February 15, 2010
In Das Kapital Karl Marx accomplished many things. He set out a picture of history that reinforced Darwin's theories of evolution by applying those theories to human societies. He put humanity in a strict, atheistic framework that he assumed was more rational than religion and in doing so, sought to discredit any and all forms of religion. Of course, by doing so he also made the cynical and highly narcissistic claim that his view of reality was the only religion humanity should ever have and the only science worth studying. Karl Marx is true father of all modern social sciences because Das Kapital is the first work with the arrogance to claim itself as a scientific study of society.
Karl Marx died in disgrace. Genuine scholars ignored him completely. It was only through the evangelical work of his disciple Friedrich Engels that Das Kapital gained any relevance whatsoever. And now we live in a world where Marx's egocentric worldview has permeated almost every aspect of our lives. For example, there is an assumption that in an emergency the government should enact strict laws to enforce "the common good" at the expense of any and all civil rights until such time as the emergency is declared over. One of the main reasons Katrina had such a devastating effect on New Orleans was because those who remained in the city did so on the assumption that the government was responsible for taking care of them. This is a core philosophy straight out of Das Kapital.
The world a few weeks ago was fixated on Haiti. The terrible results of the earthquake compelled the world to send hundreds of billions of dollars in aid. Mark my words, despite this huge influx of capital once the dust settles and the elites pocket their "fair share", the majority of the people will still be living in abject poverty. This collective outpouring of wealth would never have happened in the 19th Century. It is only because of Marx's didactic that the world feels responsible to alleviate the suffering of a nation that has spent the past century and a half crushing the ability of the people to care for themselves. The Marxist idea that the government is responsible for the people, instead of the people being responsible for themselves, led to land confiscations, food confiscations, and a concentration of wealth in the hands of Haiti's ruling elite. Apparently their "responsibility" to the people did not include enforcing a modern building code.
The problem that arises under a Marxist view of humanity is that it ignores human nature. Karl Marx was convinced that humanity would soon be transformed into a utopian paradise where the working class would control the resources and as a result, there would be no poverty and no economic elite. Under his social evolution, the next step following capitalist industrialization would be a revolt of the working class resulting in the destruction of the economic elite and the command of the means of production being captured by the working class. This utopian ideal ignores one simple reality of human nature: people are lazy.
Human nature began when a group of primates living on the African Savannah decided to supplement their diet of fruit, seeds, leaves, and nuts with the meat scavenged from corpses abandoned by predators. Why did they do this? Because it was easier to bash apart bones with rocks and eat the marrow than it was to spend all day wandering around looking for fruit and nuts. Laziness, not ambition and not creativity, created the change in diet that made possible bigger brains, more complex social structure, and eventually, cities. The history of humanity is not an evolutionary trek toward some kind of utopia. The history of humanity is a constant search for some way to exploit the resources of the land without actually working for them.
Scavenging supplemented gathering. Hunting supplemented scavenging but led to dietary problems that required meat be supplemented by plant fiber, leading to a new situation where gathering became the supplemental activity. When the climate shifted and game became scarce, people took the first steps to do something truly new: they captured animals and planted seeds. Why did they do this? So they wouldn't have to wander all over the place following herds and searching for grains. They got lazy and decided it would be better to have the meat and plants close at hand.
Agriculture led to surpluses. Laziness again took charge as people devised ways to store the surpluses so they could take a year off from farming now and again. As stockpiles increased, some people realized that if they could convince the village to feed them from the surplus, they wouldn't have to ever farm again. When the village objected, they went to the next village and stole their surplus. Groups of people realized that stealing was a whole lot easier than farming, forcing the villages to defend themselves and creating the need for a group of people who did not farm. Instead, they studied ways to defend the village and practiced fighting.
Pretty soon the fighters replaced the shamans and priests as the most important people in the community. They used their new found importance to force the farmers to spend the winter months building fortifications, palaces, and all the furnishing they needed to reinforce the superiority of their position. Some people realized that in the right circumstances, building stuff was easier than planting crops, weeding vegetables, pruning trees, and raising livestock. These people formed partnerships with the fighters, leading to the first class-based societies in India, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. A short time later China followed suit by re-organizing its wandering cities into permanent locations.
In all four places, these cities began fighting for dominance. War, large-scale war involving tens of thousands of professional soldiers, proved to have many advantages. First of all, it allowed you to capture your neighbor's stores, enabling you to eat better without working for it, or in some cases, because your own farmers had experienced a poor harvest. It also reduced the number of mouths that needed feeding. Rulers who embraced this idea and built their communities around it were quickly labeled as "evil" by neighboring cities that felt the pain of constant raids and invasions.
Then they started capturing their enemies instead of killing them all. This produced even more advantages. Now the farmers not only got to work less, they produced more food. Slaves required food, of course, but it is truly shocking how little food and material support a slave needs to survive if the only requirement is their ability to work.
Social classes became more entrenched. An assumption of entitlement grew in everyone. If you commanded armies and held slaves, then you were a more advanced human and entitled to more of the food the community produced. By trading with some cities and raiding others, you could also expand your material wealth, proving just how superior you were. Successful kings became emperors and being an emperor became the goal of every king.
There is no evolutionary compulsion. There is no striving for a better society. There is only individuals and groups of individuals who believe they are a more advanced form of human than the rest of us. When thrust into positions of power, these narcissists use that power to compel the rest of us to acknowledge this egocentric perception of grandeur. Their power brings wealth, and wealth enables them to bribe the foolish, the greedy, and the gullible into believing in their superiority strongly enough to provide layers of protection between they and the "ignorant masses", namely, you and I.
Revolution, in those rare occasions when it occurs, accomplishes one of two ends: it replaces the leading narcissists with another group of narcissists or it eliminates them entirely so the rest of society can return to farming and raising livestock without having to sacrifice the fruit of their labors to a parasitic entitled class. In most cases, it simply replaces one group of narcissists with another. In those rare cases where people are allowed to return to their lives, a neighboring narcissistic aristocratic class soon invades and creates a new parasitic relationship.
History, until the American and French revolutions of the 18th century, was a constant battle between a parasitic nobility and the societies they fed off of. However, it is also important to point out that society itself also gained something from the relationship and these benefits are what made the relationship attractive enough that it was replicated time and time again. The noble class gained access to the production of their people, and the people gained a limited freedom from worry about invasion. The producers offloaded the responsibility of personal defense onto the noble class and in return, the noble class took a portion of their production. Over time, the portion the noble class felt entitled to would naturally increase until it reached a point where the balance between the producer's cost for defense surpassed desire to indulge their inherent laziness. At that point someone would lead a rebellion or a migration and replace the existing noble class with themselves.
For a very short time following their revolution, the United States enjoyed an open society where every free member could succeed or fail on their own merits. The French experiment did not last long. Within a decade they had brought back the parasitic aristocratic class and restored them to power. The United States managed to hold off the encroachment for several generations. Then, in the middle of the 19th century, we fought a huge internal war between the parasites and the individualists. As fate would have it, the parasites won and the individualists fled into uncharted lands occupied primarily by native societies who had adopted a social structure built on the basis of tribes of wandering warrior-hunters who chased the buffalo and fought one another for control over the best hunting grounds.
Then gold and cattle became the foundation for a new class of economic elite who built cities and hired groups of loyal individualists to silence dissent. Darwin and Marx then stepped onstage to prove to the economic elite that they were indeed an entitled class superior to the run of the mill. Warfare between empires again surged, this time encompassing the entire globe.
And now once again we find ourselves rapidly solidifying into class-based societies with a ruling elite that believes their material success (often inherited from the people who acquired it) marks them as superior to the rest of us. Even worse, now the elites have global armies, global banks, global corporations, global crime syndicates, global trade franchises, and global social structures standing between themselves and the society they feed off of. So much wealth has been accumulated by these elites that they have been able to create elaborate structures of law, assumption, etiquette, education, and career path to reinforce their entitled position. They have even bribed and drugged the most impoverished classes into assuming that it is the elite's duty to take care of them.
On the other hand, to a great extent these broad claims are neither fair nor realistic. The modern world is the product of countless decisions by individuals, decisions taken for the same reason such decisions have always been made: laziness. Every individual searches endlessly for the easiest way to acquire the food and materials they need to feel comfortable. For some people that entails working extraordinarily hard for the first half of their life in order to enjoy the second half. For others, it means relying on the government for money to buy food, clothing, pay rent, and splurge on "entertainment".
Parasites now exist at all levels of human society. We feed off each other in a wild frenzy of self-destruction that can only end badly, and we know it. Those who bury themselves in self-indulgence are doing so because they know the end of our society is at hand. Those who lose themselves in our dizzying array of entertainment options do so because reality has become a minefield of social expectations running counter to humanity's inherent laziness. We are too lazy to fix our own individual lives and because we are, we know the world as a whole is headed toward disaster at breakneck speed.
The problems we are facing are all the result of two factors: humans are inherently lazy and we have been sold the idea that left to its own devices civilization will arrive at a Marxist utopia. The Marxist utopian dream is appealing because it hits where it counts most, our own penchant for laziness. Because Marx preached that this utopia was inevitable, those who have bought into the dream are working to bring it about through any means possible. Their motivation is the desire to be the leaders in the new worker's utopia so that they themselves will no longer need to work.
Marxism promises the fruits of labor and risk without the work. This ideal is so unrealistic that every attempt to implement it has resulted in even more dire oppression than the society it replaced. This ideal cannot work because human nature is lazy. Laziness is a preferred survival strategy because our world is based on the corruption of natural energy through decay. Food produces energy by decaying into its constituent chemical compounds. The body converts those compounds into more useful ones, and using those introduces additional decay, which must be eliminated as waste. The waste feeds new energy sources (plants and animals), which we consume, starting the cycle over again. This cycle only works in conditions that allow the right balance between work, which consumes energy, and laziness, which converts energy.
Marxism, like every social structure before it, offloads the work onto "lesser" humans so that the elite can focus on the conversion portion. As a result, the elites have energy to dream while the producers barely survive. The "higher intellect" the elites are so proud of is only possible because they offload so much of the work of energy production onto everyone else. As long as they can join the elite, those who prefer to avoid intellectual and creative pursuits are able to do so, which naturally has great appeal to their human nature. They don't have to do anything at all except consume.
The idea that humanity has a collective responsibility to both enable and maintain a social structure that feeds one class at the expense of another is parasitic. Marxism, no matter how politely it is phrased, is nothing more than yet another attempt to reinforce a class-based society with "social engineers" at the top who are responsible for telling the rest of us how to eat, when to reproduce, and where to sleep.
The danger of any and all social entitlement programs is that they enable more of us to feed off a decreasing production class. The advantage of a cold, cruel, free society is that the producers directly consume their production and if they don't produce, they die. This kind of forced productivity is not possible if it is imposed from the outside. The individual will not produce if their own survival is not dependent on the products of their own hands. We are inherently lazy, because laziness is the most effective way to exploit the energy of the natural system we evolved in. We are the products of our world and socialism (or social justice, or social responsibility, or communism, or any other collectivist ideal) is unnatural because it always creates a parasitic relationship between producers and consumers.
Humans are naturally lazy, because they are naturally lazy you cannot force them to work. The only way to create a society where everyone is gainfully employed is to create a society that rewards work. Marxism, or "socialism" if you prefer, does not reward work, instead, it reinforces parasitism. Parasitic relationships are always self-destructive. The only natural relationships that produce consistent results are symbiotic. When one individual profits through cooperation with another individual who also profits, then the natural order can produce successive generations. Those parasitic relationships that do occur in nature are always relationships which favor the host and not the parasite. Humans are too lazy to create such relationships. Our best hope is a society that replicates symbiosis. The only society capable of doing so is a free, capitalist society that is willing to let non-producers starve to the point where they are compelled to find productive work.
A husband and wife, for example, is a naturally symbiotic relationship. It does not matter which one is the producer and which one is the homemaker. Gender is irrelevant. The symbiosis occurs when one half of the pair "brings home the bacon" while the other half nurtures the children.
On the other hand, a single parent on welfare is a parasitic relationship. The parent contributes nothing to the society that feeds them, they only consume. Their children grow up under the assumption that the government is responsible for feeding them, clothing them, and providing them with entertainment. They have no motivation to learn the skills necessary to become producers.
This is why the paradox of a mother who leaves home to earn money working in daycare is good for society while having that mother stay home and live off an entitlement program creates a dependent class that cannot take care of itself. It looks wrong, it feels wrong, but in the end, encouraging that mother to earn money by caring for the children of producers is beneficial to her, to her children, and to the society that shelters them. It replaces a parasitic relationship with a symbiotic one.
The key is to provide a suitable reward that encourages the single parent to go out and find work. If the reward is not sufficient, the parent's natural laziness kicks in and they will demand someone help them raise their children. In today's world, that "someone" is the government, and the government can only do so by drawing on the resources produced by society.
Every government, regardless of its design, is parasitic. It feeds off the producers of the society it oversees. There are no exceptions. The advantage to a government that holds to the limits of the Constitution would be that it would minimize the parasitic draw on the resources of society. The governments in modern industrialized nations have become huge, gluttonous parasites dribbling tiny amounts of resources to the non-producers. This is the fatal flaw to the Marxist worker's utopia. Without incentives, the workers will not work. It is a violation of their inherent human nature.