Stefan: Hi, everybody. This is Stefan Molyneux from Freedomain Radio. Hope you're doing well. I have the Zeitgeister himself, Mr. Peter Joseph. And I really feel that we needed to do a show together because clearly people with credentials and formal education have done nothing to solve the world's problems and so it is up to rank and informed amateurs to solve the problem of the world.
So thank you, Peter, so much for dropping by.
Peter: It's my pleasure, Stefan. I'm not quite sure what you meant by that introduction but it was certainly cute.
Stefan: Cute is good. Well, no, I mean actually to me, that's kind of serious. One of the things that's talked about a lot when you talk to people in the government or people in the media is we need more education. As more people got educated, the economy would do better. It seems hard to ignore the fact that most of the people who have either designed the system or participated in the system that blew up 40% of Americans' wealth over the past five or six years were all exquisitely educated. The people at the top of the finance industry, the people at the top of governments, the people at the top of the regulatory agencies were all exquisitely credentialed up the yin yang, all with doctorates and post-doctorates and so on.
So I have a certain amount of skepticism for that kind of stuff and that's why I was sort of pointing out that we who have I think –
Stefan: -- interest in the human condition but necessarily have them sucked into and crapped out. The more of academia might have some stuff, value to add.
Peter: At some point, education becomes indiscernible from indoctrination, absolutely.
Stefan: Yeah. And I think this is kind of the sort of fallacy of sunk cost. If you sunk so much into getting an economics degree and then if you really have fundamental disagreements with the economic system, then you've really spent a lot of your time becoming a Dodo about to be thwacked by the indifference of people who don't want to hear stuff opposed to the system.
Stefan: So we got a couple of topics. Is there anything you wanted to talk about before we dive in?
Peter: I think I'm excited to dive into the subject. I've sent a very loose train of thought to you that I think if we walk through it, we'll hopefully best represent my criticisms of what your proposals are and of course my advocations. I'm looking forward to it. So whenever you want to start, if you want to start with introductions and the like, that's up to you. I do have about an hour and a half.
Stefan: Hoping to start with twerking but apparently my video cameras can't keep up with my moves. I just turn into a blur. I look like a hummingbird's wing.
My introduction, my name is Stefan Molyneux. I'm the host of Freedomain Radio. I did get a little bit of education, God help me! I have a Master's degree in History focusing really on the history and philosophy from the University of Toronto. I studied playwriting and acting at theater school. I spent about 15 years in the entrepreneurial world and then started broadcasting during a fairly long commute – well, not really broadcasting, recording. And then I guess six or so years ago, went full time to rely on the tin cup of internet donation begging as a source of my income. I really, really enjoyed the process. We're doing about 40 to 50 million downloads as a whole, over a hundred thousand subscribers on YouTube, 20 million video downloads.
So yeah, it's been a fantastic ride. I certainly appreciate everybody who's donated. And I've really enjoyed a lot of the films that you've put out, Peter. I'm just working my way through “Culture in Decline,” which I think I would absolutely agree with the title. I've really enjoyed the work and effort to -- I've been working on a little documentary myself. Anytime you feel like criticizing somebody else, just try walking a mile in the shoes they've walked in and it gives you a kind of humility because it is a long and challenging process.
So if you'd like to introduce yourself to my audience, I'm sure most of my people know you but for those who don't.
Peter: Sure. I'd like to point out though of course, before we begin, that there's a tendency to become polarized in discussion and we use the subject of debate. It's been rolling around the internet. I'm really fascinated by your work. I want to say that I'm really impressed. I never was familiar with your philosophical dispositions and the extent of what you understand. I really want to commend you on your ability to basically take really complex social subjects and reduce them down into a digestible form for the general public.
So that's it. My name is Peter Joseph Stalin. I'm a New World Order and neo-Marxist, communist, Satanist, who would not try to get his beard to look as much like Vladimir Lenin or dress like Mao Zedong and busy programming robots to speak in fluent, arrogant, anti-capitalistic Marxist dialect as I work towards my final solution which is the installation of an all-seeing, all-knowing, global super computer that will rule humanity by a rigid collectivist calculation that will bring about a true socialist utopia that will end all human freedom and liberty forever.
That joke aside, my name is Peter Joseph. I grew up as a musician. I was very fortunate to go to an art school which broke my indoctrination. I was very serious about classical performance, a very highly intellectualized 20th century music advocate.
I began my interest in economics which is the most pertinent point with this conversation and philosophy by extension of course or by root extension. In about 2002 where I began to become fascinated with equity trading and the equity markets, I spent about seven years as a private equity trader coupled with basic entrepreneurship, running my own production company and being of course a labor and freelancer in the communicative arts being mainly in video and audio production for commercials or various social media -- not social media but commercial media, I should say.
That's where my home is. And during the course of this development, I began to recognize that there is something deeply flawed in the fundamental principles of what we have going on in the world today. There's a decoupling and I would say an out-of-dated type of referent where people keep perpetuating the same type of traditionalism over and over and over again. They all seem to realize even thought they think they're doing something new, they think they're applying new concepts, they think they see a path towards resolution and change, they're just running in place because they haven't realized that, in my view, the current economic system and its fundamental predication is inherently flawed and really can't be altered until you transcend the market system by its foundational ethic entirely.
The problem with I think when we have these discussions, when I think about what you advocate is that it's so homogenous with the current system. It's antiquated with respect to the current needs and capacity of the world and the very principles you put forward simply do not have the mechanics to achieve such revolutionary ends. I completely agree with your ends. I couldn't agree with your value system more or so. I can start to jump in to these types of philosophical fallacies whenever you like.
Stefan: Well, we’re going to start and let's I think take a swing at that at the market system. And I'm going to give just a few minutes because it’s a huge topic obviously, but hopefully we can boil it down to a couple of principles that I think are important.
The first principle of course is whenever you start talking about the market system you have to make sure that people understand that it is not what it's currently surrounding us and preying upon us like a pterodactyl vampire jackal on the very jugular of humanity and the spines of the children's future.
So what we have right now is a very predatory fascistic style model for the most part in the west. There are three, I think three major areas where state control is absolute or close to absolute. The first of course is that the government controls money. And by here, I'm talking most of the world but in particular the west and in particular America.
Government controls the money supply through the congressionally appointed - though never oversighted - Federal Reserve and the Federal Reserve controls the money supply. The government has significant influence, if not outright control, over the interest rates. And whenever you have the government controlling money, then whatever is left over is like just a vestige of the free market. The free market fundamentally relies upon the non-aggression principle and the respect for property rights.
Money of course is central to almost every transaction in a free market. If the government controls money, then the government dominates what's left of the free market because all entrepreneurial decisions are made within the context of not knowing what the hell the government is going to do with the money next, so the interest rates next other than a general certainty that the Federal Reserve is going to continue to serve the needs of political masters by printing more and more money for them to hand out like candy to those who support their agenda and wish for the benefits of their power.
So of course the government controls money and that is an almost absolute control. There's a little bit of coin chipping away here and there, but they are facing regulatory review now and some of them have been shut down, some of the trading exchanges. There was a guy who came up with the Liberty Dollar which was a gold-based currency. I think he's currently in jail - and of course you are not allowed to pay your government bills with any currency other than the toilet paper that the government pretends has something to do with real money.
So the governments control money, and through taxation of course government controls depending on how you count it, 30%, 40%, 50% or 60% of the wealth in the United States and through regulations of course governments herd things around that. More subtle things as well in that the stock market -- I had some exposure by being a director in a company that went public, some exposure to the swarming herd of angry beast known as the stock market these days. It doesn't merely have much to do with the original purpose of the stock market. And the reason for that is billions and billions and billions of dollars are herded into the stock market through government policies that damn well shouldn't be there.
The stock market is designed for knowledgeable people to invest in companies they know something about but basically -- I think here in Canada it's called an RRSP. I think in America it's called the 401(k). Basically, you have to hand your money over the money managers to invest in government bonds or stocks or the stock market as a whole. And if you don't hand it over to them, the government will take it from you by force, all of it.
So much money is being herded into the stock market that the stock market has become hyper charged, overbloated. There's too much money chasing around too few profit opportunities which is distorting decisions that managers make in the stock market. So they start really focusing on short-term gain. The inflation of course that the government is perpetually producing which is a phenomenon always and forever associated with government control of money with what's called central banks which is just another way of saying socialized money is very different.
I mean in the 19th century, when the banks were largely private and the gold was generally the medium of exchange or at least the medium of the bank money, the prices went down throughout and can you imagine, price -- everything being computers, everything going down in price. Well, of course, what happens is when the government prints all this money, creates all this money types whatever the hell they want into their own bank accounts, what happens is everybody says, "Well, shit! Money is losing value. I better spend it."
Debt is available because debt fuels the whole system and so you get this rampant consumerism, destruction of the environment, overconsumption of resources where you get this crazy housing booms and bass – I think 10% or 15% of the US housing stock currently lies vacant. What an incredible predation upon the earth and its resources that has been.
And so money very briefly, of course, we all know government has a near monopoly over education, the edification of the young. So when we look at bad decisions made by adult citizens as I think, Peter, you very well pointed out in almost all of your work, there is a fundamental inability to reason, to think, critical thinking, Socratic questioning is almost completely absent from public discourse these days.
Well, government has the children for 12 years or if you count daycare or pre-daycare it has from 13 or 14 years, maybe even 15 years. And so the government is producing these citizens who can't think, who is susceptible to all kinds of manipulative appetizing, who have a massive incentive to spend now rather than save because of inflation, and of course there has in the west I would argue been a breakdown over the past 50 or so years largely as a result of specific government policies, breakdown of the family and particular absentee fathers.
There are two fundamental things that children need to develop empathy. Empathy I would argue is the most important resource that we have in the world today or we need in the world today. Empathy is on continual decline. Sociopathy in the general population has doubled over the past 15 years. It is catastrophic. Two things that children need to develop empathy. One is free play in nature which I think has been largely bypassed through a variety of things, and the other is the presence of a father.
These things have generally been stripped out of childhood. Childhood is now pretty chaotic. I think about 90% of American women stop breastfeeding before the first year which of course means that children have less bonding, less security, less health because it's very strong – very good for the immune system to be breastfed and so on. So there are all these problems and then they get dumped in daycare which causes a lack of bonding or a lack of capacity to empathize with others.
So fundamentally, we have government controls money, government controls education, and government has largely disrupted the family through a variety of mechanisms which has resulted in a very strong range, destructive, empty, sociopathic, American psycho-type system that is currently eating its own young and shitting in its own nest. I certainly strongly urge people to look critically at the existing system. Whatever solution you come up with, it's almost hard to make it worse than where we're heading. So that's sort of my brief introduction to where I think we are.
Peter, please feel free to –
Peter: Okay. I absolutely agree with everything you stated. I guess what I would disagree with is we're at this root causality rests, where this power distortion, where this bubbling wave of insecurity and necessity by the state to conduct all of these affairs, where the crony capitalism so to speak, where the interest take control of the money originates in its core philosophical foundation.
The fundamental principles that I want to put forward, take all – everything you just said, which again I completely agree with, but you're not describing the root source of why these mechanisms are actually materializing. I think that there's something very strong to be said for the fact that at the root of our survival is a very Malthusian presence. I'm kind of jumping ahead here based on the train of thought that I wanted to go through, but you presented a whole slew of things. You're making my head spin because I see so many different forms of causality to link these issues together.
But there's a deeply truncated frame of reference with respect to the way we think about what's possible on the planet, and we have continued to perpetuate the same fundamental fears and scarcity-driven ethos which has inevitably lead to the state and inevitably lead to the various distortions which take the lives of their own, by the way. I know it's difficult to pull causality down to say one perception of competition and scarcity and then extrapolate that all the way out and try to see why the US government is dumbing down its children or perhaps not even trying to per se but the effect of that system is such, why there's so much structural violence, why there's so much crime. Structural violence is actually going to be a big part of this as well.
So if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to come back to my original – you're free to interject throughout this -- come back to this sort of three fallacy points that really get to a much farther root source, at least as far as my perception is concerned. Do you mind if I kind of slam through this? It shouldn't take –
Stefan: No, no, go for it.
Peter: Okay. I think that in this sort of anarchic capitalist philosophical disposition there are a series of arguments that are often used to idealize the free market, to idealize a free society –
Stefan: I'm sorry to... I just want you to go ahead and I'm sorry to interrupt but just for those listeners who aren't aware, anarchic capitalism is the argument that the non-aggression principle and property rights should be the foundation of principles of societies since taxation is a form of theft and the government relies upon the initiation of force for its power. It is a stateless society that respects property rights and the non-aggression principle. I'm sorry to interrupt but just I don't want to mention the technicals for people who are unfamiliar.
Peter: We could go crazy redefining terms when it comes to this. I'm going to more or less assume that most of the audience is familiar with what you hear about and has a fundamental understanding of economic theory, at least in a historical sense.
So the first issue that jumps to me is what I call the denial of principle continuum. It's a continuum fallacy or a matter of degree fallacy. This is the argument that presents two seemingly separate conditions that in truth cannot be considered distinct as the same principle actually exists behind both of them. For example, the state which of course I agree with your basic criticisms as far as effects, but the problem is that there's an erroneous separation of behavior and the creation of the state from the underlined philosophical principles inherent and intense, I should say, inherent to the historical premise of the market system.
The market necessity of competition, self-preservation, differential advantage and self-interest does not and would never stop at the traditionally assumed edge of the market board game, if you will, where the referees stand. It's like having a football game and assuming everyone is going to stay within the lines. It's not like that when you consider what's at risk. The state and its creation and its use for as a tool for differential advantage is simply another strategy or tool in the gaming strategy of competition. I think that's an incredibly important point.
So even if you reset everything right now and I had this conversation with another friend of mine recently that was trying to describe this circumstance and they said, "If we just got all this stuff in place, it would start to amalgamate and it would change things." Even if you reset everything right now including a lot of the central bank issues you just talked about, removing the so-called state, elements of the state would gravitate back towards force and coercion as you define it regardless because the principle, economic observation of resource scarcity and the game theory of competition remains. In this worldview, we'll always justify the need to maintain the advantage over other producers and groups by whatever means necessary as history has proven.
Now, I could talk a lot about the history of the state and this is something else I think I was going to address because I didn't want to – I want to approach these three principles in one shot. But I think the – one thing I should bring up because I think it's important is the historical failure to recognize the purpose of the state as it existed in absolute concert with the development of economy whether you're talking about slavery, whether you're talking about feudalism, whether you're taking about mercantilism, whether you're talking about the version of free market capitalism we have today - because I know you don't agree it's actually true, but I think it's exactly the state that always ever will be and can be, this premise of economy is what supports political economy. It is underlying all political systems. Every single political system and its behavior always sources itself back to the root economic premise.
So I'm going to go on to the second system, the second fallacy. And I call that the delusion of system, contrary moral imposition. Sorry for the annoyingly intellectual statement. This is very simple.
Imposed ethical assumptions, behaviors and values, moral codes like you would see in the Bible or in traditional ethos that you find with philosophers that talk about right and wrong; moral ethical assumptions that stand in contrast to the psychology inherent and generated by the operant reinforcers of a given social structure simply will not endure overtime. In other words, it's a psychological law of human adaptation that we will behave in game in accord with what is actually serving our interest most effectively in any given social order especially when it comes to our survival and quality of life. It's fundamental operant conditioning.
In other words, if you have a society that isn't structurally reinforcing the idealized behavior, it's not going to prevail as dominant. This is stated because I hear you often speak of sort of ethical concepts within the structure, and anyone that’s of course dealing with philosophy is obviously thinking about what appropriate behavior really is which as an aside I derive strictly from physical science. I threw out my books on general philosophy a long time ago because they're dated. They are antiquated. They don't have an actual physical reference for the language and the concepts that are putting forward but that's for another subject.
The underlying basis of market psychology is predicated on the assumption that resource scarcity enhances the need to compete for such means is prevalent. This creates an immutable necessity to draw power and discount the wellbeing of others. No matter what the prevailing fashion and moral code is, it will always rise to the surface whatever is being enforced by society. In other words, a free society based on true human equality which I think you and I both very much want is actually impossible because the psychological reinforcers are not there at all.
And the final fallacy –
Stefan: Now, sorry, do you want to – because I got a couple of questions but certainly I don't want to interrupt your flow too much. I'm happy wait till you finish the three points.
Peter: I can jump back in. This next one actually is going to go to describe the flaws in your concept of coercion and voluntarism. That's going to be a tricky one. So let's go ahead and you go ahead and talk about whatever you need to with respect to what I've said prior.
Stefan: Now, when you were a stock broker, did you have costumers or were you trading on your own behalf?
Peter: I wasn't a stock broker. I was a private equity trader. I traded from home.
Stefan: So you traded on your own behalf?
Stefan: Okay. I'm asking that not because I'm sort of trying to trick you in some way, but just because there are a lot of people who haven't actually run a customer-facing business or a customer-focused business. When you said that the competition relies that you discount the wellbeing of others, if you run a business and you have customers of course, your customers are there with you by choice, assuming your business isn't, say, Monsanto or Microsoft or other companies which rely on state privilege, Halliburton, Blackwater, all these kinds of nasty entities.
But if you are in a – I was in a software field which is sort of the Wild West so to speak which means the most peaceful and progressive of the areas left of the free market. If you have customers and they're there with you by choice, if you discount the well-being of your customers, you're out of business in about 90 seconds. You really, really have to focus on providing voluntary value to your customers and maintaining that value overtime. You wake up in the morning as an entrepreneur and all you do is think about how you can make your customers happier, how you can make their lives easier.
Now, of course, you're doing that for the course of profit but profit is how you measure whether you're being good or effective at reducing value for your customers. I'm sorry. Go ahead.
Peter: Let's not deviate too much. I'll give you – since you brought up an anecdotal case of my former profession as a private equity trader, I'm going to go back a little bit farther to my former profession as a manager in a video production house that I worked in, probably one of my first main long-term jobs when I got out of college.
I worked for a company that slowly over time sort of going bankrupt. This company hired about 20 people. We downsized to about 10 people. They began to lie to all of us. All of our paychecks went back about five months. I went up and talked to them in pure honesty to try to figure out what was going on. They just described and they basically lied to us in effect that they were just waiting on this, this and this. I found out later that they were officially going bankrupt which meant that I couldn't go to small claims court to get the money that I wanted. I had to pay my rent which I was laid on. I had to do a lot of things along with everybody else in the entire arena that hadn’t been paid whatsoever, the employees.
The people that owned it did not mean bad. They had a general market failure, the market correction that generally happens. Their product was inefficient. What did that create? That created the necessity for them to extend out as far as they could so they could feed their children to screw all of us by necessity. There was one guy there who was on a visa that they owed about $15,000. He was officially a slave because he couldn't even be in the United States without their support of the visa. I had to take all of my work off of their servers and hold it ransom in order to get the money that they owed me away from their pockets and their children's mouths because I had to pay my rent and feed myself.
That is the true face of the market economy, my friend. You can idealize all of this stuff about voluntarism and how you just have to – there's a natural ebb and flow and if you just do this, this and this, that no one will be suspect to exploitation or abuse or the inherent violent coercion that is structural. But the true face of the market and especially when you look around at the truth of reality -- I look at the truth of reality, not the theory -- when I look at the world today with, say, one person dying every three seconds unnecessarily, when I look at the fact that they are in truth based on UN distinctions of human trafficking and what slavery means, there are today more slaves in the world than ever before in human history.
When I speak to the truth of the fact that every single life support system is in decline due to resource exploitation, equal exploitation that goes in the human side applied to the abuse of the topsoil, abuse to everything that we're doing, destruction of water resources, this is a traumatic failure that we're seeing across the board. It's destroying public health and destroying ecological health.
Stefan: All right. But let me just give you a slight counter though. So you're talking about – and I'm sorry you had this experience. Definitely, these are not people with a high sense of moral integrity when it comes to the marketplace.
Peter: Actually, they were.
Stefan: First of all, you're talking about how somebody was being subject to a visa and that of course is a government thing. You said that through bankruptcy, you could not use – sorry, let me finish my point then I'll be quiet.
Stefan: You said that through bankruptcy proceedings, you could not retrieve your money but bankruptcy is something that is invented by the state. I don't actually agree with it too much. I think that bankruptcy is pretty terrible the way it's currently worked. The third thing you said was that you basically couldn't get your money back from these people who lied to you. I would imagine that they were shielded behind a corporation which is a government created and government controlled imposition on the free market which has – I mean in the financial industry itself.
Before there were corporations, people who ran financial companies where personally liable. They could lose their houses, they could lose I guess horse and buggies back in the day. And then they went to the government and they said, "We'd really like a legal shield so that we can take money out of the company. But if the company does anything bad or illegal or loses money, nobody can get us for the money that we've lost for them." So the governments handed over this lovely little league of shield called the corporation. But again, visas, bankruptcy, court, corporations, these are all government things you're talking about. I'm not sure what that has to do with the free market as I'm talking about it.
Peter: Absolutely not. The use of government as an arm of differential advantage, obviously the -- first of all, the government is run by the higher end entrepreneurs of our world. The ownership class has been running the government since day one. It is an extension of the market system. Of course, they're going to go to the government and coerce them – or not coerce per se -- or get them on their side so they can actually have the benefit of having a corporation that has no legal responsibility.
That is a natural outgrowth of the gaming strategy inherent. There are no rules in this. It is the fallacy of concept, the fallacy and naivety that these types of actions in the development of power sources that override the precious ideal of the free market. It is this fallacy that runs so concurrent with this kind of delusion of market economics that just makes you want to pull my hair out.
And I'm going to continue that because the truncated distinctions -- the final fallacy is exactly what needs to be brought up here. Truncated distinctions which are again what you have just spoken of. This means that on certain ideas which appear to have integrity are found to be in truth too narrow in their consideration to be deemed viable philosophically and empirically. In other words, the true underlying meaning and purpose claimed to be represented is substantially misrepresented; and hence, the concept becomes empirically void.
For instance, there are two words I hear constantly you speak of in your community and in your general philosophical treatments. One is coercion; the other is voluntarism. Both of these terms, while accurate in your narrow use with respect to economic and behavioral theory, are in truth irrevocably shortsighted when you compare it to the spectrum of real life patterns and possibilities regarding the most relevant underlying component principles of those terms. Let me give you an example as I know that might have sounded enormously extensive and intellectual.
Stefan: Not adjectives. I'm looking for some proof.
Peter: Well, let's take the notion of coercion. Well, I'm giving an argument. What is the practice? Excuse me, the coercion. Let's define coercion. What is coercion? Define coercion for me just so we can make it simple and interactive here. What's coercion?
Stefan: Yeah. I mean the initiation of force or fraud against somebody who's not in – the initiation of force and fraud is probably the easiest way to talk about it.
Peter: So under the surface, it's about imposing. It's about controlling. It's about abuse. It's about violence. It's about induced suffering. So if we look at this kind of induction or infliction of suffering, I want to ask you a question then because it's really about resolving suffering at its core. It all becomes moot when it comes to the system process. In the context of economics I see your point but let's get down to the core of this.
If there was a disease that at one country was killing 200 people and in another country another disease was killing 200,000 people, which disease would you focus on? Obviously, you'd focus on the one killing 200,000 people, right?
Stefan: I'm not sure why that would necessarily follow…
Peter: Well, because you would want to resolve that disease that is killing the most people that has the people of the least immunity or the least defense against the disease.
Stefan: No, I'm sorry. Again, I'm not sure why that would necessarily follow. I mean what if daughter was one of the 200 people? What if I were one of the 200 people? I might find an incentive to focus on the 200 rather that the 200,000.
Peter: Sure. You can marginally split that as much as you want but when it comes to general public health, if you ask any public health official institution, which would be the greatest threat, which would rapidly produce and maybe take over the whole world if it's that viral, obviously they’re going to resolve the disease that's killing the most people.
Now, with that in mind, are you familiar with the concept of structural violence?
Peter: Okay. Well, it's featured in Zeitgeist: Moving Forward quite extensively and it's the crutch of a very important philosophical view and moral and ethical view when it comes to what's happening in the world today.
Well, we all understand behavioral violence and policy violence which is often what you refer to by government or state coercion. Structural violence is mostly hidden, and it deals with chain reactions sourced to certain broad institutional influences. And if you read this book, if you read these studies which they're extensive, I recommend Harvard Criminal Psychologist Center for – excuse me, Criminal psychologist James Gilligan who headed the center at Harvard for violence many years back, an absolute expert on violence and its sources in its real form. He talks about this extensively with tremendous sources. I would drop that just so people can research this.
So what happens here is that there is a defining characteristic that occurs that you deem all the way down to what's called structural or social inequality. Social inequality is one of the most insidious attributes in the world today with respect to public health. It manifests in absolute form which is, say, poverty, and it manifests in relative form which is basically the development of psychosocial stress. If you're familiar with the work of Gabor Maté, he talks about this type of idea in length as well. So long story short, structural violence is in fact and unequivocally the leading cause of death on the planet earth.
In a 1976 study, I believe it was called the Empirical Table of Structural Violence -- I can't remember the authors but anyway we can punch this up -- it was found that 18 million deaths occur each year because of essentially inequality and structural policy based around or that generates inequality. And guess what the root of this inequality is? The state cannot be held as some root catalyst of inequality or the other fallacious external terms such as crony capitalism which again harp upon the first fallacy I put forward because it's the same fundamental principles exist. You can't differentiate capitalism from crony capitalism.
It comes from the very root source of our socioeconomic principles, the market itself. It is an explicit and direct consequence of the gaming of competition and advantage. It's a mathematical inevitability and you can see this by simply comparing different countries based on their rates of homicide, rates of violence, rates of death based on poverty associated to the level of inequality that's in their country.
And if you extrapolate from 1976, there had been about 600 million people that have died due to poverty and inequality and all of its forms, absolute and relative; and that isn't even accounting for the gross increase and equality we've seen globally as well. So with all due respect –
Stefan: Sorry, but what is the definition of structural violence?
Peter: Structural violence is a type of violence that is imposed – well, it depends on who you ask because it's become more of general term. But in a traditional state, it took only into consideration the effects of social inequality. But today you'll find other researchers describing the structural violence of any type of institution that has a causal link. For example, a type of structural violence linked to – well, I think poverty is the easiest one because it sprawls out in so many different ways. A mother, for example -- I know for example you talk about children a lot. You talk about how the root of our values and such come from parenting, how important that is, and I absolutely agree. But what isn't being counted is the fact that all parents are subject to an enormous amount of pressure.
If a parent or – first of all, the leading cause of divorce is financial, I think we all know that. Divorce has had a tremendous psychological effect on children. There's a whole spectrum of these things but I often use the example of the woman. She's a single mother. She gets fired from her job and it wasn't her fault she was fired. They just had to downsize for whatever purpose, basic market correction. She's unable to take care of her child. That child can't – she can't afford healthcare. She can't afford to have a babysitter. She deals with whatever she can and she's loosely been able to take care of this child because of the pressures around her. She doesn't have the means to do so.
One day, the child stumbles and has some type of accident that would not have happened if there was actually the condition for that parent or parents to properly have the capacity to take care their children. And this spirals out into the sphere of public health. It is incredibly important. If you're not familiar with it, I'm absolutely amazed because it is the most important attribute. I'm so disgusted by the market system because it reinforces inequality more than anything else. Every single historical text that goes back both in criticisms with advocation of capitalism have denoted this inequality, much harped upon by people like Thomas Malthus who firmly ingrained the propensity or the assumption that there isn't enough to go around and therefore inequality is inevitable. And I can go on a long tangent about all the other distortions that arise from that --
Stefan: I just have to interrupt you for a second because I just looked something up. You said that the leading cause of divorce was economic problems. At least according to the top five reasons for 2011 on matrimonial survey by Grant Thornton in the UK, the number one reason is falling out of love, that's 27%; extramarital affair is number two at 25%; unreasonably behavior at 17%; mid-life crisis at 10%; and emotional or physical abuse at 6%. The last stuff I read in North America was that the leading – I mean the majority of divorces were initiated by women and the number one cause was dissatisfaction. And so just if you can give me the source for the economic stuff, that would be great.
Peter: I have at least three texts that source that. First of all, statistical things run into problems all the time, almost every single person I've seen gets divorced has had tremendous financial issues. I have read that statistic at least five times. I will email you that statistic. And if that isn't actually correct anymore, I can assure you, it is a very large part of what's happening in the world as far as familial problems. Almost every argument I have with my girlfriend these days revolves around money. So you can take your little isolated dismissal that -- and run with it, that's fine. I don't care. It's completely irrelevant to the point in hand and that's structural issue.
Stefan: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Hang on. That sounded a little bit insulting. “Take my little isolated dismissal?” You provided information that I had counter information to. Is that not allowed in this conversation?
Peter: No, but I think it completely bypasses the point I'm trying to make. It utterly bypasses and creates distraction.
Stefan: I'm sorry. If facts contradict the point that you're trying to make, do you not want me to bring them up?
Peter: No, facts don't contradict anything. You can nitpick about certain issues all you want, but you're distracting from the actual structural violence issue that I'm trying to talk about. So some of the issues in this conversation in the sake of argument, you run to do a little internet search and try to find something to debunk something I've just said which is corollary to what I'm actually pointing out.
Listen, I'm highly fallible. If I run any type of stat and it's found to be wrong, first of all, I'll show you my source. I'm happy to send it to you, but I would like to focus on what's actually critically relevant here and that's the source of structural violence.
Let me get back to my point with all due respect. When I think about this reality of structural violence and the 18 million people and more that die every single year unnecessarily due to inequality and poverty from absolute and relative depravation. I listened to a head Austrian economist, talking about the inherent violence and coercion of the income tax system and other relatively stupid shit in the wake of unnecessarily – unnecessary, I should say, daily mass murder originating from the market system's competitive propensity for gross and constant wealth imbalance and all the problems that come from that I'm not impressed.
Stefan: Wait, sorry, are you saying that the market system – well, first of all, income tax causes a huge amount of stress on marriages. Income tax has been argued to be the primary reason why you need a two-income household and kids are getting dumped in daycare. So if you're going to say that marriage has problems because of financial pressures and then you're going to dismiss the income tax which is the largest single bill that most couples have, I think you might be missing the point.
And second, you're talking about how the free market engages in mass murder. Can you step me through that? How the free market without the money and power of the state and the weapons of the state, how it engages in mass murder? I'd like to understand that.
Peter: Because it creates perpetual and constant inequality by its structural design -- period. You can't --
Stefan: So the free market creates inequality. Is that right?
Peter: That's correct.
Stefan: So when cell phones were first introduced and they cost about $10,000 each, and now you can get a cell phone like a burner cell phone for like 20 or 30 bucks, that is somehow creating inequality in the distribution of cell phones in society?
Peter: That's a completely arbitrary example because you're taking one instance of a particular service –
Stefan: It's not a real world example?
Peter: Oh, it's a real world example but it's completely contrary. It's just completely absent of the point I'm trying to make in the broad statistical view.
Stefan: No, it's not absent. You're talking about how the free market creates inequality, but the free market is constantly trying to get cheaper and better goods into the hands of people. That's how you make money.
Peter: I'm talking about --
Stefan: You can see this happening with computers. You can see this happening with cell phones. In any place where the market is really allowed to operate, prices go down and feature sets go up. For instance, when microwaves were first introduced, they cost what a car costs now. Now you can pick up a microwave for 49 bucks at Walmart. So just about every household has a microwave, just about every household has a colored TV, just about every household has an internet service.
So the fact is that it doesn't seem – I mean I agree with you. Inequality is growing in American society at the moment, but I would argue that's because of the growth of the state, because the free market is diminished in its capacity to drive down the prices of goods and drive more of the acceptance of goods into poorer households.
Peter: I'm speaking of pure statistics. I'm speaking of research that's been done. I'm speaking of the broad view. I'm not speaking of the fact that yes, there are more material possessions in the hands and yes --
Stefan: Dude, when I give you like five examples in a row, you can't just dismiss them all and say you're speaking of some broad view, right? I mean that's just substituting an abstraction for an example.
Peter: No because you're deviating from the broad concept, the broad statistical point I'm trying to make. I agree with all of those points. I'm not denying that. I'm not denying the fact that, for example, there are -- the poor of the United States are much better off than the wealthy many hundreds of years ago in material terms. And that's another subject that I could go on a tangent on but to stay within the point I'm trying to make here.
The inherent inequality that has been with the market economy been really with the entire ethic of the institution of formalized structural – the institution that is built upon scarcity and the need for human exploitation which is what the system really roots itself down. It's the necessity for people to get advantage so they can survive at the expense of others. Sometimes it works out but there's a general imbalance and this is the underlying ethic.
This element has created a constant imbalance throughout the entire course of capitalism and before. It's a fundamental ethic and yes, 600 million people have died unnecessarily in the wake, in the wake of a fucking technical reality where we can feed, clothe and provide healthcare and resolve pretty much all of the fundamental needs and abundance of energy to every single human on earth.
I'm talking about reality to the extent when I look around I see this game that we're playing that has all of these hideous byproducts, and yet we're not doing the things that can actually bring the technical things to fruition. And why can't we do those technical things? Because they are the antithesis – I'm not finished with my point.
Stefan: Look, look, you and I don't have to disagree. There's no point debating on whether it’s bad that millions of people are dying. You and I, I think, are both very committed to that, so I fully accept that. But you did talk about how the free market produces mass murder. We get into exploitation because that's a term I always have some trouble with. It doesn't mean you're wrong; it just means I don't understand how you're using it. But if we can go back to the mass murder example, how is it that the free market produces mass murder in the absence of state power?
Peter: The market system's inherent fundamental premise is based on scarcity. It's based in the assumption of having to gain at a possible –
Stefan: No, no, that's just incorrect. The free market system is based on a respect of the property rights and the non-initiation of force. Scarcity is a fact of nature.
Peter: Scarcity is a fact of nature but it's not – as much as the fact of nature as it has been and the great shift which I'll talk about as we talk about a new economic model here, the great powerful shift is that the scarcity focus is no longer necessary as the focus of social economic unfolding. It's actually --
Stefan: So what you're saying is scarcity is not foundation of the free market. Scarcity is a fact of reality.
Peter: I'm saying scarcity is certainly a fact of reality but not in even remote proportion the way it used to be. The problem what's happened now is the market premise is predicated on the assumption of scarcity and everything is built upon that, everything is navigated around this assumption that there isn't enough room to go around, hence the concept of economizing which we all know.
The new trends today, the great transition that's occurring in human thought today and our industrial capacity to create an abundance in post-scarcity is that we need to orient our system towards the interest to create an abundance not towards the interest of preserving scarcity which is preserving the integrity of scarcity to make sure people don't go insane and start to battle each other through war.
So it has its role and it always kind of will in a certain principle, but we're never going to achieve a post-scarcity. We're never going to see balance. We're never going to see social equality in the truest terms. I think back to Martin Luther King, his final interest was equal pay for all society because he knew that racism in the bias of bigotry really didn't stop at the perception of color of skin. It was built in to the economic model. Gandhi saw this as well. In fact, Gandhi was the highest observer of structural violence in his intuition who said, "Poverty is the worst form of violence."
Coming back to my original point, this system perpetuates inequality in larger and larger extensive inequality. You cannot argue that the state alone is the only interference attribute that enables the type of extensive inequality that we see because all you have you do is compare different countries to see the difference between those that have very rigid controls and state control, not necessarily in the highly coercive way that we see in the US taxes and the like, but still they are limiting the market very directly and regulated it very specifically from the top down and they have much less violence, they have much less homicide rates, they have much inequality and all the mental and psychological neurosis that are born of that.
So in this thing called the non-aggression principle and what frustrates me again is that everything you speak of I agree with, within the principles that you advocate. See, I don't agree with the idea of the market that as you conceive of it is just that, a system of voluntary exchange with non-coercion; that people just follow this basic ethical guideline; that everything is going to be fine. I look at it from its root source and of course of human evolution and using history as a guide. I look at the root psychology of what it means to have this concept that's prevailing in society where you're supposed to be put on a pedestal for gaining while others suffer. This psychology and value system disorder is ever pervasive and it really does define the state. And I –
Stefan: Well, okay, but sorry, I'm waiting for you to take a breath but I feel I'm going to wait in vain, so I'm going to have to interrupt you for a sec.
So this idea that in a free market you gain while other people suffer is foundationally incorrect. I mean as the Austrians would say, it's praxiologically incorrect. I know you know this but just for the listeners of course, fundamentally if you and I exchange something and there's no coercion involved, I don't have a gun to your ribs, I don't have your children hostage or anything like that, if you and I exchange something voluntarily, by definition we are both better off because of that exchange, right?
So the old example is if I have a dollar and you have a pencil and we voluntarily exchange those two items, then by definition, practicalogically, in reality, foundationally, rationally, empirically, I must want the pencil more than I want my dollar and you must want my dollar more than you want your pencil because we are freely exchanging those things.
So in a free market exchange, the two parties who voluntarily exchange are by definition better off than they have. This is true if I decide to go and work for someone rather than start my own company. I choose that as a better course for myself. If I choose to go and start my own company, I'd both worked for people and started my own company, it's just a matter of personal choice. As long as there's no force involved, as long as there is no fraud involved unlike your unfortunate experience with the video production company, by definition both parties are better off because they have both chosen voluntarily to perform that particular exchange.
There's no way to get around that. That's just the basic fact. Now, if you use the government to print money and give it to you before the inflation hits the poor which is wretched in the foundation unfortunately of our economy, if you use the military-industrial complex -- most of the jobs that are being created since the financial crash in 2007 have been in the military industrial complex -- it's completely evil. And this is the mass murder. But I mean what on earth is the mass murder? I sort of go back to this point. What does this have to do with the free market?
Peter: I understand. Once again, you blockade and this is the concept of truncated frames of reference that I was in the midst of – I'm still in the midst of describing and we can talk about voluntarism in a second. In pure vacuum and in the void of space, these theories hold true. In other words, you can have perfect circles when there's nothing else drawing influence. The fact of the matter is we live in a constant continuum of pressures.
Let's jump into voluntarism if you don't mind. I don't use the same simplistic view as you do and this will explain why.
Stefan: I would really appreciate it if you would stop calling my view truncated and simplistic. If you prove that my view is truncated and simplistic, you don't need the damn adjectives. If you don't prove it, then it's just bullshit ad hominem, right? So just refrain from the – if I can ask that intellectual respect, refrain from constantly insulting my position. I don't believe I have constantly insulted yours.
Peter: Okay. No, I'm not trying to insult yours. I'm sorry you interpret it that way. When I say truncated –
Stefan: Oh, so simplistic and truncated are terms of respect. I see.
Peter: No, simplistic and truncated are qualifiable distinctions that I'm using in the associations that I'm –
Stefan: Prove it. Don't say it. Just prove it.
Peter: Oh, I am.
Stefan: Prove it. Don't say it. That's all I'm saying.
Peter: Well, you can keep stopping me from speaking by acknowledging that or I can keep going. Can I talk?
Stefan: No, no, I'm just asking to lay off the ad hominems. That's all.
Peter: I'm sorry. Listen, I'm going to stop right here. I'm not trying to be offensive. I want you to understand that I, like you, share a frustration with the way the world is, okay. If you see any element of agitation come from, there's nothing to do with you. I really do respect what you're trying to do and I agree with a great majority of what you put forward. I think your perspective and values and when it comes to human development and the things that I've – I haven't been able to research everything that you talk about but I've really, really enjoyed listening to the things that you speak of in your capacity and your talent and as an oration and communication.
I am coming from a very serious position when I look at the flaws of this planet and I cannot – when I use the terms "truncated" and "simplistic," I mean those in the most quantifiable, if that was even possible, terms. And I'm going to give you examples and I'm going to explain as we move along.
Voluntarism, action based on non-coercion is probably the best definition, right? Voluntarism? Okay. There are two basic broad presuppositions, if you will, inherent to this common concept especially in economic use. The first is a little bit difficult to describe because it’s hard for people to relate to it at all, but I'm going to give it a shot.
The first is this distorted implication of freewill as though any action we manifest exist in a vacuum, the ever pervasive conscious and subconscious social and psychological pressures we endure on a daily basis. Humans have a limited capacity to control their own behavior. It's a fact. We exist in a continuum of social influences that are invariably subject to the behavioral propensities and reactions of the culture we inhabit. That said is a broad overarching consideration.
The second more specific issue is that there is a clear and present fallacy that engagement at all in the market system is voluntary as though we are all equal in our reductionist existence as voluntary exchangers. This just might be the most absurd concept of all when it comes to this type of worldview. The market system's structural imposition for survival itself in my view unnecessarily given the state of technology and our capacity to create an abundance coerces all human beings to submit to labor for income and to engage in the act of trade whether they like it or not. It's not voluntary. And believe me, if it was voluntary, I would be fucking gone. I would be on the hippie planet where people actually share ideas and resources and not act like spoiled children fighting over everything.
So in the core root principle of voluntarism, it's thrown right out the window because this system is intrinsically coercive, okay? And that's a powerful point because when you begin to look at the stress of our society, when I –
Stefan: Sorry. I'm sorry to interrupt. I'm not following what you're saying. How is voluntary trade coercive? That just seems to me like saying lovemaking is rape. It just seems like you're just jamming two opposite things together and calling them the same.
Peter: Because the act of trade itself is coercive. I'm not saying that the --
Stefan: And how is the act of trade coercive?
Peter: Because people have to trade in this system to survive unnecessarily. They have to do something.
Stefan: They don't have to trade.
Peter: They have to either trade --
Stefan: They can go and -- I mean 98% of the world's surface is uninhabited. They can go and live in the woods and they can grow their own food and they can hunt their own animals. I don't understand how it is they have to trade.
Peter: That’s a wonderful point. I think that's hilarious. I think it's great to look at a global economic system and decide that it's voluntary for people not to have to engage in the market system. That's hilarious. If I could do that, I would --
Stefan: Sorry, but saying that's hilarious is not actually a rebuttal. I mean people don’t have to try – I think that the point that I'm making is it's to their advantage to trade. I think people find that the division of labor like I fish and you grow wheat and we trade or whatever, the division of labor and all of that is economically productive. The people specialize in doing things and then trade the results of that labor so we don't all have to become good at everything. I think people find it advantageous to trade, but saying that somehow forces them to trade I think is not clear to me.
Peter: I've watched the vast majority of my friends who got out of college exist in occupations and institutions to get money that were nothing in respect to what their talents were and nothing to do with them. They despised it. I've watched people commit suicide and I watched a friend commit suicide because he couldn't get a job after so many periods – such a period of time he had no sustenance. His entire sense of self-worth was so demeaned. These types of things don't have to exist.
Stefan: But we both agree that what we're talking about now is not the free market. So when I talk about the free market and you start saying, "Well, I know people in this environment," I don't understand what that has to do with what we're talking about.
Peter: We do not both agree that this is not the free market. I am stating that the fundamental principles that underlie the free market, the absolute core of every single school of thought of market capitalism, if you will, is intrinsically inherent. It has an intrinsic inherent quality that gravitates to all the propensities speaking of this is the free market. Whatever happens is real.
Stefan: No, no, sorry. And again, I have to be pretty technical here if not just downright rational. The free market is a voluntary exchange and the state is the initiation of force. These two are opposite. It's like saying that lovemaking is rape or theft is charity. You're just mingling these two concepts together. The free market specifically repudiates the action of the state which is the initiation of the force against usually legally disarmed citizens.
So if you say, "Well, our current system is the free market," despite the fact that it's dominated by the state which doesn't conform to any of the principles of the free market I think is missing the point.
Peter: No. That's your definition and your assessment of principles. I'm actually looking at the real world. I'm looking at the fact that, as I said earlier, in the initial principles of fallacy that the state is in fact an outgrowth, an arm of the power and differential advantage in gaming theory needs of the market itself. It is there just as anything else. There are people behind the scenes in government that make an enormous amount of money in the context of market economics, in the context of trade, in the context of everything that you speak of; but they use the arm of the state to their advantage for their elitist purposes.
Do I think that's right? Absolutely not. I would love, Stefan, to see the type of market that you talk about. The problem is it's impossible. There will always be gravitation towards these power consolidations. Some of them may work for a little while, some of them may falter, but there will always be that propensity. And when I say the free market –
Stefan: Oh, Peter, come on. Just saying that something is impossible doesn't make it. So you sound like somebody in the 16th century who's saying, "Well, we've always had slavery. Slavery has always been a part of human society. Slavery has always been a part of trade, and therefore we're always going to have slavery."
Now, I agree with you that it's terrible that slave trade is still occurring, but generally in the west we've kind of gotten away with direct slavery. Now we have kind of indirect slavery through taxation, but that direct owning and buying and selling human beings has been largely bypassed. So saying something is impossible and will never be and so on, I mean for a guy who's kind of a futurist, it seems to me that that's kind of a leak.
Peter: Well, I would say that it's just as impossible as the fact that the law of gravity. I can't decide to just step on this wall over here. There are fundamental psychological principles that are inherent to the market's psychology. It goes back to my initial fallacy that I call the delusion of system contrary moral imposition. This idea of voluntarism and everything that goes underneath it, the non-aggression principle, all of it becomes moot in the wake of what this system is actually generating. And that's it. I mean you can call it the free market or not. I do not believe I –
Stefan: So if you say that something becomes moot, you've made a point. Well, I say that your system has become moot. Victory! I mean you're not making any – you're just saying stuff. You're not actually making a case. I've put a very clear principled case that there's a difference; in fact, an opposite moral quality to the initiation of force which is the state and to voluntary free trade which is exchange for mutual benefit. And saying that that's moot and that's impossible, you're not actually making a case or anything. You're just using a lot of adjectives. You're not proving anything.
Peter: I have stated and I have given an enormous amount of evidence and argument towards a number of broad economic issues. You have ignored every single one of them, and you are persisting with this tiny little box of economic idealism of voluntary trade as though these two machines in their marginal utility –
Stefan: Oh, so now you use the phrase "tiny little box." I guess that's proven something too. You see, you're just using adjectives. You're not actually making a case. Tell me how the state informs with non-initiation of force because you're lumping it in with the non-initiation of force which is free trade. You're saying that the state is a natural outgrowth or part of the free market, and I'm saying the initiation of force is the opposite from voluntary trade. So you can tell me I'm incorrect if I've made a mistake, that I would be happy to hear it. But you can't just brush it off by saying it's a “tiny little box.” “Tiny little box” is not an argument.
Peter: “Tiny little box” is an analogy. It's a way to get a communicative point across to –
Stefan: Still not an argument.
Peter: Well, no, it's not an argument but I'm facilitating many arguments simultaneously as much as you choose to dismiss them clearly. The state is an outgrowth of the market system because of its fundamental predicated premise. I don't know how many times I have to say that. If you can't see that, I don't know what to say.
Stefan: What is fundamental predicated premise? That's not an argument either. That's just a word salad.
Peter: I have stated that about three or four times thus far with respect to the fact that within the state is the mechanism of the market. The market creates the state because of its interest in self-preservation, differential advantage and the basic gaming strategy. I'm sure you're familiar with all of the macroeconomic utilitarian assumptions by Nash and the like the entire premise of gaming within this system is based around these levels of advantage. And to think –
Stefan: Sorry, let me just understand here. Look, I certainly agree with you that people in what's left of the market attempt to use the state to gain advantage over others and that advantage is fundamentally coercive, destructive and I would say evil in nature. So I completely agree with you there. But when you say the market creates the state, what you would then I think seem to be arguing with that some point in the past there existed a free market which then created a state when no state existed before. It would seem to be, based on my understanding of history, that governments have been the dominating factor throughout history. They can be sort of local tribal governments like the warlords and the Genghis Khans and so on of the most sort of formal modern state.
But it would seem to me that the market doesn't create the state but the market – that there is a state which to some degree or another facilitates the size of the market whether it enforces contract or whether it's heavily taxed or heavily regulated or not. But because there is the state, there is a competition. I sort of view the state like there's a gun in the room and there's a bunch of gangsters. And this is an analogy, not a proof so let me be clear of that. But there is a gun in the room and a whole bunch of gangsters are trying to get a hold of that gun so they can shoot each other. And the state is that gun in the room.
So when there is a government in society, then marketers, capitalists, entrepreneurs, whatever you want to call them, business owners, will always attempt to use the state to gain power over their opponents. You can't get a monopoly in the free market that's ever been sustainable without using the state.
So there are statistics that show that there's almost no single better investment that a company can make than a congressman or a congresswoman. Investing in lobbying the state provides you returns in the hundreds of percent, something that is really hard. In the free market in general, you're a good – you're lucky to make 3% to 6% to 7% profit. But if you invest in politics and you get a congressman on your side, you get 200%, 250% return on investment from how much you have to spend in lobbying to how much you get government benefits.
So the existence of the state draws just simply by the logic of what's left of the free market. It draws people to use the state because any CEO who is going to issue political action is going to be replaced by the shareholders with the CEO who's going to embrace political action. So I agree with you that there is definitely a huge incentive to pursue political action and gain economic advantage through the violence of the state of your competitors, but that's because there's a state. In a free market, it would not be possible to do that. It's like an archaic no-state free market.
Peter: What I find interesting about that argument is that you're basically admitting that that propensity is there. You're basically saying that it's a natural –
Stefan: If there's a state, yes.
Peter: It's a natural propensity for this type of interest and power. So if there isn't a state, it wouldn't happen. That's interesting. I don't know if I agree with that because if the interest is there and it creates some type of power consolidation to maintain differential advantage to override the interest of other producers to secure wealth and market share for a particular group, that could manifest in all sorts of other ways. I mean I look at the state as just one example of how this power consolidation tendency materializes. And the true issue is not –
Stefan: Well, look, just to give you a tiny example, and I'll keep it very brief and I'm fully aware this is not exhaustive. I'm not going to claim to cinch anything in a theoretical argument to this level. But just a brief example is, let's say, there's no government. I'm a sweater manufacturer and I want to block all of these sweater imports from China so that I can raise my price 20% because the Chinese are really competitive in producing stuff cheaply or whatever. Well, if I'm a sweater manufacturer, to block all imports of sweaters from other countries, if I want to put duty of 40% on all – how am I going to collect it? How am I going to pay for people to do it? Am I going to intercept ships? I'm going to build a navy? I'm going to build a court system?
If I start to try and build the infrastructure to block free trade if I'm in a free society, what's going to happen is I'm going to have to spend so much that I'm going to be uncompetitive and everyone else is going to be able to undercut me because I have to recreate the entire operators of the state and have people accept that as legitimate, which means I'm going to be uncompetitive with other people who are not interested in recreating the state but rather making nice sweaters. But if there is already a state that has this power and this authority and this influence and this violent capacity already in every port and everybody respects it or at least believes it's legitimate, then I just have to go to a congressman and give them a bunch of money and then in return I get a 40% duty on all sweaters coming in from overseas and therefore I can raise my prices.
But in a free society, it's so expensive to recreate the state. The moment somebody tries to do that, they'll render themselves completely uncompetitive with everyone who's not trying to do that.
Peter: I don't see how you can assume that with the underlying ethic inherent in the market system that these types of power abuses by whatever means wouldn't materialize because, as you admitted, they're actually inherent in the ethic of the system. I'm not trying to be so specific –
Stefan: No, no, I didn't say they're inherent in the ethic of the system. That's really important to be clear about.
Peter: That's what you implied.
Stefan: I said it's inevitable where there is a government.
Peter: I think it's inevitable whether there's a distinction of the so-called state or government regardless.
Stefan: No, no, I know what you think. I'm just saying don't misquote me about what I said. I didn't say it's inherent in market capitalism. I said it's inherent where there is a government.
Peter: Well, I kind of would have to say that within the argument, within the recognition that this propensity is there, assuming that there is an inevitable fallibility in every entrepreneur that if they see a state, they’re going to run and use it to their advantage, the very core value that is inherent and their interest to do that to basically want coercion which basically implies in every single entrepreneur in some fundamental theory is interested in gaining whatever type of advantage it can. It creates a non-argument. The very problem that I want to get rid of with the economy is this very propensity.
Stefan: Wait. Sorry. Did you just refer to what I said as a non-argument? Is that your argument?
Peter: I just described how it was a non-argument to the extent that if you have the incentive system –
Stefan: I don't think you did actually. I don't think you did say it was a non-argument.
Peter: Well, if you keep interrupting me, then I won't be able to. I'm repeating what I've just said.
Stefan: I thought you were moving on to another topic. Sorry. Go ahead.
Peter: No. I'm repeating what I said since you missed it the first time. If you have the incentive structure built in to the entrepreneurship with the intention of maintaining differential advantage, not worrying about the interest of others because that's an inherent element of all elements of market psychology and you're going to say that that element is fine as it exist as long as there isn't a state, I completely disagree because they're going to – the tendency of that is going to persist regardless. The tendency to want to create power, monopoly, consolidation will exist regardless, and it will happen.
If you can't say that the free market will just stop it because its mechanisms are so strong and all these supposed fail-safes. The only fail-safes that can stop is the legal system. The legal system is the state.
Stefan: Okay. Well, first of all, I think we're back to the beginning where you said that they're not worrying about the interest of others. If you're a business owner -- I guess you've never been a business owner -- but if you're a business owner, you actually have a lot of people's interest that you need to worry about. You need to worry about your shareholders, your board, your employees, your customers -- a lot of people's interest that you need to worry about.
Purely selfish people in a free market generally don't tend to do very well because it’s win-lose. And the only way that business had become sustainable in the long run in a free market is if it's win-win for the customers and for you. So this idea that if you're in business, you don't worry about the interest of others is just false. And I think it just arises from an inexperience in the business world. So that's sort of the first things that I would say. I'm sorry. Go ahead.
Peter: I ran a production company. I've run a production company for ten years with numerous freelancers and numerous clients.
Stefan: And do you not worry about the interest of others? Do you not care about whether people watch your videos? Do you not care whether they're educated? Do you not care whether employees have a reasonably good time working with you? Do you not care about anybody else's interest other than your own?
Peter: Within the spectrum of what I am capable of caring about, yes. For example, I might have a freelancer that needs x amount per hour to get what they need done. I might be well aware that they are a hundred thousand dollars in debt because of a bill or a college debt. I might be aware of all the needs that they require in order to try to get themselves out of the state of impending coercion, as I would call it, that exists where they're just vulnerable to any type of social manipulation because they can make ends meet. They would have to go be it 7-Eleven. They do all these things that they don’t want to do because of what this system does.
I can be very aware of that but if I don't personally have the means to provide for those needs, I'm not going to be able to do it. It's a matter of business acumen. Really good business acumen is not a moral decision. It is a decision of what can actually work. And the sickness of the whole profit price mechanism concept, the sickness of this idea that we just navigate everything within this low confine, within the narrow confines of price and profit on the assumption that, "Oh, if you're going to be profitable, then you must be efficient," of course you have no idea what's creating that efficiency.
It's a complete decoupling of nature. It's a complete decoupling from our understanding or our facilitation of public health. None of it is built in. And I jumped ahead actually to a point I wanted to make a little bit later. But to answer your question, I am well aware. I wish I could do a lot more when I deal with people that are I'm working for –
Stefan: But you do worry about the – you do worry about the interest of others. You may not be able to alleviate all of their problems but you do. You do care about the interest of others as a business owner, right?
Peter: That brings a great point. Everyone means well. I'm not saying that people in this system just corrupts themselves –
Stefan: Everyone means well. What about sociopaths? I don’t think sociopaths mean well and they'll like 4% of the population.
Peter: They probably think they mean well. That's an amusing point but the point is that --
Stefan: Well, okay. Then it's a non-falsifiable proposition. So let's move on.
Peter: Sure. When it comes down to the fact that people engage this system and they believe in it, they navigate with a very narrow blinder on in a very simplistic way with respect to how they maintain their own survival. This is the underlying marketization, the market ethic that runs through. And as a natural structural consequence, you invariably have to forego the interest of others for self-interest. I think that there's nothing that you could disagree with on that one. That's just the way it is. It doesn't mean their intentions are wrong.
Stefan: I don't believe so. Self-interest as a business owner is completely wrapped up in the satisfaction of customers, of stockholders, of employees if you have employees that you like working with who hate you. They’ll quit and you will be then exposed to the cost of hiring and retraining other people. If you annoy or irritate or anger your customers, they will stop doing business with you and you will be out of a job. If you don't provide a decent return for your shareholders while keeping all of those other things in consideration, then you're going to be out of a job. If you anger the board, they can get you kicked off as a CEO. Yet you absolutely tangibly have to worry about the interest and happiness of other people in free trade. If you can't get someone to want to do business with you, then you're kind of in trouble.
Peter: Yes, absolutely. I'm not saying that that is a false statement. But going back to my example with respect to the experience I had, the owners of this company did not mean bad. This was a generated – a system pressure generation that happens naturally throughout the system because it's again predicated on scarcity. There's not enough to go around. Everyone is struggling for this profit efficiency. And there will be winners and losers. There will be market correction. There will be market discipline. And my point is that discipline and all of its structural violence and all of its permutations is inherently inhumane and unnecessary.
Stefan: Okay. So you're saying that market discipline, market discipline is if you can't assemble your scarce resources including your life and maybe your savings or whatever, if you can't assemble your scarce resources in a way that sufficiently satisfies the needs of others in terms of profit that that's somehow discipline. So if my daughter sets up a lemonade stand and she can't get people to buy her lemonade, that she's being subjected to some sort of violence?
Peter: I'm saying that given in a world that we can create an abundance where there's a technical reality to solve numerous problems, on one side, a technical state of efficiency that is so abundant and so obvious, we are restricting ourselves in a massive way by persisting with this system that's based intrinsically on scarcity and the dynamics that incorporate failure. So again, structural violence –
Stefan: Okay. Listen, man, you got to not just do this filibustering stuff, this kind of BS thing. So you talk about a market correction or market discipline being a form of – what did you call it? Structural violence?
Peter: It has the propensity of creating --
Stefan: And so if my daughter sets up a lemonade stand and people don't – they drive past, maybe it’s not that warm, maybe they just don't feel like lemonade, if nobody buys her lemonade, is she being subjected to structural violence? That's a yes/no question. Please don’t filibuster me because I can't follow what you're saying.
Peter: No, no. I'm not filibustering that. Of course, that's absolutely beside the point of what I'm trying to say. It's unfortunate because I am talking about one very specific thing and –
Stefan: Wait, wait, is it yes or no? Is she being subjected to structural violence?
Peter: I said of course not. I said of course not and it's explicit –
Stefan: Oh, sorry. I didn't hear that, okay. So market discipline, it's not an example of structural violence?
Peter: Market discipline has many terrible forms of structural violence because it is structurally unnecessary. Market discipline is a byproduct of the market system. It is natural to have this efficiency ebb and flow and therefore there's failure and therefore there's winning and losing. And in many cases, it doesn't resemble reality whatsoever. The company again that went bankrupt that I worked for that suffered market discipline. It had a horrible effect on the effects of the people around me -- horrible. It wasn't that –
Stefan: No, no, no, no, no absolutely not.
Peter: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
Stefan: Absolutely not. Again, you say this -- I don't know what you're doing in terms of processing your experiences as an entrepreneur. But if they were not able to use the scarce resources of the planet in a manner that pleased customers voluntarily, then the business ending freed them up to do something that was more productive. I like to sing but I'm no Freddy Mercury, right? So if I say, well, I'm going to take a hundred thousand dollars in a year of my life to produce an album and nobody wants to buy my album, that's a signal from the market that I'm not really that entertaining or enjoyable to listen to as a singer and if I were to break in a song right now, I think we would both agree that that would be quite wise on the part of the market.
Peter: You misunderstood my point.
Stefan: So if you are engaged in a particular pursuit and you cannot make it work for whatever reason -- you lack the skill set, you lack the work ethic, you lack the technical skills, you lack the people skills -- for whatever reason, what happens is you are then freed up to do something that is going to be more productive for your time, energy and you're going to – the market is going to basically give you the correct amount of resources that you can handle in a productive way.
So if I was put in charge of Microsoft, I'd probably run it into the ground. I don't know anything about running a giant software company or a small software company perhaps. And so the market would quickly shift me out of that position and shift me into something that would be more productive to my skills and abilities. Market discipline is entirely positive. It's the creative destruction of – I mean if we didn't have market discipline, there would still causing buggy manufacturers competing with car companies.
Peter: For one, you misunderstood the example I was using. I wasn't referring to my business as an entrepreneur and the ownership work that I do in that example. I was referring to the company I worked for that went bankrupt. Now, you can say that that market discipline was great for them. It freed up resources and it freed up this and that, but I watched all of these employees suffer extensively. I watched one person almost get evicted from their job -- evicted from their home, excuse me. I watched the true faith of the market system when it comes to the unnecessary inhumanity.
And when I argue for a new economy, it removes the entire edifice of what you speak of with the fundamental premise that we have the technical capacity to not have to endure this type of suffering that is deeply unnecessary because of things like marker correction and --
Stefan: And this is what – I mean, Peter, you're a great talker but I got to tell you, it's incredibly frustrating to talk to you because we went over this at the very beginning.
Stefan: You talked about three things to do with your – the business that was failing. First of all, everybody decided to stay on with the business even though you said you weren’t being paid for months. That's a choice. I don't think it's a particularly great choice, and I certainly don't relish anybody being put in that position. It's pretty horrible. But we talked about – you talked about somebody being subject to a government visa. You talked about bankruptcy, not being able to get your money and I talked about corporations. And visa, bankruptcy and corporations have nothing to do with the market system but they are entirely state generated stuff. And now, as if we'd never had that conversation, you are now talking about this as being a perfect example of the free market. It's like you don't have an input. You only have an output.
Peter: Well, that's funny. That's a funny point. See, what you just did was rephrase everything I just said, recategorized my entire argument because I'm not talking about the state interference because that's actually not the point. That's not the relevant issue. You could remove the visa issue if you really want to refer to that as a state issue. You can remove all the elements of the state –
Stefan: Wait. If I really want to refer to it, is it not a government law that you need a visa to work?
Peter: It is obviously a government law but there are economic reasons why these exist.
Stefan: Okay. So don't refer to it as something that I am just insisting on like it's some arbitrary whim of mine like I like jazz and you have to as well. We're trying to talk about facts here.
Peter: Yes, we are, absolutely. What I was referring to within this discussion, within the original discussion was the fact that state influence of whatever issues aside because it's a moot issue to me because I look at everything the state does as an economic institution. But I'm not even arguing that with you since you're just going to keep doing what you're doing, and it's obviously not going to end up with any type of solutions. So let's just agree to disagree on that one.
My issue comes down to the fact that there is a –
Stefan: No, I don't agree to disagree but go ahead.
Peter: Fine. My issue comes down –
Stefan: And I think that's a complete cop-out. I think that somebody who rejects reason and evidence just saying, "Well, let's just agree to disagree," as if I'm some crazy guy who doesn't take reason and evidence. I pointed out the facts...
Peter: ...for the sake of your audience because, you know, this really what this is about -
Stefan: ...opposite force of exchange.
Peter: So the point being is that – my original point, okay, is about how the corrective mechanisms that are built into the system have very negative consequences unnecessarily because they don't need to exist. So the people that were almost evicted, the people that lost their jobs, the people that like myself were put a deep financial situation because of the natural ebb and flow of market correction. You can talk about how we might have eventually adapted. We can talk about all the things but a great deal of suffering occurs when these things happen.
With the entire spectrum of a self-interest-driven system which is exactly the kind of thing that you want to get away from, the scarcity-driven self-interest, with the entire spectrum of this, it's easy to lose sight in economic theory about what's actually happening on a daily basis. It's frustrating because I'm trying to encounter so many different things that you keep bringing up, and I keep losing my holistic point because it's a deviation from the broad view.
Stefan: Well, no, this is a conversation, not a monologue, right?
Stefan: Let me ask you a question. This is sort of – this is not an economics question. This is just sort of a personal question. Indulge me, if you don't mind, you don't have to answer it.
Stefan: But let's say that that video production company had done really well and you had stayed there. It seems less than likely that you would have ended up as I think the very talented, skilled and effective filmmaker that you are, an agitator and polemicist. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but somebody who's a gadfly in society and who puts forward provocative interesting and I think very important questions. Would you rather be doing what you’re doing now or would you rather still be working at the video production company?
Peter: No one can say where the corrections, so to speak, will push somebody in a particular direction. I could have gone on to do better things. Others might have gone straight down the tube. Again, it's not really an argument because it can go many different directions based on a life experience, what happens to people. And if you put it in a context in the broad – again, I always take the broad view of what's actually happening in the world with one person dying every three seconds unnecessarily with tremendous imbalance within a public health crisis that's off the charts on the planet, there's a great deal to argue against that the vast majority of people are actually doing better overtime. I don't think that's the case. I think it's very clear that we are in decline as my series denotes.
So I agree with your point, Stefan. I actually entirely agree with the – I don't mean to be condescending when I do this -- the box that you described, the market economy working in your idealistic –
Stefan: I'm going to think of it as a flower box.
Peter: Good, good.
Stefan: Go on.
Peter: But I'm looking to get what's actually happening in the world. I'm looking that the market is what --
Stefan: No, I'm not looking at what's actually happening in the world. I try not to deal with the real world or facts at all. Do you see the way you keep reframing this kind of stuff? "Well, I agree with that little box that you're in, but I'm trying to deal with the real world." It's like, "Uh, and I'm not?"
Peter: I'm looking at – I'm sorry if it sounds like that. I'm looking at the exact statistical large scale outcome which I don't think is taken into account in the arguments that you presented. That's all. I mean you can talk about the specifics of two people –
Stefan: Sorry. Which large scale statistical outcomes am I not taking account?
Peter: Broad public health and ecological sustainability are the true economic factors in our world. Those things which are considered externalities with respect to the market are not given as much attention by market theorists that talk about tons of great intellectual things in the inner workings of the system and how it should work and what's interfering with its process such as the state. But when I look at what's actually happening, when I look at these stairs, well, it's not supposed to work but I'm looking at what the world is actually doing and I draw the train of thought from the fact that the market economy is built directly into this through power coercion and this idea of the state. When I examine this train of thought, I end up with the same conclusions. That's the fact that no matter how you –
Stefan: Well, I mean just very briefly, I mean my sort of background in the entrepreneurial world was in the field of environmentalism, so I have 10 plus years in the area. And again, I don't claim to have any monopoly on answers in this way. But it seems to me that the market answer to ecological sustainability which I agree with you is an absolutely essential topic to be dealt with is to try and move as many good and services and land and resources into the hands of owners as possible because owners like to take care of their stuff and governments don't really care about their stuff. That's sort of a basic reality of life.
So if you move resources into private hands, then people really care about them getting polluted and people really care about them getting wasted. And so, for instance, like in Canada here on the East Coast, in Newfoundland there's this cod industry. And when the first settlers came to Canada 400 years ago, they wrote that the cod was so plentiful, it felt like you could walk from your ship to the shore, like there were so many cod. And this industry lasted for almost 400 years when there was almost no government interference. Why? Because the fishermen didn't want to deplete the fish stock for next year. So they all had very, very strict controls that were voluntarily put forward like if you lived in the village, you couldn't fish more or people wouldn't want to talk to you or don't have anything to do with you.
So they managed to – in a non-government environment, they managed to maintain this resource and have it still teeming and plentiful and valuable and useful for like 400 years. And then the government took over the quota system for the fish and within about five to seven years, the fish were completely gone and have never returned.
One of the great resources in the world in terms of helping to feed the people that you and I both desperately want to feed to keep the price of a very nutritious and healthy food down was completely destroyed by the government. The government raised the quotas and the government subsidized the fisherman because they wanted to get votes and the fishermen said, "Well, it's not up to us anymore. I'm sure those scientists in the government know what they're doing." And the fish was complete – and this is just one example of many.
Of course one of the greatest environmental disasters that occurred was the Soviet Union itself. I'm not saying that you're into Marxism or anything, but the Soviet Union was incredibly destructive because nobody actually owned the resources. It seems historically if you kind of look at the stuff and it's not a perfect I think one-to-one ratio but there's a very strong trend that the best way to protect resources is to get them into the hands of interested owners as quickly as possible.
Why you and I don't change the oil on a rental car because it's not ours. You get resources into the hands of private as soon as possible, and you let the price mechanism raise the prices of things which become scarce so that people either reduce their use or find alternatives which of course keeps things from getting depleted to inexorably.
So this is very brief. It’s not a clincher or anything like that but those are two things that I would suggest. I'm sorry. Go ahead.
Peter: I think that's a wonderfully ethically oriented anecdotal case that says that maybe people that own things sometimes treat resources very well. But in the structural mechanism of the market where it's based on resource exploitation where it's – where invariably the earth has looked upon as a source of profit and wealth because that's exactly what the market mechanism creates. That's the proxy of all industrial behavior. Someone can want to take care of things but it's an externality. And I think that's a serious problem. When I do examine all of the topsoil water problems, pollution problems, the vast majority of these issues come from private corporations that are basically just exhausting as fast as they can for the sake of their own self-interest.
Stefan: And do they own the resource in the environment which they're exploiting?
Peter: Sometimes they do; sometimes they don't. It doesn't really matter as much if you look at, say, topsoil problems. You have a chain of issues that come into play with the depletion of topsoil that can be built related to the owner of that piece of land or the industry that is supporting the agricultural development in which as you should know is very insidious because they're trying to maximize as much as they can the cheapest possible way. And within that --
Stefan: Sorry to interrupt, but agriculture throughout the world is so unbelievably distorted by status incentives. I mean farm policy is just monstrous throughout the west in particular. I mean these lakes of wine and mountains of butter over in France and the massive amount of overproduction of food that is heavily subsidized by farm subsidies in the US, the products of which had been dumped over in the Third World which destroys local farming and creates intense dependence on the government and so on. I don't think that you can really point to farms as a really great example of non-status free market activity.
Peter: Well, once again and I know we disagree on this point, I don't look at the state as anything more than an extension of special interest within the market economy.
Stefan: It's like how feminist look at lovemaking that all love making is rape and rape is just an extension of lovemaking. Anyway, go on.
Peter: No, it's not at all like that. If you don't have a structural incentive built into the process of industrial production and recycling and everything that goes into our industrial system from top to bottom, if you're not actually – if you don't have a structural incentive, excuse me, of maintaining ecological balance, in a steady state reference, meaning you have to actually be in accord with everything, dynamic equilibrium, nothing right now is in dynamic equilibrium on this planet from rainforest depletion to a whole list of things that I could speak of.
If it's not structurally in the system, then it's not going to manifest. And as I said with my first fallacy, you can't expect these moral impositions to persevere in the wake of a system that is basically predicated on the exact opposite incentive system. It doesn't know that because it's a crazy system. It's a schizophrenic insane system that doesn't even know what it's doing because it's using a proxy.
People don't think about any of these things. They don't think about the exploitation and abuse both on the public health level or the ecological level. But it happens overtime which is why, again, in the real life trends -- I'm not being condescending -- you see the patterns that you do. And no, you cannot dismiss this all on state interference nor can you remove the market from the state.
Stefan: No, but I can take examples that you bring up. So you talk about rainforest depletion which I think is horrendous. Who owns the rainforests? Who is selling the rainforest? Who claim care and custody and control over the rainforests?
Peter: Well, in certain instances, it might be the state. In certain instances, it might be private corporations. But again, they're the same thing.
Stefan: No, no. See, governments claim to own all land pretty much, as you know, a third of the land in America is directly owned by the federal government. Governments in general claim to own all resources and then provide them to private companies. I know out here in Canada, there's a big problem in that the government will only sell logging rights, not actual land rights. And so what they do is they go in and they clear cut because they don't actually own the land. And they only own the trees so they come and -- they can't buy the land. They can only buy the logging rights and whereas in America where you could actually buy the land, then the person who can bid the most for that resource is the person who can make the most long-term efficient use of it which means somebody who's going to replant the trees and so on.
So I believe – and again, I don't have a clear answer in every country but the rainforest is owned by the governments and I believe that they're leased down. And of course, governments want to make as much money as quickly as possible because that boosts GDP, that makes people jobs. Governments both through their inflationary policies of printing money and through just wanting to jack up resource consumption in order to drive GDP, in order to drive job creation and make everybody want to vote them back in are incredibly shortsighted when it comes to long term economic sustainability which is why to me central authority is really the opposite of sustainability.
Peter: I agree of shortsighted, but I see that – again, I don't split hairs with what you're splitting. I don't – it doesn't matter who owns it necessarily. It matters what the process is and what the dynamics of the economic manifold is, how it's engaged, what the needs are, what is necessary to keep the profit going and keep cyclical consumption happening. If you break down this system, we can remove all of the components of entrepreneurship and all of these little fragments that exist in the arguments propagated in the endless textbooks.
There are only three players in the global economy. There is the consumer, there are the owners, and there are the laborers. They're interchangeable at times. Obviously, everyone is a consumer. The only thing that keeps the system afloat is the constant and perpetual consumption of goods. I think it's a simple idea that many people forget. And that's why you have to have these elements of growth where you have to get more people employed. You need more circulation.
The true underlying mechanism of the economy is this constant and what I would decree as hideously wasteful necessity to keep money and keep services and keep people just doing shit over and over and over again no matter what they're even doing. I would say that 85% -- I might be a little gratuitous -- but depending on technological trends right now, at least 75% of the most occupations are irrelevant in the world today. They're not necessary. They're a waste of time when it comes to satisfying global public health needs and maintaining ecological balance which is what the whole point of an economy is and what the whole point of technical efficiency is.
So in my view, to come back to the point, I don't see how the system market economics is compatible with general, technical, social sustainability or ecological sustainability because it doesn't take such issues into direct account structurally. It depends on an imposed moral structure and by extension and inevitable legal structure. All the relevant issues pertaining to increased technical efficiency, public health and sustainability are considered externalities.
Stefan: Okay. Sorry. I just wanted to understand what you said. You said the three major economic actors are owners, consumers and…
Peter: Owners, consumers and laborers -- consumers and laborers.
Stefan: Laborers. Sorry. I use my regular supernova chicken scratch to write that down. So owners, consumers and laborers. Would you not consider to put governments to be economic actors? They are of course the single greatest economic actor in every western economy.
Peter: I consider the government to be a variation of owners.
Stefan: Okay, so the owner, like somebody who's at the company is the same as somebody who's gone to war?
Peter: No, that's apples and oranges.
Stefan: So they're not the same.
Peter: No, well, it depends on how you define violence then. Well, war is one manifestation. National war is one manifestation of violence and invariably coercion in many ways. And the entire basis of market dynamic is based on essentially the same type of ethic. It's the war system. The entire basis of multiple cell phone companies --
Stefan: I mean I'm just curious. I mean because I'm always -- sorry go ahead.
Peter: -- the entire basis – let me finish the point -- the entire basis of competitions, say, multiple cell phone companies existing at once creating enormous waste, creating multiplicity of goods that are unnecessary, holding proprietary knowledge than should be shared to create the best possible efficiency and assess the best possible demand for the population. Instead, they separate themselves out and they battle for market share with little slight improvements. And it's a worrying mentality. It might be very civil. It might be like muskets and they're walking right towards them and they're speaking in very cogent language, but it’s still a war system no matter face you paint it.
Stefan: But don't you feel – I mean sorry, don't you feel just a little absurd? And I don't mean to – but genuinely, I genuinely want to know. If you're comparing somebody like George Bush who started this unbelievably murderous war in Iraq which has genetically destroyed half the population where you've got in Fallujah, half the babies being born with birth defects which has caused the deaths of over a million people and almost 2 million people have fled a completely shattered, destroyed and irradiated country. Do you really feel comfortable putting those – that kind of sociopathic mass murderer in the same moral category as somebody who starts a convenience store?
Peter: Well, it's not someone who starts a convenience store per se. It's the act of actual competition against others. You could theoretically have one convenience store in a town that has only a very small population, that's all they ever need. It would have a natural monopoly. I look at the denial of principle continuum as throughout. In other words, in many ways, when I look at – obviously there's an element of basic moral ethics. I'm not trying to deny that there isn't. At some point, somebody somewhere is going to draw the line based on their development. And on average, most in this culture have a very, very grand sense of ethics but they're unfortunately forced into unethical behavior by the market.
Do I differentiate in absolute principle? Not really. I really don't because if you're in a warring system for resources and acquisition, if you're predicated once again on scarcity and the need to make sure you secure your power and security which becomes super neurotic as people get more and more wealthy because they want more and more and I won't even go on the psychological neurosis of the fear-based power neurosis as so prevalent but that is in the exact case of George Bush, his constituents and what they do because they want more and more and more for the industries that they represent even though it’s unnecessary because they already have their actual needs met. That's a part of a different neurotic problem, but no. There is principally no difference between the two examples that I've given.
Stefan: So we should have like in a free society, I guess we would have war crimes, trials for people who start wars that result in the deaths of millions of people and for like Apu from The Simpsons for running a convenience store. And this doesn't seem absurd to you?
Peter: The way you described it in the context of the way that we have been culturally conditioned to think about violence. We look at the 9/11, 3,000 people died. You know how many people die every day because of poverty in the United States unnecessarily?
Stefan: But not convenience store owners. That's what I'm saying.
Peter: But the ethic that underlies the survival mechanism inherent to the system as I've denoted about a thousand times in this delusion, this continuing fallacy that persists, the way we try to differentiate -- where we differentiate between different types of aggression where one, yes, we might be culturally conditioned to see this absolutely atrocious but we don't realize how equally atrocious but yet soft other forms of violence are.
And again, I strongly suggest you look into structural violence and its causes because there's – the wave of violence that goes way beyond what we consider to be behavioral violence, structural violence has killed more people on this planet in the past 50 years than most mass murderers, than most dictators. This isn't me speaking, by the way. These are well-acknowledged public health officials who have come to terms with this very issue.
Now, if you want to say that it's all because of the state, that's something I don't agree with. If you want to say that – well, I don't want to keep deviating because we're going to run out of time here. So why don't you finish up with anything that you'd like to say and then let me try to speak to the rest of what I had here, unless you just want me to keep going. I don't want to interrupt you though. If you have a train of thought that you have right now, my friend, go ahead and say it but there are other things –
Stefan: No, I guess I'll – I'm more than happy to put in a concluding statement.
Peter: I'm not ending it. I have other things –
Stefan: I'm sorry, go ahead.
Peter: I'm not trying to end the conversation yet. I can go for about 20 more minutes, but I just want to make sure I don't cut you off. I still have other issues I think are important to point out.
Stefan: Okay. Well, I think let's do closing. I think my basic – the only basic thing that I want to say is that I mean, yes, it would be fantastic if we could deal with public health issues. The amount of illness that can be cured by pennies worth of medicine is incredibly frustrating and I'm sure you do, Peter, and I do the charitable work that is necessary to get to kind of help out to the people who need it. It is desperately tragic.
The Third World problems are savage. They of course result from the wide variety of factors. There is the history of imperialism. It's an entirely state-driven activity. Foreign aid which is a state-driven activity is absolutely wretched in terms of giving money and weapons to Third World leaders. The global arm sale which is a state-based activity -- see if you can start a pattern here -- the global arms trade which arms despots and warlords in the most savage and destructive manner. The food trade and it’s not even trade, they're mass subsidizing and food dumping of crops in Third World markets destroying local economies.
The trade barriers, if you really want to close the gaps of inequality, you open your trade barriers and then people go and bid up the prices of the workers who make the least and then they bid down the prices of the work who make the most and then we end up with some sort of egalitarianism that generally slowly rises overtime. That's sort of the historical example where trade tends to be the freest.
I don't want the government to use force, to take or print or borrow money and send it to despots along with cratefuls of weapons to Third World dictators. What I do want is to be able to freely trade, and I think that people in Africa and other despoiled countries can do fantastically in competing with the west. There is a book called The White Man's Burden that goes into great detail about how absolutely wretched the arms trade and foreign aid and agricultural subsidy dumping has been on the Third World.
So these are all government activities could never occur in the free market and the free market, what you'd have is charity and trade. That's what the free market generally runs on. Even in the depths of the recession, hundreds of billions of dollars are given every year in charity even when there's a welfare state, even when there's taxation and so on.
So I really do want to see the gap closing and it has not escaped the notice of myself or any other astute observers that as government power has grown inequality has always grown because when government power grows, rich people want to use it more to enhance their own power and prestige and incomes, of course.
And so like, for instance, after the Second World War, before the welfare state came in any fundamental way, poverty was declining by about 1% a year and then when the – and LBJ, when the Great Society program, the welfare state programs came in, poverty stalled. It's been rising slowly ever since and we have a near permanent underclass of undereducated, underutilized tragically crippled people in society and this is not how society should be.
I do share I think Peter's intense exasperation at how many resources we as the genius monkeys can produce and provide in the world. I mean whether it's through charity or through trade, as long as it's peaceful, then I think it’s virtuous and sustainable. It is incredibly frustrating to see how much money gets wasted and how much bullshit economy there is, derivatives of market being many times the world's GDP. I mean this is all insanity and it's fundamentally driven by government's control of the interest rates, banking and money.
And so for me, no matter how complex the symptoms are, there are lots of people who trip and fall over the world. You don't need to study every particular example as to figure out what went wrong. All you need to say is there's this thing called gravity which we have to take account of. And there are lots of disasters throughout the world. What I do as a philosopher is I have to go down the first principles. First principles are what are the ethics that are being violated that produce these kinds of disasters?
Now, it's not like every disaster in life is a result of an ethical violation. Sometimes you just think the screen – you think the door is open, the glass door is open. When it's not, you bump your nose. But where fundamental and repetitive and ever escalating catastrophes are occurring, we need to look for the moral violations that occur right down at the root of things. And the two areas that I tend to focus on are the state which is the most concentrated and violent expression of violations with the non-aggression principle through taxation, through regulation, through debt, through monopolies, through war, through imprisonment.
I mean we haven't even talked about the prison-industrial complex which again is an entirely state paid for and a state-driven enterprise and occupation. The governments control education. They control water. They control air. They control land. They control businesses. They control banking. They claim to regulate everything under the sun. They control war, military, police, law courts, navies, air forces, nuclear weapons, nuclear power plants -- you name it, health and safety standards for one to have a better phrase.
The governments control so much that whenever you're going to look for a problem at society, it definitely is the first place to look at. It may not be the only place to look but you could probably spend a lifetime looking and not be done. The second place, which is I think where I really do want people to get the most at least out of my side of the conversation tonight, is the most fundamental violation of the non-aggression principle which we can control is our aggression against children.
Spanking, for instance, which is still practiced by 80% to 90% of American households is a clear violation of the non-aggression principle. Spanking is not self-defense. Spanking is the initiation of force against a biological prisoner who happens to be in your home, who never chose you as a parent and who simply cannot escape. If you hit your wife, she can actually press charges and she can leave and go to a shelter and get help. If you hit your child in the US, there's not even any legal recourse. There's nothing that that child can do. It is a clear violation of the non-aggression principle as is confinement, abandoning and verbal threats and of course sexual and physical abuse and so on even as an escalation from illegal spanking.
If we want to get something out of philosophy, railing against the Fed, which I know Peter and I both do, railing against corruption, railing against waste which we both do I think is important. But I think what people can actually do, we can't end the Fed, we can't end this horrible system that is eating our young. What we can do is within our own life say, well if the non-aggression principle is valid and if it's not, then we should stop teaching it to our children -- don't hit, don't steal, don't push. If it is valid, then let's put it into practice in our own homes. Let's reject the use of aggression in the raising of our own children. Scientifically and statistically, we will then produce a kind of different human being.
Human beings are fairly easy to engineer. If you want to make a sociopath, there are particular steps that you need to make. If you want to make a wise, kind and gentle person, there are other particular steps that you need to take. This has all been very well established scientifically over the last 30 or 40 years and particular in the last 15 to 20 years. Let's just make that commitment as a species to stop using aggression against the raising of children. I think that what will result out of that is a paradise that's beyond even Peter and I's wild imagination of how great the world can be. It's something that we can actually do in a principled manner to change the world irrevocably because once you break that cycle of abuse, it never ever really seems to start up again.
So that's it for me for my little rant. And Peter, I'll certainly leave you with the last word.
Peter: That's absolutely a brilliant point. I couldn't agree more and I identify greatly with your values and your observations. And I'll leave the audience and yourself with some basic summary conclusions here, and we'll probably have to do this again if you want me to actually talk about the price mechanism issue and what a resource-based economic model actually entails since we didn't get that far. But I think it's actually great as a preliminary discussion that we go through these issues.
The point I would make, first of all, is that this concept that the state is the evil enemy of humanity, that if we could just get rid of the conditions that create this state entity -- or actually I should say, we just get rid of the state, that things will be much better and we can allow the market to do what it needs to do. I think there's actually a great deal of truth to that.
But I cannot escape the firm reality of the historical development of the state and why it exist to begin with which is I can't find any defense against an extension of basic market principles, market principles which come from an assumption of scarcity and come from a Malthusian notion that there are going to be winners and losers, there is going to be poverty and all of the traditional economic things that are under there in fine print that you will find that has had tremendous influence on the value systems of people, not to mention again are structurally inherent to the market concept itself of trade and seeking advantage and competition and self-interest.
So we can talk more about that. I can't find any argument that you pointed out that leads me to believe that the state is just in horrible manifestation. I understand that people will run to the state for power consolidation. But if there's an interest already for people to want power consolidation because of the structural psychological values inherent in the market, then I don't see how you can possibly defend against this development in one form or another; meaning development of some type of coercion, inevitable coercion of one person against another outside of the game board that we like to think exists in the market when in fact there are no ends when it comes to the position of human survival. And the more you back somewhat in the corner as this system does very, very often on a daily basis especially through structural violence, the more corrupt they probably become. It’s not really corruption at all; it's just the way it is. It's just the psychology inherent.
The non-aggression principle, voluntarism and coercion, I still would state that within the confines of the way you described them. I absolutely agree and I identify entirely. But when you break down what these terms actually mean and imply, they're far too narrow and shortsighted to be applicable to be empirically relevant mainly because when we see what the structural violence of our system does, when we see when people are broken, they're coerced by the very structural system in the certain acts that they do not want to do for the sake of survival, for the sake of their children.
Again, I'm sure you think that the state is probably the cause of all of that too, but I think it's inherent. These terms are non-applicable if you really want to care about human life and you need to make the necessities in life available to all without a price tag, without the need to compete. Structural violence is the leading cause of death and public health problems in the world today and it is not related to the state. You can take a statistical analysis of state control around the world in a traditional sense and you will find that those that have the most regulation of their economies are the ones with the least amount of social inequality.
And with respect to the final point of human development, we cannot be narrow enough to think that just because -- that parents are the starting point of development. My mother worked for the social services in North Carolina Child and Protective Services. I grew up in an environment listening to her stories for a decade about the horrors of poverty in rural North Carolina. You cannot stop generations of child abuse.
There is such a deeply synergistic attribute. Our social nature has such powerful pressures that go largely ignored unfortunately that human development has to be given a social context. You have to give people what they need. In the past, we are not able to do that but we can now. We can meet the needs of every human being in earth to give that true security that people want and feel.
So child development, so people have to look at their parents and see them struggling for money and develop this instant adaptation that they think – they have to be concerned about money. They have to be fearful. The father that comes home from work that has just gotten fired that's full of aggression, that can't help due to his own pressures lash out as every human being inevitably will because lashing out and release is an inevitable part of the primate patterns. You can see it in all primate species.
So these patterns and pressures are what need to be talked about if we're going to get to the bottom of true public health and ecological sustainability. So I can't emphasize enough the need to recognize the system consequence. And I don't agree with this system because it's creating violence on a scale that is wholly unnecessary and it’s truly tragic.
I suggest that we come back after this conversation since I know we disagree, but I can come back and speak about what a resource-based economic model actually entails, how it’s not essentially planned system and the technology that underpins and that can actually allow a completely democratic process, overcome the means of production problem that's put forward by [1:50:05] [Indiscernible] and the like. I think that would be for a great future conversation.
Stefan, I appreciate you having me.
Stefan: Well, thank you very much, Peter. I certainly enjoyed the workout. Your verbal agility is really quite astonishing and I mean that in a very positive way. So I thank you for that. It was very good fencing. My arm is tired.
So for my listeners to get a hold of your material, if you could just give your vital statistics in case anybody doesn't know how to reach you.
Peter: The main hub for this type of information is thezeitgeistmovement.com. Of course, I have a personal page with just media stuff called peterjoseph.info. I run a web series. I just finished the first season called Culture in Decline. I also produced three independent films under the film title Zeitgeist heading, Zeitgeist: The Movie, Addendum, Moving Forward. Those can be found in all – all this stuff is available for free, by the way.
Stefan: And a Black Sabbath video.
Peter: And I was fortunate enough in my – I still do contractual work. I'm still a working freelancer in the industry. I still do productions. Of course, I'm working on a new film called InterReflections which is going to be a trilogy, a lot of action trilogy that basically takes kind of a sci-fi fantasy look at a transition into a new economic system. So that should be fun.
Stefan: Fantastic. For your listeners, I'm working with Sean Lennon on a documentary modestly entitled Truth. I don't know for sure if it's the complete truth, but hopefully there are truthful bits in it. And you can reach my website at freedomainradio.com.
Thank you again, Peter. Thank you, Michael, for setting all this up. And have yourselves a great evening, everyone.
Peter: You too. Take care.
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