Arbitrage on the holodeck

May 28, 2017 § 41 Comments

Context and subjectivity are not the same thing.  

Context is objective: water is objectively more valuable in the desert.  It is also more costly to ship water to the desert than it is to use it where and when it is already abundant.

Preferences are subjective, though even preferences are rooted in objective reality.  Preferences are not reducible to nothing but pure subjectivity, because man himself is not reducible to nothing but pure subjectivity.  In the absence of disorder fresh water is preferred over seawater as drink, because the former satisfies the objective needs which give rise to thirst while the latter does not.

Objective truth always trumps subjective preferences. A subjective preference which is contrary to the objective truth is an intrinsically disordered preference.

Prices reflect an equilibrium in preferences between counterparties in the exchange of goods and services. The reason for exchange in the first place is because different objective contexts obtain for each counterparty: the baker has ample bread and few candles, while the candle maker has abundant candles and little bread.  So ten candles are exchanged for a loaf of bread.

An actual exchange represents a preference equilibrium: a subjective meeting of the minds in bringing together two different objective contexts for putative mutual benefit.

But perception is not always reality.


When the controlling preferences of either party to an exchange are intrinsically disordered, the price is an unjust price.  The mutual benefit (or its lack) in any exchange is ultimately an objective property of the actual exchange, not a meeting of minds in an intersubjective preference space.

The idea that ideas can be property is patently ridiculous

May 18, 2017 § 54 Comments

One of the interesting things about patents (unless the law has changed since I filed mine a couple decades ago) is that the invention must be “reduced to practice” before you can even apply for one: you have to have a concrete working implementation before the patent office will even accept your application. And once a patent is granted, what the patent holder actually receives – the patent itself – is a security entitling the holder of the patent to enforceable commercial exclusivity within the jurisdiction of the patent authority.

Similar things can be said about other forms of intellectual property.

So IP doesn’t count in favor of the contention that ideas can be property. It counts against that contention.

As usual liberal modernity requires you to studiously avert your gaze once actual reality starts to come into view.

Cloud products, usury, and the death of property

February 20, 2017 § 45 Comments

Human beings used to be reasonably capable of distinguishing reality from imagination, at least in the boots-on-the-ground world of day to day life.  Property at one time referred to something real, something which exists in its own right. Thus property could be possessed, repossessed, bought, sold, stolen, consumed, or destroyed independent of the property’s owner or of any other particular persons.

Human beings and possessions were understood to be different things, with the notable – but at least clearly delineated – exception of economic chattel slavery, not to be confused with prison.

Then along came widespread acceptance of usury. Liberal modernity counts, as one of its crowning achievements, the destruction of chattel slavery.  As with all of liberalism’s putative emancipatory achievements, this is illusory.  Rather than freeing humanity from the objectification inherent in chattel slavery, liberalism has merely driven this objectification into the subcutaneous socioeconomic metalayer, implanted it under the skin, making it that much more difficult to see and resist.  As always liberalism does not actually “free” us from authority as it pretends to do: it simply makes authority sociopathic.

The old tyrannies could at least be seen out in the open. A man knew where he stood. Now the tyranny comes cloaked as the seductress “freedom”. Liberal tyranny boils up from under layers of flesh, lurks inside clinging to the bones as it gnaws away at internal organs and releases its offal into the body. If paganism, Mohammedism, and Rabbinic Judaism are packs of hyenas harrowing Christendom, liberalism is a cancer that eats away at it from within, an alien embryo feeding on its host as it releases a thousand horrors.

But I digress.

Property is objective[1], that is, it consists of objects independent of any particular human subject or subjects.  Owners are human subjects, human beings independent of any particular property. Take away a man’s property and you still have a man.

You can tell who truly owns what by asking what happens when the music stops: by asking what, at the end of the day, secures each person’s claims. In a recourse mortgage the borrower “owns” the house and the lender owns the borrower, because the lender is contractually entitled to collect deficiencies from the borrower if selling the house does not fully discharge the borrower’s contractual obligations.  The situation is even worse than that though, because in the case of taxable real estate the sovereign really owns the property and leases it back to the tenant (whom we deceptively label the “owner”).  Real estate “owners”, then, don’t really own the actual property. The sovereign owns the property and what the “owners” really own is exclusive leasing rights: a kind of financial security.  That isn’t nothing, but there is much less there than meets the eye. Real estate “ownership” where there are property taxes is a form of lie: what is owned is not land and buildings, but a perpetual[2] and exclusive lease on land and buildings.

Products dependent upon cloud software represent a new, technologically enabled phase in non-ownership “ownership”.  Cloud software or “Internet of things” products require a “mother ship” somewhere on the Internet in order to work. Without the mother ship they become literally useless; “bricked” in the vernacular. For example you can spend years of your life producing work with a cloud based – or even just cloud licensed – CAD program, under the illusion that you own at least your own actual work product. You don’t own the software, it is merely ‘licensed’ to you, sure.  But in fact you don’t even really own your own work product which you produced with the software using your own hands and mind, because you cannot even continue to access your own work without regularly checking in with the mother ship to ensure that license terms are met . If the terms and conditions change, or the company goes out of business or the mother ship crashes for some other reason, you can’t even access the features of your own “property”; not even your own accumulated work.

Cloud products represent a kind of legalized ransomware.  As with usury there is a superficial resemblance to legitimate transactions; in this case a resemblance to having sold or leased you some tools with which you can produce your own  work; work which you then own. The work you produce with cloud-based ransomware looks like it belongs to you.

But when the music stops your hammer no longer works, there are no other hammers which will work, and all that you have built with the hammer is hostage to the true owner’s terms and conditions.  You were never the owner of your own work product in the first place: you rent your own work at the pleasure of the private party who really owns it.

When philosophical anti-realism invades the domain of property, the distinction between persons and property disappears.  This erodes the distinction between persons and objects in spheres beyond property and ownership.

If you would like to see the great dehumanization reversed, I can’t really offer much hope. But I’d be happy to hand you a shovel.

[1] Nota bene: not physical or merely physical, since physicalism is false.

[2] At least for as long as the tenant continues to make payments, which can be increased at any time without his agreement.

The financial nanny state

October 1, 2016 § 20 Comments

Some folks seem to think that in suggesting that people are responsible for preserving their own property, from which it follows that they should not put their life savings into property they don’t personally understand (and instead should put their savings into property that they do personally understand), I am demonstrating a lack of empathy.

A different view though is that – unlike the modern financial nanny state – I am treating my readers like adults capable of making their own choices about what property to own, and living with the consequences of those choices.

If you don’t like monetary inflation – the fact that the number of fiat dollars which trades for a loaf of bread changes gradually over time – then by all means buy something other than bank deposits to serve as your life savings.

What you will find is that prices – the relative trading ratios of different goods and services – are not static.  And you will find that ethically preserving your property requires work, expense, and risk.

Now maybe your nanny didn’t tell you this.

But I’m not your nanny.

How to determine the price you are sold for in the slave market

September 26, 2016 § 28 Comments


Your personal price as a chattel slave, in dollar terms, is reflected in your credit rating. In this post I will outline a proposed methodology for calculating the price that you are currently selling for in the chattel slave market. I haven’t worked out the details: this post is really just a starting point.

Like many modern terms, ‘loan’ is used equivocally.

Suppose that you are a borrower of money. We can calculate your value as a chattel slave by looking at the differences between the non-recourse (and therefore non-usurious) loans you can acquire and the personally guaranteed (usurious) loans you can acquire.

Scenario 1: non-usurious borrowing

In one sort of loan — a non-usurious loan — you sell your lender a stake in some property that you are purchasing or that you already own.  You retain the use of the property, so you pay rent to your ownership partner (lender).  This rent is often called ‘interest’.  You may also buy back your partner’s share over time.  This is often called ‘principal’.

If your partner doesn’t know you very well, he is going to want to get some idea how well you will take care of the property that he owns in partnership with you. This kind of knowledge is provided institutionally by the modern process of establishing credit ratings. Based on your trustworthiness – whether established by credit rating or some other means – your lending partner may require a larger down payment (thus lower loan-to-value ratio) and / or may charge a higher rent (because he is taking a greater risk).

If you stop making payments for any reason, he can recover what he is owed by repossessing the property. Financially and morally this is the same scenario as a landlord evicting a tenant who stops paying the rent. Depending on circumstances, this may or may not affect your credit rating specifically or your reputation generally.  But your partner’s financial claims are limited to the property that you own in partnership.

In this non-usurious scenario, your trustworthiness as a partner with custody and use of the lender’s share of the property is reflected in the interest rate and in the loan to value ratio (and thus the size of the required down payment). These in turn are generally determined by your credit rating.

Scenario 2: usurious borrowing

In a usurious loan, the lender’s claim is not against property or only property: it is against your personal guarantee that you will repay the loan.  The thing you are selling to the lender in this case is not an ownership stake in property: it is a contractually binding ownership stake in you, yourself.  This will generally be reflected in a larger required down payment and a higher interest rate.

Calculating your price:

Your current market price as a chattel slave is related to the similarities and differences between these two kinds of scenarios.  Specifically it is related to the premium you have to pay in terms of larger down payment and higher interest rate for the unsecured personal loan.  I’ll propose the following calculation for the sake of discussion:

Take the largest personal unsecured loan you could get approved by a reputable lender with your current credit rating.  Then determine what size non recourse loan you could get approved – say to purchase some real estate – with the same down payment and interest rate.

Your current price as a chattel slave – the price for which your owners are currently buying and selling you in the marketplace – is the same as the price of the property that you could purchase with the non recourse loan.

The Mickey Mouse world of intellectual property

April 24, 2016 § 33 Comments

I don’t have strong views about intellectual property. Modern understandings of property and commerce are perverse, immoral, and unreal. It seems likely that at least some of what IP law sanctions, asserts, and prohibits goes against the natural law. But I haven’t personally done the due diligence required to credibly advance particular arguments about particular laws or practices.

Generally speaking intellectual property has similarities to cash — once we have an adequate grasp of what cash actually is and is not.

The sovereign is, qua sovereign, the ‘owner’ of certain marketplaces: that is, he sets the terms upon which transactions are permitted and carried out in the marketplaces over which he is sovereign.

Cash – or more specifically, sovereign-issued currency[1] – entitles the bearer to engage in certain kinds of taxable transactions in the sovereign’s marketplaces. (People often use it for non-taxable transactions too, and in other marketplaces owned by different sovereigns: insulin is valuable for barter in trade by non-diabetics).

Fiat currency does not authorize all conceivable transactions, of course: various transactions such as selling yourself outright into slavery are not “allowed” (that is, enforced); and usurious contracts are allowed/enforced but should not be.

Intellectual property, then, is like a lease or easement in the sovereign’s markets. Leases and easements are a kind of financial security, that is, claims against property.  A patent permits the patent holder to sell the patented invention in the sovereign’s marketplaces, while forbidding other parties to sell the patented invention.  A patent, then, is a financial security; the property against which it entitles a specific claim is the sovereign’s marketplaces.

It is similar to Disney allowing only Starbucks to sell coffee in Disneyland.  When you are in Disneyland, you must commercially transact within the rules of Disneyland.

[1] Modern economists use the label “money” to refer to many essentially different kinds of security: actual paper currency, individual currency-denominated claims against the balance sheets of banks, bank claims agains the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve, etc etc.  All mainstream modern economic theories — Austrian, Keynesian, Chicago, MMT, Labor Theory of Value, etc — are metaphysically anti-realist, that is, are disconnected from reality and therefore insane and incoherent. In fact I am not personally aware of any metaphysically realist economic theory (an economic theory which competently distinguishes between imaginary reality and actual reality) at all, mainstream or fringe.

How ‘live and let live’ becomes ‘die, foul oppressor!’

November 12, 2015 § 16 Comments

If you don’t like usurious loans, don’t make one.

If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.

If you don’t like gay marriage, marry someone of the opposite sex.

If you don’t like divorce, stay married.

If you don’t like contraception, don’t use it.

If you don’t like the comprehensively liberal choices on the ballot, you are equally free to support your own candidate.

If you don’t like liberal democracy, move to a monarchy.

If you don’t like slutty women, find a nice chaste girl.

If you don’t like peter pan manboys, Eat Pray Love and “marry” a hunky millionaire handyman. Or get cats.

If you don’t like poverty, give to the poor yourself but keep your hands out of my pockets.

If you don’t like exploiting labor, pay your employees a good wage.

If you don’t like genocide by immigration, live in a better neighborhood with the other racists.

If you don’t like public school indoctrination, homeschool.

If you don’t like comprehensive moral permissiveness all the way from the center to the peripheries, well, you are destined for Hell you self-absorbed rule-obsessed promethean neopelagian.

Paper wealth, or, we’re going to Disneyland

November 12, 2015 § 23 Comments

People find paper or electronically recorded securities counterintuitive.  Why the heck does anyone value pieces of paper with ink on them, or numbers in computer memory?  Why the heck is anyone willing to trade a real working car in exchange for numeric balances stored by software in a data center somewhere?

In the Zombie Apocalypse legal title isn’t worth the paper upon which it is written, or the bits in which it is recorded. But short of the Zombie Apocalypse, securities have value because under the laws of the sovereign they entitle you – the owner or bearer of the security – to something other than the security itself.

The title to your car entitles you to your car.

The title to your house entitles you to your house.

Bank deposits entitle you to cash on demand up to the deposit amount through liquidation of some of the property on the bank’s balance sheet.

Exxon stock entitles you to proportional profits and residual liquidation value in Exxon.

A non-usurious note or interest-bearing bond entitles you to census payments against property and liquidation value of that property up to the principal amount of the note.

A usurious note entitles[1] you to the enslavement of the person making the personal guarantee until the principal and interest demands of the note are satisfied.

Self-referential securities entitle you to run around in circles looking for the thing of value to which you think you are entitled.  It must be somewhere!

And a sovereign dollar entitles you to make a transaction, in the sovereign’s marketplaces, for which the tax is one sovereign dollar.

It is manifest (whether folks like it or not, because nature doesn’t reconfigure itself based on what people don’t like) that the sovereign ‘owns’ various marketplaces, because he makes and enforces the rules for transacting – for bartering property and labor – in those marketplaces which fall under his sovereignty. Just as Exxon owns its capital infrastructure, the sovereign owns the outer capital infrastructure in which Exxon operates and transacts.  Economic reality is not reducible to nothing but private property.

If you go to Disneyland, you have to follow the rules of Disneyland.  If the rules say you have to pay ten Mouse Groats for every transaction in Disneyland, you’ll need Mouse Groats if you want to transact in Disneyland.  If the tax rules are more complicated than that you’ll still need Mouse Groats based on the transacting you want to do, the tax rules, and the supply of Mouse Groats. Mouse Groats are a securitization of Disney’s ownership of the marketplace in which you are transacting.

And it is all fun and games until the zombies come.

[1] Of course, as an intrinsically immoral case of usury this entitlement may be enforced by the positive law, but it is not a genuine moral entitlement.

Out of student loans and treehouse homes we all would take the latter

November 6, 2015 § 16 Comments

I recently discussed bank loans, usury, and the ‘creation of money’ in a thread at The Thinking Housewife which readers may find of interest.  At the very least discussing the same subject matter with different words, and with different questions and answers, can sometimes be helpful.

To simplify matters, you can think of a bank – in the absence of usury – as a big pooling of claims against property.  When a bank loan against property is made, that specific property is added to the pool of property against which the bank has claims, and the borrower is issued a deposit account of that same value in return.  The deposit account is a generic claim against the whole pool of property.  So the trade is that the bank gets to add the property to the pool, and in return the borrower gets a claim of equal value against the whole pool.  Since the bank now has an ownership claim against the new-to-the-bank property while the borrower still gets to use that whole property, the bank charges the borrower rent for its share: interest.

The problem with a simple usurious loan is that there is no property; and with a collateralized usurious loan that the loan is made against “more” than just the property itself. The “more” is the borrower’s personal guarantee of repayment above and beyond forfeiture of the property.  So in the usurious case it looks like the bank creates ‘money’ – a deposit account or part of a deposit account – out of nothing, by adding the promises of borrowers to repay to the pool of ‘property’ — a pool which is now partly composed of nothing but personally promised IOU’s.

This is important simply because it is true, of course, but also because it shows not only that the Church was for thousands of years more morally correct than the rest of the world but that the Church’s doctrine on usury continues to this day to be more financially correct than pretty much all of the modern world.

Post title swiped from twenty one pilots, who seem like nice kids:

Currency debasement is kind of immoral, but not in the way you think

November 5, 2015 § 50 Comments

If you’ve followed along with my recent posts you now know that fiat currency (really any sovereign currency at all) is a kind of financial security issued by the government: a tax voucher which entitles the bearer to the settlement of tax liabilities.  And since you understand what a financial security is, you grasp that the government has theoretically plenary power to issue fiat dollars against its balance sheet just as Google has theoretically plenary power to issue new shares of Google stock.  This theoretically plenary power is in fact limited by practical and moral considerations though; and now that we have conceptually separated fiat currency from goldbug ravings and ignorant ‘hard currency’ rants and the like, it is possible to coherently discuss those moral limitations.

When the government spends fiat dollars it is ‘spending’ its own security that it issues itself. When it takes in fiat dollars it is acquiring some of its own securities from the open market and retiring them. This is not at all comparable to Google spending cash (a third-party security) and receiving cash: it is much more comparable to Google issuing new Google stock and buying back existing Google stock. Even when Google sells or gives out ‘existing shares’ that it is holding itself the ‘existing shares’ part is really just an illusion of accounting, from a financial perspective. Google qua company ‘owning’ a batch of its own shares financially nets to nothing: to Google holding a claim on its balance sheet against its own balance sheet. So every time Google itself gives out or sells shares of Google to a third party it is in effect actually issuing new shares, in every sense that matters here.

The same is true for a government “spending” its own sovereign currency.  When the government “spends” it is issuing currency; when it “taxes” it is retiring currency.  So to come to grips with the moral constraints on it doing so it can be helpful to think about the moral constraints on Google issuing new stock.

It is unhelpful and obscurantist to think about it as if taxing and spending were equivalent in any sense to a company receiving revenues and spending in the medium of a third party currency or security, despite the fact that this is how most people try to understand it. The moral constraints on Google ‘spending’ its own stock are not related to some amount of its own stock that Google is holding in a treasury or dragon hoard somewhere; and it is likewise not related to how much of its own stock Google has bought back from the open market in the past year or what have you. That kind of ‘budgeting’ is meaningless when the currency under consideration is Google’s own stock as opposed to third party securities. Capital stock isn’t a claim against some separate treasury or dragon hoard. Securities like stock and fiat currency are claims against the balance sheet of the issuing institution itself: the institution and its property and powers just are the treasury against which securities are issued.

Our discussion of usurious bank loans can perhaps help here. Securitizing something which is actually valuable, spending balance sheet capital on something which improves the financial state of the institution, is fair to the shareholders of the bank and external stakeholders. Securitizing wasteful nonsense or empty promises as if they were property is not.

If Google started issuing new stock (not Larry Page’s existing stock, which he holds himself and can generally spend as he pleases, but new stock issued by Google itself) willy-nilly to friends of Larry Page just so they could all have private jets, that would be a violation of fiduciary duty: an immoral consumption of Google resources. Doing so would dilute current shareholders and damage the balance sheet of the company for the sake of private consumption which does not protect or advance the interests of shareholders.  This is, in a sense, ‘debasement’ of Google stock. As with many ‘line drawing’ problems it may be difficult as a third party observer to say where suboptimal competence stops and selfish cronyism begins; but the difficulty in drawing a precise line doesn’t imply that selfish cronyism is morally acceptable.

Likewise, when government officials “spend” fiat currency on things which are selfish or wasteful and do not advance the financial and other interests of the governed community that is also, every bit as much as securities fraud in private business, a violation of fiduciary duty.

One problem with the current situation is that we don’t have even the conceptual tools – from a financially realist perspective – to tell when the sovereign is damaging his balance sheet or whatever the equivalent ought to be for sovereign finance. And we will never develop those tools as long as we are caught between the Scylla of leftist desire not to understand the objective wastefulness of their initiatives and the Charybdis of willful anti-realist right-liberal ‘common sense’ financial ignorance.

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