Thursday, April 29, 2010

Art and Zero Sum

Today's quote comes from Ayn Rand

"A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others"

One of the biggest misunderstanding about economics is that it's a zero sum game; in other words for every millionaire there has to be hundreds of poor people that he got his money from. This is not true because wealth can be created and just like creative pursuits like painting or film making someone can create something that can be enjoyed by others without them losing. It's not like if I make a movie there's someone out there that doesn't get a movie made as a direct result. The millionaire creates capital and employs hundreds of people.

My favorite example of this is John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. History has cast Rockefeller as the villain for being greedy but he actually did more to help the poor and working classes than any philanthropist ever did. Before Standard Oil lighting was provided by candles or whale oil which was very expensive and unfordable to most. Most American's would get up with the sun go to work stop work when the sun was going down go home eat a quick dinner by candle light and go to bed because they couldn't afford light. However with Standard Oil it became affordable to light your house, you could stay up after dinner, you could spend time with your family, you could read the newspaper and books to educate yourself. Rockefeller made this possible not by beating anyone but by achieving greatness in business.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Millionaire and the Bureaucrat

Today's quote comes from F.A. Hayek.

"Who can seriously doubt that the power which a millionaire, who may be my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest bureaucrat possesses who wields the coercive power of the state and on whose discretion it depends how I am allowed to live and work?”

A millionaire who is your employer has economic influence over you for sure and if you don't do what he tells you to do can fire you or withhold your salary the worst he can do is tell others not to hire you. But any bureaucrat in the government can use the force of the entire state to make you do what he wants, he can have you thrown in prison or have your property seized if you disobey him. Which is worse?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Virtual World

Today's quote comes from a paper by Edward Castronova on virtual reality.

"In March 1999, a small number of Californians discovered a new world called Norrath, populated by an exotic but industrious people. About 12,000 people call this place their permanent home, although some 60,000 are present there at any given time. The nominal hourly wage is about USD 3.42 per hour, and the labors of the people produce a GNP per capita somewhere between that of Russia and Bulgaria. A unit of Norrath's currency is traded on exchange markets at USD 0.0107, higher than the Yen and the Lira. The economy is characterized by extreme inequality, yet life there is quite attractive to many."

Norrath is the universe that the MMORPG Everquest is played in and I think it brings up some interesting questions and makes some interesting points. First off what does it mean when more and more of the world lives online? When they feel more of a connection to their internet nation than their physical nation will we eventually have dual citizenship? Also notice that even with extreme inequality in income people continue to flock there and they produce currency that is more valuable than Yen and Lira and they do all this without a government who is attempting to solve the inequality.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Power and Wisdom

Today's quote comes from Thomas Jefferson

"I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

In January of 2009 President Obama gave a speech to the Muslim world in Cairo he used this quote to call for less American intervention. He has since then increase American intervention overseas while continuing to call for a less aggressive American military.

Sarah Palin Saturday criticized Obama for this view point saying "I would hope that our leaders in Washington, D.C., understand we like to be a dominant superpower. I don't understand a world view where we have to question whether we like it or not that America is powerful."

It seem like we still have some wisdom to gain since America likes to be a dominant superpower, an idea that is more in line with imperial Britain than our Founding Fathers.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Today's quote comes from J.R.R. Tolkien by way of Treebeard.

"I am not altogether on anybody's side, because nobody is altogether on my side"

A friend of mine saw this and suggested I use it for my blog. It's a fun little quote that speaks to me. I have been at odds with mainstream thought on large issues for some time now and it's rare to find someone who agrees with me. Even more so lately. On my very first film I was surprised to find that most of the students my age on the project held similar views to me and when I went out to Colorado with them to film several other films I learned again that we were very similar. In fact I have run into many actors and crew members who are very Libertarian in the film industry. I was surprised at first because I had been told growing up by evangelical leaders that everyone in the film industry where godless liberals but I have found that to not be the case.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Samuel Adams and Ron Paul

Today's quote comes from Samuel Adams.

"It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds."

I lived in Texas in the 1990s and it was then that I learned of Ron Paul, since then I have followed his Congressional career closely and during the 2008 Presidential campaign I volunteered several times with his campaign. He of course did not win but brush minds had been set. Wednesday Rassmusen conducted a poll that asked in a hypothetical 2012 Presidential Election match up between Ron Paul and Barack Obama who would you vote for? 42% said Barack Obama, 41% said Ron Paul. I think Ron Paul's ideas are sorely needed in these economic times and that in 2012 he has a chance at winning. So I will continue to be an irate, tireless minority.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Other Realms of Existence

Today's quote comes from Edward Castronova who is an Associate Professor of Telecommunications at Indiana University who studies virtual economies in games such as Everquest.

"These computers on our desks are turning into portals to other realms of existence... realms that will one day be preferred to earth"

I've often talked to friends about how the emergence of realistic virtual realities such as we see in the Matrix or with 3D glasses would lead to a dangerous level of immersion by video gamers but people don't need a jack in the back of their head or 3D glasses to become dangerously obsessed. Last month in South Korea a couple allowed their three month old daughter to starve to death while they spent all their time at internet cafes raising a virtual child in an MMORPG.

Well it's a beautiful day out so I'm turning off my computer for the rest of the day and going outside.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Art and Propaganda

Today's quote comes from George Orwell.

"All art is propaganda... On the other hand, not all propaganda is art."

Art is propaganda because the artist is presenting his views of the world and making arguments about how reality works. The argument is made whether the artist means to or not; even documentary filmmakers choose what footage to show and how to narrate the footage.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Camus and Net Neutrality

Today's quote comes from French author Albert Camus.

"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion."

Yesterday a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC does not have the authority to enforce net neutrality on internet providers. If the court had upheld the FCC ruling we would have been moving towards an unfree world. On the surface net neutrality seems to be for freedom but in fact nothing could be farther from the truth. Supporters of net neutrality say that to support my freedom of speech all internet providers must provide a connection to my blog for all of their customers for a single set price. I say this is ridiculous that is like saying Barnes and Noble must stock and display my book to support my freedom of speech. If Comcast only wants to sell access to only Facebook for $10 a month or access to only Facebook and Google for $20 a month that's their right to do so; they would quickly go out of business as people want to view more of the internet but the government has no right to stop them.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Today's quote comes from the very first Anarcho-Capitalist Frederic Bastiat.

"The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else"

I think this quote is extremely relevant for today when so many in our society feel entitled to live by the state and when people speak out against the welfare state they are attacked by the state. Bastiat noticed this as well.

"Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the victim - when he defends himself - as a criminal."

If I choose not to pay my taxes because I know they will go to provide entitlement to someone else the police will arrest me and a judge will fine me or send me to prison. The state is so readily abused that I question the need for it at all.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tina Fey and Sarah Palin

Today’s quote comes from master science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.

“Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments.”

I’ve always been a big fan of political commentary done for humor. During the 2008 election much of my news came from SNL, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report. In 2008 during an interview with Charles Gibson VP candidate Sarah Palin was asked about her insight into Russia she answered “They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska. During an SNL sketch after this interview Tina Fey as Sarah Palin said “I can see Russia from my house.” In 2009 while discussing politics with a friend who is pretty savvy about politics and current events I said that SNL has a lot of sway over popular beliefs and I referenced Tina Fey saying I can see Russia from my house. This friend dead serious swore to me that he had seen the Charles Gibson interview and that Sarah Palin had said that.