Three Tuesday Thoughts
Voting and Rights, Abstract Grievances vs Real Policy, Rent-Seeking and Bullshit Jobs
Where do rights come from?
Part one will be a brief musing, because I saw this ridiculous idea spammed far too often yesterday:
The right to vote is the basis for every other right. Without the right to vote, you have nothing.
This is, of course, utter nonsense. In fact, it is perhaps the perfect distillation of a brainworm that far too many have: the confusion of abstract principle with concrete reality.
Understand something: your right to vote grows from the barrel of a gun. Your right to bear arms does not stem from the ballot box. At the bottom of every "right" is the threat of violence to back it up.
Democracy and voting are proclaimed and supported by elites throughout political parties, the media, tech companies, etc. because these are the entities who control the flow of information to you. Democracy provides them a system specifically designed to maximize their power: manipulate the people and have them legitimize your interests through voting.
Remember: When consent is a precondition for authority, those with power will learn to manipulate people into giving consent.
Making a more minimal argument: Democracy, as practiced at scale by most developed countries, is nothing more than laundered oligarchy.
"True Democracy," the platonic ideal of a system where everyone has an equal say in governance, etc etc, can only be approached through material strength, not through voting rights acts. Of what use is your right to vote if it is contingent on a powerful elite not revoking or overriding it?
Of what use is “democracy” when our democratically elected representatives don’t seem to be at all responsive to the wishes of the people who elected them? The process of governance is less important than the substance of governance. A monarch who feels attached to the people and is responsive to our wishes is superior to a democracy with representatives that do not care about us beyond our votes and donations.
Grievances and Action
Rather than attempting to pass a right to vote bill which will do next to nothing as neither party aims to do much of anything to deal with the real problems to face, why don't we focus on, ya know, the real problems we face?
The problem, as I've explained before, is that we have entered into a world of institutional impotence, reinforced by spineless and pathetic politicians. In the face of this institutional impotence, rather than attempting to engage in a controlled demolition of the bureaucracies that can't get their act together (USPS, various 3-letter agencies, the list just keeps going on), we just get endless circles of signaling BS.
And so we get calls for "freedom", or to end "inequality", or to "empower" some privileged class. At no point do we have concrete goals. The metrics we measure society by are abstract, aggregate ones, and these are useless. I do not care about them.
I do not care about "freedom" or "empowerment" or "equality." I care about what percentage of Americans can afford a $1000 emergency expense. I care about what percentage of Americans are eating healthy food. I care about what percentage of Americans can quit their job without fear of starvation. I care about how many hours of work a week it takes to raise a family. I care about how many Americans feel that their work is fulfilling.
The Value of Actual Production
And when it comes to work, I want to distinguish between actual production and rent-seeking.
Our economy has, for the past 30+ years it seems, been engaged in perhaps the single greatest experiment of financial misallocation in human history. Instead of investing in real production, we are focused instead on pumping up asset values and engaging in endless rent-seeking.
This is, of course, a pervasive issue in recent American capitalism, and one that I am certainly not the first to acknowledge.
So, I want to lay out a basic framework for what one earns/deserves. In other words, regardless of my actual compensation, how much value have I actually created (and therefore may be justified in capturing)? I will delve into this in more depth in my next post, but the basics will go out here.
One is justified in capturing as compensation any and all value that they actually create. Any compensation in excess of created value is unjustified, and reflects a rent.
There is a big difference in me taking a forest that used to be open to all, putting up a basic fence around it, and charging people to enter. I have done nothing to engage in upkeep or improvement. The money I charge others comes from my position not my contribution. Herein lies the difference between rent and value-creation.
This is an extremely important distinction, and one that leads to a series of radical policy conclusions. I will be exploring some in the coming days.
If you enjoyed, join the email list. And if you would like to support my work, consider a paid subscription.
(Thumbnail source: Pinterest)