Archive for January, 2011

Aldous Huxley on Freedom and Totalitarianism

My summary and a bit of interpretation.

Threats to freedom:

  • Overpopulation and resultant pressure on ecological systems and depletion of natural resources.
  • Overly bureaucratic and hierarchical information systems in government and business
  • Use of media and technological advances to distract populace, potentially evolving into overt propaganda
  • Use of psycho-active drugs

Regarding freedom and totalitarianism:

  • Dictators of future will rule by propaganda and entertainment, if not by force
  • Price of freedom is eternal vigilance
  • Inculcation of children via advertising: cannon fodder training via radio/TV propaganda
  • Passion for power puts all democratic processes at risk
  • People can be persuaded at level below choice and reason by subjugating one’s rational self-interest through entertainment and advertising
  • Bifurcation of society into a ruling, relatively free oligarchy on the one hand, and oppressed slaves on the other, a state of affairs that can endure for a long time

Regarding political campaigns:

  • All it takes is money and a candidate perceived as sincere can allow elites to take control of the whole democratic procedure

Regarding democracy:

  • Education in critical thinking inoculates against totalitarianism
  • Decentralization empowers voters. Centralization dis-empowers them
  • Freedom is not necessary for industrial production, but it necessary for the creative life of man

All in all, Mr. Huxley’s arguments are still salient, if not prescient today.

Here’s the rest of the interview:

Aldous Huxley is the author of the dystopian novel Brave New World.

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300 year history of fossil fuels in less than 300 seconds

Some say Richard Heinburg is an environmental nut-job.  Others call him a sage.

I’m sure he’s right about some things and wrong about others. (Who isn’t?) I’m not sure what to call him, but he keeps bringing up key issues.

Ignore at your own risk.

How to get yourself out of a scandal. Some tips for politicians.

The best way to deal with the truth is to never let it get out, but if it does here’s some helpful hints for damage control.

  • Deflect attention from serious charges by dealing with only the weakest accusations. Slay a straw man instead of getting cornered on the most serious problem.
  • Characterize the charges as “personal attacks” or wild rumors.
  • Assassinate your detractor’s character.  Make them look worse than you. Label them as “conspiracy-theorists” or “nut-jobs.”  Bring up their past mistakes. Better yet, drag a skeleton out of their closet,  real or imagined.
  • Intimate that your opponents have evil motives. Characterize them as racist, partisan, as “having an ax to grind”, or that they’re “doing it for the money.”
  • Accentuate your authority. Deny the allegation and hope it blows over. Wear dark blue with red and white accents. Platform shoes help, too.
  • Orchestrate a separate “scandal” for the 24-hour news cycle, better yet a national crisis, terrorist warning, etc.
  • Past-tensify the allegation.  Refer to it as “in the past” or as “old news.” Act like everyone knows about it, but that everyone still likes you and they’ve moved on.
  • Complicate and confuse the issue with a fog of complex bureaucratic legalese.
  • Come half-clean.  Simulate an environment of candor while admitting some less-than-criminal “mistakes.” Call it an error in judgment or a “lapse.”
  • Blame it on someone else.
  • Let other people answer questions for you if possible, even if it means sacrificing a close colleague.
  • State it can’t possibly be true, otherwise some regulatory agency or the press would have “been all over it.”
  • Start like you’re answering the charges, but then wander to some tangential topic. Talk for as long as possible without actually saying anything. This limits time for further questions.
  • Feed them “red-herrings.”
  • Play dumb.
  • Suggest a study or commission to get to the bottom of things, then staff it with people that you control.

Don’t ask yourself WWJD. Ask yourself, “What would Bill Clinton do?”  Let that be your guide. Good luck!

MLK: “I have a dream” speech

Highlights of Jim Rogers’ latest interview

On Gold: Jim thinks Gold is “overdue for a rest” and “may go down for a while”, but still thinks it “will hit $2000/oz. this decade.”

On Rice: “I’d rather own rice,” Rogers said. “I’d rather own something that’s more depressed than gold.”

On Agriculture: Agricultural commodities are “going to boom” as demand increases in developing markets, especially Asia.  All commodities will be supported by the weakening dollar, which is losing value because Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is “printing money” by buying Treasuries in an effort to shore up the U.S. economy.

On paper money and the dollar: “Paper money is made of cotton, and I’m long cotton, by the way,” Rogers said. “One reason I’m long cotton is because Dr. Bernanke is out there running the printing presses as fast as he can.”

On U.S. equities:  Rogers said he doesn’t own shares in U.S. companies.

On U.S. debt: He is short U.S. long-term treasury bonds.

On the renminbi:  It may offer, “almost sure profits over the next five to 10 years,” he said.

On stock brokers and cabbies: “In the future, it’s the stock broker who’s going to be driving the cabs,” Rogers said. “The smart stock brokers will learn to drive tractors, and drive them for the farmers, because the farmers will have the money.”

Best line from Ariana Huffington’s new book

“The most effective way of fixing the multitude of problems facing America is through the democratic process, but the democratic process itself is badly broken. That is why the first step toward stopping our relentless transformation into Third World America has to be breaking the choke hold that special interest money has on our politicians.”

Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream p. 172

Greenspan loved bubble gum, Bernanke likes ABC gum

“Credit expansion cannot increase the supply of real goods. It merely brings about a rearrangement. It diverts capital investment away from the course prescribed by the state of economic wealth and market conditions. It causes production to pursue paths which it would not follow unless the economy were to acquire an increase in material goods. As a result, the upswing lacks a solid base. It is not a real prosperity. It is illusory prosperity. It did not develop from an increase in economic wealth [i.e. the accumulation of savings made available for productive investment]. Rather, it arose because the credit expansion created the illusion of such an increase. Sooner or later, it must become apparent that this economic situation is built on sand.”

Ludwig von Mises, The Causes of Economic Crisis (1931)

The “borrow-spend-consume” culture inculcated by the Feds is killing what remains of “produce-save-invest” America.

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