Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dear "Occupy Movement" heros!

Please do not waste your energy on attacking corporations and local authorities. Do not fight against capitalism. Capitalism helps us in arranging the social media networks and delivery system like Fedex and UPS. Stores deliver our food operating on a free market.

We do not need government to regulate the markets. What good is this regulation? Many of you would not eat KFC chicken (unless in dire need) even though the chicken meat it uses has been approved by US FDA. We can disapprove the meat ourselves - regulate ourselves all we want - each on its own, properly informed. We love some radio stations (like KEXP in Seattle), and support them with our own money. But US Bank Corp also supports the station and the station thanks the bank on the air. Is that wrong? No. These two corporate entities just serve each other. And serve us too!

Let us not revile the free market. The problem is the government. The government creates an uneven playing field - favoring the big-money corporations against the smaller-money ones, favoring some consumers (home owners) against others (renters). Everybody is trying to stand on some bump on the playing field and gain advantage. It turns out some get a really big advantage allowing them to become truly arrogant (banks).

But this is not entirely their fault! It is mostly our fault. We have asked the government to act in our name and protect: 1. the stability of the financial system and other assorted big business, 2. the stability of the oil market (Middle East), 3. the benefits of Medicare, Social Security, easy home ownership and credit.
This is not right! We have asked the government to conspire with business to deliver benefits to us. Let us not condemn the business - we are business too. We are here to correct the course of our country and assert the right to operate a business of taking care of our own lives and of each other. Without the infringement of government on our rights!

It is time to put political pressure on the system! Here is what we ought to do:

1. Throw out all the incumbents on the Federal level. All US Congress members. Replace them with yourselves. Elect third-party candidates to federal office.
2. Defund the Fed - give them just 1% of income for national security
3. Allow the state and local govs to tax us at higher rate - up to 10% - this will allow to fix any transitional issues with social services.
4. Watch closely what the local authorities do with our money and our rights
5. Let us protect our basic right - to be free to work and help out yourself and your close ones.

This is the plan:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Warren Beatty films

Recently I started paying closer attention to the artistic output of Warren Beatty. Either as actor or actor-director his movies seem to share a common theme - theme of the spiritual aspect of man's involvement in the world. In particular I am thinking here about "McCabe and Mrs Miller" and "Bulworth", partly also considering the "Reds" about the American journalist, Jack Reed, who got to play a part in the Bolshevik revolution. The main character in the film "Bulworth" is a US senator planning to unconventionally end his career. In "McCabe and Mrs Miller" Beatty's character, McCabe, is a young Western entrepreneur in Washington state of 1890-1900. "Bulworth" was directed by Beatty himself while the other film, made in 1971, is the work of Robert Altman.

In his story McCabe is a entrepreneur building an entertainment complex, complete with a whorehouse, in a city in the rainy Washington rockies to serve the needs of miners and loggers populating the area. He has some money to invest and gets to own a good portion of land in a good location. He is a danger to the interests of local established businessmen who are envious of his boldness and repeat rumors that he is a dangerous gunfighter who has killed a man and ought to be pursued by the law. McCabe receives overtures from a large company to buy out his land and investments - an offer that turns into a threat. He of course turns down the offer made by well-mannered representatives of a large East-Coast company in a unrefined manner of an uneducated man, while he still feels his right to pursue his life and his initiatives. His business is a great success, he gains a woman and a partner, Mrs Miller, who brings with her a number of prostitutes from Seattle and directs the operation very well. However, the threats against McCabe materialize in dangerous. He talks to a lawyer in a larger city nearby, a lawyer with political aspirations, who assures him that he, McCabe, is in the right, but also says that in the end no-one with stand with him to defend his rights. Despite all of that McCabe feels greatly inspired in his life - this is in the scene when he mutters to himself - "I got poetry in me" - him, an uneducated man. But the situation develops in an ominous way. The shady characters in town decide to follow their plan to kill him. At this point even Mrs Miller, who normally shares his bed, is gone missing. With all his "poetry in him" he fights his pursuers valiantly - but succumbs and dies alone, wounded and freezing in the snow.

The other story is of Senator Bulworth, a man who has been in office for a while and has served the interest of big corporations by skewing the laws to their advantage and getting contributions, gifts and sweet deals. At this point he is disgusted with himself and plans an exit. He wants to die. He pays some people to gets himself assassinated while getting an insurance company pay a life insurance benefit to his daughter. He also is planning to act rightfully as a politician and against the insurance industry doing what he believes is right and passing a clause in a law that mandates selling insurance to the underclass. Once the plan is set in motion he is free - he spends a weekend of freedom giving speeches explaining what he really thinks and getting in return applause and admiration. He becomes newly alive being truthful to the people around him and to himself even though he comes to and over the edge of insult. Now Sen. Bulworth desperately wants to cancel his assassination. This becomes quite comical and he tries to avoid his attackers by going into hiding among black people of the underclass. It turns out that his assassin's helper was actually the black girl who befriended him and was now helping him hide. She had stopped the plan's execution because of an odd feeling about Bulworth. She was strangely attracted to him because he appeared to be a man standing in his truth. When this is revealed along with other comical aspects of the killers being underpaid, assassination is miraculously canceled and Bulworth rides to a peak of popularity and approval and appears to have huge chances as political candidate of truth. With the hot girl at his side (Halle Berry) he triumphantly rides a limo in the spotlight and cameras. And at that moment a bullet strikes him down. This time organized unfailingly by the insurance industry he has double-crossed.

These two films of course share a common theme. That a man's mission is to bring his truth into the world. That is what brings out the best in him. For many it will be something great, for some mediocre, for some despicable and punishable by law. But each of us has to bring it out. Each of us has to risk life for our truth, perhaps meet death but probably just rejection.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Corporate influence on the government

Talk given at the Transpartisan Alliance Chautauqua - March 26, 2011

The values that we hold in common are our lives. The capacity to live them now, live them in the future, remember our past. To live alone, in intimate relations with others, in communications with others, in associations, in society and in the nation. To pursue initiatives with economic purpose, for the purpose of taking care of each other, for the purpose of exerting influence in the world. The right to express our lives without fear and danger is called right to freedom.

Because the value of life is held by us in common we feel that we are a nation. We have the same fundamental aspirations for our existence. Therefore as a nation we create a government that protects our right to freedom, that protects these human rights, that serves us justice. Government, the law, the police, citizen's organizations like ours, are the civic system. However, in order to secure our rights we have done a dangerous thing - we have equipped the government with a formidable power of coercion executed under the law.

Among the things that we pursue individually is the material security of life - where we want to assure the material environment for leading our life with dignity and in safety. That we do not have to beg for a place to stay at night or a for a scrap of food.

The material environment of the our lives is secured by economic activity. Much of this activity is very efficiently organized by a complex system of economic entities - companies, jobs, business undertakings, transactions, - that we want to initiate and conduct in safety and honesty. It works efficiently because business provides goods and services guided simply by the profit motive. Some of it is a small business or an employment with a small or large company. Some of it is done by large corporations. This is the economic system, the economy.

One seed of the problem is that the commercial entities, especially large corporations, are lifeless entities pretty much composed of anonymous investors, quite often institutional and non-citizen, and indifferent to the value of life. This danger is multiplied by the fact that a large corporation has an immense power expressed by its capital holdings - power which can be awfully misused.

This is the reason that the political side of the balance: nation and government - should check and limit the power of economic entities. Corporate power, the power of money cannot invade the government for these reasons:

- it is basically lifeless. The power of money is great but it is devoid of life on its own. It can be safely used only in position subservient to life.

- commercial interest are only interests of material advancement. To deliver and procure goods and services, or create an ability to do so in the future. They are thus naturally limited.

- business world operates very well on the basis of exact calculation of material risk and potential benefit. It is single-minded about that. Thus it operates best within a system of clear rules that are not entangled with the civic system.

- a business organization has a single goal - to assure profitability for the sake of its investors. This is unlike the civic system where we do not set a goal for the nation but allow ourselves to be enveloped by our collective destiny. Corporations invading the civic system would remake the nation into a corporation, a system of consumers and workers, and stifle the spirit of the nation.

- and of course - because the power of money corrupts our representatives and government officials. The power of money corrupts the formidable power of the government - which is basically the power of coercion.

A lot of bad things have already happened. Corporate interests have invaded our government at many levels. Examples:

1. Pharmaceutical companies lobby the US government because their business is dependent on FDA decisions.

2. Media companies lobby the government to shape the market to match their perceived business interest with the result of making us all mere consumers of their products.

3. Large corporations routinely expect to be bribed by local governments before establishing local operations offering jobs.

4. War on Drugs, Homeland Security has created major injustices and alongside it a boom in prison and law-enforcement business. Government initiatives are served by big business which is lobbying it to maintain their lucrative business models.

The reason such terrific invasion of economic interest into the political sphere have occurred is because the government has made itself attractive to it. Often, we ask the government to provide us benefits - which means the government will deal with big business as a big customer making them solicit their products. The corporations are looking now like the perpetrators of major evil. As lifeless entities they are indeed capable of ruthless actions but they are not intrinsically evil. They actually have a weakness. They are looking for profit. Their goal is limited.

The problem is that the government creates for them safest source of profit, the best return on investment. The government has invited them in, has allowed them to buy power with money, to buy the coercive power that protects our right to life - buy it with money.

This tends to happen when the government makes decisions that are economic in nature. Then it typically tilts the level playing field in a way that favors some type of business and harms another. The blatant examples are efforts to attract private investment to create jobs in a certain area. More elusive cases are those where media companies argue for extension of copyright.

What to do about it:

- Change the way government operates in the economy. The government is just supposed to set simple rules defining the markets and assure that transactions are honest and non-violent. Let us not change the system of corporations, let us keep them focused on the markets and only on the markets. After initially vehemently resisting the withdrawal of the government from the economy they will adapt to a system of even-handed rules of markets.

- In order to change the government we need to sensitize the civic system to the real currency of politics - to the votes that count just as our individual lives count --- independently of how much we have.

- Make politics more competitive. Make votes the real currency of politics. Use Instant Runoff Voting. Voters are to vote their mind. Elections should really express the voters' will using the first- and second-choice vote.

- Politicians are on the hook to disclose any sum of money or gifts received from anybody - commercial or not. Failure to be truthful should be severely punished.

- Free media: anybody can produce and distribute any content at any time - including during election campaigns. Supreme right to free speech. The government should protect a free communication band in the Internet (preferably the whole Internet) where no specific content could be favored. Anybody could put any content there - and it would be served on demand. The Internet actually provides a huge low-barrier entry into the media markets - because the content is not poured into the channels by the producers but flows only when requested by recipients.

We must focus on warding off the greatest danger to liberty. That money, corporate money, will buy the government's power of coercion. We should prevent the material power of corporations from uniting with the coercive authority of the government.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Why is Separation of Political and Economic Influence Important?

As a contribution to the Transpartisan Alliance meetup on "Changing the Game/System" I am presenting these thoughts on an important issue and a possible line of action. Almost in a form of a manifesto.

The main value is our lives. We realize and protect that value by means of organizing into a nation and pursuing economic activity. The first is to assure our freedom of action and of thought - through a nation with the institution of government - the other is to assure our survival and well-being now and in the future - the economy with its markets. This is civilization - an environment where individuals feel materially supported and treated with justice.

As the world has it these two areas of activity are expressed by institutions, creations of the mind, lifeless on their but created to protect life. Businesses and large corporations provide goods and services that enhance our life materially - in a free market we decide which goods to buy with money we earned. The government is to enforce the laws with its authority to use means of coercion - the laws are expected to increase the degree of justice in our lives and protect our freedom.

These two powerful institutional forces arising of our individual beings are needed for our own protection but we must limit the ways in which they can do harm to the very thing they are to protect.

We must make sure that these two powerful forces are under our control. Primarily as they were designed to be in the current system - the economic forces are to be controlled by the markets, the political by the voting booth. The first in proportion to the amount of money interested in its products, the second in proportion to the number of lives (votes) lived under its authority.

More than anything else we must keep these two forces from combining and becoming one because then we will have lost the ability to control them. This is the dangerous trend right now. The political authority will pass laws that will make us modern serfs: obedient consumers/patients of insurance and pharmaceutical companies, of media companies by threatening us with prison if we copy a piece of media product. The political authority bends to the will of information technology giants and will compromise the freedom and neutrality of the internet to suit their business designs while abridging our ability to freely communicate. The economic forces will ask the political one to limit our ability to be enterprising agents - because it will threaten the business of the big companies. We will lose the ability to take care of each other - as the giants of economy will have us declared unfit for the task in the eyes of the law.

If the political and economic realms combine we will all just become consumers and workers. We will be part of the matter processed by the economic system for its own sake and kept obedient by the whip of the government without regard to the value of our lives or to justice. The lifeless taking control of the live! We shall not permit it!

We want to be free people and not zombies absorbed into a system. We want to shape our institutions by being free to form economic entities and political influence groups. Only then will these forces express the value of our life back to us - with goods and justice.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Socialism and free-enterprise compared

A few weeks back at the Seattle Transpartisan meetup I was asked to compare life under the now-defunct socialist system in Poland and the capitalism of the United States. My speech was quite lucid and here it is more or less from memory.

First let me clarify the terminology. The term capitalism is rather outdated and would rather characterize the US system as free-enterprise market system. Capitalism refers to accumulation of capital occurring in the 19-th century that had produced rapid and disruptive industrialization in Europe and the US.

Let me begin with the political dimension, the dimension of the source of coercive authority. In socialism we are owned by the government, gov grants us our rights and nominates itself as their protector. We are subjects for the government which is taking care of the direction of the nation. The government arrogates to itself the right to determine our future as a nation and we are just the matter from which the nation is shaped. In the US we have rights which are inalienable - the government is owned by us in order to protect our rights. We are active constituents of the nation and decide to create the government as a common system of protection for us individuals and our goals. The government has no other independent goal than that. The way that it is implemented looks like execution of authority in situations requiring administration of justice, use of common resources, for example, while the source of the authority is the people.

As for the economic dimension, in free-enterprise system the individuals are free agents who conduct independent economic activity. The government is to ensure the honesty of economic relations and the market is the system of exchange of goods and work. The government is supposed to define and protect the markets for various types of exchanges. The individuals are the principal economic agents and are free to create associations dedicated to economic activity known as corporations. Internally such corporations can be organized in any way they wish as they are private entities and express the individual rights. However, they have a goal - typically economic and their employees and resources are subordinated to this goal unlike the citizens of a nation. In socialism the state is the principal economic agent and individuals in it are like employees of a huge corporation. The socialist state typically has a complex goal set somewhat arbitrarily by the government and its realization is subject to planning. The state is operating like a huge and complex corporation. As a kind of employees the individuals are a liability and cost of this corporation. They have to justify what they earn by arguing up the size of their contribution to the common goal. This creates a privilege distribution system with various trades getting their special favors - e.g. coal miners in Poland. Socialism gravitates to a feudal system while in practice it often looks that we must kiss up to or bribe someone higher up to grant us privileges.

Atomization of society

Seattle Transpartisan Alliance is developing quite nicely now running several interest groups. It is great to see people concerned about the future not only of themselves but of their country. There has been a Chautauqua style meet a few months ago and recently I managed to get involved in the Changing the Game/System group. Sadly I must say I have not been involved as much as I would wish - principally because of being occupied with my own life. This leads to the subject of this post.

People in the interest group on Changing the Game/System met up in a coffee shop a few Sundays ago and had a bunch of lively and friendly exchanges not very coherently leading in a direction but intending to work it out. So the task is to post some ideas and meet up again - I suppose two weeks from now. However the exchange of ideas has been reduced much to the discussion about where and how to meet - if we are going to use a library, sadly they are not open very late, a noisy coffee shop with or without a conference room, with ample parking, whether people will be able to get there by bus or car? In short the group has been swamped with consideration of various technical difficulties and inconveniences of getting together. There are forces and influences that may keep us from organizing. This was called back in my days in communist Poland - atomization of society. Keeping everybody separate so that their power is diminished with respect to the power of the state. Atomized people have little in terms of support network should they become targets of some government inquiry, and have no sense that there might be others who would back them in a difficult situation. Atomized people have no sense of a social backbone supporting their political grievance.

Of course the Transpartisan Alliance is trying to precisely develop this sort of social support network for politically engaged citizens. Engaged beyond the fixed political constellation of power in the US. The forces to keep us atomized are not necessarily coming from the government - probably not at all. They are in ourselves and in the individualist nature of Americans. We have our goals, jobs and careers and our homes and private lives. We cannot devote a lot of time and energy to banding together with others, spending a lot of hours debating. The effort might claim too much of our energy or it might be just inconvenient. Parking might be difficult or bus ride too long. Don't you feel a pang of shame when it is not dangerous but inconvenient to gather and talk and listen and support each other, when it is not dangerous but inconvenient to dig for the truth in independent media.