Farber’s First Essay

Farber

In the first editions of A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, I included several essays that I cared a great deal about. In the second edition (now available), I took them back out. I feel that a novel is best standing on its own. But I don’t want the essays to simply vanish, and so I will continue posting them here from time to time.

This is one of the major essays, penned by a character named James Farber, as he and others were building a “free digital economy.”

– PR

It began with rogue traders and the merchants of Venice. They really didn’t know what they were building or how it would work. They merely struggled for the betterment of themselves and their families.

It began to break out when the deep superstition of the Middle Ages cracked open under the strain of new philosophies and religious ideas.

It found room to thrive wherever new and wild vistas were found. It expanded with each discovery of far-off new lands. It made its home everywhere the old order was broken up and fresh starts were being made. It took a firm root in America and flourished there for over a hundred years.

Never again, where history is recorded, will there be any question as to whether or not it works.

“It” is the great discovery of the modern era: the positive-sum game. It is the liberation of human energy to do its appropriate job. It is the operation of creation, using the only counter-entropic force we have: free human energy.

You can see it work everywhere from the research lab, to the front office, to the construction site. It is what drives the entrepreneur to develop and produce a new product or service, and it is what gives the construction worker pride when his skill overcomes a difficult problem, turning his blueprints into a functional structure. Why is the construction worker proud, and why does the entrepreneur exult? Because they have done the one thing that all humans have the impulse to do – to create something good that would not have been otherwise.

Human energy is the great creative force in the world. Without it, things tend to entropy. (As the second law of thermodynamics states, “Closed systems tend to entropy.”) Without active and creative human energy, everything goes back to an animal level of existence.

This human energy does not function by obedience and compulsion – it cannot, no matter how many rulers wish it were otherwise. Look at the command economies of the dead socialist world; within several decades their occupants were reduced to an animal existence. Look at the millennia when constrained people lived at the pleasure of their kings, seeking permissions from their rulers to live and work. They continually starved and died. Things began to change only when freelance merchants began living according to their own minds and breaking away from the permissions of their rulers.

When human energy is free to move, creativity goes wild, as do motivation, happiness, and the accumulation of wealth. When it is restrained, the descent to animal existence takes over again.

The discovery of this fact is what differentiates us from the Middle Ages, and not much else. Do you think the people who lived in those dark times were inherently less intelligent than we are? They were not! You and I are their direct descendants, not many generations removed. We are essentially the same.

The term positive-sum game signifies that this system creates more than the sum of its parts. The only real magic – human energy – creates more than it started with. Take some raw materials that are themselves of little worth, and when you add human creativity you can create vehicles, computers, and space ships. The materials themselves have been around since the creation of the earth, if they could have turned into something great of themselves they would have done it long ago. But they cannot – it is only when humans manipulate them according to their own ideas that they gain any real value. Thus, five dollars’ worth of materials becomes a product worth thousands of dollars.

They who do not play the positive-sum game instinctively fall back into being motivated by envy. Ultimately, they find reasons to feel that “there are only so many pieces of the pie.” This is the seed of destruction.

The next thing they say is, “If you have a bigger piece of the pie, then someone else has to have less.” That is a zero-sum game – the idea that nothing is really created, just moved from one hand to another. Not only is it false, but it is also the credo of every envious looter who speaks of ‘fairness’ and ‘equal distribution of wealth,’ but who secretly hopes to get a share of the wealth held by others.

The real controversy of our time is this: Is human energy allowed to work in the world, or will it be tied down? The miserable experiment of Communism has taught the world’s rulers that the positive-sum game is necessary. So, their plan now is to allow human energy to work, but to siphon off as much wealth as possible without killing it altogether. We productive people are carrying the governments of the world upon our backs. Are they worth half of our efforts – half of our lives?

They take half of our earnings away from us continually by a vast web of taxes, fees, and regulations – for what benefit? “To help the poor,” they say, and clamorously infer that if you disagree you are a heartless and dangerous person, and further that all will despise you. But if our money is forcibly taken from us, is not the state robbing us? Any dictionary will tell you that this is so, but it is considered poor form to say so – even to consider it.

And are the poor better off? Certainly some of our money goes to the poor (although most is eaten up in the bureaucracy). This feeds their bellies insufficiently, while at the same time locking them into a life of dependence that wages an unending war upon their souls. Is that a good thing? Are the poor better off for this robbing of producers and living in a state of dependency?

Many of you will gasp and reel in shock that I would challenge the respectability and honor of your tradition, and you fear to let yourselves consider my case. You have come up against someone who does not share in your conspiracy of compliance. You must either turn away from these subjects or face the prospect of becoming a radical and of people saying bad things about you.

Are you angry? If so, it is not because I am wrong. If that were the case, you would simply turn away. You are angry because I am ill-mannered enough to bring up subjects that you wish to avoid. My ideas bother you. When they come up, you divert your mind to pat phrases like, “That is the price we pay for our society.” You dodge reason and shunt your thoughts away in order to keep your mental comfort level. You do not face these ideas head on because you are afraid of them – you are afraid that you might have to agree with them. And then you would have to face the choice either to be a hero or to be a coward.

I stood one evening in IBM Plaza in Chicago, looking over the riverfront skyline as the sun sank in the southwest and realized that the towering monuments to human effort in front of me were the results of the positive-sum game run at only half speed. Chicago was wild and open from the 1830s through the 1890s. Then, slowly, curbs and limits were imposed by do-gooder government and collectivist types. These inevitably slowed the workings of a city that had been, as one writer said, ‘geared for giants.’ But the restraints were not enough to stop the positive-sum game – only enough to slow it down.

The Chicago skyline I watched was the result of the positive-sum game being played at half speed, yet its results were awesome. I thought about what might have been if it were allowed to operate unfettered. And then I thought of the greatest example of the positive-sum gave during my lifetime: Hong Kong. It went from rice fields to the grandest city of the East in one generation – an explosion of unrestrained human energy.

What things we have been deprived of! What glorious accomplishments aborted and stillborn! And now our recent explosion of technology has become the target of bureaucrats worldwide. Where will we go from here? Will the positive-sum game once again be strangled, or will it migrate to new and open lands?

But! Moving to a new land will be a problem, won’t it? There is no land on this planet that is not claimed by some gang of rulers. So, until cheap space flight is achieved, there is only one new country to be found: cyberspace. So escape there we shall. And there we will – and must, for our own sake and for the sake of our descendants – establish the positive-sum game without restriction.

Toward that end, we have built a private free market. We used our own money to do it, and we’ve broken no laws that we are aware of, save laws that outlaw privacy. Now the rulers are trying to stop us. Why? We want to run an experiment and see if freedom really is better than servitude. Why won’t they let us try? Are they interested in the betterment of mankind, or are they really interested in monopoly powers? All we want is to be left alone and to try freedom. Why is that threatening? And why do they wish to imprison us?

James Farber

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Paul Rosenberg
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Western Civilization, Seen from 2150 AD, Part 2

WesternCivilization2

As I noted last week, a small roll of pages recently showed up at my door. They appeared to have been ripped from a history book entitled 2000–2150 AD: The Emergence of Modernity. I am completing my transcription of them today, verbatim. Make of it what you will.

The Death of Scarcity

Wants can be infinitely imagined by clever creatures such as ourselves, but nowadays a basic dividing line between wants and needs is acknowledged. This was not the case during the premodern period, when cravings for ever more were not only habitual but neurotic.

Premoderns were actually addicted to scarcity. Without it, they didn’t know how to find a mate, for example. Showing oneself worthy (especially on the part of males) involved demonstrations that one could thrive in conditions of scarcity better than one’s competitors. Under this assumption, the gathering of more and more goods made them a more and more worthy mate.

And so, when technology began to end scarcity in the late 1900s, most people were simply unable to see it. Most rejected it reflexively, and many ridiculed those who persisted in their claims that scarcity was being overcome.

Little by little, however, people accepted raw, scientific facts, such as the fact that North Americans were growing only half the wheat they could, simply because there weren’t enough people to eat it all. Likewise corn: When the crops became too large, bribed politicians forced oil refiners to add ethanol to gasoline (ethanol being made from corn).

By 2030, the death of scarcity was apparent to a significant minority. But it took almost another two generations before most people were convinced. Again, this was because scarcity had been a foundational concept to them. Conditions of scarcity had been the fundamental justification for governments, war, jobs, mating, and so on. All those psychological dependencies had to be replaced, and that took time.

By 2080, it was almost universally accepted that scarcity, save for narrow areas or short seasons, had been surpassed. Replacements for the old strategies, however, remained in flux for a long time. And while they may remain in flux indefinitely, they have reached some base level of stability in our time.

The Voyagers and the End of the Old World

The final end of the old world – the event that ensured it could not return – is broadly held to be the ability of humans to leave Earth. The old systems survived on their ability to extort money from fenced-in subjects. Once those subjects could leave for the further reaches of the solar system, however, no more money and obedience could be extorted from them.

At its core, the reason for this is simple mathematics. Space is a territory that expands exponentially, as a cube of the distance. The numbers look like this:

  • At one million miles distance, coercive government requires 4,189,000,000 billion cubic miles of dominance.

  • At two million miles it requires 33,510,000,000 billion cubic miles of dominance.

  • At three million miles it requires 113,098,000,000 billion cubic miles of dominance.

  • At four million miles it requires s 268,083,000,000 billion cubic miles of dominance.

And so, those who left moved beyond the state’s ability to exert force upon them.

All of our early moon colonies, as you must know, were founded by independent commercial ventures, not governments. The first few were under the domination of governments and agreed to enforce their legal orders, but as time went on, such orders were taken less and less seriously.

Bounty hunters thrived for a handful of years, but once a bounty hunter found him or herself returning to their government employers bound in chains (as they generally did), they demanded higher salaries for further engagements. This soon became a losing venture for the governments, who were, after all, starved for money due to the abandonment of government currency and the use of encrypted commerce.

Once Mars bases became practical (2070), and especially as asteroid mining became practical (2100), there were simply too many locations – at far too great distances – to dominate. This meant that the colonies became free, but it meant much more than that. The image of the state as the indomitable, the unchallengeable, the unquestionable, had failed. The mighty states had become barbarians who no longer inspired terror. They could be ignored and they were ignored.

The Age of Transition

Our world is always in a state of transition, but the century and a half between 2000 and 2150 AD were remarkable in that they swept away traditions and systems that had held since the Bronze Age.

It took time for our ancestors to adjust to the modern age they were creating, much as our eyes must adjust when walking from a darkened building into bright sunlight. Even when positioned in the light, it took them some time before they could see very well. That’s why conditions didn’t fully stabilize till 2150 or so.

The great drivers of the change of course were technology and evolution.

While governments always cycled between dominance and dissolution, technology accumulated. By 1968 it had advanced far enough to send humans to the moon. Governments halted the advance at that point, but within two generations technological advances put the moon within the range of groups who lacked (or eschewed) the power of coercion. And likewise in virtually every area of technology, continuing no less in our day.

Human evolution, it is now widely held, continued all through the age of dominating hierarchies. People slowly became more creative, less cruel, and less willing to justify constraint. But this evolution was restrained, because new ways of living – ways that might afford evolution some scope – were violently forbidden.

Once the dominance of states fell away, however, those qualities flowed into human life more rapidly than people expected. They had in fact been contained, much as are pressurized gasses. Finally, though, the containment vessels cracked and opened.

[THUS ENDS THE DOCUMENT]

* * * * *

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Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

The Gospel of Radicalism

Radicalism

As I was writing A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, I felt an overwhelming need to put everything I had into the book. (That’s the way you feel when you’re very serious about such things and you’re not sure you’ll ever write another book like it.) So, I included several essays that I cared a great deal about.

Now, however, as I’m getting ready for a second edition of the book, I’m pulling the essays back out. A novel is best standing on its own, in my opinion. And so, I’ll publish the essays here from time to time, starting with “The Gospel of Radicalism,” which was the first of them.

– PR

Just a few hundred years ago it was a standard medical practice to bleed sick people, to make cuts in various parts of their bodies and to drain blood from them. Most people submitted to this useless and frequently harmful treatment without question.

Would you have been one of them?

What do you think of the bleeders? Does it seem to you that they were from a primitive and ignorant age? Well, guess how your descendants are going to think about our generation in a few hundred years! Unless you can break from the clamor of popular opinions, you are doomed to that fate.

All of the social, sexual, and political norms that people now hold dear will someday be gone and will look as archaic as praying to the gods of wind and rain. Rationalize anything you want, but most people are living in ways that will be pitied by future generations. The fashion of this world will pass away. And it will not be missed.

Look at our history: 6,000 years of wars, famines, epidemics, and nonstop emotional misery. Dear God, isn’t it time to question the rules we’ve been living under?

At some point, shouldn’t it become obvious? How much misery do you need before you start to ask hard questions? Shall I recite statistics to you of how many millions of people were violently killed in the past century? How many millions were starved to death by the authorities that ruled them? How many people – probably billions – who are emotionally damaged to the point of reduced function? What will it take? Are you in so deep a fog that you will never question whether something is fundamentally wrong?

Humanity in our time remains in infancy. We are essentially unlimited creatures, yet we have been wallowing in abject poverty – physically, mentally, and spiritually.

We have natures that are suited to high adventure, yet we remain stagnant. Why? Because we’ve been conditioned only to exist, not to live. That conditioning was imposed upon us as weak children, then reinforced during many years of compulsory training. After a while, we learned not to buck the system and eventually to find a safe place within the social order. We are afraid to venture too far out. The powers that be make sport of ruining people who venture too far out of bounds, so we stay safe and ignore our selves in the process.

Safety is a fine thing to choose when you are five years old but not when you are grown!

Your life is too valuable not to be lived. By virtue of being a healthy human, you have what seems to be unlimited potential. Why the urge to sit quietly? Why the fear of movement and expressiveness? Why the paralyzing fear of being different?

Wake up! Don’t be satisfied to merely exist. Live!

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.

  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.

  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.

  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

TheBreakingDawn

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com