Category Archives: Politics

How the Economy Works

Read two great articles today. I’d like to synopsis the main points later, but merely wanted to post the articles for the time being

Timeline

https://imgur.com/gallery/xhYCQh4?fbclid=IwAR0ptSWHvLRIuzcI8iNydZrFVTpEh9WpQokYlKMQyMU9iblpWqjWjA_e-Hw

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/06/opinion/income-tax-rate-wealthy.html

The American Economy is Rigged

The American Economy Is Rigged – Scientific American

And what we can do about it

By Joseph E. Stiglitz on November 1, 2018
The American Economy Is Rigged
Credit: Andrea Ucini
Americans are used to thinking that their nation is special. In many ways, it is: the U.S. has by far the most Nobel Prize winners, the largest defense expenditures (almost equal to the next 10 or so countries put together) and the most billionaires (twice as many as China, the closest competitor). But some examples of American Exceptionalism should not make us proud. By most accounts, the U.S. has the highest level of economic inequality among developed countries. It has the world’s greatest per capita health expenditures yet the lowest life expectancy among comparable countries. It is also one of a few developed countries jostling for the dubious distinction of having the lowest measures of equality of opportunity.

The notion of the American Dream—that, unlike old Europe, we are a land of opportunity—is part of our essence. Yet the numbers say otherwise. The life prospects of a young American depend more on the income and education of his or her parents than in almost any other advanced country. When poor-boy-makes-good anecdotes get passed around in the media, that is precisely because such stories are so rare.

Things appear to be getting worse, partly as a result of forces, such as technology and globalization, that seem beyond our control, but most disturbingly because of those within our command. It is not the laws of nature that have led to this dire situation: it is the laws of humankind. Markets do not exist in a vacuum: they are shaped by rules and regulations, which can be designed to favor one group over another. President Donald Trump was right in saying that the system is rigged—by those in the inherited plutocracy of which he himself is a member. And he is making it much, much worse.

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America has long outdone others in its level of inequality, but in the past 40 years it has reached new heights. Whereas the income share of the top 0.1 percent has more than quadrupled and that of the top 1 percent has almost doubled, that of the bottom 90 percent has declined. Wages at the bottom, adjusted for inflation, are about the same as they were some 60 years ago! In fact, for those with a high school education or less, incomes have fallen over recent decades. Males have been particularly hard hit, as the U.S. has moved away from manufacturing industries into an economy based on services.

The Science of Inequality
Read more from this special report:
The Science of Inequality
DEATHS OF DESPAIR
Wealth is even less equally distributed, with just three Americans having as much as the bottom 50 percent—testimony to how much money there is at the top and how little there is at the bottom. Families in the bottom 50 percent hardly have the cash reserves to meet an emergency. Newspapers are replete with stories of those for whom the breakdown of a car or an illness starts a downward spiral from which they never recover.

In significant part because of high inequality, U.S. life expectancy, exceptionally low to begin with, is experiencing sustained declines. This in spite of the marvels of medical science, many advances of which occur right here in America and which are made readily available to the rich. Economist Ann Case and 2015 Nobel laureate in economics Angus Deaton describe one of the main causes of rising morbidity—the increase in alcoholism, drug overdoses and suicides—as “deaths of despair” by those who have given up hope.

Credit: Jen Christiansen; Sources: “The Fading American Dream: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility since 1940,” by Raj Chetty et al., in Science, Vol. 356; April 28, 2017 (child-parent wealth comparison); World Inequality database (90% versus 1% wealth trend data)
Defenders of America’s inequality have a pat explanation. They refer to the workings of a competitive market, where the laws of supply and demand determine wages, prices and even interest rates—a mechanical system, much like that describing the physical universe. Those with scarce assets or skills are amply rewarded, they argue, because of the larger contributions they make to the economy. What they get merely represents what they have contributed. Often they take out less than they contributed, so what is left over for the rest is that much more.

This fictional narrative may at one time have assuaged the guilt of those at the top and persuaded everyone else to accept this sorry state of affairs. Perhaps the defining moment exposing the lie was the 2008 financial crisis, when the bankers who brought the global economy to the brink of ruin with predatory lending, market manipulation and various other antisocial practices walked away with millions of dollars in bonuses just as millions of Americans lost their jobs and homes and tens of millions more worldwide suffered on their account. Virtually none of these bankers were ever held to account for their misdeeds.

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I became aware of the fantastical nature of this narrative as a schoolboy, when I thought of the wealth of the plantation owners, built on the backs of slaves. At the time of the Civil War, the market value of the slaves in the South was approximately half of the region’s total wealth, including the value of the land and the physical capital—the factories and equipment. The wealth of at least this part of this nation was not based on industry, innovation and commerce but rather on exploitation. Today we have replaced this open exploitation with more insidious forms, which have intensified since the Reagan-Thatcher revolution of the 1980s. This exploitation, I will argue, is largely to blame for the escalating inequality in the U.S.

After the New Deal of the 1930s, American inequality went into decline. By the 1950s inequality had receded to such an extent that another Nobel laureate in economics, Simon Kuznets, formulated what came to be called Kuznets’s law. In the early stages of development, as some parts of a country seize new opportunities, inequalities grow, he postulated; in the later stages, they shrink. The theory long fit the data—but then, around the early 1980s, the trend abruptly reversed.

EXPLAINING INEQUALITY
Economists have put forward a range of explanations for why inequality has in fact been increasing in many developed countries. Some argue that advances in technology have spurred the demand for skilled labor relative to unskilled labor, thereby depressing the wages of the latter. Yet that alone cannot explain why even skilled labor has done so poorly over the past two decades, why average wages have done so badly and why matters are so much worse in the U.S. than in other developed nations. Changes in technology are global and should affect all advanced economies in the same way. Other economists blame globalization itself, which has weakened the power of workers. Firms can and do move abroad unless demands for higher wages are curtailed. But again, globalization has been integral to all advanced economies. Why is its impact so much worse in the U.S.?

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-american-economy-is-rigged/?print=true

The shift from a manufacturing to a service-based economy is partly to blame. At its extreme—a firm of one person—the service economy is a winner-takes-all system. A movie star makes millions, for example, whereas most actors make a pittance. Overall, wages are likely to be far more widely dispersed in a service economy than in one based on manufacturing, so the transition contributes to greater inequality. This fact does not explain, however, why the average wage has not improved for decades. Moreover, the shift to the service sector is happening in most other advanced countries: Why are matters so much worse in the U.S.?

Again, because services are often provided locally, firms have more market power: the ability to raise prices above what would prevail in a competitive market. A small town in rural America may have only one authorized Toyota repair shop, which virtually every Toyota owner is forced to patronize. The providers of these local services can raise prices over costs, increasing their profits and the share of income going to owners and managers. This, too, increases inequality. But again, why is U.S. inequality practically unique?

In his celebrated 2013 treatise Capital in the Twenty-First Century, French economist Thomas Piketty shifts the gaze to capitalists. He suggests that the few who own much of a country’s capital save so much that, given the stable and high return to capital (relative to the growth rate of the economy), their share of the national income has been increasing. His theory has, however, been questioned on many grounds. For instance, the savings rate of even the rich in the U.S. is so low, compared with the rich in other countries, that the increase in inequality should be lower here, not greater.

An alternative theory is far more consonant with the facts. Since the mid-1970s the rules of the economic game have been rewritten, both globally and nationally, in ways that advantage the rich and disadvantage the rest. And they have been rewritten further in this perverse direction in the U.S. than in other developed countries—even though the rules in the U.S. were already less favorable to workers. From this perspective, increasing inequality is a matter of choice: a consequence of our policies, laws and regulations.

In the U.S., the market power of large corporations, which was greater than in most other advanced countries to begin with, has increased even more than elsewhere. On the other hand, the market power of workers, which started out less than in most other advanced countries, has fallen further than elsewhere. This is not only because of the shift to a service-sector economy—it is because of the rigged rules of the game, rules set in a political system that is itself rigged through gerrymandering, voter suppression and the influence of money. A vicious spiral has formed: economic inequality translates into political inequality, which leads to rules that favor the wealthy, which in turn reinforces economic inequality.

FEEDBACK LOOP
Political scientists have documented the ways in which money influences politics in certain political systems, converting higher economic inequality into greater political inequality. Political inequality, in its turn, gives rise to more economic inequality as the rich use their political power to shape the rules of the game in ways that favor them—for instance, by softening antitrust laws and weakening unions. Using mathematical models, economists such as myself have shown that this two-way feedback loop between money and regulations leads to at least two stable points. If an economy starts out with lower inequality, the political system generates rules that sustain it, leading to one equilibrium situation. The American system is the other equilibrium—and will continue to be unless there is a democratic political awakening.

An account of how the rules have been shaped must begin with antitrust laws, first enacted 128 years ago in the U.S. to prevent the agglomeration of market power. Their enforcement has weakened—at a time when, if anything, the laws themselves should have been strengthened. Technological changes have concentrated market power in the hands of a few global players, in part because of so-called network effects: you are far more likely to join a particular social network or use a certain word processor if everyone you know is already using it. Once established, a firm such as Facebook or Microsoft is hard to dislodge. Moreover, fixed costs, such as that of developing a piece of software, have increased as compared with marginal costs—that of duplicating the software. A new entrant has to bear all these fixed costs up front, and if it does enter, the rich incumbent can respond by lowering prices drastically. The cost of making an additional e-book or photo-editing program is essentially zero.

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In short, entry is hard and risky, which gives established firms with deep war chests enormous power to crush competitors and ultimately raise prices. Making matters worse, U.S. firms have been innovative not only in the products they make but in thinking of ways to extend and amplify their market power. The European Commission has imposed fines of billions of dollars on Microsoft and Google and ordered them to stop their anticompetitive practices (such as Google privileging its own comparison shopping service). In the U.S., we have done too little to control concentrations of market power, so it is not a surprise that it has increased in many sectors.

Credit: Jen Christiansen; Sources: Economic Report of the President. January 2017; World Inequality database
Rigged rules also explain why the impact of globalization may have been worse in the U.S. A concerted attack on unions has almost halved the fraction of unionized workers in the nation, to about 11 percent. (In Scandinavia, it is roughly 70 percent.) Weaker unions provide workers less protection against the efforts of firms to drive down wages or worsen working conditions. Moreover, U.S. investment treaties such as the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement—treaties that were sold as a way of preventing foreign countries from discriminating against American firms—also protect investors against a tightening of environmental and health regulations abroad. For instance, they enable corporations to sue nations in private international arbitration panels for passing laws that protect citizens and the environment but threaten the multinational company’s bottom line. Firms like these provisions, which enhance the credibility of a company’s threat to move abroad if workers do not temper their demands. In short, these investment agreements weaken U.S. workers’ bargaining power even further.

LIBERATED FINANCE
Many other changes to our norms, laws, rules and regulations have contributed to inequality. Weak corporate governance laws have allowed chief executives in the U.S. to compensate themselves 361 times more than the average worker, far more than in other developed countries. Financial liberalization—the stripping away of regulations designed to prevent the financial sector from imposing harms, such as the 2008 economic crisis, on the rest of society—has enabled the finance industry to grow in size and profitability and has increased its opportunities to exploit everyone else. Banks routinely indulge in practices that are legal but should not be, such as imposing usurious interest rates on borrowers or exorbitant fees on merchants for credit and debit cards and creating securities that are designed to fail. They also frequently do things that are illegal, including market manipulation and insider trading. In all of this, the financial sector has moved money away from ordinary Americans to rich bankers and the banks’ shareholders. This redistribution of wealth is an important contributor to American inequality.

Other means of so-called rent extraction—the withdrawal of income from the national pie that is incommensurate with societal contribution—abound. For example, a legal provision enacted in 2003 prohibited the government from negotiating drug prices for Medicare—a gift of some $50 billion a year or more to the pharmaceutical industry. Special favors, such as extractive industries’ obtaining public resources such as oil at below fair-market value or banks’ getting funds from the Federal Reserve at near-zero interest rates (which they relend at high interest rates), also amount to rent extraction. Further exacerbating inequality is favorable tax treatment for the rich. In the U.S., those at the top pay a smaller fraction of their income in taxes than those who are much poorer—a form of largesse that the Trump administration has just worsened with the 2017 tax bill.

Some economists have argued that we can lessen inequality only by giving up on growth and efficiency. But recent research, such as work done by Jonathan Ostry and others at the International Monetary Fund, suggests that economies with greater equality perform better, with higher growth, better average standards of living and greater stability. Inequality in the extremes observed in the U.S. and in the manner generated there actually damages the economy. The exploitation of market power and the variety of other distortions I have described, for instance, makes markets less efficient, leading to underproduction of valuable goods such as basic research and overproduction of others, such as exploitative financial products.

Credit: Jen Christiansen; Sources: World Inequality Report 2018. World Inequality Lab, 2017; Branko Milanovic
Moreover, because the rich typically spend a smaller fraction of their income on consumption than the poor, total or “aggregate” demand in countries with higher inequality is weaker. Societies could make up for this gap by increasing government spending—on infra-structure, education and health, for instance, all of which are investments necessary for long-term growth. But the politics of unequal societies typically puts the burden on monetary policy: interest rates are lowered to stimulate spending. Artificially low interest rates, especially if coupled with inadequate financial market regulation, can give rise to bubbles, which is what happened with the 2008 housing crisis.

It is no surprise that, on average, people living in unequal societies have less equality of opportunity: those at the bottom never get the education that would enable them to live up to their potential. This fact, in turn, exacerbates inequality while wasting the country’s most valuable resource: Americans themselves.

RESTORING JUSTICE
Morale is lower in unequal societies, especially when inequality is seen as unjust, and the feeling of being used or cheated leads to lower productivity. When those who run gambling casinos or bankers suffering from moral turpitude make a zillion times more than the scientists and inventors who brought us lasers, transistors and an understanding of DNA, it is clear that something is wrong. Then again, the children of the rich come to think of themselves as a class apart, entitled to their good fortune, and accordingly more likely to break the rules necessary for making society function. All of this contributes to a breakdown of trust, with its attendant impact on social cohesion and economic performance.

There is no magic bullet to remedy a problem as deep-rooted as America’s inequality. Its origins are largely political, so it is hard to imagine meaningful change without a concerted effort to take money out of politics—through, for instance, campaign finance reform. Blocking the revolving doors by which regulators and other government officials come from and return to the same industries they regulate and work with is also essential.

Credit: Jen Christiansen; Sources: Raising America’s Pay: Why It’s Our Central Economic Policy Challenge, by Josh Bivens et al. Economic Policy Institute, June 4, 2014; The State of Working America, by Lawrence Mishel, Josh Bivens, Elise Gould and Heidi Shierholz. 12th Edition. ILR Press, 2012
Beyond that, we need more progressive taxation and high-quality federally funded public education, including affordable access to universities for all, no ruinous loans required. We need modern competition laws to deal with the problems posed by 21st-century market power and stronger enforcement of the laws we do have. We need labor laws that protect workers and their rights to unionize. We need corporate governance laws that curb exorbitant salaries bestowed on chief executives, and we need stronger financial regulations that will prevent banks from engaging in the exploitative practices that have become their hallmark. We need better enforcement of antidiscrimination laws: it is unconscionable that women and minorities get paid a mere fraction of what their white male counterparts receive. We also need more sensible inheritance laws that will reduce the intergenerational transmission of advantage and disadvantage.

The basic perquisites of a middle-class life, including a secure old age, are no longer attainable for most Americans. We need to guarantee access to health care. We need to strengthen and reform retirement programs, which have put an increasing burden of risk management on workers (who are expected to manage their portfolios to guard simultaneously against the risks of inflation and market collapse) and opened them up to exploitation by our financial sector (which sells them products designed to maximize bank fees rather than retirement security). Our mortgage system was our Achilles’ heel, and we have not really fixed it. With such a large fraction of Americans living in cities, we have to have urban housing policies that ensure affordable housing for all.

It is a long agenda—but a doable one. When skeptics say it is nice but not affordable, I reply: We cannot afford to not do these things. We are already paying a high price for inequality, but it is just a down payment on what we will have to pay if we do not do something—and quickly. It is not just our economy that is at stake; we are risking our democracy.

As more of our citizens come to understand why the fruits of economic progress have been so unequally shared, there is a real danger that they will become open to a demagogue blaming the country’s problems on others and making false promises of rectifying “a rigged system.” We are already experiencing a foretaste of what might happen. It could get much worse.

Joseph E. Stiglitz

Joseph E. Stiglitz is a University Professor at Columbia University and Chief Economist at the Roosevelt Institute. He received the Nobel prize in economics in 2001. Stiglitz chaired the Council of Economic Advisers from 1995–1997, during the Clinton administration, and served as the chief economist and senior vice president of the World Bank from 1997–2000. He chaired the United Nations commission on reforms of the international financial system in 2008–2009. His latest authored book is Globalization and Its Discontents Revisited (2017).

Credit: Nick Higgins

[AOC Thinks] Concentrated Wealth is Incompatible With Democracy. So Did Our Founders

AOC Thinks Concentrated Wealth Is Incompatible With Democracy. So Did Our Founders.

By Eric Levitz@EricLevitz

No Paine, no gain. Photo: White House Collection; US House of Representatives; National Portrait Gallery
In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville produced one of the earliest accounts of the American dream. In his famous study of the Jacksonian U.S., the Frenchman wrote that Americans possessed “the charm of anticipated success” — a ubiquitous optimism that he attributed to our country’s democratic character, and to the “general equality of condition” that prevailed among its “people.”

On Wednesday night, Sean Hannity took de Tocqueville to task. In the Fox News’ host’s telling, general economic equality is not a precondition for the American dream, but rather, an insurmountable obstacle to it — because the American dream is (apparently) to earn more than $10 million year without having to pay a top marginal tax rate higher than 37 percent.

Of course, Hannity did not actually frame his argument as a rebuke of de Tocqueville. His true target was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

After popularizing the idea of a 70 percent top marginal tax rate earlier this month, the freshman congresswoman recently suggested that the mere existence of billionaires was both immoral, and a threat to American democracy. “I do think that a system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health is wrong,” Ocasio-Cortez told the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, during an interview on Martin Luther King Day. One day later, the congresswoman approvingly quoted an op-ed by the economists Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez, which argued that the purpose of high taxes on the wealthy wasn’t merely to generate revenue, but rather, to safeguard “democracy against oligarchy.”

Hannity’s not buying it. The Fox News host informed his audience Wednesday that Ocasio-Cortez had “called the American dream immoral,” and that she wants to “empower the government to confiscate” said dream. “Better hide your nice things,” Hannity advised his audience (whom he ostensibly believes to be composed primarily of billionaires), “because here come the excess police.”

Hannity was hardly alone in deriding AOC’s antipathy for billionaires as fundamentally un-American. But in reality, there’s nothing foreign or communistic about the idea that concentrated wealth is incompatible with democracy, or all-too compatible with mass poverty. Republicans might call such notions radical. But many of our republic’s founders would have called them common sense.

Compare AOC’s first argument — that the simultaneous existence of billionaires and poverty is immoral, and thus justifies steeply progressive taxation — with Thomas Jefferson’s reflections in 1785. During a visit to the French countryside, Jefferson found himself scandalized by “the condition of the labouring poor.” In a letter to James Madison, Jefferson wrote that the extremity of European inequality was not only morally suspect, but economically inefficient. Aristocrats had grown so wealthy, they were happy to leave their lands uncultivated, even as masses of idle workers were eager to improve it. Thus, these proto-billionaires undermined both the peasants’ ability to transcend mere subsistence, and their society’s capacity to develop economically:

[T]he solitude of my walk led me into a train of reflections on that unequal division of property which occasions the numberless instances of wretchedness which I had observed in this country and is to be observed all over Europe. The property of this country is absolutely concentered in a very few hands…I asked myself what could be the reason that so many should be permitted to beg who are willing to work, in a country where there is a very considerable proportion of uncultivated lands? These lands are kept idle mostly for the aske of game. It should seem then that it must be because of the enormous wealth of the proprietors which places them above attention to the increase of their revenues by permitting these lands to be laboured.

Here is how Jefferson proposes to address the obscene coexistence of concentrated wealth and underemployed workers:

I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable. But the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. The descent of property of every kind therefore to all the children, or to all the brothers and sisters, or other relations in equal degree is a politic measure, and a practicable one. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right…It is too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment but who can find uncultivated land, shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state. [Emphasis mine.]

If Ocasio-Cortez’s views are un-American, then surely these words from our third president’s are, as well.

To be sure, Jefferson’s views on the propriety of wealth redistribution were hardly consistent. And, of course, the slave owner was never concerned with minimizing the number of landless African-Americans or women in the United States. What’s more, the bulk of America’s founders regarded wealth redistribution as a species of majoritarian tyranny, and designed the Constitution to guard against such despotism.

My point here isn’t to suggest that AOC is channeling the sacred wisdom of our republic’s founding racists. Rather, it’s that she’s channeling one deeply rooted strain of American thought on economic morality. And while that strain might have been marginal among the leaders of the American Revolution, it was pervasive among its foot soldiers (there’s a reason the leading propagandist of the war effort, Thomas Paine, was one of the earliest champions of an American welfare state).

Regardless, Ocasio-Cortez’s second argument against the existence of billionaires — that concentrated wealth is incompatible with genuine democracy — was something close to conventional wisdom among the founders (including those who opposed democracy).

America’s first political theorists took these truths to be self-evident: that a person could not exercise political liberty if he did not possess a modicum of economic autonomy, and that disparities in wealth inevitably produced disparities of political power.

The notion that political freedom has a material basis did not originate with Karl Marx and the creed of Communism; it was a core idea of the 17th-century British political theorist James Harrington, and his formulation of classical republicanism. A man who does not own the means of his own reproduction can never exercise political freedom, Harrington argued, because “the man that cannot live upon his own must be servant.” Likewise, the man of immense wealth — whose fortune consigns great masses of men to servitude — is inevitably a kind of tyrant. After all, “where there is inequality of estates, there must be inequality of power, and where there is inequality of power, there can be no commonwealth.”

These premises deeply informed the American founders’ conception of republican liberty. The Jeffersonian ideal of a yeoman’s republic derived from the conviction that only independent landowners were politically free — and only a (very) rough equality in the distribution of land could preserve such freedom. Even a consummate elitist like Alexander Hamilton couldn’t help but echo Harringtonian thinking, writing in the Federalist Papers, “A power over man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.”

Critically, relatively few of the founders saw these premises in a progressive light. To many 18th-century American elites, the fact that the propertyless lacked the capacity to exercise genuine political freedom was not an argument for giving them property, but rather, for denying them the franchise. Similarly, the notion that true democracy couldn’t coexist with wealth inequality struck many leaders of the early republic as an argument against democracy.

“Power and property may be seperated for a time, by force or fraud — but divorced never, ” Benjamin Leigh, a conservative legislator in Virginia’s House of Delegates, argued at that state’s Constitutional Convention in 1830. “For, so soon as the pang of separation is felt … property will purchase power, or power will take property.” Being a man of property, Leigh concluded that the poor should therefore be denied political rights, saying, “it does not follow that, because all men are born equal … all men may rightly claim, in an established society, equal political powers.”

Thus, Ocasio-Cortez’s belief in the moral necessity of mass democracy (and women’s suffrage, and the abolition of slavery) would have struck many a Founding Father as radical. But her insistence that true democracy is incompatible with America’s present distribution of property — in which the richest 0.1 percent of Americans command as much wealth as the poorest 90 percent — would have struck Jefferson & Co. as tautological. And a large body of political science research suggests that their shared intuition is correct.

All of which is to say: If the right to self-government is an inextricable component of the American dream, then it isn’t AOC who regards that dream as immoral — it’s Sean Hannity, and every other multimillionaire who believes that legislators should not invent “many devices for subdividing property.”

Pretext

What was just a wild stab in the dark guess turns out to be true like lightning bolt hitting an idea.  Religion is a tool to give the populace a pretext as well as a faith to find meaning, but it divorces epistemology from theology aside from wisdom (universal maxim’s are okay, but empirically based science needed to be divorced from theology to make theology modular and able to be used as a pretext, i.e. mold, then serve to populace).  Why?  Ascetics, control of Fruedian Id (collective image representation), jealousy, ethics.  Basic anthropological stuff that serves the betterment of society without the need to think about it too much.

What’s my point?

Conspiracy Theory.  Sometimes if it’s true.  You shake people up.  If religion is a tool to control people’s behavior.  Then being outside of said system… people will find universally dangerous.  I think that was my point.  Maybe not dangerous, but a source of anxiety as one is not bound by the normative ethics those that observe the faith abide by. 

Oh yes. I remember now.   The lightning strike Eureka moment.

The pretext serves more than one purpose.  The purpose I originally envisioned was merely to control ethics from a religious perspective, but it ALSO serves the point to condition people to not question their employer’s or military if given a plausible pretext… wartime division, no question of authority past a pretext.

So having a religion based in an epistemology that is based on reasoned universal maxim’s might be considered outside of the realm of control visa pretext (collective image representations meant to control things like Fruedian Id collectively through common denominators that religion provides) because people are expected to break it down all the way to it’s constituent 1st principles or axioms.  Something they may not do with religion and reality because they are divorced from one another.  Unlike something that Descarte’s system or Spinoza or Plato which are all rooted in some logical proofed 1st principle that is universally undeniable and not to be asked on a matter of faith like say a miracle of resurrection or afterlife.

What am I getting at?  Conservative swing

Gender differences in society

so society has been structured where women receive and can be more carefree overall for it and men give and are therefore more hard pressed about life. I see it with the way women graduate college at higher rates than men. I think women rely on the system more where men try to differentiate themselves by it. These are all off the cuff remarks. I assume the two gender’s are not exactly alike and there are some differences, and those are the ones that I’ve noticed over the course of my life. I think it has everything to do with the system.

Symbolism and martyrdom

I never understood the use and need for saints in a religion. Christianity venerated Jesus and Greece with their Heracles. Both are [demi]god’s (low christology to high christology), pointers or symbols to the divine, sure. Both similar in end result (form): veneration and symbolism, yet different in mode of acquisition (sacrificed vs heroic). Like how (and why), by what mode or process does this form follow? Other examples are Apollonius and John the Baptist. If they died, chances are they were venerated. I imagine the loss of such a figure which create a power vacuum/need to co-opt their followers (related ideas: book: ‘the true believer’, covert narcissism need to boost another’s ego, book ‘fantasy bond’, abandonment anxiety, disillusionment/illusion (James Masterson work)). Martyrdom was good for a faith unless their faith looked down on it (like if a Roman emperorer were crucified, or how the Jews are expecting a valiant saviour not a crucified one). Sainthood also comes into play as a tool to co-opt other people’s followers. If they become a saint in your faith, then you get access to their followers. Almost like a corporate merger.

After reading the chapter on symbolism in Theophany, I now see how martyr’s and saints can quickly become powerful symbols for a faith and I now see that they should be used… correctly (see below), because people desire these symbols, which shows a need for their use. Martyrs serve as a locus for the pain of losing an idol for one’s passionate ideas of which an attempt was made at stamping them out symbolically.

Point being. Hypatia immediately stood out to me as a martyr worthy of veneration, as an ideal mean. The closure in Athens went with little fanfair, but the closure in Alexandria, well… it’s worthy of Martyrdom.

Symbols serve to conceal and reveal at the same time. They are not meant to be the actual object of focus, but point to an ideal elsewhere. This is what Hypatia is to me. She represents the neoplatonic ideal that knowledge is bliss, to study the beautiful.

Post Apocalyptic Neo Classical World View

I see the world through this split view of post neo classical (post enlightenment Greek/Roman) stance on everything. I see everything as it relates contextually to either philosophy, government, or religion from these two power houses. I’d like to expand that to minoan and phoenician influence, but they are hard to get at as they have no written record. But what I try to understand are the basic names, dates, places, and titles and major ideas and wars of these two entities. Doing so gives me a wide breadth of understanding of culture, but far beyond merely understanding medieval society. I see everything that the Enlightenment appreciated from the classical period but on a far grander scale. I mean like 600+ book scale.

Point is I’m trying and because of that I see the world almost as if a post apocalyptic version of classical times.

The biggest takeaway is I now start to see archetypes and how they exist in society today through images of saints and ideals. By reading so far into our shared collective past (western society), especially pre abrahamic faiths pretty much. Is I see an anthropological social psychological sub structure as it exists today, a zeitgeist if you will.

It’s no more different than reading a fantasy campaign from TSR in the 90’s (e.g. DragonLance), it’s just I built my own modules by building my own classics library. Arguably it’s Raistlin who I got this post apocalyptic pov from. Because in the books he was cursed with seeing everything as dead (as post dead, decayed). I carried this forward as when reading about these rich full ancient times, I understand where they are today and what’s transpired and how they affect us now and how no one else knows or sees. Everyone just sees the present.

My library mainly focuses on high level summaries of ideas along with some base level material by the big names (Plato, Aristotle, Pre-Socratics, Plotinus). Else I want extract/summaries of ideas, mainly Neoplatonism.

Critias contrasted with Marx

You know. Far right fear is Fascism. One of the greatest historical examples is Critias and the 30 tyrants who purged up to a 5% of it’s citizens.
 
Yet on the other spectrum you have failed Marxism. I almost compared to the two, Critias and Marx as similar, one was a revolutionary, where-as the other inspired others to become revolutionaries. Marx though would be considered left, where-as Cristias would be considered right. What I was seeing similar was not their ideology, but rather their consolidation of power under one entity through means of force if necessary (ends justifies the means).  I see in Critias what I see in Lycurgus which is what I see in Marx and is what I should have seen even in Plato (political ideology), even if he was more of a pacifist it seems.  Yet, more-so I equated Critias with Marx because of his criticism of religion (interestingly enough, in Lycurgus state, religion is used as a tool, same goes for Athens though through the use of cults) that I read from “Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers” by Werner Jaeger on how the gods as a pretext by the powers that be (authorities) to oversee our actions. Very similar to the impersonal attitude of “religion is the opium of the masses”.
 
I looked up in my classical encyclopedia of philosophy under Critias. How funny he is defended by Plato, yet is considered a sophist by Philostratus (170-245 C.E.). What I think was actually going on, was Sophistry was a good trade and Plato mocked it for one reason or another, but charging for money seems something to have to do with it, but I think according to Terry Buckley or Donald Kagan mentioned it’s because Plato and his like didn’t need to rely on money, so their pursuit of ideas were different, but there is a lot of competition motivation for ideas here. I tend to like Protogoras and think of him like a philosopher, and yet Plato thinks of his corrupt uncle not as a Sophist but as a philospher? I think this is just classical shit talking right here then. Which would be in line with the light that is cast on Plato by the book “The Trial of Socrates” by I.F. Stone (that Plato/Socrates were fascists and Alcibiades and Critias as well as Xenophon are good examples). Where does that put me if I claim to be a neoplatonist? Well, I certainly consider myself a democrat in the ideals of Athenian Democracy, something Plato roundly criticized. I respect Platos access to ideas, like quite literally his theory of forms. I think Plato was a good person who happened to have corrupt students and I think Socrates was an overzealous stubborn idealist who believed in putting principle before everything else. Philosophy and Sophistry are two sides of the same coin if not the same. It’s just word play, but you can extract meaning from it (Protagoras is a prime example). Philosophy is meaning extracted from ideas, where as sophistry is that ideas are easily extracted and manipulated from words. To me, sophistry is more akin to the philosophies of Phyrrhonism, wherein dialectic, you can make anything mean anything, so there is nothing to prove. But at the end, they are both belief systems about epistemology.
 
Critias approval of Sparta means he was also approving of their democratic system of govt, which was a sham of democracy (shouting match) with inciteful questions. In other words, the powers that be controlled the framing of the questions to the public of which would have to give a public response of confirmation or denial in front of each other via a loud resounding yes or no. Do you tell people who you voted for? Do you have a public and a private face?
 
‘Critias (c.460-403 B.C.E. of Athens. Sophistically inclined litterateur; associate of Socrates. An Athenian aristocrat, Critias combined a career as a versatile writer and intellectual with periods of antidemocratic political activity. With the oligarchic coup of 404, he emerged as the most bloodthirsty of the Thirty Tyrants and died battling the democratic counterrevolution. Despite tactful portraits in Plato (his nephew), he was often paired with Alcibiades as among Socrates’ most corrupt “pupils.”
Critias wrote negative recitative and dramatic poetry and verse. Prose writings include “Aphorisms,” Conversations,” and a collection of “Proemia for public speakers.”
His elegant verse shows an admiration of Sparta, along with interest in the various usages and inventions of civilization. His prose works are too little known to allow us to identify him as an original thinker, though he is said to have distinguished sensation from cognition and to have identified the soul with blood. Much attention has been drawn to a speech from the play Sisyphus, maintaining that religion was invented by a shrewd politician to insure that fear of the gods would make citizens obey the laws even when unobserved. This naturalistic, progressivist, and psychological account suggest Protogoras, Prodicus, And Democritus, yet the Sisyphus is sometimes attributed to Euripides (for the debate see Davies).
Critias is included among the sophists by Philostratus, but unlike most sophists he did not teach and was Athenian. He continues to hold the reputation he had among the ancients as a “layman among philosophers, a philosopher among laymen’ (DK88A3)
 
Yet he is a pupil of Socrates, so was Xenophon, and so was Plato

Trumpie Mug

Pre Election

I made this at work one day when I was bored (shh) and showed it to a colleague of mine who found it very entertaining. It’s a play on the GOP elephant, Trump’s hair and the women’s bathroom picture which is in reference to Trump’s “grab them by the p*ssy” comment.

I used the elephant image as found here: http://www.mercatoliberonews.com/2017/01/goldmans-fed-minutes-post-mortem.html

Post Election

I made the original before the election. So once he actually did win, the real issues of what liberties were at stake came up. So I re-created the old with a touch up from the Statue of Liberties tiara as well as the statue of liberties torch. The torch took a little bit of work. I had to flip one of her arms and paste over the nub of her hand. Upon closer look on the original, you could see where paint.net used gradient shading and the torch stood out, but on the cup and stickers I made it isn’t noticeable.

I added a torch from here: https://clipartfox.com/download/7e90aa51d0edecac56f3b5f64bc77edc0a64df66.html

Tiara/crown here (it was hard to choose between two crowns, but I liked this one because it looks like it adjusted from trump’s accosting): https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/6d/3a/ac/6d3aac8a8681f2bded90bfdc21f8b405.jpg

Final product. I made a cup and gifted it to my colleague who thoroughly enjoyed it.

Political Reform: Sortition, a lesson from Ancient Athens

  • by Joshua Laferriere

This title says it all, “Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

From the article itself,

Asking “[w]ho really rules?” researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America’s political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.

I recently wrote a letter to the editor of Los Angeles times.  I wish I had saved exactly what I had wrote, but I’ll just rewrite it here.

What is an oligarch?  Let me give a little history lesson…

~350 BC Athens had a system of electing their representatives which by today’s standards is considered very left wing radical.

We have issues today with gerrymandering, money in politics, and incumbency issues.  Congress had an approval rating last year of 14%.  When we vote, we are presented often with two realistic choices; even then, it depends on how the polling went for the district your voting on.  Not sure?  Just check electoral-vote.com and it will give you a breakdown of your poll for the district before you even vote… so why even bother right?  It’s hardly a quantum event, but more so a predicted result that lobbyists and politicians rely on.  If a district is too for one side for a company, they will spend advertising in that district.  Often these districts are carefully restructured by years of gerrymandering (unless your fortunate enough to have a district that doesn’t allow their politicians to redraw their district lines).   Point is we have a deep seated issue in our current electoral body.

This picture sums up our problem, which is arguably from a few causes.  Gerrymandering, unlimited campaign spending, lobbyists, inactive and uninformed electorate, and a two party system due to a plural district voting system.  All of which leads to a highly predictable outcome, money controls politics.

politifact_photos_Congress_meem[1]

Citizens United and unlimited campaign spending has forever corrupted our politics with “free speech” no limit campaign spending.  I would like to address this from another article I’ve been reading on about Ancient Athens.

Plato strongly believed that an economic division between the citizens of a state is the most dangerous political condition. This belief was mainly due to the widespread and frank opinions expressed by the Greeks that economic motives are very influential in determining political action and political affiliations.

However, ironically… Plato believed in a type of government closer to modern day Communism.  Loss of property, totalitarian rule by Philosopher Kings.  If history has anything to say on the manner, communism doesn’t work [at least in a free society].  Luckily, there was another proposed solution by one of his student’s.  Aristotle, who recognized the abolishment of property is not the best thing because citizen’s like owning things.  Yay for capitalism right?  Quote from another article.

Much of Aristotle’s political writing was a retort to Plato’s republic. He believed that Plato’s communism – the elite holding everything in common – was impossible. He wrote that property owned in common received less attention than property owned by an individual. Men, he wrote, care most for their private possessions.

Athens had lobbyists as well.  There was a political movement in Athens at the time, they were called Sophists.  A direct threat to reasoned arguments and debate, more so a threat to the Philosophers than anyone else at the time; however, they quickly spread into areas of life such as lawyers and political positions.  What was their danger?  They could argue two sides of any position.  They quickly banned representation of those in legal cases due fear of sophism spreading into such areas.  Today we have lawyers and lobbyists.  It’s the lobbyists who speak to our representatives and sway their opinions one way or the other.

Source:

It is Plato who is largely responsible for the modern view of the Sophist as a greedy and power-seeking instructor who uses rhetorical sleight-of-hand and ambiguities of language in order to deceive, or to support fallacious reasoning. Plato was especially dismissive of Gorgias, one of the most famous and successful of the early Sophists. Sophism was thought capable of perverting the truth because it emphasized practical rhetoric rather than virtue, and taught students to argue any side of an issue.

Source:

Many of these people, the argument goes, are concerned only with convincing you to believe them, not with the truth.  The following Web links will help you explore this theme.

Some modern politicians are criticized for spending too much time ‘selling themselves.’  Like an advertiser, a politician must convince the public to think that they are the best candidate for the job. While they are urged to stick to the issues, too often politicians resort to attack ads, spin doctors, and damage controlOnce in office, some politicians are criticized for relying on opinion polls to make decisions instead of taking a stand and holding to their personal convictions.

Athens answer to sophism was to restructure their political system, arguably long before 350BC with Solon.  In turn this lead to the Peloponnesian War; amongst other things, such as the Delian League of Eastern City States who arguably didn’t wish to be a part of it who sided with Sparta to end Athenian Democracy which led to the Thirty Tyrants and their fall and the restoration of Democracy and ironically to the death of Socrates because he feared the rule of the mob.  History is full of interesting facts.  Socrates wasn’t a promoter of democracy, but quite possibly his prodigy Aristotle was.

There solution in 350BC was sortition, or election by lots.  Ironically I had a similar idea many years ago I discussed with a friend of mine who thought that such a system would elect incompetent people.  So I quickly abandoned the idea…

Until I read about the Athenian Constitution; which wasn’t discovered until 1879, 100 years after the founding of the Constitution of the United States.  Instead of a direct democracy where everyone votes, Athens applied the concept of random sampling to their electorate body (which was any able citizen, those who abstained were called idiocy’s, our derivative of idiot).  Therefore they eliminated the influence money and sophism had over their representation.  I would propose reinstating a similar solution.  If people were elected by random chance, everyone would be more politically involved.  Opinions of the commoner would matter.  Each citizen would be expected to be politically active and competent; similar to how we are all expected to be eligible for the draft, or eligible for jury service; we should be eligible to serve in government.  Not by siding with a party and playing party politics, but when called by government, we do our unbiased civic duty and represent no party, but the common man.  If we are representing our own selfish needs, we will be quickly drowned out as the elective body seeks to find a common solution excluding those who seek to promote their own ideology.

No longer would elections be decided by campaign advertising and demographics of an inactive electorate (whether Republican or Democrat).  It would erase the inherent flaws of the plurality system where only two parties survive to the top.  A plurality system makes our politics highly predictable and subject to influence by campaign spending by private interests (the oligarch); it also addresses the concern of gerrymandering and the desire for politicians to pursue a life in politics by any means (incumbency).  Lobbyism might still be a threat, but they would no longer be able to buy an incumbent politician.  Sortition would add a sense of accountability to the rest of government.  It would give the common man a chance to shine against say a plurality voted Senate and possibly exposure to be elected in such a process.  Sortition would address an inactive electorate and the way that demographics are used against us in elections (gerrymandering and campaign targeted ads).

For further consideration, I would recommend this article written in 2014, “Democracy Through Multi-Body Sortition: Athenian Lessons for the Modern Day” by Terrill G. Bouricius, New Democracy Institute, or the book “A Citizen Legislature” by Michael Phillips and Ernest Callenbach.  However, the premise is simple.  Random sampling of an electorate body would produce politics that is more representative of the voice and will of people vs party politics that is controlled by money and private interests.

State Religions, Epic Cycles, History of Ideas, Negative Inference, and some Pandeism [2 distinct but related conversations, names removed]


Exactly.

I mean the entire point of argumentation – even the strict Socratic form of rigid logical argumentation – is to construct a convincing argument: A conjoined set of statements so incontrovertible as to force agreement.

Philosophy is far more than sitting around and thinking about the nature of things. Lots of people do that, and most of their names are lost to history. It’s about communicating those ideas, and most importantly convincing others that those ideas are both correct and important.

Some of the canonically “great” philosophers are better thinkers than writers. But many more, if we’re being honest, are better writers than thinkers. Their works are a joy to read, following their thought processes. But few of them have really advanced the ideas they’ve tackled very far. They didn’t earn their place in the historical canon by solving anyone, but rather by convincing others that their ideas have merit.

Ultimately there are three skills required of a successful philosopher:

Have interesting ideas
Be able to communicate those ideas fully
Communicate those ideas in a convincing way

Of all of these, the third element is the one that it seems needs the most help from history. A legal-adversarial system following the tradition of Greek democracy wherein the most convincing orator wins the dispute for himself or his client, has proven to be of enormous benefit to advancing philosophy as a concept. Because merely having and explaining interesting ideas is much easier than the third step. That requires an evolutionary historical stage to get somewhere.

– elbruce – Reddit

The powers that be that influenced Western Thought today at ~ 0 AD are Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Jerusalem.

“Had Alexandria triumphed and not Rome, the extravagant and muddled stories that I have summarized here would be coherent, majestic, and perfectly ordinary” – Jorge Luis Borges (on the gnostics).

Interesting POV on the power struggles. I always viewed the struggle as between Athens and Rome but now I think the missing piece to adopting Roman Christianity, was Hellenized Egypt. Once it was brought under Roman patsy rule with Cleopatra… and the library of Alexandria burned. You have it wide open for Christianity to sweep through the East Roman Empire. The Dead Sea Scrolls were secreted away pre East Roman Empire when the Roman empire was sweeping through Jerusalem, in fear of a repeat of Maccabees subjugation of Jewish ideas. I think the Aeneid may have been used to counter Christianity.

The Roman province of Egypt (Latin: Aegyptus, pronounced [ajˈɡʏptʊs]; Greek: Αἴγυπτος Aigyptos [ɛ́ːɣyptos]) was established in 30 BC after Octavian (the future emperor Augustus) defeated his rival Mark Antony, deposed his lover Queen Cleopatra VII and annexed the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt to the Roman Empire. The province encompassed most of modern-day Egypt except for the Sinai Peninsula (which would later be conquered by Trajan). Aegyptus was bordered by the provinces of Creta et Cyrenaica to the West and Judaea (later Arabia Petraea) to the East.
-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt_%28Roman_province%29

It was like a 2nd triumvirate.

The province came to serve as a major producer of grain for the empire and had a highly developed urban economy. Egypt was by far the most wealthy Roman province.

I’ve read about three state religions that Rome may have created.

**I.**
**[Caesar’s Messiah](http://www.amazon.com/Caesars-Messiah-Conspiracy-Flavian-Signature/dp/1461096405)**, I asked through my school and got this quote on the book from a PhD Professor

> He relies primarily on Josephus which is insufficient–and he does not distinguish between the Greco-Roman construction of the Christ myth and the unknown, anonymous historical personality that provided the basis for the New Testament narrative. but Rome definitely benefited from the co-optation messianic movements during this period. They did the same thing in Egypt by declaring the Roman Emperor as the new pharaoh–the savior king. – Salim Faraji

Needless to say I didn’t really bother investigating. However, the idea stuck in the back of my head. That maybe states create religions.

**II.**
[**Appollonius of Tyana**](http://www.mountainman.com.au/Apollonius_the_Nazarene_0.htm) is a [conspiracy-like] figure of whom there isn’t much known on and is hard to find reputable authoritative quotes on. However, [livius](http://www.livius.org/ap-ark/apollonius/life/va_00.html) has some good info. I can’t find the quote or reference, but I read one theory where Apollonius was actually *used by the Romans* to combat the spread of Christianity. Indeed, it seems the book was requested by Empress [Julia Domna](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollonius_of_Tyana) ~200 AD. A lot of theories exist where he may actually be the historical figure of Jesus, of which I do not make that claim. I like to play devil’s advocate, and if their is a POV where I can posit the alternative position, I will do so, as an antagonist to Christianity. Either way, he was a Neo Pythagorean.

**III.**
[**The Aenaeid**](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeneid). Following in the footsteps of Hail Caesar and Caesar declaring himself a God… you have not so much a religion but rather divine manifest destiny by writing an epic based on Trojan myth that we all know and love to justify some course of action, in this case rule by authority.

So now… I’m wondering if Imperial Rome was in a state of Intellectual decline and promoted a type of intelligence warfare, in the [Sophist tradition](http://www.livius.org/so-st/sophistic/second_sophistic.html), on it’s own people to attain political motives.

> …there were some grounds for this suspicion. On the practical side, merely, there always was a danger lest the Sophistic skill be prostituted to unsocial ends. ([Rogers](https://archive.org/details/studentshistoryo00rogerich), pp. 42-43).

The Theogeny/Illiad is an Epic of the [Mycanean](http://www.penfield.edu/webpages/jgiotto/onlinetextbook.cfm?subpage=1626039) empire and the Fall of the Bronze Age.

> The later Greeks told stories about the Mycenaeans who preceded them, like the poet Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. In the eyes of the later Greeks, the Mycenaeans were larger than life. One reason for this belief comes from the ruins of the Mycenaean city-states. The walls around these palaces are massive, made from blocks of stone weighing several tons and carried to the mountain-top settlements. The later Greeks called these walls cyclopean walls, named after the one-eyed giant race, because the later Greeks felt only giants could move the stones. A walled mountain or hilltop settlement is called a citadel.

Vergil’s [Anneaid](http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/aeneid/context.html) was an Epic for the justification of Rome continuing it’s rule.

> Immediately after finishing the Georgics, Virgil began his masterwork, the Aeneid. He was fortunate enough to enter the good graces of Augustus, and, in part, the Aeneid serves to legitimize Augustus’s reign.

Is Christianity nothing more than an epic creation itself?. A lot that would make up that cycle was actively suppressed during Rome’s decline. I like to believe this was a period of intellectual decline* in general [this is just before the Dark Ages mind you]. **Domitian** [~80 AD] declared philosophy free zones, and Christianity/paganism in general was persecuted by the Roman Empire. The trend of declining intellectual reason was being met with the desire to control. Indeed, [Sophism’s](http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520276819) negative connotation is tied to the fact that in ancient times, only the rich were educated, therefore well spoken. Athenian democracy opened up the forum for everyone to be an orator, to influence others by words. Socrates took this up and opened up Philosophy to the wretches because information in the hands of the few [in power] leads to oligarchy. Hellenized Greece created this environment of persuasive speakers.

> *[As to this matter of faith] I have to reply that we accept it as useful for the multitude, and that we admittedly teach those who cannot abandon everything and pursue a study of rational argument to believe without thinking out their reasons.
– Origen, Contra Celsum (~185 AD)

Two sources [for this idea]:

[Sophists, primarily paraphrasing PhD Philosophy Prof: K Rogers](http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=3525)
> The earliest Greek philosophers (e.g., Thales, Anaximander, Democritus, etc.), had focused primarily on developing accounts of physical reality, asking “Of what is the world made?” However, social and political unrest demanded that philosophers move beyond the merely physical questions (i.e., questions about substance) in order to address spiritual and ethical issues. The traditional Greek religion, with its accompanying supernatural explanations for the phenomenal world, were being questioned. Likewise, traditional laws were being questioned (see Rogers, 1923, p. 45). As all citizens in Athens had the opportunity to participate directly as legislators, those who wanted to advance in politics desired special training in rhetoric for the purpose of learning to persuade audiences in the legal/political realm. The Sophists occupied themselves as teachers of rhetoric, among other topics.

[CS Lewis on the Aeneid and Christianity](http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/christian-epic/)
> First, Lewis thought, the Aeneid proved that Virgil’s form of Roman paganism was a whole and comprehensive religion, legitimate in itself, and therefore equal to Christianity in its scope and strength. After all, Lewis reasoned—a bit cynical from the shallow pieties imposed upon him by his schooling—“In the midst of a thousand such religions” stood Christianity, assumed by many to be “true.” In reality, he thought, Christianity was merely the “thousand and first” religion.

Both quotes above are Christian sourced, and ironically, never fully consider if Christianity itself isn’t continuing an epic cycle, one of Judeo myth instead of Trojan myth. It’s hilarious that Christianity is purported as “true” by Lewis as he denies it is an epic myth itself. What is important to note here, is CS Lewis also did not have the vantage point of knowing the full extent of Gnostic documents that the [Nag Hamadi](http://gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl.html) unearthed that exposes more of this proposed *epic cycle*

What I’m thinking is… That Christianity was nothing more than **[Greco-roman sophist epic cycle drama](https://web.archive.org/web/20131025133719/http://nazoreans.com/greco-roman_plot.html)** *unfolding during the decline of the Roman Empire* in Anatolia (Asia Minor) via Gnostic Gospels. It’s posited Homer wrote the Illiad from here, early Philosophical ideas are also from here (ex. Thales to Pythagoras are from Asia Minor, Paul the Apostle, The Essenes). An alternative theory (can’t find source 🙁 ), is it was Athens that propagated the gnostic gospels to offset the rise of Judaism. Marcion of Sinope would be a central figure in this theory, as his bible was the 1st bible that excluded the Old Testament for his belief in [Sophia](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tz-3fGiLwqk) and Gnosticism.

The theory purports that Gnosticism was a rise against Judaism possibly by Jews themselves (but it could have easily been Athens and Rome), but I only focus on the fact that Gnosticsm was driving a wedge between Christianity and Judaism; point being that Anatolia ideas were mixing violently.

Christianity and the Roman Empire were virtually at war with each other, it is during this war that [Athenian/Anatolian] Philosophy was being impregnated into Christianity [& Gnosticism] (Gospels are all Greek and written in Asia Minor), Rome persecuting and crucifying Christians, and Christians defiling Roman temples. Gnosticsm was eventually schismed *away* from Christianity when the [Marcion](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcionism) version of Christianity was put down with Constantine. When the [East] Roman Empire adopted Orthodox, [East] Rome turned the persecution against the [Greek] Gnostics (I should note the term Gnostics has been used by Plotinus to mean Anatolia pagans). It is important for Rome to adopt Christianity, because Rome [and Greece] remember a set of [Philosophical] beliefs that preceded Christianity and has no reason to accept it’s legitimacy. [East] Rome can now bring followers of Christ under an authoritarian literalist interpretation and bring a wide range of ideas under control, therefore squashing the once rising Christian rebellion. Let the book burnings and Dark Ages begin.

This is where the Schism occurs away from Gnosticsm. Gnosticism was trying to offset Judaism, where as Constantine was trying to Epic build off of it. In the process, they got the documents they needed in line with a philosophical point of view that they found commonality in. Ultimately creating a **philosophical myth inspired legend**, nothing more different than modern day [comic book ethos](http://www.neatorama.com/2014/12/26/8-Things-You-May-Not-Know-About-Batman-the-Comic-Book/). Either way, what we end up with is a East Byzantine Empire based on Orthodox [Greek] Christianity. It would appear that Greek influenced ideas win over Roman ones in terms of pre East-West schisms as the Roman Empire experienced a collapse/split into an East [Greek non Latin] Rome, carrying Greek thought forward (but not for long w the Crusades, which creates the East-West Schism and divorces Latin Christianity from Greek Christianity).

> We must persuade our citizens that the gods are the lords and rulers of all things and what is done, is done by their will and authority: and they are the great benefactors of men, and know who everyone is, and what he does, and what sins he commits, and what he intends to do, and with what piety he fulfills his religious duties.
–Cicero, “The Law” 2:15,16

Apparently the book, [Paradise Lost](http://courses.jercol.macam.ac.il/62/english/lessons/lesson9.html) is a form of Epic using Christianity as it’s base.

Is this how religions get started? Documents alluding to past legends mixed in with philosophical viewpoints taken from the time which make up legends and part of an evolving “cycle”.

If what I’m thinking is true, it would explain why we have no historical record other than testimony for the historicity of Jesus. Thinking of it in light of the Trojan War and Achilles. We can ask ourselves is Achilles a real person? Or was he a plot device where other real names were weaved in with myth. The more I consider this, the more it makes sense. It would explain why we have people quote Jesus but no physical records of his existence. I’m not sure what physical records we would expect. I would suspect a house, an address, taxes paid, something of that sort. Log entries in schools, etc. However, what we have are people quoting his [claimed] deeds ([Flavius](http://carm.org/regarding-quotes-historian-josephus-about-jesus), Cornelius). Just like people quoted Achilles deeds as if it were part of history. Of course we have a much smaller timeframe for an epic cycle to develop; what we do have is conflicting gospels popping into existence, and another [saviour](http://www.chrestos.com/apollonius1-19) like figure existing at the same time, as well as other state religions trying to be created at this time.

Oh Asia Minor, how I do love your wiley ways. I think the best way to map something like this, is to create a timemap of ideas (gospels in this case) and put a date, name, and birthplace of the idea. Instead of trying to chart the area of influence the idea has over a period of time, one could create a hierarchy of idea dependencies using the dates and locations to help get a reference of how far the ideas dispersed and evolved from each other. One has to assume author’s adopt pen names when they write and may not be the person they are pretending to write about, also, we cannot assume that documents have been left unaltered as they have been passed down throughout time, both part of the [tradition](http://www.facingthechallenge.org/josephus.php) of the epic cycle. Some wonder how much Homer had added to the Trojan War with his Illiad than was factual, since the Illiad was written hundreds of years after the war itself. Yet, the words he wrote were pretty much held as fact by Alexander the Great, Xerxes, Augustus, and Sultan Mehmet II when it came to Troy [the sultan is in reference to Trevor Bryce from his Article, The Trojan War from The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean].

R: “That’s how religions get started.”

R: Fear backed political programs, cast by flames on the walls of our cave (much like tv except through regular reunions at the church). They reuse each other content to facilitate adhesion to their party conversion to their religion, but they adapt the interpretations (for better or worst). And to this day these artificial constructs still fool people, unable to see them for what they are, laws they have not participated in writing. How things have changed.

Plato, exactly.

R: There are small amounts of non-biblical historical records (aside from the Dead Sea Scrolls) for Jesus, not too much but enough to back a strong argument in favor of his physical presence ~2000 years ago. The Gnostic gospels and Gnostic views are a huge mind-opener, and studious comparisons of the older sacred texts of the Buddists and Hindus reveal striking parallels that will reshape your present understanding. It blows my fucking mind.

really? Tell me more. I only have Evidence that Demands a Verdict and Halleys, tektonics is another good site (that I haven’t delved into too much). I never really looked into it until I was ready to look at it from an informed perspective, if these are your sources, they are mine as well (in fact I quoted two of his sources in my blurb). Until I was able to use negative inference, reason, and informed research to posit a secular hypothesis at early Christianity, I was scared to delve into a possible Sophist interpretation of events. I think after reading a few weeks of early Greek thought, I found the bed of ideas that birthed Christianity outside of dates and names. There may have been a historical Jesus, but I’d like to subtract all the pre existing ideas before I meet him.

R: First off, it’s important to know that you need to keep an open mind, no matter how hard it is to accept it at first. For me, I find thinking about what I’m learning as the truth until there’s some contradictions within it’s own explanation, regardless of prior knowledge. And then at the end of an argument or perspective I give it a second to digest, at which case the stuff I’m going to try to briefly explain begins to make sense the more and more I read. Being skeptical is good, of course, but where most people falter is that being skeptical hinders you and keeps you closed-minded when you deny any argument before understanding it. And its much harder to understand it if you go into it being skeptical–the pieces don’t connect as they would if you believe it to be true.

I’ve been going back over these posts to ensure I’ve absorbed them correctly. I do the same with my readings to be honest. I do a 2 POV commentary passover over each “author” that supposedly has these “truths”, whatever form they are in. Then I try to find the common denominators of the ideas and see where the contradictions lie. However, I do a much more comprehensive overview as well, I tie in dates, names, and locations of ideas, and try to fit the contextual background of political history.

R: The reason I say small evidence is because, much like a conspiracy, you have to build up bits of basic knowledge–each alone don’t necessarily mean anything by themselves and can be easily pushed aside but the more you understand and learn about it the more it begins to make sense.

R: You have to /want/ to know God for him to be revealed to you.

I think a big problem is the limited time we have. We look to authority for answers, but often authority suppresses information. So one has to look “within” without the biases of authority to survey in an unbiased manner.

R: There’s a lot of misinformation regarding God and the Gnostics and Christianity in general out there and you have to be careful from where you source your information. I hope that what I have to tell you will get one foot started on the right path for your journey within.

R: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMNaPmmuHCs

I think the system is setup to marginalize these ideas. I’ve read PhD professors write about my ideas (Guthrie)… so… idk how more “out” it’s going to get there. Someone with political clout would have to push the ideas. However, 2015 is blogosphere territory…

Yeah, I dunno. I like to push the envelope a little bit, but only in search for truth. Reminds me of the movie Conspiracy Theory with Mel Brooks. I figure in my world of sensory input, I’ll try to shoot laser beams of thought out into the corners of unseen chaos in hopes of finding an unobstructed path.

My philosophy is the opposite of plausible deniability, but plausibility. I could be wrong about this here or there, but no single part of my argument is contingent on just one piece. I try to see if I can find the common elements that would hold the theory together from what is plausibly true. I figure if I get enough “right facts”, people either will not comment on it, or not correct me on the wrong things and be quite in hopes I won’t discover more truth.

I like to think Sophia was an allegory. In fact, I think just as The Theogeny birthed all the Greek debates about religion and reality, Sophia was a way of people birthing their own ideas about reasoned reality. That’s what I think gnosis is. Reverse engineering religion.

holy shnikey’s. He just went into 1st causes, and thoughts (which are 1st aristotle causes) and tied it into Egyptian/Sanskrit shit that I was reading about with the Cult of Isis (of which I want to see in LA at the Pompeii exhibit!) and then went into love/hate ying/yang Parmenides philosophy. Yeah, I know my shit, and I’ve been reading about the mysteries. I think what happened is these ancient philosophers were high classed travellers who studied other cultures belief systems and shared the knowledge back at home and tried to psycho analyze it (or philosophize it).

while I don’t buy all the stuff in the video. My theory on the Universe and his inter connectedness that violates General Relativity and is observed in Quantum Entanglement? I think… is the Higgs Boson field acting as a wave as if in another dimensional plane we cannot fully see giving everything it’s mass. Changes in our plane, we don’t see; because it’s happening in a fluid like field in the Higgs plane.

But… wtfdik? I’m not a physicist, just a hobbyist.

last response. Finished the video. It hits on Henosis about the big bang, how we all start with this “feeling” which I like to posit as pneuma. I assumed that the Pineal gland was the source of this pneuma, but I was schooled on that, so I don’t think that anymore. But, I do believe our consciousness is experienced as if we have a filter on, but we ultimately derive from the same conscious source. Sometimes we can transcend our barriers and observe this inter connectedness that I like to dub Henosis, but some others call Ego Death.

R: Bingo!… You’re spot on about our unity. You see, the biblical narrative of the attainment of the knowledge of Good and Evil is about the birth of the illusion of the ego. Everything in this universe is made by God, and God is in everything and everyone, and it is the attachment to this physical world and our mortal lives as individuals, often blinded to this unity, that the ego wants. “I am the body” is what it wants us to think, and that our lives are about accomplishing the mortal pleasures of sex, food, drugs, etc and that the body is who we really are. The ego is the devil who was the first to want to be separate from God.

R: All evil can be traced back to the ego (loving ourselves over each other, ignorant that we are our neighbors and they are us and we are God), and it is this ego that we must destroy in order to become one with Christ spiritually. This is what God sent Jesus to do: spread the understanding of non-duality to abolish the ignorance.

R: Look up the history of the Pharisees, they were seen as the closest people to God in the eyes of the public, but Jesus knew that their elaborate displays of humility were merely a guise to feed their ego and be looked up to by the “lesser people.”

R: These same teaching of non-duality–the fact that all of us are equal and one with God, from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich–was taught in Asian cultures through the Christ that had merged with Buddha and Krishna as they sought understand the order of the universe. Even Einstein got spiritual and began to write quite differently in the later epoch of his life because of it. He sought to prove that, as far as the universe goes, what you see is what you get, but the deeper he looked the more he found he was wrong.

R: The meaning of life is to love everyone as much as you can, and to eliminate the ego, to merge with God and find the Kingdom of Heaven within yourself. You can get to heaven right now, right here on Earth. This alone is my favorite hidden treasure I’ve ever uncovered through my search of conspiracies.

R: If you’re more interested, I invite you to check out this book called The Mystic Christ (http://www.amazon.com/The-Mystic-Christ-Ethan-Walker/dp/0972931708). I found out about it after diving into one of the Gnosticism sites. I also do not trust the tektonics website you linked to me.

Ye I don’t trust tekton too much either but I respect the effort. I take a less Christi myth approach to it all, but the body thing. Yeah, that’s all in the Dionysius mysteries, bachich death of a god that we consumed to experience the divine spark. Yeah, cool, I feel like I’ve been studying correctly the common theme 🙂

R: Well that makes me glad. By no means was I trying to make you believe in Christ and I certainly feel as though religion is completely unnecessary to understand our divinity. I hope I was able to help you find something of good use or help you get to where you want to be 🙂

http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/An_Egg

oh yeah, I don’t necessarily believe in happiness here on earth via this divine knowledge in itself. One can realize henosis and not be enjoying one’s life. Rather, know that one’s divine spirit is eternal and then the person should probably just adopt Stoic philosophy to get through it. I’m still not 100% on that one, apparently stoic’s believed in logos, which I do as well, but beyond that, I haven’t read they attributed anything to an afterlife.

You and I are the same entity. Before we came to realize the oneness of everything, we believed in ego and the self. Your consciousness is from the from the same source as mine was birthed from. When we move on, we merely return to it? That’s my belief. That we achieve a state of transcendence or oneness or henosis, kind of like an omega point. Where the entirety of the universe is complete and whole again (possibly at the end of time, or we just return to this divine fire/logos] and everyone realizes everyone elses thoughts as one vs being experienced through these separate individuals.

So in essence, if two people realize it and meet each other; they are in essence meeting themselves.

Some of the mystical healing shit in that video… idk. I’m a Deist. I think the Universe is hard coded a way and set on a course. We come to realize god not through religious texts, but by understanding nature. As the natural philosophers put it,the divine fire or spirit of the Universe is the constant flux of energy. This movement of energy is an intelligent movement, aka stoic logos. It is this pandeistic intelligence that I think we become one with. It’s this very study of this divine fire that the philosophers were studying. Thales called it water (flux/fluidity) who btw visited Egypt. Anaximenes called it density, and the shifting of densities is the fire that spreads apart and affects these molecules of density. Pythagoras believe we can explain the movement and densities with what he believed he discovered as divine math. Heraclitus really hit the nail on the head with diametric duality [perfect opposites] and proportions really being the one and same in a closed system [IMO]. He also hit the nail on the head that no two moments in time are ever the same as the eternal flow of the river of time (divine fire) is constant. I like to think that opens up the possibility of cataloging the contents of the Universe in a systematic way when considering Democritus atomicity principle. If one looks at it, our very fucking bodies are atomic models based around what, DNA and a birth place at a specific moment in time. That is what makes “us”, but our pneuma was breathed in by this divine fire IMO. Christianity also calls this bastardized version of the Divine Fire, the Holy Spirit.

I don’t really buy [in the video] the internal ability to change the external world through mind. What I do believe in however is our ability to effect change in reality through thought via action. Aristotlle’s First causation rule, which lead him as well as St Thomas Aquinas to the First Mover, which I call the flux of time. However, I DO believe 100% in the allegory of the cave. Just as our eyes have evolved to see what the sun has shed light on, our eyes are as if watching a movie played on a cave wall. The quality of the film is what we perceive to be reality, our eyes are our lenses and they only see what the sun wants it to see. Point is, I think a lot of early mysticism, self discovery, astronomy, realization of oneness, got started when people consumed things like mind altering substances Kykeon; no matter what they were, and came to realize different states of mind and points of view and considered that maybe the way they viewed the world was along one specific viewpoint. I’m not saying these were necessary to have these points of views, because apparently Aristotle denounced the Eleusinian Mysteries because of the inability to talk about what was involved in the mysteries by penalty of death. However, what was central to the story is the concept of the divine body [generally sacrament of some sort which represents the Earth] dying and resurrecting so that we may have life!

R: http://global3.memecdn.com/jesus-summed-up-in-one-picture_fb_3116563.jpg

R: “JESUS was a radical nonviolent revolutionary who hung around with lepers hookers and crooks; wasn’t american and enver psoke englihs; was anti-wealth anti-death penalty anti-public prayer (M 6:5); but was never anti-gay, never mentioned abortion or birth control. never called the poor lazy, never justified torture, never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest nazarenes. Never asked a leper for a copay; and was a long-haried brown-skinned homeless community organizing anti-slut-shaming middle eastern jew.”

When you have a lot of books written by a lot of different authors who claimed to have met the same man (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/index.html) and no one bothers to compile it properly into a canon until a few hundred years later to find a commonality amongst it all (Constantine). I think you end up with modern day brainstorming session, where the end product is a highly polished and a popular product.

R: Jesus Seminar

yeah, I’ve been reading about Apollonius, I think Jesus Christo Myth is an epic cycle in the making. Similar to how the Greek’s viewed the larger than life Macedonians and Achilles. I wrote a huge blog/reddit entry on it, I was thinking it was worthy of a doctorate thesis. It’s all conjecture atm, but based on the ideas that were evolving around the time of Jesus

reminds me of the Gospel of Q, and how the Gospel of Thomas re confirmed a lot of teachings. However, this assembly… I’m not sure if it’s intentions were secular. It’s almost as if they are wishing to do their own nicean creed vs acknowledging it might be it’s own epic

The assembly was scholarly, as they sort of checked opinions at the door. Instead, they identified the areas of the four canonical gospels that likely derived from Q, observed the biases and aims of each of the canonicals, and then cross referenced them with existing texts, surviving non-canonical gospels, etc. More than a few of the scholars weren’t even “Christian” in any conventional sense, but were rather professors and research scholars (doctoral level) of new and Old Testament studies, broader religious studies, or even just archaeology and languages.

That’s cool, but I’m sure Constantine had a similar setup. Its just today you can’t exclude academics and history has been rife w edits. I really like there voting system, but trying to do an all secular study… That’s another thing. But idk I’m going to read it more, don’t worry. Its certainly going in my repertoire just like Josh McDowell

I’m going to a Pompeii exhibit at the Cali sci center today

R: I see your point about the Jesus myth. The important thing to consider is that it is deeply embedded in Jewish/Hebrew myth as well, as many of the accounts/gospels were fabricated BY Jews in order to advance their new sect of Judaism (not yet called Christianity). We see mirrorings Abraham’s life, Moses’ life, etc in many of the narratives that are overlaid upon the historical aspects.

I concur. Glad we can have a civil intelligent discussion. I’m still open to a historical Jesus myself but I’m trying to do it through negative inference

I’ve been using philosophy to posit testable theories that I try to model. My theory so far is so ambiguous its almost impossible to disprove… Which makes it a bad theory tbh, but I did put a test up, physical records other than word of mouth deed recording. But maybe that’s impossible. Maybe Rome just didn’t keep records that would be needed to verify

tbh, the Jesus Seminar is kind of what I’m doing right now on philosophy. i’m reading 3 to 4 PhD sourced treatises on early philosophy, and trying to find their commonality. I figure I’ll investigate fringe points and verify their validity. Similar in a way to negative inference. I’m trying to remove the inconsistencies, but I’m also expanding my sphere of context to include government, and political events at the times of these various ideas.

I think Roman Philosophy (which your book “Peter Singer, Writings on an Ethical Life” is more along the lines of) is post Greek philosophy, decline of metaphysical studies and focus on decline and religious meaning. Whether you buy that or not, what seems to have been transferred to Roman philosophy is Ethics [Stoicism primarily, but also Epicureanism, but also Eleatic ideas of non existence]… which speak strongly in Christianity.

I’m a bit off atm, but that was a mixed half intelligent response

forgive me, but the main ideas are there if I got the themes/contexts wrong

I meant to say stoic self denial is in Christianity. It’s a common theme that arose out of slavery. I find it more ethical form of thought, ironically; I see a connection with using Christianity as a tool for slaves to get them to accept their fate through self denial and things like the serenity prayer. So the very concept of stoic self denial is a double edged sword. It basically says, accept your fate, and love it because it could be worse.

I think it gave rise to the golden rule though

this is exactly what i’m doing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_ideas

I see a history of ideas with Christianity that preceded Christianity. Using logic, I subtract those ideas (negative inference) that preceded Christianity and look at the “noise” left over, that’s the real Christ.

not trying to find commonality 2000 years afterwards