TCS Daily


The Stone Age Trinity

By Max Borders - March 6, 2006 12:00 AM

The late philosopher Robert Nozick pointed out that when people compare themselves to one another, they are disposed to feel one of two emotions -- guilt or envy. Guilt when someone has a lower station than you; envy when someone has a higher station than you. I would add a third to this mix: indignation. That's when you compare someone of a higher station to someone of a lower station, and feel that something is wrong. I refer to this complex of emotional responses to unequal life-stations as the "Stone Age Trinity."

Egalitarian Hard Wiring

Why do we have these egalitarian emotions? Religious folks would say we have egalitarian feelings because a benevolent God wants us to be charitable; or that greed is a sin. Moral philosophers might give us grand theories about guilt, envy and indignation that have to do with the "moral law" or some other high-falutin' rationale -- arguing, perhaps, that these feelings are a psychological complement to more enlightened reflection.

But I (and some others) think it has to do with the wiring of the brain -- a neural circuitry configured over millennia in our evolutionary past. In other words, I agree with the likes of some of the original evolutionary anthropologists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby who, in their Primer on Evolutionary Psychology, write:

"The environment that humans -- and, therefore, human minds -- evolved in was very different from our modern environment. Our ancestors spent well over 99 percent of our species' evolutionary history living in hunter-gatherer societies. That means that our forebears lived in small, nomadic bands of a few dozen individuals who got all of their food each day by gathering plants or by hunting animals. Each of our ancestors was, in effect, on a camping trip that lasted an entire lifetime, and this way of life endured for most of the last 10 million years."

Hence: "Stone Age."

Cosmides and Tooby go on:

"Generation after generation, for 10 million years, natural selection slowly sculpted the human brain, favoring circuitry that was good at solving the day-to-day problems of our hunter-gatherer ancestors ... Those whose circuits were better designed for solving these problems left more children, and we are descended from them."

We carry with us all the equipment required to survive on the ancient steppe. Which brings us to egalitarianism: think of how it might have been important for our ancestors to behave in terms of hoarding and sharing. From an evolutionary perspective, it made perfect sense to behave in an egalitarian manner within the tribal band. For in the absence of refrigeration or other preservation practices, food spoiled, so hoarding made little sense. Most hoarders would have failed to pass on genes. Agriculture was absent until about 10000 years ago, so survival of the Stone Age group rested on sharing, reciprocity and division of labor.

In The Origins of Virtue, Matt Ridley writes:

"Private property or communal ownership by a small group is a logical response to a potential tragedy of the commons, but it is not an instinctive one. Instead, there is a human instinct, clearly expressed in hunter-gatherers, but present also in modern society that protests any sort of hoarding. Hoarding is taboo; sharing is mandatory."

Again, hoarding behavior would probably have been a disadvantage to survival in the environs of our ancestors.

One Hundred and Fifty

Now, folks who've encountered Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point may recall the "Magic Number 150." This number seems to be a kind of cut-off point for the simpler forms of human organization. Gladwell reminds us that communal societies -- like those our ancestors lived in, or in any human group for that matter -- tend to break down at about 150. Such is perhaps due to our limited brain capacity to know any more people that intimately, but it's also due to the breakdown of reciprocal relationships like those discussed above -- after a certain number (again, around 150).

A great example of this is given by Richard Stroup and John Baden in an old article about communal Hutterite colonies. (Hutterites are sort of like the Amish -- or more broadly like Mennonites -- but settled in different areas of North America.) Stroup, an economist at Montana State University, shared with me his Spring 1972 edition of Public Choice, wherein he and political scientist John Baden write:

"In a relatively small colony, the proportional contribution of each member is greater. Likewise, surveillance of him by each of the others is more complete and an informal accounting of contribution is feasible. In a colony, there are no elaborate systems of formal controls over a person's contribution. Thus, in general, the incentive and surveillance structures of a small or medium-size colony are more effective than those of a large colony and shirking is lessened."

Interestingly, according to Stroup and Baden, once the Hutterites reach Magic Number 150, they have a tradition of breaking off and forming another colony. This idea is echoed in Gladwell's The Tipping Point, wherein he discusses successful companies that use 150 in their organizational models.

Had anyone known about this circa 1848, someone might have told Karl Marx that his theory could work, but only up to the Magic Number. Turns out, we had to go through 150 years of misery, totalitarianism and broken humanity to learn the limits of communism. And even though we've grasped many of these intellectual and practical lessons, Folk Marxism persists -- and so also does the Stone Age Trinity. And these likely reinforce each other.

The truth is; we live in highly complex societies of millions, not bands of 150. Agriculture, the division of labor, and other human developments have changed our social arrangements faster than we can evolve.

Liberal Societies and Stone Age Baggage

So what does all this mean for a truly liberal society? A society of freedom, private property, and markets? Of complexity, pluralism, and personal responsibility?

It means we are likely to remain in a protracted struggle against Paleolithic instincts -- which, of course, translate into the zigzag of everyday politics. None of this is to argue that guilt, envy, or indignation are emotions we would always be better off without in contemporary Western society. But I would suggest that we'd all be better off localizing these urges in the confines of family and community. And we should continually ask ourselves in precisely what contexts these emotions are appropriate.

Given the tremendous good that is brought about by self-interested market exchange, it seems we'll have to teach ourselves time-and-again the intellectual lessons of prosperity in a complex economic order. We will also have to fight turf wars with those who think the sentiments of Stone Age Trinity can be wrapped up in intellectual claptrap (like Marxism), force fed to our students in the ivory towers, sold to us on the evening news, or foisted upon us inside marble domes.

Max Borders is Managing Editor of TCSDaily.com.

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126 Comments

The 'Trinity' test in the 'Culture Wars'
Christian Vision Project
Virtue Online, March 3, 2006

...More serious, however, is a tone of voice we adopt from the culture: sarcastic, smart-alecky, jabbing, and self-righteous. We feel the sting of such treatment and give it right back; we feel anger or even wounded hatred toward those on the "other side." But God does not hate them; he loves them so much he sent his Son to die for them. We are told to pray for those who persecute us and to love our enemies.

The weight of antagonistic and mocking big-media machinery is the closest thing we've got for practicing that difficult spiritual discipline. IF WE REALLY LOVE THESE ENEMIES, WE WILL WANT THE BEST FOR THEM, the very best thing we have, which is the knowledge and love of God.

Smart-alecky speech doesn't even work. It may win applause, but it does not win hearts. It hardens the person who feels targeted, because he feels mocked and misrepresented. It increases bad feeling and anger. No one changed his mind on an issue because he was humiliated into it. In fact, WE ARE MISGUIDED EVEN TO THINK OF OUR OPPONENTS IN THE "CULTURE WARS" AS ENEMIES in the first place. They are not our enemies, but hostages of the Enemy. We have a common Enemy who seeks to destroy us both, by locking them in confusion and by luring us to self-righteous pomposity.

CULTURE IS NOT A MONOLITHIC POWER WE MUST DEFEAT. It is the battering weather conditions that people, harassed and helpless, endure. We are sent out into the storm like a St. Bernard with a keg around our neck, to comfort, reach, and rescue those who are thirsting, most of all, for Jesus Christ.

http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=3706

Pack behavior
Cosmides and Toobey are no experts on pack behavior. Listen to this:

"Generation after generation, for 10 million years, natural selection slowly sculpted the human brain, favoring circuitry that was good at solving the day-to-day problems of our hunter-gatherer ancestors ... Those whose circuits were better designed for solving these problems left more children, and we are descended from them."

If you observe a modern dog pack hunting, you'll find that the prize doesn't go to the hot shot with the biggest brain. It goes consistently to the pack that learns how to work well together as a team. The need for communications is, of course, what gave rise to human speech.

So human intelligence is in fact best developed through the cooperative approach. Lone philosophers tend to have no dates on Friday night.

Stone Age Tinity
That's not quite right, Roy. In wolf (dog) packs and in wild horse bands (both species living similar lives as "stone age" man,)the leaders of the pack/band do, in fact, reap greater rewards than the rest of the group. In wolf packs, the dominent (Alpha) male and female are the only two wolves that breed. The rest are held in subservient roles of support. The pack leaders are the first to eat and thus get the best cut of meat. With horses (which display harem behavior, much as do certain human groups) it is the lone mature stallion and (usually) the oldest/wisest mare that get the best grass, the first drink of water, the central position in the small herd as it moves from one grazing area to another and thus stands the best chance of survival should a sabre-tooth cat attack. In all three species, human, wolf and horse, the goup benefits to the extent that all members cooperate and play their role (usually assigned at birth by the status of the parents.) But it was the individuals who had the brains, the athletic prowess and the most experience that benefitted the greatest and thus had the best chance to pass on their genes. So, in my mind, Cosmides and Tooby were partially right -- cooperation increased survival and thus helped spread the genes of those who shared, refused to hoard, etc. But also, those individuals who possessed the genetic makeup of leadership passed on more genes than did their followers, simply becuase their leadership gained them more resources than alloted their followers.

If man is egalitarian by nature who would need Gov. to institute socialism.
If man was egalitarian by nature we would not need Gov. to institute socialism (see communes, charity, Amish, Mennonites, mutual aid societies). Also strangely enough if man was egalitarian Gov. socialism would work much better, less graft and corruption less goofing off. Etc.

It is more about the majority getting the rich to pay. Adam Smith was right it is the nature of man to try to get as much as he can for as little work as possible.

An interesting aside is that if you believe in evolution birth control changes everything.
An interesting aside is that if you believe in evolution birth control changes everything. Only those with a strong desire to have children produce enough children to pass their genes on.

Are they more likely to be socialistic or family oriented?

Kibbutz
The 150 figure is interesting because small groups in Israel seem to have done really well with the socialist model. I don't know if Kibbutzim actively teach Marxism, which would be a shame, but that small-group ethic really would make an ideal living condition, especially for the very young and the elderly.

Hmmm. What if...the liberals were right...ew...but what if we could set up kibbutzim for them and then the poor folks could go and work according to ability and receive according to need, in a small community where people cared and held them accountable because they knew them?

Pack behavior
Apparently what they are saying is too subtle for you. THe fact of the matter is that social mammals all require larger brains. Wolves have large brains, as do lions, chimpanzees, and of course humans. THis is required because social life is very complex. And that requires brain power. Look at the relative sizes of these groups: wolves live in smaller packs than chimpanzees, who live in smaller troupes than do humans. That is due to relative brain power. Bigger brains make for better cooperation -- Toody and COsmides both know that. And so did Darwin. Survival of the fittest is really survival of those who can best cooperate. Humans are brilliant at cooperation -- thus we have much larger social groups than other social mammals. The non-social mammals, whether solitary or mere herds animals (a herd animal is not social in the same way that social animals are social), all have much smaller brains than do the social mammals.

Don't over-simplify things, take things out of context, or set up straw men. It does ot help your argument.

My prediction...
Liberals would balk at this idea. Because if this happened, it would work, and if it worked, we wouldn't need liberal social programs, meaning they would lose all power. Naturally, they wouldn't say that. They would rather come up with such arguments that we should not force people to do things (even if we are going to give them stuff -- shouldn't we expect something in return if we give people things or, essentially, pay them? Isn't that what welfare is? -- paying people not to work?), that it was somehow unfair, or even racists (they would figure out a way that it was racist). POssibly even sexist. WHo knows?

You typically find out what the liberals are really all about when you find an idea that will work, that resembles one of their ideas so strongly as this idea, and they reject it. ANd they will reject it. To test it, go out and spread this idea around. THe conservatives will think it's a good idea, and the liberals will hate it. Mark my word.

Who now is talking about "instituting socialism?"
Socialism is government owning the means of production. Nobody's calling for nationalizing General Motors.

As far as being "egalitiarian by nature," egalitarianism has nothing necessarilyt to do with social behavior. Humans are social animals, but they've created all kinds of social forms, some egalitarian, many more not, none particularly more natural than the other.

>It is more about the majority getting the rich to pay.

For a long time it was the appointed minority (priests, nobles, etc) getting the poor to pay or owning othre humans. Is that really preferable?

Leader of the pack
Correct to a degree, DS. The top dog eats better than the rest. But I think you overemphasise the importance of the alpha member. In both early societies, dog and human, I think there's nothing hereditary worth considering about their status. The leader is just the biggest, baddest member or the one with the most to contribute to the success of the hunt. When the system is working at its best, leadership skills are emphasised.

In any event, a hunting group without a strong leader eats better than a strong leader with no group.

Herding animals are altogether different, in my mind. Bulls who maintain harems do have the right of sexual exclusivity. Their society has a very different dynamic that that of hunters. Or at least let me say I notice the differences more than any similarities.

I wonder whether any case could be made for competitiveness being of ANY value to a band of hunters.I would rather think that the trait of greatest value to the group was the initiative and drive of the leader, rather than his readiness to vanquish rivals.

Doubtful that the boss dog enjoyed exclusive sexual rights. He can't be everywhere at once, and has to sleep some time. That's good, too. Otherwise incestuous breeding would soon weaken the group's physical condition.

Welfare update
There isn't much at all now, not in the US. Ask some of families with children living in the streets because there's no room in shelters.

As far as people living in communes -- they're free to do so if they want, and some still do. So what?

Social intelligence
There's certainly nothing subtle about what you're saying, friend.

In making a statement of a hundred words or less, it's hard not to oversimplify. And the following statement, as you point out, is an accurate one:

"Generation after generation, for 10 million years, natural selection slowly sculpted the human brain, favoring circuitry that was good at solving the day-to-day problems of our hunter-gatherer ancestors ... Those whose circuits were better designed for solving these problems left more children, and we are descended from them."

My point was intended to counter any notion that we were talking about individuals, who by the virtue of their larger brains may have passed on more decendants than their clan mates. Such would not be an accurate impression. You are correct that in general it's the social function that makes animals more intelligent. The ultimate example is the power of speech.

Ugly, horrible socialism
"It is more about the majority getting the rich to pay. Adam Smith was right it is the nature of man to try to get as much as he can for as little work as possible."

An interesting insight. Wouldn't you say rather that the entire history of civilization has been an exercise in getting the poor to do the work, while the rich have more time to play? Notions of social equity have only come along in very recent times.

Man does not begin to be egalitarian in nature, never has been and never will be. The route we are bound to travel, if we advance from our present primitive state, will be to follow paths of enlightened mutual self interest. The feudal era dried on the vine, for example, when the sovereigns found they could actually do better by NOT owning everything there was to be owned. By allowing others to own a little bit of the total wealth, they encouraged innovation, industry and the rise of a general prosperity. And the result? A bricklayer today lives in a warmer home than did Henry the Eighth.

The lesson to be learned, to my way of thinking, is that if you try spreading a bit of the wealth around you may well find yourself living a richer life in the long run.

I once came up with a scheme of having a local elected benevolence guy
I once came up with a scheme of having a local elected benevolence guy who would distribute welfare. It saves use from the inefficiency in benevolence of doing things by law. Some need a kick in the pants some need a boost but by law they must get the same thing.


Nutball social darwinism gone wild
First, we have a giant disconnect with human history.

Assuming egalitarianism is somehow hardwired into human behavior, what accounts for the overwhelming proportion of non-egalitarian societies we see in history. Aristocaracy, slave ownership, caste systems, serfdom, absolute monarchies and other wildly non-egalitarian systems do not just appear but predominate in human history. Egalitarianism only emerges at wide intervals, bucking the trend.

Second, what's wrong with the idea? I mean we aren't talking about total equality of all goods and services, not in any currently urged political movement. Democrats and many others point out that societies which don't have huge extremes of poor and rich tend to be healthier and better to live in. I don't think this is a throwback to mammoth hunting.

Communal behavior
Does such a person exist in real life as your caricature of a liberal? What do you suppose such a person would gain?

I believe the kind of person Lisa was describing corresponds more to a communal hippie. The kind of person who wants to get away from money being the measure of things, who values human relationships more highly, is more inclined to found small groups of like-minded communals.

When all contribute to the common pot you don't always get out exactly what you put in. But that's what human speech is for. Successful communes evolve good rules to weed out or modify the behavior of drones. And since human potential is very variable, some hold down jobs to bring in the money, some grow the crops, some cook and some just decorate the place with drawings. It's like a big family.

Groups of more than 150 wouldn't usually work very well, althought the Rainbow Tribe is nationwide and has persisted for the past forty years.

Altruism v. Egalitarianism
Most of this screed is based on a confusion between altruism - a very complex behavior that seems anti-survival -- and egalitariansm, a philosophical/political position with clear intellectual, rather than genetic roots.

A digest of information about the genetic roots of altruism can be found here:

http://endeavor.med.nyu.edu/~strone01/altruism.html

Perhaps the author believes that altruism is a nasty throwback we need to breed out of the human genome to allow investors to make more money..

Evolving Past Bad Premises
I have none of these egalitarian feelings nor do I automatically have altruistic feelings.

Am I more evolved that the rest of you primitives?

God no! I just dont accept this as metaphysically given and I reject the notion that this is in my genes.

Please dont confuse feelings of good will with altruism, egalitarianism, or some sort of genetic predisposition. Good will is a fully rational and reasonable response to many of the circumstances of people's lives. Guilt and envy are by products of bad premises and poor thinking. Get over it!

You may be missing a gene...
... according to the evolutionary biological analysis quoted. But the gene, if it exists, is for altruism, not egalitarianism.

analogies
1) That flows back to the magic number. Small groups, packs, can cooperate. Bigger groups tend to break up into packs.

2) Human's aren't dogs.

3) Human tribal behavior also differs markedly from the behavior of chimpanzees. Some have theorized that the development of language allowed the lower ranked individuals to cooperate, in order to take down the alpha males of the group.

ugly socialism
Wherever it has been tried, socialism has been a disaster for the poor, and a great boon for those who run it.

BTW, the rich work very hard, thank you.

THE STONE AGE TRINITY
Due to a cataclysmic event human population dropped to around two thousand. Before this man had no basic need for language. He foraged for food which was in abundance. Life was good. Language came about because sometimes the larger and stronger were able to take what food there was.Now onk and ork were small and week .They knew that if they couldnot come up with something slick they were going to starve.They started signals and grunts to combine their forces to overcome and outsmart the larger competitors.Now big bad bok bok was envious of onk and ork. ork and onk also knew in a good fight it would be in their best interest to keep bok bok on their side. Then we establish
team work. Only difference then and now are your big words.

The Pilgrims and Tipping Points
The nunber 150 is probably too high for Marxism. The Pilgrims originally established a very pure communal system where everyone was expected to share in the planting and everyone got equal rations. After the first winter their numbers were down to the 50s. Even after the second boatload arrived, they were still less than 150. After three years of trying the communal system, they scrapped it in favor of a system where families kept a portion of their harvest. Governor Bradford observed that this was the first year that women and children helped in the fields. When everyone shared, the women and children were always too busy with other work to help raise food. My conclusion is that Marxism doesn't work past the immediate family.

Marxism???
The Pilgrims were lots of things, but Marxist???

You might also note that Marxism may not work in principle or theory in the long term but it was still Soviets who beat the Germans. 1941-1945.

marxism
Following the precepts of Marx, even if you don't use that name, makes one a Marxist.

Please study up on the communal nature of the original pilgrim colony. They sought to hold everything in common, and nearly starved.

It wasn't Marxism that beat the Germans, it was good generals, and the Russian winter. Not to mention a goodly helping of capitalist supplies sent by the US.

By the way, the ***** were good socialist through and through.

thank you for sharing

What?
"An interesting insight. Wouldn't you say rather that the entire history of civilization has been an exercise in getting the poor to do the work, while the rich have more time to play? Notions of social equity have only come along in very recent times...The lesson to be learned, to my way of thinking, is that if you try spreading a bit of the wealth around you may well find yourself living a richer life in the long run."

A rather poor imitation of Marx here. Have you forgotten or never heard about capital formation? The wealthy and frugal are the foundation upon which capital formation rests. More capital for labor to work with means more productive labor. (who would you be willing to pay more? a man with a shovel or one operating a backhoe) More productive labor is more valuable and is therefore paid more...thanks in large part to the capital growth sparked by the wealthy who save and invest large portions of their incomes and accumulated wealth. Certainly the "rich" have more time to play..but with the enormous capital formation this country has experienced have you not observed that the rest of us also have more time to play?
To paraphrase a famous economist---the great beauty of capitalism and capital formation is not in making silk stockings for the rich ladies but in making them so cheap that the factory woman can afford them.

The poor, downtrodden rich
"Wherever it has been tried, socialism has been a disaster for the poor, and a great boon for those who run it."

The same can be said for capitalism. In any event, what I was discussing had little to do with socialism. It has to do with social equity.

"BTW, the rich work very hard, thank you."

Of course they do. Traditionally, it was considered that the rich might work forty times as hard as the laborers woho worked at their direction. I think that was a more than decent nod in the direction of capitalism.

Now it is not uncommon for the rich to get paid at a thousand times the rate of their work force. What's more, increasingly their compensation is not evn related to performance. When taken to these lengths, is not a better term for the practise "thievery"?

Capital formation
An intriguing concept, rsw. Capital formation sounds a little like the mere ability to write checks-- in the manner of a bank, that can write a six dollar check on the basis of a single dollar held in deposit, and still be considered prudent. Is that the concept?

If so, why not skip to the chase and not wait for capital to form the old fashioned way-- by taking it from the mouths of the labor force? Why not just posit capital? Come to think of it, that's pretty much what we're doing now.

It would seem to me that the economic engine could be stimulated even more if spendable income were to be transferred to the un and under employed. At present they can't buy as much as they like. On the other side of the coin, companies like Ford can't sell as much as they'd like. Wouldn't we be able to scratch both backs by just positing a class of income supplements for low income families? That would have been a tremendous boost back in 2001, when we had a recession characterised by sluggish consumption.

Please don't be a fuddy duddy about the threat of inflation. We're doing what we're doing now, and we pretend to worry about inflation? Certainly one or two of those empty trillions could have been diverted to the pockets of actual humans, where it could have been put to use generating demand.

We could build in a trigger to regulate the flow of such imaginary money, obviating the threat of excess inflation. And freeing this money would save the underpaid workers who actually, physically create the wealth of industry more centuries of waiting for their ship to come in.

The decent gene
Sad that the gene isn't more widely carried. For many of us, it makes us feel good to be of service to our fellow man. If the feeling were more widespread, life would be a more pleasant and rewarding experience for all of us.

The world originally had enough latent wealth to go around for everyone. Of course it's getting kind of used up now.

The failures of Plymouth colony
It's commonly held that the proximal cause for the near failure of the Plymouth venture was not the size or shape of the dsocial system, but the fact that the colonists were intellectuals and religious dissenters. They didn't know diddley about subsustence agriculture. The Indians tried to teach them, but they felt themselves so innately superior to the naked brutes that they refused to learn anything. So they subsisted on handouts from the savages until the women and children started kicking in and helping in the fields. Then slowly the colony got on its feet and started earning its way.

Even so, its continued existence required continual conquest of their neighbors' land in order to survive and prosper. There's a lesson in there about how things work today.

Social Security
Go find all the Democrats who were in favor of increased privatization of social security during the Clinton administration, and see what they said about the idea during the Bush administration. They changed their tune when it was a conservative in favor of the idea. It's all about power, not ideas. That's why the Democrats have no ideas. They are only concerned with power. Of course, the Republicans have in turn gotten the same way of late -- half of the things Bush wants to do have been typical liberal positions. Or take a look at how Democrats continue to demonize Richard Nixon, when if you look at just about everything the man did, from increasing the minimum wage to creating affirmative action, the liberals support. Today Nixon would be a Democrat. And Bush should be honest and change parties.

ANd you might want to re-read Lisa's post. That's not what she said at all.

The Modern, Evolved Republican?
August 29th, 2004 9:38 pm
Day in the Life of Joe Middle-Class Republican
-by John Gray

Joe gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure their safety and work as advertised.

All but $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employers medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance, now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs this day. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

Joe takes his morning shower reaching for his shampoo; His bottle is properly labeled with every ingredient and the amount of its contents because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some tree hugging liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees. You see, some liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medicals benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

Its noon time, Joe needs to make a Bank Deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten Mortgage and his below market federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his life-time.

Joe is home from work, he plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to dads; his car is among the safest in the world because some liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electric until some big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification. (Those rural Republican’s would still be sitting in the dark)

He is happy to see his dad who is now retired. His dad lives on Social Security and his union pension because some liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to. After his visit with dad he gets back in his car for the ride home.

He turns on a radio talk show, the host’s keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. (He doesn’t tell Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day) Joe agrees, “We don’t need those big government liberals ruining our lives; after all, I’m a self made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have”.

sloganeering
This is just handwaving and namecalling. If you look at the actual suggestion put forward by Clinton for social security reform, you find he consdered privatization, but didn't put it forward as a concrete program. What he did do was insist that "Before we spend a penny on new programs or tax cuts, we should save Social Security first. I think it should be the driving principle . . . Do not have a tax cut. Do not have a spending program that deals with that surplus. Save Social Security first." This was not a call for SS privatization: this was a call for fiscal responsibility.

And lots of democrats have no trouble defending some of Nixon's domestic policy. They don't defend the wholesale lawbreaking that sent so many of Nixon's top officials to prison, nor the persistent pattern of lying about Vietnam. That is not 'demonizing,' that is history.

Finally, a number of places have tried setting up small commnities for homeless people to help them reenter society. The problem is, people aren't generally homeless because they have superior social and sharing skills. But I appreciate Lisa's thoughts.

It's a matter of degree
"Roy, I have never understood how it is that the person who puts up the capital to start a company and runs the risk of losing his shirt (not to mention his house) is the bad guy because he wants to maintain control of his assets."

No one with any sense is making that argument, Joanie. Of course entrepreneurs should be encouraged. In fact the playing field is tilted against them, in that most fields are now dominated by giants who will at best only allow you to manage one of their franchises. But I suppose we have mostly just the public to blame for not patronizing the mom and pops.

It's all a matter of degree. The sentiment I posted was that I was happy with the old standard rule of thumb-- that it was considered unseemly within the management industry for a CEO to take home more than forty times the wages of his shop floor employees. That kind of thinking discouraged hubris and contempt for the work force-- people who also formed an essential part of the company.

Then the eighties came along, and there was a wave of new CEO's whose simple trick was to fire half their work forces and threaten the other half if they didn't do two jobs for the pay of one.

Overnight, productivity was seen to have doubled. Showing the boards of directors how much money the companies were now making, these CEO's demanded comp to the tune of multimillion dollar packages, retirement benefits, stock options and instruments never seen before that could be obscured on the financial reports. These people were bandits.

They became so greedy employee retirements were the next to go, and people working there faithfully for forty years found on retirement that the funds placed with management for safekeeping had been rifled and put back into company pockets. On getting legal representation they then found that it had all been done quite legally. They had been screwed.

Big business is essential to our prosperity, and upper management is an essential part of the system. But so are the worker bees. A fair system will allow all parties to share the burdens equally, and not put them exclusively on the backs of a burdened and disposable work force.

Off the hook
"If the company starts to fumble or fails, the employees may lose their jobs; but the owner is on the financial hook to clean up the mess. What right do we have to tell an owner how much his risk is worth?"

I think you will agree that a vanishingly small number of businesses today are either sole ownerships or partnerships. Under the corporate system the stockholders are the owners, and no one-- especially not upper management-- is ever on the hook personally.

Take Enron as the egregious example. True, people are going to prison. But who is paying back the stolen money? Do you think Ken Lay will be forced to give up the mansions and toys he has been able to tuck away, to begin to satisfy the losses of workers he stole from? That's not our system.

Right now we see corporations across the land failing to fund employee retirement programs. It is perfectly legal for them to do this continually and openly, over as many years as it takes for those funds to fail. Then when they look to the Pension Guaranty Corp (a federal bailout entity) to fill up the now empty vault they only get a dribble from the tap. Because the PGC is out of funds too. Who loses? The guy who played it honest, and gave good value for a career working for the company.

Intentional communities
I think Lisa and I were saying exactly the same thing. We were talking about communities, communes, places where some things were commonly held. Kibbutzim and hippie earth people are both doing pretty much the same thing. Maybe in a simple view it means no one owns anything, but that's far from being the case.

It's more like a co-op apartment building. Some things are owned in common as a convenience to the individual owner, so that busy people don't have to worry about the furnace or the roof. The difference in an intentional community is that people enjoy living together, as a family. We've had such communities almost since the country was founded. Most have been religious groups wanting to live a different style of life. Some have just been flakes who like to eat wheat germ and have communal marriages.

I didn't take the topic to have much to do with blame slinging between the D's and the R's. That's a subject that for me gets old pretty quickly. Nixon in fact did many things that would have been anathematous for today's zealous extremists. Good for him.

Post script
Joe didn't blink an eye when a government investigation into gouging and fraud in Iraq contracts showed KBR (Kellogg Brown Root) to be culpable in misrepresenting the figures on their contracts, but paid them the money anyway on the grounds that their work was "essential". That's because the liberal press, if they ran the story at all, ran a two paragraph summary on page A14.

He sighed when the government he elected said they were making up the difference by slashing the Pell Grant program he himself had benefitted by, saying "I guess we just have to cut some corners somewhere."

A democrat gets up
A democrat gets up and takes a smoke of pot that he bought on the black market that exists completely without government regulation and subsidy and yet he can afford it and it does not kill him. Later in the evening he parties with a little heroin from a free from government regulation and subsidy black market and it does not kill him. He lives in country side and drinks well water. He makes money selling pot without paying social security and with no minimum wage protection. Of course he is hardly typical.

More typical is the NEA member teach who cares for the poor but in the area of schooling she makes an exception to this caring and fights vouchers tooth and nail because, “eh I gotta live you know”. She knows that it is impossible to subsidize the middle class and yet opposes charging the middle class and rich to send their children to government schools because well you know why.

Then there us the retired democrat who is concerned for the poor except when it comes to sensible SS reform like raising the minimum retirement age and making the benefit the same for everyone rich and poor because after all you know you got to take care of your self.

Then you got the people who do not send their children to government schools or take welfare or SS because they consider it receipt of stolen goods and yet they are forced to pay the taxes for such. Who cares for them?

Learn to read
Nowhere in my post did I say that it was Clinton who supported privatization of SS. I said there were Democrats who were in favor of the very thing that Bush is now in favor of, and they are now against it -- apparently just because Bush is for it.

Lisa incidentally makes no mention of the homeless. SHe mentions the poor (unless you think only the homeless are poor). And in context, her comments appear to particularly include those on welfare. She suggests that we should encourage the poor to be in communities where social pressure would make them work more. My fiancee, who used to be a social worker, has told me so many horror stories about people on welfare, it's ridiculous. She's gone from hard-core, card-carrying Leftist neo-Marxist liberal to libertarian precisely because of what she knows about the people on welfare. She estimates that perhaps 10% of all people on welfare actually need it. THe rest are cheating by using it as supplemental income in various ways. A common one is for a woman to get welfare while her boyfriend works. THe law says he cannot live there, so they simply do not report that he lives there. And, of course, they do not get married, because then they would lose all their benefits, and they wouldn't have a few thousand dollars of expendible income. She said that it is ridiculous how most subsidized housing units are furnished. I'll admit, I've generally been against welfare for more abstract economic reasons. I had suspected such things happen. But the reports I've received from her -- actual reports from someone who has actually been in the field (unlike the vast majority of you liberals) -- have more than cofirmed what I suspected from what I know of economics.

But what I do know of economics and of the social behaviors of social mammals also suggests that if we got rid of subsidized housing in the form of huge apartment buildings and rather let these people live in the general communities again -- as they had before -- then social pressures would get rid of a lot of this kind of cheating (rather than concentrating in one place, behind concrete, where no one else can see them, all the kinds of people who would cheat). Further, it would encourage the stability of marriage in these families, as well as encourage these people to work and be more honest, as well as discourage gang activity.

Incidentally, I have actually met some of the Rainbow Tribe, when I was living in Mississippi (where they winter), and they are for the most part not a bunch of idealists living in a commune, though they may have started off that way. Based on my discussions with them, I would guess that 90% of the adults were running from the law. THey joined more for protection of numbers, and in no small part because they were of a hippie bent already. But the group was mostly criminals. Their way of living is nothing to romanticize, let me tell you.

Incidentally, after meeting the Rainbow Tribe I wrote the following poem:

?The Rainbow People

He is drunk at nine
that morning -
nothing new -
he's been drunk since 1970,
twenty years,
homeless since,
a life he chooses
among friends,
hippies on a religious quest, shamanism
intertwined into their drinking.
Brother says they do it to show the world
this is how we're not to live.
He says this sitting in his kitchen,
blue tarp
held up by cut branches,
a fire pit in the center,
boiling water.
Twice as many here are in their twenties
escaping
- What?
Cities, civilization.
Children, blonde and dirt-streaked.
Women with long hair,
goateed men,
half have dusty dread locks.
Spaghetti cooks over a fire.
Guitars and Beatles songs,
standing up to every stereotype
as they spend the winter
just off New York Road,
among the pines of Mississippi.

Humans aren't dogs?
Humans and dogs are alike in many ways. Hunting packs of any social species have similarities in their social organization.

You can also find differences, if you want to make some point with a distinction. I was making a point with the similarities.

Human behavior also may vary with individual cultures. We used to have around 7,000 such individual ways of being human. Now we are all pretty much joining one of the two dominant world cultures.

In Paraguay there was a culture that practised infanticide on all its natural children, and made up its ranks by adopting or stealing children from other tribes. None of the members of this tribe were related by blood. We can't overly generalize about human behavior.

POOR BABIES!!!
oh my goodness. not being able to pick and choose what taxes to pay. What an injustice! what a travesty!

What about the rich connected Republican insider company that overbills the government $200 million dollars according to government auditors, denies it, has politicians fix it BUT STILL DOESN'T GET $6 million of hte $200 million back, even after the fix. No sympathy for them -- I mean, they have to take care of themselves too!

Do you know what capital formation is?
Capital formation is not about the money supply--although they are not unrelated because of inflations deliterious effects on the economy. Forming capital is the process by which saving and investment is used to increase the stock of plant and equipment (known as capital) and of course technological innovation. Included in this process is R&D.
Consumer spending is great but it is the rate of savings and investment that really counts. When these are reduced then the rate at which new plant, equipment, R&D etc is also reduced--the end result is that productivity does not rise and therefore wages will stagnate. You are confused and need to study up on your economics.

The failures of Plymouth colony
Exactly who commonly holds these beliefs? They do not match the written accounts of the time. First, they left a detailed account about being taught how to plant corn by "Squanto". Second, the original colony was only half religious dissenters. The other half was made up of ordinary English. The proportion of separatists and Church of England varied over the next several years as different ships arrived but the colony was never pure separatist.

There are no accounts of the Pilgrim getting any handouts from the Indians. A failed colony in the Boston area did neglect agriculture and ended up depending on the natives for food until they could take passage back to England.

Maybe you are confusing Plymouth and Jamestown. The Virginia colonists did have real trouble supporting themselves and did depend on food from the Powhattens for a time until relations broke down and they started starving.

dogs and cats
Human's aren't birds either. Birds often travel in flocks.
Human's aren't fish, fish travel in schools.

Just declaring that certain animals have a trait that may or may not parallel a trait found in human's is not sufficient to declare that other traits found in those animals can be analogized into humans.

Before you can draw an analogy, you have to demonstrate why the analogy is relevant.

Suggested Reading
You might try reading The Mystery of Capital by Hernando DeSoto to gain some clarity and perspective on capital formation and property rights.

capitalism
Actually you can't find any cases where capitalism caused misery.

Either the misery predated capitalism, and capitalism was in the process of eliminating it, or the misery was caused by some system that the ignorant, such as yourself, mischaracterize as capitalism. Those on the left love to declare that any system that isn't pure communism, is capitalism. This isn't true, but that never stopped those with an agenda from spreading that lie.

Social equity is nothing more than a code word for socialism, since the goals and methods for both are identical.

As to the rich not being paid in relation to their contributions, I would say that is up to the employers to determine, not you.

Then what's the issue with Democrats?
Regarding Democrats on SS privatization -- yes, there were some who proposed it duing a period of resarching under Clinton, but no proposal was introduced, and I don't understand why this is being brought up as a gigantic instance of hypocrisy, particularly since you're not bringing up any specific names.

Regarding the welfare state -- you're arguing against a model that Clinton led in retiring. The proposal for minicommunities is actually being implemented in some places, notably in LA's Dome Village, but these things depend on good local leadership and can go very, very sour, human nature being what it is -- as your experience wth the rainbow tribe indicates.

morality
Why does your sense of what is "seemly" trump the sense of the people who own the company?

privatization
If you had a shred of honesty, you would acknowledge that the only difference between Clinton's program, and the one Bush proposed was, who would control the SS accounts.
The Democrats wanted govt to decide which companies would get invested in, the Republicans wanted private individuals to make that decision.

You claim that the only issue was saving SS. If that is the case, why did the Democrats who wanted to save SS in the 1990's, suddenly decide that SS was not in trouble after 2000?

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