Posted by: marcelvotlucka | 7 January, 2012

There Are No “Sheeple”

Originally published in Black Oak Presents, Spring 2009 issue

There’s an alarming tendency among radical intellectuals to dismiss those who don’t “get it” as mere lambs being led to slaughter – meek “sheeple”. But how does this reflect on us, our values, and our mentality vis a vis those sustaining the State?

It’s easy to understand the widespread frustration in anti-authoritarian circles over people who seemingly have failed to seek enlightenment about the hegemonic hubris we face. Watch people’s reactions when you question one tenet of the Statist religion; they’ll become angry, defensive, and try to shut down the discussion. They’ll often poison the dialogue by questioning your intelligence, doubting your sanity and besmirching your personal character – assuming they even let you talk in the first place! We’re “crazy” or “naïve” or “unrealistic” for expressing our unyielding dissatisfaction with the status quo, for upholding the same moral standards to Presidents and Congressmen that we apply to everyone else. Well, if we are “crazy extremists” then the Statist horde must be a pack of naïve “sheep”, ha!

Hence there are many who heap scorn on those perky activists who implore us to “Rock the Vote!”, the “moderates” who are afraid of conviction, the advocates of “good government”, and the troops whose blood feeds the Machine. It’s easy and fun to hang out on forums and websites ripping on the ignorant Joe and Jane Sixpacks who put up with it all: “These people only want bread and circuses and HBO! We could have something better but people are too stupid and weak! Oh forget them, we’re all screwed anyway!”

Just remember that you were likely a “sheep” once too.

Alas, this sort of insular arrogance is not only more prevalent than we’d like to admit, it’s our own worst enemy. The idea of stupid, hopeless “sheeple” evokes the contempt that a hardcore Statist has for human ability, reason, freedom, and – for lack of a better word – spirit.

I often argue that there exists a terribly negative psychology belying the State and related institutions. It’s a subtle, malevolent, cynical view of life and human nature and existence; a view of the world as something to be feared – a dark, scary place filled with decadent people, unpredictable catastrophes, and endless problems that, naturally, only the State can address. Every law, every program, every crusade, every war, every act of social engineering on their part implies that people are only fit to be herded like disobedient livestock. And people buy it.

It’s this psychology at work when someone goes into near-hysterics upon hearing the most timid of anti-State arguments. It’s what makes people mumble, “Neither anarchy nor limited government can work, because people are not perfect.” Look at how people throw up their hands and put up with Statist excesses: “What do I know? Who am I to challenge this system? Even if I don’t like it, it’s the lesser of two evils.” It’s what makes people turn to strong leaders and dictators in times of crises. Perhaps this is a deep-seated lack of self-esteem and an internalized need for authority figures in an intimidating world? At any rate, we don’t need hired goons to maintain this hegemony because we tear our own selves down; we convince ourselves of the lack of alternatives. Thus the State depends on (and encourages) psychological repression just as much as any overt act of oppression.

When people contemptuously dismiss others as “sheep” it feeds into and reinforces this cynical mentality, not in the minds of the so-called “sheep” but rather the ones who are supposed to be proposing a radical alternative! The more one dismisses those who don’t “get it” (or even snubs his allies who don’t fall lock-step with him on every issue), the less likely he is to see any hope of victory, and the less he bothers to strive for it. Finally, he rationalizes his failures by labeling everyone else as somehow unworthy or inadequate.

Look at how the various national governments tear people down and lull us out of conceiving saner alternatives: they get in the way of peaceful, enterprising entrepreneurs; they murder foreigners with bombs; they convince us to fear phantom terrorists or even our own neighbors; they use welfare checks, feel-good racial hiring quotas, and moral crusades “for the children” as bribery for votes; they pressure us to give our lives for a comfortable sense of “God and Country”; they use the media and schools to endear us to the State as not a criminal gang but rather a benefactor…the list goes on. And just as people believe that they need all this hubris in order to have a functioning, sane society, so do haughty intellectuals believe that people are weak and stupid enough to deserve it.

In a perverse and subtle way, our cynicism and silence in the face of all this hubris serves as a tacit stamp of approval and a grand act of capitulation equal to that of the most loyal Federal employee.

Another way this attitude hurts the cause has to do with our lack of solidarity. Libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, syndicalists, agorists, mutualists, eco-anarchists…our diversity is a good thing but a certain “us versus them” mentality has arisen that often gets taken too far. It matters little whether we’re talking about various inter-factional feuds or “us” (the enlightened radicals) versus “them” (the unenlightened general public) because the effect is the same.

These attitudes reinforce our image and status as outsiders, drive away potential allies among the public we wish to radicalize, and alienate us from our goal of revolution. Most poignantly, they evoke the same kind of divisions on which the modern social-democratic State is based. After all, if the State is a monopoly on legal violence, then politics is the means by which one channels that violence in order to get what he wants. It’s a harried rat-race for power and influence, a zero-sum game in which one party must win and the other must lose – thus all are pitted against each other in order to advance their own interests and are eventually alienated from each other. “Red States” versus “Blue States” is just the tip of the iceberg. With this thinking we fall into the same psychological trap that keeps the State so strong. “Divide and conquer” indeed.

A critic of mine once chided me, “Your problem is that you give people too much credit!” to which I responded, “Maybe your problem is that you don’t give them enough.” People do have minds of their own; the fact that they’ve not been able to “get it” suggests that their finite energies are being channeled into things that don’t favor liberty and self-empowerment. The intelligentsia, activists, busybodies, corporate thugs, politicians – people who make their living by controlling others and re-shaping society in their image using the coercive force of the State – quite naturally have an intense fear of self-empowered people who can resist their hubris. They’d much rather have malleable converts for their purposes.

You’d expect anti-Statist radicals to unanimously hold the alternative view – that people are not like Play-Doh, to be molded and twisted into one’s personal orthodoxy – yet we can see among certain parties an insular, arrogant dismissal of people who aren’t their devoted followers. Observations of any number of anarchist book fairs, websites, and activist functions suggest that we have a surprising number of such “followers” indeed. In one corner we have the folks sporting their Ché t-shirts and their black flags, parroting Bakunin and Kropotkin, and bowing before the altar of Chomsky. In the other corner we have the folks who hang on to Ludwig von Mises’ every word like Gospel, place unquestioning faith in the free market economy’s ability to solve all our earthly worries, and who think Somalia (which lacks a strong central government) is a beacon of hope lighting the way for a future “Ancapistan”.

Ah, but everybody else is supposed to be a lamb being led to the Statist slaughterhouse…right?

A lot of this boils down to a frustrated desire for victory. Just as Statists wish to change the world, so do we; we just lack the critical mass to get the revolution going, our allies are few and far between, and we have few victories to celebrate. It seems Statism is winning and folks want someone to scapegoat as they dive deeper into their own intellectual and strategic lethargy. Hence they lash out at the “sheeple” as a psychological projection of their own feelings of desperation and despair. I’m tempted to just dismiss this as something like sour grapes, but ultimately this sort of thinking in radical circles evokes the desire for malleable converts on the part of hardcore Statist con artists eager to do some social engineering at everyone’s expense.

What kind of “anarchism” is this? Sheep are for shepherds, not free people!

What kind of values serve as the antidote to this hubris? An alternative view of humanity as having no right to be anything other than great, a view of people not as peons who deserve their oppression but rather the kind of hardy, pensive, compassionate, courageous people who desire to “live free or die”, who don’t need rulers. Self-empowerment gives one the inner strength, strategic mentality, integrity and courage to stand up to the amoral State. If we can send a man to the Moon and back, surely teaching him to flip the bird at the military-industrial-welfare complex shouldn’t be all that big a deal?

To summarize, the very concept of “sheeple” is perilous because it evokes the kind of arrogance, contempt and deep-rooted fear the State has for free, motivated and empowered people. It brings radicals dangerously close to thinking along the same lines as hard-core Statists even as we attempt to offer an alternative way. Not only does this sort of defeatist hypocrisy sap the strength one needs to stand firm against equally defeatist Statist psychology, it alienates us from those we strive to radicalize and it demoralizes us in the end as our integrity rots like a corpse. It assumes, also, that there are some who are elite; superior; “above the herd”; fit to rule over the weak herd – which is the cause of so many of our problems with illegitimate authority in the first place!

But most of all, it fails to present us as who we are – visionaries far ahead of our time, with a profoundly positive and liberating vision for a seemingly insane world.

Posted by: marcelvotlucka | 12 July, 2011

Award-winning column at STR!

It’s been a while since I last updated the site, so I wanted to share a column that I wrote for Strike the Root back in February.

Be sure to check out “A Silver Lining Shines Within the Odious Debt” — co-winner (with Mark Davis) of the 2011 Strike the Root “Odious Debt” essay contest!

Posted by: marcelvotlucka | 6 February, 2010

Keynes versus Hayek…..Rap style!

I LOL’ed. Even though it’s a bit ironic that “Keynes” here looks a bit like John Stossel…

Happy New Years to everyone!  Let’s get the new year to a roaring start — with a new column at the newly remodeled Strike the Root.  (Many congrats to the good folks there for their hard work on the site!)   Read it here and in the “Columns” section of this blog.

“In short, ideas have consequences. YOUR ideas have consequences. And sometimes they are not very nice ones. Ideas, once they are out of your head and out in the world, do affect others when they are carried out.

Politics isn’t just random slogans or feel-good catchphrases and cool policies that make the world a happy place of rainbows and sugarpops. No, politics is about playing the system and using force against others to get what you want.”

Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.

Whether it was Giovanni Gentile or Benito Mussolini himself who said this, people have used thsi quote to sum up the basic tenets of Fascism (Italian or otherwise).  But this article on Social Memory Complex (Thanks to Mike Gogulski for alerting me to it),

“It always surprises me how many different political conclusions this point is used to augment. For some, it means private business is bad because it takes advantage of a vulnerable democratic political process. For others, it means firms are enlisted into the agendas of big bad politicians, restraining the so-called “free market” competition that benefits us all. . . . After all, the quote is often used by people who assume the legitimacy of both big business and big government. The quibble lies solely with the relative power of one party relative to the other.”

“The radicals of the 19th century saw the state as larger than just the government. The state was composed of all those who benefited from the status quo. Government, business, academia, and other institutions work to stabilize this status quo as the basis of their privilege.  So when Mussolini talks about a merger between corporate and state power, he is not talking about fusing business to government – that alliance already exists, and most people back then knew it, too. . .  Mussolini was talking about bringing all aspects of society under a smaller group of technocratic, autocratic managers.”

I’ve had to clarify, in a lot of recent discussions I’ve had with people, that just as Democrats and Republicans are the same Beast, corporations and “the government” are just parts of the same cruel Organism that we call the State (or status quo, or whatever).  Not so many years ago, when I was going gaga for Ralph Nader, the Green Party, and “single-payer” government medicine, I thought with absolute certainty that big business was Public Enemy #1.  Then, after reading a little too much Ayn Rand, I saw Big Government as the Evil of all Evils.  It took me a while to realize that the struggle is not a matter of one over the other, but recognising both aspects as part of a greater whole.

I understand this from my own experience talking with people and developing my own views, that once people start to accept this, they become more receptive to anarchic thought — just as how people often become receptive to libertarian thought once they accept that Democrats and Republicans are the same.

Speaking strictly from my own experience; becoming radical is a step-by-step process….most are lucky to get to the “Democrats = Republicans” stage, much less the “big business = big government” stage.

To that end, let’s hope the Fed’s resistance to being audited, the Bush bailouts, and Obama’s stimulus campaign are like a sledgehammer to the noggin – talk about a wake-up call!

Posted by: marcelvotlucka | 7 October, 2009

New Article at STR!

After a bit of a hiatus (i.e. work has been keeping me very busy lately), I finally have a new column on Strike the Root.  Read it here and in the “Columns” section of this blog.

The undergraduate degree is a way to weed out the cultured workers from the low-brow; the affluent from the less-affluent; the pacified from the rough-around-the-edges; the best and brightest from the dumb sheep; the ones who ‘get their hands dirty’ with practical skills from those fully indoctrinated in squeaky-clean trivia (which is what most white-collar work is, anyway); the upper and middle classes from the lower classes.  In short, its function is to help lock out the undesirable proles from the Inner Circle.

Posted by: marcelvotlucka | 7 June, 2009

New Youtube Playlist!

I’ve finally joined the Youtube fad, with my own video channel.  I noticed there’s not too much of an Agorist presence in particular, so my first project involves the classic New Libertarian Manifesto, by Samuel E. Konkin III.  Mike Gogulski recorded an audiobook of the Manifesto so I decided to make a series of videos based on that.

Check out my playlist here.  I plan to make more videos in the near future so stay tuned!

Posted by: marcelvotlucka | 14 May, 2009

Lost in Translation? Not Quite…..

A funny and popular story about the Chevy Nova is that it didn’t sell well in Latin America becuse its name, Nova, literally translates in Spanish to “It doesn’t go”.  I always thought it was funny, but I just read a post that debunks this.  It turns out the anecdote is basically an old wives’ tale. (And at any rate, my experience working in the translation industry tells me that no agency and certainly no translator worth their salt would ever let something like this slip through the cracks!)

For one thing, the name “Nova” does sound to the untrained ear like Spanish “No vá” but (and I hadn’t even considered this) there is a slight difference in pronunciation, for one thing, between these two words, the English is one word while the Spanish is two words with an accented “a” sound.  “NO-va” versus “no-VA”

There’s more:

Pemex (the Mexican government-owned oil monopoly) sold (and still sells) gasoline in Mexico under the name “Nova.” If Mexicans were going to associate anything with the Chevrolet Nova based on its name, it would probably be this gasoline. In any case, if Mexicans had no compunctions about filling the tanks of their cars with a type of gasoline whose name advertised that it “didn’t go,” why would they reject a similarly-named automobile?

A hot Chevy Nova []

Apparently the legend assumes that General Motors’ marketing team hadn’t checked things out thoroughly before deciding to release the car under that name in Latin America, but they knew about the translation issue and decided to go ahead anyway.

And this just sealed the deal: the car actually sold well despite the finicky name:

T]he Chevrolet Nova’s name didn’t significantly affect its sales: it sold well in both its primary Spanish-language markets, Mexico and Venezuela. (Its Venezuelan sales figures actually surpassed GM’s expectations.)

Oops.  Well, there’s always to fill the loopy-translation void!

Posted by: marcelvotlucka | 5 May, 2009

Recession…..the Musical!

“Worst Side Story.” Laments about our financial mess to tunes from West Side Story. By Walt Handelsman of Newsday.  I wonder will the next one be entitled “Crash”, set to the ubiquitous tunes of Cats??

Posted by: marcelvotlucka | 30 April, 2009

Feeding Moloch à la Mankiw

Feeeeed me!

Feeeeed me!

Those kooky Keynesians are at it again.  Greg Mankiw’s recent article for the New York Times suggests that the Federal Reserve can stimulate the economy out of recession by putting in place a negative interest rate (he suggests -3%). “At that interest rate,” he says, “you could borrow and spend $100 and repay $97 next year.”  Paying back less money than you borrowed…sounds great, right?

Of course, such a policy translates to effectively giving money away.  This is pretty much what Uncle Sam (and our more distant Uncle Bush for that matter) has been doing and what Uncle Obama will continue doing for the conceivable future.  So it’s no surprise that Mankiw, a former Bush adviser, would suggest this.  But at least he acknowledges in his column the most obvious flaw; who in their right mind would lend money at those rates?  They might as well not lend at all, he says.  “Rather than giving your money to a borrower who promises a negative return, it would be better to stick the cash in your mattress.  Unless, that is, we figure out a way to make holding money less attractive.”


Here’s where things start getting ugly.  Here I’ll let Mankiw explain his proposal in his own words:

“Imagine that the Fed were to announce that, a year from today, it would pick a digit from zero to 9 out of a hat. All currency with a serial number ending in that digit would no longer be legal tender. Suddenly, the expected return to holding currency would become negative 10 percent.  That move would free the Fed to cut interest rates below zero. People would be delighted to lend money at negative 3 percent, since losing 3 percent is better than losing 10.  Of course, some people might decide that at those rates, they would rather spend the money — for example, by buying a new car.”

So in order to get people to spend money again (for indeed the world revolves around mindless consumption and not real growth) we’ll not only practically give it away to Wall Street, the military industrial complex, automakers, and politically connected corporations, nor only create inflation, but we’ll randomly take people‘s money out of circulation to balance out the immense amount of money we’ll be generating to fill rich people’s pockets.

It gets better: 

“The idea of making money earn a negative return is not entirely new. In the late 19th century, the German economist Silvio Gesell argued for a tax on holding money. He was concerned that during times of financial stress, people hoard money rather than lend it. John Maynard Keynes approvingly cited the idea of a carrying tax on money.”

Think something’s fishy here? We have a perfectly comforting explanation:

“The idea of negative interest rates may strike some people as absurd, the concoction of some impractical theorist. Perhaps it is. But remember this: Early mathematicians thought that the idea of negative numbers was absurd. Today, these numbers are commonplace. Even children can be taught that some problems (such as 2x + 6 = 0) have no solution unless you are ready to invoke negative numbers.  Maybe some economic problems require the same trick.”

“Tricks” indeed – more like we’re getting suckered by con men.

Here lies the logic behind Keynesian theory – the dominant theory espoused by government economists and advisers, shoved down our collective throats in college classrooms, newspapers, and TV.  Instead of advocating responsible and sustainable practices (i.e common sense), we see them denouncing saving as “hoarding” and coming up with counter-intuitive “tricks” to “stimulate” the economy (at whose expense?).  Well, this isn’t algebra, it’s making the most rational and sustainable use out of scarce resources.

Although Mankiw seems rhetorically limber enough to put his foot inside his own mouth without our assistance, Robert P. Murphy has written an excellent response on the Mises Institute’s website that refutes much of this Keynesian nonsense.  But here’s the critical question about this plan: who would be the most affected by it? It wouldn’t be those who have power and clout; it’d be the working classes, people on fixed incomes like Social Security or pensions, students, the poorest and most disadvantaged among us.

As you increase the money supply, you lower its value, and thus prices for things like housing, gas, food, clothing, etc., have to increase accordingly to make up for that.  Even if you get an increase in wages, you’re just keeping pace with this inflation.  Indeed, real wages have stagnated for three decades (the past couple of years have seen big hits) while the top few percent have dramatically increased their wealth thanks to Uncle Sam’s economic engineering.

source:  Economic Policy Institute

source: Economic Policy Institute

When inflation’s afoot it becomes harder and less worthwhile to save up for a rainy day – or for retirement or for a house, a car, anything.  (Zimbabwe is a particularly extreme example; the country has abandoned its own currency because of its runaway inflation – at one point six months ago it cost 200 million Zimbabwean dollars to buy a loaf of bread!)  Hence working people here have to turn to gambling their money on the stock market, and be subject to its ups and downs that often seem as fickle as the weather. Hence people turn to living on their credit cards (which may already be maxed-out), incurring oppressive debt.  Hence people live a precarious paycheck-to-paycheck existence because they just can’t get ahead.  God help you if you’re a young person just starting out.

And last time I checked, most of us don’t get billion-dollar bailouts to help us out in times of crises.

Politically-connected bankers and industrialists and the military industrial complex take a small hit from inflation’s effects too, but as Murray Rothbard points out in The Case Against The Fed, they get the newly generated money and easy credit/interest rates first, before any other segments of society.  So they are the first to see the benefits, before the larger effects of these manipulations take their toll.  We hear a lot about the gap between rich and poor; those with clout and those without it.  Now you know why.

Keynesian economics pulls the rug out from under the feet of the poor and working class.  This has been obvious for decades now.  Presidents win elections by talking about the poor, even as they take advice from folks with fancy degrees, like Mankiw, who make a living suggesting that we “trick” working people into mindless consumption in order to feed Moloch.

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