Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Zeitgeist is Change

Zeitgeist is a German expression meaning "spirit of the age" and this is the irrisistable force guiding the upcoming election. Barack Obama has given this spirit a rather mundane and cliched name - "change". I ask change from what - to what? As I will illustrate - I feel that the Zeitgeist demands change from individualism to collectivism.

You may guess from the tone of this article that I've conceded that Barack Obama will win the presidency this Tuesday. It just seems so inescapably destined to be. I remember as a 12 year old kid - imagining how cool it would be if an African-American would one day be elected president. I imagined him as a man of great intelligence and vision. I imagined a communicator so great that he could rally Americans of all walks of life and background to a common vision and usher in a new age. And of course he would be a democrat. I remember imagining what this man looked like and sounded like - and that man as I imagined him way back in 1986 was exactly like the man we see an eyelash away from the oval office today.

I imagined that this would be such a great day for America. Today it seems that day has come and in so many ways, it is exactly as I imagined yet, yet now I have such mixed feelings. Part of me is filled with inspiration and optimism. Like most conservatives, I feel that Barack Obama is a man of great ability and a man of integrity and principle. The only real differences is that I do not share some of his core values. This message of change which would have sounded so wonderful to the 12 year old Bromby deeply the troubles the 33 year old Bromby.

Obama had spoken about the founding fathers and how they had inadvertently left out of the constitution any provisions related to the redistribution of wealth and the institution of mechanisms in the state to support thed middle and lower classes. My contention is that the founding fathers explicity left that out for a reason. They did not want America to be Europe, otherwise why did they leave Europe ot begin with?

The Zeitgeist's attacking point is the cynicism around the American Dream. For centuries Europeans have sneered at the ideal of the rugged individualist. The Europeans have upheld the ideal of the sophisticated collectivist. Rugged individualism produces some very likeable and heroic individuals, but it also created rugged individuals are less that palateable for the elitists at home and abroad. Rugged individualism also means people who ride gas guzzlers, dune buggies, snow-mobiles and go fly-fishin', bow huntin' - or even shootin' wolves from a helicopter.

For the New Yorker whose existence revolves around late night Starbucks and shoe shopping on 5th avenue - the death of individualism isn't such a big loss.

Perhaps we will move to a more European way of life. Longer vacations, better benefits and broader state control of nearly all major industry. Perhaps humans who aspire for greatness are a thing of the past - perhaps humans are best to simply aim just a shade above mediocrity - rather than trying to rock the boat with "too much success". Maybe if you work a little harder - and fare a little better - you'll have two cars instead of one - and for the priveledged few- one of them wil be a beamer!
Who needs more than that really - as long as we have long lunch hours- 8 weeks of vacation and our predictable steady income - and the personal satisfaction of achieving just above mediocrity? The very idea of achieving greatness in your lifetime becomes such a trifle - such a small thing to sacrifice for the greater good.
Will we elect to become a 'defanged' society - where humans will effectively be taken out of the fight? The state will continue to expand its role of keeping us out of the cold, fed, entertained and occuppied - while we comfortably produce at the capacity that genetics have endowed us. Trudging along never feeling the urge to push the boundaries of our abilities - never aspiring to expand and grow, never having to compete for our paycheck or live fear of downsizing.

Should you endeavour for something beyond the mediocre - there is still one avenue for individuals who want more than mediocity - who actually endeavour for power and greatness. Those inviduals have one place they can go. They can enter the world of politics and become part of the state. The greatest and most powerful posts in the world no longer lie in the hands of men of industry- and wealthy capitlists. Oh no - power this great is far too important to be in the hands of mere private sector individuals. This is no longer power that can be earned through risk, hard work and ingenuity.
Only the state has this kind of power - and it is reserved for the political animals - the pull pedlars. The men of little productive value - but with magnetic personalities and the knowledge of the various levers within the statist system. The ones with the favours and connections within the massive state to get things done.

This is what you are asking for when you ask the government for change. You want the state to reign the evil greedy private sector. This may work for you - but it doesn't work for me. Even if it does achieve the utopian vision of a mediocre, benefit rich society as described above - it is too high a price to pay for the death of the individual. I love the world where a man born in poverty, can use his mind and body to achieve greatness and power and stare eye to eye with the state - rather than always being at the heel of government power.

This is the world you have chosen - and I will live in it, but I will definitely mourn for the ideal world that has been lost.

Perhaps in another century - the Zeitgeist will be that of the individual rather than the collective - I just wish it would have been my century.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bromby's 7 Rules for Living

These are Bromby's fundamentals for living. I'm passionate about these. I may turn this into a book someday - but for now I think you can get the same impact from these bite sized chunks.

1. Own your problems - all of them- even if they are not your fault - even if they are beyond your control. You cannot evade reality - and only when you own the hard facts of your reality are you empowered to do anything about them. Do whatever is necessary to make your reality better - do not appeal to others to improve your situation. Do not expect government, friends, colleagues or favours to give you the life that you want. This is the path of the victim or the parasite - be neither. Take every action necessary to improve your situation and don't take shortcuts.

2. Resist the allure of easy gains - they are an illusion. We have all heard of situations where people have become rich or successful quickly or with little effort. Either through schemes, political pull or fraud. Remove all such notions from your mind. Aggressively vanquish the mirage of easy wealth from your thinking - it is a waste of valuable mental energy.

3. Don't play the lottery. A one dollar lottery ticket every week is far more costly to you than the ticket itself. The real cost is mental and creative energy you spend during that week imagining all the wonderful things you would do with that money. Again this is the allure of effortless wealth robbing you of your vital ambition. You need to stay hungry. Vigilantly remove all other options for wealth so that the only possible avenue for wealth is the only one that is not a mirage.

4. Live to create value. A human's most noble pursuit is productive activity that creates something (either tangible or intangible) that is of value to others. Strive to expand and refine your capacity to create value. If you can create millions of dollars in value for others - you will be paid with millions of dollars. All other avenues to wealth are an illusion.

5. Revel in your ambition. I've seen many would-be entrepreneurs fade and vanish because at some level they feel that ambition is wrong. It's a fundamental part of our culture to believe that great ambition is accompanied by inevitable destruction or atonement. We've seen it in every Shakespearian tragedy and Hollywood movie. It's a lie - you create your own reality. There is nothing immoral about creating something of value, and trading it honestly with other consenting individuals for a profit. I assert that in fact nothing is more moral.

6. Don't be paralyzed by the urge to 'give back' before you have anything to give. Take comfort in the fact that you are creating something of value and being self sufficient so that you are not a burden on others. Later you will contribute to socitey in a bigger way by employing others. Eventually you will be in a position to be philanthropic in a truly substantial way.

7. Be good to yourself. You aren't a machine - if you don't enjoy yourself you'll burn out. This isn't just a footnote to soften the impact of the previous six points. This is an imperative and the fundamental reason to following the other six rules. These rules for living are not about making a better society, improving the economy or pleasing your parents. This is all about you and only you. Make your life the life you want it to be and enjoy the entire journey - not just the destination.

- Bromby

Monday, October 6, 2008

Private means us - Public means them - not vice versa

To borrow a page from the great Dennis Miller, this is going to be a bit of a rant.

In this horrible bailout mess - one thing scares me more than the actual financial turmoil. It's the fact that Capitalism is once again taking the blame for something that was in fact caused by government intervention. By the government endowing organizations like Fannie May and Freddie Mac with special powers this artificial housing bubble was created and billions were invested into the housing market - that would have otherwise been invested elsewhere.

It doesn't matter that Fannie and Freddie were not truly free market - but a hybrid public / private monstrosity. The fact of the matter is that the private sector and the principles of free market capitalism are taking the blame.

The answer as always is tighter controls, more regulation, more government intervention and less freedom. Another major win for the proponents of socialism. That fat turd Hugo Chavez has stoppen munching on that chicken drumstick long enough to say 'I told you so'. He boldly proclaimed that:

“Socialism is the only route to the salvation of the world.”

After that he put down the chicken drumstick and plunged his rotund face into a bowl of beet soup and was not heard from for the rest of the evening.

As much as I'm a staunch conservative - even John McCain disappointed by saying he planned to create a new government body that would add an additional much-needed layer of oversight. Brilliant! Because those first 15 layers of oversight didn't see this thing coming, I'm sure this 16th layer will catch all.

In the presidential polls McCain is leading in foreign policy, but overwhelmingly they show that Barack Obama has what it takes to create a strong economy. I need to ask this question to the readers because I have absolutley no clue. How did the democrats get the credibility in the economy? Did we actually cross the threshold where the general populous believes that socialism creates more prosperity than economic freedom? How on earth did they pull this over on the public - how did a US majority choose serfdom over freedom?

How did the left manage to convince us that individual power (private) was evil and government power (public) was good? The very foundation of the United States itself is upon that exact principle that the individual's rights were to supercede that of the state. The constitution was a document designed to subordinate the state to the will of the individual - not vice versa. It saddens me that people have become indignant to those who would excercise individual freedom. They have been hoodwinked into believing that public means "us" and "private" means them when in fact - it's the other way round.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Bailout

In principle - Bromby is against it 100% but the repercussions either way are pretty scary.
If we are to learn anything from US history, it's that in these times of economic crisis politicians (typically from the left, but not always) make the argument that the free market is to blame and that stricter regulations are the answer. True conservatives (including Bromby) assert that it is in fact regulation and government intervention that create these monstrosities.

The financial institutions are the ones taking the blame as well as the 'free market'. My opinions on this matter are best expressed in this quote from the brilliant Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Centre. (full article)

“Most people believe the Great Depression was caused by an ‘excessively’ free market--and they regard the massive expansion of government intervention under FDR as its cure. But as many economists have demonstrated, it was government intervention that caused and exacerbated the Depression--from the massive tariffs of Smoot-Hawley to a series of disastrous interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve to antibusiness measures such as the National Recovery Act.

“Few acknowledged this at the time, however. The Great Depression--a failure of government intervention--was called a failure of capitalism, and was used to justify even more government intervention. We are seeing this same process repeat itself today.

“There is overwhelming evidence that our current crisis is the result primarily of government intervention in the economy, from the Fed’s inflationary policy of keeping interest rates artificially low to the creation and regulatory coddling of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to the government’s quasi-official policy of bailing out large financial institutions deemed too big to fail. But despite such evidence, this crisis is being blamed on too little government control of markets, and is being used to justify an even greater expansion of the state’s control over financial markets."

I have little doubt that increased restrictive regulation will be prescribed as the cure for this disaster as well, but instead of FDR administering the treatment it could well be the defining moment of Barack Obama's presidency.

- Bromby

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stephen Harper Cuts Funding for the Arts

There is a lot of raucous uproar about the funding cuts to the arts in Canada by current Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Here's Bromby's opinion. This one steams me a little...

Bromby appreciates the arts, he has a degree in dramatic arts and a background in the theatre. The arts thrive because we live in a fairly prosperous society that enjoys being entertained and values art. Most of these people do not mind paying to be entertained or to pay for books, movies, music etc.

Good art has an audience and gets 'funding' from the people who appreciate it.

Bad art has no audience and needs 'funding' from people with pull in government.

Cutting funding to the arts does not hurt good art - it simply makes being a crappy artist an unsustainable career. We don't need more crappy artists.

OK 'crappy' is a subjective term - so then how is it decided who get funding and who doesn't? Are you telling me the government has a system of determining which artists are worthy of funding? People argue that just because art is not commercially successful, does not mean it doesn't have merit. The artist should be allowed to pursue the noble cause of art for art's sake, and the hard working store owner and police officer should foot the bill through their taxes for these delicate geniuses who are simply too precious to do real work.

People argue that the free market is cruel to artists - because it degrades the complexity of the artistic human soul to produce 'commercial' art. 'Commercial' simply means art that someone else would actually value and be willing to pay for. I hate to generalize but if no one would value it or pay for it- isn't that art simply bad? Why should hard working Canadians subsidize the decadent lifestyle of the artist pretentiously producing art for their own amusement and for the amusement of a minute group of elitists that feel the tastes of the general public are not sophisticated enough to appreciate it.

Art that is produced only for the gratification of the artist is masturbation - why not have the government subsidize that too?

- Bromby

Monday, September 22, 2008

Capitalism - the other "C" word

Conservative Ideals need to be defended on the intellectual level or we are doomed to failure. As implied by the title of my blog too many conservatives base their convictions on faith. The term 'compassionate conservatism' has arisen recently out of an undeserved sense of guilt many conservatives have in the face of an onslaught of finger wagging from liberals. As much as we feel firm in our convictions there is a nagging doubt inside that constantly asks- "are we really a bunch of big meanies?" This is an admission that we feel there is something fundamentally wrong with capitalism, that at its core it is a corrupt principle and a 'necessary evil' that we must accept until we find a better way.

It is this very notion that capitalism is inherently evil that we must do away with entirely. We cannot defend a principle that we feel is morally flawed, because we are already defeated before we enter the debate. Rather than evading the fundamental arguments against capitalism let us meet them head on, one at a time. Let's level with our critics.

Capitalism is a system where purely selfish activity is rewarded. I'm a business owner and the time, energy and creativity I pour into my business is for purely, indiluted selfish motives. There is nothing more engaging and satisfying than working on something that is completely your own, to have complete control of your own success and to be able to reap the rewards of it. I make enormous sacrifices in terms of the time and money I've invested in this venture. I've spent the last six years of my life on this and have had many months where everyone in the company gets paid except me. I have spent months where the 72 hour week is standard, and I've liquidated my savings and maxed out my credit on numerous occasions. I've risked financial ruin with nothing on my side except the conviction that what I was doing was of value and that it must succeed. There was no guarantee, no safety net. The risks and the rewards were mine alone.

There were years when my company showed a profit but the government has swooped in and taxed away any opportunity to grow my business by hiring sales and support staff. Yet I can honestly say without a hint of sarcasm that I did all of this selfishly. I did all of this because every experience, every failure and every victory is mine. This is at the heart of the spirit of entrepreneurship. The profit motive is a fundamental part of this, but it pales in comparison to the feeling of ownership. To know that this company is mine and that every dollar earned is truly earned is central to the morality of the entreprenuer. I would rather earn 1 dollar as an honest business owner, than two dollars as a salaried employee or ten dollars as an executive with political pull, or a 100 dollars as a worthless heir.

Also fundemental to this motivation is the fact that there is no limit to how much money can be made. If I can provide millions of dollars worth of value to clients who choose my product over others without deception or coersion, then I deserve the millions of dollars that they pay me - period. I want to be rich - and I want to earn it.

Let's stop apologizing for wanting to be rich. There is nothing vulgar about it. It takes courage to be honest with one's self and truly strive for what your want. Is there any wonder we are scorned by those who choose mediocrity and achieve it? I am an entrepreneur for my own selfish reasons - not for the betterment of society. The fact that my company benefits society by creating jobs, paying taxes and providing a needed service is great, but it is not the reason that I do it. I am not the government's "partner in the private sector". I am not a resource for them to draw upon to help bureaucratic bigshots repair social ills. I am not doing this to 'give back' to society.

Liberals view corporations as some kind of natural resource that has sprung into existence as if from nowhere - like oxygen or water, and should be 'reigned in', tamed and controlled by the government for the greater good. From the point of view of the entrepreneur this is a vile and offensive notion. It is this viewpoint that sparked the bolshevik revolution allowing the state to nationalize private enterprise and murder millions of middle class business owners. Marx's use of the term 'owners of the means of production' made it sound like the business owners were appropriating a resource for themselves that belonged to all, like the fat kid in grade school taking too long at the water fountain.

Corporations are private property, created by the productive work and risk of capable individuals. Some corporations rise to power through a grotesque relationship with government where special laws and favours are granted to certain parties effectively creating a monopoly and destroying competitors. This is not free enterprise, though free enterprise always takes the blame for such monstrosities. This is not the fault of the corporation, but an illustration of the evils of government intervention. Only governments can create laws. Private individuals (and corporations) do not have ability to create a law to do things by force - so the only way we have of dealing with people is through mutual consent. To paraphrase Ayn Rand - money is not the root of all evil, money is a contract between two honest parties to exchange something of value. When given the alternative to achieve one's goals through mutual consent (trade) or brute force (government & laws) there is only one moral option.

- Bromby

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Favourite DJ?

The moment the DJ with a turntable replaced the electric guitar player as the dominant musician of popular music, is about the moment Bromby checked out of the music scene.

I feel pretty old when I hear people a decade younger than me talk about their favourite DJ. My honest reaction is "You mean there are other DJs besides Jazzy Jeff?!?!?!"

No matter who your favourite DJ is I guarantee that Angus Young & David Gilmour would dominate them in a bare-knuckle bar brawl.

I also heard some dudes talking about how Trent Resnor from Nine Inch Nails is ten times the musician that Paul McCartney is. I noticeably winced while resisting the urge to 'correct' them.

- Bromby