Monday, July 5, 2010

On Government

Alright, this blog post might end up being rather long, but it has become entirely too necessary. I’ve had to repeat myself far too many times.

I’ve been arguing with people all over the net about “Government”

First, let me define what I mean by Government. Government is a system of organization within a collective which directs the actions of the collective, controls the shared resources of the collective and which distributes those shared resources in the way which benefits the collective most efficiently. A government will always arise as the natural result of human pack instinct because it enables efficient division of labor and allocation of resources. It doesn’t matter what form this organization takes, be it a tribal council, a council of elders, a Men’s or Women’s council, a Fiefdom, a Vassalage, Dukedom, Republic, Monarchy or Democracy, the very organization itself will always be created by any group of people . This organization “Governs” the collective, and is thus a “Government”

So in essence, a Government is an inherent fact of human existence. It’s bred into our genes.  Every group of humans that comes together for any purpose will inevitably create a “government” within the group.

Animals do this too, though most animals cannot form “societies” larger than a few dozen to a few hundred individuals, but in every animal species which forms a social group, they instinctively self organize into a hierarchy with “leaders” and “followers”

Why? Because of two simple reasons. Survival , and Reproduction.

Survival is a basic drive for any animal. It directs us to daily seek out the resources needed to continue one’s existence. To survive, we need food, shelter from the elements, medical care, education, and security.

Let’s use a wolf pack as an example. It hunts for food, creates a den for shelter from the elements, follows certain hygienic practices to maintain its health, teaches it’s young, and surrounds itself with a group to increase the security of every individual.

It makes it very easy to see how a lack of any of these basic needs could jeopardize the wolf’s survival, no? If he can’t find food, he’ll starve to death. If he can’t find a den, he can’t shelter from the elements, meaning every storm could kill him, every blizzard freeze him to death. If he doesn’t take those basic hygene steps (i.e. grooming, etc) his health will suffer, he could get sick, and die. If his parents hadn’t educated him, he wouldn’t have survived his first day in the wild and died. And if he’s all alone, he has no help to defend himself against fellow predators.

Examining the needs of animals provides us with a very clear understanding that any animal thus has five basic requirements that together constitutes “Survival”: Food to eat, Shelter to live in, Healthcare to prevent illness, education to cope with the environment, and security to be free from threats.  By forming packs, wolves thus self organize into a collective where every member can contribute and share responsibility for provision of these five NEEDS. This is known as division of labor. Each wolf divides the total labor of any one wolf in proportion with the number of wolves in the pack. If one brings down a large animal, they all share, reducing the burden of each wolf towards hunting. Some can stay and watch pups while others go hunt. Some can stand guard while others sleep. The healthy can share with the sick. Etc.

By forming an organization, wolves thus create a system which A: Controls the Collective actions, B: Controls the Shared resources of the Collective, and C: Allocates shared resources to benefit the Collective as efficiently as possible.


We can see the same self organization in a primitive tribe as well. The tribe works together to ensure the tribes survival, using division of labor to multiply the efficiency of each individual, and thus provide the five NEEDS to each individual at much reduced cost in individual effort. In a prosperous tribe, it might be possible to acquire all needs for a week with just a few hours of combined effort by all individuals.

This is what makes such organization a strong survival trait. Any animal which forms such an organization will have a much higher survival chance than those which do not form such organizations. Because such animals will have a greater likelihood of having all five of their basic NEEDS met, promoting species growth.

In humans, we can increase this beyond just providing for basic NEEDS though, because we have created systems which can not only allocate resources efficiently but which can do so across time as well. A resource collected today can be stored for use at a later time, thus enabling human labor to produce far more than just the basic NEEDS. This excess becomes stored for later use, and as the “storehouse” grows, it enables the group to provide for more people, who contribute just that much more to the “storehouse” in an endless loop of improvement.

Thus we can state that a Government is an organization used to collectively provide the five basic NEEDS to all members by controlling collective shared resources and allocating them efficiently throughout the collective, enabling a self recursive loop of increasing returns that enables growth.

It doesn’t matter what it is called, a business, a state, a nation, or a group, every collective will have a “government” and will be working to provide the five basic NEEDS. We’ve managed to complicate the levels of division of labor in modern society so far that it might not be obvious, but it is nonetheless true. The job you work will have a chain of command which will maximize the productivity of the individuals that make up the collective, and that chain of command is a “Government”

Humans today can be part of hundreds of “Collectives” of varying sizes, each of which will contribute in varying degrees to providing the five NEEDS or survival, but despite this complex explosion of collectives, nothing has changed in the basic, DNA driven, reasons behind this spontaneous self organization.

Looked at by itself, it should be obvious that were man driven by survival alone, we should have long ago created a paradise on earth where no one had to work more than a few minutes a month to provide for the five basic NEEDS. After all, collaboration enables a collective to be a positive sum game of ever increasing bounty right?

So why do we still have things like poverty and suffering?

Because mankind has a secondary drive, remember? Reproduction. Our reproductive drive takes that survival instinct that makes us create governments and throws a giant monkey wrench into it. Survival drives us to a collective strategy, but mating is an individual effort on the part of our DNA.

I could spend pages going over all the ways we’ve come up with to promote mating success, but the key factor to look at is the fact that within a collective, this behavior leads to “Status Seeking”. A high “Status” individual within a collective has access to the best of everything, while a low “Status” one will have significantly less access. Thus the ability of the “Government” to allocate shared resources becomes skewed by granting higher “priority” to high status individuals, and lower priority to low status ones. Where survival alone would enable the collective to provide equally to all, “status” gives preferential access to high status individuals to the collective’s resources and removes access to low status individuals.

So why does status seeking evolve from reproductive instincts? Because a “high status” indicates “better breeding stock”.  Back in the tribal days, a “superior hunter” would have high status, be given the best food, live in the best hut, get the best medical care, have been taught the best “knowledge” and be the best protected member. It would also make him the focus of the “mating competition” allowing him access to, and his choice of, bedmates.  But status is not just about “hunting”. Humans have evolved numerous status “markers” which indicate varying “desirability” traits. In and of themselves, none of this is really “bad” for humans, except that we humans like to pretend we aren’t “driven by instincts”

It’s this refusal to admit we have instincts that allow these instinct driven behaviors to run unchecked, and that’s what gets us into so much trouble.

Why? Because one of the markers we have created to mark “Status” is the accumulation of material wealth.  

Human labor produces material wealth. It produces far more material wealth than any individual human has NEEDS. If all production by a group were divided equally, everyone would have a large surplus, which would be usable to provide for new individuals.

But these shared resources are NOT SHARED equally, but are instead shared according to status. Thus a high status person is “entitled” to a greater share than a low status person. Long ago, we created a simplified means of keeping track of how a big a share each person got. It’s called MONEY. Money is an IOU for a percentage of the collective’s shared resources.

So to strip things down to their essentials, Humans are driven by survival instincts to create “governments” to administer collective shared resources and allocate division of labor. This is a Collective Process, which is a positive sum game. The larger the group, the more resources it can generate. Technological innovation increases the efficiency of human labor and adds even more positive growth.

This positive sum game exists to ensure that the five basic NEEDS of survival are met by the Collective.

Reproductive instinct is an Individual instinct, which places every human in competition with every other. This results in STATUS seeking behavior, which is a zero sum game. Status can only be gained or lost relative to others in the Collective, so any “wins” are at a “loss” to someone else.

Every human is driven by these two drives, and if you understand this, it thus becomes easy to see why we still have poverty and suffering in a world which SHOULD be able to provide every human NEED easily.
Human instinct causes us to work to ensure our survival with the least individual effort, enabling us to create an enormous surplus of resources...


We create governments to manage collectives, which are then subverted by individuals seeking to elevate their personal status by diverting more and more shared resources into private “hoards”

And because we refuse to recognize this instinct, we allow status seeking behavior to even play with the five basic NEEDS. We’ve turned survival into just another marker in the status game. In fact, we’ve even come up with a fancy name for the Status game, The MARKET.

Everything on the Market is a status marker. The food you buy, the clothes you wear, the entertainment you can afford, these are all “status symbols”. They are all created by the Collective through division of labor to meet the five basic NEEDS, but we’ve lost that understanding due to the massive complexity of the status seeking game. We’ve allowed NEEDS to be become just another marker.

Because of this, we’ve allowed all excess production beyond mere subsistence (i.e. the absolute BARE MINIMUM meeting of NEEDS, barely sufficient to maintain life) to become the diverted into status seeking.

We can see this in the wolf pack as well. The pack pecking order will have an “Alpha” and a “below Beta” who is barely permitted to survive, with every other wolf falling somewhere between them in status, and amount of shared resources they are permitted to claim.

If you then look to our world, what do you see?

A government which seeks to efficiently share collective resources for the good of the entire collective, at war with a market that seeks to divert all resources into individual status “markers”

This is because the Government and the Market exist to fulfill opposing drives. The Government exists to ensure survival, the Market exists to ensure reproduction.

I can’t make it any simpler than that, and a lot of you will try to claim I am simplifying too much, but once you strip away all the justifications and rationalizations we have created to hide the instinctual drives we have which create both the Government and the Market, this is what it comes down to.

And thus, you will hear a Randian “Libertarian” claiming that “Government is evil” because rather than accept the fact that any system which governs the behavior of the collective is a “Government” they personify government as a “criminal” and then seek to blame government as a whole for the actions of the individuals in the government who are diverting government’s functions to improve their own status. They are thus blaming the collective for the crimes of the individuals who actually committed them, absolving these “high status” individuals from the consequences of their actions. 

They then usually attempt to describe a “governmentless” system in which the Market becomes the “government” only they refuse to admit that this is what they are trying to do. Since the market exists solely as a system for determining “status” it becomes clear that the intent is to allow high status individuals unlimited right to do as they please, with the unspoken assumption on the part of the typical “libertarian” that if the market was allowed to be “Free”, they would “naturally” rise to the alpha class.

You will of course hear an enormous number of rationalizations as to why this is not true, but it almost always comes down to “I hate the government because I think the government is preventing me from being an alpha elite” once you’ve broken down the semantics and gotten to the motives behind the words.

It also becomes clearer as you continue to converse with a Randian “Libertarian” that they do actually seek to create a “government” because they want all the advantages a government provides, i.e. the five basic NEEDS of Food, Shelter, Medical care, Education, and Security, but they don’t want to call it “Government” even though it is one. They want a government in which “Status” controls everything, though they continually try to claim that such a system can somehow be unbiased. They refuse to accept the fact that status based, market driven “Government” cannot be unbiased, as it will ALWAYS FAVOR HIGHER STATUS.

We’ve tried this idea in the past. It’s the basic “government mode” for the human species. It’s the “default” genetic behavior.

But Randian “Libertarians” seem to think that somehow, we can run in this mode and have a different result than we have had 99 million times before. That somehow, it won’t produce the exact same “aristocracy” and “serfs” that it has done for all of human history.

In some books, that is the definition of insanity.

The same basically can be said of “Conservatives” who follow Randian ideals, they want small government and no regulation to allow the “Market” to become the primary “government”, but it their case it’s not so much about “becoming an elite” as it is “staying an elite”

And sadly, you also have “Progressives” who want to make the “Government” so powerful that it overwhelms individuality, and forces all members to become the “same status” forgetting that our instincts will rebel against this, as Russia proved so well.

So obviously, we need to create a balance in which both instincts can be harnessed to serve humanity rather than allowing these drives to force humanity to serve them. Humans are the sole animal capable of “rerouting” these instincts to become tools for our personal use.

The first step to “taming” the instincts is to acknowledge that they exist. We will create collectives, which will have governments. These will provide the Five Basic Needs of Food, Shelter, Healthcare, Education, and Security.  Governments are a genetic tool for the survival of the collective, intended to provide for the well being of the collective. It is a naturally emergent phenomena of the collective and is a positive survival trait because it inevitably creates a pool of “surplus” shared resources which enable growth and expansion. It exists to serve the NEEDS of the individuals within the collective as a COLLECTIVE WHOLE.

We will also form “Status Levels” within the collective, driven by reproductive instincts which seek to maximize genetic potential. This is an Individual behavior, driving individual actions to maximize “status” within the collective, and thus it is also a naturally emergent phenomena. Like Survival, it will compel humans to form groups and to seek “status” within that group. It seeks to ensure individual mating success at all costs to “rivals” up to and including “eliminating” them from competition through death..

We thus have two competing drives which force humans to form “packs”, but which are in direct conflict each other, and have caused nearly all human misery since time began. Poverty exists because all group resources become subject to “Status Tributes” diverting all resources into one individual’s “pocket” or another’s, leaving the absolute barest minimum left for the collective whole. Nearly all “low status” production is demanded as “tribute” to high status individuals, subverting the ability of the collective to provide for NEEDS.

If you understand that THE COLLECTIVE includes all subcollectives within a society, i.e. every form of “government” be it “Government” or “Corporate Organization” or “Religious Organization” or whatever, it then becomes clear that regardless of how “specialized” or “subdivided” our “division of labor” has become, the total action of the “Collective” is still to provide for “NEEDS”, then you can look at our current world situation, and see that the overwhelming fact that the vast majority of TOTAL HUMAN PRODUCTION is being diverted into the “pockets” of a small number of “Alpha Elite’s” to improve and maintain their “Status”. 

Corporatism is a subset of this effort, intended to keep the “status” of certain “Subcollectives” high so that the individuals profiting personally from their status within those subcollectives will not lose their status, or so they can attain higher status.

The entire debate on Universal Medical Care centered on status as well, as those who’s status depended on profiting from providing this NEED fought to ensure their continued profits and status. Financial reform is the same thing. Those on Wallstreet seek to keep profiting at all costs to keep their status, and improve it, no matter who on the lower status tiers suffers.

We are surrounded by evidence that “Status” is a very poor way to ensure “HUMANITIES” survival, because it is entirely focused on the reproductive instinct. Nor will it create a world in which equality or freedom exists, because it is inherently stratifying into High status and Low status, with deference extended to high, and deference expected from low.

Only by acknowledging this can we begin creating a means to harness these drives for our benefit. We have to acknowledge that Government is a Collective strategy, and that the Market is a Competitive strategy, and that our best course of action is to KEEP THEM SEPARATE BUT BALANCED.

Government EXISTS to enable sharing of resources to provide the FIVE BASIC NEEDS. Thus its role has ALWAYS been to ensure that every human has Food, Shelter, Medical care, Education, and Security. This is its sole function. Every form of government of every sort, from nations to business hierarchies, is involved in this single task. We as individuals join these collectives precisely because they provide these five basic NEEDS to one degree or another. In most cases, this is through providing “Money”, which is an IOU marker for the percentage of total shared resources created by the combined total of all subcollectives within the overall Collective.

The Market EXISTS to enable the determining of STATUS within the collective to determine mating success (though since technology has been increasingly enabling us to separate SEX from REPRODUCTION this fact has become ever more obscured). Its role is to stratify the collective to ensure the “best genetic material” has greater opportunity to reproduce. All items in the market are markers in the complex game that has resulted in the drive to seek status. This has not only been responsible for much of human innovation and creativity, but has also been responsible for most human misery through denial of access to shared resources produced by the collective.

Let me see if I can reduce this down to bullet points

  • The government is a naturally occurring emergent behavior of pack/herd mentality. It enables collective resource sharing, division of labor, efficient allocation of shared resources to the individuals, and in general provides for the Five Basic NEEDS of Food, Shelter, Medical care, Education, and Security.

  • The market is a product of reproductive behavior that drives pack/herds to create Status pecking orders. These pecking orders self stratify, creating High status and low status members. Pack instinct demands "privilege" for high status, and enforces "obedience" on low status. 

  • Both of these drives make us form societies, but their effects are radically different

  •  Co-operation is a Positive Sum Game. It promotes creation of excess resources that then promote species growth

  • Competition is a Zero Sum Game. It promotes the mating success of "superior genetic material" which then promotes species improvement.

  • Government is thus a Survival instinct. It creates all Growth through providing the 5 needs of all organisms.

  • The Market is thus a Reproductive instinct. It creates NO growth, but encourages the development of IMPROVEMENTS. 

  • Government provides STABILITY

  • Market provides INNOVATION

  • But the Status game also creates SERIOUS DRAWBACKS. Most of the problems of humanity are actually DUE to these drawbacks caused by the reproductive instincts. Status seeking behavior leads to diversion of collective resources into personal "status hoards" We call this diversion, "CORRUPTION" "ABUSE" "OPPRESSION" etc.

  • Every problem that most people try to stick on "The Government" is actually caused by INDIVIDUALS within Government that are DIVERTING SHARED RESOURCES INTO PERSONAL STATUS SEEKING EFFORTS.

  • We NEED both instincts, the co-operative and the competitive. The real problem is the subversion of co-operative "power" to promote personal competitive goals. This occurs because in many cases those who divert or misuse co-operative power to further personal agendas escape all accountability for their actions. Too many people confuse the collective for individuals who are directing those collectives, and end up absolving these individuals for their behavior by shifting the blame to a imaginary entity.

Of all the systems of “Government” we have experimented with over the centuries, Democracy is the sole system in which the majority is not subjugated to the minority of high status individuals. It does have flaws in that under current technological conditions, the majority of humans are insufficiently educated to be able to participate in a democracy as an “Informed Rational” agent. This leads to the common dismissal of democracy as an “Idiocracy”.  People vote based on irrational “feelings” or allow themselves to be swayed by illogical “arguments” that depend on their lack of education to promote ideologies which are directly opposed to their personal well-being. A” true” Democracy can only exist in a society in which all individuals have unrestricted access to not only information, but to an education sufficient to enable every individual to be able to understand that information, and be aware of logical fallacies and the self serving nature of ideological viewpoints. It also requires absolute transparency of government, because any secrecy allows individuals to subvert the collectives’ resources into personal status seeking behavior.

Thus we have not yet reached a point technologically or socially in which these requirements can be met. A totally open government in a world in which multiple “governments” exist would be a disaster due to the competitive nature of status seeking. Only in a world in which no “rival” governments exist can a transparent government be enabled. Without rivals, there is no justification of “secrecy” other than attempts to hide diversion of shared resources into private status. Nor have we the means to ensure that every human has been educated to their fullest potential, as each individual learns differently and no two share the exact same interests and learning styles...

...YET. That seems likely to change.

As I see trends developing, the current trends in government corruption have run headlong into the participatory panopticon, the ability of the public to record and retain evidence of public officials actions and behavior. As Jon Stewart shows frequently, we now have the ability to record politicians and compare their words over the course of time, which enables us to not only reveal the self serving "status building" they do by catering to special interests, but to use that evidence freely as a "external memory"

As we develop VR and AR in the next few years, cameras are going to become universal. What now can be done to politicians will become a feature of daily life. We will record our lives in enormous detail to enable us to merge virtual and real in a digital wonderland, and those recordings will become evidence when needed.

This kind of "perfect memory" will also enable us to vastly improve the education level of everyone. With efficient "memory agents" we will have every detail of every bit of knowledge we have ever encountered available to each of us instantly, with the ability to research new knowledge nearly as fast via the internet.

And like the Truth Machine in James Halprin's book this "personal black box" will enable us to vastly simplify our transactions by removing the ability to deceive from being a factor in human interactions. No one can lie when their personal record, or that of anyone else who is present, can record the exact factual record of any event.

Thus the PRIMARY requirement for any democracy is ACCOUNTABILITY. Every member of a democracy MUST be ACCOUNTABLE to every other member of that democracy. Every member of the democracy needs to be accountable to the government, and most importantly that government HAS TO BE COMPLETELY ACCOUNTABLE TO THE INDIVIDUAL.

Without that accountability, Status seeking behavior will be the dominant activity of nearly every political figure. Ubiquitous recording will gradually FORCE that accountability onto them, reducing their ability to divert resources into personal "status". 
 This will lead us gradually towards that "transparent government" model and eventually to a single world wide Athenian Democracy.

Another thing it will do is eliminate the necessity for so many laws. For example two people decide to trade goods or services. Right now, such a trade would require a formally written contract, defining precisely what is being traded, precisely what it is being traded for, and reams of other precisely defining terms that go up enormously in complexity depending on precisely what is being traded. This is all to ensure that both parties are accountable for their actions.

But if both parties have personal recorders, and they are in a public place which is also recording (like a store) the transaction can be a simple handshake. If any dispute arises, the judge can consult both their records and the locations, and see PRECISELY what occurred, as opposed to having to listen to each side attempt to favor their side, and figure out who's lying.

Laws will always be needed, but guaranteed accountability will enable us to simplify human interactions and help us identify those who constantly seek loopholes to avoid accountability, and over time, eliminate those loopholes.

Consider it debugging the human social program. 

However, that is in the future. Under current conditions, even with these flaws, Democracy is STILL the sole means in which the low status majority is LEAST subject to the minority of high status individuals. What is needed to improve the ability of the democracy to provide for the collective is to recognize the role of “government” in the provision of NEEDS. In the past, this was accomplished by each individual “surrendering” a portion of their “labor” to the collective, and in exchange they received a “share” of those resources “surrendered to the collective” by other individuals that met their NEEDS for Food, Shelter, Health Care, Education, and Security.

Our civilization has become ENORMOUSLY complex, but this basic process is still the same. The individual contributes to the collective in exchange for provision of NEEDS by the collective in an exchange which - through division of labor - maximizes the collective’s production while minimizing individual effort.

The next time you hear a Randian “Libertarian” saying “taxation is theft” think about the sheer number of benefits the average person receives from the various collectives they are a member of. It doesn’t matter if it is “tax” or “hours of work” or “physical labor” the individual is contributing “their labor” in exchange for the receiving of NEEDS. Taxation is no more “theft” then a “job” Is theft. In both cases you are exchanging a percentage of your “labor” to a Collective in exchange for one or more of your NEEDS being met. For it to be "theft" it would require a one sided exchange, with no benefits returned. If I worked 80 hours for a paycheck and didn't get one that would be theft, if I paid taxes and then was stopped at the end of my driveway and told I couldn't drive on the road my taxes pay for, that would be theft. But since I benefit from that exchange, it is not theft, no matter how they try to twist it.

No matter how many loops and sub collectives may exist within the whole, the entire Mandelbrot mess is still reducible to this fact.

Which is why I advocate for the true “RIGHTS” of humanity, those which are undeniable, the five NEEDS. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are ALL dependent on these five basic NEEDS, and impossible to have without them. For Government to provide its GENETICALLY DRIVEN function, it must provide for those five NEEDS. We have, however, allowed so many various “subcollectives” to come into being that this basic drive has become obscured by the thousands of interconnected “governments” we function under as members of thousands of differing and conflicting “collectives”

By “simplifying” things, and realizing that the essential role of “government” has remained identical through all human history, and throughout all species of animal who form “societies” it should be clearly seen that removing NEEDS from the market and returning them to their rightful place as the priorities of government, can thus minimize the ability of individuals to use NEEDS as markers in the social status game.

This will however be resisted enormously by those who receive “status” benefits from the control of NEEDS.
The result for the collective is extremely beneficial , though, because by separating NEEDS from STATUS, it frees the market from having to provide needs, and thus enables a less destructive transition from an Economy of Scarcity, to an Economy of Abundance, by accelerating the shift from material to non-material  “wealth” creation. Without this separation, the inevitable collapse of the market for “Material Goods” due to increasing automation and computerization will create a massive disruption in the provision of NEEDS for a significant majority of the world, which could lead to widespread violence prior to the rebuilding of the market through “Non Material Goods”

In the long run, advancing technology will force this separation to occur regardless, and create a balanced society of individuals who “govern” the collective via an “Athenian Democracy” in which every member has an equal vote regardless of social status, and who participate in a “Market” in which individual merit has become the primary “token” by which “Status” is judged, as technology will eliminate all value from every other “token” by enabling morphological freedom, and human enhancement, as well as completely divorcing sex from the reproductive act (in essence, decoupling the instincts from the consequences) but failure to begin moving towards this end result in the present is likely to multiply enormously the number of human lives lost as we transition towards this future.