My PHILOSOPHY and ethos
I cherish the view that the existence or nonexistence of God or any other deities is currently unknown but is not necessarily unknowable; therefore, I will withhold judgment until evidence, if any, becomes available. At this time, however, no amount of debate can prove or disprove the existence of one or more deities, and if one or more deities exist, they do not appear to be overly concerned about the fate of humans. Therefore, their existence has little to no impact on personal human affairs and should currently be of little interest.
The eternal life that is the most tangible to me, is that given by technology. It will be either future generations looking back in reverence on our ingenious achievements, much in the way we look back on Da Vinci or Einstein, or eternal life literally achieved through science. I believe that breakthrough discoveries in gene technology, robotics, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology will soon provide us with ways to live much longer, if not forever. We are already able to significantly extend the live of mice.
Thus, I endorse a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and affirms their ability to improve their lives through the use of reason and ingenuity as opposed to submitting blindly to tradition and authority or sinking into cruelty and brutality. I believe that any man (or woman) is ultimately accountable for his (her) own choices, decisions, actions, failures, and successes.
On Freedom and Equal Opportunity
I seek to optimize autonomy and freedom of choice, and I emphasize the value of political freedom, voluntary association, and the importance of individual judgment, and the rule of law. I am a skeptic of authority and maintain that the power of the state must be limited in order to protect citizens from the arbitrary exercise of authority. I strongly believe in the ideas of liberty and equality. I oppose conservatism and absolutism in government and business.
However, I do not, in their contemporary form, advocate capitalism or private property rights of land, infrastructure, and natural resources. I will discuss capitalism as a socio-political and economic system in a globalized economy first, and property rights in light of philosophy and libertarianism second.
The establishment of social liberalism unfortunately has become a key component in the expansion of the welfare state. Although spawned from the concept of equality, the welfare state actually discriminates unprecedentedly between its citizens. This not only hampers progress and innovation, but also contributes to growing inequality. The middle class pays significantly more tax than the poor and the rich. And while most people receive no welfare benefits at all, some receive more welfare than others. I strongly oppose such policies. Equality, for me, would mean that the same rules, taxes, and benefits apply to everyone. It is not the government’s job to compensate for individual fortune or misfortune once the individual has come of age. Consequences resulting from choices made in adulthood should be yours alone. And it’s up to you to make the best of every opportunity.
However, the purpose of government, in my view, is to provide everyone with equal opportunity. To me, it is obvious that a government, in order to provide equal opportunity, has an obligation to provide a safe environment with freedom of speech, free-flowing information, the nondiscriminatory rule of law, and a police force that truly serves and protects, rather than alienates citizens.
Further, equal opportunity requires levelling the playing field. Like monopoly, everyone should start with the same resources and play under the same rules. Unfortunately, life is not set up in that way as the players are born and raised in different circumstances. That is why I believe that public transport, internet access, healthcare and education for minors should be completely free. Equal opportunity can only exist when all players are offered the opportunity to start adult life in reasonably similar circumstances.
And governments should ensure that at least all information relating to business, interest rates, exchange prices, products, services, policies, legislation, and economics is readily available to everyone, free of charge, and at the same time. Equal opportunity is nonexistent where one party has access to information about resources, products, or services that others have not.
Additionally, access to the courts and legal services should be made available and affordable to all. Equal opportunity cannot exist when a party cannot seek justice due to the costs of legal proceedings.
In a global economy, the free flow of capital is deemed essential. Equal opportunity, however, requires that such free-flowing capital is balanced by free-flowing labor. When capital is allowed to cross borders where labor is not, it hampers equal opportunity and innovation. In my view, you cannot have one without the other. Similarly, free-flowing labor needs to be balanced by free-flowing products and services, or it may lead to an undesirable extent of human migration. If work doesn't migrate towards labor, labor will migrate towards work. Protectionism has no place in a globalized economy, as it will only invoke violence and terror.
On Inflation and Theft
Some would argue that growing social and economic inequality; unemployment; and economic instability are the result of globalization. They are not. They are the result of monetary policies based on compromises resulting from conflicting and corrupted economic philosophies. In other words, governments and banks have broken our capitalistic system.
Under true capitalism, prices would inevitably drop due to increased productivity, resulting in improved living conditions for all citizens without the need to increase wages. Productivity-induced deflation would increase the purchasing power of consumers. They would buy more products and save more money to spend after retirement. This would benefit businesses as more and more people could afford to buy their products. The lower price per unit would be more than compensated by increased volumes and productivity. And we haven’t even factored in the creation of new markets through innovation.
Governments, however, are scrupulously inflationary in nature. They have the tendency to spend more than the revenue they receive through taxes. They borrow to cover the deficit. That’s why governments issue bonds. To help the governments to pay off these loans, and the interest on them, the central banks 'create' money via monetary policy and governments 'print' money to create inflation. Inflation reduces the relative debt, which greenlights more overspending by politicians. Central banks may even choose to 'buy' the bonds directly if the market is not interested in buying them.
Inflation is then exponentially increased by fractional-reserve banking, where commercial banks may create and lend out multiple currency units for every single unit they loan from the central bank or have in deposit. Inflation means higher prices, which trigger higher wages that can be taxed, thus increasing the government's income. All fiat currencies are losing value at an ever-increasing speed. Interest rates are low. And prices are on the rise. So, savers become losers. Saving for retirement or a rainy day is no longer a valid strategy. And because everyone is fleeing into overpriced paper assets and real estate, sold by unscrupulous brokers, traders, and bankers, we are moving from one crash to the next at ever increasing pace, and with ever increasing impact.
That is why I believe that monetary systems should be made independent of governments and central banks, that free banking would be preferable. I am eager to find out whether ongoing experiments with cryptocurrencies might lead us to a sustainable solution. And I further believe in reintroducing the gold standard and abolishing fractional-reserve banking to prevent banks and governments from stealing private wealth through inflation. That would induce governments to keep their spending in line with their tax revenue.
On Globalization and Disruption
I also believe that it is not a government’s purpose to compete with business or other governments, since competition in a globalized economy should solely be the prerogative of business. Therefore, the globalization of the economy should have resulted in harmonization of taxes around the world to further equal opportunity and innovation. The opposite is the case. Governments are competing by lowering taxes for businesses and investors. This, of course, needs to be compensated by increasing income taxes for the middle class, which, when paired to inflation, results in catastrophic effects on upward mobility.
Lower trade barriers, automation and cheaper transport have brought millions of extra low- and unskilled workers onto the world market. While this has raised living standards and productivity overall, it has also created a group of people whose relative position has weakened considerably: lower skilled workers in developed countries.
And there is a major storm coming for higher skilled professionals as well. Virtually everything about the way people live and do business is changing faster than ever before. Digital technology, global development, urbanization, and business disruption represent both a major opportunity and a threat in the global economy. Although individuals and organizations are aware that the world is changing exponentially, most are ill-equipped to face this level of disruption and volatility. Brands and producers have gained direct access to consumers via the internet, with devastating effect on retail and wholesale. Computerization and automation have rendered many administrative jobs obsolete. Artificial intelligence and robotics have started to replace call center agents, farmers, doctors, lawyers, judges, software developers, masons, notaries, construction workers, surgeons, and nurses in ever growing numbers. While some of these occupations are still in high demand, disruption will soon knock on their doors as well.
Globalization has already lowered the market value of many workers’ skills to the point that the clearing price for some labor cannot provide a growing proportion of the population with an income that meets the popular definition of minimum living standards—even though it has also contributed to cheaper consumption bundles. Factoring in that the replacement of human labor by disruptive technology outpaces the creation and fulfilment of new jobs, we can come to understand the discontent among the public today and the revolution brewing.
This has been partially masked by government welfare policies. But the current stopgap solutions are costly, ineffective, and overly complex, leaving many people stuck in poverty traps and financial insecurity.
One solution that I deem a serious option to provide a reasonable basic income for every citizen over 16 years old is a Standardized Tax Rebate, a variation of Basic Income. A "basic income" - first proposed by political activist and philosopher Thomas Paine in his 1797 pamphlet, Agrarian Justice - is a government determined sum unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis, without any means test or requirement to work. Contrary to the Negative Income Tax suggested by the Adam Smith Institute and Milton Friedman, or other Basic Income schemes currently discussed in various countries, a Standardized Tax Rebate is for everyone, and is the same for everyone. It doesn’t vary with circumstance, and it doesn’t discriminate based on income, gender, age, race, abilities, sexuality, value system, religion, or any other trait. And best of all, it doesn't require much in terms of organizational overhead as it is administered via taxation, not via a welfare system.
I think most people still have quite a puritanical idea of work. But this is an urgently needed policy. With increased job insecurity, the idea of everyone working nine to five is outdated. People go in and out of work these days. People are increasingly working in what they call the 'gig economy'. The current system is not fit for purpose.
A Standardised Tax Rebate scheme should replace the entire welfare system as well as all other benefits and services paid for by the government, such as subsidies to rent or buy a home, scholarships, and child support. We should also abolish minimum wages. This scheme should be tied to a flat-tax rate for everyone. This ensures a level playing field with near equal opportunities for all. And it minimizes activities of redistribution of wealth via the institutions of the state.
How to pay for such a Standardized Tax Rebate? Well, why do we only tax human labor and not machine labor? Bill Gates has suggested to tax technology that replaces human labor. The problem with Gates’ basic proposal is that it’s very hard to tell the difference between new technology that complements humans and new technology that replaces them. This is especially true over the long term. But while taxation of technology may hamper innovation, it is worth some thought and experiments.
On the other hand, why tax labor at all? If the problem is the growing economic inequality, and it is caused by crony capitalism, we should fix the capitalistic system. As a libertarian, I feel that we should minimize taxes as much as possible. But when we do tax, we should tax in such a manner that we induce desired behavior. We want consumers to earn and spend as much as possible, and we want entrepreneurs and investors to invest as much as possible. What do we not want? Concentration of capital that is not used to the benefit of the system. Remember, capitalism is meant to spread prosperity as a product of labor and reduce financial inequality, not to concentrate capital and increase financial inequality. Most contemporary capitalists seem to have forgotten where we came from. Purely speculative abstract paper assets such as options, fiat currencies, and money market accounts, as well as gold, silver, diamonds, oil, platinum, bare land, and other such unproductive physical holdings, do not contribute to society. Therefore, we should tax these if they remain unproductive or speculative for a prolonged period of time. Taxing these would put them to work and negate the biggest threat paired to deflation: the hoarding of money. Vice versa, if and when capital is invested productively, like in real estate, innovation, or businesses, it should be rewarded with tax benefits. When such a tax-scheme is tied to the reintroduction of a gold bullion standard, (much like the Swiss Franc up to 1936), with a gold backing requirement of 50 percent and an end to fractional-reserve banking, fixing capitalism suddenly seems feasible.
Some claim is that gold cannot be used in a monetary system because gold caused the Great Depression of the 1930s and contributed to its length and severity. This is a myth. The Great Depression, conventionally dated from 1929 to 1940, was preceded by the adoption of the “gold exchange standard”. As the name implies, the gold exchange standard was not a pure gold standard of the type that had existed from 1870 to 1914. The gold exchange standard of the 1920s was, at best, a pale imitation of a true gold bullion standard and, at worst, a massive fraud.
The Austrian School asserted that the Great Depression was the result of a credit bust. Alan Greenspan wrote that the bank failures of the 1930s were sparked by Great Britain dropping the gold standard in 1931. This act "tore asunder" any remaining confidence in the banking system. Financial historian Niall Ferguson wrote that what made the Great Depression truly 'great' was the European banking crisis of 1931. According to Fed Chairman Marriner Eccles, the root cause was the concentration of wealth resulting in a stagnating or decreasing standard of living for the poor and middle class. These classes went into debt, producing the credit explosion of the 1920s. Eventually the debt load grew too heavy, resulting in the massive defaults and financial panics of the 1930s. Guess what's happening today?
I often get challenged by people who ask me the following questions. Shouldn’t we make exceptions? What about people with disabilities? Surely it wouldn’t be fair to them to expect people with severe disabilities to get by on a form of basic income, tax rebate or negative income tax? While I empathize with this line of thought, I must disagree. Life is not fair. And nothing we can do will make it so. Forcing someone to involuntarily pay for another person isn’t fair either. Although taxes are sometimes necessary, it is a form of theft, and we need to restrict it to a minimum. And there simply is no need to raise taxes to help disabled people. First, there are a lot of individuals and organizations donating time and/or money to a noble cause on a voluntary basis. Altruism is far more desirable than theft.
Second, disabilities are not an excuse to waste your talent. Considering the lengthy list of people who have overcome their severe disabilities, I believe anyone can be of value and service to others, have a career, and provide for themselves. Just look up these names as an example:
- Stephen Hawking - ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) - Theoretical Physicist
- Helen Keller - Blind and Deaf - Lecturer and Activist
- John Nash – Schizophrenia - Mathematician
- Christy Brown - Cerebral Palsy - Poet, Painter, and Author
- Marla Runyan – Blind - Athlete
- Sudha Chandran – Amputation - Dancer
- Frida Kahlo – Polio - Painter
- Robin Williams – ADHD - Actor
- Stevie Wonder – Blind - Musician, Singer
- Marlee Matlin – Deaf - Actress
- Ralph Braun - Muscular Dystrophy - Businessman, Founder, and CEO of Braun Corporation
- John Hockenberry - Spinal Cord Injury - Journalist, Author, 4 times Emmy Award Winner
- Tanni Grey-Thompson - Spina Bifida - Wheelchair Racer
- Rene Kirby – Spina Bifida – Actor
- Van Smith – Spina Bifida – Fashion Designer
- Robert Hensel – Spina Bifida - Poet and writer, holds the world record in wheelchair wheelie
- Bonner Paddock - Cerebral Palsy – Mountaineer
- Geri Jewell - Cerebral Palsy - Comedian and Actress
- Michael Kutcher - Cerebral Palsy - Politics
- Dom Smith - Cerebral Palsy - Entrepreneur, speaker, journalist
- Albert Einstein – Learning Disability - Mathematician/Physicist
- Alexander Graham Bell - Learning Disability - Inventor
- Cher – Dyslexia – Singer/Actress
- David Blunkett – Blind - Politician
- Thomas Edison – Learning Disability – Inventor
- Tom Cruise – Dyslexia – Actor
- Franklin D. Roosevelt – Polio – President of the United States for 4 terms.
- George Washington - Learning Disability – President of the United States
- Jean-Dominique Bauby - Locked-in Syndrome - Author
- Walt Disney - Learning Disability - Cartoonist
- Woodrow Wilson - Severely Dyslexic – President of the United States
- Ludwig van Beethoven – Deaf – Composer
- Henry Fraser - Paralyzed - Mouth painter
- Tom Yendell – Armless - Mouth and foot painter
- Peter Longstaff – Armless – Foot Painter
- Dean L. Kamen - Learning Disabilities - Inventor and businessman
- Robert T. Kiyosaki - Learning Disabilities - Pilot, businessman, and investor
- Richard Branson - Severe Dyslexia - Business tycoon
- Danielle Brown - Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) - Gold medal archer, lawyer, speaker, mentor, and coach
- Shane Bratby - Friedreich’s Ataxia - Business entrepreneur and investor
I understand that these cases are extremely exceptional, and that such a career is not for everyone. But not everyone, disabled or not, needs to become this exceptional. These cases may serve as an inspiration to overcome a disability, positively contribute to society, and become exceptional in your own right. Remember, if you make a positive impact, others will join and support you.
That said, I would like to make an exception for people with a very low IQ. The brain is our single most valuable resource, and the inability to use it severely hampers our ability to fend for ourselves. People with such a disability should be equated with minors, as is already the case in some countries.
And third, we may expect a cure or solution for all the mentioned afflictions, diseases, and disabilities within the next two decades. According to Ray Kurzweil, we will have approached a state of singularity by 2040 or sooner. This means that robotics, artificial intelligence, genetics, and nanotechnology will have progressed to a point where biological limitations are no longer of any consequence or even nonexistent.
As to representative democracy as we know it, I believe it is seriously flawed. In general terms, democracy means that a majority can impose its will upon a minority, which often leads to a violation of the inalienable rights of the individual or his / her property on the basis of the 'general interest' or 'social justice'. But since there is no working alternative, we have to make do until a more elegant and feasible solution presents itself.
However, democracy itself is under threat. In order to vote, one should be able to make an informed decision. Most issues, however, have become too complex for the average voter to understand. Major corporations have too much influence on the political and legislative processes by funding campaigns and lobbying for favorable legislation and policies. And the function of the press as the guardian of democracy has eroded because people are increasingly less willing to pay for high quality investigative journalism. Small networks get sued out of business by vindictive billionaires, and major information channels have become the property of the very people they should be monitoring. News networks have 24 hours a day to fill in fierce competition for ratings and hype every news item as a result. Hence the rise of populism, demagogy, and fake news. Therefor I would support legislation that inhibits private donations to political parties and campaigns. I would also like to see private ownership of news channels discouraged. Free press is better organized into foundations and associations. And I would suggest that reporters should scrutinize civil servants turning lobbyist, and lobbyists turning civil servants. Lobbying is a severe threat to open democracy and capitalism as it limits the freedom of choice, induces corruption, hampers progress, and is basically a form of tyranny.
But what bothers me most, is that a lot of legislation is being created behind closed doors, favoring multinational corporations. The reasoning behind this often is that big companies create a lot of jobs. But do they really? Isn’t it so that news items covering these companies are usually about layoffs and cutbacks? When is the last time you saw a news item covering a major recruitment campaign for any of the fortune 500? Big companies do not routinely create jobs, they often destroy jobs. And rightly so, that’s called efficiency. They routinely increase productivity and lower prices of conventional products. It is mostly up to start-ups and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME's) to innovate, scale-up and create jobs. That is where it comes naturally, and where the focal point of legislation and policy should be. In fact, almost 80 percent of all jobs created in the EU and the US over the past decade are created by SME's. That is why I oppose treaties such as TTIP and CETA. These treaties are created for the big boys, in undemocratic processes, sidelining SME’s, while taking the national judicial bodies out of play. They are wrong on so many levels.
The whole pro and con debate concerning the EU should be considered in similar respect. The discontent spreading around Europe is a direct result of the non-transparent legislative processes and the tyranny of lobbying in Brussels.
On Free Trade
Another thing that bugs me is that we are not allowed to freely trade some products and services, while other, more hazardous products may be traded freely and without warning. I am all for free trade, let people buy what they want at the best possible price. But I am also for complete transparency on the contents and effects of a product or service. And boy, do we get deceived in virtually every ad, and on every product label. What does 'clinically tested' mean? And what is 'low-fat' candy? Why do 22 percent of all shampoos on the market today contain carcinogenic substances? Why do body care products contain so much plastic, and how does that affect the fish we eat? How is it that marijuana and prostitution are illegal in a lot of states and countries, but we are free to buy products and foods that are killing us? To me, that doesn’t make sense, until you follow the route all the way from the producers via the lobbyist to the politicians. If the public only knew how many heavy metals, toxics, carcinogens, antibiotics, hormones, plastics, particulate matter, sugar, fat, and salt we daily inhale, absorb and consume, and what that means for our state of health, we might see some changes. The FDA, NVWA, and similar institutions across the world are not doing their job well enough, since they are governed by lobbyists. I believe it is time that governments, but preferably consumer organizations, set up or hire institutions that make absolute transparent the state of the air we breathe, the water we drink and swim in, the soil we grow our crops in and build our houses on, the food we consume, the medicines we take, and the cosmetics we apply. Findings should be made public and official warnings should be printed on the packaging and labels of the products concerned. For example, 'This shampoo contains a contaminant that might cause cancer' would be a clear enough message. It is similar to what many countries require to be printed on a pack of cigarettes.
As I am a champion of autonomy, freedom of choice and equality, it should come as no surprise that I support the freedom to trade just about anything that isn’t a significant threat to our way of life. This includes commoditizing any type of drugs. Making it legal to buy and sell drugs would also reduce crime swiftly. And for me the freedom of choice is more important than the related social and healthcare issues. As long as the effects of the substance are made transparent to the user before the transaction takes place, I feel that the responsibility is the user’s alone. The other side of this coin is that the legal term ‘premeditated’ should be stretched to include any situation where someone consumes an intoxicating substance knowing that they will be participating in public events or traffic. As an example, consuming alcohol or drugs knowing you will take the car home should make any subsequent harm to others 'premeditated'.
This line of thought can be applied to other controversial products as well. Should we be allowed to buy and sell guns? I believe that this question should be answered affirmative. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we should be allowed to carry them around. If significant numbers would be carrying guns, it would threat our way of living. It is uncomfortable expressing your opinion freely knowing the other person is packing a gun. So, I think it is fine to own a gun, as long as it is stored safely in a vault and only used for sport. Carrying a gun around, or letting it lie about, should make any successive harm to others 'premeditated', even when used in self-defense. I firmly believe that the government should have the monopoly on the use of deadly force in a free democracy. Only if democracy itself is under threat should the people take up arms.
Yes, I understand that some items and substances are inclined to have a detrimental effect on social cohesion and public health. But so are many other products already sold freely today. The government could impose age restrictions and charge excise duty on products and services that have adverse social effects to mitigate the increase in governmental spending and induce desired behavior. My premise, however, is that everyone should have the freedom of choice of what to buy, consume and own, as long as the effects of consumption are made clear, and others have the freedom of choice not to buy, consume or own the same. Anyone should have the freedom to act like a fool and make mistakes, as long as (s)he alone is burdened with the consequences. That means, for instance, that addiction to substances might also cause your health insurance to be revoked so that others do not pay for your mistakes. There is much to improve in this arena.
An exception must be made for products and services that pollute land, air and/or water. The contaminants will enter the food-chain; and humans being on top of the food-chain will eventually end-up having no choice in amassing these toxics in our bodies. These products and services prevent us from making healthy choices and are therefore a threat to our way of life. They should be banned.
According to Libertarianism, most cases of environmental pollution, fraud, and unsafe products are traceable phenomenons, so that persons and groups of persons may sue the culprits based on the violation of their (property) rights. I find this somewhat naive. Most culprits, often big corporations, can afford to litigate the plaintiffs, often private citizens, into bankruptcy. And if an underdog wins a case, the convict simply moves its assets out of jurisdiction and files for bankruptcy, only to start over in another state or country. This doesn't clean up the pollution, which in most cases is impossible anyway. It doesn't prevent governments from saving banks with taxpayer's money. And it doesn't grow a new arm or leg after dismemberment. No, we need to counterbalance the power of big corporations and prevent them from lobbying for favorable legislation, breaking the law, and escaping justice. Although consumer organizations and free press are vital in this respect, we cannot make do without the legislative, supervisory and executive bodies of government.
On Healthcare, Insurance, and Government
Another issue that has been under debate in the US and Europe for quite some time is medical insurance. The libertarian thought is to have every man decide for himself. As I have stated above, my main concern are the minors. Where adults are legally fit to make their own decisions, children are not. If we are to provide equal opportunities to people starting their adult life, it makes sense to have our children insured regardless of their parent’s choice. For me, this is a no-brainer.
Next, we should assess whether having a substantial number of people uninsured against medical expenses threatens our way of life. In the Netherlands, for instance, the answer is yes, because Dutch society is organized on participation and inclusion. In the US, the answer may be no, because American society is foremost based on competition and exclusion. That is why health insurance is mandatory in the Netherlands, where it is a choice in the US. Who are we to judge?
However, equality, which is just as important as freedom of choice, is under threat looking at how insurance has evolved globally. Not just in health care, but in many aspects of life and business, I find it unacceptable that some people, through no fault of their own, are refused insurance or are insured under different terms and conditions than others buying the same insurance product. I understand that the risk profile varies from person to person, but traditionally the purpose of an insurance company is to assess and insure the collective risk, not individual risk. I believe we ought to go back to the origins of insurance, where risk was spread across participants. To assure individual freedom and the way of life that comes with it, some risks must be carried collectively in order to assure equal opportunities for everyone. Such was the way of the shipping companies of the Dutch and British in the 17th century.
The wider issue is that of individual freedom versus common good. Individual freedom and the common good are two sides of the greater concept of freedom. If we want to live in a free democracy, they have to be in sync. Too much individual freedom and we'll create chaos and anarchy. Too much state control and we'll get rigidity and tyranny. So logically those two essential aspects of freedom should be in balance, in equilibrium. They're two sides of the same coin. Finding and maintaining that balance to have that maximum potential for humans to be free is really hard. And it forces me, and other libertarians, to appreciate the role government must play.
But how much government and common good should we really have? As a capitalist, it is my conviction that the free market works best where consumers are presented with meaningful options and the freedom of choice. By consumers I mean the people actually using the products and services, not necessarily the persons or organization paying for those services. If the options are limited or nonexistent, or if there really is no freedom of choice, the products and services should be in the public domain. Is a patient really comparing hospitals for his emergency treatment? Has the traveler a real choice between railroad companies while waiting on platform 3 for a train from A to B? If there is no meaningful choice to make, it means there is a monopoly at play. Handing a monopoly to a private party, even a temporary one by means of a concession, is far from desirable. The company will be focused on making its money back, and then some. That is all very legitimate, but in the absence of competition, service to the consumer is left wanting.
Would the government or a non-profit do a better job? Well, that depends on the pride they take in their work and the sense of purpose that they derive from it. But at least nobody is profiting from a monopoly.
On Property Rights and our Planet
Next, I would like to discuss property rights. Like all libertarians, I strongly advocate private property rights. But for private property rights of land, infrastructure, and natural resources I need to make an exception, or rather a reservation. Why is that? Let’s revisit what a libertarian, such as myself, believes in: autonomy, freedom of choice, political freedom, voluntary association, individual judgment, the rule of law, liberty, and equality. Right? Do you see where I am going with this? All land, with everything on it and in it, has changed hands many times over the ages in ways that are at odds with all the libertarian values. Even if you believe to have legally bought your property, it is still fencing in the eyes of history.
And from a more philosophical point of view, who are you to claim something that was here before you were born, and will hopefully be there long after you have gone? Do you own this planet, or does it own you? Or as some might say, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Doesn't the air we breathe belong to all of us? Why then, do we accept that others pollute it or charge money when we transmit radio waves? The same principles apply to water and land.
I would like to think that we are born into a world, a vulnerable spaceship if you will, that we share with other humans, other species even, that have as much a claim to it as you do. Why do we humans think we are so special that we can take pieces of this planet and call it our own, and then deny access to other humans, and even other lifeforms? Every time we develop a patch of land we destroy a piece of nature, full of life, from mammals to microbes, each with just as much right to live as you.
Do I believe that we need to reverse history? No, what is done is done. But I believe that we need to fairly compensate people indigenous to a region now populated by other peoples and/or robbed of its natural resources. And I also believe that we should save ourselves from extinction by treating our beautiful planet, its climate, and all living things on it, with the respect and dignity they deserve. I strongly advocate restoring the wonders of nature, that have been lost over the last 5 centuries, to their pristine conditions.
Humans have always been predators and on top of the food chain in the cycle of life. But the moment we developed agriculture we made the subconscious decision that we are the masters of this planet and we may treat everything, living or dead, on it and in it, as a resource to use as we see fit. I am challenging this assumption for the sake of protecting our way of life. If we continue on our current path, it might be the end of us.
On Conscious Capitalism
Neo classical thinking has legitimized a narrow conception of capitalism that has largely excluded social and moral considerations from economic thinking. This narrow conception of capitalism, called crony capitalism, has prevented capitalism from harnessing its full potential.
Although Adam Smith is known as a most ardent advocate, if not the founder, of a capitalistic society, he also pointed out that happiness and tranquility are not necessarily linked with material goods. In fact, he pointed out that the continuous and uninterrupted effort for ever-more material goods undermines people’s tranquility and enjoyment. People in capitalistic societies are more content than people in other societies, not due to material goods but rather because they have relative liberty and more security that enable them to act virtuously and to have the pleasure of rewarding relations with friend and family. Thus, for Smith, money or wealth is not the source of happiness, but true capitalism reduces the dependence and insecurity that was a great source of misery in pre-capitalist societies.
"Political economy is one that protects its citizens, creates conditions for well-being, including economic growth, and provides public services in the context of personal liberty, protections of rights, and enforcement of laws of justice." (Smith, 1776)
The problem with free market capitalism is that it assumes that people make rational decisions that would be beneficial to them in both the short-term and the long-term. In such a scenario, a consumer would weigh the current price of a product in the supermarket against, for instance, the long-term effect of its production and distribution on the environment. We all know that this is not the case. Humans are irrational and biased towards short-term gains, thereby digging our own graves in the long run. Sticking to the example, humans cannot survive without Mother Nature, but Mother Nature would do very well without humans.
Careful examination of Smith’s writing clearly opposes the minimalist view of capitalism. Smith suggested a tripartite model of society comprised of three different but interrelated modes of social control: moral rules, law, and the market. Each of these models works in its own way to channel individual behavior into socially apprehended directions.
According to Smith (1776), After the public institutions and public works necessary for the defense of the society, and for the administration of justice, the other works and institutions of this kind are chiefly those for facilitating the commerce of the society, and those for promoting the instruction of the people. The institutions for instruction are of two kinds: those for the education of youth, and those for the instruction of people of all ages (p.723).
Thus, I adhere to a just concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, or equity that governs social, economic, and cultural conditions conducive to human dignity and irrationality.
I therefore believe firmly in Conscious Capitalism:
"Conscious Capitalism is a way of thinking about capitalism and business that better reflects where we are in the human journey, the state of our world today, and the innate potential of business to make a positive impact on the world. Conscious businesses are galvanized by higher purposes that serve, align, and integrate the interests of all their major stakeholders. Their higher state of consciousness makes visible to them the interdependencies that exist across all stakeholders, allowing them to discover and harvest synergies from situations that otherwise seem replete with trade-offs. They have conscious leaders who are driven by service to the company’s purpose, all the people the business touches and the planet we all share together. Conscious businesses have trusting, authentic, innovative, and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfillment. They endeavor to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical, and ecological wealth for all their stakeholders." - ConsciousCapitalism.org
Spiral Dynamics and Memes
If you're adept at Spiral Dynamics it might be noteworthy that my overdrive colors are yellow, orange and turquoise.
My World View:
The world is a complex, self-organizing, natural system, a grid of mutually interdependent units, which together form a holistic organism that can be fully understood by using rational thinking and requires integral solutions. The world is full of chances and opportunities for those who understand this.
My Life Motto:
“I manifest myself through artful calculation, not at the cost of others, but for the benefit of existential reality.”
My Life Themes:
Effective action to support the whole. Accumulate material abundance, individual freedom, and grab opportunities. A dynamic balance between being and becoming: life is good as it is and at the same time, everything must, of course, change completely.
My Life Philosophy:
I am searching for freedom and embrace (integral) space and complexity. I am responsible for my own wealth, and that is why I develop my skills. I think; therefore, I exist. Energetic connections are necessary to experience and embody wholeness and unity.