Politics Makes Us Worse

*sigh* I miss Ron Paul.

I didn’t think he ever had a real chance of winning and his views were impractical given the political realities of the world, but man, libertarians behaved better when he was around. He was a standard bearer that sparked positivity and creativity among libertarians. They created videos and blog posts and went to rallies to support liberty. Now, many (most?) libertarians have just resorted to the same dirty, simplistic “drive by memeing” political discussions that we used to be the target of.

I am sure there is not a libertarian out there who has not heard some version of “oh, you’re a libertarian? You must want businesses to poison their customers” or “oh, you’re an anarchist? Why don’t you move to Somalia?”

These “arguments” are frustrating and grounded in either ignorance or intellectual dishonesty. They are simplistic and act as a way to deflect normal political discourse. They forced libertarians to try and explain libertarian policies on the extreme. Instead of talking about why eliminating licensing for hair dressers or lowering taxes would benefit people we were forced to explain Peter Leeson’s research that Somalia is better off stateless or how the market would punish businesses who harm their customers. These rebuttals are accurate, but they are so far from where we are as a society that the conversation is fruitless.

Now, libertarians seem to be doing the exact same thing, particularly when it comes to Sanders. They share memes that say things like “Share with a Sanders supporter. Socialism leads to Venezuela”. It might feel good to stick it to the socialists but all it really does is signal that you hate socialism and burns bridges with future allies. Instead of explaining why Sanders ideas couldn’t really work or why another candidate is better, these memes just deflect. They ignore the political realities of the world. The US is nothing like Venezuela for a ton of reasons and many countries have policies more socialist than the US and they are thriving. The US also has a strong opposition party in charge of the House of Representatives that would prevent a lot of economic harm. Sanders also isn’t calling for the nationalization of oil or arresting profit seekers.

These memes feel good but they are deflection. They don’t attack anything of substance though, they are just attacking the word “socialism”, which is the same trap some other intellectuals fall into when they attack “capitalism”. They are attacking a word without defining it and not attacking any of the realistic results of the policies introduced. Rarely, if ever, do I see someone who posts an anti-Sanders meme explain which other realistic candidate I should support instead or why I should support a third party candidate instead. It is all anger and deflection. It is a way to see the “enemy” as dumb, ignorant, or evil instead of admitting that humans are complicated and our support of a candidate might be well thought-out and mature (even if it is different than yours).

By making people support Sanders (or, for that matter Trump) into one-dimensional beings, libertarians do themselves a disservice. It prevents real discussions of pragmatic policy and destroys any chances for alliances. Personally, I think libertarians have more in common with our friends on the left than the right. Instead of attacking Sanders we should be supporting him as the least likely to kill people overseas, least likely to throw people in cages for drug use, and least likely to try and roll back the more equal treatment under the law that the LGBT community faces. Or, if you are going to attack Sanders, explain why the other viable candidates (Clinton, Trump, Cruz, or Rubio) are the better choice. Providing solutions and engaging in rational debate is better than attacking and burning bridges.

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Strength, Passion, and Revenue

I have this desire to be an entrepreneur and an author, but I struggle with finding what areas I can create value in. This is especially true when it comes to writing. I feel like most of what I have to say is unoriginal or so niche as to only be applicable in my own life. Logically, I know this isn’t really true. I have received countless emails thanking me for the things I write about or share on Facebook. I truly believe that by waving my freak flag high I am doing good, but I am still a reluctant flag bearer.

I guess that is where I can have some value in this crazy world. I feel no shame about being who I am and, consequences be damned, I will share that with the world. I think part of it is noble, I am in a position to be open while so many people are not. If my words, views, or actions can inspire hope or comfort for others than I am doing a good thing. Part of it isn’t really that noble, I am just more comfortable living my life out loud, even though it may make some people uncomfortable. Hell, part of me enjoys making people uncomfortable, particularly if they are people from my past who have views that I find abhorrent. I think bigotry and close-mindedness should be uncomfortable. You should be called out if you want to use the threat of jail or damnation to control the actions of others and to force them into the closet. To be honest, I still keep a lot of my views secret, particularly political or economic views because I consider these issues to be complicated and many people in my social circle have unrelenting and militant views… it just isn’t worth the fight or the stress of reading their comments (which, makes me sound like a coward).

I don’t think my willing to openly (and hopefully logically) discuss my life or my views on controversial subjects like zoophilia, sexually open relationships, pedophilia, atheism, anarchism, etc is particularly marketable. People aren’t really going to pay me to talk about those things, at least not pay me in a way that will let me live the life I want. I don’t want a large income, I just need enough coming in to maintain my lifestyle of travel, minimalism, and leisure… so, about $800 per month at this point. My current job more than covers that, but it’d be nice to get an income stream that is automatic and not require monthly work.

So, given that my controversial passions probably won’t pay the bills, I have a couple of more conventional ideas for books about biking that could bring in some cash money:

  • A Guide to Adventure/Lifestyle Cycling for couples, families, and pet owners. It can cover cycling basics like maintenance, finding water/food, stealth camping techniques, finding electricity, maintaining a fitness routine, dog care, equipment we like, and such. It can also have some tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner(s) while travelling.
  • A memoir about my solo cross country bike ride from DC to LA in the summer of 2012. This could also be used as a platform to discuss my life philosophy and lessons I’ve learned. I’ll probably do this regardless just for myself.
  • Children’s books from Higgins perspective as we travel the US (and world?). I’m not sure if these would be better as picture books for very young children or as short stories for Kindergarten age. Actually, I have no fucking clue what age children read what type of book. This would take a little research.

 

I don’t know which of those (if any) are the best option for creating a cash flow for me right now. There is a lot of work involved with each but I actually have spare time almost daily to work on this. I think I need to re-read 4-Hour Work Week and start implementing his strategies, particularly market testing, before moving forward with actual content creation. Though, I can also create these for myself but it’d be nice to prioritize the ones that could create revenue first.

PS: I am also kind of terrified of investing in something that will/may be a failure. It is easy for me to jump off a cliff and roll with it, but to spend my heart and soul into creating something only to be rejected is terrifying. This also has stopped me from exploring other artistic creations that I’m interested in, like music and charcoal drawing. Again, I know this makes me sound like a coward. I have many areas in my life that need work.

Income Guarantee and Tax Incentives

Despite being an anarchist I follow politics relatively closely and I often think about what I would do if I were dictator of the country. One of the things I would put forth is replacing our current welfare system with a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG). The BIG is essentially a check that every adult in the country receives regardless of income. It is a social safety net that helps ensure everyone has food, shelter, etc. Basically, it takes care of the lowest rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This would also provide stability for new families raising children, people going back to school to get new skills if their industry collapses (expect to see a lot of this in the near future), women with children could escape abusive relationships, and families would have the ability to move to a place where there is a work instead of being trapped in small towns with no opportunities. Money is a better way to provide support than food stamps.

Now, I realize something like this isn’t a current reality in the US because of politics and social views, but I think it would be a great substitution to our current system. It would eliminate the bureaucratic bloat that comes from needing a massive group of people to determine who gets welfare and in what form because it could be a simple computer program that sends checks or direct deposits money into every bank account.  It would eliminate some of the perverse incentives that keep people on welfare because getting a job would not result in losing benefits.

One of the main complaints about a BIG is that it would cost a lot of money and you would be giving money to people who really don’t need it (the wealthy). I think there is a way around this problem by using some tax incentives. After all, incentives rule the world. Here is a rough way that I think it could work. A quick note, the numbers I’m using are rough and rounded to make the math easy. This is just to make a point, not to present a specific policy prescription… I’ll leave that to the professional economists, I’m just a weird guy in the woods with just enough economics training to be dangerous.

So, some quick numbers…

  • Number of Americans over age 18 or over: $235,000,000 (rounded up from the 2010 Census)
  • Proposed BIG*: $1,000 per month
  • Total Money needed from the program monthly (without tax incentive): $235,000,000,000
  • Total Money needed annually: $2.82 trillion

Where are we going to get that money?

  • First, cutting Medicare and Medicad will save about $750,000,000
  • Social security could take some transitioning out, I wouldn’t want people’s benefits to decrease but the BIG is a much better deal in the long run for everyone. First, it is guaranteed throughout your life so it is a form of social security, second it is funds that you can invest throughout your life to provide an additional retirement account. Anyway, for simplicity sake I say leave social security alone for now.
  • Okay, so that really doesn’t take a big bite out of what we need. We are down to about $2.1 Trillion. So, the tax incentives…

I think what we need is a way to encourage people to not accept the money after a certain income level. Tax incentives seem to be a good way to do that. Every month individuals can decide whether they want to accept the whole BIG, part of the BIG, or no BIG at all (the default position is to accept the whole thing). If they choose not to accept the BIG they receive a 125% tax credit on their tax obligation that year. So, if I am having a productive month and I decide not to accept my $1,000 I will get a tax credit of $1,250 for that year.

How would this look in real life? To take a simple example of a single person household. This is clearly a super simple example and doesn’t take into account the crazy fucked up system we have, but I think it makes the point. As a single person I made $45,000 this year, that means my tax bracket is 25%. So, I owe $11,250. Knowing that my salary each month was going to be about the same I decided to only accept $250 per month of my BIG. The $750 per month that I returned ($9,000) for the year becomes a $11,250 tax credit. It turns out that making over $60,000 per year makes it worth it to just return the money. Also, I think the tax credit should be applicable to any taxes, not just income tax, this will incentivize the wealthy who don’t have a traditional “income” to return the money.

Clearly, the federal government will see some tax income loss by incentivizing this way. But I think that loss will be less than the money saved by eliminating bureaucracy on the federal level, and by eliminating the problems that come from poverty on the local level. This will also incentivize people to work more and train to get skills for higher paying jobs. There are certainly a lot of kinks to work out but I think tax incentive issue could solve some of the problems.

 

 

 

* I recognize that $1,000 isn’t enough to cover some medical conditions or to raise a family alone, but the question is whether this is going to be more of a help than the status quo. Also, because the BIG comes in the form of cash it will be easy for family and friends to provide support for those in need. If I don’t need my BIG (or part of it), I simply give it to my sister who is raising two kids and needs the assistance. Again, these numbers are for making the argument and could be shifted if necessary.

Adulthood

A lot of things floating around the interweb right now has me thinking about adulthood, particularly the way our society transitions from teenager to adult. The current situation with Kesha (I LOVE YOU!), student loan debt, and the elevated divorce rate for young marriages have makes me think we might actually want to postpone when we see humans as full-fledged responsible adults, and I think postponing adulthood is a sign of progress and a good thing.

I’m sure some people see Millennials living at home and uncommitted to careers or family as a bad thing, but I think this is a positive cultural shift. As a society grows wealthier and a species starts to live longer, healthier lives, it is only natural that the periods of childhood lengthen as well. We certainly don’t want to reverse course and go back to the days when 14-year olds were expected to work in factories or fields, and marriages/births were common in the early teens. Hell, if you look at our sci-fi and fantasy books they are often filled with long-living species that consider 100 years old to still be youthful. That is the direction we are heading, and we need the legal system to start catching up to this shift. (Side note: having children is something I don’t think the legal system should get involved with prohibiting, but we do need to increase comprehensive sex education and access to birth control so that humans of all ages can have children when they want. This would involve parental involvement and a shift in our education system, and might be the toughest sell for many people, particularly those in more conservative areas of the country.)

Normally, I wouldn’t advocate legal changes (I am an anarchist, after all), but enforcing contracts is one of the things that our legal system is in charge of. If the legal system starts recognizing that a contract signed at the age of 18 is kind of signed by someone who cannot understand the full ramifications of the contract, then much of the world would be better off. After all, most institutions who sign contracts (banks, the military, etc.) are going to try and maximize profit, and in a system where the government enforces contracts they will pursue contracts with people as young as possible. If a bank knew that the courts would allow high interest rates and garnish the wages of a 14-year who defaulted on their loan then I am sure they would issue loans to 14-year olds.

Now, maximizing profit isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but if that profit comes from contracts issued to people who are incapable of understanding or comprehending what they are signing then that is a problem. After all, the “18 is an adult” line that we draw is a social construct, and as a social construct it is malleable. As we continue to understand more about human growth, particularly brain growth, it is becoming clear that our decision making capabilities and cognitive functions are still in high development until years after 18.

I’m not proposing that we just push off all adult responsibilities until 24 or something. That will still be problematic because it will prevent people from moving towards adulthood and getting their lives started. Instead, I think we should treat late teens and early 20s as a period of training for adulthood. Our legal system should put some reasonable limitations on contracts. Maybe those limitations for 18-24 year olds could be something like this:

  • The maximum amount of debt a person can have is $10,000.
  • Business and marriage contracts automatically expire at the age of 24 years old or 4 years after signing, whichever is later.
  • Military enlistment limited to 2 year contracts for the regular military or 4 year contracts for the National Guard/Reserves
  • Unlimited alcohol and weed consumption allowed on private property or with parents. Limited allowed in public places. (Age 18-21)

One of the benefits of a society with advancing technology is our opportunities for more leisure and personal fulfillment at all ages. There is no reason that we must continue education and work patterns that were created during an industrial age, we are now an information age. The economy is increasingly based on information, service, and gigs. We shouldn’t be encouraging people under 24 to spend 12-16 years in school when they may not know what they want to do or what the world needs, then take out loans for homes and an education up to $500,000, then committing to a job for 30ish years that you may hate simply because you are trapped in debt, and hoping that someday your body and mind will still hold up so that you can spend the last decade or so retired and doing what you want. Instead, the time before 24 should be spent exploring places and interests, getting to know yourself and your relationship desires, and finding a lifestyle that you love (or going into a career/education with a better idea of the outcomes).

Our society is shifting, and adulthood is shifting with it. It would be nice if we started to appreciate this progress instead of mumbling about “kids back in my day *grumble* *grumble* *grumble*”

PS: All the numbers I suggest for age, length of contract, maximum dollar amount, etc. are kind of arbitrary and are not meant to be some sort of strict policy suggestion. I am also no legal expert and I have no idea if this type of shift would require legislation or if judges/juries could just start taking into account our social shift and knowledge about human development and start voiding contracts.

Backup Plans

In one of Isaac Morehouse’s recent podcasts he had a variety of smart people talk about their thoughts on Backup Plans. I found the podcast really interesting and decided to use it as a prompt for a blog post. So, here are my thoughts on backuup plans.

 

Backup plans are not really something that I’ve ever had or given much thought to. I tend to just jump right into things without much thought to whether they will work out or not, so I don’t really prepare for any alternatives. Often I fail at what I do, but I just kind of get backup and keep on moving in whatever direction appeals to me. When I decided to join the Army I walked into a recruiter that day and took the first offer they gave me. When I decided I want to go to college at the College of Charleston I applied only to that school. When I was interested in the Koch Associate Program I applied to it and didn’t look at other career options. When I decided to bike across the country I quit my job and started peddling. Etcetera…

I think part of this is just my natural level of risk aversion, or lack thereof, but it is more than that. Throughout my week I often utilize the Stoic technique of meditating on worst case scenarios. I don’t dwell on what could happen in a bad or obsessive way, instead I think about bad possibilities and how I would handle them. For instance, I’ll spend five minutes or so thinking about how I would handle it if my partner was hit by a car, or if I was paralyzed, or if I lost my job. By visualizing these things and thinking about how I would respond it gives me a fluid “backup plan” to handle the worst case scenarios. And when you can handle worst case scenarios the day-to-day hiccups in life don’t really bother you.

I think, in some ways, we all kind of do this. We are often in our heads thinking about what we would do if we witnessed a bank robbery or needed to perform CPR or if the Russians paratrooped into our small town (WOLVERINES!!!!). Usually these things are so fantastical that thinking about them is more an exercise in creative thinking than actual stoic meditation. It is more difficult to think about things that could actually happen.

So, I don’t really have a backup plan for my current life, instead I just roll with the punches and follow my desires. I realize that my life is a bit unique and it is somewhat necessary for this flexibility. When my primary life is fluid in every way from day to day, my backup plan is necessarily fluid as well. It is like Isaac said in his podcast about Goals, you need to just trust the process. The process is going to provide natural backup plans when your expectations turn out to be wrong.

The Podcast is Back! Online Classes are Here!

Sex Nerd Sandra is one of my favorite podcasters and an amazing resource. I’m going to try and make it to some of these classes, and hopefully so can some of you.

Sex Nerd Sandra

SEX ED DO YOUR HOMEWORK pic finger gunsHi! I’m back from hiatus and stoked to tell you that the podcast is enthusiastically back this week (should be up later today. It’s so much fun!) and I’m introducing live online classes EVERY WEEK for the next 3 months. 

I pledge to teach every class in my catalogue directly to you at 7pm in 3 of Sex Nerdom’s most populated time zones: Sydney/Melbourne, London and Los Angeles/SF. (yes that means I’ll be teaching each class 3 times.)

$10. 1 hour. Every Wednesday @7pm. Choose which time zone works for you.

THIS WEEK: Awesome Oral for Everybody: a workshop with Sex Nerd Sandra

2/10 @7pm Sydney (UTC+10)

2/10 @7pm London (UTC)

2/10 @7pm Los Angeles (UTC-8)

Upcoming topics:

  • Feb 10th –  Awesome Oral for Everybody
  • Feb 17th – Booty Basics: Fun for Everybody
  • Feb 24th – Female Orgasm Basics
  • Mar 2nd – Balls Deep: the Fundamentals of Fellatio
  • Mar 9th – Suck Smarter, Not…

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“The Overnight”

Last night I finally had a chance to view “The Overnight”, an independent film starring Adam Scott (Ben from Parks & Rec), Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godreche. Dan Savage recommended the film and I figured that means it is worth checking out, especially since it is now on Netflix. Despite not having any ROFL moments I did really enjoy the film and found it entertaining.

There will now be spoilers, so if that bothers you then you should just go watch the film instead of dicking around on the internet. It is only 75 minutes.

 

So, what I really enjoyed about this film was the realism. They touched on several subjects that are not seen that often in popular cinema. It also treated the situations as realistic instead of trying to titillate the audience.

Body Image Issues – One of the male characters is uncomfortable with his penis size and isn’t comfortable naked. This is likely very common, particularly in the US where seeing a male friend naked is kind of rare. There is a ingrained homophobia in this country and seeing another male naked or, even worse, finding them attractive can bring about a lot of assumptions about your sexuality.

Nudity at Parties – Television and movies tend to only show female nudity, particularly at parties. There are scantily-clad or topless women everywhere in media, but that isn’t how most parties in real life turn out. In my experience, it is usually a guy who is willing to go streaking or skinny-dipping. That’s how it is in this film, you see two dicks but no real female nudity (aside from a very short shot of a woman standing without underwear on).

Fluid Sexuality – One of the driving forces of the film is one of the male characters finds another male attractive. After some discussion among the group you find that he is happily married and found his wife very sexy, but as time has gone on he has had a growing interest in other men. We here a lot about bisexual women or sexually fluid women, but there it is still fairly taboo for a man to identify as bisexual or to have sexual fun with a man. In reality, men can be sexually fluid depending on time, place, and the people involved.

Companion Marriage – One of the married couples in the film seems to have a “companion marriage”. They love each other, are best friends, are good parents, and work well as roommates, but they are not sexually or romantically attracted to each other anymore. So, instead of breaking up everything and causing a bunch of chaos they stay married as companions and each person is free to pursue their interests outside of the marriage. I’d love to see more companion marriages talked about in the world openly. It is unhealthy to expect one person to be your “one and only” forever and ever, we need other people to fulfill holes in our life, and sometimes those holes are sexual. The marriage in this movie is a great success, though some would see it as a failure because they aren’t as romantically or sexually interested in each other.

Anyway, I highly recommend the film if you have an hour or so and enjoy watching something a little more socially progressive.