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May 30, 2015

Fundamental Concepts - Seven deadly sins? I only need two to run the world.[Weirddave]

The so- called “cardinal sins”, more colloquially know as the Seven Deadly Sins, have been used in a Christian setting as a cautionary tale for millenia now. These sins are Anger, Denial, Bargaining Depression and Acceptance. No wait, those are the stages of death from All That Jazz. The sins are Sh**, Piss, F***, See You Next Tuesday, Co******er, Mf-er and Tits. No, my mistake, those are the seven words you can't say on TV. I've got it: Umoja, Kujichagulia,Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba and Imani. Darn it, those are the principles of Kwanza. Hmm. Faith, Prayer, Charity, Fasting and Pilgrimage? Nope, those would be the Pillars of Islam. Dag nab it, I've got look these up. Sins....sins...of commission...of omission....of the fathers....ah! Here we are: seven deadly. Greed, Envy, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Wrath and Pride. Gosh, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with those.

Take a look around at the major political philosophies in the west. Ever notice that all of them are based around one of two deadly sins? No wonder everything is so messed up, all of our political philosophies are based upon sins! Of course, according to Christian faith the whole world is steeped in sin, so this really doesn't come as any surprise. Which sins are we talking about? Well, in this corner, wearing green trunks, weighing in at a weaselly 98 lbs is the original green-eyed monster himself....


Envy is the driving force behind most political systems today. Any variant of Marxism is driven by envy, whether it be Communism, Socialism, or any other Marxist ism. Fascism is driven by envy. Democracy is driven, more subtlety, by envy. It is easy to detect an envy driven system because it is obsessed with making things “fair”. If only we could own the means of production/set the allocation of resources/control the distribution of goods/redistribute the wealth/whatever, why, then the world would be “fair”. The whole reason that the system is “unfair” in the first place is because someone has more than you've got, or different than yours or better, and by God that shall not stand! That's envy talking.

It's nonsense, of course, and deeply ironic because envy based systems always devolve into what they claim to be fighting against, oligarchy. An oligarchy is representative of our second deadly sin, currently standing over in the other corner, wearing a top hat and tails, twirling a Snidely Whiplash mustache and weighing in at a corpulent 350 lbs, Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Wolf of Wall Street....


Yes those greedy oligarchs, living off of the sweat of the working man's brow, exploiting and corrupting everything that they touch for their own gain. Any monarchy is run for the benefit of the few at the top at the expense of many below, as are all totalitarian regimes. This is the oldest form of government, one that's been prevalent among humans since they lived in extended family tribes, and it still exists today. It's as basic a form of human organization as there is, and groups of humans are always going to come back to it because humans are greedy.

It's a vicious cycle. The greed of the ruling class in an oligarchy leads to the creation of an envy based counter movement, if that movement is ever successful, it breaks down into another oligarchy before too long and the cycle continues (I know that this sound damn near Marxist (Hegelian, to be exact) thesis, antithesis resulting in synthesis-hey, look, it's the dialectic!). There's no way out of this cycle, it's the way things have always been, and the way things always will be. Period. Nope, that's how humans works, and it will ever be so.


Suppose we could replace the vicious cycle with a virtuous cycle? Well, then we might have something. A system that is self perpetuating but one that yields generally positive results instead of consistently negative ones. In fact, there is just such a system, and it works because it subverts both envy and greed and replaces them with their Doppelgängers. The Doppelgänger of envy is opportunity and the Doppelgänger of greed is self interest. In fact, just such a system has been devised, although it is in decline at the moment, and that system is free market capitalism.

If envy and greed are the two main animating principles of human political organization, then obviously they fill some need in the human psyche. The problem is that since they are negative emotions (deadly sins!), any system based upon them is going to have negative results. Any system that seeks to replace the old one is still going to have to fill those needs with people. The free market does so by promoting substitutes that are beneficial rather than derogatory. Think of it as a non-opiate drug used to calm the cravings of an opiate addict: The drug matches the receptors in the addict's brain that are screaming for morphine, without morphine's negative effects. The basic facts of the world don't change in a free market system. There still exists a dichotomy of materials/results/goods/whatever between individuals in a free market system, but instead of fostering envy, in a free market system that presents an opportunity and fosters ambition “Like that guy's Porsche? Work hard and you can have one too”. Greed is present as always in humans, but the system is set up so that the only way to feed the greed and enrich oneself is by providing good and services that benefit everybody else. The same psychological imperatives are being met. As long as you have a government content to sit on the sidelines and serve as referee to ensure a level playing field while also defending the pitch from intruders, the whole thing works brilliantly, and the entire society as a whole is richer, happier and more secure.

So what happened? Well, a free market system is a more complex machine. It's higher maintenance. It requires investments of time and effort to educate and maintain. It requires a culture with certain base values. If these things aren't present, or aren't jealously guarded by society as a whole, entropy sets in. The whole thing rests on the fulcrum of virtue. As these things decay over time, either through disuse, carelessness or active subversion, envy and greed push their way back to the fore. They are simpler concepts, lower common denominators. They will always prevail absent a constant and dedicated effort to keep them at bay, and so here we are. The engine of our prosperity is missing on 3 cylinders, smoking badly and the pistons are knocking loudly. We haven't been changing the oil or making sure to use quality gas. The radiator is bone dry. The whole damn thing is about to seize up and leave us stranded in the desert........unless we start doing some maintenance, fast.

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posted by Open Blogger at 10:34 AM

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