It is a true story that people exist today who believe that the Earth is flat. It is not a true story that the Earth is flat. If you believe the Earth is flat, this blog isn’t for you; it’s for the rest of the population that unanimously agree that you’re just… so dumb. There is not even a question to your dumbness. It supersedes all other qualities you might possess.

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It’s really hard to tell what is parody and what is sincere because the whole concept defies all logic

Anyway, who gives a shit. Like, Flat Earthers are dumb, fine, but that dumbness is about as harmless as a small child who believes in Santa Claus. Consider the progress that women have made in the last few thousand years, and remember that the backlash against that progress has stemmed from the exact same ideas every single time. Mary Wollstonecraft wrote about women’s issues in the 1700s that modern Men’s Rights Activists would have problems with today. Women are invading men’s spaces! Women are fundamentally different from men and are therefore incapable of learning anything, from the basic fundamentals of education to computer programming! Anachronistic arguments are all dumb, but believing ancient myths about the geometric shape of the Earth is pretty damn benign compared to oppressive, yet equally obsolete beliefs about women.

Fuck, there are just as many scientists that believe that the Earth is flat as scientists who believe that global warming is not a man-made catastrophe! Believing the Earth is flat isn’t going to cause the literal extinction of our species, but hey, let’s focus our energy on tweeting about how dumb this other idiot on social media is, right? When I actively search for Flat Earth theories, my results are pretty much entirely those “debunking” Flat Earth theories or parodying the belief. Next up, I guess Neil deGrasse Tyson will use his wealth of knowledge to “debunk” the belief that there is gold at the end of the rainbow by dedicating the rest of his life to tweeting about light refraction and its irrelevance to mineral deposits.

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Come at me, deGrasse Tyson!

The points against caring about Flat Earthers are pretty strong. But if you listen to some of the arguments of those other, more harmful anachronisms, something interesting happens.

Let’s look at anti-Vaccers: equally dumb to everyone else in here, but listen to their arguments. Big Pharma is either actively trying to poison them, or is selling snake oil for a quick buck, or any number of cons that ultimately mean that they do not have the best interests of the population at heart. And the truth is, they don’t! The makers of OxyContin have been actively murdering hundreds of thousands of citizens for years by selling an addictive killer under a deceptive marketing scheme. Or when Martin Shkreli raised the price of a life saving drug from $13.50 to $750 a pill, effectively killing off his less affluent clients. The problem is, pharmaceutical companies are not dedicated to pharmaceuticals, they are dedicated to making that quick buck. The very reason that climate denial exists despite no credible evidence to refute it is because rich people want to create some wiggle room in the truth that allows them to continue to make extravagant short-term profits at the meager cost of our entire planet.

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Your best interests are to give me money; then we’ll both be happy!

The truth is that within a neoliberal ideology, everything must be commodified, which in turn commodifies truth. Reality is shaped by those who seek to profit from it, and as more and more of these lies are revealed, more and more the truth begins to look like a lie. Can we really blame someone for thinking the Earth is flat when we’ve been told for so long that cigarettes don’t cause cancer? That lead-based paint, asbestos, thalidomide, and so many others, are completely harmless? Those in power bank on their monopoly on “experts” to greedily manipulate the truth, and we wonder why skeptics arise in the most inconceivable arenas.

Certainly there are other areas of power that strangle the concept of truth for their own benefit. Politicians are notorious for morphing the truth to suit their aims (or the aims of their benefactors). Same with the clergy. So long as there is a discrepancy of power, there will be elites who use whatever means they can to reshape the world to reinforce or augment that discrepancy.

So do we need to care about Flat Earthers? Ehn, no. Maybe dedicating our energy to disentangling authority from power would be a more effective use of our time.

In my life I have worked with those who suffer from addiction, and I have also worked in retail. From these experiences, I have noticed something about the way these two demographics, addicts and customers, interact with those paid to deal with them. Anyone who has worked in retail can tell you that customers are the absolute worst, and addicts notoriously bear the not entirely unearned stigma of being untrustworthy and catastrophically self-centred. There are always outliers and exceptions, but working within the generalities for now will help identify the trend that I’m hoping to produce here, so bear with me.

Addicts lie. Not just to people who work with them, obviously, but to family members, friends, anyone. The fundamental motive behind these lies is shame. The addict is fully aware of their behaviour and lifestyle, and the guilt and shame is often overwhelming. They know stealing from their parents is wrong; they lie because they can’t bear being judged for it. They know that leaving a detox facility to go use defeats their deep, powerful desire for sobriety and normalcy, but they lie about their ultimate destination because they’re ashamed of their weakness. The reason that the Anonymous program demands honesty is so that the addict can uncover their shame, lay it bare, and witness a community that accepts them regardless. This is the process of recovery.

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Just say no

The addict lies because they fear the human capacity for judgement. Even the more malicious lies, such as the ones for personal gain, recognize the victim’s critical thinking skills that need to be overcome. Every lie, every betrayal, the mask of the addict, is made entirely in reaction to the human.

Contrast this behaviour to the untruths of the customer. The customer doesn’t necessarily lie, but the traditional pleasantries of, “I’m fine; how are you?” “Have a good day!” are the superficial banalities that reveal nothing of authentic value. Hence, an untruth. These untruths do not exist as a recognition of the human, but as an attempt to supersede it. They gloss over the human to expedite the exchange of the product. The honest addict reveals their shame; the honest customer makes curt demands and doesn’t bother to look you in the eye. The consumer’s untruths are made in reaction to the employee as only a facet of the product being sold.

Participation within capitalism, the act of consumerism, requires a dullness in our humanity unseen in any other form of addiction. The dealers and corporate pimps of the consumer marketplace have a greater understanding of predation than those in the Downtown Eastside. Addicts are looking to fill a void, and filling that void with honest, human recovery might alleviate the drive to consume. Customer service must therefore be performed with a plastic sincerity lest the consumer have a genuine interaction that makes them realize their purchase gives them nothing of real worth.

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It is not even the product that delivers the endorphins, but the act of purchasing itself. At that point we are still blind to its irrelevance to our lives

The customer, driven by advertising that manufactures an internal void and delivers only an empty promise to fill it back up again, has no time anyway for things beyond pleasantries. They must commute, work, consume, and then obliterate anything else that remains with distractions. Busyness is a virtue. Distractions are our culture. Humanity is evaporating from one blowout sale to the next, and there is no time to even notice. It’s myopic self-destruction on a global scale, and all that is left to do is wait anxiously for the overdose.

I guess that’s why I’m happier being lied to by drug addicts.

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that taxes are theft. We work hard for our income, and the government just comes right in and takes the money that we earned without our consent! That’s stealing! The government steals. Now, the government can legally do many things that private individuals cannot do. It can confine and relocate people against their will. It can kidnap children. It can even commit violence if it deems it necessary for a safe society. However, the one thing people cannot abide over any other crime is theft. Nobody cares about foster kids, criminals, and immigrants, and so state intervention only matters where my finances are concerned!

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Big Government when it comes to people I don’t like; small government when it comes to me

One of the more prominent libertarian thinkers that popularized the concept of illicit taxation is Robert Nozick in his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia (so titled because libertarianism, as an extreme reduction of state, is inherently anarchistic). Nozick presents a thought experiment which I will paraphrase in order to use really simple maths. You work 40 hours a week, making $100 an hour. You’re doing all right. That’s $4000 a week, but the government decides that it’s going to tax you 10% of your earnings, and takes away $400. What this essentially means is that for the last four hours of your work week, you’re working for free under the authority of the government. The higher the taxes, the more unpaid working hours. This isn’t just theft, it’s slavery! Maybe this is why people just fuck about on Friday afternoons, as a means of sticking it to the The Man for having to endure slavery wages just before the weekend.

While there are certainly problems with this argument, we’ll leave it as is for now.

Let’s turn to the feudal system. The peasant produces $4000 worth of goods, and has to pay his lord $400 each week. Similar to the slavery tax system illustrated above. Now, let’s mix it up a bit. The peasant is still producing $4000 worth of goods, but instead of paying the lord taxes, the lord collects the $4000, and pays the peasant $3600 for his labour. Ha! Ridiculous, right? Okay, let’s be a bit more realistic.

The peasant is still producing $4000 worth of goods, but instead of paying the lord taxes, the lord collects the $4000, and pays the peasant $400 for his labour.

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If that. Isn’t it nice having a say in how taxation will affect the community? Democracy sure is great. I wonder if such a concept has ever been imagined in the second scenario?

If the peasant’s labour really only costs $400 a week, then the extra $3600 is what famed beard-haver Karl Marx called surplus value: money that is added on to the cost of production basically so the person (or minority of people) who own that production can continue to grow their wealth without having to actually do anything. In a word, profit. This money, more or less equivalent to the stolen taxes of our initial example, does not go to community projects, however, but to the pockets of a private owner.

The issue that people are going to take with my examples is likely going to be that of consent. So you might think, well, I didn’t agree to no social contract, why should I abide by it and pay these exorbitant taxes!? And you’re right, that is a legitimate criticism of the social contract theory. Abide by the social contract under which you are born or go to jail is not a meaningful choice in any sense. Social contracts are not inherently just, and resistance against them may be legitimate. Universal acquiescence is no form of morality.

What about our second peasant who is paid wages instead of owning his own labour and paying taxes? Nozick and other libertarians would say that they agreed to this contract with the lord, and if they don’t like it, they could quit and get another job as like a blacksmith or something. Nozick says that not getting a livable wage is like being rejected by the prettiest girl at the dance. Everyone wants to date the prom queen, but if that doesn’t work out, you just keep going down the list of available women until finally you get to the partner that is manipulative and abusive, and you stay with them because nobody wants to die alone. Again, this is a paraphrase of his argument, but he literally says that since it’s fair for women to reject us (he’s big into hetero masculinity), it’s fair for companies to reject us from livable conditions too. Kind of important to consider this the next time the libertarians in the alt-right talk about being entitled to women’s bodies.

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Or the liberal media, apparently

Nozick’s argument makes all kinds of terrible assumptions. For example, ownership is often inherited or influenced by nepotism, even entrepreneurs typically come from already wealthy families, which would be the equivalent of the prom queen being passed down through the generations of prom kings rather than through any merit-based wooing process; women don’t have a systematic incentive to be abusive and manipulative the way profit-driven companies do; and nobody’s child will starve if their parent can’t get a date. If the dating system is rigged so that the suitor has only the most abysmal options available, and they’ll die if they don’t pick one, then the metaphor might be more appropriate. It would also make those dating shows that much more interesting to watch.

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But this time, if you’re voted off, you can’t afford your kid’s desperate medical operation

If we acknowledge that the “choice” between accepting the social contract or jail is not a choice, then it follows that the “choice” between accepting tyrannical labour conditions or death is not much of a choice either. If taxation is theft, it’s not much of a stretch to use the same argument against surplus value. Both involve others profiting off of labour in which they take no part.

Except, in order for a community to function as a community, participation in its maintenance is required. Communities are a collective. It’s not something that’s debatable. Taxation is a fairly straightforward and simple measure to extract funding for that maintenance, and income tax is a fairly equitable way of going about it. Universal acquiescence is certainly dumb, but thinking for two seconds about how a community works and what that would require very quickly reveals the need for public options funded by the collective.

The theft of the ownership class has no other motive beyond personal gain. If you had to choose between one theft or the other, why are we so quick to pounce on taxes instead of the exploitation of labour? Denouncing the community while advocating greed is the whispered maxim of capitalists.

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Maybe not so much whispered as shouted from the rooftops. Remember when unbridled avarice was considered a bad thing?

Or you could abandon both forms of theft and embrace true anarchism. Not the anarcho-capitalism of modern libertarianism, but left libertarianism. Libertarian socialism. Anarchy. Take it for a spin. See how you feel.