Saturday, 4 September 2021

Consequence adjustment

 The ANC government continues to ride roughshod over the interests of the country without consequence. All their opponents in politics, in business, in churches, in civil society, wail and weep without noticeable effect. Ramaphosa and his minions are masters of realpolitik - how to prevail over all opposition, how to pull the levers of influence, how to whisper veiled threats in the right ears.


In the immortal words of Pik Botha, appeals to justice, to fairness, to common sense are “like duck’s water off their backs”. Impassioned rhetoric counts for nothing. The ANC knows how this game is played, through influence, threats, and, if necessary, mayhem. The only way to compete is to bring a gun to their knife fight. To threaten quietly but to carry a big stick. To adjust their perception of the consequences of resistance.


The fact that the honourable opposition considers such tactics abhorrent and beneath their dignity is like music to the ANC ears. The opposition is almost always right, dead right, and just as dead as if they were wrong. Justice is nice, honour is good,  but victory is its own reward.


So how do the forces of opposition in this benighted land proceed?  I have laid out an 8 step procedure to follow when dealing with an unscrupulous enemy, which I have called the Tao of Trevor, with a nod to the likes of Sun Tzu. It can be followed whenever the rule of law is no longer adequate, and the consequences of failure are disastrous..


The Tao of Trevor

8 Rules for accomplishing your objective


  1. List the principles you will not compromise. Return to this list constantly.


  1. For any new project, explicitly state your primary objective in writing, in one sentence. This is mostly for your own benefit. Then explain your objective to a 10 year old.

  2. Choose your battlefield. Under what jurisdiction will this battle be fought. The constitution? The court of public opinion? International law? Commercial law? No law?


  1. Your intentions are meaningless. They butter no parsnips.Only the actual consequences of your objective count in the real world.

  2. Identify the obstacles to your objective.
    Identify which obstacles are within your control, and which are not.
    Decide if your objective is feasible despite the obstacles you cannot control. Be brutal. Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know. Only proceed if you have a clear advantage.

  3.  Identify who has skin in this game, who are the active players. Disregard the rest.
    Rank the players in terms of their influence on your objective.
    Research how you can persuade these players to support your objective, willingly or unwillingly. 


  1. Don't bother with prayers, or appeals to reason or kindness,  don't try to assemble a majority. Identify the obstacles to your intentions and adjust their perception of the consequences of opposing you. This is how the real world works and you misunderstand it at your peril.

  2. Favour simplicity. Make no assumptions. Check everything. But don’t be fooled into believing that rational decisions can be made with quantitative measures alone, when in fact the things you can’t measure are often the most consequential.

Example 1: John Steenhuizen of the Democratic Alliance opposing the re-scheduling of local elections


Rule

Summary

Action

1

List principles

See https://www.da.org.za/why-the-da/values-and-principles. Individual freedom, rule of law, etc

2

Primary objective

Ensure that scheduled local elections take place in October 2021.
A 10 year old might ask why bother if you are just going to lose?

3

Jurisdiction

The South African Constitution

4

Intentions

From the DA website: 

To ensure democratic process in SA. 

We must take our rightful place among the great nations of the world.

To establish a fair society.

Unintended consequences: collapse of DA support, increase in Covid infections, severe rioting.

5

Identify obstacles

The IEC reports to Ramaphosa who reports to the NWC who reports to the NEC. The decision to postpone the elections will probably be taken by the NWC and conveyed to Ramaphosa and the NEC. The IEC will implement any decision handed to it.

So, the potentially controllable obstacles are the 6 members of the NWC. Almost certainly all have skeletons they would prefer not to reveal.

The NEC is not directly controllable.

The IEC can be taken to court, but the result is uncontrollable, and almost certainly negative.

6

Skin in the game

  1. Ramaphosa. His authority, legacy and control of the party are at stake.

  2. The other members of the NWC. Their power and cushy jobs.

  3. The IEC.

  4. Other political parties.

7

Adjust perceptions

I assume the DA maintains a “dirty tricks” department, like the vast majority of political parties. This department would gather incriminating evidence against senior members of other parties, with a view to influencing their behaviour. Target the 3 most susceptible members of the NWC (Possibly David Mabuza, Jesse Duarte and Gwede Mantashe). Using an arms length intermediary, make these NWC members an offer they will have difficulty refusing, to retain the October election date for the Local elections.  Stick to one issue. Don’t overreach.

If you don’t have a dirty tricks department, ask Afriforum, or Paul O’Sullivan.

8

Advantages

  1. Your objective is accomplished, and South African democratic rights are preserved.

  2. People who have abused the system are threatened with exposure.

  3. Most South Africans are eternally grateful.


Saturday, 29 May 2021

How would libertarians deal with a pandemic?

Trevor Watkins 15/4/2020

As always, the greatest threat to individual freedom comes from the certainty of others, generally politicians. In the almost complete absence of verified information, many many politicians including our own have acted with complete certainty to force the population into a catastrophic lockdown. Allowing for alternatives is viewed as a sign of weakness and cannot be considered. If a lockdown was good for China then it's the only way to go for South Africans many thousands of kilometres away.

Thankfully some more independent-minded Nations have provided us with alternative scenarios. Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Sweden, Israel have all taken different approaches and appear to have enjoyed reasonably successful results. But for a politician to question his absolute certainty is to appear weak and therefore unpopular.

How would a libertarian Society deal with the challenge of an imported pandemic? I would like to think it would have acted with a lot less certainty, a lot more introspection, and a much greater openness to alternatives.

In a libertarian Society there would be no central command structure, no overriding ministry of health, not even an enforcement structure capable of forcing people into their own homes.

What libertarians do well is communicate. In a libertarian Society the nature of the threat and all the data available would be quickly and transparently shared with the population. Some people would recommend one approach, others might recommend something completely different. They would be listened to in proportion to their reputation and standing in the community, and their record of being right on other matters.

If knowledgeable people recommend lockdown and isolation, then many libertarians might well self isolate voluntarily, particularly if they are persuaded that they are in a susceptible group such as the elderly. One can always assume that they will act in their own best self-interest. Other libertarians might be persuaded by the herd immunity approach, and would go out and deliberately attempt to become infected, as many do with their children during a mumps or measles season. I don't think any libertarians will deliberately force themselves upon others, putting them at risk of infection with any communicable disease. Social distancing is just good manners writ large.

“But we can't afford to take that risk”, shout the many statists and collectivists. They blithely ignore the fact that every contact with a fellow citizen is fraught with the risk of many different infections. “People will die!”, they weep. “If you won't do the right thing, then you must be forced to.” All this with the absolute certainty of non-experts who know precisely what the right thing is on the basis of inadequate data.

In a libertarian Society those who assess the risk on the basis of the data available to them, and decide that self-isolation is the best approach, will self isolate. Those who decide that their freedom of movement and their right to work is paramount, will go out in public. They should not encounter people who believe differently because they will all be self isolating. If you as an individual make the wrong judgement in this matter, then you will pay the price, either by getting sick or by becoming incredibly bored and poor.

As a libertarian you may not use the threat of some particular virus, amongst the many many millions out there, to forcibly deny me my Freedom.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

The Shishini Initiative


Trevor Watkins 13/4/21

Motivation

South Africa has more problems than you can throw a stick at. To solve these problems we have more plans, commissions and committees than you could spit on. But realistic solutions are few and far between.

The media hacks have run out of adjectives to describe how awful our situation is. The politicians cannot deal with fickle human nature and scarce resources. The wealthy whine and dine, and the poor slowly evaporate.

One of the most intractable problems facing South Africa is the huge lost generation of around 20 million individuals under the age of 25. They are uneducated, undernourished, unemployed, uninspired. They are the volatile tinder for future communist uprisings.

I have a simple criterion for evaluating any proposed solutions. Will this plan provide any immediate relief to a starving 7 year old girl living with an abusive parent in a squatter shack? If your plan can't even do this simple and necessary thing, what is the point? So in boldly proposing yet one more solution to the ills that plague us, I use this young girl as my benchmark.

I am a capitalist. I believe free market solutions can solve most economic problems. I believe there is a free market solution to the problem of South Africa's lost generation. All we have to do is convince 20 million young people that the hugely despised capitalism is better than the quite cool communism that they have been brought up on.

How? I propose we resort to the favourite trick of communist politicians throughout history. We bribe them.

If you want young people to learn about and adopt capitalism, give them some capital. Stop telling them about it, let them actually experience it.


The proposal

.Goal: To produce 1 million nascent capitalists in the 7 to 21 age group within 18 months.

Cost: R100 million

Method: a reverse Ponzi scheme as described below

The method

  1. Setup a new organisation called “Shishini”, which means “business project” in Xhosa.

  2. Invite youth in the age 6-21 group to join Shishini. Each member will receive the following:

    1. Registration of their name and other details on the Shishini app, see below.
    2. Registration of a Capitec account in their name.
    3. A deposit of R40 each month into their new Capitec account
    4. A Shishini cap.

  3. Initially invite 1000 prospects in the first month. Expect 50% membership growth in each subsequent month. After 18 months costs will be around R65 million, and membership should exceed 980,000.

  4. Setup new Shishini sub-projects to encourage entrepreneurs.

  5. Let members take charge of most activities such as recruitment, project starts, funding.

  6. Provide logistical support only when needed.

  7. Always remember it's about the kids, not the organisers.

Sub-project examples

  1. Shishini School
    1. Access to new and existing courses and training.
    2. Schedule teachers, venues, courses, materials in safe locations and register students. Offer completion certificates.
    3. Invite older members to organise training for younger members. Pay R50 for each training session completed and rated >60% by at least 10 attendees.

  2. Shishini Security
    1. Invite members to coordinate local security groups, using the app..
    2. Up to 10 members can join a security group, which is like a Whatsapp group.
    3. Each member undertakes to come to the assistance of any other member in need.
    4. The coordinator files a monthly security report via the app, for which the coordinator receives R10 extra per month.

  3. Shishini market
    1. Members can advertise goods and services for sale to other members.

  4. Shishini recycling
    1. Members will be given assistance to set up local recycling projects, in cooperation with local waste management operations.
    2. The recycling project manager (who is a Shishini member) must set up the necessary systems, such as date and venue, measurement, waste company coordination, pricing, payment, etc.
    3. The project manager keeps the profits from the operation.

  5. Shishini management

    1. Members who show promise can be promoted within the project to ultimately take over the running of the system.

  6. Shishini manufacturing
    1. There are many opportunities for local township manufacturing, such as tourist items, windmills, toys, etc.
    2. Assist members with ideas for manufacturing (see Youtube videos), advise on methods.

  7. Shishini services
    1. There are many opportunities for local township services, such as hair braiding, beauty services, babysitting services, cleaning services, cooking, etc.

  8. Shishini sports
    1. Sport is popular and provides many opportunities for entrepreneur development.
    2. Club setup, venue location, coaching, team setup, facilities rental.
    3. Sponsored tournament setup, fund raising, event management.

  9. Coordinate
    1. Coordinate and cooperate with other NGOs, charities, etc. Use app to advertise these services.

Justification

  1. The cost, while considerable, is no more than a large corporate would spend on a new marketing campaign.

  2. Much of the cost may be directly recoverable from new customer sources in the target community.

  3. Youth will obtain direct experience in banking, earning, money handling.

  4. Businesses like Capitec can lock in a generation of new customers.

  5. Businesses like retail chains can market to a new demographic, who are poor but not penniless.

  6. Youth will enjoy a sense of respect and self esteem enhanced by individual responsibility.

  7. Teaches entrepreneurial skills, savings and capital formation, business management.

  8. Useful community services such as mutual protection, communication, literacy, sports development, cleanup programs will arise.

  9. The Shishini app will allow direct communication to many thousands of members, and massive communication between members.

Challenges

  1. The program may attract more members than the current financing can afford. Nothing fails like success.

  2. If the program is not self-sustaining after 18 months, there might be considerable anger in the target community if payments cease.

  3. The program creates a sense of entitlement (monthly payments with no quid pro quo). Almost all charitable and government programs create a sense of entitlement.

  4. The initiative will require considerable expert support during setup. The app must be designed and built. Finance must be arranged. Coordination with banks, retailers, etc established.

  5. The state will almost certainly have an opinion on this initiative and will no doubt place the usual obstacles in its path. This may require legal expertise.

Conclusion

This initiative will need to be sold to a sponsor with deep pockets. This document is just the first round in what may be either a very short-lived Thought experiment, or a more challenging Project. As its author, I will be happy to remain involved with whatever future developments arise.


Shishini app

This app will be purpose developed for this project. The app will have the following features:

  1. Unique registration for each member

  2. Facility to register new members. Each new member registered earns R10 in Capitec account.

  3. Whatsapp like communication facilities with other Shishini members.

  4. Facebook like social media posting facilities.

  5. Access to Shishini project facilities and learning materials.

  6. Registration of new projects and project members.

  7. Emergency SOS feature

  8. Free streaming access to music channels.

  9. Access to member discounts on food, clothes, goods, training, etc

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

The Individualist Proposition

Trevor Watkins 30/6/20


I am often asked “ What is a libertarian individualist?”.  The very short answer is “One who believes in individual liberty”.  But that answers almost nothing, means almost nothing, to most people. 


I am an individualist and a libertarian. Here is my shortest, quickest, clearest, most concise definition of what it means to me to be an individualist, a libertarian.  This is what I believe individualists should approve, and what they should oppose. This is the “social contract” by which individualists agree to live with their fellows.


An individualist accepts the proposition that 


No one should act against an innocent person or their property without their consent.


Although these are all short words of 3 syllables or less,  some explanation will be required.

no one 

no individual, or group, or community, or government, or corporation.

should

Ought to, in order to be consistent with this proposition

act

To “act” is to cause a real-world, observable, physical event, as opposed to a non-physical event such as the use of words or gestures. “Preventing an action” is synonymous with “taking an action” .
For example, striking someone, taking their property, confining them, are examples of real-world events.  Being rude, shouting, threatening, are not actions with real, physical consequences.

innocent

an innocent person has not acted against anyone without their consent. Acting without consent  is called a consent violation. A person guilty of a consent violation is not protected by this proposition.

person

any individual (without qualification, of race, gender, creed,etc) capable of giving informed consent. This excludes those who cannot give informed consent, such as young children, the unconscious, the mentally disabled. In this case, consent devolves to their guardian. 

their property

goods belonging to a person, lawfully acquired through effort, exchange, inheritance, restitution or gift.

consent

giving permission, allowing. The decision to give or deny consent will be based on the best information available to the person involved. However, the future is unpredictable, so it must be accepted that the consequences of consent  may be unexpected.
Nevertheless, consent should be explicit, freely given, preferably before witnesses, without fraud or falsehood.

Notes

  1. To live freely and in peace, individuals who gather together by mutual consent should accept certain propositions which all agree to respect.

  2. This is a proposition, a way of thinking,  a recommendation for a better way of life. It does not specify an enforcement mechanism,  it does not guarantee compliance. It simply tells you how people who describe themselves as individualists might be expected to behave. 

  3. I believe that the consent proposition listed above covers the vast majority of cases of human interaction. It extends the non-aggression principle to include cases where a person consents to acts of aggression, such as in contact sports like boxing  or satisfying unusual preferences.

  4. The amateur lawyers can have a field day identifying grey areas and exceptions to this principle. Of course such grey areas do exist, and are normally resolved through arbitration between affected parties within a community. The question remains, do these objectors have a better, briefer and more inclusive model?

  5. What gives me the right to speak on behalf of libertarians, or individualists, or any one else? As an individualist, I speak only on my own behalf. However, I do believe that what I have to say may be of interest and value to others. Otherwise, what is the point of communication?

Issues

1. Assault

The initiation of all physical acts of assault are forbidden except where explicitly consented to, or when acting in self-defence.  This includes assault by individuals, groups and governments. 

2. Defence
 

Individuals may defend themselves vigorously against assault by others, matching violence with violence, like for like.

3. Personal choices 

This proposition has nothing to say about an individual's personal choices, such as religion,  sexuality,  or lifestyle. 

4. Conflict

Conflicts always arise.  This proposition implies that any conflict resolution mechanism must also be consented to by all  the individuals involved.  Conflicts are normally resolved through arbitration between affected parties within a community. When conflict is resolved through external agencies such as police and courts, individual control and choices tend to be ignored.

5. Harm to others

Many people believe that some individual behaviours must be restricted for the overall good of the community,  forcibly if necessary.  This belief is used to justify a vast range of coercive measures against individuals,  from taxation to immunization.  The consent proposition requires that conclusive proof of physical harm to another innocent person must be conclusively proven,  and may then become the subject of a conflict resolution procedure.


6. Competition  

Individuals and organisations can take competitive actions which negatively affect others. For example, an organisation may injure its competitors by lowering its price for goods, or by refusing to supply a competitor, by poaching staff, or through aggressive advertising. None of these actions require the consent of the injured party. My view is that these actions do not use force or fraud and do not conflict with the Individualist Proposition. They must be seen as a normal part of the risks of doing business.

7. Informed consent

Denial of consent is normally straight forward and uncontested. No means no.

 However, giving consent is much more complicated. The terms of the consent may need to be spelled out, limits made clear, exceptions described. Issues such as age of consent arise. How clear are the consequences, have these been fully understood by all parties, can consent be revoked? When consent is given, an explicit (preferably) or implicit contract is in force. Disputes arising from a consent contract will be arbitrated by the parties to the contract within the community of their peers. Thus, local community standards will apply to an issue such as the age of consent, or abortion.

8. Penalties

In the absence of an enforcement mechanism, what penalties can be imposed on individuals committing consent violations? An individual may retaliate against the violator in his personal capacity, or with the assistance of family and friends. He may retain the services of a defence agency. He may demand restitution. He may refuse further association with the consent violator. He may lobby for them to be shunned, or evicted from the community.

9. Morality

Morality is an individual issue. One person cannot impose their morality upon another, in terms of this consent proposition.

Examples

  1. All forms of speech, writing and expression are allowed, where no physical action occurs.
    A comedian may make outrageous statements for humorous effect, without violating the consent proposition. Persons offended by this speech should avoid hearing it.
    Likewise, a demagogue may exercise freedom of speech to call for violence, but only those actually committing violence are guilty of a crime.

  2. All forms of personal behaviour, and behaviour between consenting adults, is allowed. 

  3. An individual can do anything with his or her own body that they choose.

  4. No one is entitled to the property or services of another, without their consent.

  5. No one may take the life of another without their consent.

  6. You do not have the right to forcibly prevent what you merely see or hear.

  7. If you do not consent, you have no obligation to assist anyone else.

  8. Property may be exchanged through the consent of all parties.



Saturday, 9 January 2021

 Love and harm

Trevor Watkins 9/1/2021

Everybody has an opinion.  Almost every opinion differs.  Are all opinions equally valid? Must we give everyone an opportunity to voice their opinion, no matter how devoid of sense and truth? How are we to decide which opinions are important and useful,  and which are simply frivolous. Is there some combination of words on which we can mostly agree,  rather like the Ten Commandments. Is there a magic sentence who's internal logic is so indisputable that all thinking person's must accept it, whose truths are self evident?  How would we persuade non-thinking persons to accept the truth of our magic statement?  Can such a concept be reduced to mere words?

Can we improve on “Love your neighbour”, as a rule for peaceful co-existence? The problem is that this is an active rule, it requires you to act in ways you may not choose. It is instruction, rather than advice. 



“Don't harm your neighbour”  is much better advice.  This is a passive rule.  It does not require you to do anything,  just to refrain from doing some things. 

I believe the gap between these two rules summarises the gap in western society between left and right,  between Democrats and Republicans,  between the kindly, caring,  sharing, socialists  and the individualistic, thinking, independent, self-reliant capitalists. Both sides passionately believe that their rule is the better one. Religions, governments, economic systems are based on one or the other approach, and sometimes an uneasy mix of the two.

Many would say that these two statements are perfectly compatible,  that you can love your neighbour and not harm him or her.  But this is to deny the meaning of these words.

 To love someone is to care  strongly for their best interests,  to put their well-being above your own,  to ensure their happiness and survival.  This is how we love our children, our parents and our spouses.  And we are now instructed to behave the same towards our neighbours, who are not our family, who may have completely different world views and cultures, who may wish us harm. We may end up betraying the interests of our own family for these strangers. This is not an instruction which most people can honestly fulfill.

To not harm someone is a much easier proposition. It requires no direct action, but rather calls for inaction. We go through life not harming the vast majority of those around us, our neighbours, our competitors, even our enemies. But, like love, the definition of harm can be difficult. Do we harm someone if we offend them? Is mental harm as bad as physical harm? If I fail to wear a mask in a pandemic, do I harm my neighbours? Does my mere existence harm the existence of others as we compete for scarce resources?

Do you have to choose? No. Most people spend their lives in a state of blissful cognitive dissonance. Go to church on Sunday. Ignore the needs of your neighbours the rest of the week. Believe in coercive, harmful policies like taxation, minimum wage, rent control on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. Respect the gender and lifestyle choices of others for the rest of the week. Ever wonder why life seems so confusing all the time.

Think about and then actively choose the principles you aim to live by. Avoid compromising.  When faced with a difficult decision, revert to your principles, even when inconvenient. Respect the right of others to do the same.

Afterthoughts

Then there are the independent thinkers who are able to rise above their culture and able to recognize evil and escape its clutches. If one can think for oneself, if one can make the effort to think independently and evaluate things from an ethical standard, one can overcome the cultural biases that prevail. One can learn to recognize and reject evil. 

Marco den Ouden, The Jolly Libertarian.

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right... The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

John Stuart Mill


Consequence adjustment

  The ANC government continues to ride roughshod over the interests of the country without consequence. All their opponents in politics, in ...