Category Archives: Morality

She Said That? 8/21/17

From Anne Frank (1929-1945), German-born diarist, Jewish victim of the Holocaust, Diary of a Young Girl, (1947):

Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.

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Trump’s Turn To Lie About Afghanistan, by Matthew Hoh

Afghanistan seems like one big never-ending lie, so why should Trump be any different? From Matthew How at antiwar.com:

There has never been progress by the U.S. military in Afghanistan, unless you are asking the US military contractors or the Afghan drug barons, of whom an extremely large share are our allies in the Afghan government, militias and security forces, there has only been suffering and destruction. American politicians, pundits and generals will speak about “progress” made by the 70,000 American troops put into Afghanistan by President Obama beginning in 2009, along with an additional 30,000 European troops and 100,000 private contractors, however the hard and awful true reality is that the war in Afghanistan has only escalated since 2009, never stabilizing or de-escalating; the Taliban has increased in strength by tens of thousands, despite tens of thousands of casualties and prisoners; and American and Afghan casualties have continued to grow every year of the conflict, with US casualties declining only when US forces began to withdraw in mass numbers from parts of Afghanistan in 2011, while Afghan security forces and civilians have experienced record casualties every year since those numbers began to be kept by the UN.

Similarly, any progress in reconstructing or developing Afghanistan has been found to be near existent despite the more than $100 billion spent by the United States on such efforts by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR). $100 billion, by the way, is more money than was spent on the Marshall Plan when that post-WWII reconstruction plan is put into inflation adjusted dollars. Oft repeated claims, such as millions of Afghan school girls going to school, millions of Afghans having access to improved health care and Afghan life expectancy dramatically increasing, and the construction of an Afghan job building economy have been exposed as nothing more than public relations lies. Often displayed as modern Potemkin Villages to visiting journalists and congressional delegations and utilized to justify continued budgets for the Pentagon and USAID, and, so, to allow for more killing, like America’s reconstruction program in Iraq, the reconstruction program in Afghanistan has proven to be a failure and its supposed achievements shown to be virtually nonexistent, as documented by multiple investigations by SIGAR, as well as by investigators and researchers from organizations such as the UN, EU, IMF, World Bank, etc.

To continue reading: Trump’s Turn To Lie About Afghanistan

Think Like a Corleone, by Robert Gore

Leave fools’ paradise to the fools.

If you are offered a choice between having your tuition and expenses paid at a top of the line business school, or buying with your own money Mario Puzo’s The Godfather (the book and the movies, Parts One and Two) choose the latter. You’ll find them far more useful than the MBA.

Americans are frequently condemned for obliviousness to the lies and depredations of the people who rule them. Much of the condemnation is merited, but the obliviousness is also a vestige of a better time. The best gauge of a society is truth: its prevalence and how it’s treated.

You go to a store and buy a product. Your transaction rests on implicit assumptions that everyone in the supply chain is telling the truth and acting honorably. The product was manufactured to the manufacturer’s advertised standard. It was delivered by a transportation company in good order, and marketed by the store in good faith. Every step of the way you could have been ripped off and not known it. The product could be a counterfeit. The delivery truck could have been hijacked and the product resold to the vendor at a cut-rate price. The product might be defective, but the manufacturer and vendor continue to sell it. A paranoid could drive himself crazy imagining all the possibilities, most of which cannot be dismissed out of hand.

When exchange is voluntary, a producer’s reputation for integrity is an invaluable asset and an consumer’s trust is both rational and productive. A producer’s reputation rests on millions or billions of transactions in which consumers receive the value they expect, with any problems quickly addressed and remedied to the consumer’s satisfaction. One reason John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil did as well as it did was because its refining and distribution processes delivered oil products that were of a uniformly high standard. Many of the company’s competitors did not. One batch might be acceptable, but other batches had impurities or varying chemical compositions. Those who think it’s easy to manufacturer millions of items or refine millions of barrels of oil to a uniform standard over a span of years or decades only betray their ignorance of manufacturing and refining.

The companies that reach the top of the heap in a voluntary exchange system save their customers immeasurable time and effort. Imagine if you had to inspect and test every item you bought before you used it. That would be a dump truck full of sand in the gears of your life; you’d get nothing else done.

Voluntary exchange rewards both integrity and trust. That was once the American milieu, and is still a significant part of it. We trust Apple to deliver great phones, ExxonMobil to deliver top grade gasoline, Whole Foods to deliver quality food, and so on. Unfortunately, another class of interactions has overshadowed the realm of voluntary exchange, interactions based on fear, force, fraud and theft. Nefarious means to nefarious ends are the province of governments.

Expanding government power and domination are the deadly enemies of integrity and trust. As a government uses violence to subjugate, the subjugated quickly learn that honesty and honorable behavior are persecuted; to survive they must resort to deception and covert resistance. The subjugators invariably regard the subjugated as an inferior class and disparage their tactics as dishonorable.

History is replete with such instances. Sicily has been ruled by a long line of outside powers. Starting in the late 1800s, the Mafia became the embodiment of the inverted morality that takes hold among tyrannized and brutalized peoples. That morality does nothing to advance the general welfare; it doesn’t promote prosperity or progress. It only allows the subjugated to survive.

In this antique garden, Michael Corleone learned about the roots from which his father grew. That the word “mafia” had originally meant place of refuge. Then it became the name for the secret organization that sprang up to fight against the rulers who had crushed the country and its people for centuries. Sicily was a land that had been more cruelly raped than any other in history. The Inquisition had tortured rich and poor alike. The landowning barons and the prices of the Catholic Church exercised absolute power over the shepherds and farmers. The police were the instruments of their power and so identified with them that to be called a policeman is the foulest insult one Sicilian can hurl at another.

Faced with the savagery of this absolute power, the suffering people learned never to betray their anger and their hatred for fear of being crushed. They learned never to make themselves vulnerable by uttering any sort of threat since giving such a warning insured a quick reprisal. They learned that society was their enemy and so when they sought redress they went to the rebel underground, the Mafia. And the Mafia cemented its power by originating the law of silence, the omerta. In the countryside of Sicily a stranger asking directions to the nearest town will not even receive the courtesy of an answer. And the greatest crime any member of the Mafia could commit would be to tell the police the name of the man who had just shot him or done him any kind of injury. Omerta became the religion of the people. A woman whose husband has been murdered would not tell the police the name of her husband’s murderer, not even of her child’s murderer, her daughter’s raper.

The Godfather, Mario Puzo

Probably 20 percent of Americans will tell you their life stories in a grocery store checkout line, and 50 percent over a cup of coffee. Many trade information about themselves as freely as they trade their money for groceries or coffee. Ask those who have escaped life in a totalitarian regime about it and they will marvel at the foolishness.

The oppressed learn to trust no one other than those who have demonstrated they deserve to be trusted, usually family or long-time friends. In response to disclosures that the government is monitoring them 24/7 and knows virtually everything they do and say, many Americans breezily assert that they’re not worried; they have nothing to hide. Behind omerta was the Sicilian peasant’s reality that any information, no matter how trivial or innocuous, was a weapon that could be used against him by the hostile and corrupt regime. American openness and trusting insouciance is quaintly naive—anachronisms from a better time—and pitiably foolish.

If you think the government, its friends, and those who pull its strings have your best interests at heart, that they tell the truth, that they can be trusted, you are living in a fool’s paradise and deserve whatever you get from your “benevolent” masters. For the rest of us, it’s time to go Sicilian, to start thinking like a Corleone. The dangers will intensify as things get much worse, before collapse offers the prospect of rebuilding something better.

The times demand caution, skepticism, less talking, more listening, alertness, wariness, hiding one’s strengths, remedying one’s weaknesses, self-sufficiency, cunning, and drawing closer to those few people in your life you know you can trust. Your survival is at stake and there are no guarantees. All you can do is better your odds. Indiscriminate trust and hoping for the best—without thinking about and preparing for the worse—will dramatically lower those odds.

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She Said That? 8/18/17

From J.K. Rowling (born 1965), British novelist and screenwriter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997):

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.

How Welfare States Make Us Less Civilized, by Per Bylund

Who would have thought that taking money from some people at the point of a gun and giving it to people who didn’t earn it might make all concerned less civilized? From Per Bylund at mises.org:

Throughout history, the state has justified itself on the grounds that it is necessary to protect us from others whose habits and beliefs — we are meant to believe — are dangerous. For millennia, this fiction was easy to maintain because most people interacted so little with people outside their nearly autarkic — and therefore impoverished — communities.

But, with the rise of industrialization and international trade in recent centuries, the state’s claim that it is necessary to keep us “safe” from outsiders has become increasingly undermined.

Much of this is thanks to the fact that in order to benefit from the market, one must engage in activities designed to serve others and anticipate their needs. As a result, trade increases our understanding for both members of our community and even the stranger; it also makes us realize that other people are much like us. Even if they speak strange languages or have odd customs and traditions.

The Market Order and Civilization

This is in essence Say’s Law, or the Law of Markets, which states that in the market we produce in order to trade with others so that we can thereby, indirectly, satisfy our own wants: our demand for goods in the market is constituted by our supply of goods to it. In order to effectively satisfy other people’s wants we need to not only communicate with them, but understand them. If we don’t, then we’re wasting our productive efforts for a random result. Obviously, we’d benefit personally from learning what other people want, both their present wants and anticipated future wants, and then produce it for them.

So far so good. Most people (except for Keynesians) grasp this very simple point about the market — and how it contributes to civilization and peaceful interaction. But all people aren’t saints, so good, hard-working people risk being taken advantage of as they have nothing to set against such actions. Without a central power such as the state, who will protect us from such people?

Answer: the web of voluntary transactions aligns people’s interests. In the market, “bad people” are not only defrauding, stealing from, or robbing a single person or family. They are, in effect, attacking the community of interdependent producers and network of traders.

To continue reading: How Welfare States Make Us Less Civilized

Functional Illiterates Trying to Erase History, by Jim Quinn

There is little “history” anymore, just people extracting half stories from history and shaping them into their own contemporary political agendas. From Jim Quinn at theburningplatform.com:

“True patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them the desire to do right is precisely the same.” Robert E. Lee

Image result for toppled statue durham nc

I consider myself a student of history. I’ve always been fascinated by the personalities who drove events throughout history. I probably would have been a history major in college if I didn’t feel the need to make enough money to support myself and my family. I chose a business major and decided studying history would be my hobby. Over the years I’ve taken a particular interest in the Civil War. You could even call me a Civil War buff.

I’ve probably read 60 books on the Civil War, from Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote and numerous other historians. I’ve visited the Gettysburg battlefield a half dozen times, as it is only 150 miles from my home. My basement office is decorated with six prints depicting various scenes from the Civil War. One depicts Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson at Fredericksburg, another depicts Jackson leading his troops through Richmond, another depicts Grant taking command of Union forces, another shows Chamberlain leading the charge down Little Round Top, another portrays Lee and Longstreet making the fateful decision to send Pickett’s men on their futile charge into history, and the last showing the slaughter during Pickett’s charge.

I’ve even taken an executive education course in leadership where the final day is a trip to Gettysburg where a park ranger guides you through the three day battle and the professor asks you to assess the leadership shown by officers on both sides during that tide turning battle. My fascination with the Civil War isn’t based on rooting for one side or the other. I wanted to understand the motivations of the main characters and understand why and how they fought that bloody war. There were so many fateful decisions, errors of judgement, acts of courage, acts of cowardice, brilliantly bold maneuvers, and just plain good and bad luck.

To continue reading: Functional Illiterates Trying to Erase History

He Said That? 8/12/17

From Jack London (1876–1916)American novelist, journalist, and social activist, Martin Eden (1909):

He thanked God that she had been born and sheltered to such innocence. But he knew life, its foulness as well as its fairness, its greatness in spite of the slime that infested it, and by God he was going to have his say on it to the world. Saints in heaven – how could they be anything but fair and pure? No praise to them. But saints in slime – ah, that was the everlasting wonder! That was what made life worth while. To see moral grandeur rising out of cesspools of iniquity; to rise himself and first glimpse beauty, faint and far, through mud- dripping eyes; to see out of weakness, and frailty, and viciousness, and all abysmal brutishness, arising strength, and truth, and high spiritual endowment-”