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.

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