Daily Archives: September 22, 2010

A Series of Unfortunate Blogs: Part IX–Dear God When will this end

So let me discuss two other points of New Age belief that match with capitalism: Long-Term Thinking and the issue of Quality over Quantity. I include these two together because (1) they are related philosophically more than most of the principles I’m going over here and (2) Yes, I realize this series is getting a bit long…but you try being brief when discussing economics without missing important points.

Long-Term Thinking is obviously a New Age belief–We believe in reincarnation and the eventual path toward Enlightenment, that sort of necessitates a long term view. After all if this whole life is nothing but a single stepping stone in a much longer journey, anything short of thinking that plans for the next century is a bit short sighted. Capitalism is also a long term way of looking at things. Whereas people are by nature short-sighted and grabbing for instant gratification, capitalism is the only system designed to consider long-term stability (investment, growth, long-term business plans) over the need to deal with temporary situations (recessions are by nature short term events that work themselves out, but only socialism looks at them as problems that need to be solved now and not let the system work itself out). Look at the socialistic view of poverty. As economist Thomas Sowell likes to point out, most people who live in poverty (which is in itself a bit of a joke as living in poverty in the US would be called a standard of living enjoyed only by royalty two hundred years ago) are vastly disproportionately in the 18-30 age bracket and in a decade most of them will be well entrenched in the middle class and replaced by a new generation of 20-somethings who are just starting out…I know what a concept that you don’t start out at the top of the income bracket when you join the job market. So really for most of the people in poverty, poverty is a problem that really solves itself and doesn’t need welfare, food-stamps, unemployment, blah, blah, blah [insert your least favorite government entitlement program]…in fact those entitlement programs can be statistically proven to slow down the upward movement out of poverty, after all why would you work to get something when people are willing to pay you to sit on your ass (remember people are by nature short-sighted). So really nothing actually needs to be done about poverty under capitalism because in the long run it solves itself. But socialists are so short sighted that they are actually still stuck in the middle of 1880’s where we didn’t have so much capitalism as we had anarchy and merit alone could not get you out of poverty (unlike today).

The other point is the issue of quality over quantity.

Whereas our socialist adversaries or Christians may show great concern over the quantity of life, capitalists and New Agers have more concern over the quality of life.
What I mean by quantity of life is the idea of the biological function. The years on earth, the state of health, to a degree the amount of money and stuff you have (although these do play some role in the quality of your life as well). What I mean by quality is the spiritual and mental functions of life being used to the fullest extent. Having full use of your free will, having education to know how to use your free will, being happy. For instance, I would say that a woman who lived only into her 30’s, dying of a degenerative disease, but who had close friends, created moving works of art, and touched those in her life has a life of great quality. Compare that with a woman who lives into her 80’s in the upper middle class, bitter, never having done anything with her life other than being a housewife (and hating every minute of it) and who has distant and cold relations of mutual disdain with her children, dying alone. Certainly the second woman had more stuff, longer life, better health, but you wouldn’t call that a better life, in fact the example I give it sounds more like a complete waste of a life in which nothing was learned, and no positive effect on the world was made. These are extreme examples, I’ll admit, but it illustrates what I mean by quality versus quantity.
For the New Agers this is easy to understand—if you have a possibly infinite number of reincarnated lives to learn from, how long you live your life becomes an exceedingly irrelevant matter. What a New Ager cares about is how much is learned in the time that you have, not how long or how much you have in that life. Now it’s very understandable why someone who believes they only get one shot before they are judged for all time, that they would want as much time as possible before the end.
But this dichotomy is more obvious in the difference between socialists and capitalists. Socialists are more than willing to ruin the quality of life for not only the rich but the middle class if they believe it will help the masses. Don’t believe me, just look at FDR’s socialistic plans of the New Deal, or LBJ’s nearly communistic Great Society, which nearly gutted the middle class to create a welfare state. (And that’s not even mentioning that the fact that these plans don’t really help the masses that they were intended to aid). When you try to aid the most number of people without thinking about what you’re doing, you’re not only trying idiotically to please all the people all the time, but ignoring the basic logic of reality.
To take this extreme let’s look at the philosophy of communist ideology (wasn’t the phrase “Better Red than Dead” a socialist expression? A perfect example of valuing the quantity of life over the quality). The belief in the quality of life comes from a belief in the individual human soul. Ignoring for the moment that communism rejects the idea of a soul, it more disturbingly rejects the idea of the individual. Thus only the plans that aid the whole, or at least the most, are considered valuable. This is preposterous if not insane. How the whole could have value, while the individual does not. I realize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but even that statement assumes the parts have some value. So if the whole is to have any value the parts must have some value too (you can’t add a bunch of zeroes together and say it adds to more than zero). So if an individual has value, even if it is infinitesimal in comparison to the whole, then one cannot justify the acts against the quality of that individual’s life by saying how many people will be helped.
What do I mean by this? Well, for instance, let’s take the case of the joke that is the national education system. Now, the typical socialist answer to the education system would be more money, more teachers, and more schools. A fairly quantitative solution. The slight problem is that the socialist belief that throwing money at a situation can solve it (welfare, healthcare, the environment, world aid) never seems to work. There is a simple reason for this, more schools or teachers, and to a great degree more money for teachers won’t solve the problem. Why? Because let’s say you double the amount of schools in the country and get teachers to staff them. You haven’t solved the most inherent problem in our current education system—most teachers are morons! And they’re protected by even bigger morons in the teachers unions! What did you think would happen when you have a concept like tenure, which says that no matter how inept you are at your job, your employer can’t fire you without cause (cause for a school would constitute enough to fire a hundred people in any normal job). And then when they fire the moron, the teacher’s union will sue the school. Get rid of the teachers unions, start firing the incompetent, and hold everyone—staff, faculty and students—to professional and rigorous standards and you’ll probably have a lower rate of burnout among competent teachers and won’t even have to raise their salaries to get good teachers. (Although if the quality of teaching went up in the country, I wouldn’t complain if the country chose to reward them with a raise, further to start attracting the more qualified we may have to put the cart before the horse and up salaries first, but I’ll get to that later). But notice most reforms you hear about focus on money and occasionally test scores (quantitative) and not standards and professionalism (qualitative). This is because more schools and more money and more teachers can be easily observed and thus if you can see it must be helping.
Aside from this particular pragmatic example, this attitude has the effect of caring about the number of people helped, not how well or even if they really are being helped, leads to a mentality of where the government is seen as higher than the individual citizen. Because the government can help more people than the individual, so what if it’s a little less money, or a little less freedom, or a little less choice…we’re helping more people….But not really because government can never do anything better than the private sector (a whole lot of individuals), and also government never tends to stop with a little money or a little encroachment on freedom. It always has to take the next step.
However, before you think I’m completely heartless, I am not suggesting the other extreme to this, I’m not. Yes quality of life is important, it’s very important. But quantity of life is also import. If it’s the choice between one person living a really good life or a million living an okay life…oh, tough call…go with the million. The problem is that life is seldom that cut and dried. But I’m sure some of you are thinking of the old maxim that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Basic logical principal. But this is only if you are faced with helping this group or helping that group. Life seldom presents such easy choices. The government more often sacrifices the rights, property, or liberties, or opportunities to help another. And ethically it is wrong, if not evil, to sacrifice any group or individual for any group no matter how large unless that sacrifice is voluntary. And since government can never do anything without sacrificing someone or something, quantity should never and can never be a deciding factor.

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Filed under Capitalism, Economics, Long Term Thinking, New Age