not a strategy. It’s a distraction.
Think of Abraham Lincoln. A defining moment of his life came in 1841 when he, then no more than a successful mid-Western lawyer, saw a group of slaves chained together on a riverboat like “so many fish on a trotline.” Abolitionists had witnessed scenes like this for centuries and many of them became radicalized in the process. Lincoln’s reaction was different. It wasn’t anger, he felt, but a deep and profound sadness at the injustice of it. But this was key. For all the passion of the abolitionist movement, it was Lincoln who spent the next two decades plotting a course of political change that ultimately accomplished what generations of Americans had failed to do. It was Lincoln — unlike even the radicals — who never doubted that the Union could be preserved, that the war could be won, who steered the ship unswervingly through those terrible times, all the while preaching a need for understanding, for forgiveness and mutual culpability. He was even-keeled in his determination to improve the world.
The Civil Rights Movement — per Martin Luther King’s leadership as well as the leadership of brave people like John Lewis — was defined not by anger, but by love. By a call to better angels, not our worst ones. So was Gandhi’s. The most powerful and enduring symbol of resistance to the Vietnam War was not the angry, long-haired students, it was the monk who doused himself in gasoline and lit a match — without a hint of emotion, only perfect stillness and moral urgency. Churchill’s famous line during World War II was that he didn’t hate anyone, except Hitler — and even that he tried to keep professional. If Churchill could do that, what excuse do we have?
My point is that while peace isn’t always the solution, avoiding anger is.Because to paraphrase and add to the line from Angela Merkel, just as you can’t complete tasks with “charisma,” you can’t do much when you’re blinded with rage or hatred either.
Indeed, this is what many philosophers ask us to step back and learn from history. “Constantly run down the list of those who felt intense anger at something,” Marcus Aurelius wrote, “the most famous, the most unfortunate, the most hated, the most whatever. And ask: Where is all that not? Smoke, dust, legend… or not even a legend.” Alexander the Great was as angry and motivated to put his dent in the world as they came, and what happened after his early death? The whole empire fell to pieces. What of Gracchus or Catiline, whose angry conspiracies against Rome were driven by a kind of Joker-esque nihilism of just wanting to see the world burn? Not only did they fail, but chances are many people aren’t even going to be familiar with my reference. Because Marcus was right — it was forgotten. It all became dust.
The fact that we will all become dust one day is not a reason to do nothing. It’s a reason to do the right thing, the right way.
In his fascinating essay, Of Angerthe philosopher Seneca makes a similar point. He wanted to know if it was possible to respond to evil and violence “judiciously and with foresight,” instead of being driven by some primal emotion.
“‘Does a good man not get angry?” he asked. “Even if he watches his father get killed or his mother raped?’” No, was Seneca’s answer. But just because we don’t give in to anger doesn’t mean we have to accept this injustice. “The good man will carry out his duties without fear or turmoil… My father is being killed; I’ll defend him. He has been killed; I’ll avenge him — but because it’s right, not because I’m grieved… To get angry on behalf of one’s kin is the mark of a weak mind, not a loyal one.”
It calls to mind the powerful example of Laura and Rob Tibbetts, whose daughter was murdered by an undocumented immigrant in 2018. After the body was discovered, letters started pouring in. People tried to stoke their passions of this grieving family for political purposes. “This is why we need to build a wall,” they said. “Those people are animals. We need to protect ourselves.”
If anyone had an excuse for “pure” hatred, it was probably the Tibbets. And what did they do?
They opened their home to a young boy whose parents were also undocumented immigrants and had worked in the very same fields as the man who had murdered their daughter. That’s not just a lovely example of forgiveness, it’s a profoundly virtuous and impressive act. There must be so much pain in their heart, so much anger. Yet they rose above it. They spoke out against those who tried to turn their pain into profit and to polarization, calling it “everything that’s dark and wrong in America right now.” And instead of being tempted by anger, they focused on finding a way to see through the rage and the hurt to find something common in their shared humanity.
It was a decision that will produce more real change than any of the pundits can ever hope to.
Who should we listen to? Whose example should we follow? The people who capitalize off of blind emotion in order to gain a following? Or people like the Tibbets who are quietly doing good, despite their very real grievances?
There is today, as there has always been, profound injustice in this world. But that injustice will not be solved by getting upset, by painting the other side as irredeemable, or by giving into our worst impulses.
It must be addressed politically, personally, and with precisely the opposite of the traits that caused the injustice in the first place. You must treat indifference with empathy, cruelty with compassion, anger with patience and love.
We know this from our own personal lives. The things that make you the most angry are the things you have the toughest time resolving. Has yelling or losing your temper ever made things better at home? Or does it only make things worse?
Each of us has to work on this, myself included. We cannot let ourselves be rattled by the wrong we see in the world. We must limit our inputs, and cut out toxic provocateurs and manipulative media. We must sit quietly with our own thoughts, and push ourselves to respond to everything we see with kindness and calmness.
It’s easy to clever or cruel. It’s hard to be composed and clear. But which gives us the change we need?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

One more for the bucket list

Somewhere in my bucket list, one item has been outstanding a long time: To publish a novel that I had started writing in 2006. It started as science fiction and a test of whether I could write a novel almost 100% dialogue. It was fun in the beginning, dreaming of the future and imagining a conversation with my grandchildren. Alas, finding an end proved to take years and almost became a challenge beyond my patience. Then, one day, it came to me and I finally wrote "The End".

Finishing a draft of a short story and publishing it are universes apart I discovered. Editing is harder than writing, proofreading is mindlessly hard. Even when you are done with months of all of that, how do you publish an ebook? I ran aground again. Then on my birthday, I decided it had to be done no matter if less than perfect. As Facebook admonishes its staff "done beats perfect", and so it was.
Amazon was the first channel for the Kindle version of The Yoda Machine. It was easier than I had imagined, quick, and free.  You can find it here. Soon I discovered that despite the supposed popularity of Kindle, none of my friends had it. Kindle Reader is available free for every possible mobile device and OS, but getting family and friends to install it appeared to be too heavy lifting.
Draft2Digital was the next platform I tried for the Epub version of The Yoda Machine. Not nearly as automatic as Amazon to format correctly, but still quick and easy and free. It automatically submits your ebook to a multitude of publishers (Kobo, Scribd, B&N and more), it collects royalties and it generates ebooks in various formats (epub, mobi, pdf) that you can download in finished form for whatever purpose you wish.

(2018 update) In time I hired a professional editor to review and advise. To one raised Catholic mortification cannot ever be a surprise. Well, it was. Starting from scratch on something very different seemed to be the message heard. Time passed, mortification subsided, as it always does, and The Yoda Machine remained published, in need of a 2nd edition, all to happen someday.

So, one more is off the bucket list. Now back to writing software a clearly more appreciated endeavor.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Beware easy answers and political dynasties

I am tired of the litany of insults. I am not uneducated (MBA), not a misogynist (women friends will attest to it), not retarded (can prove somewhat above 100), nor violent (I am for guns controls and have none). Still, holding my nose and with all my fingers crossed, I will vote for Trump as the lesser of two evils. Here is why:
1. I trust the American political system enough to keep a buffoon from doing much damage. The Congress shackled Obama for eight years to do little, and only one party was at it. With two parties in opposition, President Trump will do little other than talking big and delivering less. The Founding Father designed the system to do just that. ANd based on current count of friends, few cronies and lobbyists should be able to come to the through to collect.
2. Conversely, the election of another Clinton who believes that the law does not apply to them is the beginning of a political dynasty.
2. I firmly believe that ANY political dynasty is a recipe for disaster. A lesson we should have learned with the Bushes' gifts of the Neocons and Iraq.
But just in case we need education from the experience of the rest of the world, here it goes:  In all cases (after WWII) where spouses followed spouses in a similar position of power (may not be the same title), corruption reigned supreme. But the issue is not the wives, there are even more examples in the more general sense of a close relative following a close relative. In ALL cases, to the best of my memory and research, they resulted from, or advanced, corruption of their respective political systems. In many cases the results were catastrophic, as n GW Bush. One can easily conclude that dynasties corrupt political systems either because a ruling class fosters cronism or because the cronies of the first leader elect the second to retain and advance their position.
Look at the world. Exceptional as America may be, it would be hard to escape the pattern:
a  Juan and Isabel Peron in Argentina in the 70’s (husband and wife)
b  Kirchners in Argentina in 2000’s (husband and wife)
c  The Aquinos in the Philippines (husband would have been president if not assassinated, Corazon, the wife, became President, her son became President too)
d  Nehru and Gandhi in India (Mother Indira Gandhi followed her father (Nehru) and son Sanjay virtually ran the country under her administration)
e  GHW Bush and GW Bush in the US (father and son) already mentioned for thegift of the Neocons and Iraq
f  Mandelas in South Africa (husband and wife controlled the ANC gorvernment) raised corruption to a science
g  Imelda Marcos Provincial Governor while husband Ferdinand was President
h  and in 2016, the ultimate, Nicaragua's Ortega is running for a third term with his wife on the ticket (Bill Clinton might have called it "two for the price of two")

After her great speech performance of the last few days, may we expect Michelle Obama to take a cut at it? But if Hillary gets it, my money is on "Chelsea for 2020", by then, maybe, with her husband)

Beware political dynasties was good advice for ancient Rome and for the Founding Fathers, and still is today. Of course, there is the risk of passing up on a very qualified leader along the way, but history would show it to be well justified to avoid the risk of walking into dynastic politics which have never been dislodged without a violent upheaval.
Beware the easy answer.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Exorcising a ski run

This story is an attempt at an exorcism of sorts. I'm writing it with the hope of getting out of my mind the experience I had skiing with some friends yesterday at Park City/Canyons.
Two days before Darlene, Linda and I had skied Grande, a double black rated run off the Tombstone Chairlift. The snow had been great, not untracked, but nice and soft. The run is challenging because it requires skiing in tight trees to reach an open bowl that is quite steep but easily manageable. Above the bowl is a is rocky face un-skiable by anyone with a working brain. Last Friday, the rock face was roped off and with a yellow sign with an arrow pointing to skier's-left to avoid the rocks. With deep snow, it is a great run.
Yesterday at the end of a great ski day with Darlene and Linda, we decided to ski Grande again as our closing run. We entered the run too far at skier's-right without noticing that the rope above the rocks was missing. As we started traversing to the left looking for more familiar terrain I found myself on the rock face with Linda closely behind. I barely managed to bushwhack my way above and out of that mess, back to safer terrain. There, I noticed that we were well below the familiar yellow arrow-sign above the rock face and that the orange out-of-bounds rope had been pulled and thrown behind a tree by some irresponsible fool. Linda, instead, was still stuck on the frozen rocks with her skis tangled in barbed-wire-like low bushes of scrub oak. In the hope of freeing herself from the bad spot,

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Memories From A Tech Startup (back in the stone age)

My story, below, was prompted by reading that an Atari video game cartridges from a 1980's landfill sold for $37,000.  The past rushed back at me as I re-lived an earlier very dramatic time of my life. Brace yourself.

If your first video game console was a Nintendo, this story might as well be about dinosaurs or the Roman Empire or The Middle Ages.  If you are older than that you might find some memories and may notice that little has changed since those times except the absolute speed of change (the relative speed of change has not and more of that later). In hindsight, the risks of high-tech startups do not seem to have changed much and the planning to deal with it requires the same considerations today as it did then. The roman-candle story of RomLabs Inc. may give us a glimpse into it.

The business environment

It's 1983, the first "video games bubble" has been running since 1980-81 and it was a classic "bubble" unbeknownst to all industry participants.  The key players of the second generation of video games devices included video game console (VGC) makers Atari, Intellivision, Coleco (also Commodore, Radioshack, Texas Instruments) and third party developers (game software only) Imagic, Activision and Electronic Arts and a host of other minor participants.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ryan Scobby - Musician

We had waited a long time for our son Ryan to find time and means to come and visit us in Park City.
 Finally, hurrah! he came. It was to be a visit of learning and discovery.

Let's start with the learning part: shortly after his arrival I jokingly asked Ry if he had already found a hook up in town using Tinder.
[Side bar: That was my opening to tell him what I had read about Tinder in a post on Vanity Fair,
which presumably would make me look current and well informed. I had read the story describing the users of Tinder and the fast hook up culture in NYC, which, shared with my late middle-age women friends at a recent party, had generated great surprise, curiosity, laughs and, for some, horror]

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Can we learn to die purposefully?

Read this article.  "Slipping Away" It is a terrifying life log of a young man with an incurable disease. See yourself in one of the two main roles of the story. Take a very long breath. Hope that your life will not make you live either role, then read my thoughts born out of imagining that nightmare.

Naturally, genetically we are programmed to live, almost at any cost. We spend all our life even before day one practicing staying alive. In most culture the "will to live against all odds" is glorified. If one said "life is overrated" one would probably be judged either suicidal or mentally unbalanced. But, perhaps, could we learn to be less attached to our own life to be better people, better siblings, parents, children to our counterparts in those relationships? If we could learn to value our lives less for ourselves and more for them?

It is lost in the darkness of history and of the history of phylosophy, forgotten in our modern cultural make up, but this is not a new idea. The Stoics beginning in the 3rd century CE elaborated a concept of a "virtuous life" where self sacrifice is ethically appropriate under specific, objectively definable circumstances.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I feel like a total idiot

I am here at my laptop reading the usual daily dose of posts on science, technology, medicine genetics, food science, etc. that make me the eternal optimist that I am. Earlier I finished my daily reading of geopolitics, global economics, Grexit, Iran, ISIS, Middle East, oil shortages, famines, US Presidential Elections, etc. that sorely test my belief in optimistic outcomes.

Along the way, with whatever I read, I code posts for subject, interest, and whatever keywords may help me find the post at some later date. I've done it for years. Unable to remember correctly all details I encounter, I resort to coding all I read for retrieval to recall and quote correctly. Some friends think I have a great memory - I wish. I just have a retrieval system designed to support my curiosity of virtually anything that the internet provides. That's a lot. But, I just found a simple system that helps my mediocre memory look smart to those that do not look behind the curtain.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Simple View of Greece and Grexit

This was originally written for my grandchildren to explain the messy world we live in, It's a terribly simplified view, but why not see what the world thinks.

Who pays for Greece's past follies? To greater or lesser degrees we all will. The farther we are from Greece the smaller the impact. Just as waves that hit us coming from a pebble dropped in a pond. In the US, we are far from the pebble, in Europe the waves will be bigger. To the citizens of Greece they will be monstrous, crushing and their personal pain will be long lasting. But INFLATION is the ultimate solver of tragic imbalances between countries and the world and it will handle this one too. How?

We live in a global financial world that could be finite, but is not. It could be finite if all governments stopped printing currencies. Inflation would be 0 but we'd have difficulties to adjust to trade imbalances and making economic adjustments because "the pie" is getting bigger. We need tiny inflation for slack and room to grow.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Janus and Vision

Janus was the Roman god with two faces: one faced forward to see the future and one faced backwards to see the past. Seeing was clearly a big focus of Janus'. I always found the image of Janus intriguing, perhaps because vision has been a big part of my life. Vision, the kind that describes imagination has been a big motivation for much that I have tried to do, but here I am looking at Vision, the kind that lets us physically see things.
The former moves us to imagine and pursue whatever we imagine - one former US President called it "the vision thing" and everyone knew instantly what he was talking about. The latter, the ability to see our surroundings is considered the most complex and most important development in the history of animal evolution.

Most people do not give vision much thought unless they lose it to some degree or completely. Throughout my life however I have repeatedly dealt with serious vision issues and have stayed ahead of disaster only thanks to a few wizards and the just-in-time evolution of technology. So here is my chronology of dodging the bullet and my reason for wanting to spread rose petals in front of my eye surgeons.

 Troubles started in my teens needing eye glasses like many other kids. By the time I was 19 and finished three years in the Italian Navy, my condition, keratoconus (in both eyes) had deteriorated enough that I could no longer be in the military since vision correction could be done only with special contact lenses. In 1970 I moved to the US and was rejected for the then compulsory draft for the same condition, A young optometrist at Indiana University, Barry Gridley, took my case as a mission and became a wiz at hand grinding my hard contacts to custom fit. Without him I probably would have never finished my MBA and started my career. That was the time when I started being a "special case" that students would come and look at to see the "real thing" described in their textbooks.