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Eat, Pray, Militate: Study Abroad and the Military-Industrial Complex

Eat, Pray, Militate: Study Abroad and the Military-Industrial Complex

We’ve got another awesome Sex and the State guest post! If you would like to submit a guest post, please fill out my contact form with an brief outline of what you want to write about.

If you were at the helm of a growing segment of both the private and public sectors, what would you consider to be the key to future growth? A poor (and therefore cheap) labor force, directed by a debt-laden (and therefore pliable) management class? Or the unconditional political support of every sector of your market, from the consumers to your government to the laborers? What if you could get it all on a silver platter?

That’s the function of study abroad programs in the United States.

Although the number of study abroad participants is still only 1% of all college students in the country, this percentage is slated to rise tremendously, if we can take seriously the Lincoln Commission’s stated goal of quintupling participation to 1 million students by 2017, with an even higher number studying in places like Africa instead of England, Spain, France, and other locations more or less full of white people and legacies of imperial conquest. Fun!

But as an industry big enough to merit its own lobby, study abroad has come under a lot of criticism in recent years for its corrupt backroom deals (between universities, government, and corporations) – in short, for playing the game set by our highly regulated system which, as in healthcare, promotes the use of third-party for-profit players over individual compensation and mutual aid groups. Most of the money forked over for study abroad, whether from banks or taxpayers, “goes directly to colleges, not always to the students who take the trips.”

I can vouch for this point personally. When applying to different programs in Dakar, Senegal, where I studied the Fall of 2013, I specifically sought out the best-priced option to make sure that my financial aid would cover my costs. Unthinkingly, I admit, I hadn’t expected that the cost didn’t matter – my college paid the (piddling) price and then billed me for the cost of a full semester…in America. I ended up paying tuition plus travel expenses, the third-party institution got paid a miniscule amount, and my college pocketed the difference.

No matter, I told myself. So what if I’d been ripped off for the sake of my college’s stamp of approval on my transcripts? I would still be broadening my horizons, expanding my experience, learning to appreciate my privilege, et cetera and ad nauseum. But what I found was something else, something disturbing, something much less Hallmark-card. At my third-party institution (funded primarily, it turns out, by the State Department), I found that study abroad, as an industry and a commercial service, is sponsored by a neoconservative establishment to reinforce the ideological foundations of an imperialist agenda. The liberal veneer of these programs masks a propaganda machine that plays on the humanitarian sensibilities (and saviour complexes) of their primary consumers, affluent white college students.

This is, of course, ground that’s been covered before: the evil straight white men are in the government, which is in Africa, in women’s bodies, and in your brain. While I agree with an aspect of that argument, it’s not a conversation I feel inclined to engage with right now. Instead, I think it’d be more fruitful to look at how two other classes of people have slid under the critical radar when it comes to empire-building and cultural domination: (straight) white women, and gay (white) men.

Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, America’s Right to Dominate

Study abroad appeals to a certain liberal American identity, an identity which is rooted in a highly affective self-image. Humanitarian concerns, empathy for the underprivileged (or the unwashed masses), and a simultaneous sense of both being privileged oneself (as a First-Worlder) and a martyr or victim (as an American in Africa, a woman, a gay man) – these are the pillars of 21st-century American liberalhood. To be liberal, in this sense of the word, is to care – and to be cared for/about. It is to “buy into” the system, quite literally if you are, say, a gay man who donates to the Human Rights Campaign, or a woman who buys a shirt from NOW or NARAL.

That’s not to say that these organizations are “bad.” They each do good work, as far as lobbying goes. But there’s a reason they’ve become as successful as they have. As Steven Thrasher wrote in Gawker last year apropos of the corporate sell-out/buy-out (depending on point of view) of the LGBT rights movement:

Since there are so many homos in positions of power on congressional staffs, buying a seat at their gay table was a solid financial investment. If a legislative chief of staff is a power bottom, a quick way for a lobbyist to get access to his boss is to lube him up by schmoozing him at a fundraising gala for his favorite cause.

This kind of analysis is anathema to liberal sensibilities: gay men are intrinsically incapable of being victimizers, because they are victims themselves. But why are the only causes addressed by the gay establishment (and its useful idiots, Thrasher’s “Professional Homosexuals”) those which also happen to promote the interests of a militarized and heteronormative state? The long and short of it is: because the establishment knows not to bite the hand that feeds it. The same can easily be said of the white feminist establishment, which has long thrown queer women and women of color under the bus for the sake of gaining “equality” with men in the all-American corporate rat race. Who is being represented by these movements? It’s not everyone, that much is clear. But it is people like me – and the many white (and straight or straight-presenting) women and other gay (white) men I went to Africa with.

Maybe it seems strange for a bunch of women and some openly gay men to choose to go to Senegal, where homosexuality and other “acts against nature” are illegal, and female genital excision is a widely accepted cultural practice. But with the mainstream victories of feminism and gay rights, and the formation of a popular 21st-century liberal identity centered around constantly proving one’s compassion and broad-mindedness, industries have adapted and discovered (created?) a new niche market. Study abroad is one such industry.

The gender gap in SA participants is much-documented and little-understood. To talk straight, it’s possible, even likely, that middle-class white womanhood as it’s constructed in the United States – with simultaneous emphases on emotionality, maternal feeling, and (most recently) careerism – leads many white women to actively pursue and dominate any field, educational or corporate, that has to do with humanitarian work. The female missionary lives and breathes today in the figure of the Development Studies major. And the standard feminist refrain – “We’re all oppressed, we’re all women” – isn’t enough to erase the racial disparities here.

In the same way that there’s a gender gap, might there also be a (male) sexuality gap, as more white gay men look to establish themselves as global citizens on an equal playing field with their straight-male and female compatriots? Might homonationalism have a part to play in turning more and more gay men into missionaries for a particular kind of Western sexual identity, over and above some imagined African and Middle Eastern sexual depravity? So the appeal to some kind of common liberal identity is pitched primarily to the people who’ve already been trained to think of themselves as sentimental and altruistic – or as universal victims tasked with the responsibility (and the right) to promote a universal gay identity.

Girl Exploited

This is all hardly speculative, particularly in light of Thrasher’s and others’ work on gay miltarism and colonial feminism, nor is it insignificant. How much money went into producing, for instance, Girl Rising, a film put out by my own study abroad institution and screened (among other locations) at a local Dakar business school? I recall sitting and laughing, peevishly I’m sure, at the movie’s cheap emotional tactics used to draw in potential donors, volunteers, and future employees. Girl Rising deploys the image most likely to inspire maternal protectiveness in white women and gay men, socially programmed as hyper-affective care-crusaders: the defenseless, vulnerable, adorable girl.

Maybe the producers, writers, and director were unaware of all the criticism that such ploys have garnered lately. Maybe they were unaware of the academic discourse, ongoing since at least the 80s, about the subaltern – the socially powerless figure – and her inability to speak freely in a system which uses her own vulnerability as justification to control her. If the Third-World woman, as some have argued, is the epitome of the subaltern, who could deny that the figure of the young girl surpasses even her older counterpart in vulnerability to exploitation? Isn’t anyone at these institutions asking the question: Are we helping these girls – or using their images to support empire-building and profit-making?

Let’s take one part of this film: a segment which takes place in Afghanistan, following the fortunes of girls under the ultra-conservative Taliban. This portion concludes with a sequence of young women triumphantly pulling off their burqas, à la Buffy, thanks to the displacement of the oppressive regime. But nowhere is mention made of the deplorable state of women’s rights under the American-imposed transitional government. Why leave out that detail? Maybe because the film’s primary backers have no interest in how women actually fare in the Middle East – though they do have a lot riding on the continual support of American-installed regimes.

Yet the general response to the movie was unadulterated praise for its compassion and promotion of a feminist cause. I was criticized for criticizing it. No reflection on its strengths and flaws was provoked by the faculty and staff of our institution. (The women on staff were, conveniently, not invited to watch. They were instead charged with setting up the refreshments.)

World Citizens or Emotional Tourists?

Without critical thinking, students only reconfirm their own biases, engaging in a kind of emotional tourism, complete with Julia Roberts and camel-riding. (“Critical thinking” in this case means reflection on how your political situation can affect your judgment, and understanding the impact of economic and political privilege on your interactions with locals.)

The Third World exists for such programs as the scene of their students’ collective catharsis and consequent acceptance of interventionism (“How wonderful we’ve deposed that awful Taliban”) and economic interference in the form of NGOs and multinationals with special trade privileges. Understanding this helped me to grasp why a Peace Corps volunteer I stayed with for a week told me that he actually supported high legal barriers to native Senegalese starting businesses, coupled with trade privileges for multinationals. Africans cannot help themselves, in this view, and so we must prevent them from hurting themselves…while, of course, making a healthy profit. This is little more than a 21st century white man’s burden, but (once again) formulated as the work of women, and, for somewhat different reasons, of gay men. And it’s a burden propagandized by the U.S. government via the supposedly liberal institution of study abroad.

End the Educational-Military-Industrial Complex

Sure, it’s not as catchy as “End the Fed” and you can’t make a hashtag out of it, but it’s got to end. Government involvement in study abroad does little more than transform what should be an educational experience into a propaganda machine. This is not in the interest of the taxpayers who partially subsidize these programs; nor of the students who attend them, presumably seeking to broaden their worldviews and not just to have their prejudices confirmed; and least of all the economically underdeveloped populations they claim to bring Americans in productive contact with. Instead, it leads to even more support for the American military-industrial complex by tacitly endorsing neoconservative policies which reduce the freedom of local peoples to manage their own lives, politically and economically. These students are the future employees of NGOs, the U.S. State Department, and other powerful institutions. They are the management class, indebted to the system, and willing to please it. They are men and women getting their humanitarian fix.

And they are not learning. In part, they are being thrown into foreign contexts with few critical thinking skills, leading to a large propensity for finding fault with their environment and bringing that judgment back home, unmediated by reflection and serious discussion of the dynamics of power in an international, postcolonial context. As one example: what is a student to make of their host father telling them, “Africans are born corrupt”? Without reflection on the position of the speaker (middle-class, Westernized to the point of volunteering to host an American student) and the invisible impact of his audience on how he expresses his opinion, that student might go home with the idea that interventionism isn’t so bad. After all, “Africans” (which?) support it. “Africans” (which?) agree that they’re incapable of surviving on their own. “Africans” (now it’s clear: all Africans) need Americans.

But when my host father said this exact sentence to me, I had to pause. I had to reflect. I had to remind myself not to repeat this particular anecdote out of context to conservative relatives at a Christmas party. I had to think – and refuse to be an emotional tourist.

1. There are, in fact, not many “gay” men or women in Africa, if identities can be measured. The terms more often used, aside from local words which have existed much longer than the words “gay” and “lesbian” as sexual and gender labels, are men who have sex with men [MSM] and women who have sex with women [WSW]. These acknowledge that few people in most African cultures surveyed engage only in same-sex sexual interactions. The fact that this almost never enters into discussions of “gay rights” in Africa is one clear result of the hegemony of American identity politics.

Brendan Moore is an undergrad studying English and French. He lives all over the place. He enjoys a good beer and subversive feminist stand-up. Both at the same time.


What A Porn Star Can Teach Us About the NSA

What A Porn Star Can Teach Us About the NSA

We’ve got another awesome Sex and the State guest post! If you would like to submit a guest post, please fill out my contact form with an brief outline of what you want to write about.

Ladies and gentlemen, boy and girls, and all those in between, please join me in shedding light on a subject that deserves more than your run-of-the-mill light shedding effort. Leave your flashlights and your dangerous incandescent bulbs at home because what we need here is the rhetorical equivalent of the Sun at high noon. I do not say this lightly, for only something as massive as our planet’s star will suffice in combating the massive imbecility of some of our fellow citizens’ opinions concerning the voyeur to end all voyeurs: the NSA.

The particular brew of jackassery of which I speak is that sheepish yet pervasive bromide used to defend the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, I have nothing to hide, a statement which is most certainly a lie nine times out of ten and is just as certain to transform into the prying inquisition “do you have something to hide?” as soon as the sentiment drips from the lips of authority.

I have tried different ways of appealing to people’s hearts and minds about the totalitarian creepiness  of the NSA’s operations, and I am happy  to say some people did not need convincing. A special thanks to you folks. I am also happy to say some people who needed convincing were receptive to those appeals meant to awaken their latent love of liberty, peace, and privacy. Again, I say thank you to them and to all those people who stand up in the effort to preserve our community’s liberty.

Yet still, there are some among us who insist there are no skeletons in their closets. These “open books” claim to have no secrets they wish to keep hidden from the prying eyes of the state. Either (1) these folks are lying to the public and themselves or (2) they are truthfully admitting their lives to be the reason words such as boredom, ennui, and tedium were birthed into existence.

So I must ask these frigid squares a solar-hot question: Would you be interested in having sex on camera for all the world to see?

Now before you get your boxers in a precarious butt bundle, let me be clear: I’m no purveyor of porn. I have nothing against sex workers and think their profession deserves more respect from the authorities as opposed to the usual scorn, derision, and condescension, but when it comes to my personal life, I answer the question of performing in porn with a “no.” To me, sex is a celebration; it is one of the greatest things life has to offer; I simply prefer it privately.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about you “open books.” So what will it be? Would you be interested in starring in your very own porno flick? Most likely, you have answered “no.”  Most people would answer “no.” But in case you are considering a dalliance, moonlighting, or a full-blown career in the porn industry, I recommend reading this crash course first.

I especially like this golden nugget of wisdom from the author and porn pop star, Stoya, regarding the importance of consent:

Remember that short of holding a gun to your head, nobody can force you to engage in a sex act that you do not want to perform, or with partners you do not want to perform those acts with. I would recommend avoiding people who threaten others with guns.

Hear, hear! Enthusiastic consent should be the name of the game. But with all that being said, allow me to ask a few more questions of you “open books.”

What if you weren’t allowed to say “no” to the question of performing in porn? What if the question was never even asked? What if your consent did not matter to and was not sought out by some Peeping Tom, peeking and prying into your private sex life? What if it wasn’t a one-off Peeping Tom but a whole group of people backed by the legal force of law? And worse than peeping into your love life, this group of voyeuristic government do-gooders had the ability to glean information about you more intimate than whatever it is you call your sex life. And after discovering these people’s prying ways through months of drawn-out “debate” in the national press, what if your so-called representatives decided you weren’t allowed to shut the blinds on these voyeurs. What if, at the end of the day, you aren’t  allowed to avoid the “people who threaten others with guns?” What if saying “I have nothing to hide” was helping those in power hide their own misdeeds?

You see, the state is the institution that can legally punch you in the face and then exonerate itself from its act of aggression. Sounds absurd? Maybe so, but much in this world is both absurd and true, especially when it comes to justifications of state power.

For instance, here is an excerpt from U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley’s “counter-punch” ruling in regards to the NSA’s ability to peer into the naked “truth” of your life (emphasis mine):

Regarding the statutory arguments, there is another level of absurdity in this case. The ACLU would never have learned about [ the NSA's spying] but for the unauthorized disclosures by Edward Snowden. Congress did not intend that targets of [the NSA's spying] would ever learn of them. And the statutory scheme also makes clear that Congress intended to preclude suits by targets even if they discovered [the NSA's spying] implicating them. It cannot possibly be that lawbreaking conduct by a government contractor that reveals state secrets–including the means and methods of intelligence gathering–could frustrate Congress’s intent. To hold otherwise would spawn mischief.

This example is merely one in a long list of abuses and usurpations perpetrated by the United States federal government, all of which flow forth from the concept that “we” are the government and thus are bound to the government’s diktats under a “social contract” that rests upon the passive, general, and implied consent of “the public” rather than enthusiastic, individual, and explicit consent of the actual flesh-and-blood persons who make up “the public.”

Is it any wonder now that the federal government without your express consent or even initial Congressional consent assumed the power of modern-day general warrants because “we” have passively implied our consent by using our own communication devices? Is it any wonder now that this government claims the discovery of its own actions by the “passively” consenting public as something that could “spawn mischief” because the consenting public was never intended to know what it was consenting to? Is it any wonder now that this government treats the “social contract” as a self-serving rubber stamp for power, “passive and implied consent” as a green light to trample over our individual rights, and those who have “nothing to hide” as useful idiots in their attempts to hide government secrets?

Thus, when I hear these “open books” claim “I have nothing to hide,” I am of the mind to tell them that based upon the rules of the current game that is not for them to decide. It has already been decided for you, and your passivity in the matter will only lead to more decisions being made for you.

And for those smarty-pants people who argue in the abstract that this government in particular should have the NSA’s power to stand above the law through its ability to arbitrarily make, enforce, and dispose of positive law (“policy”) as it sees fit because it is “popularly sovereign,” then I can only assume you are the type of person who confuses consenting porn stars with private individuals who happen to fall victim to peep holes because, you know, the peeping tom happens to have a badge of authority that some mob indirectly gave him.

In the coming years, we will see if the “open books” and the powerful people using these rubes are allowed to continue peeking and prying into our lives. Right here and now, they have already won; they have and will continue to spy all they want on me whether I consent or not, and I feel violated in a manner far beyond what any Peeping Tom could ever accomplish. Accordingly, I plan on living as free as possible in this unfree world, for if they ever come sneaking around my house they’ll hear this song and hopefully its words blasting out of my stereo:

“What’s the matter with the world today?

The land of the free? Somebody lied.

They can bug my phone and peep around my home

They’ll only see you and me making love inside.”

joey headshot

Joey Clark is a freelance writer and political commentator. He is currently a radio producer and talk show host in Montgomery, AL. Read his blog. Send him mail.

Spontaneous Order in the Cocktail Lounge

Spontaneous Order in the Cocktail Lounge

We’ve got another awesome Sex and the State guest post! If you would like to submit a guest post, please fill out my contact form with an brief outline of what you want to write about.

It’s Friday night after a long week at the office. You gather a few tolerable co-workers and head out for some spirited refreshments. The elevator doors nearly meet before an arm halts their convergence. It’s New Guy from the marketing department, at once svelte and awkward. Not expecting him to accept the invitation, you ask him to join you. To your surprise, your cohort increases in size by one pair of thick-rimmed glasses.

While there’s unspoken agreement amongst your group that Corner Bar is the manifestation of mediocrity, it always ends up being the watering hole of choice. You’d be willing to venture down the street to East Tavern, but Julia would surely complain about the loud music. Likewise, West Café would be a welcome change of scenery, but Stan would protest because of the high number of “youths.” So, Corner Bar it is—familiar, established, and non-controversial.

Your group posts up at a table along the wall. After an uncomfortably long wait, a waitress approaches to take everyone’s drink order. Stan leads off with a rum and Coke, the alcoholic equivalent of white bread. Julia follows with a light beer, and Mike and Dana follow suit. Batting clean-up, you request a gin and tonic.

Now it’s New Guy’s turn. “Negroni,” he says with a reserved confidence. Stan leans over to Julia and snickers, “Sounds racist.” “Serve it up, please,” adds New Guy.

Within a few minutes, the waitress returns bearing libations. Starting from the left, she passes out the drinks one by one. The Negroni is last. New Guy proposes a toast in celebration of a hard week’s work. Everyone at the table merrily raises a glass and serial clangor ensues.

Once immersed in petty small talk, you become intrigued by New Guy’s beverage. “What exactly are you drinking?” you inquire. New Guy describes the drink in detail, answering your multiple follow-up questions regarding how he happened upon it, what he likes about it, and if that’s always his potion of choice. “Would you care to try it?”

You’re tepid at first. The drink’s nearly mystical aura makes you pause before accepting the generous offer. Delicately grasping the martini glass, you bring the liquor to your nose. A single waft is all you need to realize that the Negroni is unlike anything you’ve ever encountered. Sprightly floral gin, subtly sweet vermouth, and rich herbal Campari coalesce perfectly into a magical red elixir.

And then comes the moment of truth. Your lips touch the cold rim of the glass. For everyone else, this ephemeral moment is like any other. For you, it seems to last a lifetime. Time stops as the intoxicating liquor touches your tongue. You savor the liquid for as long as you possibly can.

Heretofore unfamiliar sensations overwhelm you. At once, you experience joy, fright, wonder, and insatiable curiosity. All of your past drink decisions are immediately called into question. You become bemused and annoyed: what took me so long? Suddenly, you feel inexplicably different from everyone else.

New Guy reclaims his drink as you summon the waitress to order a Negroni for yourself. Twenty minutes later, everyone at the table except Stan is drinking one. While no one realizes it at the time, you’ve each broken a lifelong pattern of playing by the rules and wondering why you’re not having any fun at it.

You consider ordering a Negroni for Stan. He must try one! If there’s one staring him straight in the eyeballs, he’ll be compelled to take a sip. Before ordering, though, you rethink your plan. Maybe Stan isn’t ready. How would you have liked it if New Guy ordered for you?

You realize your best strategy is not to force the Negroni upon others. That would only compromise its valor and charisma. You must set an example. Whenever it’s your turn, you’ll order with a reserved confidence. Like New Guy, you’ll stand poised and prepared. You won’t coerce others into ordering a Negroni; rather, you’ll let natural curiosity get the best of them.

Faces may contort at the first sip of the Negroni’s stringent bitterness. Its price may turn some away. The Negroni isn’t perfect, but it can always be improved: better gin, better bartender, better company.

Alas, there will still be a demand for bad drinks—those everyday concoctions with which people are so blindly content. At the very least, you’ll know that you’ve discovered something with more substance, more flare, and more livelihood. Even one other individual discovering it because of you is a win for both you and the Negroni. After all, it only takes one spark to ignite a flame and only one flame to engulf a forest.


Joseph S. Diedrich holds a degree in music composition from the University of Wisconsin, where he currently attends law school. He is a libertarian blogger, author, and speaker. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter (@JSDiedrich).

How Bitcoin Will Destroy Banks

How Bitcoin Will Destroy Banks

We’ve got another awesome Sex and the State guest post! If you would like to submit a guest post, please fill out my contact form with an brief outline of what you want to write about.

Look past the world in front of you

Explore your time

No trust, no love, a nothing news

A cheaper dime

Ruins wrought in the present day

Your leaders glean

Don’t let the truth slip away

See the unseen

Tear down your wall of ignorance

Reach for the stars

There’s not much time; take a chance

Forget your czars

The state that feeds ties the noose

Serves you morphine

Don’t let that drip numb the truth

See the unseen

With the mainstream news picking up on Bitcoin once again, the response to this monetary innovation has been all over the map. Whether it be unstudied fear;  the informed hope of an up-and-coming Millennial; the downright bemusement of an aging dinosaur; the witty exuberance of a modern day leveller; or the cartoonish nay saying of business insiders, there are many vehement opinions on Bitcoin. In time, we will see which sentiments and predictions are correct, but for the time being, allow me to once again throw my humble hat into the ring.

I venture a greater adoption of Bitcoin will help lead to a greater understanding that freed-markets, i.e. communities based in voluntarism, are superior to the current hegemonic relationship experienced by most the of the global population in relation to state sponsored banking. This will happen for three intertwined reasons: (1) given the nature of Bitcoin as a voluntary, decentralized system whose future is reliant upon entrepreneurial activity and (2) given the nature of state sponsored banking as a coercive, centralized system whose future is reliant upon political force then (3) how both systems will act in order to maintain and justify their continued existence will demonstrate that voluntarist solutions are possible in solving problems traditionally claimed to be the sole province of the state.

The Nature of Bitcoin

Bitcoin has the potential to disrupt the prevailing monetary order of central bank command-and-control because it is its own decentralized and voluntary system with the capacity to issue, secure, and transmit money. These processes are audited automatically through an encryption process known as mining which is published on the Bitcoin network’s universal ledger, the Blockchain. Bitcoin isn’t a fiat currency such as dollars, yuan, or euros, and it’s not exactly analogous to precious metals either. Though the Bitcoin network has the capacity for frictionless, low-cost peer-to-peer transactions, it accomplishes this in a manner quite different than a traditional money-wire service such as Western Union or an online-payment service such as PayPal. Bitcoin provides services similar to all these examples, but that’s not what it is. For those who like to learn through vivid metaphor, the best I have heard for Bitcoin is the allegory, “The Island of Stone Bitcoins.”

At a fundamental level, Bitcoin is a novel way of reintroducing private property rules into a monetary space festering with political controls that are anathema to a free society. Think of Bitcoin as a burgeoning new interactive sport or video game that is slowly becoming more popular because the games of old have grown tired, stale, rigged, and self-destructive. Bitcoin’s rules are implicit in and enforced by its distributed network so that people must freely choose to play by those rules if they are to play at all. The implication of this decentralized enforcement process is that there is little-to-no need for traditional political controls associated with money and banking.

Accordingly, Bitcoin should be seen as a threat to (excuse me, savior from) the dominant monetary regime marked by state privileged central banking.

The Nature of State Sponsored Money and Banking

Contrary to conventional opinion, the current monetary regime is incredibly fragile because it is based upon a legacy of political force and centralized power rather than the peaceful individual consent of market participants. State sponsored central banking is clearly not a product of the free market; it can only exist through political coercion, as the central bank is given an exclusive government grant of privilege over the issuance of money as well as other power over the monetary system.

For example, Bitcoin is not yet money. It will only become “money” when it is voluntarily accepted as such by the global population (if they are allowed.) Central banks, however, see money as a matter of political authority: a case of ex-cathedra where whatever they say is money is money.

Here is the People’s Bank of China on how Bitcoin is not money (emphasis mine):

Some people call Bitcoin ‘currency,’ but because it is not issued by the monetary authorities, it is not truly money. Bitcoin is a virtual good, it does not have legal status and cannot and should not be used as currency in circulation in the market.

Such a pronouncement is a telling example of the fatal conceit that afflicts central planners, especially central bankers. From a free market standpoint, money is a naturally occurring phenomenon that would appear without the state’s control or diktat. Just as light bulbs, shoes, and skyscrapers have been provided by the market so to could money be produced by the market.

Yet, try telling this to most people established in the prevailing financial system and prepare for a heaping-helping of scorn and derision if not blatant laughter (the kind where they’re laughing at you.) This goes to show that though state sponsored central banking is based upon political force, it is ultimately justified by its utility to people and their acceptance of the rules, economics, and political philosophy that support the system’s continued existence.

As soon as people discover and build a market monetary system (I imagine Bitcoin to be a mere part of this endeavor,) the legacy of force central banks are founded upon will not continue for much longer, as the justification for their hegemonic power will be demonstrated to be false.

Looking Into the Future

Whether or not Bitcoin will succeed in supplanting state sponsored banking is a wait-and-see proposition; this will depend upon both the success of the entrepreneurial activity surrounding the Bitcoin space and the policy actions of the central banks and their governments.

If Bitcoin is to unseat state sponsored money and banking, the foremost reason will be the self-destructive behavior of the central banks of the world. In their hope to mitigate the painful symptoms of economic stagnation they have caused, the monetary authorities are destroying themselves; each new intervention in the market must be followed by more interventions in order to keep the party going–e.g. the issuance of more and more debt for less and less growth–which as David Stockman has put it, “is crucifying the savers of America on a cross of ZIRP.”

Slowly but surely, the drip of fiat money from of the state is numbing-to-death the heart of capitalism that is the capital markets, and as they continue to exert their power to save themselves and their deficit hungry government sponsors, the central banks will lose their power over the market. People will begin to see less and less utility in the state’s monopoly money and eventually stop believing the promises of the monetary authorities. A contemporary example of this: the interventions undertaken by the government in Argentina. As laid out at the beginning of episode 65 of Let’s Talk Bitcoin, the behavior of the Argentine central bank and the government’s increase of capital controls is leading to the greater adoption of Bitcoin to escape financial state-wreck.

If Bitcoin rises to global prominence under such state-wrecked conditions, it will most likely help to put the kibosh on the acceptance of those economic theories and public policies that support the imposition of state power to “save the free market from itself.” Economic bromides such as “deflation is bad everywhere and always” and “the paradox of thrift” would finally be shown wanting in practice. Monetary nostrums such as zero-interest-rate policy and counter-cyclical government stimulus would be seen as ineffective, destructive, or even as outright forms of legalized theft. Many people who have long been revered as “experts” in the prevailing monetary order will be seen as dinosaurs if not outright charlatans (I’m talking to you Alan Greenspan!)

Beyond these considerations of the state’s actions, there is much that needs to be done in the Bitcoin space. There are many known and unknown goods and services needed for the development of the digital economy and the larger acceptance of cryptocurrencies in general. Whether it be the greater development of wallet/security/arbitration services, more robust and sophisticated exchanges and payment processing platforms, or the development of social service networks along the lines of digital mutual aid societies, the potential for the digital economy in general and Bitcoin in particular is astronomical.

That being said, it is a fool’s errand to try and construct an abstract model of the potential Bitcoin economy in order to impose it upon the world: that would be true “rational constructivism.”  An economy can only be built through the individual human action of many participants, and to my mind, that requires a humble admission of “I don’t know where this is all going exactly.” Both true-believers and naysayers need to keep this in mind.

Bitcoin did not and will not “just happen” on its own even if all of us were to wish upon a star; leave the Jiminy Cricket economics to the politicians and their ilk. For Bitcoin to succeed, we need entrepreneurship and people with a vision of how to solve the problem of making money and banking a more equitable experience for the global population.

I am of the mind that such people do exist and if our work does succeed in bringing about a greater adoption of Bitcoin, I plan on being happily surprised by a free market renaissance that is impossible to imagine with certainty. Is it any wonder so many libertarians are interested in Bitcoin? Bitcoin is voluntarist solution to ordering an uncertain world, so while your political leaders glean ruins wrought in the present day, take the time to look past the world right in front of your face and see the unseen world of the rising digital economy.

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Joey Clark is a freelance writer and political commentator. He is currently a radio producer and talk show host in Montgomery, AL. Read his blog. Send him mail.

Don’t Get Mad and Miss Opportunities To Talk to Kids About Sex

Don’t Get Mad and Miss Opportunities To Talk to Kids About Sex

We’ve got another awesome Sex and the State guest post! If you would like to submit a guest post, please fill out my contact form with an brief outline of what you want to write about.

Rebeca Seitz is on a mission. She was aghast at her 8 year old son Andy catching a glimpse of a naked man and woman having sex as part of a TV ad for ABC’s Betrayed at an 8 a.m. Good Morning America time slot. Much of the subsequent coverage is mainly focusing on her efforts to educate and express her grievances regarding this affront to what she believes in.

Rebeca is understandably frustrated and angry at this given her point of view. The ad did leave little to the imagination. Ads with a sexual theme are generally slotted for later times when the kiddos are away or asleep. She really shouldn’t have to worry about having her kids watch Good Morning America with her. I salute her because she is not backing down from fighting for what she believes is right.

However, there is an important side to this story that’s not being discussed.

This is an important opportunity to talk about how we talk about sex and sexuality with our kids.

I grew up never having a true dialogue regarding sexuality between my parents, my brothers, and myself. I think an influencing factor was that I grew up as an evangelical pastor’s daughter. My sexuality was hardly ever discussed. I pieced together sex from romance novels, a few fantasy novels, Paula Abdul, and Taylor Dayne. Thankfully teen-geared booklets from Tampax, Always, and other like companies helped prepare me for my first blood. My mother and I have never talked about menstruation to my recollection. I never really thought of my vagina except when I was just cleaning up after using the bathroom. This experience has the name of “genital hole.”

Our denomination had a sex ed series but oddly my parents never used it. My parents gave me a very technical and dry book regarding sex in marriage very popular in Christian circles called Intended For Pleasure by the Wheat couple. It was barely helpful, a book instead of a talk. It wasn’t really designed for teenagers which is what I needed. It was clear my parents weren’t comfortable talking with me about sex.

But how could they when sexual shame silenced their parents and their parents down through the generations?

So how can Rebeca teach differently if she doesn’t know or believe differently?

How can a boy think sex is good when mommy tells him to look away? What else is he to think when hopefully the most important woman in his life at the time looks at a naked woman and a naked man and in a frenzied, frightened rush tells him to look away and to go unto the kitchen? It told Andy that Rebeca probably thinks all sex is dirty and bad not just sex she personally believes goes against her Christian values.

Again how can a boy who goes through this instantly turn around to sex is good because I’ve saved it until marriage? He’s learned that sex is to be shunned and to be hidden under covers.

In my experience, denying my sexuality under the guise of “sexual purity” for many years has led to many difficulties. I am continually learning more about my faith, my sexuality, and myself in new ways as a result and how to apply that to my relationships. That is the gift of what I’ve experienced.

I still wish I had learned a lot more about my sexuality when I was younger.

Rather than having our kids struggle with their sexualities alone, let’s be adults and admit we are still learning too. We can learn together with our kids.

Tagging this as “soft core porn” lessens what a positive impact this can have for all of us. For an alternative look on Christianity and porn please see Philo Thelos’ Divine Sex.

And as Soraya Chemaly wrote in “How Do You Feel About Sex and Teenage Sleepovers?”

“If you aren’t comfortable with your own sexuality or challenging deeply-embedded ideas about sex being “bad,” can you teach your kids anything different?”


Ever since she was little, Lisa Michalek has had her nose in a book. This thirst for knowledge and wisdom has helped her in her quest to help relieve this society of its debilitating sexual shame. She also enjoys watching cheesy shows like the Power Rangers franchise and other series.