Property & Addiction



- The internet addict sits at his computer. Click. A girl. Click. Another girl. Click. Click. Click. Why isn't the first good enough, why isn't the second? Why doesn't he keep looking at the same girl? Does the pleasure or whatever it is of looking wear off, like effect when taking a drug?  
- When I drink wine in a good mood I feel better. If I am in a bad mood, I feel worse. Are you the same?
- I am. 
- Being in a good mood means being normal. Creative, responsive, imaginative, pleased. You take the alteration of experience in stride. Maybe you laugh at what you're doing to yourself, maybe you take advantage of the relaxation to remember what you didn't have time for during the day. In other words, the deliberate modification of the way you experience the world is in your control. Drinking the wine makes you worse at some things and better at others, but there is nothing in it that detaches you from the world as a whole.
- And when I drink wine when I'm sad?
- You are doing something unnatural. If you are sad it is because there is something wrong that needs to be taken care of. Maybe a good sleep would do it. But if instead you drink a glass of wine, you are taking a step along the path of addiction.
- One glass of wine.
- Remember when we talked about lying*, how telling a lie makes it necessary to tell more lies to keep consistent, and how telling each new lie limits further the world you can talk about and limits how much of the world draws your attention? The boy sitting at the internet looking at pictures of girls is like you drinking wine when you're sad, or the liar forced to tell more lies with each lie he tells. The boy wants to be with a girl but is instead with a picture of a girl, You want to be happy again but instead have made yourself forget your unhappiness, the liar wants to speak the truth, because that is what language is for, but afraid to be caught in his lies he tells more lies, with the world that can be talked about shrinking to his attention more and more.
- An addict wants more and more what he can resist less and less, begins in unhappiness and goes on from there. Ok. That is what addiction is. Many people have said that. But why does someone get addicted?
- We give our sadness an unnatural treatment, aware of doing which makes us more sad, and we give ourselves again unnatural treatment... 
- The boy at the computer looks at the picture of the girl. She's really something. Then, you say, he doesn't close his computer and get up  and go out to real life but clicks again to see another girl. He does this because he felt bad looking at the first?
- Yes. Let's go back to me and my wine. If I drank knowing life was good, I'd feel good. If the boy had many friends, both girls and boys, he'd probably shut the computer and laugh about what he'd seen with them. If the boy however looks at the picture and his first response is that he'd love to laugh at what he'd seen but no one is around and he doesn't know when anyone ever will be around, he goes back to the picture as an unnatural substitute disconnected from his life as a whole. The more time spent solitary the less experience and confidence born of experience he'll have in company, and as company becomes something he doesn't know how to deal with he loses interest in it.
- The unnatural treatment works when there is some happiness to make something of it, reflect on it, incorporate it in a story. But when there is no happiness, when the forgetting is over we remember what we did to forget, we feel the unnaturalness of it, and to forget this unwelcome news we have recourse again to our drug. That makes sense. Do you know what people are saying is our biggest addiction these days?
- What?
- Business. Making money.
- Sure. Buyer and seller are enemies trying to get the better of each other. Every act of enmity in the midst of cooperative social life is unnatural. We take pleasure in the profit from the transaction, but aware of the unnaturalness don't stop when we can but go back again to money making. The only way we wouldn't be addicted to money would be if we made a habit of taking a step back in our happiness, a life not based on making money, saw what we had been doing all as some kind of joke. But the addict goes on making money, transaction by transaction treating everyone as an enemy, forgetting the misery of having to live at war with his fellow human beings in the joy of profit. When that joy fades he feels uneasy with what he's done, which has made it more difficult for him to return to the world outside money where people are not enemies. He throws himself back into money making to forget his inner uneasiness and growing disinterest in the world outside. 
- Would you say that not just making money is an addiction, but holding property itself?
- Making money is an addiction, and acquiring property is an addiction. The attachment to property itself is an addiction. Property is not sharing. Happy people share. Children share. Not sharing is unnatural. 
- You've said before ** that property was a ritual of imagination. We imagine how this and that person is impressed by our possession. When I imagine that guy over there impressed by my car, I feel safe for a moment. But then I don't really know that guy, if he is really impressed or pretending, what about that woman, yes, she'd be impressed by my car.
- We embark on this sequence of imagination because we are addicted to the idea of impressing people with our objects. We possess an identity, a social role, which like our physical possessions is also the product of addiction. An ape that makes the ugliest face, grunts louder, jumps higher scares the other apes into submission, establishes himself as master and the others as servants. All the apes stay, make and witness gestures again and again, the more frightening and the more frightened, because once they've discovered the possibility to stay securely together and continue with the unnatural repetition of the same gestures, the conditions of addiction are met. 
- Why don't the frightened apes run?
- Run from sight of their own weakness? Why, when knowing something is wrong with what is producing security is the essence of addiction. Every participant in a ritual is an addict to ritual, not just those who end up with more powerful position in a hierarchy.
- Addiction on top of everything else produces hierarchy. Our identification with our property, our mysterious attachment to things is imaginary, but at least this additional addiction produces something real, a role in a hierarchy is some kind of social act. 
- The kind that make us all unhappy because it is unnatural and sets us out to new addictions.
- What a mess.***

Further Reading:
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*** "Friendship, real esteem, and perfect confidence are banished from among men. Jealousy, suspicion, fear, coldness, reserve, hate and fraud lie constantly concealed under that boasted candor and urbanity, for which we are indebted to the enlightened spirit of the age.(Rousseau, Discourse On The Arts And Sciences)

A Spiritualist Campaigns For Congress, An Anarchist Attend



(Meeting Room, Beverly Hills City Hall, March 14, 2014)

- You're not staying for questions. You didn't like what you heard?
- Marianne Williamson is a nice woman, who knows, but what I saw in there was a politician giving a speech. Elect her to congress and she promises she'll work to get the money out of government. The people in our country aren't bad, she praises them, but the government is bad. If we work together we can change that.
- You don't agree?
- When people ask her, she said, what can we do? what hope do we have? she answers, look at the civil rights movement, the abolition movement, look at feminism, the anti-Vietnam war, all successes in full or part.
- That's right.
- No, the comparison is false. Our country is a democracy. From its beginning democracy has been the form of politics which does not express any one idea of human nature. We don't say the best people govern us, we don't say the workers govern us. Instead we say let everyone fight it out in words and ideas, and in general the results will be better than the alternatives. This is simple political theory. Do you understand?
- Yes.
- Good. From the beginning, I'm talking about Aristotle here, two and half thousand years ago, concentration of wealth was identified as the enemy of democracy. The compromise between scattered different interests breaks down when wealth forges agreements between people of different views, wanting more money being something they all have in common, buys them out and then takes control. Since the civil rights, feminist, anti-Vietnam war movements' successes the entire middle class of the United States has been wiped out. From an average net worth for an American family, the value of all their possessions if they were cashed in and all debts paid, of 170,000 dollars in the 1970s, we now have a negative average net worth, meaning the average American family has nothing, owes money, is in debt.
- Even here in Beverly Hills you can see the middle class has gone.
- Say Marianne Williamson gets elected to House of Representatives, becomes the only independent there. What do you think she can do? She says she'll call for a constitutional amendment banning the influence of money on politics. What power does she have to get the government, all the other elected and appointed officials, to listen?
- The people have the power.
- The people don't have power over those elected and appointed officials. Money has power and they don't have money. They let it be taken away from them.
- We have to do something. What's your plan then?
- Throw them all out.
- That's not realistic.
- It is realistic. Imagine that Marianne Williamson came to me and asked me what she should do when she got to Congress, since I know everything. Do you know what I'd tell her?
- What?
- I'd say, address the people of the United States in these terms: Our elected and appointed officials have been corrupted by taking bribes. I call on you, the people of the United States, to demand all elected and appointed officials resign and new elections be called. I'd have her then explain to the people the truth, that the American people can't compete, literally can't afford to bribe their elected and appointed officials to act in their interests. They have no choice but to throw them all out. That's all their budget allows.
- It will never happen.
- And there are not revolutions going on as we speak in South America and Eastern Europe? Wake up. General strikes, massive non-compliance, withdrawal of consent, they all work. Governments are overthrown. The problem I have with your Marianne Williamson is that she's not ready. You aren't either.
- Because if we got a new government it would be just like the old. Consciousness has to change. That is why people like Marianne are important.
- The consciousness of people changes when it is given a chance to change. People fighting each merely to survive are never going to be gurus on a hill. You might as well ask us to commit suicide, because that is what results from being gentle and loving in the midst of maddened beasts.
- But if your fantasy came true and the government resigned, new people were elected, they would be same people with the same low consciousness and it would be the same old story over again.
- Let's make the story even more fantastic. I'll tell you that story, then I've got to go. Politics makes me sick. Here's the story:

     'Marianne Williamson, spiritual psychotherapist and talk show regular is elected to the House of Representatives. She calls on all elected officials to resign, and new elections be held.
     All comes to pass. We get a whole new gang in office. We use existing laws of taxation and financial penalties for criminal acts to take back all the wealth stolen by those who bribed the government into eliminating the middle class. I emphasize here existing laws. No change to basic institutions, no new laws.
      Now we are back to where we left off in the 70s. We're like doctors who've cured our patient's symptoms and ask, how are we going to prevent their recurrence? We've recovered the money stolen from the middle class, and we're going to give it back to them. We're going to do it with a couple new rules.
     Marianne Williamson says she wants people to raise their consciousness. Doing yoga on a mountain top, getting Marianne to do psychotherapy on them might help. But wouldn't it be better for people's consciousness not to make them into slaves?
     The government has taxed and confiscated back from criminals the trillions of dollars stolen and uses it to guarantee everyone a place to live and food to eat forever. Forever and forever. The government, representing intelligent understanding of human nature, understands that people who have the basics in life securely taken care of prefer to do something rather than nothing. They want to work and want to work creatively. People don't need to be made into desperate killers to get them off to work and out of bed in the gutters where our present government destines them if they don't willingly enter into slavery to criminals.
      No. Our new government uses a very small amount of its new wealth to give everyone the basics of life. And then says, submit your applications. You are now all entrepreneurs. Tell us who you want to cooperate with, if anyone, and on what, and we'll hand you the money if we like your proposal. We've got lots of money! But there are two conditions. No wage slavery. Slavery destroys the spirit. Our democracy can't take it, and it makes people uncreative. Everyone has to be an equal partner. If you don't like the rule, stay at home. Sit and look out the window. We'll leave you be. If you're right that people only work under threat of death you'll be very happy.
     If you want to work together creatively and voluntarily with your fellow human beings you'll share in the results. But there's a condition here too, the second rule. There is a disease called "doing for the sake of doing", making money for the sake of making money. The corporation is an economic entity exactly defined by this disease. Doing for the sake of doing leaves out spirituality. We have learned our lesson and we can't allow that disease to return.
     We do things for a reason, a good reason. We don't do things to do things. We do things to make our lives better, love each other, love the world, be happy. If we are to prevent this disease from recurring we have to prevent people from using wealth they accumulate for the sake of accumulating more wealth.
     So the government will tax away all wealth not used, not immediately placed at the disposal of new enterprise.
     This is the government's new health regimen. We've treated the symptoms, returned the wealth to the people. We've diagnosed the disease that's been depriving the majority of people of their spirituality, making them slaves, and that's been allowing the minority of people deprive themselves of spirituality in their doing for the sake of doing.
     Outlawing employment of servants by masters, and outlawing possession of unused wealth are our two preventative measures.
     Although not completely untested - there have been large scale experimental trials - the treatment is unproven. But our choice is to do nothing, allow things to go back to how they were before, or do what we human beings do best and one way or another better our lives together.*
___________________
Anarchism is no patent solution for all human problems, no Utopia of a perfect social order, as it has so often been called, since on principle it rejects all absolute schemes and concepts. It does not believe in any absolute truth, or in definite final goals for human development, but in an unlimited perfectibility of social arrangements and human living conditions, which are always straining after higher forms of expression, and to which for this reason one can assign no definite terminus nor set any fixed goal. The worst crime of any type of state is just that it always tries to force the rich diversity of social life into definite forms and adjust it to one particular form, which allows for no wider outlook and regards the previously exciting status as finished. The stronger its supporters feel themselves, the more completely they succeed in bringing every field of social life into their service, the more crippling is their influence on the operation of all creative cultural forces, the more unwholesomely does it affect the intellectual and social development of any particular epoch. (Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism)

Questioning Property

- Property.
- Yes.
- The great problem.
- The great social problem. As a philosophical problem it is easily solved.
- Alright then.
- What we have here is the rare case where the popular perception is dead-on right.
- That we identify with our possessions.
- Meaning our possessions identify us. We identify ourselves with our possessions. We see ourselves when we look at our possession, our possessions tell us who we are.
- Because they are close to us?
- Property is something we are close to. But that's not it.
- Why not?
- Because when we feel a sense of possession and ownership it always is a claim on the future. Imagine a world where there was no one to take anything away from you. Would you look at your things in the same way?
- I'm not sure.
- In science, one thing next to another becomes known only when by experiment we can establish a law of relation between the movement of those two things. The two things just standing there have no relation.
- You think it is the same with us and our property? We have no relations to our things except in the lawful way we act with them? By law, do you mean scientific laws, or human laws?
- Human laws, including the laws of the state that tell us how to act with each other.
- What is the human law of property?
- Don't share. Now, other than science, what does this remind you of: this lawful relation of people with each other, and an emptiness of direct relationship?
- What does it remind you of?
- Ritual establishes who we are, our power in a group, by repeating the same acts in the company of others doing the same. The people are "ours" and we are our roles.
- Ok. Property is mysterious to us because it arises out of ritual, which you've explained over and over leads us to forget ourselves, forget everything outside what we do in the ritual. Right?
- Right.
- A patient tells the doctor who he is, a car tells the car owner who he is. Who is he?
- The kind of person who drives that kind of car.
- How does he know?
- He's performed his rituals in imagination with the help of advertisements.
- We don't let others touch our property because it interferes with our imaginary rituals. They are not the kind of person who has that thing, we are.
- Yes.
- And the doctor is ready to defend his Ferrari to the death because this mysterious sense of ownership has been acquired at the cost of self forgetting in ritual?
- The sense of ownership has replaced memory of all personal actions besides following the rules of the ritual. Ownership is who we are.
- By following the rules of the ritual, you mean the doctor playing by the rules, going to school, wearing the right uniforms and maintaining the right attitudes. I have this watch because it reminds me of airplane instrumentation and the idea of being that flying kind of person amuses me, and I won't let you take it from me because it then wouldn't be my story but yours. Stories are competitive?
- A doctor needs a patient to be a doctor. The doctor doesn't care about the patient, but has to have patients in order to be a doctor. The doctor is one kind of thing, his patients another. Things don't share. They have relations defined by law.
- So the doctor doesn't care about his Ferrari?
- He cares very much about the power the car has to tell him who he is. He is nothing without it and he knows it, he will fiercely defend his right to keep it. Property rights are protected by force because that is a practical necessity: exclusive use of things, not sharing things, will never be agreed to by people who have nothing. But people don't see property as unfair and made possible only by violence. Property seems to us to be a moral principle*. It tells us our relation to other people. Since we derive our sense of self from ritual in which we have forgotten our real self, without self knowledge our response to threat to property can only be violence. The irrationality and immorality of the state's recourse to violence to defend property so obviously reflects our own passion it is never questioned.
- We're questioning now.

* * *

- Say you are right. Property, what we mean by it, feel it to be, is a product of imaginary ritual. Now what? Property is not sharing. How do we share things? Do you have any idea?
- A couple years ago we were talking about sharing and we imagined this dialog:
- Give me that.
- Here. Give me that.
- You just gave it to me.
- It's better to give it to me now before you become too attached to it.
- OK. Give me that.
- OK. It is just a house.
- Thanks.
- Give me that.
- Why not? It's just a house.
Two good fellows living in the jungle. Both have nice houses made out of tree trucks and branches, and all the time in the world to get something good to eat. They aren't afraid of dying, and like to make gifts. The only thing that really could frighten them would be a life like yours and mine, to not be able to make gifts. One of them kindly hands the property rights to his house over to his friend, who asks for it, and who hands back the property rights when asked in turn. The point of the story is that each of these good fellows almost immediately comes to an obvious conclusion: Ask for something else. This for two obvious reasons: each already has a house, and each cannot get another one by asking because it will be asked back. Economic life can be rational, can have its laws, and also be human when what the human being is rationally doing is also the object of human attention and choice.

Further Reading:
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Security At A Hollywood Preview


Village Theater, Westwood, March 5, 2014

- Sir! You can't pass here. The intersection is closed.
- Everyone has to walk around the block so limos can drive up to the movie preview. Can I pass? I'm invited.
- You can pass.
- What do you think of this? All these kid trying to get to school, finding you and dozens of other guards dressed in banker's suits blocking sidewalks and streets.
- Girls! Street Closed! You have to pass on the other side.
     - Can we J-walk?
- Yes, but be careful.
- No! You girls are too small. We're instituting a height rule, drivers behind all those sport utility vehicles can't see you. Cross at the corner.
- I know this isn't the way it should be. This is my third job. I'm struggling.
- Where are you from?
- Chicago. I came here six months ago. For the first two months I slept in my car, saved up five thousand dollars so I could get an apartment. My late night job is guarding a downtown parking lot. The job is about taking care of everyone who's slipped in to sleep, I clear them out like zombies after the apocalypse. People in government think that if they raise the minimum wage to ten dollars an hour I'd be rich. I just survive. I'm thinking about going home. Go back to school, the University of Chicago.
- Good idea. Get away from here. The people in the limos will let you die without a thought. They couldn't care less about you.
- Why don't they care? What can they do with five houses, ten cars?
- Why should they care? Why should they place importance in the life of a stranger? What is it to them? Should we all care about each other?
- Hell, yes.
- Can you convince anyone of that? What would you say? You aren't part of their lives, how are you going to convince them to make you part of their lives? What have you to offer?
- I'm a human being like they are.
- Not enough.
- We live in the same society.
- Society. Once you start arguing about better and worse society you are seeing society as a thing to be made better or worse. Try to convince someone in society to make it a better thing, and you bring to mind other things that person could be making better instead. Better possessions, better protected family, etc. Why should they care about public things more than private things?
- What's the answer?
- The answer is as old as democracy itself. People don't care about a public thing called society. People get together when they see cooperation makes each individually more powerful.
- They're thinking of themselves, not society.
- Right. We're on our way to an answer. Now I'll ask you something else. Do you know what power is?
- No. Do you?
- Power comes from self observation, self knowledge. We look at what we have done in the past, put our different kinds of actions into different categories, we look at the different kinds of results also put into different categories. For Plato, the best kind of actions were those that lead you to be able to love the beautiful. It was best to teach yourself to do those things which put you in a relation to the world we call happiness, a general readiness and confidence that problems would and could be taken care within a constant appreciation of the beauty of life. The great discovery was that people gave each other the power to be happy. Conversation and cooperation taught them to love beauty.
- We shouldn't try to make society beautiful but our lives beautiful.
- It is beautiful to know the alternatives. To know that acquiring things makes you feel safe in their protection and inattentive to, sometimes even antagonist to the important things in life when choice between them becomes necessary. It is beautiful too to know that attachment to the public thing of society brings exactly the same dangers*. It is beautiful to exercise the power to chose between alternative lives based on knowing. But to someone not exercising that power of choice, to someone unacquainted with the beautiful possibilities of life, then, to get back to your question, since society is just another kind of possession it is natural that such a person prefers his own things. Let's imagine though that this person understood in theory the power that people give each other to be happy. Would he then be interested in the suffering of the unknown people around him?
- Why not?
- He doesn't need the power gained from cooperating with you. His money protects him from you and he does plenty and enough cooperation among his own people. The difference between him and you is he doesn't want to cooperate with just anyone. And in fact he doesn't really believe you do either, only circumstances force you to pretend you do. But perhaps turning his back on you harms his ability to know himself and so exercise his own power privately. Maybe in his private life he needs to be continually reminded, needs the model, the piece of art made by helping a stranger on his way to happiness. What do you think?
- Needs me for what?
- Maybe founding the power of cooperation on this division between yours and mine is no power at all.
- Why not?
- Because maybe every glance and thought of "not mine and not my problem", each act of turning away turns us back to the weaker alternative we observed when we looked at ourselves. Sets us back on the path of fearful repetition established by hiding within the same things among the same people.
- Is that true?
- We have good reason to think it is. Even a harmless lie plays havoc with memory**. If it is true then we can answer our question. We know why they don't care. They would care if they knew the danger to themselves of letting themselves not care, but once they have set down on that path of not caring they are carried away, desperately holding onto private things. Inattention and fear of the public replaces sight of the beautiful and power of cooperation. Strangers are either feared or invisible, they have nothing to offer. It is better for us to care about each other, but to care we have to know ourselves, and when we don't care, we stop knowing ourselves and can't care.
- You're a real talker. You're good, I never heard this before. Say it again.
- They don't care because they can't care, it's futile to ask them to do what they can't do.
- And they run our society.
- Ignore society. It is a question of our own power, of who we cooperate with and who we don't.

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* Danger of totalitarianism. See: How To Read Plato's Republic

One Dollar Ninety Buys A Lot In Beverly Hills





- How are you today?
- Not good.
- Sorry to hear that.
- Hearing that upsets me more.
- Why?
- You appear to be my friend but you steal from me.
- I don't steal from you.
- Your company does.
- Calm down. What seems to be the problem?
- AT&T is trying to steal $1.90 from me. That was the credit I had in my account. I bought the credit here. No one warned me that unused credit would be confiscated by AT&T after 30 days.
- Those are the terms.
- You say now they are the terms. I don't accept them. I want the $1.90 you stole.
- Politeness will get you much further.
- Won't get me what I want, which is to discredit your politeness.
- Would you prefer I wasn't polite? Where would that get you?
- We'd be able to talk about your company pretending to be my friend but the moment my back is turned inventing a policy that allows it to pounce on my money.
- This is about $1.90. If I give you a refund in that amount will that make you happy?
- Very happy.
- Give me your telephone number.
- Will this take long?
- Are you trying to provoke me?
- Not any more. What's going out out there on the street?
- It's a No Parking zone in front of the store. We have a good relation with the city. 
- I bet. While we've been talking that Mercedes pulled up to the curb, the city of Beverly Hills' guy on the bike arrived in seconds, wrote him a ticket, gave the order to drive on. The Mercedes drove around the block and parked here again. 
- We called parking enforcement. We always do.
- The guy in the Mercedes doesn't seem to care much about paying a fine. What's that car cost? $100,000? $200,000? He probably owns stock in your company.  How's my refund coming?
- Sign here. That is one dollar., 25 cents, 25 cents, 25 cents, 10 cents, and five. Happy now?
- Sure. I win. 
- Have a nice day.

Some Plain Words About Evil




- Can you do me a favor?
- I'll try.
- I was told there's a car paid for in my name at Hollywood Honda. All I have to do is pick it up.
- Who told you that?
- A man on the street.
- Someone you asked for money?
- Yes. I see him every day.
- Does he know your name?
- I don't know.
- Did you tell him your name? I don't know your name.
- Can you look up the phone number anyway?
- Sure. Come to Starbucks with me for the wifi.
- Don't you have a phone?
- I told you last time I'm the poorest man in Beverly Hills.
- Are you still writing? Doesn't anyone pay you?
- No. Why should they?
- You just have to ask. That's how I got the car.
- "How you got the car." You really think there's a car waiting for you?
- You are the one who told me to ask for things.
- I remember. I said as long as you were going to spend all day standing on the street you'd be better off asking for a car than a couple of bucks. So you actually did it. I'm impressed.
- You should try it yourself. Your writing can't be that bad. What are you writing about anyway?
- Today? I'll write about evil.
- Do you think the man who told me he bought a car for me is evil?
- Should I give you my short lecture on evil? Or do you have to work?
- So many people ask for money in Beverly Hills. I make two dollars an hour. When I get two dollars I go into Rite Aid and buy a two dollar beer. I end up with nothing.
- I see. That's how you got that red face.
- Don't make fun of me.
- I wouldn't dare. So you don't have any money then?
- I have twenty dollars. I was walking in the alley way looking in the garbage containers and two guys from a reality show paid me.
- For what?
- To be pepper sprayed. I wouldn't let them spray me on the face.
- Good for you. The BattleCam* people the next street over, on Canon, right?
- Yes.
- We're on topic, then. Evil. Ever thought what evil is?
- No.
- I'll tell you. Evil is acting against our own good nature and being rewarded for it by the group we participate in.
- Is that the kind of thing you write?
- You see why I don't have a car.
- But you live somewhere. Where do you live? In Beverly Hills?
- With the Guru.
- Who?
- Another time.
- What about all the crazy psychopaths out there? How are they evil?
- They construct a group in imagination in which their role is the most powerful. If you kill someone the question of whose role is more powerful has be decided. Now this is where things become interesting. If we can blame people for actions only for which they are individually responsible we can never blame people for evil. They are never responsible, by definition. Evil is being dictated to by a group.
- Then what are we supposed to do?
- In theory, understand evil and be sure we don't act against ourselves for the sake of conformity to our group. In practice we can't do much of anything.**
- Why not?
- Because every time we buy or sell something and as buyer and seller try to get the better of each other we commit evil. We deny our natural good natured wish to like and cooperate for the sake of advantage from trading according to group defined rules.
- I like your idea. We aren't violent when we buy and sell things but we're evil anyways. I've always thought something was wrong. You don't think there's a car in my name at Hollywood Honda? You think the man was just being evil? Should I give up hope?
- Well I'm the one who said ask for a car. We can't accept the evil people do, we can't blame them for it, all we can do is try to be ourselves.

Further Reading: 
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** Retribution for evil in any case doesn't require our concern: as evil cannot be loved, penalty is automatic. 

Robots At The Market



- Want your check-out at Rite-Aid to be more interesting? Leave the machine. Come with me.
- Where?
- To the register. Come on. I'm going to ask a question.
- Please, M'dame, wait behind the white line.
- Don't mind her. She's my audience.
- Rite Aid card?
- First I want you to do something for me: Prove You Are Not A Robot.
- What?
- You know how sometimes when you try to sign into a social media account a box appears ordering you to "prove you are not a robot? Have you ever stopped to think that it is a robot asking you to prove you are not a robot? And do you realize that you prove you are not a robot by acting exactly like a robot, copying a meaningless series of numbers and letters? So I ask you, a mere human being asking a human being, prove you are not a robot, by acting like a human being.  Notice her silence, her confusion.
- How is she supposed to prove she's human?
- Being confused is a good start. You can get back in line now. No. Stick around. I asked this stupid question because I've just come from Trader Joes, across the street. That's the market owned by a German conglomerate that employs Latin Americans to pretend to be South Sea Islanders. I returned a stale loaf of bread I'd just bought, was told by the cashier to see the manager, who gave me a voucher and sent me back to the cashier, who rang a bell calling the manager back to approve the voucher. I asked the cashier if she didn't think this was a little more complicated than necessary, and asked why they stopped allowing cashiers to take returns.
- We never took returns.
- How long have you worked here?
- Three and a half years.
- Well, in that time I've been given refunds many times by cashiers.
- That has never been our policy.
- Are you saying that I've imagined it happening?
- Is there anything else I can do for you?
- We can't both be right. Tell me which of us is right. Do that for me.
- Enjoy the rest of your day.
A while back there was a famous experiment in which a human being asked questions and both a human being and several computers responded. One computer was so good it was chosen as more human than the human. Do you how it was programmed?
- How?
- By having a memory filled with actual human conversations. When in the experiment a human asked a question, the program found that question or similar one in its memory and gave the corresponding recorded human response. Because of stage fright, or the recorded conversations the computer used were exceedingly human, or some other factor, human answerers couldn't come up to the standard of the recorded conversations.
- The girl at Trader Joes was doing what the winning computer did, pulling up response to frequently asked questions?
- Yes. And do you know what is even more interesting?
- What?
- I'm sure she judged her responses more human than mine.

Freedom & Property


- Is freedom the right to use property as you wish, or something else?
- Like what?
- To do something worth doing, for example. The problems with freedom defined as the right to dispose of property is that it cannot be a moral principle.
- Why not?
- Moral principles are universal. What applies to you also must apply to me. But if you own everything and I nothing, and you offer me food in exchange for being your slave, I cannot reasonably accept the property right you claim. You'll need threat of force to compel my acceptance. That's the first problem.
- What's the second?
- Once property is unequally distributed, it tends to get more unequal. Wealth is used to influence the government to lower taxes, allow speculation and permit monopolies to be formed. To stop this from happening requires a very intrusive government.*
- Which limits property rights!
- Exactly.
- What's the alternative?
- To make a starting point where the right to property leaves off: equal distribution of wealth. Make this a principle which, unlike the right to property, is universal, so qualifies as an ethical principle.
- But what difference does that make, to end with an ethical principle or begin with one?
- When you end with the principle, you have built on the threat of violence a coercive state that enforces the principle by threat of violence.
- When it is possible simply to begin with the ethical principle which can potentially be universally agreed to. That's an example of what you mean, the other kind of freedom, to do something worth while.
- We choose between two conceptions of freedom, one founded on the threat of force, the other on an idea of what is a good way to live.

On Moral Principles, see Security At A Hollywood Preview
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* Why lessen income inequality? Bribery of the government, speculation, and monopoly result in the poor having less money to buy things and the rich not investing in producing new things. A vicious cycle results of more unemployment, lower sales, reduced production. For the rich economic depressions of low production and consumption are intervals of profit taking. The market is cleared as small businesses fail, and foreclosed property may be cheaply acquired. With this profit taking comes a danger of social revolution. Though social disruption, like economic disruption, can also be a period of opportunity, with social repression creating market openings by making business hazardous to all those without money to buy the protection of the forces of order, when those who bribe the government consider this too risky, for the time being to be avoided, they take measures to lessen income inequality. (Further Reading: Bloomberg Reports Wall Street Speculators Buying Up Foreclosed Houses Lost In Crash They Caused)