Checkmate Stalemate

Capitalism and apathy in the United States are leading factors in driving homelessness. Employing Capitalism and apathy is somewhat redundant as a major component of Capitalism is apathy and creating otherness—us and them; haves and have nots. People reaching retirement age—Boomers in the parlance—are finding themselves homeless—or as the sage, George Carlin reminds us, houseless.

An article titled America’s homeless ranks graying as more retire on streets was posted elsewhere with a comment, If they voted for Reagan, fuck ’em!

If they voted for Reagan, fuck ’em!

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The feeling behind this sentiment is that this cohort did this to themselves. They shot themselves in the foot—or the face, as the case might be. They bought into the Darwinist mythos and envisaged themselves as coming out on top—except they didn’t and the music stopped and someone else had all the chairs. In fact, a few people had many more chairs than a person could ever need, leaving more people out of the game than strictly necessary. Illusory superiority is a cognitive fallacy that keeps things like Capitalism alive. And cognitive dissonance masquing mechanisms assuage the delta between perception and reality. And like lottery players, they convince themselves that one day their ship will come in. Yet at some point during the backside of midlife—however one defines that—, comes the foreboding that this is probably not in the cards. You’d gone all in and there was no payoff.

Whilst viscerally, I agree with the sentiment—as I sometimes feel schadenfreude for the people who vote for any major party candidates in election after election and are surprised that their candidate doesn’t move the needle because of [insert excuses here]. When the other party wins, nothing material happens because they don’t understand or don’t have it right. When their party wins and nothing material happens it’s because of entrenched opposition—perhaps, rather, controlled opposition.

Controlled Opposition

But what’s entrenched is not the other party. As I’ve noted before, there is no other party. There are no material choices. I don’t believe the image below is to scale because it makes it appear that they are less alike than they actually are. The image illustrates how the Democratic and Republican parties share the same foundation. I am fairly certain one could swap our Democrats and Republicans for Labour and Conservative, but I won’t speak out of school.

Twin Peaks

Almost nothing anyone can do in the near term can have any effect. In the long run, any real threat will be eliminated, neutralised, or assimilated. They may even allow an independent voice remain, but that is only for the sake of performance. It’s more like improv than scripted, but the impact will be negligible, in the manner of throwing a pillow at an aircraft carrier—even a firm foam pillow.

The most obvious connexion is that both parties—in practice all participating factions—are constitutionalists. Interestingly enough, my spellchecker autocorrected ‘institutionalist’ as ‘constitutionalist’, and that’s another commonality. As for foreign policy, the two are virtually indistinguishable. On domestic affairs, aside from vapid rhetorical and stylistic differences that might amount to some inconsequential veneer of a different tint, but their biggest differences above the water are hot-button items that spawn more words than action—especially from the Democrats.

In the US, there’s a notion of two Santa Clauses. Ostensibly, Republicans run roughshod and spend like drunken sailors when they are in power, but when Democrats are in power, Republican messaging accuses timid Democrats—and let’s be honest here; that’s most of them—of being free-spending liberals. Both parties are unrepentant spendaholics. The only difference is which people get the leftovers. I say ‘leftovers’, because their sponsors are first on queue to get paid.

The meter’s about to run out, so I’ll end my rant here. This is just one of two topics I wanted to get off of my chest. The other relates to racism—and otherness more generally, but that will have to wait for another day.

Covid Casualties

I’ve got several things on my mind, but they are ostensibly unrelated. I’ll post separately as time allows, but this is a personal story.

My sister has been visiting a dialysis centre three times a week for the past 5 years awaiting a matching kidney donor. She rang me the other day to tell me she was en route to hospital as they had found a donor. Found is probably a poor word choice. Some person had died, rendering the kidney superfluous for all intents and purposes.

My sister was excited to regain some control over her life. She was told that the host of this kidney had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and was informed of the risks. The official cause of death was Covid—perhaps owing to a compromised immune system. No matter. My sister accepted the risk. It was evening, and the transplant was scheduled for the morning after running some test panels.

That morning, she was devastated by the news that she had tested positive for Covid, so she was no longer a candidate for a transplant. This is a reminder that Covid is not just about the effects of having caught it. She’d go back on the list and wait. Perhaps it wouldn’t take 5 years this next time, though there are no guarantees.

This is not my first experience with Covid. My 20-something-year-old daughter was hospitalised for over a week due to Covid. I’ve had friends and acquaintances get it, but they all survive–long-Covid effects notwithstanding.

I thought I’d written about the death of my last girlfriend who was another Covid casualty of the indirect variety. She died in June 2020. Her plight was sealed by deferring treatment of an infection for fear that hospitalisation would increase the probability of her contracting Coronavirus. This decision turned out to be fatal.

To be fair, there is a lot of information, misinformation, and disinformation abound, and it’s a challenge to sift out the relevant material. And neither is the ambient fear helpful. And so it goes…

Still a Slave

“Wage slavery is not the same as slavery, and this diminishes the experience of plantation slaves in the antebellum Southern US states” is a sentiment I’ve heard repeated over the years.

I’ll argue that it is the same. Saying wage slavery is like when the then-president of the United States, Bill Clinton, denied that oral sex was sex despite it being an obvious part of the name. When one says wage slavery is still slavery, s/he is making a commentary on the lack of agency, a lack of personal control. That the worker has a choice over which master to slave under is hardly a consolation. That a plantation slave has a choice of picking cotton or tobacco is of no consequence.

To disqualify wage slavery as slavery is to disqualify a 3-month pregnant woman as being not as pregnant as a 6-month pregnant woman. One might be closer to term, but they are equally pregnant.

That a plantation slave may have had less freedom and run the risk of physical beatings, torture, or even death is a sad commentary. That they may have separated from their families and have no autonomy is a matter of degree.

The slavery connexion occurs where the human needs to comply. Sure, a wage slave can opt out and live as a transient—ostensibly homeless; perhaps s/he can home-surf. Perhaps s/he can beg or live off the land.

Wage slavery is not the same as slavery

To me, the common missing element is to be able to operate as a functioning society, that as communities, we might contribute however we see fit. Of course, that narrative will quickly provoke an appeal to Tragedy of the Commons. People are selfish and act only in their own self-interests. And this is accepted uncritically as fact rather than evaluating whether this worldview is a consequence of Modernity or Capitalism, whichever nomenclature one has opted to adopt.

Wage slavery is slavery. Depending on the information source bout 50 per cent of Americans are a paycheque away from needing to deplete savings to survive; some have assessed a single paycheque from homelessness without intervention. One paycheque from poverty. Over two-thirds of Americans have been living paycheque-to-paycheque since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. If this describes you, it likely provides little solace that you are not alone. Who on the Titanic was relieved to know that other people shared their plight? Is there a silver lining for those who are paid fortnightly or monthly? And God forbid the ones whose paycheque arrive daily—perhaps in cash from the till.

Research from the Federal Reserve found that 4 in 10 Americans couldn’t afford a $400 emergency, and 22 per cent say they expect to forgo payments on some of their bills. It’s not much better in the UK, where the runway appears to end at 2.5 months rather than 1, although about two-thirds of renters would expect to make it more than a month.

Slavery, like turtles, all the way down. Just be thankful the worst that can happen is that one starves to death or pursues the life of Valjean. Dissociating wage slavery from plantation slavery is like separating the abbatoire from the butcher’s shop. When you’re the chattel it makes little difference.

Woe Anarchy, Democracy, and the Rest

Think about it: The average person has an IQ of 100. Essentially, half of the people have lower and half have higher. Not a good hand to be dealt. I don’t particularly buy into the whole IQ thing, but it serves this line of logic. Adopting this framework and reflecting on normal or so-called Gaussian distributions, this means (pun initially unintended) that within one standard deviation of the mean, 68 per cent of the population falls, which is to say having an IQ between 85-115.*

Zut Alors!

An IQ score of 100 wouldn’t be that bad if it was calibrated to Einstein or Hawking, but it’s not. The average police officer in the US has an IQ of around 103. Think about it. This is who democracy is asking to be in charge; this is who we expect to make good voting decisions. Amor fati. Memento mori.

Continuing on my It’s People riff, I am further struggling with options. As a Disintigrationist, I don’t feel compelled to provide answers, but as a personal matter, it seems that I am stuck in the middle. Idiocracy was supposed to be satire, but it’s serious.

So, accuse me of being an elitist. Call me a misanthrope. But it’s more patho-anthropy. It’s pity. Dunning-Kruger, be damned. On the one hand, a hierarchical structure leaves us with self-interested opportunists, megalomaniacs and narcissists; on the other, we get to know the political opinions of the Paul Blart‘s and Homer Simpson‘s of the world. And there’s nothing in between.

The Devil You Know

Following Plato’s Republic, the current system presumes a sort of meritocracy that elevates those who excel at politics to rise to the top. Optimistically, this is precisely what happens; pessimistically, this is precisely what happens. This is as good as it gets—self-serving politicos doing all they can to maintain their positions.

But what about the other people? Surely some honourable people are attracted to the political calling, right? Some who make it into the system are spat out by it; some are marginalised; the remainder are corrupted by it.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. There’s something to consider with local democracy. At least you know the idiots you are dealing with, but that’s not really a consolation. Here, Plato noted the benefits of rhetoric.

15 Things You Should Know About Dogs Playing Poker | Mental Floss
Police break up an illegal poker match—doggy style

Given the limited prospects for even a third-tier suboptimal solution, we might be better off by adopting RNG as a ruling system. No boundaries. No parameters. Remove any interference by humans. They’ll only muck it up.

Where to Go from Here

Hyperbole aside, what is the solution? Nazi Germans took a stab at it, but of course, they were idiots, too. Plain and star-bellied Sneetches. Pots calling the kettles black. People have tried literacy testing, income and wealth testing, lots, and any other number of approaches. The challenge is to have a system with no human intervention. Sadly, even this system would necessarily be constructed by humans, so we’re pretty much doomed.

Sneetches

Finally, to silence those who might label me an elitist, no, I don’t think that a society comprised and governed by people only with IQs at and above, say, 160 would fare much better because the problem is broader than facile intelligence.


* If your reaction is ‘but my IQ is in this range’, you may now get my trepidation.

Your Morals – Part 3 of 3

Continuing my responses to Johnathan Haidt’s Morality survey…

25. I believe the strength of a sports team comes from the loyalty of its members to each other

Who TF cares about a sports team or where their loyalty comes from, whatever that even means. And the strength of what exactly? Players move from team to team with ease, and they are obliged to win in order to advance their own interests and personal glory. Weaker players can coattail by association to their team or their league.

26. I think children should be taught to be loyal to their country

Smh. No. I think that countries should be abolished. Children should be taught how arbitrary countries are and how they divide more than they unite.

27. In a fair society, those who work hard should live with higher standards of living

Weasel words—fair, hard, work, higher, and living standards. Perhaps the answer can be found in the definitions, like divining with tea leaves.

Hard Work & Enterprise

28. I believe that everyone should be given the same quantity of resources in life

What resources? A family with no children doesn’t need children’s shoes and clothing. A vegan doesn’t need a side of beef. What is this asking?

29. The world would be a better place if everyone made the same amount of money

I agree. And the amount should be zero. Didn’t I already answer this one?

30. I believe it would be ideal if everyone in society wound up with roughly the same amount of money

What is this obsession with money? I guess this is a reflection on Harvard. Get over it.

31. People should try to use natural medicines rather than chemically identical human-made ones

What? Sure. Maybe. I suppose if they are identical. Are they cheaper or free? Are they dosage- and quality-controlled? What is the function of the infinitive try to?

32. I believe chastity is an important virtue

Not more virtue. Make it stop. Chastity is defined as the state or practice of refraining from extramarital, or especially from all, sexual intercourse. This would be important why? And how would it be a virtue by any measure?

33. I think obedience to parents is an important virtue

Just why?

34. I admire people who keep their virginity until marriage

How would I know? Why would I admire them? I understand the traditional and statutory function of marriage, but this anachronistic chattel arrangement doesn’t need to exist.

35. Everyone should defend their country, if called upon

Perhaps we should abolish countries and property. What are the defending—their unique way of life? Their awesome achievements or prospects thereof? The dirt and natural resources? The buildings? Some mythos? Just no. If politicos want to fight for imaginary boundaries, let them fight it out in an old school cage match.

36. If I found out that an acquaintance had an unusual but harmless sexual fetish I would feel uneasy about them

Define harmless. Does this fetish involve me? If not, I don’t care. Might I roll my eyes? Perhaps. Might I laugh? Sure.

Summary

Having commented in some form or fashion on each of these questions, I can remain unmoral. Morality is an exercise in mental masturbation and power. As should be obvious by now, morality presumes that one subscribes to some underlying and supposed metanarratives.

In the end, reflecting upon other sources, a certain sense of what might be considered to be a moral compass may be present in infants and children, but these can be (and are) manipulated through education, books, entertainment from TV and movies to sports to civic instruction and all sorts of propaganda. So, the point that wee folk have propensities for certain behaviours is all well and good, but this feels an awful like confirmation bias in full view. Of course, it might be considered to be immoral to raise classless, less judgmental children especially if they make choices different to the leaders.

Your Morals – Part 2 of 3

Continuing my response to Johnathan Haidt’s Moral survey…

13. I believe that one of the most important values to teach children is to have respect for authority

This is a legitimate question without subtext. I happen to disagree with it, but at least it’s legit. Children should not only be taught to question authority, they should question the structure that perpetuates authority.

14. It makes me happy when people are recognized on their merits

dot dot dot … Let’s not retread in the nonsensical space that is meritocracy. Next…

15. I think people should be rewarded in proportion to what they contribute

smh … Next…

16. It upsets me when people use foul language like it is nothing

Sadly, this is another legitimate question. Language is language. If someone feels that some language is out of bounds—and this as well extends to the proponents of PC speech—then this is more a reflection of their repression than anything more. Liam Gallagher FTW

17. Our society would have fewer problems if people had the same income

Not another money-based economy question. I’ll leave it at ‘Our society would have fewer problems is people had no necessity for income’.

18. It pains me when I see someone ignoring the needs of another human being

I suppose it does, but given the ubiquity of this as well as the contrary situation, what’s one to do. On balance, this can either be a disconnected or misguided government or an apathetic person. Needs is a weasel word, but I’ll let it slide.

19. It upsets me when people have no loyalty to their country

Eyeroll, please. TF is loyalty anyway? And where’s the reciprocity? I think I’m on to something. Obviously, someone who fetishises a country has pathological issues. I’m not sure what the scale differential is between country fetishists and sports fans, but I’ll move along. Now you know what does upset me.

20. I am empathetic toward those people who have suffered in their lives

Sure. Sympathetic, perhaps even compassionate. Another vapid question. Each of these is contingent on what suffering is perceived.

21. Everyone should love their own community

Define community. Define love. Should? Is this my imposition? Everyone? What is this sorcery? Next…

22. I believe that compassion for those who are suffering is one of the most crucial virtues

Here we go with virtues again—more tripe about relative goodness and badness. Translation: I believe that being good is good. According to Google, compassion is sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others; sympathy is feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune; pity is the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others; therefore, compassion is [feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune] [with the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others] and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. This is some recursive word salad if I’ve even seen it.

23. We should all care for people who are in emotional pain

More shoulds and alls and care and pain with a dash of emotional.

Maybe I'm too emotional*
But your apathy is like a wound in salt
Maybe I'm too emotional
Or maybe you never cared at all
Maybe I'm too emotional
Your apathy is like a wound in salt
Maybe I'm too emotional
Or maybe you never cared at all

24. I think having a strong leader is good for society

I think that having a strong leader is good in some cases…for some members of society. As with benevolent dictators, leaders can be beneficial, if there is a common cause. Oftentimes, the common cause is a contrived narrative, leading in a direction, which may or may not resolve in a better place for some—never all, and what about the rest? This is a role of society.


* Good 4 You — Daniel Leonard Nigro / Olivia Rodrigo / Hayley Williams / Josh Farro

Your Morals

I was commenting elsewhere on morals and was directed to Jonathan Haidt and his work. Notably, the questionnaire at YourMorals.org, where you can get your own assessment and contribute data points to the body of work.

Full disclosure: I am not a fan of this type of survey, as I’ve mentioned previously. Still, I made an attempt. Better still, I’ve copied the questions to critique. There are 36 all tolled. Perhaps, I’ll respond to a dozen at a time. The next dozen responses are here. Generally speaking, they present each question and provide a Likert scale as follows:

  1. Does not describe me at all
  2. Slightly describes me
  3. Moderately describes me
  4. Describes me fairly well
  5. Describes me extremely well

Standard fare. It starts off bad:

1. Caring for people who have suffered is an important virtue.

Why include an abstract concept like virtue? I don’t ascribe to the notion of virtue, so it’s an empty set. Given that, my response would be a 1. If I ignore the offensive nomenclature and assume it translates idiomatically into ‘beneficial for some target society’, then I still have to question what is meant by suffering, and how far does caring extend. Is it enough to feel bad about the homeless person, or does one have to care enough to provide sustenance and shelter? Talk is cheap.

2. The effort a worker puts into a job ought to be reflected in the size of a raise they receive.

This is fraught with all sorts of problems. In fact, it’s a reason why I consider myself to be a Postmodern. The inherent metanarrative is that societies are effectively money-based. I don’t happen to believe that, so I am again faced with responding to an empty set. Even if I attempt to abstract the ‘raise’ aspect to mean that effort represents input and output is a direct and (perhaps) proportional function, I am still left to wrestle with how this effort is measured and what could have been achieved had the others not been present.

Using a sports analogy—always a dangerous domain for me to play in—, what if LeBron James was to play an opposing team by himself? He needs the other team members. Of course, his teammates are compensated, too. But in his case, his salary is not only based on his athletic talent but on his celebrity power—rent in economic parlance. Perhaps LeBron makes a lot of baskets, but without the assists, he’d have fewer. And because he is the go-to guy, some other teammates might be sacrificing baskets as part of their winning strategy.

Finally, how do you measure the effort of an accountant, a janitor, and an executive? The question is fundamentally bollox.

3. I think people who are more hard-working should end up with more money.

On a related note, I can abbreviate my commentary here. Again, what is harder? Are we asking if construction workers should earn more than CEOs? More bollox.

4. Everyone should feel proud when a person in their community wins in an international competition.

Yet, again, an empty set and a sort of mixed metaphor. I don’t agree with the notion of identity and even less at scale—states, countries, and nationalities. Putting that aside, why should I derive pride (that cometh before the fall) because someone succeeds at some event anywhere? It’s facile. If the question was focused on whether I would be happy for that person, the answer might shift up the scale, but where would I have derived pride for that person’s achievements?

5. I think it is important for societies to cherish their traditional values.

First off, why? What values? Not to beat a dead horse, but what if my tradition is slavery? Should I cherish that? This is really asking should I cherish the traditions of my society. Clearly, it’s not asking if other societies should enjoy the privilege of cherishing theirs? From the standard Western vantage, many want to cherish their own, but not Eastern values of eating dogs or Middle Eastern values of burqaed women and turbans. Is this asking should the world subscribe to my society’s values? I’m not sure.

6. I feel that most traditions serve a valuable function in keeping society orderly

Speaking of tradition… We are not only dealing with the vague notion of tradition, we are discussing another vague concept, order, and elevating order over (presumably) disorder. Order connotes a status quo. And why is the superlative most present? Has someone inventoried traditions? I believe I am supposed to translate this as ‘I feel that the traditions I am familiar with and agree with help to create a society that I am content with’. Again, this betrays the privileged perspective of the observers. Perhaps those disenfranchised would prefer traditions like Capitalism and private property to be relics of the past–or traditions of two-party rule, partisan high court judges, or money-influenced politics, or politicians serving themselves and their donors over the people or Christmas.

7. We all need to learn from our elders

Learn what exactly from our elders? Which elders? The bloke down the block? That elderly Christian woman at the grocery mart? The cat who fought in some illegal and immoral war? The dude who hordes houses, cars, and cash at the expense of the rest of society? Or the guy who tried to blow up Parliament. I believe this is asking should we learn how to remain in place as taught by the privileged wishing to maintain their places.

8. Everyone should try to comfort people who are going through something hard

Define hard, and define comfort? This harkens back to the first question. Enough said. As far as lying is concerned, we should by now all be familiar with the adage trying is lying. Or as Yoda would restate it, do or do not, there is no try.

9. I think the human body should be treated like a temple, housing something sacred within

Obviously, this one is total rubbish. Here, I don’t have a structure that makes it difficult to answer. I may have sprained my eye rolling it, though. This said, what is a temple treated like?

10. I get upset when some people have a lot more money than others in my country

This one is interesting. Whilst I don’t believe that countries or money should exist. In practice, they do. So on its face, I can say that I get upset when we are thrown into a bordered region and told we need to exchange paper, metal, plastic, and bits for goods and services–that some people have more and others have less primarily through chance.

11. I feel good when I see cheaters get caught and punished

Which cheaters? Cheating requires perspective and a cultural code. It can privilege the individualist over the communalist. This reminds me of the cultures that are more interested in ensuring that all of their members finish a contest than having any one win.

Academically, it is considered to be cheating to work together on an exam because the individual is being tested. Of course, the exam is on certain content rather than on the contribution of the human being.

Again, the question feels targeted at cheaters getting caught circumventing something we value. If someone cheats becoming assimilated into some military-industrial society, I will encourage and support them. If they get caught and punished, my ire would more likely be directed toward the power structure that created the need to cheat.

12. When people work together toward a common goal, they should share the rewards equally, even if some worked harder on it

I’ll end this segment here on another question of meritocracy. I think it’s fair to judge the authors as defenders of meritocracy, though I could be wrong. This feels very similar to some other questions already addressed. The extension here is about sharing the rewards, whatever that means. Are we baking a cake? Did we build a house for a new couple? Did we plant trees in a public park? Did we clean up litter on a parkway? Did we volunteer to feed the homeless? And what was the work? Again, how are we measuring disparate work? Did the chicken farmer work harder than the cow farmer? Did the carpenter work harder than the organiser?

If the remainder of these questions is different enough, I’ll comment on them as well. Meantime, at least know you know more why I have little faith in the field of morals. This does nothing to change my opinion that morals are nothing more than emotional reactions and subsequent prescriptions. I don’t mean to diminish emotions, and perhaps that might be a good central pillar to a vibrant society. I’ll need more convincing.

Bah Humbug

Besides being neither a Christian nor a consumerist, I’ve never been a fan of Christmas. The spirit of joy and selfless giving are welcome memes, but they are slogans and platitudes. As an exercise in altruism, giving is rarely selfless. It’s more often tit for tat. Don’t reciprocate giving something to someone who’s given to you, and you’ll see my point. I won’t deny that I witness people in greater joy in the season—some people; neither will I deny the offsetting despair and malaise—the stress of maintaining face and keeping up with the Joneses. The higher rates of seasonal suicides might be a sign.

Christmas is a marketing scheme. If you need something, or if you have kids and they need something or want something that you’d like them to have and can afford it, just get it. Why wait? Why make them wait? It seems pointless and cruel. And this doesn’t even take into account the parents who manipulate their children but threaten withholding at Christmas if they don’t comply with whatever family or societal edicts you are trying to impose upon them.

Economically, gift-giving is what’s known as a deadweight loss. In most cases, the gift of cash allows the recipient to spend it in a manner optimal to their own situation. If they happen to buy the same jumper you would have purchased, then you can feel comforted by your knowing that you would have given the same thing. Perhaps you found the perfect item on some distant shore that they wouldn’t have visited. This is an exception. But a gift from Amazon or Best Buy doesn’t fit that bill.

If I want to give a gift, I will. If it’s coincident with a birthday or a holiday, so be it. But if it’s not, that’s fine, too. As humans in the West, we are already so indentured to too many things to count that we don’t need another fetter. Put up a tree. Put up a menorah. Put up a flag. Put up an Anubis statuette. Unfortunately, the lines are blurred between wanting to and having to.

In the end, Christmas is one performance I’d like to opt out of. Whilst I find that most people are hypocrites, the hypocrisy is trebled during the holidays. ‘Tis the season.

Here to Help

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”

Ronald Reagan

This sentence just crossed my mind. People of a certain age may remember film actor Ronald Reagan’s quip: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help. Libertarians seem to be enamoured by this. Perhaps smug captures it better. For them, this is about the ineptness of government, that bloated bureaucracy that couldn’t get it right if it tried, and certainly not efficiently. If the government comes a knocking, view it as you do with stranger danger: Don’t get in the van with the guy with the puppy and candy. I get it. But let’s shift perspective to see how it renders from a different perspective.

Let’s start from the start with a small disclaimer. I am not an apologist for government. In fact, I am not a fan of bureaucracy. One of the more successful propaganda-slash-marketing campaign in the sphere of public opinion is that private enterprise is somehow superior in all manners to the public version. Let’s be clear here. If one is making sweeping generalisations, then start here. All bureaucracies are created equal.

Echoing Tolstoy, “Bureaucracies are all alike; every bureaucracy is unhappy in its own way.” I may have misremembered how this opening line goes. Poor Anna. Let’s keep going. Government bureaucracy is no better or worse than corporate bureaucracy. There is no correlation. For every efficient corporation—not a thing, but bear with me—there is an efficient government agency—also not a thing, so, I think you’re realising my point. Bureaucracies are practically by definition recipes for mediocrity. They are meant to produce repeatable processes at scale. They aren’t designed to be innovative or nimble, although you can buy many books and training materials on how to achieve this if you’ve got nothing better to do with your money. Let’s return to the main concept: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.

I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.

What’s the problem with this? We need to ask, why has the government shown up at our doorstep, to begin with. The answer, private markets have failed. There is a hole in the social fabric. Perhaps the private sector does provide the needed good or service, but it is clearly not affordable. Hence the hole. Clearly, the private sector has dropped the ball. So when the government attempts to intervene, the response is to cry foul. “Those people can’t afford to pay for a solution, so they shouldn’t get one. Perhaps those people should work harder or get more job training so they can afford to pay us.”

“What? Urgent medical care, you say? They should have thought ahead.”

“What’s that? She’s an infant? I suppose she should have picked different parents who thought ahead. Why do people reproduce when they can’t afford to raise a child in the first place. There ought to be a law.”

And so it goes.

Not only doesn’t the private sector not want to serve a population if it can’t profit. It’s decided that if it can’t profit from a person in a circumstance, then that person doesn’t deserve assistance. Even shoddy assistance as is suggested by the quote.

I recall another adage: something is better than nothing.

But there is more to this than meets the eye. The unstated objection is that government will provide the good or service, and it will be as good if not better than the private sector offering and it will cost less to provide. This would reveal the private sector apologists to be the charlatans they are. I am not claiming that this is some foregone conclusion. But it’s an eventuality the private sectorists don’t want exposed.

A prime example of this is the provision of healthcare and insurance. The world over provides these services cheaper and with superior health outcomes, and yet a common refrain by profit mongers is that you don’t want those other services with better health outcomes, not only provided for a lower cost, but also provided for a lower cost to you.

There is nothing inherent in this quote about the government being here to help that it is attempting to supplant some successful private sector business model.

“Why don’t we get into the yacht-building business?”

When government intervenes, it is usually due to market failure. So then why do we so often see the government trying to intervene? Availability bias aside, it’s because the market fails often, so the government has to play MacGyver time and time again. Markets are fragile. Capitalism is fragile.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics relates to entropy. Capitalism and market systems are not self-sustaining. Entropy consistently dissipates energy in these systems, hence economic busts. This isn’t even addressing the issue of misappropriation of resources from this system, which only serves to exacerbate and accelerate this natural decline. If external capital weren’t injected into this system, it would have collapsed under its own weight ages ago.

As a parting shot, it’s interesting to me that for a cohort loathing government assistance, these same blokes seem to have their hands out begging, or at least accepting, this same government assistance. The help the eschew on behalf of others is often welcomed with open arms. Where I come from, we call this hypocrisy. Hypocrisy Now. I’ve got an idea for a film.

Should the Criminal Justice System Be Abolished?

Much of jurisprudence is based on logic founded on faulty premises of regurgitated theological concepts shrouded in naturalistic theory and pseudoscience. This is not about the defund the police social trend of 2020. This is to say that the justice system is smoke and mirrors writ large. It’s ostensibly built on anachronistic concepts such as volition, evil, soul, blame, and forgiveness that should be tossed into the dustbin of history along with phrenology, humours, and will.

The titleof this post is taken from Robert Spapolsky’s proposed chapter concept for Behave, published in 2017, where until now, it’s languished on my Want to Read list, having entered via the vector of my interest in behavioural economics. Chapter 16 was eventually published with the title of Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will.

I’ve been writing for years about the nonesensical attachment to these notions, so it gives me comfort in solidarity to discover others who share, at least to some degree my perspective, knowing, of course, that this doesn’t make this perspective any more correct.

To be fair, I’ve held a low opinion of so-called justice (and government) systems pretty much since I was taught about them almost 50 years ago. In the US, much teaching is really propagandising about how fair these systems are and how peers and reasonable persons concepts make is superior. In my mind, those were the being failings. Later, when I hopped onto my language insufficiency bandwagon, it only fell apart more. Kafka’s The Trial represents the internal workings of most justice systems than the logic and reason of propogated but proponants.

Stopping here. Much to do. I recommend reading Behave. If you’ve read it, I’d love to see what you thought about it.