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The Long Now
Part 4: Snip!
That’s George Clooney in Gravity, right before he ends up like this.
The spacewalking astronaut, risking the abyss with only a slim tether to life, is a powerful trope. Gravity was an entire movie about that frisson of fear we get from these images, although for my money it doesn’t get better than Frank Poole’s murder by HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the looong shot of the body tumbling uncontrollably through space. Because it’s not just the aloneness and abandonment that sparks our hard-wired emotional response here, but the out-of-controllness of being truly untethered.
We’ve got happy-ending movies that use this trope (The Martian), Russian movies that use this trope (Spacewalker), and even haunted-house-in-space movies that use this trope (Event Horizon). So you’ll forgive me if I’m going to use this imagery, too, because it’s the best story-telling device I know to instill in you the fear and loathing I feel when I think through the consequences of the Long Now.
SNIP! is the Long Now’s destruction of the meaning of words that define our social connections.
Words like “war”.
This is a picture of the Predator drone firing a Hellfire missile. It’s probably going to kill someone that we want dead, and almost certainly going to kill some other people that we don’t mind being dead … collateral damage and all that. As they say on Succession, you can’t make a Tomlette without breaking a few Greggs. This is war, and we fire these missiles all over the world, on the daily, both in countries we have officially invaded, like Afghanistan, and in countries we haven’t, like Pakistan and Yemen.
But we have redefined war to NOT mean things like drone and cruise missile attacks, to NOT mean things like “observer” or “training” missions. We have redefined war to ONLY mean American troops being shot at.
So politicians can speak the words “End the war in Country XYZ!”
without actually meaning it. Because what they mean is preventing any American
troops from being shot at. But the actual war of drones and missiles and
killing … that continues. And it will continue forever in the Long Now.
Words like “capitalism”.
This is a picture of the billionaire CEO of a government-supported too-big-to-fail megabank, telling his 60 Minutes interviewer that he has no control over his compensation, as that’s determined by the CEO’s board of directors. Interestingly enough, this is also a picture of the billionaire Chairman of that board.
And it’s not just the billionaire CEO bank manager. It’s his centimillionaire lieutenant bank managers. It’s the dozens of decamillionaire sub-lieutenant bank managers. All of them made generationally rich from stock-based compensation in a company where the government guarantees their success. None of them entrepreneurs. None of them risk-takers with their own skin in the game. All of them … lifer managers of a too-big-to-fail bank.
But, hey, the stock is up! They’ve done a good job! What’s the problem, Ben?
That’s exactly the problem. The problem is that we have redefined capitalism to mean “the stock is up”. We have redefined capitalism to NOT mean Smith’s invisible hand or Schumpeter’s creative destruction or productivity-enhancing and risk-taking investments in the real economy. We have redefined capitalism to ONLY mean financial asset price inflation in the here and now. By any means necessary. So that’s what we get. From the Fed, from the White House, from corporate management … that’s what we get in the Long Now … an endless series of policies and decisions in service to capitalism-as-financialization, where capital markets are maintained as a political utility.
George Orwell, who called the Long Now an “endless present, where the Party is always right”, understood how the most powerful weapon of a totalitarian society is to control its language, so that War IS Peace, Freedom IS Slavery, and Ignorance IS Strength.
Why? Because control over the meaning of words is control over how we THINK. When we no longer remember what words mean, when we are TOLD over and over again a NEW meaning … we start to doubt ourselves. We start to doubt our own autonomy of mind. And that’s when they win.
In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense.
And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right.— George Orwell, 1984
The Long Now is the Fiat World of reality by declaration, where we are TOLD that inflation does not exist, where we are TOLD that wealth inequality and meager productivity and negative savings rates just “happen”, where we are TOLD that we must vote for ridiculous candidates to be a good Republican or a good Democrat, where we are TOLD that we must buy ridiculous securities to be a good investor, and where we are TOLD that we must borrow ridiculous sums to be a good parent or a good citizen.
And the most terrifying thing is that you start to think they might be right.
Hey, maybe the whole Ukraine thing really is Trump “fighting corruption” and maybe the whole Saudi thing really is Trump “bringing the troops home”. Maybe the really important thing about Jeffrey Epstein is whether or not he committed suicide. Maybe we should really try some “democratic socialism” in 2020 … how bad could it be?
Self-doubt is a biologically terrifying condition for a social animal like humans, and that’s why you see more and more of us becoming rhinoceroses. That’s why you see more and more well-meaning citizens willingly give over their autonomy of mind to the MAGA Train or the Bernie Bros … some sort of social Answer with a capital A … so that the torture of self-doubt can end.
That’s why, in the end, Winston loved Big Brother.
And make no mistake, the Answer is always totalitarian. Not merely authoritarian, but totalitarian. It brooks no dissent, in ANY aspect of your life. The Answer is a general closed-form solution, something we are hard-wired to want, but something that is impossible to find in a social system. Yes, this is the Three-Body Problem.
Unfortunately, I believe that the totalitarian Long Now is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. I believe that we are going to doubt ourselves in new and profound ways over the next decade. I believe that our common sense will become even more the heresy of heresies.
Because the Long Now has redefined the meaning of “taxes”.
Because the tether between taxation and spending – the most important macroeconomic policy relationship for our lives as both investors and citizens – has been severed.
Oh, I know that this snip-of-no-return doesn’t feel bad. Yet. In fact, it probably feels pretty darn good to you right now.
Funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’
For a little while
That’s from a song in the movie Crazy Heart, and that’s where we are right now. So yeah, you’re going to be told that 2 + 2 = 5, that it’s no big deal to cut the cord between taxes and spending, that in truth it’s good for you. And yeah, you’re going to start to think that they might be right.
The redefinition of taxation and the severing of the Tether of Meaning between taxes and spending isn’t something that I think WILL happen. This is something that I know HAS happened. We’ve had a steady fraying of this cord for about two decades now, ever since Al Gore’s idea of a Social Security “lockbox” (where those taxes could ONLY be used for Social Security spending and paying down the existing debt) was met with derision rather than acclaim by both parties. Yes, both parties. By steady fraying I mean over both Republican and Democrat administrations. The political beneficiaries of the fraying are different when it’s Republicans doing the snipping or Democrats doing the snipping, but the INTENT – to eliminate the tether between taxation and spending – is the same whether you’re George Bush or Barack Obama. Or Donald Trump. Destroying the relationship between taxation and spending is not a partisan thing. It’s a power thing. It’s a Management thing.
I mean, there are still people who believe that the money they pay in Social Security taxes is their money, that they’ve purchased some sort of old age income insurance plan with their money, like an annuity where their money is invested somewhere to support that income down the road.
But that’s a lie.
In truth there is ZERO relationship between social security taxes and social security benefits today, other than sharing the words “social security”. In truth they are two entirely separate government programs, the former a regressive tax on workers that goes into the big pot of the annual budget and the latter a wealth transfer program to old people that comes out of that budget.
So for twenty years Republicans and Democrats have gone back and forth to steer taxation and spending to their political advantage, with divided government being the only thing to keep the tether intact. But divided government vanished with Donald Trump’s election, and as a result we got the 2017 Tax Cuts and (LOL) Jobs Act, which I think was the final cut.
What did the TCJA do? It lowered taxes by trillions without reducing spending by a dime.
The TCJA levered up the United States of America.
Management levered up our country and used the proceeds to provide a windfall gain for corporations and the rich. You know … “returning capital to job creators”. In exactly the same way that Management might lever up a company and use the proceeds for a big stock buyback. You know … “returning capital to shareholders”.
Both of these narratives – “returning capital to job creators” and “returning capital to shareholders” – had a truth to them, an important truth. I believed in the important truth of both of these narratives for most of my adult life! And yes, I’m using the past tense.
Because in the Long Now, the meaning of both narratives has been perverted beyond all recognition.
Both are now part and parcel of the Trickle-Down Lie, that the crumbs that fall off massa’s table are crumbs that you wouldn’t get otherwise, so let’s celebrate all those extra crumbs. Yay, crumbs!
And yes, there’s an Epsilon Theory note or three for that.
The pecking order is a social system designed to preserve economic inequality: inequality of food for chickens, inequality of wealth for humans. We are trained and told by Team Elite that the pecking order is not a real and brutal thing in the human species, but this is a lie. It is an intentional lie, formed by two powerful Narratives: trickle-down monetary policy and massive student debt financing.
This Is Water
Time to add a fourth shift in the Zeitgeist: capitalist productivity, now 200+ years old, is becoming capitalist financialization. Wall Street gets something to sell, management gets stock-based comp, the Fed gets a (very) grateful Wall Street, and the White House gets re-election.
What do YOU get out of financialization? You get to hold up a card that says “Yay, capitalism!”.
Yeah, It’s Still Water
One day we will recognize the defining Zeitgeist of the Obama/Trump years as an unparalleled transfer of wealth to the managerial class.
But if we’re no longer even pretending that taxes are necessary to support spending …
If we agree that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats care about fiscal policy except as it advances their myopic political goals …
Then what are taxes FOR?
Yep, this is our George-Clooney-realizes-he-is-about-to-be-flung-into-outer-space
In the Long Now, taxes are for … justice.
In the Long Now, taxes are for … equity.
In the Long Now, taxes are for … retribution.
And what do those words mean?
Whatever Management says they mean.
Donald Trump has a vision of how to use taxes for HIS conception of justice, equity and retribution, a vision that – well, how about that! – advances his political power.
The primary beneficiaries of the TCJA are large public companies, particularly the multinationals that dominate the S&P 500. For example, in each of the past two years, Amazon has availed itself of the deductions and deferrals and lower corporate rates created by the TCJA to be a “net-negative US Federal cash taxpayer”. In English, that means that in each of the past two years, the US Treasury has written checks of more than $100 million to Amazon out of YOUR tax dollars. I know you think I’m making this up, but check out Amazon’s 10-K. It’s all there.
And before you @ me, I am NOT saying that Amazon doesn’t pay taxes. What I am saying is that I really don’t care how much Amazon pays in taxes to freakin’ Ireland. What I am saying is that Amazon is cashing checks from the US government instead of writing checks. As the kids would say, let that sink in.
How does this advance Trump’s political power? Because the windfall tax benefits that the TCJA created for large public companies like Amazon and Apple and Microsoft translate directly into higher stock prices. Because in Trump’s own words, “the stock market is my report card”. Because Trump realizes that you can politically argue to death whether the real economy is doing better or worse, but you can’t argue with a new high for the Dow Jones.
What does it mean to transform capital markets into a political utility, and use the tax code to do it?
Similarly, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and No Malarkey Joe and Mayor Pete and all the rest have a vision of how to use taxes for THEIR conception of justice, equity and retribution, a vision that – well, how about that! – advances their political power.
None of the “wealth tax” proposals you hear from the Left are being proposed to pay for anything in a budgetary sense. They are explicitly proposed so that the rich pay their “fair share”. In fact, when candidates make the mistake of expressing their wealth tax idea in a fiscal sense – as Elizabeth Warren did when she linked it to “paying for” Medicare-for-all – the narrative immediately shifts from “fairness” to “making the numbers add up” (Spoiler Alert: they don’t and they never will), and these candidates immediately take a hit in the polls.
Bernie gets it. He doesn’t even pretend to make this about budgets. He realizes that the political popularity of the wealth tax has nothing to do with making the rich pay for a government program, and everything to do with making the rich pay for their sins. And yes, Bernie believes that great wealth is a sin. He believes that great wealth should not be allowed, not because it’s a source of unaccountable political power (my beef with great wealth), but because he believes it is fundamentally unfair. So do a lot of voters, maybe more than care about the Dow Jones.
Feeling out of control yet? Wait, there’s more!
If the meaning of spending is no longer constrained by taxation …
Then what is spending FOR?
In the Long Now, spending is ALSO for justice and equity and retribution … ALSO in whatever mode or measure fits the regime goals of whatever Management is in power at the time.
I think that whoever is elected in 2020, we will see a $2 trillion spending plan enacted in 2021.
If it’s a second term for Trump, it will be the 2021 Make America Great Again Act, and we will call them “Infrastructure Bonds”.
If it’s a first term for a Democrat, it will be the 2021 Take Back America Act or something like that (I suppose if it’s President Biden we can hope for the 2021 No Malarkey Act, although I’m rooting for the 2021 OK, Boomer Act), and we will call them “Green Bonds”.
In either case, I expect that the Fed will monetize at least half of the bond issuance. At least half.
In either case, I expect that the primary corporate beneficiaries of the spending will be exactly the same. Exactly the same.
And so here we are.
I believe there are no limits to the retributive and malicious use of taxation as a political weapon.
I believe there are no limits to the retributive and malicious use of spending as a political reward.
Sometimes those political weapons and rewards will be used by the rich and the old against the non-rich and the non-old, as we saw with the TCJA and Trump. Sometimes it will be the other way around, as we will see the day after a Democrat takes the White House, whenever that might be.
What’s to be done? Well, I suppose this is the point where I should tell you what I would do if I were given magic genie powers to change the world from the top down. And then you’d argue with me about my proposals and tell me what you would do if given magic genie powers.
How about we not do that? I don’t have magic genie powers. And neither do you.
It’s not that the severing of taxes from spending WILL happen. It’s not that the NEXT administration is going to make the cut. It’s ALREADY happened. It’s been happening for twenty years! This ship has sailed, and now there’s not a damn thing that you or I can do to turn it around. All we can do now is survive the voyage.
When I started this note, I said I wanted to instill an emotion of fear and loathing in you from the realization that the meaning of taxes had become untethered from the meaning of government spending. That phrase – fear and loathing – is of course a catchphrase for Hunter S. Thompson, who used it in the titles of his best-known works … Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, etc. Thompson had lots of catchphrases, lots of mottos, lots of great quotes. My all-time favorite, though, is this:
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
I love it because there are so many plausible interpretations, and it just sounds so cool to take a tired inspirational quote about what to do when the going gets tough, blah blah blah … and turn it on its ear. Or foot, or whatever body part you think Thompson would have approved. Here’s what it means to ME.
“The going gets weird” = an economic and political environment that no one alive has experienced.
I think that the smiley-face totalitarian genie (and yes, I wrote ‘totalitarian’, not ‘authoritarian’) is going to be let out of the bottle as the meaning of taxes becomes justice, equity and retribution.
I think that the not-so-smiley-face inflation genie is going to be let out of the bottle as the meaning of spending in the real economy becomes untethered from any concern of paying for it.
To paraphrase Richard Nixon paraphrasing Milton Friedman, we’re all MMTers now. “Modern Monetary Theory” is here, firmly ensconced in BOTH political parties in the Long Now.
We’re All MMTers Now
If Trump is reelected in 2020, I think he pushes forward a $2 TRILLION bond issuance that is fully or partially monetized by the Fed. They’ll be called Infrastructure Bonds. If a Democrat is elected in 2020, I think she or he pushes forward a $2 TRILLION bond issuance that is fully or partially monetized by the Fed. They’ll be called Green Bonds. We’re all MMT’ers now.
Modern Monetary Theory or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the National Debt
Modern Monetary Theory is neither modern nor a theory. It’s a post hoc rationalization of politically expedient policy that makes us feel better about all the bad stuff we’ve done with money and debt in service to Team Elite. And all the bad stuff we’re going to do in the future.
A recession isn’t weird. Deflation isn’t weird. Authoritarian isn’t weird. I don’t think ANY of those things is coming down the pike, and you don’t need my help (or anyone else’s) if any of them does.
But smiley-face totalitarian stagflation where capital markets have been transformed into a propped-up-at-all-costs political utility?
Now THAT’S weird. And that’s what I think IS coming down the pike. And we’re all going to need all the help we can get. Which gets us to the second half of Hunter S. Thompson’s quote.
“The weird turn pro” = an all-in engagement for those who see the societal transformation; a recognition that the fundamental rules of the social game have changed, and a willingness to confront the implications of that change in every aspect of your life without surrendering to an Answer.
How do we confront the Long Now?
Leaders who act as stewards of the future, not managers of the Now.
Investors who take more risk with what’s Real, and less with what’s not.
Citizens who take back their vote, and who refuse to play the Fool.
You know, in one of my twitter fights with Angry-Billionaires-and-their-Renfields™, I was called “a bizarre combo of Zerohedge and self-help guru”. It was meant as an insult, of course, but for me … man, I wear it like a badge. Because I DO believe, in Zerohedge-esque fashion, that “the system” is designed by and for a Team Elite that, in the immortal words of The Outlaw Josey Wales, pisses down our backs and tells us it’s raining. And I DO believe, in self-help guru-esque fashion, that the only effective resistance to the Nudging State and the Nudging Oligarchy is through a bottom-up grassroots social movement that is driven by one thing and one thing only: each individual’s courage and determination to maintain their autonomy of mind … the courage and determination to believe that 2 + 2 = 4.
The revolution will not be televised. The revolution will not be in the streets.
The revolution will be in our hearts.
It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, precisely because no one will be watching.
But you won’t be alone.
In 2020, we’re going to host an international conference to come together on this, an Epsilon Theory Forum. It’s intended to be the anti-Davos … a meet-up for those who still have a soul, who care about something bigger than the celebration and perpetuation of Team Elite. And I can promise you this … there won’t be a single billionaire on a panel at the ET Forum. But there will be plenty of real people … people with ideas and experiences that aren’t contingent on how many zeros they have after their name.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
Make / Protect / Teach.
As wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves.
We’ve got a lot of slogans. In 2020 you’ll have a chance to take action. You’ll have a chance to talk this through with like-minded truth-seekers, to figure out TOGETHER what a bottom-up grassroots social movement devoted to preserving each and every one of our autonomies of mind can do. It may be too late to prevent the SNIP! that severs the tether between taxation and spending, but it is high time to create new tethers, new personal bonds of association, loyalty and mutual support. Yep, it’s a Pack. And that’s how we survive the Long Now. Together.
Send me an email if you want to help. And spread the word.
Yours in service to the Pack,
The Long Now
Part 4: Snip!
PDF Download (paid subscription required): The Long Now, Pt. 4 – Snip!
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Sign me up! I knew all of the long form notes were coalescing around a central idea. The ideas and examples that you highlight put what I have been seeing in the real world into perspective. It’s a good explanation, but unfortunately, it’s not a strong, moving narrative. Too many people need to think about what you have written and frankly, they have no framework to understand. We live in a world where a simple, easy to understand lie is the only useful tool. A complex, difficult to understand truth has no place in today’s world. In the widening gyre, nuance is lost and you cannot remain in the tribe if you deviate from the accepted catechism. There is no room for independent thought. Technology and the Internet were supposed to bring people together and allow for differing viewpoints to find homes. Instead it has turned into a tool to destroy difference, enforce uniformity, and allow the powerful to control the population. Yeats was right. The center cannot hold. The Enlightenment is dying. We are becoming less free to do as we wish and the powerful are becoming more able to harm us. The most disappointing part of all of this is we are allowing it to happen. Sometimes through direct action, but much more frequently through inaction. Humans are terrible at thinking about the future. We cannot say that we weren’t warned. Everyone has seen the signs, but it’s an exponential progression. It doesn’t look like much now, but it won’t take too many iterations to overwhelm everything. Thank you for identifying, labeling and telling the world about this. Now we just need to expand the Pack. One Suggestion: Don’t eliminate billionaires just because they are billionaires. Our issue is not the accumulation of wealth. It’s using the power of wealth to maintain, consolidate and grow your wealth at the expense of others. I believe in a world of abundance. Good people coming together with a goal of improving things can become wealthy. It’s what happens after that causes most of the problems. Money is not speech, but money is power and opportunity. If we eliminate billionaires just because they are billionaires, we may lose a valuable opportunity to accelerate our message.
FYI pdf file download is not working right, wants me to upgrade to professional maybe? ??♂️
Edit: works fine on desktop but not mobile.
Can you elaborate more on the type of help you are looking for at this point?
Most of what you’ve explicitly asked for to date is personal/attitudinal (e.g. clear eyes full hearts) which is important but doesn’t directly suggest specific next steps.
Your past mentions of “building the pack” has always vaguely implied “building a political movement”. (I’m using “political” here in the most general, non-pejorative sense). This seems reinforced by this note’s explicit mentions of future “actions” and “conferences” .
This and other recent posts also suggest a major tension between public action (openly fighting things like the bastardization of language, financialization central banking as a political utility, etc etc) and recognizing that the forces that created those problems are overwhelming and entrenched, and thus retreating to some version of the Planet Tatooine in order to gradually build up a Rebel Alliance.
I’m sure you don’t want to impose one specific view of this “movement” on everybody at this point, but without widely understood beliefs/objectives/boundaries (however flexible) there’s no movement. If you are just looking for emails with ideas, it would be helpful to have specific proposals/alternatives to react to. If you want people to invest time and effort into more substantive actions we need greater input as to what “helpful actions” would actually be helpful.
Yeah Ben, This is your best effort yet. I can feel myself drifting off with George. Truly inspirational!
There are a lot of really important points in TheCoeus’ response:
1.) “It’s a good explanation, but unfortunately, it’s not a strong narrative. Too many people will need to think about what you have written and frankly, they have no framework to understand.”
This is (sadly) very true. Thinking is hard. I might argue that it is more so that the many lack the motivation to understand, but at this point it would be semantics. Anything remotely abstract, no matter how essential, gets lost in the hyperbole of headlines. Which connects to the next point…
2.) “Technology and the Internet were supposed to bring people together, and allow for differing viewpoints to find homes. Instead it has turned into a tool to destroy difference, enforce uniformity, and allow the powerful to control the population.” There is no better example of this than Twitter. Lives have been upended because of the wrong opinion espoused in 140someodd characters. Instead of increasing diversity of opinions, technology has amplified the ability of those with tail end opinions to vilify anyone that may dare to think in nuances (remember thinking is hard), or worse, entertain an ‘unpopular’ opinion to the extent that doing so instantly becomes amoral, and therefore destructive to society. While Ben cites 1984, which I can certainly see as being appropriate, I think A Brave New World may be more spot on. This is because
3.) As TheCoeus says, “we are allowing it to happen”
Whether through laziness, or atrophy or our ability to reason, or because of the average person sees/hears/reads/is inundated with the extremely loud extremely tail end viewpoints with such ferocity that they become a disproportionate part of the ‘discourse’ and by definition are disproportionately validated. We live in a world where “I’m not sure.” is a completely unacceptable answer to anything.
The conundrum as I see it, is whether to play the societal game in the existing frame or to flip the frame of the game to your advantage like that fellow who vanquished a Demon by saying “I am hope”. I think Ben/Rusty and Co. are aiming for the latter, and while I’m unconvinced as to whether or not this can be successful, I am encouraged by comments like TheCoeus’. That being said, revisiting the first point, I think the message has to be distilled even further to a call to action that will function on many levels (and this may be what is being done with Clear Eyes…, Make Protect Teach etc., but that isn’t really enough for those that want to chunk ultimate victory down to what can be done immediately toward that end in the next hour, day, month. Seeing the Matrix isn’t enough if you can’t do anything to get out of it.
Take Hubert Horan’s comment below: “Most of what you’ve explicitly asked for to date is personal/attitudinal (e.g. clear eyes full hearts) which is important but doesn’t directly suggest specific next steps.” I imagine Ben/Rusty might be reticent to direct the pack in this way because then they would be no ‘different’ than any one else doing so, but the counter argument to that is that while most ET readers are willing to think, not all of us have a Ph.D in Social Science from “Team Elitist of Team Elite institutions” and so we might need a little bit more of a nudge in the right (practical) direction.
“Self-doubt is a biologically terrifying condition for a social animal like humans, and that’s why you see more and more of us becoming rhinoceroses.” - this reminds me of The Bruce Lee quote:
“We have more faith in what we imitate than in what we originate. We cannot derive a sense of absolute certitude from anything that has its roots in us. The most poignant sense of insecurity comes from standing alone; we are not alone when we imitate. It is thus with most of us! ”
Another very profound note, a great read. I agree that there is no longer any correlation between taxation and spending (and hasn’t been for some time), it’s blindingly obvious that it just does not compute.
It feels very much the same as around 2005-2007, when real estate was going bezerk. I thought (and said) so many times back then that it was not sustainable. There was no way. But not owning any real estate myself, I thought I would be unaffected. Little did I know the real estate collapse would affect the economy (and the investments I did have) as a whole. Duh!! Then I read “When Genius Failed” about Long Term Capital Management and got very angry because 2008 was basically the same thing all over again.
I might have gotten a little off-topic there, but I am absolutely in service to the Pack. Email sent!
You sound like John Galt urging Those Who Make to move to the Gulch to stop enriching Those Who Take. The kid’s gold tooth outta my paycheck. The Long Now.
In my youth I loved watching Bruce Lee’s moves, in my older years I am loving even more hearing his thoughts. Remarkably wise.
I read this note on a zoo bench while my wife is watching my son playing. I don’t know under what psychology condition Ben wants to instill the loath and fear in readers during holidays. But, Yes, I got the fear and loath . What is the fear and loath exactly? The loath is NOT for the taxation decoupled from .gov spending. I think it is “falling feels like flying”, it is “they will take a piss on your back and tell you it rained”. It is after competing in work, after cleaning up my son’s diapers, I have to think whether I am falling or flying, whether I am being pissed at or whether it actually rained. That boat has sailed for 20 years and there is nothing we can do about it other than surviving the voyage. During holiday parties, I can feel people got a sense of the going is getting weird and they try to figure out whether there is a historical period that can somehow guide the voyage. I told them Ben said there is NO predicative closed form equation, and this is a 3 body problem. So don’t even try. They say “isn’t it true that there is nothing new about money under the sun? isn’t it true that history rhymes?” I told them Ben said no matter what you try, “they” will pick the winners and losers and we all will be the loser crumb catchers while “they” will benefit and the inequality widens. The truth is, why do the make-teach-protect? why don’t everybody quit their wealth creation W2 jobs and join the too big to fail banks and sit on the table, much better than catching crumbs falling off the table doing real W2 jobs, right? In stead of being selected as loser by “them”, I want to be “them”, selecting others as winners and losers. But from deep down, I hate them, I loathe them. The moment I realized I got the impulse of wanting to wanting to be something I loath in order to NOT to lose I felt like vomiting. In order to win, you have to lose your soul. That’s the loath and fear. The going is NOT getting weird, the going is getting the worst out of me. I think it is getting the worst out of everybody else as well. No, I am not going to vote for ridiculous candidates.
Tell me what you are sacrificing/risking for your view otherwise as Fat Tony says it’s just “tawk”.
The secret to not vomiting and not losing your soul is to define winning and losing on your own terms and not theirs! This is so difficult in a Yea Capitalism, Yea Work Ethic, Yea Integrity, Yea Intelligence culture. Yea Progress!
This is not a “Team Elite” problem, this is an “Us” problem, and our problem is letting Caesar define success to be worldly things like status and the accumulation of stuff. Try swapping out some of what Team Elite says to value for some new ones, maybe things like; Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and self control.
But the fruit of the spirit is… (all of those things)Galatians 5:22.
Whomever abides in (christ) and (christ) in him, he bears much fruit. John:15
This is not a new battle friends, this battle has been going on for centuries and the OG of revolutions already gave us the playbook. The revolution is personal, its your own to win or lose and starts with discarding what you are TOLD success looks like.
JZ- in order to win you don’t have to lose your soul. Winning…is in fact the exact opposite, it is not losing your soul during your short stint on this rock. It is recognizing in the moment and not 30 years too late that your son is only a child once and the time spent or not spent together today is time you’ll never get back. Similarly, It’s forgiving your own parents for whatever mistakes they may have made as they tried their best to navigate this life.
Democracy, capitalism, the church are merely reflections of the individuals who make them up and all are deeply, deeply, flawed at the moment. In order to change the reflection of those institutions we must first change ourselves.
Happy New Year, best of luck to everyone in 2020
Thanks and two thumbs up! (‘read more’ thumbs up button is still fluky)
“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” ~ George Orwell
And again, “Truth is treason in the empire of lies.” ~ Ron Paul
Re-read The Long Now - Part 4 til you get it. Live, speak & teach truth - the opposition & resistance to the truth will find you soon enough.
Ben, I think you’re ignoring the material origins of the demsoc position that rich people suck and should have less money and treating it as a purely moral/aesthetic argument.
For instance there is the material benefit of using a wealth tax to increase the public share of capital income, then directing that income towards workers whose real labor incomes have shrunken over time. If that redirection is done via public healthcare you have people living healthier lives. If it’s done via housing then you have more people living in stable and safe homes. If it’s done via cash transfers or basic income you have broader anti poverty effects.
All very broad back of the envelope stuff, but still the kind of thing you can prefer to launching cars into space and riding the Lolita Express on a solidly material basis. No perversion of the human spirit required (but I admit you would need to assume that human flourishing is a good thing for a society to protect.)
I’ve read and enjoyed your site for several years now, but I admit this series is one I’ve struggled with. You’ve compiled the pieces of an anti-capitalist argument and concluded that collective action against the ruling class is necessary, then wed that conclusion to a Libertarian framework. I’m afraid I don’t see how those fit together.
What you are asking pack members to do is become Socratic gadflies, heretics against the common knowledge. I agree with you that Doubt is the cornerstone of all learning, but that doesn’t lessen the ask.
Living in doubt is, as you say, far more difficult than living in Belief. If what we’re asking people to doubt is the long-presented, all-defining falsity (insert Plato’s Cave simile/Life of Socrates/Matrix here), then succeeding in this particular ask will come only at great personal cost. How great? “Educated” by Tara Westover gives a modern-day, visceral account of how painful it is to divorce oneself from ingrained orthodoxy in favor of Reason, even when the orthodoxy is violent, uncaring and lunatic and Reason is ready, free, and blissfully safe. In our case, no such promised land awaits our make/protect/teach pupils. Only the promise of harder work.
No sane person wants a revolution. Our grievances may be real, but they’re not on the level of those stipulated in the Declaration of Independence. Commenters ask what to do? How ‘bout, for starters, a few reforms like: overturning Citizens United, leveling the legal playing field between rich and poor, enforcing white-collar criminal laws, zealously guarding and improving public/civic works, infrastructure and education, and – more individually feasible - supporting independent investigative journalism and voting only for candidates who evince good governance.
Consider my hand raised.
I’m assuming the intended Epsilon Theory Forum didn’t end up happening in 2020 due to COVID, but are there any plans yet to resurrect it in 2021? I would definitely start to shape my schedule around it, if so.
I am reading this on 5/27/21. If I had read it soon after it was published I would have thought that you were exaggerating. However you underestimated the amount of monetized debt by probably $4 Trillion. Amazingly prescient.
I have had these uneasy feelings and vague foreshadowing’s for several years about what is to come that you have been able to distill into an essence in your writings. After reading all four parts of this series, I feel that the only way that I can truly survive this epic change to our country and world that is coming is to withdraw from society as much as I am able. Withdraw partly for physical safety and security and partly for mental safety and security. Otherwise it is likely that the sea change will sweep you away.
I just reread this piece and damn, spot on.
Seems like a good time to reread this one! Bon courage, as they say in French, to us all.
How do we confront the Long Now?
Leaders who act as stewards of the future, not managers of the Now.
Investors who take more risk with what’s Real, and less with what’s not.
Citizens who take back their vote, and who refuse to play the Fool.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
Make / Protect / Teach.
As wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves.
[ kur-ij, kuhr- ]
the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
Obsolete. the heart as the source of emotion.
3 1/2 years later this still resonates.
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