Saturday, April 30, 2016

Progressivism and the New Frontier


If today's mentality and "truths" had prevailed in the 1850's, people who tried to go west on the Oregon Trail would have been arrested for child endangerment and trespassing on government-owned land. Wagon train organizers would have been thrown in prison as human traffickers. Heck, if today's mentality had prevailed 500 years ago, The New World would never even have been settled.

I just hope we can start settling space before we create a "smarter planet" where every human behavior is continuously monitored and controlled. 

If we don't get off the planet before this happens, space travel will be banned as an unsustainable waste of resources dreamed up by "evil billionaires just trying to make money".

I see a great dark age coming, with a world-governing bureaucracy forcing equality, controlling resources, and defining and mandating cultural norms. The end result will be zero individual freedom, and, finally, universal poverty and dependency.

As Robert Zubrin has said, the vigor of the human race requires a frontier that encourages individualism with individual risk-taking resulting in great individual reward.  There is no universal health care or safety net on the frontier. No OSHA. No EPA. No guarantees.

That is the environment where humanity excels and progresses.  Without a frontier, freedom cannot endure. To quote Zubrin, "The cops are too close."

If you are currently fighting for large social causes to be managed and enforced by governments (instead of just helping people yourself), you have already lost your true human vigor, and have become effete. You are part of the problem.

"Progressivism," aka socialism, is exactly the same as slavery. It ends in a populace beholden to rulers, totally dependent on "free" handouts, and never able to achieve anything close to its true potential. In a "progressive" society, the government provides, and therefore owns, your food, your medical care, your housing -- everything that is important to life.  They can make you dance -- and vote -- anyway they want.  There is no incentive to do anything really.

Hopefully the citizen ownership of guns in the US will act as a deterrent to buy us a few more decades of freedom, and allow us to build the new frontier (if we can keep people like Hillary Clinton from gaining power over us).

But the rest of the civilized world is pretty much doomed by their unsustainable "progressive" socialist cultures.

It is a race between progressivism and freedom.  Can we reach the new worlds of the new frontier before the cops shut us down?

I have my doubts. We really need to be able to hold off the forces of progressivism for around 50 to 100 years as the technologies advance.  During that time, we have to make sure that the billionaires of the space age become trillionaires without governments taking their money away. And the rest of us need to be able to get rich off of it too. 

By then the human race will have spread to the moon, Mars, and the asteroids, and will be beyond any control by the degenerate "progressive" residuum on Earth.

If you haven't seen Zubrin's exposition on space settlement and the role of the frontier in the development of American individual freedom, you probably ought to read through it here:

It may be the most inspiring thing I have ever read.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Encryption, Apple, Tim Cook, the American Revolution, George Orwell, and a Smarter Planet

The whole idea of individual liberty that took hold in the American colonies in the late 1700's was the result not of advancements in philosophy, but was rather due to a radical change in the physical balance of power between kings and their subjects -- a change that was driven by a new technology. 

Over the previous century, manufacturing and design innovations had reduced the cost and improved the performance of firearms. Everyone became able to own one, thus providing the citizenry with more power than the king. That radical and persistent change in the balance of power doomed the ruler-ruled paradigm -- which had been the hallmark of civilization since the development of agriculture. The old aristocracy of blood and divine right didn't see it coming until it was too late.

In the last century, government-controlled military technology such as tanks, aircraft, and missiles have shifted the balance of power back to governments. We should not be surprised that the ruler-ruled paradigm was reasserted, and governments have once again become large and intrusive -- perhaps more so than at any other time in history. (Even Rome only had a 10% tax, and they never told their citizens what they could and couldn't eat.)

But in the last 20 years new technologies have arisen that could change the balance of power back to individuals -- in a manner very similar to what happened in the 1700's.

Strong encryption and decentralized crypto-currencies, combined with powerful handheld devices -- and the Internet itself -- are giving people the ability to communicate, transact business, access a library of all human knowledge (even "prohibited" knowledge), and basically do anything they want, all without government visibility.

But this time the aristocracy is fully aware of the danger and is fighting back to keep their power.

Like the British in 1775, who sent an elite SWAT team to confiscate military assault weapons from the colonists at Lexington and Concord, governments are fighting on multiple fronts to keep the new privacy technologies weak, while continually working to increase their authority to see everything we do.

But I hope and believe that, like guns in the 1700's, the proliferation of such pervasive and inexpensive technologies will not be able to be stopped over the long-term. 

So imagine a world where the government has no insight at all into your personal business. Things we accept now, like income tax and search warrants, would not be able to exist.  Laws against such things as money laundering and the vague crime of "conspiracy" could no longer be enforced.  What is now called the "black market" would become simply the entire market.

Government would become tiny. Perhaps a more organic and decentralized voluntary organization would evolve.  Today's vast governmental powers would be seen as  belonging to an archaic dark age.

Of course people worry about what would happen without a government. After the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson wrote quite a few letters to friends in England and Europe trying to convince them that the US had not become a lawless hell. They viewed the revolution against the king as children killing their father, and that without the king's noble and godlike direction, there would be no order or safety in the country.

But we did just fine without the king.  The aristocracy had outlived its usefulness. Perhaps vast invasive centralized government has too.

I worry however that there is no Second Amendment-like clause protecting the right to have and use these new technologies.  If the governments wins, this powerful tech will be twisted to serve only the purpose of their new aristocracy.

Such comprehensive surveillance in the name of safety would cause the death of individual liberty.  A 1984-like dystopia would ensue:

Every step, every facial expression, every word you say, and everything you read or view is recorded and analyzed by autonomous systems for any trace of "trouble". Access to your home, your car, mass transportation, your money, and your phone is controlled in real time. Your freedom to travel is limited to certain areas at certain times. What you are allowed to purchase is tailored to what the system says you need. Your use of energy and other resources is monitored and actively controlled. Interactions with other people are monitored or blocked at will -- even for face to face meetings since your location is tracked and actively controlled. And you are never out of the reach of autonomous non-lethal weapon systems which can be deployed against you at any time and any place. All of this is for the safety and sustainability of our new society of limits. 

Note that this level of surveillance and control is what is meant when they talk about "building a smarter planet".

As George Orwell himself said, "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever."

The technology already exists that will enable either the Orwellian future or the Liberty future. Which future we get will be determined by whether or not we allow the government to dig its hooks in. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thomas Jefferson, the Commerce Clause, and Unlimited Governmental Power

This is a fascinating quote from Thomas Jefferson's letter to William Branch Giles, describing the exact point in time when the government first began to grow beyond the Constitution. Ah, if they would have stopped it back then, perhaps a precedent would have been laid in stone, and we wouldn't be in the situation where the government has expanded its power into almost every aspect of our lives.
I see, as you do, and with the deepest affliction, the rapid strides with which the federal branch of our government is advancing towards the usurpation of all the rights reserved to the States, and the consolidation in itself of all powers, foreign and domestic; and that, too, by constructions which, if legitimate, leave no limits to their power.
Take together the decisions of the federal court, the doctrines of the President, and the misconstructions of the constitutional compact acted on by the legislature of the federal branch, and it is but too evident, that the three ruling branches of that department are in combination to strip their colleagues, the State authorities, of the powers reserved by them, and to exercise themselves all functions foreign and domestic.
Under the power to regulate commerce, they assume indefinitely that also over agriculture and manufactures.... Under the authority to establish post roads, they claim that of cutting down mountains for the construction of roads, of digging canals, and aided by a little sophistry on the words "general welfare," a right to do, not only the acts to effect that, which are specifically enumerated and permitted, but whatsoever they shall think, or pretend will be for the general welfare.
And what is our resource for the preservation of the constitution?  Reason and argument?  You might as well reason and argue with the marble columns encircling them.  The representatives chosen by ourselves?  They are joined in the combination, some from incorrect views of government, some from corrupt ones, sufficient voting together to out-number the sound parts; and with majorities only of one, two, or three, bold enough to go forward in defiance.
Are we then to stand to our arms, with the hot-headed Georgian?*   No. That must be the last resource, not to be thought of until much longer and greater sufferings.  If every infraction of a compact of so many parties is to be resisted at once, as a dissolution of it, none can ever be formed which would last one year.   We must have patience and longer endurance then with our brethren while under delusion; give them time for reflection and experience of consequences; keep ourselves in a situation to profit by the chapter of accidents; and separate from our companions only when the sole alternatives left, are the dissolution of our Union with them, or submission to a government without limitation of powers. Between these two evils, when we must make a choice, there can be no hesitation.
 - Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Branch Giles, December 26, 1825
*This was Georgia Governor George M. Troup, who had famously called on the people to "stand to their arms" when US forces were sent to Georgia to prevent the state from removing Creek Indians from their lands.