Nov 29, 2013

Thanks for the Thanksgiving Workers

Robert P. Murphy shared some interesting thoughts about folks who work on Thanksgiving on his blog recently:

Working on the Holidays

While enjoying the wonderful meal brought together for our enjoyment last night, someone predictably chimed in that it was awful that Walmart remains open on Thanksgiving.  The implicit (and unanswered) question is: why would Walmart do such a thing?  I guess they just are a bunch of money-grubbing scrooges, who wish to punish their employees due to a lack of reverence for the value of family time!

I think Murphy's take on this is worth considering:

I think this outrage that we hear every year is oddly selective. For example, should all gas stations, highway toll booths, bus stations, and airports be closed on Thanksgiving? If so, that would prevent a lot of people from “spending the holidays with their families.” Even if your sole criterion were to boost the amount of time people spend with their loved ones, you would need at least some critical workers at their posts on Thanksgiving Day (at least the morning and afternoon).

In other words, from a purely utilitarian perspective, holiday workers permit many people to travel to see family who could not otherwise do so.  (Can you imagine strapping a few extra fuel tanks to your vehicle in order to have enough gas to get where you are going, due to all the fuel stations being closed?)  In the case of Walmart, people are shopping on the day of Thanksgiving for one of two reasons:

1.  Thanksgiving is a meaningless holiday to them, and they are doing their regular shopping.  This means closing up shop would punish them for not celebrating the sacrosanct "National Holiday", in a bizarre form of collective retribution.1

2.  They are purchasing items they forgot to buy, or didn't realize they needed until the "heat of the moment".  I guess you will just have to live without the stuffing, or cranberry sauce, or whatever else it is that now is unavailable because everyone is closed!2

It becomes clear how strange this perspective of anti-Walmartism is when considering the reality of the issue.  However, those against Walmart, do not stop there!  No, no...they move even further along this twisted logical path to say it is their duty to boycott the establishment!  Of course, that's fine in the sense of boycott being a voluntary measure to take.  However, it reveals the insanity of the thought process these folks engage in: to resort to self-denial if it comes down to it to prove they are serious about their concern for these "exploited" workers!

Taking pity on those "poor souls" who are "forced"3 to work on holidays is a way to marginalize them, and is incredibly degrading to these people who stand at the ready to provide products to market at a crucial time when we are all trying to look our best for those who's opinion we value the most.  After all, when you forget an ingredient for a dish you are preparing on the holidays, they save you the embarrassment of that dish being voided due to your lack of foresight.  Instead of pitying them, perhaps they should be honored.  At the very least, these workers deserve our thanks!


1.  The liberal frowning upon Walmart is eerily reminiscent of the conservative Christian logic of forcing one's religious values upon others.  Strange bedfellows or birds of a feather?

2.  We were fortunate that the grocery stores were open where we live, because we needed several forgotten items to complete our holiday feast.

3.  Of course, the employees at these establishments who are open do not "have a gun to their head".  That tactic (the threat of violence) is never employed by capitalists, but is always employed by the state.

Nov 11, 2013

Support the Dupes

Today is known in the US as Veteran's Day, but before 1954 was known as Armistice Day, the latter honoring WWI veterans and the former a celebration of veterans of all US wars.1  This change came as a result of WWII veteran Raymond Weeks, who hatched the first "National Veteran's Day" celebration in 1947 and led a successful delegation to US President Eisenhower to make the rhetorical change.  (source wikipedia)

What I am reflecting upon this year is the notion that veterans of US foreign conflicts are to be "celebrated" at all.  What makes this occupation so noble that it is to be honored with three national holidays over the course of the year, and indeed on a daily basis for those who are vehemently supportive of the US military?  Anyone who watches sports regularly is indoctrinated constantly with the "support the troops" mentality, as most of these events include military honor guards and sometimes even giant displays of "patriotism."  Many times one will encounter a sign in a business to this effect, and more than enough vehicles are pasted with bumper stickers which either say "support the troops" or an emblems which proudly display the branch of the military which the driver or someone they know is working for.  Suffice to say, over the course of one's daily life here in the US, it is almost impossible to avoid contact with such propaganda.

However, the question remains: what is it about this occupation which earns it such constant and unquestioned devotion?  Why don't we see more bumper stickers which say "support the grocery clerks" and "thank the garbage men"?  In fact, try to thank someone who is working at a business you are patronizing for their service, and watch as they give you a blank stare with a confused "you're welcome".  Although the services one utilizes in daily life are crucial to a sense of normalcy (having a place to buy food and the removal of garbage) the employees who put forth the effort to make these services available are not revered or honored as heros, much less with giant displays at sporting events such as the photo above.  No one sheds tears for the "sacrifice" many have suffered in the service of providing goods and services demanded in the marketplace.

The elephant in the room here is the notion that without US troops engaged in constant warfare, there would be no sense of normalcy.  Indeed, the most fervent supporters of the US military often times say that without endless warmongering, "we would all be speaking German"!2  Another popular phrase is "freedom isn't free".  Even many who are emphatically anti-war will concede that they support the troops, especially in light of the bad treatment many Vietnam War veterans received upon return from that war.  However, in order to investigate the validity of the these claims (that without perpetual war and interventionism in other nation's affairs, the US would not be a "free" country- therefore, the troops are engaged in a noble cause and are to be revered), one must sort through this imperialistic philosophy logically and without emotional bias.

In peeling this onion, one must consider the presumption that US military actions are designed to repel enemies who seek to take control and "do us harm".  This notion is perhaps as old as time as a plea by rulers to a citizen's sense of security in daily life, thus "protecting the country" is the typical stated justification for those who decide to join the military.3  However, rulers necessarily have a vested interest in maintaining the illusion that its citizens live in the "greatest country in the world" and that any fundamental change in the nature of power would yield undesirable or at least uncertain results.  Thus, it is difficult to imagine how rulers could separate themselves from their own interest to maintain power in a benevolent act of purity such as the appeal for the "security of the nation".

Indeed, when discussing matters of foreign policy, intellectuals and leaders incessantly refer to the abstract concept of "our strategic interests and obligations around the globe".  This terminology is so pervasive in the rhetoric used by war-mongers to justify various actions, and so rare is the appeal to security of the citizenry, that one must ask, who's "interest and obligations" are they referring to?  As those who are mere citizens do not typically oblige themselves to matters in other nations, it is apparent that the power structure of the nation has simply postulated this concept on its citizenry.  Clearly, when referring to these conflicts, the use of the word "our" is more appropriately viewed as not the citizens of the nation, but rather the powerful interest groups who parasitically utilize the citizenry as a source of funding and cannon-fodder to further entrench their control of resources world wide.  The "enemies" who are created to justify such intervention are likely just unfortunate enough to have been born in a geographical area which contains something these interest groups seek to exploit.  It is hard to imagine how such dastardly ends could be achieved absent the means of the coercive power of the state to extract and subsidize them with financial and human capital.

So, rather than providing a secure life for the citizens of the nation, the role of the soldier is, in actuality, to provide a secure profit for companies who seek to exploit resources from an area which is currently out of their control.  The soldier is also working for what Bob Dylan termed the "Masters of War"- those companies which "build the death plains...(and) all the bombs."  Committing such atrocities does not "make us safer", rather it increases the likelihood of retaliation by those who are attacked and, thus, is counterproductive in that it makes life in the nation of the warmonger less secure.  Soldiers, however unwittingly, are therefore responsible for not only the destruction they participate in while warring, but are in their actions sowing the seeds for future conflicts to arise.

For this reason, those bestowing "honor" on soldiers are really making a mockery of the word. Far more honor can likely be found in the innocent civilians of warring countries, who have been murdered in the hundreds of millions in the twentieth century, and, indeed throughout history by soldiers and their masters.  Here's to hoping that in the future, there will be less veterans!

*Published in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in hopes for a peaceful future on this planet.

1.  It is of note that the concept of "Veteran's Day" is a redundancy, considering that Memorial Day had been practiced for identical purposes since the mid 1800s.  But one can never be too redundant in honoring "those who served."

2.  Lately, some trade the word "German" for "Arabic" as an attempt to stay fashionable with the current "enemy".

3.  However, many of the enlistments after 9/11 were not embarked upon in an attempt to "protect the nation" from an enemy that was perceived to be a threat to actually overthrow the US government.  Indeed, the idea that Muslim terrorists could undertake such an action would have been, even at that time of great chaos and confusion, a silly notion.  Rather, many of these enlistments were undertaken to participate for the ignoble cause of revenge.

Nov 9, 2013

Thomas Woods Speaking to NullfyNow NC

Tom Woods gave a great speech to NullifyNow NC recently that is great for those who already have a grasp on the concept of state nullification:

Tom Woods NullifyNow NC

In this speech, Woods focuses on combating the popular notion that the US is simply "one giant blob" (his words) by giving historical examples which show that the opposite is true- that the US was simply a "collection of societies" which agreed to a compact.  This culminated in the founding of a limited federal government by the states, and provides credence to the philosophy that when the federal government steps outside of the powers granted to it, the states have the duty and the right to interpose on behalf of their constituents.

This concept, although conceived and popularized long ago, has obvious contemporary relevancy, and is currently being used in many states to combat federal laws that constituents find reproachable.  Examples can be found in state-level opposition to national health care, gun laws, and marijuana laws- all issues which are either expressly or implicitly outside the purview of the federal government.  Nullifying federal laws is a bold step to take, and states who do so should be applauded for having the courage to stand between the federal government and the constituents they represent.