Puncturing the Cynicism of Our Age

The motivations of any professional include supporting themselves and their family. In being drawn to a new career in hypnotherapy, I am somewhat unique at HMI in that I have no dependents, and no expectations that I will have a comfortable retirement. In contrast, many of my peers-in-training are openly concerned about financial success, and some among the instructors project aspirations of personal wealth.

The conversation I walked into during workshop break went a little farther than that. Three students and the facilitator were agreeing that “you can talk about love, but ultimately everything is about money.” I guess that my reaction was incongruous, for they all turned to look at me. I tried to soften the pregnant silence with a jocular “Speak for yourself!”

The retort came from the man lazing in the recliner on the stage. I had to turn to see the subtle smirk on his face after he said “It’s all about money to you, too.” I tilted my head to the side in a manner that I am certain appeared calculating, and he reiterated his assertion. Stepping closer to him, I firmly asserted “You don’t tell me what I think.”

Turning back to the astonished triad, I explained:

“It’s all about power. There are two kinds of power: some power you can store – that’s what money is, in fact, a way of storing power. And there’s another kind – the kind that has to be about the world doing work. In my experience of life, there’s far more of the second kind of power than there is of the first.

“And that is why I love unconditionally: because I like to see power at work.”

The other students opened their mouths, but the facilitator closed the conversation with “Very well put, Brian.”

Hogg takes The Hill

The death-lobby mouthpieces in the media continue to test the waters of public tolerance for attacks on the children trying to curtail the ever-increasing frequency of attacks in our public schools. Laura Ingraham on FOX News (the senility network) lost a number of advertisers when she took on Chris Hogg, the most vocal of the Parkland survivors. She was forced to retract her comments, citing “the spirit of Easter.”

But it doesn’t stop there. The Hill has published a criticism of Hogg’s exhortation for others to support the boycott of Ingraham. Saying that it “sets a dangerous precedent” in attempting to destroy Ingraham’s career, The Hill continues with assertions from a Parkland “2nd Amendment Rights” supporter that Hogg was being manipulated by the liberal media, and warns that Hogg’s continued advocacy makes him fair fodder for the kinds of destructive propaganda normally reserved to adults.

So first to Ingraham: there is a God. As evidenced in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, he strongly favors renunciation of violence. He sent me to Parkland to shower love upon the survivors. And if losing your fat paycheck (not at all equivalent to losing your career) is an unenviable prospect, in invoking “the spirit of Easter” to cover your toadying to Death and his minions, you are placing at risk your soul.

This extends to the rest of Death’s propaganda machine. You may be a distributed pustule uncontrolled by any political agenda or leader, but you are seen by God, and you will find yourself unable to enter heaven with those that fight for love.

And, again and again, as many times as it takes: you are beloved, my fair warriors for love. Hogg, Gonzalez: your courage in the face of evil is admirable, and will be rewarded.

Christian Tax Policy

Here’s the prescription:

  1. Progressive corporate tax to punish monopolies and foster small business formation.
  2. Value-added tax to soften the transition to automation of work.

What follows motivates the prescription.

As a Christian, it is hard for me to focus on money. It’s not that I don’t understand economic and financial theory, it’s just that money isn’t important to the ends that I pursue. I seek, through this blog and other work, to heal the confusion that poisons our relationship with the Most High. That’s a difficult problem, demanding the fullest commitment of my energies.

As I told my sons in their formative years: “Money is a way of storing power. For those that commit all of their power to solving difficult problems, there is nothing left to store.”

Jesus warned us that “You cannot serve two masters…No man can love both God and money.” Therefore, in seeking to transform our relationship with the Most High, we do need to understand money, because it is a principle source of resistance to the rule of love. People that desire money desire it because the are selfish, and as I have explained out at Love Returns, selfishness is the opposite of love.

We have two looming disasters in our economy. The first is the destruction of the middle class by the richest members of our society, people such as Rupert Murdock and Peter Thiel that have no compunction about using their wealth to fund propaganda machines that demonize government. The second is the loss of blue-collar jobs, accessible to those with high-school diplomas, to automation.

The exploitation of resources has always been a foundational principle of American politics. Elected our first president, George Washington complained that he spent all of his time as a promoter of business opportunities in the nation’s undeveloped lands. That practice is enshrined in most of our state constitutions, where the first priority in land use policy is economic. At the federal level, conservation policy has limited the most brutal forms of resource exploitation.

Contract law provides a legal framework for exploitation of the last great resource: human potential. In the “Land of the Free,” the ability to enter into economic contracts is one of our most honored acts, though paradoxically it places us under the heavy hand of law enforcement when we have disputes. It is this that is decried in Revelation 13:18:

so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark – the name of the beast or the number of its name.

Murdock, Thiel, and their ilk know that they have attained wealth only through exploitation of investments made by others – investments accrued over millions of man years of public education and government-funded research, and trillions of dollars of infrastructure investment. Their attempts to limit their obligation to “pay it forward” are driven by greed.

Not being limited any longer by prudence or compassion, this class seeks economic dominance in their various industries. Concentration of industrial power is visible in all industries. It was decried as monopoly in the late 1800’s, and defense against it was established through the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act and the Federal Trade Commission. Those tools have become blunted in the last twenty years because trade has become multinational. Facebook and Google, the information service monopolies of our era, are not disciplined because they are American monopolists. The European Commission sees them as adversaries, of course, and Google, for one, is facing some large fines for monopoly conduct. But it’s not limited to high-tech: concentration is growing in telecommunications and financial services.

Fortunately, monopoly has one clear indicator: huge profits. In the personal tax code, we recognize that those making the most money also benefit most from public services, and tax them accordingly. We should do the same in corporate taxation. While large corporations use their market position to reap huge profits, it is small businesses that generate new opportunities and new jobs. We should reward them for their efforts. We need a progressive corporate tax code.

The middle class is not only being squeezed by monopoly pricing, it is being gutted by automation. Jobs are disappearing, and fast. On the immediate horizon is the loss of almost two million blue-collar jobs as shipping moves to self-driving trucks. But we see this throughout America: even as wages rise overseas, making local production competitive again, the factories that we are building use a fraction of the employees needed by their predecessors. All the material manipulation and most of the assembly is done by machines.

The factor that drives this investment is payroll reduction. A robot is a fixed-cost investment, does not ask for higher wages, and is subsidized by capital equipment tax write-offs. They are also far more precise in their work, yielding higher-quality goods that are preferred by consumers.

The replacement of taxed payroll expenses with tax-free capital equipment investment also hobbles government by restricting tax revenues. Clearly, our workforce needs new skills. Our youth are provided those skills for free by pubic education, but those skills no longer guarantee lifetime employment. People need to learn throughout their lives.

Employers, of course, don’t want to pay for that investment, because it creates opportunities for their best people to take positions elsewhere. So – as predicted by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations – the tendency of corporations is to exploit workers until they can be replaced by machinery, and then to cast them aside.

Smith defined the theory of capitalism, and his prescription was simple: governments must tax businesses to provide workers opportunities to retrain when they are replaced by equipment. Governments starved of tax revenues by automation can’t provide that service, which means that America’s human capital is now going to waste.

The solution comes to us from policy-makers confronting outsourcing of jobs: in Europe, companies were caught out selling products “Made in England” that were assembled from parts produced overseas in low-wage markets. To limit that incentive, a “value-added tax” was created. VAT charges a tax on companies reflecting the increase in their wealth as materials move through a system to create a finished product.

While this didn’t prevent jobs from going overseas, it did ensure that government revenues were maintained to support retraining and job placement services. If applied to goods shipped into our lucrative consumer market, it is also a reasonable way to limit the social costs of overseas production by countries that choose to exploit both labor and the environment. If a car made in South Korea for $2000 and sold in South Korea for $6000 enters the American market to be sold for $20,000, well the South Korean manufacturer should pay a VAT when that product is unloaded at Los Angeles.

Curating the Treasure

I was at Barnes & Noble yesterday afternoon, plowing through the examples in Troelson’s Pro C#, and a large gentleman waved his derriere in my face as he sat down at the adjoining table. I kept my head in the work, but he interrupted to offer “Sorry to stick my butt in your face like that.” I responded, “It happens,” and kept on grinding.

The place began to thin out at five, so I shifted to the counter against the wall, as the tall chairs allow me to open up my abdomen and breath. He followed a few minutes later, actually pointing out that he was following me. Trying to make it clear that I wasn’t avoiding him, I explained that I preferred the bar seats.

What followed was one of these interesting negotiations that I recognize as attempts by concerned spirits to engage with the work that I do. I remarked that I had noticed his interest in cosmology (he had been perusing a shelf copy of Hawkings’ A Brief History of Time). Through a process of disconnected association – in which the same words were repeated with different meanings – he revealed that he held a patent on a new electrical motor drive method.

Along the way came this story of how he had found a card for a $10,000 invitational for venture capital funding. He thought that was an interesting message from the universe, but when he called the number on the card, the responder just hung up again and again. Not to be deterred, he went to his Ninja master who advised him to print a fake business badge and gain entry to the venue on the pretext of inspecting the air conditioning. Changing clothes after entry, he made his way to the meeting. Identifying a British peer among the investors, he waited at the exit as the body guards passed before reaching out suddenly to grab his hand.

Intrigued by this intervention, the peer invited him to have lunch with another group of investors. The locale had a Japanese temple gateway, which my new friend understood required him to remove his shoes and bow before passing the threshold. He was followed by a group of Japanese investors, which marveled at his sophistication. Into this milieu came the peer, who congratulated him on having “married” the Japanese, who were considering a $400 million investment with Lloyd’s, the British reinsurance group.

After lunch, the peer took him aside to determine his interest in the VC meeting. My acquaintance offered the idea of laying a motor design out flat, as was done in a large accelerator facility. When asked how the idea was originated, he had offered that it came from a privileged supernatural source.

The story wrapped up with the observation that Thomas Edison had succeeded with direct current power because he knew the ins and outs of politics, while Nikolai Tesla just wanted to play with alternating current.

By this time, I had returned to typing in Visual Studio, prompting as I did so with questions just to let him know that I was paying attention. Story concluded, he pressed a business card on me and left.

There are people of influence, such as the British peer, who wander the world casting the net of their wealth around them to attract opportunity. They don’t understand the mechanisms by which it works, they just rely upon it as a privilege. The peer rewarded my acquaintance because he was a sensitive and responsive tool for facilitating the acquisition of wealth.

And then there are those that submit to the purpose of that talent – the goal of joining all of life in a web of mutual concern – to whom that actual mechanisms of the process are revealed. They are given possession of the treasure of the fields, of which Jesus said [NIV Matthew 13:44]:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Lack of money isn’t the problem. The problem is the injection of selfishness into a process of co-creation that makes the participants (both biological and ethereal) incredibly vulnerable to exploitation. Once we learn to discipline ourselves, we’ll find that there is far more power available to us than is required to solve the problems that we confront.