A Conversation With Andre

This is an email conversation I had with Mr. Andre Gaudwin.

Andre,

I’m in agreement with you that the way we’re living today is destructive both to ourselves and to our planet.  Whether it be our forms of government or our philosophies toward life and the Earth, our planet is taking a serious beating.

I’ve wondered why our leaders do the terrible things that they do.  Maybe it is because they primarily concern themselves with reelection and pandering to the dumbest members of society.  Maybe it is because they’re just not very smart.  Or maybe it’s greed and since they’re only a temporary caretaker, they try to exploit the people and the country to their own personal benefit.  Whatever the reason, I wonder if we can continue on the path we’re on without killing ourselves.

With nuclear missiles pointed at every inch of civilization, I sometimes lose sleeping wondering when a missile will fall into the wrong hands and KABOOM, the Earth goes up in a mushroom cloud.

We’re currently ravaging the Earth and destroying the biosphere.  Within the next century nearly half of all living species will be killed off as there’s no room for their habitats.

Global warming is a huge threat and could lead to massive crop failures in the future, not to mention massive changes to the environment.

Our views on economics are certainly bad.  Unmitigated capitalism leads to large inequalities in wealth, and a class of parasitic mega-rich who sit at the top, doing nothing productive at all.  Communism is politically repressive, as the central government enforces equality on a sea of diversity.  Can freedom and equality go together?  That seems to be the question.

Both economic systems keep people from being all they can be.  When politically repressed and forced to be “equal” to their neighbor, they’re not allowed to express and fulfill their own individuality and self-passions.  Yet when given freedom in our current economic systems, a small group of greedy bastards control all the money and the average person isn’t able to get his or her hands on enough money to do much of anything worthwhile.  They become slaves to money until they eventually die, stuck in the rat-race.  Most of them rarely get a chance to live out their true inner passions and dreams.  The wealth lingers up in the stratosphere of the mega-rich and never makes it back down to Earth.

The wealthy also then have incentives to keep the status quo in order to keep bringing in their profits. They gain control over the media and stop any meaningful social reforms from taking place.  They have incentives to keep the public conversations dumbed down, because a smart public would demand changes in society – changes which would ruin and destroy their power structure. They spread propaganda from all corners of the globe, confusing everyone in a sea of rigged studies and bad data.  As everyone who has studied Statistics knows, statistics and data can be rigged to say anything. Percentages and data, without proper randomized controls for example, lead to misleading results.  All sorts of poll numbers and “studies” are being quoted, and most of them conflict with one another.  People struggle to make sense of all the information they drown in within this “information” age.

This oil spill is a disaster.  This is yet another instance of the Earth taking a beating.  How long is it before all our drinking water is filled with pesticides?  Before all the fish are contaminated with small bits of plastic and other chemicals?  Before our modified crops start to cause us all kinds of health problems?

I think we have too many people living on this planet and we’re living on borrowed time, hoping scientists will find cures to the problems we’re creating.  But the more people who live on this planet, the more food we’ll need to produce, and that means more destruction of natural habitats as well as genetically modified crops to produce higher yields.  And as the third world further industrializes, without clean energy sources they’ll continue burning fossil fuels contributing to massive warming on the planet.  They’ll also become worse polluters as their corporations search for ways to save money, and start wrapping their products in plastic, etc.

I recently watched some films by David Attenborough and his ending to his ‘Life Of Mammals’ series was quite powerful.

I think scientists would be able to create new technology to fix these problems, but, as you said, our politicians and leaders waste money building weapons instead of helping the planet.  It’s a shame that the brightest members of our society, our scientists and engineers, are subject to some of the dumbest people on our planet — elected officials.  If you look at the election process in any detail you see that it’s a complete joke.  They stick a few signs up in people’s yards with their name on it, and quote a few party one-liners and pit a mob of mostly uneducated common-folk against one another based on shallow political rhetoric. Also, unless you have millions of dollars for mass media exposure, you’re unlikely to win a powerful seat in our government.  This leads to the rich ruling us, mostly to their own benefit. The winners of this political contest then control the funds to our scientists, and they use it for all the wrong things.  They use it to build weapons to defend their empires.  They use it to steal from and exploit foreigners. They use it to rig the economy further in their favor.  And for those who try to fix things, most of them are unqualified and do not understand all the complications involved.  They don’t know what they’re doing.

As the power of the state expands, these rather stupid and greedy elected officials are given greater and great control over our lives.  In the origins of the United States the government was far less powerful, and life was more simplistic.  Most people were farmers and the economy was self-regulating under a laissez-faire model.  Now things are much more complicated and we have unqualified and evil people setting the rules for immigration laws, tariffs, taxes, banking regulation, currency supplies, healthcare systems, and other complex economic policies which they do not understand or will exploit nefariously.

But having a completely hands off approach, with very little government at all, doesn’t fix things either.  As already mentioned, pure laissez-faire capitalism doesn’t lead to a beautiful world. Corporate greed knows little bounds and they’ll ravage the planet and exploit their workers without any thoughts of long term consequences.  They’ll dump their waste in our streams. They’ll exploit their workers until they’re too weak to work and then throw them aside and hire someone else instead. And if the workers unionize to fight for better wages and better working conditions, the rich and powerful will pass new laws allowing poor immigrants into the country to work for them, or even better, they’ll just relocate to an impoverished country and exploit their citizens instead.  They’ll work children in hot warehouses exposed to dangerous machinery, and when they’re injured, won’t even provide for medical costs.

Have we outgrown our political and economic systems?  I think so. Technology can save us, but with our terrible social systems, it may well destroy us instead.  With all these new problems brought into play by our new technology, our social systems are getting falling dangerously far behind, and that’s a serious problem.

Einstein saw these problems.  Quoting him:

* The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor — not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules.

* I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.

* Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralisation of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

– Albert Einstein, ‘Why Socialism’ writing for the Monthly Review
http://www.monthlyreview.org/598einstein.php

I’m in agreement with Einstein that some new economic system needs to be in place.  We need a system which removes all the competition among ourselves, yet still provides outlets for growth and self-determination.  It needs to utilize scientific mass production techniques, and share the rewards with all.  But communism, as implemented all over the world such as East Germany, Russia, and China, have not created paradises.  It’s been a nightmare for a lot of people who have lived under such regimes.  And liberal capitalism was implemented in India, leading to a class of rich entrepreneurs, yet the general population is still living in poverty. Some nations such as Japan have taken a “soft authoritarian” approach, using a mixture of liberal capitalism gently directed by a central authority. It’s worked well for them yet at the same time, their economy is hurting right now too.  Their scholars today are debating whether they’ve outgrown their current setup.

Most scientists I meet share comments on these issues and talk about a world where we all share things and work together.  Problem is, how do you actually implement a society like that?  Once you get into the technical specifics it gets really difficult.  I personally feel that our best bet is to somehow use the computer and the internet to distribute our resources.  A lot of the problems money solved was the fact that transactions could be done and people could efficiently exchange goods with one another, yet nobody had to understand what was going on in the big picture in order to do business.  Central planning has always failed because it all gets too complicated far too quickly.  Things become inefficient and wasteful because the human mind is too fragile and weak to plan such a complicated system.  It also falls prey to greed and corruption.

But if somehow computers could do it.  If everyone was constantly inputting their situation into a computer, and it was managing the resources of society.  If programmed correctly, maybe it could distribute the goods in an efficient manner, and never overlook the poor and impoverished, who are struggling.  Political leaders can get too busy and overwhelmed, but a computer would have time to notice every individual.

It’s just a thought. I’ve been thinking how such a system may work, but it will take a lot of research.

I agree with you that our philosophical views on the world, going all the way back to the Greeks, have been wrong. I think we view both ourselves, and the way we relate to the planet in the wrong ways.  We try to dominate nature instead of living in harmony with it.  We think using our reptile brain, hoping to achieve some sort of hierarchical dominance, instead of trying to be one with nature and the universe. When we see ourselves in the mirror we don’t understand what it is we’re looking at.  That’s why people even to this day believe in religions of all sorts.  They’re so busy working jobs that they haven’t been educated in all the new scientific knowledge which is out there.

Not too long ago I had a Jehovah’s Witness confront me while I was out getting a pizza.  She handed me a book called, ‘What Does The Bible Really Teach’, and within it it tells how when I die I will inherit my own planet, which I will populate and rule over for all eternity.  It says that when I get angry, demons are flowing into my body causing me to do evil.  And on and on it goes, filling people’s minds with complete nonsense.

And what about those who have learned all the science of our day?  I feel they face a crisis of meaning. Everything is advancing so fast that people don’t know what direction the world is going. Where will this technology take us?  They see sheep being cloned, talk of genetically modifying the human body, mixing our brain with micro-processors, nano-chips controlling DNA assemblage, the possible colonization of Mars… and it’s all too much.  They see how dumb we are as humans, and yet science has given us such incredible powers.  Are we even ready to handle such responsibilities?

As our science progresses we’re going to have to change how our society works.  We can’t continue business as usual.  And people are going to have to become aware of all the technology around them, because it’s dangerous to have stupid people living in a high-tech world.  It’s fine to be stupid when all you have is a spear, running around chasing grazing animals.  It’s not ok to be stupid and have control of nuclear weapons.

– Jason

From: Andre Gaudwin
Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 5:20 PM
To: jason@jasonsummers.org
Subject: “YES WE CAN.”????

“YES WE CAN.”????

Of course we can, but we won’t do anything about it until we understand what is really happening to us. And we don’t, since none of the professionals in all sectors of society ―who should lead us into doing it, and who all together know everything there is to know about our particular problems― is remotely fit to understand the nature of the global problem presently affecting the whole of humanity. And this, because of a mistaken premise about their dominant status, which, when analyzed from an evolutionary psychological point of view, becomes an evident logical fallacy.

And it is not the first time that such a fundamentally false premise opens up an unbreachable space between our ability to know and our capacity to understand.  In Ancient Greece, astronomers knew everything there is to know about the behavior of the stars and the planets that they were observing in the heavens. However, they were incapable of understanding their true nature and the nature of the irregularities among them, because of their belief that the earth was fixed at the center of the universe. The same is true today for our intellectual elites, who know everything there is to know to dominate their own sectors of society, but who cannot understand the true nature of our problems, because of this generally accepted logical fallacy.

If such a close parallel can be made between the Ancient Geek astronomers’ incapacity to understand the true nature of the stars, and our elites’ incapacity to understand the true nature of the problem that we are facing, it is because that the two false premises causing these limitations stem from the same fundamental natural phenomenon: inertia.

For the Greeks, it was their ignorance of physical inertia ―still today interfering with our sense of motion― that was keeping them from understanding the true nature of the Heavens.  For our present day elites, it is their intellectual inertia created by the mass of knowledge that they have assiduously accumulated on a few subjects during their years of formation as specialists ―they all are― that is interfering with their sense of responsibility, and which is preventing them from understanding that they are integrated part of  the global problem that they have themselves contributed to create, and which is being dramatically worsen by their ignorance of the fallacy on which their dominant behavior is grounded.

It is because of my understanding of this fallacy―which became clear to me, after forty years of independent and “single-minded” academic inquiry on the subject―that I came to perceived “them” (humanity’s elites) as “degenerated baboons,” who, in time of dangers, have forgotten how to step ahead on the first lines of defense to protect us, as dominant baboons do to protect their troupes, which initially gave them  their dominant standings for this reason alone. Of course, our elites are still driven by the same urge to protect and defend, and they do it well. However, because of our assumed dominance over nature, they have to constantly create new enemies to satisfy these urges and the needs of the technologies that they are using to wage their wars from afar, “to save lives.” Ignoring the fact, thus, that the real enemies of our species are not among ourselves, but still in nature, on the forms of catastrophic events, as floods, droughts, famines, severe weather conditions, epidemics, earthquakes, volcanic irruptions, and today the Oil Spill from the guts of the earth in the Gulf of Mexico. All of which we would be well equipped to overcome, if we were not using all the resources that we are presently using to wage irrelevant wars.

Simply put: Our war economy need to be “converted” into a peace economy, to defend all of us against our true enemies, the furies of the elements and the aging of the world infrastructures. If this happened, we would be able to double the “defense budgets” of the whole word and put everybody to work at the maintenance of our home planet, for the good of all.

* * *

To illustrate the ground of my argument, let me tell you what happened the other day when I met a new acquaintance of mine for the first time after the Gulf of Mexico Disaster.

During our conversation, I eventually came to tell him how offended I was to see that the “hundreds of trillions” (sic) of dollars floating around in the world markets were not used in a way or another to do something about the Spill. He look at me, stunned, as if I didn’t know what I was talking about, and told me: “But…but… that is “investment money.”

What he was telling me was that this money cannot be used to overcome such man-made catastrophes as the one presently threatening the whole Gulf of Mexico, but that it is money exclusively used to  “make money.”

I hope to show you that this is the essence of the invalid argument made about our social power, which is the type of arguments that the market dwellers make all the time, on different forms, and which is directly based on this fallacy that I am talking about.

Regarding investment specialists, who claim to “play the role of God” in the economy, and who are the ones benefiting the most from this virtual wealth that they are “managing,” —if not ultimately the only ones benefiting— this type of reflections made about material “security” is exactly the same type of reflections that clergymen were making before the Reformation, about money to buy indulgences for “spiritual” security. Indeed, the  present days  investments in “security” will be as irrelevant for our survival as a species, as the investments in “indulgences” were for individual salvation.

To come back to my conversation on this subject with my new acquaintance, it stopped immediately after his mention about “investment money.”  It would have taken me too long, since what I was thinking about was too much in the line of a “mobilization” of all our resources against  the oil invasion’s of the Gulf of Mexico, as FDR did to counter the German invasion.

It is not our freedom that is at stake at the moment, but the health of of the North Atlantic and eventually the whole Earth, if we don’t succeed in stopping these oil leaks soon.  Doesn’t it call for the mobilization of all our resources? For this, though, we need political leadership, but, as I already realized many years ago, “political leadership” has become an oxymoron, since today’s politicians have only one preoccupation, there own reelection. And, it happened that the Gulf of Mexico oil Spill has followed  Murphy’s law to the letter, by happening at the worst of time, during a year of US election.

* * *

I say “single academic inquiry” above, since the only reason that kept me going for all these years was the need to find out what was this “mistake” that I have always believed we made as a rational species, somewhere in the course of our evolution.  After forty years, I have finally found it. If you want to know what it is, stick with me, if you can!  It won’t be an easy realization for anybody, believe me, since it has to do with a misunderstanding that happened tens of thousands of years ago, before the Ancient Greek, when we first acquired a proto-consciousness of our social nature.  And, since the Greeks philosophers didn’t know about this misunderstanding, it happens that it has imbued all of our philosophies of life, and that it will be a lot tougher to accept, especially for the “high priests” of finance, than heliocentrism was for the clergy of the time.

First, though, I have to explain the context in which my findings came about. (Work in Progress)

Jason, it is done and coming after your comments on this email

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6 Responses to A Conversation With Andre

  1. Everett says:

    Hey Jason,

    I somehow found this one website browsing the other day and have wanted to ask you your opinion on it ever since. Have you ever heard of The Venus Project? I haven’t looked at it enough to form a valuable opinion on it. But when you get the time to look at it, I would really like to hear what you think.

    -Everett

  2. Years ago I remember seeing a film called Zeitgeist on the internet and it talked about the Venus Project. I thought it was interesting so I went to their website and dug around. Back then (I don’t know about now), they had a lot of pretty pictures and a few PDFs talking about their overall mission, but there was very little substance. I dug around for hours and couldn’t find anything. I’ll have to look on there sometime and see if they’ve added some more information, but in the meantime I’ll give you some things to look out for.

    The guys at the Venus Project are wanting to rid the world of money and make it a resource based economy. Problem is, they don’t give any details into how that would work. The same sorts of arguments against it are the same ones against socialism. Here are the things which their resource economy will have to manage, using some method other than money and prices.

    First is a means of economic calculation which will reduce shortages and surpluses. In our capitalist economy we have the profit motive, which keeps producers from making things people don’t want, and gives producers incentives to create things which are needed. If producers create things people aren’t buying, they lose profits, and businesses don’t like that. Also, if entrepreneurs see a market opportunity to produce things people are asking for, they’re all over it.

    Communist countries have failed miserably in this area because when everything is owned collectively there is no means of economic calculation. In the Soviet Union under Stalin, factories would produce shoes for example, and they’d create way too many pairs of shoes. They’d have warehouses full of shoes people didn’t need. Also, people would be needing coats but all their resources and time were wasted producing shoes no one needed. The profit motive, even though it leads to huge disparities in wealth, creating rich and poor, still does a decent job at least of allocating societies resources efficiently. Communism fails miserably.

    When the economy is centrally planned from the central government, this leads to inefficiencies. Millions of business owners looking after their own personal interests with the profit motive has proven itself more efficient at managing the resources than a handful of politicians, who both lack the time to properly plan it all, but also fall prey to greed and theft. That’s not to say this system of economic anarchy is beautiful. It’s just the lesser of two evils.

    Milton Friedman saw problems with socialism, and said when property and resources are owned collectively, there is no competition to drive technological innovation. He did research on the matter and showed how countries with competition were the ones primarily driving technological innovation. In our economy our government issues patents and copyrights to investors and inventors, which gives them an incentive to spend their time and capital on research and development.

    Socialism also lacks proper incentives. There’s no reward for working hard. It gets you nowhere. Economics professors like to use an example which illustrates this beautifully. What they do is make an offer to their students. They say that for the rest of the semester the kids won’t receive individual test scores on their exams but will instead receive the average of all test scores throughout the class. They then take the students current scores and show them that on average most of the class would be better off if they did so. Some classes agree to do this and interesting things happen.

    After about two more exams the kids who got the good grades were fed up with the fact that they studied so hard yet their grades were pulled down by students who were studying much less. The students who were getting average grades started to slack, hoping to ride off other students work, and some barely studied at all. Within a very short time everyone’s average score drops to a pathetic 30% and less.

    A lot of people like to talk about the joys of work, and the warm fuzzy world of socialism and sharing, but it doesn’t work that way in reality. Most jobs are boring. Our bodies are wired to enjoy hunting, sex and fighting, and we don’t enjoy most of what we have to do to upkeep our modern society. In order to get people to do this work which they find cumbersome, they have to be given incentives. They have to be told, “You work hard and you’ll get a good job which pays a lot of money. You’ll be able to afford a nice home and nice things. You’ll be able to take your wife and family on vacations around the world.” Then they’ll work hard, but will not otherwise. There are exceptions to this rule, but not many. Most jobs are unglamorous and boring yet somebody has to do them.

    In this post i quoted Einstein talking about the anarchy in our current world, and how the fighting to control the collective labor of society through legal means is the real evil of our modern world. Socialism with the promise of collective ownership does not solve this problem at all. People are going to look out of their eyes and see all these nice things in the world. Of all the things they’re working to produce, who will be entitled to them? Who gets what? Who has to work the crappy jobs? Who gets to work the fun jobs?

    Take a beautiful log cabin surrounded by nature near the lake. Millions of people would love to own that home, either for a vacation home, or to live there permanently. People dream of taking a small boat out on the lake and fishing on the weekends or take a dip in the water during the summer to cool off. Wouldn’t that be nice? Well, of the hundreds of millions of people living (possible billions in places like China and India), who gets to live there? What does “collective ownership” mean in this situation? It’s meaningless. What are you going to do? Take turns? That’s not even practical.

    The overall idea in capitalism is that you have to earn some money by providing products and services to society and save up some cash. Then you compete fairly against all other members of the society for that property. Whoever offers the most money for it gets it. The prices of things are based upon supply and demand. If it’s a rare and valuable good, demand for it will be high, so the price will be high.

    That’s not to say our current system is “fair” by any means. Entrepreneurs earn most all the money by controlling the valuable things to sell on the market. That’s what Einstein was talking about. They gain ownership of people’s collective means of labor and reap the benefits. A lot of the time the workers aren’t fully compensated for what they contribute to the corporations they work for, and the stockholders reap the benefits of their labor. We get a parasitic rich class who just throws money around and lives the good life, leeching off others. But, even though the system is cruel, at least there is a means of resource allocation. In socialism there isn’t anything at all.

    In Soviet Russia for example, people were herded up into communal housing. Everyone has to be equal after all. So they’re all crammed into these apartment buildings which had no privacy at all. Then radios were installed in the hallways which blared propaganda three times a day, with Stalin and his goons telling you how a utopia is around the corner, and how you just have to deal with the misery for the time being.

    But if all this wasn’t bad enough, in order to enforce equality on everyone in society, individuality has to be removed and repressed. Everyone has to be given a common purpose and common goals. Everyone dreams of a world where we all work together. It sounds so warm and fuzzy doesn’t it? Well, what happens in reality? Someone like Stalin gets in control of the party and then all your collective labors don’t contribute to your well being or prosperity. No no no. Instead you’re all working in factories producing weapons and missiles. Stalin has his plot to take over the world and form the worldwide communist commonwealth! So you work all day in the factory making missiles and ammunition, then come back to the noisy communal apartment to listen to party propaganda.

    Winston Churchill understood these problems and is noted to have said:
    “…a socialist policy is abhorrent to the British ideas of freedom. Socialism is inseparably interwoven with totalitarianism and the object worship of the state. It will prescribe for every one where they are to work, what they are to work at, where they may go and what they may say. Socialism is an attack on the right to breathe freely. No socialist system can be established without a political police. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance.”

    In socialist societies, in order to keep everyone in one mind, all those individual liberties we cherish here in America have to be taken away. Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press…. all taken away. But who now sets the national agenda? The “party”. Well, who controls the party? Nobel laureate economist Friedrich Hayek recognized these problems and famously quoted, “Collectivism is slavery.” In full blown socialism, whoever controls the party becomes a totalitarian dictator.

    Mikhail Gorbachev didn’t fully understand these issues. He started to open up free speech and self-determination to businesses (as opposed to Marxian central planning) in the Soviet Union, and very shortly after the entire system collapsed. Those ideas are completely contrary to everything socialism is about.

    But if all this wasn’t enough, you should look at the absolute hell a society has to go through to transition INTO socialism. The impoverished all want socialism. Sure, they’re out to gain from it. But what about all the people out there who are living a decent life? Those who have worked their whole life building a home, saving up a retirement, building up their business, and so on? They don’t want this to happen. They won’t go along with collective ownership. Therefore they have to be eliminated. Stalin forms his secret police and murders them all. Their deaths are for the greater good. Millions are violently killed off… murdered to implement a promised utopian paradise.

    When I saw Michael Moore’s new film, “Capitalism: A Love Story”, I was very disappointed. I don’t think he’s studied enough history and economics to understand what he was advocating in that film. He showed the worst of capitalism, then the best of socialism, and acted like, “See guys? Here’s where we need to go.” Sorry Michael, you have a lot more to learn.

    Humans will probably struggle to conceive a decent social organization for a long time to come. We’re working with what Immanuel Kant called the “crooked timbers of humanity” after all. Unlike say various insect species, who are biologically wired to serve their queen and work within their community, men are naturally wired to be selfish and self-serving. Living within society is an awkward situation for man, and he only does so because of the benefits gathered from the division of labor and working together.

  3. Yamin says:

    “How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?”

    Einstein is at least wise enough to see the inherent problem in socialism. Something most socialists don’t even bother pondering. They simply think giving more power to government is ‘good’.

    In any case, it is my my view that unlike technology, politics and human nature are unchanging. Read Plato or Aristotle… and there issues there are the same we face today.

    A centrally planned economy or a central way of distributing resources will always fail. No magic computer program can do it either. It takes a systems approach while being ignorant of people.

    For example. In theory communism is the ideal system. If we all just kept doing what we’re doing… we redistribute a little resources here and there… utopia! It’s why communism was very appealing to intellectuals. Intellectuals tend to be systems thinkers.

    Yet, it completely ignores people.
    Imagine being a young Russian with dreams of being a scientists. Yet the government decides, he should be sent to be a coal miner. Someone has to mine the coal. I guarantee you everyone would rather be a scientist, painter, philosopher… as opposed to a coal miner. Yet they need coal. So communism ultimately requires government to force people to work. And you end up with gulags and millions of people dead.

    Any economic system… must answer these two simply questions.

    1. Who does what.
    2. How much do they get.

    Strip away all the systems thinking and answer these two simple questions.

    Even if you strip out all the corruption and politics. Let’s assume for a minute that with the computers and everything, we manage to create a perfectly honest political system.

    We still end up with these basic questions.
    Even if a computer by completely fair analysis of my abilities decides that I should be a lithium miner. What if I don’t obey. I don’t want to go to the mines. What if nobody goes to the mines… we still end up with the force question and oppression.

    And of course money is merely a representation of someone else’s labor. It is why you can attempt to feed everybody… let’s make a law that says everyone is entitled to a chicken a day. Great…

    but who gets to raise the chickens, slaughter them, prepare them…

    Who is going to do all this to give to other people?

    ———————–
    I get very ansty when people start talking about distributing resources… while forgetting about those making the resources.
    ———————–

    It is why slavery has always been popular in human history. You need a slave class to have an entitlement society. You need the slaves to provide the entitlement.

    After slavery, the western world developed colonialism to give a similar result. Get the people in the colonies to do much of the hard work (mining, resource collection…), then send the resources to the west to be processed in ‘better work’. Ask any indian about that.

    Then that ended. And the West pursued globalization to try and continue the entitlements. Use cheap labor of Asians/mexicans… to keep prices low and keep the entitlement society alive. We in the west do all the interesting work… they do all the hard work.

    Heck, we’ve even made it illegal for western workers to do hard work. We have a minimum wage that is higher than the countries we sign free trade deals with. We’ve effectively made it illegal for western workers to earn a living in textiles, manufacturing…

    We can see this in the western world today. We give welfare to people. That welfare money is used to purchase food. But who works on the farm? We import ‘lesser beings’ from the 3rd world to work the farms. This allows for cheap food which the people on the dole can get their entitlement.

    Now of course… what happens when the west runs out of slave/lesser being to provide the entitlements? That is the question. I don’t know the answer.

    And so, I come back to my original statement that politically nothing has changed in thousands of years. These are the same questions we have always asked.

    The difference is that people of yesteryear were honest about needing slaves. We pretend we don’t need them and pretend we care and talk about redistributing wealth.

    The only way I see out of this is robotics… if we can automate large sections of work to the point where the things we need ‘food, resources, electricity…) are all largely automated and can be provided basically free. Then the robots will be our slaves…

    But as long as there is a single job that people dont want to do… that needs doing… you cannot have an entitlement society without a slave class.

  4. Yamin says:

    @Yamin

    I should add… that’s why I became to believe in liberty. Simply because if you really sit down and think about it. It’s the only way to have a workable society without slavery.

    Everyone chooses what they do.
    Everyone gets paid for what they do for others.

    It will have inequality, poor people… but its all better than having a slave class.

    That all said, modern day capitalism has little do with liberty and the free market. But I would rather us push for more liberty than go the other way. The only thing the government should do is regulate… strangely… it’s the one thing governments have stopped doing… while expanding everything else.

    What a backwards world.

  5. @Yamin –

    I’m in agreement with you. Your two issues raised: 1) Who does what, and 2) How much do they get, are definitely the central problems. From what I see people try to find some way in this world to do as little as possible, and receive as much as possible. Men are always scheming to find some way to exploit society to their benefit. Anthropologists tell us that the human brain evolved as our ancient ancestors used their new intelligence to exploit society. So the idea goes back as long as we’ve been social. As you said, that issue’s not going away anytime soon.

    I’ve came to the exact same conclusion as you; the only real way I see of ending these nasty inequalities and freeing people to live better lives is for us to have robots which can do all the jobs we don’t want to do. My problems come when I start thinking about what to do until then.

    Obviously it’d be wise for us to to pump tons of money into researching artificial intelligence and robotics. We need to study the human brain and find out how it works completely. If we can create robots which can easily be taught to do all the boring and hard jobs we hate, that’d be wonderful.

    Later the robots would become more and more advanced, and then they could do all sorts of things for us — such as performing surgeries and replacing our doctors.

    I have a few comments to make on “doing things for others”, a central tenant of capitalism, which you may or may not find interesting. Throughout all my years as an entrepreneur I’ve attended many business conferences. What I always notice is that most all the people in attendance have one thing in common — they have nothing to sell and nothing to offer the consumer. They know how to market and sell things. They have management skills and know accounting. Their problem is they have no way of acquiring access to a product or service to sell, and that’s the key.

    As I walk around stores I think to myself, “If I wanted to go out and sell coffee makers, or dishwashers, or air purifiers… how would I go about that?” I’m not talking about selling someone else’s appliance. I’m talking about my own. This is the JasonTech AirPurifier 1000 (hopefully I could come up with a better name). If I went to build something like that mine would be far inferior to anything that’s available out there. These big corporations have been building those sorts of things for so long there’s just no way to compete with them. They’re too far ahead. Those markets are completely inaccessible to me as the entrepreneur. And if I wanted to build my own it would cost literally millions of dollars in R&D to pull it off.

    The barrier to entry in this modern world for an entrepreneur is insane. It doesn’t matter what you want to do. And as science and technology progresses, the only people who can build the goods people buy are the corporations, because they have all the laboratories and technology, which they’ve been building up for decades. Take an iPod for instance or a little mp3 player. How in the world could you build something like that? The vast majority of people out there don’t have access to the technology and wherewithal to pull it off. We might as well just say it’s impossible.

    When I’d attend business conferences, this problem was all I saw. Everywhere. Thousands of entrepreneurs attending these things. They have no idea how to bring something new to the market that people would want. So they all start to scheme and get into shady and stupid projects. They all have to make themselves middle men selling some corporation’s existing product. They have to count on the fact that their customers won’t realize that they’re just worthless middlemen buying the products and reselling. But like anyone else, they have to earn a living too.

    Now half of these guys are smart people. If they had exclusive rights to an already finished and developed JasonTech 1000 Air Purifier, they could sell it and make millions. I could do the same. Problem is making the Air Purifier that beats out competitors who have been established for ages.

    This almost insurmountable barrier to entry problem is why there’s so many scams out there. People can’t find a way to get rich in this world and they get angry. They try all kinds of things being legit, and can’t sell anything. That’s when they start to get sleazy. They start a Ponzi scheme or something like that.

    And it’s not even a matter of having money, because there’s more to it than even that. Take Google for instance. They have an ungodly amount of money, and are always trying new things. They even give their staff time throughout the week just to sit around and think of new ideas and products they could sell to people. But if you look at their sources of income, almost all of their money comes from selling Adwords. That’s it. It’s over 98% of their income, or something like that. Even when they have whole teams of think tanks trying to think of things to sell, they can’t do it. And Google would throw millions at a good product idea and try it. Thing is, they just can’t come up with it.

    Then you get some guy like, oh… what’s his name… Zucker, or whatever his name is. Starts up some stupid website like Facebook. For God knows what reason, everyone flocks to it and it becomes a huge sensation. I mean, honestly, I look at sites like twitter and think, “Why the HELL didn’t I think of that?” That’s the most simplistic, STUPIDEST site I’ve ever seen. It’s not even as advanced as a forum. It’s just people typing up short little comments and posting them at one another. But some guy out there is making a fortune because he came up with that stupid thing and it became popular.

    You know my problem? I’m too damn smart. I’m not dumb like half of the idiots on twitter. I can’t even imagine a website which is so worthless. My mind thinks up things which actually benefit society and unfortunately they’re all complicated and hard to accomplish. I struggle in dismay, then I pull up the news and hear about Twitter making a fortune. Pisses me off.

    Capitalism is weird. When you attend business conferences there’s always some weird guy waltzing around who’s made millions doing the STUPIDEST thing. My friend Greg met the guy who came up with those cheap plastic sunglasses which you see for sale in gas stations all over. He’s made a fortune. I always see girls and their profiles online and they love to have a gallery of them wearing those cheap plastic sunglasses. Then I picture that one guy at that conference walking around, bragging about his fortune, his beach mansion, his Mercedes… doing THAT of all things. And the guy didn’t even make the sunglasses. He somehow stumbled into another guy who made them, then he was like, “Eh, I guess I’ll try selling these. See how they do.” Makes a fortune. And of course he probably bought the rights to the sunglasses from the inventor for next to nothing.

    So, people have no idea what product to offer, and it just seems like there’s no opportunity. And you have to earn money somehow in the meantime, so most of them all work interim jobs while they try to get something off the ground.

    Another thing a lot of them do, because they can’t find anything to sell, is to write ebooks and sell them over the internet. In fact, one of the weirdest trends among these entrepreneurs is to sell business kits to other entrepreneurs. There’s tons of guys out there who have made millions selling business and marketing kits, promising how to make millions. The kits teach you how to market your product, how to keep track of your finances and accounting, how to sell things online, etc., but people get that, read it, and still have no idea what to sell.

    It’s so sleazy. They themselves have never made millions selling their own products. Instead, they get rich selling you a “get rich” business kit. When I was more “green” I bought a few such kits trying to learn how to get out there and earn some money. Later I learned how this whole industry works and began reflecting on it all.

    Their kits are always some mixture of that “mind over matter” crap, mixed in with some basic business skill training. “Whether you think you cab, or think you can’t — you’re right.” I hear that crap and I just think, “Man, get out of here. You know how many poor people have came up to me quoting that? Yeah yeah, you’re going to make your millions just by thinking a certain way. Go for it man. I’m rooting for ya.” *rolls eyes*

    When I’ve worked at it, I’ve done ok with software, and that’s mainly because I’ve been doing it for so long that I can write computer software of a quality which can compete with the big guys. That’s just my personal talent. What’s nice about it is you can pull it off just by having a computer and sitting there doing it. You risk time and effort, but I didn’t need millions in R&D to start doing it, which is nice.

    As an entrepreneur who’s been out here selling stuff for 10 years or so, I can say the system sucks. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s not fair at all. It’s not about being smart. It’s not about being clever. It’s not about working hard. All that talk in economics textbook about the entrepreneur taking the “risks” is nonsense. It’s almost all luck. You have to stumble onto something that people just fawn over. And once you strike oil, you get out the drills and mine that thing for all its worth. That’s how it works in reality.

    The skill part of it only comes in keeping a “value well” once you stumble on it. If you’re a merciless businessman you can fight off all the vultures who will surround you once you start making some money doing something that works. And they’re ALWAYS there. But being good won’t make you rich.

    The big corporations control the deepest and richest “value wells” and they don’t let anyone in on their action.

    There’s always opportunity for someone to go out and work. You can become a self-employed “entrepreneur” and get by. You can become a plumber, or a roofer, or a PC repair man, but you’ll never get rich. You’ll scrape to get by. But those things are basically just self-employed jobs. You’ll earn your living, but that’s it.

    The only way you can get rich by say being a plumber, is to start a corporation. Then you build up your money over time, hire out other plumbers, and them pay them less than what you collect per job. Then you try to expand yourself as far as possible sending your hired plumbers out to do all the work, and you reap the benefits of their labors. Of course, they’re free to do that too, I guess. Sure isn’t easy. This is the legal method of controlling other people’s labor through private ownership. This is also the domain where all the powerful and rich businessmen battle.

    When I think about the system, just being the philosopher kind of guy I am, reflecting on life in general, I think this whole system is just stupid. You have weird guys stumbling into sunglasses and making millions, and then hard-working folks not even being able to afford health insurance.

    And as for all that stuff you were talking about, such as the exploitation of the poor all over the world… that’s huge. It’s definitely one of the biggest evils in this world. That’s half of what history is – people trying to exploit one another for their personal gain. This system we have in this world is just disgusting. People take advantage of one another’s situations. It’s just terrible. I lose sleep thinking about these sorts of thing. It makes me so depressed.

    I spend so many days just sitting in my bed thinking, “There has to be something better.” I just find it hard to believe that there isn’t a better way. I don’t know what it is unfortunately.

    I personally feel that we suffer from all the economic manipulation which takes place because it’s not easy to earn big money guessing what consumers want. That game is almost impossibly difficult. It’s much easier to loan out money out of thin air and keep the interest. There’s a businessman from my hometown who used to earn all his money running supermarkets. He still has those but his main focus now is running his chain of banks. There’s so much money in fractional reserve banking… After all, you can loan out 10x what you have in your own reserves and keep the interest. And if you’re a big bank, make a bunch of bad loans the taxpayer will bail you out.

    In a world of pure self-interest where consumers don’t give a damn about the businesses they shop at, and entrepreneurs only care about earning money… how can we expect a good world to result? And as you said, people don’t care how the products and resources got into the stores to begin with. Who raised those chickens, butchered them, prepared them, packaged them, and shipped them? People don’t care if that designer jacket was made in a sweatshop, exploiting a poor foreigner for pennies, with no benefits and no future. Even if they did, just by looking at the jacket they wouldn’t know.

    But it’s all so complicated. It’s so massive and our human minds are too frail to grasp how it all ties together. When you walk through the grocery story it’s unfortunate that there’s not some sort of spiritual “chain” attached to each product, and by touching it your mind drifts and you could see everything that went into making it. We have no idea how it got there, and that’s a huge problem.

    We’re also limited emotionally. We can’t empathize with billions of people. We can only emotionally care about those immediately around us — our family, friends, and coworkers.

    What a mess. *Big sigh* And yeah, we haven’t had real capitalism in a long time. We’ve had crony capitalism, and then people blame the free market. I think for the most part my political views are libertarian as well. At least, economically I lean that way. I don’t see increased government or socialism as fixing the fundamental problems we face either. I’m up for hearing all sides, and debating it all, but I don’t want to hear any ideal blabbering, like what you hear in the news. They pit us off into these left/right paradigms, neither side addressing the most fundamental problems. People are always oversimplifying everything. The world’s problems are complicated, and it’s annoying when people act like there’s a simple fix.

  6. Yamin says:

    @Jason Summers

    I think the point you raise about the barrier to entry in modern societies is true. It’s always been that way, but it’s much more prevalent today with large scale industry. On the other hand, many industries are now more accessible to the entrepreneur (software, media…).

    And sometimes the market does surprise. I sometimes sit there wondering how on earth a company like Google got started. These companies do grow and come out of nowhere. They do get funding. Heck, could you have imagined a world where a company would get funding to purchase thousands upon thousands of harddrives and servers to host videos for free?

    Now there is this problem whereby in order to get funding, you basically need to sell yourself over to the financial system…

    This does reduce the power of the worker.

    To that I say, part of it is a problem with the money supply. Have easy money… allows society to move much quicker. It’s a certain level of hyper innovation. Which is good from a technology point of view. I work in the field… I can appreciate it…

    But I don’t think technology growth is the end argument. Without easy money, things would just grow more slowly. Businesses would grow slower… you could save money and maybe save enough by the time you’re 40 to be independent or pool money with people…

    Edison for example worked a regular job and then did his science in his spare time. Funding his own research. Buying his equipment…

    I don’t know if we could ever really have enough know how or money as an individual to take on the massive corporations… however having a low-cost society would help.

    If people didn’t have to pay property taxes and worry about inflation, they might be more comfortable taking a risk… starting their own businesses.

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