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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Reply

This is my response to the conversation found here - Cheaters. Enjoy.

"The trouble I have always found (prepare yourself for a socialist paragraph) is that parents never have time to sit down and play with their kids – like board games. When both the parents have to go out & work full time to pay the bills, it’s not as if they can come home and spend time with the children. Even if they do have the evening free, all they want to do is flop down on the sofa and watch TV. In this, I reckon that you were very luckily to spend time with your family as a child playing board games – that’s what I really like about the US, is that people have a good attitude toward the family – I kind of got that vibe from Boogieman and other southerners that were in our tribe in RIP. In Britain, not much emphasis is put on bringing up children – probably another ailment of an increasingly secular society. "

I wouldn't get off the mark thinking family is the major asset of the American cultural landscape. More often than not, our lifestyles are dictated by our jobs first and foremost, and like you mentioned - adults get home and crash on the couch to watch TV. I'm attempting to get out of that habit (although the computer is my vice, not the TV), trying to walk the dogs more, etc...but it's not easy. Society as a whole has started to promote group, physical activity - or at least doing something other than sitting and watching passively, but I've seen little to no difference in the lifestyles of those around me. The fact that I was able to sit around with my brothers' and play board games as a youngster was probably more a telling of the times than anything else. We didn't have a Nintendo yet or anything, so really, on rainy days - what options were there but to play board games? I've just kind of carried that fondness and excitement with me because I'm nostalgic and somewhat childlike, so it says nothing of our society as a whole.

"I have to say that personally I have a very low regard for the virulent, unscrupulous, and sometimes violent multinational companies that seek to force their ‘freedom’ upon us. This links into my hatred of ‘free’ markets, contractualist ethics, and rampant individualism. =)

"In this, I have little or no sympathy for western capitalism and democracy, depending on my mood. "

First and foremost, I think you're confusing yourself a bit in that you are somewhat arguing for contractual ethics, in that the governed are of course willing participants in any government intervention whereas in a truly free society, such intervention would be least to my understanding of it. Also, I'm in no way encouraging the bullying techniques of some of the world's largest companies...I'd say it is without doubt, the responsibility of the world's governments to protect companies from each other. However, the only time that intervention would be necessary is if, indeed, unfair play is suspected. It is not the responsibility of the government to balance the scales, however, if one company is just plan better than it's opposition - innovate, expand, improve...those are the keys of success, not begging the government to help you. Lobbyists are a direct result of the government's interference within the economic landscape and those people are just parasites on this world.

"I’ll explain my point of view of what the government should be, which may help to explain my view. I regard the government as a doctor, sent in to cure society’s illnesses. There is no place for ‘managerial’ government, where the government seeks to administrate the markets, and to solve disputes, making sure that all stick to a social contract. My ideal government would be in the business of leadership, giving society a series of projects that all aspire to achieve – and it’s not to ban smoking in public places!! (Done a couple of years ago here). The Atlee government of 1945-49 is a good example of the kind of government that should be in power. Pity they got voted out by a selfish and ignorant British public. The government should also be a cultural elite, not the richest candidate."

I agree with a lot of points you made here, in particular that the government's duty is to help an ailing society, not necessarily run it. People, more often than not, can be pretty impressive when left to their own devices and should be allowed to do so as often as possible. However, when you get into the government project direction, we start to differ. Societies have a way of righting their own ship when heading down a bumpy road, for instance the increased awareness of environmentalism in the workplace. The United States government has done very little in terms of setting any sort of plan or even legislation encouraging companies to clean up, despite many scientists globally, behind those sentiments. However, we've been seeing a recent run of companies aggressively cleaning up their operations. This is simple economics - it's cheaper to produce less waste, that makes perfect sense, but it applies to pollution as well. All pollution is just that...waste, the more you eliminate, the more efficient your work processes.

Then you have the dieing American car companies (GM and Ford). Foreign cars are doing much better in the market because of their insistence on good gas mileage and less emissions. This follows that same concept - for the consumer, it's more cost efficient because they can go further while buying less gas, and for the company because they are selling more cars this way. They are generally, also cheaper up front (both to make and to the consumer), so it's a win all around for these car companies. Ford and GM and now scrounging to catch up with this seemingly obvious advance in the industry. My biggest issue, after reading up on the Labor Party and the Atlee Government, is that a nationalizing industries was considered good practice. This leads me to my picture perfect government...

While it may be different in the UK, our government is extremely inefficient. Everything goes through four or five agencies, it's all bureaucratic time wastes, but necessary because they are indeed the government. So I think the government should be in charge of the non-profitable needs of society - namely police, firemen, limited education and health care. The government should also operate entities who watch the other industries to protect society as a whole, not individual companies. Things like roads and prisons can be operated by private companies, with lower costs and more overhead than the present systems in place, all while under the watchful eye of a government protector. Education should be viewed as a business, from the standpoint of administration. The best schools should get the most money, because they provide the best end product - currently, in America, there is a system of giving the most money to the public schools that struggle the most. This is encouraging failure! This is supporting a system that is leaving our children behind. If a company had a department that failed to meet any of their targets, they wouldn't get more money to help them through this tough time - the whole team would be sacked instantly and replaced! Health care should be provided, free of charge, to everyone. That being said, I think that private practices must still be encouraged to operate. If one goes entirely free, than a hospital overload (see Canada) is likely. On the converse, if one goes entirely private - most citizens can no longer afford to be healthy. Therefore, standard medical treatment should be available to all members of society, regardless of social standing, but at the same time - those who can afford it, may go into the private sector and find their own care. This is by no means a perfect system, especially when discussing health care, but it's a work in progress...I'll alter that as I think more and more about it.

"As for individualism as a theory, I believe it’s inherently flawed. It believes that all have free will, and are able to float about with nothing but self interest, determining their action. Its ignores the important point that humans are not individuals, but are social beings – they live in groups, they always have, and always will. Humans are like ants – one is absolutely useless, but taken as a whole, are a strong being. Humans are not like cats, which are indeed creatures that relay on themselves, and only on themselves. In this, it can be said that humans that are selfish are dysfunctional humans – for they are not contributing anything to the group, and thus everyone, including themselves, will suffer. (The prisoners dilemma is a great example of how being selfish will catch you out. )"

I could not agree less with this statement. I believe that all individuals have complete free will and all actions do stem directly from self interest. While humans are indeed social beings, we are in the end - individual beings. A person is perfectly capable of surviving on their own as they are in a society. We do not require one another to survive and require only one person of the opposite gender in order to procreate and continue society (although any further generations would obviously need more participation). An ant, on it's own, will likely survive a day or two, because it will find food and water, but will ultimately die without the protection and shelter offered by their hill. Humans, on the other hand, can survive alone in the wilderness indefinitely - we are capable of producing our own shelter, defending ourselves, foraging for food and water, and probably would even find some downtime to improve our primitive ways of life. That being said, I don't think there's any doubt that humans have much more potential of wealthy survival in the constructs of modern society, that society was a result of individuals realizing the potential of specialization ages ago and utilizing it. 

I'm going to use Tribal Wars a metaphor here, if you don't mind. A single village is like a person, give or take, and to start...this is a mixed village. It has to defend itself, so it produces defensive troops. In order for continued survival, however, expansion is necessary - so one needs to produce offensive troops as well. This is a decent system - this village, an a network of village designed in a similar way, would do well...for awhile. However, if the villages specialize (after the first one, this is a necessary side step, unfortunately) - one can defend both, while the other insures continue growth and expansion by producing only offensive troops. This exponentially improves the potential both village have of success. Therefore, it is in the best interest of village A, to produce defense while it is in the best interest of village B, to produce offense. It is also in the best interest of society. To kind of conclude this point - what is best for the individual, is also best for society as a whole.

It's important, however, to put the individual first in this statement though because without the individual's full, 100% willingness to participate, the society will not benefit. Society cannot demand the individual to follow what society deems is in societies (and therefore the individual's) best interest, the individual has to come freely and willingly or the final product will be compromised. To make this point even more clear is who is "society" - who has the right to deem what is right for society as a whole? Who has that authority? No individual, or council, or committee, or even general election could actually capture what is "best" for society - this is why it is vital for individuals to go only for personal gain, which in turn will benefit society, assuming fair business practice.

Also, another topic that I think got lost in the larger debate going on here - global currency...discuss.


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