Archive for the ‘Thoughts on Economics’ Category

Two Unanswered Questions about the Greek “Bailout” Deal

July 13, 2015 2 comments

Yesterday the Greek PM (Alexis Tsipras) agreed to a tentative deal with other EU leaders that would provide a “bailout” of 86 billion Euro to Greece in exchange for levels of austerity and privatization far surpassing those reject in a referendum about a week ago. Leaving aside all the speculation surrounding the circumstances of this deal, there are two broader questions about this situation that have not been answered properly (i.e without speculation, self-serving lies and bullshit).

Question 1: Why do such a large percentage (over 65%) of Greeks want to remain in the Eurozone?

One of the central electoral promises of Syriza was that it would stop further EU-imposed financial austerity and still keep Greece in the Eurozone. But even more curiously, various polls showed that 2/3 rds of Greeks wanted to stay in the Eurozone. While those percentages might have gone down in the last few weeks, I still have a hard time understanding why Greeks would want to be on a team where most other members hated and abused them. I mean, it is possible to remain in the EU even after exiting the Eurozone.

While average incomes in Greece (as measured in Euros) did rise after joining the Eurozone, it is hard to make the case that it has made their lives any better. The sad reality is that they could have gotten most of the benefits of joining the Eurozone by joining the EU but maintaining their own currency. While I can understand why the Greek 1% ers (or 10% ers) wanted to join the Eurozone, the extensive popular support for retaining the Euro as the default currency in Greece does not make much sense. It is ego? Is it false consciousness? Is it the desire to be seen as European rather than Mediterranean?

Question 2: Do Germans (both its leaders and average citizens) think that making Greece sign an economic version of the Versailles treaty in 2015 will somehow stabilize a fundamentally defective currency?

Let us for a moment assume that Tsipras can get this deal through the Greek parliament and make sure that it is implemented in full. Let us also assume that his government, or any other replacing it, can keep it going for a couple of years. Then what? Does it improve the economic situation of the average person in Greece over the next two years.. five years.. ten years.. twenty years? My point is that pretty much any plan based in the neoliberal scams of austerity and privatization will almost inevitably cause more open-ended financial deprivation for the average Greek person. To put it another way, there is no light at the end of this tunnel.

Even if we ignore the very real possibility that such policies would almost inevitably lead to the the rise of right-wing nationalist parties in Greece, we are still left with an even bigger problem- namely, that other countries in the Eurozone might decide, or end up, sabotaging the Euro. It is no secret that significant minorities of the population in France, Italy and Spain have always been hostile to the idea of a common European currency. It is also well known that two out those three countries are not in the best of financial circumstances- at least as seen through the lens of neoliberal capitalistic dogma. However unlike Greece, they are large and have economies diverse enough to go willingly exit the Eurozone- if it comes to that.

Now consider the terms imposed by Germany on Greece and its likely effects on the later. Do you think people in those three large Eurozone countries will ignore what they are now seeing (economic colonialism) and will almost certainly see (more economic deprivation) in the future. Do you think they would still want to retain a common currency with Germany, if the later can do to them what it is doing to Greece? Why would you retain a common currency with a dominant country in a group if you have no political representation in the decision making process of that country? Let us not forget that the US Dollar works because all states in the USA send elected representatives to Washington DC. If they did not, states not benefiting from the common currency would start dissociating themselves from those that did so at the cost of the former.

What do you think? Comments?

Two Dystopic Themes Running Through “The Big Bang Theory” Sitcom

April 19, 2015 18 comments

First, a quick word about the title of this post. I am aware that it was not the best, most concise or most accurate description of what I am about to discuss. But it will have to do (for the time being) since the post is far more important than its title. So let us begin..

As many of you might know, “humorous” sitcoms with outrageous extrapolations of reality (other than sex, violence and grittiness) have been a staple of network TV since its inception. These shows can usually be identified by their tired laugh tracks (or forced live-audience laughs), almost exclusively indoor settings, supposedly “witty” dialogue and highly contrived situations. Shows on this genre were extremely popular from the beginning of broadcast TV to the early 2000s when they began to lose their prominent place in the public imagination to “reality” TV shows.

I can give you many reasons why sitcoms have always been worthless crap and why the successors aka “reality” shows are no better- but that is best discussed in another post. This particular post is about the accidental (and I suspect, unintentional) depictions of dystopic reality in one of the still successful holdouts of the “sitcom” age- The Big Bang Theory aka TBBT.

Sitcoms, by their very design, are not supposed to depict reality, or anything even approaching it, as there are the escapist entertainment of plebs in developed countries. Unfortunately, the real world has a tendency to bypass even the best attempts to stop it from making itself apparent. Sitcoms usually handle this by trying to sugarcoat some really obvious aspect of reality or just skip onto to the next zany contrived situation. Yet aspects of reality that are not specifically targeted for suppression often sneak into supposedly humorous and feel good crap.

Many premises of TBBT have been criticized for a few years now, as have the supposedly negative depictions of certain groups in it- Link 1, Link 2, Link 3. You can find more of such critical articles, as well as a few supportive ones, by using Google. Now, I largely agree with much of the criticism leveled at this show. However whatever little I have seen of this show (largely through channel surfing) also suggests that it, perhaps accidentally, depicts some pretty realistic and dystopic stuff.

One of the two major dystopic theme running through the general storyline of TBBT concerns how the characters (specifically ‘nerds’) treat each other. It seems that each of the supposedly high-IQ nerd characters are always just an opportunity away from betraying or murdering the others, even if the gains are very small or temporary. While this premise is used by the show to develop ever more convoluted and eyeball-grabbing storylines, it is far closer to the lives of the real-life counterparts of the characters than anybody would dare admit.

One of the main reason behind my contempt for most academics, scientists and pretty anyone who measures their self-worth by jumping artificial hoops is that such endeavors tend to concentrate the most pathetic, short-sighted, egoistic, backstabbing, backbiting and yet largely powerless pieces of shit I ever had the misfortune to encounter. Even worse, most STEMers are stupid and gullible enough to be enthusiastic tools for any sociopath who can flatter or tempt them with insultingly small rewards. STEMers love to denigrate, betray and abuse fellow STEMers- especially if they believe that such actions might win them some imaginary brownie points (and acceptance) by sociopaths.

Readers might have noticed that most episodes of that show center around somebody in the group trying to screw over, sabotage or berate, its other members. Such mindsets, attitudes and behaviors are far closer to reality than most people (including STEMers) would like to believe. Curiously, it also show the rather bizarre phenomena of STEMers hanging out and pretending to be friendly with the very people they want to denigrate, betray and abuse.

The second dystopic theme running through the show concerns the arrested development (personal and professional) of its main characters. If you have seen enough snippets of that show over the years, it is obvious that none of the main characters possess the ability to actually make some large or innovative contribution to their field of knowledge. This is so inspite of their supposed high-IQs, “ivy-league”/”top-15” educational pedigree or even access to enough resources.

Sadly, or not, their inability to achieve any of their personal intellectual milestones mirrors the real and accelerating decline in scientific productivity in developed countries- especially the USA. The real world drop in real innovation and progress started in the late 1970s- at almost the same time educational and research institutions started using proxies of ability such as metrics and pedigree to determine funding and promotion. The false scarcity of resources and reliance on proxy measurements of ability which characterize science and similar endeavors today favored their domination by pathetic, petty, aspy and uncreative but impressive sounding witty losers/tools.

Characters in that show also display signs of personal arrested development, which while often played for laughs does sadly (or not) mirror the very real trend of STEMers being increasingly obsessed with their “jobs”, “credentials”, “careers” and other imaginary bullshit. It is as if they (or even the non-STEMer characters on that show) are increasingly living in a make-believe world because they are terrified of what lies beyond the decaying prison of the status quo they so desperately want to hold on to. Perhaps, part of that show’s persistence and popularity are due to its dystopic undertones.

What do you think? Comments?

Willing Believers in Imaginary Entities Deserve Abuse and Destruction

April 4, 2015 20 comments

I recently came across an article in ‘The Atlantic’ which tried to make an insipid case that people should not get outraged by the actions of morons who justify discrimination against other people based on their own interpretation of literary works of unclear authorship. The writer of that particular article was trying to make the case that many of those who discriminate against other groups are not “bad” people. According to him, they could even be family-minded Mormons, devout Hispanic women or Muslim immigrants.

While that line of reasoning might suffice for some idiots, it has a huge and fatal flaw. As many of you know, the vast majority of people who committed state-sanctioned genocides (including the ‘final solution’ under the Nazis) were also devout, hard-working and family-minded people who just wanted a well-paying job. It just happened to be the case that their jobs centered around systemic mass murder of people who had not personally wronged them.

The same is true of all those “good” Spanish who committed genocide in south and central america. Similarly all those whites who committed direct and indirect genocide in north america and then built their lifestyle on the backs and corpses of black slaves might also have been devout, family-minded people.

My point is that excusing the repeated intentional actions of people because they are “devout”, “hard-working” and “family-minded” displays a level of sophism and spinelessness that only a liberal could attain. This is especially so when those injured or killed by the actions of all those self-righteous people have not previously harmed them in any measurable manner. It is even more so when personal interpretations of books with unclear authorship are the justification for the such behavior and actions.

Here is another way to look at the issue..

How many of you would support the right of a person to discriminate against, or kill, other people based on the voices he heard in his (or her) head? Most religious traditions in existence today can trace their origin to some divine communication conveniently revealed only to the founder of that particular religion. So.. what is the real difference between people who hurt or kill others based on the voices in their heads and those who do so because they are allegedly following the unfaithfully transcribed beliefs of a long-dead person who supposedly heard voices in his head?

And this raises an even more troublesome question.. Why would anybody live their life according to the text of a book that makes clearly unfulfillable promises to its readers? Would you keep on voluntarily giving your time or money to any person or organisation that cannot deliver on even its most basic promises? So why is religion (traditional or secular) or an ideology any different? How many of the true believers in ideologies as diverse as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Capitalism or Communism have received any of the promised benefits of believing in them?

So why do people believe, and take pride, in advertising their strong belief in such obvious scams?

A couple of previous posts by me, Link 1 and Link 2, I have put forth the idea that belief in religion or ideology is about creating a justification for abusing, scamming, stealing, raping and murdering other people. Perhaps most humans have an insatiable need to hurt and kill other people but do not have the metaphorical balls to do so on their own account. They therefore require the external justification provided by any scrap of paper or the ravings of another person to hurt and kill other people.

Then there is the issue of reducing the chance of reprisal for carrying out such actions.

Cloaking sadistic and murderous desires in the name of religion and ideology allows it be legalized and reduces the chance of reprisal from those hurt by said actions. Killing people publicly labelled as “unbelievers”, “non-muricans”, “terrorists” makes it sound justifiable and “right”. Similarly stealing and abusing people because they are “non-whites”, “have low IQ” etc apparently sounds more reasonable than doing it because you are a piece of shit.

Nor is such solipsistic behavior restricted to whites, as it is trivial to find obvious examples of similar behavior in every group, society and race in the world. You can find desperately poor and sick people who want to hurt and kill others more vulnerable than them in the name of some leader , ideology or religion in every part of the world and at all times in human history.

That is why I do not care if the true believer of any ideology (or follower of any leader) is white, black, brown or blue. Nor do I care about the merits of their ideology, society and culture. Those who deliberately prey on more vulnerable people are extermination-worthy crap. They do not represent any hope, and are incapable of creating, a better future. Left to their own devices they will be never be able to transcend the human condition.

It is for this reason that pondering on the justness of the treatment received by those who discriminate against people who have not demonstrably injured them (be they devout mormons, catholic hispanics or muslims) is a worthless exercise. If anything, the continued existence and prosperity of eunuchoid assholes who require the cover of external ideology to justify their sadistic behavior is an indictment of humans as a species.

What do you think? Comments?

How CONservative Subhumans Think: Apr 21, 2014

April 21, 2014 76 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?

Thomas Hobbes was a House Slave, Not a Great Philosopher

April 12, 2014 10 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?

Profit, unlike Gain, is a Measure of Theft from the System

March 24, 2014 7 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?

Film Remakes, Sequels, Prequels and the True Nature of Capitalism

March 1, 2014 13 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?

On the Peculiarity of Human Reverence for People, Groups and Ideologies

November 30, 2013 22 comments

Growing up, I was always a bit different.. OK.. a lot different. Most of it came down to how I perceived, or mentally modeled, the world around me. This alternate model the world in turn affected how I saw the actions and behaviors of other people around me.

Case in point- As a child, I was unable to understand why most people had such strong, yet almost always unreciprocated, obsessions about celebrities. I also found it odd that most people were so enthusiastic about belonging to groups or institutions that either did not care about them or cynically used them as slaves or worse. Similarly the ability of ideologies (religious and secular) to repeatedly attract millions or billions of faithful followers without delivering on their promises in an objectively verifiable manner made me question the ability of most people to think rationally.

In contrast to that, I never cared much about what people who were not helpful to me thought about me. I was also unable to obsess about the lives of sport-stars, musicians, actors or other “famous” people. I never felt the need to ‘truly’ belong to any groups or institutions. I just could not commit myself to any cause or ideology. That is not to say I was ignorant or oblivious of the world around me. I was very well-informed about what others thought about me and had a better understanding of current affairs, trivia and ideologies than pretty much anyone around me. Nor was I oblivious to the supposed benefits of group or institutional membership.

Yet I was unable to care about any of that stuff beyond the level necessary to be appear normal.

Some might see this as lack of drive, motivation, positive-thinking or any of the other fairy tales most people keep telling themselves. I, however, saw things differently. From my viewpoint, people who exhibited “mainstream” behavior were the real suckers and morons. But how did I come to this conclusion? and why did I reach it at a much younger age than most who eventually get there?

Well.. It comes to careful observations.

I realized early on, by looking at the lives of people around me, that being kind and helpful to people was almost never rewarded- especially on a quid-pro-quo basis. Now one can certainly extend this observation and decide to become ‘extra’ evil and manipulative, but maintaining minimal and very conditional connections to others is a far more effective and practical response to living in a generally unreciprocative world. Face it.. we live in societies where even ‘close’ relatives and friends are unlikely to help you in any substantial way. So what is the point of caring about, assisting or even spending time with them? Do you really think people spend all that time on FB, Twitter or watching TV because they are somehow magically addictive?

I simply understood this fact much earlier than most. It also helps to be born in an age where technology finally made it possible to reduce personal contact with useless or malevolent people without becoming too lonely.

Then there is the issue of how most people spend lots of time following the lives of “celebrities” or trying to somehow get into their inner circles. Even as a child, I could never understand why so many people worshiped movie stars or sportsmen. What is the point of caring so much about people you will almost never meet, let alone reciprocate it? But where does one draw the line between enjoying the performance of an actor or musician and going into the hero-worship or obsession mode? In my opinion, something like say.. trying to find more information or material by some performer on IMDB or YouTube, is about personal entertainment. However buying a product or service because some celebrity endorsed it or wearing a jersey to express support for some sports team clearly crosses the line into unrequited hero-worship.

My cynicism about group and institutional membership was also based on what I saw as a child. It was obvious to me, even then, that most members of groups or institutions never benefited from their commitment, effort or sacrifices for the “greater good” of those groups or institutions. In almost every single case, a small percentage of people at the top of those groupings took away almost all of the gains obtained through the hard work and sacrifices of their rank-and-file members. We can see this dynamic all around us in groups and institutions as diverse as non-profit organisations, small businesses, large corporations and universities to the armed forces of modern nation states. I would go so far as to say that the “normal” mode of operation for pretty much every single type human grouping or institution is identical to a ponzi scheme.

Let us now move on to the topic of religions, ideologies and other belief system. Once again, I was never able to understand how anybody could believe in something as ridiculous as a god that cared about human beings. I mean.. look around you. Do you see any evidence of a trans-human entity or entities that gives a damn about human, animal or any other kind of suffering or pain? Does believing in god improve the materiel quality of your life? Does it feed the hungry? Does it cure the sick? Does it make you a “better” human being? Does it address or correct obvious injustice? I could go on.. but you get the point- belief in god or gods does not achieve anything for true believers. It can however provide a cushy livelihood for priests and provide a justification for looting those who believe in other invisible sky-dudes or dudettes.

Secular religions, such as capitalism, provide another and more modern example of this phenomena. Why are those who slave for, yet never benefit from, capitalism its most ardent and vocal supporters? Why are people getting ass-fucked by the invisible hand of the “free market” often its biggest cheerleaders? Why are all those white knights who support feminism and defend the honor of women not getting laid? Conversely, why are those who support a return to traditional masculine values so eager for female approval, even if comes from a chubby and mentally unstable groupie?

So.. did you notice a common theme running through all of the examples mentioned in this post?

OK.. let me spell it out. In every single example, the majority of people seem to enthusiastically keep on doing something they “know” will benefit them- inspite of a wealth of evidence and repeated reminders that it won’t or is incapable of doing so. So what drives the majority to people to keep on doing something that does not work or cannot deliver on its promise? Are they all suffering from permanent brain damage? Or is something else behind this odd pattern of behavior?

I believe that the answer to this apparent paradox lies in understanding the nature of loyalty and its linkage to the human urge to hurt others even when doing so is not profitable.

I shall explore this issue in an upcoming post.

What do you think? Comments?

The Unflattering Reason Behind Extreme Accumulation of Money : 1

October 26, 2013 23 comments

More than a few of my previous posts have centered on, or around, an odd but rarely asked, question.

“What is the point of accumulating money beyond the ability to spend it?”

Now, stupid sophists defending the status quo might say that its is impossible to determine what is enough. Curiously these sophists are seldom well off, let alone truly rich, making their defense of the status quo a bit odd. Perhaps they believe that their incessant barking on behalf of the rich might get them get a few more table crumbs or leftovers. But who knows..

Anyway, back to the question at hand. I have previously written that the reasons for accumulating money beyond the point of usability cannot be rational. But what if they are still logical. Confused? Let me explain. An action can be simultaneously logical and irrational, because logic is a mechanistic process in which the inputs don’t have to be factual or real.

For example, burning women accused of having sex with the devil requires that particular entity to exist in the first place and is therefore irrational. However it can be perfectly logical if you were one of those perpetually fearful and greedy semi-retards who believed in the existence of the devil, especially one interested in having sex with human females.

Coming back to our era, a closer look at much of what we think is ‘normal’ and ‘right’ just does hold up to rational scrutiny. Many of my previous posts are about the sheer irrationality underlying a wide variety of systems- from the basic structure of “civilized” society, the bizarre illusion of money, the worthlessness of supposedly important inter-personal relationships to the futility of loyalty to institutions that demand it. To put it another way- most conventional expectations, norms, rules and behaviors are not rational. But what if they are still logical? and more importantly- what does that say about the real nature of the human mind?

One of the main feature of conventional models for the human mind, be they religious, secular or “scientific”, is the assumption that human beings are intrinsically good, rational, caring or at least capable of all those things. Even religious models that portray human as sinful and fallen, or whatever their secular equivalent are, allow for the possibility of being saved, lifted or “enlightened”.

But what if that is not the case? Could it be the vast majority of humans, including the supposedly smart ones, are fundamentally incapable of being rational.

This question is best answered by looking at the entirety of available evidence (aka historical evidence from multiple sources) factoring in the inevitable underlying contexts and biases. Throughout most of the last 5,000 odd years (aka the age of civilization) the general standard of human living was very low and even the very rich were an infection, poisoning or puncture wound away from death. To make things easy and clear, let us temporarily ignore the actions and behavior of insecure and desperate people under constant stress or duress.

We will therefore, for the time being, willingly ignore most of human history- even though it strongly suggests humans are highly irrational.

Let us focus on societies where a combination of resources and technology make it possible to deliver a very high quality of life to all their members. In case you are wondering, I am talking about the situation in developed countries after WW2- especially after the early 1960s. Studying such societies allows us to eliminate the role of scarcity on human behavior or the ability to reason.

Does the functioning of these societies suggest that humans are capable of rational behavior when not under any real resource constraints?

The answer to this question is complicated. From the end of WW2 to the late 1970s, the socioeconomic changes in these countries suggested that human beings might be capable of rationality- at least under certain conditions. Those times were characterized by very significant technological progress and considerable improvement in the living standards of the median person in those societies. This era was also characterized by fairly low income inequality and a realistic chance to improve ones position in society. It was as if after millennia of screwing around without anything to show for it, human societies had finally found the ability and institutional structures to provide a safe, stable and reasonably good existence for almost all of its members.

But there have been many changes since the late-1970s and almost all of them have taken those developed societies increasingly further away their early post-WW2 vision. But why? It is very clear that we do not lack the technology, resources, productivity or ability to extend the general socioeconomic improvements that occurred within the first three decades after WW2. But every single developed society has abandoned the path of improving the lives of its median, let alone its poorer, members.

How can we account for the rise of neo-liberalistive/neo-conservative (neo-feudal) ideologies throughout developed countries since the early 1980s?

There are those who see this is the result of clever propaganda, institutional capture or mass media-driven brainwashing. While this line of thought might sound appealing to those who see average humans as fundamentally good and therefore gullible victims, there are reasons to believe that it is not the case. You might have noticed that a lot of the ideas recycled by neo-conservatives or neo-liberals, from “personal responsibility” to “work ethic”, are actually old lies and fairy tales.

So what makes people want to believe in obvious lies such as “work ethic”, “meritocracy”, “invisible hand of market”, “creative destruction” and “personal discipline” while discarding other equally old and popular lies about the role of divine entities in human affairs.

Are people really that stupid, unobservant and innumerate? Then there is the troubling question of why the middle class is so eager to believe in the lies, scams and bait-and switches which trick, hurt and abuse them the most. Surely, they are not that retarded or unobservant. I also don’t believe that this behavior is due to learned helplessness. A rational person who understood his lack of control over events would not strive for the benefit of those who were abusing him.

Could it be that most people believe in or play along with norms, rules and paradigms that are against their rational interests because it provides surreptitious satisfaction of much deeper urges in their minds?

In a couple of my previous posts (Link 1 and Link 2) I had suggested that hoarding money beyond ones ability to spend it was irrational as it offered no real objective benefits to the hoarder. But what if hoarding money was about depriving others of resources, security and happiness rather than improving your own existence. Furthermore, what if the behavior of the rich is merely an exaggeration of how most humans relate to each other.

Have you considered the possibility that the primary intention behind almost all “normal” human interpersonal interaction is to somehow con, swindle, abuse, hurt, maim or kill the other party?

In upcoming parts of this series, of which there will be many, I shall demonstrate how my model of the human mind is a far better fit for available evidence on human behavior in a variety of situations.

What do you think? Comments?

Eliminating Vectors is More Important than Eradicating Pathogens: 2

September 8, 2013 16 comments

Continuing onward from the previous part of this series, let me describe the long process via which I reached the conclusion that human vectors are far more problematic than pathogenic humans. Part of this journey has been described in one of my older articles, Nazis as Corporate Drones, in which I proposed that the mindset of loyal Nazis was remarkably similar to the ideal american corporate drone. But why? Why do some people make loyal Nazis or good corporate drones, while many others just don’t fit in such institutions or care about their assigned tasks. A glimpse into what makes loyal Nazis and corporate drones can be found later on in the same article and I quote..

It does not take a genius to figure out that moderately ambitious personalities with little ability for independent thought, but just enough brain-power to carry the task they have been assigned, will flourish in such institutions.

It is however clear that being an average, mediocre and conformist simpleton is only part of what makes a loyal Nazi or corporate drone. If that was not so, almost any guy on the street could be molded into a mindless loyal Nazi or corporate drone. But that is not the case and history shows that most people make incompetent Nazis or corporate drones. That is not to say they are stupid. Indeed, those who do it inefficiently understand the nature of the job much better than those who do it efficiently.

So what are the extra conditions, predispositions and circumstances necessary to create loyal Nazis or corporate drones?

Interviews of those who committed genocide in the name of the Third Reich are a good place to start. I have read many transcripts and seen many interviews of such people and here are some of my observations. The vast majority of those who participated in such activities appear very normal, even ‘extra-normal’, on multiple levels. Almost all of them had families, wives, children and dogs. You can see photographs of them enjoying picnics, fishing, beach holidays, family functions during the same time they were killing thousands of unarmed people in their day jobs. They do not appear to have any conventional mental illness nor do they display any real remorse, guilt or conscience for what they were doing. They seemed to more concerned about their promotions, living quarters and family lives.

Now some of you might say that they were just trying to make the best of what was at hand. Maybe they were trying to protect their minds from the realities of what they were doing. I could buy that argument but for one very glaring problem- they were very enthusiastic, motivated and diligent at performing their ‘daytime’ jobs. Many had great pride at their efficiency at doing what they did. That is most unlike a person forced to kill someone else to stay alive. And one more thing- the behavior, attitudes, mindset and worldview of the average loyal Nazi was very reminiscent of the average faithful Mormon, something we will revisit later on in this series.

It is especially fascinating to see that the moderate intelligence, blind obedience to large institutions, child-like faith in authority, clean-cut lifestyle, strong family ties and extreme conformism was especially prevalent in loyal Nazis as it is in american corporate drones and faithful mormons. But was that just a simple coincidence or does it point to something else? What about other genocides during the 20th century? Were the perpetrators mentally similar to the loyal Nazis or corporate drones?

To answer that question, let us look at the other great genocide of the 1930s-1940s aka Japanese rule in China. While the Japanese killed more Chinese than the Nazis killed Jews, it is not as well documented as the later one. To complicate matters further, most Japanese still do not accept that what they did was wrong and veterans of that era are very reluctant to talk about their actions. However even a basic understanding of Japanese history and society would suggest that Japanese are not especially violent in Japan. Indeed, it is and has been a remarkably safe place as long as stable governance exists. So what accounts for the most peculiar Japanese behavior in China during the 1930s-1940s?

Here is my theory.. the average Japanese had all the features of a loyal Nazi. Everything from the moderate intelligence, blind obedience to large institutions, child-like faith in authority, clean-cut lifestyle, strong family ties and extreme conformism was even more prevalent in Japanese society than WW2-era German society. Curiously, they also make excellent corporate drones. Coincidence? I think not! The same is also true for the loyal british bureaucrats and soldiers who slaved away and committed various genocides for the empire. They were all cut from the same metaphoric cloth.

In the next part I shall explore how all of this fits into the world of today.

What do you think? Comments?

Eliminating Vectors is More Important than Eradicating Pathogens: 1

September 7, 2013 16 comments

The transmission of infectious diseases from one host to another can occur in a number of ways. Some involve direct physical contact between the two hosts or their bodily secretions and excretions, others involve an inanimate intermediary such as water, food or soil. A small but significant number of pathogens utilize a temporary host, often of a different species from their main host, to jump from one host to the other.

Temporary or secondary hosts that facilitate the transmission of a pathogen are known as vectors.

Most of you are aware that certain genera of mosquitoes transmit malaria and a number of other viruses and parasites. Fleas transmit diseases such as plague and epidemic typhus. Houseflies facilitate the spread of many pathogens that causes gastrointestinal illnesses and ticks transmit the bacterial species that cause lyme disease among many others. I could go on, but this post is about the dynamics of human societies, not medical microbiology.

In the past, I have often compared the true elite (the 0.1 or 0.01%) to mindless pathogens whose purpose for existence seems to center around stealing from and damaging their hosts, regardless of the long-term consequences. But how do they do that, given their rather small numbers both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the total population? Did any genocidal tyrant ever personally kill even a tiny fraction of the people who died under their rule? How many Jews did Hitler kill with his own hands? what about Stalin? How many people did Stalin kill with his own hands? How many Indians did Churchill personally kill? In all of the above cases, and every other instance of genocide, those who gave the orders were almost never involved in carrying them out.

The same is true for leaders who order their nations into war, CEOs who fire thousands of people, bankers who steal trillions from millions.

The success of such ‘endeavors’ depended around their ability to commandeer the temporary loyalty of a minority of the population who carry out their orders and wishes. Without these people, or should we say.. vectors, the malicious wishes and desires of the elite would be little more than pipe-dreams. They would have no ability to influence anything beyond their immediate environment and even then they would probably be quickly killed off by the first few people they tried to harm or steal from.

The elite in every social system are therefore completely dependent upon the continued existence of a much larger number, though still a minority, of vectors to carry out their malicious designs. I should also point out that exterminating one group of elites often results in another bunch filling their spots and continuing the malicious behavior, if in a somewhat different direction.

Exterminating vectors and their progeny is the only foolproof way of destroying elites.

But who are these vectors in human societies? How can you identify them? How did they arise in the first place? What motivates them? What is going on inside their little heads? What is their survival strategy? How do you break them? How do you destroy them? How do you prevent their reemergence?

Vectors in human society can be identified by the nature of their jobs, their level of enthusiasm for their vocations and the underlying motivation for doing whatever they do. Vectors work in jobs, occupations and vocations that directly (or indirectly) serve the elites, implement their dystopic visions, enforce their ideas and collect rent for them. Vectors are also distinguishable from other non-elites by an unusually high degree of enthusiasm towards their often openly dystopic and inhumane vocations. Many of them are true believers in the inherent goodness of whatever they do and believe that the elites really embody virtues. Almost every single vector sees himself (or herself) as morally superior to the people they are robbing, abusing and killing.

One of the most peculiar and distinguishing feature of vectors is their high levels of devotion to their own family and children. All vectors are great “family” men and women. They invest a lot of themselves in the upbringing of their progeny. As you will see later on, this presents a particularly interesting and exploitable vulnerability.

In the next part of this series, I shall list the most commonly encountered vector subtypes, what they do, why they do it and what motivates them.

What do you think? Comments?

How Pleasing Others Progressively Lost its Value

August 8, 2013 20 comments

More than a few of my previous posts have explored the idea that “real life” relationships and friendships have now become useless or net negatives. I should also add that relationships at work, where an increasing number of people hang out to escape from their family and friends, are even more dysfunctional. This lack of functional and trustworthy relationships in all spheres of life is probably the major reason why people in ALL developed countries are clockwork oranges, though it is more plainly obvious in some countries (USA, Canada) than others (Germany, Japan).

But this post is not about how bad things are right now or will become in the near future. Instead, it will focus on how the current state of affairs became the norm.

Most popular theories of alienation revolve around the primary and secondary effects of money, capitalism, industrialization, post-industrialization or scientific progress on human society. In my opinion, the real cause of alienation runs much deeper than socio-economic developments in the last two centuries. Having said that, many aspects of ‘modern civilization’ have certainly made things worse. But what is this underlying problem I keep referring to? Why is it so hard, and perhaps impossible, to fix? And does it have any impact on what humans can evolve into or whether they have a future?

In it most basic form, the underlying problem is a fundamental contradiction that occurs in any group of self-aware biological individuals and can be summarized as-

Individual success in any group requires the individual to cheat, exploit, abuse and impoverish other members in that group. However the individual also simultaneously requires the trust, faith and active cooperation of those other members to survive and succeed. Conversely the group always benefits by exploiting its most vulnerable and naive members. However it also requires the trust, faith and active cooperation of those very same members to keep the gravy train rolling.

This fundamental contradiction is not a serious problem in primates and was largely a non-issue for humans as long as they lived in small bands of hunter-gatherers. In those settings, immediate feedback from the group and individuals prevented both from becoming especially abusive. Sure.. somebody could still become big chief, have more fancy headgear and a few more hoes. But there were real limits to what an individual could get away with in such groups. On the other side of this equation, the group itself could not neglect and abuse its most naive members as that was the quickest way to lose willing members.

The emergence of ‘civilization’ and therefore much larger groups disrupted the old pseudo-equilibrium by making it easier for the weaseliest individuals to insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions. This is not to say that all consequences for bad behavior disappeared and a significant minority of lords, rulers, kings and emperors did not die of natural causes. The lack of technology also limited long-term damage of such one-sided excesses and the high-fertility rates prevalent in those eras helped repair any serious damage to the system.

This new pseudo-equilibrium kept on playing itself, over and over again, for the next few thousand years. People kept on fighting largely useless wars, new prophets routinely offered alternate pathways to “salvation”, empires rose and fell, people kept on building palaces for evil and dead people, famine and epidemics killed large percentages of the population etc. But nothing really changed and the average person was as poor, miserable and insecure at the beginning of the classical civilization model (~ 3000 BC?) as towards its end (1800 AD?). To put it another way..

Most of recorded history is a glamorized account of jumping from one garbage pile into another.

But what does any of this have to do with why pleasing other people progressively lost its value? How does the course of ‘civilization’ reduce the value and utility of interpersonal relationships. And why does industrialization and its sequelae speed up that transition? To answer this question let us look at how living in increasingly larger societies transforms the nature, direction and utility of the ‘individual-group’ dynamic for the median person. But before we go there, let me ask you a related question.

Is human behavior mostly driven by what people truly believe in or what they can get away with?

If you look around with an objective mind, it is clear that most human behavior is driven by what people can get away with. The majority of people do not possess independent core beliefs strong enough to influence their actions. They just make up or copy the lies, delusions and justifications necessary to push on with their mindless agendas. Most people, including the so-called clever ‘high IQ”ones, are really no better than monkeys, dogs or viruses.

Which brings us to the real reason humans want to please other humans. It is about really about trying to ensure reciprocity. The core idea is that if you are nice to other people, a significant percentage of them might be nice to you or at least not become your adversaries. This strategy works very well in small to medium-sized communities where people know each other over long periods of time. But it also requires most important decisions to be made at the level of that community. Any serious break in the feedback cycle which allows weasels to slip away or non-local entities having a big say in important local decisions undermines the integrity of the system and that is why ‘civilization’ was the original cause of alienation.

But pre-industrial era civilizations were quite provincial. It was still pretty hard to pull of very large scams and escape to another continent or shield yourself with lawyers and contracts. Moreover the basic family, extended family and community networks were reasonably strong if somewhat frayed. Those networks gradually changed over the course of the industrial revolution and society became increasingly atomized, impersonal and dependent on relatively autonomous institutions.

Now there is nothing fundamentally wrong with any of these changes at the theoretical level. Their real life implementation is however rather problematic and destabilizing. For one, they require you to make the assumption that almost all people are basically decent and thoughtful human beings. As I said at near the beginning of this post, external and systemic constraints are the most reliable check on the opportunistic and myopic tendencies of humans- both as individuals and groups. Removing those constraints allows the most greedy, deceptive and murderous individuals to succeed and shape the institutions of that particular society.The success of the worst also encourages imitators and fence-sitters to jump in the fray thereby speeding the race to the bottom. Note that all of this occurs without any of traditional safety nets and feedback loops that characterized previous eras. This is the stage where a society tries to compensate for the loss in social cohesion by passing an every increasing number of laws, rules and regulations. It also tries to create new communal identities centered around flags, movies and sport teams.

In the end, almost nobody can trust anyone else. Even parents and children see each other as adversaries to be conned, exploited and scammed for the most trivial of gains. People start assigning precise monetary values to every basic human interaction and need. Almost everybody is willing to back stab their friends for the equivalent of a 20$ bill. Yet almost every member of such unstable and fragile societies try very hard to appear polite, decent and honest. They are almost obsessed with portraying themselves as civic-minded, law-abiding and thoughtful. It ultimately degenerates into a competition where people try to make and model the most ‘realistic’ mask of normality to cover the ugly reality beneath the mask.

You can either join in this mask making competition or you can admit the unpleasant reality to yourself. The first choice is easy because it is socially acceptable. The second requires you to be fairly misanthropic. Then again, what is the point of pleasing systemically dishonest people who do not care, or have any stake, in your well-being?

What do you think? Comments?

Snowden Has Become “Anti-Citizen One”

July 6, 2013 8 comments

The latest development in the Edward Snowden saga is that three countries in south america have offered him political asylum. There is of course the question of how he will get there, but the very clever trick pulled by Russia and Bolivia earlier this week has made it very hard for the USA and other “western democracies” to stop him.

Some morons are already yammering about how the CIA might try to target him in South America, how “those” countries are shit-holes or wondering about what he will do for the next few decades. I have one quick answer to that.. Bradley Manning. The fate of Bradley Manning and other recent whistle-blowers who did not (or were not able to) escape the USA after leaking evidence of systematic wrongdoing is enough to convince any sane person that Snowden did the most rational thing. In any case, why should he care about the opinions of people who have no interest in actually helping him? Would you bother pleasing people who wanted to see you suffer?

Others have said something about how he has broken the “law”, how he should trust the american “legal” system or martyr himself like MLK. My suggestion is.. you go first. If you believe in the whole “nation of laws” and “fairness of legal systems” bullshit.. you are either retarded, brainwashed or just playing dumb. Furthermore, why should anyone martyr themselves for a bunch of retarded assholes? Has he not already sacrificed enough? What kind of moron will accept daily humiliations from the bully and yet question the methods of someone who is standing against the bully?

There is however an interesting, if little noticed, parallel of this story with events in a video game series – Half Life 2. The main protagonist in that game series and the prequel (Half-Life) is a physicist known as Dr. Gordon Freeman. As you can see below that character has more than a passing resemblance to Edward Snowden, something that has been previously noted on other blogs.


But the parallels between Snowden and Freeman run even deeper. The Freeman character just like Snowden did not start out as a person out to bring down the system. Infact the first few minutes of ‘Half Life’ shows him to be an otherwise unremarkable scientist at a secret government facility. He becomes what he ends up becoming the main character largely because of a combination of circumstances and events beyond his control, or G-man puts it at the beginning of ‘Half Life 2’- “the right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world.”

I find it fascinating that the society in ‘Half Life 2’ has more than a few parallels with the USA today, or more precisely where it is heading. It is a society where a few alien overlords and their immediate human collaborators (the ‘Combine’) enjoy unimaginable luxury and power. It is also a society where the rest of the population live on daily food doles in dilapidated buildings and constant surveillance. The only real jobs are in the police and security apparatus who have monthly quotas for beating, torture, harassment, SWAT-style raids and all the other spectacle accompanying such a system. Did I mention ubiquitous propaganda, surveillance drones and killer drones. In this dystopic society ‘well-behaved’ subjects are known as ‘citizens’ and those who rebel and join the underground are considered to be ‘anti-citizens’.

Anticitizen is a term used by the Combine to designate a person as a threat to their control. The Combine use the term ‘anti citizen’ because the behavior of Anticitizens is the opposite of that of citizens (or at least, the Combine’s definition of a citizen as a person under their rule who does not resist them). Each Anticitizen is given a number representing how dangerous they are to the Combine, and ranked in descending order.

As the story progresses in ‘Half Life 2’ Gordon Freeman ends up becoming “Anticitizen One” or the living being who poses the most danger to the Combine. But what danger does a physicist running around in high-tech hazard suit with a crowbar and a few other weapons pose to the Combine? What damage could he possibly do? His only allies in the beginning are a bunch of people in the underground, a few friendly aliens and the mysterious G-man. In contrast the Combine has all the military resources and equipment that you could want.

The answer to that question becomes clearer you play ‘Half Life 2’. To make a long story short, he becomes a symbol of the non-omnipotence of the Combine. The very fact that he manages to stay alive, out of the Combine’s clutches and keeps on damaging the system in increasingly public ways makes it increasingly harder for the Combine to keep the subdued rabble under control. His continued existence makes it increasingly harder for the Combine to make their ‘subjects’ keep on being good compliant slaves.. I mean ‘citizens’. The ‘subjects’ already know that they don’t have much left to lose and now they have an example of somebody who is defying the system and staying alive.

If you have followed the current events and read a few of my previous posts on Snowden, you know what I am talking about. The brouhaha over Snowden is more about what he represents than what he has leaked or will leak in the future. It is more about the damage to their image of omnipotence than about specific names, facts or figures. And that is why Snowden has effectively become “Anti-Citizen One”.

What do you think? Comments?

The Connection Between “Crime” and Hope

June 19, 2013 10 comments

The consistent and simultaneous fall in violent ‘crime’ rates for the USA, and pretty much every other developed country, over the last 20 years has baffled many ‘experts’. They have offered a multitude of often conflicting explanations for this phenomena ranging from a reduction in childhood exposure to lead, an older population, better policing, legalized abortion to longer prison sentences. But there are two major problems with almost all of their explanations.

1. They assume that A leads to B. For example- Low ‘IQ’ = more ‘criminal’ behavior or longer prison sentences = fewer ‘felons’ on the street.

2. More importantly, they assume that ‘crime’ is not a manifestation of something far more deep-seated.

Let us start by trying to define what ‘crime’ is, and is not. What make something a crime, anyway? Is it the net negative effect of an action or behavior or is it something else. I have partially answered that particular question in one of my older posts- How Laws and Legalism Destroy Societies, but let me summarize it thus:

All ‘crimes’ are defined by laws, rules and regulations rather than by their actual impact on society.

Here are a few examples. Consider prostitution, which at its core is an exchange of sex for money. Why is it illegal in some countries such as the USA? Is the exchange of sex for money in prostitution fundamentally different from a similar exchange occurring in the course of a marriage, cohabitational relationship or during the creation of a pornographic film? Or take drugs like marijuana or opiates.. isn’t all the criminality associated with them due to the fact that they are illegal in the first place rather than their effect on human behavior? What about the onerous rules and regulations associated with living in gated communities? Do they serve any purpose other than mollifying the egos of a few prissy bitches with control issues? What about laws and rules used by monopolies to extract rent or hinder competition? You get the general idea..

Which brings me to another point I made in that post

Laws are made by those with power for maintaining and extending their parasitic behaviors.

All ‘crimes’ should therefore be seen as attempts by the less-powerful to do what the more-powerful are already doing. Don’t believe me? Here are some examples: The system labels you as a ‘murderer’ if you kill another human being, but it is OK if you are a cop- even if you killed the ‘wrong’ person. Similarly, a death caused by a negligent or greedy doctor will almost never result in prosecution, but try doing that if you don’t have an ‘official’ medical license. Or consider how easy it is for a business to declare bankruptcy and stiff its creditors as compared to doing the same via personal bankruptcy.

Which brings us to one of the more peculiar question about the motivations behind committing ‘crimes: What combination of factors, circumstances and conditions makes the risk of getting caught worth the potential payoff?

A few of you might say that people who commit ‘crimes’ do so because they cannot accurately assess the risks because of their supposedly low ‘IQ’, poor future time-orientation or some other assorted bullshit reason. I think otherwise because the very fact that laws, rules, regulations, penalties and prisons have been unable to stop ‘crime’ suggest that there is something else driving the need to do what they do.

I believe that all ‘crime’ is driven by the HOPE for a better future.

People sell sex and drugs because they want to have more money and a better life tomorrow. Organised crime exists because its members can reasonably expect more income and a better lifestyle in the future. Also note that ‘criminals’ always try to maximize their life-expectancy and profit rather than go all out nihilistic and watch the world burn. Even revolutions require a significant degree of belief in a better future, and this is why people revolt on the streets in Turkey, Brazil and Egypt but not the USA, Germany or Canada.

I therefore see ‘crime’ as an expression of hope in the future of that society.

‘Crime’ rates in the USA were high during the 1960s-1980s because those who committed ‘crimes’ had high hopes of a better future. Similarly the high rates of ‘crimes’ in South- and Central- American countries should be seen as an expression of faith in the future viability of those societies. It is also no accident that low-crime societies like Japan, South Korea, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden etc are also full of people who have no hope for a better future. If you don’t believe me, just look at their fertility rates. How else do you explain the decision of so many people who live comfortable and relatively safe lives in paternalistic societies to not have kids?

They have already figured out (at some level) that their rigid and formulaic societies do not offer a realistic chance for a better future. However they are also not opting for suicide without a pretty good reason. So they just go through the motions of being alive in a somewhat detached manner, if only to keep up the appearance of systemic vitality and purpose.

We also cannot forget the role of modern-medical technology, especially contraception, in enabling this to occur on a scale unthinkable in any previous era. In those eras, surplus fertility would have quickly provided new suckers to replace the disenchanted and world-weary. However, that is not the case today and not just in the more affluent countries. Even the less affluent ones such as India, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Brazil have fertility rates that are near, at or below replacement levels. We just don’t have that seemingly infinite supply of new suckers anymore.

What do you think? Comments?

Large Corporations: Image Vs Reality

May 6, 2013 11 comments

Many readers might have noticed that depictions of people and institutions in popular culture are often at odds with reality. In previous eras, the gap between fictional images and reality was less glaring, because people had access to only one or two sources of information, often under the control of elites. Furthermore the communitarian nature of living in those eras made it difficult to hold opinions and ideas that were at odds with the “majority” even if the consensus was stupid, irrational and suicidal. The spread of ubiquitous communication technologies, such as the internet, and very high levels of social atomization has irreversibly changed that situation. Hence the gap between fiction and reality is now wider and far more obvious.

For example- It is now common knowledge that both sides in the American Civil War were almost equally racist and believers in some kind of mythical white racial supremacy. Likewise, many now know that those who founded the American Republic did so to enrich themselves, rather than start some noble experiment in democracy. Another example is the now widespread understanding that the ‘New Deal’ and other populist sops from the FDR era were driven by political, rather than humanitarian, considerations. However these now common, if somewhat alternative views, are still rarely depicted in mass media which tries to unsuccessfully reinforce the old myths.

One of the widely promoted dissonance in popular culture and media concerns the large gap between the image of various institutions and measurable reality. TV shows are full of noble cops, smart detectives, thoughtful judges, competent and selfless physicians, teachers who care about their students when even a cursory observation of real life suggests that the converse is true. TV and Films (henceforth referred to as ‘Hollywood’) even promote the idea that intelligence agencies are full of competent, motivated and enthusiastic people possessing tons of ‘super-secret’ and useful technologies with an almost omnipotent control over events when events in real life have repeatedly shown that to be wishful thinking.

Let us now explore the dissonance between the media-driven image of large corporations and compare that to observable reality.

The story-lines of many popular films from the last 30-odd years such as Blade Runner, Alien and its sequels, Prometheus, Gattaca, Terminator and its sequels, Robocop and its sequels, Resident Evil and its sequels, Total Recall, Watchmen, The Island, V for Vendetta and many more revolve around or involve large corporations. These large corporations are depicted as being greedy, amoral, omnipotent, led by competent people and based on long-term plans and strategies. But how much of that is reflective of reality?

While there is no argument about corporations being supremely greedy and amoral; the remaining attributes are some combination of mythology, paid propaganda and wishful thinking.

Ask yourself.. Do you see much evidence that corporations led by competent, disciplined, creative and intelligent people? Do they act as if they are led by people with any of those qualities? Do their changing fortunes reflect that? Why do most large corporations cease to exist for a decade or two? Why is the downfall of large corporations usually due to obvious mistakes? Why are these deadly and obvious mistakes rarely fixed in a competent manner? Why do plans to fix obvious mistakes frequently cause larger mistakes? Does the observed behavior and life cycle of large corporations resemble an intelligent entity or a pretty stupid but greedy parasite?

Then there is the issue of large corporate projecting an image of omnipotence and efficiency. Is that really so? Are large corporations capable of anything approaching omnipotence? Are corporations capable of stable governance on the size- and time- scale associated with governments? Can they exist without a friendly government that will help them socialize losses and privatize profits? Do large corporations actually have realistic long-term plans or strategies? Do they have realistic ability to implement them on their own?

Large corporations talk a lot about meritocracy, but does the preponderance of evidence suggest that to be the case? Do you see evidence of corporations promoting competent or intelligent people? Why is promotion inside corporations so dependent on your social network and milieu than any demonstrated ability? Why are the upper ranks of corporations always made up of bullshitters, scammers, sociopaths and other assorted conmen who are good at networking, playing the system or just being lucky? Why are the top executives and decision-makers in corporations almost always clueless about the business models of the enterprises they run? Why do those in top corporate management positions jump ship so frequently, usually after collecting massive bonuses not linked to the long-term fate or outlook of the corporations they head? And why does paying these people tens to hundreds of millions in bonuses for their expertise in making corporations run better in the long-term always achieve the opposite?

Talking about innovation and incentives to innovate.. Why are large corporations so bad at innovating even though they spend so much money, manpower, time and powerpoint shows to make themselves more ‘innovative’? Corporations claim to have ‘superior’ leadership, corporate structure and in-house ‘geniuses’- yet they require so a lot of publicly funded assistance from governments. Why do large corporations require so many tax breaks, direct payouts, protectionist laws and tariffs and sweet-heart deals to even approach profitability? Why do the long-term plans and visions concocted by the best and brightest almost always fail? Can corporations actually put together, let alone implement, any long-term strategy? And yet after all this publicly funded assistance they still fail, implode, run aground, require government bailouts or help with remarkable frequency and regularity. How come?

Why do those who talk about rugged individualism, free enterprise, capitalism, personal responsibility and ‘going galt’ expect to be nursed, coddled and treated like severely sick, retarded or spastic kids? Why do the proud ‘producers’ behave like pathetic ‘moochers’ they claim to detest?

Which brings us back to the main question posed in this post- Why is the Hollywood image of large corporations so incongruous with reality? And why has the degree of dissonance increased over time? In my opinion, the mass media image of large corporations is based in a myth that those in power desperately want others to believe. The media image of corporations is best understood as propaganda and disinformation. It is an attempt to make the masses believe that the current system is “natural”, meritocratic, omnipotent and capable of defending itself. In a way, the media image of corporations is similar to the propaganda pumped out in totalitarian regimes which extols the virtues and greatly exaggerates the power of ruling party, coalition or oligarchic families.

The reality is rather different and rapidly becoming apparent. It is now obvious to a growing number of people that large corporations are pretty much the opposite of what they claim to be. Their apparent successes in the past are increasingly seen as some combination of scam, luck and parasitism. I however do not expect the Hollywood image of corporations to reflect this rapidly growing awareness. It is likely that they will, if anything, double down and amp up the propaganda- because dying parasites have no other option.

What do you think? Comments?