Real-time self-government in the cryptocurrency frontier: Special snowflakes and why old-style self-government is so out of reach
By Daniel M. Ryan
web posted August 11, 2014
Special Snowflakes Of The Regulatory State
Okay, I know that many Millennials have a side that can be aggravating. Some time ago, I read an item about a now-young-woman who got her status as designated victim endorsed by a court of law: it lowered the boom on some now-young-man she had been associated with in a certain way. She used her new status as officially-court-sanctioned victim to issue a victory statement that suggested that she had had a wee too much self-esteem-raising therapy. And off she went to her life, a victim emerging from a tangled tragedy but nonetheless a stuffed shirt.
I'm not a Millenial; I'm a true-flannel slacker. Like many of my age group, I found life much harder than I was led to expect in my happy sheltered life as a "Generation Reagan" teenager. Admittedly, I've had a more checkered life than most, even most of my own nasty-nineties age group, to the degree that I have an ingrained fatalism that some may find jarring. But I have to admit – here, publicly, in front of you – that I, a hardscrabble slacker, am nonetheless a Special Snowflake.
Yes, I'm a Special Snowflake of the Regulatory State.
In the ordinary world – the real world, if you will – we live in a time when we expect the Regulatory State to have our back. When we buy a good that's not up to snuff, we get right on the phone with the unspoken threat that we'll go to a government bureau if we have to escalate. We expect wise, knowledgeable and foresightful regulators to lean on companies and weed out purveyors of dangerous or shoddy goods. We expect those same regulators to be the muscle behind us when we publicly complain about a dangerous or shoddy good that's been put out by an otherwise reputable company. We expect recalls, we expect them pronto, and we expect the government to step right in if pronto isn't pronto enough. If a cluster of people injure themselves with a stepladder, most of us conclude that those unfortunate people have a valid tort against the manufacturer. Quite a few of us would also conclude that the regulators have once again failed in their duty, a failure that should be seen to by a powerful politician publicly raking a high-ranked regulator over the coals for being too lax. How much more so in the case of those tobacco companies! Next to the oil companies and the Koch Brothers, the tobacco companies are the source of statements that professional, highly-trained, highly qualified, highly intellectual, highly expert knowledge workers routinely use the Genetic Fallacy to ‘refute'. As you might expect, the expert Wikipedian who edits the entry for it has rather bluntly instructed would-be old-school Wikipedians: "Two examples are plenty, and we will only accept material that is sourced from a book (preferably a textbook) on logic." In other words, no examples that would throw his eminent academic self into the academy's social-slot answer to the lunch table occupied by a gifted teenager in a not-so-high-flying high school.
Yes: if we're unsatisfied, we expect those big corporations to hop to it. Those same corporations we distrust, the same big corporation that the more liberal-minded of our peers insist have too much power. Some of us may be natural- or God-given-rights theorists in our heads and with our words. But in the real world of action, we don't hesitate to take advantage of the suite of "rights" that come with the Regulatory State. Some of us convince ourselves that the hop-to-it action of those big corporations (and other businesses) is merely the free market at work. Some, especially free-market libertarians of the Milton Friedman variety, are well aware of the thousand different micro-advantages that the Regulatory State has bestowed upon us, primarily as consumers but sometimes as employees. They also know that, in total, these to-our-benefit micro-tilts of the playing field comprise a potent advantage. But they cheerily, unassumedly assume that the transition to the fully libertarian State will merely mean closing down the regulatory apparatus by transferring its clout to judges in civil-law court. That regulatory muscle now backing you up will merely transition to tort-law muscle. And, as businesspeople become even more exquisitely skilled in the art of Serving the Customer, the happy future will unfold upon us.
A future, the more enthused will explain, where the same old SEC is around but privatized, as a combination of an investor's Underwriters' Laboratories, Consumer Reports and Legal Aid. It will be customer-financed, and the same boys and girls will be happily plying their trade as they think of new and better ways to protect their customers from losses. Just like Consumer Reports does now, and likely with the same revenue model. Sign up for the monthly plan, and you'll get the expert advice of grizzled and highly experienced examiners. A veritable blue-ribbon kennel of finance-and-investment guard dogs.
Yeah, the future's so bright we gotta wear free-market sunscreen.
How strange and exotic was the world when the Regulatory State, with a fully democratic legislature and executive at the top for implementing major policy changes, was far more rudimentary. The old and mostly-forgotten days of the 1960s, the real 1960s , the 1960s where the hippies et. al. were merely a widely-watched side show. The 1960s that have been largely and honestly forgotten by avocational nostalgics like Professor Paul Krugman; so have the underlying norms that had the U,.S. economy firing on all cylinders back then. The real '60s was a world where the admittedly fabricated set-pieces below are illustrative of standard operating procedures in the red-blooded U.S. of A.:
- "I'm really sorry about what happened to you when you fell off that ladder. I know it must have hurt like hell. But – and please don't take this in the wrong way – a large majority of people who use that ladder haven't fallen off it."
- "Well, it's come to this. I don't want to be brusque, but at this stage in your treatment I'm afraid you only have two choices: either quit smoking or quit seeing me. The evidence linking smoking to lung cancer is just too overwhelming now, and you're too sickly for any other course than quitting. Now please don't take this as an ultimatum: it's my judiciously-considered professional opinion, and I honestly don't want you wasting your money on me."
- "Smoke bothering you? Well, pal, this is a private place of business. Just knock on the owner's door and take it up with him. If he treats you like a trespasser – which at that moment, you technically would be – just take your trade elsewhere! And stay happy."
- "It's absolutely heart-rending, what happened to Richard and Jane Roe's poor baby. Now I'm not one of those busybodies, but let me tell you: if I was on the verge of bringing a new life into this world, I'd make very sure that my Albert took every precaution to make sure he assembled the crib properly and tested it out."
- "I'm sorry about what happened to your boy, Gilbert, but you do have to admit that the poor fellow is a four-eyes. Maybe a nice set of books is a better present for him than those lawn darts. After all, we're absolutely begging for kids like your boy to help us win the space race. Now I hope you're not going to be one of those spoiled sucks who say that every red-blooded boy has to dance to the tune fitting for boys with different smarts."
- "Now I four-square believe you're telling me the truth about being turned away from that motel, son, but when it comes down to brass tacks there's no law forcing you to wear your hair long and dress the way you do. I know some of your guys have had it rough recently, but there comes a point when that "We're So Persecuted" line turns into nothing other than playacting."
- "So…when we cut through your high-flown hot-button language, what you're telling us is that everyone has to wear handcuffs because some poor fellows have been beaten bloody, some to death, through no fault of their own. Nice equality you got there, kid – and yes, I'm ‘stupid' enough to know full well that you're talking about cars. Excuse me for being stupid enough to speak in plain old horse-sense American."
- "Have I got a thriller for you! Last night, as I was driving home from the bar, I ended up behind this fellow who was so plotzed, his car was weaving and almost yawing…No, and here's why. I started tailing him.… No, only for a short time. I realized that my head wasn;t screwed on straight, actually; where I should have been was ahead of him … First open stretch. Once I passed that idiot, I stayed about – five hundred of so feet ahead of him. I had to slow down to match his speed, too .… You know what we do when one of us spots a you-know-who on the side of the road?.... Yep, and I honked too. When they saw me, every driver on the other side of the road was as alert as anything….No, I actually lost the guy. He pulled off into some subdivision…. Well, I'd have to say ‘no'. If I had tailed that guy home, he would have gotten mouthy and I would have had to grab him…. No, I don't. After all, I'm not a sworn peace officer.... Kid, we have a lot more than you think. This bozo, I know is driving a red Oldsmobile one or two year old, and he's probably going back to his favourite bar bragging about last night's ‘escort'!.... No, kid, and I don't have to. I'll just tell the story to everyone at the bar when I drive over tonight and I'll make very sure that Gus the barkeep knows it too….. Yes, Gus is a stand-up guy: he'll broadcast it…. What?... Kiddo, I'm a taxpayer too! What I am not is some kind of plush-bottomed boy who thinks that ‘I Pay Taxes' means he can sit in his complacent pajamas and leave everything to the police…"
- "Yes, sir, the law says indeed that you are a victim. But a drunken playboy who wanders into the rougher part of Chicago and gets robbed of the $300 in his wallet – well, the law says that he's a victim too. By the book, sir, he is indeed the victim and the rough kid who robbed him is the criminal. But off the record, sir, I do have to mention that…"
- "Kid, listen up. You're now a man with a job, but you're still wet behind the ears. Starting now, you learn like a man. When your senior tells you that you stuck your brain up your rear, you: stop, listen, heed! One-two-three, just like that. That's the only safety rule that matters a damn. Do that and you'll join the ranks of working men who did their part in winning W W Two. But if you're a head case, use your mouth when you should be using your head, or you're someone who just can't think, you'd better be prepared to be the commandant of the broom. We're working men here; we can't slow everything down to cater to weak sisters who don't know their arse from their elbow. If we had done that in W W Two, I'd be ending this real-man instruction manual with ‘Heil Hitler!'"
- "Yeah, I know, I know, that talk in Washington about a new regulatory agency for the nation's workplaces makes me feel like I'm about to have my balls cut off. But believe you me, more than a few of the new kids we've got are real grown-up Ralphies. Yeah, Ralphies, as in those Warner Brother cartoons. Sure, some of them act like those hippies who are better than a job, but let me tell you – and I've seen this! – when one of them screws up and hurts himself, he's so plaintive that just looking at him makes a red-blooded man feel absolutely terrible. I really don't know what's happening to the good ol' U.S. of A.: my old man would have told management to get the boss's brat onto the broom or into a clerk's job pronto. But there's too many of them these days, and they just keep on coming in. And in their way, they're fun guys to have around; many of them don't have a single mean bone in their body and they're pretty cheery when they know what they're doing. But when they don't, they really are an accident waiting to happen. That's why the country-club Republicans are pushing this O-S-H-A thingie. They know damn well that when we do what a real man jolly well should do when Ralphie boy gets himself into trouble, we sometimes end up having to stop the line. Part of me really does feel like a Judas goat when I say this, but I think we should get behind this O-S-H-A. Think of it as the babysitter that we really don't have time to be. It won't bother us that much because we'll look out for each other as we always do."
- "Oh yes, the smog is awful in those parts, but in these parts – and over a large majority of the fruited plain – the air's as good as it was a hundred years ago. So who put you up to the idea that you go hollering to Washington about it? Whoever did that – likely some professor – is a smart cookie, no doubt, but he's the kind of smart that can't think his way out of the ditch he fell into when he was daydreaming. I mean, a ten-year-old could figure out that if the smog is killing the air in a city, you take it up with the city! Why on Earth would anyone spoil for a fight by dragging in a bunch of people that they have no business dragging in? Just because this city and that city gets more than their fair share of press and television? Come on! This is the real world, and we're supposed to use our noggins instead of going off half-cocked. ‘Ready! Fire! Aim!' never won us any wars, and it certainly won't keep us number one."
- "Can you believe this? Some Beardo the Weirdo said that the Apollo program was too risky! He said that the radiation beyond the Van Allen belt was so bad, that ‘It Would Be Unacceptably Risky' to send our boys to the moon and beat the Communists like the late President Kennedy wants us to! Thank God that real men are in charge in Washington D.C! Could you imagine what would happen if Beardo the Weirdo – Beardo the Four-Eyes – actually had real clout in Washington? If he and those other nervous Nellies started calling the shots? God, there would be red tape everywhere. We'd sink right into the ocean just like England. Honest to Pete, we really would be number two! The world would actually look to a Communist country as the model for maximizing production!... What's that? No, I don't think Beardo is a Communist plant. He's just one of those guys who's so smart he's sure he's above and beyond the need to think. You know, the kids who whip through their homework like they were on an assembly line, and get so coddled by their smarts that they flounder in the real world. Absent-minded, clumsy, forgetful, all-too wrapped up in themselves. The ones who should be stuck in professoring and teaching but nothing else… True, true, guys like that really are admirable in their way and they do make great professors - but they should not be let anywhere near any kind of real responsibility. Not so long as they need an FTC or suchlike to tell them the right way to tie their shoes or drink their coffee. What?... Okay, okay; you got me. I do sound like a nervous Nellie myself. A very-tubble Prophet of Dooooom. But I've talked with the rocket scientists – you know, the ones we durn well need – and for some odd reason they like Beardo and even look up to him. And the good eggs – the slipstick guys, the problem-solvers who really are hell-for-leather in their own way – they actually let Beardo ride their coattails. That got me worried. "
- "Kid…kid…I know full well that the real world is rough and even cruel at times. Everyone knows that. That's why the men in Washington D.C. have set up Social Security for us, why widows and orphans are looked after by Aid for Families With Dependent Children, and why the city has set up a welfare program with eager-beaver social workers. All of them would love nothing better than a down-on-his-luck case landing a job and getting back on his feet. I mean, look at what Congress and President Johnson did in '65: the Office for Economic Opportunity, for one. The U.S. Treasury is spending real money on programs that are solely aimed at getting the disadvantaged youth on their feet and into the job market. They're spending now to grow the tax base and save later. But the trouble with you is, you more-or-less want the government to relieve you of the need to grow up and get your head on straight. If people like you have your way, we'll live in some Bizarro World where prior restraint – prior restraint! – is considered humane, moral and even necessary. A kind of Weirdo World where a man who has his head on straight, and calls it as he sees it, is called some kind of heartless brute all over the place. I don't know what kind of books you've been reading or what kind of professors you now heed, but a lot of them are really, really conspiratorial minded. Just because they have light work and never do anything more than drop a book on their toe, they seem incapable of realizing that in the real world there are indeed such things as ‘accidents'. Yes, some of those are tragic and a few of them are really horrific. But you can't let your normal human feeling suck you into some sort of conspiracy-minded mindset and start imagining some kind of Satanic plot when the real reason was a monumental screw-up."
- "Well, well, well! So you were driving with your seat belt, you were driving a little below the speed limit and obstructing the flow of traffic by a smidgen, and some of the hepcat fellows laughed at you! Well, Cry Me A River! There is no good reason on this green earth why I should support a law whose real reason is to salve your hurt feelings…. No, buddy-boy, I learned on the football field that what you're doing is trying to suck me into playing the game your way. I've had to listen to your kind before, and I know that your ‘open mind' is pretty damn closed when someone points something out with his mouth and a diagram instead of his typewriter. The ‘real issue' is that the likes of you don't trust anyone who doesn't wave around a twenty-page report that no-one except the likes of you has that time and inclination to read. The ‘real issue' is that you and your kind got bent out of shape in some way in school, and dismiss anything out of hand that isn't laid out like a textbook. The ‘real issue' is that people of your stripe only trust each other and act like badgers when someone normal tries to clue you in to the great wide world of practical. Your type even has a magic wand that keeps your mind sealed shut against being corrupted by a field report from someone who's actually put in his time there. Like a heads-up from someone who's actually met a payroll, and nowadays even from someone who's on the payroll. You may like a world where the government routinely plays the game your way, but I for one don't."
- "Carl, this talk about a ‘war on drugs' is beginning to worry me a little… Oh come on, you know me, you know damn well I think those things are a damn plague. But when it comes down to it, the only way to end it is for parents like us to take our kids aside and explain why that there ‘drug culture' is nothing more than a glittering mirage. You know, they'll just wind up swallowing sand if they buy into it – that kind of advice and counsel. Our job is hard enough without people like Nixon making those things the kind of forbidden fruit that any normal kid can't resist. To be quite frank, old friend, I think the government made a mistake when they criminalized that L-S-D. In '65, those hippie guys were kind-of-weird – I know they were - but they were doing something legal and they kept to themselves. As long as they were on the right side of the law, no matter how weird they were, they didn't get the notion that they were on the side of the criminals and the Communists…. Okay, okay, but you do know what I mean. And you haven't been looking around in the places that I have. Did you know that on the other side, there's a group of ‘overpopulation' wackybirds who are seriously pushing something called ‘parental licensing'? Seriously: they actually advocate that a man has to actually apply to the government to get permission to do his Godly duty to be fruitful and multiply…. Call me a nervous Nellie if you like, old friend, but I'm also a father. One who intends that no red tape messes around with his chances to be a grandfather…. Fine, fine, but you know exactly why Sarge and the Old Man always picked me for recce duty… Yeah, but I don't like the way things are going. Too much tunnel vision these days for my liking. Too much trust in policy and only policy to – Carl, I know for a fact that our boys are doing it too. Or at least, they're picking up the habit. It's as if our elected representatives were the kids who spent all their time on the books and never went outside or tinkered around to see how the other parts of the world worked…No, more like a one-trick pony. What's bothering me is that I'm seeing it in ordinary citizens too. The people, in our grandfather's day, who would know better…. Did you know that they're seriously talking about making all of us fill out a damn form and informing Washington D.C. when we withdraw our own money from the bank?... Yep, our own property: our greenback paper and monetary effects…. Oh right, Carl, I'm also a Communist agent planted here to make you stop trusting in our government… Now anyways, I was thinking: if one of those ‘drug warriors' thought like those wackybirds, they'll get the idea that they can win their War on Drugs in a Hiroshima minute by infringing on the Third Amendment… Oh yeah, it'd be a lot harder to throw a groovy drug party if you were obliged to billet an FBI agent, or one of those D-E-A boys…All righty, I'll just go grow a beard and dye it white for you, but you know damn well that the feds have already infringed on our right to bear arms…yeah, yeah, but I'm thinking: start from the Second, go to the Third, and make your way down to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth…Come on, Carl, it's not that hard. All you have to do is think like a ‘practical'-minded kind of tyrant and it falls into place…Oh yes, Carl, I'm just a North Vietnam Agent spreading Communist lies about Dick… Anyhoo, I'm just thinking ahead, like a responsible man should. We can't drift around through life like impressionable teenagers, else we really are asking for the parental-licencing kooks to run our lives for us…. Yep, they'll present our chains and they'll be specially designed to wear lightly and conveniently on our shoulders. And because we shied away from the hard knocks in life, we'll not only put them on ourselves but we'll also ask our new masters for down-padded handcuffs. Just so we don't get sucked into a whirlpool of filth that we somehow lost the inner strength to avoid. Just so we're not victimized by the desperados who might kill us when we're not looking. Just so we don't have to feel helpless and humiliated when life gets hard…. What I'm saying is, we no longer have the hard-times think and the inner toughness to quietly tough it through, or to die like a man used to die…. Negatory, Carl, I'm sure they won't be. They'll be 100% made-in-USA-American, parlour-pinko variety. Just like those rationing shenanigans in WW2. No hint of Brit in them, either; they'll be home-made… You ever heard of that toffee-nosed Brit that the liberal Democrats are all gaga over? The one they always quote, the feller who said something like ‘when the facts change, I change my mind; what do you do, old boy?' If I were in front of him, I'd say, "Well par-don me, your mightiness, but I'm hidebound and Neanderthal enough to say that it's high time I manned up and showed a little forethought'… Yeah, I know, but so is that Galbraith and he's a stick… Oh come on, Carl, you know what I mean. All I need to do is to know it, know it in advance, and make it clear to him when he does his intimidation turkey dance. So that he knows it when he stops strutting. You don't even need to raise your voice, really… Well, yes, but a cat like Lyndon Johnson, he's got some beef on him and he knows how to use his dukes… Anyhoo, I'd better get back to being hidebound and reactionary… The tyrant… O yes, O Sir, the kind of tyrant who hollers about the irresponsible so much that you become some kind of a four-eyes with tunnel vision…Yep and roger, they maneuver you to forget that what they're Jehovah's Witnessing for only differs from ‘Kill them all; God will know his own' by a matter of degree…That's exactly right, Carl. Prior restraint. Responsible people like us have to wear the same leg irons that criminals do because it's just too un-safe and heart-less to risk a real baddie running around… Actually, Carl, that's a ‘no' and that disturbs me a little. We can, but they really can't… More than you think, Carl, more than you think. Whatever those ‘small group of intellectuals' have, it works like a dream for them… Yep, we fall for it like that old reliable Wrong-Way Corrigan on the football field…. Yes, sir! The sucker for the fake pass…Oh did you? How's he been holding up?..."
- "Well, I used to believe in that Carson woman's book, but not since the expert scientists in the Johnson Administration looked at her hypothesis. They found it wasn't replicable, and dutifully said it was time for her to go back to the drawing board. Now, a real scientist would have taken our public scientists seriously, but she and her followers just had to get stubborn. So, sorry, but ever since then I've had to regard her as a charismatic and engaging crank like that Hubbard fellow. You do know that DDT is so safe, you could eat it as a meal and no harm would come to you…. I know that we're living in an era of accelerated and even confusing change, but we can't throw our common sense out with yesterday's ways. As Americans, we still have to use our heads and our best judgement even when a faction is trying to do numbers on our heads. That's just part of growing up and being a responsible citizen."
- "Oh right, Bobby. We're all determined, there's no such thing as free will. We're all determined by our textbooks, our homework, our tests and our exams… Fine, call me ‘anti-intellectual' in your closed-minded way, but you're going to have to shake yourself out of that sophistry one of these days. Not too long from now, you'll be stuck in a ditch and there will be no textbook, no answers in the back, no reference library, no helpful professor, nothing except you and your own resources – and you will have to think for yourself. You'll have to try, fail, even fall on your face and feel like an idiot. And not give up on it, either, like that determinism of yours will let you do. That's the only way you'll be able to handle and solve problems that your schooling in no way has prepared you for…All right, kiddo, I'm a sourpuss. Perish the very thought that your schooling cannot help you with problems that it was not designed to help you with."
- "Gentlemen, I'm worried. You might think that this ‘quality of life' stuff is just a reasonable response to the pollution in Los Angeles and other isolated but well-publicized areas of the United States, but I've looked into it and I've seen more. There is an underbelly of real kookiness, ostensibly like an Old Testament prophet kind of Goldwaterite… Randolph, hold your horses, please. I said ‘ostensibly'. I know you're smart as a whip, but you still rush your fences! You think that you can just latch on to a surface similarity and run with it. I have no problem with Mr. and Mrs. Ordinary being shallow and making impulsive decisions in that way; they have a perfect right to. But we are supposed to hold ourselves to a higher standard. People still look up to us, and if we drop the ball that we are supposed to be carrying, just because Joe and Jane Average don't have to carry it, then why are we kidding ourselves about our purported superiority? If we fall down in that way, we are nothing more than imposters wearing finely-tailored suits."
- "Yes, I've talked with those Naturists, and they really are odd people. They're a bit like Harry Hopkins, only they lack his common sense and his I'm-of-the-people earthiness. The funny thing is, back in FDR's day they would not have gone anywhere. They would have been hooted out of town even if they tried to tie their Naturism with the Civilian Conservation Corps. Funny how people have changed…No, I do not agree that it's because we're living in the age of the common man. My point is that the common man of old would have sized them up as the kind of person that's just a little too helpful. Things have changed, and I don't quite know why, but I still don't think those Naturists will get very far. Oh, they'll get their government gravy and a plum here and there, but the common man – however befuddled by the times we live in - is still the common man. Thankfully, he really is reluctant to turn to the government unless all else fails. That is exactly the way it should be. That's why the New Deal worked. Once we get back to the tried-and-true way of FDR, and the common man who is in no way afraid to shoulder his responsibilities in a manly way, we'll be back on an even keel."
- "You're not going to believe this. I must have taken advantage of a little girl when I was sleepwalking, because I just came away with a warning shot from Satan himself. You know little Eugene? He's a nice kid, almost painfully earnest, really sensitive and artistic, but he's always been something of a misfit. You all know I really deplore him being picked on, but we have to be practical about this and face the facts. I really don't know why, but for some reason he has a knack for attracting hostility. And you all know, the kids who are picking on him – well, their dads are all solid working men, the kind of working men that won us W W Two and made us the number one force for good in the world. We've already done what we can for poor Eugene, but we'll just humiliate the poor kid by stepping in. The way it goes now, he'll toughen up, go off to college, blossom, and then laugh all of this off when he clicks. He just needs to learn to be patient, that's all, and to re-think things when he gets established. And the boys that are picking on him – well, they'll be men, they'll put away childish things, and they'll look back on what they'd done and reflect a little too. Many of them are going into the military, and Sarge will set those guys on the right path.
"But if we baby Eugene, he'll be so humiliated that we'll just make things worse. He might become a case of arrested development, and he will walk out of this school hating us. And he will have good reason to, if we baby him and make him look like a baby on front of his peers. Then, he'll attract a lot more hostility.
"And of course, I can't only think of Eugene: I have to think of everyone in the school and the community. And, if you'll forgive me for being pompous, I also have to think of America. We cannot ignore the fact, deplorable as it is, that many of his tormenters are well-liked by their peers.
"Now I like to think I'm being reasonable here. I'm a practical man, an instrumental man, a man that has a responsibility to see all sides of this. I don't blame because blame would only gum things up. You all know that, right?
"Well…I know now where poor Eugene gets his misfit from. His Momist, stifling, overprotective mother. A mother that's reasonably nice if you don't cross her. But if you do get on her bad side, she's the kind of harridan that would make Carrie Nation herself wish she could sink into a hole and disappear.
"Yes, essentially I explained to her what I explained to all of you. You know those Brits who start off with ‘Shame, shame' and then say something to shame you? Well let me tell you, they're as live-and-let-live as can be when compared to this number. No warning shot, no prefacing, no framing of a complaint – no, not her! She lunged right at my hot buttons in the worst kind of viragoish rant.
"Yes, ma'am; first guess takes the prize. She hectored me by hotly claiming that I was doing nothing except saying that it was all Eugene's fault and that he deserved to suffer. When I tried to point out that I did nothing of the sort, she got even more unreasonable and began to shriek at me as if I were secretly aiming to open up a concentration camp. I can talk about it calmly now, but let me tell you…at the time, I was wondering which one of us needed the psycho-analyst! She was so horrid, I actually began to wonder if there were a good side to 1984. At least with a telescreen and a film camera, I could prove that I said what I said! Degrading as it is, she really did have me wishing to obliterate my and this institution's right to independence so I could do no more than prove how much she had twisted what I had really said.
"Yes, that's my guess too. Some kind of victim complex or martyr complex. The kind where you wrap yourself in the flag of Joan of Arc, get people to believe that you're a battered maltreated victim of life or the ‘Other', and once you're properly shielded you're free to be as demanding and self-righteous as you jolly well please. What really bothers me is, she's not the only one of that type and she does have a certain prestige in the political circuit."
"I wish I could be that philosophical about it, but I still have to go out and face this. True, she has indeed forged her own chains, but she's all-to-eager to forge mine. Thank you for your kind support, I do know what you're getting across, but it's only a matter of time before I'm at the end of my rope."
If you're an elder, particularly the elder who still enjoys an outdoorsy life, you probably got a chuckle or two from the above reasonable-guess vignettes. (Sorry, "exercises in New Journalism.") But if you read them and felt that you would not like to live in a world where those folks are the norm, if you felt that those people would rob you of a new-style right or needed protection if their way prevailed, then welcome. You, like me, are a Special Snowflake of the Regulatory State. I would have had a difficult life in a different way back then, to the point where I would have seriously considered going around without my glasses even though I'm deeply nearsighted. In addition, I am an old-style nerd with the weak points that come with the package.
As for the rough-and-readyness, it actually gets rougher the farther back you go. Back in the days of Strict Construction Constitutional government limited to its enumerated powers, people really were expected to pick up a lot more of the load than even those real-‘60s imaginary characters above. True, taxes were minimal and the links between taxes and spending were easy to understand and scrutinize, but the stalwart citizen was expected to assume a lot more duties and pay a lot more prices of life than we are. Prices assessed in time, aggravation, sweat, risk, sometimes risk to life and limb; judgment calls that were always arguably wrong in some way; the obligation to be consistent to the neighbours so they would see one as a stable and predictable citizen.
Look at the folk wisdom of those times. You'll find variant after colourful variant of, a fool and his money are soon parted. Or, a fool and his generosity are soon bilked, Or, a fool and his trust are soon abused. Or, a fool and his safety are soon jeopardized.
It was rubbed in continually and often opinionatedly: with the quasi-exception of your parents, you and only you were responsible for extinguishing your folly. If you have to do so by being battered around by the school of hard knocks, even to the point of injuring yourself, so be it. You were warned, fair and square. If you didn't clue in to the warnings, and are looking to lash out with your tongue or pointed finger, do everyone a favour and go to the mirror. And stop bothering people who have the sound sense that you forgot to cultivate. If you're hungry, need a meal, that's okay; we've all been through hard times. Just remember that there's only one childhood to a customer. Once it's gone, it's gone. If you're knocked out from life in a way that's permanent, you'll have to open your heart and trust in the good will of your neighbours. You won't get much, but that's the way it goes. What's that? You're saying you can't trust them? Well, what have you done to tick them off?
Oh, and by the way: there's no law forcing you to say "Yes" or "I agree." And the school of hard knocks is the only school that you cannot play hooky from.
Now, if you're a Special Snowflake like me, you're probably wondering how bloody, nasty, poor, brutish and short your life would be in this kind of polity. And not without reason. As the era of minimal government has slowly evolved into the present-day Regulatory State, we've co-evolved with it. A lot of our haplessness in a real minimal government State would simply result from the fact that we've taken advantage of the Regulatory State to become even more specialized. We all know the gains from specialization and trade, even the hampered and channeled trade under the secure authority of the Regulatory State. The then-part-of-the-mainstream political thinkers who seriously saw a problem in this are long dead. In a very real way, we got what we asked for. A large majority of us, we must admit, have been quick to avail ourselves of most of the Regulatory State's advantages.
Then Why Even Bother?
The question almost asks itself: if real life was that parlous for a trusting and somewhat naïve fellow in the real age of enumerated-powers limited government, then why not agree with the older sort of liberal and be durned glad that we've risen up from those days? Why on earth would we deliberately go back to a system that most of our parents or grandparents were gosh-darn glad to consign to the ashcan of history? Why take the clock and make both hands turn backwards? Why obliterate the signposts of the Regulatory State that we all use without a second thought? Why go back to the days of nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw?
The answer lies in threat assessment. We depend on the advantages of the Regulatory State to one extent or another, but we're becoming more and more aware – at a personal level – of the disadvantages. The old-style puritans and busybodies were driven by essentially emotional reasons. The new-style puritans and busybodies are increasingly driven by cost-benefit analyses and at least apparently scientific studies. The hole card of the old-style puritans was their tirelessness. The hole card of the new-style breed, I must sadly disclose to you, is a limited kind of common sense. The kind of common sense that's decided it's high time for Uncle Sam to gradually stop being Uncle Feckless. That's the real reason behind the death panels.
Of course, they do not mean Uncle Sugar should quit that act. Not all the way, of course, not even half way. This new breed, after all, definitely has political common sense. They know very well what the low-information-voters see as the political high ground. It's probably the exercise of that same political common sense that galls you the most. It explains a lot of the striking lack of common sense you routinely see in government policy, especially policy designed to cope with the most urgent and alarming problems of our day. Not all of the recent offerings are like this, but a lot of them are.
In America, the good guy is fated to win and the bad guy is fated to lose…regardless of the differing and sometimes irreconcilable standards of good and bad. You might be wondering if the "true" standard of what is Good and what Is Bad is now settled by raw political power.
You might be wondering why you're beginning to pick up some of the habits of the old-style courtier, even though flattery is definitely not one of them. You might be wondering why so much of the news you choose to read increasingly seems to be fitting for the Cort Gazette. Lady Sarah yet again struck a mighty blow for Righteousness. Lord Ted again won his joust with the not-so-wonderful King, Lord John still acts ignobly; Lord Daryll once again was levered off his horse by his lance. Lord Mitch's, Lord Marco's and Lord Rand's intrigues have left you darkly wondering what side of the Court they're really on…
You might wonder, in the back of your mind, if the reason why you get absolutely nowhere with the Washington Insiders is because they only recognize thinly-disguised pleas. You might be wondering if there's a special inside track – a "Trusted Pleader" track – that gets the action that you can't and the forgiveness you're denied. Maybe you're secretly wondering why your activism seems to require so much time wresting action from politicians rather than firing up and doing something yourself or as part of a team that came together on their own.
Or maybe, you took a look at those stories of governmental abuse of powers and see something like the Tholain Web being slowly but inexorably weaved around you, in a region of space you're iron-clad sure is yours and not theirs. And they weave their web while your starship is conked out and/or legally decommissioned.
Or maybe, you're fed up at being treated and used as the pack mule for those wonderful government programs, some of which you object to on conscientious or religious grounds. You may wonder why you get the respect accorded to a pack mule while you're hauling the sacks. And why you never get the pats on the head that real mules get, those pats being reserved for the ones who seem to end up riding in the cart you pull.
Or maybe, you see those disadvantaged- and protected-class government-granted privileges, the ones which most of your fellow citizens believe are legitimate compensation for unfair disadvantages, being increasingly used by a new breed of opportunistic gamesmen and gameswomen.
Or perhaps, you're wondering why the ordinary kind of liberal has such an adamantine disdain of your opinions, your way of life, of you – disdain that's induced certain suspicions about the identity of the real generator powering their haughtiness. And why that generator is serenely immune to the pokes and prods of "public scrutiny" that you and your friends are all-but inured to.
Or maybe you sometimes wonder, in the wee quiet hours of the night, whether it's really you who own your government or whether it's really the government that owns you.
Or maybe it's something else entirely that made you decide that the costs of the Regulatory State, in particular the costs in aggravation or perhaps worse, make it no longer worth its benefits. Whatever the reason, you've decided that the answer is restoring a strict-construction government limited to its enumerated powers. You're convinced in your red-blooded heart that the Regulatory State, whatever its merits and advantages, has got to go. And the way to go forward is, "Restore the Republic!"
Good for you, but the minimal-government polity comes with a lot of costs of its own. Many of them entail a much higher level of self-responsibility that you're habituated to. Not to mention a lot of hard knocks to either learn from or avoid. Avoid in that "arbitrary," "dogmatic" way which old-fashioned horse sense counselled. The kind of sense that said a missed-the-boat cost was really no cost at all, and that the boat missed is always best ignored.
Yes, God bless you for your commitment - and God help you. As should be clear by now, the presently stylish hipster-"geek" and his well-ensconced elders don't like your Restore the Republic all that much. And, as the above word-sketches illustrate, the more they look into it the more they're be threatened by it. If Constitutional Conservatism with strictly enumerated powers ever joins the mainstream at the implementation level, they'll have a veritable panic attack of status anxiety. So God help you, sir or madam…you're in for one heckuva rough-and-tumble tomcat fight.
They might even wind up preferring a so-called theocracy to an old-style Constitutional Republic. Or a real theocracy, albeit of the Sojourner variety. Your way forward to a limited-government Constitutional Republic really does threaten their high place that much. They'll do anything to staunch that alarming fear of falling…
But the good news is that the cryptocurrency Wild West and the alternate cryptocurrency jungle offer a real-time end run. How could cryptocurrency be reactionary? It's cutting-edge technology, man! Real geeks, and even real uber-geeks, are the normal neighbours there. The underlying cryptographic math is so advanced and subtle, open source is a de-facto necessity in order to secure wide peer review. Peer scrutiny and peer review are absolutely vital to scotch out those frustratingly subtle but deadly flaws that can wreck an entire crypto ecosystem.
What could be reactionary about open-source? It's hipster, man! Even more hip is the effectively obligatory decentralization and peer-to-peer infrastructure of every cryptocurrency extant. How could any of this even be remotely reactionary? They're at the cutting edge! Heck, ‘Beardo the Weirdo' is durn near a god in this neck o' the woods - and for very good reason. Except for his political opinions, I look up to Beardo myself.
The Bitcoineers are getting serious notice from Silicon Valley. One of the gods of the early Internet, Marc Andreessen, the man who earned his godhood by co-inventing the Mosaic browser and heading up its mid-‘90s-sizzling descendant Netscape, is very definitely one of those Silicon Valley uber-nerds browsing in the Bitcoin showroom. He's the most likely source of the now-current meme that compares the crypto jungle to the Internet around 1993-94. As I'll explain in the final part, his comparison is a lot more solid than you may realize.
So the crypto Wild West and the altcoin jungle are very solidly branded as a new tech that will help build the future. At least one of the more exotic cryptos is even getting a look-over by a few employees of a few disruptive-technology departments of some big corporations. Almost mind-bogglingly, there are a few disruptive-technology guys from the big banks looking over Bitcoin's blockchain infrastructure. They want to see if it can help automate their risk-management systems for exotic derivatives.
So…you would have to be pretty silly, or an exotically deep reader and thinker, to seriously claim that crypto is a technology that will turn back the proverbial clock. And your claim would be widely laughed at, all the way from Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley.
"I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience...."
In fact, the "crypto is the future" meme is so solidly locked into the uber-liberal mind that the crypto Wild West provides a great underground real-time sandbox to pick up the experience that will be needed for restoring and living under old-fashioned self-government. In terms of disguise potential, it's right up there with Atlas Shrugged's world-moving hero being indistinguishable from a go-nowhere prole. The altcoin jungle, perilous as it is, allows you to "go Galt" in a completely different way.
It allows you, under the currently bemused but benign neglect from those ubergeek-respecting Washington insiders, to pick up exactly the same habits of prudence, caution, self-protection, self-control and self-management that old-Republic yeoman farmers considered common sense. It allows you to learn, in real time, the same largely forgotten habits that made 19th century self-government a working reality for mainstream Americans.
It allows you, in a purely virtual sandbox where the only part of you that's threatened is your pocketbook, to cultivate the inner toughness, the inner skepticism, the inner self-control – and yes, the inner strength – that your distant ancestors (perhaps in spirit) matter-of-factly learned as part of growing up and becoming a responsible citizen. You'll learn by experience how to count on your neighbours and make yourself worthy of having your neighbours count on you. You'll learn in real time why there's a subtle but definite clash between individualism as a political principle and individualism as a lifestyle. You'll learn in a virtual, Internet, sandbox setting - one where the perils only imperil a small part of your property.
As you already have learned, it is a real jungle in here. A real old-style jungle, that your ancestors (perhaps in spirit) would have tongue-cluckedly but fatalistically described as "nature red in tooth and claw."
But it is a jungle, although red in scathing volatility and robbery, which will grant something that the strict-construction Constitutional Conservative badly needs. Although the Constitutional Conservative world has lots of deep scholarship, sophisticated punditry, wise activism and all the heart a red-blooded Tea Partier could hope for, it has a subtle but fatal lacking in this day and age.
Strict-Construction Constitutional Conservatives, thanks solely to the Regulatory-State times we all live in, lack the kind of experience in old-style self-government that the Founding Fathers and American Patriots all had plenty of in the American-Revolution days.
If I recall correctly, it was a lack of practical, problem-solving experience in the leadership that led to the French Revolution turning into something ugly.
Granted that the real world is still the real world: the Wild West days of crypto will not last all that long. The frontier will be mostly tamed by the close of this decade, just as the Internet itself was largely tamed as of the close of the ‘90s. But, as I found out while trying to make my way in the altcoin jungle, something always beats nothing.
We've yet to finish our tour of the mad carnival. We have yet to get to know the Miss America of altcoins, Nxt. This Nxt, as was discernible as far back as the dwindling-end days of November 2013, was destined to rock the crypto world in more than one fashion….
Daniel M. Ryan is a long-time contributor to Enter Stage Right and has returned to the fold. © 2014 Daniel M. Ryan.