Friday, February 28, 2014

Some thoughts on Democracy and Alternatives

I originally posted this comment in a Metafilter thread, but thought it beared enough interesting points to post separately, here...

------------------------------

Occasionally I think Libertarian Fascism is the way to go.

No, I'm not being facetious (well, not totally, at least). I think there has to be some way to combine Fascism (the idea of multiple units of social organization, a sort of collectivist vision) with Libertarianism. I mean this in the same way that Libertarian Socialism (as mentioned upthread) exists. I have seen a couple mentions online to the idea, but nothing fully fleshed out.

I don't know if "Class War" is the answer. In my heart, I'm a socialist, I think Marx has a lot of insight, but I don't know how we can push anything socialist in this current state.

A friend of mine thinks we need to let Capital go global and fully dominate the entire planet, let it all be free-market capitalism, and then the Marxist Revolution will inevitably occur (as the inevitable Hegelian process of synthesis happens). He thinks all these revolutions calling themselves Marxists were premature. Certainly, if you follow that the "successful" "Communist" revolutions were in feudal societies of some sort, and not fully developed capitalist countries, then perhaps my friend is right.

I do doubt democracy. I don't know the answer. Well, certainly the current form of Representative Democracy is broken. I don't know if it's merely our voting system, or the actual structure of government (division between national/regional sections and representation upstream), the influence of money (which is obviously a huge factor, but not the only one, I think)... I mean, absolute 100% public funding is really the way to go.

But how would you guarantee there is no astroturfing paid by a shit ton of corps to help the poor spread bullshit lines in forums everywhere to push their message? I think this is the hardest thing, verification that there is no political message or spending outside of the official channels, and that's why they say "money=speech" because it's less about the principle and more about the reality of enforcing such a thing and confirming whether an opinion is merely a legitimate opinion of some schmuck on the internet (flawed as that opinion may be) or a paid for opinion piece from Koch Industries.

The fact is, our current system is built upon a foundation of Mercantilist quasi-feudalism with an ideology that still goes back to the days of feudal societies. Yes, Mercantilism and Capitalism certainly devolved power, but the limit there has been to let those who benefitied to attempt to keep their fiefdoms in check. So far, we've been good at breaking down those barriers... The Progressives are happy and believe that means Democracy is good and right, because, hey, people can vote, but forgetting that these other institutions need to be dealt with, and ultimately, the foundation is rotten. We are still a feudalistic society, based upon Rentier Capitalism... We still carry the contradictions of Feudalism into the modern Technological Capitalist stage of history (vs the Industrial phase which we've offshored).

Just like Capitalism isn't a mere natural state of economics and trade, neither is Democracy a natural state of voting. There is an underlying architecture to these things, and in this architecture are implicit (at the very least) assumptions regarding the very definition of Democracy itself, which excludes other forms of being considered Democracy.

Bourgeois Liberal Democracy is predicated upon self-interest, and an atomistic, individualistic principle of "Every Man a King", while the reality is quite different. Some kingdoms have a lot more wealth than other kingdoms, and they've used that wealth to sustain systemic control over other lesser lords, a fealty is demanded.

The alternatives that seem popular is merely more of the same feudalistic concepts (as espoused in modern American Libertarianism), more kingship... Without ever asking what it means to BE a King (and in our more enlightened era: a Queen).

Does the answer come from mere evolution within the system? Chipping away from the outside? At the edges? Does it come from partaking in it? Refusal to participate? Building alternatives below the radar?

We talk about the National Security State in other threads... At some point if any potential alternative rises up, we end up dealing with the same problems anywhere else, the National Security State will do what it must to maintain its hegemony over the populace using whatever means necessary: Propaganda, Education, Laws, Policing, Military.

We build up national myths surrounding our forms of government, and competing ideologies struggle within this form, some more restrictive of more direct forms of democracy and some less restrictive. Many times people are inconsistent in their approach to democracy: They love it when it works for them, but love to restrict their opponents when they can.

Democracy is a framework that is set, not in stone, but by its foundation in history, by evolving social mores, by the media and educational landscape of the populace inside of it.

Democracy is a field of battle, fought by humans, who have particular visions of the world embedded in them via historical constructs of social information sharing, of which, institutional information is part. Democracy is a form of institutionalism as are all socio-political forms of organization. If you cannot step outside the particular institution to critique it, and accept it as a sort of "invisible hand" a "natural state" and accept the implicit assumptions of its architecture, you will be forever enslaved by these assumptions.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Proposition: Communal Negative Interest Rate Cryptocurrency

I'm starting to think about a community based cryptocoin system.

I'm enamored with Worgl Scrip, the concept of decay of value over time, negative interest rates, etc...

I like the idea of using a communist approach of distributing amongst the whole community.  How to incentivize mining and avoid the "free rider problem"?  A limited term interest/payment with decay. 

Let's pretend 5 members of a community.  You produce one "unit" which is 100... divide that up by 5 members, the discoverer breaks the 100 into 20 pieces and distributes.  For compensation, the discoverer receives 10% of the original (so 30 all together), but this extra value decays over time (a decay bit in the coin signals the current decay time/rate), to encourage spending it (in the same way negative interest works)... Over time, that original 10% the originator receives is lost and they are equalized back with the others who mine the coins in the community.

I'm not sure how to deal with a newb to a community - I'm thinking distributing based upon percent like I did above for 5 people, where each user takes a percent out of their stash to give to the newb.  BUT... perhaps this is a decay rate effect, so it's not instantly removed from theirs, wile still given instantly to the other guy, but slowly taken out of their stash over time.  More money in the economy temporarily, and helps balance the old guard against the new, without too much power given to them.

(I think I need to research current approaches to bitcoin mining collectives to see how it works).

As regards external communities, there needs to be an exchange mechanism bilaterally (or multilaterally for multilateral exchanges) to equivalize the value of each communities money, in the same way we do not want one individual to wield too much power over another when they mine, we don't want one community with more money to wield too much power/influence over another when it comes to trade.

I've been fond of using an intercommunal trade system built around a basket of averages such that no currency is unfairly stronger than another.  I think we need to really look at the systemic advantages of the "first movers" in general and architect around that powerbase to distribute power away from the center/first mover/top of the pyramid/primitive accumulation.

I use the pyramid image specifically, because I think the great seal of the US really says something about primitive accumulation and the initial conditions.  The "future" of the eye of horus, the peak, that pushes into the future, the technological conditions in the first world, all that is built up by the masses and the historical build up over the years, and also right now, but over time.  The move towards "enlightenment"... the "elite"... This is not necessarily a bad metaphor, but it is when the eye becomes green, greedy, jealous... 

The question is how to work with the concepts there and refine it, while still giving incentive to "create" (to mine coins, in this case, though I'm still more fond of some collective problem solving system to fix problems and remunerate for that rather than some random arbitrary crypto... but I understand that to solve difficult problems and then verify quickly is the issue, where with the crypto it's hard to solve, but easy to verify, thus you can confirm the coin is valid, whereas with these other systems make it hard to verify the coin is legit, as the proof takes a long time to perform, or I should say, is computationally expensive).

First mover incentive without permanent accumulation/interest, some form of collective averaging between communities such that one is not too much powerful over another.  The problems with a lot of crypto-libertarians I think is due to a naive view of systemic "freedom" and capability.  On the one hand they want absolute freedom, but on the other, they believe in "meritocracy" which then "rewards" those who are able, but punishes those who aren't...  In such a case, systemic inequities will always put an advantage to those who are able to get the first move.  A classic pyramid scheme.

Pyramids decay over time, why should not the power structures that are built up on these systems do so as well?  If you really believe in decentralization of some sort, then you need to work towards architecting a system that enforces such things.  If you don't and you continue to build them up on this idea of collecting more power over time (classic chaos theory, really - small changes in initial conditions can add up to massive changes over time).  You can't just apply the same old institutional rules and hope for something different.  The problem is this clashes with the "common sense" of the cryptolibs who want both egalitarian freedom, but also believe in some mythical meritocracy.

The reason I posit a system like this is that I think both egalitarianism and meritocracy have positive aspects, and I'm trying to find a way to reward via an automatic system without allowing too much aggregate power in too few hands, something I find an embarrassing problem for libertarians in general if pushed too hard.  I mean this not as an attack on libertarian philosophy, but rather ask what is truly the goal.  If meritocracy, then fine, let those who have the most powerful machines keep all they got and want.  First mover advantage.  But that just leads to those with that advantage to dictate to others, or those who collectively pool up to have a larger say against the individual.  A system that helps reduce first mover advantage helps equalize the playing field.  A system that helps balance the individual/smaller groups vs the larger groups with more money helps reduce the imbalance of power that can arise between large collectives vs smaller ones (picture corps vs small business).

Now, the reason I like this concept is that it moves beyond arbitrary political institutional decisions and works to entrust it to the architectures of the machine.

I hope to continue discussing this in another post - in particular, the issue is one of security and trust in a given cryptocoin architecture.  Hackability and trust and ensuring that the system works and is secure is hard work, and that's a discussion for another time.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Alas, I should know better than to hang around Stalinists.
I mean, don't get me wrong, I learned a lot on /r/communism, but when the community reacts to the UNHCR report on N. Korea defending it cuz "IMPERIALISM" DUURRRRR... You get no pass from me.  Look - I get it, you need to fight off a big bad enemy.  You have an enemy right at your border, and you don't actually have peace, you are still technically at war. 

But come the fuck on.  Sometimes I think some things are exaggerated out of the stories we hear, and other times I think it's all so brutally awfully true.  I'm sure the truth is somewhere in between.  That said, it's not like anything will ever be done.  What, the US is going to invade?  Ha!  Not with China defending N. Korea.  All we can do is try to hope that N. Korea would listen to their benefactor state...  But China doesn't really seem to give a fuck, which is really sad...

I've been really trying to integrate what I've learned as a "Stalinist"/Communist of the Soviet Variety (LOL), and integrate it with my desire for freedom.  There clearly needs to be balance, the FREEDUMBIES as I call Libertarians and their ilk that think just do away with the big bad state and let corporations reign and free markets rule, and we'll all be free!  But I know I shouldn't use my reactions against Libertarians or libertarian socialism/anarchism to completely discredit that ideal, as there is something worthwhile there, and of course FULL COMMUNISM is that libertarian socialism ideal, but it's a question of how to get there.

I have some weird vision of synthesis of all this shit and I don't know how it would ever work, fuck I even think Fascism has some beautiful ideas in it... 

But yet again - how do you get there from here?  We have no cohesive theory of Praxis (or rather, I prefer the term Poiesis as it seems to me a more organic evolution is implied)...  This is what perplexes and bothers me most.

We have liberal democracy to vote for some small reforms (which, don't get me wrong, I appreciate things that make the life of those on the bottom of the chain easier to survive, but it's not really changing the system in any meaningful way, structurally)...  We have revolution which is bloody and you know... isn't necessarily going to achieve a change where you want it to be, and can end up counterproductive to your goals in the name of "defending the revolution against reactionary forces".  You have the hippie-dippie "influence hearts and minds" (via propaganda or something? a bajillion voices screaming into the ether their grand solution and everyone misunderstanding everyone else's point of views, seeing caricatures of their philosophies instead of what they go for (that's not to say every view is valid or that some of those caricatures don't have a bit of an essence behind them - fuck, why do I make abortion jokes? cuz you know all liberals wanna murder fetuses and shit (and I grew up in that pro-life environment))  But anyways, the point being, we can't argue honestly between each other, because we're arguing the straw-opponents half the time.  Bad debate logic - strawmen, slipper slope arguments, etc etc etc...  So you argue, great.  But you don't have any systemic control of the message, and those who do are generally in play with the system (save for the rare rebel who risks it all to whistleblow and reveal things, not just tell people what to think, but to show the rottenness in the system... but that is a negative reaction, where is the positive solution?)  And while that strikes at the heart of the National Security State (which I'm all for), it doesn't attack the premise of the corporate aspects of the system.  There really are some libertarians who do believe in the "free market" and getting rid of corporate power, but they don't seem to grok how deep corporate power runs.  I mean, this is not even pointing out that there's nothing to stop giant corps from gaining control again in the first place.  The State exists, partially, to help sanctify the Corporations that it creates via the legal charters.

So, revolution, bloody, you win the power of the State, you somehow "win"... Now - half the population despises your ideology.  What do you do to prevent a counter-revolution?  GULAGS?  EDUCATION CAMPS?  PROPAGANDA?  You don't want to be N. Korea (well, some psychopathic assholes don't mind that level of control, but actual socialists who want the best for all people (and that includes knocking some of those people down a few billion rungs on the ladder, but not necessarily, you know, killing them merely for their ownership of wealth, at least humanitarian socialists don't).  So then what?  "Building the future society in the shell of the old?"  And how does that stop anything?  I mean, you open up some ideas to people, but then that gets co-opted into some hippie dippie libertarian shit and then doesn't really alter the relations of production.

So you say: What then?  Ultimately, I think it's a ground game, of some sort.  But how?  You've got a bourgeois mentality built up over centuries of indoctrination.  The other point to realize is that Capitalism qua Capitalism did not arise overnight, and took a few centuries to alter the relations of power between the monarchy, the gentry, the peasantry, the landed estates, the merchants, the guilds into the Corporate System, the Slave Trade, and then Modern Industrial Capitalism as it currently is.  Should we truly believe that socialism can be achieved in one fell swoop?

You can make the argument that Primitive Accumulation of the Commons that kickstarted the current Capitalist regime needs a Socialist corollary.  That's what "Revolution" is, but I don't know...  That still retained many of the contradictions of Capitalism and Feudalism... It's why they still had a Ruling Class in the Soviet Union.

So, then, the question, even further is to look at what perpetuates a "ruling class" - remove the specific FORM of the ruling class, abstract it to a degree, find the commonalities, find the weak points.  What structures within that setup is weak?  What structures are strong?  Which are rigid, perhaps too much so?  What parts can you turn against itself?  Analyze the various functionalities of these systems, not in their specific mode... Communication... Executive Function...  Deliberation... Adjudication... Punishment...  Exchange... Trade...

Once you can abstract these ideas and start to work on understanding a generic dynamic from a generic perspective, diving deeper into the specific modes of these organizations in history as they take shape, evolve within their given contexts...  Seeing how each played out... Then figuring out how to apply those lessons in the current context, but being mindful of the dangers inherent in any breakdown or revolution or change.  Change is painful, change is dangerous.  People are afraid of real fundamental change.  It's not as though the Declaration of Independence made all people in the land called "The United States" feeling "Free"...  And I'm referring here to "Legal Persons" not the Actual Persons of, say, non-property owning males over 21, youth, women, people of color, religious minorities, etc... There were rebellions from the earliest days against the State (Whiskey Rebellion, Shays Rebellion).  People do not take such changes lightly.  Revolutions happen only as a last resort, when all other means of change have been exhausted, when conditions are ripe.  That doesn't mean that revolutions happen with no influence.  There can be revolts, rebellions, actions against "the system", but without some form of ideology guiding a given revolt, there isn't any particular revolutionary aspect to these things.

Ideology is what gives a revolution a form, a shape.  We have a vision of the end (well, some of us do, others have other visions, and that's contextual on what one believes the problems are)...

I think it's going to take tactics along all fronts: Localism/Building "the society" amongst your neighbors.  Propaganda/Marches/Public Activism.  Bourgeois Democratic processes.  Revolution if it happens should happen last, not first.  The goal is to push the masses into a general direction, while still allowing for progress via debate.  In some ways this means making the political personal and local.  Not just via the current institutions, but parallel institutions - in this sense, a good example would be the Zapatistas.  Or look at Hamas, or other failed state models, where the local citizens take up what the State does not.  In this sense, you have the "building the new society in the shell of the old" taking up the slack where the state fails.  This is something that John Robb talked about when discussing 4th generation warfare (shit whatever happened to him, maybe I unsubbed or something - looks like his last blog post was at the end of 2012)... Anyways, this idea of creating a shadow state to perform services that a failing state no longer provides.

In some sense, from a vulgar point of view, that's what "charity" is... But "charity" is a social construct designed to merely alleviate the problems of society without striking back at the root cause.  These alternative means are more than that, they're about building community, and not just that, but radicalizing and building a replacement structure if/when the time comes.  But to do it, one has to be careful to work outside the bounds of the State and it's functions.  That's difficult, and I don't know how, exactly, one could do that, unless the State were already weak enough that enforcement becomes difficult.  But even then, if you become too potent in this, you become a threat.  Look at the Black Panthers and their School Breakfast programs to help inner city youth have food before school, to not starve, to go to school with a full belly and be able to concentrate better.  Was their indoctrination?  Sure.  But that's what set them apart from a mere "charity".  Of course, they did other things that set them up for being targeted.

So build community.  Build community.  Build community.  Support each other in many different ways.  Debate, discuss.  Find solutions to problems you have locally.  Find larger projects between communities and work together.  Be like Occupy - build homes for the homeless.  Find ways to work in the system to produce change (in Madison, our local Occupy has done very well at making "Tiny Homes" for our homeless people and is pushing hard to get a place for a "Tiny Home Park" - this is not an easy task and faces fierce resistance from the bourgeoisie on the city council and the developers who pay them... But they are moving forward.  And part of that is similar to Habitat for Humanity - Sweat Equity.  That idea is important, it gets one involved in the process of making change, even if only for themselves to start, it still gets them working together with others, it builds a bond, and that bond, I believe, having it be on something so visceral and raw and fundamental to living as creating a shelter for one's self along with others creates a very strong bond that can, if tended, lead to more.  But these sorts of things need to be nurtured and cherished, for like any relationship, if ignored and abandoned, it will wither and die.

But how do you work with the state while trying to do things that fundamentally go against the role of the state?  You can do somethings against the blessing of the State (like Food not Bombs in some localities illegally distribute food against the regulations that are made to make it difficult to feed homeless people).

But here, you have issues in propaganda, of COURSE I want to help homeless people - I'm a socialist.  How do you get those who DO NOT want to help homeless people, who have some psychopathic kapitalist karma belief system that refuses to help people (even if you're "teaching them to fish" by getting them on board building their own future homes)... Well -I guess... find ways you CAN work together.  What social cause do they have that's not necessarily political that IS good - for everyone has *something* that's good - even if they're racist or classist and only want to apply it to their own little enclave of being (old white people, or something), then do it.  Encouraging compassion, encouraging building social ties, encouraging the idea of working together, beyond just "friends helping each other" or via the institutions of charity/church/state... direct one on one with strangers, to build community... Find ways to do this with various projects.  How do you do that if you aren't in their community?  I don't know.  I guess you have to find people who are moderate enough to talk to both sides, and let them infiltrate and work that magic.  Clearly a "true believer" in any side can't pull it off, because they'll be arguing too much - this is, perhaps, where the moderates can come in.  If they can agree with you on this idea, and work with you and the other groups that you may ideologically oppose for most things, but still agree to some good things, then act on it.  Build that formation.  Encourage social formation.  Not just cultural community (everyone has that via their churches or their clubs or meetup groups or their bars or whatever)...  But a new form of community that goes beyond these things.  A community building community.  Take responsibility.  Not just charity. Don't just drop off some fucking bread at a food pantry.  Go be active.  If you don't want to help the less fortunate.  Go out and clean up your fucking neighborhood with your neighbors.   Do something to get yourselves involved.  Get that spirit of community building first.  If you don't have that, if you let the ideologies get in the way, then nothing will ever happen.  You will be pitted against one another.

I've heard both Conservatives and Liberals, Greens and Socialists say they love "Local Control" and when it's not involving politics, they really do mean it, I think... Once you get politics, they all do except for their own pet project, then it's to the dogs...  But, do it.  Just go fucking take control locally - outside the institutions, outside the cultural boundaries that we're trained to exist in.  Make your OWN institutions.  Start there.  Don't make it political.  Just DO GOOD SHIT FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR COMMUNITY.  Start there, and let community building proceed.  Build a movement from that point on.

That's only one front in the greater struggle.  But I think that sort of bonding can be more important than ideological indoctrination, it synthesizes and integrates people who may not necessarily be normally aligned, building via that process of physical exertion, a community larger than themselves, and getting back from the fear and hate mongering of the national media and political systems.  Remove the abstract "enemy", deal with your neighbors and get rocking.  Then the other fronts, well... That's something else that I ain't even gonna touch, this is just an idea of maybe where we could start.  Just, you know.  Don't be a fucking asshole, ok?  Don't start fights, don't try to indoctrinate people.  If you must have political discussion, do it with respect (as much as possible).  If you believe in autonomy, then respect the autonomy of the stranger.  I find, in some ways, it's easier to respect the autonomy of strangers than loved ones, because you don't have a preformed conception of what that individual "should" be thinking (I mean, beyond YOU SHOULD ALL BE COMMIES LIKE ME!) But you can't say that there are inconsistencies in their world view as you perceive it, you just let them be what/who they are.  If they're a complete bigot, avoid it.  If they can't shut the fuck up about their bigotry (just like if they can't shut the fuck up about their political situation), then kick em out.  First is community building, always.  Work up to building trust and bonds and connections, then slowly integrate into a new form to take on real hard difficult challenges, managing projects.  No ideologies, just DOING.  Work on building that structure. 

That structure, of course, is where the politics come in, locally.  Trying to create a model for "governance" between radically different people to work on projects and do it in as fair and just a way as possible... That's one of the difficult parts.  It's easy when it's a small few people, but on a larger scale, it's much harder.  Maybe you shouldn't do things on too big a scale, but just do small groups, and occasional meetings across the community at large for larger projects.  Affinity groups in some way.

I think the Zapatistas, again, might be a good role model.  I was reading a document about how they really are their own independent communities in Chiapas, and different communities have different methods of governing their localities, so long as it fits within the model that the communities collectively decide is the right path forward, they are free to implement it on their own in their own ways...

Monday, February 10, 2014

Aseity, Death the god-corpse of unchanging being.

I'm reading up more on poesis, praxis and theoria. One of the words that came up is Aseity.
"Aseity has two aspects, one positive and one negative: absolute independence and self-existence.[1] In its negative meaning, which emerged first in the history of thought, it affirms that God is uncaused, depending on no other being for the source of His existence. In its positive meaning, it affirms that God is completely self-sufficient, having within Himself the sufficient reason for His own existence.[2] The first concept derives from "the God of philosophers", while the second one derives from "the living God of Revelation" (I am who I am: Exodus3:14).[3] Often, as a part of this belief God is said to be incapable of changing.[1] Changing implies development. Since God was and is and is to be the Absolute Perfection, there is no further need to change: he is αὐτούσια (unchanged: Gregory of Nyssa),[4][5] actus purus[6] and ipsum esse subsistens[7][8] (Thomas Aquinas)."
As I'm pondering this it struck me that according to an "Eternal" God theory, God truly is Dead. The eternally dead object. If god is unchanging, unmoving, what then is that but pure death? And not in the sense of Nietzsche's social murder of God in society, but a more abstract philosophical cosmic sense. Not a nihilist murder of something that is, no... it's like asking what you are before that sperm hit the egg. You just aren't. Period. There is no undoing, as there is nothing to be undone. Pure perfect stillness, pure perfect silence. How can stasis not be death? What is death but the absolute entropy? But here we find these philosophical connotations of a permanently eternal unchanging god absurd and false, because there is absolutely nothing in the universe that can be said to ever be dead. The "ground" of being, the fabric of space time (not the mute invisible flesh of a dead god-universe, but the living quantum foam of reality) is constantly shifting ever more. One can never reach such a thing as absolute zero. Because the universe is, in itself, chaotic. There is no permanence. Only actions, arisings, fallings, livings and dyings. Of course, I can dig so much deeper than this little scratch of the surface and find contradictions and counterpositions to all the above, but I don't have the time or desire to do so. Still, to claim that there can be an "eternal" entity that is unchanging and to claim it as the true ultimate reality says only that the ultimate reality is death.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Comment to a friend... Too long for facebook.

Define freedom. Is your right to own a piece of land greater than my right to live? The whole point of law to exist is to take these issues into account where freedoms clash. America believes the right to property is greater than the right to live. I believe the right to life comes before the right to own property, as such. Person A has a plot of land with food on it, Person B is slowly starving and if he does not eat, will die. Do I, as person B, have the right to "trespass" and "steal" food from Person A if I am going to die?

One of the issues is that we have two definitions of "liberty" termed in philosophy as "negative rights" and "positive rights". The framing that you are under is called "negative rights". You have a right to be "free from", but you do not have a "right to". Positive rights believe in a "right to". I am a positive rightist. The negative rightist puts all obligations on the individual. The positive rightist puts certain obligations on society. You say that nobody can "give you" freedom. In other words, you have to carve freedom out for yourself, which means, if you are dying, it is up to you to take food from the man who has the property on which he grows food (I use "man" here, of course, archaically). But the law, as written by those who own this property, determines that is theft, and thus locks you up for deigning to live.

There's a great quote by Anatole France "The law, in it's majestic equality, forbids the rich, as well as the poor, from sleeping under bridges." This encapsulates the issue quite well, I think.

Society is a collection of individuals; government is the organizational form under which a given nation-state (a form of society) operates and attempts to create order of some means. This order in itself has a particular form of pre-existing social conditions, in particular, the relationship between those who own property (defined in this case as capital, otherwise known as "productive property" as opposed to personal property, which is possession that one has the capability to utilize as an end product), and those who do not. Capitalism was an amazing force at one point in time that helped to reduce the stranglehold from the feudal aristocratic modes of social organizating (serfdom), towards a mercantilist/market based system where more people had more access to this Capital and took from those who, at the time, owned the means of production from the Aristocracy, and distributed to a larger pool of participants. Socialism (in particular, Marxist theory) says that while this was good in its day, it creates a new hierarchy of class division. The aim then is to further create equality by once more organizing the forms of production by altering the rules that control ownership of the means of production (Capital). In the same way that Capitalism created a form of democracy (we call it "bourgeois democracy") that helped spread wealth to more people. The Marxist view is that there is no reason we can't alter this form of organization to be even more democratized and distributed. To do this it requires altering the form of production again. To democratize not just the political forms of social organization, but also the economic forms of organization.

To pretend that these structures don't exist is to act as if the social structures that invisibly bind us (what Adam Smith, one of the original proponents of Capitalism might call "the invisible hand", though for him it was only in reference to markets, not the forms of social organization as a whole), don't exist, which benefits those who benefits from the current social organization. It means you accept the dominant narrative.

In order to break free from these forms of oppression, it requires one to understand these forms of oppression, to break away from the dominant paradigm of how production is organized, and view it from a larger historical perspective.

Picture it like a fish, taken out of water. Their whole life, they believe that water is all that is. They say "it's common sense that there is just water, what is this "sky" of which you speak, silly dolphin?"... Then some human grabs them from out of the water and they look and see that their whole understanding of the system (ecosystem of their lake) is completely shattered. This might be how it felt when you first heard of "Libertarianism" as a philosophy. It certainly was when I was 17 or 18, I thought "Here! Here is the philosophy, the idea I have been waiting for! It fits with all I believe about Freedom!" My first presidential vote was for Harry Browne, the 1996 Libertarian Presidential Candidate. I moved one, evolved, changed, thought about systems and relations between people, and structures and social organization...

Socialism understands that people are a product of their times, their environment, their social conditions and productive organizations. This is the point we keep trying to make, we do not exist in a vacuum. The less knowledge you have to see the structures of power as they exist, the less informed of a decision you can make, the less "free" you are. Ultimately, it is up to you to make the choice to open-mindedly read works that are antithetical to your own viewpoint. Open minded does not mean to believe anything and everything, but of course, to be open to the ideas as they work within your current world view, to critique them, also.

It is also very important to be able to go back to previously discarded beliefs/ideologies and see if, after gaining insight with your new thoughts, you might gain more from your previously discarded system, things you can integrate back into your worldview. It also means that sometimes you end up believing things that seem so fundamentally at odds with your current views that you ask yourself how the "you" of 10 years ago would perceive the "you" of today.

I'd like to eventually touch on the issue of "how do we get to there, from here?" This is a fundamental question that is asked of all revolutionaries and in many ways is a dividing line - a strategic and tactical issue. Some Libertarian oriented people abstain and drop out from any form of social organizing on an political scale, they want to "create the new society in the shell of the old". This goes for "Anarcho-Capitalists" and Libertarian Socialists. Then there are those who believe that engaging in the political system, as it exists, is a valid way to engage in change. Libertarian Party/Ron Paul and ilk, Social Democrats, Green Party Activists tend towards this form of change. Then there are revolutionaries, those who believe active struggle against the state in some way shape or form is required to alter society in such a way as to effect the drastic change they believe is required. "Patriot"/Militia type groups, Marxists-Leninists, Maoists all tend towards this form of struggle.

The bigger question is to ask yourself what your real true desire is when it comes to the world and how it exists for the masses. It is important to try to remove abstraction as much as possible, and dig into the actual information based upon experiments and historical evidence as to what works and what doesn't when trying to reach those goals. So, for instance, my goal is Love, Compassion, Understanding and Respect (or PLUR, as you may know that term ;)) It is providing a stable foundation for all people to achieve the best in their lives that they may personally attain. I do not believe our current society is organized around this philosophy - it is organized around "bourgeois freedom". You then have to ask about whether your road to there aligns with your goals/ideals, and if that is necessary to do so (i.e. are you an idealist) or if it's okay to "break a few eggs" in the process because the greater good will be served in the long run (the "pragmatist" approach).

These are not simple issues, and I'm certainly not telling you to be a socialist, but I would urge you to look into Marx a little and see what he had to say about this stuff - look at it critically, with an open mind. Integrate it into your world understanding and see what works for you and what doesn't. Then in a few years, do the same for Marx and Capitalism in general and Libertarianism in particular again. Re-read some of the stuff with the new knowledge you've gained in the previous years, debate, discuss, try to understand and continue to do this over and over. That's all I ask.

But don't be a slave to the concept of Freedom. It leads too many people astray. It leads them to be chained to this ideal without asking what it even means.

I think I've said my piece.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Previous Post Redux: Homeostatic Cryptocurrencies and Use-Value

EDIT:  Of course, it would behoove me to look into this before I scramble into writing things, because as usual, these concepts (well, certainly the "use-value" concept) has been floated about since, at least the middle of 2013 from what I can tell, and no doubt people have been thinking about it earlier than that.

I'm trying to think of a term to use for an automatically adjusting -flationary scheme.  At first I thought aflationary, but that leads to some interesting search results.  I thought of "balance" which leads to a latin root of "libra" but Libraflation sounds a bit like somebody has a bit of a gas problem, I think.  "Without" in Latin can be "sine" "Sineflation" sort of looks interesting as a candidate.  "without breath"...  But I think I want something that implies dynamicity not flatness, not a death, but a living creature which leads me to think of homeostasis.  Homeoflation?

Maybe just calling the idea "Homeostatic Cryptocurrency"?

I like the idea of a homeostatic cryptocurrency as it ties into my fascination with cybernetics as a self-regulating system.  I'd really love to see how this could be tied into a socialist mechanism a la Chile's/Allende's/Stafford Beer's Project Cybersyn.

I think the saddest thing is that there were so many revolutionary concepts in technological thought that were tossed aside due to what I could perhaps immaturely call "Premature Etechulation", that I think could be brought back and pursued now that we have systems with better computing power, and a much larger distribution of those systems.

Of course, the idea of a socialist cryptocurrency that seems to be ruled by a "State" seems at odds with a lot of the cryptopunks ideologies.   But I think that's the beauty of a crypto system is that it can still enable some form of socialist architecture that isn't dependent on the State.

I was not particularly keen on bitcoin when it first came out, and I'm not fully sold on bitcoin in particular, but I think as the first new concept that really opened the door in decentralized systems since bittorrent really took off, I think we have another piece of the tool for decentralized social architecture.

I'm not saying I necessarily praise all decentralization, I think complex systems require a strong system of feedback between the horizontal and the vertical.  I can't be rhizomatic in my philosophy, sorry Deleuze/Guattari.  That doesn't mean I don't allow them to inform my work, but I still think that the center/the vertical are emergent phenomenon that one can't just pretend don't exist and magically wish away.

One must ask why these structures exist, and of course, in the West we have a huge mistrust of these systems so the need to continuously ask whether or not they are good is a lesser question, because dear god, everyone in the US, at least,  left and right is always questioning strong centralization in some way, shape or form.  To me the bigger question is how to architect systems that lead to a healthy balance and homeostasis between these levels, not to completely abandon centralization, but utilizing centralization when necessary, and to properly limit centralization to prevent a malignant cancerous growth of the center against the periphery.

Ultimately, though, these come from preconceived values that derive from lifetimes of social inculcation and struggle of memetic indoctrination and infiltration.  Human society exists not as some natural law, but as a set of given structures of relations that are informed by power relations.  These power relations have consistently been seen to be held in the center vs periphery that I'm discussing here, but I think that's due to the hegemonic influence of the Enlightment thought (in particular the English philosophical theorists, not so much the Continental thinkers, but they, too, have their own modes of thought regarding decentralization).

The struggle between the two has led to the traditional view of "Big Government Liberals" and "Small Government Conservatives" (again, I am speaking purely with a US centric attitude, apologies to any non USians), but this is a false dichotomy.  Libertarians understand that to a certain degree (Libertarian with a capital-L US style Libertarianism), and see the benefits in both sides (though what they deem as "benefits" in some ways goes against what I would consider a benefit, in particular "free markets"/Capitalism, but that is my personal prejudice).

Many Libertarians believe in decentralization as THE answer to many if not all socioeconomic problems, without stopping to look at the dangers/potential problematics of decentralization.  This is why I think we need to really take a long hard look systems theory and use a multi-level approach to architecting these things.  We do not exist in a vacuum, we have to create foundations with at least some attempt at dealing with the fundamentals of this (to pretend otherwise is to pretend that, say, the Founding Fathers of the US didn't put thought into attempting to architect a specific form of government, for example).  Many of these Libertarians act as though the "solution" to all social problems happened in 1776 and the architecture of government and governmental systems has to stand still and it should never be questioned.  I suppose these are more Paleo-Libertarians.  The more modern/newer versions of Libertarians work withing a framework of network computing and civil liberties as regards social issues (vs economic issues).  I think they are slowly changing the Libertarian debate from one end of the spectrum to another.  It remains to be seen how much they will push against the traditional US Constitutional architecture of our political structures, not just economic structure.

The point being that all these systems are not valueless, and they do not exist in a vacuum but express a historicity of evolution through time that built upon previous systems.  Feudalism->Mercantilism->Industrial Capitalism->Finance Capitalism for example...  The social forms that arise in each stage of these evolutions ultimately are altered to suit the needs of the dominant economic paradigm/order.  Even Marx said that Capitalism was initially a revolutionary and liberating force.  But the difference is that Marx, as a revolutionary, knew that the struggle doesn't end, there is no pure "Final Stage" of social form.  He pushed to his own view of Socialism and Communism as the form he saw coming, and that may or may not happen, but even Marx, I would hope, would not claim that Communism is the "End of History" -- only the "End of History AS WE KNOW IT"  Or rather, the end of history as we could conceptualize.  Beyond that, he could not see what would arise as social problems and would leave to those who live in such a society to deal with their selves.  One could say that is what the founding fathers attempted with the US Constitution by trying to allow for amendments and future generations to alter the content.  Yet again, whether it has succeeded or not, I leave to the interpretation of the reader.  I think the issue is complex enough that both arguments have a certain validity and they are not necessarily contradictory.

So, if it is such that these things do not exist in isolation, and that they are human constructs, it is important that the architecture of these systems start taking their own goals into account into the very structure of their workings.  I think bitcoin probably succeeds on that front.  I think it started from a very simple presupposition and forged ahead.

But I think if we see an evolution of these currencies, we're going to see an evolution whereby ideologies will start to create their own systems/structures for cryptocurrencies, and the organization of those systems will attempt to reflect the organization of those systems of thought, and hopefully align with the goals of those who take up that currency.

If one takes that Finance Capitalism is a form of evolution of the capitalist mode of production, then perhaps CryptoCurrency is another evolution of Finance, but an attempt to take away the power of the Finance Capitalists and decentralize, not just from the state, but also Wall Street and various financiers.  If that is a goal that some desire to have, then I think they'd best start thinking about how to architect a system to remove their ability to control these things.

Bitcoin and "Social Value" of crypto currencies

I made a little jotting on my Livejournal, and thought it was interesting enough to post here.  I think I may start to try to update this thing more than once every couple of years... 
----------------------
So, I was watching Ted Nelson wax poetic about Satoshi Nakamoto (the individual or group behind bitcoin).



He made a claim that it's this one Japanese Mathematics Professor, Shinichi Mochizuki, who basically dropped a bombshell of a supposed proof of what's known as the abc conjecture.  Apparently it's so dense and difficult, 512 pages, and he coined a whole shit-ton of terms that some of the best mathematical minds are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to even penetrate the paper. 

Here's a fascinating article on the professor/proof. 

Anyways, Ted mentioned that something to the effect that like gold, since bitcoins are a limited resource, the value can only go up...

And it didn't hit me until now that that is one of the reasons, I suppose, that goldbugs have a huge love of gold.  I mean, sure the "tangible" bullshit.  I still believe it's a bunch of crap, but if you're going to tie a value to something, and make sure that it can only increase in value... Well, gold might not work, but bitcoins, considering that they have an absolute finitude of quantity at some point, means that yes, regardless of the value of the bitcoin, it will eventually drive upwards (assuming, of course, that enough people value it, which is why gold and fiat currency, ultimately work on the same principle - there is nothing much inherently valuable about gold.  I mean, there are some uses for gold, I shouldn't say that there is *nothing* inherently valuable... It is certainly more useful than green paper with people's faces on, but in the end it's overarching value comes as a belief system that it's worth something.  That is, the primary value in gold comes not from its particular useability but rather it's social status that it has acquired through the millennia.  Certainly it's social value is disproportionate to its use value.

Anyways, bitcoin sort of deals with this by incurring a cost to "mine" it via expenditure of computer resources.  This is, in the end, fairly wasteful (I think an alternate coin, mentioned in some article I was reading, was being worked on because the person thought bitcoins were too wasteful of energy... which leads me to think about volunteer computing (seti@home, folding@home, etc...) and how perhaps a better system would be to figure out a way to "mine" via productive use of resources that contribute to knowledge instead of just cracking random cryptographic puzzles, but that's not my main point).  In some ways, you could think of real life ore mining like this (actually, when you consider mining and resource extraction in general incurs a negative cost on the environment, the belief that this extraction is a net positive is a social myth that we must perpetuate.  It could only happen if we continually improved and refined our efficiency and reduce the negative effects, or advanced the value of the mined resource to beyond the initial value (which is what we deem as "labor" and "production").

So, it hit me that there will always be inflation (well, so long as the human population increases, we continue to be more "productive" through time), and that this means the money supply increases due to increases in production and trade.  The fiat currencies try to balance an overgrowth of production by shrinking the money supply and stimulating spending or saving by altering the rates at which the value is stored.  A higher interest rate leads people to save money, put it in the banks and take it out of the money supply.  If they lower the interest rate, people have more of an incentive to put the money elsewhere (ideally it's to go to productive use, but we know in our financial capitalist system, it just goes into some other form of saving on the large scales, which may or may not necessarily be productive (actual investment vs speculation/shorting, etc...))  When the interest rate is too low (as has happened since the 2007/2008 economic collapse), the other way to make the rate lower, instead of giving negative interest rates is to literally print more money (aka: Helicopter Ben Bernanke), throwing it into the economy, which can also reduce inflationary pressures. 

So, when you have a resource that at some point cannot be created, it's value only goes up, when we're talking supply/demand.  At first, I thought this was a bug;  problematic.  And in some ways it is, as you don't have a fine control over the supply/demand, and you might end up with out of control inflation (yes, fiat currency can also lead to out of control inflation, but you have less leverage to operate and alter the fine-tuning of the system if you can't tweak small changes in value of savings/spending)...

But, if the value goes up, it means that it will have a natural built in inflation.  As I previously mentioned, there will always be inflation of some sort, due to the nature of population growth and thus increased productivity.  If you have a system that can inflate "naturally" without an external system having to manually tweak it, that would be ideal.  The problem there is that bitcoin can only inflate, not deflate, so if there are too many inflationary pressures (to say nothing of rampant speculation), there isn't necessarily much to prevent a bitcoin bubble, from what I can tell.

That said, I do think there's some interesting concepts here that I'm thinking about now when it comes to "cryptocurrency"

1) Productive energy expenditure (@homes, volunteer computing, etc...) vs "worthless" wasted energy on random crypto solutions that don't particularly contribute to the social good (in other words - can you build a more "socialist" scheme that takes at its core values the improvement of humanity rather than a wasteful capitalist mode that does nothing but extract value out of spent energy, while producing nothing of social value?)

2) Can you build a system that contains a deflationary force somehow?  Something that really works towards a solid balance of growth/retraction as needed without the need for input from a central banking system?  Can you make a Decentralized Bank, as it were, applying interest rates to the currency without needing a centralized administration, based purely on the production of the financial production of these types of currencies.

3) Can you make a centralized "basket" of crypto-currencies as a standard currency so that one is not necessarily stronger than any other?  Is there some way to make these currencies work together in this decentralized scheme, while still retaining autonomy?  Right now, the idea seems to be a free-for-all free-market approach towards creating coins and hoping they take off or maybe an experiment, but what if we created federated systems of cryptocurrency?  The problem I see there, of course, is that it would require a fundamental base declaration on the goals of currencies that all can agree to.  Is a blockchain/ledger system necessary?  What about the previous issues I mentioned?  How do you define the minimum standards?  Do you just then let the market sort it out?  What if you have competing federations of currencies with various rules duking it out on a meta-market of "law" (by this I mean some form of contract issuance between the specific currencies that they meet the given standard of that federation)?

I'm honestly not sure if idea number 3 is feasible or even desirable.  It was just a random thought, but I definitely think 1 and 2 would be interesting concepts to apply when creating a new crypto-currency.