The Interrelated Failings of the Free Market and Free Speech

purelyspeculation‘Freedom’.

It has been the go-to battle-cry for every side in most any debate. It’s a trump card to call upon when logic fails—a tacit threat laid down gauntlet-like in order to challenge the values of an opponent when one cannot intelligently defend their own.

Right-wingers, left-wingers, libertarians, economists, racists and fanatics—all will appeal to the defense of their freedom when all else fails.

Fools, one and all.

We explored the topic of freedom recently in our article ‘Libertarians are Starry-Eyed Idealists’ (Link). At that time, we talked about the definition of freedom, and the counter-productive and false narrative of ‘unlimited freedom’. Today, we will explore our assumptions about the realities of freedom in two of the places it is most ubiquitously championed: the market, and the media.

‘The Free Market’. You can just feel your heart swell at the very mention of it. It’s like a unicorn in that way. That way—and that it’s entirely imaginary. The model of a free market describes a situation in which all can compete to buy and sell goods at the best possible prices. Products compete against each other as well—with the greatest value winning out in the hearts of consumers. It allows for flourishing competition, and inspires the best from all who participate.

It’s a wonderful dream, but little more at this point. The markets we have now are not free in any defensible sense—they are controlled by enormous corporations who funnel money upwards to their owners at the expense of affordability, quality, and consumer safety.

They are far too big to ‘compete’ against any tiny upstart with a head full of decency and common sense. They buy and sell market rights, strangle out competition, and throw down patents as defensive bolsters against growth and ease of access. There is no freedom or competition—only the surreptitious motives of greed and dominance. Prices for medications are needlessly inflated, housing markets are intentionally crashed, banks prey on the ill-informed, and corporations use their power to change laws in their favour and dodge enough taxes to wildly improve the state of the nation for all. The rich get richer, the poor stay in servitude.

So much for a free market then.

So how about the media? Surely this bastion of free knowledge, this fountain of informed citizenry has some tangible claim to freedom?

Sadly, not so.

As discussed in Sheldon Wolin’s (Link) impeccable book ‘Democracy Incorporated’, the media has followed a similar trend to the market.

In the past, ideas functioned much as they did in a truly ‘free’ marketplace. Many ideas were circulated, and the ‘best’ (as defined by open and informed discussion) became the most ubiquitous and popular. But in a world where media messages are controlled by the same mega-corporations which control our markets, the corporations are the ‘sellers’ of ideas, and we the consumers can only choose from the prescribed ideas they are willing to sell us—just like the current marketplace.

We see it everywhere—from the crooked nature of the 2 party political system, to the subversion of dissent via thousands of media companies being owned by only 6 corporations (Source). It is the death knell of free-thought. Ideas and options—from what laundry soap to buy to who to vote for in a general election—all fall within the pre-defined scope chosen by the corporations which have seized control of our marketplaces, our media, and our political system.

These multi-national corporations are the sole, uniquely ‘free’ participants in our society, and use this to put constraints on every system they see fit. Each of these effects the other—we are less informed (thus less able to vote), and more desperate (thus more eager to spend).

It all falls together quite nicely—it’s an effective market, even if it’s a far cry from free.

In book two of ‘The Analects’ (Link), Confucius speaks about rightful duty in governing people—stating that only a government which promotes and models good conduct and duty can ever expect to have loyal citizens. Surely, our current government can boast of having none of these.

We are left to fend for ourselves against powerful parties that would see us starve if it served to increase their bankrolls. Governments and corporations have merged—and the leadership of the people is no longer administered by informed citizens with nobles intentions, but rather by the whim of the rich and powerful—motivated only to increase those traits at all costs.

This must be remedied.

Freedom can only come when the people of the world take back the power which has been denied to them. To put in place good and honest leaders who seek the betterment of society as a whole is the only means of fighting back. We need not greed, but charity. Not a hunger for power, but a love of peace. Not clever deals, but honest intentions.

Then, and only then, can we hope to call ourselves free.

-Brad OH Inc.

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Libertarians are Starry-Eyed Idealists

purelyspeculationFreedom is often lauded as the most integral value of any developed nation. In fact, the notion of the ‘free world’ does much to inform us of the fundamental value that we place on personal liberty, and well it should. Freedom is among the key human rights, but it must be pointed out that at times, people get a little bit carried away with their interpretation of what exactly ‘freedom’ entails.

One need not wade too far into the depths of social-media to find the rants and raves of disenfranchised citizens so bitter about a parking ticket, or a sales-tax, or perhaps a pesky ‘no-loitering’ sign, that they’re ready to hoist the black flags and hop aboard the good ship ‘Anarchy’.

‘Freedom’, they will argue, is the birthright of man—the inalienable and righteous destiny of all people brave enough to seek it! But there are sorry few building their own boats to follow this urge, and fewer still running off to the lonely mountains to live a ‘free’ life. I suppose it’s an easy thing to moan about the comfortable confines of society as you daydream about weening yourself off its teat, but it does beg the question of what exactly true ‘freedom’ is, and if it can exist at all.

I would argue that perfect freedom is an illusion—a starry-eyed dream more befitting whatever afterlife you prefer than the life you live. In fact, I believe that power and control are unavoidable, and there is no conceivable ‘system of naught’ sufficient to maintain the vacuous void left if all authority is stripped away.

Perfect freedom would mean no laws, no control, no taxes—but it would accordingly mean no safety, no opportunity, and no infrastructure. In our article ‘On the Concept of Society’ (Link) we discussed how a society is the product of all its members, past and present. That remains entirely true. Society has never been about freedom—if anything that is the antithesis of society. In truth, ‘society’ is meant to be a foundation of cooperation among its citizens.

In the societal sense then, total freedom—much like anarchy—is a myth. It may perhaps exist for a single person, but once a second person enters the picture, the illusion will die. Power hierarchies will be formed, and one’s wishes will ultimately infringe upon the freedom of the other. We are not free to kill for the very reason that we do not wish to be freely killed. The same applies to property rights, safety issues, and so on. While loitering laws may perhaps be a hard concept to defend (Black Flags ahoy!), the need for a significant proportion of civil laws can be most easily discerned by asking oneself not ‘do I wish to follow this’ but ‘do I wish for others to follow this’.

Those who support total anarchy then, are either misunderstanding the basic tenets of life, suffering from a sadomasochistic urge to regress back to the days of pre-tribal man, or simply mad.

Libertarians, on the other hand, may accept some laws, while rejecting the notion of many others. This rejection most often applies to rules around the free-market. However, as we have already established that a power-void cannot remain unfilled, we should have little trouble applying this observation to the marketplace as well.

If you wander into the woods, claim them as your own, and insist on living a lawless life, it may prove less glamourous than you imagine—especially when the next lawless rogue shows up to strangle you in your sleep and make off with your supplies. So much for freedom!

The marketplace is little different. Without control, corporations are wont to seize public goods and resources, create monopolies, underpay workers, and wreak general havoc however they please. People will starve, or toil like slaves—yet this will be defended and redefined as the justly exercised freedom of those very corporations. In truth, this notion of marketplace-freedom is no better than economic anarchy—and its supposed virtue quickly diminishes as the strongest take control and run our system like a tyrannical oligarchy. Meanwhile, the citizens cheer blindly about the merits of freedom.

To claim to be an anarchist or full-on libertarian is naïve, and the ultimate result is little different from the sort of systemic madness we have now. Freedom has been given out too freely—sadly, only to the corporations at the head of the markets, and rarely to the citizens. The powerful will always feed upon the less powerful, and this is a demonstrable loss of freedom for the latter.

In order to have liberty for ourselves, there must at the very least be laws restricting others from infringing on that liberty. Anything less would be Mad Max-style anarchy. Control is needed, and must be imposed justly. As discussed in our article ‘On the Fear of Big Government’ (Link), the ultimate purpose of government is to ensure that the power which inevitably arises is a fair and just one.

This must not be taken to mean that I believe the current governments of the world are doing much to uphold these standards—indeed there is a great need for improvement on nearly all fronts. Simply put however, the raging masses squalling for ‘total liberty’—or its ugly cousin ‘anarchy’—are naïve at best. The line between liberty and domination is a difficult one to draw. If drawn too close to total freedom, a void arises, and we end up dominated. It’s circular in a sense, and requires an insightful and informed balance. This is the purpose of society and the governments which it employs, and we must pay heed to avoid being so brash as to throw the baby of equal opportunity out with the bathwater of social order.

-Brad OH Inc.

Ruminations of an Aspiring Super-Villain

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

I’ve had a pretty good life. As I look back, it’s all but impossible for me to deny it—I’ve been blessed. Of all the lives people lead, and all the myriad strokes of luck one might receive in birth, I really hit the figurative jackpot. I was born in a thriving nation, and into a loving family. I received a great education, have had no significant problems with my health, and have experienced absolutely no legitimate tragedies in my life.

Yeah, it’s enough to really piss a guy off.

As I think back on it, I’ve got to say it’s a bit unfair. So many potential catastrophes could have befallen me…and yet I come up short in every imaginable scenario that could have contributed to true greatness.

I’ve never fallen into a vat of radioactive chemicals. I’ve never been left an orphan with an inexhaustible inheritance. Hell, I’ve never even been the sole surviving member of a once proud race!

Holy hell, what’s a guy gotta do to catch a break? I mean, it would be nice to have some excuse to go ballistic and begin pursuing merciless world domination, don’t you think? But without a tragic origin story, doing so just makes you an asshole.

I feel like I’ve waited long enough. When do I get my chance to enslave the human race with a mind controlling radio-wave? And commanding an army of zombie-bears from the back of a T-Rex? Forget about it!

The factory in my town could have easily blown up, sending toxic gasses cascading down upon my home. I would have awoken in a post-apocalyptic hell, with nothing of my former life left, and only a painful cough to remind me of all I’d lost. But no, I guess that would be asking a bit much. So now, when I fantasize about creating a computer virus that turns the screens of all world-bank computers into scenes from ‘Where’s Waldo’ while channelling all extant wealth into my own offshore account—I just feel crazy.

With no heart-wrenching past to be angsty about, it’s pretty tough to be a maniac.

‘Oh Brad,’ you might say, ‘you can be anything you want if you just put your mind to it.’ Well to that I say you’d better check your damn privilege. Maybe you were wrongfully detained by law-enforcement while your family was burned before your eyes—but not everyone had villainy just handed to them on a silver platter.

Even if I wanted to launch a satellite full of dangerous pathogens into space, and hold the earth’s population hostage for enormous amounts of money, I would at the very least have needed to lose control of the majority of my body due to some biochemical accident in a forgotten Slavic town. But alas, I was raised happy and healthy.

Really, I’ve got to say there’s a disturbing sense of entitlement among the world’s evil-doers. You parade around wreaking havoc and causing general disarray, without even thinking about those of us who are cursed with being well-adjusted citizens. If I’m being honest, it makes me sick.

Whatever. Fuck it. I guess I’ll just do my job, and hang out with my friends, and all that other ‘normal’ stuff. But the next time you villains decide you’re going to poison the water supply with DNA-altering substances in order to sell the cure to the highest bidder, you’d damn well better consider reaching out. Otherwise, if ever a stray meteor wipes out my nation and leaves me charged with electrical powers but lacking all memory; struggling for years and barely clinging to life until finally raising myself up stronger, harder, and with an undying thirst for vengeance—you’d better look out!

Sooner or later, I will experience hardship; and when that day does come, those of you who’ve hoarded all the suffering to yourselves while leaving the rest of us to toil in tepid normalcy will have your reckoning. When you’re sitting comfortably in your lairs, stroking your Persian cat and watching the news on your wall-monitor, and you hear about me creating a mad cross-breed of giraffes and sharks, then turning the abominable creatures lose on Wall St.—then you’ll see my true potential.

Hard times and trauma are not a gift to be taken lightly. So appreciate what you’ve got, and hold on to that top spot while it lasts. Because let’s face it; I’m just one ‘wife-kidnapped by government agents in a terrible case of mistaken identity’ away from joining you on that mountain of chaos and lunacy. And when I do, you’ll wish you’d been more inclusive to those deprived of trauma in our formative years.

Just you wait…

-Brad OH Inc.

Embrace the Security State

cropped-blogbanner1.jpgHere at Brad OH Inc., we are acutely aware of the ongoing concerns over government infringements on personal security (Link). At an ever increasing rate, governments are worming their ways into our homes, businesses, and private lives—all in the almighty name of security.

While these government intrusions into public life are most often done under the broad banner of national security, this isn’t the case for all instances of data theft. Next time you’re browsing through your favourite social media sources, take some time to observe the side-bar of advertisements tailor-made for you based on websites you’ve recently visited or items you’ve considered buying. This is all possible through the ability of the current website to read your browsing history and sell it to advertisers.

And why not? No one reading this right now has the ability to protect themselves from international killers any more than they have the clairvoyance to choose what to buy for themselves. No matter whether we’re discussing terrorism, cyber-security, or consumer habits, it’s foolhardy to deny that without corporations, we are as helpless and exposed as fish in a barrel—or the ocean at the very least.

It’s inevitable that we rely on corporations for these fundamental needs, just as we rely on them for everything else: the building of infrastructure, the shaping of our society, and the social stratification of our population. So let’s take a moment to calm down, cause I’ve seen a lot of griping going on about the notion of the government and corporations perusing through our personal data in order to serve us better.

At Brad OH Inc., we suggest you give up this tired charade. Safety, privacy, and advertisements are better left to those who know how to run things. Worrying is for the birds, and in our humble opinions, the only action left to your sorry lot is to relax and accept the inevitable. After all, be it civil liberty or private data, the only real way to protect what you own is to own nothing at all!

Maybe this notion seems hostile to you? Maybe you’re the sort that easily set off by trifling abdications of liberty? I’m sorry to tell you, but you’re entirely wrong her. Consider this: if you don’t like what you’re reading right now, maybe it’s your own fault. After all, if we here at Brad OH Inc. had the level of access to your personal lives and information that the government and other corporations do, we could happily go out of our way to ignore reality and write up just about anything you wanted to hear.

…Just like they do.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Global Scale

purelyspeculationYou may have noticed that here at Brad OH Inc., we tend to cover a lot of issues centering on the politics of the good old U.S. of A. Now, this shouldn’t be overly surprising, as we’re really only following the lead of the news world at large, but an interesting fact is that we are in fact based out of Canada. Now, undoubtedly we’ll eventually relocate to a more convenient tax haven—the Canary Islands perhaps (Source)—but until then we are firmly entrenched here in the great white north.

Given this consideration then, why do we tend to cover so many American issues? Well, the quickest answer is that American issues are world issues, plain and simple. The issue of Corporate Imperialism is a global one, and while many of the relevant stories are centered in America, it is in no way defined by national boundaries. In fact, many of the crucial concerns we have right now with global politics revolve around the obfuscating and intentional subversion of national boundaries.

American Imperialism is nothing new. Under the governing principle of ‘Manifest Destiny’, America has spent its entire existence working to expand its global influence (Source). Now this article is not about American Imperialism per say, but focusses instead on the ways in which the subversive corporate process tends to seize control of not only single governments, but entire global systems.

In ‘Democracy Incorporated’, Sheldon S. Wolin (Link) describes this process as one of ‘Inverted Totalitarianism’. As greater and greater leeway is made for corporations to expand, it becomes easier and easier for such exceptions to be made. The civil ruling in the case of Citizens United (Source) saw corporations legally defined as persons, and their use of money in politics was defined as protected under the freedom of speech amendment.

This allows for corporations to spend unlimited sums of money to fund lobbyists and special interest groups which can affect the political process—thereby ensuring the passing of further laws designed to benefit the corporations while damning the rest of us.

With the power allotted to them, corporations, both American based and otherwise—an especially tricky notion to even define given the ongoing ability for corporations to take advantage of ‘Corporate Inversion’ loopholes, changing the legal base of their operation in order to avoid paying taxes (Source)–can exploit overseas markets to take advantage of indecent foreign labour laws and low wages. This takes jobs out of local economies, while reinforcing a split world notion of what’s good for us is too good for them.

This issue is conflated by political embargoes on trade, such as that placed upon Cuba. Further, because of the global impact of corporate power, laws passed in American court rooms inevitably affect the rest of the world as well. Consider climate change for instance. Here, American courts can pass laws governing the environmental impact of the corporations operating within them, even though these laws ultimately affect the world as a whole. Another easy and timely example of this is the issue of net neutrality (Source).

Meanwhile, the power afforded to lobbyists and the open door between corporate firms and government positions, allows corporate pressures in Washington to go so far as to effect war time policy; destabilizing foreign governments in order to ‘crack open’ new markets.

Clearly then, while the basis of much of what we read in the news is centered in the U.S.A., the system is ubiquitous, and defies any conception of national boundaries.

Neither is this an issue to be solved by American politics. In the same way that the effects of this system have spread to the entirety of the globe like a contagion unchecked, so too is the solution beyond the voting power of the American electorate.

This is not an issue of one misguided leader or party, and therefore the solution will not come from the other misguided leader or party. It is not a calculated, intentional process made by a cartel of greedy and deeply informed plutocrats—although there has undoubtedly been plenty such deals made along the way.

The process leading us here was an understandable though unjustifiable series of small exceptions. It can be thought of as tantamount to favours between friends; ‘well I usually wouldn’t do this, but…’ is the mentality driving it. Politicians accept huge sums of money from their corporate lobbyists, and then pass bills to support them. Few of them, with the exception of the above mentioned Citizens United, have been terrible to the ‘man who sold the world’ extent, but their cumulative effect certainly is. The unnatural coupling of unchecked capitalist ambition with backdoor political deregulations has spawned a new and terrible sort of brute.

Corporate Imperialism is an infectious and wild beast, reared on its own legal momentum, and driven by the cumulative greed of all the snakes writhing at its rotten breast. The ceaseless need for expansion will continue to push the boundaries of what is legally excusable, all the while reinforcing the western world in their role as exploiters, and relegating all the rest to the forgotten underclass of the forgettable exploited.

This is not a political viewpoint or ideology, but an unintentional by-product of ongoing mistakes. It is self-perpetuating, growing cancer-like with utter disregard for consequences. It is the fetishization of money, and money acting with its own power to expand its reach. Greed is the engine behind this, and a system which allows greed to change its workings in favour of its own expansion that has allowed the situation to get to where it’s at.

This is why when I write about America, I’m not writing about the country as a singular problem, but rather the resulting corporate contagion that’s dominating global politics.

In conclusion, let it be known that the mission of Brad OH Inc. is in no way meant to be interpreted as Anti-American. No, we are anti-world at this point, and underlying all is the fundamental belief that greed and self-service shall not be the driving factors in globalization. Equality, decency, and the betterment of humanity are the platforms we are interested in, and if that rings as starry-eyed idealism to you, you might do well to put some serious consideration into the alternatives (Link).

The change that’s needed is not a new political party in America or elsewhere, it’s a global revolution.

-Brad OH Inc.