Thinking Unconstrained

Examining the world with a critical eye. Topics span a wide range including but not limited to, observations, insights, problems, solutions, proposals, and hypothetical scenarios.
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By Candideto
Around two thousand years ago in a Greek city called Corinth, a certain apostle of a Nazarene Jewish sect, named Paul, formerly known as Saul, was writing to one of its budding communities located in a city called Thessaloniki to the north. It was his second letter to the followers of Christ, and he wanted to emphasize a couple of points. The first was that he wanted to quash all "fake news" circulating in that community; of rumors stating that the "end" was near and that the big boss was imminently coming to town for the final performance review. He wanted to emphasize that the chess pieces were not quite ready for check mate yet, and that there was still a lot of work to be done to get there. The second point he wanted to make was that everyone needed to be productive and to do the work that needed to be done - including menial things to ensure that each person had earned their keep. Here he used a popular Jewish proverb to drive home the message to the loafers. "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat". Whether his letter was effective in helping the Thessaloniki Christians to make the difficult choice between calls to charity and that of practical resource management, his administrative memo made a profound impact on the readers of his penning for generations to come.

One of those impactful consequences of Paul's letter was that of forming the opinion of a certain socialist politician named Lenin in the early 20th century. Comrade Ulyanov used the phrase as a form of validation on the right of his political power and to galvanize the legitimacy of his political party's direction. The impression was so stark that he even quoted it in his constitution; And his protege, "Mr. Steel" used it as an instrument of reward and punishment; inflicting unimaginable misery and division on his beloved "comrades" and "families". One can only hope that the Thessaloniki Christians fared better in their consideration of the famous proverb. Starving your family members because they do not want to wash the dishes is an inane philosophy to live by, let alone to base an entire nation's code of law upon.

"Please, sir, I want some more", pleaded the little blond boy with a touch of lisp in his trembling voice. "Your money's no good here, brother! You haven't sufficiently reached your quota!" *Whip crrack*! *Tazer Zzapp*! *A sharp boot and a PaddyWHACK!* And the little boy lay twisted on the floor, and he wished for a world where he could eat as much soup as he wanted; A world where the bad men and women were only allowed one portion each. A world of bouillon totalitarian rule of the righteous, symbolized by the kitchen's bowl and the worker's spoon. He swore that day that there will only be peace when all the little boys and girls could have seconds. And he dreamt of a not so distant future where his private army of spooners goose-stepped across the globe and he himself lead his people to a glorious victory over all who dared to withhold their ladles. All hail Oliver! Long live the Planetary Economical Eatery (PEE)! A thousand years of peaceful spooning for all!

Thankfully the little boy was only daydreaming, and his desire for a perfect world of authoritarian rule by his cadre of superclass yes-men was only a fantasy. Oliver quickly realized that the desire for centralized control over every aspect of human activity was not a sign of a healthy mind, and he promptly got up off of the floor and swore that he would never turn into one of them. Instead the child decided then and there that when he grew up, he would open his own kitchen and sell soup at a reasonable price, without requiring any social quotas and without any prejudices. There was no way he would ever have anyone yell out, "No soup for you!", at his privately owned business. He would be his own boss, and he would sell his soup to anyone who wanted it - including the nameless oppressors and their power deranged sycophants. But how was he to do this? What kind of an environment was Oliver going to need to succeed? Can we help this well motivated child to achieve his dream and that of billions just like him around the world?
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By Candideto
In hindsight, "by the sweat of your brow, you shall eat", may have been a better substitute to "if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat". But then again, the dictators may have instead forced everyone to do manual labor for every meal regardless of their actual occupation. Or maybe they may have demanded that you season your meal with your sweat before eating it. An efficient soviet salt reclamation method to be sure, but not the most sensible or hygienic way of dining. Because sometimes in a totalitarian rule, it just does not have to make any sense whatsoever. You're too busy with other more important things in life; such as worrying about ha-ha-ha-ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive...

If Oliver and his compatriots managed to throw off the dehumanizers' shackles and brought about a system where rule of law by the people would be supreme and above the dictates of (temporary or otherwise) bureaucrats, we would ideally expect that the right to pursue one's own business venture would be one of those important pillars that the new system would try to support. One would hope to instill the same drive as was achieved with slogans such as, "Land of opportunity" and the "American dream". But what do these things actually mean? Personally, it means the opportunity to be able to bootstrap oneself and to have a fighting chance in successfully running a business and to make a decent living. It means that one only needs to apply oneself, to be "willing to work", and to profit "by the sweat of one's brow". It means to be one's own boss and to not be in bondage to any external dictates and unlawful controls. Lofty ideals indeed, one that can likely only be achieved for ideal people in an ideal community. But humanity is not ideal, and that is a major component that should be factored in in any such ponderings.

And so what is to be done when the ideal is known and acknowledged, but the practical is derailed and were to drift in a tangent? From a certain perspective, such is a symptom of too complex a system driven out of control. One of the ways to fix it is to break the system into smaller manageable components and to try something different, which hopefully will give it better scalability and adaptability. If we were to apply the same process as before to the smaller setup, then it has the danger of restarting and propagating the same issues again, only to end up with the same problems as we encountered in the beginning. So what is this different thing? Before we establish that, let us first consider the following rule of sound design practice. If you want anything to work well in both small and large scale, it needs to be simple. Complexities can always be added to the baseline, but those complexities can be replaced at any time without affecting the foundation. Hence the overall infrastructure and the idea would remain firm despite the mishaps and incompatibilities arising from higher abstractions. In contrast, something that is built on complexity but sold as being simple achieves the opposite. It's like building castles on sand; that slip into the sea; eventually...

In consideration of this well-established and logically sound design method, if one was to have a business in a most basic sense, then one would first need the ability to exchange the goods and services that one has for other people's inventory. And contrary to what most people would claim that currency is the most simplest method to achieve this, the most direct way of engaging in commerce is to barter. For example, I can sell my bag of apples for a gallon of milk and a culture dish of lactic acid bacteria (for making cheese). I could have gone and got the same from a different farmer but we came to an agreement for mutually satisfactory reasons, and hence we engaged in trade of goods. If such a transaction is the most basic exchange that one can partake in, and this is the basis for the concept of business and commerce that exist today, then why not support this practice using technologies available at our fingertips? One can imagine a system where a local network of digital bartering can take place in much the same way as any physical market does. You may bid for certain goods, have meetings and calls to examine those goods (VR/AR bazaars?), schedule pickups/deliveries, and the transactions can be recorded (or not) and presented to you for tax purposes (if such a thing can even be taxed at all) later on. And although such bartering can be achieved without needing currency, money is a useful abstraction, which can be added as a layer of complexity on top of this baseline. After all, using rare feathers, shells, stones, metal, and paper is still a form of bartering. The business model would then be inherently local, connecting the people in one's vicinity to perform barter commerce without the need to use a medium of exchange.

But bartering need not be restricted to physical goods either. They can be local services. A seamstress can provide a sowing and outfit modification service in exchange for an LP record and a manicure. Or a babysitting service can be provided in exchange for concert tickets and a basket of scones. A delivery and pickup service can be provided for power tools and beer (please do not use either or in combination while driving). None of these things need currency, especially when they are done in small scale. It's only when the transaction becomes large or beyond one's immediate personal need that it becomes necessary to use currency instead. This is how rural villages have worked for thousands of years. There is no compelling reason why it cannot also be done for any geographical area consisting of populations with convenient barter apps on their personal computing and communication machines. It would facilitate in creating physically dependent communities, who need each other and support one another. Plus, it would work out much cheaper than doing one's shopping at a local mega-store; paying in a flexible transaction-specific market, rather than using a pegged currency for goods and services that operate on state-wide "market value". If such transactions are given for free, would they then be considered charity? If you give to your neighbor what he needs and he thanks you in return, is that a concern for the tax collectors? If an apple was sold for a lemon, would the tax man like an apple slice or a lemon slice? Or would he insist that you find the money somehow by Tuesday, or else? Would they not be forced to insist that you pay them their cut of their money based on their market value regardless of the actual price that was not expressed using their currency? An interesting predicament to be sure. How can capitalism work without capital, and the threat of capital punishment by those sitting at the Capitol? Who knows? Do the fairies?
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By Candideto
Thus bartering has its uses, but we must also acknowledge that using a common medium of exchange over a large geographical area is a valuable tool and it has many beneficial aspects. After all, a coin has two sides, much like a sword, and while it can be an effective form of control by the state and its leadership, it also provides an important service in facilitating the momentum of human activity. Hence to do away with commerce using a state currency is a fantastical thought. It's about as fantastical as the belief that mothers used to throw the bath water out of the window with their babies still in the basin. But who knows, there's always one. If Caesar's silvered asses or the Temple's Ba'al shekels no longer serve their purpose, one does not throw away the metal itself. To continue the analogy of washing the rears of infants, the coinage of the land is a soapy sud-ridden babe, who needs to be cleaned off and wrapped in a new dry blanket. Only then can the filthy water be chucked out into the open sewer; splashing against the street wall and drip down the main stream of the gutter on the unsuspecting "in-their-own-virtual-la-la-land" pedestrians - "Ey! Ah'm walkin' hea!"

We should also remind ourselves that money is an idea, and that this idea is about as real as we believe that other people believe in it as we do. It's value is hence in its faith, and the faith of men in money is as unshakable as their faith in their materiality, their corporeality, and their corporate reality. In the dollar we trust, because the state's mighty sword ensures the coin's existence, and in return the coin takes special loving care of the sword; providing it with an ornate and pretty gemmed sheath of which to hang the skulls of its enemies and other ghastly trophies of raids and conquests. It is the way of the world. Money makes the world go round, and the point of the sword keep it so. Serve it not, lest the world keep you. Instead, serve the people, and keep the world. Let the sword remain pure and sharp; the coin bright and circled; in the hands of their rightful owners; in vigilant guard against the turning of the sides.

And when the tilled soil of Spring arrives, the garden of business will be ready for seeding and budding. Some will sprout early, and others will suffer needlessly. But many will grow well in their own rhythm; drinking the cool water of the earth and breathing in the warmth of the sun's kiss. The competition of life is thus beautiful to behold; the fight for dominance and survival is an overwhelming drive of nature; and all of it is a sign of good and vigorous health. Among those healthy crops however are the weeds and the parasites, who do nothing but take and take over the garden. They bring disease and suffocate the plants and rob them of their nutrients, their water, and their light. Therefore, a garden needs to be looked after - by uprooting the weeds, by removing or distracting the parasites, by regular pruning to ensure enough space, and to spur on healthy growth. The Summer will fly like the wind, and all on the earth will smile. The Autumnal harvest will come in its appropriate time, as life approaches its intended Wintry end; and like the phoenix rising from its spent ashes, the cycle will begin anew when the next Spring arrives with its much expected seasonal hints and queues. So I say, use those green thumbs and get busy. The business of business is to fight, grow and prosper. Help them achieve this and you will bear much fruit and a bountiful harvest.

But what does it mean to have a garden of businesses? Would it be fields of mono-culture? Would it be small edibles and ornamentals in the backyard? Would it be groves of fruit bearing trees? The answer is - each to their own, as some will work better than others for differing environments. It is up to the people to decide what is best for themselves. They will learn, improve and change their preference as circumstances change. As long as true leadership serve the base, your land will be your garden. If the base serve the leadership, then your garden will be theirs. Make your choice - if you can even fathom that the choice exists.