Thinking about the absurd

I am an absurdist

As a way of communicating my view of the world, I take things that others have rationalized into being normal and elevate them to their natural and absurd, extreme. People come to a sort of conclusion; if enough of their peers are doing or saying something, then that thing is acceptable and not absurd. It is only when one really observes human behavior from a non-biased viewpoint that the absurdity of what we do becomes obvious.

Some time ago I posted something. It was the below picture and the phrase “Tip your whores.”. Someone was offended.

Sex

A titty bar with the caption "Sex work is real work"


This is absurd on many levels. On the surface, this picture is absurd because of the content. We are conditioned to accept that a woman isn’t working, when she has a man’s face stuffed into her crotch . This is
recreational activity in the minds of most; hence not work.

Work, work, work

Next, when we think about “work”, we tend to think in terms of some sort of labor that must be completed; but really what constitutes real work? Is it
“real work” to be a professional athlete ? How is a job you earn money with not work? Does the definition of work flex with the legality of the work? For instance, is the manufacture of alcohol work? Did it stop being work after prohibition?

Marchers holding a banner that reads SEX WORKERS DEMAND: ACKNOWLEDGE SEX WORK AS WORK!

Thirdly, is the issue of how we tend to look at phrases such as “Sex work is real work” This phrase conjures images like this. Again, this image of women marching for civil rights is very much at odds with a picture of some girl with a man’s face in her crotch.

Politics, politics, politics,

Finally, there is the absurdity of the internal politics of sex working. While sex workers might present a united front to those outside the industry, internally the politics are very different. ‘At least I’m not a _______.’;
The entire sex industry is built on this principle. Those in the industry tend to define themselves on what they don’t do for work. For sex workers, their virtue comes, in general, from not engaging, directly, in penetration for money.

Why? What exactly is wrong with penetration and what is wrong with getting paid for it? I will venture a guess that we resent the idea of the most valuable thing in existence being sold. The right to sex is very closely tied to the right to reproduce. Reproduction is a sort of meritocracy with women as the judges of who gets to reproduce and on what merits. Who is likely to resent access to purchased sex? Virtually anyone who receives access to sex based on their merits. Also those who control access to sex and reproduction by rejecting those judged to be without significant merit.

If one talks to someone in the industry and asks them about how they feel about their job, In general, they will say anything to elevate themselves above prostitution. The prostitute is the janitor of the sex industry. Even prostitutes differentiate themselves from other prostitutes. They use phrases like “I get paid for my time and sex is sometimes a part of that.”. They don’t use phrases like “I get paid to put a man’s penis in my mouth and stroke it until he ejaculates.”.

Other absurd beliefs

Religion

This is a big one. How does this work? As far as I can tell religion mostly consists of people with absurd beliefs, telling other people with absurd beliefs, that their beliefs are absurd. What could be more absurd than that?

Religion is an excellent example of how if you have enough peers around you telling you that what you believe is true, you simply won’t question it. Take a Christian criticizing a Scientologist for believing in aliens. If you ask a Christian if they believe in extraterrestrials they will likely say ‘no’. But then if you ask them if God is from earth they will also say ‘no’. Still they will have a very difficult time dealing with the fact that they do in fact believe in an extraterrestrial super being. The clear reason for this that almost every person that you will meet believes at least something that is absurd while simultaneously believing that it is not okay to believe in the absurd. 

Finally

As large part of the human condition, we as people go about our lives in bubbles of belief. Inside these bubbles all things are rational and make sense. These bubbles form a sort Venn diagram where they intersect the beliefs of others.



Concepts Within our bubbles are not seen as absurd.  The areas of overlap are jointly not seen as absurd. It can be said that one of the things that bind people together are jointly held ideas or concepts that others, whose bubbles do not intersect theirs, would find absurd. 

The most absurd of all things is that people in general walk around seeing themselves as rational while viewing others as absurd. While those others do precisely the same for the same reason. The system of behavior that allows this to carry on throughout all of human history would border on the surreal were it not so very much part of our existence. Here people are, walking around in their bubbles of absurdity mocking others because they are absurd. One must be careful when one chooses to laugh at the whole arrangement lest one be judged inappropriate. Isn’t that absurd? 

Political Ideologues and Ideologies

We can fix everything

Whatever political solution you might come up with, it will benefit some and impede others.  The Utopian society that benefits all to the greatest possible extent is unobtainable. Virtually everyone governed by such a system will feel they are not getting as good a deal as they should. They will seek to turn things to their benefit. We’ll call this the squeaky wheel syndrome for lack of a better term.

Look at this great plan I have embraced

There is a very basic need in humans to feel they know what is right. As a consequence of this, many seek to validate themselves through political idealism. Political idealism is very much like religion in this way. Think of this as a belief that a specific set of political ideals conveys a level of nobility and virtue. This signals to others who have similar ideals that you are one of the group. The reverse is the notion that if you do not share these same ideas, you are ignoble, non-virtuous and evil. This sort of thinking is again basic to the human condition, a tribalistic us and them; in-group/out-group mindset. Ultimately, this way of thinking dehumanizes those who fall into any group outside your own group. Members of your group (tribe) are people and others are outsiders, infidels, enemies, sub-humans.

Maybe not such a great plan in hindsight

When we discuss political ideologies and how dangerous they can become, we should look at a couple of examples. Decades later, we look at these political ideologies in a much different light than they were in their own time. Both of these ideologies had results that were similar to each other for reasons we shall discuss. There are small differences in the particular ideals of each state based on these ideologies. The result is a pronounced split in how they are viewed from our current perspective.

Communism and fascism both rose out of a late 19th-century view that the modern world should be governed by new, modern methods. That society could be shaped through a government that correctly constrained the actions of individuals. It should turn said individuals from self-interest to acting in the interest of the state. The state would then see to it that the collective efforts would then be put to the best possible use. These ideas did not produce the Utopian states they intended to produce. These ideas instead created mechanisms that resulted in horrific regimes. These went on to cause the deaths of millions, in some cases the very people who most supported said states.

Test the idea?
When you know you are right?

Political systems are, to a great extent, experiments. The problem is that the people conducting the experiments are so sure of the outcome that when something else happens, they are unable to accept any flaw in their solution. As a result, the people involved find some other explanation for the problems. Invariably the explanation is assumed to be some malefactor creating problems. Of course, the evil is a group of infidels who do not accept the political solution as perfect. They sabotage the plan, and hence keep it from working.  The obvious answer to this problem is to get these people out of the way.

The more indoctrinated someone is in political ideology via dogma, propaganda, biased journalism, etc., the more they will vilify those that they perceive to be working against the cause. To their mind, the evidence for the certainty of their beliefs is clear. In fact, so clear, they come to the conclusion that anyone who believes otherwise must be doing so out of malice or stupidity. This creates a situation where the right thinking individuals must do everything they can to stop their malicious enemies

Mandatory Therapy

Existing Federal Law

Isn’t it strange that the FDA will not even allow medications that have gone through rigorous testing to ensure they are reasonably safe and effective? However, courts are allowed to order mandatory therapy. Therapy that often fails to show any credible, scientific, evidence for being safe and effective?

Fix this?

This should not be allowed. In no case should a defendant be forced to chose between their liberty and a treatment that is shown to be both safe and effective. Furthermore, anyone who is offered the option of therapy should be allowed to choose one that is the most ‘safe and effective’ as evaluated by the preponderance of the credible scientific evidence. Should more than one therapy show to be equally safe and effective the defendant should be given the option of the least objectionable one. In no case should a person be forced to continue a treatment shown not to be safe and effective unless it is evaluated to be the best option by a competent medical professional.

The workings of social prejudice

Let me tell all these people you are a bad person. That will make me a hero.

Recently on FaceBook I post a quip to a thread talking about how if someone posts “All men are trash” they may have their post removed and asked “Does the same apply if you state “all women are trash?” “.  To this, I replied “ALL Humans are trash” Almost immediately the user Sean O’Nym posted a reply saying “Obligatory reminder that Jay Hova is a blackface-wearing jackass.”

Background

This comment by Sean was in reference to a photo I posted on Facebook a number of years ago. The photo was of myself on a certain Halloween in the early 2000s. Prior to this particular Halloween, I had talked to my friend Buddha. Buddha is a large black man who used to run a coffee shop named Cafe Avinio. Buddha shared my perverse sense of humor. We agreed to each go as a person of the other’s ethnicity. This meant, of course, that I would go as a black man and he as a white man. The day came and I had spent a good while preparing. As it happened Buddha had tried to bleach his mustache and failed so he gave up on the idea and simply dressed in khakis, a Polo, and topsiders. The ironic thing is this “preppy” outfit was in fact pretty normal for him. In any case, I had purchased a set of clothes that would be atypical for a person of my ethnicity including plum colored Levis. I was already completely made-up and dressed when I found out Buddha would not be participating.

How this came about

It was a number of years later that I stumbled across a webcam photo of myself when I got home. After I posted the photo the metaphorical shit hit the fan. It’s important to understand the why of the situation. Others have described my actions as deliberately transgressive. Of course, this is true. However, my main goal was to provoke a response to demonstrate how our social order operates. There is a set of white people that seem to internalize guilt about social bigotry to the point that they feel they must act on this guilt to correct the wrongness of the world. In order to deal with these feelings, they compensate by correcting the behavior of their own perceived race over whom they feel they have jurisdiction. I have very often seen this happen. The problem with this is that the people doing it are fueled by emotional fervor. They do not act in a thoughtful way. Because of this, they will assume guilt and shame accordingly. The irony of this is that these same people will shame others for shaming.

I think you might have stepped in something

Years ago, my actions would have been called a practical joke; making a point or teaching a lesson. I will call it simply a prank. I created a situation and others reacted to it. To me, the funny part was how all of the people who reacted as though I was doing something wrong were universally white folks. White people are very uptight. In large part, I was demonstrating that these people, passing judgment, would all, without exception, do so never questioning if they might not have all the facts. In the case of the Facebook photo, each would look at the photo, assume they understood all they needed to in order to make a judgment and then proceed to shame me for my wrongdoing.

Before you shame someone else for being wrong, maybe you should not just assume you are right.

This demonstrates a fundamental principle of human behavior; when you know you are right, you never question if you might be wrong.

 

An Argument for Libertarianism

The problem of power

One of the great problems of the world is the power to do evil. This seems obvious. What may not be so obvious is that power is power. This means that the power to do evil is precisely equal to the power to do good and vice versa. Power is sometimes given. More correctly, it is purchased on a quid pro quo basis i.e. ‘if you grant me power, I will do ‘X’ for you’. ‘X’ can take all sorts of forms: raise your status, vanquish your enemies, create a political utopia, unite our people, etc. Sometimes power is seized, but never by one person alone. There are always those who feel they will benefit when another has power.

Almost universally, this works out for the benefit of some to the detriment of others. The results are also never as good as promised. People are always required to work harder to support the bureaucracy necessary to manage utopia. Of course, there always seems to be a need for just a little more effort to get this utopia just right and always just a few people whose dangerous ideas are in the way. If only we can get those people out of the way and get the right thinking people into positions where they can fix the problems then everything will be all right.

Harm

If we look at the worst people, who have done the most harm in the world, they have all been granted the power to make the things worse by people who have given them this power to make things better for themselves.  Sometimes this is democratic. When enough people want something, that they will unite to get it, they do. Sometimes, it is by revolution; an uprising by people who want something enough to kill for it and keep killing to hold onto it. Sometimes it is by conquest (see previous), the power to make war having been granted by those who feel they have something to gain.

Government, here to help

Rarely is ruin brought about by those minding their own business. When ruin comes about, it’s most often through the instruments of force or fraud. Often the perceived evils of business are, in fact, businesses with the ability to influence policymakers. These businesses make arguments for laws that seems at first glance seem a good idea. More importantly, these laws always benefit the business spending money to get them passed.

Very often, laws, that seem good, have unintended consequences. An example of this would be the minimum wage laws. These laws do exactly as they were initially designed to do. They segregate the workforce to exclude those with the necessary skills to enter at the minimum wage level. That is to say, if the minimum wage is $7 and you have the skills to do a $5 job then you are excluded from the workforce until someone is forced to hire you at a wage higher than your skillset. In all likelihood, you will be the first to be fired when a person whose skills match the job comes along. The real issue with this is that the law requires that you, by necessity, must eliminate all $5 jobs.

Force

When I use the word force people often misunderstand the meaning. Government is a body that creates and enforces laws. All laws are ultimately backed by force or they are merely suggestions. For instance, the federal government forces tobacco companies to place a warning on cigarettes. However, the warning is itself a suggestion not to smoke. However, the ban on smoking in public places is enforced against places who are compelled to comply.

Fraud

When talking about fraud it’s important to put it into perspective. There is a term “puffery” which is the exaggeration of claims not to be taken seriously. An example of this might be “Dr. Schols air cushioned insoles will make you feel like you are walking on clouds” No one expects you to think you will actually feel that way.

However, someone really is trying to make you think your lunch is free. You are supposed to believe that the services the government will provide you will be better than the services you could buy for yourself. When you insure a loan with default swaps that is insurance. If you are selling insurance without the money to ensure that a default can’t happen you are committing fraud. The fact that the regulators were allowing the selling these insurance schemes without the rules required by insurance schemes means they were complicit in the fraud.

Free

A free market is free from two things, force and fraud. A certain amount of regulation is necessary to set rules that everyone must abide by. However, government should not be in the business of creating artificial monopolies and using its power to force out competition. Free enterprise to some extent means free to fail. Programs to protect business do so to the detriment of competing businesses.

The monopolies the government breaks up are rarely anti-consumer. This is to say if you plan to drive all your competitors out of business out of business by producing a cheaper product then good for you. If on the other hand, you plan to use your position in the market to prevent competitors from entering the market then that’s bad and anti-competitive. If you promote a product as safe and it isn’t that’s fraud. However, if I want to smoke that is not the government’s business.

Jobs

Virtually none of the actions of government have made more jobs available to more people. You might think ‘hey wait but the government builds roads and bridges and other things, those employ people’. All that is true, but where did the money to employ those people come from? Taxes. It came right out of the economy. If you had had that money to spend you would have likely spent it on goods and services that benefited you. Other people would have been employed to provide those goods and services.  Perhaps those roads and bridges, etc. will allow for more commerce and hence pay for themselves in some fashion but most are not a net gain.

Grease is the word

In any case, no matter what government does, it does the most to satisfy the squeaky minority at the expense of the majority. An example of this is the building of equipment the armed forces do not need or want. The parts for said equipment are built in a great number of states. Each manufacturer of those parts contributes to the campaign of the politician who pushes for the equipment to be built. Thus the politician is purchasing the election at the expense of the taxpayer who must foot the bill for this equipment. This is sold to the local electorate as a jobs program. After all, they will need those jobs to pay for the other equipment build elsewhere that they must also pay for.

The second law of thermodynamics

Taxation can’t be used to produce a perpetual motion machine. You cannot take money from people and spend that money in a way that will make the lives of those people better than if they spend the money themselves. This is the false vision of the utopianist. The best you can do is provide a framework for people to be protected from force and fraud and ensure that systems of commerce are built and maintained. The money taken out of the economy in the form of taxes is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

All interest is self-interest

People act in their own self-interest. Always. Even when they seem not to. How can someone have another interest other than their own? Clearly, I would like you, the reader, to take an interest in what I am saying. If you do take an interest, that is your choice and it could be said that you had an interest in taking an interest in my point of view. If you try to help others you are acting out of your own interest to help other people. Perhaps you are doing this to feel better about yourself or to make others look at you in a better light or because you have determined that you wish to be the kind of person who does the ‘right thing’. Whatever you choose to do it’s your choice, and so you are acting in your own self-interest not out of altruism.

The dangers of altruism

Altruism is an illusion. The desire to be altruistic is a desire and as such must be a desire of self; a selfish desire to feel like a good, altruistic, person. One cannot become unselfish because one can never become an un-self. In no scenario can you become unselfish. For instance, if you decide to go to Africa and dig wells for people who need water and your mother calls and tells you that she is dying and needs you to care for her in her last days, what is the altruistic thing to do? Let your mother die without you or finish the well? What is most likely is that you will do what matters most to you. In fact, this is a certainty.

When we talk about altruism We should be clear on what it is. Urging someone to be altruistic is a way to get them to comply with your notion of right; a means of influencing the actions of others. In essence, it’s a way of applying social pressure to compel individuals to do things for others rather than themselves. When does this become a problem? It becomes a problem when fraud becomes involved. Let’s take the above scenario and assume that Johnny goes to Africa to do the ‘right thing’, contracts Ebola and dies. Oops. Now let’s just say that Dudley played down the risks of going to Africa and told Johnny he’d be “perfectly safe”. Now he’s dead. This is an extreme example but clearly illustrates the problem of puffery. No socialist state, brought about by revolution, is the workers paradise that it was advertised to be.

Anarchy and its drawbacks

Anarco-capitalists envision a world of absolute freedom. This, however, is not a natural state. It is the natural inclination of some to judge that others are incapable of running their own lives and will, therefore, chose to ‘help’ them by running their lives for them. How very selfless of them.

It is very difficult to exist with no government. The reason being, that someone always wants to do something that intrudes on another’s liberties. If I want to dam a river to run my plant that might be great for me, but what about others access to the water? What if I want to dump my waste products into the water or air etc.? Clearly there must be a means of governing this and allowing all people the reasonable enjoyment of their property and lives. A government should exist to protect the liberties of everyone. But also to be limited in scope beyond this function.

The benefits of individual initiative

With a few exceptions, the greatest boons to mankind have been created by those who acted in their own interest. In cases where a government created a boon to mankind, it is often private interests that then exploited those boons to the betterment of mankind. In order for these things to occur people need to be free to explore the possibilities of invention without impediments. The dotcom revolution sprang out of individual initiative and that initiative has changed our world. The companies that are creating self-driving cars and artificial intelligence are companies that started from just a couple of guys.

There is a great temptation to milk this prosperity and redistribute the wealth. The great problem with that is that the possibility of striking it rich is a tremendous incentive. For every Bill Gates or Jobs & Wozniak, there are hundreds or thousands that risked money and then lost. This is because there is no guarantee that any idea is worth anything. Many others simply made a moderate living with some idea that was good but not groundbreaking. It’s these people we need to encourage and not discourage. People are over-taxed, over-regulated and in general, disincentivized to keep trying.

Arguments against capitalism

When we look at the arguments against capitalism they are rarely against free market capitalism. The arguments, more often than not, are against cronyism. This is where a company or individual gives money to someone in power to have the laws adjusted to favor himself or his company. An example of this might be companies like Uber or Lyfte. These companies use technology to break the government assisted taxi monopolies. The taxi monopolies are a great example of government taking the free out of free enterprise. With taxies, government creates (at the behest of the taxi companies themselves) barriers to entry into the taxi market such as licenses and medallions. The cost of a medallion in New York can be hundreds of thousands of dollars but when ride-sharing services broke the monopoly people who bought into the monopoly started to go bankrupt.

When we look at a system like the taxi monopoly it is very clearly not a system designed to provide the consumer with the best product at the lowest cost but rather the opposite. It creates a system of a few who buy into it for protection from competition.  If you are an Uber or Lyfte driver the taxi lobby is trying to put you out of business or raise the cost of your business to make it easier for them to compete with you.

Government’s role in a free enterprise system

“The business of America is business”. This was said a few years before the Federal Reserve in tinkering with the money supply caused the great depression. Any system that allows for the tinkering with things as vital to the economy as the money supply is a bad idea. Believe it or not, the idea of inflation was thought to be a good one to promote the spending of money over the saving of money. This sort of government tinkering with the economy has proven to be ill-advised. Now we are stuck with it.

The role of government in a free enterprise system is to ensure that it remains free. That is to say that no enterprise should impose on others a cost or burden. This means that industries must not produce undue pollution into the air and water shared by others. This is one of the things overlooked by anarcho-capitalists. Government itself should not place a burden on those who wish to be free to enterprise. This includes artificially ‘leveling’ the playing field. Government has no obligation to protect business but has an obligation to protect the consumer. It is the concern of business to provide the best product or service at the best price. A business unable to do this should not receive special considerations to allow it to better compete.