Archive for March, 2013


Do “This” or the Puppy/Kitten Gets It.

[Edited] Charles Hugh Smith essay (March 22, 2013)
Shameless blackmail is now the standard response of the political class because it has been brilliantly effective at coercing the masses.

It was all a hoax, of course, a shameless ruse that plays melodramatically on our fears and sympathies and rewards the blackmailer.

We see the same  melodramatic blackmail everywhere in Status Quo responses to the debt/phantom-collateral endgame.

If your city faces a shortfall of tax revenues, rest assured the first response of overpaid bureaucrats in City Hall frantic to keep their jobs, pensions and perks will be to slash the hours the library is open.

A 2% reduction in the budget, we’re told, will push orphans onto the frigid streets, send our troops into battle without ammo, and generally shut down every service the public cares about.

The alternative you will never hear about is a reduction in the multiple layers of overpaid bureaucrats in City Hall.  Or any reduction in funding the parastic cartels that have captured the machinery of governance.

Cuts never touch the sclerotic administrative layers of useless meetings, under-assistants to the assistant director, cost over-runs to bloated contractors, etc.

Instead we’re treated to the equivalent of the same old shrill melodrama: give us money or the puppy/national defense/widow/orphan dies!

The same blackmail ruse is being played out again and again in Europe. The European Union is essentially telling Greece, Cyprus, et al. “either pay off our banksters and bondholders or we’ll kick you out of the eurozone.”

Confounding all reason, the citizens of these indebted countries shrivel in terror at this dread prospect, when they should be cheering that they can exit a neocolonial, neofeudal system of exploitation and extraction.

Political games of blackmail abound. When did this puerile, pathetic melodrama of threatening puppies and kittens (library closures, government shutdowns, closure of useful services to leave the unproductive, overpaid, bloated bureaucracy intact) become standard operating procedure?

It became standard operating procedure when politicos discovered it worked. The public has effectively “trained” the political class to shamelessly frighten and blackmail us at every turn, because we cave into their demands to protect their own power, perquisites and fiefdoms.

Look how easy it is. Consider City Hall, filled with overpaid people plotting their escape to fat pensions and lifetime healthcare coverage, and all they have to do to keep their share of declining tax revenue is close the libraries half the week and order the street repair crews to stand down and let the potholes multiple for a few weeks.

Voila, the taxpayers cave in and re-elect the scoundrels and wastrels, and vote in higher taxes to “save our libraries.”

The blackmailers have no skin in the game. The cuts and sacrifices are all imposed on others, and if the house of cards collapses due to their mismanagement, the losses won’t fall on the portfolios and pensions of the political class and their Upper Caste of technocrats: others will absorb the losses.

The only way to limit shameless political blackmail is to re-train the politicos by ejecting them all from office. It appears at least a third of Italian voters now understand that, having voted for a true outsider (Grillo); now the rest of the nominal democracies need to follow the same path.

Vote down all tax increases until the political class absorbs 40% cuts in staffing, salaries, pensions and healthcare coverage.

Blackmail has even seeped into spheres like Public Television, where we’re threatened with Give us money or your favorite program dies. Fair enough, but how tight a ship are you folks running at the top? How many expense accounts and travel junkets do you at the top enjoy? What sort of cuts are you absorbing first before blackmailing us?




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One of the common saying from my youth was:  you need an “attitude adjustment” – when you were judged to be a bit too big for your boots and getting “Bolshie“.  However, that could well be an adjustment that needs to happen to a lot more people than just stroppy teenagers.  We are probably all in for a bit of serious attitude adjustment.

Here are some [edited] essays I have appropriated that cover alternative perspectives and reassessment of our habits and attitudes.


We are not powerless. Not accepting responsibility and being powerless are two sides of the same coin: once we accept responsibility, we become powerful.

Charles Hugh Smith


Net Worth vs. Net Value   (March 12, 2013)

To what degree is Net Worth a phantom, a ghost, a cipher? We only discover its emptiness when we sense mortality’s hand on our left shoulder.

What if our Net Value was measured as diligently as our Net Worth?

On what categories/areas would you rate a person’s contribution/value to the world?

In the absence of an alternative, we seem to value money as a proxy for value. However, wealth is not equally valuable (e.g. Steve Jobs vs. Jamie Dimon). So outside of cash, how else should we think about evaluating people? Charity, time spent with family, time spent creating goods/values, time spent employing others, power over others, etc.

We all divide our time among various activities, and it may make sense to segment us by how we spend it. In the end, the scarcest resource of all is time and how we choose to use it says a lot about who we are.

What if there was a way to make our “Net Value” to society be as well known as our “Net Worth”, maybe that would lead to a change in mentality/perspective.     ~ Yoni

Ask questions that are completely outside of the mainstream.

How we spend our limited time, not only defines who we are, but also expresses our core values and shapes our legacy.  I will start with this general observation:

1. The key characteristic of activities that create financial Net Worth and “meaning” in the Status Quo – is that they generate sale and profits for corporations/cartels and tax revenues for the State.

The aspirations shared by almost everyone center around external signifiers of status: a large, beautifully decorated home in a desirable neighborhood, a luxury vehicle (or working-class equivalent, a monster pickup or SUV), a costly watch or bauble, designer clothing, blah, blah, blah.

Higher up the scale, an advanced degree, foreign travel (collecting “places visited” like kids collect marbles–“I have more!”), membership in exclusive clubs and other behavioural signifiers of status are sought, all to show the world “I have value, I’m exceptional, I’m important,” i.e. markers of self-worth.

The same can be said for the majority of items on “bucket lists,” the lists of experiences one is supposed to check off in a last-minute frenzy to add meaning to one’s life once mortality can no longer be staved off:
Skydiving, $500
Midnight in Paris, $5,000

And so on:

most bucket lists I’ve seen are simply checklists of profit-generating tourist destinations or adventures. The bucket list invites us to spend whatever cash/credit we might have on a checklist of what (heavily marketed) conventional wisdom has pinpointed as markers of “worth” and “meaning.”

The basic idea is:

Self-worth and meaning are created by profit/tax-generating acquisition of status signifiers. 

This is just as you’d expect in a State-Cartel debt-based consumerist economy:

This definition of self-worth and meaning has been marketed to us non-stop since the day we entered this world, because the State/corporate partnership profits from our belief in their profit/tax machine’s self-serving definition of meaning and self-worth.

How much profit is generated by falling in love?   Lots if you count all the sappy adverts pushing the purchase of trinkets and signifiers being sold as substitutes for the real thing.  When in fact the actual experience of falling in love is absolutely free.

How much profit is there in nurturing a garden? A few cents of profit for the seeds, perhaps, but hardly enough to keep the State/corporate machine going.

If a profit or tax is generated, then the most powerful institutions in the land have a keen self-interest in your choice to spend time/money on something that generates profits/taxes for them. As a result, we can hardly expect their marketing to be neutral in the matter.

What if we reverse the conventional belief system and state that self-worth and meaning can only arise where there is no profit/tax generated? 

What if one’s Net Value were based on the number of close friends one has nurtured in this life, friends that you trust and know they will not betray your trust?  A close friend is someone who is welcome into your home, as you are welcomed in his.  A close friend is not lost when you change jobs or locales. A close friend’s kids can rely on you to act as an uncle or aunt, doing anything to aid them that you would do for your own family.

I have known far too many people who owned all the signifiers of conventional worth and meaning, the big fancy house with maids and gardeners in attendance, the luxury auto, the membership in some exclusive club, etc., but they did not have even one friend– not just no close friend, no real friends at all.  Measured in close friends, their Net Value was zero. Were these people happy and fulfilled? No, they were closet addicts, suffering from a gnawing fear that all their signifiers of value were indeed worthless and superficial.  [And therefore they are always looking for MORE]

Friendship takes time, energy, and some element of selflessness: the person who follows the mindless edict of “looking out for Number One” cannot have any real friends, for everyone in his world is a stepping stone to be used in the relentless climb toward a higher Net Worth or as a mirror reflecting his own self-glorification.

As an alternative to Net Worth, consider a list of attributes of Net Value:  

Imagine a society constructed around generating Net Value and Gross Domestic Happiness instead of Net Worth. The current power structure would collapse – because none of these activities or accomplishments generate enough profits or taxes to keep the Machine operational.

A brush with mortality has a way of stripping away the superficial and the false.  It is a sad statement that we often only awaken to value and meaning when we’ve run out of time to change the way we “invest” our time.  Is Net Worth a phantom, a ghost, a cipher, and we only discover its emptiness when we sense mortality’s hand on our shoulder.

~ CHS.





From Sean Corrigan of Diapason    [Edited]

We live in a world of the strategy of the ‘Big Lie’ as instituted by Bernays, refined by Goebbels, and institutionalized ad nauseam by today’s cradle-to-grave, career-politician spin-doctors.

It is therefore not Keynes or Kuznets to whom we should be looking, but the shining example of Sir John Cowperthwaite and his enlightened strategy of what he called ‘positive non-interventionism’ 

…coupled with a near blanket ban on the collation of official statistics…  

For fear their provision would tempt men into meddling  If I let them compute those statistics, they’ll want to use them for planning.’’

A man who eschewed tariffs in an era of protection; who abstained from government borrowing at a time when his peers were fast becoming ’all Keynesians now’; who capped income taxes at a modest 15% in an age when the rich were being ‘squeezed until their pips squeaked’; and who refused all acts of corporate welfare, Cowperthwaite’s assessment of his own role was characteristically modest, once declaring that, as regards his contribution to Hong Kong’s success:

“I did very little. All I did was to try to prevent some of the things that might undo it”     [alternatively known as… Masterful Inaction ?]

Today, when we are plagued with the grossest of governmental interventions, the maddest of monetary manipulations, and the most invidious of attacks on individual wealth, it might serve to reflect upon some of Sir John’s expressed principles.

On capital controls: “… money comes here and stays here because it can go if it wants to. Try to hedge it around with prohibitions and it would go and we could not stop it and no more would come.”  [Cyprus anyone?]

Re the role of the state vis-à-vis the private sector in production:   ” …when government gets into a business it tends to make it uneconomic for anyone else.”

” the aggregate of decisions of individuals, exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralized decisions of a government – and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster.

I must confess my distaste for any proposal to use public funds for the support of selected, and thereby, privileged, industrialists, the more particularly if this is to be based on bureaucratic views of what is good and what is bad by way of industrial development. An infant industry, if coddled, tends to remain an infant industry and never grows up or expands.

A tricky thing governing.  I personally quite like the the idea of statistics and planning – but the example of Hong Kong and Cowperthwaite would suggest that governments and bureaucracies can’t be trusted with them.

Even assuming all the good-will in the world, the one statistic that can’t be ignored is that centralised power/planning is a disaster – eventually, everywhere and always…  

The road to hell is paved with good intentions – and “good” government.





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