“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
I, like many, came in to the fold of the “liberty movement” in 2008 in large part due to the candidacy of Ron Paul. There were many things he stated that naturally made sense to me. I am not a believer in “common sense” as people don’t know what they don’t know, so I started from first principles and began undoing the collectivist fallacy and fantasy that was my public education by delving into western liberal philosophy and politics. However, it was not very long before I noticed a pattern among many I had interactions with who held the same beliefs. This pattern I noticed became even more clear in 2012 during Ron Paul’s campaign. It is best described as a ”politics of purity.” The belief that only the purist of free market Libertarians are worth the vote, and if we get this one politician in office, that it will save us from a system. I never came across any ideas on how they planned to replace that which people were now dependent. In fact, most have said that they don’t have to assert alternatives because the point of limiting government is to allow the individual to choose how to flourish for themselves without arbitrary restraints and that is how we facilitate societal flourishing, and I accept their premise as valid. However valid that stance may be; it is not a stance that will win converts, as the perception of a lack of empathy will trump reason everyday of the week; not everyone is cerebral. In fact, according to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, no one is; humans make decisions to act based on emotion. This is why I believe the Libertarian Party has never and I don’t believe will ever win any significant amount of votes or seats. They are trying to sway rationally when humans make decisions emotionally. This doesn’t mean that humans can not reason or think rationally, quite the contrary. It is just that there is all the difference in the world between thinking rationally or asserting rational arguments and making decisions to act, rationally.
So what should we do about this; how do we sway people emotionally that limiting government to the greatest degree possible in our economic and social lives is the best course of action? Should we follow the path of the Edward Bernays and Walter Lippmann‘s of the world and engineer consent? We know this certainly works, as governments and businesses use Edward Bernays style propaganda everyday and have been since Woodrow Wilson hired Bernays for the Committee on Public Information to create a demand for a war Wilson ran on keeping the US out of, World War I through propaganda. From there Bernays began to create the modern marketing and advertising industry as business after business hired him to “engineer demand” for their products and services. Whether the individuals within the systems know who Bernays or Lippmann are, they know the phrase Bernays used for propaganda; Public Relations. Propaganda as a term became impossible to use in civil society due to the bad connotation given to it by the National Socialists; Public Relations is a polite term for Propaganda said Bernays. It should also be noted, that in Bernays autobiography, he recalls a dinner with himself and Karl von Wiegand of Hearst newspapers where Bernays was told that Joseph Goebbels propaganda plans were partly based on Bernays work, Crystallizing Public Opinion. Bernays stated this shocked him as he didn’t expect his work to be used for such things; whether that is true, I can not say.
So there is little doubt that one can have success with pandering to fears and base emotions to drive a specific behavior. See YouTube for every conspiracy that “they don’t want you to see” for examples of such a style. Those who follow a politics of purity have a lot in common with Bernays and Lippmann as a matter of fact. They were purists as well, they purely believed in their own superiority and everyone else’s ignorance, as well as the ease to which humans could be exploited through their emotions. Bernays own daughter Anne, has given many interviews where she describes in great detail how little Bernays cared for his fellow humans. He thought people were too stupid to run their own lives and that his intellectual superiority could guide their actions to the “proper decision”through propaganda. I promise that he and Jonathan Gruber are not the same person. In March 1929(Pre-Propaganda becoming Public Relations), Bernays participated in a debate with Everett Dean Martin called “Are we Victims of Propaganda” and asserted “the only cure for propaganda, is more propaganda”; if at first you don’t succeed, try again I suppose.
I don’t believe this is the course to take not only because it is ethically repugnant, but it is also a battle that the individual can not win; we simply do not have the resources to take on the Public Relations Industry or government on their own ground. I believe we need a different approach to engage a persons emotions ethically, and I also believe we have every tool available to do it, and for the right reasons.
Twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week we can hear or read commentary on the state of speculative economy. Pundits talk it up or jeer it down with every uptick or downturn hoping to grab on to even just a sliver of political capital for those they believe should govern the collective minds of the nation. They, as I am sure you have noticed, also spend a lot of time attempting to remove political capital from those with whom they disagree. These peddlers of economic collectivism fail to understand in any real sense what the state of the Real Economy is to the American people. The media courtiers on all sides, use their platform to sway the direction of state power towards their fellow citizens to satisfy their vain need for acceptance by the powerful. I believe I see a way to sway individuals away from the economic collectivists to see how much potential for an economic revolution exists in the Real Economy with the tools that are available to every person on the planet with an internet connection. Right now, three key capital goods in the real economy have begun the process of being decentralized to every individual in the country. This is taking place in agriculture, manufacturing, and energy which when also taking into account the decentralization of venture capital and currency, have . I believe we are living in an extraordinary time for economic freedom, if we want it, and that reality in a regulatory nightmare like the United States bureaucracy, is truly remarkable.
Where I believe Libertarians who are trying to change the current political system from within alone have it wrong, lies in the history of the philosophy. Libertarians draw many of their beliefs from the Classical Liberals; John Locke, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and many others. The way I understand the philosophy of Classical Liberalism seems at odds with many of my same beliefs. To me, it is clear that Classical Liberalism thus by extension Libertarianism, was never meant to be a formal political ideology or power attempting to take control of the state, even if the purpose is to lessen government power. The goal of these brilliant minds of our past, at least in my understanding of their writing, was to advocate for the building civil institutions to mitigate the need for government intervention in the first place which also makes agitating for the removal of societal control by government over the individual possible. An example of what I mean by civil institutions is explained by Alexis de Tocqueville in his description of American Democracy in 1835.
“The political associations that exist in the United States form only a detail in the midst of the immense picture that the sum of associations presents there. Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools. Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate. Everywhere that, at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an association in the United States”
Over the next few articles I will be attempting to show how we as individuals have the tools to radically transform the speculative market which are anything but free, through decentralizing capital goods of the real economy to the individual and family level, and thus hopefully pushing our civilization forward in to a new paradigm as investments from the three sectors being decentralized move to more profitable ventures in technology either in private space exploration, medical research, nanotechnology, or artificial intelligence just to name a few. I will attempt to show that investment in technological advancement and its decentralization into the hands of the individual is an investment in human liberation. I will attempt to convey my writing in a style that will engage those whom I hope to sway towards the virtues of private property and its importance to human dignity and happiness as well as engage those who have the same views as I but are at a loss at what to do.
To those I hope to engage about the promise of private property who are hostile or skeptical; in Das Kapital, Marx explained it was the privatizing property that brought the end of Serf system and thrust the proletariat in to the labor market of the capitalist system to compete with their “comrades”. Marx of course defined private property as control over the means of value production. Today humanity has the means and ability to bring control over the means of value production that Marx asserted liberated the Serfs, to every individual, not only in this country, but on the planet; not through violence or revolution, but peacefully through the marketplace.
To those with whom I agree on the premise of private property and that less government is better government, I remind you that in The Wealth of Nations, Smith explains the propensity of the holders of capital to seize hold of governments to protect their profits in what he called the “vile maxim of mankind, more for me less for everyone else”. The revolving door of K-Street moves both ways and those who contend corporations are stealing their government are just as correct as those who say the government is destroying enterprise. Many say Capitalism is not the problem but Corporatism; to this end I agree, because the intertwining of state and corporate structures of all kinds is the very essence of Corporatism. We can not assert Corporatism is the problem then defend the corrupt corporations who are colluding with the state and vise versa, if we are to be taken seriously by those we are wanting to bring to our way of thinking. I would also remind those with whom I agree that it was technological advancement in the Industrial Revolution that ultimately brought an end to formalized slavery. The states and its actors were merely taking part in a social change much greater than themselves. Since this is the case, I ask that if what I put forward is enough to convince you that this could work, that you begin investing in the liberty of your fellow citizens.
With government encroachment in civil society becoming more brazen, I call on those who are defending liberty; the philosophers, the commentators, and those trying to push back through politics; to be on the offensive as well. Be investors in the liberty of your fellow individuals by applying these new ways of doing things in your own lives, and most importantly, use your platforms and capital to get these systems and technologies into the hands of as many individuals as possible; lead by example, not by “FIAT” like declarations through your platform. You will be making your defense of liberty much easier as your investment in the liberty of your fellow citizens would be giving them a reason to defend their private property as fiercely as you or I.
Those who defend property rights the strongest tend to be those who use their property as a capital good more than merely a residence or leisure. The latter owners of property certainly have a degree to which they will defend private property, but not to the extent as those who feed their families from their land itself or produce goods on and from that land. Whether right or wrong, how many suburbanite’s or city residents do you believe would have taken the course of action that Cliven Bundy did in defense of property? Investing in the liberty of your fellow citizens is how and I would assert the only way we get those who are economic collectivists for Utilitarian reasons than any fierce opposition to the idea private property, to start supporting private property more strongly than they are currently.
Can the intellectuals who give impassioned arguments as to the importance and virtues of private property and self-reliance expect those who have never experienced the self fulfillment of private property to accept the premise of private property virtues as they have no emotional connection to private property through empirical knowledge? While I love to read Locke, Rothbard, Friedman, Hayek or Mises; we need more than words regardless of how well they flow.
Can the commentator expect to sway the minds of those who oppose their ideas in any substantive way by words alone? Neuroscience says no, they can not and while I enjoy listening to the ideas of the Jeffrey Tucker’s, Julie Borowski’s, Marianne Copenhaver’s and Austin Peterson’s of the world; I believe that we need more than commentary, however pleasant and intellectually captivating.
Can the political agitators who seek to roll back collectivization of property really expect those who are dependent on the collectivization to stand idle like stoic philosophers and to not react in favor of further collectivization? I don’t believe so as it is in their best interest to protect the system if they are dependent on it. Such a thing is like asking someone to quit their job before they have another one lined up, it is simply irrational for them to agree with you due to their circumstances.
There is a place for the philosopher, the commentator and the political agitator of liberty, but what we require more than anything are people willing to invest time and capital in the liberty of the people the state apparatus exploits to the detriment of us all. There is a new way, and we must get these new ways in to the hands of as many as possible. If we are to have any chance of rolling back the state, we must create new systems and institutions that solve the problems of the old and thus making the old system obsolete. If there ever were an opportunity to do so, it is now. If one needs anymore evidence that we are out manned and resourced in the minds of the population at large; a Bush and a Clinton are leading their respective parties polls for President…again. We need a new strategy and I believe I have one.
Sector I: Agriculture
“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous. They are tied to their country, wedded to it’s liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.” Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1785
Decentralizing food production to the individual and family, is I believe, the most important in bringing over those with differing opinions to our way of thinking. Unlike the Europe, the United States even with its Plantation System never had a landed aristocracy who monopolized the land; the land was far too plentiful. This has always been the strength of private property in the minds of American people. The United States economy less than decade after the Civil War overtook the British as the largest in the world; but why?
We can of course point to the United States during this time experiencing a flurry of manufacturing production, as war-time industry transformed to peacetime production with newly built rail-roads to transport the goods from the Atlantic to the Pacific. However the United States also experienced an increase in the number of farms to more than twice the total number brought under cultivation from the landing at Plymouth to the first election of Lincoln; in 1860 there were two million farms worked by fifteen million farmers with an average acreage of 199, by 1910 there were more than six million farms with thirty-two million working the land with an average acreage of 138. For context of the scale to which people were self-reliant as it pertains to their food requirements; the amount of new farmers added during 1860 to 1910 was greater in number than the amount of workers enrolled with the American Federation of Labor at the height of its power. During this time, over three hundred million acres was brought into cultivation, more than the entire productive area of France and Germany, combined.
Conservatives view a lot of this time with nostalgia as the height of free enterprise and strong private property, as well they should. However, where I think many are wrong is putting the blame for the reversal solely on government, although it certainly had a role; however, we must not forget that it is culture which drives politics, not the other way around. The era following 1910 is when American farms began centralizing, as science and technology brought about higher crop yields, while manufacturing was bringing about higher wages in the cities; the age of the self-sufficient Yeoman farmers began to give way to the commodity farmer, who could produce at a far greater level for less. In 1910 there were roughly thirty-two million in agriculture working an average of 138 acres, by 1950 there was twenty-five million working an average of 216 acres and by the time of Johnson’s “Great Society” there was roughly fifteen million in agriculture working an average of 303 acres, and today there are just over two million with an average of 414 acres. In 1900, a worker could cultivate and harvest roughly 27 acres; today that same worker thanks to technological advancement can work 770 acres.
So what do I mean by culture drove the politics as it pertains to the decline of the self-reliant farmer? The data I have given suggests that there could be a correlation between the amount of people who work their land and the amount of people who see utility and virtue in private property ownership. As I stated earlier, there are no fiercer defenders of private property than those who use that property as a capital good either for self-sufficient food production or for production of goods and services for market. When the land becomes ones livelihood and not merely a residence, an attack on private property becomes an attack on the ability to sustain ones life thus one fervently defends that right to maintain their ability to sustain their livelihood. It is in the era of centralization of the Yeoman farmer’s land pushing them in to the labor market that was the backdrop of the rise of collectivism in American society.
The question I would like you to ask yourself is whether it stands to reason that collectivism would have taken root as it did here, if the advancements in technology which created the conditions for centralization of agriculture out of the hands of the Yeoman farmers had never happened? It was these Yeoman farmers that were the backbone of the private property explosion after the end of the Civil War, and I don’t believe collectivism could have taken root had it not been for the successes of individualism which allowed for the technological innovations that led to the centralization. I believe and will argue the case that there are now agricultural systems that are so efficient that it could reverse the centralization and that I believe this is the cornerstone on which those who believe in private property and liberty must build upon. These systems are so efficient that unlike they Yeoman farmer of old, people can both grow the majority or all of their food requirements, as well as have a job in the market with relative ease giving an unprecedented opportunity for prosperity to anyone.
There are many promising advancements in techniques and technologies in agriculture. Aquaponics is, I believe, the most promising as the productive capabilities are far higher than traditional farming methods. The fertilizer abundance from the fish waste allows plants to be grown 50% closer than traditional agriculture thus boosting production by 50%. Plants also grow roughly 50% faster than traditional agriculture, and the systems use 90% less water than traditional agriculture. These are so efficient that anyone with at roughly 600ft² of available area on their property or in their home, can grow a very large part of their diet or even their whole diet with relatively little investment in time to build one themselves, or buy a pre-fabricated system.
Right now there are roughly 85 million privately owned lawns. The average American property is roughly .225 acres with 60% of that acreage being lawn or 5880ft². Every one of those yards could house a system large enough to feed the occupants completely. Even if 10%, 8.5 million, of those were to make the capital investment in themselves and the 1 or 2 hours a day it takes to maintain the system after set up, they could feed themselves and their family and not buy their food; this would be a dramatic shift in the agricultural sector of the economy. A farm in the United States according to the 2012 Agriculture Census is defined as “any place from which $1,000 of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year.” A 600ft² system produces over $1,000 value worth of food in a census year making those 10% who did start these systems defined as farms. There are roughly 2.2 million farms in the United States, if those 8.5 million new farmers invested in themselves and/or had others investing in them(roughly $7,000) the US would have 10.7 million farms; with 8.5 million new private property advocates. This particular system based on market prices of produce and fish could produce between $4,000 -$6,000 worth of agricultural production a year on property in approx 600ft² both paying for itself in two years while creating a shift in consumer spending that could reach between $34 to $51 billion dollars. Right now the average American pays $151 a week in food or roughly $7,800 a year. However, that price is higher than it really is due to inflation driving up the cost of food to the tune of 2 to 3% a year based on government data.
How do we deflate the food prices when government is hell-bent on keeping them high? The same way we drive prices of everything else down, by producing more. There is a real possibility for food to become so abundant that it is completely de-monetized. The ability exists now to grow so much food that Thomas Malthus himself would retract his work “Essay on the Principle of Population” in which he argued that the exponential population growth would outstrip societal ability to provide for everyone.
Aquaponics is just one system and technique among many that provide for massive production on an individual scale. Square foot gardening is another technique that boosts productive capabilities and as a result lowers the amount of space needed. Aeroponics, is another and is a process of growing plants in air, which when you think about it, is confounds the mind that such a thing is possible. Any or all combined can easily bring about a situation in which people stop purchasing their food and grow it; freeing up to spend what would have spent on food, on other goods or services. More importantly I believe to humanity, those who are speculators in food crop futures will no longer have an incentive to be in the market, as anything in abundance has its price fall leading to capital flight from the market. This capital is not going to simply sit idle, so they of course would move it into markets that still have a price incentive for capital to flow there.
A shift of this size would have rippling effects across the entire economy. The more food being grown for personal consumption would lead to less purchasing of food. This would have effects in retail grocery store product offerings, transportation and energy consumption to deliver the food to retail grocery stores, transportation and energy consumption to go and buy the food, restaurants, schools and dozens upon dozens of other sectors, many of which I probably would never think there would be an effect. The largest segment to feel the change would be the large farmers which already exist, as people growing all or most of their food would leave them without crops to grow, giving incentive to change to larger production of so-called cash crop production; Hemp, Cotton, Sugar Cane, Wheat and many more, which would also drive the prices of these down. This would also have great effect on government programs; subsidies for food crops must necessarily fall and the need for the use of food stamps must also necessarily fall.
Where I believe the change will be the strongest is in the support for private property and individual freedom. Despite the efficiency of these systems being such that it allows for people to grow near or most of their food on property while also maintaining a job in the market at large, the mere act of growing ones sustenance must necessarily bring about a stronger defense of private property as the property becomes more than merely a residence. It becomes the means by which one feeds their family thus giving incentive for a much stronger defense of private property. I believe this alone could be enough to reverse the course the country is on, but there are other developments in the economy at large that will certainly help the process along.
Now that I have told you what I believe should be done, I want to show you it can be done. In June of last year I began an internship with Michigan State Representative Phil Phelps. I was lucky in that he allowed me to choose the purpose of the internship and I chose to try to ease a huge problem in a part of his district, a lack of fresh food and to do so without using tax payer money. We decided that rather than trying to build from the ground up that we would find an existing entity and try to increase their productive capacity to meet the demand for food as well as purchase them a building to serve as the market for the public; Aquaponics was means we chose and Jacky and Dora King of Harvesting Earth Farm were the partners we chose to work with to bring this to fruition. We began a Crowdfunding campaign as well as hit the pavement in the old-fashioned way of raising capital, asking for it. The Crowdfunding campaign did not go nearly as well as I hoped, but I learned a lot and will attempt it again in the future. Despite that set back, we were still able to raise enough money to purchase the building and through a grant from Ford, Kettering University is building a fully automated Aquaponics system for the Harvesting Earth Farm. Renovation has begun on the building which will serve as the market and hopefully by the end of the year, Flint Michigan will have its only Aquaponics farm run by a local Non-Profit. The reason I chose to raise money for an entity and not individuals as I am advocating in this article is because the system is so new to people, and there is a learning curve so having a commercial system in the hands of a Non-Profit allows for education of the community and city at large this system. The more comfortable people are with the system, the more likely they are to attempt and use a system on their own property.
This for me was just the beginning, I fully plan on attempting similar projects in the future because I truly believe that action is the only way to sway people’s emotions without the resources that the state and corporate propagandists have, and if we are to make any substantive change whatsoever, it is not going to be done through asserting that which should be, but by we get this done by getting our hands dirty alongside those whom you are attempting to change. This is one reason government aid doesn’t work the way its advocates want it to work; it is indirect and impersonal. But helping get someone or community a capital good through which they can make themselves or community more self-reliant, is being on the ground floor and showing those who would normally snub their nose at a philosophy of less government that the propagandists are in fact wrong about at least some small government advocates. Asking people to cut that which they are dependent on in the name of a theoretical proposition is equivalent to asking someone to quit their job before having a new one; it is not a winning proposition for them and as long as those who assert liberty is the way keep putting forward cutting dependence whilst not educating the population on the alternatives to government that can make them self-reliant, those who assert it will remain the fringe. For an example. Imagine if you will a Libertarian who decides to help a radical environmentalist lower their carbon foot print by becoming as self-reliant as possible through any of the means previously given. The Libertarian doesn’t have to agree with the radical environmentalist on anything, but helping them meet this goal in the grand scheme of things is in the Libertarians best interest if they believe strongly in private property and the promise it holds for individual freedom. What better group to get on the private property bandwagon than the group which has been trying to collectivize property for the last century? This would certainly be strange bedfellows in the realm of politics but in the market, people who are radically different political views work, communicate and trade peacefully all the time.
This is what Blue Republican Michigan will be about under my Chairmanship, advocating and acting on that which can, and does work, rather than theoretical abstractions which only those who are free from want have the luxury of delving in to. The hungry care not whether their stomachs full through private or public means, they only care that their stomachs full. However, if they had the means to feed themselves, I would bet my house that almost all of them would choose self-reliance. If we want to change politics in a representative democracy, we must change the culture of the people and perception they have of those who assert the virtues of small government and private property. This will not be done through reason, but only through action; not appealing to emotion but engaging their emotions through just action.
The United States has been the home of three Agricultural revolutions. First, was the triumph of Capitalism over the slave holding south. The dissolution and decentralization of the vast estates sustained by human misery is one of the greatest feats of American enterprise. Second, came the the close of the expansion westward, the end of “unlimited land”. This brought about vast changes in labor, farm values, and migration driving prices up and wages down. The third began just after the turn of the 20th century when agriculture was brought in to the industrial era sustained through science and machinery. Today we have the opportunity to have a fourth, the decentralization to every individual that is so efficient that one can remain in the marketplace while still growing most or all of their own food. Through Crowdfunding and other means, this can easily be accomplished.
If you believe as I do and you live in Michigan, please join me in Blue Republican Michigan. The organization needs those who are willing to put their labor, money and beliefs where their assertions are not those who simply want to argue. If you liked this article and would like to help me expand on my work with Harvesting Earth Farm to other ventures please feel free to give to whatever you can. If you like the idea of pragmatically moving government towards less control over our lives than through ideological purism please give to Blue Republican.
My next article will focus on the transformation taking place in manufacturing and how combined with the innovations in agriculture will further give incentive for a more fervent defense of private property in the population, as well as cause further massive shifts in market capital.