Archive for January 2018

Whatever Happened to American Culture?   2 comments

Back when my daughter was in high school, she averred that the United States did not have a culture of its own and never had had.

My brother, who is almost 13 years older than me, remembers the 1950s when America was a great place to live — safe, decent, children went to good public schools, even blue-collar fathers brought home middle-class incomes, so moms could stay home with the kids. We all know the television shows. While those are fiction, Jeff tells me that they’re not wholly made-up. Those shows are a good reflection of the traditional values that largely permeated the times.

Where did it all go? How did that America become the sleazy, decadent place we live in today – so different that those who grew up prior to the ’60s feel like it’s a foreign country? Did the degradation just “happen”?

Of course not! In fact, a deliberate agenda was followed to steal our culture and leave a new and very different one in its place. The story of how and why is one of the most important parts of our nation’s history – and it is a story almost no one knows. The people behind it wanted it that way.

It a complicated history, but the short version is that America’s traditional culture, which had grown up over generations from our Western, Judeo-Christian roots, was swept aside by an ideology. We know that ideology best as “political correctness” or “multi-culturalism.” Some observers say it’s really is cultural Marxism, Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms in an effort that goes back not to the 1960s, but to World War I.

That’s sort of stunning, right? Just as the old economic Marxism of the Soviet Union has faded away, a new cultural Marxism has become the ruling ideology of America’s elites. The No. 1 goal of that cultural Marxism, since its creation, has been the destruction of Western culture and the Christian religion.

To understand anything, we have to know its history. To understand who stole our culture, we need to take a look at the history of “political correctness.”

 

Before World War I, Marxist theory said that if Europe ever erupted in war, the working classes in every European country would rise in revolt, overthrow their governments and create a new Communist Europe. But war did break out in the summer of 1914 and the working classes didn’t revolt or create a new Communist Europe.  Instead, the workers in every European country lined up by the millions to fight their country’s enemies. A Communist revolution did occur in Russia in 1917, but attempts to spread that revolution to other countries failed because the workers did not support it.

After World War I ended in 1918, Marxist theorists had to ask themselves the question: What went wrong? Marxists seem incapable of admitting their theory sucks, so two leading Marxist intellectuals, Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary (Lukacs was considered the most brilliant Marxist thinker since Marx himself) independently came up with the same answer. They said that Western culture and the Christian religion had so blinded the working class to its true, Marxist class interests, that a Communist revolution was impossible in the West, until both could be destroyed. That objective, established as cultural Marxism’s goal right at the beginning, has never changed.

Image result for image of home schoolingGramsci famously laid out a as-yet fairly successful strategy for destroying Christianity and Western culture. Instead of calling for a Communist revolution up front, as in Russia, he said Marxists in the West should take political power last, after a “long march through the institutions” – the schools, the media, even the churches, every institution that could influence the culture. Interestingly, Mussolini recognized the danger Gramsci posed and jailed him. His influence remained small until the 1960s, when his works, especially the “Prison Notebooks,” were rediscovered. At which time, America, no stranger to the long march through the institutions, began to see substantive changes in our culture.

Georg Lukacs proved more influential. In 1918, he became deputy commissar for culture in the short-lived Bela Kun Bolshevik regime in Hungary, where he asked “Who will save us from Western civilization?” He instituted what he called “cultural terrorism.” One of its main components was introducing sex education into Hungarian schools. Lukacs realized that if he could destroy the country’s traditional sexual morals, he would have taken a giant step toward destroying its traditional culture and Christian faith.

Far from rallying to Lukacs’ “cultural terrorism,” the Hungarian working class was so outraged by it that when Romania invaded Hungary, the workers would not fight for the Bela Kun government, and it fell. Lukacs disappeared, but not for long. In 1923, he turned up at a “Marxist Study Week” in Germany sponsored by a young Marxist named Felix Weil who had inherited a fortune. Weil and the others who attended that study week were fascinated by Lukacs’ cultural perspective on Marxism.

Weil responded by using some of his money to set up a new think tank at Frankfurt University in Germany. Originally it was to be called the “Institute for Marxism,” but cultural Marxists understood they could be far more effective if they concealed their real nature and objectives. They convinced Weil to give the new institute a neutral-sounding name, the “Institute for Social Research.” Soon known simply as the “Frankfurt School,” the Institute for Social Research would become the place where political correctness, as we now know it, was developed. The basic answer to the question “Who stole our culture?” is the cultural Marxists of the Frankfurt School.

At first, the Institute worked mainly on conventional Marxist issues such as the labor movement. But in 1930, that changed dramatically, when the Institute was taken over by a new director, a brilliant young Marxist intellectual named Max Horkheimer, who had been strongly influenced by Georg Lukacs. He immediately set to work to turn the Frankfurt School into the place where Lukacs’ pioneering work on cultural Marxism could be developed further into a full-blown ideology.

Image result for image of degradation of american cultureHorkheimer brought some new members into the Frankfurt School. Perhaps the most important was Theodor Adorno, who would become Horkheimer’s most creative collaborator. Other new members included two psychologists, Eric Fromm and Wilhelm Reich, who were noted promoters of feminism and matriarchy, and a young graduate student named Herbert Marcuse.

With the help of this new blood, Horkheimer made three major advances in the development of cultural Marxism. First, he broke with Marx’s view that culture was merely part of society’s “superstructure” determined by economic factors. He said culture was an independent and very important factor in shaping a society.

Second, again contrary to Marx, he announced that in the future, the working class would not be the agent of revolution. He left open the question of who would play that role (that would be answered by Marcuse in the 1950s.

Third, Horkheimer and the other Frankfurt School members decided that the key to destroying Western culture was to cross Marx with Freud. They argued that just as workers were oppressed under capitalism, so under Western culture, everyone lived in a constant state of psychological repression. “Liberating” everyone from that repression became one of cultural Marxism’s main goals. Even more important, they realized that psychology offered them a far more powerful tool than philosophy for destroying Western culture: psychological conditioning.

Today, when Hollywood’s cultural Marxists want to “normalize” something like homosexuality (thus “liberating” us from “repression”), they broadcast television show after television show where the only normal-seeming white male is a homosexual. People absorb the lessons the cultural Marxists want them to learn without even knowing they are being taught. That is how psychological conditioning works.

The Frankfurt School was well on the way to creating political correctness. Then suddenly, fate intervened. In 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany, where the Frankfurt School was located. Since the Frankfurt School was Marxist, and the Nazis hated Marxism, and since almost all its members were Jewish, it decided to leave Germany. In 1934, the Frankfurt School, including its leading members from Germany, was re-established in New York City with help from Columbia University. Soon, its focus shifted from destroying traditional Western culture in Germany to doing so in the United States.

Taking advantage of American hospitality, the Frankfurt School soon resumed its intellectual work to create cultural Marxism. To its earlier achievements in Germany, it added these new developments.

Critical Theory

To serve its purpose of “negating” Western culture, the Frankfurt School developed a powerful tool it called “Critical Theory.” By subjecting every traditional institution, starting with family, to endless, unremitting criticism (the Frankfurt School was careful never to define what it was for, only what it was against), it hoped to bring them down. Critical Theory is the basis for the “studies” departments that now inhabit American colleges and universities. Not surprisingly, those departments are the home turf of academic political correctness.

Studies in prejudice

The Frankfurt School sought to define traditional attitudes on every issue as “prejudice” in a series of academic studies that culminated in Adorno’s immensely influential book, “The Authoritarian Personality,” published in 1950. They invented a bogus “F-scale” that purported to tie traditional beliefs on sexual morals, relations between men and women and questions touching on the family to support for fascism. Today, the favorite term the politically correct use for anyone who disagrees with them is “fascist.”

Domination

Orthodox Marxism argued that all of history is determined by who owned the means of production. The Frankfurt School again departed from orthodox Marxism, saying history was determined by which groups, defined as men, women, races, religions, etc., had power or “dominance” over other groups. Certain groups, especially white males, were labeled “oppressors,” while other groups were defined as “victims.” Victims were automatically good, oppressors bad, just by what group they came from, regardless of individual behavior.

Though Marxists, the members of the Frankfurt School also drew from Nietzsche, whom they admired, along with the Marquis de Sade, for his defiance against traditional morals. They incorporated into their cultural Marxism what Nietzsche called the “transvaluation of all values.” What that means, in plain English, is that all the old sins become virtues, and all the old virtues become sins. Homosexuality is a fine and good thing, but anyone who thinks men and women should have different social roles is an evil “fascist.” That is what political correctness now teaches children in public schools all across America. The Frankfurt School wrote about American public education. It said it did not matter if school children learned any skills or any facts. All that mattered was that they graduate from the schools with the right “attitudes” on certain questions.

Media and entertainment

Led by Adorno, the Frankfurt School initially opposed entertainment media, which they thought “commodified” culture. Then, they started to listen to Walter Benjamin, a close friend of Horkheimer and Adorno, who argued that cultural Marxism could make powerful use of tools like radio, film and later television to psychologically condition the public. Benjamin’s view prevailed, and Horkheimer and Adorno spent the World War II years in Hollywood. It is no accident that the entertainment industry is now cultural Marxism’s most powerful weapon.

The growth of Marxism in the United States

After World War II and the defeat of the Nazis, Horkheimer, Adorno and most of the other members of the Frankfurt School returned to Germany, where the Institute re-established itself in Frankfurt with the help of the American occupation authorities. Cultural Marxism in time became the unofficial but all-pervasive ideology of the Federal Republic of Germany, but they didn’t abandon their project in the United States.

Herbert Marcuse remained here, and he set about translating the very difficult academic writings of other members of the Frankfurt School into Americanized terms. His book “Eros and Civilization” used the Frankfurt School’s crossing of Marx with Freud to argue that if we would only “liberate non-procreative eros” through “polymorphous perversity,” we could create a new paradise where there would be only play and no work. “Eros and Civilization” became one of the main texts of the New Left in the 1960s: “Make Love Not War”, “God is Love”, and “Let’s Give the World A Coke” being the most familiar 1960s phrases to us in the 21st century.

Marcuse also widened the Frankfurt School’s intellectual work. In the early 1930s, Horkheimer had left open the question of who would replace the working class as the agent of Marxist revolution. In the 1950s, Marcuse answered the question, saying it would be a coalition of students, blacks, feminist women and homosexuals – the core of the student rebellion of the 1960s, and the sacred “victims groups” of political correctness today. Marcuse further took one of political correctness’s favorite words, “tolerance,” and gave it a new meaning. He defined “liberating tolerance” as tolerance for all ideas and movements coming from the left, and intolerance for all ideas and movements coming from the right. When you hear the cultural Marxists today call for “tolerance,” they mean Marcuse’s “liberating tolerance” (just as when they call for “diversity,” they mean uniformity of belief in their ideology).

The student rebellion of the 1960s, driven largely by opposition to the draft for the Vietnam War, gave Marcuse a historic opportunity. As perhaps its most famous “guru,” he injected the Frankfurt School’s cultural Marxism into the baby boom generation. Of course, they did not understand what it really was. As was true from the Institute’s beginning, Marcuse and the few other people “in the know” did not advertise that political correctness and multi-culturalism as a form of Marxism. That would have defeated their purpose. By keeping their true nature in the shadows, the effects of their teachings was devastating to a whole generation of Americans, especially the university-educated elite, who absorbed cultural Marxism as their own, accepting a poisonous ideology that sought to destroy America’s traditional culture and Christian faith. That generation, which now runs every elite institution in America, wages a ceaseless war on all traditional beliefs and institutions. They have largely won that war as most of America’s traditional culture lies in ruins.

A counter-strategy

Now you know who stole our culture. The question is, what are we, as Christians and as cultural conservatives, going to do about it?

We can choose between two strategies. The first is to try to retake the existing institutions – the public schools, the universities, the media, the entertainment industry and most of the mainline churches – from the cultural Marxists. They expect us to try to do that, they are ready for it, and we would find ourselves, with but small voice and few resources compared to theirs, making a frontal assault against prepared defensive positions. Any soldier can tell you that’s a recipe for defeat.

There is another, more promising strategy. We can separate ourselves and our families from the institutions the cultural Marxists control and build new institutions for ourselves, institutions that reflect and will help us recover our traditional Western culture.

Several years ago, Paul Weyrich wrote an open letter to the conservative movement suggesting this strategy. While Republican leaders demurred, his letter resonated powerfully with grass-roots conservatives. Many of them are already part of the homeschooling movement to secede from the corrupt, dominant culture and create parallel institutions. Similar movements are beginning to offer sound alternatives in other aspects of life, including movements to promote small, often organic family farms and to develop community markets for those farms’ products. If Brave New World’s motto is “Think globally, act locally,” ours should be “Think locally, act locally.”

Thus, our strategy for undoing what cultural Marxism has done to America has a certain parallel to its own strategy, as Gramsci laid it out so long ago. Gramsci called for Marxists to undertake a “long march through the institutions.” Our counter-strategy would be a long march to create our own institutions. It will not happen quickly, or easily. It will be the work of generations – as was theirs. They were patient, because they knew the “inevitable forces of history” were on their side. As the Creator of the Universe is on our side, can we not be equally patient, and persevering?

Dangers of Government Control   Leave a comment

We are a nation of 325 million people. We have a bit of control over the behavior of our 535 elected representatives in Congress, the president and the vice president. But there are seven unelected people who have life-and-death control over our economy and hence our lives — the seven governors of the Federal Reserve Board.

The Federal Reserve Board controls our money supply. Its governors are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate and serve 14-year staggered terms. They have the power to cripple an economy, as they did during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Their inept monetary policy threw the economy into the Great Depression, during which real output in the United States fell nearly 30 percent and the unemployment rate soared as high as nearly 25 percent. The most often stated cause of the Great Depression is the October 1929 stock market crash. Little is further from the truth. The Great Depression was caused by a massive government failure led by the Federal Reserve’s rapid 25 percent contraction of the money supply.

The next government failure was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which increased U.S. tariffs by more than 50 percent. Those failures were compounded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. Leftists love to praise New Deal interventionist legislation. But FDR’s very own treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, saw the folly of the New Deal, writing: “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. … We have never made good on our promises. … I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started … and an enormous debt to boot!”

The bottom line is that the Federal Reserve Board, the Smoot-Hawley tariffs and Roosevelt’s New Deal policies turned what would have been a two, three- or four-year sharp downturn into a 16-year affair.

Here’s my question never asked about the Federal Reserve Act of 1913: How much sense does it make for us to give seven unelected people life-and-death control over our economy and hence our lives?

While you’re pondering that question, consider another: Should we give the government, through the Federal Communications Commission, control over the internet?

During the Clinton administration, along with the help of a Republican-dominated Congress, the visionary 1996 Telecommunications Act declared it “the policy of the United States” that internet service providers and websites be “unfettered by Federal or State regulation.” The act sought “to promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies.”

In 2015, the Obama White House pressured the FCC to create the Open Internet Order, which has been branded by its advocates as net neutrality. This move overthrew the spirit of the Telecommunications Act. It represents creeping FCC jurisdiction, as its traditional areas of regulation — such as broadcast media and telecommunications — have been transformed by the internet, or at least diminished in importance.

Fortunately, it’s being challenged by the new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, who has announced he will repeal the FCC’s heavy-handed 2015 internet regulations. The United States has been the world leader in the development of internet technology precisely because it has been relatively unfettered by federal and state regulation. The best thing that the U.S. Congress can do for internet entrepreneurs and internet consumers is to send the FCC out to pasture as it did with the Civil Aeronautics Board, which regulated the airline industry, and the Interstate Commerce Commission, which regulated the trucking industry. When we got rid of those regulatory agencies, we saw a greater number of competitors, and consumers paid lower prices. Giving the FCC the same medicine would allow our high-tech industry to maintain its world leadership position.

Source: Dangers of Government Control

Walter E. Williams is the John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University, and a nationally syndicated columnist. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page.

Copyright © 2017 Creators.com

Priceless Treasure in Cheap Storage   Leave a comment

Archivists take great care with historical documents as do those of us who want to preserve vintage clothing or antique furniture. So this passage Paul wrote to the Corinthians should have resonance with us in that context, but it also has deep theological meaning and practical application to the Christian life.

But we have this treasure in clay jarsso that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushedwe are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are persecutedbut not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed, always carrying around in our body the death of Jesusso that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our body. For we who are alive are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sakeso that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our mortal body. 

As a resultdeath is at work in usbut life is at work in you. But since we have the same spirit of faith as that shown in what has been written, “I believedtherefore I spoke,” we also believetherefore we also speak. We do so because we know that the one who raised up Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence. For all these things are for your sakeso that the grace that is including more and more people may cause thanksgiving to increase to the glory of God. Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing awayour inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seenFor what can be seen is temporarybut what cannot be seen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

Image result for image of treasures in clay jarsIn the 1st century, earthen (pottery) vessels were commonplace. They were used for everything from storing water and treasures, to the base for oil lamps. On the one hand, they were sturdy and durable, but on the other hand, fragile. Drop a clay pot and it shatters. It was an inexpensive vessel for storage.

Paul clearly wrote that his own sufferings, and his attitude toward them, were an instructive example for the afflictions that the Corinthian Christians also experienced. Our weakness shows that the power comes from God. A similar lesson is stated in 2 Corinthians 12:9: God’s power is made perfect in human weakness. And in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29: God calls the weak and foolish, so no one can boast.

As Paul persevered in preaching the gospel despite the persecutions that came, he demonstrated that he was motivated not by selfish benefit but by devotion, and he was empowered not by human power or reasoning, but by God working in and through him. The lesson is still valid as Christians in some nations suffer overt persecution for preaching Christianity or for converting to Christianity.

In most of Western society today, persecution is more subtle. The academic world may sneer at faith; the economic world may ridicule those who have scruples; group-identity advocates may not want to associate with people who do not accept homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, those who have been married multiple times may find the monogamy of Christianity to be stifling and there are those who will overtly state that Christians should not be allowed to vote as they see fit or raise our children according to our values. Non-Christians may have more employment options and may make more money. When we face such discrepancies in society, our lack of anxiety about our disadvantages testifies to our belief that the things of this world are passing away, and our faith that a far greater reward is at stake. When we face trials that strike believer and unbeliever alike, our calmness and positive approach can likewise show we have knowledge and hope of life and reward in a new aeon. People can see that we have hope in a situation that appears hopeless, and such contrast may lead them to inquire about our faith and to give it credence because its value is demonstrated.

In our afflictions, our life follows the pattern of Jesus. In our current state, especially in our day-to-day trials, our bodies manifest mortality, such as Jesus Himself had. Yet we also manifest eternal life, the life of Jesus in us. His life is shown in the message we share and in the lifestyle decisions we make. We have life evident in us, and that life is energized by faith (4:10-11, 18) — faith that our life will continue to follow the pattern of Jesus, that we will also be raised into glory (4:14, 17). Our determination comes not from human stubbornness or grit, but from God, and the life of Jesus, and the Spirit of faith. We of course have nothing to boast of, for it is all done for the glory of God.

Our life illustrates the “not yet” paradox of Christianity: The consequences of mortality are evident in our bodies, and our faith in eternal life is evident in the way we respond to that mortal weakness. We worship a Being Who had a life of suffering and a death of shame Who also had a triumphant resurrection and now has a life of glory. We, in this “not yet” phase of the kingdom of God, are given opportunity to follow this pattern. Few of us actually have a shameful death, but all Christians should be willing to endure it if necessary for the kingdom of God. Most of us escape overt persecution, but all of us should be faithful if it comes. Why? Because we believe and trust that God will give us glorious, spiritual, eternal life. We believe, and therefore we do whatever God calls us to do. Our afflictions will be followed by glory.

RIP Sam’s Club   Leave a comment

Sam’s Clubs around the country are being closed, proof positive — according to some of my Democratic friends, that the economy is not doing as well as people think it is.

Image result for image of sam's club closingSam’s doesn’t mean that much to me. We used to be members, but when we stopped spending on credit, we went through a couple of years where we couldn’t afford Sam’s in our budget and by the time we could afford to budget for it again, we were out of the habit of using them. We’d started buying bulk at a local feed store and we’d discovered the Internet, so Sam’s was redundant.

I do acknowledge that it will be hard for some people to lose Sam’s. Small businesses who need bulk items – cups, coffee, etc. – will feel the pinch. Big families who buy bulk. A friend of ours who is a meat connoisseur who buys his meat in primals and does his own butchering. But for our family, it really wasn’t worth the membership. And 150 people lost their jobs here locally and in a community of only 100,000 people, that’s a hit.

But why did Sam’s close? According to our newspaper here, Sam’s nationwide is restructuring and that’s a complicated story. It belongs to the same corporation that Walmart and Walgreen’s belong to. Although Sam’s has not been unprofitable, it has not been growing as fast as Walmart and the fact that about 12 of the closed locations will be turned into e-commerce distribution centers, suggests Sam’s is looking into the future. These new centers will help Sam’s Club build out its e-commerce capabilities by giving it a wider fulfillment network, potentially helping it get online orders delivered to customers faster.

Increasing its commitment to e-commerce may help Sam’s Club compete with wholesale rivals like Cosco and Boxed. E-commerce is becoming more of a focus in wholesale retail, and if Sam’s Club doesn’t invest in it, the company may get left behind. Costco is a major competitor to Sam’s Club (and there’s one in Anchorage, but not in Fairbanks), and in its most recently reported quarter, its e-commerce comparable sales jumped nearly 44% year over year. Additionally, Boxed, an e-commerce only wholesale startup, is starting to establish itself. Sam’s Club’s e-commerce gross merchandise value (GMV) has been between 20% and 29% year over year in recent quarters, Sam’s Club told Business Insider Intelligence. These new fulfillment centers may help the company strengthen this growth, as it looks to better compete in wholesale online.

Turning physical stores into distribution centers is also way for Walmart to leverage its brick-and-mortar network. Walmart has a virtually unmatched brick-and-mortar network — its CEO has estimated that it has a brick-and-mortar location within 10 miles of 90% of the US population. The retailer has made efforts to entice consumers to pickup online orders in-store, but turning underperforming stores into full-blown e-commerce distribution centers as Sam’s Club is doing is another way to take advantage of its proximity to its consumers. If Walmart, and Sam’s Club, hope to thrive online, they’ll need to offer fast delivery times to rival Amazon, and having e-commerce distribution centers close to customers should help with that.

Just as the Piggly Wiggly’s ran the full-service grocery store out of business, online e-commerce is sucking away the business of physical locations. But Amazon isn’t a monopoly yet and it is struggling with its network (hence, it’s desire to build a second HQ). If Walmart moves into ecommerce in a big way, utilizing former Sam’s Club locations as fulfillment centers, it potentially becomes a major contender against Amazon.

It sucks for Alaska because we have to pay individual shipping rather than allowing Sam’s to spread that cost in bulk, but we can still use Cosco, which is in Anchorage and has been suggesting for years that it might move to Fairbanks. They no longer have any competition here, so they just might. And, if they don’t, a local trucking company is advertising that they will be doing twice-a-month 380-mile runs with people’s personalized shopping lists. Yeah, it’s the return to the full-service grocery store.

Ultimately, Sam’s Club is an example of creative destruction. By closing many of their locations, they allow their parent company to become healthier and better able to face the changing needs of a 21st Century society. In 10 years, people will wonder why we went through all the hassle of traveling to a big warehouse to pick up stuff, wandering by stuff we don’t need, but then decide to buy, then try to fit it into our cars when we can now just make our selections online and have it delivered to our door by freight drone.

Posted January 20, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in economics, Uncategorized

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Swiss Students Are Fighting Back Against Unfair TV Fees | Bill Wirtz   Leave a comment

By Bill Wirtz

The European liberty movement may be small, but it’s having extraordinary growth and grassroots success in a place you might least expect it: Switzerland.

Source: Swiss Students Are Fighting Back Against Unfair TV Fees | Bill Wirtz

 

Image result for image switzerland tvSwitzerland, like many European nations, has certain television and radio channels that are run by the government. The state-run channels in Switzerland date back to World War I when the government had completely monopolized both TV and radio “for security reasons,” and paid for it with a fee called the “Billag.” After the war period, Switzerland opened the market to private media companies, but it kept the “Billag” fee in order to pay for the state channels which still absolutely dominate the market to this day.

The fee even has its own website, http://www.billag.ch, on which the mandatory contribution is explained as follows:

In Switzerland, you are legally obligated to pay the radio and television fees. By paying the fees you enable radio and television programmes in every part of Switzerland.”

Which almost sounds like you couldn’t have any TV or radio stations if it wasn’t for governmental control. For Frédéric Jollien, who is a Senior Local Coordinator for European Students for Liberty and founder of Swiss Students for Liberty, this description is dishonest:

The assumption that the media landscape would crumble if we were to abolish this annual fee is ridiculous. The opponents of our campaign claim that without the “Billag,” nobody would pay for state channels, yet they simultaneously also argue that people are very fond of the content. Which one is it now?”

Together with other classical liberals in Switzerland, Frédéric Jollien is fighting against the royalties imposed by the government for media consumption. 450 Swiss Francs, the equivalent of €382 or $456, is the annual fee that consumers are required to pay, regardless if they want state-run TV and radio channels or not.

“We are not trying to abolish anything. We merely want consumers to choose for themselves which channels they want to watch,” says Frédéric, who works in the campaign of “NoBillag,” the citizens’ initiative that intends to overturn the fee via referendum.

The “NoBillag” campaign has been working on the issue of media royalties for three years now, and effectively managed to get their citizens’ initiative approved. This means that a public vote on the repeal of the “Billag” will take place on March 4, 2018. Until then, the campaign is tirelessly working to promote its ideas. Frédéric Jollien explains that this one of the very few referenda which were organized by people who believe in the concepts of free markets and free people.

However, running such a campaign demands considerable efforts.

The government has extended the “Billag” to include private companies as well. Despite them only receiving less than 10 percent of the revenue generated by the fee, they now also have vested interests in keeping it in place and steadily negotiating a larger chunk of it. It’s us against the whole media landscape.”

The print media is equally unimpressed by the “NoBillag” campaign, as owners also seek to convince the government to initiate large subsidies for the papers, the same way it is practiced in countries like France. Furthermore, after petitioning for months to get the necessary signatures to organize a referendum, the campaign was left with only 30,000 CHF (€25,600), which is clearly too little to run a three-language campaign in the mountainous country in Central Europe.

Frédéric Jollien is very optimistic regardless.

“We started a crowdfunding campaign and raised over 100,000 Francs in only ten days, bringing us closer to our 160,000 CHF objective. But not only that: several polls have indicated that we might very well be able to win the public vote!”

The success of the idea of letting consumers choose which TV and radio programs they watch is apparent. Journalists (who, by the way, are exempt from paying this fee) are releasing heavy verbal fire on the campaigners. They claim it would cause massive unemployment in the media sector, that it is anti-democratic, and that it would enable big foreign companies to take over the Swiss market.

“It’s actually quite peculiar. The Swiss conservatives, who are usually the ones spreading fear of foreigners, support us because they believe that state media is being biased against them, while the Left opposes us because they believe the evil foreign media channels from Germany, Italy, and France will eat us up. This shows how strange the idea of a free market can sound to people,” says Frédéric.

Until the vote in March, he is busily writing op-eds and participating in radio and TV debates. If the campaign would be successful, then this would definitely be one of the most extraordinary free-market grassroots-led initiatives in Europe to date.

Frédéric and the campaign hope to raise more money for their efforts. You can support them through their crowdfunding campaign here: www.wemakeitbetter.ch

Adapted from an article originally appearing on the Freedom Today Network

Posted January 19, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Stealing From Your Neighbor Through Subsidies   Leave a comment

In 2017, the Montana Public Service Commission approved (4 to 1) the renewal of Commnet Wireless’s Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) certification, authorizing that company to receive a federal “Lifeline” subsidy of $34.25 for every customer on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation – an amount sufficient to render their service free to most users. Previously, this same company received $2.2 million in Universal Service Fund (USF) “high cost” subsidies to build their infrastructure in Rosebud County. This subsidy paid for all of their capital costs in establishing their business, debt-free, while producing for them a tidy annual profit of almost $1 million.

Image result for image of fiber optic cableIt seems that Commnet Wireless is “living the American Dream” – at everyone else’s expense. But that’s not a rare circumstance.

 

The Universal Service Fund was first created by Congress in 1934 then greatly expanded under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Clinton was President). It is funded by a dedicated federal tax on consumer phone bills. This, ironically, makes the very services Congress wishes to expand less affordable, especially to lower-income Americans. The program is premised on the belief that an ever-expanding set of telecommunications services are the “right” of all citizens, and should thus be made “universal” by the generosity of Washington’s re-distributional political class.

The program started with landlines, then expanded to wireless and is now being applied to broadband — and not just any broadband, but high-speed fiber-delivered broadband. The Lifeline program gives away free cell phones and subsidizes low-income and tribal households. The Connect America Fund and “High Cost” programs directly subsidize telephone companies, as well as schools, libraries and rural health care facilities to provide “free” Internet. USF’s total annual budget is currently $10.5 billion, or $84 per American household.

That’s a month of Internet at my home, where I can’t get high-speed broadband because the infrastructure doesn’t exist. We can get “high-speed” DSL that drops out 2-3 times a day because people are making phone calls or cable Internet which is slower than high-speed fiber. I’ve never lived anywhere that offered high-speed broadband because our local Internet providers just don’t see a profit in providing it and permitting laws don’t allow competition. So do I have a “right” to high-speed fiber-delivered broadband? I haven’t died without it up to this point and we’ll pursue that thought further down.

Like all federal programs, USF proceeds blindly with the assumption that shoveling federal dollars at something automatically produces the desired outcomes – outcomes that would not otherwise happen if people were left to spend more of their own money, and the marketplace was allowed to respond to human needs and desires absent government intervention. It’s not surprising to learn then, that the FCC has never reliably measured to what extent the subsidized telecommunications services would have expanded just as much – or more – into the targeted high-cost areas, without any subsidies needed – and done so at lower cost. Dollars spent are considered a successful outcome regardless of actual outcomes.

In Alaska, rural villages and the Native corporations that they own came to the conclusion that, since the cities don’t have fiber-based high-speed broadband yet, the villages would have to provide it for themselves. Internet is currently provided via satellite and it sucks. Several corporations made a decision to contract with Anchorage-based Quintillion for a land- and sea-based fiber-optic cable network with an overall capacity of 30 terabits per second. Each of the five communities in the network currently will have access to up to 200 gigabits of data per second. If demand increases, the capacity can be increased according to Quintillion. It went live December 13. Four other villages will be added this coming summer.

This is a side project to a planned Tokyo to London fiber cable. It’s being financied by Leonard Blavatnik, one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, through the Cooper Investment Fund, but there are also Alaska-based investors including subsidiaries of Native corporations Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and Calista Corp, two of the largest “private” companies in Alaska. Eventually, this cable is expected to provide fiber-delivered Internet to Fairbanks and Anchorage.

So what do we learn from that? The time has come to re-think wealth transfer schemes like the USF, that eliminate price signals, supplant the free market, and create the net effect of increased government dependency and a culture of entitlement. As with any other good or service in a free economy, consumer demand for rural high-speed broadband should be based on the willingness of consumers to pay for the full cost of that service – not based on political pandering that subsidizes one man at another’s expense. A shell game with predetermined winners and losers, lacking any credible metrics and amounting to little more than a glorified multi-billion dollar welfare program.

Saying we “want” something as long as somebody else pays for it is not “demand”. Currently, broadband build-out into high-cost areas is based almost entirely on artificial demand – created by subsidy – rather than on true demand, created by value-seeking consumers in the marketplace, responding to the price signals of true cost. If consumers in outlying areas value fiber-delivered high-speed internet enough to pay the full cost, then we have genuine demand and the market will see to it that these services are provided – without any government involvement.

If consumers are unwilling to pay the true cost, then demand does not exist, and presumably won’t exist until private enterprise finds ways of delivering better service at a lower price. But that incentive disappears when the government steps in. Saying we “want” something as long as somebody else pays for it is not demand. It is little more than theft dressed up by the agency and power of government. Personal responsibility – the foundational principle of a free society – is replaced with “but I want it, so you should pay for it.”

According to my research, you can get high-speed broadband for $30 a month in New York City. Here in Alaska’s second-largest city, I can get slower cable-based Internet for $100 a month — actually, I could get cable Internet for as low as $60 a month, but you can’t watch Netflix without going over the monthly limit. Of course, we don’t have high-speed broadband because the current cost for building broadband or wireless infrastructure into rural and low-population areas is obviously higher on a per-customer basis – perhaps 50 to 100 percent more. One of the fundamental principles of sound economics is the alignment of benefits with costs. When you subsidize a good or service, you can no longer know what people are actually willing to pay as consumers because the government has gotten somebody else to pay for them.

This arrangement tends to convince rural customers that the full price is “unjust” to those who have chosen to live in the country. At the same time, it obstructs the very progress that would bring lower prices about. The subsidized companies have a reduced incentive to economize and to innovate since their profit is all but guaranteed without it.

Public service commissioners everywhere need to understand that it is not the job of the state commissions to rubber stamp federal programs that evidence shows are harmful in the long run to the people they serve. Subsidies like USF produce obvious beneficiaries. Government giveaways always do. They are highly visible. The market-driven benefits produced by those same dollars, left in the hands of those who earned them, are always far greater, but cannot be specifically identified. They become the opportunities lost, the blessings of liberty that were aborted before their birth.

Thus, government creates an illusion of value and benefit, when in reality all it has done is substitute government spending for spending in the marketplace by the frugal, self-interested, wage-earning consumer. The fantasy of a net benefit is bestowed on the person who wasn’t involved in the working or the earning – convinced by politicians that he had it coming all along. Surely, high-speed broadband is in the Constitution somewhere.

Once established, climbing out of the Subsidy Entitlement Pit is never easy. The smoke and mirrors of perceived benefit are so effective, that it becomes very difficult for elected officeholders to do the right thing, by choosing freedom over political security. It is far easier to avoid criticism and “go with the flow.”

To be sure, doing the right thing and doing the easy thing are rarely companions that walk the same path. Doing the right thing requires an extra measure of principle, courage and integrity, something most politicians and government workers lack.

What this comes down to is not just an economic consideration, but also the need to educate people on just what is a “right”. I have no right to anyone else’s stuff. I only have a right to what I can produce myself or trade with others from what I can produce myself.

So, for example, I am a writer and administrator. I make money from both of these endeavors. I can take the money and buy stuff with it, stuff that someone else has produced. One-hundred dollars of my earnings go every month to my cable provider to provide Internet service. I don’t have cable television or this would be the biggest bill in my budget. I get what I get. From the perspective of someone with fiber-delivered high-speed broadband, my Internet service is clunky. But would I be willing to pay $200 a month for fiber? No way! I simply don’t have that sort of wriggle room in my budget. If it were available for that cost, I would continue with the service I have now because I make choices of what to do with my money.

My neighbor says he wants high-speed Internet, but he isn’t willing to pay $200 for it. So, he petitions the cable company and the city government to apply for ETC funds. Pretty soon, my cable bill increases because the company is trying to finance fiber. Also my telephone and cable bill taxes increase. Now, even though I have elected to stay with ordinary Internet service because I don’t want to pay for fiber, I am paying for my neighbor’s fiber.

That’s theft. And there is no scenario where you can say that you have a right to steal from someone else, even if you do it through a government program.

What If You Passed A Test … And Nobody Cared?   Leave a comment

I like tests. Puzzles fascinate me. I don’t even mind cognitive tests because I used to work for a mental health agency and so they don’t scare me.

Image result for image of trump's cognitive test resultsThe news that President Trump passed a mental acuity test was welcome news. I think the country is better off if the president doesn’t have Alzheimer’s. And a 30 out of 30 score indicates that he doesn’t.

By the way, most 71-year-olds could not score a 30 out of 30. In fact, many people in their middle-years would struggle with reverse serial sevens. I can’t pass that particular one without counting on my fingers. How do I know? Brad, Keirnan and I took the test last night.

Keirnan is 19 and suffers from bipolar, so he’s been through this test once before — and scored a 30 out of 30. The doctor was so amazed that he could do reverse serial sevens from 100 into the negatives that he just let him go until Keirnan said he needed water to continue. The kid has a diagnosed mental illness, but he doesn’t have dementia or any other sort of cognitive disorder. And bipolar, with appropriate medication, doesn’t really negatively affect his life. It’s just something he has to manage – like if you have diabetes or asthma. That attitude toward mental illness as a condition that can be managed comes from familiarity with mental illness.

Brad sucks at remembering sequences of numbers. So do I. I often can’t remember a phone number long enough to dial it — which is why I write them down — and have since I was about 15 years old. I passed the immediate recall on the assessment and the delayed recall because I knew it was important to remember them. Brad, however, flunked the delayed recall question. It doesn’t mean he has dementia. He didn’t flunk the assessment overall, just that one section.

I didn’t do so well on the tap for the letter A. It’s deliberately hard and none of us did well on it, though we all passed. Keirnan almost lost a point on it because Brad was saying the letters way too fast and he made two errors which is still allowable to get a perfect score.

So, the results of our tests mean very little. It was a fun exercise and we now understand what President Trump was tested on. We know that none of the four of us has dementia.

Well, our family knows that, but I think we knew it before we took the test. President Trump’s supporters are probably relieved that what they thought was true has been proven true, but his detractors don’t care.

“Well, this is a really easy test,” someone on the radio said while I was brushing my teeth this morning.

Yeah, if you’re mentally fit, it is an easy test. If you have dementia, it’s not.

“There are other tests that would show his mental fitness better.”

Yeah. there are. If I were President Trump, I’d request a full psychological assessment. They take about two hours and they include some of the same questions as the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. They would detect mental illness such as bipolar, schizophrenia and major depression and they would also indicate whether screening for personality disorders is in order.

I don’t think anyone seriously believes a successful businessman in his 70s has been a schizophrenic for decades. But that doesn’t matter to his detractors. Even if he took a full psychological assessment, they’d insist the results were wrong. And of course, they’d insist he be assessed for “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”.

Let’s talk about that for a moment. First, it’s not a disease. It’s a spectrum of personality traits. Most people fall somewhere on the scale. I took the assessment and I scored in the bottom 30. I took the test as if I were Donald Trump and he scores pretty high on the scale. According to the psychiatrists I worked with, so does Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Lincoln, George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Angela Merkel, Elon Musk, every psychiatrist except the one you’re speaking to at the moment, and almost all of the actors in Hollywood.

Basically, anyone with any self-esteem at all will score at least at the lower end of the scale. That doesn’t mean they are crippled by NPD. It means they know their worth and there’s nothing wrong with that. If they don’t know their worth, there’s another personality disorder they might qualify for.

People who aspire to be President of the United States typically score in the top 70% of this scale. Why? Because it takes a lot of chutzpah to believe you can be one of the most powerful people in the world and do the job competently. Some of these narcissists were so certain they’re right that they declared independence from Britain and founded a whole new country. Others decide to challenge NASA in the space race or create a company that dominates the tech world. A narcissist found a way to stop the scourge of polio. Some day a series of narcissists will cure cancer. Narcissism, evidenced by the belief that God was on her side, allowed Mother Theresa to minister to the poor of Calcutta and eventually be named a saint.

Look behind almost every successful and well-known person and you will find a degree of narcissism. But that doesn’t matter to Trump’s detractors. They don’t see that their own idols were often as narcissistic or more than the object of their Derangement Syndrome. They don’t care what the truth is, they only want what they want …

Which is itself a sign of scoring pretty high on the Narcissistic Personality Disorder spectrum.

Yeah. It doesn’t surprise me that it’s mostly the young and liberal who hate Trump to the degree that they don’t care what the tests say about his mental fitness. Baby boomers, who themselves scored higher than their parents on the scale of narcissism, raised a generation of raging narcissists. Everywhere you turn, you find scores of people who believe they have a “right” to other people’s stuff because they’re “special.” That narcissistic trait is a liberal ideal and I find most liberals to be at least moderately narcissistic. They believe they know better than everyone else how we all should live our lives and they cannot be dissuaded from that belief. They will do anything to force others to comply with what they consider to be best practices.

So, maybe it’s not surprising that they are allergic to everything Donald Trump does. Narcissists usually can’t stand to be in the room with other narcissists. It steals the limelight from them. It explains, to a certain degree, the conservative opposition to Barack Obama, himself a raging narcissist. Conservatives also believe that they know better than everyone else how we should all live our lives. It pissed them off that Obama thought he knew better.

Which brings the question — in this day where nobody knows humility, can anyone actually lead us? And should they try?

My fear is that a society of narcissists would have a good deal of trouble staying out of each other’s business without a government to impose some boundaries and, yet, as long as they have a government, they will seek to use it to insinuate themselves into everyone’s business.

Jacquie Biggar-USA Today Best-selling author

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