Liberty, Politics, Uncategorized

Captain America vs. Capitalism?

In 2014, Steve Rogers had the Super Soldier Serum removed from his body. This caused him to return to his natural age (very old). Because of this, he passed on the title of Captain America to his longtime friend and partner, Sam Wilson (Falcon). In a world focused on identity politics, this was a big deal because Sam is black. Marvel often uses the Captain America series to tackle political topics and by switching Captains they were able to adjust the viewpoint of their Captain America.

For those of you who may not be a comic reader, many comics use storytelling that span many issues known as story arcs. The first arc in Captain America: Sam Wilson (2015) starts out with the immigration issue, but becomes a story of the evils of Big Business. Captain America finds out that the violence at the border is actually caused by a company called Serpent Solutions. Serpent Solutions is supposed to be a group of super villains attempt at “going legit.” Their business model seems to be create products by any means necessary (kidnapping, human experiments, and murder) and then sell the patents to big corporations.

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Now, I think most people would easily agree this is a bad practice. Captain America is right to put a stop to Serpent Solutions and the corporations who turn a blind eye to their practices and profit from using their “services.” My issue though is that while these are bad people, the buzz words and justifications used by the bad guys connect their philosophy with that of capitalism, free markets, and liberty. They even outright name Ayn Rand, as seen below.

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Cap was experimented on earlier in the story. That is why he is a werewolf here. Don’t worry, it wears off.

Not once throughout the arc is this distortion of what capitalism is refuted for the perversion that it is. The reader is only presented with the villain’s philosophy being tied to Ayn Rand, corporations, and Donald Trump (“make America Marvelous again”). So, I am going to take this opportunity to enlighten people about what a Free Market is and is not.

There are many terms that all roughly describe the same thing. Free market, free enterprise, capitalism, laissez-faire are all examples of the basic idea of an economy grounded in private property and little government control. As an example of this idea, I will use an excerpt from Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, since she was called out by Marvel in this story.

“I work for nothing but my own profit- which I make by selling a product they need to men who are willing and able to buy it. I do not produce it for their benefit at the expense of mine, and they do not buy it for my benefit at the expense of theirs; I do not sacrifice my interests to them nor do they sacrifice theirs to me; we deal as equals by mutual consent to mutual advantage-and I am proud of every penny that I have earned in this manner… I have made my money by my own effort, in free exchange and through the voluntary consent of every man I dealt with-the voluntary consent of those who employed me when I started, the voluntary consent of those who work for me now, the voluntary consent of those who buy my product… I could say to you that you do not serve the public good-that nobody’s good can be achieved at the price of human sacrifices-that when you violate the rights of one man, you have violated the rights of all man, and a public of rightless creatures is doomed to destruction.”

At the beginning of this passage, you may think Marvel had the right idea. That is until the phrase, “mutual consent,” is used. It is that spirit that continues on through the rest of the passage. The idea of consent and voluntarism. That is the heart of the Free Market. The ability to decide for yourself what you want to do with your own property.

So, let’s look at what Serpent Solutions and the companies who hired them were doing. They were kidnapping people. That is, they took people by force without their consent. They experimented on them without their consent. They murdered people. That is, they forcefully ended the lives of others. All of this action is the violation of people’s rights. Clearly, these actions are not what Ayn Rand promoted.

But what about some of the other things Viper talks about when trying to justify his actions to Captain America? He brings up regulations and asks, “where in the Constitution is anyone promised clean air?” This is a common straw man when discussing over regulation. Why are people concerned with air pollution? Because it causes harm. It violates the rights of others and therefore is not in keeping with Free Market principles. There are valid policy questions about preventative measures (regulation) vs. reactive measures (prosecution/lawsuits), but those questions do not invalidate the Free Market as a whole. Viper, during a sales pitch, talks about how the people he is talking to are not bad guys and lists some of their activities like corporate bailouts, corruption, and corporate welfare. These too are not Free Market friendly practices. Corporate bailouts and welfare is money gained, not through the market, but rather taken from the government who gained possession of it by force. Corruption is a much broader term, but in the terms of government, corruption is using the government to get an advantage rather than competing in the market without force. Corruption in business also violates consent in cases like fraud. Changing the terms of a deal, removes consent until that knowledge is shared by all involved.

Now I want to take a step back to the bailouts and welfare. There are those who consider themselves capitalists who will take government money to prop up their business. This could be anyone from a major bank down to a farmer. This is known as Crony Capitalism or in extreme cases could be considered Corporatism. These are not in line with the Free Market. Even though they may seem like it because the people participating are acting in their own interests, the force of government must violate the rights of others in order to act this way. So before blaming the Free Market, ask yourself, “How is the government involved in this?” If you can find a path from the government to the problem, you don’t have a problem with Free Markets, you have a problem with government. A general rule of thumb is, “If the government is involved or violence or the threat of violence is being used, it is not the Free Market/Capitalism/Free Enterprise.”

P.S. Charity is voluntary and therefore aligns with and I would say is necessary for Free Markets.

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Liberty, Politics, Uncategorized

Hope for the Future

Hope speech

 

Comic books have always been a way to tackle social issues in an entertaining way. One of the most famous versions of this is the X-Men. While the struggle from the comics is one between mutants and humans, it is easy to see the connection between the mutant struggle and prejudices in the real world. As with most movements, there are different sects within the larger group. In the Marvel Universe, those sects historically were the violent Brotherhood led by Magneto and the more peaceful mutants the X-Men led by Professor Xavier.

 

In this excerpt, the new mutant, Hope Summers, is meeting Magneto and Professor Xavier for the first time and she isn’t happy to hear how they are discussing the state of the mutant struggle. The conversation takes on a competitive connotation that creates a barrier between the two sides. Hope recognizes that this type of language will only ensure that the humans and the mutants remain at odds even when they say their purpose is equality.

 

The same is often the case in today’s political dialogue. People have chosen their side and instead of talking about solutions and goals, we discuss beating the opposition. We round up people in our minds into certain groups and brand them with the assumptions we have about that group. At that point, what is the point of talking to each other? We already think we know everything about what that person thinks because we have them lumped into their group.

 

This is a problem with three roots. The first is our natural tendencies. Our brains take shortcuts often without our realizing it. To demonstrate this, often times people will overlook misspelled words or think something was in its rightful place when it wasn’t because our brain filled it in. This can happen in our interactions with each other as well. We meet someone and immediately make assumption about them based on any number of criteria (1). The second root is our culture and experiences. This is closely related to the first root, but can often compound the problem. The third root is propaganda. In today’s political climate I believe this is one of the biggest problems we have to overcome. When people consume massive amounts of hateful and divisive content it just piles on the walls separating us from each other. That divide is by design of those spreading the content. It is how they make a profit.

 

Now the danger in realizing this is to swing too far in the opposite direction and not stand for anything. Apathy is a whole problem within itself, but it is not a solution to prejudice.

 

What we can do instead is train ourselves to recognize our prejudices and try to focus on the conversation at hand. If you are talking to a Trump supporter and categorize that person as an alt-right neo-nazi you may miss what that person is actually saying. Listen to the concerns of others and then seek solutions together. This is not to say that we will always get along or agree, but for the most part we all want to see the United States of America and it’s people succeed. We can also make a conscious effort to not partake in inflammatory rhetoric. Maybe don’t click that link with the headline talking about “Crushing” the opposition or maybe don’t share or even “like” that meme that exposes the “stupidity” of someone who believes different than you.  It is up to us to change the political climate to one of working together rather than tearing each other apart.

  1. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/research-states-that-prejudice-comes-from-a-basic-human-need-and-way-of-thinking.html#.WFDetX0VJUc
Uncategorized

Don’t be what they made you.

There are different levels of influences in our lives. Government controls what we can and can’t do. Media and the education systems control what information we have to work with. There are many more, but these are some of the most powerful when it comes to a nation as a whole. These influences are very good at what they do. They understand what motivates people and how to deliver information in a way that creates the “proper” response. They tug at the puppet strings through headlines and buzzwords. They present false dichotomies to issues and demand we choose sides. It is a relentless battle to control us. Does that mean we have to play along?

Both in the movie “Logan” and the X-Men comics Laura Kinney (a.k.a X-23) is a clone of Logan (a.k.a. James Howlett/Wolverine). She was created to be a weapon. Created in a test tube. Born in a lab. Raised in a cell. Trained as an assassin. In the movie, Laura escapes the lab and ends up in the care of Logan. In one of the final scenes of the movie, Logan tells Laura, “Don’t be what they made you.” With this simple yet powerful charge, Logan revealed the beauty that is independence. This statement doesn’t magically make her enemies disappear or want to control her less. What it does do is reveal the opportunity for her to control her own life despite their desire to control her.



Just like Laura is given a choice to be something more than what those in charge of her want her to be, so do we have a choice. We can throw off the chains of a 2 party system. We can look beyond the headlines and ask “What is the angle?” We can use reason and logic to evaluate a situation and develop a solution. It isn’t going to be easy. Those who wish to control us are powerful, but simply by asking “Why?” you can be freed from the puppet strings. With every person freed, it is a little bit easier for the next person as the enemy loses strength.



We are blessed to live in a country where we can question openly. That freedom is one of the targets of the opposition and we must stand strong against them. There are those who want to silence unpopular opinions. In doing so they hope to strengthen their hold on us. We need to continue to fight, not only for our own free speech, but for the free speech of those we don’t agree with. When we have that ability, we have the ability to look beyond what “they” have made us. We can question and reason together. Find answers outside of what options “they” give us.



“Don’t be what they made you.” Be an individual. Think for yourself. Do your own research. Discuss with others, but reach your own conclusions. If we all submit to those holding the puppet strings, then we only have a few solutions to the world’s problems. But if we all take charge of our own lives, then in the United States alone, we could have 200 million people approaching the world’s problems from different angles. 

Liberty, Uncategorized

This isn’t freedom, this is fear.

The movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of my favorite movies. In the movie, we see the secret spy agency, SHIELD has been infiltrated by agents of HYDRA, the Nazi supernatural branch that was thought ended with the death of the Red Skull. Not only has HYDRA been discovered in SHIELD, but SHIELD is on the brink of launching a fleet of Helicarriers that are programmed to neutralize threats before they happen anywhere in the world. When Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD, shows Captain America (Steve Rogers) what they are planning, Cap is less than thrilled. What follows is a very brief, but deep conversation about the limits of security.

  • Nick Fury: These new long range precision guns can eliminate a thousand hostiles a minute. The satellites can read a terrorist’s DNA before he steps outside his spider hole. We gonna neutralize a lot of threats before they even happen.
  • Steve Rogers: I thought the punishment usually came after the crime.
  • Nick Fury: We can’t afford to wait that long.
  • Steve Rogers: Who’s “we”?
  • Nick Fury: After New York, I convinced the World Security Council we needed a quantum surge in threat analysis. For once we’re way ahead of the curve.
  • Steve Rogers: By holding a gun at everyone on Earth and calling it protection.
  • Nick Fury: You know, I read those SSR files. Greatest generation? You guys did some nasty stuff.
  • Steve Rogers: Yeah, we compromised. Sometimes in ways that made us not sleep so well. But we did it so the people could be free. This isn’t freedom, this is fear.

The World Security Council decided they needed absolute power to keep people safe. They believed they were the good guys and so it was okay to take this step in eliminating threats before a crime happened with no consideration for rights and civil liberties.

Later on in the movie, Cap and Black Widow find themselves in an abandoned base where they meet the computer version of Dr. Zola, a HYDRA scientist from WWII. In an effort to keep them occupied while an airstrike is on its way, Zola explains the connection between SHIELD and HYDRA.

  • Dr. Arnim Zola: HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom. What we did not realize, was that if you try to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly. After the war, SHIELD was founded and I was recruited. The new HYDRA grew. A beautiful parasite inside SHIELD. For seventy years HYDRA has been secretly feeding crisis, reaping war. And when history did not cooperate, history was changed.
  • Natasha Romanoff: That’s impossible, SHIELD would have stopped you.
  • Dr. Arnim Zola: Accidents will happen. HYDRA created a world so chaotic that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security. Once the purification process is complete, HYDRA’s new world order will arise. We won, Captain. Your death amounts to the same as your Life; a zero sum.

There is a lot to unpack in Dr. Zola’s statements, so I am just going to start from the beginning.

“HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom.” Sounds a lot like every argument for big government ever. Whether it be the drug war, gun control, or even education. It all boils down to a belief that individuals will make bad decisions and need to be kept in line.

“What we did not realize, was that if you try to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly.”

This statement reminds me of the illustration of boiling a frog. Throw a frog in hot water and it will jump out, but slowly turn up the heat over time and it will stay in the water and die. We have accepted an erosion of our freedoms over time, usually in response to a tragedy. Economic freedoms were sacrificed in response to the Great Depression. Gun rights were sacrificed in response to the Valentine’s Day Massacre. Congressional declaration of war was sacrificed in response to the Cold War. Privacy rights were sacrificed in response to 9/11.

“HYDRA created a world so chaotic that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security.”

I don’t believe that the state of the world is the way it is because of some secretive evil organization making calculated decisions about how to get people to give up their freedoms. An organization like that doesn’t need to exist for that outcome. Authoritarianism is as old as humanity. It is the default of civilizations. Freedom is a relatively new concept, but it has catapulted humanity into an age of unparalleled growth. Like anything worthwhile, freedom requires effort to be maintained.

In his podcast, Common Sense, Dan Carlin often asks what will happen after the next big terrorist attack in the U.S.? What rights are left to surrender? What price will people be willing to pay for that promise of freedom? Will we accept outlawing Islam? Will we accept arresting people without a trial (already authorized in the NDAA)? Maybe we will accept rounding up people of a certain background like we did with the Japanese-Americans in WWII?

The purpose of securing our rights in the Bill of Rights was so that emotion and mob rule didn’t infringe on people’s rights when a spirit of authoritarianism swept through the people. Unfortunately, those very rights have been chipped away at for 200+ years and authoritarianism is once again taking hold. It is time to take a stand for freedom. To reclaim our individual rights. Dedicate ourselves to the principles of Liberty even when we are scared or suffering. In the words of Captain America:

“… the price of freedom is high, it always has been, and it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.”