Sunday, 2 March 2014

On politics and economics

In politics people’s strength of opinion often goes untempered by their ignorance of the topic in a way they wouldn’t dream of in most other subjects.
“The greatest argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming”
-Theodore Roosevelt
Political labels oversimplify and encourage tribalism, bristlingly proud identities, attachment and conformity.
Avoid tribalistic affiliation; aim to be neutral, floating and to decide issue-by-issue. The merit of the argument is all that matters.
Modern society doesn’t mean majoritarianism.
“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion”
We get the politicians we deserve, sampled from ourselves, flaws and all. (We want better? ‘Educate our masters’ –Disraeli)
Due to the subjectivity of individuals’ values and the corresponding utility functions, when clashes of interests occur they are settled by an equilibrium which minimises disruption from all relevant groups, rather than from some shared universal moral objectivism.
“We won’t understand human conduct until we grasp that societies are collections of individuals seeking their own self interest”
-Richard Alexander, paraphrased
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.”
The unique shading and composition of our subjective values are products of the indoctrination of upbringing, past emotional experiences and cultural environment, rendering them often inert to cognitive argument/debate.
You can’t please everyone.
Something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.
Wages and effort aren’t linear; collectivism alters motivations, responsibility and introduces disincentives to production.
“Do you think that the person taking care of the pigs is going to stay up all night watching the Soviets’ sow have the Soviets’ pigs? The answer is no.”
-Earl Butz, allegedly
“Man will become better when you show him what he is like”
Balancing market forces and central government is an optimisation problem; views should merely be based on evidence, with government deciding which values to maximise.
Greed can be good; it is a driving force in innovation and increasing productivity, ultimately benefitting everyone. Productivity is a dispassionate optimisation problem.
Communism assumes the homogeneity of values, interests and benevolence; anyone still with hope for communism has clearly never lived in a shared house.
“Not to be a radical at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.”
-Georges Clemenceau, paraphrased
Even the poorest have never had such good quality of life (p11). Don’t confuse relative and absolute poverty.
Fairness is a fictitious, subjective and self-serving notion. If the world’s (thirdworld) poor staked a claim to our wealth on grounds of fairness would we concede it to them?
‘Fairness’ is an egotistical mechanism - the politics of envy narrated through the socially acceptable lens of a victim mentality, somewhere between entitlement, anger and jealousy.
How do we reward adults for their efforts with money - creating inequality - without condemning some children to the negativities of this inequality?
At what point will we ever be comfortable that things are equal enough?

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