Stop Following Children

“You’ve got to be oriented towards something. Otherwise, you’re disoriented. You just spin around in circles. And then you suffer, and so do people around you. It’s not a good solution. Orient yourself towards something. You have to figure out what it is. What will work for you? What goal would justify the suffering of your life? Start trying to piece that together, and you’re going to get better at it. But it’s a personal process. And you should use your education to inform that. You need a personal place to stand because otherwise you’re going to be handed a place to stand on a plate. And maybe one that makes you a puppet of someone else’s goals. So, what are the processes? Well, what I’ve recommended to people is clean up your room. That’s a good start. Organize your local landscape. Schedule your time. Start taking control of yourself. Stop seeing if you can say things you know to be lies. That’s not the same as telling the truth. You don’t get to do that to begin with because you’re not good enough at it to even attempt it in some sense. But everyone can stop saying things they know to be falsehoods.”-Dr. Jordan B Peterson

For the past two or three years, I have become one of millions of individuals to spend hours of my life watching Dr. Jordan B Peterson lectures, interviews, debates, and videos of his own making. Some say that Peterson is turning into a bit of a cult leader. Others refer to him as a prophet. To me, he’s just a well-informed and well-intentioned guy with a lot of important stuff to say.

Beginner Peterson followers often parrot what has become one of his most popular catch phrases: clean up your room. While it sounds simple (and may have been the case for most pre-millennial generations), what Peterson means when he recommends cleaning one’s room is that getting yourself oriented towards a meaningful goal is a slow, personal process. As beginning the journey towards individuality and a meaningful life is likely the hardest part, focusing on a simple task like keeping one’s room tidy is a great way to get started.

I admire Peterson not only because his advice and knowledge are useful and entertaining, but because we have a common craft as educators. While my ESL teaching in Thailand is not nearly as prestigious as being a tenured professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, I, like Peterson, am tasked with the responsibility of transferring knowledge to students and, more importantly, providing them with the intellectual tools they will need to survive and thrive in the world.

Living abroad and observing the progress and events taking place in the USA has both advantages and disadvantages in terms of the ability to analyze situations proficiently. On the one hand, I am not in the United States, and I view my home country through a mass media filter. Mainstream media, alternative media, and social media provide a tremendous amount of information, but all skew reality in various directions. This makes my interpretation of what is going on skewed as well (though each of our interpretations of the world is skewed irrespective of media to begin with).

On the other hand, observing my nation of birth from the outside gives me a unique perspective and removes certain biases. As events and happenings in the US have a limited effect on my life in Thailand, I am able to analyze with less prejudice than someone directly affected by them. For example, if a new law or regulation winds up providing an American with greater job security, he will probably have a harder time judging the ethics and overall impact of the new rule. If it makes his life better, his confirmation bias will highlight the personal benefits and blur the negative effects the rule may have on others. Since I am outside many of the effects of US policy, I may be better able to analyze them dispassionately.

Based on my exo-observations, I am alarmed at the state of discourse in America, particularly in education and academia. Curricula that view government with rose-colored goggles, policies that value group identity over individuality, and rising intolerance of views that counter leftist dogma have given me cause for concern for several years. But nothing has sent a chill up my spine like the current media obsession with the Parkland massacre student survivors.

While I have no issue with allowing these students to share their experience and even express their views on gun policy, a feeling of nausea comes over me when I see how many people are following them on Twitter, bringing them on to major news networks to comment on all sorts of issues, and marching behind them at political protests.

The media, namely the increasingly pathetic CNN, is certainly favoring the views of the students pushing for gun control over the voices of those who support the Second Amendment. But the Conservative following of the anti-gun control students is equally appalling. I will not publish the names of any of these young people or link to media that features them because I do not wish to promote it.

By all means, we, as adults, should be encouraging kids to engage in political, social, philosophical, and all other forms of discourse and debate. It is vital that young people expound their views and have them scrutinized. However, we should advise against their undying commitment to agendas and principles, especially in the form of public advocacy, until they have had the time to think them through and defend them from sincere contrarian challenges.

Far more despicable than failing to advise students against premature advocacy is exploiting their passion and marketability in pursuit of one’s own objectives. This is one of the most sinister potentialities of the human condition.

Here’s a picture of Khmer Rouge teenagers rounding up guns in Cambodia.

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Image Source

Like just about every other government atrocity of the 20th Century, which combined to murder over 100 million people, the heart of the Khmer Rouge movement was Cambodia’s impressionable youths.

Pol Pot along with Stalin, Hitler, and Mao were keenly aware of the deadly combination of idealism and ignorance that is most prevalent among the young, who also happen to be the most physically fit and have the least to lose in a radical upheaval of cultural, societal, economic, and political norms. Taking power the way they did would have been impossible without children to prey upon and carry out their misdoings.

These murderers were also aware of how persuasive the illusion of protecting the lives and safety of children can be to the general public. As Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, “The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”

History and common sense teach us that we should provide young people with loving humility and liberal education, not emotional coddling and political clout. They are in search of guidance, but lack the judgment to know which guides are leading them in the right direction.

Seven years of teaching middle school and high school have taught me how easy it is to persuade and stimulate teenagers. I remember walking out of an 8th grade class after a grammar lesson several years ago. After exiting the building, I realized I had made a mistake about something and misinformed the entire class. The embarrassment of my error quickly subsided after I became aware of how easily I could stand in front of my students and fill their heads with anything I wanted to. I immediately felt sick.

Part of my code of conduct as a teacher has always been to do my best to keep my opinions out of the classroom. Being that my students generally trust me and see me as a good man, it would be unethical for me to use my position of authority to promote my views as it would serve as a form of indoctrination, not education. Instead, I teach them to analyze rhetoric, apply logic, and think critically. With these tools at their disposal, they come closer to having what it takes to fend off opportunistic users and abusers, and make good decisions on their own.

I hope more adults, especially teachers, will follow my and Dr. Jordan Peterson’s lead instead of putting ignorant children on the front lines.

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Stop Following Children

Trump’s Epically Anti-Libertarian Moment

Note: I had previously adopted a ‘no profanity’ rule on HowToCureYourLiberalism.com. It is no longer in effect.

President Trump’s trade war is officially under way. After stupidly placing tariffs on steel, aluminum, and a laundry list of Chinese imports, the PRC has announced plans to return the favor with tariffs on hundreds of American exports. While this may be helpful to a handful of workers in domestic and Chinese industries, it will be a headache for far more workers and nearly all consumers in both countries. Presidents Trump and Xi, however, live on the taxpayer’s dole, so will probably not be subjected to any of the negative consequences their stupid tariffs bring about.

While it has been clear all along that Trump is in no way a free trader, the most recent advisor he has appointed is a dramatic departure from his anti-interventionist palaver. John Bolton is Trump’s new national security advisor. John Bolton. The big mustache guy who’s never met a war he didn’t like. That guy. Is now. Trump’s. National. Security. Advisor.

While I hate to be cynical (although I am enjoying it right now), I really wish Trump had “colluded” with the Russians to steal the 2016 election. If he had and was now remaining loyal to Putin, there is no way Trump would consider regime change and Iraq-esque permanent occupation in Syria. But since it is becoming increasingly clear that Trump did not collude with Russia and as more and more neo-cons swamp the White House, war with Russia and/or Iran seems likelier by the day.

This is all very frustrating and un-libertarian. But what Trump tweeted out yesterday might possibly be the worst 47 words I or any Libertarian has ever come across. Take a look:

Everything in this tweet is bad. Let’s take it from the top:

Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border,

We don’t need a wall on the southern border. The southern border is very big. A massive chunk of illegal immigration is a result of visa overstays, not just border crossings. And Illegal immigration isn’t that big of a problem to begin with.

$1.6 billion is a lot of money. But it’s not nearly enough to build a wall to separate Mexico and the United States, which share the 10th longest international land border in the entire world.

Immigration is supposed to be a state issue, not a federal issue anyway.

rest will be forthcoming.

If he were talking about taking a rest from doing things, that would be great. Tragically, he’s referring to the other $16-17 billion needed to build the wall (which is not needed or legal and will never be built).

Most importantly, got $700 Billion to rebuild our Military,

Our military is already built. It’s the most powerful and most expensive in the world. Since it’s already built, rebuilding it is not important, let alone most important. $700 billion is too much money for the military. In fact, it’s too much money for anything. Any time you pay $700 billion for something, you are getting ripped off.

$716 Billion next year…

Shit!

most ever.

SHIT!

Had to waste money

No! You didn’t have to waste money. You are supposed to veto things that waste money or are otherwise bad. What the heck did you waste it on?

Dem giveaways

SHIT!!! WTF?!?! WHY?!?!

in order to take care of military pay increase and new equipment.

I’m not saying whether or not I support a military pay increase or “new equipment”. Maybe it’s appropriate. I don’t know.

But you know what would have been a better way of accomplishing both of these goals, Mr. President?

Come a little closer so I can whisper it in your ear. Ready? Here goes:

BRINGING OUR TROOPS HOME AND PUTTING AN END TO OUR PSYCHOTIC FOREIGN POLICY, YOU FUCKING IDIOT!!! DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH THAT SHIT COSTS?!?! YOU MUST REALIZE BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN RANTING AND RAVING ABOUT IT FOR 30 FUCKING YEARS!!!

You used to talk about America First. I kind of liked that. The wild idea that a nation’s government would put its nation’s interests above, say, Israel’s or a bunch of politically well-connected cronies’ is a really swell idea. Even though I disagreed with many of your domestic ideas, I actually considered voting for you and wrote why Hillary was a worse choice for president simply because you said you wanted to concern yourself with issues at home exclusively.

But it looks like either that was all talk or you have become a full-fledged neocon cuck.

It’s silly for me to be angry at President Trump. He never claimed to be a Libertarian, Constitutionalist, or Budget Hawk. And he always lies and contradicts himself, so there’s that too.

There is a bright side in all of this, though, if you look hard enough.

Let me know if you find it.

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Trump’s Epically Anti-Libertarian Moment

Bring on the Blue Wave

This is going to be quick.

Considering the omnibus package and John Bolton’s appointment as national security advisor, there is officially no reason for Libertarians to prefer President Trump and the Republicans over the Democrats.

The omnibus package and its ensuing passage were summed up quite well by Senator Mike Lee:

‘Nuff said.

As for John Bolton, just imagine a caricature of an American war hawk so over the top that it loses all comedic value. That’s who is now in the president’s ear regarding national security.

I am not going vote for any Democrats in this year’s midterm elections or in 2020 unless they magically nominate a dovish free marketer. But at this point, I think I’d like the Democrats to take the house and senate. I don’t want them to win for the sake of their party’s platform, but to give the Republicans a well-deserved loss.

Vote Libertarian or stay home.

***

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Bring on the Blue Wave

The Prototypical American Candidate

The Pennsylvania 18th district special election appears to be a good teachable moment for Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians.

Democrats should learn that they can win in red states and counties by nominating handsome moderates. Republicans should learn that campaign spending is not the key to victory. And Libertarians should learn that we are a permanent minority political point of view.

Since President Trump’s election, I have had several thoughts and discussions about what the Democrats should do in response to huge losses in 2016. My thinking is that Democrats have to choose between being the party of inclusion and the party of the working man. If they go full Social Justice Warrior, they will regain many of the minority votes that came out for Barack Obama yet stayed home for Hillary Clinton. If they go full working man, they will regain many of the working class white voters who voted for Obama twice and then switched to Trump.

I have another, more complex idea for what the Democrats or Republicans could look for in a candidate to have the best chance at winning just about any election in America outside of major metros like New York and Los Angeles which are unusually left-leaning. Unfortunately, the prototypical American candidate will be far from Libertarian.

Here are the qualities I believe would combine for a winning formula in almost all US elections:

Xenophobic

The prototypical American candidate must be ready to appeal to the American people’s fear of foreigners. This includes supporting trade barriers to prevent people in other countries from “stealing our jobs” and sending us “dangerous” products. The candidate must also be wary of immigration and outraged by crimes committed by foreign-born residents. Bombing countries that end in “stan” and enforcing travel bans are a plus too.

Buy American, Hire American, and America First are winning slogans.

Socially Moderate

Social Conservatism and Social Liberalism are both unappealing to the broader American public. Social Conservatism is stupid and hypocritical, and Social Liberalism is scary and dangerous in the mind of the average American voter. This means abortion bans and late-term abortions are both off-putting. It means supporting gay marriage, but not transgender students using the toilet of their choice. It means supporting medical marijuana use, but not full decriminalization. If you consider gun rights to be more of a social than a political issue, supporting a few restrictions on the gun trade while still believing in the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense purposes is the way to go.

(This is as good as it’s going to get for Libertarians, by the way.)

Fiscally Apathetic

The national debt is concerning to Libertarians and Conservatives, but not concerning enough to most Americans that they would sacrifice a single penny to deal with it. The perfect political candidate would share this lack of concern. This means cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the military are out of the question, and spending increases are always welcome. Tax cuts, especially for a self-glorifying middle class, should be promoted as well, the deficit be damned.

Economically Socialist

Middle class tax cuts paired with upper class tax hikes might be the best policy position to win an election in America or anywhere else. Soaking the rich to pay for the middle class’s healthcare, education, social security, and infrastructure is irresistible for the average voter. Economic redistribution plays on tribalism, envy, greed, anger, hate, short-sighted arithmetic, and basically every other flaw in the human condition. Sharing is caring as long as you think you’re on the receiving end.

Constitutionally Ignorant

The Constitution requires reading. It contains antiquated vocabulary words that need to be researched. And, as the fable goes, it was used to justify slavery and subjugation of women. Why would any candidate intent on winning an election waste their time with this silly, old document?

That being said, shouting “The Constitution!” when it suits your argument doesn’t hurt. The prototypical candidate just has to avoid going into too much detail.

Young, Male, and Attractive

President Trump embodies the prototypical American candidate fairly well until it comes to his face, his hair, and his waistline. And this is a big deal. How many times have you heard voters who would otherwise agree with the bulk of his platform make horrid comments about Trump’s appearance? He is so unpleasant to look at that he’s probably turned a fair amount of populist moderates into left-wing radicals, Russophobic neocons, or even Libertarians (one can only hope).

The only thing Trump has going for him on paper is that he is male. However, I do not think this gave him much of an edge against Hillary Clinton. Trump is male, but not masculine in appearance. His voice is not deep and commanding either. He isn’t stoic, and he is more petulant and defiant than confident. Clinton was so unattractive, both physically and behaviorally, that Trump’s appearance and demeanor could probably be overlooked when the two were juxtaposed.

This video shows an experiment in which an exchange between Trump and Hillary are acted out by members of the opposite sexes. While the woman playing Trump might not be particularly appealing, the male playing Hillary sounds like nails on a chalkboard. This reaffirms my belief that the genders of the candidates played a very minor role in the 2016 election.

If you go back and look at the GOP primary candidates Trump defeated, you might notice that being young, male, and attractive was irrelevant. Jeb Bush looks dorky and weak, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are short, Ted Cruz and John Kasich are hard to look at, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson are fidgety and spastic, and Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee are fat. Compared to this crew, Trump is tall and fills out a suit quite nicely.

I hate to be a bummer, but there is scant hope for the Libertarian Party and for more Libertarian-leaning Republicans like Rand Paul and Thomas Massie. Our views are terribly unpopular politically, and our candidates tend to be weird-looking and nutty.

Democracy is active organization and participation with little risk involved for those who take part. Making an organized, collective effort to win an election goes against our independent, non-interventionist, and anti-tyrannical nature. Spontaneous order and market forces are not the name of the game in politics.

So, what should we do? Moderate our platform to make it more palatable? Lie to voters about our intentions? Retreat from politics altogether and live our lives as if government doesn’t exist? Or am I underestimating the potential for Libertarians to make gains in elections around the country?

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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The Prototypical American Candidate

Tariffs: Inhibiting Man’s Economic Genius and Encouraging His Political Idiocy

I am not going to sugar-coat the stupidity of President Trump’s proposed aluminum and steel tariffs. There is no justification for taxing foreign products that Americans want to buy. It is complete and utter idiocy.

On economic grounds, tariffs cause prices to rise and competition to soften. That means fewer and lower-quality products at an inflated price for all.

On moral grounds, the argument that a steel tariff will save American jobs in the steel-producing industry is quickly squelched by the much larger number of steel-using industries that lose jobs and opportunity. This is not simply a theoretical law of economics either. President George W. Bush placed tariffs on steel imports too. He protected a handful of steel jobs, caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of others, and then wisely repealed the tariffs. This was less than 20 years ago.

(If one is bright enough to understand that tariffs kill more jobs than they create, and still supports tariffs, he is corrupt, and his opinions need not be taken seriously.)

On political grounds, however, tariffs might be brilliant. They stir the masses and often result in short-term gains for a few sympathetic people (like a steel mill in rural America reopening). Protectionism masquerades as Patriotism, claiming to be in the interest of American workers and American industry. And by the time tariffs take their imminent toll, voters have been fed so much propaganda that they are unable to construe the negative effects of tariffs on the overall economy from Wall Street to Main Street. Tariffs secretively punish everyone, and ostentatiously benefit a few.

When it comes to understanding the Global economy or even the American economy, President Trump is a complete moron. But this is nothing to be ashamed of, Mr. President! Obama is a moron on this issue too! So are Gary Johnson, Hillary Clinton, Paul Krugman, Alan Greenspan, Neil Cavuto, every economist who has ever lived, and me! We are all complete morons when it comes to understanding the economy!

This is because the economy is far too complicated for any one person or group of people to even begin to grasp.

As I type this essay, I am looking at scattered items all over my table. There is a glass, a plastic cup, some dental floss, a box cutter, two pairs of scissors, many pens and pencils, a notebook, a remote control for my air conditioner, my iPhone, a calendar, two chargers, a ruler, a stapler, my glasses, a sock, my laptop, a mouse and mouse pad, a platform with a fan that keeps my laptop from overheating, and some tissues.

I don’t know where any of this stuff was made. I don’t know who manufactured it. I don’t know how it was manufactured. I don’t know how it was shipped to wholesalers and retailers. I don’t know who arranged the shipments and wholesale purchases. I don’t know precisely what raw materials these items are made of. I don’t know how or where the raw materials they consist of were harvested. I don’t know what equipment was used to harvest those raw materials. I don’t know how or where or by whom or with what materials the equipment used to harvest or synthesize the materials that were manufactured into the products sitting on my desk was made either!

I only know that I purchased them, where I purchased them, how much I paid for them, and that I use them. And if I run out of one or it breaks or I become dissatisfied with it, I will go out and replace it to the best of my ability (or not if I don’t think it’s necessary).

The great economist Frederick Hayek, in his essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” referred to someone like me as “the man on the spot”. Hayek begins by explaining that “If we possess all the relevant information, if we can start out from a given system of preferences, and if we command complete knowledge of available means, the problem which remains is purely one of logic.” This is a general idea that applies to all aspects of life. If it’s 10:00pm on Monday night, and you need to be in Reno by 11:30am on Tuesday, and it takes two hours to fly to Reno, and the red eye is sold out, and there are flights to Reno at 7:00am and 9:00am on Tuesday morning, and the 9:00am flight is out of your price range, you have to take the 7:00am flight. You and I can solve these problems by applying a smidgen of logic to the information at hand.

But when it comes to the world economy, possessing knowledge this concise is impossible for one individual or one group of people no matter how educated or informed they might be. As Hayek says:

The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.

The “dispersed bits of knowledge” are possessed by people like you and me and every other idiot in the world. Hayek calls each one of us with our own unique and specialized collection of data “the man on the spot.” As dumb as we are in comprehending the “economic order,” we are ingenious at making economic decisions in our everyday lives. And it does not take much more than half a brain to be a genius as a man on the spot:

How much knowledge does he [the man on the spot] need to do so [make good economic decisions] successfully? Which of the events which happen beyond the horizon of his immediate knowledge are of relevance to his immediate decision, and how much of them need he know?

There is hardly anything that happens anywhere in the world that might not have an effect on the decision he ought to make. But he need not know of these events as such, nor of all their effects. It does not matter for him why at the particular moment more screws of one size than of another are wanted, why paper bags are more readily available than canvas bags, or why skilled labor, or particular machine tools, have for the moment become more difficult to obtain. All that is significant for him is how much more or less difficult to procure they have become compared with other things with which he is also concerned, or how much more or less urgently wanted are the alternative things he produces or uses. It is always a question of the relative importance of the particular things with which he is concerned, and the causes which alter their relative importance are of no interest to him beyond the effect on those concrete things of his own environment.

If read in bad faith, one might come away with the impression that Hayek is an elitist snob talking down to a bunch of ants in a terrarium. “Those concrete things of his own environment” can come off as condescending. But Hayek is a man on the spot himself, and he knows it. Due to his profession as an economist, he is certainly slightly more informed than many of the other men on the spot around him. But when compared to the inconceivable number of events taking place around the world at all times, that extra information is largely insignificant.

It is often said that there are three kinds of knowledge. There is 1) what you know, 2) what you know that you don’t know, and 3) what you don’t know that you don’t know. You know that the Eagles won the Super Bowl. You know that you don’t know how nuclear power works. But did you know that there is a giant, mongoose-like creature in Madagascar called a fossa that hunts lemurs? See, you didn’t know that you didn’t know that (until I told you).

When Hayek explains that the man on the spot does not know and does not need to be aware of every event that takes place and its effect on the economy, he is not saying that he is the one who actually understands these things. Hayek is just like you! The only thing that makes his knowledge superior is his awareness that many events are taking place around the world that are beyond his knowledge. Hayek does not seek to assert himself as the arbiter of the global economic order. He is simply suggesting that a more humble approach is needed.

And this is where politics spoils everything.

Hayek’s approach to economics is to decentralize as much as possible. This runs counter to the ambitions of governments, bureaucrats, and special interest groups. Governments gain wealth and power by usurping controls of the means of production. Bureaucracies remain in demand only by setting up barriers between the man on the spot and his economic decisions. And special interest groups benefit from undermining their competition via legislative fiat because they can’t compete on an even playing field. All of this is incompatible with allowing the man on the spot to live and choose freely.

Ironically, the ingenious man on the spot is politically retarded, and is thereby encouraged to participate in politics as often as possible. His emotions and his ignorance are manipulated by politicians and activists to best serve their agendas. The man on the spot is told that we must take action, not that we must step aside and live our lives peacefully and reasonably. The unseen impacts of tariffs and rent-seeking are difficult to illustrate and conceptualize while a single steel mill hiring 500 new workers bedazzles and affirms mythical beliefs.

Thomas Sowell once said “the first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” President Trump and his populist base are disregarding all of the evidence and all of the facts. The country they claim to love will suffer as a result. We’ll have to wait and see if it pays of politically. My commitment to voting for the Libertarian candidate is growing stronger by the day.

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Tariffs: Inhibiting Man’s Economic Genius and Encouraging His Political Idiocy