Author: Guest

Economics: What It Is and Is Not

Economics: What It Is and Is Not

“Economics is not about things and tangible material objects; it is about men, their meanings, and actions. Goods, commodities, and wealth and all other notions of conduct are not elements of nature; they are elements of human meaning and conduct. He who wants to deal with them must not look at the external world; he must search for them in the meaning of acting men.”
– Ludwig von Mises
 

The author is a first year law undergraduate and enthusiast of the Austrian School of economics. You can follow him on Twitter @HenryHazlitt3.

This article was originally published on austrianschooleconomics.blogspot.com. Read the original article.


In his seminal treatise, Human Action, Ludwig von Mises put forward a definition of economics as the scientific study of human action. Mises conceived of economics as a branch of what he called praxeology, his term for the general, formal science of human action. For Mises, it was of paramount importance that economic reasoning and analysis be predicated on human action and not material commodities and their physical properties. While this may seem trite, I hope this essay will convince you otherwise.

Human Action 

When we observe phenomena in the world and try to make sense of their underlying causation, we invariably discern between purposeful action and unmotivated behaviour. We can either explain phenomena in terms of the purposive actions of human beings, or we can attribute them to natural laws. In the economic realm, we explain phenomena by reference to purposeful actions on the part of human beings. Mises’ student and intellectual successor, Murray Rothbard, explained purposeful human action as,

“purposeful behaviour toward the attainment of ends in some future period which will involve the fulfilment of wants otherwise remaining unsatisfied.”

When a human acts, he employs means in an endeavour to achieve an end or a goal that he subjectively values. Moreover, since action is intentional we can say it is teleological. It is clear, then, that not all human behaviour constitutes action in the praxeological sense of the word: unconscious or reflexive behaviour — for example, coughing when exposed to tear gas — are evidently not forms of purposeful action. 

The A Priori Nature of Economic Theory

Mises’ definition of economics as the science of human action may not appear very controversial. In fact, it might seem like he is simply stating the obvious. But Mises says of economic theory,

“Its statements and propositions are not derived from experience. They are, like those of logic and mathematics, a priori. They are not subject to verification and falsification on the ground of experience and facts. They are both logically and temporally antecedent to any comprehension of historical facts. They are a necessary requirement of any intellectual grasp of historical events.”

The assertion that economics is an a priori science distinguishes Misesian-Austrians from all other modern schools of thought. Besides the Austrians, all other schools regard economics as an empirical (a posteriori) science and its theorems as a collection of testable hypotheses. 

Mises did not see praxeology as a novel invention. Rather, he saw himself as merely recapitulating and systematizing economics as it had been conceived of by virtually every economist since the genesis of the discipline in the 18th century. While they did not use the term a priori, the view that economics constitutes a deductive science was held by the classical economists. This was also the view of Mises’ predecessors in the Austrian school (Menger, Bohm-Bawerk, and von Weisser).  However, at the same time Mises was formulating his theory of praxeology, a new trend was emerging in the economics profession.

Since the 1930s, an idea has prevailed that physics is the preeminent science and that all other sciences, including the social sciences, and economics in particular, must emulate its methods in order to be truly scientific. In the 1940s, the same decade Mises’ Human Action was published, Paul Samuelson’s highly successful textbook Principles of Economics was adopted by the mainstream pedagogy, and since then the neo-classical mainstream, the Chicago school, and all other non-Austrian schools have all strictly adhered to empiricist-positivism and conceived of economics as a quantitative and mathematical discipline. Only the Austrians remain true to the original and legitimate vision of economics as a deductive science. 

According to Austrian economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, all true economic theorems can be “deduced by means of formal logic from this incontestably true material knowledge regarding the meaning of action.”  Hoppe rests his defence of Misesian praxeology on Kantian epistemology. The main characteristic of Kantian epistemology is the submission that synthetic a priori propositions exist. These are propositions whose truth is not derived from observational experience but by means of formal logic from a self-evident material axiom. Such axioms are self-evident because it is impossible to reject their validity without self-contradiction; the mere attempt to deny the axiom would result in implicitly assenting to its truth. What is the source of synthetic a priori axioms? They derive not from observational experience, but from internal, reflective introspection and experience.

Thus, the so-called action axiom satisfies the requirements of a synthetic a priori statement. First, any attempt at denial would by logical necessity have to be interpreted as a purposeful action. Secondly, the axiom is not derived from observation, but purely from reflective consideration. Therefore, all the implications that can be logically deduced from the action axiom must contain as much truth as the original axiom itself. It is these implications that constitute the grand edifice of economic theory. 

Conclusion 

So, what is economics? The answer should now be clear: it is the a priori science of human action. And, contrary to the empiricist-positivist trend of the last eighty years, it is emphatically not an empirical science. The damage inflicted by empiricism upon economics cannot be understated. As Hoppe points out, even if there is agreement on a particular theory, this agreement is superficial. For the positivist-empiricists believe such theories to be empirically tested propositions when they are actually true synthetic a priori propositions. Only the Austrians understand the true epistemological nature of economic science.

H


Bibliography 

Mises. 1949. Human Action 
Rothbard. 1962. Man, Economy, and State.
Hoppe. 1995. Economic Science and the Austrian Method.


The Problem With Agorism

The Problem With Agorism

“Much as I love the market, I refuse to believe that when I engage in a regular market transaction… or a black-market activity… I advance one iota nearer the libertarian revolution.” – Murray Rothbard

Michael Clem is an artist, and Program Manager in the construction management field. He and his wife Lauren reside in San Juan Capistrano California with their daughter Leona. You can find more of Michael’s political and economic commentaries on his personal site, handofglory.net

This article was originally published on handofglory.net. Read the original article.


Agorism, better known as the counter economy, is a truly wonderful thing. At its most reductive point, Agorism is a pure free-market economy based on voluntary exchange: its driving force being the direct action of creating an economy outside of the state apparatus. Based on non-violent action, Agorism immediately removes state intervention. Agorists operate marketplaces independent of the state by employing alternate currency, under-the-table work, or other black-market activities that deprive the state of its control and tax revenues. 

Agorism exists outside of the political sphere and while its direct actions have political and economic implications, Agorism holds no political ambition outside of its refusal to allow state interference within the Agora (marketplace). Agorism follows that participation in the political arena enables state interference into people’s lives and the marketplace, and illuminates an essential contradiction Libertarians ought not to ignore. How does one work towards a stateless society while simultaneously participating in the state apparatus? 

In defense of Libertarianism, it’s hard to imagine waking up to discover a stateless society, granted to us by the powers that be; It isn’t realistic. There exists but a handful of options, the predominant two being social and violent revolutions. Agorism is most definitely a method of social revolution in which we should all be participants. Still, it is not the end all be all action. Agorism is but one tool working towards accomplishing our great building project: a free society.

Agorism is beautiful, as any free market is. However, a problem lies in its limited scope. While it may deprive the state of some tax revenues, it does nothing to curb other issues, namely the state’s ability to print money to make up for shortfalls. A robust black market already exists within the US. According to the RAND Corporation,

“Spending on cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine fluctuated between $120 billion and $145 billion each year from 2006 to 2016, rivaling what Americans spend each year on alcohol, according to a new study.”

Representing merely one segment of the US’ black market, those numbers are substantial and worth noting; however, the black market hasn’t slowed the parasitic nature of the state in the least. Agorism alone is not robust enough to deprive the state of its revenues.

Libertarianism requires action: one being regular participation in the Agora whenever possible. But that can’t be our only route to divorcing ourselves from the state. Frequent participation to achieve the unhampered marketplace is the end goal. Still, layer by layer, we must lift the state’s mandate. We must peacefully eliminate the state’s ability to tax, make demands on labor, manipulate currency, and so forth. No singular action will complete the project. It will take the concerted effort of every Libertarian device if we intend to reach a free society. Our ideas will only take shape when the whole of society can wrap their heads around them. As it stands, and not neglecting Agorism, we must spread the message of and fight for liberty by political means. 

MC


Of Liberty and Property

Of Liberty and Property

“We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.” – Thomas Aquinas

Jon McDonald is an energy economist in Texas focusing on the international trade of natural gas and natural gas derivatives. He has a master’s degree in energy economics from Rice University. Follow him on Twitter @jonnymack1010.


Derived from a labor theory, the Lockean theory of private property has received considerable attention. This theory of private property set the stage for what has come to be known as liberty. John Locke’s theory of labor hinges on the idea of self-ownership; that is, no other human being, regardless of status, race, or religion, has the right to own another person. “The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of nature for his rule.”1 This argument was the leading case against slavery and authoritarian governments following the English Civil War in the 1640s and 1650s. 

The theory of private property is simply an extension of this thought. Self-ownership necessarily implies individual ownership of the mind and body. Anything produced from nature will require the labor of the mind and body. The produce is the ownership of the person engaged in the act of production unless a voluntary agreement is struck between a laborer and employer to trade labor for wages. However, this theory has nothing to do with the value of that produce. Value, which depends exclusively on the purchaser’s subjective wants and needs, is determined by the market.2 The act of labor, itself, towards the production of some good or service does not imply value in the marketplace. This fact may come as harsh to some, but it is unavoidable. 

The term ‘Liberalism’ originally belonged to the philosophy of freedom and private property, of which Locke is considered the founder. ‘Liber’ of Latin origin meaning ‘free.’ The word reflects little of its origin in the United States today. The meaning of ‘liberalism’ was changed to mean something altogether different, and it now refers to government intrusion into economic and social affairs and increasing the welfare state. This new definition was given to us when former US Senator, Joseph Clark Jr., stated in 1953 in the Atlantic, “…a liberal is here defined as one who believes in using the full force of government for the advancement of social, political, and economic justice… A liberal believes government is a proper tool to use in the development of a society which attempts to carry Christian principles of conduct into practical effect.”3

No matter the definition, modern-day “Liberalism” reflects more closely that of the anti-Christian, anti-private property doctrine of Karl Marx than the New Testament. Jesus Christ did not ask the Romans to tax the wealthy for their exploitation of the working class, infringe upon the private property rights of Roman citizens, or create money from thin air using a printing press to give to the people as “stimulus.” Today’s “liberal” believes that poverty is an unforgivable iniquity brought about by uncontrollable or materialistic circumstances rather than a matter to be overcome through fortitude and perseverance in a free society. This view has the effect of leading many of the unfortunate into desolation and dependency. The modern-day “liberal” solution to poverty is brought through the force of law and the coercive apparatus of the state. Yet, the law in the US has become egregiously perverted. Rather than protect individual property rights and the right to self-defense as the law is originally intended, the law has been given into the hands of the corrupt and unscrupulous at the request of the collective to dispose of and annihilate the person, property, and liberty of others. As such, a law fraught with iniquity cannot drive out iniquity. 

The ‘liberal’ logic is as follows: “Steal from Peter to pay Paul. There, we have now forced you to do your Christian duty.” As if theft and coveting a neighbor’s property in the name of Christian principles were to confuse the Christian observers completely. According to this logic, the only way to absolve the blaspheming poor, who they have never met, is to commit the act of theft. The modern-day conservative is not much more logically advanced with his quasi-fascist corporative schemes and lust for glory on the battlefield in the name and sanctity of democracy. Both sides of the American political spectrum are branches of the same collectivist tree, but we will defer that conversation to a future date.

Freedom is mocked at every corner. The United States government believes all property to be under their ownership to do with as they please, as do the socialists because only the ruling political class knows what is best and morally proper for the entirety of society. Under this doctrine, the natural right to freedom and property is immoral, selfish, or exploitative. The contradictory nature of this logic is difficult to fathom. But it is not the purpose here to discuss the logical and moral fallacies of the socialist order that has flown under the stolen name of liberalism in the US. However, why the socialists must attack the institution of private property will be illuminated.

Life is not a perpetual state of uninterrupted happiness, and the earth is not a utopia. Though this is not the fault of social institutions, people are apt to make them the culprit. The foundation of all civilization, which has given rise to the highest living standards since time began, and during periods of exponential population growth, is the right to private property. Whoever wishes to criticize the problems they witness in society must therefore diagnose the problem beginning at the foundation of private property. Private property is the perpetrator for everything that does not please the critic, especially those that resulted from restrictions placed on private property rights. For instance, slaves were denied the right to private property in respect to keeping and utilizing the product of their labor, the freedom to voluntarily exchange the products of their labor in return for agreed-upon wage rates or prices as well as, and more importantly, the right of self-ownership which forms the cornerstone of private property rights.4 But this fact does not stop the socialists from blaming private property rights and the system which accompanies it, called capitalism, for the abhorrence of slavery. It was the pre-capitalistic era that withheld the natural right to liberty and property for all. Liberty and property were to be owned by the aristocrats and the elites. It was not until the pre-capitalistic era ended that the infant mortality rate, the scorn of all the ages, began its rapid rate of descent. That the infant mortality rate has dropped to its current level is perhaps the greatest achievement ever known to the history of mankind. 

The typical procedure in the socialist line of thinking is to imagine how great everything would be if only they had their way. They fantasize that if all those who object to their ideas for society were non-existent (deceased, enslaved, or brainwashed), everybody would be better off. All those who condone slavery never imagine themselves as slaveholders or slaves. The exhorters who preach democracy to the masses never imagine themselves as dictators, but they often dream of themselves as advisors to an enlightened economic dictator. No socialist crying out against the so-called “capitalistic exploitation” of the working class aims for the position lowest on the ladder, to be under the oppression of another or among the underprivileged. The fantasies and daydreams of life by the socialist critics of private property is the only life of value, and they will strike down those who oppose their delusions of utopia by violent means if necessary. There is no room for private property or self-ownership if the allocation of all of society’s resources, including the direction of labor, are to be determined by the moral codes of the voters that make up the Majority in a system with democratically held means of production and democratically determined resource allocation. When this becomes common practice, we would soon find our moral compass to be shot full of holes.

Regardless of the economic system, there will always be detractors for each end-use and allocation of the scarce resources available. But this does nothing more than to emphasize the importance of recognizing the beneficial functions of profit maximization, competition, private property, and opportunity costs for the efficient allocation of those scarce resources. To work around this fact in promoting their utopia, the socialist will go so far as to say that scarcity does not exist, as if an infinite supply of wheat used in bread production would magically grow itself at no cost in the socialist heaven. What is considered profitable for private individuals versus the community or society will not always coincide in any system, whether the means of production are owned collectively, by the state, or by private individuals. Among economists in the early 20th century, many understood that the socialist system could not operate entirely differently than the capitalistic one without completely crashing. Even if it were indeed true that it could, one cannot simply assume that a socialist society would always do what is right while continually condemning capitalism’s system of privately held means of production and property rights for deviating from accepted moral standards. It is worthless to pay attention to the daydreams of the socialist. In his dream, everybody will obediently submit to his commanding vision immediately and right on time. 

Suppose we work under the assumption that the equal distribution of total output, under some arbitrary standard set by some altruistic group of economic planners, was a sufficient mechanism to increase the livelihood of each member of society. In that case, we must ignore simple mathematics and statistics. This, however, is not the crucial point. The socialist assumes that labor productivity will be equal if not greater in his system and that a socialist system will automatically eliminate unnecessary and unwanted expenses. This erroneous assumption is due to the ignorance of the fact that the quantity and quality of the goods produced are not independent of the way production is carried out in a capitalistic economy. 

Every stage of production in every sector of the economy has not only innumerable antecedents unknown by any one individual and procured through the division of labor but, more importantly, the special interests of those engaged in the production process tied closely with the productivity of the labor performed during the process. On the first point about the antecedents, it is easy to confuse a socialist with something as simple as a pencil.5 To this end, no socialist can confidently quantify, regardless of mathematical prowess, the future number of pencils required in the economy to determine the number of bulldozers necessary for graphite mining. These calculations arrive via the price mechanism and the profit and loss system. To establish prices, one needs a market. For a market, one needs private property rights. For profit and loss, one needs prices. On the second point, each member in a capitalistic economy must exert his best effort since his wages are determined by the subjective value his labor provides to the output, and every entrepreneur must strive to innovate to accurately meet the demand for his products at the lowest cost.6 Such incentives disappear when the collective determines the allocation of resources for the “common good,” and these incentives are why the capitalistic economy based on private property rights produces the wealth it commands. 

Wherever private property rights are upheld, liberty reigns and a prosperous society follows. Private property rights constituting the material factors of production are not a restriction of freedom. On the contrary, it ensures that property can be held even by the most common of all men without violation and gives him complete command of all his economic affairs. A wealthy businessman may have a range of economic influence in society but, in a system that upholds private property rights, it is never complete control over the whole life of a person. The liberty found under private property rights is the mechanism that stimulates a nation’s most innovative men and women to exert themselves, free of involuntary coercion, to serve others to the best of their abilities.

JM


1) Locke, J. (1689). 1st and 2nd Treatise of Government. Pantianos Classics.

2) Menger, C. (2007). Principles of Economics. Ludwig von Mises Institute.

3) Clark, Jr, J. S. (1953, July). Can the Liberals Rally? theatlantic.com. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1953/07/can-the-liberals-rally/376242/

4) Mises, L.V., Raico, R., Goddard, A., Spadaro, L. M., & Greaves, B. B. (1985). Liberalism : In the Classical Tradition (3rd ed.). Foundation for Economic Education/ Cobden Press.

5) Read, L. E. (2015, March). I, Pencil. Foundation for Economic Education. https://fee.org/resources/i-pencil/

6) Mises, L.V., Raico, R., Goddard, A., Spadaro, L. M., & Greaves, B. B. (1985). Liberalism : In the Classical Tradition (3rd ed.). Foundation for Economic Education/ Cobden Press.

Inflation Resistance: A Comprehensive List

Inflation Resistance: A Comprehensive List

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Jordan Taylor Swaim is a social service worker, podcaster and producer out of Calgary, Alberta, where he resides with his wife Janelle, and son TJ. Check out his podcast, The Peaceful Way, and learn the concepts, ideas, and strategies behind making a more peaceful and nonviolent world.

This article was originally published on Medium.com. Read the original article.


The SARS-Cov-2 pandemic has skyrocketed international government spending and stimulus to unimaginable proportions. Dwarfing the 2008 financial crisis, worldwide government debt soared orders of magnitude higher in 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down in 2021. Nearly 24% of all dollars in existence in the US were printed in the year 2020 alone, while many other countries are well over that 20% mark. Fears over a sovereign debt crisis loom, while there is very little political appetite for austerity measures.

Anecdotally, I see evidence of the economic chickens already coming home to roost. All sorts of general consumer goods, from groceries to textiles, are rapidly rising in price. The stock market appears to be a stimulus-fuelled bubble, and stores of value like real estate and bitcoin are witnessing record levels of trading volume. Inflation, unlike the west has ever seen before, seems highly probable if not inevitable. Central banks globally are rushing to inject liquidity to artificially prop up the economy until it can become productive once again. As the meme lords so eloquently put it: “money printer go brrrr.”

So the question is, how do you protect yourself against it? Well, what I want to do here is create a comprehensive and routinely updated list of products, services, and ideas that can protect your financial situation from being eaten away by the falling value of your dollar. To be clear, this is not investment advice, merely a reference/resource, and there is certainly no silver bullet to protecting against inflation.

A disclaimer, this may not help you in a total economic collapse; in that case, you will need guns – lots of guns. Furthermore, for every example of an inflation hedge I give, there will always be an exception to the rule. Like everything in life, you are taking a risk.

Precious Metals

Let’s start with the most obvious hedges against inflation, precious metals. I am not covering every metal, but rather the most prominent ones.

Gold: The gold standard in stores value, literally. Used as currency for 5000+ years of civilization, it is hard to go wrong with the shiny yellow metal. It‘s difficult to imagine a future where gold would not hold its value, and if you have a decades-long time horizon, there are potential profits to be made.

Pros: – low volatility – valuable everywhere on earth – has industrial uses – a very small amount of gold can be very valuable, making it easy to store and transport – privacy.

Cons: – not easily divisible – you need to spend money on securing your gold either through a personal vault or holding it at a financial institution.

Silver: The little brother to gold, silver has been a humanity mainstay in terms of value for millennia. Industrial uses for the metal have skyrocketed over the last few years and only added to its demand and value. Many believe that the value of silver will leapfrog gold in terms of percentages over the next few years.

Pros: – low volatility – valuable everywhere on earth – much more affordable than gold but has a similar upside – industrial uses.

Cons: – not easily divisible – money spent on securing your silver – can get heavy and difficult to transport with even a modest investment – holds value everywhere.

Copper: Though neglected by many precious metal collectors, the price of copper has nearly doubled in the last year. Not only that, being the primary material used in electrical wiring, it’s here to stay. Commercial real estate landlords have even had problems with copper thieves pulling copper wiring out of their buildings in recent years.

Pros: – high industrial use – affordable – global demand is on the rise, which means its price could be on the rise

Cons: – heavy and difficult to store and transport substantial amounts.

Platinum: A bit cheaper than gold, platinum bullion is available to collect and use as a hedge against inflation. Platinum is a far more rare metal than gold or silver but also has fewer industrial uses. Primarily used in engines.

Pros: – low volatility – rare – a small amount can be very valuable, making it easier to store and transport.

Cons: – difficult to find retail vendors due to low trading volume – costs associated with security – fewer industrial uses than other precious metals.

Real Estate

Like precious metals, real estate is as close to a sure thing as you can get in terms of parking your money. Though there can be large market pullbacks every decade or two in the real estate market, it has always remained one of the most liquid markets in the world. For the purposes of this article, real estate is a longer-term hold, not house flipping or trying to buy low and sell high. You may not make a substantial profit in real estate, but on a long enough time horizon, you most likely aren’t going to lose money as you would to inflation. Though there are many categories of real estate, I am only going to cover two very broad ones:

Residential: People will always need a place to live. Residential real estate, particularly in big cities, tends to be a pretty safe bet. The other benefit is that you can live in and use your investment, so I like owning a home for the pure practicality of it.

Pros: – you can live in it – you can use it as an income property – statistically very good at retaining value.

Cons: – upkeep can be costly in terms of time and money – Can be a rather large commitment – is not a very flexible investment.

Commercial: Though a lot riskier than residential, commercial real estate can have huge upsides. The trick is picking an industry that will remain relatively stable for the long term; retailers and shopping malls are probably a bad bet. However, some commercial investments like RV parking and storage lots show a lot of future promise and have been a booming industry for years.

Pros: – potentially a high income earning asset – has some flexibility in terms of what kind of business can be operated (E.g., the old Kmart gets converted into a trampoline park.)

Cons: – more volatile than residential – upkeep can be costly in terms of time and money.

Cryptocurrency

If you haven’t been paying attention, the digital financial revolution is happening right under your nose. Starting in 2009, and in response to the 2008 financial crisis, the bitcoin white paper was unleashed into the world. A peer-to-peer permissionless currency that cannot be controlled by a cabal of central banks, governmental, and corporate interests. Whether or not BTC ends up the dominant blockchain token, in the end, remains to be seen, but what is a near certainty is that cryptocurrency is here to stay. As institutional investors pile on, the value continues to rise to new all-time highs. Some even believe Bitcoin to be replacing gold as a store of value. Though I doubt it will replace gold, it will certainly compete with it in that regard. 2020/21 seems to be an indicator of where people are putting their cash to protect against an onslaught of inflation. Though there are still detractors claiming it to be a scam, they will most likely be forgotten in the dustbin of history; there is no putting this cat back in the bag.

I will not be covering specific cryptos here (as there are thousands of them). I would recommend learning about Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and XRP for those new to the topic.

Pros: – open distributed ledger making it impossible to forge or fudge numbers – Massive potential across hundreds of industries – easy to store on a computer or hardware wallet.

Cons: – highly volatile – it can be easy to lose your assets on a computer or hard drive.

Human Capital

A too often ignored aspect of fighting off the debasement of the currency is you. Building your own human capital can be one of the most effective tools to avoid the worst effects of a high inflationary environment. The way I like to define HC: it is the combination of your skills and knowledge, having both a theoretical and practical component to it. What you know and what you know how to do can be invaluable assets in bad economic times. There will always be some service or knowledge that other people will need and are willing to pay for that you can provide. It’s also never been easier to grow your human capital. You can learn how to change your oil by watching a youtube video, day trading through a Udemy.com class, and there are all kinds of online forums and communities that can give you free and usable advice on almost any topic or problem you can imagine. Personally, I try to constantly be reading as well as a goal to do one online class a month.

I would also add that physical and mental health are very important in terms of protecting your human capital. If you are sick or having a mental breakdown during a crisis, it can make economic problems exponentially worse for you and your family.

Pros: – relatively cheap – time flexibility (you can work on it at your own pace and convenience) – high upside – knowledge and skill go everywhere with you.

Cons: There is almost no downside to building human capital. The only word of caution would be not putting all your eggs in one basket in terms of what you can do and what you know. Spending your time learning to be a long-haul trucker, for example, maybe a bad time investment due to automation.

Okay, so now that we have covered the big ones, let’s talk about some more obscure stores of value that may not have immediately crossed your mind.

Guns & Ammo

It’s time to put a *pew pew* into that inflation killing your monetary gains. Firearms can be an excellent store of value. With a little bit of love and care, they can potentially be fully operational for decades and even centuries. Guns also track like a can of coke with inflation. They can also be fun toys and useful tools. Whether it’s for shooting at a range, hunting, or personal defense, there will always be a demand for guns.

The market for ammo fluctuates pretty drastically every few years, and a lot of private citizens will even stockpile ammo while it’s cheap and sell it when demand picks up. However, ammunition does not have the same shelf life as guns and can be damaged by rust or oxidization if not stored properly. They will still degrade even in the best of environments; though it could take years, it is going to be a much shorter time period than a firearm.

A final point on guns and ammo, depending on where you live, there can be extremely onerous regulations. This can make it very difficult, and in some cases impossible, to own guns. If your jurisdiction allows you to keep non-registered firearms, there is far less risk of losing them because of gun laws, though the financial risk is mitigated as most countries will do gun buybacks in the event of a ban.

Pros: – can last a very long time – always in demand – low volatility.

Cons: – difficult to store and transport (depending on where you live, there are storage requirement laws) – the risk of being regulated.

Honourable mentions: Compact bows, crossbows, and knives.

Collectibles

This category is vast and somewhat complicated in regards to being a hedge. Many collectibles fall in and out of favour over the years. If they become really popular like sports cards in the 90s, they get so mass-produced and plentiful that when demand dries up, they aren’t even worth the paper they are printed on. If you want to get into collectibles, you have to have very specific knowledge of the niche in which you are collecting; lukewarm investors will spend too much money on items that don’t have any long-term value. However, if you know what to look for, it can be extremely lucrative. Generally, when collecting, you are looking for pieces that have historical significance, like a signed Jackie Robinson card or a first issue of Action Comics.

Here is a list of examples of collectibles:

  • sports cards 
  • comic books
  • toys
  • retro video games
  • antiques (furniture, glassware, books, etc.)
  • sports memorabilia (signed ball, jerseys, etc.) 
  • cars
  • art
  • war artifacts
  • Coca-Cola collections

Pros: – fun and interesting for hobbyists – Great for displaying – preserves history/culture.

Cons: – risky investment with low information – many collectibles require expensive restoration or protection – vulnerable to theft, fire, and flood.

Musical Instruments

I got my first guitar when I was 14, a cherry red Fender Strat made in Mexico. It was purchased for under $500 CDN 18 years ago and now retails for anywhere between $750–$1000, tracking close with inflation. If kept in good condition, instruments of all kinds, from brass to wood to string, have great resale value. If you take care of them properly, they can easily last for decades, and it’s actually relatively simple to repair minor damage. Anytime I have had to get a guitar repaired, it always cost me under $100.

If you already play and love music, this one is a no-brainer but may not work for the non-musically inclined. As with all of these ideas, it’s optimal to find an inflation hedge that you can use and enjoy rather than just leave it to collect dust in an attic. And let’s not forget gear like pedals, cases, straps. These items can also solidly retain their value.

A caveat to this is old stand-up pianos. These instruments are hard to give away for free for the simple fact that they are abundant, hard to move, and take up a lot of space. Grand pianos and a Nord-Stage are safer bets.

Pros: – low volatility – high utility for musicians – minimal maintenance – stable demand.

Cons: – they take up space and may require storage – vulnerable to rapid climate changes and humidity levels – vulnerable to theft, fire, and flood.

Shure SM58

I thought about including this in the Musical Instruments section, but honestly, this mic is in a category all its own. If there was a fictional universe in which musicians controlled the monetary system, they would most definitely make the Shure SM58 Dynamic Microphone the reserve currency of the world. All your dollars would be backed by SM 58’s, and for good reason. This mic has hardly changed since its inception in the ’60s because there’s literally no reason to. It’s affordable, durable, and gives quality vocal and instrumental recording. I personally use SM 58’s for all podcasting and vocal needs. Is it the greatest mic in the world? No, but it does not need to be. You can find it in virtually every professional recording studio around the world, and almost all touring musicians have it in their repertoire. They last forever and are easy to repair. There are youtube videos of people using the mic as a hammer, baton, and even dropping it in water then using it with no issues. Purchase 20 of these mics, leave them in your basement for 30 years, and they will most certainly work perfectly. Not only that, you will be able to sell them for nearly what you bought them for (adjusted for inflation); try looking for them in used markets, and they are 10% less than retail at most.

Even if you know nothing about instruments or microphones, take it from me; you would not go wrong purchasing an SM 58.

Pros: – always in demand – very durable – easy to maintain.

Cons: – heavy – requires storage space.

Tools

This may be obscure, but power tools, and tools in general, hold their value exceptionally well. To be fair, you are probably never going to resell a tool and get what you paid for it. Still, as inflation rises, consumer goods like power tools will rise in price with them, so if you are looking to get rid of some extra cash, this is not a bad option. If you use or need tools, now may be a good time to invest in that table saw you have been humming and hawing about. If you get a good brand, it can last for years, perhaps even decades, and it can often take a beating. The motors in power tools are also fairly easy to fix. They use simple electrical schemes making soldering severed wires a relatively simple job.

It should be noted, I am talking about household tools, not work tools. The amount of mileage put on work tools will wear them out much faster. However, you will most likely use home tools a fraction of the amount you would use work tools, and therefore they should last orders of magnitude longer. A hammer you bought for ten dollars twenty years ago is probably as good as new and would cost you 20–30 dollars today. It will pay in the long run to spend a few hundred dollars getting high-quality tools that you would generally use around the house.

Pros: – always handy and useful – low volatility – a lot of upsides, and there is always a market for used tools if you ever needed to offload them.

Cons: – electric tools may not last more than 10 years – storage space required – theft risk – tools degrade faster in humid environments.

Livestock

As with many items on this list, this may not be for everyone; however, if you have an acreage or even a large enough yard, livestock holds their value very well. There is always a demand for them, or you can use them for your own consumption. Cattle and horses might be for more experienced ranchers and can be more expensive, but animals like sheep, goats, chickens, and even rabbits are relatively easy to raise and maintain. You can use their eggs, meat, milk, and fur. Depending on municipal regulations, you can sometimes get away with raising small game like chicken or rabbits.

Pros: – recurring resource – high utility – can be lucrative.

Cons: – high upfront costs in building habitat and purchasing animals – costs for food and medicine/veterinarian – high commitment.

Jordan S.


Living By Example: 70 Years of Peaceful Resistance

Living By Example: 70 Years of Peaceful Resistance

“In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.” – Herodotus

John A. Dangelo III is an antiwar writer and full-time ER nurse. You can find his current content on IG @ antiwarwarvet.

This article was originally published on antiwarwarvet.com. Read the original article.


Despite an early chivalrous ring, World War I was not “the war to end all wars,” it was a harbinger. Western civilization emerged from the ruins of the “Great War” more belligerent than ever before, now for the sake of prognostications by so-called experts or in pursuit of ‘humanitarian’ ends.

The War to End War yet rages on, resolutely bloodless.  Soldiers for peace go over the top with an ever-expanding list of data points on failed interventions and human atrocities, working to convince their betters and their untapped legions of cannon fodder that peaceful ends must be achieved through peaceful means.  There can be no handsome unfurling of the victor’s flag above more corpses.  In place of marching tunes to remind them of love back home or of pride for their motherland, those within these wretched trenches are motivated by principle, by hope for progress, by frank human kindness.

I can think of few better who embody these mainsprings of peace, who stoically shoulder their charge amongst our ranks, than 85-year-old lifelong antiwar activist Joan H. Nicholson. 

Joan was raised in a Quaker home in Pennsylvania in the 1930s with deep connections to the Religious Society of Friends; her uncle an Executive Secretary.  Drawing on the rich history of her predecessors, Quakers “provided the background and ongoing inspiration to carry on a witness for peace and justice,” Joan recounts in our written correspondence.  

Attending college at Earlham with a Junior year at Edinburgh, Joan took her Friends-infused framework to post-war Europe like family before her. Joan’s father helped rebuild France after WWI while her aunt fed hungry German children during the interwar period.  Joan went to a workcamp in Austria where she saw the effects of blood-soaked modernity firsthand. 

After college, she joined the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Interns in Industry Project in Atlanta.  Joan worked in a bra factory by day and boarded at Morehouse College at night.  Factory workers protested their presence for residing at the all-black school over summer break and demanded the interns leave.  She did just that; taking a job on offer from Martin Luther King Sr. to teach children with Ebenezer Church.

After living in full-intentional communities in Georgia, Joan went back to Pennsylvania to teach with the Get-Set program for two years.  Failing to amend her contract in light of the Vietnam war and the burgeoning war-tax resistance movement, Joan resigned.  She refused to participate in the coercive funding of the American empire.

Over several hours on the telephone, Joan offers a firm refrain, spoken in her distinctly convicted, gentle voice, “war is just a thing that shouldn’t be.” She had decided somewhere along the way that her life would fully reflect that belief. 

As the war against Vietnam plodded on, peace protests gained new legs.  Joan joined a Quaker Action Group for weekly readings of the Vietnam war dead on the Capitol steps.  Joan read Vietnamese poems translated for an English audience. “We were arrested each time, but after five weeks, the judge finally ruled that it was unconstitutional to arrest us,” she writes. “That witness continued,” into the Pentagon itself – she laughingly interrupts herself – “can you imagine?” She remembers walking down steps into a common thruway where she and others began memorializing fallen American soldiers.  Joan and the others were promptly arrested.

Joan’s antiwar stripes were well earned, but she persisted.  Now in the late 1960s with violence in Vietnam reaching new heights, the draft was supplying incredulous holdouts for ‘service.’ Joan had other notions of what service meant.  Joan pens that she “joined the movement to nonviolently destroy or remove draft files in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia.” The group “surfaced” and was called before a grand jury.  The case was dismissed as prosecutors struggled to connect activists to particular locations.

It was again alongside Quakers that Joan captured headlines in Rochester.  The Flower City Conspiracy broke into the Federal Selective Services building, the FBI, and the Attorney General’s Office and destroyed draft files.  The 8-person crew standing trial represented themselves to use the time before the judge and jury to highlight the criminality and injustice of the war against Vietnam.  The Flower City Conspiracy was facing 38 years, but the jury recommended leniency and Joan, the eldest at 36, received 15 months.

Joan’s penchant for protesting injustice ran roots even into her concrete cell block.  Joan took part in peaceful agitation for prison reform in solidarity with prisoners in Attica before the riots there.  After the smoke and gas had cleared in New York – with dozens left dead – Joan was moved with other women from Alderson to Texas where she spent the remaining 12 months of her sentence.  There, she penned a diary and began writing children’s books. 

After her release, Joan traveled back to Washington, D.C.  Amidst the shouts of the Mayday Tribe, one may have heard Joan’s cadence calling with the crowd, “If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.” The People’s Blockade, calling themselves the Mayday Collective, attempted to blockade 21 key positions around the U.S. capital.  The nation watched as police cracked down on permitted camps and tens of thousands of protestors with their usual tact of tear gas and low-flying helicopters.  Political chainsaw surgery for the manifestations of “Vietnam Syndrome.”

One morning Joan and a friend traveled to the White House, with names of the war dead echoing from the Capitol steps.  Joan had her blood drawn from a doctor and carried it with a rolled map of Vietnam into the East Room while tourists quietly shuffled between paintings.  Beneath the chandeliers with Washington himself watching like all the rest, Joan and her friend unfurled the poster reading “STOP SPILLING BLOOD” and splattered it with Joan’s blood.  She recalls that, “A small New York Times article reported that red paint had been used.” 

As overt military action in Vietnam ended, Joan went back to Pennsylvania, where she worked as a camp counselor for 12 summers.  Throughout the Cold War, with the state’s war apparatus still in the forefront of her mind, Joan remained active.  

Most pressing was the now-forgotten reconstruction of Vietnam and Cambodia.  In 1991 Joan spent three weeks with International Peace Works reaching out to Vietnamese and Cambodian communities in violation of the Trading with the Enemy Act that still wracked a Southeast Asia in recovery.  Desperate medical facilities were strangled for supplies as the IMF and World Bank were prohibited from making loans.  This economic warfare 16 years after the Fall of Saigon stymied progress as ‘legacy ordinance’ continued savaging a helpless people. “Our hosts were concerned about what might occur on the trip, because war wounds are so deep and pervasive, and we would be the first U.S. citizens seen by some of the Vietnamese since the war.  Incredibly, we were warmly welcomed by most of the people we met.  We were deeply moved and challenged by their forgiveness, courage and persistent hope for peace,” she remembers in a Friends Journal piece.  

At the end of her trip to Southeast Asia, Joan traveled to Hiroshima, Japan.  She wanted to personally bear the image, some fifty years later, of those who died beneath the uniquely American mushroom-cloud-shaped olive branch.

With over 40 years of peacemaking behind her, the road ahead became altogether different in 2001.  The once dichotomous Cold War model of supposed good versus evil transformed into a totalitarian nightmare of political-military global hegemony backed by corporate war-profiteers.  The justification for endless American military intervention struck New York City’s Twin Towers, and the Global War on Terror began.  In a few short years, as the laundry list of countries to be liberated grew, Joan hatched a plan.

Thanks to the generosity of “an old Friends Meetinghouse” owner, Joan began planting signs on the lawn facing Highway 1 in Pennsylvania.  Every morning – and every afternoon until recently – while weather permits, Joan stands outside quietly decrying the U.S. imperialism of the day.  Ever the slight, silent sentinel, Joan jealously guards her values in the face of thousands of community passersby.  

“CLOSE GUANTANAMO.”  

“STOP U.S. SUPPORT FOR KIEV.”  

“FREE MANNING, ASSANGE.”  

“ABOLISH U.S. NUCLEAR WEAPONS.”  

“STOP U.S. WARS FOR PROFIT AND PLUNDER.” 

Traveling with CodePink, Joan flew to Pakistan to meet with families and support victims of the U.S. drone program while they buzzed overhead.  She heard stories from families who lost innocent loved ones to so-called ‘precision-guided’ armaments.   She flew to Nicaragua and Haiti on mission trips supporting the impoverished and meeting with community action groups.

As she’s grown older, Joan travels less, needing help coordinating transportation and a friendly bed to rely on.  In a letter to a friend, she recalls a more recent trip to Washington.  Joan writes, “Christians and people of other religious faiths were gathered in the Hart Senate Building to pray for peace, for an end to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Through prayer and stillness, word and song, we sought to reach out to the heart and minds of those who have voted for the madness of the invasions and occupation which destroyed the lives and welfare of untold millions of people and caused suffering that will endure for generations.”

In another visit to D.C., from the gallery of the House of Representatives, Joan watched as strident non-interventionist Representative Kucinich (D-OH) hosted a debate on ending the U.S. GWOT wars.  During the proceedings, a fellow member of the house repeatedly yelled, “al-Qaeda are global terrorists.” Joan couldn’t stand the hypocrisy and shouted down from the gallery, “The U.S. is the global terrorist!” She was arrested and banned from the capital for nine months. 

In 2011, on the 8th Anniversary of the Iraq invasion, Veterans for Peace organized a demonstration outside the White House to protest the illegal war and the treatment of Chelsea Manning.  Joan and the VFP members in attendance were arrested.  Everyone arrested, save Joan, was offered a $35 fee to forfeit.  Joan was told she would face the charges because of “previous cases.” Several of her fellow protestors from VFP refused to the offer and stood trial.  She writes, “As it turned out, I was thankful to be with the others on trial.” 

In her testimony, Joan criticizes the drone program and the tactics of the GWOT under the pretense of protection.  In her testimony’s closing remarks, Joan’s resolve reflected bluntly, “These unspeakable crimes against humanity were by themselves enough to compel me to join the veterans and others in front of the White House on March 19th… Peaceful efforts to effect change often seem to be futile gestures, but I believe we must never give up hope that our nation’s war policy can be radically transformed.”

That hope has ordered nearly every step Joan’s taken since she came into adulthood.  Contemptuous of an unjust ruling class and the “corporate media” she blames for perpetuating their lies, Joan manifests that dismay with kindness.  Though, there are no stars in the eyes that have seen so much.

I asked if she was at all optimistic; if she thought ‘our side’ had a chance of making real headway or effecting policy.  Stillness.

In time, Joan hesitantly chuckled. “My heavens,” she reflexively answered as she had so many times before.  

I sensed there’d been too much needless blood split for her to say; too many entrenched interests, too much money and power on the other side of no-mans land. Joan’s already connected countless weathered-by-war faces to the receiving end of the U.S. foreign policy establishment to muster the strength to lecture on change from her retirement home in Pennsylvania.

Instead, she incessantly pointed to those she considered more worthy of admiration than herself.  In each of our conversations, Joan downplayed her efforts for peace in place of those she’d come to respect throughout her years.  Joan saw my writing as a chance to highlight the work of others – earnestly agitating for peace in their times – rather than herself.

It’s precisely that deference that makes Joan’s life so admirable.  

In the era of unceasing expansion of ‘American exceptionalism’ at the barrel of a gun, Joan built her life into an obstacle; not for the sake of obstinance, but for principle.  Joan’s footprints are woven through some of the most pressing moments of 20th century America and the world beyond.

Joan’s not finished yet.  At the end of her letter to me, she writes that, “The situation in the world makes me want to continue witnessing for peace and justice as long as I can.” So tomorrow you can find her on Kennett Square’s Highway 1 – amidst her hand-written signs with a wispy peace sign – calling you to take these wretched trenches next.

John D.

Truth in a Totalitarian State

Truth in a Totalitarian State

An Essay on The End of Truth from F.A. Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom.”

“I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.” ― Adolf Hitler

The author is a self-declared right-wing anarchist and enthusiast of the Austrian School of economics. You can follow him on Twitter @chillywillers. That’s all we’ve got on him; The rest is a mystery.


Totalitarian states are necessarily anti-truth. The argument’s strength pertains to the operations leading towards the institution of the totalitarian state as such, as opposed to particular leaders at particular times and places. At first glance, it may appear that the success of the social plan requires nothing more than broad agreement on goals. However, due to the nature of central planning, a broad agreement must also exist regarding the evidence used to justify the measures employed. Such consensus can only be maintained by the control of information, suppression of dissent, invasion of non-political areas of life, and ultimately the destruction of truth and reason. 

Maintaining the social plan’s acceptance is achieved by coercing or convincing the people to believe in its goals. The latter is essential to the long-run success of a planned economy and relies on effective propaganda. Propaganda exists in every society, but it is categorically different in a totalitarian state because of the absence of competing ideas. In a free society, propagandists have no assurance their assertions will take hold, but the propaganda monopolist does not share this difficulty. In a free society, it may be the case that from time to time, leaders of industry dominate the attention of the people, academia, or religious institutions; however, differences between and within these competing outlets ensure that their influence captures a majority for only a short time. Conversely, under totalitarianism, these institutions are increasingly beholden to the state. 

A second distinction is that totalitarian propaganda destroys morality and truth. This distinction becomes apparent when we consider that totalitarian propaganda must extend beyond questions of value to questions of fact. Justifying the importance of the social plan is achieved by demonstrating the connections between means and ends. The social program requires imposing a universal moral code that does not exist in a free society. The planner may not be aware of this necessity, or may be unable to plan the universal moral code because his decisions aim to resolve conflicts as they arise spontaneously. The planner is tasked with making decisions without the assistance of a definite moral code and finding some way to justify them to the people. The planner must announce some theories which are likely to appeal to the greater part of the people. 

The necessity of suppressing dissent derives from the nature of the social plan. Since most of the social project details are never explicitly stated, acceptance of the social plan increasingly becomes equivalent to the approval of every act of the planner. It follows that the schools, media, etc., must abandon truth and be directed to support the “facts” that justify the planner’s social plan. In a totalitarian state, control must necessarily extend into non-political areas of life. This is an outgrowth of how the social project gains acceptance in the economic sphere. We have seen the merit of an activity is to be judged by the extent to which it accords with prevailing theories. And at the root of all these theories is the idea that collective effort toward goals is superior to individualism’s chaos.

At this point, truth is no longer something to be discovered. Instead, it is imposed from above and subject to change to accommodate the inevitable evolution of the social plan. Arguably, in any case, what the masses regard as truth is at all times informed by several destructive ideologies such as commercialism, so there is no harm in guiding them in a more high-minded direction. While it is true that larger segments of people are prone to accept prevailing ideologies uncritically, it is quite different from saying we should reduce the number of doctrines to one. This misunderstands reason’s growth, which occurs through the interaction of individuals with diverse knowledge and values. A contradiction arises because while planning begins with rationality as its highest ideal, it can only succeed by erecting boundaries around thought and thus set in motion the decline of reason.

CW