Anarchy Begins at Home: The Blog Series Part 6 – Democide

This is a blog post rendition of my 1-hr presentation at The 21 Convention in Austin, TX in August, right after I gave a 20-minute abbreviated version of same at the Ancestral Health Symposium 2012, in Boston, at Harvard University School of Law.

The previous three parts here: Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5.

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. ― Voltaire

In the first 5 parts it was my aim to contrast quality of knowledge between peoples of the Paleolithic and moderns. It was further my aim to apply this to how a lower quality of knowledge in the Neolithic—owing to so much of it based on superstition, fantasy, delusion and what not—affords us the sorts of institutions you’d expect: the kind interested in keeping you in bread and circuses, dumb & happy, etc.

In this part it’s my aim to show you that the State is evil, per se.

Screen Shot 2012 11 08 at 11 14 27 AM

These figures do not include war dead. Here’s that link, clickable.

Excuse me when I hear the next person tell me how essential government is because there are natural born predators out there (who, incidentally, obviously don’t care about the law or ethics anyway). Drop in the bucket.

On the other hand, fair is fair.

Screen Shot 2012 11 08 at 11 14 41 AM

Yes, indeed. Democracies kill far fewer. Moreover, democracies don’t go to war against other democracies. This is improvement and there’s no doubt about that.

But why not do better still? My contention is not that a democratic State is not better on many levels than a totalitarian or authoritarian one, simply that’s it’s not nearly as good as could be done. But that’s a long term process, and it requires understanding how people change their minds. “You can’t reason a person out of a position he didn’t reason himself into” [Mark Twain, I think…].

Not part of the original presentation, but it’s instructive to listen to this video by Stefan Molyneux on the aftermath of the 2012 elections. I’m very much in league with him on how this sort of thinking comes about, multi-generational. Of particular note is the last half about how people do and don’t change their minds.

In the end, it all comes back to the quality of your knowledge of reality, what it’s based upon—really real things…or illusions, hopes, dreams, faith and good intentions?

One illusion is that we can’t always do better, that we’re locked into heaven or hell, depending upon your perspective.

Yep, democracy is a lesser evil.

Screen Shot 2012 11 08 at 11 14 54 AM

That’s basically half of the presentation. Next I move from the individual power of quality knowledge to contrast the quality of social power between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic.


Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Carlos Morales on November 9, 2012 at 08:04

    “democracies don’t go to war against other democracies. This is improvement and there’s no doubt about that.”
    Richard, that’s not been the case throughout much of history. .
    Even hitler was democratically elected.,_1932
    I also wouldn’t suggest that democracies are the better of the evils, but that violence as a whole has been going down throughout history (not in a completely linear fashion) and that has a lot to do with child rearing. Check out anything by Alice Miller or Lloyd DeMaus on more information for that. Here’s a free book of Lloyd’s
    and some more of his articles (yes, the website is terrible made)
    Hans Herman Hoppe has an intersting take on it as well in his Democracy: The God That Failed –
    Here’s an excerpt : The second myth concerns the historic transition from absolute monarchies to democratic states. Not only do neoconservatives interpret this development as progress; there is near-universal agreement that democracy represents an advance over monarchy and is the cause of economic and moral progress. This interpretation is curious in light of the fact that democracy has been the fountainhead of every form of socialism: of (European) democratic socialism and (American) liberalism and neo-conservatism as well as of international (Soviet) socialism, (Italian) fascism, and national (Nazi) socialism. More importantly, however, theory contradicts this interpretation; whereas both monarchies and democracies are deficient as states, democracy is worse than monarchy.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2012 at 08:08


      Yea, some interesting points. On the issue of Germany, while he was elected democratically, he was able to have the constitutiontution suspended, so it was no longer a democracy when he invaded Poland and kicked off WWII.

      • Carlos Morales on November 9, 2012 at 08:12

        That’s fair, although the other wars between democracies still exist. I just think that it’s a better interpretation that it’s generally been more peaceful in the last 200 years in spite of democracy rather than because of democracy…and by more peaceful I mean per capita which could be seen as kind of bullshity.

      • Sean on November 9, 2012 at 11:32

        I believe it’s something of a misnomer to say that Hitler was democratically elected, but I’m too lazy to look it up and the greater point stands (This is my goto book for Hitler related info, BTW). Also, Czechoslovakians democratically voted for communism in 1948 and we all know how well that worked out for them.

        I would argue that the biggest factor preventing advanced countries (mostly democracies) from going to war with each other is technology. The fact that ‘modern war’ became much more lethal and a hell of a lot less romantic, beginning with the US Civil War and really picking up steam with WWI and the widespread introduction of machine guns. This coupled with easier access and transmission of data makes war a difficult thing to prosecute in a country where the government doesn’t have control of information, and that control gets more difficult all the time.

        I’ve heard it said that no two countries with McDonalds have ever gone to war with each other–if true, I’d attribute it to the free market (even in extremely limited form) and technology, not to the magical qualities of democracy (or Big Macs).
        I don’t think I’d go so far as to say that wars have declined in spite of democracies. But decoupling war, democracy and technology is a really tricky thing. Comparing 20th century democracies to 18th century monarchies without electricity or flush toilets is really apples and oranges, IMO.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2012 at 11:43

        My first reaction: pussyfooting comment.

      • Sean on November 9, 2012 at 13:01


      • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2012 at 13:09

        To much middle road playing.

      • Sean on November 9, 2012 at 13:26

        Not dogmatic enough for you? Go nail your ballsack to the floor, light your house on fire and die crispy, screaming about ice baths. Is that better?

      • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2012 at 13:31

        Not particularly.

      • Sean on November 9, 2012 at 13:54

        Will you do it, anyway, as a personal favor?

      • EatLessMoveMoore on November 9, 2012 at 15:26

        “And next week, on ‘Paleo Peeps Eat Their Own’…”

      • Sean on November 10, 2012 at 05:59

        Naw, just a little bickering.

    • Joseph on November 11, 2012 at 05:23

      Interesting. Ancient Greek political theory consistently imagines monarchy evolving naturally into oligarchy (as the rich fit themselves out to compete with the royal family), democracy (as the people fit themselves out to compete with the rich), and tyranny (when democrats raised to live off the rich find a charismatic leader who will take them on a wild looting spree, e.g. Napoleon in the wake of the French Revolution). Students in my classes are often surprised (1) that America resembles an oligarchy rather more than a Greek democracy, (2) that democracy is thought of as being close to tyranny, and (3) that regimes might evolve in a bad way (contradicting the Whig narrative of progress in which we only ever get better as the fittest keep on surviving while the morons die off: they don’t see that survivors are actually just lucky fools most of the time).

  2. anonymous chris on November 8, 2012 at 20:04

    ‘Need’ now means wanting someone else’s money. ‘Greed’ means wanting to keep your own. ‘Compassion’ is when a politician arranges the transfer.’ Joseph Sobran

  3. Gene on November 9, 2012 at 01:45

    Molyneaux is completely full of shit. Starting with the contention that “minorities” just don’t get Western Enlightenment values, and that’s why they vote Democrat. Are you fucking shitting me? Is that why white people in Oregon vote Democrat? How about San Francisco, or is that all just public sector union employees? And in Massachussets, which is largely White, urban and European and therefore fairly certain to have some recognition of Western values; why is it that those dumb folks keep voting Democrat election after election? And New York state, home of one of the most important cities in the modern Western world – a veritable pinnacle of the Western tradition; why do those folks keep voting democrat in the Federal elections? I suppose it’s because they aren’t sophisticated enough to understand Western civilisation, right? Must be that they all work in the public sector, right? Twaddle.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2012 at 08:05

      Ha, Gene, it strikes me that though dost protest too much.

      What Molyneux is saying is that if you strip away the public unions and black/Hispanic voters who vote monolithicly, always, then you’re left with a rather overwhelming majority for republicans. This is simply true.

      And yes, I also agree that part of that is cultural in the sense than most whites come from European Enlightenemnt traditions, black and Hispanics do not, but rather, from a culture of conquest and domination most recently.

      What if anything to do about that is a big question, and for sure, there are many, many black and Hispanic voices chiding their own identity groups for being such a take for granted gimme to the democrats, but the facts are still the facts to deal with, or not.

      • Gene on November 10, 2012 at 07:42

        Protest too much? About bullshit? Never.

        For starters, why are we removing black/Hispanic voters? Are they not voters? “Yeah, once we ignore those benighted coloreds who don’t get Western Values, what we’re left with is the real will of the people, which is anti-statist…” Twaddle.

        Second, about 11% of ALL workers in the U.S. are members of unions. Of public sector workers, only about 12.5% are in a union. Even if every single one of them voted Democrat…well…you do the math.

        Lastly, the contention anyone who votes Republican is essentially anti-statist is fucking laughable. There’s a long way from Ricky Bobby voting Republican because “that damned Kenyan Muslim (subtext: who doesn’t really get Judeo-Christian Western Values…) is going to raise my taxes!” and Ricky Bobby really believing the Federal Government should stop subsidising his Pa’s corn crops, take away his grandpappy’s Medicare, shut down the branch of the military his brother is employed in and close down McJob Security where he works protecting the nation from terra. People can barely see past their own noses and if you sell them on simplistic bullshit promising them personal gain “less taxes means you’ll have a great job!” they’ll vote just about any way you tell them too. The Republicans have figured this out and demonstrated it under Bush: promise lower taxes but actually increase government spending and drive up the debt and deficit because shrinking the state won’t actually get you re-elected. The Republicans are about as far from “anti-state” as I can imagine. They love to make the state stronger by arming it, giving it the power to take away rights in the name of security and using it to manipulate the economy to line certain people’s pockets.

      • Gene on November 10, 2012 at 07:51

        Sorry, I got some numbers mixed up. Public sector workers (not including those working in defense related businesses, which love those “antistatist” Republicans…) account for about 15% of the American workforce, give or take. About 37% of those are in a union (40% aren’t legally allowed to organise one). So, we’re talking about 6-7% of the workforce.

      • Gene on November 10, 2012 at 07:54

        BTW, 44% of Hispanics voted Republican in 2004. Monolithic?

      • Gene on November 10, 2012 at 07:55

        BTW, 44% of Hispanics voted Republican in 2004. It was about 67/33 Dem/Rep in 2008. Monolithic?

      • Richard Nikoley on November 10, 2012 at 07:54

        “For starters, why are we removing black/Hispanic voters? Are they not voters?”

        Clearly, the whole thing has gone well over your head so I really don’t care to bother much. BTW, that quote in para 1 is a straw man. Molyneux says nor implies any such thing (I suspect you watch only enough of the video to acquire your false idea of what it’s about)

        NOBODY should vote. That is Molyneux’s position, mine as well.

        “Second, about 11% of ALL workers in the U.S. are members of unions. Of public sector workers, only about 12.5% are in a union. Even if every single one of them voted Democrat…well…you do the math.”

        Most elections on the federal level are decided within a far less margin than that. Throw in black and hispanics who also vote overwhelmingly democrat, and again, this is a simple matter of recognizing reality. Incidentally, I don’t really think there’s any dispute about any of this.

        public and private union members vote overwhelmingly democrat: fact
        blacks vote overwhelmingly democrat: fact
        hispanics vot overwhelmingly democrat: facy

        “Lastly, the contention anyone who votes Republican is essentially anti-statist is fucking laughable. ”

        Nobody has contended that. Not me, not Molyneux. Another straw man. Again, you clearly didn’t watch and listen to the entire video or, if you did, didn’t listen very well.

        It’s always helpful in any discussion for people to actually argue against their opponent’s position, and not one of their own making.

    • fartArtist on November 10, 2012 at 01:05

      Hey Wooo, what’s all this ketosis shite on your blog? (NB: Richard, I toned down the language to appease the Google Ad gods).

      • Jerry Mac on November 10, 2012 at 04:13

        Woo, I thought you were just stupid and harmless before. Now you’ve shown that you’re really quite insane. Your sweeping generalizations about races and their voting patterns only proves how sick your disease goes.

        Good thing your blog and your comments are ignored by most thinking people.

      • tammy m on November 11, 2012 at 09:28

        I wouldn’t expect much reading comprehension given the way you write, Woo. You are, well, kind of a ranting, rambling fool.

        Jerry should have known better and just scrolled past you, the way most of us do…

  4. Terry K on November 9, 2012 at 10:15

    Are you gonna talk about weight loss any more on this blog? Or have you given that up?

  5. Contemplationist on November 9, 2012 at 12:01

    I am firmly on the Hoppe side here. Monarchies were far better than the monstrosities produced by democracy in the 20th century.

  6. Mike T on November 9, 2012 at 12:34

    Fundamental error of the gas bag is that he is assuming that Republicans are voting for free market and freedom, rather than strong racist undercurrent, the benefits of a corporate captialism, mitilarism, farm subsidies. The “red’ states are the biggest recipients of federal dollars/capita.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2012 at 12:43

      Mike T

      Thanks for exposing your ignorance of the gas bag.

      Appreciated. It’s so funny that you don’t even have the slightest clue as to how ignorant you’ve just expsed yourself to be. I’ll never understand that, especially on a blog like this.

      OK, you’re on my idiot/ignoramus list.

      • Contemplationist on November 9, 2012 at 13:13

        Crime rates confirm many ‘racist’ attitudes. If people want to be left alone, that is the essence of anarchy, regardless of motives, I say give it to them. BTW as much as I loathe the Social Conservatives, they didn’t start the culture war. The solution is decentralization, not nationalized mega conflict of the masses for ‘values’

  7. […] found this video on Richard Nikoley’s blog. It is an absolute must watch. It is a must watch because if you care about your life, and your […]

  8. rob on November 9, 2012 at 13:30

    On the bright side weed is now legal in two states without having to invent symptoms so that you can get a prescription.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2012 at 13:33


      Yea. I have never, every uttered a word in support of medical marijuana and even though I enjoy a hit now and then (always from friends, I never keep any around, ever), I have always scoffed at the whole pussy behind that.

      Smoke it because you enjoy it, or shut the fuck up.

  9. fartArtist on November 9, 2012 at 16:40

    Speaking of war, your public behavior has changed a lot since the Paleo War. You’ve become “one of them”.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 9, 2012 at 17:39

      I’ve no idea what you mean.

      • fartArtist on November 10, 2012 at 01:09

        Your humor and language is less witty and instead of challenging authority you’ve started to create your own. I’ve followed you for a long, long time. You were at your best when you were unaware of your influence on others.

      • Sean on November 10, 2012 at 06:34

        A pretty obvious troll, but I’ll respond anyway.

        1) The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience: “he had absolute authority over his subordinates”.
        2) The right to act in a specified way, delegated from one person or organization to another.

        Authority in this sense is the power to coerce, ‘enforce obediance’, and this authority exists in the blogosphere only as the power to create a monolithic culture on one’s own blog by banning contrary opinions. It’s the power of controlling the microphone. Richard, unlike some others, doesn’t feel the need to control the narrative by deleting contrary opinions.

        There’s also: 3) The power to influence others, especially because of one’s commanding manner or one’s recognized knowledge about something.

        So your beef is that Richard is too influential. and he is too aware of being influential?

        Let me guess, you also hate bands that you used to love when they get discovered by the prole mainstream?

      • fartArtist on November 10, 2012 at 15:51 [shore ‘awn] or [see ‘ann]


        Name given to whiny asshole from Prague that frequents FTA intermittently. Probably spends way too much time in coffee houses enthralling credulous patrons with pseudo intellectualism.

        I have no beef with Richard’s influence or his perception of his influence. My observation was just as it is – my observation. Richard can take it, or more likely, leave it.

        NB: language moderated to appease the Google Ad gods. I deprive no man of his income for the cheap thrills of some coarse language.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 10, 2012 at 16:01

        “ [shore ‘awn] or [see ‘ann]


        Name given to whiny asshole from Prague that frequents FTA intermittently. Probably spends way too much time in coffee houses enthralling credulous patrons with pseudo intellectualism.”

        Laf. I think Sean will love that, actually.

      • Sean on November 12, 2012 at 00:05

        There are no coffee houses in Prague; okay, there’re one or two in the center that cater to tourists & pseudo-intellectual hipster expats who TEFL for slave wages (I think there’s a Starbucks here now). Haven’t been in one in ages, but I doubt any of those young commies would be enthralled with my ideas.

        There is a nice little cafe near my house where I go to to play drunk chess and ogle the young broads during the oh-so-short summertime. I don’t feel much need to whine, but I don’t mind a little gloating.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 10, 2012 at 06:51

        I must say that it’s rather ironic to write that Im not challenging authority in the comment thread of part 6 of a series on anarchy.

        I don’t suppose you’ve considered the risk to my “influence” by going full steam ahead with a series not any single other person in the paleosphere would touch with a ten foot pole even if they agreed with the whole thing.

        Moreover, I don’t think a series such as this lends itself well to a lot of ranting, foul language, etc. I have plans for this series beyond just being post on the blog and I want to keep the editing task reasonable.

      • fartArtist on November 10, 2012 at 15:27

        “going full steam ahead with a series not any single other person in the paleosphere would touch”

        That Sir, is true. If you’re looking for a Black Swan of sorts, let’s hope you find it.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 10, 2012 at 15:44

        Meh, I always try to maintain a long term view. The foundation is simply to blog about something or the other that strikes my fancy on most days.

  10. EatLessMoveMoore on November 9, 2012 at 18:18

    Korea had a more satisfying outcome than that war.

  11. mr Dave on November 10, 2012 at 08:11

    Stefan’ s run down of the political system was spot on. I’m not totally convinced reason can’t work as a motivator. After all what is he asking us to do, but reason. There is a problem with Government, whether its a monarchy, democracy, or whatever “ism” applies. But the problem is humanity. There have been many sweet spots where people have prospered and had healthy relationships with others. But just as often throughout history we fuck each other up, take other people’s stuff or just abuse each other. Look at tribal living with child brides and female mutilations . Look at life in New Guinea among the natives prior to western influx, it was pretty brutal, but all done without government intervention. I think the blind spot in the anarchist line of thinking, if that is what Stefan promotes, is that he thinks if people are left alone by government and exposed to better ideas, they will come to same conclusions as him and live by the same values. There is no silver bullet set of ideas that set us all up for happy lives. fathers molested their daughters, people sacrificed each other to worship the sun, prior to there ever being a congress, a Parliament, a President, or a town hall meeting.

    Anarchy might begin at home, but when it plays out on the street or in the jungle it often isn’t pretty. Every government system has its short comings, but so does every human. Therefore every human interaction has potential to be positive or negative.

  12. Bay Area Sparky on November 10, 2012 at 12:31

    Aside from the questions of what type of government is better or if none/smaller/privatized government is better than our current system, there seems to be some suggestion that Republicans are more anti-statist than Democrats.

    IF that is true then one would have to ask why?

    Are Republicans’ motives more pure? Are they any less compelled by self-interest than Democrats? To both questions I would answer, probably not.

    Would Republicans’ motives have to do with the same self-interest with which Democrats vote? I would answer, probably yes.

    Are corporate welfare, corporate tax loopholes, golden parachutes, and historically and globally uneven executive compensation more or less virtuous than social welfare, entitlements and petty tax cheating?

    When is enacting “business friendly” legislation just a euphemism for rich people lining their pockets even more as opposed to “creating the swell which will lift all boats?”

    In my 5 decades of life, I have not seen conclusive proof that either side is any more virtuous or less self-interested than the other.

    On a separate subject, Stefan said:

    “You create social change by putting your personal relationships on the line.”

    That’s an interesting view.

    Would he recommend that people do that in their professional lives as well as their personal lives?

    To the entire subject I would say that we can all decide whether we want to believe whether or to what degree our lives are self-determined and act accordingly.

    For better or worse, I find myself paying a lot less attention to politics and a lot more attention to succeeding within the context of my life.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 10, 2012 at 13:19

      “there seems to be some suggestion that Republicans are more anti-statist than Democrats.”

      Not really. It’s an explicit, well known phenomena that goes back to the great depression and beyond. It’s often said that democrats want the state in your wallet, republicans in your bedroom. Fiscal top-down control vs. social issue top-down control. While it’s a cute equation, it does not convey the gravity of the whole thing.

      The essential distinction is that nobody can cloth themselves, get to work, heat their homes, protect themselves from the elements or nourish themselves on the social freedoms to run around nude, smoke dope, engage in gay sex, abort a fetus, arbitrarily hire, promote or pay a person based upon the architecture of their genitals, etc.

      And while I have witnessed republican after republican for a couple of decades now, give up their emphasis on many of these social issues (drug war is a prime example), I see no such concessions in general on the part of democrats as concern free markets.

      Free markets are important because unlike bedroom and other social issues, free markets _are_ what cloth, feed, shelter and transport people in the pursuit of their general happiness and well being.

      Yep, republicans and even libertarians often don’t make proper distinctions between a nice valid business operation and a mega-corporation that exists, really, as a bedfellow of the state. but ironically, democrats what more regulation and control when it is precisely the massive regulation and control that mega-businesses lobby for above all else because it creates economies of scale and barriers to entry for them.

      So, on balance, I think Stefan’s video is a recognition that there really is an important difference between social issues and economic issues and plain old productivity. Increasingly, I see the left political agenda as one of anti-production. The end of the line of that sport of thinking, carried all the way, is death.

      • Bay Area Sparky on November 10, 2012 at 22:30

        When I said “there seems to be some suggestion that Republicans are more anti-statist than Democrats” I was being polite.

        That is not an object of contention and I conceded that point early on.

        My point is that “In my 5 decades of life, I have not seen conclusive proof that either side is any more virtuous or less self-interested than the other.”

        For every liberal who can be viewed as being misguided or even disingenuous, an equal number of conservatives can be viewed the same way.

        Moreover as a liberal, I see many components of the liberal agenda as being truly well-intentioned and having value beyond simple economics. Not all social change and social justice issues are bad.

        I think it’s an oversimplification to side with one side or the other as to who stands on higher moral ground and I reject any notion that it can be determined. I certainly don’t view people through the lens of what political affiliation they have.

        My final point was maybe more philosophical: “To the entire subject I would say that we can all decide whether we want to believe whether or to what degree our lives are self-determined and act accordingly.”

        It might seem paradoxical but I tend to be non-judgemental and accepting of others while casting an honest critical eye on myself. In most cases I cannot know what is in the heart of others so I cannot judge their motives. I only know what is in my heart and how well I uphold my own values.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 11, 2012 at 08:54

        “My point is that “In my 5 decades of life, I have not seen conclusive proof that either side is any more virtuous or less self-interested than the other.””

        Yes, everyone is self interested. That’s a given. But…

        “I think it’s an oversimplification to side with one side or the other as to who stands on higher moral ground and I reject any notion that it can be determined.”

        Well there’s the whole rub and the essence of the distinction I made. In the upside-down world we live in, self-interest in the realm of generally agitating and activating in order to mold the world into some kind of egalitarian utopia is trumpeted by church, State, politicians, academia, the media, etc. as the “higher, selfless, altruistic, moral ground.”

        At the same time, profit seekers who drill for oil, build automobiles, erect networks of communications, produce food, and on and on…all things that sustain and advance life are generally vilified.

        I, on the other hand, see it as exactly the reverse. I see the producers—in spite of all the warts, rent-seeking behavior, etc—as the more moral, the more interested in advancing the lives of others in materially concrete ways that really matter at the end of the day.

        To state it another way: I draw a clear distinction between a “women’s studies” major and a business or engineering major. The former is self interested in a self absorbed, shallow way that will focus on forcing people through surrogates in government and the later, self interested in a way that will tend to raise society through offering goods and services in voluntary trade.

        The former is a parasite and the latter, a producer.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 10, 2012 at 13:48

      “Are corporate welfare, corporate tax loopholes, golden parachutes, and historically and globally uneven executive compensation more or less virtuous than social welfare, entitlements and petty tax cheating?

      “When is enacting “business friendly” legislation just a euphemism for rich people lining their pockets even more as opposed to “creating the swell which will lift all boats?””

      An eternal mystery to me is how I never stop hearing about executive compensation, but never hear about sports star or other _entertainer_ compensation. Seems people understand that sports franchises are private companies and they negotiate compensation contracts based upon a certain estimated return on investment. In the case of the sports star or other entertainer, the expected draw in terms of tickets, syndicated viewership, trinket sales, etc., and in the case of business executives, their ability to drive up earnings per share.

      The bottom line is that talent and expertise affords certain lucky individuals the ability to negotiate on their own terms. Yep, for lots of top executives, the company is also paying for that candidate’s contacts, political connection, pull, etc. At the same time, baseball is exempt from anti-trust laws—and sports franchises are pretty much all very closely held, privately owned—the Green Bay Packers being the only exception I know of (but their community share is not tradable as stock, either).

      I would expect that in a world where federal, state and local governments weren’t up for sale to the highest bidder—big companies always being the highest bidder—that executive compensation might tend toward what an executive can actually do to build teams, productivity, sales, value, and less about what sorts of pull they might have with those whores up for sale.

      • Jscott on November 10, 2012 at 19:31

        This is a bad comparison. Why did you bite it?

      • Richard Nikoley on November 11, 2012 at 07:38

        It wasn’t my intention to deal with the difference between a private company paying its employees whatever they negotiate to pay them vs. confiscation of time and wealth (taxes) from the citizenry in order to dole out various forms of welfare, “stimulus,” incentives and whatnot. Rather, it’s always been a mystery to me why companies that actually produce life sustaining things like automobiles, food, power, appliances, etc. get singled out for scorn while those who produce entertainment are given a pass.

      • Bay Area Sparky on November 11, 2012 at 08:23

        And again, there is PLENTY of scorn directed at professional athletes. The backlash towards the athletes in my lifetime (b 1961) has been roughly commensurate with their skyrocketing compensation.

        Of course their careers are short and many of them walk away from the game with lifelong chronic or acute medical conditions but that isn’t my point.

      • Bay Area Sparky on November 10, 2012 at 22:10

        We could go on and on about executive compensation with regards to how it’s increased historically (it’s skyrocketed since the 1960s) both in relative terms and otherwise (adjusting values, etc), how it compares to other countries (the United States is the highest), and how it compares to the compensation of its workers (the United States is highest).

        I could cite studies as I’m sure you could.

        We’ll leave that discussion for another time. Suffice it to say that I think they’re overpaid and you probably don’t.

        On a sub-issue, you compare business executives to professional athletes when objecting to my objection about executive compensation.

        Typically in American major professional sports where star players are highly compensated, the athletes come from lower socioeconomic classes. The only possible exception to this is baseball where a higher percentage of players come from the middle class and above than in other sports. So when speaking of a professional athlete what you have in the majority of cases is a person that comes from a poorer family who has overcome steep odds to perch tenuously for a relatively short time (compared to their lifespan) at the “top of their profession.”

        As for business executives at the top of their professions, how many of them were raised poor?

        In contrast, how many of them came from relatively well-to-do families who could afford to raise them in good homes in good neighborhoods and send them to good schools?

        If you were looking for people who are bootstrappers, Horatio Alger stories, and proof that America is a pure meritocracy, you’d be much better off looking at pro athletes than business executives.

        I won’t trade studies with you unless you insist but I would guess that the perpetuation of socioeconomic class difference is much more prevalent among this country’s educated rich than among its non-educated rich.

        My point?

        I think (in general) that pro athletes are more deserving of their compensation than are CEOs and CFOs of Fortune 500 companies.

        Most athletes were born in the on deck circle while most executives were born on 3rd base or 2nd base.

        One other note: I also don’t hear too much about the compensation of entertainers but in the circles in which I travel, I VERY OFTEN hear the complaints and resentment directed at “overpaid, spoiled athletes with a sense of entitlement.”

        I’m surprised that you don’t. I’ve met many people who either don’t follow pro sports or quit doing so for this very reason.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 11, 2012 at 08:10

        “We could go on and on about executive compensation with regards to how it’s increased historically (it’s skyrocketed since the 1960s) both in relative terms and otherwise (adjusting values, etc), how it compares to other countries (the United States is the highest), and how it compares to the compensation of its workers (the United States is highest).”

        Same goes for pro athletes, of course. Unitas used to get $6 per game in the 50s and by ’73 his salary was only $125k.

        At any rate, the picture is murky still. What has swelled for all is the multiplier between average pay and top executive compensation (roughly from 25:1 to now 300:1). However, here’s 2 things I never see mentioned. When you adjust for the size of the company, the picture changes substantially and total compensation is only about 150% of what it used to be.

        (see figure A4, page 66)

        But perhaps more curiously is how since 1980, executive compensation has tracked almost precisely the value of the S&P 500 (figure 6, page 77). I suspect that a sort of valuing of the industry (sports, music, film) and growth would go far to explain why such entertainers make far more now than they used to.

        “Suffice it to say that I think they’re overpaid and you probably don’t.”

        No, I think it’s absolutely none of my business what any private business chooses to pay its employees.

      • Bay Area Sparky on November 11, 2012 at 08:35

        Two things:

        Executive compensation has been a big issue for numerous years now. I suspect all the bad publicity (and maybe some of the public disclosure laws) have had a “stabilizing” effect on EC.

        As I told Joseph above I don’t wish that their compensation is regulated. However I am in favor of the transparency regulations that have been enacted in the last decade. It is nice that highly-paid officers in publicly traded corporations, or prime government contractors, or corporations who receive government money have to at least disclose what they make. It would have a tendency to keep things a bit more above board.

        It’s a bit more of a mystery why the compensation of professional athletes is fodder for public discussion but that’s alright too.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 11, 2012 at 09:18

        One problem in all these discussions is that there really needs to be distinctions drawn between “political entrepreneurs” and “market entrepreneurs.”

        Here’s a short article, a book review actually, that does a good job making the distinction.

      • Joseph on November 11, 2012 at 05:54

        You think executives are over-paid? Fine. The problem then becomes what to do about it. Do we call our congressman, get him to pass a bill, and send Fat Tony to collect the people’s check (which will pay mediocre salaries to an army of public bureaucrats pretending to help them instead of one giant salary to a CEO)? Do we pass laws impeding executive compensation when it doesn’t look the way we think it should (because we know precisely how to run every company in the country, being gods whose divine ability to decide matters of life and death for other people remains inexplicably under-appreciated)? What happens when companies die (naturally or after we “save” them)? Do we bail them out (or let them go the way of all flesh)?

        The minute we get involved “making business run right” we hit a wall: businesses die, all the time, for reasons that we do not understand (perhaps because we cannot: it may be beyond our capacity as human beings to know how to run a business that does not fail, just as it is beyond our capacity to make individual people live forever–or even live predictable lives). Some people respond to this wall by saying that we must put them in charge. “This decision is dangerous! Only an expert can be trusted to make it! All mere mortals out of the room!” People don’t suddenly become gods when they are elected democratically and appointed to regulate “evil” businesspeople (who are not necessarily ill-intentioned or selfish either, any more than the professional athletes: what they all are is human, i.e. fooled by randomness).

        We all makes bets with nature every day (“Maybe if I do this, the world will do that, and my life will improve! Maybe I can improve others’ life, too!”). I don’t know about you, but I don’t like “experts” butting in and forcing me to make bets I don’t like (even when they “know more” than I do: if you know something I don’t, your role is first to talk to me about it, not to seize permanent control of my life because you think I’m not qualified). I don’t like being forced to bail out GM, or MorganStanley, or any of those dumb companies (who cheated death by getting the government to cheat me). You want to make executive compensation fair? Start telling people what goes on. Start shining a light on the people making millions for dumb shit (while you’re at it, you can do the same for the entertainment industry: “So, America, you think babies in Ethiopia should starve so that this guy can throw a ball around and that girl can shake her booty on TV. Nice family values you have there. How very Judeo-Christian and/or humanly compassionate of you. Jesus and/or Gandhi would be proud.”) Let people know what they’re voting for every time they go to the store, reach into their purses, and pay for that shit they get. And then, let the businesses fail. When people notice what you tell them and stop buying shit they don’t support–or when nature intervenes outside anybody’s intentions–let the companies fail. No bailouts. No golden parachutes. No myth of eternal increase with harm to nobody.

        The business tycoons can’t rig nature in their favor. They’re not smart enough. The only reason our most recent crop don’t seem to learn anything from their mistakes is that we have these people (politicians) who have this racket (government) that won’t let them crash and burn the way they should. (Some of us would get taken to the cleaner’s when they went down, too, and maybe that would teach us a thing or two about business, as well. Maybe the austerity that is good for everybody is just as good for us. Maybe we need to learn how to get by without shit that nobody needs, i.e. the shit that dumb-ass politicians are currently forcing us to buy from their dumb-ass Wall Street buddies.) I don’t deny that I am a dumb-ass, myself. But I do resent being forced to support other dumb-asses as though they were any better than I am, as though they had more right to my life than I have. The “Left” is selling the same pile of hooey as the “Right” in this respect: they both come to me with this narrative in which they are the saviors, and all I have to do to save my sorry hide is vote for them. I may be a dumb-ass, but I am not that dumb. I see what they are all doing, and I resent being shitted on (whether the shit comes from an elephant or a donkey, it still stinks).

      • Bay Area Sparky on November 11, 2012 at 08:27

        Hey Joseph. You’ll notice I never mention a remedy because I don’t believe there should be one. Whatever the market shall bear (I’m not against free markets).

        I raised the issue executive compensation (actually the occasional overcompensation) as a way of pointing out that both sides can be damaging to our economic system and “work the system”, just in different ways.

      • Joseph on November 11, 2012 at 13:18

        To me it seems that things shake out so that (1) somebody is always paid too much (in the market), and that (2) trying to fix this “problem” just compounds it (wasting more time and energy and leaving people more vulnerable to sudden reverses of fortune than they were before, when somebody was getting ungodly rich). The market has a way of reversing itself such that what goes up has an unpredictable way of coming down. Trying to chain all of society to this evolution just makes us all vulnerable to crashes (and diminishes our power to place bets for ourselves, especially if we are too poor to do much anyway: the rich can afford taxes and place their own bets; I cannot afford much after taxes, and I don’t like the way government bureaucrats bet when they bet for me).

        So maybe I am fishing for red herrings here.

      • Joseph on November 11, 2012 at 13:28

        It does seem to me that there is a distinction between the person who happens to be rich (because people like him being CEO or throwing a ball or shaking a booty) and a person who tries to force other people to enrich his business (or government) against their will. The one may be annoying, someone whose values I don’t personally like, but the second is an insufferable jackass. I don’t have to shop at Wal-Mart if I don’t want to. I don’t have to have an account with GoldmanSachs–until some pretentious idiot comes along and decides that I can be commandeered and made to prop dead companies up because they are “too big to fail” (!). That kind of morality is insufferable, especially when the people who exert it are the same people who vote themselves exorbitant benefits packages (paid for by taxpayers!), tell me lies (all the time, on both sides of the aisle), and devalue the currency they force me to depend on with their stupid central bank.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 11, 2012 at 08:40

        Another aspect of “superstar” compensation I never hear mentioned is how paying to keep someone away from your competition can be part of the decision matrix in negotiating contracts.

  13. Jscott on November 10, 2012 at 19:38

    “What is bigger than I know?”

    I find that a good question to ask and chase. I chase it while living with what I know.

  14. Richard Nikoley on November 11, 2012 at 12:42

    “Vanderbilt was a classic market entrepreneur, and he was intrigued by the challenge of breaking the Fulton monopoly. On the mast of Gibbon’s ship Vanderbilt hoisted a flag that read: “New Jersey must be free.” For sixty days in 1817, Vanderbilt defied capture as he raced passengers cheaply from Elizabeth, New Jersey, to New York City. He became a popular figure on the Atlantic as he lowered the fares and eluded the law. Finally, in 1824, in the landmark case of Gibbons v. Ogden,the Supreme Court struck down the Fulton monopoly. Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that only the federal government, not the states, could regulate interstate commerce. This extremely popular decision opened the waters of America to complete competition. A jubilant Vanderbilt was greeted in New Brunswick, New Jersey, by cannon salutes fired by “citizens desirous of testifying in a public manner their good will.” Ecstatic New Yorkers immediately launched two steamboats named for John Marshall. On the Ohio River, steamboat traffic doubled in the first year after Gibbons v. Ogden and quadrupled after the second year.6 […]

    “With such an open environment for market entrepreneurs, Vanderbilt decided to quit his pleasant association with Gibbons, buy two steamboats, and go into business for himself. During the 1830s, Vanderbilt would establish trade routes all over the northeast. He offered fast and reliable service at low rates. He first tried the New York to Philadelphia route and forced the “standard” three-dollar fare down to one dollar. On the New Brunswick to New York City run, Vanderbilt charged six cents a trip and provided free meals. As Niles’ Register said, the “times must be hard indeed when a traveller who wishes to save money cannot afford to walk.”9

    “Moving to New York, Vanderbilt decided to compete against the Hudson River Steamboat Association, whose ten ships probably made it the largest steamboat line in America in 1830. It tried to informally fix prices to guarantee regular profits. Vanderbilt challenged it with two boats (which he called the “People’s Line”) and cut the standard New York to Albany fare from three dollars to one dollar, then to ten cents, and finally to nothing. He figured it cost him $200 per day to operate his boats; if he could fill them with 100 passengers, he could take them free if they would each eat and drink two dollars worth of food (Vanderbilt later helped to invent the potato chip).”

    Folsom, Burt (2010-07-01). The Myth of the Robber Barons

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