It is no secret that my views on human beings as a species have been pretty negative for a long time. I have also made it clear, on at least one previous occasion, that my views are not the result of disappointment and therefore are not typically misanthropic. I tend to see things as they are, rather than as they are supposed or expected to be. As regular readers also know, more than a few of my previous posts have been about the apparent inconsistencies in widely held views about the human mind and observed human behaviors. In a few of those posts, I have explicitly suggested that most human beings are largely driven by the desire to cheat, screw over, damage, hurt and kill others- even if does not confer any measurable advantage to them. While I have my own theories on what drives this almost uniquely human urge, the current post will talk about another aspect of this phenomena- its ubiquity. I will also talk a bit about why this urge will almost inevitably result in human extinction.
Let us start with a recent news-piece about how officials in the Pyrenees are considering how to curb the sexual appetite of Pyros the bear to give his rivals a chance to mate. This news-piece also reminded me of another similar one from a few months ago- Danish zoo that killed Marius the giraffe puts down four lions. While reading both of them makes you wonder about the world view and belief systems of the “officials” in question, almost nobody seems to be asking the most important question- How is interference in the lives of wild animals based on questionable beliefs rational? As you will soon see, the generalized form of this question is intimately connected to what I am going to talk about in the rest of this post.
But before we go any further, let us first be clear about my views on the treatment of animals. While I am against cruelty towards animals, I am not against eating meat or killing animals that are (directly or indirectly) dangerous to human beings. Though I am against the horrible conditions prevalent in the factory farming of animals- especially in north america, I am not against the concept of raising and killing animals for food, as long as it is done in a way that causes minimal pain and suffering to the animals in question. Nor am I against the hunting animals, as long as it is for obtaining food or protecting oneself.
And this brings me to another facet of the problematic relationship between humans and other animals. Large-scale trophy hunting of animals, especially large mammals, was once a very popular pursuit. It reached its peak in the 1840-1914 time period and was responsible for the near extinction of many large mammalian species. Curiously, neither food nor security was the main reason behind such large-scale trophy hunting. So what was it about? Some might say that hunting large animals is about displaying masculine prowess. While that was partially true in the era before long-ranged rifled guns became commonplace, it is really hard to argue that the ability to safely kill an animal from 200 meters with an accurate rifle is somehow linked to masculine prowess. The same questions could also be asked about commercial whaling or clubbing seals by the tens of thousands for fur. So what was all this large-scale animal killing really about? Could it be the act of killing others for no rational reason is more pleasurable than is commonly understood?
Let us now turn our attention to pets. Why do humans have pets? Why do people constantly try to anthropomorphize their pets? Now some of you might say that most humans do infact care about other animals, especially those species that are kept as pets. But is that really true? If that were true why do humans kill so many of the pet animals who cannot find a human owner? Is mass killing of animal pets that cannot find human owners really about their welfare, or is it about something else? And why do humans spend that much time, money and effort to castrate pets, feed them, anthropomorphize them and then try to make them live like humans than the animals they are? On a related note, why were circus acts with animals once so popular? What is the entertainment value of watching lions, tiger and elephants jump through hoops or sit on tables? Why do people go to see animal trick shows at places like Sea World? What about zoos? What pleasure do humans derive from creating subservient animals and then observing their subservience?
Moving on to how human beings behave towards each other.. Why was overt slavery so common in previous eras, even if the slave-owners could not make a worthwhile financial profit from the labors of their slaves? Why go through the trouble of obtaining and abusing people as slaves when the same amount of work could be willingly and enthusiastically done by economically marginalized members of your own group. Why use slaves when there was no shortage of poor and desperate people? Why did rich people of previous eras prefer to have slaves over poorly paid employees? What was the real distinction between slaves and poor people? Does this have anything to do with how humans interact with animals? Could it be that human enjoy having , using, abusing others as slaves rather than taking the most rational way out and hiring people to do a given job?
Then there is the question of money, or more specifically why some people accumulate money beyond any practical ability to spend ever spend it. In a previous series of posts, I had put forth the idea that a few people accumulate money to impoverish everyone else than make their own lives better. Do you really think billionaires want to uplift social morality, educational standards or support LIEbertarian policies because they want to help their “fellow” human beings? Maybe making lost of money is not about showing others that you are better than them. Maybe it is really about willful destruction of the lives of people they do not even know in person. Or consider all institutional and corporate hierarchies. What if they are really about abusing and screwing other others rather than anything related to the supposed function of those institutions? What if bureaucracy is not really about making institutions work, but creating the groundwork for finding creative ways to fuck over other people- especially those you don’t even know. And why are priests of all religions more concerned with disrupting the sexual lives of others than their so-called “god” or public welfare?
The way women see, interact with and behave towards men is another example of this pattern. Why are so many fat white suburban women concerned about prostitution? Why do they want men to jump through all sorts of hoops for a slim chance of having sex with mediocre women? Why are they so concerned about misogyny? Why do ugly middle-aged hags want to be told that they are beautiful? Why complain about guys who treat them well? Why are most divorces initiated by middle-aged women past their physical prime? Why look down on male sexual desire while building your lifestyle on it? I could go on and on, but my point is that the attitude of women towards men is substantially more adversarial than can be explained via anything that even remotely resembles simple competition. It is a much better fit for something that I like to call- maliciousness for its own sake.
Many readers might have, by now, recognized a common thread running through all the above-mentioned examples of human behavior. They all clearly a demonstrate a deep-seated and widespread human tendency to be deceitful, cruel, abusive and murderous for reasons that have almost nothing to with material or monetary gain. It is as if most human beings are actively driven a unscratchable itch to hurt, abuse, enslave and kill others even if they stand to gain very little from it. Human beings as a species will spend their own time, effort and resources to hurt other living creatures just for the joy of doing so.
But why is any of this important? Haven’t human beings being like this for thousands of years? Well.. the simple answer is technology. Previously this particular human tendency was completely contained by technological limitations. People with pre-industrial and early-industrial age technology simply could not do much damage beyond their immediate vicinity. Even large-scale wars, genocides and conquests were moderated by the hard technological limitations. But that is no longer so.. and the (recognized or unrecognized) ability to fuck up the world of humans is real. I also believe that such an event is far more likely to occur as a series of unintentional coincidences, and reactions to them, than anything that is deliberately engineered. This behavioral tendency is also going to be the reason why humans (in their current form) will never become a space-faring species. Travelling between stars, you see, requires energy sources and technologies that would would let a single person kill every other human on the planet. You can be very sure that the development of such technology will result in the extinction of human beings before it is used to make a single starship.
What do you think? Comments?
Almost two weeks have passed since the Isla Vista Killings, and it seems that the “popular” views about Elliot Rodger fall into two distinct, but not mutualy exclusive, categories. Some say he was misogynist, an issue which I have previously written about, and then are others who say that he was mentally ill.
But was he mentally ill?
Here is the short version of my answer- Elliot Rodger was not mentally ill, by any honest and rational definition of the concept of mental illness. Some of you might say.. “but how can you be so sure, you are not a medical board certified psychiatrist”. To this my answer is- maybe the problem begins with using medical board certified psychiatrists to diagnose mental illness.
Before we go into that issue- let us first define the concept of illness, as applicable to any type of illness or disease. What do we really mean when we use words like ‘illness’ or ‘disease’? And what does being ‘healthy’ imply? If you think hard enough about it, ‘health’ or ‘illness’ are about optimal functioning of one of more organ systems in the body. They are about how all parts of the body are behaving, not what caused that condition. Let me explain that point a bit further, since it has relevance to the Elliot Roger saga.
Accidentally burning yourself while cooking or breaking a bone while playing sports is not a disease or illness- even though the result of those physical insults can be treated as such. Similarly you can get a fever in response to some viral infection, bacterial infection or even a non-infectious cause such as some types of lymphomas. On the other hand, even a so-called ‘natural’ phenomena like growing old (senescence) can be classified as a disease, rather than something that is actually natural like growing up (maturation). My point is that diseases and illness are best defined as a fairly continuous, if sometimes slow, self-sustained downward spiral of organ and body function.
But what is the relevance of any of this to defining mental illness or diseases. Well.. it has to so with what can be considered a mental illness and what cannot. For example- hearing disembodied voices that tell you to kill others or consistently experiencing visual hallucinations is not compatible with normal brain function. Nor is obsessive compulsive behavior that the person implicitly recognizes as irrational. On the other hand- feeling very sad after the death of your child or being depressed in the aftermath of a large adverse life event or after being diagnosed with a terminal illness is, for the lack of a better term, normal or physiological. Similarly being sexually attracted to others of your own sex (homosexuality) is not a mental illness- even though it was considered as such by psychiatry until the 1970s.
When we start talking about Elliot Rodger and mental illness, it is necessary to first determine if his worldview was grounded in measurable reality and whether his shyness was a response to that reality.
Based on his manifesto and YouTube videos, it is clear that Elliot saw himself as a victim of the circumstances of his birth. To be more precise, he thought that his social life would have much better if he was white and had richer parents. I , for one, think that he was absolutely correct about both those factors. It does not take a genius to figure out being a white male (as opposed to a half-asian one) and/or being richer in the very affluent parts of coastal south California would have made him far more socially acceptable and desirable. Heck, even being a black or hispanic male is better than being an asian or half-asian male in SoCal- as far as social desirability is concerned. Now this is almost totally about popular perception rather than objective reality, but people (including girls) make their decisions based on popular perceptions- not objective reality. His assessment of his situation, and predicament, was therefore quite accurate.
Elliot also wrote a lot about being ignored, bullied and put down as a kid- both in school and at home. His behavioral problems started after his still married parents moved to California and got divorced within a couple of years. It is also important to note that the peculiar post-divorce custodial arrangements, his father’s remarriage, his father’s busy schedule, his stepmother’s contempt and his mother losing interest in him after the divorce were not conducive to feeling loved, wanted or secure. While his parents did make sure that he had a financially comfortable lifestyle and upbringing- it is clear that they had both abandoned him. The bully-based culture of the american school system did not make things any better and may have directly contributed to his extreme shyness and aversion towards interacting with new people. In other words, his insecurity and shyness were largely a rational response to his experiences, surroundings and condition.
Similarly, neither his manifesto or YouTube videos show any sign of irrational thinking or grandiose expectations. His manifesto in particular is very well written, factually accurate and accurately captures what he was feeling. Nor were the expectations or desires expressed in it or the videos odd. It seems that he wanted one, or at the most a few serial girlfriends, who were pretty and loved him. He was not asking for sex with hundreds or thousands of women, nor did he see himself as a guy who could get all the pussy he wanted. His wants and desires were, if anything, pretty standard for a guy in his age-group.
Now some of you might say- “but, but.. didn’t the doctor prescribe him some anti-psychotic drug which he did not take”. Well.. if you use that logic, then you also have to believe that all those anti-depressants prescribed to people with mild reactive depression, Ritalin to boys with “ADHD”, and anti-psychotics prescribed to people with PTSD and atypical depression-like symptoms are based in evidence-based medicine. Here is a hint- they are not! It is about physicians trying to show that they are doing something- even if that something is useless or actively harmful.
In my opinion, blaming Elliot Roger’s murder spree on misogyny or mental illness are excuses for people to avoid talking about the real social issues that led him to do what he ultimately did. In an earlier era, we would have blamed his actions on witchcraft, wizardry or devil worship.
What do you think? Comments?
One of the important, though largely ignored, changes in the last thirty years involves the increasing degree to which societies have begun conflating credentials with actual ability and competence. This trend is now at all levels of society from who gets hired and promoted at some mediocre corporation to who can run for elected office such as the presidency.
Here is a recent example: Can I get a job at SpaceX after graduating from a low-ranked engineering program? I have quoted the most important and relevant parts below.
I ran recruiting at SpaceX for almost 6 years; everything about how they recruit is part of the footprint myself and my team created – so hopefully you’ll find this input helpful, though it will only magnify the challenge that lies before you. SpaceX aggressively pursues top collegiate talent; but because the hiring bar (mandate per Elon) is top 1% of the human population – we focus on top ranked engineering programs because their strict acceptance requirements are a good prefilter and remove 90% of the bell curve, thereby automatically bringing us to about top 10% of the college population; making our haystack much smaller and thus easier to find the proverbial needles.
The rest of that answer is full of the usual crap that almost all of you must have encountered in any basic interaction with HR personal in pretty much every single corporation. FYI- this particular piece caught my attention because I know a thing or two about rocket engine and launcher technology etc.
Here is what you should know: Modern rocket engine and launcher technology was mostly developed and perfected between 1939 and late-1970s. There has been no breakthrough in the area of chemical rocket engine (fuel or mechanics) in the last forty years. SpaceX is basically trying to build what both the Russians and the Americans perfected over four decades ago. The business model of SpaceX can be best summarized as building relatively inexpensive medium-large LOX-kerosene fueled rocket launchers and accessories in the USA.
The funny wrinkle in their vision of low-cost rocketry is that the ESA, RFSA and the CNSA already offer dollars-per-kg rates that are comparable to those promised by SpaceX.
I should also point out that ESA, the RFSA and its soviet-era predecessor, the CNSA and ISRO were able to develop to develop all that technology and hardware without hiring ivy-league graduates. There is also the troublesome question of why would you want to hire so called “top level” talent to copy 40-year old technology. Well.. actually that is not quite true. SpaceX currently does not even have the technology found in older russian LOX/Kerosene engines such as the RD-180, which itself is a half-sized version the 1970s-era RD-170.
So what is going on? Why can’t SpaceX achieve what the Russians did without much fanfare (and electronic computers) four decades ago? Is it the lack of resources? Is it the lack of government help- both technical and financial? Or is it a basic conflict between their corporate ideology and reality? In my opinion, the problem is largely due to the unbridgeable gap between corporate thinking and reality. Let me explain..
American corporations have for the last few decades been increasingly run by managers, lawyers and other assorted CONartists. The people who make decisions, policy and control money in american corporations have therefore little or no understanding of either the underlying technologies or what it takes to makes things work in the real world. They are mentally incapable of grasping the world that lies beyond PowerPoint presentations, Excel sheets, frequent meetings, committees and subcommittees, buzzwords and endless political scheming.
But what does any of this have to do with the inability of american companies to even properly copy 40-year old technology?
Well.. it comes down to who they hire. People who do not understand the technology behind the products made by the corporations they lead try to cover up their ignorance by going for impressive sounding names, brands and ideas. They therefore hire people who graduated from institution with impressive sounding names and believe that doing so will magically result in some new product or breakthrough. So, why does it not work like that? Why are the graduates of ivy-league and other “prestigious” institutions almost always inferior to their more “common” counterparts at actual innovation or even just getting things done?
Let me answer that question by posing another question- Who is admitted into “prestigious” educational institutions and on what criteria? Here is my answer.. Such institutions admit people who are 1] good at taking tests 2] good at self promotion and 3] good at social interactions. Do you see the problem? Well, if you did not.. here it is.
“Prestigious” universities discriminate against those with technical ability and competence.
Therefore the graduates of such institutions tend to be less than competent and yet simultaneously full of belief in their innate superiority. It does not help that the “prestige” of their institutions allows them to shift blame for their incompetence onto the people who work for them. They are mostly driven by fads, trends, buzzwords and delusions of grandeur rather than anything approximating reality. The end result of hiring a lot of such people is that your research and development programs don’t progress as expected and you cannot even replicate what the soviet space program achieved four decades ago.
But none of this matters to the people in charge of companies like SpaceX, because breaking out their familiar thinking patterns would shatter the fragile (yet internally self-consistent) bubble of lies they inhabit- and nobody wants to rock the boat.
What do you think? Comments?
Regular readers of my blog know that I have never seen CONservatives as anything other as subhumans who will willingly slave away to enrich their real exploiters. Rarely does a day go by when I do not come across one more example of why people of the CONservative mindset are subhuman tools. The remainder of this post is based upon one recent, and very clear instance, of why CONservatives are subhumans.
Edit: Here is a more recent post that explains the gist of my argument.
It all started with a recent article in Washington Post about the effect of rising university tutions on the ability to students to feed themselves- More college students battle hunger as education and living costs rise
When Paul Vaughn, an economics major, was in his third year at George Mason University, he decided to save money by moving off campus. He figured that skipping the basic campus meal plan, which costs $1,575 for 10 meals a week each semester, and buying his own food would make life easier. But he had trouble affording the $50 a week he had budgeted for food and ended up having to get two jobs to pay for it. “Almost as bad as the hunger itself is the stress that you’re going to be hungry,” said Vaughn, 22, now in his fifth year at GMU. “I spend more time thinking ‘How am I going to make some money so I can go eat?’ and I focus on that when I should be doing homework or studying for a test.”
To make a long story short, the above linked article talks about how rising tuition costs and decreasing (or harder to obtain) student financial aid causes food insecurity for university students who do not come from well-to-do backgrounds. As many of you might also be aware of, university tuition fees in the USA have consistently grown at rates far higher than gross inflation, wage growth or even health care for the last thirty years. It is noteworthy that this rise in fees has not translated into wage increases for the tenured university faculty or support staff. Indeed, universities are now heavily dependent on temporary sessional instructors who get paid only a fraction of what the shrinking tenured faculty makes. FYI- all of that extra income from ever-increasing tution fees is mostly spent on “wealth” management for the university, sports teams and athletic facilities, salaries for a greatly expanded administrative staff and other stuff that has no positive effect on the quality of teaching.
So what aspect of this article ticked me off. Well.. it was not so much the article, as some of the comments that made me write this post. Here are a few of the more typical examples.
ChrisMallory 4/15/2014 8:48 AM MDT
Have these special snowflakes never heard of Ramen noodles? Get them on sale at 10 packs for a dollar and eat like a king.
joepah 4/11/2014 12:28 PM MDT [Edited]
You can buy a 50 lb sack of rice for $25 and a 5 quart bottle of veg oil for $10. 25 lbs dried black bean $23. 1 lb salt $1. Not the most exciting food but provides all the fat and carbos to keep you going. Flour lard and veggies can be cheap. Give me $100 at month and I can feed a college student, IF they are willing to learn to cook.
ceemanjo 4/10/2014 6:48 PM MDT
I was hungry every night my first year of graduate school, lost fifteen pounds and I wasn’t fat to start with. After a while, I learned that you can live off potatoes and beans. It is truly amazing how little you can spend on food. Do you want to live like that your whole life? No. But it doesn’t hurt for a few years. I look back with some fondness to my struggling student days. I think we should lighten up about this. It is actually a good thing for college kids to be hungry sometimes, good learning experience. A good inexpensive college dish is ramen with cabbage and carrots. You can fill your stomach for less than a dollar. Ramen isn’t much good for you but it fills you up and the cabbage and carrots are. Potatoes are cheap.
Terrence Lorelei 4/10/2014 4:47 PM MDT
Well, something tells me that Mommy and Daddy (or, Mommy and Mommy) won’t really let their little darlings starve. Also, the ridiculous arguments about following the models of some silly Euro-weenie nation simply do not hold water; a nation of 330 MILLION in a free-enterprise system cannot be compared to a mini-nation of 10 million socialists, all living just above the poverty line due to government confiscation of most of their paychecks. But then again, the spoiled American under-25 crowd simply will never understand that they are NOT owed anything until they earn it.
CivilUser 4/10/2014 12:20 PM MDT
What happened to Ramen Noodles? They still sell those dont they? Thats what got me through school. That and a used rice cooker that always had rice cooking. Meal plans at my school were for the kids who had parents with money.
While comments such as the ones highlighted above are now becoming the minority opinion, they were until very recently the majority opinion. But why? It should be obvious to all but the brain-damaged that there are no real constraints in providing every single person on this planet more than enough to eat. The technology and resources to do so have existed for a few decades now. Nor is money a real issue, partly because it is not real to begin with and can be produced in unlimited amounts at a touch of a button. Furthermore, the USA spends infinitely more money on far more dubious causes such as “stealth” aircraft that cannot fly in the rain, nation “building” in the middle-east and spying on its loyal “citizens” (subjects).
It is clear that food insecurity in university students is not due to a real lack of food, money or social utility. It is about creating artificial scarcity.
But why? What is the rationality behind creating artificial scarcity? Well.. while there is no rationality behind creating artificial scarcity, there is certainly a logic- a CONservative one. As I have said before, CONservatives are almost exclusively motivated by making the lives of someone else, usually less fortunate than them, miserable. They are, as a group, incapable of relating to other humans and indeed any other life forms in any other way. CONservatives have no real interest, or belief, in concepts such as personal responsibility, frugality, utility, or honesty. Indeed, they only invoke such concepts to try to shame and handicap naive people. CONservatives are just a bunch of pathetic parasites who were not lucky or smart enough to make it into the big leagues. They spend the rest of their pathetic lives trying to win small personal victories by trying to screw over other people. The only real and lasting solution to this problem involves the sudden disappearance of all CONservatives and their progeny.
What do you think? Comments?
The name of a 16th century “philosopher” known as Thomas Hobbes frequently pops up in discussions on a range of topics ranging from the best type of governance to whether a state is necessary for reasonably stable societies to exist. He is best known for writing a book known as Leviathan in which he argues for of a system in which a very small group of “special” people have a monopoly on violence. In his opinion only such a system could guarantee social stability and economic prosperity.One of his most famous quotes is about the state of human society without a top-down repressive regime.
In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently, not culture of the earth, no navigation, nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
So why am I choosing him as the target of this post? Well.. there are two reasons. Firstly, he is a good example of the prototypical academic who will suck cock and write pretty lies for his paymasters. Secondly, his reputation needs to be demolished to the point where nobody wants to remember him, quote him or even try to recycle any of his ideas.
Many of you might wonder how something like this can be done. Wouldn’t irreversibly tarnishing the image of a long dead, semi-famous, white intellectual be hard. My answer is- not really. Think of all the famous white people who stood behind the idea of eugenics in the early 20th century. How many can you name or, more importantly even want to remember? Similarly the memories of even more famous people like Hitler, who was once widely admired in pre-WW2 UK and USA, are now irreversibly associated with evil. To put it another way, engineering large changes in the public images of famous (or semi-famous) people is actually quite easy.
Moving back to the topic at hand, let us start by looking at his early life and see if it provides any obvious clues as to why Hobbes became a servile cocksucker for the elites of his era.
Born prematurely when his mother heard of the coming invasion of the Spanish Armada, Hobbes later reported that “my mother gave birth to twins: myself and fear.” His childhood is almost a complete blank, and his mother’s name is unknown. His father, also named Thomas, was the vicar of Charlton and Westport. Thomas Hobbes Sr. had an older brother, Francis Hobbes, who was a wealthy merchant with no family of his own. Thomas Hobbes, the younger, had one brother Edmund who was about two years older than he. Thomas Sr. abandoned his wife, two sons and a daughter, leaving them in the care of his brother, Francis, when he was forced to flee to London after being involved in a fight with a clergyman outside his own church. Hobbes was educated at Westport church from the age of four, passed to the Malmesbury school and then to a private school kept by a young man named Robert Latimer, a graduate of the University of Oxford. Hobbes was a good pupil, and around 1603 he went up to Magdalen Hall, which is most closely related to Hertford College, Oxford.
Hobbes was not born into a rich family and his early life was somewhat precarious. However, like many of the middle and upper-middle class of today, he had access to centers of credentialism and sophistry aka universities. It is therefore very likely that Hobbes always saw the attainment of elite-approved credentials and subservience to their power as the only realistic way to maintain a somewhat nice and stable lifestyle.
Everything that Hobbes ever said, wrote or argued about must therefore be seen through the lens of his own timid, conformist and sophistic persona. To put it another way, he was an enthusiastic mercenary for anybody who held out the promise of a bit more money, social status and a nice sinecure.
Now let us move on to a critical analysis of the validity of his writings. But before we do that, let me quickly talk about why destroying his reputation is necessary- even 300 years after his death. The arguments put forth in the writings of Hobbes are one of the foundations of modern CONservativism and many other -isms. They, in both their original as well as recycled forms, have been used to justify a variety of socio-economic systems that have brought nothing but impoverishment, extreme misery, starvation and disease to the vast majority of people while greatly enriching a few lucky sociopaths.
One the central arguments in his writings is the idea that all people are highly immoral and only an absolute monopoly of violent force in the hands of a few chosen ones can keep society stable. In some respects his ideas are remarkably similar to those used to justify Chinese-style Legalism. But are most people highly immoral and does monopolizing violent force in the hands of a chosen few really improve the living standards of most people in that society?
While I am certainly not a believer in the myth of noble savages, there is a large body of evidence that hunter-gatherers living in non-precarious environments were not especially avaricious, inhospitable or murderous. Indeed, the lack of centralized authority in such systems makes peaceful inter-group cooperation, diplomacy and exchanges more necessary than it would otherwise be. So the idea that most people will trick, steal from and murder each other without someone in charge is a sophistic lie, projection of the thinker’s own mindset or likely both.
And this brings us to the second part of that particular argument- namely that giving the monopoly of violence to a few “especially suitable” people will make somehow society more stable and better. But how can we decide who is suitable to wield such power and how do we know they are competent? Is there any evidence that supposedly “legitimate” kings are any more competent that those who became kings through less “legitimate” means? How can we define the competence to “rule” when most societies with kings or their secular equivalents (dictators and leaders of one-party systems) are really bad places to be born, or live, in- at least for the vast majority of people?
I am sure that most of you are aware that the material living standards of “civilized” people have been consistently and significantly lower than their hunter-gatherer counterparts except for the last 100-odd years. Moreover the general rise of living standards over the last hundred years are linked to the rise of technology and simultaneous decline of outright autocracy.
The two central foundations of Hobbes worldview therefore have no basis in reality. They do however tell us a lot about his worldview and those of his paymasters.
But why would Hobbes spend so much time and effort on creating this myth? There are those who would like to believe that his worldview was simply a product of the environment he grew up in. I am not so sure and here is why. His early life history suggests that Hobbes had no useful skills beyond learning, conforming and pleasing his superiors. It is also obvious that he always wanted a comfortable and stable lifestyle. So how does a reasonably clever and timid man make a stable and comfortable living in the pre-industrial era?
Obtaining royal (or elite patronage) was the only realistic and feasible occupational choice for a person of Hobbes ability, temperament and desires. In other words, he had to choice to suck elite cock and live reasonably well or not do so and live like an average (poor) person.
Now.. I am not criticizing his decision to suck elite cock to make a stable, decent and trouble-free living. Pretty much anybody in his situation would have done the same. My real problem with Hobbes is that his works are still seen as serious and objective philosophical insights rather than as literary blowjobs to his masters. Doing so is the equivalent of using the collected reminiscences of a house slave as a defense and justification for the institution of slavery.
Hobbes was essentially a clever house slave who got better food, clothing and living quarters because of his ability to flatter his master, justify his brutality and constantly tell him how all those other “lazy and evil” slaves would be lost without the “benevolent guidance” of his master.
What do you think? Comments?
The idea that profit-driven capitalism is the only system capable of delivering sustained improvement in living standards is a deeply cherished belief of many Americans, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. Some of you might even argue that the dissolution of the Soviet Union is definitive evidence of that ‘there is not other way’. Of course, doing so would require us to ignore that state communism did take Russia from a chaotic 19th century society to a superpower within 30 years, inspite of the massive damages inflicted by Stalin’s paranoia and WW2.
We would also have to ignore that the massive and unprecedented increase in the standard of living in the USA from the mid-1930s to mid-1980s was largely financed by direct and indirect government spending. Imagine an American middle-class without the New Deal, WW2-related spending, GI Bill, Space Race and all other Cold War related spending. But this is not a post about which flavor of capitalism is better than which flavor of state communism. Instead I will try to show how one of the fundamental proxy measures of success in capitalism (and state communism) eventually up destroying them.
I am certainly not the first to point out that monetary profit is fundamentally a measure of theft from other people or groups. However unlike many others, I am more interested in its downstream and knockon effects than the morality and mindset of those who benefit from it. There is also the interesting issue of why capitalism seems to “work” as long as it is kept under control, but becomes destructive to almost everybody once it is unregulated. In my opinion, all of this comes down to difference between profit and gain.
Some of you will counter by saying that “but aren’t profit and gain two words for the same thing”. Well.. not quite and let me explain. We use the word profit to denote a situation where one party benefits at the expense of another party. It is fundamentally impossible for all the parties involved in a profitable transaction to gain from it and is therefore a zero-sum interaction. Now contrast that an interaction where some parties gain more than others but pretty much everybody gets a pretty good and fair deal. Still confused? Let us look at some examples.
Consider the case of a generic multinational corporation which has managed to increase its reported profit by off-shoring its manufacturing base to a low-income country. So who are the winners and losers in this type of scenario? The biggest winners in this scenario are almost always the top-level management, large stockholders and those involved in the financial (and other) intermediation necessary to make it happen. Minor winners include the poorly paid workers in the low-income countries now working at a slightly better paying job and the consumers who benefit from a slightly cheaper product. So who are the big losers in this transaction? Well.. everybody else- starting from the unemployed workers to local business who depended on those workers and the local governments who depended on tax revenue from those workers, business and the corporation.
Now consider the case of a company, business or an institution developing a new way to fulfill some human need or desire. How many people were negatively affected by the development of computer technology? What about antibiotic drugs? What about better automobiles or airplanes? What about effective vaccines for diseases like polio? In each of the above examples, pretty much everybody benefited (or gained) far more than they lost. Moreover each of these products increased the size of the economy without a significant increase in income inequality. That is the important, and crucial difference, between profit and gain. You might also notice that my description of gain is pretty close to most peoples mental image of functional capitalism.
So why is gain-based capitalism in full retreat and why has its profit-based form taken over?
It comes down to concentration of power in the hands of a few large players or oligopolization. Capitalism, or indeed any other system, works best when there are many and almost equally capable competing players in the system. That is also why capitalism seems to function pretty well when a new area opens up for business. But sooner or later you will end up with a handful of major players who will dominate the new area.
But why would narrowing the list of players favor profit over gain. Well.. once again there are many interrelated reasons but they all arise from one characteristic common to all large human organisations- who runs them. The higher levels of large and established organisations are almost always dominated by sociopaths who have learned to climb the pyramid by stepping on others. These climbers often have no understanding of what it takes to make the enterprises they are leading function properly, nor are they interested in making them function properly.
The mindset of these sociopaths is dominated by two interlinked desires. Firstly, they want to subjugate and impoverish everyone else. Secondly, they want to do so while basking in material comfort. They have no interest, desire or even the mental ability to be anything else. These billionaires, “business leaders”, CEOs, board members, banksters, head honchos etc are functionally identical to parasites or viruses in that they both lack a purpose for existence and an internal ability to restrain themselves. They survive and thrive by exploiting the structure of the system and eluding systemic attempts to destroy them. But why are they so interested in generating more profit and suppressing gain? The answer to that question lies in what happens to monetary profit once it is generated.
Monetary profit, unlike gain, is almost never reinvested back into the system. In other words, all money made as profit exits the functional economy and impoverishes everybody else.
Only sovereign governments can replenish this supply of money. It is therefore not surprising that billionaires and other rich people spend lots of their time making sure that the government does not replenish this supply or that they get most of that replenishment. It is not about more money for them, as much as it is about less money for everybody else. Of course, it certainly helps that they have a whole bunch of morons to do their dirty work.
What do you think? Comments?
Have you ever wondered why mainstream movie-making in the last twenty years has gravitated towards remakes, sequels and prequels of previously successful movies? Why do movie studios keep on making newer version of old hits? What is purpose of making progressively inferior sequels or prequels of questionable quality? Now there are some who would say that all literature, theater and cinema is derivative (cleverly plagiarized and recycled) and there is some truth to that. But that is not what I am talking about. Let me explain my point with a few examples.
The original Star Wars and lords of the rings franchises are indeed clever rehashes of epics centered around reluctant hero trope. Furthermore, such epic stories are found across diverse cultures and eras. However reading the Odyssey, Scandinavian sagas or even the much earlier Epic of Gilgamesh does not diminish the enjoyment of watching the original star wars films or the LOTR trilogy because while they all have the same basic story structure, each one takes great effort to create and populate its own unique and self-consistent universe. Similarly modern superhero characters have more than a passing resemblance to the trans-human/semi-divine characters that populate ancient myths and stories. Yet once again, the creators of most modern superhero characters took considerable effort to make them and the worlds they inhabit as unique and richly detailed as possible.
Now contrast this level of creativity and effort to that seen (or not seen) in the Star Wars and LOTR “prequels”. Or take movie remakes- Why do most modern movie remakes and sequels suck so badly? Compare the original Robocop movie to its recent remake. Or compare the remake of Total recall to its far more innovative original version. This is not to say that every remake, prequel or sequel sucks. There are examples where the reboot was as good or better than the original such as Scarface (1983 vs 1932) or the Mummy (1999 vs 1932). Note that both examples of successful remakes mentioned in the previous sentence were quite different from the original versions. Having said that movies in which the remake, sequel or prequel are better than the original are exceptions and not the rule.
But why is that so and what does it have to do with the true nature of capitalism?
The short answer to that question is as follows- trying to relentlessly increase and optimize monetary profits from any new source of income will always kill the proverbial golden egg laying goose. The somewhat longer answer to that question requires us to first take an honest look at what capitalism (or any other materialism based -ism) is really about.
In the preceding paragraph, I hinted that the tendency of capitalism to kill golden egg laying geese is shared by other material-based ideologies (such as state communism). But why would that be so? Aren’t materialism based ideologies more “scientific” and therefore superior to other ways of looking at the world? Well.. it depends and here is why.
Materialism based (reductionist) models work best when the systems are small in size, fundamental in nature and/or tractable. So materialism based models are perfect for doing things such as predicting the motion of planets, understanding the physical nature of matter, launching artificial satellites, synthesizing some new chemical compound or designing a new engine or vehicle. Their predictive value starts to decrease as the systems become more complex or chaotic- yet they are still quite useful for understanding phenomena as diverse as biological evolution, speciation or weather systems. Reductionist models however reach the end of their usefulness when we enter the realms of complex, fundamentally unstable and adaptive systems such as human societies.
Models based in reductionism work well only as long as the fundamental components of the system and interactions between are constant, predictable and measurable. We simply cannot do that with human societies of even basic complexity. This is where reductionist thinkers make two fundamental errors.
Firstly, they try to use an external and artificial standard unit (money) to keep track of exchanges in the system. While the amounts of money exchanged might initially have some correlation to the actual value of most interactions in the system- it always reaches a point where the amounts exchanged between components in the system has little (or no) correlation to the actual value of the interactions. However the quantity and flow of money in the system are now increasingly seen as the only legitimate measure of value of anything or any person in the system. Money becomes a proxy measure for something it can no longer be accurately used to measure.
The triumph of money as the only way to measure the worth of anything results in the second type of reductionist error. The quest for more money results in the ever-increasing use of reductionist models (and thinking) to optimize interactions and actions. It is this mindset that leads to mediocre, insipid or just plain shitty movie remakes, sequels and prequels- while simultaneously starving truly innovative ideas and concepts. The people who make decisions about movie funding therefore have little interest in the quality or craft of the final product. They are principally motivated by the predicted monetary returns on their ill-gained money.
That is why capitalism, communism and all other reductionist -isms, which use artificial gameable proxy units, to model the real world ultimately end up destroying the very things that make their existence possible.
What do you think? Comments?