The philosophy of ADOS

ADOS. A growing movement …

There is a steadily growing movement within the Black American branch of the African Diaspora referred to as ADOS; American Descendants of Slavery.  The movement was started by Yvette Carnell, editor and creator of the internet site, Breaking Brown; and Antonio Moore, an attorney and creator of the online site, ToneTalks.  The movement’s primary goal is to obtain reparations for the descendants of slaves brought to what is now called the United States and for the federal government to streamline existing economic and civil rights policies as well as implement new policy aimed specifically at Americans who can claim a lineage from slavery.

The specific philosophy …

ADOS was established to make a public policy case for reparations.  As Attorney Moore points out, from a legal perspective, reparations requires a victim and the victim in this case would be the descendants of slaves brought to present day United States.  Blacks brought to present day America from Africa as slaves built the United States economy, argue Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore, and for this reason, ADOS excludes from its narrative blacks from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa.

Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore are purposefully narrow in their view of America’s relationship with Black America. They see other ethnic groups benefiting from public policy that, in their opinion, was designed for the benefit of Black Americans, i.e. civil rights legislation, affirmative action programs, etc., where blacks are pushed down lower and lower on the benefits ladder while other groups, i.e. women, immigrants, the LGBTQ community garner more attention and resources.  “ADOS is about having a specific conversation about ourselves”, says Mr. Moore.

The first hurdle to establishing ADOS’ philosophy as policy: black people …

Blacks are still learning about ADOS and the ones that have gained some familiarity with the initials if not the founders or the underlying concept of reparations are taking offense to the notion that blacks should view their lineage as having started in slavery.  A number of my friends have expressed this sentiment, disturbed that ADOS does not appear to take into account the history of blacks in Africa prior to being brought to the western hemisphere as slaves.

But how this position regarding the term “American Descendants of Slavery” impacts the endgame of reparations is not clear.  For the last three decades my take on reparations was mostly that of a pipe dream driven primarily by emotions and no foundation in law.  Chattel slavery was legal as far as colonizing European nations were concerned and I didn’t see how moral arguments or emotional outcries regarding the treatment of our African ancestors would gain traction in the late 20th century with people of European descent who either benefited from the capital slavery helped their ancestors generate or whose ancestors arrived after slavery was abolished.

Blacks who occupy the conservative end of the political spectrum may argue that the push for reparations only gives whites an empowered status they do not deserve while relegating blacks to a lower “seeking a handout” status.  Rather, they may argue, blacks should follow the example of enterprising blacks and carve out their own niche via hard work, using the resources currently made available by America. In short, forget reparations.

I expect a significant number of white Americans will be opposed to reparations and that they will likely parrot the conservative argument mentioned above. As they comprise a majority of the electorate, I surmise that their position will weigh the heaviest on any decision made by Congress to pass legislation on reparations.  Congress may not be able to come up with a social policy rationale strong enough to survive the legal scrutiny that is likely to occur should some type of reparations legislation gets passed.

But it’s too early to say reparations won’t happen …

The likelihood of reparations legislation passing in the Congress is near non-existent at this point in time and the most that can be said right now is that black descendants of African slaves advocate for reparations through a lens carved out of the inequity of building a plantation economy without compensation; pain and suffering from rapes, beatings, and lynchings; and 150 years of discrimination and civil rights violations.

What is being seen through this lens, this philosophy of reparations, must be inserted into a clear narrative or policy-based argument.  Right now, without further research, I don’t see an analogical or rules-based argument being used either in support of legislation or in crafting a rule in court that would protect reparations from being challenged.

 

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A philosophy of “political” engagement for the individual anarchist

Navigating the path to a good life in the realm of politics …

The good life is one where the individual pursues her self-awareness without the encumbrance of mass tyranny.  An individual anarchist that places personal liberty above all else will have as a goal near non-existent contact with government.  She will do what is practical to keep government off of her back.  She will, for example, file her tax returns and pay her taxes, taking advantage, of course, of any means of reducing her tax obligation that keeps her at the same time off of the government’s radar.  She should keep herself in a position to keep government at bay.

Does this mean that the individual anarchist must involve herself in politics?  That may depend on how you define politics.

The politics of human interaction …

I am a realist.  I acknowledge that 245 years ago, a bunch of well-financed strong men wrestled control of this jurisdiction from a strong man sitting in England.  I acknowledge that these strong men created a government for the day-to-day exercise of administration of this jurisdiction’s resources, and that if I am to navigate this environment in order to maintain myself and my family, then there will be some minimal exchange of information or currency between me and this government and the people who exercise non-thinking obedience to its policies.

Does this mean that I have to engage in the institutional practice of the administration of public affairs?  Does this mean that I have to vote in an election or run for public office?  Does this mean that I have to fund political campaigns and take bets on a better candidate?

The answer to the above is no.  Acknowledging the State’s existence creates no requirement that you feed the Beast.  Rather you should call the Beast out through constant critique.  To borrow from Emile Armand, “the work of the anarchist is above all a work of critique.”  The individual-anarchist, in order to enhance her chances of optimizing individual liberty, must live and need be agitate from the outside.  What “political” mechanism, then, should she use?

Political ‘string theory’ ….

The relationship between elected officials and the electorate is based on an exchange of a politician’s position and and a voter’s perception.  This exchange creates an equilibrium that is maintained where a politician conveys to a voter necessary and sufficient information that meets or guides a voter’s perception as to how well the environment of the political economy is doing.  For example, Donald Trump conveys to his constituency that his policies are leading to job growth.  His base, after consuming available data, continue to perceive that things are going well.

But the individual-anarchist may see Mr Trump’s policies as impeding her ability to, say, develop and use her own private energy resources.  At this point she may have two alternatives. She can be silent and allow Mr Trump’s policies and the electorate’s erroneous perception to crush her, or she can engage in a temporary strategic partnership with like-minded individuals to critique Mr Trump’s policies.  This is where the political string theory comes in.

Under this theory, the equilibrium between elected official position and voter perception lies on a fabric of data flow between both parties.  Warp the fabric by introducing surprise; by introducing information, and this relationship changes.  The goal of the temporary, strategic partnership of individual anarchists should be to publish accurate, data rich “surprise” that disrupts the inertia in the political system.

This type of agitation cannot occur from inside the system for two reasons.  First, the system’s core has in place editorial roadblocks that will dilute, eviscerate, eliminate the messaging.  Instead, the messaging should aim to pick off elements of the mass electorate who may be more susceptible to independent thought, those who may be sitting on the fence. Those who doubt the efficacy of the political elite.

The second reason for agitating from the outside is to ensure that the messengers are not co-opted.  Take for example the Libertarian Party.  Their policies or positions have yet to take hold with a significant amount of the American population. By operating within the mechanics of the electoral system, they have morphed into nothing but closet Republicans.

Conclusion …

“Political” engagement for the individual anarchist must be temporary and purposeful.  Prolonged engagement runs the risk of creating organizations that eventually exist for the sole purpose of maintaining existence.  Prolonged engagement means diluting your individuality. To be the effective critic, the new data introduced must be a surprise, truly new information that makes disruption all the more effective.

 

What should the role of law be in Facebook’s digitally connected world?

The Eye Catcher …

Is it important to human existence that seven billion human beings be digitally connected? Facebook seems to think so.  According to its mission statement, Facebook’s mission is:

” … to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.  Our top priority is to build useful and engaging products that enable people to connect and share with friends and family through mobile devices, personal computers, and other surfaces.  We also help people discover and learn about what’s going on in the world around them, enable people to share their opinions, ideas, photos and videos, and other activities with audiences ranging from their closest friends to the public at large, and stay connected everywhere by accessing our products.”

Facebook’s view of the world seems to have gone beyond making sure they provide a platform upon which we can find our seemingly long-lost high school crushes.  Now the company wants to facilitate our abilities to make friends and form more connections by introducing emotion-detecting robotics. Just imagine walking down 7th Avenue in Manhattan, your head hung low.  You feel a tap on your shoulder. You turn, and there is Robby the Robot asking if you need a friend.

Just what should the role of law be in an instance where data is being collected first hand on a public street in any American city? First, what is the role of law?

What is the role of law in the digital age?

In a society where data is being collected sometimes without permission or pursuant to some term and condition that has not been read by a subscriber to digital services, what should be the role of law? In other words, to what extent should the State promulgate a body of rules to regulate the behavior of firms that collect by digital means behavioral data from the State’s citizens?

To answer this question I believe we first have to analyze the State’s role in this political economy.  Then, we need to take a look at the relationship between the State and the business firm in general and the data collecting digital firm in particular. After this analysis, we can provide a more accurate picture of the role of law with the added benefit obtaining some insight on the philosophy underlying the State and the laws it promulgates.

The state as ultimate manager of all resources …

To assess the State’s role in this political economy, I place myself in the role of the original “strong man.” I see land and determine to occupy it and control all its resources for my benefit.  Paraphrasing Murray N. Rothbard from his work, Anatomy of the State, I systemize all my political means of acquisition and control, i.e. law, military to create a mechanism for taking the land, whether occupied or unoccupied and convert it to my property to distribute, again for my benefit, at some point in the future.

At this point of acquisition and conquest I have to decide what is the best method for me to optimize the benefits derived from my new territory. Do I and my small band of conquerors do the work ourselves or do we retain labor to do the job?

Entrepreneurs, privateers, and private firms/trading companies step in, petition for charters giving them license to mine and extract resources which they package in return for a fee from me.  These private “going concerns” may also obtain a license from me, the State, allowing them purchase land and extract and package resources, and convert the resources into goods and services for distribution while making a profit along the way.

In my model of a political economy, I have decided that, while I own and maintain the public rights-of-way through which transportation, energy, and communications networks are deployed, commercial trade, the movement of goods and services, will be managed by the privateers.  As long as the privateers serve the “public interest”, they will be allowed to chase profits.

The definition of “public interest” has always been less than clear, but coming from the perspective of the State, as long as the privateer’s activity creates a taxable event and does not erode the public rights-of-way to the point of maintenance costs exceeding benefit, then the privateer keeps her license and is allowed to continue extracting resources and pursuing a profit.

Is the extraction of digital information in the State’s interest? Yes …

Information is a primary resource. It services all endeavors, from manufacturing, mining, farming, public policy decision-making, baking apple pie, etc.  The State has an interest in how it flows.  In a political economy that rides on a corporate-capitalism platform, the State has an interest in allowing information to flow under the least restrictive conditions so that, like other forms of capital, information can move to its next best use. In the case of digital platforms such as Facebook, the State has made a determination, as manifested in its charter to Facebook, that Facebook meets the public interest by creating a taxable event that involves the efficient and profitable extraction of information.  With over 2 billion users and its dominant position in digital advertising, Facebook is demonstrating that it is meeting the State’s public interest.

So, as to the State’s role in a digital economy, the extent to which the State is expected to promulgate a body of rules to regulate the behavior of firms that collect by digital means behavioral data from citizens should be a minimal one; an extent to where the digital firm can leverage its technology to optimize data collected and the revenue obtained from digital services, while the State maximizes collection of taxes from the digital platform.

So what role should law play in a digital economy?

I see the role of law in a digital political economy as three-fold. First, its role is to “apologize” for the State’s role in exercising jurisdiction over the resource called information.  Second, the role of law is to ensure that information flows freely to its best use by licensing the firms that are best at moving information to its next best use.  Lastly, the role of law is to ensure collection of taxes from entities charted to mine, package, and distribute information while allowing these firms to maximize profits.

 

 

 

Gentrification is white nationalism that may be vanquished by monetary and fiscal policy

The Eye Catcher …

This morning I listened a bit to an interview conducted on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal with Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  Ms. Clarke’s purpose for appearing on the show was to discuss the rise in white nationalism in the United States.  As I listened to the discussion I found no new foundation for Ms. Clarke’s concern.  The concerns regarding white nationalism, as expressed by Ms. Clarke and other civil rights advocates, have always come from a place of fear, pain, and suffering: the fear of physical violence perpetrated by a racial majority on a racial minority; the pain of past and perceived current wrongs; and the suffering endured as a result of discriminatory practices in housing, financial services, the labor markets, and the legal system.

Another eye catcher was the diverse group of constituents Ms. Clarke’s organization represents.  About 25 years ago, I visited a friend who worked for Lawyers’ Committee.  She proudly showed me around the office, sharing a little of the history of the organization’s founding; sharing with me that its roots stemmed back to a civil rights initiative by the late President John F. Kennedy to strengthen the legal protections for black people.  That initiative seems to have changed and all for the worse for blacks.

Today, the Committee’s agenda seems to have expanded.  Their agenda has broadened to include every group under the sun that claims to be marginalized: white women, the LGBTQ community, Asians, etc.  I would hazard an ironic guess that if you looked at the wealth accumulated by each of these groups in comparison to blacks that blacks would still be on the bottom of the totem poll.

When this expanded agenda combines with the factors of fear, pain, and suffering, they create a weak platform from which to launch any initiative toward black empowerment.  The platform is weak because of the limits it places on blacks. Fear does not embolden. It causes you to hesitate.  Worse, it may cause you to rely on others, particularly those others who claim that they, too, suffer from inequality, but whose agenda, history, and lineage differ from yours so drastically that when they, these other groups, see progress, they will quickly abandon you.

Most times I believe this “We are in the same boat” argument is nothing but a delay tactic, keeping the weaker group distracted long enough until the weaker group is not even left with crumbs.

Blacks are too easily distracted by emotional buzzwords ….

Groups like the Lawyers’ Committee, National Urban League, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have played expertly on the fear, pain, and suffering of the black community.  They have defined “white nationalism” in emotion-invoking terms, where minorities are expected to shudder in the face of hateful language or crime.

It is expected that threats of physical harm would invoke fear, but what social justice organizations and white liberals fail to accept is that blacks can effectively defend themselves against white nationalism, and that the United States was founded on the principle of acquisition by discovery where European philosophy was deemed so superior that indigenous tribes in North America could be cleared away like so much brush.  White nationalism is global and has been handed down over the last 520 years from the original European settlers of North America to their descendants via various institutions that create the platform for this current political economy.

Yes, white nationalism is about members of the “white race” asserting their dominion over a particular political and geographical space.  But if this behavior is so offensive to blacks to where changes in that behavior is requested, then becoming emotional about whites yelling hateful words and expressing a desire for a “whites only” country won’t get blacks very far.  It is time for blacks to apply critical thinking and develop and promote legal and public policy frameworks for addressing white nationalism.

Gentrification is white nationalism …

One form of white nationalism that Blacks can cut their teeth on is the concept of gentrification.  Gentrification is more than just whites and other non-blacks moving into formerly black neighborhoods.  Gentrification is the result of favorable monetary policy that has driven down interest rates making cheap credit available while increasing the value assets such that these assets support the issue of new debt.  Rising home values and the increased down payments required for mortgages squeeze blacks out of home ownership.  The result is the creation of an environment where whites can leverage cheap capital to increase wealth through property ownership while blacks are forced, via higher property values, rents, and property taxes, to move out.

Toward a legal framework to battle poor monetary policy … 

Rather than having existing black members of Congress lead fruitless emotional belly-ache charges in the media about affordable housing, private citizens should explore and initiate where feasible the legal action necessary for modifying how the Federal Reserve, the Congress, and the Executive are regulating the economy.

For example, the Full Employment Act of 1946 as amended by the Humphrey Hawkins Act of 1978 places the responsibility of managing the American political economy in the hands of the Federal Reserve, the President, and the Congress.  Are these institutions meeting their goals pursuant to the Act? Have fiscal and monetary policy as implemented by the Federal Reserve, the President, and the Congress resulted in increased burden on black citizens?  Should there be remedies?

Conclusion: It will take bravery …

The current initiatives by so called civil rights groups are not aggressive enough.  They are driven by emotion and aim more for symbolism than substantive results.  A more robust legal approach to wealth creation is necessary if blacks are to carve out a sustainable economic niche in America.

 

 

Blacks need a new political law game

The political battle between the Executive and the Congress has been intense to say the least over the last twenty-seven months since Donald Trump took office.  With post-Mueller report hearings ramping up next week, the saga only promises to continue way into campaign season.

My friends and family have expressed varying degrees of interest, with a significant number of opinions fueled more by emotion and less by critical thinking.  For example, the constant reference to “collusion”, a term that has no legal meaning, is disconcerting because it provides an example of how people are ignoring the particulars (even when readily available for examination) and rolling with the globs of misinformation thrown onto the plate most times by the mainstream media.

Black congressional leadership wasting political power …

What should also be disturbing is how two of the highest ranking blacks in the Congress, Maxine Waters and Elijah Cummings, are spearheading the charge in the impeachment debate.  Their distaste for the sitting president is evident, but what is less evident is how the use of a potent political law instrument as impeachment is supposed to translate into any increase in political power, wealth, or capital for black people.

If anything, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has expressed caution about pursuing impeachment, appreciating the argument from some inside her party that pursuing impeachment could have a negative impact on the Democrats’ ability to oust Donald Trump from the Oval Office in November 2020.  Mrs. Pelosi’s hesitancy on impeachment should have provided Ms. Waters and Mr. Cummings an opening to show leadership and go against the impeachment grain, not because it would be in line with Speaker Pelosi’s sentiment, but as a signal that the energy expenditure behind impeachment does nothing for their prime constituency: black people.

When you are marginalized, you agitate …

With at least 51 voting members in the U.S. House, blacks in the Congress are in a position to be the pivotal swing vote on a number of issues including impeachment. Numerically, black members of the House, where articles of impeachment would originate, could clog the wheel by holding back approximately 20% of the Democratic vote.  With this leverage, black congressmen could attempt concessions from either the House leadership or from President Trump, though it is less likely that the black caucus would try to negotiate with the President for fear of becoming a pariah in the Democratic Party.

Therein lies a telling dilemma. If the premier block of black congressmen cannot leverage numerical strength without fear of reprisal, what good is their strength?  Another irony is that for a group of congressman that represent a marginalized group, their fear of marginalization within Congress does not put them in a position to do more for their black constituents.

Maybe the answer is to stay outside the box …

On the other hand, maybe blacks, particularly those who embrace their status as marginalized, need an approach to political law that allows them to carve out their own independent niche; one that unapologetically finds the seams or openings in the political economy in order to access capital or create substantive platforms for constructing true communities. Current black leadership is too afraid to do that.

A quick thought on stablecoin, Facebook nation, and government pushback

Just had a thought on creating a digital nation and admittedly I am still just fleshing out the idea so bear with me.

Crypto currencies still have a chance at succeeding, but the issue commenters and the public continue to overlook is that as currencies, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and whatever the hell else is out there have no underlying political economies to support them. Currency valuations transmit to the world the value and/or level of economic output a nation has. Bitcoin, for example, is not a nation’s currency. If it were, it would give Zaire’s currency volatility a run for the money. With the advent of stablecoin, particularly Facebook’s expected issue of the digital coin in 2019, we could see the beginning of a truly digital political economy.

Stablecoin is defined as a cryptocurrency pegged to some reserve currency like the U.S. dollar or another crypto currency such as Ethereum. No matter the model, the goal is to provide users with some stability in the coin’s exchange price. Consumers and investors may like the convenience of not having to check Bitcoin’s price every time they want to buy a cup of coffee or make a currency exchange. Stablecoins, at least in theory, helps to avoid all that.

Facebook will reportedly first play in India’s remittance market. As we descendants of the Commonwealth are all to familiar with, the remittance process can be emotionally taxing when the lack of necessary middlemen are not in place to get money to our relatives in Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean.

The blockchain technology platform that Facebook’s stablecoin will use is expected to provide the transparency and peer-to-peer capabilities that ensure that monies are sent and received under a system of trust, verification, and lack of intermediaries.

But I can see Facebook and even Amazon going beyond playing a relatively minor role in a country’s payment system. Not only could Facebook or Amazon issue digital currencies in the next ten years, they could and should go all out in developing their own digital nations.

Facebook could finally add some meat to his currently weak mission of “connecting the world” by leveraging every business and consumer in his network to engage with each other commercially by using his stablecoin. Consumers subscribing to Facebook or Amazon could be assessed annual membership fees or be charged a “tax” substantially less than the average state or local sales tax in exchange for exclusive access to every merchant listed on either platform with the medium of exchange being a stablecoin.

As one of the largest companies in the world with a 2.5 billion people user base, Facebook, via commercial exchange on its platform, can generate the value necessary for traders in currency to express enough faith in the currency to trade in it drive up its value. Unlike current crypto currencies, a “Facecoin” could exhibit more organic and trustworthy movement because it would be backed by a company large enough to be a national economy.

As for local, state, and federal governments, they could be left a few decades from now with nothing left to regulate and tax but physical infrastructure. Would government be understanding and wish more and more taxpayers a fare thee well, or would government act like the pharaoh in the Old Testament, chasing the people with its tax chariots.

The ensuing issue may be the legal relationship between the old State and the new Digital State that online platforms like Facebook and Amazon will hopefully morph into and how best to treat citizens who have to spend time in both worlds.

Does Facebook’s business model disrupt the political information markets?

Facebook is engaging in a war against misinformation and divisiveness in the United States as perpetrated via social media, according to published reports by Bloomberg and The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Having done a 180 degree turn from its position last year that its platform was not used to cause a disruption of public opinion leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Facebook is using artificial intelligence tools to identify inauthentic posts and user behavior.  With teams comprised of data scientists, policy experts, and engineers, Facebook is blocking fake accounts and vetting news stories posted on its site.

Critics doubt that Facebook’s attempts to thwart future social media influence will outweigh its incentives to distribute fictional political stories that keep people glued to Facebook while providing advertisers with millions of pairs of eyeballs.  Facebook, according its 10-K annual report, garners almost of its revenues from advertising.  In 2017, advertising made up 98% of Facebook’s revenues.  According to Facebook’s 10-K, at the top of the list of factors that could adversely impact advertising revenues: decreases in user engagement, including a decline in the time spent using the company’s products.

Having used Facebook for eleven years, I witnessed the increase in the use of the platform as a tool for political engagement.  Facebook has expanded opportunities for voters to vet politicians and their policies.  I have seen a significant number of posts, including memes and video, that got the facts wrong; that showed no knowledge of process, politics, or economics.  Cynicism, fear, passion, inaccuracies, sincerity, patriotism, anarchy, and indifference all run rampant on Facebook.  But do I buy the argument that messages placed on Facebook by Russian agents spread so much misinformation that America became suddenly divided overnight? That “Russian interference led to a Trump victory?

No.  The divisiveness was already there.  Giving a couple hundred million Americans the ability to quickly share their thoughts, accurate or not, on the political news of day simply tore away the scab.

Further evidence of divisiveness in American politics: print, broadcast, and cable media.  American media is meeting the demand of a divided public, with Fox News occupying the Right and MSNBC and CNN serving the frenzied Left.

What Washington may truly be afraid of is that politicians have less control over the channels through which they are vetted.  On the one hand, Jeffrey Rosen, president of the Constitution Center, shared the following with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg:

“Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms have accelerated public discourse to warp speed, creating virtual versions of the mob.  Inflammatory posts based on passion travel farther and than arguments based on reason.  We are living, in short, in a Madisonian nightmare.”

On the other hand, Americans may be taking to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in search of alternative opportunities to criticize the political packages and action plans that politicians offer in exchange for votes and increases in taxes.  The divisiveness may be stemming from an increased lack of enchantment with democracy itself.  After all, according to Professor Yuval Harari, democracies are “blips in history” depending on “unique technological conditions” and losing credibility as democracy faces more questions about its inability to provide for and maintain a middle class.

Democracy is hard up to explain why almost all the nine million jobs created post recovery from the 2007-2009 recession have been “gig work” paying little to no benefits.  Democracy has yet to come up with a solution to a wealth gap that the Left invests time in describing, laying blame at the feet of the rich yet coming up with no solutions for a society that prides itself on equal access to the ballot but still comes up short on adequate access to capital.

To the question whether Facebook’s business model has disrupted the political information markets, I would, for now, answer yes.  Facebook has contributed to bringing unreasonable, uninformed voices into the arena. I for one do not want to be lead or have policy fed by impassioned, unreasonable voices, no matter what part of the spectrum they fall on.  What the political class may have to look at for in the near term is that democracy may be less of a facilitator of a peaceful transfer of power between its factions as the mob continues to peel away the scab.