Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Decisions Will Be Made, Moral vs Political Sentiments

America's new culture war: Free enterprise vs. government control

Good article, the point I would add is that on a national level, decisions will be made -- they will either be decided by a market economy or politically. BO tells the youth "don't decide on the basis of money" -- to him, "money", economic forces are "the dark side". He believes that government and political forces are the forces of good -- the intelligentsia running a massive and ever growing government beauracracy pulling the puppet strings of a controlled economy will produce a "better" result.

Here are some BO words on the topic:

Yet, in his commencement address at Arizona State University on May 13, 2009, President Obama warned against precisely such impulses: "You're taught to chase after all the usual brass rings; you try to be on this "who's who" list or that Top 100 list; you chase after the big money and you figure out how big your corner office is; you worry about whether you have a fancy enough title or a fancy enough car. That's the message that's sent each and every day, or has been in our culture for far too long -- that through material possessions, through a ruthless competition pursued only on your own behalf -- that's how you will measure success." Such ambition, he cautioned, "may lead you to compromise your values and your principles."

Let me try to translate into what those words might be if uttered by an American rather than a leftist Luo:

You're taught to chase after the brass ring of political power; you try to be on the this or that list of "most likely to be elected" or lists of most recognized official; you chase after power and figure how big your corner or oval office is; you worry about your government position grade or being elected to the next higher office. That's the message sent each and every day, and is now taking over our culture -- that through political and government power, through a ruthless competition pursued for the gain of you and your party -- that is how you will measure success. Such ambition is ending the experiment that was once called America.

This issue has been understood for centuries. Decisions will be made, they will be made via the market, or they will be made politically. The KEY thing that Adam Smith taught was NOT "The Invisible Hand", but "The Theory of Moral Sentiments". We may wish that we were all sorts of things, but the fact is that we are human, with a nature that is on average, inclined to focus on the good of ourselves or a fairly small set of our peers ( "a couple hundred"). Take your pick as to "why" this is -- millions of years of evolution based on relatively small social groups, or falling from God's grace through the temptation of the devil, but it is what it is, and we aren't going to change it.

What is human nature? To paraphrase, "... if all China were swallowed up tonight, we would be more afflicted by the knowledge that we were to lose our little finger tomorrow than by that great calamity." (I put the actual Smith text below).

In the words of Darth Vader "Search your heart, you know it to be true". Might we wish it otherwise? Sure. Might some of us even go so far as to claim "NO! It can't be true!!" ... however substitute something slightly different -- exploratory surgery for cancer, something with one of our kids, etc, and the truth is clear. We are by nature incapable of putting "the needs of the many" ahead of our own, or those of some fairly small group that we care about. That is who we are! How could it be otherwise? It makes absolutely perfect sense in either the "adaptive" sense (like why would evolution care about a billion people on the other side of the planet) ... or "fallen" (Satan has a really bad rep).

Human is ALSO who the supposed all powerful and all knowing government officials that operate a controlled economy are. When they are "corrupted" by having too much power, it really isn't "corruption" -- one could in fact call it "finding themselves". Those of us that are Christian believe that through the CONSTANT exposure to word, sacrament and prayer, Christ can improve on who we are. We cannot however be "fixed" while in this corporeal body, so all the suitable temptations of the flesh are still going to win if they are large and persistent enough. Give a centralized government enough power and it is absolutely corrupted -- it has to be.

So, we must live in the real world. One with corrupt humans and scarce resources that must be efficiently allocated to produce "the best possible". Those decisions WILL be made -- either through a competitive market in which we all play, or by a small set of powerful bureaucrats doing "what they think is right" via political power, where "right" will always manage to increase their power. What is been proven over and over is that the "magic" of the market works extremely well (but far from perfectly), while controlled economies work amazingly badly -- so bad it is hard to imagine how any rational person would choose to operate that way. But then, nobody ever said that we elected "rational people".

The Adam Smith words from "Theory of Moral Sentiments":

Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connection with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. 
He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. 
And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befall himself would occasion a more real disturbance. 
If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own.

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