TUESDAY


1. Herbs that heal.

2. Late night talk shows belong to the Catholics.

3. Delusion.

4. Another reason to doubt they are born that way.

5. And the reason why you can't question it.


7. We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.--CHARLES BUKOWSKI

8. Voris on the Resurrection.

9. God bless Bono.

10. Optimism.

Spartan Wanderer on Practical and Dogmatic Minimalism

The thing about minimalism is that it can be an easy or dramatic lifestyle change depending on who you are. It’s something that everyone needs to take on at their own pace. But not if you want to be as cool as the guys who maintain that you MUST have less than 100 things (or 50, I forget the arbitrary number they use) to possess any sort of minimalist “cred”. I don’t like this and it completely misses the mark of what minimalism is all about, nor is it realistic to expect everyone from all walks of life to arrive at the same point in their transition to a simple life.

Dogmatic minimalists love using rhetoric like “throw your TV out the window” and “burn all of your stuff” to establish some sort of ultimatum. If you don’t meet it, then you are not as holy as they are. That’s why I apply “dogmatic” to these guys. They’ve basically started their own religion. Some of them drink their own Kool-aid, but others are simply pushing books that exist as their Bible, something that must be followed to a T if you’re serious at all about being a cybernetic yogi. If anyone gets that reference, you’re awesome.

Dogmatic vs. Practical Minimalism

I like this article even if it asks more questions than it answers. I admit that I am tired of "minimalism" as a label. "Voluntary simplicity" would be a better one, but I have taken a cue from St. Francis of Assisi and Dorothy Day and started using "voluntary poverty" as a better label.

Minimalists are actually what I think of as "dry maximalists." This is a variation of a term they use in AA called a "dry drunk." Basically, a dry drunk is someone who is sober, but they still retain the problems that made them drink. Minimalists have the same problem because they use to obsess about material things when they were McMansion dwelling maximalists. Now, they obsess over fewer things in the same way, so they post pictures of their Macbooks. Basically, they own fewer items, but their stuff is way cooler.

People who are into voluntary simplicity are really just hippies paying top dollar for organic soaps and foods and worshiping the planet. They also like to homestead which makes them anti-minimalist because they end up with a bit of clutter from their projects. The main objective of their lifestyle seems to be being able to grow their hair long and avoid working a job.

I think all of these people have the right impulse, but their direction is wrong. This is why I put minimalists, voluntary simplicity people, tiny house dwellers, and others under the broad heading of  "simplicity" in my Feedly. They all have good ideas for living a simpler life even if they disagree on why they should live simpler. For some, it is the planet. For others, it is narcissism.

Voluntary poverty cuts right to the chase. It is a controversial term and idea because no one likes poverty much less chooses it as a lifestyle. But this is exactly the lifestyle the minimalists and hippies have chosen even if they don't want to call it that. Then, they would like to claim some kind of moral or spiritual high ground with it, but they can't do that either. So, they do it for its own sake and spend their days analyzing it. I will end the hand wringing for you.

People choose poverty because they want to be closer to God. Material things distract from this pursuit. This is because people often use material things to fill the empty part of themselves where God belongs. This is why simple living always has a spiritual aspect to it from Buddhists to monks to surf bums to Henry David Thoreau. Simple living without this spiritual component is actually empty living. Counting how many things you own is rather stupid in light of this. The belief is that when that number reaches zero you will attain enlightenment.

We are material beings, so we need material things. If you believe we are only material, you go buy a McMansion and feel empty. If you believe we are only spiritual, you throw away all your things and feel empty. But if you seek God, you keep enough material things to make life possible while seeking after God. What you realize is that it doesn't take much to live on. This is voluntary poverty. You keep what you need and give away what distracts you from your true end.

[SOC] Can Opener Blues, the New Gilded Age, the Great Depression, Distributism

It seems these days after spending a lifetime writing about deep subjects like philosophy, politics, economics, and religion that most of my writing is spent discussing consumer items like coffee makers, razors, and beer. So, today, I am going to write about can openers.

The can opener thing actually does touch on those deeper topics. This is because a typical can opener today is a terrible piece of equipment. I remember when can openers actually opened cans, and I don't mean just one time. I mean several times over the course of YEARS. A can opener was a durable but indispensable piece of machinery. Then, they started making the things in China. Now, you are lucky to get six cans opened before the opener craps out on you.

I won't name names because I don't want to damage Walmart's sterling reputation with the consuming public. I also won't give away the name of the can opener maker except to say that the above picture is the can opener I bought from the store I have chosen to leave anonymous. I just think there is a spinning sound where Sam Walton is buried.

The reason the can opener issue is a deep one is that it begs a question. What in the hell has happened to this country? Granted, I accepted a long time ago that the US Government has turned the Constitution into so much toilet paper. Christian values have virtually disappeared such that even Christians are becoming tolerant of adultery even among their ministers. American men are little more than boys playing video games and watching comic book movies. But at the very least, I thought our consumer tastes had remained intact such that we still wanted the best stuff we could get for the dollar. Now, we are the land of cheap Chinese can openers. The mind boggles.

I could understand if these cheap products were less expensive, but the quality MADE IN THE USA can opener I ordered from Amazon has a similar price to the Chinese can opener I bought. The savings are not being passed on to the customer especially when the customer has to buy a new can opener after opening six cans. The name of the game is to see how hard they can put the screws to customers, employees, and suppliers in order to put more profits into the pocket of the corporation. We pay more and more to end up with less. Is this how capitalism is supposed to work?

I don't believe in capitalism anymore. I see it with my own eyes much like people saw it back in the days of the robber barons. Capital concentrates in fewer hands in much the same way that cancer takes over a body. Defending this on the basis of free markets is akin to defending the Ebola virus on the basis of biology. Natural monopolies exist, and the Austrians are flat wrong. Exhibit A is my crappy Chinese can opener. My only option was to order another one over the internet from a supplier that is probably three days away from bankruptcy. In America, if you provide quality products or service, you will be put out of business. This is capitalism. Thanks to capitalism, we now have crap products every bit as defective as anything that came out of East Germany. The only difference is that the packaging on the outside is snazzier.

This has happened before. The last part of the nineteenth century was known as the "Gilded Age." Basically, things were messed up, but they were covered over with a gild. It is like spraying a dog turd with gold paint. The only difference between communism and capitalism is this gilding. Basically, the capitalism we have today is just communism with a better sense of fashion. I like to think of this time as the "Plastic Age."

The thing that turned me on to distributism was precisely these criticisms of capitalism. I tended to the Austrian free market philosophy of Ron Paul, but there always seemed to be something unreal about it. It nagged at me while watching a video from Reason, the libertarian mag, about people with fancy recreational vehicles and boats and other high ticket items. Libertarian Drew Carey asked if these guys were doctors and lawyers. Nope. They were all blue collar guys playing with their grown up toys. The take away was that capitalism was good because these guys owned these toys. What Drew failed to mention is that these guys didn't own these toys. The people who financed these toys actually owned these toys and was renting the money to these folks at a much higher rate than if these guys had rented the actual equipment. What these guys had was an illusion of the good life. Now, I can't afford to buy these toys, but I can afford to rent these things for the day. Yet, I am the poor guy because I don't "own" the toys. But these guys don't own them either. A few missed payments will show the reality of it all.

I would rather own a hut than make payments on a palace I will never own. This is the crux of the problem with modern capitalism. People are tricked into exchanging ownership for servitude. The banks do it with their usury. The corporations do it with wage slavery. The stores do it by selling you sham products that you have to keep buying because they don't last or become obsolete in a short while. The ultimate aim is to get you to give them something while you end up with nothing. When these parasites succeed, the economy becomes unbalanced, and the whole thing comes to ruin. This is what created the Great Depression.

The Austrians claimed that it was cheap money that led to malinvestment that lead to government intervention which created the Great Depression. I now realize they were wrong. What the cheap money did was allow the concentration of capital in fewer hands. When the productive class can no longer produce because they have been pushed to the edge of subsistence, the economy collapses. It is like trying to balance a cinder block on the head of a pin.

Keynesians and Austrians can both agree that something has become unbalanced. For the Austrians, it was a problem of misallocated capital. For the Keynesians, it was the problem of declining demand and decreased consumption. What those two fools fail to see is that they are both right. They simply are seeing the same problem from two vantage points. The reality is when the masses are deprived of ownership they are also deprived of the means of consuming since they have nothing to exchange. Deprived of the means of making a living, the masses buy little, fend for themselves, and steal and revolt. This is why you have a perpetual boom and bust cycle. Even without central banking, this boom and bust cycle occurs. Capitalism always leads to slavery or socialism. This is its natural tendency. Free marketers of the Austrian and Chicago schools are at pains to argue that this isn't the case, but history shows otherwise. This history includes right now as we see our economy in a state of extreme imbalance.

Granted, some benefited during the Gilded Age just as they do now. But we could also make the argument that slaves in the American South enjoyed greater security than those living in the African bush fighting off wild animals and warring tribes. Today, many in Africa enjoy cellphones, but they still defecate in buckets because they are without plumbing. I could also make the argument that people living under Soviet communism were better off than during the days of the czars. Today, we have more consumer items, but we don't actually own them while those who do own them have no time to enjoy them. The problem is that we have differing measures of what constitutes the good life. For instance, a homeless person is free from job responsibilities and the stress of commuting. Is homelessness the good life?

I define the good life pretty simply. You have no debt. You own your own home. The mother does not have to work outside of the home. The father is able to work for himself or have a stake in ownership where he works. Everyone is literate, fed, clothed, and has access to affordable healthcare. The family enjoys at least one full day of leisure each week. Notice I don't mention computers, cellphones, or other gadgets. These are basic things enjoyed by the farming class during the 1800's. This is Puritan New England. This would be settlers on the prairie. Now, these people were deprived of modern technology and medicine. But why can't we have the technology and the medicine and also the things those people had? This is because we have been tricked.

Things shouldn't be like this. On the basis of technology, we live lives superior to royalty from a hundred years ago. But on the basis of ownership and real freedom, we are worse off than even the poor farmers of the 1800's who worked hard but spent less time at labor than we do today. Plus, they had decent can openers. I don't want to choose between the good things of today versus the good things of yesterday. I want both. I can't understand why that is impossible today.

SUNDAY


1. The penalty for professing Christ in Saudi Arabia.

2. When a woman steals a husband from another woman, I have to laugh when that husband cheats on the second wife. Good fruit does not come from bad seed.

3. You can never accidentally shoot someone four times.

4. People are now discovering that Twitter is not social media but a giant newsfeed for journalists and celebrities.

5. Don't buy can openers made in China. This would be any can opener from Walmart.

6. I am still using XP. I like to live dangerously.

7. Autism is on the rise because socially inept nerd types are able to meet on the internet and reproduce.

8. 92 and still dangerous. Guns are good. Get one.


10. Jeb Bush spoke correctly about illegal immigrants from Mexico. Doing right by your family is no crime. This means he has no chance of winning the GOP nomination. BTW, Jeb is Catholic.