Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reality has a liberal bias

The whole article is well worth reading, but it is summed up here:

My old Republican worldview was flawed because it was based upon a small and particularly rosy sliver of reality.  To preserve that worldview, I had to believe that people had morally earned their “just” desserts, and I had to ignore those whining liberals who tried to point out that the world didn’t actually work that way.

Why I left the GOP

I have heard that sentiment from people who should know better; people who actually worked their way up from nothing and somehow decided that because they could, anyone can. People who acknowledge that they have been lucky - people who have literally won the lottery - and yet still feel that economic success is directly tied to personal character.

The bias of self-justification is strong. It affects all of us. Many people seem afraid to acknowledge the true strength of luck in their success, as if that would somehow cheapen its value. That, itself, is an absurd concept: there is no success, anywhere, ever, that did not depend upon a thousand factors aligning out of the blue. In the old days they knew this, and counted such luck as the favor of the gods; in our modern, secular era, we think men are gods and make their own luck - or lack of it. As little as I value the concept of gods, it was a still a superior theory than the Ayn Randian fantasy of self-creation.


craftycoder said...

Do you agree with the basic idea that the world can sustain a few wealthy people in a sea of poor people, or it can only have poor people (we cannot all be wealthy). Once you agree to that truth, it hardly matters who gets to be the rich ones because they will be "lucky" regardless of their hard labors. A lot of people work hard. Some people are lucky and are wealthy. It's not about their character, because even when it is, their character being successful is lucky too!

MCPlanck said...

No, I don't. It doesn't work that way. The fabulous wealth that our modern society enjoys is a direct product of expanding the circle of wealth. The life expectancy of a social overclass is proportionally related to the poverty of the entire society.

I.e., the Roman Senate lorded it over the world for a long time, but Roman Senators were beggars compared to the modern middle-class. The kind of technology that supports our modern lifestyle requires that wealth be more evenly distributed than Roman times, and to progress further, we need to do more of the same.

This is the tragedy of the commons. Absent rules or institutions, people often do things that increase their wealth on a local maxima at the expense of reaching other, larger maximas.

Or, a mouse will crawl to the top of his hill, utterly unaware that if he crawled downhill for a ways, he could climb a mountain.

The story of civilization is the defeat of the problem of the commons by social institutions and public trust.

It is true we face a particularly difficult problem at the moment; but it is even more true that the vast majority of our problems are ethical, not technological. We can't afford for everyone to have an SUV; but no one has to go hungry, uneducated, or unfree.

craftycoder said...

World GDP is $70T
World population is 7B
World GDP per capita is therefore $10K if it is shared evenly

The inefficiencies that situation would create would cost the world a huge percentage of it's GDP though. Plus, we'd all starve to death because without an amalgamation of capital we can no longer sustain our population.

I don't know what portion needs to be held by to rich to allow for 7B people to survive but I am certain its a lot.

Your communist utopia is awesome in a world with some millions of inhabitants but I think it falls short in a world with 7B people. It only has this many people BECAUSE of all the wealth that has collected at the top to allow things like research and excess energy and strip mines to exist.

Did you know that Atlanta requires 8 hours worth of coal train deliveries per day to deliver power to the city for 24 hours. That coal comes from the Dakotas. That absurd reality is made possible only by the wealth that made railroads and strip mines possible. You cannot get 5 million people to all pool their $10Ks together for a monumental effort like that. You need a guy with huge resources to allow for a city to exist.

MCPlanck said...

That is exactly backwards. The general wealth of our society is what allows so much to be concentrated at the top; not the other way around. The "inefficiencies" you cite are quantified by the amount of wealth concentrated at the top. That's how we measure the inefficiency.

You absolutely can get 5 million people to cobble their $10K together - it's called a government. This is exactly what a government is. And governments create subsidiary tools, like corporations and stock markets, to further assist in capital management.

When people agree to contribute their labor to activities that do not directly put food on their table (i.e. any non-farm work), they are engaging in the pooling of resources.

The other point is that we shared all of the money equitably, there would be more of it. Consider how much untapped potential there is the uneducated, underfed population of the world, which currently works far below its maximum potential.

Sharing makes more. This is the magic of economics. From caveman days to now, every group of people that shared more with more has prospered. The technology of sharing (called government & economics) continues to improve. Even Communism, which is wretched sharing arrangement, is a thousand times better than cavemen economics.

MCPlanck said...

This is exactly the Randian fantasy - that cities coalesce around sparks of genius. That is completely wrong - sparks of genius are fed and created by cities coalescing.

If Einstein had been born in a cave, he would have been worth less than nothing - not even a particularly good caveman. But because he was born in a city he transformed and enriched the world.

The city came first - without the city, the creative genius is nothing.

craftycoder said...

I do not dispute that government is one of the rich I described as being necessary (in fact I specifically included them as they fund most research in this country and the world for that matter). To pretend, even for a second, that the government is us or represents us, or would ever sacrifice itself for us doesn't ring true. It's just another necessary and corrupt corporation that siphons off profits while it keeps its customers alive.

craftycoder said...

I don't have a say in this government.
Even when I vote, the people I vote for say one thing and do another. They are not accountable to me.