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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We made it all up



     We made it all up. The hard reality of political science, we made that up. The cruel laws of economics, we made that up. There is nothing natural about politics or economics, we made it all up. The orbital mechanics of planetary motion is real, the moon will go on without humans, and the rings of Saturn exist even when we are not looking. Politics and economics are entirely manmade, existing only in our collective minds, and taking many thousands of years to invent.
     Political systems are of the powerful, by the powerful and for the powerful. The rest of us are just along for the ride. Those political institutions that won wars survived, early Kingdoms fought each other with the best marital technology and military organization winning. The foot soldiers often changed sides because who was King made no real difference to their daily life. The foot soldier fought and tried not to die for whoever claimed to be in charge. (Sometimes changing sides or surrendering wasn’t an option, for those losing a battle the best option was to run.) The foot soldier was paid with loot, winning battles and taking everything you could carry was considered a good career. The King got most of the loot and all of the property and people conquered, altogether this created stable, if short term, political entities. This political system of monarchies ended with Napoleon Bonaparte, he demonstrated the military power of an early representative government, as did George Washington. Humans had made up a new political system which then proved itself on the battle field. The test of best was played out again in the first half of the twentieth century, between Democracy and Tyranny and later between Democracy and Communism. Democracy won on the battle field and established itself as preeminent. Today even Middle Eastern Theocracies are democratically elected, well sort of; it seems to be one man, one vote, one time.
     We took 10,000 years to move from clan leader to tribal chief to regional King to national Kingdoms to Democracy, so this isn’t a very fast process. Grecian democracy and the Roman republic both fell to rampaging Kings, Alexander the Great conquered Greece in 322 BCE and the Germanic King Flavius Odoacer took out Rome in the late fifth century, naming himself King of Italy. Why this early system failed is still debated, the going explanation for a couple of millennia was that Kingdoms beat representative government. America’s founding fathers had grave doubts about their political experiment and the French revolution wasn’t very inspiring, but humans continued to experiment with new politics and tested their systems on the world’s battle fields. Winning battles takes lots of soldiers with lots of supplies led by good generals, Democracies repeatedly did all this better than Kingdoms.
     All political systems have the approval of religion. The Egyptian Pharaoh was a God and the head of both church and state, the medieval Kings claimed to be chosen by God, modern Iran is the earthly work of God (Allah if you prefer), and our American democracy is based on the God given natural rights of man. I sometimes wonder if religion is made up as well.
     Economics is another slowly developing human construct, a system for concentrating wealth made up by people with concentrated wealth. Banking was discovered early, bankers often angered Kings and political leaders. A typical response by Kings was to default on loans and execute any complaining banker. Recently the bankers have figured how to own the government with the bottomless depth of tax payer money. Bankers use to fear political leaders, now political leaders fear bankers. This is an unstable arrangement and will not last very long. Bankers are survivors, outlasting the barter system, then the mercantile system and next, they will outlast capitalism.
     It is important to the most successful capitalist that economics be considered irrefutable natural law. They derive formulations with names such as, “The Iron Law of Wages”, which clearly states that wages must always become the minimum required to sustain the life of the worker. That sounds rather self serving to me, corporations can reduce wages and cite having no choice because of the “Iron Law of Wages”, not my fault folks, the devil (the cruel laws of economics) made me do it. To this iron law I must ask, who will buy your products if all make just enough for food and shelter? The answer is that we made it all up, and the basic objective is the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The only irrefutable economic law I perceive is greed, and that always eventually self destructs.
     We are currently living in a moment where the made up system of money is dominating the made system of politics and religion. As noted, this is unstable, political leaders wish their spot in history, religious leaders wish their Sunday tithes and both will eventually call the rich to their moral comeuppance, a few money lenders and stock brokers will go to jail. Knowing that the system will eventually balance is little comfort when most live in the moment. An empty stomach today can not be filled by a promise of tomorrow.

1 comment:

Shirley said...

The subject matter is thought provoking; I generally agree, except I believe God is real. In my view,
man doesn't truly understand God, as he thinks he does. But my point of view is subject to debate. Otherwise, I find your views very enlightening.