Pondering is such sweet sorrow…
Aging and Motivation
So I’m back at Link TV. It’s a show about postponing aging… and I’m ponding that I’m out of inventory on my medical resveratrol elixir. (The “Three Wishes” Merlot from Whole Foods is rather nice for a $2 bottle…)
Sidebar: One of the featured researchers was a guy who swore on camera that he’d never work for a major pharmaceutical company… who’s company was then bought by Glaxo-Smithkline where he now works as an executive… They have just announced they are killing the primary drug that caused them to buy his company…
Luckily, the natural stuff is still as close as a nice bottle of red. Per the same article:
Resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, switches on a class of proteins called sirtuins that may prevent gene mutations and repair DNA damage, potentially slowing the aging process.
But as is usual for me, the pondering doesn’t stop at the first bump in the road.
Part of the show explored the impact on society at large and the question of would a long life span cause folks to put more time into trying to improve the world, as they would spend more of their longer life in the improved one? Whereas now, by the time you could make things better, you have maybe 25 years left; and that pushes folks more toward greed and self aggrandisement.
Morality, Intelligence, Greed, and Governance
Lately we’ve had the Wikileaks event showing that the world of Global Governance and Diplomacy is a nest of snakes and vipers, all preening and pushing for power and control over each other, awash in bribe money.
Yet these folks are smart.
It’s been amply demonstrated that there are a great many very smart people who are not moral. History is in many cases a retelling of their tale.
It’s been amply demonstrated that there are a great many very smart people who are greedy. History again provides more than ample evidence of that. Greed is one of the “7 Deadly Sins” and is widely distributed. The whole of International Finance and Trade is dominated by Very Very smart people who are Very Very Greedy.
So I think it is a reasonable postulate that Greed, Morality and Intelligence are orthogonal traits. There is simply no correlation between them. There are greedy dumb people and greedy smart people. There are moral dumb people and moral smart people. And there are immoral dumb people, and immoral smart people.
Why does this matter? Yes, it’s an obvious thing to say about human nature, but it matters as soon as you think about Governance. (And in particular, the specter of Global Governance).
We want Moral, Intelligent, and Selfless government. Government is supposed to be there for US, not for it’s own personal gain.
Does the small intersection of moral, selfless, and intelligent people limit the nature of governance?
Just Not Enough Of Us
So we take the population and ask: If government is presently consuming between 1/3 and 1/2 the budget, are there 1/2 to 1/3 the population who are selfless, moral, and intelligent enough to “do right” by us?
I think the answer is a clear No.
If the traits are on a bell curve, you could have 1/4 of the population that would be well above median on each trait. But if the traits are randomly distributed, then the odds of one person having them all drop. And fast.
1/4 smarter than the herd. 1/4 of THEM of sound moral character. That’s 1/16 of the population. Then only 1/4 of that group would also be selfless and not greedy. 1/64. How can you make a stable government that is moral, selfless, and intelligent with that small a proportion of the population?
Yes, you can use “span of control” and “work rules” to limit the damage. That 1/64 might manage 10 times that many folks (who could be less smart, less moral, and greedy). But that still puts the limit at 1/6.4 or about 1/6 of the population. When Government is down at 1/10 the size of the private sector, you MIGHT have a shot at it. (But even then you are trying to attract the lions share of the smart, moral, and selfless folks to work for government, and we know that will not happen.)
The inevitable conclusion of this thought experiment is that Government must inevitably become stupid, greedy, and immoral when it becomes large. And we’ve not even added in such things as the degree to which our law schools select for greed and moral ambivalence in the folks that make up most of our politicians… who are excessively lawyers. Nor such character traits as power lust and sadistic tendencies that sporadically attract “great leaders” who do great harm ( From Pol Pot, Saddam and Kim Jong Il on the low end to Hitler and Stalin on the high end; clearly government disproportionately attracts the power hungry and sadistic.)
I suspect that this is the reason that the traditional US Government structure worked so well and for so long. The central power was very small, and very limited. Most power was at the local level, with only dribs and drabs “delegated upward”. But since about 1930 we’ve been slowly growing a monster government. IMHO, about 1970 it reached “critical mass of stupid” and started taking apart the balance wheels. (Nixon started doing the worst of it, IMHO. Took us off the gold standard. Had Watergate. Founded the EPA. Along with several other large stupidities. I’m just glad we finally got rid of the 55 mph speed limit that he started.)
So now we have a situation where the Government simply cannot be made of moral intelligent selfless people. There are not enough of us. And the folks who make up the highest management ranks are selected primarily from a pool that is pre-filtered and indoctrinated for moral ambivalence and greed, with a power hunger to boot. The only thing that has kept it working OK until now, IMHO, is that the structure had an inhibitory impact on the drift to collapse.
The Tyranny Of Stupid
So now we’re in a circumstance where the intelligent, but power hungry and “morally lacking” greedy, enter the management ranks of the government. Then they hire the less intelligent for the jobs of cranking the millstones of governance. From this is supposed to come good things…
The law makers have little to no technical knowledge of the things they decide. They often have little basis in history, nor of what societies have worked and which have failed. They are, first and foremost, knowledgeable about how to write laws and beg for money, with a minor in speech making and preening for the camera. An ideal mix for outside influences seeking greedy advantage with no moral compass. Thus the rise of the lobbyists.
This is simply a Tyranny Of Stupid. So we get crappy laws that do stupid things, administered by the less-than-bright-bulbs at the Bureau Of Stupid. For the benefit of the morally bankrupt and greedy but politically well connected. And with no way to effectively stop it.
The older form had it’s share of stupid and greedy, but they were set against each other in a competitive setting. Those private company organizations that failed to act smartly, died of the competition. Greed was OK, as it was offset by countervailing force from other market competitors. Power hunger was OK, as it lead to large industries, not global warfare and mass deaths. We did have to add a morality police function (via such things as the anti-monopoly laws) and they worked for a while. Then the monopolists learned how to use Big Government to hand them a golden monopoly on a platter… But with some policing on the issue of “moral compass”; we had enough folks who were intelligent and greedy (but in competition to make products), that in the end we did rather well.
But who is the moral compass for Government? Where is the “Internal Affairs” department for the Bureau Of Stupid? Who holds congress accountable for greed, power lust, or just plain stupidity?
We’ve reached the point where most of the population “gets something” it wants from government. For large companies, many (most?) of them expect that lobbyists will pay off more than marketing or engineers. Will those folks really vote the general welfare ahead of their personal gain? Are more than 51% of THEM at the intersection of moral, selfless, and smart enough to know it’s the best path in the long run? (Or going to live long enough to care about the long run?…)
I’ve come to the rather dismal conclusion that we are living in a Tyranny Of Stupid. For a while, the original constitution and Bill Of Rights, written by a few selfless moral and intelligent men, has held off the laws of statistics. But with the growth of size and power of government, the decline of religion and our moral compasses at large, and with changes made via a few very ill thought out amendments, we’ve opened the doors to a “Government By the Immoral, Of and For The Stupid .”
In Europe, the process has run a different course, but with a similar outcome. The EU government is clearly not accountable and subject to external corruption. I won’t even begin on the UN. Everything we’ve seen has shown it to be the worst of the lot. Worse, I don’t see any way out of this mess other than watching it collapse (as all governments eventually do) and starting over. But that is likely to take another 100 years, and we don’t live long enough for that path …
I wonder if I can find a nice SMALL country somewhere (outside the EU) that would like a new polite, moral, intelligent, and selfless citizen? Offers welcome…
Perhaps if we all increased our resveratrol intake enough, the longer life span would help us see the wisdom of a longer term view? Or at least we might not feel the pain of the reality quite so much…