A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Not So Crazy Libertarian Ideals’ tag

Finding Alternatives to Advertisements

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People often make the mistake that many webpages are free but there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Most websites still use the age old monetization technique of displaying advertisements. However, advertisements quickly evolved from relatively safe static imagines. They started becoming more annoying. Imagines turned into animations. Animations turned into full video that also played sound. These “enhancements” also requires clients to run code. Needless to say, users started getting annoyed and their annoyance lead to the creation of browser plugins that block advertisements.

Online advertising has turned into an arms race. Website visitors use an ad blocker, advertisers create a method to bypass ad blockers, visitors upgrade their ad blockers to bypass the bypass, and so on. This is leading a lot of people to question whether the online advertisement model can remain feasible. Fortunately, some websites that rely on online advertisements have begun experimenting with alternative revenue sources. Salon, for example, recently launched an experiment where visitors blocking advertisements are given the option to run cryptocurrency mining code in their browser:

Salon.com has a new, cryptocurrency-driven strategy for making money when readers block ads. If you want to read Salon without seeing ads, you can do so—as long as you let the website use your spare computing power to mine some coins.

If you visit Salon with an ad blocker enabled, you might see a pop-up that asks you to disable the ad blocker or “Block ads by allowing Salon to use your unused computing power.”

A lot of people are pissed about this but I, possibly for the first time ever, actually agree with what Salon is doing.

Unlike a lot of sites that are experimenting with running cryptocurrency mining code in visitors’ browsers, Salon is being entirely transparent about doing so. If you visit the site with an ad blocker enabled, you are presented with a very clear option to either disable your ad blocker or run cryptocurrency mining code. If you choose the latter, your computer’s fans will likely kick on as your processor ramps up.

I doubt browser based cryptocurrency mining will be a viable alternative to online advertising. Cryptocurrency mining, as the linked article shows, requires a lot of processing power. On a desktop that isn’t much of a concern. On a laptop or other battery powered device, that increased processor usage will drain the battery quickly. With more computing being done on battery powered devices, anything that noticeably reduces battery life will likely anger visitors. But I’m happy that websites are finally exploring alternatives to advertisements. It’s clear that visitors aren’t happy with the current state of the online advertising model. If website operators want to continue being profitable, they need to find a way to raise money that their visitors find acceptable.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 15th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Statements of Fact Versus Statements of Opinion

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“You can’t be neutral!”

“You can’t be indifferent!”

“You can’t be apolitical!”

How many times have you heard somebody say a variation of these statements? I’ve heard these phrases quite a few times and the frequency seems to be increasing. However, anybody making such a statement is wrong. Why? Because you can be neutral, indifferent, apolitical, or any combination of those things.

People making such statements are mistaking their personal beliefs for facts. Most of the people who say you can’t be neutral, indifferent, or apolitical are really saying that since you disagree with them on something they view you as being in league with their enemy. For example, let’s pretend that legislation that would establish a government healthcare system has been introduced into Congress. Supporters of the legislation are making the same tired arguments that anybody who opposes it hate poor people, etc. You have been practicing medical tourism to gain access to cheaper and better healthcare and plan to continue doing so whether the legislation passes or not and therefore don’t have a preference on the legislation. If you declare your neutrality, a supporter of the legislation will likely respond by saying that neutrality is tacit opposition to the legislation and you are therefore not neutral but against it. Are you actually against it?

The problem with their assertion is that it’s based on their personal beliefs and personal beliefs are entirely subjective. There may be no such thing as neutrality in their little reality tunnel but your reality tunnel may be advanced enough to include such a concept. So what they’re really saying is that based on their personal beliefs you are their enemy.

Statements of fact can be objectively verified. For example, the top speed of a car can be measured with instruments. It doesn’t matter if you think the top speed of a car is 120 miles per hour if instruments consistently measure its top speed at 100 miles per hour. Saying that the top speed of the car is 100 miles per hour is an objective statement since it can be independently verified by others through experimentation. Abstract concepts such as neutrality, indifference, and lack of political opinions cannot be objectively verified. There is no way to objectively state that somebody cannot be neutral or that neutrality is tacit support or opposition.

The widespread lack of understanding of the difference between objective and subjective statements is, to me, one of the most aggravating characteristics of modern discourse. When somebody is stating their opinion as fact, that is to say when they are framing the debate in such a way that only their opinion is deemed valid, the debate can’t move in any constructive direction.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 14th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Imaginary Collectives of People

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There are few things in the universe as precious as an edgy atheist who makes a snide remark about imaginary sky people only to turn around and discuss societies, cultures, and other imaginary concepts as if they were real.

These individuals usually claim to have given themselves over entirely to reason. If something cannot be proven, they claim to not believe in it. Despite their claims though, most of them believe in plenty of things that can’t be proven. As I’ve noted numerous times before, there is no way to prove societies exist because societies, like all collectives of humanity, are concepts that only exists in our head. Ditto for cultures. In reality there are only individual human beings. Any attempt to treat individual human beings as a cohesive group becomes a fiction.

Thus I’m lead to conclude that most of these self-proclaimed atheists are actually theists but instead of, as they put it, believing in imaginary sky people they believe in imaginary collectives of people.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 14th, 2018 at 10:00 am

The Government Giveth and the Government Taketh Away

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Anybody who has waited for-fucking-ever in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles so some grumpy goon could take their money and stamp a card has already experienced one of the best arguments against government healthcare. However, inefficiency isn’t the only argument against government healthcare. Another argument against the stupidity that is government healthcare is the fact that governments like to change the rules on a whim:

WASHINGTON — After allowing states to impose work requirements for Medicaid enrollees, the Trump administration is now pondering lifetime limits on adults’ access to coverage.

The government giveth… OK, the government never gives, it only takes. It would be far more accurate for me to say that the government taketh and then taketh some more. My point is the same either way. Government may decide to appear benevolent by providing services like Medicaid but it might then take it away or restrict it in some manner. And if you don’t like it? Tough shit. You’re not allowed to disassociate yourself with the government.

Private enterprises may come and go. They may also disappear. But you can bind them into a contract, which limits their ability to change the rules on you. Moreover, if they do something that you disagree with, you can disassociate with them and find another to do business with.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 13th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Playing with Other People’s Money

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Is government deficit spending good? If you ask the party in power, yes. If you ask the party out of power, no. The Republican Party likes to advertise itself as being fiscally conservative, which is a label that implies an opposition to deficit spending. And the Republicans did decry deficit spending… during the reign of Barack Obama. But now their party is in power so deficit spending is a good thing:

On Wednesday, Congressional leadership seemed united behind a budget deal that looks truly awful — at least if you care about the country’s financial future. The bipartisan deal blasts through budget caps and could return the U.S. to trillion-dollar deficits in short order. Right after getting historic tax reform passed, politicians apparently seem content to toss a huge future tax hike onto the next generation. After all, the bills will eventually come due.

And they are serious bills indeed. The proposed deal would include a one-year debt limit suspension, while raising defense spending by $80 billion and non-defense expense by $63 billion. The budget for 2019 would see similar increases, and over the 10-year window, this Chuck Schumer-Mitch McConnell budget could result in $1.5 trillion more added to the national debt.

The poles have flipped. Now the Democratic Party is suddenly concerned about deficit spending.

The United States government is like a teenager who has racked up thousands in credit card debt. It is so far in debt at this point that it cannot hope to pay it off. Hell, it can barely pay the interest on the debt. And if it’s already so far in the hole that it can’t possibly pay off its debt, why should it care if it goes further into debt?

The national debt can’t be repaid and is therefore no longer a financial point of interest. It’s purely a political point of interest that is brought up by the party not in power to criticize the party in power.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 9th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Look at All the Economic Stimulus

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A lot of statists cheered when it was announced that the Super Bowl would be coming to Minneapolis. Not only would Minneapolis have the honor of hosting the larger religious festival of the year but its piousness would be rewarded with untold riches from a million, err, 125,000 visitors hurling cash at the local establishments!

As it turns out, the fantastic economic stimulus that was promised was just that, fantasy:

Restaurants along Nicollet Mall and at the Mall of America saw plenty of traffic, but many eateries located away from those immediate areas reported quiet weeks as regular customers stayed at home to avoid the expected Super Bowl bedlam. Downtown Minneapolis skyway eateries also saw customer counts dwindle as the week went on as more downtown workers stayed away from the office and worked remotely.

Super Bowl week was “the worst week ever for us,” said Brenda Langton, co-owner of Spoonriver, located by the Guthrie Theater and just blocks away from U.S. Bank Stadium, site of Super Bowl LII. Sales were down by 75 percent.
Langton also voiced frustration that the media repeated claims by the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee that the Super Bowl would draw 1 million visitors, a number that turned out to not reflect the actual number of out-of-towners coming to the area. The big-number prediction wound up scaring office workers and suburban diners away from crowds that never existed, she said.

“The media needs to stop putting the fear of God into everybody and understand that other cities have weathered [the Super Bowl] just fine and not to terrify everyone,” Langton said. “I just want to have people come back downtown and get over the Super Bowl. It was very good for a few people and that’s what happens.”

PinKU Japanese Street Food, a quick-service Japanese restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis, had some of its slowest days of business ever during Super Bowl weekend, said Co-founder and Head Chef John Sugimura On Super Bowl Sunday, for example, the restaurant made just $303, only 15 to 20 percent of its typical Sunday revenue.

While the entire article lies behind a paywall, it’s not a very effective one. Just disable JavaScript for the domain and the story will display. You can also find the contents of the article in the page’s source code.

This news is only surprising to the economically ignorant. Stadiums and large events don’t create wealth. The most they do is shift wealth around. Money that individuals would have spent on other forms of entertainment are instead spent on attending stadium events. Moreover, large events can run the usual customer base out of town. If I’m an employee working near a stadium and want to grab a quick lunch, I’m going to likely avoid any restaurants in my area during stadium events because I’m worried that they’ll be too busy for me to get served within the block of time I have.

The security large events like the Super Bowl employ can also scare people away. I, for one, have a policy against attending events that require military hardware to defend. Any event that’s thought to be a big enough target to warrant such security is riskier than I want to bother with. I also have a general distain for militarization in general so even if the risk isn’t high enough to warrant the security, I don’t feel like living the life of a poor bastard in an occupied foreign city even for only a few hours.

So stadiums and large events merely shift wealth around. A few establishments will enjoy a significant windfall but they are the exception that proves the rule. Most establishments will notice, at most, a minor increase and oftentimes they’ll suffer a notable decrease in business.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 9th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Rejiggering the Mandatory Reading List

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One of my pet peeves as a public school student was being required to read specific books. The reason this annoyed me was because I found the mandated books to be rather dull and below my reading level (I was reading above my grade level by a not insignificant amount). Because of my experience in public schools I’m of the opinion that mandatory reading lists should be tossed out entirely so students can pursue books that actually interest them (who knows, if reading is enjoyable instead of a chore it could even help boost literacy). But nobody cares what I think on the matter so students are stuck with mandatory reading lists and the inevitable battles over what books should appear on those lists.

The school district in Duluth is currently waging that battle:

DULUTH, Minn. — The novels “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” will no longer be required reading in the Duluth school district due to the books’ use of a racial slur, a curriculum change supported by the local NAACP chapter.

The two books will continue to be available in school libraries and can be optional reading for students, but beginning next school year, they’ll be replaced as required reading by other literature that addresses the same topics in ninth- and 11th-grade English classes, said Michael Cary, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction.

Let me start off by saying that I understand why To Kill a Mockingbird is being removed from the mandatory reading list. The book is, among other things, a lesson on the importance of a justice system that assumes innocence until guilt is proven. Such a title could create a hostile environment for today’s judicial environment of guilty until proven innocent. I’m surprise the book hasn’t been outright banned from public schools yet. But I digress.

As with any other political issue, this issue has proven to be polarizing. A lot of people are upset that these two books are being removed from the mandatory reading lists. Their reasons vary but a lot of them are upset because of the given justification. Meanwhile, the other side of the camp is pleased as punch because books with offensive language are no longer on the mandatory reading list. What this really boils down to though is the lack of personal choice. The reading list is mandatory so each child in the school is required to read the books on it (or acquire the Cliff’s Notes so they can pass the pointless tests and spend the rest of their time reading books that they actually want to read). Since individuals aren’t interchangeable cogs, mandatory anything doesn’t work, especially when children are involved. First, you have the children. Some of them may enjoy some of the books on the mandatory reading list, others won’t. But then you also have the parents. Some of the parents will be pleased with some of the books on the mandatory reading list while, as demonstrated by this story, others won’t.

The heart of this problem is really the refusal to acknowledge individualism. Until individualism is acknowledged and that acknowledgement is acted on, this fight will have to be waged again and again.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 8th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Technology Isn’t the Problem, You Are

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Earlier this year several of Apple’s investors tried to pressure the company into working to combat iPhone addiction. This proposal makes sense, right? After all, Apple has created an addicting product so shouldn’t it take responsibility for its creation? No on both accounts. Why? Because Apple isn’t at fault, its users who have become addicted to its devices are:

I know intimately that if we want to achieve tech-life balance, people must start taking responsibility for their choices. No one is forcing consumers to buy an iPhone, use Facebook, stare at Twitch, masturbate to porn or any of the other millions of things you can do with technology. Every single one of those actions is a choice we make, and if there is one lesson from addiction treatment that everyone should hear it is that it is nearly impossible to help someone who doesn’t want help.

Apple isn’t forcing you to buy or use an iPhone. In fact, unlike government, no technology company is forcing you to use its product. Just like alcohol, you have a choice whether or not you use an iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, or any number of other technology products. If you’re an alcoholic, then you need to take responsibility for your actions. Likewise, if you’re addicted to a technology product, then you have to take responsibility for your actions.

Addiction isn’t a legal or technological problem. An addict will find ways to work around any external controls that are placed on them. Heroine addicts manage to get their fix even though their drug of choice is illegal. iPhone addicts will turn off or bypass any technological controls that Apple puts into place. Breaking an addiction requires an addict to first admit that they have a problem and then to personally take actions to break their addiction. The choice to overcome an addiction needs to be made by an addict, not by an outside party.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 6th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Nobody Cares What the Plebs Think

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A recent poll discovered that a strong majority of Americans oppose the endless state of war that the United States is engaged in:

The headline findings show, among other things, that 86.4 percent of those surveyed feel the American military should be used only as a last resort, while 57 percent feel that US military aid to foreign countries is counterproductive. The latter sentiment “increases significantly” when involving countries like Saudi Arabia, with 63.9 percent saying military aid—including money and weapons—should not be provided to such countries.

The poll shows strong, indeed overwhelming, support, for Congress to reassert itself in the oversight of US military interventions, with 70.8 percent of those polled saying Congress should pass legislation that would restrain military action overseas in three specific ways:

by requiring “clearly defined goals to authorize military engagement” (78.8 percent);

by requiring Congress “to have both oversight and accountability regarding where troops are stationed” (77 percent);

by requiring that “any donation of funds or equipment to a foreign country be matched by a pledge of that country to adhere to the rules of the Geneva Convention” (84.8 percent).

If the plebs had any power to influence politics, the players in the war economy might have cause for concern. Fortunately for them, the plebs have no actual influence over politics. At most they can decide which preselected candidate should occupy an office. The preselected candidates are chosen by the Republican and Democrat parties, which are both major players in the war economy though. So when the plebs go to the poles the option to not engage the government in further wars isn’t on the ballot.

Although this poll shows a promising change in attitude it’s also meaningless because it, like voting, won’t change anything. The only silver lining to this cloud is that the more wars the United States engages itself in the more thinly spread it will become and the sooner it will have to make a decision between pulling back its forces or collapsing entirely. Once that point is reached the wars will end one way or another.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Agorism’s Greatest Contribution

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When people think of the counter-economic strategy advocated by Samuel Edward Konkin III they usually think about it in terms of toppling the State. While Agorism as a strategy can be useful for wounding the State I think its greatest feature is the establishment of enterprises divorced from the State.

So-called legitimate businesses are more often than not coupled to the State. Consider all of the technology companies that reside in the United States. The rely heavily on the State to defend their intellectual property. Patents and copyrights are an American technology company’s bread and butter. Without the State to subsidize defending their intellectual property, technology companies would find themselves facing an even vaster sea of competition than they already do on the international market.

Above ground agricultural enterprises, likewise, have become dependent on the State. Without the State’s crop and livestock subsidies many agricultural enterprises would likely collapse.

Statism isn’t a permanent condition. There isn’t a single chunk of land on this planet that has been ruled by the same state for all of human history. States come and go and with them the enterprises that rely on them. Agorist enterprises, however, can survive the collapse of states because they were never reliant on states to begin with. If anything, the collapse of a state will benefit an Agorist business.

Agorist enterprises can ensure goods and services continue to be provided when a state inevitably collapses. That is probably a greater overall contribution than its ability to injure states through counter-economics.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 12th, 2018 at 11:00 am