Sunday, December 6, 2015

Small is the Only Big Thing -- Woe unto Them who Build House unto House

Every religion has scripture. Even atheism and agnosticism have works like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. To the extent scripture is enlightened by truth, scripture is beneficial. The more general the truth, the broader range of application the scripture has.

By which, I mean to justify my referencing Christian scripture in a political post. I am not meaning to preach my religion here, just looking for a couple of starting points.

Look in your own scriptures, and you'll find similar teachings.

One of the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon contains this verse:
Wo unto them that join house to house, till there can be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth! (2 Nephi 15: 8, see Isaiah 5: 8.)
And it continues with some description of the inevitable consequences of empire building: desolation, catastrophically reduced productivity, the waste of seeking pleasure as a goal instead of as a side effect, and becoming prisoners of the enemy. (If war is not directly mentioned, it is implied.)

The Constitution of the United States does not explicitly forbid monopolies and cartels. Nor do any of the Amendments, as far as I am aware. Anti-trust laws in America are justified under the idea that, if the Constitution forbids having a political noble class, the governments under the Constitution should not support or allow an economic noble class (paraphrasing the arguments for the Sherman Act).

It's a shame that some of the proponents of the Sherman Act were willing to acknowledge legitimacy of monopolies attained by legitimate competition. Even in the field of sports, lasting dynasties are always shown to have been aided by unsportsmanlike conduct off the field.

There is no such thing as a legitimate monopoly. As history progresses, the truth comes out and we discover that all empire-building sacrifices ethics to some expected good to be obtained in the aggregate.

And the expected good is rarely attained. If it is temporarily attained, it is always soon lost, as the corporation gains precedence over the reasons for the corporation.

Cartels are by definition collusion.

As an example, Bill Gates argued that he needed to be allowed to continue in his effective monopoly in order to conduct his business efficiently and effectively. How can we put up with this kind of nonsense argument?

Every wannabe Napolean claims a need.

The computer industry has been impoverished by Microsoft's software. We look at competitor OSses and applications, and we discover that, twenty years later, with more than twenty times the raw processing power, Microsoft's software barely competes on the features that count with the OSses and applications that became the casualties in Microsoft's war to dominate.

Good things have happened during that war, but they have happened more in spite of the war than because of it.

Real competition is not supposed to have a single winner.

There is not supposed to be just one winner's circle.

Real competition is supposed to benefit every one, and not by forcing them to accept the standard OS, the standard application, the standard medicine, the standard food, the standard vehicle, the standard textbook, the standard scripture, ... .

Standards are only good if they are available, but not enforced.

And standards themselves -- competing standards have to exist or the standard loses all meaning.

What is this hunger some people have of becoming big?

It's a false dream, I'm sure, something like the hope that, if the world adjusts to your standard, you can be spared the necessity of adjusting to the world.

For those of us who have survived adjusting (partly, not completely) to the world, I can say that the adjustments have been
  • painful at times, 
  • drudgery most of the time, 
  • not usually welcomed,
  • but ultimately beneficial. 
A Book of Mormon passage that I find to be relevant is in Alma 37:
Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey; (Alma 37: 41.)
Inefficiency can be important.

Drudgery can have good and exciting results.

All the best benefits of being big turn out to be deadly to the corporation in the end, and damaging to the surrounding society.

Unfortunately, law has the same problem. The bigger the body of law, that is, the more laws there are, the harder it becomes to obey any law meaningfully.

So I can't really advocate more laws against monopolistic behavior.

So what? The president of the United States, for example, is not supposed to have all sorts of power to make people behave themelves.

His job is supposed to be that of a spokesperson and a peacemaker. He's supposed to talk us into doing what we can understand to be right, not issue decrees that force us to do someone else's botched idea of what is right.

As the current biggest (irony noted) example, guns are getting too big. But a ban on guns is the ultimate big gun. Both sides in that argument need to back off of the assertion of their right to be bigger than the other guy.

Too many of the BIG people in the US are too busy trying to be BIG. And failing, of course.
 And their failures are the proximate and ultimate causes of the escalating violence.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What Terrorism? What Terror? What Enemy?

[Update 2015.11.23: Should anyone be thinking that what I have written below justifies those who use violence to further their righteous causes, no. God is no respecter of persons. Not rich, not poor, not middle-class. Not even you.

What you do to others in your righteous indignation shall return to you, and consume the innocent around you, as well. Stop now, while there is anything left of those you care about.] 

There is something that has been bothering me about the war on terror ever since the attacks on the World Trade Center.

I'm going to say some things that some will take to mean that I am not loyal to my country, and some will interpret as sympathizing with the enemy.

So, before you read what follows, read some of my thoughts on conspiracies:
If you are looking for enemies, make sure you start by looking in the mirror.

I don't mean to say end there, but what enemy can do you as much damage as you can do to yourself?

Thinking from the point of view of the attacker is an essential principle in analyzing one's own defences.

It has been long enough, can we temporarily set aside the shock and the horror? Can we set aside the righteous indignation and think for a few moments from the point of view of the attackers here?

I think it is essential, for our future safety, whether one is from the USA or from the Sudan. We must learn to think from the point of view of the other guy.

Look up the Camelford water pollution incident. It is not unique. Look up industrial disasters. Think about the things we "technologically advanced" countries do to ourselves. Are we just doing damage to ourselves? Look up the Bhopal incident and think about the number of people killed there.

Now, ask yourself? Could it be that there are people who would rather not have American companies causing industrial development in their towns, cities, mountains, and wildernesses?

Where would they perceive the threats to their peace and happiness and health coming from?

Broaden your perspective a little bit. Consider that, even in America, where discussions of abuse are common in the media, people in abusive relationships often prefer the abuse and the implied stability to changing to a life of unknowns, but free of the abuse.

Can you understand that people in certain countries would consider attempts by westerners to "enlighten" them to be attacks on their culture, traditions, and general well-being and happiness?

How many times have well-intended Americans dropped into supposedly undeveloped countries, spread a bit of money around to make changes for the better, and then left without making sure those changes could be supported and would really end up for the better?

Thinking soberly, it would be a bit unnatural for the the various World Trade Centers around the world not to be considered "strongholds of the enemy" by many of those who don't want to be pushed into the "modern world", or even by many who just want to take their own time and find their own way, getting there.

Is it becoming clearer?

Our assertions of good intent are awfully poor comfort even for our allies in Afghanistan. Our soldiers come in, do their thing, impress people about how strong they are, and then leave.

Impress people about how strong they are. Look at that concept really carefully.

Are we not trying to fight terror with fear?

How is that supposed to work, in the minds and hearts of those we are trying to "liberate" for our own security?

This world never came with a guarantee of peace, tranquility and lack of uncomfortable change.

If we want security, we need to learn to fight a different war. We need to start fighting our own fears.

We need to learn from the people we are trying to inform, even if our purpose in understanding them is to ultimately convert them to our own modernisms.

Better yet, can we re-evaluate our own headlong rush into an untried future? slow the pace down a bit? Make sure we clean up after our industrial activities? Be satisfied with not owning markets and industries?

Can we recognize that we ourselves have often played the 800 pound gorilla on the playground, the bully, and the terrorists?

We accumulate "our" money trashing other people's backyards, can we at least spend a little of that money cleaning up our mess?

Can we leave a little room for the other guy to have a little fun of his own, in his own way?