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Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
What America Forgot
June 14, 2016
Hot Springs, VA
"Think about this, Frances: For the past several thousand years of recorded history, humans lived at the edge of starvation, usually in abject poverty, perpetually at risk. But in just the past few centuries, and primarily in only one or two parts of the world, we suddenly develop medical science, cars, telephones, airplanes, refrigeration, central heating, electrical power, computers, and spaceships. Why here? And why now?" - James Farber, A Lodging of Wayfaring Men
The S&P closed out Monday at $2,079. Gold closed at $1,286 per ounce. Crude Oil closed at $48.56 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 1.61%. Bitcoin is trading around $705 per BTC today.
As I mentioned in last week’s entry, wife Rachel and I just celebrated our third wedding anniversary, and this one may have been the best yet. There were no gifts, no fancy dinners, no nights out… Rachel didn’t even get me a card! I was so proud of her!
It reminded me of the Christmas following our engagement a number of years ago. With the wedding looming, we agreed not to give each other gifts for just one Christmas holiday in the interest of saving money.
Believing very strongly in contractual agreements, I followed through diligently on my end of the deal... Rachel did not. I found myself receiving several gifts from her on that Christmas morning, and I didn’t have even the tiniest trinket to offer in return. She was devastated!
I tried to plead my case: But I thought we agreed not to give each other gifts!?
Yeah, [sob] but I didn’t think you would actually not get me anything!
Oh, how far we have come. We spent the bulk of our third anniversary cleaning the house – something always needed with a 19-month young lady around.
After the work was complete, we found time to take the kayaks out onto the pristine Jackson River for the first time this season. There’s nothing capable of decluttering your mind like a peaceful afternoon float with no one else around except the geese and the otters...
On a slightly more exciting note - look at Bitcoin's current price!
If you haven't been following along with my market updates, Bitcoin is up 54% on the month, and 202% on the year! Of course we have seen this show before, but the case for Bitcoin is getting stronger by the day. Fortunately, I was finally able to talk wife Rachel into letting me buy a little BTC for her at the start of the year. I think I will keep the price appreciation a secret until I need a "get out of the doghouse" card.
I want to write more about some revolutionary uses of Bitcoin and the Blockchain in a later entry, but for today my inspiration lies elsewhere...
I should start by admitting that this title is 100% click-bait, by the way.
What America Forgot... come on! America is an Italian word referring to the geographic landmass dominated by the largest government in the history of mankind, and geographic landmasses are incapable of mental capacity.
Of course if one pays attention to the election cycle then one may confuse America for a statist beehive in which the masses are expected to labor unconditionally for the benefit of the queen bee who will then somehow provide for all the wants and needs of 320 million people with backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, work, incentives, desires, concerns, and lifestyles as diverse as the Earth is round.
The notion that a single bureaucratic policy or program could benefit millions of unique people strikes me as ridiculous, but it is clear that we have one - maybe two - generations of people in this country who have been brought up to believe that government is a cure-all for any problem, real or perceived.
What's been forgotten is that government does not produce anything therefore it has nothing of its own to give. Before government can give anything to anybody, it must first take it from somebody else. What government takes from one to give to another is almost always used for consumption; not investment or production. Such a dynamic makes government the single leading destroyer of capital, production, and wealth the world has ever seen.
From the U.S. perspective, government largesse really only ramped up in the 1960's with LBJ's guns (Vietnam War) and butter (Great Society) campaigns. Of course you can point to the New Deal programs of the 30's... or the Federal Reserve/Income Tax/Direct Election of U.S. Senators in 1913... or the War Between the States in the 1860's... or the overthrow of the Articles of Confederation in 1789... as the roots of the problem, but the American spirit of commerce and independence really did not begin to wane until the welfare/warfare state became entrenched in the 1960's.
My great-grandfather immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon back in the early 1900's in search of stability and opportunity. Lebanon was devastated by World War I and the Allied powers, upon victory, appropriated and redistributed land, rewrote historical borders, and asserted influence in the formation of new governments in a number of places, including Lebanon.
I can only assume that great-grandfather wanted nothing to do with any of that political foolishness. By the accounts retold to me, he was an industrious man seeking nothing but the freedom to build a quality life for his family by the sweat of his brow.
Along with several other Lebanese families, great-grandfather settled in a small city called Covington in the highlands of Virginia. Reportedly, the mountainous region reminded him of his homeland. He went on to open a restaurant heavily featuring Mediterranean-style cuisine, and I am told it was his restaurant, not an Italian counterpart, that served the first pizza in Covington.
Great-grandfather built a brick home on the top of "town hill" in Covington in 1930, and he tiered the side of the mountain behind the home into a Lebanese-style tiered garden to grow fresh vegetables. I grew up having Sunday lunch in this home, and it remains in our family to this day. I am fascinated by the architecture - including the majestic white columns adorning the spacious front porch as well as the old coal room in the basement.
Unlike the houses lining the suburban sprawl that has encompassed the U.S. over the past several decades, these old brick homes from the 20's and 30's were obviously built to last for generations.
There are undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of immigrant stories just like this one recounted by families all over the continental U.S. It was that commercial spirit and fierce independence that raised many families and communities to lives of comfort and stability. It was that same spirit which also could be counted on to aid the downtrodden in communities across the land.
Mutual aid societies were very prominent in the early 20th century. These were nonpartisan organizations, often structured in a non-hierarchical and non-bureaucratic fashion, dedicated to advancing mutualism, self-reliance, thrift, leadership, business training, and self-government. Mutual aid societies were 100% voluntary in that only those who wanted to join did so, but the organizations were not mutually exclusive.
Each society charged membership dues to cover costs, but they did much more than simply redistribute money to members in need. These societies actually built their own hospitals, orphanages, job exchanges, homes for the elderly, and they created scholarship programs. Many of these societies even employed their own doctors on a full-time basis!
Via the mutual aid model, people voluntarily pooled their capital and reinvested it right back into their community to increase health, compassion, commerce, and education.
Such a model was completely apolitical. Those who wanted to belong to a particular mutual aid society were free to do so, and they were free to leave whenever they wanted if they changed their mind later. Those who were not interested in joining any society were free to opt out entirely. No one was forced to do anything against their will within the mutual aid model. That's called liberty.
Despite the obvious superiority of the mutual aid model in terms of effectiveness and non-coercion, governments at home and across the globe will not willingly give up their welfare states because welfare is what gives them moral cover for all of the wars, militarism, bureaucracy, corporatism, and cronyism that they also engage in. Give those up and what power do they have left?
In fact, the welfare model in every country today is based on the work of Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian President and 1st Chancellor of Germany, in the late 1800's. Bismarck designed the welfare state specifically to capture the working man's political support and make a large portion of the population dependent upon the central government so that it could expand its power and wealth without citizen push-back. Welfare was nefarious, not benevolent, by design.
Needless to say, Bismarck's model has worked everywhere it has been tried.
The good news, for those who still possess the old American spirit of liberty, commerce, independence, non-coercion, and non-intervention, is that technology, Bitcoin, and the crypto revolution are enabling individuals to bypass the existing model of coercive social organization, and build systems, networks, and organizations capable of so much more on a voluntary basis. Perhaps that will be a topic for next week...
More to come,
We have just released the Zenconomics Guide to the Information Age to members of the Zenconomics Report email list. This guide is 28 pages in length, and it discusses: money, commerce, jobs, Bitcoin wallets, peer-to-peer lending, Open Bazaar, freelancing, educational resources, mutual aid societies, the Infinite Banking Concept, peer-to-peer travel, Internet privacy, and numerous other Information Age tips and tricks with an eye on the future. We are offering a free copy to all new mailing list subscribers at this link: www.zenconomics.com/report.