(These ideas are explicated in this sloppy manifesto)

Thursday, May 12, 2005
BetterVegas: Here comes wireless gaming

Hate to say I told you so, but here's the news from today's Las Vegas Review-Journal:
The Senate Judiciary Committee was urged Wednesday to endorse an Assembly-approved bill that would make Nevada the first state to allow wireless gambling in licensed casinos.

After hearing testimony in support of Assembly Bill 471, Judiciary Chairman Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, scheduled a vote today on the measure.

AB471 allows use of mobile gambling devices in public areas of casinos with nonrestricted licenses and operating at least 100 slot machines, along with at least one other game.

Gamblers could 'check out' personal digital assistants or similar devices that would enable them to gamble while wandering around resorts.

The activity would be limited to the use of a device that 'allows a person to transmit information to a computer to assist in the placing of a bet or wager and corresponding information related to the display of the game, game outcomes or other similar information.'
Best news is here:
One company that could benefit if the concept is approved is Louisiana-based Diamond I, which has developed a PDA-based gambling network designed for Las Vegas-style casinos. It enables patrons to gamble anywhere on casino premises, including poolside, in their rooms, restaurants and at bars.
As I foresaw, this massively increases the floorspace of a casino/resort/hotel available to gaming while it nibbles away at the time visitors spend away from the gaming action. The idea of the alternative profit center--shows, restaurants, clubs, shopping--and the idea of the resort--pools, spas, hotel rooms--are all merged back into the original idea, the casino.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Corporations Part VI: Ahem...

From the New York Times, via Drudge: United Air Wins Right to Default on Its Employee Pension Plans.

I think big business is amazingly stupid for having made so many insane deals with big labor (all encouraged by Big Mother), but a contract is a contract. The beneficial shareholders of UAL have assets and they should not be able to cheat their creditors in this way.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Corporations Part V: Information hiding...

This is from my book Janio at a Point. I wrote this book as a sort of blueprint to Agorism, anarcho-capitalism. It questions everything, which is why its proscriptions often meet resistance from people who are in love with human freedom except when it's inconvenient or prevents them from pushing other people around. I would write the book differently today--and I may get around to rewriting it before I die--but there is almost nothing I would change in its philosophy.
We have looked at a number of the obviously tragic consequences of government, but there are others of which we can take account that are not so obvious. You can call it "beating a dead horse" if you want, a Madness. So be it. I want to make sure that horse stays dead...

All of these non-obvious effects are the result of what I call Information Hiding. We can easily see that government commits crimes: it taxes, regulates, conscripts, murders - all in a day's work. And there is no barrier to our noticing that the state is lousy at keeping Crime from occurring and recovering losses. What is not so easy to notice is the way the government, by its crimes, contributes to non-governmental crimes...

This is no absolution. The man who wields a gun deserves to be shot. If he is misled by the state into thinking that this is an intelligent solution to the problem of survival, it is still only he who is in charge of his brain. It is still only he who motivates himself to pick up that gun. No matter what "egged him on" and how, it is still only he who is acting. If he commits a crime, he is at fault.

But it is worthwhile to look to the actions of government, to see if they do induce people to commit crimes. I say they do, and, moreover, that the actions of government tend to dilute the value of self-preservation and self-love. Beating a dead horse though it may be, I say that the idea of government is at war with human life as such, in retaliation for being what it is. The "secret weapon" in that war is Information Hiding...

And again and again I protest that I do not think they are evil. I don't believe anyone intended any of this. The Gangsters and their brothers under the sheepskin do intend to commit crimes. But they don't intend to create a self-accelerating self-destruction engine. That happens as an unintended consequence. There is no "conspiracy" to send the world to hell in a handbasket. It's just rolling that way from the causal forces acting upon it, which no one is trying to stop...

Government is Madness. Like any Madness, it achieves the opposite of its intended consequence. And like any Madness, it can only be checked by the recognition that it is a Madness. That it cannot work and that it is wasteful of the precious time of a finite life to continue to try to make it work... This they are not yet ready to do - and don't hold your breath...

Okay: so what is Information Hiding? It is action that distorts or disguises the information content of causal events. It is not just government that does this. When the adult buys that child a second ice cream cone, he is "hiding" the lesson the child could have learned from his error, that it is wise to be careful with values one prizes. But government, by virtue of its being a "Cosmic Injustice" engine, hides information epidemically...

Here's an easy example: currency inflation. There have been few governments in history that have resisted the urge to despoil the trading medium. They pump out paper money as though it were toilet paper, and soon enough toilet paper is worth more in trade. By this action, the state "hides" the value of personal savings. In a paper economy, cash is constantly losing value against goods. If you exchange it for goods as soon as you get it, you realize more than you would at any later time. If instead you bank your cash, it diminishes in value through time. If you leave it there for long, it will lose all of its trade value. You will still have the same quantity of cash, or even more, allowing for interest. But the quantity of goods you can buy with that money will have shrunk drastically...

Similarly, government bankruptcy laws hide the value of fiscal restraint. If you can kiss-off on your debts at any time, you have no good reason to take them seriously. Now, thank goodness, there are some fairly effective market restraints on credit fraud, notably the credit rating system. But the government, by arbitrarily and criminally "forgiving" debts owed to others, encourages those people who already suffer from an irrational view of the future consequences of present actions to further shrink their range of vision.

Now a question you might ask at this point is: how would an Anarchy deal with personal bankruptcy? I can't dictate what choices people should make, but I can envision a system that would be Just to all parties: indenture. A person who is strapped with debts he cannot cover could sell his future labor to a bankruptcy contractor. This person would pay the debts, then provide bed and board for the debtor and keep the full value of his labor, until the debt is repaid. It's hard to imagine that bankruptcy would be even as small a problem as it is now, since there would be no arbitrary restraints on credit reporting.

The bankruptcy laws are forms of liability limitation, of which every variation is an Information Hiding crime. Another type is the limited liability corporation. When a proprietorship or partnership causes an injury, the owners are liable for the full damages, to the extent of their assets. But when an incorporated business commits a crime, it is liable only to the extent of the assets of the business. The other assets of its owners remain untouched. This is simply an arbitrary fiat of law, but it is not without consequences. First, it tends to reward incorporation and to penalize other ways of organizing businesses. It may be, as some of the Conservatives say, that free trade is necessarily large-scale industrialism. But their argument is skewed by this and other types of laws that tend to reward large organizations at the expense of smaller ones. Second, it dramatically hides the consequences of Crime from the owners of corporations. A proprietor can lose not just his business, but also his house. Consequently, he is much more apt to be careful than the owners of a corporation, whose houses are artificially protected by the law. In an Anarchy, I would expect that the principle of full restitution would hold, the restoration of the previous condition as much as is causally possible. People would be liable for the full consequences of their crimes, irrespective of their assets.

Another form of liability limitation is the way the state responds to unintentional injuries. If you cause a traffic accident that results in a death, you will have to pay the full damage to both cars through your insurance premiums. You may be fined, and you may have your driver's license revoked. But you will not be held liable for the death you have caused. You will not be liable to the people who have standing contracts with the deceased and you will not be obliged to compensate those contractors for their losses. If you wonder why there are so many people who do drive, but shouldn't, here is your answer. They are not held accountable for their errors, and hence they have no utilitarian reason to seek the truth.

Welfarism is Information Hiding of a similar sort. So, incidentally, is the voluntary support of mendicants. By rewarding people for doing nothing, the state - or the "soft touch" - conceals from those people vital survival information. It hides the bodily and spiritual consequences of idleness and discounts the future value of the pursuit of righteousness. The state does this for a reason - to buy votes. But the people who allow themselves to be "bought" in this way are immeasurably damaged by it. For hand-outs also distort awareness of the true value of values, having them and fidelity to them. A life that does not have to be earned is of no value - to anyone, including the person living it. If the needs of ourselves and our children are to be provided without our having to produce them, there is no reason at all to educate our children to be independent, self-sufficient individuals. If you wonder why ghettos are such filthy, crime-infested places, here is your answer. By imposing itself between people and the awareness that error causes pain, the state hides from those people the disvalue of error. Now this is bad enough by itself, but what happens when the Cosmic Nipple dries up, as it eventually must? Many, many people who never "bothered" to learn how to live will starve to death...

"Free" "education" is a hand-out of which most Americans avail themselves - at their peril. Statist education is always propaganda, carefully contrived and ritualized lies about the greatness, beauty and virtue of organized crime. But there is information hiding as well as deceit in public education. For example: at its very best, it is lousy. Because it loudly advertises itself as being "free", while quietly stealing its funds, public education deeply discounts the utility of pursuing alternatives to itself. The United States has not yet forbidden alternatives to government education. But by means of this trickery, it "persuades" people to submit their children to twelve years of victimization, brutalization, and damn little education, instead of seeking a product of higher quality.

Because everything it does is arbitrary - because it does not act as a real person acts, using his own resources toward his own chosen ends - everything a state does distorts information. I could name examples endlessly. The Neo-Classical Economists have done some remarkable work on the information content of the market price and how it is skewed by taxes, regulations, subsidies and price supports. One need only think of those news films of dairymen dumping milk in the rivers to see what can happen. In the same way, the concept of "public" ownership is the source of the so-called "paradox" of "The Tragedy Of The Commons". As an example, consider that bison, which cannot be privately owned, are near extinction, where cattle, which can be owned, are more numerous than ever. The garb of patriotism in which the state wraps itself, the songs and stories and myths taught in the state's schools, disguise the disvalue of warfare. If you have ever talked to a young man eager for the chance to get himself killed in the defense of some Gangster, you know what I mean...

It goes on and on. The state's willingness to use "Cosmic Injustice" to mitigate politically favored crimes hides the disvalue of Crime. Taxes and other penalties on virtue discount the value of virtue. Forbidding effective self-defense and peaceful dispute resolution discounts the value of non-coercive social interaction. In general, the Information Hiding that is an unavoidable consequence of government obscures the value of life...

We can look at the history of civilization as the gradual realization, in the minds of individual people, that life is precious, that being alive is a value for which very few others ought to be traded. We can observe this process through the spread of literacy, hygiene, aesthetic appreciation, etc. Even through the spread of constitutional government, to give the devil his due. But government is never other than a Madness in the pursuit of the value of life. It is a less-threatening Madness than those that preceded it. In a tribal system, few babies live long enough to be threatened by "the bomb" or the IRS. But it is still a Madness, and it is still a very dangerous peril to life.

First and always because of the force it wields - and here the tribes come out ahead; by their very inefficiency they lack the capacity to commit assembly-line murder. But second because its "Cosmic Injustices" discount the future value of being alive. Those skittish youngsters who want to get killed in order to prove they are "men" are the perfect example... We noted that people who own homes are more likely to consider the future consequences of their actions than those who rent. Would not the same sort of relationship hold with respect to life as a value? Wouldn't the person who treasures his life be less likely to commit acts with potentially injurious future consequences than the one who doesn't...?

Now think of The Man Who Wielded The Gun... I'm not exonerating him and blaming the state. Only he controls his actions, and only he is at fault for the crime. But who was it who taught him to hold his life in such low esteem...?

Corporations Part IV: No sharks allowed!

I wrote this for No Treason in July of 2002:
This morning's New York Times has a curious piece on Alan Greenspan's recent denunciation of greed.

The article consists of a series of quotations from Ayn Rand and from Greenspan in the days when he was incontestably in the Randian camp. On Usenet I wrote:
Well, I had wondered when someone here was going to remark upon Greenspan's denunciation of greed, but I thought the article itself was very good. I expect the Times thought that merely quoting those texts was damning enough, but I thought they were nice selections. It would have been nice to point out that these events are the consequence not of capitalism but of our fascist mixed-economy, of Orren Boyle, not Hank Rearden, but I think the Times may have done its own cause more harm than good.
But wait. There's more. The Times quotes Rand as saying "I make mincemeat out of the kind of businessman . . . that runs to government for assistance, subsidies, legislation and regulation." Precisely what kind of corporate executive--not businessman--do they think has committed these awful crimes?

Does the New York Times think that the securities market, the sine qua non of these scandals, is free?

A year or two ago, conservatives were rejoicing that half or more of Americans were now 'capitalists', owners of the means of production, either directly or through retirement plans or mutual funds. Now that the New York Times is lamenting the sad fates of these--call them by their right names: indiscriminate, uninformed, degenerate gamblers--is anyone happy to have the nation's capital in the hands of such cry-babies?

Does the New York Times honestly believe that ordinary people should own securities? Does the New York Times believe that anyone who would gamble his retirement savings on the most volatile of stock issues should be pitied for suffering the predictable consequences of what Greenspan calls "infectious greed"?

Back when he was young and admirable, Alan Greenspan wrote that going off the gold-standard "put a penny in the fuse-box" of the American economy. Actually, the old and tired and irascible and very possibly corrupt contemporary Alan Greenspan has done the same thing, putting a penny in the (virtual)gold-standard (virtual)fuse-box crafted by his predecessor, Paul Volcker.

But securities laws have the same sort of effect on the stock markets: The state erects some pretty signs at the shore that read "No sharks allowed!" And down to the beach come the vast hordes of bathers, each of whom has spent not one second's effort in due diligence. The blood-bath that follows is the fault of the sharks, to be sure, but they didn't invite these idiots to go swimming.

The particular corporate sharks under scrutiny truly did lie to their shareholders, but the intelligent question is: Why would anyone invest in a business where the managers don't have to answer directly to the owners? Limited-liability corporations and massive stock issues encourage investor ignorance by making true due diligence virtually impossible.

Does the New York Times think that _anyone_ should invest in a business when true due diligence is virtually impossible?

Does the New York Times think that _anyone_ who does not do true due diligence prior to making an investment should be encouraged by regulation to invest in the securities of limited-liability corporations?

In the casinos of Las Vegas, 74% of all the action is in the slot machines. Slots are a negative expectation bet. That means that for every dollar put into the machines, less than a dollar will be returned. To the slots do the uninformed repair, and to the slots are they doomed until they improve their minds.

Back in the poker room is the only true positive expectation bet in the casino--it is possible to walk out with more, sometimes much more, than you came in with. Most people don't, of course. And, blessedly, the tables are arranged in such a way that the uninformed cannot do too much damage to their estates while losing at poker.

Over here is the $1/$3 Omaha table, where the pots run less than $20. Over there is the $20/$40 Stud table, where a good bluffer can take down as much as $250. Back in the corner is the $300/$600 Texas Hold-'em table, where a good hand might draw $10,000. But only in special rooms at special tables do gamblers play No-limit Hold-'em, where pots can run to six figures. Give a $1/$3 player a 'share' in a No-limit game and he will be back to the slot machines in minutes. Not because professional poker players are crooks, but because they are _not_ amateurs.

Encouraging natural born slot-jockeys to 'invest' in No-limit Texas Hold-'em is the real crime, not the "infectious greed" that is the predictable consequence.

Corporations Part III: In a free country, we would call this extortion...

Again, the issue I raise below with Richard Nikoley is the only one that matters, but this article, also from the Arizona Republic, illustrates how purging business of that pesky integrity makes the wheels of state roll so much more smoothly:
Two new academic buildings would be built in that phase, with other buildings being renovated or constructed, to provide an additional 470,000 square feet of academic and support space.

One such property would be the new Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, which would be located on the northern third of the block that houses the Ramada Inn-Downtown. The city is working with the owner of that property on a public-private partnership that would allow ASU and Phoenix to control and develop the western one-third of the block, while the owner develops high-end condos on the remaining two-thirds.

The tract is between First, Second, Polk and Taylor streets.
The other new property, according to ASU concept plans, would be the KAET building. It is also part of a public-private venture. The building would be on what's known as the 'Sterling Block,' between First Street and Central Avenue and Van Buren and Polk streets. In return for the land, the city has granted the company that owned it development rights. The KAET building would occupy a portion of what's now a parking lot; the rest of the property would be occupied by more condos.
Do you understand what this says? The land was owned by (pseudo-)private corporations. But the city was forbidding them to develop their own real estate. Now the city has given the owners 'permission' to develop the land--in exchange for the land itself! This is naked extortion, and it never, ever could have been possible if commerce had not gotten into bed with corruption in 1789 and before. The state says to the (pseudo-)entrepreneur, "Join our criminal conspiracy and reap the spoils!" The limited liability corporation is the membership card into this pirate's cartel.

Corporations Part II: Beg, Fido, beg...

The issue I raise below with Richard Nikoley is the only one that matters, but here's an item from today's Arizona Republic that illustrates nicely how the corporate/state conspiracy works to divert investment capital from where it might otherwise go:
The tax credit will be available to Arizona residents who invest $25,000 to $250,000 in qualified companies. Those who invest in technology companies would receive a 30 percent credit on their state taxes over three years, and those who invest in biotechnology or rural Arizona companies would get a 35 percent credit over three years.

Companies must have an Arizona office with at least two full-time principal employees. They must have no more than $2 million in assets, and they cannot receive more than $2 million in investments eligible for the credit.

Retail, restaurant and real estate businesses are excluded from the program, as are professional, personal and health care services.
People who have read Atlas Shrugged need only think "soy beans." The governor and the legislature and its lobbyists are qualifed to promote certain investments, thus frustrating others, because they are... armed to the teeth, that's why. A corporation is might-makes-right in the Bourse.

Corporations Part I: Memo to Richard Nikoley:

The essential defining characteristic of a corporation, as against other ways of organizing a business enterprise, is liability limitation, a conspiracy between the proprietors and the state to defraud tort claimants of all they might otherwise obtain in redress for their injuries. It's pure Hamiltonian Social Engineering, Mercantilism at its worst. The idea is to encourage investment by limiting the risk. But by limiting responsibility, investment is distorted away from the individual integrity that is the sine qua non of enlightened self-interest. The limited liability corporation is the rope by which Capitalism hung itself.