Sunday, April 29, 2012

Review of the Zeitgeist: Moving Forward Documentary

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Several years ago there was a movie-length documentary on the internet which went viral. I sung its praises at the time because it offered a lot of compelling and factual evidence to support its arguments. This latest sequel 'Zeitgeist: Moving Forward' strikes me as a bit of brand name expropriation because it conveys a subtle undercurrent of hatred of capitalism. This was not evident in the first documentary. It may be by the same people; which is all the sadder. The first documentary highlighted the development and institution of religion, money and the Federal Reserve. It was largely correct in its research and findings.
This latest movie is not 'moving forward' at all; its going full circle, back to collectivism. The contributors to this movie make it abundantly clear that:
1. We are radicals, but not all radicals are bad, evil collectivists
2. They are scientists and so their conclusions deserve respect

There are a great many problems with this documentary. In fact, its akin to Michael Moore efforts in its shortcomings. It would be a lengthy review to highlight all of its misconceptions, but let me raise the biggest blunders:
1. The contemporary 'mixed economy' is not capitalism; it combines the market system with socialism. If we understand capitalism we recognise that its a optimistic system that entails people trading value for value for 'mutual' self-interest. This is not compatible with socialism which entails the sacrifice of personal values for the sake of the 'common good'. I would argue that it is the 'altruism' in socialism which is incompatible with capitalism, and which is the corrupting influence of capitalism on so many levels.
2. They depict capitalism as some ruthless system and yet it was the collectivists like Stalin, Marx and Hitler (aka 'You are nothing, your nation is everything') whom they wish to distance themselves from, who caused so much suffering. There is no question that there is suffering and depravation in contemporary society; its origin was the legacy of suffering. The liberalisation of the 17th-18th century exposed the flaws in the collectivist system, just as the low-wage labour liberalisation or 'surplus' of the modern era is exposing the shortcomings in Chinese, Indian, Argentinian and Brazilian collectivism, as these economies discard thei last vestiges of socialism/collectivism....or so we hope. The reality is that this is not going to occur until people recognise the philosophical nature of capitalism. You cannot believe in capitalism (i.e. ethic of self-interest) and be a  collectivist or mystic; as these conceptions entail a repudiation of the self or ego. This raises a great many contradictions in people's minds because they think the hedonist is 'self-interested'. But getting an education is self-interested. Its a question of context. In a 'dog-eat-dog' system of shortages people resort to ruthless measures. In a wealth-creation system like capitalism, you witness 'mutual gain'. The problem is not capitalism; the problem is collectivists who fail to recognise their better nature as humans, and who are enabled by hypocritical feel-good liberals and indulgent parents who undermine the personal values of their 'beneficiaries'.
3. The documentary draws on scientists who posit a false dichotomy between genetic determinism vs free will; only to draw another false dichotomy between environment and free will. The implication of their proposition is that we are passive by-products of our environment. What they fail to realise is that we are neither, and that we have a personal context, where our minds are engaged if mental engagement is rewarded.
4. Convenient truth - They correctly attribute the development of oil to a great to deal of prosperity; but what they fail to see is that capitalism made it possible. Cars were a 'luxury' until capitalism mass produced them. In fact if you look back before the Industrial Revolution, even coffee and sugar were luxuries. How we have prospered thanks to capitalism. These 'scientists' posit that we face crisis because we are running out of oil....that capitalism is lagging in the development of solar cells. In fact, they would have us roll out non-commercial technology whilst there is actually plenty of oil still to be discovered. Consider that Indian, Australian, Argentinean, Africa, Asian offshore basins have yet to be explored to any significant degree. They are still finding oil in Mexico, and yet they have been drilling there for nearly a century. Already, the 'wealthy' people among us are lowering the cost of solar, just as wealthy people are underwriting the development of plasma TVs, coffee and other products which were previously luxuries. The cost of solar panels are falling as we speak. They will be commercially prudent within a decade. We already have enough nuclear fuel to power the world for 7000 years; and you can imagine that we have scarcely looked for it because there is so much of it. Australia has 1/3 of the world's resources, and yet it has a moratorium of mining it, i.e. the 3-mines policy. This is contemporary socialist policy. Three mines is just right. In the last 50 years of these mines operating, there has been no deleterious effects. At the concentration and generation stage, there has been problems like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima; however I would argue that these were 'government' regulatory issues, not private operation per se.
5. Addicted - The scientists talk about 'addiction' and surmise that we are addicted to oil. It goes without saying that people have taken oil for granted. That is understandable since they have only lived in a period of time in which oil was cheap. But energy is just getting cheaper in real terms, and it is scientific research which is driving prices lower. Solar power will essentially be free in future. 
6. Technological development is not due to capitalism - These scientists would have you believe that technology is not rewarded with money; that the inventor Tesla was not motivated by money. Typical of a socialist to only see the 'money' and not understand the egoism inherent in creativity; as well as the egoism. Do you think a socialist would have the mental efficacy to advance an invention despite persecution by the mindless collectivist? No. Just look how the collectivist in wartime Japan, Russia and the Middle East fell into compliance. Their mindless passivity is their issue, not their 'love of money'. A socialist of course does not even consider the origins of money; there soul concern is 'expropriating MONEY'. Marx and Keynes provided a rationalisation to sanction expropriation; they provided it, and the opportunistic politicians took it. The current high oil prices are preparing the world for a non-oil future. They are doing that by helping the development of other biofuels, solar, nuclear, wind, and even less energy-intensive applications, i.e. The miniaturisation of computers which draw less power.
7. Recycling is purported a failure of the current 'capitalist' system. This is a totally hypocritical argument because it is actually the socialist 'rules' which preclude capitalists from designing more efficient cities. How can you argue for more efficient cities and for recycling at the same time. The old is currently used because its making best use of old resources. I might add that placing waste in a landfill is recycling. It remains dormant in the ground until the technology is developed to extract it commercially. There will come a time when harvesting human waste will prove more viable than exploring for virgin metals and energy supplies.
8. The documentary makes the case that 'capitalism' fails society on the basis of a number of empirical measures. They subtly argue that capitalist competition causes stress and thus we need a community which gives greater care to people. This is the classic socialist flaw. Firstly, apprehension or anxiety is due to mental or physical disempowerment, i.e. An inability to cope with the world. It is the capitalist who etches out a place in the world; it is the collectivist who expects the world to take care of them. Why? Because they were made vulnerable very young, and then they experienced Christians and socialists promising them a world of plenty and unconditional love. The capitalist message is that you can have these things, but you have to earn them. The socialist gives them the rationalisation to expropriate these benefits because they are intrinsically good. Unfortunately, it is the socialist system which creates the 'expropriation' that makes the capitalist less intellectual, and less empathetic. When people want to steal your money, you are less inclined to empathise with their plight. When you believe others have a moral responsibility to care for you, you are less inclined to empathise with them. You will never hear a socialist give a though to the anxiety of a capitalist. They make no distinction between money earned and stolen. Why? Because they steal it. Is this the morality of a caring person? It is the socialism in our economy which undermines the prospects for empathy in our society. These socialists argue that social relations depend on empathy and reciprocity; but this is the foundation of capitalism; not socialist. Collectivism compels you to give; you have no discretion. Do you imagine these 'social planners' are going to give you the discretion to opt out of their system. You will be extorted; as they campaign for higher taxes. 
9. It is interesting that these scientists hark back to the days of 'hunter & gatherer', to a time when forest animals posed a threat to human existence. Their point is that these were times of non-violence. This is nonsense. They had no violence because they had no scarcity; and they also had no egoism. This is not a good thing; as its the values that have surely kept them there. There are people still living on these terms, and they rely on the modern world to deal with their issues, whether its climate change, disease, drought, etc. You can argue that 'civilised man caused these problems', and that is true to some extent, but that is not necessarily the case. The world will survive without us. Before humans 95% of all living species were wiped out before the mammals developed. It is advanced capitalists who offer the prospect of averting similar crises; and these collectivists are worried about the 'spotted owl' or the 5% of socialists who don't understand the proper values for humanity. There is a crisis of human values keeping people poor; both in the third world (systematically) and in the Western world (i.e. welfarism of liberals). The shared legacy is the collectivism of religion, socialism and now secular irrationalism. But note how this irrationalism posits as science.
10. Modern rationalism - In the 1960s people campaigned for civil rights and animal rights, etc and their appeal was emotive and demonstrative. We want action. They offered no argument. Their approach was intimidation and obstruction. They were an embarrassment for government. These people became ubiquitous; and people wanted justification. In opposition to science and evidence, these thugs lost credibility. All life is evolving....and so does the collectivist. The modern day collectivist repudiates socialism as a label. This is the name of the game. They disparage people with labels, while inventing their own. They have no notion of the meaning of these labels. They are objects of smear, designed to disparage. Now, watch how the collectivist uses your ambivalence of scientific evidence to say that you know nothing, when all they know is the label; and not the argument which gives it meaning. Climate change is a complex issue. It draws on a great deal of empirical research. Observe how these 'scientists' will repudiate analytical thinking; even though valid empirical science needs to rest upon assumptions. i.e. replicable results, validity of sampling method as well as sample inclusion. They use statistics as if they were causal arguments; in the process failing to consider the context, which would of course repudiate their argument. This is another false dichotomy; empiricism vs rationalism; when in fact science requires both empirical and analytical perspectives.
11. Human nature - This documentary suggests that humans are cooperative rather than competitive by nature. i.e. We are communal rather than antagonistic. The fact is that we are both, and that 'nature' rests on the nature of our knowledge - synergistic and differentiated positions. Reconciling these positions is what advances human understanding. Little surprise that periods of collectivist correlate with Dark Ages and cultural revolutions. Socialism or collectivism does not tolerate 'difference', which is why the Arabs are still living in the Dark Ages, i.e. pre-civilisation, profiting from oil developed by the West. 
12. Money according to this documentary is dehumanising. Money has destroyed human empathy apparently. This is nonsense. Money freed people from poverty, so they today have far greater capacity for empathy. In ancient societies; and whilst communities might have been harmonious in their immediate 'huddle'; that did not preclude them from escaping the folly of their vulnerability to drought and floods by raiding neighbouring communities. This was ancient Europe, China, and even the hunter & gatherer communities. The life expectancy was low despite their 'natural abundance'. Again, this is not to totally embrace the modern form of society; it is not a pure form of capitalism. i.e. I personally think land is not a legitimate form of property rights because its not an improvement. I thus see it as a form of expropriation and tyranny. Look how British property rights entailed alienating the Maori and aborigine. They people had no notion of property; but I don't believe the Western conception was fully legitimate either.
13. It argues that the modern economy does not measure social well-being; and gives greater regard to economic measures. This is nonsense. The people with money focus on money measures; and the people who are focused on the poor look at those measures. The problem is that the values of the modern liberal are antithetical to the intellectual and physical well-being of the poor. Why? Because teaching people to be parasites living off the rich is not a value proposition. It is the values of the indulgent parent who gives their children anything that pleases them, failing to recognise the culture of entitlement that it engenders.
14. Waste - Listening to this movie, you could be forgiven for thinking that waste is bad. Waste is not actually or necessarily bad; its a material that can be used. If it was valued in a capitalist economy, then it would be used; if its not viable, the implication is that its costly, and thus an imposition to use it. These socialists suggest that they can design a city to avoid these 'waste streams' or to use them; but capitalism can do that too if any corporation had the moral sanction of force of government. The problem is - what else can this moral sanction for coercion be used for. This is of course the danger of these people. These liberals will be swept aside as 'well-intentioned' Maynard Keynes was; thanks to whom we ended up with a welfare state. He said after the fact that he only intended the welfare state as a temporary measure. I guess the government had only a selective need for him. They needed a scientific justification for slavery, and like the scientists in this documentary, Keynes provided the rationalisation. So did Marx. 
15. Built in obsolescence is indeed an attribute of the capitalist system. This is because capitalism is a growth system; whereas socialism or collectivism is a stagnant system. You cannot grow when people have no respect for your rights. You can't grow when people are undercutting your basic means of survival. That is after all why the hunter & gatherers lived in groups. Privacy or personal autonomy is a modern conception, and insofar as we live in a 'mixed economy' we have failed to actually fully comprehend the opportunity. We are denied it by the anti-intellectual statist; as well as the ambivalent 'practical' businessman focused on material prosperity; who spurns all ideas in the process; including good ideas. He spurns all ideas; all that which disempowers or raises apprehension. Ask yourself why many business people spurn parenting responsibilities; its because it raises moral dilemmas which are a source of moral ambivalence. Socialists are not winning the debate; businessmen are handing it to them on a plate. If businessmen engaged their minds; socialism would disappear within 10-20 years. 
16. Materialism - This brings us to another argument from this documentary....that capitalism actually rewards vice. They argue that it allows doctors to profit from fixing people rather than curing them. My favourite example is Pro-Active, the zit cream which claims in their advert to overcome low self-esteem...and yet it displays a litany of famous people, as if to imply that self-esteem or success is about looking good. This is such poor science that it borders on child abuse. There is a counter-argument to make. They might argue that its not their argument to make, that they are not psychologists. I would argue that its the role of courts to settle such issues....not for social planners. Any perceived injustice in our contemporary society arises because justice is in the hands of government, not corporations. The government has become the collectivists instrument of systematic abuse. Stalin, Marx and Hitler used government to achieve their power; the sanction of government to 'coerce', and yet these people advance a different 'scientific' rhetoric for more of the same. Is that 'moving forward' or repeating the past? 
17. Brands - The documentary makes the point that people are presented with the false economy which allows people to pay $1000 for a handbag which cost $10 to produce in China. The implied injustice is lost on the fact that pretentious people are not capitalists; they are the children of rich liberals, or the wealthy who have actually earned their wealth. Brands are a symbol; collectivists use symbols as a substitute for reality. The modern representative democracy system subverts facts (i.e. rational debate) with influence (i.e. collectivist majoritivism - using the sanction of the uneducated masses to expropriate wealth from the rich). The lobbyist rather than the lone rational counterpart is the basis of money discourse. The middlemen representing 'money' and 'collectivist (brute mob rule). This is a false dichotomy; we need rational life-affirming political discourse. This is not the argument rendered in this documentary. They do not repudiate the irrationality of the current system. They make no epistemological argument at all. They are materialists wanting your money. Entitled academics; parasites who live off university grants, or custodians of wealth they did not earn. 
18. Debt splurge - They lambust the debt bubble. The problem of the modern and historical debt crises was not debt per se; but the government as a custodian of the 'common good'. When the government has arbitrary power to manipulate interest rates or print money, then you have an instrument for the systematic abuse of those who are forced to acquiesce; which is the taxpayer. There is private debt excesses as well, but witness how that is precipitated by governmemts offering incredibly low interest rates, even first home grants to encourage (premature) home ownership, and zoning restrictions which keep property prices arbitrarily high. This is not capitalism; its statist, collectivist extortion and it requires the sanctioning of force by government, i.e. the initiation of force. 
19. Correlation - I raised above the tendency for 'collectivist' scientists to misuse science insofar as this misappropriation of the scientific method. In no sense do they sink to their anti-intellectual lowest than with statistical databases, such as can be found at Equality Trust. This empirical evidence offers a range of social well-being indices correlating income disparity with 'good news' factors. The problem with this analysis is that is raises a blatant false dichotomy. They are comparing - not capitalism with social redistribution, but some redistribution with more redistribution, and concluding that more is best. Unsurprisingly it does not draw data from the Middle East or other highly collectivist countries; and for good reason it does not draw data from a libertarian economy. Why? Well, its too practical to allow people to have freedom, so we enslave people for others. I would argue that there would be near 'zero' social disharmony in a capitalist country, but no tyrant will grant me or others the freedom to prove otherwise. You'd think there would be room for a society to test that theory....but no, libertarians are destined to be marginalised. The most equal societies in the world are those which are collectivist because they have no egoism at all, i.e. Iraq, Iran, Egypt. Well, no material expression of egoism because its difficult to spurn your own mind. Mixed economies have a bad track record because the issue is not self-interest; the issue is what collectivist values do to how people interpret self interest. In a society that sanctions self interest, in which values are considered subjective, mindless people will do as they please; whether within the law, or in defiance of it, if they think they can get away with in. These empirical studies therefore are subject to misinterpretation because their researchers simply don't understand psychology. 

The documentary is not entirely invalid or useless. It makes several pertinent points - if not original:
1. It argues that humans have been stressed by prenatal stage, though it might be construed as attributing this to capitalism. Poor mothers are driven to drugs and alcohol by capitalist marginalisation. I would argue that the moral ambivalence of our contemporary system is the blame. 
2. It argues that our modern statist economy pursues 'economic activity'. This is true enough; however this measure of economic well-being was forged by government, not the private sector. The private sector, whilst not terribly intellectual, are focused on their compartmentalised goals. I would argue that coercion as practiced by the government and advanced by modern-day liberals actually makes business people more collectivist, i.e. more materialist and compartmentalised. Look how people who disempowered seek tangible, isolated outlets which entail personal autonomy. The businessman is repressing the outside coercion by focusing on business, material well-being, because this is the only field of endeavour that gives them any pleasure. I will argue that unless the business reclaims their mental efficacy and right to live, they will be occupying an even smaller space than the Jews.
3. This documentary does not make a case for the legitimate injustices in the contemporary system. I am not a fan of private 'land' property because I think its a framework for extortion. You could argue the same about all wealth; but wealth is not a basis for extortion in a free market; land is. This is particularly the case with government-sanctioned zoning regimes. A person might argue that you don't need to preclude land ownership; but I would argue that the right to 'improvement' is critical, not the land or subsoil itself. For the same reason, I'd not recognise a farmers right to mineral wealth until his soil. He did not find it; but he ought to be compensated. I'm not an advocate of expropriating land; just not a supporter of people profiting from land speculation; but rather speculation related to the productive value of the land; which they actually created. i.e. Any farm value which rests on rises in commodity prices is reasonable. 

The contributors to this documentary posit as 'non-socialists' and yet they are highly ambivalent about the mechanism for 'redistribution' and their social planning. The problem is of course it is socialism. But don't expect people to learn from history. People, if they are desperate enough, will not stop to ask why they are destitute, they will simply accept anyone who offers a moral sanction for the looting of wealth. 

ConvinceMe.Net - Anyone up for a debate?