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Tag Archives: tragedy of the commons

There’s No Real Freedom Without Authority

The people always want to be free but they are their own worst jailors. If everyone can do what they want in their own best interest, a ruthless race to the bottom is assured. If we know others face no restraint we won’t exercise restraint ourselves in the lifelong competition for food, shelter, money, mates, and prestige.

The information age has outstripped the ability of traditional social technologies to limit individual choice in ways that yield a net benefit to everyone. It is now too easy for individuals to circumvent the customs and soothing myths that create an illusion of harmony. They can get very accurate real-time information to optimize their self-interest whether in the job market or the dating market.

When everyone has access to networks, no one wants to be the 5 that settles for a 5 in life and so all the rest is a game to outmaneuver and sabotage one’s way to a better spot in the great game of musical chairs as society falls apart. Instead of getting things done, most energies are devoted to finding out who has to jump on the grenade and take one for the team. Then arises even more social strife when the despised loser nominated as grenade jumper refuses to jump.

It is impossible to reinstate rules that no one really wants to practice in real life. Nor does acting as if older customs still existed do anything to resurrect them. These systems existed by being airtight constructs that very few could successfully defect from. With that seal broken, they are imaginary fancies.

So the question lies in how to adapt to the problems of modernity in an efficient and realistic manner.
Policy in most other areas of public life suggests we need to arrest the relentless race to the bottom at strategic points.

Without safety nets like EBT cards, soup kitchens, shelters, and minimum wage there would be bread riots and people working for less than a dollar an hour to be able to afford just enough white flour and rice to keep them alive. Desperate people with nothing to lose would force anyone with surplus wealth to live in compounds guarded by private armies.(aka the 3rd world)

Without solid rules, there would be no 40 hour work week with a cushy weekend for those lucky enough to have jobs. There would be no holidays, paid vacation, or benefits. Many would be simply be worked to death. The marketplace would have no use for useless old people sticking around.

Without free association and strict controls on real estate, bidding wars impoverish even the highest paid workers, ensuring they never have kids and their high IQ breed goes extinct.

Without land forcibly set aside for parks, every urban area would be an unbroken sea of grey and all old buildings would be demolished to make way for cookie cutter tenements.

Without force itself, there would be no taxes, nor any polity at all.

The best kind of rules aren’t heavy-handed, stupid rules no one wants like forcing all American women to wear hijabs or banning plastic straws.
The rules that work best are those that force people to do what they’d like to do anyway by using the authority of the state to make sure everyone else has to do it.

No one could afford to pay taxes if the IRS didn’t maintain an airtight seal with extreme aggression and precision. Otherwise any sucker who paid up would live at a disadvantage to everyone else.

The state is truly legitimate when it becomes not just a parasitic occupying army but a broker that relieves the tensions in the endless struggles between humans. Without such an intervention, the natural state of man is Malthusian squalor. Hobbes was right.

We can see that the legitimacy of our present system really went into steep decline right as it broke the back of the old labor left that Bernie Sanders tried and failed to resurrect. The negotiation between labor and the state ended, and with it their role as a broker sustaining balance for the average worker.
Ever since, there has been a wasteland of open borders, free trade, corporate welfare, and parasitic wars to enrich the military industrial complex.
I am critical of corrupt unions and of the borderline communists who did their part to bring a hostile reaction down on them, but the “cure,” I think, has proven far worse than the disease. When the duty of easing tensions is not fulfilled, a swelling volcano cone rises up under the ruler’s feet.

The result of these modern pressures is both sides of the political spectrum now demand a return to authoritarianism. Most people, whatever their politics, understand intuitively that their freedom and empowerment have enslaved them to one another more than ever, the great game board a terrible gridlock of collective checkmate further than the eye can see. It has become self-evident that any kind of modern society requires the intervention of a strong state at carefully chosen points.

When everyone has excellent information and mobility they are forced to beg for a legitimate ruler to mediate between the people on earth and the powers of heaven.

Most Wealth is Wasted in Modern Society

Of the massive 15 trillion dollar per year US economy there is undoubtedly some millions that comprise the fake plant industry.  
Fake plants serve to accentuate the soullessness of your typical office or waiting area with a parody of nature.  The materials and labor that goes into them serves no essential purpose nor does it make anyone happier.  What then is the point?

Why not just have fake plant makers stay at home with basic income if they’re wasting time and resources?  The system works by most people being forced to sell their labor(not everyone can be entrepeneurs) so they have food to eat and rent for their landlords. Why do we assume all labor must be good when every other living thing rests when it can?

The other side of this equation is consumerism that operates on the Keynesian assumption that all economic activity is worthwhile, and the more of it the better, no matter what.  And if you ever doubt it, you’re a commie or worse, a socialist!
This encourages an economy based on make-work that gets people a paycheck so they can buy more stuff without anything of value getting done.

So if I were emperor I might outlaw the manufacture of fake plants.  Maybe there’d be a black market for them and maybe fake plant dealers from time to time would get a whipping in the public square or get pilloried and pelted with rotten eggs and tomatoes.  

At the very least it would make fake plants more expensive and lower quality so fewer people would bother.  Being  a worthless “good” that no one really likes, there would be no Al Capone of fake plants.

Growing up in the 90s, I saw the social order of consumerism at its absolute peak.  Even people of modest means lived in decent-sized houses and their garages were invariably full to bursting with thousands of dollars worth of frivolous toys they never used.
 
I remember getting taken to house parties with my parents and seeing whole collections of the brand new DVDs worth hundreds of dollars that just sat there in glass cabinets, never removed from their plastic in houses that were so fastidiously clean, they didn’t even seem lived in.

I would get a feeling of dread and black depression in the pit of my stomach.  I could sense it was signs of sickness and decay though I couldn’t articulate or explain, even if someone in the smugly triumphalist 90s would have listened to such talk.

I reflect on my childhood and remember how most people given more money than they need to live just blow it all on stupid fads and status signalling anyway and are just as miserable and greedy as they were before.

Actually I perceived a thinly veiled cynicism, viciousness, and jadedness pervading most everything, even in other kids, who would’ve slit a throat for more Abercrombie and Fitch apparel. There were no loyalties or values, just things.

I remember those times as the worst and darkest of my life even though I spent my 20s perilously close to going completely broke as I had to teach myself the laws of real world survival from scratch after getting a worthless degree.

For all the pain it has caused, I actually think the challenges of the 21st century have forced people to reflect again on what is really important in life—and discredited the corrupt 1960s cultural revolution.  In some ways, it would have been the true nightmare if that on-paper prosperity had gone on forever.

Giving the commoners excessive wealth through the labor market or by welfare is like inflating the college degree or home loan markets.

The trouble in understanding this lies in enlightenment delusions of “perfectly rational” human behavior.  Or in other words assuming that people will always strive to improve their situations in a stricly pragmatic material sense.

In reality, beyond getting basic necessities met, most people just care about attracting desirable mates, making friends, and starting families.  
Humans as social animals are hardwired to compete for social prestige by any means necessary.

Like many other animals we see in the wild, human males try to build bowers and put on courtship displays to impress females.  Females spend most of their time and money acquiring accessories and grooming their plumage to impress the best bower builders.

As the level of wealth rises in society, the bowers get bigger and the accessories get more elaborate.  The dark side of this is if you don’t jump on the fad wagon and compete with the Joneses, you get left behind or even cast out from society.

Eventually you have a society where social signalling with more expensive houses, cars, and credentials puts all the wealth in the world straight down the toilet.

Human status is relative to what other people have and that’s why those who say “But US poorz is better off than African Kingz cuz they’re fat and they’ve got microwave ovens.” are full of crap—and they know it.

So if I were emperor, I would put restrictions on what kinds of houses are legal to build.  No more oversized houses with shoddy architecture and cheap materials that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

I would insist on durable materials suitable for the climate at reasonable prices that are large enough to do what’s necessary, especially anywhere near the cities where land is scarce.  It wouldn’t even take that long to phase out the current generation of houses that are considered “old” after 30 years.

There would be no more luxury cars for commoners.  No more hummers and pickup trucks on the road(unless you live off-road, have a farm, or a small business).  Excessively big vehicles just force everyone else to get bigger, more expensive cars if they want to survive a collision and consume ridiculous amounts of gas.  For 99% of people it makes more sense to rent a uhaul for the day if they need to move some stuff.

The credential factory universities wouldn’t get free money anymore and would have to answer directly to market forces.  They would probably just go back to being a socialization service for the upper middle class and up.

I would also abolish all employment laws concerning race and sex, granting peoples complete freedom of association.

I would make it legal to use IQ tests or other aptitude tests for employment to make a huge chunk of the bloated credential economy obsolete overnight.

I’m sure some who read this will choke with indignation at this “infringement of individual property rights” etc. etc. But I really see it as more mundane than that.  No different than rules against business owners burning down their competitors’ shops or building codes that limit how high or prominent signs can be.

A clear basic duty of those who control the guys with guns is to keep competition at all levels of society within healthy limits so they in turn can compete with other groups of guys with guns.

Let’s imagine for a moment that we take away those building codes.  Overnight, restaurants would build ever larger, taller, more brightly flashing signs and decoration to get attention even as the quality of the burgers they’re selling plummets.

This is exactly what happens when a population has no rules of social competition.  It simply escalates out of control until the most fabulously wealthy society in history is mired in crushing debt and most people are living paycheck to paycheck.

The core problem is that we actually idolize the social order of endless escalation that is destroying us.  Like countless empires before us that squandered their inheritance, we will find ourselves suddenly vulnerable to barbarian incursions from every side and our ability to unite, fight, and trust in our fellow man utterly extinguished in the endless war of all against all that we worship.

Until we rethink our basic assumptions about wealth and human nature, we are like Tantalus doomed to be thirsty and hungry though surrounded by all the wealth of the world, satisfaction always just out of reach.

Perhaps, we may even begin to dream of heresies—would living in a basic mudbrick house and a basic car be bad if we didn’t have to worry about basics of life like healthcare?
If you can’t buy a McMansion or lame crap like fake plants, and you don’t have to worry about becoming a debt slave for life if you trip once on a flight of stairs or slip in the shower, suddenly the unthinkable might occur.  The urge to get more money even if it destroys your entire society, might just diminish and economic activity become limited to where it does the most good.

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