Eye Health and Capitalism

Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose mentions a curious and significant detail: the loss of vision which often occurred even before old age was devastating to ancient and medieval scholars who could then no longer read or write. Modern philosophers should give thanks to the modern technology and doctors that emerged with capitalism's essential assistance that keep them productive until the end of their careers.

The Democracy Fetish

Democracy is not a viable method of governing large states, says Jeff Deist.

That's not because aristocracy or monarchy is any better, I hasten to add. It may be true, as Churchill said, that "democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms."

(Well, theoretically, each of these 3 forms of government may be best for its own branch of government -- legislative, judicial, and executive.)

It's because there is no viable method of governing large states.

The obvious implication is that large states should cease to exist through a process of massive political decentralization.

A Fanatical Interventionist

All that professor Rogoff has is a hammer -- the government's fiscal and monetary policies, and so to him everything, even the idea of abolition of cash, looks like a nail, says David Gordon.

Progress and Staples

Consider the entirely reasonable, though long-term, equation: PT = MV. Rewrite it as P = (MV) / T.

Under laissez-faire, with M, the money supply, properly staying the same through a rigorous gold standard (or similar-purpose ultra-modern technological measure like Bitcoin), and V, the velocity of circulation of money, being a subjective and arbitrary consumer preference, the key variable is T, symbolizing the abundance of goods and prosperity. We can see that the greater the T, the lower the P, the overall price level.

Now with my talk of innovation and improvement and novelties in the previous posts, why must traditional goods, like apples or perhaps wooden kitchen tables, fall in price?

That's not to say that even apples have not become better over the years. But the question is reasonable.

Well, with the greater supply of final goods, traditional staples compete for the consumers' money with all the other goods. If the consumers spend their money on the new products, say, fancy smartphones, they by that very fact refuse to spend it on the traditional products. In order to stay competitive, even the latter have to drop in prices absolutely.

Again, if my potatoes compete for the billion dollars in the people's hands with a million other goods, then I can't charge much for them. But if the economy collapses, and there are only ten types of goods out there attracting your money, then my potatoes will very likely become high in demand, and I can charge a ton for them.

Personal Dullness and the Market

A certain man may, thorough his own cowardliness and incompetence, feel like he is "stuck at a dead-end job." He wakes up, he works, he comes back to his family and loses himself in watching TV, he goes to sleep; his next day seems indeed the same as his previous day. He silently curses his fate. He gets angry at his kids. What a "proletarian"!

But it's not the fault of the market economy. The Biblical Jacob, his sons, and their descendants truly had identical lives. They were all shepherds. They did the same things every day. Even their food was plain, since they lacked spices.

The market economy in the present new world is trying perpetually precisely to cheer the man up, to offer him consolations. He can fire up his browser every day, check out Amazon.com, and find amazing new goods at lower prices. He may be depressed as a worker, but he is at least constantly being entertained as a consumer.

Socialism and the Evenly Rotating Economy

An advanced capitalist economy can be converted into full-blown socialism, but on one condition: nothing in it would from then on ever change for all time.

There are some complications: the present economy is partially disequilibrated, and a transition to socialism will need to outlaw any future entrepreneurial actions and wait until equilibration somehow finishes. Further, preserving the state of equilibrium may prove difficult: the new generation may have different consumer preferences; there will be environmental changes and acts of God; foreign trade will muddy matters considerably. But abstracting from these, socialism is possible. There will be no new products, no new technologies, no new methods of production, no new factories, tools, or equipment. Whatever exists, will be maintained against the entropic forces, but that's the extent of it. Each new generation will inherit the lifestyle of the old generation and will not improve in its own standard of living in any way. Each day will be just like every other day.

Such was indeed the manner of life for most of the human history before the ideological / industrial revolution that inaugurated the liberal capitalist age.

Now every evenly rotating economy is also stationary, i.e., one in which the people's wealth and income and living standards do not change; not every stationary economy need evenly rotate. An ERE is marked by no changes and no improvement; a stationary economy, by some changes yet still no improvement. An ERE thus represents absolute stagnation; while a stationary economy permits minor adjustments though also fails to progress.

A stationary economy is compatible even with the existence of profits and losses. Thus, a capitalist economy can in principle stay put / shrink, if the sum of all entrepreneurial profits in it is perfectly counterbalanced by / outweighed by the sum of all losses. This is because profits signify that resources were reallocated well relative to their previous manner of use; losses, that they were reallocated poorly. In such a case the creative advance and destructive retreat cancel each other out, resulting in no overall change for the better. For example, during a business cycle, there may be frenetic activity that for all that fails to bear any fruit and results in mass losses at the end. Government interventionism has thereby caused social retrogression. Nevertheless, socialist stagnation is fundamentally different from merely interventionist stagnation. And under laissez-faire we can almost always observe continuous and speedy progress.

It would therefore be sufficient to prove that a socialist economy is at best stationary. However, we can assert even more, i.e., that socialism all but requires an ERE, because centrally shuffling resources between projects and factories within a country is a computationally intractable problem. The present argument is then a fortiori: if a socialist economy can survive only by evenly rotating, then by a still stronger reason it is stationary.

Compare and contrast now the old USSR with Cuba.

The chaos of the Soviet economy arose precisely because its central planners had the ambition to imitate the market and change things. They tried to improve their economy. When they did, the coordination between its parts broke down completely. A factory needed small nails for a new project; there were no small nails, only large ones. A collective farm needed a part to repair a tractor; the part was nowhere to be found; though by bribing some officials, a different and useless part could after a time be procured. Nothing connected; nothing worked. Production ground to a halt.

Take a look now at Cuba. What a "happy" country. People in it just sort of exist, like plants. (Not that they like it, mind you. Cuba is a tropical island without boats, where boats are outlawed, because if people could get their hands on them, they'd leave en masse.) It looks the same as it did in the 1950s. Since socialism was established in it, Cuba contributed nothing to the development of civilization. It hasn't died out from famines, which many socialist countries have experienced, but it's a completely arrested economy.

So, Cuba was smart enough not to ape the Soviets. Moreover, you might think, "The 1950s were a simpler and happier time." Perhaps. But only coupled with the ability of the people to improve their lives. "It is in the nature of man continually to strive for an improvement in his material condition," says Mises. "If he is forbidden the satisfaction of this aspiration, he becomes dull and brutish." The world they and we have built is more complicated, but it was by our own choice. The Cubans are not enjoying their forced relaxation. Moreover, consider what will happen in 100 years. In America, it will be 2117. The wonders of that time will be amazing and numerous. All nostalgia for the 1950s will be long gone, and Cuba will be seen for what it is: a bizarre ancient decrepit museum.

The Austrian school of economics grasps this crucial issue of the market process which is the only means by which improvements into the economy can be orderly and rapidly introduced. Here's a great recent article: Ryancare's Fatal Logical Flaw. Note the appropriate reference to the market process: the proposed free market reform "is the only way to increase supply, improve supply, and by doing so bring costs down."

Indeed, and to continue doing so for the next 100 years.

“Dude, I Want That”

The one truly holy economic development in recent years has been the miraculous avoidance by the computer industry of becoming fettered by government interventions.

The stunning and incredible success and economic blessings of computing technology, which over the past 20-30 years has shown progress unseen in any other aspect of human life ever before in so short a time is a sign to us, as if by God Himself, of what we as a human race are capable of, if only we stay free of government command and control.

Euthanasia, 2

I can imagine myself as a 90-year-old man, lying in bed barely able to move, hooked up to machines. I am merely a piss and shit factory, and in my lucid moments I am monitoring my heartbeat and wondering in a detached manner, will it stop tomorrow or a month from now?

I contend that this way of existing is categorically different from what we understand as living. It's literally inhuman. One is not pursuing happiness as befits a living creature; he is just taking up space. He is already a corpse who still happens to be breathing.

If we are supposed to "become who we are," in a semi-mysterious spiritual injunction, and I am for all intents and purposes a dead body, then let me cut the crap and become just that ASAP.

Note another point. Perhaps there are some supernatural or Christian or grace-imposed rules in this case that forbid choosing to end dying quickly. Maybe dying is the time to think heavily -- for those old people not suffering from senility -- about God. I don't know. But I do think that merely natural ethics permits calling it quits at will.

Euthanasia

The issue of euthanasia has long been obscured by a lack of a simple distinction. A person's lifespan should be properly divided into two parts: life, and upon its end, a process of dying in agony. This latter can last for more or less long; it can take days or years.

The telltale marker upon which the process of dying begins in earnest is very clear: when a person in an extreme old age can no longer take care of himself, nor is there a hope for recovery. This is marked by two aspects: quality of life for that person goes down to zero or below, if he is in pain; the process is naturally irreversible, because a body that does not move, keeps decaying and dies (physically; just as a soul that does not aspire dies spiritually).

While it is uncontroversially immoral to commit suicide during life, the situation is relevantly different after life ends and dying begins. If a dying man wants to keep at it, and to pay for his own upkeep, it is also obvious that no one can up and murder him. But I think it may be morally permissible for one to desire to shorten his own period of dying.

Again, the consensus is already that extraordinary means to postpone death need not ethically be applied. Furthermore, if drugs that alleviate pain attendant upon agony will predictably shorten the lifespan, then they, too, may lawfully be taken. Why not, however, take this to the logical conclusion: ultimately, if a dying old man wants to take a drug to induce death right now, then he is morally in the clear about this decision.

Note that I in my usual habit am using "man" and "he" to refer to our species or its representative member, but this is a problem of far more importance and urgency to women who both live longer than men and die longer than men (with their longer overall lifespans turning out then to be both a blessing and a curse) and can thus linger at death's door for months and years in horrible decrepitude and suffering.

More on White Privilege

So, there is a video circulating around with a clownish block dude explaining how whites have it "easier" than blacks because of white privilege.

Well, excuse-moi, but... Whites have obtained their alleged privilege by creating the civilization that made their lives "way easier" than the lives of many non-white races, and in fact pulled those other races up along with them. And the only reason earning higher incomes is easier for whites than for blacks is that blacks are dumb as rocks. Like that guy.

There are such things as races and such things as race differences. It so happens that blacks' IQ is much lower than whites'. Now if we lived in a free society, this would be merely a scientific curiosity of little practical import. Blacks would naturally be assigned by the free market a lower position in the social order and lower incomes, but they would be fully part of social cooperation and polite society. Ok, blacks are stupider than whites. Who cares?

Unfortunately, the situation is much worse than this. For blacks are haters. They actively hate whites and seek to harm and loot them, both through private crime and political action.

As a white person, I certainly bear blacks no ill-will. I do think they are wretched sinners. But I want them to improve; I will to them holiness and everlasting life.

Moreover, there's much that society can do to promote than aim. The incentives of the welfare state have caused blacks, unlike whites, to make really bad life choices. Minimum wage laws have taken away employment opportunities most suitable for blacks: low-income work for low-IQ people. The drug war has tapped into the worst violent instincts of blacks. On top of that, the self-hating propaganda of the white social justice warriors has falsely convinced blacks that they are oppressed.

The blacks' extreme moral corruptibility, proneness to becoming evil in the face of imperfect environment, including legal regime, constitutes yet another race difference.

Repeal these vicious policies, and we may see blacks slowly recover their dignity and normalcy.

The Union of Humans with the Material World

I've already mentioned this point, but it bears further stressing.

Love of friendship people feel for each other results in spiritual interpenetration, mutual indwelling; it is ecstatic; it causes the lover to consider the beloved another self, such that he feels his pain and pleasure; he is prepared to work for the beloved's ends as zealously as for his own, not by compulsion but at his own interest.

Love between humans and their material creations is, of course, entirely different, but it's love nonetheless.

So, our end is not to foster charity just between ourselves, such that we will each other's good and succor each other, but also between ourselves and our art -- not just paintings and statues obviously, but airplanes and lawnmowers and computers and factories.

That requires progress in natural sciences, so we understand how to create complex art. We need to develop new tech to enable building it. And we need to become artists -- master studying, designing, and building cool new things and enjoy our work.

We need an economic system that efficiently connects supply and demand, so that the things we create are useful to the entrepreneurs or pleasant to the consumers.

Collectively, all this involves exercising graceful and extensive control over mother nature. Perhaps in 200 years, we'll be able to prevent earthquakes and tsunamis. That would surely be an awesome achievement and glory to the human race. Some unique new problems have now appeared since we've had considerable success at economic improvement, such as space trash and oceans pollution. I am optimistic that we'll make headway in solving them even in the not-too-distant future.

A man who despises nature or matter or practical trades or does not sharpen or enjoy using his skills in the active life does not qualify for the kingdom of heaven.

Fall of the Angels: The Verdict

I judge my first theory to be interesting but probably false, because it's an attempt to make similar the stories of the fall of angels and men.

And angels are so different from humans that the tragic fate of their kind was rather considerably different from the end of human natural happiness.

So, I hereby endorse the more traditional second explanation.

The Punishment of the Demons

St. Thomas' treatment of this topic is a wonder to read.

Note Article 4 where he mentions that "a twofold place of punishment is due to the demons: one, by reason of their sin, and this is hell; and another, in order that they may tempt men, and thus the darksome atmosphere is their due place of punishment."

This should be understood as that the demons were cast out of their celestial home where they were originally created and enjoyed natural happiness. That they now have to stay around this universe has got to be less pleasant for them than that previous environment.

Fall of the Angels, 2

My account may be a tad untraditional. The more standard understanding follows.

The Holy Spirit did not "bite" the angels but simply gave them the constructive grace of charity for human beings. But charity came with a requirement for the angels to serve, to abase themselves in a sense before humans. And some angels refused to serve.

Now to begin with, charity does not impose an obligation. It is a free movement of the will, and working on behalf of a dearly beloved is like working for oneself. It is not a sacrifice; it is not "altruism." All angels were expected to, and the good angels do now, joyfully help upon coming to love. What was there to rebel against? Extra work?

Moreover, the demons did not avoid exertion, anyway. They are hard at work trying to destroy mankind. Why choose destructive work over creative work, if work must be done one way or another?

So it couldn't have been just an issue of "labor," only of serving something lower in dignity. But if all loved humans, what did it matter that they were lower?

Here's the story then. God gives an angel in his natural state some grace. The angel ponders: shall I accept it and love humans? What's the downside? Well, I have to serve humans. If he is bad, he thinks: "No way am I serving these guys. No, I'm not accepting the grace." But choosing to stay indifferent to the human world and in his natural state and fail to love humans does not entail becoming an enemy of mankind.

But then God said: "Hey, I'm incorporating every creature into a single spirit through charity. No one is excepted. You can't refuse the grace." The bad angel is so crazy with pride that he gets mad and says, essentially, "F--- you, God." I still do not see how any punishment to that angel would turn him into an enemy of humans. God's natural response would seem to be (1) never to have made angels so psychologically perverse, or (2) cast out the rebels into some sort of prison. Why sic them onto humans?

Well, the wicked angel is still at this point in the presence of God. So, he says, "You know, what, Father? Those 'humans' I'm supposed to bow to? I'm going to kill all those motherfuckers. Then there'll be no one either to serve or to love. How's that for a response?"

This is still the Father's angel. He created him. The angel has rights. He can do what he wants. Moreover, the Father is goodness which is beyond being. He is an ad extra creative force and Himself not part of the creation. So, it's not His business to "imprison" creatures. But if other angels (and humans) imprison him after perhaps a great battle, then that's just life. So, God says: "Go and do your thing, you little son of a bitch."

Note one uncomfortable thing this means: God created the natural Lucifer already messed up in the head, even though this aberration did not manifest itself until the giving of grace. But so what? "The Lord said to him: Who gives one person speech? Who makes another mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" (Ex 4:11) God creates everything according to His own counsel, and it is a part of faith to trust that it is wise.

On Resisting the Demons

It's not 100% trivial to reconcile our duty to make our hearts soft and loving toward fellow men with the need to recognize the evil angels as implacable enemies of mankind, to be fought without giving an inch and defeated with no mercy.

But think of the physical equivalent of this phenomenon: entropy. It manifests in the real world with the fact that all our tools and machines and art and even our bodies tend to malfunction, break down, and fail over time, unless continuously maintained and improved.

But we don't think about entropy in daily lives; we just take steps in many various ways to neutralize its influence; and we have always done it, though entropy in physics is a very recent formalization.

Similarly, the demons are a natural force, if a personal one, unlike the impersonal entropy. It's just an obstacle, a multitude of snares for us. But demons don't have names. They are trash, filth. Take care of your soul and give them no thought.

On the Fall of the Angels

To continue with the theme, the angels, created in their natural state, even if they for whatever reason decided to cast their gaze on the human world, would look at it with utter indifference.

They had no need of the humans in any capacity. I think they could look past even God the Son, being connected with the Father directly through their essence as intellectual substances and the immense powers of contemplation of their minds.

We might say they -- all angels, Lucifer included -- were created in their own celestial Garden of Eden, in the state of considerable natural happiness.

That was not part of the plan. So the Holy Spirit bit them, my guess, by deliberately darkening their intellects. He said to the angels: "Now you are weak; so look down upon the earth and the humans upon it. Fall in love with them and serve them as a sign of your love until the happy end for their world. Then your powers will be restored; nay, you will be glorified and exalted 100-fold above your natural capacities."

It may be that the angels grieved of their wound, but finding us as badly off, were moved by sympathy with us and came to think of us as brothers.

But with the creation of the potency to love among the angels came the potency to hate. Some angels rebelled against the Holy Spirit's painful grace and, as I mention below, decided to try to destroy mankind so that there would be nothing for them to love in the first place, and the divine plan would thereby unravel with unknown consequences.

That, too, however, was foreseen and provided for.

St. Thomas taught that the angels' one action of choosing to obey or disobey sealed their entire fate and immediately confirmed them either in goodness or evil. There is no going back for any of them. Christ did not die for the angels. On the one hand, this would then make withholding glory from them pointless. On the other hand, their service to mankind is not yet finished. I think, therefore, that they are glorified and so are equal to or greater than the human saints in heaven, but serve more through charity than obligation.

Abortion and Law

I agree that abortion is a great sin in Christian understanding.

But whether abortion ought to be criminalized by the state is an issue of secular political philosophy and economic calculation of costs and benefits of particular laws, areas in which Christians have no inherently greater authority than non-Christians.

The Christians' unique divine grace confers upon them no special expertise in any natural science.

Nor should their hatred of sin cloud their judgment in regard to what should be considered to be violent crimes to be punished by the authorities and how. Unjust or unfitting government violence is itself a grievous sin.

Infant Baptism

The Catholic Encyclopedia relates that the following statements are anathematized by the Council of Trent:

  1. Infants, not being able to make an act of faith, are not to be reckoned among the faithful after their baptism, and therefore when they come to the age of discretion they are to be rebaptized;

    or it is better to omit their baptism entirely than to baptize them as believing on the sole faith of the Church, when they themselves can not make a proper act of faith.

  2. Those baptized as infants are to be asked when they have grown up, whether they wish to ratify what their sponsors had promised for them at their baptism, and if they reply that they do not wish to do so, they are to be left to their own will in the matter and not to be forced by penalties to lead a Christian life, except to be deprived of the reception of the Eucharist and of the other sacraments, until they reform.

These certainly are extreme, but they are not without sense.

Israelites circumcised their children as a sign of their incorporation into the people of God. Thus, Jesus is said to be born "under the Law," i.e., as a proper Jew with all the legal requirements of His birthright fulfilled, with no questionable hanky-panky whatsoever. Christian baptism signifies something similar: a person becomes a member of the Catholic Church and joins the body of Christ. He is lawfully a Christian.

But look, an infant cannot attend mass; he does not know what the meaning of the word "God" is; he cannot receive grace, because the Holy Spirit has nothing to work with.

So, I'd say, an infant is baptized, while for his own sake, but not directly. The party signifying is his parents who are thereby obligated to raise the child as a Christian. The parents can't just be "open-minded" and hands-off with the kid, expecting him to grow up and then at the age of 14 peruse his choices and wisely pick a religion, if any, for himself to adhere to.

This becomes especially plausible, if we reflect that for every other sacrament, including adult baptism (and indeed marriage), the person undergoing it is making the sign himself. Only for infant baptism is the sign for the child made by someone else. Well, you sign the contract, you fulfill it, in this case by doing your job as a parent.

The Church, recognizing the circuitous way in which (I think) infant baptism works, provides a sure remedy: the sacrament of confirmation. For example, when I became a Catholic at the age of 27, both baptism and confirmation were administered to me and my RCIA fellows in one ceremony. Which kind of shows they they serve a similar purpose. It's true, as St. Thomas writes, that "confirmation is to baptism as growth to birth. Now it is clear that no one can be brought to perfect age unless he be first born: and in like manner, unless a man be first baptized, he cannot receive the sacrament of confirmation." (III, 72, 6) But there is little reason to be born, unless one reaches the age of reason; hence confirmation is an essential sacrament, unlike, say, holy orders which need not be taken. It's a natural (or supernatural, as the case may be) rite of passage.

In addition, however, in the present liberal (in a good sense) world with churches properly separated from the state, one really can't be forced to practice a religion without his consent. So, I think the Church really kind of has to ask a young person who was baptized as an infant as a matter of policy: Look, are you now a believer? I think therefore that in principle a Catholic shouldn't even be allowed to receive other sacraments if he refuses to be confirmed, though how strictly this should be enforced cannot be settled a priori.

Computers As Ultimate Art

I was just reflecting on how a humble desktop PC is at present the most sophisticated of all human creations.

It's not just the enormous complexity of the entire huge stack, from the physics of raw hardware to the most abstract software code.

It's also the sheer number of human resources all over the world devoted to one way or another servicing that little box under my desk.

The Synoptic View: Rightly Understood

The fact that, as I write, the middle, between "the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end," i.e., this worldly life, is a means to an end, does not mean that the affairs of the world are unimportant.

On the contrary, if only for the reason that the means can be more or less efficient. There is no salvation for anyone in the Hobbesian jungle and its war of all against all. There is no true and improving understanding of God among a people mired in poverty.

Indeed, the essence of the human condition is the requirement for everlasting improvement, in one's personal life, in economic institutions, in human well-being overall. This is complemented by another great law, which is that whatever does not improve, deteriorates. We have to make things better without rest, or the universe will destroy us.

Then there is the Jesus' great commission to have the Father's "will be done, on earth as in heaven." We are told to turn earth more heaven-like. This isn't a trivial job! You can't just will elimination of poverty, say, and it happens. It requires a massive amount of knowledge, discernment, and enormous effort by everyone through a social system that maximizes the efficiency of human cooperation and the speed of improvement in our conditions.

Finally, there is the fundamental question of just how we get from the middle to the glorious end. Well, precisely by improving this world. Such holy work is a sacrament of one's love for fellow man. Fostering which is pretty much the entirety of the divine project since the Fall.

Let us then go forth, then, fill the earth, and subdue the bitch, 110%.