The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 9.6

September 30, 2006

"This debate is occurring because of the Supreme Court's
ruling that said that we must conduct ourselves under the
Common Article III of the Geneva Convention. And that
Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon
human dignity. It's very vague. What does that mean,
'outrages upon human dignity'? That's a statement that is
wide open to interpretation."
- George W. Bush, making the case for
the legal right to torture

"And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came
here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today."
- - Hugo Chavez at the U.N. referring to
George W. Bush

I really wish that I didn't feel the need to begin so many newsletters with a quote about or from my president. More specifically I wish that he wouldn't say and do things that reinforce the points that I have made about ideological aggression and the Fireaxe theory. This newsletter isn't a "blog" and I don't intend it to sound like the numerous daily or weekly anti-Bush rants that appear all across the internet. But watching the leader of the free world making a special plea for torture does seem like a good enough reason to discuss it in this newsletter.

The world, or at least large parts of it, appears to be becoming unhinged. Whether it's a seemingly endless succession of volunteers for suicide missions which blow up enemies and innocents alike to the president of the United States playing word games and lobbying to overturn some of our most sacred principles to the mind-numbing hypocrisy of a man who'd personally been tortured for five and a half years allowing my country's intelligence agents to do unto others what he had had done unto him, it seems that pragmatism has not only trumped virtue but stricken entire pages from holy books and constitutions alike.

There are many cases that can be made against torture. One is simply that it is a repulsive and barbaric tactic that is generally associated only with the most despicable people. Another is that you will inevitably end up torturing innocent people, especially if you are torturing people before they are properly convicted with evidence and testimony. Even with those legal safeguards innocent people end up getting punished and so without them you are guaranteed to be committing outrages against humanity when you allow "intense interrogation techniques". A third and very important case is that torture doesn't work quite as reliably as we'd like to believe. Anyone who has twisted their little brother's arm to get them to tell you what he did with your favorite toy knows that coercion works, and certainly some of our enemies will crack under torture and confess everything that they know, but the problems come from the fact that in many cases the people being tortured will either lie to you or tell you what they think you want to hear just to get you to stop. More troubling is the fact that some people who are interrogated experience some sort of mental breakdown and actually come to believe the stories that they tell whether they be the things that you've accused them of doing or things conjured by their own imaginations. It is this latter category that is the most dangerous as the person being interrogated will appear to be completely convincing, after all he completely believes what he is saying, and he may weave an intricate tale of espionage and deceit that can send investigators on the wildest of goose chases, pulling in more and more suspects to be interrogated as part of a vast but imaginary terrorist network. Studies of hypnosis have shown that a small portion of the general population is "highly suggestible", which means that they can be made to believe false memories told to them while under hypnosis. When the mind is broken down as it is during intensive interrogation you run the risk of innocent, suggestible people coming to believe that they are actually the criminals, terrorists, or whatever it is that they are suspected of being. There are many ways in which you can end up with large amounts of bad intelligence when you start torturing people and it is far more likely that the interrogators will come to believe what they want to believe rather than correctly identify what is truth and what is not. There is a strong historical precedent for these interrogation programs to expand and entrap innocents rather than to find only the guilty, and history shows that these programs seldom go away when they are no longer necessary. After all, there will always be something to fear, that is part of the nature of ideologies.

But perhaps the best argument against torture is that it is always a bad idea to give anyone in any form of government so much power over any individual. In most western post-enlightenment governments it is simply assumed that those in power are both fallible and corruptible. To prevent incompetent or corrupt individuals from running amok, a system of checks and balances has been put in place to prevent the abuse of power from extending too far once it begins. In essence this codifies into law the idea that no one can or should be trusted, especially with dictatorial-type powers. However, in denying those who get tortured by the United States from filing lawsuits and preventing any kind of oversight over secret prisons, our system of checks and balances has been significantly broken down and opened up to the most abhorrent of abuses.

But there is this persistent fantasy regarding the merits of going outside the law which was captured magnificently in the movie "Man on Fire". In the movie a former special agent was able to single- handedly take down an entire crime syndicate through the judicious use of torture and murder. Now, the movie was complete fiction although it was made to appear factual, leading many people to believe that we could do a whole lot of good if we could just untie the hands of our law enforcement professionals and let them kick ass KGB-style. Hollywood does produce some wonderful fantasies, but reality is closer to the case of John Karr who convincingly confessed to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, a crime that he did not commit. Reality is also closer to the case of Curveball, a former Iraqi chemical engineer whose tall tales of secret weapons programs convinced many in the U.S. that Iraq had WMDs. Keep in mind that neither of these men were tortured, probably, so you can image what kind of falsehoods people will say when their private parts are wired to electrical circuits.

Last year's Katrina debacle here in the United States revealed another area of progressive unhingement. As the situation worsened and reports of roving gangs of well armed black youths grew I was surprised to hear the governor of Louisiana threatening her own constituents with death as she called in the national guard. Her words were: "These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will." They did, with a number of innocent people getting gunned down by trigger happy policemen during the ordeal. In the absence of sufficient national guardsmen and police to pacify the city, "cracker squads" and private security firms were called in to disarm and forcibly remove stubborn residents from their homes. It's not clear just how bad the security situation in New Orleans really was, but the official reaction sent a message loud and clear to all Americans: in any emergency you can kiss your rights, and your humanity, goodbye. We can and will declare martial law, round you up at gunpoint if necessary, and herd you like cattle through checkpoints where you will be detained and processed until we are satisfied that you are no longer a threat. The powers that be will do this for our own safety of course, even though it may appear like a wonton power grab by irresponsible and incompetent officials. This type of zero-tolerance, authoritarian mentality has been popping up in many places across the U.S. and is facing a lot less opposition than it should be.

Unhinged is also a good way to described the Arab street, which appears ready and willing to hold angry and often violent street protests over cartoons, papal speeches, and allegations of Koran abuse. I completely agree with Muslims that the cartoons were in extremely bad taste, that the mistreatment of holy books for the purpose of torture is immoral, and that the Pope is just following in the stupendously hypocritical footsteps of his predecessors, but I feel that such powerful emotions are more effective at effecting change when they are channeled into something more focused and meaningful, such as music for instance, or a newsletter even.

Speaking of channeling one's emotions into artistic pursuits, the new Fireaxe CD, "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" is almost finished, albeit in rough form. The final epic track is being hammered out at this time and it promises to be a thunderbolt ending to a tumultuous tale. I'm not sure that I will hit my original release date of the beginning of this year but I doubt that I will run much past that time frame. In other news, Fireaxe is featured in a new book which could be described either as Rolling Stone meets the Necronomicon, or "New Tunes for the Old Ones".

A big ‘Hello’ to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time. This is the Fireaxe newsletter.

The Strange Sound of Cthulhu

Gary Hill, "the Mad Illini" of Music Street Journal, has recently produced an epic compilation of news, reviews, and interviews with a number of diverse musicians who have one thing in common, they've all written music inspired by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Although I haven't read the book, I have read through the entry for Fireaxe, and if all of the subjects are given such a fair and in-depth treatment as I was then Gary's book is definitely a must read for those interested in the odd combination of music and horror fiction. Cover art and an excerpt from the book's forward can be found here, as well as a way to spend your hard earned cash procuring a copy.

Also, Gary Hill can be reached from his website


Are all ideologies based on falsehoods? - Capitalism on the stand

In edition 8.6 of The Burning Blade I proposed that all ideologies are inherently based on falsehoods. My support for this proposal is that ideologies propagate themselves by imbuing their believers with a strong sense of entitlement which makes them highly motivated to add to the power of their ideology, often at the expense of their ideology's rivals. In that essay I reasoned that when ideologies clash it is generally the one whose members are the most motivated that prevails and that ideologies that can provide more powerful incentives to its believers will tend to be the ones which survive and thrive. Finally, I concluded that after several thousand years of conflict between ideologies, the need to escalate the incentives required to motivate believers to victory will inevitably lead to promises being made which cannot possibly be delivered. Thus, falsehoods at the core of an ideology are a survival advantage which give it the strength to conquer.

In that essay I did not delve deeply into any one ideology in particular to give a detailed analysis of the falsehoods at its core. I did discuss briefly the spiritual rewards systems inherent in religions as well as the inevitable hyperinflation of fiat currencies in economic systems. I also pointed out that "spiritual entitlement", while on the surface may seem to be in infinite supply, is necessarily linked to material things that serve as affirmations of one's faith. Eternal salvation in heaven is simply not strong enough to keep the faith of a fickle flock and thus proof of a god's righteousness is required in the material world. In other words, religious ideologies are just as covetous as political ones when it comes to the distribution of the Earth's finite resources.

With this in mind I will discuss the falsehoods at the core of capitalism. Now, the first question that springs to mind for this essay is "is capitalism an ideology?". Capitalism appears to be limited to the realm of economics and different political and religious ideologies have been able to embrace it as part of their systems. True, capitalism is not an ideology in and of itself, although some theorists have proposed that if everything in the world could be made into a commodity and brought into a market based system then the value of all things from goods to services to morality to personal relations would be determined efficiently by market forces. Although this form of capitalist ideology does not yet exist in the world it seems that the current direction in many countries seems to be moving towards this style of total market immersion. In the past I've referred to this as "The Commodification of All Things" and personally feel both fascinated and repulsed by the idea. But for my analysis capitalism does not need to be an ideology. Capitalism has been functionally fused with many ideologies, allowing them access to a system which lets the followers of those ideologies achieve the material gains that they require to serve as affirmations of their god's righteousness. So, for example, the Mormons can sell a product, such as the ability to save the souls of a convert's deceased family members, to their believers which in turn gives them the funding to build humongous, ornate churches which make believers feel awestruck and more devout when they visit them. Embracing the capitalist system empowers religious ideologies to grow and thrive, but it also exposes the ideology to the system's implicit falsehoods.

So what is capitalism and how is it based on falsehoods? Capitalism is an advanced economic system involving some form of currency, economic competition, the free market to establish prices, and most importantly the use of capital to invest in future profits. There are several competing theories concerning the details of capitalism as well as how it should function and it's not my aim to sort them all out here. Also, I cannot describe every part of our economic system in detail so I will focus only the fundamentals. My main concern is to describe how capitalism works in terms of the Fireaxe theory, although in the process I will no doubt end up pointing out flaws in various schools of thought.

The falsehoods of capitalism can be found in each of the previously described elements, the form of currency, economic competition, the free market, and investment. I will deal with each one in turn.

Currency isn't necessarily a falsehood, but fiat currencies are chronically prone to hyperinflation and thus do not deliver on their promise. In The Burning Blade 8.6 I described fiat currencies and so I will only go over them here briefly. Currency makes trade more efficient than a simple barter system since it adds a great degree of flexibility to the system. For instance if you were a car builder in a barter system and you wanted a lawn mower, you would either have to trade a car for a lawn mower straight up, which would be unfair, or get a bunch of lawn mowers in return, most of which you wouldn't need. Having currency as a medium of exchange makes trading quick and easy provided that you have a fair pricing system. Currency can either be something of value, like gold and silver, or can be created by fiat, like paper dollars and denoted as a unit of trade. To ensure stable prices, it's important that the quantity of currency remain roughly proportional to the size of the population. While this is generally the case for precious metals, the supply of a fiat currency can grow rapidly if the people in charge of printing it do so too aggressively. For instance, lets say you trade a car for paper dollars and then store that money in a bank deposit for a year where it gathers interest. During that year your government declares war on some other country and prints lots of paper dollars to pay for the things that it needs to wage it. The government then ends up buying lots of what people are selling and gives them paper dollars in return. So at the end of the year when you go to the bank to get your money and take it to the market you find out that all of the prices of the things you want to buy have gone up. This is because the supplies are now low and everyone has a lot of dollars to spend on those few available things. This is called inflation and it has ended up burning you because you can't buy nearly as much now as you could when you first earned your money despite the fact that you earned interest on it. In essence, your money is a falsehood since what you thought it was going to be worth is not what it ended up being worth. This is not the case if your currency is made of something that retains its value, such as gold or silver. With gold or silver currency the government cannot steal from you by running its printing press when it needs more money. However, if the government wants to go to war and doesn't have the funds to pay for it, it might just go ahead and take from you what it needs anyway. Of course, at that point it is private ownership that is the falsehood and not the currency.

Economic competition is essentially the application of natural selection to industrial production with the ideal results being that competing industries produce better products at lower costs which makes things better for the consumer. This is a truth of capitalism, at least when it works out that way, but it can become a falsehood for markets that are prone to monopolies or when competing industries collude to drive up prices. The most notable cases are markets for things which are necessities, such as food, energy, and transportation. Although people can often curtail their need for such necessities to a degree, they are forced to buy a certain amount of those necessities at whatever price the market offers, and it is this need which makes these markets prone to exploitation and manipulation. It is commonly recognized by almost everyone that most "free" markets require some degree of regulation to ensure that the heads of a few industries do not grow grossly rich at other's expense. The accumulation of wealth by a small sector of the population is anathema to an economy since it leaves little wealth for the rest of the people to attain by working hard. All economies work best if everyone is highly motivated to work, but extremes in the division of wealth destroy the workers' incentive. In the case where the few have most of the wealth, those few do not need to work and the many cannot get ahead much by working hard. The result is that everyone will end up working only as hard as necessary to get paid. In the case where wealth is always redistributed evenly, no one can get ahead through hard work and everyone will end up working only as hard as required. Of course, non-material rewards can compensate for a lack of material rewards, but only for a while since non-material rewards must be matched by real world gains in order to maintain psychological reinforcement of those non-material things. The upshot of the problem of economic competition is that capitalist systems must be regulated, but not over-regulated, to ensure that market manipulation does not occur and that wealth is distributed fairly. This truth has lead to a never-ending struggle between the barons of industry and government appointed regulators, but while competition and internal strife can have a negative effect on over- worked or victimized participants, it has a positive effect on the ideology. The fear of losing market share or slipping through the cracks of a capitalist system motivates one to work hard and thus one ends up materially supporting the ideology. Capitalism, especially cutthroat capitalism, motivates with both the carrot and the stick.

The idea that free markets automatically self-regulate and produce optimal outcomes is true in many instances but false in others. The seemingly magical effect of the free market to set prices through supply and demand has been called the "invisible hand" and works in a simple, common sense manner. In general, when a product is in great demand, it becomes harder to produce enough of it to satisfy all of the buyers. In this case the price of the product will rise due to increases in the cost of producing so many goods. As the price goes up, demand tapers off since the product becomes unaffordable to many prospective buyers. The end result is a higher price set not by the manufacturer but by supply and demand. The reverse is also true, that when demand drops, meeting the production goals is much easier and prices fall. When prices fall, demand will increase since the product becomes a better deal. Once again, market forces act to set stable, logical prices for commodities.

However, there are a number of problems with the invisible hand effect and one of them is that the efficiency of mass production tends to make a certain level of production more favorable than those above or below it. For instance, music CDs become a lot cheaper to make once you get above a target of about 300 units due to the different production methods used at different volumes. In these cases a product may only be profitable at or above a certain price level. Another problem is that large business with stockpiled cash will often slash their prices, sometimes below cost since they can absorb the loss, in order to drive their smaller competitors out of the market. Similar dirty tricks include large businesses being able to lobby the government for big contracts and regulation that slants the playing field in their favor.

Another problem with the invisible hand is the major change in products themselves in the late 20th century. There are a number of industries in the world today which do not produce a physical product at all, namely the software industry, and thus almost any production level can be met quite easily. In fact, since the cost of labor, which is roughly fixed for software, is almost the whole of the cost of production, the price per unit to attain the same amount of profit is actually inversely proportional to the amount sold. This is the exact opposite of the law of the invisible hand and explains both how software growth can be explosive and how monopolization can be a major problem for the industry. However, explosive growth potential has proved to be its own best competition since challengers to the biggest software companies can often arise overnight. This is true for all industries which can easily accommodate mass production such as music, movies, books, and art. All of these markets have created problems for regulators, and have also created problems for the producers as well due to the fact that in many cases the consumer can become a producer quite easily. Most notably in the case of file swapping over the internet, the consumer is capable of reproducing and selling someone else's products at a much lower cost than can the original producer. These problems of the modern age seem to be popping up faster than they can be solved.

The biggest falsehood concerning self-regulating free markets is that when they are subject to excessive speculation they can tend towards bubbles and crashes which can occasionally send the entire economic system into a recession or depression. In these cases the invisible hand works against the principles that let the market self- regulate. When a number of people think that a commodity which is generally considered to be an investment, such as collectibles, stocks, or houses, is undervalued they will enter the market and start buying up the low-priced commodities. As per the rule of the invisible hand, the prices rise, but the effect of rising prices only makes the commodity more desirable. Investments are different than consumable goods since they are bought with the intention that they will be sold at a later date for a profit. Thus, more people will enter the rising market and invest in something that appears very likely to be quite a bit more valuable in the future. This, in turn, drives prices even higher and a self-reinforcing cycle can develop, driving prices ever upward until one of a number of things happen, such as "investor fatigue", or a shortage of buyers, and the trend comes to a halt. This self-reinforcing trend is referred to as a bubble since it will eventually go into full reverse, sucking all of the air out of the market as prices begin to fall. Falling prices scare away new investors and encourage the current investors to sell while the market is still high. This results in an oversupply and prices fall even farther since no one wants to buy into an investment that is losing money. As prices fall even farther, many investors see their potential profit turning into a loss and become desperate enough to sell at whatever price they can get. The vicious cycle continues until prices reach a more stable level, which is usually not far from where the prices were before the whole bubble episode began. Now, if the all of the money invested in the bubble market is real or fully backed by collateral, the crash is only damaging to the "losers", that is, those that bought in at a high price and sold at a low price. But if a lot of the investments were bought on credit without sufficient collateral to cover the losses then the economic damage is not so limited and can affect everyone in the entire economic system. Banks can fail and a recession or depression can occur due to a lack of reasonably priced credit and the uneven distribution of wealth during the episode. Thus, in the case of market crashes, the falsehood is the promise of a stable, reliable market pricing mechanism which can often lead to bubbles, crashes, the loss of one's savings, and prolonged periods of economic malaise.

The last falsehood of capitalism involves the mechanism of investment. The stock market is one form of investment and contrary to popular perception it isn't just about sheer speculation. While this may come as news to the young investor, the concept of the stock market is to distribute investment capital to industries which promise to improve everyone's way of life. Industries, both new and old, can sell a small part of their company to anyone who wants it. In return the company gives back a return on that initial investment every year. This is called a dividend for all of those people out there who did not start investing until after 1995, and dividends on average used to pay back better than money invested in the bank. After all, there is risk involved in giving your money to a company that might collapse and so the return has to be higher than that of safer investments. There are other ways to invest your money, such as collectibles, real estate, and private business ventures. All of these compete for the investment dollar and thus, for people who save money and want a return on their investment, there is a market for their money. Investment is the driving force behind capitalism since it enables the redistribution of capital away from unsuccessful businesses and industries and towards bold and innovative ones. This is often called "creative destruction" and it enables the economic system to change and evolve more rapidly than those without investment markets. Instead of the rich hoarding their wealth, they can invest it in things which stimulate economic activity and receive a return on their investment in exchange for the associated risk. Everybody wins.

The basic concept of investment is really no different than any kind of loan: you assume risk in exchange for a return. This all works with the implicit belief that in the future there will be more wealth than in the present, that the effect of the investment will be to add to the supply of capital in the system and thus supplies the return on that investment. For instance, say you take out a loan at five percent interest and buy a hundred pigs. You do some breeding and the following year you have one hundred and ten pigs. You sell five pigs and give that money to the bank and sell five more and keep that money for yourself. This is successful capitalism. You have added value to the system and both you and the bank get rewarded. Of course there is risk, but unless an investor is unwise he understands that he could lose all of his money, so the risk part is not a falsehood. The falsehood of investment comes when expectations of future returns far exceed that which reality can deliver, which can happen when either the interest rates being charged are too high, or the rules on how much credit can be created allow for too much debt. In the example above, if the interest rate was ten percent or less, you could still pay off the interest because when your pigs breed you always end up with ten percent more pigs than when you started. However, if the interest rate is higher than ten percent it is impossible for you to support your business and it either fails or you decide not to start it in the first place.

The other part of the falsehood comes when too much credit is created. Banks operate by loaning out money that other people have deposited with them. By law the banks are only allowed to loan out a percentage of this money, but it means that most of a saver's deposit is not stored in the bank's vault, instead it has been lent out to others. This is why there can be a run on a bank, if everyone withdraws all their savings at the same time the bank will run out of money, making the people very upset. In the U.S., the FDIC protects against this from happening, enabling the deposited money to do two things at once: accumulate interest for the saver; and provide capital for the borrower. If all goes well the bank gets more from the borrower than it gives to the saver and everyone is happy. But this isn't the whole story, because when the borrower buys something with his loan, that money goes to someone else who, let's say, deposits it with the same bank. Now the bank can loan a certain percentage of that deposit once more, and so on and so on. This allows the same money to do many things at once, which makes the wheels of production turn ever faster. Since there is so much co-dependence between savers and borrowers the system is prone to collapse if some calamity occurs and a number of the borrowers are wiped out, but as long as risk is managed correctly there is no problem with doing things this way.

The trouble begins when risk is not managed properly and credit is given out without sufficient collateral. One example of this is when the owner of a store lets a customer run up a tab. The customer doesn't have to go to a bank to get actual money to pay the store owner, he just is assumed to be "good for it" and will pay his tab at a later date. If he isn't good for it, then the store owner is out of luck. However, the borrower could supply something as collateral for the store owner to keep if he doesn't pay his tab, with the required value of the collateral being up to the store owner to decide. Once again risk is assumed, especially if the value of the collateral isn't equivalent to the amount of the tab, but if the borrower is reliable then everything works out fine.

The arrangement of giving someone collateral which is less than the amount being borrowed is called leveraging, referring to the concept of a lever that lets you lift a heavy load with only a light effort. Depending on the lender you can get a lot for very little as long as you promise that everyone will get paid in the end. It is obvious to see the added risk in this sort of arrangement, especially if the amounts are large or if someone tries to leverage his collateral several times. For instance, say that a person goes to a shop and purchases a collection of baseball cards using a valuable, but less expensive baseball signed by Babe Ruth as collateral, he then uses those cards as collateral at a jewelry shop to get a bag of diamonds, he then uses the diamonds as collateral for a stock purchase and finally he leverages that investment to buy a massive amount of oil futures. Now, if he was able to get ten times the amount of his collateral for each of his loans he now has ten thousand times the value of his original baseball invested in oil. What this means is that even if oil goes up only one percent, when he cashes out his contract he has made one hundred times the price of his autographed ball. Through leveraging he has increased his profit from one percent, which he would have gotten if he'd just sold his ball and invested that money in oil, to ten thousand percent. What a deal! But what if the price goes down? In that case the borrower is out far more money that he can pay, but he can always declare bankruptcy and lose only his prized souvenir. What's more is that even if the price goes down he is not necessarily out of the game. If he had more collateral to offer and more people willing to give him leveraged loans, he could leverage his new collateral into another highly profitable investment scheme that could both offset his original loss and possibly give him a profit in return. Furthermore, if he was unlucky, as long as he can keep getting collateral and leveraging it high enough he can continue to play the game, in essence going "double or nothing" until he wins. Keep in mind that everyone who has given the investor a leveraged loan wants him to win since they have a major stake in the game. If the investor loses, everyone takes a loss, and no one wants that.

Now, I've just been using simple examples to explain things, but borrowing and leveraging are the life's blood of our modern economy, so much so that the amount of leveraging going on in today's markets is truly massive, and frightening. However, the risks do not appear to be so dangerous since many trades are underwritten by firms which protect investors from catastrophe. What they do is estimate the risk of their client's investment and charge the him a certain amount up front for the trade. Then, if the trade goes well, the investor makes money, and if the trade goes south, the underwriter covers the loss and the investor doesn't lose a cent. It's basically insurance for investors but as long as the markets keep going up, there are no losers. And even the possibility of a stock crashing doesn't mean that everyone involved will lose. In today's investment world you can not only buy a stock and sell it later, you can also sell that stock today with the understanding that you will buy and deliver those shares in the future. In essence this is like betting that a stock will go down in price. You sell high, even though you don't own the stock yet, and then you buy low later. This arrangement means that you get burned if the price of your stock keeps going up. With the ability to bet on a stock, or bond, or a commodity, or practically anything going in either direction, and with the risks being handled by underwriters, investing seems to be a can't lose scenario. Furthermore, with enough people willing to let you leverage money to multiples of its original value it might appear that "investing", if we can still call it that, is a risk-free way to great wealth. Well, it certainly can be, and over the last fifteen or so years there have been far more winners than losers. This is because the investment market is prone to speculative bubbles just like any other market, and when people start winning and more people start investing and the current players invest even more money, the value in the markets just keeps going higher. Don't sweat the losses because if you lose today you can just bet more tomorrow and make up for it. Wall Street has truly become a gambler's paradise.

None of this activity requires a fiat currency since so much of it is based on collateral, but as traders collect commissions on their trades and investors decide to cash out some of their returns you can run into a problem similar to a run on a bank. There isn't enough real money in the system to pay those who want out since the system is built on using leveraged assets as collateral. Thus, without someone printing money to hand out to the winners, the investment bubble can only inflate so far. In the present case we can thank the Federal Reserve and other central banks for contributing to the investment bubble. Also, since the investment market is like any other market, it requires a steady supply of collateral to fuel the leveraging process for each mega-investment. This collateral is provided from bubbles in other markets, such as the stock market bubble in the late 90's and the housing bubble today. As long as people are taking out loans to buy houses, refinancing their loans and getting cash back, or cashing out equity on existing houses there is plenty of collateral, in the form of interest bearing debt, to keep the investment bubble growing. So how bad is it and how big of a crash are we looking at when things finally go south? I've heard that the total notional amount, which is the amount that people will be on the hook for if all the markets crash to absolute zero at the same time, is somewhere close to three hundred trillion dollars. Of course, the markets will never get that low, but if they were to drop by only a third of the current amount, a crash by any measure, then we're talking about debt burden equaling twice the GDP of the entire world appearing overnight. So how bad would that be if it were to happen? Opinions vary, but they range anywhere from a sharp global recession to "Gee, I wish that I could move to another planet until this all blows over". Remember that the last global depression was in 1929 and two-decade aftermath was devastating.

The crux of the matter is that through all of the loans and the leveraging, we are collectively borrowing into a future that is completely unattainable. Debt is everywhere and present in quantities which are insurmountable without extreme measures being required to pay them back, but we compensate for this by borrowing farther and farther into an imagined future of limitless wealth. Investors are getting, and now expecting, historically unprecedented returns on their investments, which is the biggest weakness of the capitalist system. According to the Fireaxe theory, humans are ideologically instilled with a permanent sense of inadequacy which makes them desire more in an attempt to be satisfied. Applied to capitalism this means that people will need higher and higher returns on their investments regardless of what can be reasonably expected. Put simply, in a capitalist system, the permanent psychological deficit will generally manifest as uncontrolled greed. Humans will naturally gravitate, intentionally or otherwise, towards actions which produce bubbles since those situations generate the highest returns. Investors will find ways around existing regulations to do just that and exploit those bubbles until the inevitable crash results. The biggest problem with bubbles is that once they grow so big that everyone agrees that they are a problem, there is no way to stop the crash from occurring. We've already spent the money and now it's time to pay the bill.

To review, the falsehoods of the capitalist system are the currency itself, if a fiat currency is being used, since it is backed by nothing and prone to inflation, that economic competition naturally leads towards uncompetitive practices such as monopolies and collusion since they maximize profit, that free markets naturally tend towards destructive bubbles and crashes since they do not self-correct until it is too late, and that investment, while being successful in transforming greed into productive efficiency, will inevitably lead to the breakdown of all regulations designed to keep the system stable working well for all participants.

On the surface it appears that the answer is to impose total regulation on the entire system, preventing all of the things that I point out as falsehoods from occurring. It can certainly be argued that in theory the capitalist system will work fine as long as a number of potential problems are prevented, but the same is true for every ideology, that if everyone followed the rules it would work perfectly, and yet believers still sin and citizens still break the laws and everyone imagines that they can be legitimate exceptions to the rules. History shows that regulation can never be total and complete. But a falsehood is not simply a flaw in the system, or the idea that humans are imperfect, a falsehood is a promise that cannot be delivered upon. For capitalism the falsehood is that greed has been transformed from a vice into a virtue and thus by rewarding and encouraging it everyone will benefit. For a time this is true, reinforcing the belief that all is well and allowing ideologies which embrace capitalism to survive and thrive, but just as markets grow into unsustainable bubbles, faith in the system leads to instability and disaster as vigilance is slowly but surely put to sleep.

"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad
in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."
- Charles Mackay

The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - well established theories

  • 1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the interactions of simple things
  • 2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete, with the "losers" becoming extinct
  • 3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function according to the rules of conditioning
  • 4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases, which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

II. Extensions

  • 1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
  • 2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
  • 3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological interactions of conscious humans
  • 4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much the same way that organisms do
  • 5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

III. Contentions regarding consciousness

  • 1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
  • 2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
  • 3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an ideology's survival
  • 4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
  • 5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person is motivated - generally to serve their ideology

IV. Contentions regarding ideological struggle

  • 1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including, but not limited to, war and enslavement
  • 2. That aggression is a survival advantage
  • 3. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive, thus creating a vicious circle
  • 4. That aggressive ideologies must continue to grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members will feed on each other to satisfy their needs
  • 5. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

V. Contentions regarding the future

  • 1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply that continuous growth is not sustainable
  • 2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
  • 3. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of a suicidal ideology which will attempt to save the human race by destroying it

How to order Fireaxe CDs

Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which contains the following:

  • 1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
  • 2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
  • 3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

Here is a price list. The first number is the cost for U.S. based customers, the second is for outside the U.S. The prices include shipping and handling.

Food for the Gods: $12 / $14
Victory or Death: $5 / $7
Lovecraftian Nightmares: $5 / $7 (SOLD OUT)
A Dream of Death: $3 / $5 (booklet out of print)

Send everything to:

Brian Voth
1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
Chula Vista, CA, 91911 USA

If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in exchange for the review. In this case all I need is a request by e-mail. Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is done. If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.

The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a letter about the project, and some information about the CD which can also be found on the Fireaxe site.

Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project. The tiff disk is free so just say the word.

The Future

For the rest of this year and part of the next I will be recording the next Fireaxe CD entitled "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess". I'd like to have it complete by the end of 2006. The new CD will dig deep into the dark crevices of our society and our minds, pull forth the myths that we cling to and hold dear, and expose them all for what they are. While “A Dream of Death” explored the madness of dreams, and “Food for the Gods” described the chaos wrought upon the earth by ideologies, “Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess” will depict the psychological enslavement of the individual in modern times. It will be the darkest Fireaxe work ever.

My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary. Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel. Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace. This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place. I write music because it is a way to express my emotions. What I both think and feel goes into the songs. That is the power, Fireaxe is the channel, and any diversion diminishes the emotive effect. Thus I try to avoid such diversions. That is how art should be.

Rights to duplicate Fireaxe materials

Currently Fireaxe is not for profit. I sell the CDs for $5 each which covers the production and mailing costs. For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge $7 per disk to cover the additional mailing cost. If you write reviews or put samples on your website I'll give you a CD for free. Since I am not making any money with the current recordings, you are free to make duplicates of them to distribute as long as you obey the following guidelines:

  • 1. You can only sell the duplications for the price of the medium or less, plus any delivery cost. You are not allowed to make any profit with the music.
  • 2. You should tell me how many copies you gave out and who got them so I can keep track. Also, if they have an e-mail address I'd like that as well so I can add them to the mailing list.
  • 3. You are likewise free to adorn any webpages or duplications with the gifs and jpgs on my website as long as you include an obvious link back to my website. This includes putting Fireaxe song samples on your site as well.
  • 4. You are free to play any Fireaxe songs (in unaltered form) provided you are an unsigned band without a marketting tie-in. You are not allowed to record those songs onto anything that you will sell.
  • 5. You are food for the gods.
  • 6. You are required to crank the song "Hounds of Tindalos" as loud as you can as often as you can. It's your only defense against THEM. Be warned, they come through angles. Note that the CD is round. Are your speaker cabinets square?
  • 7. Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hastur the Unspeakable, and all other mythos creatures are purely the inventions of Lovecraft and other fiction authors. None of it is real, at least that's what I'm going to say in court if you try to sue me for destruction of your property, house, city, or soul as a result of listening to the "Lovecraftian Nightmares" CD too much.
  • 8. You are free to play "The Rack" in school or church or any other institution bent on crushing your will and turning you into a mindless zombie slave of the corporate dominated world. Try not to develop a bad attitude about it.
  • 9. You are not free to commit suicide while listening to any Fireaxe song. I'm sorry, I'll have to prosecute. On a serious note, if you are thinking about doing it, please e-mail or call me if you have no one else to talk to. When I was in my teens the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd used to really get to me. Just hearing songs like "Comfortably Numb", and "Hey You" would get me pretty depressed and mildly suicidal. I'm just trying to say that I've been there. If my music is having that effect on you, please get in touch. You aren't alone.

The gist of it is that you can do just about anything with the music as long as you don't profit from it and that I get some sort of credit for having written it. I'm open to any methods of distributing my music, such as compilation tapes or CDs, radio play, or recording label distribution. However, you will need my direct permission to do so or some kind of legal agreement.
Brian Voth - Creator of Fireaxe

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