Archive for the 'anarchism' Category

iPhone Agorism

May 21, 2009

It’s hard to be part of the counter-economy.

Most people want to be free of the clutches of the state and the manipulation by their corporate benefactors and lackeys. Agorism and counter-economics is, theoretically, a perfect way to starve the state and ignore the corporations, to “grow a new society within the shell of the old” as Kevin Carson is wont to say.

Of course what works in theory is harder  to do in practice.   Often, for most people, counter-economics brings up visions of “black markets” where nefarious people buy drugs and guns, indulge in hookers or take giant, risky leaps of faith like refusing to pay their taxes. For most it is a scary, dangerous leap that prevents most people from engaging in counter-economics who would like to.

But what if there was a small step, a small almost unnoticed action one could take that would start the journey? What if there was a way to join a counter-economy while still maintaining a facade, at least, of being a “law abiding citizen” and still participating in the regular economy on occasion?

There is.  If you own an  iPhone, jailbreak it and join in the growing market in applications for jailbroken phones.

Jailbreaking is easy and safe (and reversible) and opens up whole new worlds and capabilities for your phone. What it really does, however, if free you. YOU actually “own” your phone. No more restrictions on software and use implemented by Apple in order for them to enforce their monopoly on where these phones are used or from whom you can get applications. You also get capabilities (already built into the phone but turned off by Apple) such as a full bluetooth stack or full motion video and sound.

The iPhone is actually a high end 400 Meg desktop computer from 1999, but with modern graphics and 3D acceleration, an always on modern, high-speed network and a large hard drive. And it fits in you pocket and can make phone calls. But Apple won’t let you harness the full potential of this. Even after selling it to you, they seem to think its still “their” phone. Anything you can run on Unix, BSD or Linux can be run on an iPhone.

For the consumer, there is a wider selection of applications, both free and comercial covering a wider range of functions. Admittedly some are of a lower quality than the official App Store (Cycorder mentioned above has a pretty bad UI) but some simply blow away anything the App Store can offer. The consumer can still buy from the App Store, but now has alternatives and can can choose to purchase apps with capabilities not allowed by official Apple App store applications – record calls, scramble voices, games etc. And as more people use these alternate sources, the better the quality will be, from competition and the action of a truly free market.

For the developer and entreprenuer, applications for jailbroken phones opens avenues for better, more productive offerings (because Apple’s restrictions are gone) but also opens avenues for more revenue. As a legitimate Apple iPhone Developer, I can testify to the high barrier to entry of Apple’s process – it took months to get my acceptance to the program (while larger companies took days), still cost $99 USD, had a complex system for phone provisioning, and requires numerous, onerous tax forms to be filled out before they will accept applications to the App Store. They are know to reject apps for vague or no reasons and not provide pointers for developers to make the changes needed. Once in the store, Apple gets a 30% cut. This makes getting updates and add-ons out to clients very difficult and slow (though, to be fair, rumour has it this might be changing in iPhone 3.0).  The jailbroken app market is wide open. For the cost of creating a repository and maintaining it on a web host, a developer and entrepreneur can be to market almost imidieately and push out updated, changes and add-ons just as fast. One can give away or sell their applications and use a variety of payment methods not available in the App Store. And none of it need be reported.

It is a near perfect market and a real world demonstration of agorist principles that is easy to do and available to anyone of the 10 million+  iPhone users in the world.  Really own your phone, put on it what  you want, buy from where you want, earn money from your efforts without being forced to give up a cut or to pay the taxes against your will. For most people this could be the first, and easiest step into the counter-economy and truly the first step into “jailbreaking” their lives.

Jailbreak your iPhone and gain your freedom.

(or use an Android based G-phone and get all this without jaoilbreaking…;-) )

Update: Learning to proof read…thanks Mike

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Alex Jones is not our ally and not our friend

April 26, 2009

The old saying goes “you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

Its a pretty straightforward admonition to be careful with whom you associate, lest you be tarred by their behaviour and judged by your association with them. It is for this reason I want to appeal to those of us in the libertarian movement – left or right, miniarchist or anarchist – to studiously and strictly avoid associating with Alex Jones.

Jones is, to put it bluntly, a paranoid conspiracy theorist whose grasp on reality surely needs to be questioned.  He has in the past attempted to rebuild the Branch Davidian compound, to infiltrate the Bilderberger Group and Bohemian Grove.  Lately he is the loudest purveyor of New World Order idiocy and 9-11 Truth.

His latest pronouncement was that the swine flu outbreak in Mexico “was cooked up in a lab”, created by the government as a weapon. Of course, as Brad Spangler points out, if you know even a minimal amount about virology and how labs search for virii, then the pronouncements are not nefarious at all. They merely tell us matter of factly how a lab determines what strain of influenza we are dealing with. It is the same process that has been used to determine every new flu strain for the last 50 years.

This incident show just how deluded and paranoid Jones is. And clearly how stupid.

And yet, I see that people like Ron Paul, Peter Schiff and Judge Napolitano are regulars on his radio show. These respected libertarians even glad hand with Jones. And when those of us who are trying to use logic and reason to advocate for libertarianism and market anarchy try to present the excellent arguments of these men, we have to try to explain away why they associate with a madman like Jones.

I understand, strategically, that his radio show reaches a large number of people. But is it worth it? Does libertarianism really need the kind of “help” that people who believe Jones’ paranoid delusions would offer? Ask Sheldon Richman how productive his appearance on the Glenn Beck show went (a show only slightly less paranoid than Jones’ but paranoid nonetheless).

Jones, Beck and others like them are not libertarians. They do not have our interests at heart. They wish only to use our anti-government message to further their ends. That could be money-making self-promotion (as is likely the case with Beck) or it could be pure paranoid conspiracy nonsense (as is exactly the case with Jones).

I am an anarchist, a libertarian, an Austrian economics follower and a devout skeptic dedicated to reason and evidence. It was this devotion to reason and evidence that lead me to become a libertarian in the first place. Why then would I condone appealing to conspiracy nuts with no critical thinking faculties in order to promote libertarianism?

I am asking that folks like Peter Schiff, Ron Paul, Judge Napolitano and others avoid giving credibility to people like Alex Jones at the cost of their own.  I am asking that they actually be more critical of these people and to actively call them on their nonsense.

As long as the genral public think we are finge and fanatics like Jones, they will never consider out message in any serious way. And they will think we are fringe so long as we keep associating with them.

Don’t lay down with those dogs.

How the Vulgar Libertarians work against Liberty

April 14, 2009

While listening to Wes Bertrand’s latest Complete Liberty Podcast, I heard about a disturbing Rasmussen poll in the US that stated only 53% of American’s think capitalism is better than socialism.

So, despite the horrors of the Soviet Union, Cambodia, the East Bloc even current Communist China, and the abject failure of domestic socialist policies, the poll says that 20% of Americans think Socialism is better than capitalism and 27% don’t know which was better. That’s 47% of Americans who don’t like capitalism.  The numbers for those under 30 are more shocking: only 37% prefer capitalism, with 33% preferring socialism and a full 30% unsure either way.

Where do these ideas come from? The pat answers, of course, are the “government school system” or “brainwashing” or “ignorance” and all kinds of other common libertarian shibboleths.  The truth is that the blame can be laid at the feet of the very people who have for years claimed to be the defenders of “capitalism” – the vulgar libertarians who try to use the language of capitalism and free markets in order to apologize for and promote the current state-capitalist, economic fascist system.

The poll report itself confirms this, based on a previous poll in which a healthy 70% of repsondents supported the free market.

“The fact that a “free-market economy” attracts substantially more support than “capitalism” may suggest some skepticism about whether capitalism in the United States today relies on free markets.”[emphasis mine]

So, needless to say, when American Republicans and Canadian Conservatives call our current system of state interference in the market with regulations, tariffs and cartels created to benefit their favoured corporate donors and then call it “capitalism”, it is no wonder people don’t think capitalism works. Given the Enron’s, Tycos and Lehman Brothers of the world or the various Savings and Loan, tech-bubble or current government bailout schemes, it is then hardly surprising. If that is capitalism, then they are right.

Of course, that isn’t capitalism, but mercantilism or fascism. But because the vulgar libertarians call it “capitalism”, those common sense folks who see clearly that it doesn’t work, that it isn’t fair or that it is incredibly exploitative are driven into the arms of real socialists and fascist who have no qualms about using the state openly to achieve their ends. Their purposeful conflation of our current system with “capitalism” blinds people who clearly would prefer a “free market” to the real libertarian message of non-aggression and voluntary association.

In short, the vulgar libertarians in the Conservative and Republican parties are the useful idiots of the socialist and statist they claim to deplore. It shows in the nonsense of the teabaggers, who not only don’t have a clue what “teabagging”  is, they cause legitimate criticism of the Federal Reserve system to be associated with insane conspiracy theories about FEMA camps, 9-11 Truthers and thus completely ignored and discredited. I cannot image a better and more effective way to fight against libertarian ideals than to associate with the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh or most of the Republican Party/Fox News crew who are promoting this. If I were a statist, this would be a perfect “Goldstien’s Book” approach to destroy and marginalize libertarianism.

The only bright spot is that most Americans still believe in the free market and do seem to be able to differentiate between the free market and capitalism, when it is put to them right. This is a glimmer of hope for real libertarian efforts.

But make no mistake, Republicans who talk about free markets, but then turn around and vote for earmarks or bailouts or deficits for war are not our allies. They use our language to work against our ends in an insidious fashion.  They are against our goals as surely as social democrats, socialists or communists are.  At least the social democrats, socialists or communists are honest and up front about their position.

The Problem with Canadian Healthcare

March 13, 2009

Its not what you think, at least not from a libertarian perspective.

The biggest problem with Canadian style universal health care is that, for most people, most of the time, it works well enough. Yes, that’s right, it actually works.

But that never stops some well-meaning people from misrepresenting the Canadian system for their own ends.

For my American friends (and possibly for some Canadians as well) let me do a quick primer on what our system actually is.

The main reason that our system works as well as it does is that, despite cries of it being a “Soviet style socialized medicine”, the Canadian system is actually a hybrid system, with private, for profit delivery and public, monopoly insurance for core care. That is, doctors, diagnostics, clinics, some hospitals and insurance for things not covered by the provincial insurance plans, are all private business, usually operating for profit, based on the number of patients and obtaining fees by billing the patients insurance. The difference is, there is only one insurance company – the state.

The state, either at the provincial or municipal levels, runs hospitals and can keep some costs down because they can buy, for instance, aspirin or antibiotics or bandages or wooden crutches in bulk from private suppliers.

In short, there is just enough private and market forces at play within the system so that it works pretty well. As a Canadian who has been in the system for his entire life, let me assure American libertarians that, much to their chagrin, we get high quality care, for the most part.

Emergency rooms still see people based on priority and waits for this kind of service are not outrageous.

The quality of treatment is exceptional.

The problem is, there is also just enough state interference and manipulation of market forces to be causing the system to be unsustainable and to deteriorate.  We now hove long wait times for necessary but elective surgeries like hip and joint replacements. We have to wait months to see specialists or to get the latest in high-tech tests. People cannot even find a family doctor in Ontario anymore. And the conditions of our hospitals are worsening.

A large part of this is due to a government doctor cartel. Anyone over 30 will tell you that in the 70’s and 80’s, we did not have these problems. But around 1990, after the infamous Barer–Stoddart report, provincial governments and various provincial and national medical associations conspired to keep the numbers of doctors practicing low, so that each individual doctor (and by extension the Canadian Medical Association, the CMA, which is essentially a doctor’s union) can earn more money.

The report stated that there was a glut of doctors and that somehow this was going to cost the system millions. So provincial government, with the blessing of the medical associations, reduced the number of places in our medical schools and placed incredibly high barriers to entry for foreign trained doctors.  As a direct result of this blatant interference by the state into the market for doctors (and applauded by the medical profession itself at the time) we went from having low wait times for treatment, and the ability to change doctors at will in the 80’s and early 90’s to what we have now – long wait times, and no choice in who your doctor is. Meaning today you cannot leave an incompetent doctor because there are no doctors accepting patients.

Provincial health regulations also require a doctor for even the most basic medical requests – a refill of a prescription, to tell you the results of a test etc. Often these require a visit to the doctor’s office, resulting in a bill to the provincial insurance plan, even if the visit lasted 5 minutes. The reduced number of doctors becomes the bottleneck in the system.

Diagnostic clinics can open, but are not allowed to “extra bill” clients for services  and may only bill the province for service. Based on a fee structure negotiated with the province ever few years. Meaning that if a new piece of equipment comes on the market, they cannot charge what the market would bear, but what the state says. And in the end, they simply don’t buy the equipment, or find it economically viable only to run the equipment during certain hours.

In the end, thanks to this interference in the market, at the behest of doctors in order to maintain their privileged positions, we get wait times and poor client service (though the quality of treatment is still high when we finally get it).

So, although Canada’s system is not the much ballyhooed “soviet bread line medicine” it has been made out to be, its ever growing issues are still the result of interference and manipulation of the market by the state. Indeed, it is a microcosm of our entire Western, state-capitalist system – it works “just good enough” to keep most people happy and thinking that it works.  Most people miss how the very serious and growing issues are caused by the state and those they serve and favour.

That is the most nefarious part of it. It is difficult to convince people that freeing it totally from the state would make it better, when they seem to believe that more government will make it better. Trying to convince people of that is immensely harder when those who could and should be allies completely miss-charaterize how the system works. It displays an ignorance that turns people away from our message of freedom, rather than too it.

Its about being truthful and having integrity.

Two years ago I wrote a post discussing some of these issue and demonstrating how the goal of universal health care could be obtained without the state. It seems like a good time to bring it up again.

I am perfectly able to advocate for free market healthcare while recognizing both the strength and weaknesses of the Canadian system. I hope that others can now do the same.

Randian Collective Action

March 10, 2009

You know, in principle, I agree with the “Go Galt” crowd. I think its a brilliant idea to seceed, to withhold your labour and finacial support from the state. Hell, Agorists in particular and left-libertarians in general have been calling for this for ages.

My problem is, of course, is that the “Go Galt” crowd isn’t actually going to “Go Galt”. Rather than advocate refusal to pay taxes, or to disobey unjust laws and regulation or to participate in the counter-economy (and thus maintain their standard of living), they advocate what can only be described as class warfare. And their target is not the state, but, seemingly, those who aren’t “rich.”

For instance, Dr, Helen Smith, wife of Glenn Reynolds has called for the rich to stop spending, stop tipping wait staff and instead to leave them nasty notes. I’m curious how “stop spending” doesn’t equate to “stop eating in restaruants” but rather “screw over the hard working person who served you your food when you ate out in a restaruant”. I guess the revolution shouldn’t be inconvenient, eh?

Another aspect of the meme seems to be finding itself expressed in a fake “Letter from the Boss”. Yes, the “productive class” should help other’s “Go Galt” even if they don’t want to, even if those whom they are coercing into “going Galt” are members of the “productive class” themselves, who perhaps had the wrong bumper sticker on their car or supported the wrong candidate (becasue we all know John McCain would never support the kind of government action Obama is doing…right?).

It seems to me that this is merely a perversion of Rand’s ideas in order to serve the partisan political battles of statists. In other words, those who may take Rand’s words, through the character of John Galt to heart, are being duped and used by those who themselves do not believe them.

In the interests of clarity, perhaps people like Smith, and Michelle Malkin (who, it seems, never saw a Bush program she didn’t like) what their new found heroine had to say about conservatives:

The conservatives want freedom to act in the material realm; they tend to oppose government control of production, of industry, of trade, of business, of physical goods, of material wealth. But they advocate government control of man’s spirit, i.e., man’s consciousness; they advocate the State’s right to impose censorship, to determine moral values, to create and enforce a governmental establishment of morality, to rule the intellect…The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories—with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington.

Seems to me the latest machinations about “Going Galt” are only exposing the Conservatives as the authoritarian partisan hacks they are and ironically proving Rand was right in her assessment of them.

And the irony of calling for collective action in the name if John Galt is just too delicious.

Anarchist Canada?

January 29, 2009

When one thinks of examples of anarchist scoial structures or legal stituations, Canada is almost always at the bottom of the list. We are more known for our nanny state, our socialized medicare and our arcane government regulations. But there is one area that, surprisingly, Canada is a leading light of anarchy in:

Abortion.

For those who do not know, Canada has not had an abortion law of any kind since January 28, 1988, the day the Supreme Court of Canada struck the existing law down in R. vs Morgentaler. Attempt to enact a new abortion law failed and since then, Canada has had no law of any kind surrounding abortion.

And what was the result?

I’ll let my friend JJ explain:

They said abortion rates would go up: the abortion rate has been continuously decliningand without regressive legislation.

They said women would go batshit crazy and abort viable late-term fetuses with wreckless abandon right up to the moment before birth: 99.6% of abortions are performed early-term, and the late-term only for medical or health reasons. Not only are women NOT batshit crazy (but thanks for the vote of confidence, fetus fetishists — misogyny much?), but doctors, guided by ethics, won’t perform such proceduresand without regressive legislation.


A perfect example of an emergent, bottom-up generated social and legal framework that simply works. My contention is, that if this kind of free choice and self-regulation and policing can work for something as contentious as abortion, imagine how well it will work for other things – health care, trade, even policing.

Another example of The Wisdom of Crowds and evidence that people will make the “right” decisions if given the freedom to do so.

Anarchist Style Justice

April 22, 2008

In Canada, we have a dark, dirty little secret – our Government, in cahoots with the churches, specifically the Catholic, Anglican and United Churches, tried to destroy native Canadians. They did this through active cultural assimilation, apartheid-like political enshrinement of dependence (aka “The Indian Act”) and now, it seems, through crimes of outright murder and genocide.

Harsh?

Yes, but true.

The latest in this tragedy occurred last week when a group called the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared (FRD) announced the locations of mass graves of native children who died while in custody of government-funded, church-run “Residential Schools” (a poor quality video of this grass-roots group reading the release is here).

The group alleges more than 28 mass grave locations across Canada at or near the locations of these schools. They also charge that many of those in these graves died not just of disease, but due to horrific neglect, abuse and outright murder at the hands of teachers, brothers and nuns that ran the schools. These include children beaten to death during floggings, killed in electric chairs or purposely exposed to tuberculosis by staff and government officials.

As horrific as these stories are, what is truly inspiring is how various native groups are banding together to work for justice. As the press release notes:

We have no confidence that the very institutions of church and state that are responsible for these deaths can conduct any kind of impartial or real inquiry into them. Accordingly, as of April 15, 2008, we are establishing an independent, non-governmental inquiry into the death and disappearance of Indian residential school children across Canada .

This inquiry shall be known as The International Human Rights Tribunal into Genocide in Canada (IHRTGC), and is established under the authority of the following hereditary chiefs, who shall serve as presiding judges of the Tribunal:

Hereditary Chief Kiapilano of the SquamishNation
Chief Louis Daniels (Whispers Wind), Anishinabe Nation Chief
Svnoyi Wohali (Night Eagle), Cherokee Nation
Lillian Shirt, Clan Mother, Cree Nation
Elder Ernie Sandy, Anishinabe (Ojibway) Nation
Hereditary Chief Steve Sampson, Chemainus Nation
Ambassador Chief Red Jacket of Turtle Island

In short, they are abandoning the state and its institutions and creating their own justice through cooperation. They are openly investigating the allegations independently, because those responsible – the state and its lapdogs in the churches – cannot be trusted to do so.

And for good reason, it seems. Since this was released on April 10, 2008 there have been no mentions in any of the mainstream, traditional media in Canada. These allegations are not new – most have been around, in rumour and whisper for decades. In fact, people like former United Church Minister Kevin Annett have had their lives and careers ruined over it. The IHRTGC intends to fight back just as hard:

Once these persons have been identified and detained, they will be tried and sentenced in indigenous courts of justice established by our Tribunal and under the authority of hereditary chiefs.{emphasis mine]

The IHRTGC should be supported and looked at as a model of stateless justice that is not our normal “Security Agency” idea, but one of true cooperative, community based justice. Anything that anyone can do to help would be appreciated.

For futher information please check out the facebook group. As well, please watch the documentary “Unrepentant”, which details Kevin Annett’s fight in Port Alberni BC and a little history of Residential Schools.

We need to work together to not only to expose these horrifying crimes of the state and the churches, but we need to work together to ensure that the IHRTGC is sucessful, to show that even in the face of ghastly injustice and genocide, the state is the problem, not the solution.

Evolution and Economics

January 15, 2008

Dr. Michael Shermer, of the Skeptics Society, has a fascinating article at Scientific American entitled ‘Evonomics‘. He postulates that evolution and economics are both part and parcel of the same phenomenon – complex adaptive systems.

In biological evolution, nature selects from the variation produced by random genetic mutations and the mixing of parental genes. Out of that process of cumulative selection emerges complexity and diversity. In economic evolution, our material economy proceeds through the production and selection of numerous permutations of countless products.

Quoting both Mises (“Socialism”) and Basitat, Shermer shows that top-down government “design” of the economy is a ludicrous as “design” in evolution.

As with living organisms and ecosystems, the economy looks designed—so just as humans naturally deduce the existence of a top-down intelligent designer, humans also (understandably) infer that a top-down government designer is needed in nearly every aspect of the economy. But just as living organisms are shaped from the bottom up by natural selection, the economy is molded from the bottom up by the invisible hand.  [emphasis mine]

He still thinks (sadly) some interference is necessary to ensure “free and fair trade”, but he is, at least headed in the right direction.

But what this really points to is yet another example of hypocrisy that seems to plague both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’, both so-called liberals and conservatives. Each has their own cognitive dissonance here. The conservative right, staunchly defends the idea (for the most part) that the economy is molded “from the bottom up by the invisible hand” of the market, while denying the identical process that occurs in biology.  Of course, the liberal left seems to have the opposite problem – while rightly defending the process of evolution and natural selection, they fail to see this exact same process in the field of economics and claim that the government is needed to manage the market.

One cannot support true free market economics and deny evolution nor can one deny the power of the true free market while vehemently supporting evolution.  Interference in the market causes unexpected distortions and unintended consequences just as interfering with evolution does.

Models for the Stateless Society

January 4, 2008

A few weeks ago, Brad Spangler did a post on how the Russian Business Network (RBN), a nefarious malware, spamming and phishing cybercrime organization, can be used as a model for private, consensual counter-economic activity that can undermine the state. Indeed, there have been studies that demonstrate that this grey market organization’s business practices, evolving clearly without state interference, hare highly effective, efficient and, ironically, “client centric.”

Of course, RBN is a criminal organization, so using it as a model makes many people uncomfortable. But in examining the RBN model, we can see in the response to RBN, and to malware in general, a model of a truly anarchistic “law enforcment” and protection agency – the IT security research community.

The Security Research community is generally made up of independent individuals and small groups that like to hack. They like to find ways to break software, to find ways to break in and exploit it. Many do it for the challenge, some for the profit. Indeed a market has arisen in vulnerability information just as the one for malware has arisen. It is used by individuals and major IT security companies alike.

Even with this kind of market, most researchers also share information such as malware binaries and source, intelligence, IRC botnet channel lists, malware hash rainbow lists and more.

The community is decentralized and redundant. If I don’t get good information or service from SANS, I can go to Offensive Computing. There is no central control. The idea of this kind of private enforcement and research can easily be applied to ‘meatspace’, physical security, for protecting not just IT assets, but homes, cars and lives.

Dispatches from Leviathan – The Ministry is a Harsh Mistress

July 18, 2007

I work as an independent contractor. I am not an employee except to myself and draw no wages except what I allow myself from my company. I try to live in the libertarian and anarchist way I think is superior – fair contracting for my services and knowledge in exchange for money, freely negotiated, with both sides benefiting from the exchange. I am responsible directly for my own success or failure and I happily help out others when asked.

That idealism is muted by the reality I face living in Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada. If I want to feed my family, grow my business and expand my career, I must do business with the Federal Government. Everyone in Ottawa is in that position in one way or another. While some will look at me as some kind of traitor for somehow supporting the state and enabling it, I look at it like my opportunity to get back some small modicum of the taxes that have been taken from me in the past. I am using the opportunity to learn how to do some of those “services” the government supplies, in order to find private alternatives. I am see evidence on a daily basis that the state and government are incredible wastes or our moeny and time, examples of which I will share with you here.

Yeah, I’m rationalizing, but my kids gotta eat.

I fancy myself like Manny from “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” – a computerman contracting to the Authority to survive, while working for its downfall from within, mainly because there is no other real choice. I will start referring to my desktop as ‘Mike’ and I already know who my Prof. Bernardo de la Paz and Wyoming Knox are (and I only contact them through ‘Mike’). My success is yet to be determined…

I work at a particular Ministry that is responsible for the management of property, and a particular kind of property that I personally don’t consider property. I am contracted with them to help develop a few internal and external applications to allow them to search and display their massive records database.

Now, at this ministry, like all ministries, are two types of workers – contractors and employees. I work with 5 other contractors on the development team. We work great together, are efficient and have consistently delivered on time, on budget an with minimal problems. We are incented, of course, by being paid to deliver and by the pride of a job well done. We wish to deliver the best possible service and product to the client. The full timers, on the other hand, are not so incented. They don’t want to rock the boat. They are happy to extend deadlines in order to make work. We have had servers sit for months, while certain groups of full timers look for cables, where ‘success’ is merely plugging a box in. We have a team of 12 people doing a project which, quite literally, was completed by one of our team after his kids went to bed one night.

Now not all of them are that bad – there are a few who generally are good. They are usually younger ones and they are the creative one who find ways around the idiotic rules we have to work by (we aren’t allowed to use free, open source products of higher quality, we have to wait for IBM to deliver high cost, inferior ones).

The management is worse. Their style is not to deliver service to their clients, whether those clients are other government employees in other departments or the public, it is to create mini-empires to protect their existence, even at increased cost to those clients and the taxpayer. I have witnessed thousands, hundreds of thousands of tax dollars wasted, while the government pleads austerity to the public. The managers do not want what is good for the end users, but what maintains or increases their power, position and influence. We are there to make them “look good” not to deliver. We deliver only if it coincidently makes the manager look good. The hierarchy is everything. Creative thought is suppressed and punished.

Each day is nauseating. Each day I shake my head in disgust and disbelief. Each day, my belief in the total wrongness of the state and of government is reinforced.

I will be at this current contract for at least the next 6 months. I hope on a regular basis to send more Dispatches from Leviathan, based on my experiences and my observations. They will be true. Unbelievable, but, sadly, true.

Stay tuned for “Planning by Committee”, “If you don’t like it, you know what to do” , “Money is no object” and my favourite “You aren’t allowed to talk to the client”.