Human Power Imbalance Causes Poverty and War

Imbalance of human power could be pinpointed as a major cause of human suffering. When power is lopsided, for instance because of Kings, Emperors, or Dictators, what we often see is war, poverty, and genocide. Throughout history strong-men have risen to conquer, and subjugate. They had more physical power than others, and this imbalance was expressed through war and enslavement. Peace and growth are things that occur when each individual’s power is balanced with his or her peers.

This would mean that each human has individual power over their own circumstances; they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When there are not arbitrary rules set by governments, this gives balance to power. When any particular person, or any particular group of people cannot use force to compel others against their will, balance occurs. As soon as control is taken out of individuals’ hands, the human power imbalance rears its ugly head, and society is disrupted by one form of man made disaster or another.

A monopoly on force is by nature an imbalance of power. If government is allowed to initiate force without recourse for the victim, this is an obvious asymmetry of power. It is argued that we need this inequality in order to better organize society, but there are always losers in this dynamic. Some will sit for decades in prison because those who wielded a monopoly on force decided that marijuana was bad. Some owe tens of thousands in fines to the EPA because extra-judicial power was given to an unelected body which now makes up rules without democratic ratification. Businessmen have been convicted of crimes without victims under anti-trust laws, sat in prison, or killed themselves on the way. We may feel like we live in a just society, but only if you ignore the casualties of power imbalance. You can read about them every day in the news when police officers shoot innocent people to death with impunity.

Some say, sure a few people get the short end of the stick, but society as a whole is better when some people have more power than others. Many will argue that inherent inequality, as in, people having to follow arbitrary rules of government,  actually helps balance society. Well these arguments are all theory, because we have never actually tried true equality; we have never seen a society where everyone is equal, and no one has inherent power over another.

No society has existed without some form of governing body that in the end gets to use force without retaliation, because of some sort of coalition they have formed. What I mean by coalition, is that even when an individual has nothing personally to gain by initiating force in the name of their superior, they will do it because of the imbalance of power. Neither they, nor their victim have the power to retaliate against the governors, and therefore the victims of the power imbalance become the soldier acting on behalf of the governors, and the civilian victim who the governors wish to initiate force against.

Coalitions to respond to the initiation of force are a form of balanced power, since one would have no power to exert his authority at will, only to respond to a violation of their rights. Agreements between individuals for mutual benefit would give them help in exercising their rights when another victimizes them.

So if the argument against free interactions absent of force (where people must come to agreement or go their separate ways peacefully) are all theory, then so must my argument be that this equality and balance of individual power would lead to more peace and stability. And in so much as I have no pure example to show the benefits of a society organized without government, the argument is indeed theory. But I would ask on what basis does the theory rest that we need some authority to have more power; that some people inherently must have less power, and somehow this inequality leads to peace and prosperity?

This argument can only be based on examples of governments under which peace and prosperity have occurred. When these examples are taken in a vacuum, it does seem that one could argue government was a benefit. But when these examples are compared to examples of societies with more poverty and war, government is a constant, and must be taken into account as such. We then see that smaller less intrusive government without arbitrary power over individuals characterized the peaceful and prosperous examples, and larger government with more centralized and arbitrary power gave way to war and poverty. The larger the imbalance of power, the more human suffering occurs. And monopolies on some power have always given way to more power.

It is also necessary to separate peace and prosperity. Relative prosperity for the time was achieved under Genghis Khan, yet it would be tough to argue that peace was also achieved. And relative peace has occurred under particular tribes, but no such prosperity in terms of increase in the quality of life was ever really achieved (and though a lengthy discussion could be had on whether the quality of life of these tribal peoples was actually “better”, for our intents and purposes I will use shorter life spans, higher child mortality, and lack of material comforts as a benchmark for “lower quality of life”).

Some examples of huge imbalances of power would be Dictatorships like Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China where the state had way more power than the individual, and tens of millions of people were murdered. The Inquisition carried out by the Catholic church was the result of the religious leaders gaining too much power over individuals, and resulted in widespread torture and death.

On the other hand, the quality of life in Great Britain steadily rose over the centuries after King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta, stripping ultimate power from the King and distributing it among the feudal barons. Gradually Lords spread this power to their underlings, because it was in their best economic interest to do so, and as the individual had more control over his own affairs, Great Britain became prosperous and peaceful compared to the centuries before the Magna Carta was signed.

Then the tradition of the common people having rights was taken even further, and government was even more limited (power was even more balanced) by the Constitution in America. The wealth of individuals and quality of life in America exploded as power was arguably the most balanced in human history. But over the centuries the government centralized, and control of the individual eroded so that we are now at risk of seeing the first decline in quality of life since the country’s birth, even though America is still one of the freest societies in terms of personal liberty.

Believe it or not we are living in probably the most peaceful period in human history, and we got here because the natural rights philosophy which founded our country with the Constitution went the furthest of any society in creating true equality between individuals (even though it took some time for that philosophy to be put into practice, as in ending slavery).

But we risk throwing away all the prosperity and peace that has been achieved simply because we continue to allow centralization of authority and more government control. This means fewer and fewer people must consent before we are thrust into war, and that individuals have less control over their own economic outcome. The imbalance of power has made war more likely with just a few individuals able to involve millions in their wars, and has limited the personal gain that can be enjoyed by working hard, since the government has power over a growing percentage of resources individuals earn.

We have not yet allowed the imbalance of power to get to the tipping point which will throw humanity back into widespread poverty and war, but you must remember that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. A little imbalance between elites and civilians might take a while to show especially if we ignore the daily examples of victims of that imbalance, though in America still relatively few and far between.

The easier examples to see of unrest caused by inequality of power are in other countries like Egypt, Syria, and Libya where power has been lopsided for quite some time. It should be obvious that the less arbitrary control people have over each other, the more balanced power is, the better society is as a whole, and for the individual.

The best society would see equal inherent power of each individual; anyone who initiates force can expect to be met with force, and anyone who has force initiated against them is free to respond with force. This method of societal organization creates a market for justice when force is initiated, and will therefore make initiating force a bad personal decision in terms of the outcome for the individual, and therefore this balance of power will lead to more peace, and more prosperity.

Words are Meaningless Unless Defined

Having a discussion is absolutely meaningless if the two parties do not agree on the definition of the words they are using. We could sit here arguing if today’s weather is good or bad. Maybe I say it is a “nice warm day” and you say it is “cold and miserable”. My definition of “nice” and “warm” is derived from the context of it being March in New England. Your definition of “cold” and “miserable” is based on how nice the weather could be if it were the middle of summer, or we were on the equator. No agreement will come unless we first define “good weather” “warm” “cold” etcetera.

You see this happen all the time in politics. I’ve had someone tell me they would support a bartering system economy, but believe that capitalism makes people greedy. Well capitalism is simply mutually beneficial transactions absent of force, therefore, a bartering system fits this definition. His definition of capitalism was closer to crony capitalism, which is a term used to differentiate between government force being introduced into the equation, versus a transaction in pure capitalism where the parties must agree in order to move forward.

I happen to agree with him that crony capitalism is “bad” (if you’ll allow me to be so obscure for the sake of brevity), but since he uses the same definition for capitalism and crony capitalism, it is impossible to have a meaningful discussion with him about free markets without substantially limiting the vocabulary used. Certain buzzwords hold definitions in his mind that the general vernacular does not support, so included in his definition of capitalism will always be: “something negative”.

It is aggravating when people hold simplistic views of politics that they cannot explain, but get angry that they are even expected to explain, because in their mind it is “common knowledge”; aka, they have heard it repeated over and over and to consider an alternative would be admitting years of ignorance. And this is the problem with people talk talk talking without defining the words they are using. Have you heard this one: “Socialism is far left and Fascism is far right”? Well this only makes sense if both “the right” and “the left” have an end goal of giant government with totalitarian control over the population.

The common way people on the right use the term “right-wing” (despite the actions of politicians who claim to be “right-wing”) is to describe the desire for less government, fewer taxes, lower spending, reduced control over the population, and individual rights. How is that going to lead to fascism? The logical conclusion of those beliefs applied to their most extreme is not fascism, but perhaps anarchy.

The “right-wing-fascism” train of thought only makes sense if you draw your definition of “the right” from the impostor politicians who have stolen the label, and applied it to something it is not. We know this, because even when “right-wing” politicians actually increase the size and scope of government, they seek to portray themselves to “the base” (people who consider themselves right-wing) as being for limited government.

Therefore basing the definition of “right-wing” on the actions of people who must trick the “right-wing” base into giving them power, would be like basing the definition of “religious” on members of the Westborough Baptist Church. Kind of like how “classical liberal” is essentially the exact opposite of “modern liberal”, because some people decided to start telling everyone they were liberal, while advocating the opposite of classical liberal ideals like individual freedom through government limitation.

Today we are more accepting of trending towards a Socialist government, while the label Fascist is thrown at opponents, despite most being unable to define Fascism. If we define Socialism as the government ownership of the means of production, we could define Fascism as government control without official ownership of the means of production, but with  all the power of force to compel those “private” businesses in whatever way desired. And guess what, Fascism only became a dirty word after Hitler’s crimes were fully realized, while since Stalin’s crimes were never fully recognized by the West, Socialism carries no such stigma, despite Stalin’s death toll dwarfing Hitler’s.

And again, without defining terms, people will call Hitler “right-wing” because modern liberals succeeded in redefining a whole slew of words in order to fit their agenda. States rights means racist (and so does voter ID), individual means collective (as in, the Bill of Rights), freedom is slavery (think proletariat being “freed” from the bourgeoisie and enslaved by the government), war is peace (“We must restore order!”), up is down, good is bad, and black is white.

On the other hand the reason “the left” could still be considered ultimately Socialist, is because the politicians often do what they say they will do. They “spread the wealth around”, they nationalize sectors of the economy, they increase taxes, introduce government programs, raise spending, intervene in economics, and expand government control. Sometimes they are more sly about the way they promote these things, but this is what “the left” stands for—their politicians and their base.

In short “the right” must be tricked into fascism, while “the left” is gladly socialist. But we don’t call it socialist! No a new word has been chosen, progressive, which can be used without meaning until the true nature of those ideas are discovered—not by “the base” of “the left”, but by the useful “moderates” who sway from side to side depending on how they were conditioned to accept certain words while applying no true definition.

The quickest way to lose support of voters these days is to define the words you use. Clarity is the enemy of those seeking power. “As a public servant I have always protected the workers, fought against corruption, and promoted peace”. If public servant is defined as “opportunist vulture”, protected is defined as “exploited”, corruption is defined as “those I disagree with”, and peace is defined as “government force”.

Oh yes, it is a brave new world indeed.

Don’t Fear the Light: Considering New Idea’s While Avoiding Blind Faith

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I believe it was Carlsbad Caverns that my family toured when I was going into fourth grade. We were taken deep beneath the earth’s surface, and guided into a large domed cave within the natural underground tunnels. The tour guide told us to put our hand 12 inches in front of our face, and he turned off the flashlight. “Can you see the outline of your hand?” he asked. We all could–or so we thought. There was no light at this depth in these caves detectable by the human eye, and the outline we thought we saw was simply a construction of our brain. A single match was then lit, flooding the ballroom sized cavern with enough light to see every stalactite and stalagmite in wonderful detail.

It seems likely that a humans’ aversion to new ideas is rooted in evolution. If what you have been doing has always worked for survival, changing it could be quite dangerous. Why let someone convince you to go out on a limb that could snap, instead of continuing practices that have always kept you alive? It is understandable that our survival instincts tell us to fear change, and support the status quo. If there were berries and game here last year, there will probably be next year as well.

But in evolution danger lies in too homogeneous a species. There is still much mystery surrounding why, but about 70,000 years ago the human population of earth “bottlenecked” and was reduced to somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000 individuals. Humans were extremely endangered and essentially almost went extinct. For the people living before the event or series of events or long-term change, there was not much reason to change what had worked for survival. But for some reason, a bunch of humans died off, and only a small group survived.

I don’t know why that group survived. It could have been a genetic variation, or special skills one group possessed, or perhaps, the ability to adapt. While many other humans could not break with tradition in terms of “what has always worked”, maybe a small group was able to reassess their method of survival, and change it in order to survive in the new environment. Whether the new environment was caused by climate, predators, wars, disease, famine, or aliens hardly matters. What matters is the ability to predict upheaval, and properly prepare for that change.

70,000 years ago there were probably a lot of people that knew something was happening, but did not know what to do about it. They probably continued living the only life they knew, and died because of it. There were probably also people who did not see any change coming, and failed to prepare out of ignorance. Others might have continued hunting the hypothetically disappearing game until the very last one was eaten, and then starved, refusing to believe that their way of life could possibly change.

Some humans might have seen a change coming, but prepared for the wrong change, or predicted an event that never came to fruition. But what we know is that there were a select few who were either lucky, or smart. I like to think that the survivors were the ones who were not afraid of the light. It seems that people who were the most open to learning, who could consider new ideas, and adapt to their environment would be most suited to survive, and I don’t think that has changed.

This does not mean any new idea should be seized upon and believed wholeheartedly without proper scrutiny; some of those early humans died because they saw the wrong change coming. But equally detrimental was refusing to see the light, and therefore not adjusting reactions to escalating dangers. The ultimate survival skills lie in those who can objectively and rationally consider risks and rewards. Shutting out a new idea is just as likely to end negatively as blind faith in a new idea, or being convinced that the oldest idea is novel.

Moving into the twentieth century, what humans must do to survive is be vigilant and logical. There are those who stand on their front porch and watch as a tsunami rolls in, and there are those who run to the top of mountains to be rescued by aliens who never show. We want to avoid each category. We should learn about the tsunami and assess the weather report: the risk to an area, the scope and magnitude, and the timing. But there’s no harm in hearing out the would be extraterrestrial pilgrims either; but beware of seeing something where there is nothing. Often your instincts will be correct, and there will be no facts behind the theory. However it does not hurt to listen and objectively consider data, you may be surprised by the result and learn things that seem so obvious in hindsight.

Sometimes we are more comfortable in the dark, imagining our hand is visible, than seeing our real environment illuminated. In a place so dark, it does not take much light to see your true surroundings. Don’t continue to imagine that you see your hand in the dark. Be brave, and light the match; it will illuminate things you never knew were there.

Why Does the Left Have More Confidence in Government Control?

Based on what both the right and the left purport to believe about the nature of government, both should be equally skeptical of government power. An exception would be a short-sighted desire to elevate “your side’s” political power within the government; but then what if “the other side” comes back into control and wields the power machinery the first side set up? This paradigm would at least explain the behavior of most republicans and democrats over the past few decades.

But to do this the right has to trick its supporters into believing they are for smaller government while the left can pursue every avenue of government spending and intervention in order to placate their base. I still wonder why the left is so much more comfortable handing over the reigns of societal control to the government, taking it away from individuals. Its understandable from the politicians’ perspective,  “I’m the one who gets to make the rules, and wield the power”. But from a left-wing voter perspective, are they that confidant in the people they elect?

I think this difference is married to the philosophy of each side. Sure, the right wants to elect good guys, but if they are actually shrinking government,  then we don’t really have to worry about them wielding too much power. On the other hand the left elects their politician specifically for advancing the power, control, and scope of government, and therefore must also be confidant in their choice’s ability and responsibility to wield that control. My question is, how can you be so confident in a person who you really don’t know, especially when they aspire to that position of influence and power?

The biggest problem on the right is finding a politician that will actually make government smaller, will actually lower taxes, cut spending, and promote individual liberty. But the left’s problem is that after their politician expands government in the area promised for the purpose specified, then that power must be handled effectively and appropriately. We know it almost never is handled appropriately, and the politician who set it up rarely suffers the negative consequences, because the only people to “punish” them are the ones who elected them, and approved of or demanded their particular plan to expand government.

So then is my answer to the question that the left just assumes everything will go according to plan, and that their politician would never lie to them, or even just screw up? Or do they assume that government inherently fulfills the regulatory and humanitarian responsibilities it creates for itself? Probably the  left’s love for democracy is what gives them confidence, the belief that majority rule will serve the greater good. But then how do they reconcile other results of majority rule that they don’t like?

This can help clue us in to why the left needs to control the media and essentially brainwash people with their message; because they believe in majority rule, and therefore must be sure that the majority serves their interests,  and the interests of the “greater good”–or at least whatever seems in the best interests of the 51%. In this way the left sees it as their goal to gain majority approval, which in their opinion will then lead to positive results for society, and every now and then it does: for instance if they convince the majority that government policy should stay out of people’s bedrooms.

The right has no such confidence in their elected officials, even the ones they approve of. Likewise, the right has no confidence that the majority of their fellow voters are competent enough to know what is best for 51% of society. Furthermore, it is not just 51% of society that the right cares about, rather the rights of each individual. This means the right thinks 100% of society should be afforded the same rights and opportunities, and in this way protects minorities in a society,  that the  51% might otherwise oppress. (These could be racial minorities, but also farmers, businessmen, or other groups which don’t form a majority of voters).

Really I think the left’s position comes down to fantasy and wishful thinking that the people they elect to government are competent, honest, and smart enough to see all and address all the indirect consequences of government intervention. The right believes this task impossible of any government entity or disinterested individual,  and therefore puts its faith in market forces to serve the best interests of society. Of course, market forces can be broken down another level to individual action which serves the best interests of the individual without initiating force against any other individual or group of individuals.

The left requires faith that 51% of the electorate will know the correct thing to do for society. The right just requires that individuals regulate markets by making the best consumer decisions for themselves as individuals. The government’s only role would be to make sure no force is involved in market transactions.

So the left seems to rely mostly on misplaced trust in government officials and bureaucrats to fulfill their duties, and take into account the side effects,  absent of any machinery to control quality, create accountability,  and provide incentive. The right believes that the market through individual action naturally provides incentives, creates accountability, and will deliver the quality demanded by individuals, whatever the product or service might be. I think an unbiased examination of history makes it clear that no such faith in government is warranted, while markets, starting with a simple trade/ barter oriented society, have always provided what people need by allowing free individual transaction absent of force.