For the individual, the political economy is micro.

Individuals have to act like foragers even in this technology dependent society. By forager I don’t mean having to grope around in the soil looking for roots, climbing trees for fruit, or hunting for fresh game. I mean that the approach to obtaining and using resources should be a microeconomic approach versus a macroeconomic approach.

The media especially persuades individuals that attention should be paid to the macroeconomy, whether domestic or global. Is national gross domestic product improving? How many millions were employed last month? How many more people applied for unemployment benefits? Did the President’s latest tweeted announcements lead to an uptick in the financial markets?

On the ground, particularly within the black population, I don’t hear chatter about the illusionary macroeconomy. The chatter is about the nominal prices faced by a shopper, whether the costs of food fits their budget, whether an employer has reduced a consumer’s work hours, and whether a family member can help out with a few extra bucks. People are preoccupied with managing the resources that are actually on hand.

It’s probably why macroeconomists sound so ivory tower, their policy proposals so pie in the sky. The average person in my population couldn’t relate to them if they tried because the positions of the macroeconomist sound so detached.

The late James Gapinski wouldn’t take kindly to hearing one of his former students writing off his branch of the economics profession so brusquely and being a fan of Diane Swonk (yes, some economists do have groupies), I cannot say that as people or professionals that macroeconomists don’t empathize with the everyday person. I believe most do. At best they present data about changes in the prices of commodities i.e. copper, corn, wheat, cocoa, oil, etc., that directly impact an individual’s microeconomy, but if global trade were curtailed would that mean the end of my existence or simply mean seeking alternative resources within closer proximity?

So where does the “foraging” come in? What do we mean by foraging? It is my term for self-sustainability. We should consider producing our own energy at a minimum, enjoying the benefit of less reliance on the grid along with lower costs per kilowatt hour of consuming electricity. Supplementing our food purchases with food that we can grow at home would provide an additional benefit of lower food costs.

The self-sustainable approach also makes us less susceptible to not only changes in the macroeconomy, but less susceptible to the transmission of macro rhetoric. Media and politicians would have less fear and uncertainty upon which to leverage their narratives and messaging. The political landscape would either be less noisy or we may see political packages that better align with the increased freedom garnered from self-sustainability.

The second scenario is less likely, unfortunately, because providing political packages that enhance personal freedom is out of sync with the goals of the State which is to create and maintain a dependent collective. Self-sustainability and certainty is a potent competitor to fear and uncertainty and the State would rather not aid the former.

A reining in of the political media should be expected under a nation-state model

Forbes reported today about a statement of work issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on 3 April 2018.  The statement of work seeks prospective vendors capable of providing the Department’s National Protection and Programs Acquisition Division with the capabilities to monitor traditional and social media. The specific objective of the services is:

“Services shall enable NPPD/OUS to monitor traditional news sources as well as social media, identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event. Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers.”

The statement of work does not get into any specifics as to why the Department would need such a program. It could be one of three reasons. One reason could be a push back by the Trump Administration on what it calls “fake news.” Mr Trump has shown a disdain for what he terms as unfair reporting typically from media perceived to be left leaning. He has no love for CNN, a lack of love expressed with so much disdain that he came out against the Time Warner-AT&T merger, one that is now being challenged by the Trump Justice Department.

The second reason for the proposed statement of work may be to create another tool for dealing with the media attacks a Russian troll service has been accused of. By monitoring media influencers, the United States could make a preemptive strike against journalists, bloggers, broadcasters, etc., that spread fake news and set the stage for divisiveness in American politics.

The third reason I see is that the political media has to be reined in by the nation-state. Part of the nation-state’s political ordering of and for society should include keeping the collective in order by controlling the messaging. While some spin is allowed in order for news organizations to establish some type of brand differentiation, i.e., MSNBC leans liberally forward while FOX is conservatively fair and questionably balanced, the general messages issued by the nation-state via the political media must be uniform enough to keep the masses in line or distracted. Too much spin to the left or to the right creates chaos in the collective, a disturbance in the force that the nation-state cannot afford.

I believe reason three is the purpose for the Department’s statement of work. Some Americans may see the proposal as an attack on a free press, but has the press ever really been free? Except for the occasional “breaking news” (which amounts to a press secretary given their favorite reporter or a reporter they can use the first shot at a story), most political news is initiated by a state actor with the media being tasked for commercial and political reasons for distributing it.

Probably over the weekend we may see some discussion on the meaning of a “free press.” Given that this story is not even trending on Twitter anymore has me wondering how seriously the media is taking the Department’s action.

Social media: Scourge of and escapism for Black America

Last week after ten years I gave Facebook the heave-ho. A friend from college sent me the invite to join back in 2007. I recall saying to him, “Kevin. Aren’t we too old for this bulletin board shit?” He responded that it appeared to be a great platform for keeping up with his kids. I said to myself that using it to keep in touch with my nieces seemed like a good idea. So I joined.

During that ten year period I connected online with interesting new people, high school and law school classmates. I have been fortunate to reconnect with family members and meet cousins on both sides of the family. In some ways it strengthened the ties within the lineages and helped drive home the importance of the tribe.

On the flip side, Facebook exposed a neurosis festering in Americans, and in particular Black Americans. Americans are divisive and lack critical thinking skills. By fueling the neurosis, Facebook, and I believe unintentionally, has contributed to the hyper-partisanship that the United States is experiencing. Facebook has made it very easy to allow its users to create near impenetrable silos thus discouraging worthwhile, thought expanding conversation and replacing it with ad hominem and vitriolic language, behavior that a civilized democracy is allegedly not supposed to reflect.

In short, Facebook has exposed an inconvenient truth; that civility is not the rule, but increasingly the exception to social interaction. It is not surprising that the Russian government was able to create fake pages and spread static loud enough to discombobulate the average voter. Facebook provides enough digital real estate for every Farmer Brown to build a silo of ignorance.

I used the word static as opposed to information. There is a reason. Facebook has built a business model on the ability of grab the attention of subscribers by encouraging them to exchange mostly valueless noise. The vast majority of static on Facebook cannot answer the question of “so what?” I believe that when you bombard the human brain consistently with meaningless noise, you erode a person’s critical thinking skills. And that is a scenario that Black Americans cannot afford.

Black American’s disproportionate use of social media is disconcerting because it feeds the narrative that Black Americans are not strategic thinkers and make political decisions based on their emotions. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are emotional cesspools, perfect places for those brave enough to opine on politics from an emotional, lack of depth perception. Making assertions based on static obtained from a cable news program is intellectually obscene given the political agendas of the cable programs on-air personalities.

Take for example the debate on net neutrality. The majority of comments on Facebook leading up to the 15 December 2017 vote were made by a vast majority of Facebook subscribers who had not read the net neutrality rules slated for repeal, had not read the section of the Communications Act upon which the rules were based, and were consistently conflating net neutrality principles with net neutrality rules. The two are different.

But when ignorance in social media post can go viral via a hashtag, the tide becomes unstoppable.

One can argue that I am being a bit uptight and prudish. Surely I should not expect every political media consumer to go out and read every bloody statute, regulatory code, etc., before making a decision. My answer is, yes, I do. Today’s political economy environment is where you extract the resources necessary for your physical, emotional, and mental survival. You are required to know it, just like your ancestors were required to understand the currents on the seas that they fished, and the terrain upon which the hunted and grew food.

Given African America’s lack of access to capital and the political abusive relationship it has with political parties, observing. extracting, analyzing, and distributing value-driven information upon which important decisions can be made is more important than digesting static filled content that passes through you as quickly as white rice, stripped of nutrients that keep you strong.

Learning how to disconnect from the State’s political noise

It has been two months now since I got rid of cable. The noise out of Washington has gotten to be a bit much. Americans appear to be ever increasingly losing their minds over the man sitting in the Oval Office. In less than three years his critics in the electorate will have an opportunity to enter a ballot box near them and vote for someone else.

If engagement in the ballot box and with C-SPAN’s Washington Journal were so fruitful we would have less tension or at least fewer reports on Donald Trump. Social media would be quieter or at least focused on something hopefully less mind numbing (I know that’s a lot of hope.)

As the good people at Reason.com reported back in 2012, one’s vote, in the end doesn’t matter. Given that voting is about the most active political engagement most Americans will engage in, voting amounts to a colossal waste of time.  Citing work done by the National Bureau of Economic Research, of the one billion votes cast in 40,000 legislative elections between 1898 and 2001, only seven contests were decided by a single vote. There are higher payoffs from just about any other activity than voting.

And what does government provide that we feel so emotionally invested in calling each other names, not speaking to each other, or worse, unfriending people on Facebook? Not much for our tax dollar.

For example, do you like the state of your roads or other infrastructure? The American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s roads, bridges, and ports a grade of “D+” in a 2017 survey. The score has stayed relatively the same for the last 20 years, and given Congress’ inability to fund budgets, especially the transportation portion, I believe that grade will be on the United States’ report card for awhile.

How about America’s education policies? Are policymakers effectively addressing how well the State educates kids? Well, no. Remember Common Core, the initiative detailing what children grades kindergarten through 12th grade should know at the end of each school year? While enthusiastically supported by a Republican and Democratic president, a report by the Brookings Institution in 2012 determined that the policy would have little to no impact on a student’s ability to learn.

The news isn’t so rosy on the collegiate level either. For all its equating of democracy to equality, Blacks and Latinos are equating democracy to a racial disparity in accessing college education. In a USA Today article citing statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics, it was reported that Blacks and Latinos, while enrolling in college on a relatively similar proportion as whites, were enrolling in for-profit schools and community colleges at a higher rate than whites. This is considered problematic, according to the article, because of complications surrounding financial aid.

These are just some examples of the State’s failure to deliver on the benefits that it promises to its “extended employees”, the constituents who vote for the politicians that promise the good schools, good roads, and bountiful opportunities. One would think that more Americans would disconnect from a government that hasn’t kept its word, but on the contrary, like the population who have endured abusive relationships, there is that small fraction of the population that somehow believe that abuse is love.

So how does one disconnect from the State’s political noise? First remember that you cannot avoid the State. The State influences you via its rules and statutes; its courts; the media; and the taxes it levies. You cannot violate its rules without bringing harm to yourself. Your actions should lead to maintenance and survivability of self and family; top optimize your sovereignty. Your goal is to minimize contact with the State and replace its “services” with services provided via voluntary, private arrangement.

A couple approaches that you may have already thought of. For example, avoid owning property. The State encourages its citizens to own property so that a nexus for taxation exists. Work hard to improve the value of your property and every year there is the State swooping in for its cut.

A mistake I made was having my son educated in State schools. If you can, educate your children at home. This way you can devote more time to inculcating life survival skills and critical thinking skills very early. Schools focus primarily on programming children for allegiance to the State’s values. An independent thinking, self-actualized child is one of the biggest threats to the State. Trust me. It’s not some teen-aged gang banger that the State is afraid of. The gang banger can be shot down and no one will raise a fuss.

Another approach, stop voting. Don’t feel bad about not going to the polls. First of all, you are not required to. As we discussed earlier, your vote doesn’t matter. More importantly, the tyranny of the masses that is democracy is fueled by the vote. Why further threaten your individual sovereignty by giving wanna be master any authority to write oppressive rules.

Finally, divorce yourself from government issued currency and form a trading community that uses a non-government issued currency, hopefully one backed by a natural resource. The Treasury issued, Federal Reserve Bank distributed currency is backed by  an economic infrastructure that may be working for some but not for the majority. The currency’s demand should be a reflection of the economy that lies behind it, one that is productive.