Over the past two years I’ve barely lifted a finger. I can’t remember what it’s like to wake up early and board a rush-hour Underground train with all the shambling grey men struggling to open their eyes, drained masculine women reading chic lit with tacky fluorescent cover art. The rat race is an odd thing, a wholly artificial creation.
Work hard, earn status increment, worry about year end bonus, pay tax…. year after year after year. That’s not for me.
Regular attendees at the Count’s table will be aware that I’ve lived the past two years all across God’s green earth. Like a campaigning army, this does require some funding. Smart men have control of both their top and bottom lines. On the expenses side I’ve pared things down, downshifted if you will, so that I can maintain my monthly rooms in London on just one day’s salary. I believe in simplicity. While jetsetting the world as a corporative executive I became accustomed to First Class long haul and five star hotels. It’s a pleasant way to live. If you fly on Saturday to begin work on Monday morning in a different timezone then you really do appreciate the comfort of a flat-reclining airplane bed and a room at the Tokyo Imperial or the Santiago Intercontinental. It rejuvenates the body as much as it pleases the ego.
It’s also utterly unnecessary when you’ve remodelled your life to claim all your time as your own. The world doesn’t care if you fly a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 or a cramped Ryanair jet. You can pick up a nice private apartment on Airbnb for £30 a day in most European countries thus relieving yourself of the £150+ burden a hotel will place upon you for a room you’ll barely see (Cervantes tip – Just buy a coffee in the lobby bar of the city’s best hotel and you’ll find yourself equally welcome to bask in classy surroundings as if you were a guest).
So now I live an almost spartan existence. Everything I own fits into a tiny storage unit, less than a double-bedroom’s worth. I no longer collect Stuff. I buy quality when it suits me and no more than I’ll need. The bottom line is small.
Still, I do require a topline so I recently made a decision between Plan A and Plan B. The former is the lifestyle of true geographical and financial independence acheived by earning passive income streams. I toyed with this idea but it’s not as easy as Tim Ferris makes out. I refuse to dabble in the murky world of affiliate marketing and selling of empty promises. Such nefarious behaviour would hurt my vibe and intrigue. Although I’m capital rich I see no good traditional investments in the stock market as I believe we are in the early stages of a decade-long depression. The market will shuffle sideways like the walking dead if not simply fall. So Plan A is out.
Fortunately I have a real career and great resume so Plan B is to contract three months a year and use the accumulated loot to live the lifestyle to which you see me accustomed for the other nine months. A perfect marriage of tax efficiency and retaining my mastery over my skill set. It was with this in mind I attended a recent job interview. I think I’ve only had two interviews my whole life where I didn’t get a job offer, so my spirits were high. Only 24 hours after sending recruitment agents my resume and I’m walking into exactly the kind of role I want at a rate 25% higher than target.
The frame is crucial. I don’t need to work and I don’t need the money. Although I’d like a job and this one interests me, it’s not my only option. That said, nobody wants to hire an inflexible egoist who has disappeared up his own arsehole with a frame so brittle he won’t allow any bend in it. All the interviewers really want to know are:
- Can I do the job
- Do I want to do the job
- Am I the kind of person they’d like to spend time with
I like to enter every environment as the best-dressed person there. I respect men who have good aesthetic style, are physically fit, and carry themselves with appropriate professional decorum. I hold myself to these same standards. So I bought a new Saville Row style suit and had it tailored to perfection, and some Italian leather shoes. I feel good. A strong intitial presence.
My body language is a balance between alpha (cool guy, can’t be pushed around), sigma (independent) and beta (reliable, polite). I make good eye contact but don’t get into any eye challenge battles. Then I let them talk, let them invest, while I nod my head thoughtfully and make listening noises. I answer every question concisely. They try it on a little with frame control and trying to make me chase (e.g. “Your resume isn’t as strong as what we’d usually accept for this role”) which rolls off me without ever changing facial expression or knocking my voice off its politely formal tone. I show a little warmth and a smile where appropriate.
Within ten minutes they are selling me on why I should join. After half an hour as I walk out they are seeking to befriend me. It’s in the bag. As it should be – this is a company that meets all my requirements (professional, talented, flexible, high salary) for the type of work I like, and I tick all their boxes.
Funding is secured. The legend of Cervantes lives on.
Something my brother said to me a few years ago while commenting on the local booksellers and their relatively slack business practices: “I’ve only now realised how working at [private sector company] drilled me with so many effective work habits”
That caused me to think somewhat about what I consider normal standards of behaviour. In the investment bank I used to work for we had meetings. Many many meetings. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to run a financial firm without Powerpoint, Starbucks takeaways, and highlighter pens. Quite frequently I’d be on an away job in, say, Chile and before wrapping up in the office receive a call from my London-based boss: “[Big Boss] from Boston wants you to set up a conference call for 8am with the team and update him on progress to date.” That would immediately set off a chain of events which would culminate in a meeting the next morning.
At 7am I’d be listening to the dial tone to patch through my boss’s boss. In our boardroom there’d be my full team, all briefed, all ready to share their work if prompted. Five paper copies of the agenda and discussion points would be on the desk and a copy in Big Boss’s inbox. Probably even a fresh pot of coffee brewing in the corner.
I considered it absolutely normal to be prepared.
No last-minute fretting because we hadn’t booked a conference call slot in the network, or forgotten to email participants the access code. No paper jams holding up the discussion points. No confusion over which team member is assigned to go into further detail about which issues. No surprise findings that I’m unware of.
It is only when I stepped out of my corporate bubble that I discovered the harsh truth that my minimum standards of competence exceed most people’s performance on their best day. This is not to paint them as devils – people have different priorities afterall – but many unanswered questions as a teenager (“How can people fuck up their lives so badly that they are homeless in middle age?” “How can someone turn up late to their University finals?”) suddenly seemed clear. Some people go through life with the hustle mentality – the people who would jump off a cliff and then wonder why they are falling.
A simple guide for effective living is:
When considering various courses of action, future project what consequences may ensue, what conditions may inhibit completion, and how you intend to resolve these problems.
It’s blindingly simple yet beyond many people.
I’m now sitting in an airport cafe after a short trip to a Greek island where Dante and I visited a few girls we know for their birthday party. Island life in the Mediterranean is relaxed. Clear blue seas lap the harbour walls and the sun blazes down as you partake in fresh-caught fish and cold beer. The Greeks know how to pass time. But these very same laissez-faire attitudes to life are the reason their nation’s only accomplishment since Aristotle has been a single headed goal against Portugal in the Euro 2000 finals. Clearly, from the evidence I see here, they can’t be trusted to run an advanced industrial economy.
I think it comes down to self discipline. As you venture further from the equatorial regions and it’s bountiful nature life becomes colder, harder, and more organised. Whether the inability of Mediterraneans to invent anything, to run any kind of innovative business, or to simply walk from A to B without flopping down for a siesta is due to genetic differences or simply the lure / oppression of hot midday sunshine is not for Cervantes to determine, but just getting to this airport was a challenge for me.
There are 7 daily buses from the Kos town centre to the airport. Inexplicably, the last bus is 9pm and the second-last bus 4:30pm. This despite flights being evenly spread throughout the day and thus plenty of demand for buses between these two times. Bus times differ wildly depending on which day of the week, so for example on Tuesday the last bus from the airport is 5pm although flights arrive on up till 10pm and it’s 25km to the town.
The bus station is a tiny area with five bus stands. However none of the buses are assigned to any given stand so you must wait for the bus to arrive and then look at the destination on the front – completely removing any possibility of orderly queueing and thus guaranteeing a last-minute scrum. They sometimes change their mind which bus is for the airport after everyone is one it, causing a mass-disembarkation. So despite such a logistically simple task to run buses to the airport, the Greeks have made an absolute mess of it. Their are organisational blunders commited every hour that would, were they to occur once a year in Japan, trigger mass resignations and public apologies.
This is why Greece should leave the Euro. They have no business being in the same room as Germany. No self discipline.
Women receive so much bad advice in modern Western societies. Back in the good old days of clear gender roles, the petty institutions of social organisation, and balanced hormones girls would grow up with a clear idea of how to live. Aunts and grandmothers would fill in whatever gaps existed in the education provided by their mother and schoolteachers. Be nice, learn to make conversation, learn to cook and sew.
Modern society is characterised by massive choice. Life is now reflexive, a project to be managed. The unspoken dogma is more freedom to choose leads to greater happiness. Compared to suffocating totalitarianism or subsistence feudalism, yes this is true. But beyond a critical point increased choice only improves our lives if we have the direction and knowledge to choose wisely and confidently.
Modern young women are placed in an extremely privileged position, perhaps the most pampered cohort in human history, in which all their basic needs are met by men (rule of law, economic development, welfare payments etc) and a kaleidescope of choice awaits them. The problem is they haven’t been trained to choose wisely. Nor has nature designed them to choose. Male leadership has evaporated and in it’s place terrible self-destructive advice assails them on all sides. Thus we live in a world of weak men and disorderly women.
When I date girls I nip this in the bud immediately. Once I’m in the position of leadership where the girl looks up to me and my opinions matter, I bring the problem into focus for her. I explain masculine and feminine polarity, natural gender roles, and the path to happiness. In every single case it’s like a burden falls from the girl’s shoulders. Suddenly she realises that all those feelings of doubt she had (“I don’t really want a career”, “I don’t really want to make every decision myself”) are good natural feelings. Quickly her logical forebrain is emptied of all liberal equalist bullshit and she becomes a sponge for old-timer wisdom. Within weeks her forebrain in realigned with her hindbrain and she feels free.
Her confidence soars. She knows what a real woman looks like, and she knows how to get there. She feels the inner peace and sense of accomplishment that comes when performing the function she was designed for. Her eyes sparkle, her skin regains it’s bloom, and her vibe glows. People notice. Her friends and family comment approvingly.
Role models help. Deep down most girls want to be Audrey Hepburn, not Rihanna.
I find the pin-up paintings from the likes of Gil Elvgren perfectly encaspsulate the vibe and look of blooming womanhood. Any girl who wants to improve her vibe and sexuality to draw men in without diminishing her innocence should study these paintings. What is so compelling about them?
- Curves. These girls have narrow waists and wide curves, without going to fat. Most girls can get this if they eat the right food and avoid excessive drinking. The lack of waistlines in modern society strikes of a serious hormone imbalance caused by bad diet.
- Playful incompetence. These girls don’t take themselves to seriously. Many photos show girls in a “oh dear, you caught me” pose, often having gotten their dress caught in a hoover, or failed to anticipate a gust of wind that lifts her skirts.
- Covertly sexual. Many of the best pictures are unashamedly sexual in the women straddling rockets, bikes, bannisters, lamposts etc. They never overtly say “fuck me” but they make no pretense about denying that they like cock.
- Good posture. Never ever underestimate the effect of sitting, standing, and walking with studied grace. I remember a catwalk model I dated and sometimes while sitting in a cafe with her I’d look across and be fascinated just to see how she held herself in repose while reading a book. It was more attractive than any amount of dancefloor booty-shaking.
These women don’t need to be stunningly beautiful. Such compelling female radiance is fully within reach of at least half of 15-28yr old women.
It’s raining outside. Lashings of good English rain against the skylights and windows in my boardroom where I sit with Dante and Wagner studying. We’ve got a pleasant view of the garden as the squirrels run up and down the fully-leafed trees. Today is for hibernation in my castle, free from the distractions of the world.
I’ve got a leggy young English bird coming around this afternoon to make sandwiches and watch an old Italian giallo movie in the cinema room. She’s a pleasant young filly but I won’t be elevating her to bedroom companion any time soon. Tomorrow my Belorussian girl has asked me to walk her along the river. These are all agreeable diversions but today I want some quality Cervantes time.
I’ve been studying Turkish on the Rosetta Stone. It’s part of my 2012 plan of rounding out my cultural knowledge (Mastery and Intrigue, in my vernacular). I’d like to get some basic grounding in five languages this year, enough to get by on a holiday and shake off the idiot-foreigner label. It took a while to narrow down the list. Thai was very difficult, the pronounciation so strange that I wasn’t even sure what sounds I was listening to. Turkish is far more amenable to the English ear. Plus, I’ve got a thing for Turkish girls. Their dark features and thick hair captures my attention quite easily.
Rosetta Stone is likely causing mayhem to the business model of language schools. When studying Japanese in Tokyo I went to daily classes four hours a day and a couple of hours homework in a cafe. I liked it but with the benefit of hindsight learning as a “subject” is wrong. It’s bookish. Language needs to be alive and freed from subclauses, conjugation and other grammatical abstractions. Rosetta Stone is so simple as to be genius. Learn language like children learn – through repetition and figuring out the rules yourself from carefully-presented examples. It’s fun.
Last Autumn I met a classy Turkish girl in London. She was walking down Carnaby Street perusing the hats of a street vendor. Kurtz and I noticed her. Tall, elegant, immaculately dressed. I felt compelled to introduce myself. We dated a few times but she was only in London for three weeks to study English in preparation for a big movie role she’d been offered. She’s back in Istanbul now and she wants to show me around her city. I think it would be nice to revisit Istanbul with a bit of language behind me.
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King Jnr
Most important leaps forward in quality of life come from a mental realignment (i.e. a change or improvement in your frame) rather than an objective change to your circumstances. For example, when a man learns Game and internalises the principle of not supplicating to women he doesn’t only become more successful with women (an observable change in circumstances) but the internal realignment of his values towards natural masculinity lead him to simply feel considerably better about himself.
Dale Carnegie devoted much of his books How To Make Friends and Infuence People, and How To Stop Worrying and Start Living to such changes in frame. For example he advised following best practice in your daily tasks:
“…the best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.”
The results of employing best practice were brought into stark relief when I first arrived in Japan and noticed everything worked. This was after boarding from Heathrow Airport where escalators were broken, floors dirty, and workers surly. Narita airport positively sparkled in contrast and this impression is continued throughout the country. Japan still has social capital so even the “dodgy” areas are nice and safe.
The Japanese pride themselves on performing their tasks to the best of their abilities whether CEO of a zaibatsu or FamilyMart sales assistant. This gives the worker purpose and pride for themselves while the air of competence and effort spreads a virtuous cycle among others. Compare this to its polar opposite – a unionised UK public sector worker such as those found in immigration, council offices, or perhaps worst of all the sprawling civil service complex in Longbenton, Tyneside. Here you find slothful, incompetent, indifference, petty jobsworths who care only about getting through the day with the minimum energy output until time arrives when a pension can be claimed.
I’ve given thought to where I can operationalise best practice in my own life. My boxing training is an example.
I’m a high self-regulator in general and in boxing training this shows itself in my methods. I refuse to just amble into my gym and flop into a few rounds hitting the bags. I follow the method drilled into me as a teenager in my first classes – warmup, shadowbox, stretch – and each movement is performed with my attention to detail. When shadowboxing I spend the first round exaggerating the movements to free up my shoulders and hips for correct twist/extension, then in the second I’m using the mirror to constantly check posture and hand positioning while working myself into the boxing flow. I work the heavy bag like am opponent – feinting, moving in and around, mixing up shots – without letting my muscle memory fix in shoddy motions. The end result of this best practice is that I am drilling at a high level of competence (e.g. punch selection, distance, timing, guile) so when I’m tired in sparring / fighting these are the default states in my body. Had I trained with mental sloth then the moment I get tired my hands would drop, my chin raise, and my feet turn to stone.
Your life is full of opportunites to excel. Look at how you accomplish all those little daily tasks and figure out how you can do them better. Very quickly your life will become more ordered and your pride in yourself shoots up.
“Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.” Dale Carnegie
Do you sincerely want to be right?
Note this is not the same as “winning the argument”, in which entirely different rules apply. Relationship advice often includes ways of dealing with the arguments you have with your woman and perhaps one of the first rules is that the immediate overt subject of the argument (e.g. drinking milk from the carton) is usually just a flashpoint to unload all kinds of deeper grumbles that have been building since the last argument. Thus it is wise to step back from the content of the argument and consider what you are really arguing about and deal with that issue.
I find it useful to ask myself “what type of argument an I having?” As defined by the purpose of entering the argument, is it:
- Inquiry – A presentation of ideas and evidence to whittle down misconceptions and inaccuriacies until a best available position is reached.
- Political – Rival positions are presented to an audience in order to win them over, rather than to convince your rivals.
- Catharsis – The participants stand on opposite mountaintops flinging lightning at each other until they both feel better.
- Domination – You intend to dismantle your opponent piece by piece until they are in tatters and submit to your superiority.
- Persuasion – You want your opponent to abandon / change their position so that they more resemble your own.
Having outlined a typology it should be obvious that each requires a different tact. For example the quality and ability of your audience will strongly determine what evidence and logic you can present in a political argument as opposed to using rhetoric and appeal to emotions. Domination requires a ruthless single-mindedness of purpose that will deeply antagonise your co-participant whereas persuasion requires you to gradually coax them along with references to their own values. Whichever argument you are engaged in, an understanding of informal logic is crucial. Before turning it upon your co-participants you should first turn it on yourself and eliminate the cloudy areas of your own positions.
Most people cannot conduct arguments with clear logical thinking, listening comprehension, and measured appraisal of evidence. It’s simply not natural. Our instincts always pull us towards defending our public reputation, our identity, our tribe. We frequently make it personal and frequently employ intellectually dishonest sleights of hand. These latter are called fallacies and interest me greatly. Here’s an introduction to some of the commonly-deployed fallacies. Learn them, remember the names, and then identify them in the field. It’ll become so much easier to dismantle foggy thinking.
Equivocation – Using the same word to mean different things without clarifying which, hoping that the word itself provides the continuity that the logic cannot. For example:
- Pam: “John is really selfish”
- Ken: “No he’s not. Have you seen how hard he works to provide for his children”
- Pam: “But he is happy when they are provided for, so really he’s just doing what he wants to do, and that’s selfish”.
Here the word selfish has morphed from the common understanding meaning an unreasonable self-regard to mean simply doing what makes you happy.
False Dilemma – The range of options is unfairly narrowed down to only two. America – Love it or leave it!
Logically Black is White Slide – Proposing that because the difference between two ends of a spectrum are made up of small incremental changes (e.g. black to white are seperated by many subtle different shades of gray) that they are actually the same thing.
No True Scotsman – When counterexamples prove a generalisation wrong, they are unfairly dismissed by redrawing the boundaries to arbitrarily exclude them. For example: “Islam is a religion of peace” draws the counterexample “But what about the jihadists?” so the boundary is redrawn post-hoc “They aren’t true muslims.”
Begging the Question – Assuming the conclusion within the premises of the argument. For example “The Bible is true because God wrote it, and God wouldn’t lie”
The Heaper – Very similar to the LBiWS. When you can’t draw a clear line between two states of being you deny the difference. If you keep piling grains of sand onto a table you will eventually have a heap, but which grain of sand turns it from not-yet-a-heap to heap? Much sophistry about the age of consent relies on this fallacy.
Many Questions – You ask a question that can only be answered by assuming the truth of another (unproven) premise. When did you stop beating your wife?
Poisoning the Well – Negatively characterising a position before introducing it. “I trust you’re not one of those imbeciles you thinks…..”
I was first introduced to these ideas at university when taking a course in Informal Logic. The two core texts were Anthony Weston – A rulebook for arguments and Antony Flew – Thinking about Thinking. Both are great little books that will immediately straighten out the kinks in your processing. Get them.
An intellectual hero of mine is the godfather of the Austrian school of economics, Ludwig Von Mises. It’s a disservice to the range and power of his thought to pigeonhole him thus but it’ll serve current purposes. In 1921 he published the weighty Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis and it sent shockwaves through the intelligentsia. For decades socialism had enjoyed a charmed existence in polite circles remnants of which persist to this day. How many times have you heard someone of reasonable education and intelligence utter bland statements such as:
- Socialism is such a good idea in theory but unfortunately it’s never been properly tried.
- Socialism would make society so much fairer and better but there’s too many barriers to it ever actually happening.
Since the late 18th century socialism has enjoyed an Obama-eque free pass because of it’s stated (and unproven) utopianism. Proponents of socialism are taken at face value when they profess their noble ideals whereas in contrast proponents of capitalism are immediately assumed to be greedy, selfish and to be treated with suspicion. This is despite the historical record where every single socialist country was a disastrous shithole compared to it’s capitalist equivalents.
Mises’ book shattered these illusions and proved unequivocally (and with arguments that haven’t been effectively answered even to this day) that socialism is not only untenable and assured final collapse, but that it necessarily creates a hell on earth that no amount of good intentions can stop. Across 1000+ pages he demolishes the ideology through detailed predictions of what society it leads to….. and this writing only 4 years after the Bolshevik revolution – before Stalin, before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Unlike Nostradamus, Mises made detailed predictions and 80 years of history proved him right.
So if you want to know not just why socialism is inherently evil but also why it can’t work and why despite this people still take it seriously, I recommend you check out his book.I’ll briefly summarise each of the three segments here.
Socialism is evil
Capitalist societies are built upon individual freedom expressed through non-coercive market transactions. Contracts are only entered into if both sides agree to the terms and thus you can’t force any customer to buy your product nor can the customer force the business to provide them a service. In this fundamental manner capitalism supports the individual right of self-determination.
Socialist societies are built upon collective responsiblity expressed through coercive central planning. Contracts are decided by a government bureau and then dictats issued forcing people to comply under threat of negative sanctions. In this fundamental manner socialism suppresses the individual at the expense of the collective.
It’s pretty easy to see why this leads to gulags, extermination camps and purges. Imagine yourself for a moment heading the Bureau of Economic Planning and the new Five Year Plan has just been signed off by the Politburo. It is now your job to cascade the Plan downwards by issuing all the orders and regulations to accomplish it. Say, for example, the plan requires X million tonnes of coal to fire the furnaces that produce the traintracks, rolling stock, cars, hammers, cutlery etc. The Plan calculated 10,000 coal miners are needed to extract this coal but currently only 9,000 exist. You need to find 1,000 extra coal miners.
Under capitalism this problem is easily solved. Mining companies calculate the labour value of miners based on the market price for coal produced less various costs. Potential miners evaluate the offered salary and those most interested will apply for the job. If there is still a shortfall of miners and thus coal, the price of the latter increases as rival customers bidding raises demand. Mining companies find it more profitable to offer higher wages (and thus bring in more staff) than to forgo the extra sales. The vacancies are filled.
Socialism has only one solution, after cajoling has failed. Point a gun at the recalcitrant workers and force them to become miners. The Plan doesn’t have dynamic self-correcting features and it is so laborious to construct that the whole thing won’t be torn up just because a few hundred labourers would rather be bricklayers or train drivers than miners. Follow the history of socialist countries and observe how quickly they default to compulsion and labour camps. It’s built into the system.
Socialism will always collapse
Mises showed that socialism cannot ever solve the problem of economic calculation. The problem, simply stated, is this: How do you calculate how to deploy the resources (labour, materials, machinery) of a society in order to produce the goods and services that best meet the needs of the population? For example, English people need tea. How does a society figure out how many cups of tea Englishmen need in 2012? Assuming this can be done, how many kettles will be needed? Is the metal / plastic combination used to make these kettles actually better used elsewhere such as in cutlery, brake discs, watch cases, screws etc?
Under capitalism no-one makes this calculation
and yet still Paris gets fed the English don’t take to streets in Tea Riots. The highly devolved market system matches capital and resources to those entrepreneurs who accurately predict and efficiently serve the wants and needs of the population. If you haven’t done so already, take a moment to consider what is abundant and what is scarce in your country. The list may look like this:
- Abundant: cheeseburgers, Budweiser, iPhones, wristwatches, leather shoes, curtains, chairs, roses, chocolate, Xbox games, books
- Scarce: healthcare, education
Those goods and services that are supplied by the market are plentiful, cheap, and ever-improving (consider the functionality of an iPhone 4 compared to the phones of 1990). Those supplied by government are scarce, intermittent, low quality, expensive, rationed. If the government took over management of the Sahara desert there’d be a shortage of sand within weeks.
The biggest reason is that without markets you can’t solve the problem of economic calculation. Markets provide prices information that signal consumer demand and incentivise businesses to increase/decrease production and to innovate in new directions. This information is an emergent propert of millions of micro-transactions conducted by self-interested actors with no concern for the macro picture. Socialism has to perform it’s calculation based on top-down social surveys, almost like a sociologist. This causes many problems.
- Do you know how many pizzas you will eat next year? I certainly don’t. It’s not even theoretically possible to know because often the decision to order a pizza is made five minutes before the order is placed. You were planning to catch a live show at the blues bar in Soho with some friends but the weather turned to heavy rain so you all stay home. Rather than waste the evening you assemble in the cinema room and watch The Godfather. Stomachs begin to rumble and the women have the night off. So you confer and order pizza. This decision was unknowable more than a couple of hours in advance at most. The world is full of consumption decisions made upon a whim of circumstance that are unknowable even to the decision makers themselves. How can a central planning agency collate such information with sufficient accuracy and foresight to formulate a plan? It can’t. This is an epistemological problem that cannot be solved with supercomputers.
- Anyone who’s ever trained in social research (I have) knows that finding out what people think is far more difficult than simply asking them. Imagine taking out your clipboard and approaching twenty strangers with the question “How often do you masturbate?” What’s the bet you get the answers they want you to hear (if any answer is forthcoming at all) rather than the truth? Under socialism interviewees are quite aware that their answers could just as easily disappear into an unmarked draw as to critically redirect production.
The end result of these problems (Mises gives many more) is that central planning is horribly inefficient. Capital is destroyed, resources simulatneously squandered or untapped, and people’s needs unmet. This is why Soviet states had both breadlines around the block and empty stores with dreary unwanted appliances. You can still see this if you visit Cuba.
Socialism can never be eradicated
Karl Marx is indirectly responsible for more misery and squalor than any other historical figure and it all stems from a neat sleight of hand he played in the mid-nineteenth century. Essentially, Marx rebranded socialism from witless utopianism (in which form it had already been discarded twenty years earlier) to pseudo-science. In his brilliant introduction, Mises credits Marx with three rebranding successes that transformed socialism from a stupid failed idea into a stupid successful meme. Importantly, none of Marx’s arguments withstand a moment’s scrutiny but because they appeal to emotions (and particularly the human hunger for meaning) they stuck.
1. Socialism is inevitable due to dialectical materialism. Marx took the laughable “logic” of his mentor Hegel’s dialectic in which every social structure (the thesis) contains seeds of it’s own destruction (the antithesis) which will necessarily be resolved by the emergence of a radically new structure (the synthesis). Hegel used this to show the advance of the human Spirit throughout history and is hopelessly teleological. If you don’t believe me, just read him. It’s nonsensical. Marx tapped into this intellectual heritage to add a sheen of authority to his own rewriting of history in order to argue that capitalism (thesis) creates is own internal contradictions that lead to revolution (antithesis) and it’s final resolution in communism (synthesis). World communism represents a final solution to the dialectic and thus the end of history. People actually bought that. It gave great confidence to motivate socialist agitators that they were pre-ordained with victory while similarly undermining the confidence of those opponents credulous enough to believe it.
2. Socialist institutions cannot be analysed ahead of time. The utopian socialists had been savaged by political philosophers in the early 1800s as their fantasy worlds were shown to be untenable. Marx countered with the idea of infrastructure/superstructure. Put simply, the economic organisation of a society (feudal/capitalist/socialist etc) determines all associated laws, culture, knowledge, arts. People are so constrained by the ways of thinking in any given epoch that they cannot perceive alternatives. The very knowledge that we take as truth are just culturally-conditioned and specific to the form of economic organisation. Again this is ridiculous – as if the engineering knowledge that allowed aquaducts to be built in feudal Roman times suddenly became inaccurate with the shift to capitalism. After all, the aquaducts remained standing! What Marx achieved was to deny the legitimacy of any inquiry into how a socialist society would operate. You can’t know until you get there!
3. Socialism will correct the injustices of an epoch. People don’t like to be taken for suckers and thus if you can convince them they are being played, they’ll believe alot of rubbish (feminism succeeded with women this way). The emotional motivation for socialism is greedy, envy and revenge fantasies against those who occupy a higher social station than the socialist. Marx was able to provide a thin veneer of righteousness to socialism not by waxing lyrical about the win-win paradise of the utopian socialist but rather by justifying the indignation of the vast sea of people who are unhappy with their lot in life. His labour theory of value (which I’ll demolish in a later post) concluded that the poor are poor precisely because the rich exploit them. The riches they have are stolen and illegitimate and thus the workers have every right to take them by force. This sweetens the ugly motivation of revenge behind a pious mask of justice.
I strongly recommend Mises’ work. I’ve merely scratched the surface with this post.