If Guilt Is The Best You Have To Offer A Customer, You Probably Don’t Have That Much To Offer A Customer

December 6, 2017

Allan Stevo

“This item first appeared at Mises Institute on December 4, 2017.”

When I walk into Walmart I know I will be able to get a wide selection of products, I will be able to get them cheap, and I will be able to get them with very little customer support or hassle. When I want that, it feels great.. Fast, simple, cheap.

There is no guilt campaign from Walmart. There is no appeal to me about how bad of a person I am if I don’t shop at Walmart. There are no protestors outside my houses or outside other stores convincing me it is bad to shop anywhere but Walmart. When I step foot in a Walmart, I go there because that is exactly what I want. I go there because they are better than anyone else at providing for me as a consumer in the ways that Walmart is so proficient in providing for me.

When I shop at Amazon.com, I get a wide selection of goods, at a cheap price with both the ease and occasional difficulty that comes with shopping online. They do that better than anyone else. When I want that, it feels great to turn to Amazon and get that, and to get it exactly as I expected, and to, often enough, be surprised by an experience that is even better than what I expected..

There is no guilt campaign from Amazon, there are no protestors outside my houses convincing me it is bad to shop anywhere but Amazon. There are no online ads pointing out how immoral it is of me to shop anywhere that isn’t Amazon. I use Amazon because Amazon is exactly what I want at that moment.

This is in sharp contrast with the average “mom and pop” shops.

When I step foot into a local shop, all too often, I find nothing remotely of value to me. It is an unpleasant experience with an unhelpful, or sometimes even rude and unknowledgeable salesperson.

I don’t feel like I’m contributing to my community by shopping in such places. To the contrary, I hope most low value shops like that go out of business. The sooner they go out of business the better. By even being in existence they take up valuable real estate that can be used by others seeking to innovate the local space, to provide a better consumer experience, and to develop a better use for that local space.

Not only do I not feel guilty for not patronizing these mediocre local businesses, it makes me sad that they even exist. They are partially propped up by the guilt movement that encourages consumers to disregard all other benefits in favor of having the opportunity to shop locally, a movement I find misguided at best, more often ill-informed, and often enough willfully ignorant and therefore blatantly deceitful. The moral thing is to help bad local businesses go under by not patronizing them, and therefore helping to clean out that detritus that takes up valuable local brick and mortar space.

Confusing charity with shopping, confusing philanthropic activity with consumer activity benefits no one but the mediocre shop owner.

Shopping locally generally offers me only one added value – immediacy. I like shopping locally because it is nice to have an item that I want in my hand before I buy it so that I can look it over. It feels nice to have it in my hand ten minutes after I decide that I want it. Soon that will barely be an added value. With Amazon’s same day delivery, it is already barely more immediate to shop for most things locally. If one can restrain oneself for an hour or two and not have truly immediate gratification, then Amazon, all things considered provides a far more valuable shopping experience to me than a local mom and pop on virtually all products. Also, while a minor added value, it is visually appealing to have an active business district. I am sure I can rather quickly adapt to a business district concept that looks different than what I am used to.

When I happen to sit down at a friend’s or relative’s home where the television is on, especially at this holiday time of year, I hear public service announcements about how important it is to shop locally. I sometimes hear as many as one or two segments on each news broadcast that interject how important it is to shop locally.

This is practically mindless – this “shop locally” pronouncement. Guilt about not shopping locally and feeling good about the idea of shopping locally is practically the only value proposition offered by local stores. Instead the pronouncement should be “shop at good shops,” or “shop at shops that give you what you want and how you want it.”

In some places – and the places are thankfully becoming more common – walking into a local store truly is brilliant. The reason some locales have such high quality stores, is precisely because some people were so unwilling to shop locally.

Because competition has upped the level of difficulty required to run a store, and driven so many bad stores out of business, we are left with increasingly better stores that are increasingly customer focused. For a consumer, that is a great shift in local businesses. Businesses that don’t provide more local value than the guilt of “shop local” are becoming less common.

This is sadly not happening as quickly as it could. People stuck in an ideology, as thoughtless as any other ideology, profess that “buy local” is some sort of unchallengeable axiom, a fundamental, impossible to further elucidate truth that all people must profess and live by or otherwise are subject to moral condemnation.

Even in places like the bougie neighborhoods of Brooklyn that ideological attitude proliferates, along with its accompanying misguided moralism, rather than a constant pursuit of higher quality and higher customer satisfaction that pervades the free market and has led to so much development in quality of life over the past several hundred years of the industrial revolution.

In bougie neighborhoods of Brooklyn, how often I find myself noticing that every little boutique has 80% of the same crap as every other little boutique and with a 100% markup of what I could buy it for online, direct from the manufacturer, with free two day shipping. There is no value added in such a situation. It’s annoying to be a consumer in the midst of such mindlessness.. It’s annoying to see so many intelligent people willingly turn over their thought process to an ideology, even if it is something so seemingly insignificant as “buy local.”

While it may seem insignificant, since I care so much about where I live, it can be quite the impactful ideology to be surrounded by and with detrimental results.

I’d prefer that society start saying “stop shopping locally.” The competition is good for local stores – they have to be the best possible thing, the most desired thing to even survive in such an environment. I hate shopping locally most of the time, because most of the time shopping locally is a low value experience at a higher cost and less convenient.

When they are what I am looking for, I really like Amazon and big box stores like Walmart, and I resent that city governments across the US refuse to allow big box stores to exist within their city limits, making them all the harder to get to. That, in itself, is another “tax” on life in some big cities in America – you don’t get the savings of big box stores because you can’t shop at them and you don’t get the competitive environment they create among all businesses by you being able to shop at them when you desire.

Walmart has made the world a better place for consumers, as has Amazon. My money is better used by their existence in the world, my time is better used, and I’m more of a valued customer because of their existence in the world. Because I have more money, I can do more of what I most care about with my money.

The Walmart and the Amazons of the world came into the bush leagues and upped the competition to major league level. Of this, I am entirely grateful, and though I really like these companies and companies like them, I also look forward to the next generation of companies that squeeze the Walmarts and the Amazons of the world and perhaps even put them out of business. Of course the established entities in a place had the new destabilizing competition.. It’s great for the consumer.

I will feel no guilt at such a moment. Guilt does not bring me value as a consumer and it is of limited value to me as a person. I will focus on feeling good about the benefits of what life offers.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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I Would Never Have Heard Of Marian Kotleba

Shouting Irrelevancy Loudly

November 20, 2017

Allan Stevo

“This item first appeared at 52 Weeks in Slovakia on November 19, 2017.”

I don’t usually care for people who hold political office. They miss how irrelevant political life is in the world. For one to overlook such an obvious detail leaves me to generally see those in political office as dim and behind-the-times.

America politics can be so high profile, yet I barely care who the US Senators or the US Presidents are, unless it’s for the occasional chance to deride the dimmest in the lot.

Even more so, whoever holds the governorship of the region around the Slovak city Banska Bystrica, a small position in an off-the-beaten-path place is so incredibly irrelevant to me.

Yet over and over again, for years now, I have heard about Marian Kotleba more than any Slovak politician from friends and business associates of mine. The insistence to talk about him and to take a stance on him is annoying. There is little of value to be had from discussing a Slovak politician.

“But his election was a true shock,” I am told. “Don’t you see how telling this is of Slovakia’s (insert unpleasant concept here). “No one expected him to win.” I’ve heard that plenty. “The pollsters didn’t even predict it, there must be fraud.” It’s called the “Shy Tory Effect” in British politics – no one publicly talks about how conservative they really are, least of all to pollsters, so polls always seem to have a left leaning bias, claims the British journal Nature. That’s one great reason public polls are not credible. There are 51 other reasons I’ve identified and written about on why public polls should never be trusted.

The self-appointed intellectual elite in Slovakia who take instruction and permission from the West rely too heavily on polling data, because Nate Silver or any other host of fools has insisted that all human behavior can be scientifically predicted with a high level of accuracy. Trusting a publicly released poll is a pretty good indication that you don’t know what you are talking about. Talking about polling is probably even an indication. Obsessing over politics is another indication.

I would never have heard of Marian Kotleba before, expect for the fact that the people who claim to “stand for everything that he is against” or “to be against his extremism,” are the very people who have told me about him time and again.

These are the people who believe in polls and who think politicians still need to matter. They are the people who I fear, rather than coming up with their own thoughts, spend too much time listening to self-appointed intellectuals who take instruction and permission from the West.

How do I even know Marian Kotleba exists? Because his self described opponents obsess over him and talk about him so much to me. So much. Though I’ve never heard the man speak, nor read a word that he’s written, if he stands for some of the things that they are opposed to, and if he opposes some of the things that they love, he might not be all bad. He might even be well worth my time to dig a little further into.

This speaks to the lack of contact with reality of some of his most vocal opponents. They seem to have a lot of feelings and little data to rely on as they interact with the outside world. They may “feel” like telling everyone they know how horrible Kotleba is. They may “feel” like venting to everyone who comes near about Kotleba. They may “feel” that no one could possibly like Kotleba. Feelings are not enough to put one in touch with reality. Quite the opposite, they often help one craft a dreamy world divorced from reality. This is a perfect example of that.

I would never have heard about Marian Kotleba, except the people who claim to oppose him are his most effective, least expensive, and biggest marketers.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Photo credit: Sputnik News

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Is Slovakia Ready For Freedom Of Speech ?

Free Speech

November 19, 2017

Allan Stevo

“This item first appeared at 52 Weeks in Slovakia on November 18, 2017.”

Slovakia is a brilliantly free country. Anyone can get away with saying anything they want in private. Political correctness is largely laughed at and has not penetrated the home. Throughout the West political correctness (a movement meant to limit the scope of public debate and thought) has penetrated the home (a place of private discussion and thought).

The American dinner table fought back against this social movement over the last two years with their support of a political candidate who was not so certain to perform any differently than the others in broken D.C., but who spoke so very openly and differently from the candidates who had spent so much time in politically correct D.C. He said the things that you might hear around the dinner table and that no one had dared say for years in public. Trump represented a social movement away from the repressive movement known as political correctness and back toward the American free thought and free expression experiment known as freedom of speech.

The self-appointed intellectual elite denounced him and their fellow countrymen for some twenty months. This only seemed to bolster his success. The self-appointed intellectual elite, after all, were so central to the whole problem. They had told Americans for years how to speak and scolded those who didn’t follow the rules. Americans had grown a little sick of it. The 2015 rise of Donald Trump and his 2016 electoral victories was certainly political, but it was far more importantly social. Americans had had enough of the self-appointed intellectual elite and their insistent browbeating about the latest thought crimes. They were ready to unleash a freer way of being, communicating, and thinking that did feel like a great part of America, that cherished value of free expression.

Slovakia two years earlier saw the election of a non status quo thinker. All the self-appointed intellectual elite were horrified, especially the self-appointed intellectual elite who looked to the West for instruction and permission on how to behave. Instead of recognizing it as an important social statement from the heart of Slovakia, it was seen as a threatening political coup. One must be very insecure in oneself and ones worldview and very power hungry to have such a reaction. After all, it was for a tiny local office. Great strides were taken and significant foreign money and influence was used to help keep this man out of office, to end the political coup. That does little to address the far more important social trends at hand in Slovakia, where a significant portion of the population are not wowed by the self-appointed intellectual elite who take instruction and permission from the West.

Marian Kotleba, a man I would perhaps dislike if I spent much time listening to him, has every right to say anything that’s on his mind to anyone he so desires. It doesn’t matter what I think of him. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of him. His existence on this planet as a human being provides him with the freedom of speech to say anything on his mind.

Slovakia, deep in its social structure, has a brave sense of free speech within the home. Sit at any Slovak dinner table and you will learn that. You will have statements said to you in quiet confidence in private settings that have for years been deemed too uncomfortable to consider in the West. I’m not just talking politics either. From health and nutrition to wellness to interpersonal relationships to how to raise livestock to economic issues, Slovakia is a wellspring of free thought and it’s dinner tables and homes are where that thought flows most freely. Years from now, if political correctness ever takes hold in political life, Slovaks may see it take hold in private life as well, just as the West has long ago seen it take hold. That is a long way away. Slovakia truly is a place of very free thought.

Today, Slovaks are confronted with a political option. It is the further encroachment of political correctness into private lives by encroaching on political speech in public life. To truly respect freedom of speech, the law should be that if Marian Kotleba is speaking, or anyone else, then the government may not act in any way to silence them.. That is not the role of the government and to even discuss such a topic is not in the purview of government. Such a discussion – a discussion on how to limit free speech in Slovakia – should not even happen on the floor of the Slovak Parliament or in government buildings. It’s none of their concern. If there are to be any limits to speech it should be limits on government and not on individuals. Government is the great enemy of freedom. The last 100 years of totalitarian regimes has so effectively demonstrated how cruel an enemy of freedom governments can be.

Marian Kotleba, by simply speaking, and by simply saying things that make others uncomfortable, acts to expand the the role of free speech in Slovakia, acts to expand the freedoms. Based on the reactions I hear from him, he expands the concept of free expression far better than any contemporary artist, writer, activist, or politico. He is a living, breathing expander of free expression seemingly without even trying. There’s great beauty in that. I know so little about him. I see a great deal of the very positive impact he has by uncomfortably expanding free expression as uptight people listen to him horrified.

And yes, Slovaks will say “Oh you know -it-all American, you don’t know how important it is to silence the wrong people. We have a different history than you, we had extremism in the past. ” To which I say, they have extremism in the present – those people who would silence another person’s free speech are vile extremists. There are those who seek to silence Kotleba from speaking freely in public. 28 years after the end of communism, vile Slovaks are ganging up politically to silence another person from speaking. 28 years after totalitarian rule, vile Slovaks are taking a step toward that way of thinking again and toward the ugly system of governing that follows.

Socially, Slovaks are free speakers, with little societal inhibition on free speech in private places. Politically, the Slovak government and their self-appointment intellectuals who look to the West for instruction and permission could take note of that fact and align Slovakia’s politically enshrined freedoms with the very sensible social freedoms that already exist. The more unfamiliar, the more threatening a person’s beliefs are, the more vital it is that they be shared and allowed space to be publicly debated.

That is freedom of speech. Slovakia has long had freedom of speech around the dinner table. Now it is time for the insecure, easily threatened, self-appointed intellectuals to back off and allow that in public as well. Once again, the more threatening it is, the more unfamiliar it is, the better that free speech is. Free speech encourages free thought, instead of the crap that we hear in the West. Thank you Slovakia for being such a shining example in my own life of how freely one may think and speak around the dinner table. Now, instead of moving in the direction of greater oppression, by silencing unfamiliar or threatening viewpoints, how about we see a fraction of that Slovak social freedom extended into public life.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Unless of course Slovakia isn’t ready for freedom of speech – a ludicrous idea that the self appointed intellectuals who take instruction and permission from the west quietly insist to be the truth. How disgusting to watch these extremists seek to take silence the voice of anyone. Slovakia can have better. The true extremists – the ones in positions of power – should be exposed.

Photo credit: Slovak Women of Vojvodina

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Using Intensity To Fight Complacency Within Oneself

Complacency

November 19, 2017

Allan Stevo

“This item first appeared at 52 Weeks in Slovakia on November 18, 2017.”

The beauty of Krav Maga is not that a runt can defend himself from a man twice as skilled and twice his size, but that even the runt can learn to channel an available and powerful inner rage at the appropriate moment.

In our comfortable and safe Western world, certainly the most comfortable of any developed civilization to have ever existed and arguably the safest and least violent per capita of any large civilization in human history, it is easy to grow complacent.

With the rights of the individual so well secured and established virtually across Western society, complacency becomes the great obstacle to human achievement.

And what an obstacle it is. Why change a thing when the herd offers such security and comfort. That herd allows you a tremendous array of fashion – that range from tattoos and eyebrow piercings to Brook’s Brothers and bow ties, the herd allows for a tremendous array of diets – ranging from Wonderbread to Ethiopian food, and the herd offers a tremendous array of political views – ranging from Marxist-feminist to Tea Party – if you want to be a respected part of mainstream society. The true rebel has to be pretty far out there in this era to not be complacent in their mainstream existence.

Furthermore, there is the great friend of complacency – arrogance. How easy it is to find someone complacent and arrogant about what a rebel they are, yet so conservative in their outlook on the world and frightened of any true risk. Tattoos are not risky. They are a trite and superficial way to take risk. Free markets are risky. Entrepreneurship is risky. Packing a back pack for a month with a one way ticket to a village 83 miles from Timbuktu where you know no one and don’t speak the language is risky. No matter how strange it might seem to your parents or the people you grew up with – a sleeve of tattoos, a co-op membership, a job as a forlorn barista, an alternative romantic lifestyle, universal healthcare, universal basic income, and a cadre of friends who are superficially very diverse, but really 95% the same is not risky. Instead it smacks of complacency. That is exactly the ideal life that many of America’s trendiest urban youth clamor for – the complacent life. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

To know what is right and wrong in your own mind, to be self-certain at such moments, and to add passion to it with a ready application of intensity can be hard to muster. There’s a beauty to regularly practicing each of those skills, among them the calling up of intensity, so that even in the most complacent of environments, that intensity is ready to be called upon.

When punches per second matters. When first strike matters. When who can beat the other into submission in five or ten or twenty seconds matters and you train that over and over again, those short, violent, intense bursts, you come into contact with a beautiful impulse within oneself, normally cajoled out of existence by the comforts of everyday life. And with enough of that training, suddenly that impulse becomes accessible and something able to be summoned. Summoned on command. A deep and true thing within you, that modern life disconnects you from that can now be summoned on command. How truly beautiful a practice is if it can help you evoke that.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Western Europe Has Long Been Friendly To Socialism, America Has Long Been UN-Friendly To Socialism And Should Remain So

Socialism

November 17, 2017

Allan Stevo

“This item first appeared at 52 Weeks in Slovakia on November 15, 2017.”

It can be hard to talk to many Western Europeans about politics. They have such comfort with socialism. Some – a solid portion of the people of Vienna would be one such example – almost seem to lament that their land was unable to spend the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s of the last century on the same side of the Iron Curtain as the Slovaks, Czechs, Hungarians, East Germans, and the many other cultures trapped under that oppressive rule. It’s a terrible chapter in history that some portion of Western Europeans don’t adequately recognize the horrors of. Therefore, those same people enjoy flirting with the fringes of such inhumane and anti-human ideas.

That period behind the Iron Curtain was a rough time to be an advocate for freedom and a rough time to be alive if you wanted to be more than a sheep in the midst of the herd. “The grass that never grew tall didn’t get mowed down,” has been said to me time and again in different variations by Slovaks and others who lived under totalitarian rule. Individual excellence was frowned upon because individual excellence made you a target. Go to work, be mediocre, help out an authority figure when asked, go home to live your life quietly and privately, follow the rules and everything would be okay. Do not stand out. No matter how good of a reason you thought you had for standing out, from the thinking of many at the time who lived under totalitarian rule – it was always sure to be bad to stand out. Conformity was key.

The communist governments of Central and Eastern Europe excelled at this undermining of the individual. The socialist governments of Western Europe are not as effective at this, but are still effective at undermining the will of the individual.

Much writing has been done on how modern society so encapsulates the individual, rendering the individual effete and individual decisions so inconsequential that life has so little feeling and even less meaning. I turn to the existentialist movement, the writers of which have written tomes about this topic, or to many non-existentialists who wrote on the topic of human achievement as W.H. Auden did in his poem “The Unknown Citizen” or Hemingway in his grimly titled “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” or many others who saw the comfort and conformity of modernity as stifling to individual pursuits and restrictive to human development.

It is, after all, the outliers who achieve as outliers and eventually the mass of humanity comes along to follow them. It is not the mass of humanity that leads the way. No achievement happens from the guy sitting on his couch watching TV and drinking a six pack.

The guy on his couch, however, is part of the hard-to-stop, hard-to-redirect inertia of the status quo. His very existence, from the perspective of those seeking change, is to lend inertia. Inertia is okay. I don’t fault Joe six pack for that role. I do fault the philosopher, economist, or politician who advocate for a system that discourages individual potential and encourage more people to turn into Joe six packs.

It is additionally important to realize a consequence of so much comfort in the world – to make a stable, unchanging society even easier to achieve. If you could lock society into this precise moment in history and could make society as similar to now for as long as possible, is that the choice you would make? Probably not.

Some people mourn days bygone. Some people sit excited for the future. It’s hard to find someone who says “The world is absolutely perfect at this moment in time and should never change.” Yet, by supporting the socialist / democratic socialist / communist doctrines of contemporary Western Europe and seeking to advance them in America you do exactly that – you seek to solidify the present and to undermine change in mainstream American society. Additionally, you further isolate change agents on the fringes of society.

This is bad because it prevents the mainstream from being change agents. Also it prevents the mainstream from mingling with change agents. It further solidifies the status quo by removing change agents and pro-change-agent sentiments from the mainstream.

The impact of free market capitalism, to the contrary, offers incentives for every hobbyist to consider being an entrepreneur, every tinkerer to be a potential change agent. Change agents are not pushed artificially to the fringes of society in a free market – quite the contrary. When government steps aside, by stepping aside, government lowers the artificial governmental barriers to entry and that scenario makes it more advantageous for individuals to pursue their passions, perhaps some even doing so for profit. In a free market, human achievement is not artificially stifled in the name of leveling society and bringing egalitarianism.

There are things Western Europe is good at – working against development, solidifying the role of the aristocracy, sitting on their magnificent cultural laurels, giving bread (comfy pay checks), beer (awesome beer and wine), circuses (Eurovision and soccer), and leisure (35 hour work weeks) to their middle class to keep them content, and, of course, they are good at turning into an exploding powder keg of discontent every few generations then waging war on each other. It’s possible the war issue has finally been solved by the extensive bread and circuses, along with some cross cultural trade. Meanwhile, their aristocracy make their money overseas investing in places that are not so hardened by the layers of social plaque existent in Europe, a social plaque that stunts virtually all change or growth. America, “the new world,” is exactly that kind of place – where the European aristocracy invest and where society’s structure is not so calcified. They do business there and send their children there to learn the local ways. Other places in the world are similar – lacking in the burdensome social plaque of Western Europe – like parts of Central and Eastern Europe or parts of Asia – where individual achievement is praised, to an extent.

There are some in America who would love to mitigate exactly that. They propose the same failed policies that restrict individual achievement and promote the same type of social plaque that exists in Europe. Anyone who cherry picks the seemingly positive points of Europe to advocate for a greater level of government and ultimately to advocate for stepping toward socialism is guilty of exactly that – promoting the stifling social plaque that restrains Europe and pushes America toward that same stifling environment.

America plays a special role in the world. It is the experimental engine of growth. It is a place where entrepreneurship is uniquely promoted. It is a place where business is treated as the entity for social betterment that it is. There is great freedom to take risks. There is also great freedom to fail or succeed. It is a truly beautiful equation that needs no tweaking. It only needs to be left alone to work at its best.

Yes, in America we have a huge homeless population, and more billionaires live in America than anywhere else, and even more than that made their fortunes through American innovation. It is an engine of human achievement and growth. It is a land that generally allows for great success and great failure. That lack of social restriction and that lack of a social safety net, two items that are one in the same, has been a prominent distinction in American history. And the two sides of the coin, as far as human kind has proven, are necessary for that ultimate engine of human achievement. Some level of scarcity seems to be needed. Some level of risk seems to be needed.

That is how it has worked so far. Perhaps that scenario will change. Perhaps there will be other ways to allow for human achievement without leaving so many to fend for themselves. I am open to that. I respect new experiments from people endeavoring to live their own lives better and convincing others to voluntarily do the same. Despite all that hopefulness, it is obvious where that new model of social change won’t come from. It won’t come out of the tired and constantly proven wrong governmental methods of egalitarianism – see Plato, see Marx, see Lenin, see Mao, see Stalin, see the contemporary Western European counties, see the mainstream of American politics, see the frighteningly popular Bernie Sanders.

These examples all fit the tired and staid Europe. These examples, in which a portion of society that has earned enough to support themselves is being forced to pay for those who did not earn enough to support themselves, have repeatedly failed us as a society. They have failed humanity.

These broken, yet popular methods of social organization have limited human development through history. The examples are plentiful.

Some historians even go so far as to point to the bubonic plague as a scenario that could only happen under the oppressive, cruel governments of the time. The point out that human existence was so downtrodden and malnourished as a result of such high limitation on human freedom and development that it was possible for an illness to sweep through the downtrodden, unhealthy populace. It just happened to be that particular bacteria – Yersinia pestis – that swept through the population and the accompanying illness than decimated them, an illness and bacteria that continue to exist today and do not decimate populations. Because the populations of Europe were left so impoverished and weak by such terrible policies, any of a list of illnesses could have easily come through and been just as effective of a killer.

In recent memory, there were people in the West who could not get enough calories to survive. We are beyond that time. An over-abundance of calories has become a far greater threat to survival. Over generations, through technology and trade, we have banished hunger in a portion of the world. The calories may not be the most healthful calories, but 2,000-3,000 calories daily is possible for every adult who wants to put in the effort to seek those calories out. For $5 a day you can even obtain those calories somewhat nutritiously from a fast food establishment like McDonald’s. This is not ideal from my perspective, but this is a vast improvement on the post World War II poverty that was rampant across Europe. Could any swollen bellied child of the time imagine that one day, with twenty or thirty minutes of work, anyone would be able to buy a warm, delicious sandwich that was made from high grade beef, soft bread, and fresh vegetables?

I strongly dislike McDonald’s. I haven’t eaten a Big Mac or breakfast sandwich in perhaps ten years now. That doesn’t change the fact that McDonald’s is the preference of many people around the world. McDonald’s provides a relatively stable high quality experience across countries, cultures, supply chains, and currencies. Many people deservedly got rich building McDonald’s into the organization that it is. It drives down local prices and drives up local levels of quality. It even provides a fairly decent entry level job. The people who made that happen deserve to be rich.

It’s perhaps also worth noting that those who excelled in society and made a killing for themselves also brought great advancement in the quality of living to the rest of us schlubs who have never been part of the ultra wealthy.

Has Bill Gates improved your life or made it worse? You and the vast majority of computer users in the world have freely chosen to run his software. Your life is made easier by Microsoft at home and outside of the home in the vast array of companies that use Microsoft products to make your life easier and better. John Rockefeller made himself rich while making easy-to-access in-home energy, once an impossibility for the middle class, readily available to the middle class and ultimately even available to some of the poorest people in the United States. Steve Jobs made himself a billionaire by helping push forward some of the most life changing innovations of the last century – a user friendly well designed super computer in the pocket of every man woman and child, and a third party App Store that encourages amazing innovations for that tool. Henry Ford became rich innovating the car manufacturing process so well that some of the poorest Americans can have one, and put in place innovations that made it possible for even a relative child to drive a car.

The rich in America tend to make the world a better place through their business dealings. And sure it may feel unfair that someone like Warren Buffet, who is little more than a smart financier, a smart mergers and acquisitions guy, and a smart investor, has made himself and others so rich. On the surface, it appears like he hasn’t added a lot of value to society, because he hasn’t made anything or revolutionized any way of life. If I had to err on one side societally, I would much rather have the freedom for some people who don’t seem to add much value to get rich than to see even the slightest human advancements held back.

The more government will step out of the way of those seeking to bring advancement, the better off we are as a society. And it doesn’t just stop at the American borders – the better off we are as a human race.

This is a beautiful aspect that only America offers the world at this level and in this stage of history. One day I think a better world will have more room for that beautiful aspect that America offers, and hopefully many other societies will also offer the world.

There are those who act to restrain that development. Some don’t realize what they are doing – limiting human advancement. Some do realize what they are doing – their is a strange poverty mindset inherent in many such philosophies. Some eastern religious beliefs that developed under great poverty are such examples – to the extent that they appear practically pessimistic. They are hard to reconcile in the world of plenty that we have today. Stuck in that moralistic poverty mindset, such beliefs have a hard time providing pertinent messages for us in our time. Even the poorest Americans see much higher quality of life and enjoy higher life expectancy than people throughout much of human history. That development for some of the poorest is only improving as government steps out of the way and allows innovation to take place unchecked.

I so keenly favor this process that I have a hard time justifying government at all these days. When someone praises social security or the idea of universal basic income, I know I am speaking to someone who doesn’t understand markets, doesn’t understand US history and doesn’t see this vital part of what makes America so special in the world.

America is a unique place for its personal freedom and for its economic freedom. They are one in the same. The more I travel the world, write about the world, do business in the world, the more I recognize that to be true. And when I recognize it, the more aggressively opposed I become to anyone who seeks to deny the world that amazing font of humanity and human potential.

How much worse it is when they use a bad and thoroughly disproven Western European “democratic socialist” model as the format for doing that. At least be creative. At least step beyond Plato’s benevolent dictator or Marx’s own brand of that tired system of communism. At least recognize that you aren’t right just because you invented an idea. At least recognize when your own brilliant ideas is really just a regurgitation of another’s broken idea. At least read critically enough to know when your “brilliant” idea is just that and only that and to know how poorly it has worked for many eras of human existence, in many iterations, in many cultures, and in many situations. This is no coincidence. Your anti-human idea, your anti-individual idea is no better than all those other slightly tweaked failures. The world deserves that self-criticism from you before you seek to promote those anti-human ideas.

Do better than that if you seek to undermine the wellspring of human achievement in hopes of providing better for those who do not provide well enough for their own wants and therefore find themselves turning to others to care for them. You at least owe the world that much. But that we do not often get. Because reading is hard, especially reading with the level of humility it takes to be well-read. Meanwhile being convinced that your own harebrained idea on how to improve socialism is unique is very easy and therefore common.

Do better. You owe it to the world. Before you give even the slightest suggestion that you desire to destroy a system that has brought so much human happiness and development, you owe that much to the world.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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The Paralysis Of Perfection

Always Be Shipping

November 14, 2017

Allan Stevo

“This item first appeared at 52 Weeks in Slovakia on November 13, 2017.”

One of my favorite modern thinkers said to me the other day “We must not be paralyzed by the pursuit of a perfect plan.” This was not in regards to grandiose big government ideas, but rather in regards to relatively small tasks in life.

Life can be conquered in increments. “Step by step” is a popular way to remind oneself of how important it is to be patient and to go through big tasks, one patient step at a time or “Krok za krokom,” to use a Slovak-ism of the same phrase. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” – the great city on seven hills, the great civilization that formed there was not built in a day, but over many years.

We often overestimate how much we can accomplish in a day, we often underestimate how much we can accomplish in a year. Many people therefore structure their days with too much energy geared toward the short term and their year becomes an accumulation of exactly that – lots of short term activities, somewhat more disconnected than they need be, somewhat more disconnected than how a long term view would serve that individual. A very successful year can be broken into 300 or so mission critical tasks followed through on daily.. Many small projects, projects finished daily, add up to big results when properly stacked one after another.

A few weeks ago, speaking to a successful software engineer who has come to lead a sizeable team of engineers, I was told “I like to ship every few hours if possible, and every few days at the least.” That means he and his team are constantly finishing up small tasks and releasing them. Small tasks in software can be rough to release because they might not fit with the rest of the software as well as a gigantic global solution to software the way that a total updated version or a version built from the ground up might. His attitude though is to constantly be releasing something. That attitude is an important one. “Always be closing,” said Alec Baldwin’s character in “Glengarry, Glen Ross.” This is a useful dictum in the business world, but is also a useful concept in life – what are you work on finishing right now?

Ernest Hemingway shares a similar perspective when he wrote about fellow writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and the craft of writing: “Scott took LITERATURE so solemnly. He never understood that it was just writing as well as you can and finishing what you start.” Being an eager starter is one half of ambition. It is only one half though. Being an eager finisher is the other half. Hemingway boils writing down to doing your best and simply finishing what you start. How vital that second part is, otherwise life for the inspired ends up filled with “piles” of thousands of unfinished essays and projects, rather than a step by step smooth transition from one mission critical task to the next. A life in which one mission critical daily task leads so seamless both in hindsight and in foresight to a large and impressive goal. These piles are signs of failed accomplishments, but for some they are also a type of baggage, littering life with their incompleteness and limiting the ease with which the next project can be started and finished.

A series of dictums that has become popular in the contemporary creative culture – “The Cult of Done Manifesto” – conveys a similar concept to Hemingway: get it done and out, if getting it perfect is your goal then keep coming back later to revise, but make it happen and make it happen now. It even goes so far as to say anything requiring more than a week of time is not worth your attention. “Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.”

Of course it doesn’t mean that anything that takes more than a week is not worth your attention – careers, children, life – but it is accurate in that it references projects that draw on endlessly as an issue of scope that are best chunked down into smaller pieces that last no more than a week. With a little practice, life can somewhat easily be broken down into mission critical tasks that offer a sense of both a new start and completion in a week or less.

Every week, one can take a task and see to it that it is done. Even better one can take one single mission critical task for the day points out Tim Ferriss and work on that one single task with lightning focus and to be sure that task gets done. You can do many things that day if you wish, but accomplishing that one critical task is paramount for the day. Get it done and your day is a success, don’t get that mission critical task done and your day is a failure. Something must be the most important thing on your to do list and have the highest priority.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld uttered the most excellent words I’ve ever heard come out of his mouth when he pointed out a few years ago in New York City “If you have seventeen priorities, you don’t have any priorities.” What is the one thing you care about accomplishing today more than any other? Can you do that single thing today and go to bed feeling accomplished just because it got done? What is that one thing you must get done this week? Can you do that one thing this week and reach a restful spot in the weekend breathing a little more deeply because it is done? Can you do those things, even more significantly, as a step in the direction of larger life goals?

Once that small chunk is done, accomplished, you have all the more momentum to move on to the next small chunk right away or the next day. Great goals suddenly don’t look like long fatigued slogs across a barren wasteland in pursuit of a distant goal. Those great goals look instead like all of life’s other great journeys – perhaps through places like Seoul or New York or Bogota or travels around the world where in your travels, you are given a treasure every time you step outside. Every day can be a journey. Just like in traveling, the end of the day can be reflected on from the comfort of a soft pillow and seen to have a beginning (not knowing), a middle (action), and an end (completion). And the more comfortable you get with that process of traveling in life and treating your life as daily, adventurous travels toward an intentional, distant destination, the more comfortable you get in starting and most importantly – completing. Every day.

A college professor of mine talked about a friend who spent ten years on a book that everyone in his life knew he was working on and no one ever saw. For ten years he worked constantly on it. It was his first book and he aimed to make it a masterpiece, to unveil nothing but an absolute piece of perfection. At the end of ten long years, his finished product was unveiled and it was horrible. Even he ultimately felt so. He didn’t chunk his time right, he spent ten years in the joy of the activity rather than getting what he wanted done. Spending time in the joy of an activity is also a worthy task, such a hobbyist view of an activity just shouldn’t be confused with getting something done. It is instead leisure time, akin to channel surfing for hours rather than watching a complete film, or clicking every link you see on Wikipedia for an entire day and reading a little rather than finishing any one article or better yet, a thoroughly researched book on a single topic written by a capable thinker with his name and reputation attached to the work.

I am all for long pursuits in life. I am not for long pursuits that are not properly chunked down into small pieces that allow the participants to feel weekly, and ideally, daily victories. You have some beautiful long pursuits I imagine. Within those pursuits, I wonder how you can chunk it down, so that today you feel a great sense of accomplishment, perhaps even a few hours from now, a sense of accomplishment toward a goal, perhaps a vital goal to you, one of your most important dreams, that at the moment feels months or years away. What can you ship this week? What can you ship today? What will you ship today?

I shipped this piece of writing.

And now it’s time to move on to the next mission critical task.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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The European Union – A Land With No Demonym

Demonym

July 13, 2017

Allan Stevo

“This item first appeared at LewRockwell.com on May 22, 2017.”

A demonym or gentilic is a word used to describe a resident or native of a place. Americans come from America. Italians come from Italy. Slovaks come from Slovakia, and Europeans come from Europe. But who comes from the European Union?

“Europeans” is what the European Commission would like us to call their subjects, but the last time I checked, the borders of the European Union were not colinear with the borders of Europe.

Since Switzerland, Norway, and Russia are not part of the European Union, a resident of Geneva, Oslo, or Moscow is certainly European, though not a resident of the European Union. For the sake of clarity, Europe and the European Union should not share a demonym.

Additionally, using the same demonym confuses that which is nearly timeless with that which is short-lived and temporary. Allowing the same demonym to be used offers the insinuation that a temporary political entity like the European Union deserves to co-opt the name of a diverse set of cultures of people who have made the continent of Europe their own over many centuries of work, struggle, and experimentation. After all, political entities are merely temporary – even the great Holy Roman Empire is no more. Cultures are more long lasting. And continents are nearly timeless.

Once Greece finally leaves the EU experiment and Brexit finally becomes a reality, will the Greek people, at the spearhead of European culture in ancient times, or the British people, at the spearhead of European culture in modern times suddenly cease to be European? Of course not. Will they be sued in some international court of law if they continue to allow the word “European” used for any non-EU activity? Of course not. Though if it were a trademark, it would feel a lot like trademark infringement that the EU is guilty of with its duplicative demonym.

If I were running a makeshift group of bureaucrats like the European Commission, who claimed great authority, but who could be brought down by a single unfavorable election in a major member state like France or Germany, then I too might want to encourage people to confuse my existence with more timeless concepts like a culture or continent. However, that doesn’t mean any one of us have to play along with that silly game.

George Orwell wrote in 1984, “All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers.”

I don’t really know what these Eurocrats have up their sleeves, but they can’t fool me into calling the residents of their rapidly shrinking political unit by the same name as the people who have had the most pronounced positive impact on the world over the past 500 years.

Nope. You can’t fool me with that trick.

I sat down to brainstorm some ideas and this is what I came up with.

Unionite
EU-er
A subject of Brussels
A subject of Brussels, Strasbourg, and Luxembourg
Eurese
Euroite
Eurotian
Euronian
Eurite (sounds like “you’re right”)
Eulander
Eutopian
Eurak (like Slovak, sounds like “you rock”)
Citeuon (CITizen of the EUropean uniON)

I think EU-er & Eutopian are my favorite so far. How about you? What word would you want to start using to describe an inhabitant of the European Union?

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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July 4 Is Not About The Constitution, It’s About The Declaration Of Independence

Getting it Wrong

July 11, 2017

Allan Stevo

This piece first appeared at Target Liberty as “#FakeUnderstanding Does the New York Times Even Know What the 4th of July Holiday Celebrates?”

Some people are not sophisticated enough to know the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The editorial board of the New York Times has proven itself to be among them, as they chose last weekend to insist upon their love for the wrong founding document – the US Constitution.

Constitution Day is September 17. Independence Day is July 4. The difference in meaning between the two are vast – one based on the decentralization of power, the other based on the concentration of power.

Nor is July 4 a day to celebrate the American flag (June 14); it is practically the opposite of a day devoted t
o central governments and the flags that represent those governments. In fact, based on the revolutionary principles at the heart of the Declaration of Independence, July 4 is the least logical day of the year to fly an American flag. Nor is it a day to celebrate war or those who fought and died in them, for that we have the official bank holidays of Memorial Day (last Monday in May), Veterans Day (November 11), and the less officially celebrated Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May) VE Day (May 8), VJ Day (September 2), A Date Which Will Live In Infamy (December 7), and D Day (June 6).

As much as some people like to confound distinct concepts, July 4 is not about some amorphous blend of Americana, it is about the Declaration of Independence, decentralized power, and ultimately the individual freedom at the root of the American experiment.

In a “print-only section” issued the weekend before July 4, in which its editors proudly stated that the dramatic four page double-fold-out with hand drawn images of George Washington and Donald Trump and specially selected neo-colonial typography is only “the fourth special section published by the New York Times Magazine,” a magazine started in 1896, are contained a lot of ideas about the Constitution that are a far cry from the Declaration of Independence. Contrary to the spirit of the holiday, bigger government and centralized power is what the editors chose to focus on.

The annotated special section depicts the Constitution of 1787 as a blueprint intended to bring about exactly the kind of government America had until the January 20, 2017 inauguration.

It is a partisan reading of the Constitution that can even make a goose-stepping New York Times reader proud of the crusty old thing. We learn in this special section that the Second Amendment wasn’t intended to allow people to keep and bear arms. We learn that the founding fathers would have praised attempts by the executive branch to legislate internationally on global warming (yes, these self-proclaimed defenders of science actually make this twisted argument, going so far as invoking the rebellious, decentralizing author of the Declaration of Independence – Thomas Jefferson in what appears to be support of the Paris Climate Accord). We are even presented the wisdom of a partisan hack who oversaw the failure of Detroit for 52 years as a congressman – John Conyers is shockingly presented as an authority on the foreign emoluments clause.

The special section’s dramatic form is a beautiful homage to the US Constitution – a document that deserves more homage than it gets, but the details of the presentation are out of line with Independence Day.

While the Declaration of Independence is written in the spirit of devolution of power, the Constitution is a document of enslavement under central authority. Yes, following the Constitution today would bring us a government far better than the one we have. Trump heads a government that daily violates the Constitution. Some, including me, hope presidential attention will be paid to constitutional issues that have long gone ignored. The tyrannical federal courts already are giving greater heed to it, but government remains a far cry from perfection.

It was in the spirit of centralization that the Constitution was written. The un-amended version – without the Bill of Rights, added three years after its ratification – is an especially tyrannical document.

In the spirit of centralization, King George III pursued a bloody campaign instead of letting the colonists secede. In the spirit of centralization, the tax protest remembered as the Whiskey Rebellion was put down by some of the founding fathers shortly after taking power.

In the spirit of centralization, the Union pursued the bloody war between the north and the south. It was in the spirit of 1776, the spirit of decentralization, the spirit of July 4, that the rebel states seceded from the Union in 1860.

In the spirit of centralization there is a Federal Reserve Bank. In the spirit of centralization there is an income tax. In the spirit of centralization the war to end all wars was fought. And then another. A Cold War too. A more decentralized land would have never troubled itself with such nonsense.

Constitution Day in the United States is September 17. It remembers a document that brought greater tyranny to our land.

Independence Day is July 4.

The political climate of one is far different than the other. The political climate of the Declaration of 1776 is far different than the Constitution of 1787.

It is true to the climate of 1776 that America remains so free. It is over-reliance on the climate of 1787 by which America has become so unfree.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Review: How To Win America, By Walter Block

July 8, 2017

Walter Block

“This review of How to Win America by Allan Stevo was originally run at The Journal of Prices & Markets.”

Review of books about Ron Paul

Ron Paul, in addition to being a doctor, a politician, a leader of the libertarian movement, is also a heavily published author. He has written the following books: Paul (1981, 1983A, 1983B, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1991, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008A, 2008B, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013; Paul and Lehrman, 1982, 2012; Rangel and Paul, 2006). And when I say “written” I mean “written.” That is, he wrote them himself, in sharp contrast to the volumes authored by many famous people, which were really penned, so to speak, by professional writers and editors.

However the present review will leave all of those volumes untouched. Instead, it is dedicated to a very different oeuvre: books about Ron Paul, written by other authors. To wit, I will discuss the following books that have been written not by, but about, Ron Paul: 1. Alford, 2013; 2. Block, 2012A; 3. Doherty, 2012; 4. Haddad and Marsh, 2008; 5. Hammond, 2012; 6. Richardson, 2008; 7. Rink, 2011; 8. Stevo, 2012.

1. Alford, 2013

I highly recommend this book, as I do all others on this list. However, to some extent, this really is not a book at all. If I had to characterize it, it would be almost as a picture post card; the photographs are that good. Not one telling friends and relatives about a wonderful vacation, but relating to all and sundry what a wonderful person Ron Paul is, and how important and wonderful was his candidacy of 2012. Alternatively, this book could take its place amongst coffee table books which specialize in photography.

The title of the book is Swindled: How the GOP Cheated Ron Paul and Lost Themselves the Election. I don’t say this is a mis-labeling. But the actual book is a bit less angry than the title might indicate. Don’t get me wrong. Alford is clearly upset with the injustice perpetrated on Dr. Paul and makes this case in masterfully compelling manner. There is no question about that. But, there are so many pages in this book with a picture of a baby wearing a “T” shirt in support of Ron, or a photograph of our hero giving a speech to a large audience and other events that will warm the cockles of a libertarian’s heart. For example, on p. 39 we are treated to a view of the rear of Dr. Paul lecturing to people in what appears to be an ice rink, and the caption reads: “The next day, he rallied the troops, numbering over 3,000 in Houston.” On page 51 we see a photo of an enthusiastic rally of mostly young people for the Congressman in Louisiana. I know it is a cliché, but I cannot resist: these pictures alone are worth the entire price of admission, and there is practically one on every page. They are numerous, they are uplifting, they are inspirational, at least to me, and, I suspect, to all fellow admirers of Ron Paul as well.

Despite the niceness of this offering, there is quite a bit of justified anger in it as well. Let me give but one example. On p. 75 we see depicted one of the most outrageous reportorial events of the entire campaign: the Minnesota non-binding caucus of February 7, where the first and third place finishers were mentioned, but not the one in between. States Alford of this disgraceful scandal, “Anyone want to hazard a guess as to who won second place with 27% of the vote?” To ask this is to answer it.

2. Block, 2012A

True confession: I have a man crush on Ron Paul. I dearly love him. This book illustrates those feelings of mine. This volume is my love letter to Dr. Paul. How’s that for a fast review?

3. Doherty, 2012

I have already written a review of the Doherty book (Block, 2012B), so I shall be mercifully brief here also. All I want to say is that of all eight books about Ron Paul, this one has sold the most copies. Amazon Best Sellers Rank places this volume at #316,103 in books sold. It is my fervent hope that Doherty’s effort, and my review of all these books, will help focus attention on some others of those on this list, since they are also very important. They all merit a wider audience, including my own, if you will forgive this bit of shameless self-promotion.

4. Haddad and Marsh, 2008

This deserves, almost, to be considered a book by Ron Paul, not about him. It was edited, not authored by people other than himself (I was sorely tempted to capitalize this word, but have successfully resisted, as you can see, gentle reader). Thus, I count it, barely, as a book about and not by him. Why? It consists almost entirely of quotes, 166 in all, crammed into 318 magnificent pages, from Ron Paul. They are organized in alphabetical order, and range from abortion to bureaucrat to civil liberties to debt to economics to the fed at the outset, and on toward the end of the alphabet concluding with Viet Nam, War on drugs, and young people.

However, the 11- page introduction to the book constitutes a very, very good contribution to the bibliography of Ron Paul.

On the negative side, these editors are guilty of one small typographical error. They inform us (p. xii) that Congressman Paul was born in 1923. His actual year of birth was in 1936. Apart from this minor glitch this is a handy reference of a book. All Ron Paul admirers will want to have this volume on their bookshelves (that applies to all the books reviewed in this essay). If you want a short pithy statement from Ron Paul on any one of numerous topics, this is the place to find it. This publication contains no fewer than 656 footnotes. Haddad and Marsh have certainly done their homework, and I for one am grateful to them for it. So will you be.

5. Hammond, 2012

The title of this excellent book (Ron Paul vs. Paul Krugman: Austrian vs. Keynesian economics in the financial crisis) is somewhat misleading. It implies that an actual debate is to take place between Ron Paul and Paul Krugman. If we can infer from this that an interaction of this sort is fair-minded or offers a roughly equally strong discussion of both sides, this demonstrates that the title does not accurately indicate the contents of this book. For instead of an even-handed explication of both sides, it is a veritable bashing of the latter based on the views of the former. And this is very welcome. For Krugman’s views and contributions to public policy are incorrect, evil and malicious, while Paul’s are the very opposite. Thus this volume is a very welcome addition to the literature. In it we see Krugman being hammered as he so richly deserves, and Paul takes on the role of the smiter, one he plays very well in the hands of Hammond. But I misspeak. What is written above makes it sound as if Hammond’s contribution is limited to a mere marshaling of Paul’s arguments. Not so, not so. It cannot be denied that there is a fair bit of precisely that in the small (104 page) volume. But our author contributes quite a bit more than that to the well-deserved intellectual evisceration of Krugman.

Paul’s triumph over Krugman is a bit astounding, at least for those overly concerned with credentialism. For the Texas Congressman is “merely” a physician and a politician. He has no formal education in economics at all. In the other corner of this particular boxing ring stands a man replete with a B.A. in economics from the prestigious Yale University, a Ph.D. in economics from the equally prestigious MIT, who is a professor of economics at the equally prestigious Princeton University. In 2008 Krugman won the even more prestigious Nobel Prize in economics, and writes columns as an eminence grise for perhaps the leading newspaper in the world, the New York Times. Yet, when they meet in the middle of the ring, the former, with a little help from Hammond, scores a knockout blow against the latter, in perhaps the most unequal intellectual “debate” that ever took place. An evisceration is more like it.

Paul KO’s Krugman on the Dot-Com bubble (chapter 1), the housing bubble (chapter 2), the Fed and interest rates (chapter 3), inflation (chapter 4). This book is a tour de force of the Austrian economics of Paul over the Keynesianism of Krugman. Hammond’s volume demonstrates that Robert P. Murphy (2010) is no better than a(n intellectual) child molester. Krugman would not stand a chance in the ring with Murphy, and the latter is a bully for even challenging him (http://krugmandebate.com/).

Other highlights of this book include the story of how Hammond himself came to adopt Austrian or praxeological economics. The usual suspects are indicted: Mises, Hazlitt, Rothbard, Woods. As well, his 137 notes at the back of the book offer invaluable links to this very one-sided “debate.”

I have two quarrels with this magnificent book. One, Hammond (pp. 55-56) castigates “revisionist analysis.” This is nothing more than a poor word choice. I think a better way to describe Krugman’s “disingenuousness” might have been “pusillanimous” or, better yet, “downright lie.” Revisionism has made such an important contribution to libertarian historical analysis as to make this statement of Hammond’s almost an error. More seriously, this author relies too heavily on prediction, the bête noir of logical positivism. However, Hammond and I both very much appreciate that Austrians have been far better predictors than orthodox or Keynesian economists (Block, 2010A). However, this author should have made it clear that this was not due to Austrian praxeology per se, but rather thymology, or history (Mises, 1969, 1978).

I am grasping at straws here to find any shortcomings at all in this very important contribution to Austrian economics. (Hammond’s appendix is reminiscent of Haddad and Marsh’s entire book in that it contains a wealth of information in quotation format of Mr. Paul’s warnings for the future, if the Fed maintains its pernicious policies.)

6. Rink, 2011

The full title of this book is “Ron Paul: Father of the Tea Party.” Yes, this is true enough. But this is hardly what historians 500 years from now will remember Dr. Paul for. Instead, they will see him as one of the leading Austrian economists of his time, and perhaps the most successful libertarian proponent up until the early 21st century.

That slight apart, this is an excellent biography of Ron Paul. I am tempted to repeat it word for word, right here and now, so compelling did I find it, but that would never do of course. I might run afoul of copyright, and the editor of this journal has given me a strict word limit. Instead, just let me focus on but one element of this magnificent book: the election of Dr. Paul in 1996 for the 105th session of congress, which was covered in Rink’s chapter 14. This really had me at the edge of my seat. Rink recounts the fascinating David and Goliath story of how Ron first beat out Democrat turned Republican Greg Laughlin for the GOP nomination and then sprinted past Democrat “Lefty” Morales in the general election. If you are not up on your feet cheering for Mr. Paul when you read this, you have a heart of stone, at least where liberty and sound economics are concerned. And this is only one of the many scintillatingly-told episodes in Ron’s life.

I have some minor reservations about this book. While it features numerous quotes and a very good index, there are no citations. Historians and other biographers who want to dig deeper into this material and use the present book as a launching pad, will be disappointed. Sometimes, it is difficult to determine who is saying precisely what. On other occasions the statements attributed to Dr. Paul do not sound to my ear as if he would ever had said any such thing. For example, on p. 125 Ron supposedly says of the drug war “I had never advocated legalization.” Does that sound like Dr. No to you, gentle reader? Not to me. But without a cite, it is difficult to get to the bottom of this issue. A very different statement of Rink’s (p. 211) has far more of the ring of truth for me: “Pandering to the Party-base was not on Paul’s agenda. As he had previously demonstrated in the Republican debates, he was willing to state his true beliefs no matter who was listening.” This certainly undermines the oft-made claim of his bitter critics that the Congressman was “pandering” to anyone. “Pandering,” and “Ron Paul,” do not belong in the same sentence as far as I am concerned.

Here are some other attributions to Ron that do not ring true (p. 107): “After the speech, he (Ron Paul) was looking at me and shaking his head. He wasn’t blaming me. He spoke to a huge crowd! But that didn’t matter to him. The only thing that mattered to him was the television coverage…” this statement was made by Eric Dondero, as of 1998 Dr. Paul’s “travel secretary and ‘advance man,’” (p. 102) but later estranged from him. I would have liked to see Rink at least query the claim that Ron cared only about television coverage.

Here is Rink (p. 121):

Paul reached out to DeLay to help him get in touch with Armey and the rest of the Republican delegation from Texas. Before announcing his candidacy, he hopped a jet to Washington, DC, with high hopes for a productive meeting. He assumed the Republicans would be interested in the possibility of using his candidacy to increase their number, perhaps offering him financial support and endorsements in his bid to defeat the Democrat.

“A court-ordered redistricting was coming up in Texas, and I told them, ‘If you guys help protect my interests in this, I can gain this seat for you,’” he recalled.

This is Ron Paul? Talking about protecting his interests? Who, precisely, is making this latter statement? Dondero? Paul? I think the former, but I cannot be certain, based on the text. If Dr. Paul were really interested in protecting his own interests, methinks he would have more likely stayed in Lake Jackson practicing medicine, and writing books about the free market and investing in gold. I would have liked some reaction from Rink at this point at this seeming false note.

Another whine on my part; there is a typo on p. 117, “Reigns” should be reins.”

But let me end this review on a positive note. I had to dig deep to find any flaws at all in this marvelous book. The picture on p. 102 (there are many, many other very good ones) is to die for. It features four of my all-time heroes. But I am not going to tell you who they are. Go get this book and see for yourself. That’s an order! Ok, ok, I can’t resist. They are Bert Blumert, Lew Rockwell, David Gordon and Murray Rothbard. What a fearsome foursome, at least to the bad guys.

7. Richardson

Want to get your dander up? Then read this book. Although her voice is cool, calm and collected, Richardson’s outrage at the unfair treatment accorded Ron Paul can be read practically between each and every line in the book. Let me give you just a small taste of this (pp. 62-63):

“The Nashville Tennessean omitted Ron Paul from its Feb 3 voter’s guide, but covered all the other candidates and their positions.

“The Birmingham News, one of Alabama’s largest newspapers, omitted Ron Paul from its extensive voter’s guide on Sunday, Feb. 3.

“The evening before Super Tuesday, the Associated Press ran an in-depth article detailing the candidates’ final efforts before the big day. All the candidates except Ron Paul, that is.”

Now, of course, I knew that the media had all along been mistreating Congressman Paul and his candidacy for president. But I was not as fully aware of each jot and tittle of this injustice until reading Richardson. Her chapters 9-10 alone are worth the full price of admission in this regard. There, she details even more the ill treatment accorded Dr. Paul by such worthies as the entrenched GOP, Fox News and the neoconservatives.

Richardson sets several tasks for herself in this book and accomplishes them all, superlatively. First she asks (p. 1): “Who are these people?” She describes them as follows: “They came from the far reaches of the political spectrum, crossing age and cultural boundaries to surprise their fellow Americans and confound the media elite. They rocketed the ‘Asterisk Candidate’ to the top of straw polls across the country and campaign polls across the Internet. They all but took his promotion out of the hands of his presidential campaign staff, raising record-breaking millions of dollars in single days, renting the largest blimp in North American to tout his candidacy, and purchasing full-page ads in newspapers before the first primary was held… all independent of the official campaign.”

She continues: “Who are these people? That’s easy. They’re collect students. Grandparents. Veterans. Professionals. Retirees. Democrats. Republicans. Constitutionalists. Libertarians. Right-wing conservatives. Flaming liberals. Business owners. Doctors. Lawyers. Christians. Agnostics. Atheists. Whites, Blacks, Hispanics and Asians.” All this is just from Richardson’s first page. I’d quote the rest of the book, too, were the editor of this Journal not breathing down my neck not to do so, rotten kid that he is. In addition she later notes, these people put up yard signs of their own manufacture; they hung banners on highway overpasses; they stood in the rain to cheer on their man; they wrote letters to the editor protesting the unfair treatment accorded Ron. They did all this with little or no support from the official Paul campaign. A high point of this book is Richardson’s numerous interviews with several of these very people.

Second, she demonstrates in minute detail just how scurrilously the Congressman was treated. There is a continual litany of the media saying a given indication was important, e.g., straw polls, and then when Dr. Paul does well in them, such criteria are deemed irrelevant. These stories, and the outraged way Richardson tells them, make the blood boil of all red-blooded Ron Paul supporters.

But this book is by no means limited to litany of injustices perpetuated on our man. Her take on substantive issues is as sure-footed as any devoted libertarian would wish. Her renditions of Dr. Paul on war, taxes, economics, immigration, abortion, guns, education, health care, and many more, serve as a good an introduction to the Ron Paul philosophy, as good as any ever written.

I have but one criticism of this excellent book. Richardson’s contribution to it ends on p. 132. The volume ends on p. 191. Why the difference? From page 133 until the close of the book there are two appendices which reprint two of Congressman Paul’s speeches. These of course were superlative. They are well worth intensive study. However, they are available electronically. I would have appreciated hearing more from this new important contributor to the freedom movement, Richardson. Or, if she had no more to say, the book should have ended on p. 132.

Let me end on a note that will prove to be controversial, but really should not be. First, I note that Richardson is a woman. That alone is somewhat surprising, given the disproportionate number of females in the libertarian movement. Notice of this fact will no doubt be seen as an indication of a denigration of females. Well, let those who object to this make the most of it. Here comes an even more politically incorrect insight. Based on the picture of her that appears on the back cover of her book, this lady is one of the most beautiful women not merely in our movement, nor only in the U.S., but on the entire planet. Does it deprecate women in general or their intellects to merely mention such a fact? Not at all. Facts are facts. Merely because a bunch of harridan feminists might object to this one being noted does not render it untrue or improper. Nor is it a put-down. Looks and talent; the one has nothing to do with the other. But, as a book reviewer, I feel obligated to report on anything of potential interest to the reader, and this certainly qualifies.

8. Stevo, 2012

The Stevo book is somewhat a departure from all the others in this review. It, virtually alone, is devoted not to biography, nor to libertarian principles, nor to the Ron Paul debates but rather solely to strategy. And here, I confess, lies a bit of a weakness of mine. I feel on solid ground when it comes to Austrian economics or libertarian theory, but the best strategy for the Austro-libertarian movement has always been a bit of a mystery to me. If I have any views on this it is “different strokes for different folks.” What will work for some people, will not work for others. Let us take two illustrative examples. Who are the two most successful leaders of the freedom movement in terms of converting massive numbers of people to our banner? Obviously, they are Ayn Rand and Ron Paul. They and only they were able to fill stadiums full of people for the cause of liberty. And yet these two people had virtually the opposite personalities and characters, and thus their strategies were entirely different. Ayn Rand personified an attitude of “in your face,” while Ron Paul pursued a much more low key strategy. So, in my view, there is no one right viewpoint to take on this issue.

What is Stevo’s contribution to this matter? The first two words of the title of this book are “How to.” Well said. This is indeed a “how to” book. How to do what? To elect Ron Paul president of the U.S., of course. The volume is now a bit dated in that it offers a plan to win the 2012 election, and it is now 2013. It would have been equally “irrelevant” had it been aimed at 2008, or even 2016 or thereafter. That is, it is not irrelevant at all, nor is it merely of antiquarian interest. It is rather chock-full of crucial information for any election of any libertarian at any time or place. If I had to sum this book up in a short phrase it would be “applying common sense with the benefit of vast experience to the challenge of electing libertarians.”

Yes, Stevo make the case in behalf of Ron Paul. He does so with verve and insight. But he spends very few pages on this labor of love. If that is your main interest, do not read this book. However, if you want to become a far more effective supporter of candidates like Ron Paul, if you want to use your time to this end more efficiently, then, again, don’t read it. Instead, devour it. Peruse it over and over again until you fully grasp its message.

What, then, is its message?

He states (pp. 10-11): “1. Ask pro-peace Democrats that you personally know to vote Republican in the primaries for Ron Paul and make sure that those who agree to vote for Ron Paul actually show up on election day. 2. Work the rest of your ‘social precinct.’ 3. Activate your own network of Ron Paul supporters.”

In this brief review I cannot fully convey the myriad of hints, suggestions, and advice Stevo gives. They all have the ring of truth. In sports, the key to success is to “keep your eye on the ball.” This author is asking all of us to keep our eyes on the political ball, so as to better promote the Ron Paul type candidacy. He does not allow himself, or us, to be deflected for even a moment from this one goal. In short, he is unswerving, intent, monomaniacal, bless him.

I content myself with but a few examples of this marvelous work. He warns of the “neutralizer” (p. 180) someone who may well be a Paul supporter, but with enthusiasts like this we might well prefer actual enemies. Stevo mentions a man in a V for Vendetta mask who completely hijacked a libertarian event, and cost our movement valuable television coverage. Costumes like this are perfectly all right; at a Star Trek convention, the purpose of which is not to elect a president. But if that is the goal, we would be better of “being clean” for Ron, dressing and acting much like Mormon missionaries.

Here is yet another gem (p. 122): “Just like anyone with ideas revolutionarily different from the status quo, Ron Paul generates his fair share of contempt. You don’t need to worry about convincing his haters to love him That’s futile and doesn’t matter in an election. In an election you want to focus on the people who are already sympathetic to his ideas. The one with the most votes wins, not the one with the fewest enemies.”

No book can be all bad that severely rebukes traitors to the libertarian cause such as David Boaz. Says Stevo of this imposter: “Ultimately, anyone who says ‘Ron Paul is the wrong messenger’ betrays his own lack of belief in personal choice.” However, I think Stevo lets Boaz off too lightly when he implies the latter is merely a “defeatist” or “downer.” I know Boaz, personally, and he is none of these things. Instead, Boaz is upbeat and optimistic — about the issues he supports. No, “traitor” is far more accurate (Block, 2010B). It is one thing for a Paul Krugman, or a Giuliani, or a Sean Hannity to attack Ron Paul. Such people are well known to be enemies of liberty. But Boaz has been long associated with the libertarian movement. He is the vice president of the Cato Institute, an organization linked in the public mind with free enterprise. Boaz (1997) has even had the effrontery to write a book with the “L” word in its title. For him to denigrate Ron Paul as the “wrong messenger” for liberty is an unforgiveable stab in the back. Ok, ok, not unforgiveable. Were Boaz to publicly apologize for this act of his and beg forgiveness, it would be granted by many libertarians, me certainly included. But, of course, he has done no such thing.

When I first read Stevo’s advice on Krugman, ignore him, it is a waste of time to attack him, his mind is already made up, set in stone, there is no chance of ever changing his mind, I disagreed with the author of this book. My thought was that it is good to take on the most famous, prestigious and articulate of the many enemies of human freedom. Even if Krugman himself remains obdurate, he can still be taken down a peg or two in the eyes of his followers, and potential ones too. Stevo’s point was rather problematic for me, as I am a professor accustomed to criticizing precisely scholars such as Krugman.

But then I remembered Stevo’s advice about narrowing our focus, keeping our eyes on the ball: Ron Paul for president, or, more generally, electing principled libertarians. Will refuting Krugman help do this? Not bloody likely. It would be the rare voter who would even understand such an intellectual battle. What of Hammond (2012) who offers us a “debate” between Krugman and Paul, and my very positive review of that book? Am I committing a logical contradiction? Not a bit of it. Not every book praising Ron Paul and his candidacy has to be narrowly focused on that one goal as does Stevo (2012). Hammond (2012), and my strong support for it, is thus not incompatible with Stevo’s far more limited goal, and my championing of that, too.

It is unusual for a book review such as this to even mention an acknowledgements section, let alone praise it. I shall risk all in breaking this tradition. Stevo mentions some four dozen people and organizations. I had never before even heard of most of them. Why do I mention this? This is because it is notable that a person such as me who has been deeply involved in libertarianism since about 1964 is ignorant of an entirely different strand of our movement. This could not be the case were we not growing by leaps and bounds, and these few pages at the very end of his book make this case in spades.

I end this review on a rather charming note. Stevo (p. 3) makes a reference to Murray N. Rothbard as a “historian.” I have never before seen such a description of my friend Murray. I am far more accustomed to seeing him referred to as an economist, ethicist, logician, strategist, even as “Mr. Libertarian.” I do not at all quarrel with this description. Lord knows, if Rothbard’s contribution was solely limited to history, he would well deserve such an appellation. It is only testimony to his gigantic contribution that this description would even be slightly remarkable.

Conclusion

These books, all of them put together, have been written, almost, as if by one very erudite person. Or, perhaps, a better way to put this is that they have seemingly been created as if by several co authors, planning out a major collaborative project. What I am getting at here is that there is very little substantive overlap amongst them. For the most part, they cover different aspects of the Ron Paul phenomenon. Of course, there is but one exception to this rule: the love for Dr. Paul and what he stands for exudes from almost every page of each of these publications. One would have to be very hard-hearted not to appreciate the admiration and respect that each of these authors has for the Congressman’s rEVOLution.

There is of course some incompatibility. One author inveighs against even mentioning Krugman. But virtually the entirely of another’s book concerns that particular fraudulent economist. However, this is the only bit of contrariness I was able to discern in my perusal of this entire oeuvre; perhaps the exception proves the rule.

It is my fervent opinion that this is an important set of books. If what Ron Paul stands for is to be promoted, it cannot be done, only, via his own publications. It is important that those of us who are his students, his admirers, also make a contribution to his efforts. Writing books about Mr. Paul and his philosophy is certainly one way to do just that.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Slovak Hockey Great Marian Hossa Falls Victim To “The Gunk”

Hossa

June 27, 2017

Allan Stevo

“This item first appeared at 52 Weeks in Slovakia on June 26, 2017.”

I received a shocking news alert from the Chicago Sun Times: “Marian Hossa out for 2017-18 season; skin disorder could end career”

That was not the most shocking part. The article went on to talk about how Hossa – a slovak born hockey legend in the NHL – had contracted a progressive skin condition that was being fought with medicine that was becoming increasingly debilitating and increasingly ineffective.

After going on to talk about the mysterious skin condition, the last paragraph of the article reads:

Hossa wouldn’t be the first player to retire early because of such an allergy. “The Gunk,” as it was known in the 1970s and 1980s, affected many players, and drove former Hawks and North Stars defenseman Tom Reid out of the game in 1978.

That was a little freaky. What is the gunk? It took a little doing but I finally found a semi-authoritative mention of the gunk at Locker Room Doctor run by Dr. Mike Evans of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto in a piece entitled “The Gunk: a Virulent Oozing Rash”

They called it the plague and the creeping crud, but mostly it was known, and feared, as the gunk: a virulent oozing rash that afflicted players across hockey in the late 1970s and into the ’80s, forcing several of them out of the game altogether. “It’s a mystery,” was the diagnosis of Montreal Canadiens coach Scotty Bowman. Doctors called it contact dermatitis, but even they were largely baffled by what exactly they were dealing with. “We don’t know what’s going on completely,” investigating dermatologist Dr. William Schorr confessed in 1976. By then, an estimated 70 NHL players were suffering, along with uncounted others in junior and minor leagues.

The NHL decided it wasn’t concerned enough by the outbreak to mount its own investigation. “It’s the type of thing the individual clubs themselves would have to be involved in,” executive director Brian O’Neill said while Dr. Schorr puzzled over symptoms. By 1979, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta was getting ready to start a study.

No word on where that went. Back in the rinks, most cases of the rash resembled psoriasis, sometimes in its later stages oozing a yellow pus. Often it started on the hands before spreading wherever the player’s body came in contact with his equipment. Was dirty old gear to blame, dyes, detergents, tanning agents from leather? Theories abounded. A nervous condition related to the anxiety of scoring droughts and playoff pressures? A reaction to Zamboni fumes? Fibreglass from sticks? As dermatologists treating players agreed that the rash wasn’t communicable, team trainers struggled to curb it while doing their best to minister to its victims with cortisone-based ointments.

Canadiens centreman Jacques Lemaire ended up spending a week in hospital in the early ’70s. “They had me bathing in lotion,” he told the Times. “They had to put me on sleeping pills every night, the itching was so bad.”

A dermatologist was able to help cure Clark Gillies of the New York Islanders. “He said it was something to do with bleach and detergent and the nylon in the equipment,” he said. Meditation soothed another Islander, defenceman Jean Potvin, when nothing else would. “I know I was a lot more relaxed and I never had any of I again. I have to think it’s a nerve symptom.”

None had it worse than Tom Reid. A defenceman who started his career with the Chicago Black Hawks, he went on to ply the blueline for ten years as a Minnesota North Star before finding himself gunked out of the game in 1978.

“It was a gradual thing,” he says. “It started about the size of a dime on my arm. Then it got bigger. It went down my side and it just started to spread. As soon as I was off the ice, in two weeks it was gone. If I came back to the ice, play a few games, it would come right back again.”
“We changed equipment. They covered me in creams, they covered the equipment. I changed underwear, t-shirt, after the warm-up, at the end of every period — it just got worse.”

He was getting pills, injections of steroids. He spent 11 days in hospital to start off the 1975-76 season. At one point, he said at the time, he was getting 30 shots a day to help in the relief effort.

“It was pretty painful. It was at the point where my whole side was just pus. They couldn’t figure out what it was. I’d be wrapping towels around my body, which helped — the problem was when I had to take the towels off. I couldn’t sleep — for a while I was sleeping sitting upright in a wooden chair. It got to the point by the end where they couldn’t give me any more cortisone. I had to retire.”

It was ten years later before doctors came up with anything resembling an answer to the gunk mystery — too late for Reid’s career. In 1988, a member of the Edmonton Oilers’ medical staff helped identify one of the causes: the use of formaldehyde in the manufacture of equipment as a way of preventing mildew and maintaining colour.

“Once we figured out that was the problem, we had a good, quick solution to it,” Dr. Don Groot said in 2000. This (surprisingly specific) one: the addition of a cup of powdered milk to the second rinse cycle of a wash, he said, seemed to do away with both the formaldehyde and the gunk it bred.

Hossa, a beloved veteran hockey player on a multimillion dollar contract is certainly getting the most expensive cutting edge medicine money can buy. Sometimes that’s a problem. Auto-immune diseases are a great example of that.

Managing auto immune diseases effectively is beyond the grasp of the mainstream medical community at this time. Sometimes it works, often it does not.

Mainstream doctors throw steroids at any skin oddity they are unsure of. It begins with steroid creams and moves into pills or injections. By chance these things might work. Or perhaps they have zero effect and the body and the disease are just cycling independent of the treatment – even a broken clock is right twice a day. And while there’s a chance that may work, there’s almost a guarantee that enough steroid use will produce significant side effects.

Eventually the doctor may determine there are further systemic issues at play and more drugs get thrown at the patient and their non-responsive illness – drugs that are experimental for all uses, drugs that are experimental for this use, and drugs that are certainly experimental for you. You might end up with challenging chemotherapy medicines like methotrexate, azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, mercaptopurine, or mitoxantrone being used for autoimmune conditions, or even biotherapy drugs like rituximab, infliximab, or natalizumab. But don’t worry, the doctor says – we’ll give you a much lower dose than a cancer patient would get. He might add, we don’t exactly know how it works but it sometimes show excellent results. That’s sort of the broken clock theory of medicine again; I’m surprised by how often I hear it from doctors. We also don’t know how placebos or homeopathics work but they sometimes work. That’s no reason to randomly use placebos or homeopathics but at least they don’t have toxic side effects.

Dealing with what appears to have been a troubling period with an autoimmune disease of my own about five years ago, nothing worked but dietary changes. I say “appears” because I was never able to find a doctor able to give a conclusive diagnosis, nor did I ultimately care enough to hear a diagnosis to push doctors to take a wild guess. Going through that process myself and with others, it appeared to me pretty quickly that autoimmune concerns and their accompanying skin conditions are a near mystery for the medical community.

So, while visiting doctors I turned to people like Dr Mercola and Mark Sisson for advice, people who plenty of main stream doctors might call quacks. I took their advice on a body gone haywire. I took the advice of others and did a lot of experimentation on myself to figure out what worked and what didn’t and to eventually solve this problem. Sisson, like Hossa was once an elite athlete with a great burden of health concerns. He now helps people who were in his situation to get beyond those health concerns. Both he and Mercola have astute minds and keep well read on the latest studies.

That being said, I don’t imagine Hossa has anything to learn from me on this matter. The champion player if he is diligent enough about his own health has certainly had his diet analyzed by the Mercolas of the world. My guess though, and it’s a reasonable guess, that surrounded by high priced doctors, he probably has been steered away from “experimental treatments” that don’t come from the Journal of the American Medical Association write ups or Big Pharma’s labs. Certainly he’s encouraged by high priced doctors to do all the experimenting he wants as long as Pfizer or Eli Lilly developed the product. It’s more likely that a doctor will prescribe an experimental and dangerous pharmaceutical than to ask you to speak to a nutritionist about methodically adjusting your diet and seeing what works.

The instructions of Hippocrates, the father of medicine, from 431 B.C. on diet “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” is either “too experimental” or quackery for many doctors. Meanwhile, with the air of authority that accompanies a white jacket and stethoscope, sometimes even the rich and famous can be led down a bad path by doctors.

A more comforting thought than the fact that Hossa is not getting the full breath of treatment options presented to him, is that the whole issue of his “skin condition” is being overhyped. That is my hope. There is much more advantage to the Chicago Blackhawks if Hossa is deemed physically unfit to play rather than opting to retire.

If Hossa retires, the Chicago Blackhawks are at a tremendous disadvantage under the NHL’s salary cap rules. If he continues on with the team on long term injured reserve, the Blackhawks under the salary cap rules, just scored a huge victory off the ice. In such a situation they have a greater likelihood of replacing the nearly irreplaceable Hossa, who is one of the premier two-way players in the game.

“Absolutely reeks of cap circumvention” writes one suspicious Blackhawks fan.

Marian Hossa, born in Stará Ľubovňa, Czechoslovakia (located in the Prešov region of present-day Slovakia, 20 miles east of the High Tatras, 10 miles south of the Polish border) is one of the most popular and successful Slovak ice hockey players. Hossa comes from an ice hockey-loving family, with his father, František Hossa, and a younger brother, Marcel Hossa, both being professional hockey players representing Slovakia in the World Championships and Winter Olympics. Although Marian Hossa has represented Slovakia in numerous World Championships and Winter Olympics, he remains medal-less – a distinction we are eager to see him part with. Marian Hossa was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 1997 as his first NHL team and spent 7 seasons with the team. Later on he played for Atlanta Trashers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroid Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. He won three Stanley Cup championships in Chicago (2009-10, 2012-13 and 2014-15), the highest team honor in hockey. Hossa has been a hero to young Slovaks, Chicagoans, Americans, and hockey aficionados for years.

All of us here at 52 Weeks in Slovakia wish the hero godspeed in his recovery!

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Photo credit: hokejonline.com

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