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Archive for December 12, 2009

Alternative View on Money- I

December 12, 2009 3 comments

What is the purpose of money or economic activity? I am suggesting that their true purpose is to prevent people from killing each other. The benefits of money and economic activity such as as trade, “progress” and wealth creation are infact secondary.

However many economists and financial types believe that money is real. Though many of them profess to believing that money is merely a medium of exchange and storage of commercial activity, their actions suggest otherwise. It is curious that kids stop believing in santa claus and the easter bunny as they grow up but start believing in the “realness” of money. Money whether gold based or fiat based is not real. Neither is debt, your favorite economic model or theory. Money is worthless if it cannot create new wealth or keep people from killing each other.

The concept of money, as most people understand it, was created in a feudal and mercantile age when the majority had a subsistence level existence. It is therefore not surprising that it evolved mainly to keep people from killing each other and simultaneously control people (we are just smart apes who seek short term dominance over long term gains).

However the full fruits of industrialization, various historical events and widespread multi-generational acceptance of concepts like fiat currency have made the consumption of the average person the only dominant driver of the economy (consumer economy). While some people express moral misgivings about such a transformation, the reality is that people who advocate a move away from materialism, towards conservatism, fiscal discipline, frugality are the merely the priests of a new religion. They seek to control and dominate the lives of other people just like the ‘priests’ of every religion from catholicism to environmentalism and “capitalism”.

Please read my other posts on this topic, including:

Alternative View on Money- II

The New Priests- II

December 12, 2009 4 comments

Secular religions share many basic attributes with traditional religions, such as:

1. An official list of ‘true’ books and media (the wealth of nations, das capital, atlas shrugged, the bell curve, an inconvenient truth etc).

2. They promise an eventual utopia for true believers (the invisible hand, dictatorship of the proletariat, objectivist paradise, harmony with nature etc.

3. They all preach against unbelievers and deniers but still try to convert them.

4. They have deities (money, gold, mother earth), prophets (adam smith, karl marx, ayn rand, paul ehrlich, al gore) and priests (too many to name).

5. They are locked in perpetual struggle against a set of malevolent entities (mercantile thinking, bourgeoisie, criminals, other people, oil companies, industries etc).

6. They detest lapsed believers, often treating them with more disdain than unbelievers.

7. When forced to confront the limited nature of their models, they try to deny the obvious, use sophistry, outright fraud, threats of boycotts. Once again lapsed believers receive the most ‘righteous’ anger.

For a long time, science was able to avoid the worst aspects of becoming a semi-religious movement. Inspite of the efforts of many ‘famous’ scientists, it was able to correct itself enough to be seen as better than religion. Belief in eugenics in the first half of the 20th century, is the closest that science came to becoming a secular religion. The changing nature of funding for science (especially after ww2) has however slowly upset the ability of science to correct itself. The very nature of significant public funding for science, controlled by politicians and administrators, makes biased, convenient and fraudulent science far easier to perpetuate than in a previous era. It is unfortunate that politically motivated people exploit public trust in science, as it will backfire in very unpleasant ways.

I will address the extent and effects of such corruption in my next few posts.

The New Priests- I

December 12, 2009 5 comments

Belief in the ability of ‘experts’ to consistently predict the future is a popular and dangerous delusion. As anyone with a stash of old magazines, newspaper clippings or webpage caches can verify, anointed ‘experts’ are more likely to be wrong about the future than a wild guess by laymen. This phenomenon is especially well understood in the realm of sci-fi and technology, where ‘experts’ in an area of knowledge are almost always wrong about future developments in that area. I will write about this in detail, and with examples, in upcoming posts.

In past centuries such ‘experts’ often wore distinctive headgear and robes, and were called priests, shamans, sorcerers, wizards and medicine men. They professed their abilities to decipher the hidden messages of deities through esoteric knowledge and rituals, not revealed to laymen. While traditional religion has lost much of its power in the west, the human need to believe in a meaningful and predictable universe has resulted in the appearance of secular religions.

At their core, all religious type beliefs try to make their followers believe that the universe, and their existence, has a purpose independent of their viewpoint. It is very hard for most people to accept the possibility that existence has no meaning other than what their mind chooses to give it. I will also explore this issue in upcoming posts. As previously mentioned, the west has abandoned traditional religions for secular religions. While the reasons for this shift are many, it does not alter the basic dynamics of religious type thinking. Moreover these new religions are not seen as religions by their believers.

Secular religions cover the gamut of ideologies from capitalism, socialism, communism, anarchism, free marketism, law-and-orderism, racialism and increasingly ‘scientificism’.