Friday, March 13, 2015

News from the Network, Vol. 8, No. 11

It’s up!  It’s down!  Spin the wheel and see if you make or lose a fortune on Wall Street today!  Or, better, go to Las Vegas.  At least you get dinner and a show while throwing your money around — and when you win or lose, you at least know why: you forgot to placate the gods and goddesses of chance properly or sufficiently, or perform the proper rituals.

Cargo Cult Aircraft
We’ve been reading Peter Lawrence’s landmark study of the Cargo Cult phenomenon in the South Pacific, Road Belong Cargo (1964).  When you first start reading, you think that Cargo Cultism has got to be the weirdest, most whacked-out delusion you’ve ever come across.  Then you keep on and suddenly realize that the presumably superstitious tribal members aren’t all that different from most Americans, especially academics and politicians trapped in Keynesian assumptions.

For example, A Cargo Cult member believes you have to offer sacrifice (leave food offerings at the graves of your ancestors) and perform the proper rituals (build warehouses, piers, and landing strips) to gain “cargo” (material wealth) so that God-Dodo and Jesus-Manup will send canned goods, rice, cloth, and metal tools to their faithful followers.  The average American who accepts Keynesian assumptions believes that you have to offer sacrifice (go to college) and perform the proper rituals (get a job and vote for the right party) so that government-federal or government-state will send checks to their faithful followers.

Ladder to God's Cargo Workshops
Why isn’t it working?  For the Cargo Cult member, it’s because the wealthy and greedy whites are diverting cargo coming from God’s Cargo Workshops in Heaven (which is in the clouds directly above Sydney, Australia, and reached by invisible ladder accessible only to those who know the proper ritual) that is intended for others into their own warehouses.  They usually perform this theft by sneaking on to ships and airplanes with cans of paint and changing the addresses on the cargo, and then not distributing the wealth to its intended recipients.

For the Keynesian, it’s because the wealthy and greedy corporations are diverting profits coming from the customer that belongs to the workers into their own bank accounts.  They usually perform this theft by overcharging customers and underpaying workers, and then not paying taxes or higher wages.

When you look at it that way, the Cargo Cult member is more rational than the average American: cargo is actual wealth, not a check that is the symbol of currency that is the symbol of wealth; you can eat a can of Spam, while the check might not buy anything if the government doesn’t keep its promises.  Of course, the Just Third Way would be more rational still. . . .

You can't consume what isn't produced, so to consume, produce.
  The Treasury Department is starting to panic (again).  The government is scheduled to run out of money (again) on March 16.  This will presumably cause a showdown (again) between Spenders and Savers.  So they have to raise the debt limit (again) or face The End Of Civilization As We Know It (again).  Here’s a wild and crazy idea.  Instead of trying to figure out ways to keep on spending money that doesn’t exist, or do the same thing in the opposite direction by cutting costs, why not focus on ways to raise the “wealth limit,” i.e., make ordinary people productive so that, 1) the government doesn’t have to spend so much money taking care of people who can now take care of themselves, 2) restore the tax base so the government can raise enough money from taxes that it doesn’t have to keep creating money and mortgage future tax collections, and 3) start paying down the national debt.  The tax and monetary reforms of Capital Homesteading are designed to do just that.

• Evidently you can buy houses in Detroit, Michigan, for as little as $500 in cash.  Don’t pack your bags just yet, however.  There may be back taxes, liens, costly repairs, and former owners and squatters living in your new palace in Motown.  Of course, the problem would solve itself with the Homeowners Equity Corporation (HEC).  The proposal makes sense, however, which may be why it has not been given serious consideration.

When promises don't get kept.
• When is a guarantee not a guarantee?  When it’s a government guarantee.  The Pension Benefits Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) has announced that its guaranteed benefits to plan participants are guaranteed to be less than guaranteed.  If you’re not confused by that, you may be a Keynesian.  If you’re not a Keynesian, you may be confused by the refusal of so many companies to shift from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans, especially the JBM S-Corp ESOP.  At the crudest level, of course, an S-Corp that is 100% owned by the workers through an ESOP pays no state or federal corporate income taxes.  Taxes are paid only once: by the recipient when a participant receives a distribution, whether of corporate profits (technicality: S-Corps don’t pay dividends, but make distributions, but the law that specifies pass-through dividends is interpreted to apply to S-Corp ESOP distributions), or for the sale of assets in his or her account back to the ESOP Trust.  It is impossible — impossible — for a defined contribution plan of any kind to promise more than it can pay (unless somebody steals the money).  A participant owns the vested balance in his or her accounts, nothing more, nothing less.  The nonsense about a guarantee that is less than what was guaranteed can be relegated to the dustbin of politics and weird academic treatises.  Of course, if an ESOP, whether C- or S-Corp, doesn’t adopt Justice-Based Management and Justice-Based Leadership, it might be better to have stuck with the traditional defined benefit plan, but that’s another issue.

Save the family.
• Deacon Joseph Gorini has developed a terrific script and shot a sample video for the upcoming fundraising campaign that we hope to launch in the near future.  A couple of factors have slowed things down a bit, e.g., some promising volunteers over-promised somewhat, but realized what they had done before committing themselves (and us) to something they weren’t able to follow through on (a little disappointing, but much better than having us do a lot of work and then have the rug pulled out from under after spending time and money), and revisions of the message.

• On Wednesday we came across an article published in December 2012 that grossly misrepresented CESJ’s Just Third Way and its consistency with Catholic social teaching and thus other natural law-based systems.  We sent a letter to the managing editor of the publication requesting the opportunity to present a correction in the form of CESJ’s actual position.  If we hear nothing, we will publish the letter on this blog and circulate it to the rest of the network.

• As of this morning, we have had visitors from 46 different countries and 47 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past two months. Most visitors are from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Kenya, and Ireland. The most popular postings this past week were “Lord of the World, I: The Papal Reading List,” “Thomas Hobbes on Private Property,” “Lord of the World, VI: Reformation and Transformation of Truth,” “Lord of the World, II: Introducing Robert Hugh Benson,” and “The Purpose of Production.”

Those are the happenings for this week, at least those that we know about.  If you have an accomplishment that you think should be listed, send us a note about it at mgreaney [at] cesj [dot] org, and we’ll see that it gets into the next “issue.”  If you have a short (250-400 word) comment on a specific posting, please enter your comments in the blog — do not send them to us to post for you.  All comments are moderated, so we’ll see it before it goes up.


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