The Case For Cannabis: Legalisation Will Not Lead to A Black Market

One of the fears of those who are against cannabis law reform is that a legal system would lead to the growth of the black market in cannabis production. Therefore, it would be better to keep cannabis illegal. As this article will examine, this reasoning is based on at least two major errors.

The logic goes like this: it costs X amount of dollars to buy an ounce of cannabis – let’s say 300. Cannabis is likely to be taxed in a manner similar to alcohol, and alcohol taxes are reasonably hefty, so let’s assume at least a 20% sin tax on cannabis, plus 15% GST – this is already over $400 an ounce.

This could mean that legal cannabis will cause so much tax to be added to the cost of an ounce that black market operators will be able to undercut it. Since cannabis growing will not be cracked down on because of its new legal status, large numbers of people will be able to grow and to enter the black market at no risk.

This reasoning is false in two major ways.

The first is that is doesn’t account for economies of scale. On the black market – which is currently where all cannabis is sold – producing cannabis isn’t cheap. As mentioned elsewhere, home cannabis grows suck up as much as 1% of the electricity production of nations such as America and New Zealand. These are incredibly inefficient compared to warehouse grows.

Moreover, cannabis sold in a legal market, from dispensaries, would not carry the risk premium associated with a product sold on the black market. The risk premium is very high in the case of cannabis, because a lot of product gets intercepted by Police action before it ever gets sold, and the losses from this have to be balanced against finalised sales.

Taking both of these things into account, we can see that the production cost of legal cannabis, manufactured by the ton and distributed to pharmacies without interruption, is going to be a fraction of what it is currently. This means that it will be possible to put GST on it and a sin tax on top of that, and still sell cannabis for $200 an ounce, or less.

No black market producer could compete with this and still make enough of a profit for it to be worthwhile. So, if anything, legal cannabis would sooner wipe the black market out completely by undercutting it. This was a principle understood in Uruguay when they made cannabis legal in 2013 – they set the price of cannabis at $1 a gram.

The second major reason why we need not be concerned about a black market is because we have the capacity ourselves to more-or-less set the final cannabis price through taxation.

There are really two kinds of prohibition: hard prohibition and soft prohibition. What we have right now is hard prohibition, where the Police will physically smash anyone in possession of cannabis, or cultivating it. This is hard because it uses the full power of the state, and will go as far as killing you to enforce it, or putting you in a cage for several years. We are simply not allowed it and no correspondence will be entered into.

But making something legal, and then taxing it to the point where it’s almost impossible to afford, is a kind of prohibition. The New Zealand Government is currently employing soft prohibition of tobacco, in that it has been raising the tobacco taxes every year, with the stated intent of forcing tobacco cessation through making it unaffordable. This it believes is in the greater good.

Soft prohibition shares many of the drawbacks of hard prohibition. In the case of cannabis in New Zealand, we can see that black market tobacco has made a comeback, to the point where trade in it is believed to cost the New Zealand Government tens of millions is lost taxes every year. So we can see that high taxes on legal cannabis is a bad idea, if the black market is to be discouraged.

If cannabis legalisation was done intelligently – which is to say that it was done with an entirely different mindset to how prohibition has been done so far – we would set the level of taxation such that the transition to a legal cannabis market was a soft transition. In other words, we could calculate what the expected average production cost of an ounce of cannabis should be, account for profits, account for GST, and tax that total at a rate that would still allow it to beat the black market. This would achieve all major objectives at once.

Not only would cannabis law reform not lead to more cannabis being sold on the black market, but it would be the best thing to fight the black market. Cannabis law reform would allow legal sellers to undercut the black market through economies of scale and the removal of the risk premium, driving criminal gangs out of business.

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This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda VII

This reading carries on from here.

The seventh chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Women’s Activities And Propaganda’.

Bernays is comfortable stating, in 1928, that women “have achieved a legal equality with men”. This doesn’t mean that their activities are the same – it simply means that their vote is of equal worth. This makes them particularly important to understand from a propaganda perspective.

He points out that women don’t have to occupy high positions of political power in order to have a strong political influence. It doesn’t matter that women are not taken as seriously as men in positions of high leadership, because they lead women’s organisations with great numbers of members, and the women leading them have a heavy influence on how their members vote.

Bernays considers the women’s suffrage campaign (which had won victory in America shortly before he wrote this book) to be a good example of the power of propaganda to bring societal changes. He credits the use of propaganda by women’s organisations for increased social welfare and alcohol prohibition. Many female propagandists were trained either by the suffragette movement itself or by the Government during World War One.

These clubs can hold events that draw large numbers of people, so if a popular enough event can be held, it will result in great numbers of people being influenced. Bernays is especially taken with the idea of such clubs sponsoring art or literary competitions. Such events can generate enormous amounts of goodwill.

Bernays is optimistic that an increased voice for women can help mould the world into a better place for all of us. He believes that the entrance of women into politics will allow them to focus on areas that men had previously neglected or were not interested in. This is primarily achieved by the introduction of new ideas or methods.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

Why Vaccination Should Never Be Made Compulsory

25 people have been infected by a measles outbreak in Canterbury, and one could predict from the degree of anti-anti-vaccination hysteria that there will soon be a social movement to make vaccination compulsory. Many people are calling for it, and the rhetoric demonising the anti-vaxxers is growing. This essay discusses why compulsory vaccination is the wrong approach.

The joke goes that under totalitarianism, everything is either banned or made compulsory. The panic-based hysteria that fuels the various moral outrages that lead to totalitarianism can be seen in places like this thread on Reddit. Many New Zealanders are apparently happy to force compulsory medical treatment on others, despite it being a violation of Section 11 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Compulsory vaccination would be a grossly draconian abuse of state power. But that isn’t why we should avoid it.

Let’s lay it out: vaccination is a good idea. Vaccination is a great idea, especially if the extremely minor side-effects are weighed up against the costs of being infected with measles, rubella, polio, whooping cough or the like. Some of these diseases are capable of crippling people for the remainder of their lives, leaving them in ghastly pain, or just killing them outright. Their presence as part of the human experience was a curse, and eradicating them would be excellent.

Vaccination is such a good idea that a parent ought to listen to their doctors when those doctors recommend vaccination. So if the necessary trust isn’t present in that relationship, something is wrong, and we ought to determine why.

The usual response is to call anti-vaxxers “nutters”, “loonies”, “schizos” and the like, and to attribute their lack of trust to an aggressive paranoia that can only be present on account of moral failure. But the responsibility isn’t on them to become more trusting. The responsibility lies on the Government and on the medical community to earn the trust of the population. It’s not merely an ideal that the population ought to trust that what their doctors is telling them is true – it’s a necessity.

The anti-vaccination movement is particularly strong in Nelson, which has been attributed to our unusually high proportion of nutters, loonies etc. The reality is that Nelson has a high number of anti-vaxxers for the same reason that California does: we were one of the first to understand the medicinal value of cannabis, and thereby one of the first to understand that the medicinal community was lying to us about it.

People know that they’ve been lied to about cannabis. We know that doctors have not been fully honest about the medicinal benefits of this substance for decades. Those who have done the research know that these lies are mostly the result of pressure from Government, disinformation from pharmaceutical companies pushing their product and the usual Kiwi slackness when it comes to doing your job properly.

So how do we know that we’re not being lied to about vaccines? Given the experience with cannabis, it’s entirely possible to suspect that Governments are putting pressure on doctors to ignore the risks of vaccination, or that the manufacturers of the vaccines aren’t honest about their side-effects, or that doctors simply haven’t bothered to research any side-effects.

Given that doctors have been lying about these things when it came to cannabis, it’s only natural that the trust that people had in them has sharply declined among some demographics. This is the error that needs to be corrected, and compulsory vaccination is a ham-fisted solution to something that can be achieved more elegantly.

Introducing compulsory vaccination is a foolish and short-sighted approach that will not only spur more suspicion and paranoia, but which will also help to justify future Governmental abuses. A much braver and wiser move would be for the Government and the medical community to earn back the trust that they have lost.

The best way to achieve this would be for politicians to make a frank and full apology for their parts in misleading the country about cannabis. They would have to not only admit that cannabis was medicinal, but that it was known to be medicinal and previous governments lied about it for whatever reason.

If the politicians would admit that many doctors only withheld the truth from their patients for fear of punishment from the Government, they would help to restore the faith in those doctors necessary for the more sceptical to get their children vaccinated. This is what needs to happen, not compulsory vaccination.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

The Case For Cannabis: Legalisation is Better For the Environment

Recent studies suggest that the future prospects for Earth’s environment are poor. The situation is dire enough that, finally, an awareness is growing that certain measures will have to be taken if the human species is to survive – and soon. This article explains how cannabis law reform is one of those measures (if a minor one).

Many people labour under the idea that cannabis prohibition stops people from using cannabis. Therefore, they assume, cannabis prohibition prevents it from being grown and used. The truth, of course, is that evil laws don’t prevent actions, because human nature is to defy evil laws, and so people grow cannabis everywhere anyway. In any case, cannabis is a medicine, and people will not simply go without a medicine because of the law.

Because of things like Police helicopters that go searching the hills and forests for outdoor grows, a majority of people who grow cannabis do so indoors, and most of these grows are simple setups under a 400 or 600 Watt bulb. These generally cost somewhere between $70 and $100 a month to run, and can produce several ounces of weed over a eight- or ten-week cycle.

This is a great outcome for an individual cannabis user who doesn’t want to deal with the black market, but it’s not the best outcome for the environment.

A study by American scientist Evan Mills found that indoor cannabis grows use up to 1% of America’s entire energy supply. If a similar proportion holds true in New Zealand, it would mean that indoor cannabis grows in New Zealand suck up electricity equivalent to that used by a city the size of Nelson every year. This represents some $60 million worth of electricity, every year.

Another way to put this is that a four-plant grows uses as much electricity as running 29 fridges. It’s a lot of energy being used for something that doesn’t really need to happen. After all, these grows are only done indoors for the sake of evading detection.

Legal cannabis would mean that cannabis growers could simply put a plant outside and let it grow in the Sun, without fear of being spotted by Police helicopters. There would be no energy requirements at all, and the cost of grow nutrients and the like would be minimal on account of that the plant would just be allowed to grow as large as possible.

Not all indoor cannabis growing could immediately be switched to outdoors. Many people simply don’t have the appropriate facilities. However, the vast majority of it could be, on account of that people would rather buy cannabis from a shop or get it from a pharmacy than grow it themselves, for a greater cost, and have to worry about watering, spider mites, replacement bulbs, buying potting mix, getting ripped off etc.

So legal cannabis would mean that companies would be able to build entire outdoor cannabis farms, and these farms would be much better for the environment than the current arrangement, in which everyone has a home grow operation because they can’t buy it legally and they need to avoid getting arrested. All of those highly inefficient home grows can be wound down in favour of commercial operations that achieve economies of scale.

The tricky thing about this argument is that the sort of person who cares about the environment already knows that cannabis should be legal. In much the same way that anyone who has bothered to look at the climate science knows that changes need to be made, anyone who has bothered to look at the science behind cannabis knew that cannabis prohibition should have been repealed 20 years ago.

The sort of person who genuinely believes that it’s a good idea to put people in cages for growing or using cannabis are, almost inevitably, the same kind of people who don’t care at all about the environment or what the state of it might be after we are gone. The characteristic feature of such people is an absence of empathy for others, and an inability to consider their suffering to be real. So the environmental argument will convince few who are not already convinced.

However, the fact remains that cannabis law reform is a better move for the environment. It would greatly reduce the carbon footprint of the cannabis cultivation industry, as well as reducing the amount of wastage in other areas. Given the pressing need to consider environmental impacts in all areas, we should make it legal for individuals to grow cannabis outside at home.

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This article is an excerpt from The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, compiled by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda VI

This reading carries on from here.

The sixth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Propaganda and Political Leadership’. Having elaborated upon the basics, Bernays now turns to what this book is best known for.

The chapter opens with an almost Machiavellian statement of anti-democracy. “No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or specially wise and lofty idea.” The leader, then, has an obligation to use propaganda to induce the people to go in the right direction.

Curiously for 1928, Bernays is in a position to lament the apathy that already existed in the American voting population of the time. He presages the coming of Adolf Hitler when he states that this apathy only exists because of the failure of any political leader to capture the imagination of the public (this might be because propaganda has been used to destroy political communication).

Voter apathy is here blamed on the inability of politicians to dramatise themselves and their platforms in terms that have real meaning to the public. This cannot be achieved by a politician who merely follows the public whim. Given the strictures of democracy, “The only means by which the born leader can lead is the expert use of propaganda”.

Political campaigns ought to be planned and conducted as professionally and as meticulously as any advertising campaign of a large company. To this end, they would do well to be honestly funded. Bernays decries the “little black bag” method of funding, on account of that it lowers the prestige of politics.

A clever political campaign will outline, from the beginning, specifically which emotions it intends to appeal to. It will figure out exactly who it intends to appeal to, how to reach those people, and the areas in which multiple target groups have aligned interests.

Politicians, as leaders, ought to be creators of circumstances, not victims of them. In this, they have to be clever. The old-fashioned approach is to assault voting resistance head-on, through argumentation. The new approach is to arrange things so that such a conclusion seems dramatic and self-evident.

The best thing is to agitate the public into a sense of anxiety beforehand, so that when the politician speaks it is as if they are providing the answer to a desperate question. Bernays expresses a strong conviction that untrue propaganda will never drive out the honest, because the untrue propaganda will become weakened by growing public awareness of it.

Viewed from ninety years later, it seems that Bernays was altogether too naive and trusting. He wasn’t wrong when he says that the question of whether the newspaper shapes public opinion or public opinion shapes the newspaper is a bit of both. However, he didn’t appear to have anticipated that those who control the apparatus of propaganda would choose to pump it out ever more shamelessly, nor that mass media would see us soaked in propaganda 24/7.

A real leader ought to be able to use propaganda to get the people to follow them, rather than them follow the whims of the people. Again, Bernays emphasises that understanding the target audience is crucial: “The whole basis of successful propaganda is to have an objective and then to endeavor to arrive at it through an exact knowledge of the public and modifying circumstances to manipulate and sway that public.”

Government can be considered the “continuous administrative organ of the people”. To this end, an understanding of propaganda among its workers is vital for the sake of clear and accurate communication. Bernays prefers to describe this as education rather than propagandising. Perhaps the difference was more distinct in the 1920s.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

Why Don’t Maori Leaders Represent Their People When It Comes to Cannabis?

(Photoshop credit: Kayla Chamberlain)

It’s not a secret to VJM Publishing readers that there is a great love of cannabis among the Maori population. The Maori people were never convinced that cannabis prohibition was a good idea, and they were always more heavily impacted by the enforcement of the law than non-Maoris. So why don’t Maori leaders represent their people when it comes to changing the cannabis laws? This essay explains.

Dan McGlashan showed in Understanding New Zealand that there was an extremely strong correlation between being Maori and voting for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 2017: 0.91. This is one of the strongest correlations between any two factors in New Zealand society, even stronger than the correlation between personal income and voting ACT, or being on the unemployment benefit and voting Labour.

So those of us in the know were not at all surprised by the Horizon Research poll announced yesterday, which stated that 75% of Maori voters intend to vote to legalise cannabis when the referendum comes around. Moreover, of the remainder, only 14% intended to vote no, with 11% being unsure. This means that up to 86% of Maoris would vote yes on the referendum if it were held tomorrow.

The question arises, however: if a vast majority of Maoris support legal cannabis, why are Maori leaders so pathetically gutless on this issue?

First of all, it should be pointed out that the bulk of non-Maori leaders are equally as cowardly, so it’s partly a disease of our own political class. Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little have also been pathetic on this issue, as has every member of the National Party. Cowardice is a characteristic feature of New Zealand politicians, and when it comes to cannabis this seems to double.

However, the bulk of non-Maori leaders are not representing a population as heavily impacted by cannabis prohibition as Maori leaders are. The British settlers were long since used to alcohol, but for the Maoris its introduction was akin to the deployment of a bioweapon. This makes the need for cannabis law reform more pressing for Maoris, and thereby the current crop of Maori leaders more negligent than the others.

Secondly, it’s also a fact that young people are much more likely to favour cannabis law reform than the old ones who suffered most of the propaganda. Again as shown by McGlashan, the correlation between median age and voting for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 2014 was -0.55, which supports the Horizon Research poll suggesting that Maoris under 55 years of age are much more likely to support legalisation.

Most of the Members of Parliament who are Maori are old, so it can be seen that their attitudes are very likely the same prejudices against cannabis held by other old people. After all, they all went through the same reefer madness brainwashing as the other old people. At least part of the failure of Maori leaders on this issue can be attributed to the general failure of the Boomer generation to appreciate the perspectives of other generations. They’re simply out of touch.

Thirdly – and this is a very sad and depressing fact – there is a lot of lobbyist money from anti-cannabis sources flowing into the coffers of various politicians. A previous study here at VJM Publishing showed that at least 7% of National Party funding came directly from alcohol manufacturers and their associations, and those groups will have leaned heavily on the recipients to vote against any recreational alternative to alcohol.

We can’t say that any of these Maori leaders are taking money from alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceutical interests, because we don’t have any evidence for that. But there is a fuckton of anti-cannabis lobbyist money and these politicians are taking positions consistent with what the lobbyists want them to take. They’re certainly signalling a willingness to take money from such lobbyists. Ockham’s Razor would suggest that we at least be suspicious.

All of this helps to explain why Willie Jackson, Peeni Henare, Meka Whaitiri, and all the Maori members of the New Zealand First caucus voted against Chloe Swarbrick’s medicinal cannabis bill. Basically, they don’t give a shit about the reality of life on the ground for the average Maori, they just want their votes on the way to the Parliament trough.

The reality of life on the ground is that a great proportion of the Maori people have taken to cannabis because it’s a recreational alternative to alcohol. The arrival of alcohol had a similar effect on Maoris as it did on most New World people suddenly exposed to it: utter carnage, and they are smart enough to have learned that a session on cannabis tends up to end up much happier than a booze one.

We can’t realistically expect courage or leadership from a New Zealand politician, but we can at least expect them to understand and acknowledge when the winds of opinion have changed among the people they’re supposed to be representing, and to act accordingly. Maori leaders need to come out and publicly state that cannabis law reform is the way forward, not just for their constituents but for the entire nation.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

Why Victimhood Is Aggression

In a moral climate as degenerate as ours, weakness has become a virtue. We have come to believe that anyone who is weak must be innocent and the victim of misfortune or prejudice, and is therefore owed compensation. This has led to interest groups scrambling to position themselves as the biggest victim. This essay explains how victimhood is a form of aggression.

Justice is all about setting to rights what people are owed. If someone assaults another person, or steals from them, it’s important that the wider community steps in and sets things to rights. If they don’t, the original victim (or their friends and family) will seek vengeance, which historically has led to blood-feuding, which has frequently led to the destruction of entire areas.

Blood-feuding led to rulers and magistrates enforcing a code of laws – a codified, written set of laws and punishments for anyone who breaks those laws. The advantage of a code of laws is that aggrieved parties appeal to a magistrate for justice instead of taking revenge themselves, which means that grievances tend to settle down instead of festering into blood feuds.

The aggrieved party in any question of justice expects to be compensated. So the giver of justice, in order to keep the peace, tends to pass down rulings that favour the aggrieved. Because of the good nature of other people, it’s usually assumed that any party claiming a grievance must be deserving of compensation, and as a result, the majority of grievances are taken seriously.

The difficulty arises, as it has today, when some people start to realise that a sense of victimhood is highly profitable. A person, or group of people, with a deeply entrenched sense of victimhood can force the society around them to adapt to their wishes. This society does out of a fear of the implied threat of blood-feuding if those grievances are not settled. So artificially stoking a sense of victimhood can bring political power.

New Zealand anarchist philosopher Rick Giles has described this permanent victimhood as Victimhood Culture, one of the four major moral cultures of human history. Giles points out that, no matter how many concessions are given to people in victim mode, it’s never enough. This is because victimhood is an entire culture, a mindset into which people fall and into which they are often raised. It’s characterised by an absence of both honour and dignity.

There are genuine victims, but the proportion of them are ever fewer, and the proportion of grifters and chancers ever higher.

Making out like you’re owed, by exaggerating a sense of victimhood, is an act of aggression. The purpose is to intimidate good-natured people into giving up their wealth or freedom in order to compensate you for the supposed injustice. Because most people have trouble believing that anyone could be as shameless as to pretend to be a victim, most assertions of victimhood are taken at face value.

In reality, the world is an extremely complicated place. There are always a multitude of competing explanations for any political or historical event that might occur or have occurred, or for any sociological phenomenon that may have arisen. Therefore, it’s not always obvious to work out if you have been treated unfairly or not. So whether a person declares that they are a victim or not tells us much about them.

Take the example of the New Zealand Maori. The question of whether they benefitted from colonisation is one that draws a wide variety of responses. The competing explanations are that the British Empire showed up and rescued them from a life of intertribal warfare, slavery and cannibalism (on the one hand), or that they lived in perfect harmony with nature and with each other before the British turned up and corrupted them (on the other), or somewhere in between.

Therefore, it isn’t obvious for individual Maoris to know how much of a sense of victimhood they ought to feel. Inevitably, what ends up happening is that people feel a sense of victimhood that is proportionate to their own level of interpersonal aggression. This is why radicalism and violence go hand-in-hand.

This is true of people in any race, class or religion. If they are naturally aggressive, they will naturally want to take from others, and a sense of victimhood is the perfect justification. All that’s needed is some way of interpreting history so that you or the group you belong to were victimised by some other. Then, that other can be attacked until it pays compensation.

Unfortunately, this means that a sense of victimhood is worth money. If it can be stoked in other people, by suggesting to those people that they are victims and are owed compensation, then this victimhood can be parlayed into cash, jobs and other perks. A person claiming to represent a group of victims can easily siphon wealth into their own pockets. This makes it immensely tempting to stoke victimhood and to aggravate grievances.

The wise thing to do is to be exceptionally wary of anyone, whether an individual or a group, that claims to be a victim. Almost inevitably, this group will have managed to justify aggression against those who they see as oppressors. For this reason, a sense of victimhood, and perpetuating a sense of victimhood, can rightly be seen as a sign of aggression.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda V

This reading carries on from here.

The fifth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Business and the Public’.

Businesses have realised that their interactions with the public are not limited to selling their product. They also have to keep on side with that public, otherwise the latter will pass laws restricting the operational freedom of that business. This need to stay onside with the moral fashions of the public has created the public relations industry.

Incredibly for 1928, Bernays is already talking about the fact that it is no longer demand that causes goods to be supplied to the market. He is aware even then that demand is something that is created, and that this is economically necessary in an age of mass production owing to the size of the capital investment necessary to get started. This is entirely different to even a century beforehand.

It has meant that psychology is now necessary in order to conduct business. The minds of the market, both as individuals and as collectives, must be understood. The vast reach of mass media only makes this more important. “Business must express itself and its entire corporate existence so that the public will understand and accept it.”

A company must think hard about the impression that it creates on other people. This means that businesses have to think about things like the dress of their staff. Much of this sounds routine for 2019, so it must be remembered this book was written in 1928.

The propagandist’s work can be divided into two major groups: “continuous interpretation” and “dramatisation by highspotting”. The former is a kind of micromanagement of the public mind in all minor matters, whereas the latter attempts to create a striking and lasting impression. The appropriate method to use can only be determined after a thorough study of the needs of the client.

Bernays writes of his conviction that “as big business becomes bigger the need for expert manipulation of its innumerable contacts with the public will become greater.” Critical to this is finding common interests between the good or service to be sold and the public interest. This search can have an almost infinite number of dimensions. He emphasises against that the goodwill of the public is necessary for any success, in particular stock floats.

Competition is now so intense that almost every decision made by the consumer is someone’s interest. Even the choice of what to eat for breakfast impacts a large number of corporate interests, all of who want to sell their product. Bernays jokes that this might lead to people becoming fat out of a fear that manufacturers will go bankrupt if people don’t eat enough – bizarrely ironic considering our obesity struggles 90 years later.

Bernays finishes this chapter writing about the amusement industry, which has its roots in carnivals and “medicine shows”. They were the ones who taught business and industry about propaganda. Ultimately, propaganda is a dynamic industry that responds to changing trends, and therefore “Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse”.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

We’re All Slaves On One Big Tax Plantation

Most people today are horrified by the idea of chattel slavery. The practice is widely considered one of the most vile and evil institutions in human history, and for good reason. What most people fail to realise, however, is that we are still slaves living on a big plantation, but instead of cotton it’s all about taxes.

The truth is that our societies are little different to the cotton and sugar plantations of the antebellum American South. We are plantation slaves. The owners of capital are the same today as they were in the 1840s, and the overseers they employ are also little different. The main difference is that we are enslaved psychologically instead of physically.

This is why it was said that Kanye West had “left the plantation” when he began to repudiate the mainstream media’s relentless attacks on Donald Trump, as well as the implication that black Americans ought to always support the Democrat Party. The world view inculcated by the mainstream media is as constraining as any cotton or sugar plantation, and we’re the slaves on it.

On the tax plantation, all that matters is submission to the neoliberal capitalist globohomo agenda. Just as the owners of cotton plantations didn’t care about the well-being of their slaves, as long as they produced cotton, neither do the owners of our society care about our well-being, as long as we produce taxes.

In the same way that the owners of the cotton and sugar plantations got their overseers to squeeze as much productivity as possible from their slaves, so too do the owners of the tax plantations direct the overseers in the media, government and mental health industries to squeeze as much tax money as possible from their slaves. Sheep are farmed for wool, cows are farmed for milk, but humans are farmed for taxes.

The ideal is to get the slave to willingly produce tax money. The main method of achieving this has been to create a culture where possession and acquisition of material goods is considered the meaning of human existence, with ostracisation the penalty for anyone who disagrees. With this achieved, the people within that culture will work long hours for the money necessary for all this stuff, and that labour can be taxed without fear of resistance. The more work, the more tax.

If a slave is unwilling to produce tax money, the response of the overseers is similar to that taken by the overseers on a cotton plantation.

The initial reaction is abuse. The cotton plantation overseer would use physical abuse, in the form of whips. The thought plantation overseer, not being able to use corporal punishment, uses psychological abuse instead. This usually takes the form of calling the slave lazy, or a malingerer. The overseer will create the impression that the slave’s unwillingness to produce taxes for their owner is a moral failure on the part of the slave, something they should be ashamed of.

If this fails, the overseers move on to medicalisation. This is where the unwillingness to produce taxes is labelled a mental disorder requiring correction. On the thought plantation, the unwillingness to produce taxes is usually treated with psychiatric medication. The idea is that all thoughts of doing anything besides working and paying taxes are suppressed.

In the 1800s, a medical condition existed called drapetomania. This was a a diagnosis that could be given to slaves that had run away from their plantations. It referred to a kind of mental illness that impelled its sufferers to not want to be enslaved. The doctor who came up with the concept said “proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many Negroes have of running away can be almost entirely prevented”.

Another fictitious mental disorder that was used to justify slavery was called dysaesthesia aethiopica. This was the Slavery Age equivalent of what doctors nowadays call “amotivational syndrome”. The idea was that the unwillingness to be treated as a slave must be a mental illness that had to be corrected. After all, a mentally healthy slave would accept his position and work hard for the master.

We can see the same logic applied by psychiatric doctors nowadays. Individuals who are disinclined to participate in society, on account of its overwhelming shitness, are diagnosed with mental illnesses similar to drapetomania. Schizotypal personality disorder is one such – the withdrawal from social contact is labelled a mental illness and medicated. Antisocial Personality Disorder and schizophrenia are other common reactions to enslavement, also pathologised.

The overseers and plantation owners can never, ever admit that the lives they have constructed for us are grossly unnatural, and that this unnaturalness is so severe that it has caused most of the mental illness that we now suffer. They can never admit that removing people’s agency over their lives causes a frustration that ends up becoming expressed as depression or homicidal rage.

The only way forward for those of us on the thought plantation is to liberate our minds, even if the plantation owners and overseers respond with abuse. Crucial to this is a sense of solidarity with other slaves, in which we support each other to defy the overseers and the owners. We must work for each other, and not for the sake of the plantation.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

Can We Euthanise Parliament, And Start Again?

Animal lovers and ethologists in New Zealand were dealt a blow yesterday by the news that four baboons at Wellington Zoo had to be put down, on account of that their social structure had collapsed. This social collapse had led to increased interpersonal aggression, and it was decided that it would be cruel to allow it to continue. As this essay will examine, the baboons were not the only group of primates in Wellington whose social structure has broken down.

Not all animals take well to captivity, and so the type of fighting that the Wellington baboons fell into is far from unique. It’s common for zoo animals to feel depression, anxiety and elevated levels of aggression. The reason why is described in the linked article, by the CEO of animal rights group SAFE, Debra Ashton:

“Social structures suffer in enclosed environments and could be attributed to fighting and anxiety for animals. When these social systems break down and there is fighting, vulnerable animals are not in a position to be able to escape as they would in the wild.”

People find this easy to accept in the case of baboons, but all of these facts are equally true of the human species. Individual human animals can fail to adapt to captivity in much the same way that the baboons in the story above did. Our society is equally as much a closed, prison-like space with no opportunity of escape – in fact, we arguably have even less opportunity to escape, with the advent of our 24/7 social media culture.

Nowhere is this more true than Parliament.

It’s clear from what happened between Jami-Lee Ross and the rest of the National Party, in particular Simon Bridges and Sarah Dowie, that the social structure there has broken down, leading to elevated levels of interpersonal aggression. These people are supposed to be colleagues, and yet they psychologically abuse each other to the point of openly wishing that the other would commit suicide. They are causing each other horrific amounts of harm, and it might be humane to intervene.

The problem is that many Parliamentarians have become demented. It’s apparent from observing individuals like Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins that all the humanity has long since been lost from these people. They are twisted creatures of hate, willing to cause any amount of suffering to their own people if it furthers their ambitions. Any amount of suffering caused is acceptable if it makes you wealthier, or increases your standing in the eyes of the United Nations.

All of this raises a question: would it be more humane of us to accept that the social environment of Parliament has disintegrated, that this is causing great pain, and to euthanise all our MPs to prevent further suffering to them?

We don’t have to do it in a bloody manner. It can be done dispassionately and without prejudice. We just have to line our MPs up and march them into a veterinary office, where they are held down and given a lethal injection, one by one, and the bodies disposed of. We could even model our approach on that taken towards the four baboons at Wellington Zoo.

Once the humane thing has been done, Parliament would be empty. The New Zealand people would then be free to fill it with individuals who represented them, and who could co-operate in order to solve the challenges facing us as a people. Euthanising all of our current MPs would allow us to dissolve the rotten culture of abuse and hatred that defines our current Parliamentary system, and to replace it with something that worked for the people it’s supposed to represent.

Some might say that this proposal sounds cruel. The reality is that it would be cruel to continue to allow our Parliamentarians to suffer inside a completely failed social system. The individuals inside the Beehive are in deep emotional pain, and nothing will be able to prevent this, apart from starting again. This is apparent from the months off work that Jami-Lee Ross had taken in order to deal with the stress-related damage of the constant abuse he received from the others.

Therefore, euthanising them all is the most humane option.

One popular proposal is for the New Zealand people to come together and to agree on a list of inalienable rights that any future Parliament would be forced to accept, else run the risk of being euthanised again. This would start with the creation of a mission statement, which would declare that the objective of the New Zealand Parliament was to eliminate the suffering of the New Zealand people.

This means that the euthanisation of Parliament would not have to lead to chaos and disarray. If the correct approach was taken, and sufficient preparations made beforehand, it could lead to a drastic decrease in suffering among the New Zealand people.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.