The grocery store has replaced the garden and the farm.
The city utility has replaced the spring and the well.
The air conditioner has replaced the hearth and the well designed house.
The mortgage has replaced the self-built home.
The mobile device has replaced human connection.
The video game has replaced bodily risk and personal challenge.
The digital social network has replaced the meeting place.
The degree has replaced usefulness.
The bank has replaced self-custody.
The car has replaced human mobility.
The work needed to pay for these things has replaced our purpose.
The necessity of it all has replaced our freedom.
Each of these is an example of an abstraction. Abstraction occurs when the State or any other entity stands, as an intermediary, between a human’s need and his or her ability to self-satisfy that need through direct and prolonged interaction with the host environment, planet Earth.
I contend that any government that imposes such bodily abstractions on its citizens, by means of regulated markets or otherwise, will inevitably tend toward authoritarianism and is doomed to fail.
Whereas, those individuals who insist on meeting the broad swath of these needs for themselves, measuring carefully the links between themselves and the satisfaction of each need and keeping that number to a minimum, will tend toward human flourishing and an amoral acceptance of natural order. These individuals and the communities they create will be the most resilient on Earth.
“Virtue is free, and as a man honors or dishonors her he will have more or less of her; the responsibility is with the chooser—God is justified.” – Plato, The Republic
The Great Disneyland of the West
Whole Being and Personal Agency to directly satisfy his or her basic needs and accountably manage the course of his or her affairs.
Dissecting the Layers
By examining the illustration under the text we can see the many layers of intermediaries that exist between a person’s abstract bodily need and the concrete satisfaction of the need.
Institutional Layer – Within this layer we see the financial sector, oil and gas, university gatekeepers, federal and local authorities, city planners, plus water and electric utility providers. There are many, many others. These are the titans of crony capitalism and the elected weasels and technocrats of the socialist bureaucracy. Predators, rent seekers, and your run-of-the-mill, unwitting, everyday enemies of human freedom abound here.
They seek to minimize the human experience and funnel it predictably along a prescribed path, as a hunter might funnel prey toward set traps. Each trap an opportunity to exploit the life-force of their prey for their own gain.
Take a look at the institutional layer. How many traps have you personally fallen into? Which were you born into? How many of these do you justify as being necessary? While some might choose to live this prescribed life, what of those who would choose otherwise? Where in this chart of abstractions that make up our “great economic miracle” lies the path to human freedom?
Human Energy Mining Layer – Most are here. Moving from the cubicle, to the car, to the couch, to the coffin. Their life-force being spent in non-contracted service to their incumbent institutional overlords. Incidentally, the closer a person’s proximity to the power structures of these institutions, the more special they tend to feel; the allure of power being intoxicating as it is. How worthy and entitled one must feel when proximate to the printers of money and the brandishers of lawful violence?
In this layer modern man exists as a Sim, his behavior probabilistically controlled by the intermediaries in the layer above. He is funneled human prey searching for meaning and community in a prescribed life, finding it for a tithe perhaps, or from a televised political sophist whose rants are flanked on both sides by commercial advertisements, or most likely both, chewing his cud.
His friends, his neighbors, his family, and perhaps himself all work as drones for the institutional intermediaries, whether directly as employees and principles, or indirectly as units of tax and profit generation. And none of these, statistically speaking, not even the farmers, will ever enjoy the lived experience of human freedom.
Bodily Dependence Layer – Modern humans depend on a system of local utilities and commercial enterprises in order to meet their basic needs. Indeed, earning money to pay for it all keeps the population very, very busy.
Rube Goldberg himself would marvel in appreciation at the machinations with which a person must engage to acquire a carrot, a roof and some walls, a drink of water, or a cut of beef.
Abstractions and Personal Agency
“Behold, the body includes and is the
meaning, the main concern and
includes and is the soul” – Walt Whitman
Bodily abstractions are absolutely ruinous to personal agency. Such a life leaves a person constantly vulnerable to the circumstances and consequences that result from the proclivities of others. Others whose actions are dictated by the incentives of the socio-economic system within which they operate; and in the modern economy under U.S. dollar primacy those incentives are horrific, as we’ll discuss later.
Consider that your very ability to acquire food requires the ongoing good decision making and cooperation of those around you. As any one of them begins to behave unscrupulously by exploiting a flaw in the system, others will follow and normalize that behavior, corroding the efficacy of the system. The more corroded the system becomes, the more vulnerable to destitution you become in a very real and physical sense.
Because he cannot fend for himself, a person living in the Human Energy Mining Layer must wholly abandon any meaningful sense of self-determination and exist at the mercy of his fellows; most of whom regard him as little more than a unit of economic energy to be mined and extracted.
His utter, inescapable dependence on the abstraction is the goal of the institutional intermediaries. If they can fill his mind with notions of great self-fortune despite his depleted life-force, with abstract notions of freedom despite his unwitting subservience, and with a fear of stalking enemies both foreign and domestic despite the evidence of his experience, then his life is forfeit; he is theirs.
The Taxing Town and the Hunting Ground
Value exchange in the abstraction differs greatly from free market value exchange. In the abstraction, life-force is extracted by means of entrapment and compulsory agreement. Taxes and monetary debasement are two examples of financial compulsion. Yet, physical compulsion is also prevalent. Examples of which can be found in the built environment itself.
For instance, a city that has been designed for cars rather than people requires a person to purchase a car in order to access the services of the city. The purchase of a car requires the driver to be licensed and for the car to be registered yearly as well as insured and maintained continually. So at the outset, a citizen of such a city is expected to provide an outlay of his or her life-force in order to access basic services.
A car for a carrot is a boon for the automobile industry and tax base, but a bust for human freedom. There are many similar examples of physical and financial compulsion that demonstrate how government serves to necessitate and enforce rent seeking behavior.
The modern world is shaped by an informal, self-organizing triangular partnership between corporatists, technocrats, and bureaucrats. The corporatists and technocrats bring the bad ideas. The bureaucrats cement them. Government is generally always the arena in which flaws in the socio-economic structure are exploited and made permanent, rather than being repaired and obsoleted.
All manner of equivocation can be deployed to minimize the impact of this argument. But a system built entirely out of such compulsory trade-offs eventually erodes every aspect of human freedom to the extent that humans end up serving the system, rather than the other way around. We have been conditioned to believe that things like cars, careers, credit scores, mortgages, inflation, and recurring bills are facts of life. They are not.
Let us keep in mind that it is human freedom we value, and the footpath to human freedom is uncovered by reducing the intermediaries that impede the rightful satisfaction of one’s own human needs. The individual must choose between consciously pursuing a self-guided path out of the abstraction and back to the earth, or remaining asleep in the abstraction until it collapses under its own weight. To believe that the abstraction can grow and be sustained without collapsing… THAT IS THE AMERICAN DREAM.
Aurora, it’s time to wake up…
This article is written by Connor Veering. Read more of his work at growingeverywhere.substack.com