We Live In A Society (Max Stirner)

All of your life you have probably been told that you are not the center of the universe. That there are just bigger things other than oneself. Life is about excellent service. Excellent service to what? This school of thought often asserts you ought to recognize that you are a cog in something greater. We live in a society! If we do not sacrifice for the greatness that is society, then everything will collapse. You don’t want society to collapse, best go back to work.

Let us take a look at this section of The Unique and It’s Property, by Max Stirner. This will help us frame our further thinking on what people mean by “sacrifice for society”.

How is it with mankind, whose cause we are to make our own? Is its cause that of another, and does mankind serve a higher cause? No, mankind looks only at itself, mankind will promote the interests of mankind only, mankind is its own cause. That it may develop, it causes nations and individuals to wear themselves out in its service, and, when they have accomplished what mankind needs, it throws them on the dung-heap of history in gratitude. Is not mankind’s cause — a purely egoistic cause?

I have no need to take up each thing that wants to throw its cause on us and show that it is occupied only with itself, not with us, only with its good, not with ours. Look at the rest for yourselves. Do truth, freedom, humanity, justice, desire anything else than that you grow enthusiastic and serve them?

They all have an admirable time of it when they receive zealous homage. Just observe the nation that is defended by devoted patriots. The patriots fall in bloody battle or in the fight with hunger and want; what does the nation care for that? By the manure of their corpses the nation comes to “its bloom”! The individuals have died “for the great cause of the nation,” and the nation sends some words of thanks after them and — has the profit of it. I call that a paying kind of egoism.

But only look at that Sultan who cares so lovingly for his people. Is he not pure unselfishness itself, and does he not hourly sacrifice himself for his people? Oh, yes, for “his people.” Just try it; show yourself not as his, but as your own; for breaking away from his egoism you will take a trip to jail. The Sultan has set his cause on nothing but himself; he is to himself all in all, he is to himself the only one, and tolerates nobody who would dare not to be one of “his people.”

And will you not learn by these brilliant examples that the egoist gets on best? I for my part take a lesson from them, and propose, instead of further unselfishly serving those great egoists, rather to be the egoist myself.

Let us think about the motivations behind our actions. One way to think about this is to explain our actions as attempting to serve ourselves. The main objection of this selfish theory of human action is to appeal to our sense of morality. People argue that to have selfish motivation is immoral and instead we should submit to a higher end. People argue that life is about service to some ideal or higher cause. It is an interesting retort that we are not all selfish and that the amount of selfishness inside man should be limited. 

One such progressive end is the progress of mankind united towards our common destiny. We can think here about lefties and other one world do gooders. Stirner asks us to think about mankind united to serve the interests of mankind. In this kind of arrangement we are thinking of mankind as an actor. In this sense, the idea that mankind should unite and serve mankind is a type of selfish motivation. Each individual working for a single will, the will of mankind. A spirit composed of all human beings which acts for its interest.

Looking at mankind as an acting thing which has selfish ends may sound strange. Stirner is qualifying one way of looking at the situation. This is part of his style to present alternative ways of looking at the world and expose their flaws to reach the truth. People talk about units such as mankind or other groups as a united actor, capable of having an interest and acting. This seems in many ways very absurd, a group is not a living being. This absurdity is part of Stirner’s argument. He is criticizing this worldview by showing the strange logic. I lay out his argument refuting the condemnation of selfishness as illogical.

  1. You should never act for your own interests, but instead a higher interest.
  2. An individual shouldn’t act for their own interest.
  3. An individual should serve the higher interest of mankind, the nation, etc.
  4. Mankind/The Nation/Etc. should act for its own interest???
    • This violates the idea that serving your own interest is wrong. (1)

The belief in a united mankind is much less dominant than patriotic and nationalistic tendancies. People of Stirner’s day had hoped we were moving past these tendencies, but they still remain today. The majority of demands for a great sacrifice are still the call to national service. Stirner gave the example of the ultimate sacrifice that you can give, your life. The soldiers give their life so that the nation can benefit and grow from the corpses of young men. This depending on your emotional and ideological commitments can invoke very strong feelings. Stirner is not actually taking a side to whether this is good or bad. He is just showing the kind of act people are called to do in service of the group.

To understand his point about the nation, let us consider some additional ideas. Suppose you are living your life in your nation. Now, one day you are dragged out into the street and you are shot. Some could suggest that this sacrifice of part of the nation is done by the nation for the benefit of the nation. This feels something like the rhetorical question: Why are you hitting yourself? This is a clearly perverse interpretation of the facts. Maybe the use of the nation being treated as a unified actor is flowery language covering something up. What really happened you could say is that some group of people shot you for the benefit of another group of people. In some way this kind of national thinking has covered up the functions of the state. 

Now we look to the Stirner’s example of the selfless Sultan or in other words the selfless national leader. A lot of people see many including the political class as giving a lot to society. Stirner asks us to consider that maybe these people give to society not because they are selfless, but because they transparently have a stake and benefit from society. They give to you out of a sense of their own gain. Many of the national leaders assume the egoistic pleasure and motivations of the will of the nation. As we had explored earlier maybe looking at the existence of some collective entity representing the group is absurd. They come to society not to serve as a cog in the will of society, but to promote their own good as an egoist.

Maybe you could question this arrangement. You too could come to society as an egoist. This act of serving yourself is revolutionary and is a threat to the powers that be. Some people might immediately reject Stirner and my commentary here as reckless and selfish. If people act selfishly and for their own desires, then society would come to an end. If society wouldn’t function without your exploitation, then maybe that speaks horrible of society. Why even participate if we are being led to slaughter for no benefit of our own? 

Max Stirner is not arguing against society. He just believes that ultimately, we want to come to society with a concern for ourselves. This doesn’t mean that being willing to die for something is wrong. The issue is for what end. Stirner argues that other egoists use ideas such as the nation to get you to fulfill their ends. It is very absurd to talk about society as a cohesive will. You should look at society less in a collective sense, but specific and real people.

You may benefit from the relation that other egoists have towards you. You enjoy other people and love their company. Being an egoist doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk to people. The assumption is selfishness harms you, but a leader probably would benefit by treating their subjects nice and having them appreciate what the leader does for them. This doesn’t mean the national leader has your best interest in heart. They will ask you to die for their own benefit. Instead of allowing the nation to become the property of a few egoists, we too could have a stake in the nation. Egoists may be willing to die not for a vague concept, such as the nation, but for the specific people in the nation we love. 

The call to be a conscious egoist is a call not to reject society but to be the hero of one’s own life. Those who fail to be the hero serve themselves by mere instinct and only so far as the conscious egoists allow. Will you die for the causes of other egoists and exist in a society which is the private property of another? Sure there is egoist gain to be had here. I however believe that is sad and cucked. Make all of society your property and something which serves you and your greatness.

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Jared Schneiderman: Liberty Podcasts Ranked & Filed (Mad LiberTEA Time)

Jared Schneiderman joins Mike & Paxton to discuss his website, the Liberty Podcast Ranker! We hit on the Punk Rock Libertarians podcast he’s a part of too as well as a lot of issues out there from what we love to what we loathe about Libertaria and the world in general. It was lots of fun & you won’t regret spending getting to know this techie libertarian who’s goal is to connect libertarians to and promote liberty podcasts online!

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While You Were Panicking About Toilet Paper (Mad LiberTEA Breaks)

Hey guys, if you thought all of this was just about public safety then guess again. Just like they do EVERY TIME they get us distracted, they’re trying to slip things past us! Let Mike & Paxton count the ways…

Not buying the social distancing bag? Come join us in the flesh on Sunday March 22nd, 6:30pm @ Cohiba Lounge/Royal Pipes & Tobacco (105 Boyd St. Norman, OK 73069) for a real life Mad LiberTEA Party: The Golden Masque of the Red Death! See you there!

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Hoarding Toilet Paper

Hoarding Toilet Paper, Economic Theory

The other day before Trump closed the borders, I was at the store buying a bit of extra food. My area has yet to be hit by the spread of the corona virus. It is however right on our doorstep. So I was being a bit safe just in case we can’t leave our homes for a little bit in the coming weeks. The situation got worse the following day as people reacted to the border closings. Then they closed down the local schools. As this is going on, the grocery store becomes packed with people buying up supplies. Soon there is a shortage of various important items, such as toilet paper. 

If people would just buy a normal or slightly increased quantity of supplies, then the shortage would not exist. However the anticipation of a shortage, leads people to hoard supplies, which causes the shortage. This is one of the emergent behaviors where apparently irrational outcomes can creep into even rational actions. To understand how this happens we need to look at beauty contests.

The great economist Keynes, a pioneer of macro-economic thought, wanted us to think about voting in a beauty contest. People will look at the contestants and cast a vote based on whom they think is the most beautiful. This is pretty straight forward and we can get a good idea of the consensus choice. 

Now, I want to introduce a new rule here. Suppose that there is now a prize for voting for the most popular choice. This has radical implications on how the voting will go. People will now try to guess how others will vote. This has a kind of recursive logic on the research. I will propose an example beauty contest to help us think here. 

Here are a few contestants: Natalie, Aydin, and Kaitlin. Suppose we ask people who they think is the most beautiful, without a reward:

  • Natalie
    • 40%
  • Aydin
    • 15%
  • Kaitlin
    • 45%

Now, the issue is that Natalie’s fans are much more rabid. Many people wrongly perceive that Natalie would win the contest. Often people at large can make incorrect guesses about the outcome of some event. There is often a distortion of the available information or ignoring of crucial bits of information. If people were asked who they think would win the most votes:

  • Natalie
    • 61%
  • Aydin
    • 0%
  • Kaitlin
    • 39%

The crucial thing to note here is that when we incentivize correct guessing, this perception becomes relevant. If people think that Natalie will win and thus make money, they will change their vote to Natalie. Now, let us look at the people who correctly guess Kaitlyn would win. They are now losing as public perception was initially incorrect. This however has a recursive effect. It is not merely the perception of who is most beautiful. It is the perception of who is perceived to be most beautiful. And so on. The best guess will be an infinite chain of perceptions on perception.

Knowing that people think Natalie would win even if she wouldn’t win will lead even the rational and informed to vote for her. Irrational and ignorant beliefs can alter the rational choice. This is how Keynes attempts to present how perception alters outcomes. Economics is about trying to isolate and model human action. Sometimes human action is hard to explain by purely rational factors. People are often misinformed and act in contradiction to evidence. One way to explain this is to assume people like ignorance and irrationality.

Image result for toilet paper throne

Buying and hoarding toilet paper is a fun activity. You can take a lot of cool selfies to post on social media. You see yourself feeling like a genius when your friends are out searching in vain for toilet paper and you have a closet full of the stuff. Maybe that woman you fantasize about will message you on facebook and ask you for some of your toilet paper stash. Then something might happen? There are all sorts of cool fantasies you can spin up which will make you feel great.

When Keynes developed this thought experiment, he imagined this as helping explain why stock market bubbles occurred despite evidence that they were overvalued. It doesn’t matter if they are overvalued necessarily. As long as people think they are correctly or undervalued. This probably can’t continue on forever. I mean even the most ignorant and irrational people at some point might start to wake up if the stakes are raised. This is the difference between saying you can fly and actually jumping off a building to prove it. When the stakes are too high and people stop acting irrational, then we can get a crash.

One way to look at this while preserving a more classical view of rationality; There is an asymmetry in the choices. I would like to present a controversial anecdote, Jeffery Epstein. Now some people argue, in my opinion correctly, that Epstein probably killed himself. It is a good possibility he was murdered, but not definitive. The reason that you should focus on the idea that Epstein was murdered is because of the magnitude of impact. So what if he killed himself, it is likely, but it does not have wide socio-political implications. However there is a decent chance he was murdered and there is so much potential there for a deep conspiracy. 😉

Bringing it back to toilet paper. If you think there is a small percentage chance of running out of toilet paper, then you might want to stock up. Running out of toilet paper is a really regrettable outcome. This then leads people to rationally stocking up on extra toilet paper. As people realize it is rational to stock up on more toilet paper, it makes the possibility of running out of toilet paper more possible. Thus the recursive thinking takes place and people all run to the store to buy as much toilet paper as possible.

In order to explain this variant of panics, people invented something called a p-beauty contest. It is a variant of the Keynesian beauty contest. Basically you choose a number p between 0 and 1. You ask people to pick a number between 0 and 100. The closest you can get to the average multiplied by p, the more money you get. 

For example, we assume p = ⅔; Then we ask a group of people to pick a number between 0 and 100; Remember you get more money the closer you get to two thirds of the average. You are rewarded for guessing much lower than everyone else. If everyone realizes this and acts on it, then it will drag the average down to the lowest possible value. If everyone acted rationally, they would drag the average down to zero.

This may or may not be good. This is just an abstract model. However, in many cases zero can be the collapse of society. In the panic, you are always incentivized in beating out the crowd. This however allows the crowd to emerge immediately and rapidly overwhelm the situation. Run on the banks, shortages, market bubbles; Also the object of discussion, hoarding toilet paper.

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Don’t Panic, My Corona! Prep Vs Panic (Mad LiberTEA Breaks)

There are plenty of bad reasons to let the Corona Virus cause panic and just as many good reasons not to. Think about that when you watch your leaders, your media, and your fellows either playing with or being played. It’s a disgrace out there and people like us should be trying to help, not going along with it!

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Big Ls Talkin Shit & Little Ls Raisin Hell (Mad LiberTEA Breaks)

Well, we like to say, “Keep it classy.” but that doesn’t make us or our people immune to the occasional slip. Let’s talk about what happened with Nick Sarwark & Maj Toure and what that taught us, what we took away, and how we feel about it.

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LiberTEA Library Cards: Dilvany Tha Goddess (We The People)

Hey y’all the party hasn’t started if Dilvany isn’t there yet. She’s a blast, brilliant, and she’s running our book club! Yes, we get to hang out and read with content creating and brain-bending awesomesauce like her. Come get to know them like we do and enjoy a tea time with a good friend!

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Trump's Price Transparency Is Not Magic

Trump’s Price Transparency Is Not Magic

During the recent state of the union, Trump mentioned that he was planning on introducing price transparency in healthcare prices. Now there are a bunch of conservative and libertarian reforms for healthcare that are supposed easy fixes. One such idea is that healthcare prices are a scam created by lack of transparency. This seems logical and intuitive. Basic economic reasoning would suggest that if you don’t know the prices, then you can’t do the necessary economic calculations to make a competitive choice. This allows for the companies to charge you higher prices and create an uncompetitive market. 

This seems all fine and good. I would like to argue that there are economic considerations that this reasoning does not take into account. There is some evidence that price transparency will lead to higher prices. At one time, I might have supported price transparency for the healthcare industry. I have changed my mind after a consideration of the facts. Some libertarian organizations such as FEE have made articles endorsing such a proposal. I might surprise libertarians by referring to the great libertarian economist, Murray Rothbard. His economic history has been of great use in my article to demonstrate the problem at hand.

So let us consider the famous game, the prisoner’s dilemma. Two people have committed a crime and they are interrogated. They are offered the same deal for prison time. Above is the time in jail for each outcome. The principle to learn here is something called the dominance principle. If you betray your partner, then you are guaranteed to get 1 year less in prison. However if you both betray each other to the police, then you will both get 2 years. In this situation you will get a combined maximum time in prison for a total of 4 years. If you both would have just cooperated you would have got the least amount of combined prison time for a total of 2 years. 

This simple story about prisoners is a fun experiment in how cooperation is very lucrative, but hard to maintain. People are incentivized to cheat against cooperation. Once cooperation breaks down, everyone is worse off. This simple story can have multiple parallels in economic situations. Corporations can make a lot of money if they cooperate to raise prices. However there is an incentive to lower your price and gain larger market share. Corporations have to deal with these conflicting incentives. 

This little game is not the end all be all, because it is a simple model. Corporations ultimately would prefer that they didn’t have to compete. Assuming that there are steep barriers to entry they could if theory execute a conspiracy; This of course assumes that the corporations can trust each other and they face little chance of new competition arising. Given enough time, they might try to conspire. This conspiracy will last as long as their competitors don’t lower their prices. This is not so hard to imagine that this could go on for a while. There are a few friends of yours who you might confidently be willing to play the prisoner’s dilemma with. There is one thing we haven’t considered; You could of course try to be sneaky. Remember, you are only in trouble if you get caught. If you lower your prices without your competitors knowing, then you can cheat the system. 

This sounds completely bonkers. When people go to buy something they will notice the lower prices and then the secret will slowly get out. Stay with me here, what if you just pretend to have the higher price, but conspire with some of your customers to offer a lower price. This is called price discrimination and it is when you try to discriminate against people by offering them different prices. In this case, you can have a price which everyone knows about and offer certain customers a discount. As long as those customers don’t reveal they are getting the discount, you can fool your competitors. This is assuming your other competitors aren’t trying to pull the wool over your eyes and do the same thing. Eventually all the corporations offering secret discounts will drag the price down to the competitive price. Either way conspiracies are hard to maintain.

In Murray Rothbard’s The Progressive Era, he details the attempts of Railroad companies to cartelize and raise prices. He explains how they attempt to get their cartels supported by law through a few different regulations. While many wanted to have prices outright fixed by law, this was something harder to get people behind. One of the main issues the cartels faced was members secretly offering discounts on freight rates. This led to the idea of passing regulation which prohibited such discounts. Rothbard lays out how this issue was a major driver behind Railroads lobbying the government for regulation in the Progressive Era. 

If such discounts were prohibited, then the corporation would have to charge the price they publicly declare. In other words, government enforced price transparency is a tactic corporations can use to help price fix. This way you can make sure your competitors aren’t trying to cheat the agreement and thus it creates more barriers to prevent the cartel from dissolving.

Healthcare has a lot of similarities to the railroads Rothbard talked about in the following ways. Hospitals have a lot of fixed costs, it is very hard to just open a new hospital to compete with existing hospitals. Patients pay different prices for the same services at the same hospital. This is in part because of healthcare insurance negotiations. Remember this is the problem the regulation is trying to solve. Prices are not uniform and are hidden from the public. The one difference here is that price fixing is illegal now and there is no evidence hospitals are secretly trying to conspire. 

Does this mean that we are safe and this objection is nothing to worry about? No! There is a more recent example of danish concrete mixing companies where they tried price transparency. There was the issue of only a few concrete mixers, because it is hard to transport long distances and the demand is not sufficient to have too many suppliers within reach. People were negotiating all sorts of prices for the service and thus the government stepped in with price transparency. Once everyone was transparent about the prices they charged, the prices rose by more than 15 percent. Shockingly, no evidence of a grand conspiracy to raise prices exists. So what happened? 

In the situation where prices are transparent, it is harder to compete with other businesses because you have to be transparent in the prices you are charging. If you try to get someone to switch over to you and you offer them a lower price, your other customers will legally have to know about it and you will have to offer them the same deal. If you raise prices, it is harder for your competitors who are further away to try and compete for your customers. Price transparency still makes it harder to compete for customers between two businesses. This can lead to an incentive to raise prices as you have in effect a cartel preventing competition. In these uncompetitive markets, it is a serious danger that price transparency will reduce competition. This is because the competition is occurring so far as the price is not transparent. They are competing for only a segment of the market by offering only that segment discounts. 

Only time will tell whether this leads to prices being reduced or increased. The actual effect of this policy is an empirical issue. We can only look at prior cases and draw conclusions from the evidence. That being said there is a lot to be skeptical here as we have some state implementations of the law. Various states, including New Hampshire have introduced various reforms that are similar in effect. There is no evidence that these reforms have worked. This might simply be a matter of implementation, lack of knowledge, patient habits, etc. People need to actually make use of the information for it to work. There is no guarantee that will even happen. We are just going to have to wait and see what happens. That is the issue with policy debates.

The main issue here I take with price transparency is that people present it as some smoking gun that will solve the healthcare crisis. Being optimistic and naive about the effects of the market can lead to people ignoring economic information in the future. It may help reinforce the notion that economics is just a bunch of theory that has nothing to do with the real world. Economics is a very important subject for informing people of public policy. So it is important to get it right.

Dilvany is a dedicated Internet Troll, Mathematician, and Life Long Learner.
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Optimistic Nihilism (Paxton Sips)

When there is no one around to tell you to clean your room, how long will you sit there in your own filth before you decide on cleaning the room yourself? Optimistic Nihilism is about realizing there is no greater purpose, no higher power, to bestow upon us our destiny and meaning. It is up to us, and us alone. Paxton shares some of his philosophy-of-choice and adds some of his own perspective to it.

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