Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Anti-anti Surplus

I'm never impressed by the nihilistic argument that "surplus leads to laziness, immorality, and decay," because people have achieved comparatively massive surpluses before many times in history without decaying. The times when decay occurs might overlap with some of the times there is a surplus, but it is clearly not the surplus which is at fault. There is another independent variable involved in the technologically advancing societies which do collapse.

Surely the first agriculturalists, upon harvesting a crop and settling in for a winter of (comparatively) hedonistic delights--having enough food, shelter, and firewood for months of survival--could be considered to be enjoying a surplus, compared to hunter-gatherer predecessors who lacked the ability to store or preserve food to such a degree. And yet, civilization didn't immediately collapse into homosexual orgies and dwindling birth rates. Quite the opposite.

Should the Romans have avoided the aqueduct because it spelled doom for their civilization? Should Americans have shunned NASA, or the automobile? Nonsense. These things only look like "hedonistic surplus" in hindsight. In actuality, technologically adept peoples have grown and developed over tens of thousands of years, achieving machinated luxuries or proportional increases in wealth, and not collapsing due to them except in certain particularly memorable instances. And in most (all?) of those cases, there's been a racial component. Traders followed by slaves to Egypt; traders followed by slaves to Rome; traders followed by immigrants to America; traders followed by immigrants to Europe...

Technologically adept peoples could have even more luxury and weird sex and still do just fine, so long as their societies weren't being managed by traders who empowered niche groups toward cultural destruction while encouraging the importation of foreign labor (sic).

7 comments:

  1. In Modern Global Progressive Earth circa 2016, we do not have slavery. We do not.

    Or, at least, we do not label it as such. And in this way we have progressed language, the way linguists like Mr Professor for Eternity, Noam Chomsky, has told us things work. Words change meaning over time. Things that were previously considered humane are now considered reaactionary. Things that once were called selfish destructiveness now are called progress.

    I, for one, am pleased to take part in it all.

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  2. Well, there you go - surplus by itself does not cause anything. However, who controls the surplus, or the keys to producing it (which is the same thing) decides everything.

    Also, it is highly debatable if certain level of surplus can be surpassed by decentralized democratic production. I.e. beyond certain point, further surplus growth is only achieved by harsher control and domination over large masses of people.

    And then there is the problem that you cannot violate the laws of thermodynamics, i.e. at some point what *seems* like increasing surplus is simply squeezing the life out of huge masses of people, and coagulating their blood in fewer and fewer hands.

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    1. Thermodynamics? I don't see any economists talking about systems energy routines. Therefore it can't be real science, this discussion of thermodynamics. The only point of thermodynamics is to build engines with thermal reaction. Some of these engines can be turned into weapons. Beyond that, what use?

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  3. Also, is your occupation "accounting" just because this is likely on the top of the standard blogger occupation list, or are you, quite incredibly, an actual accountant? (That would be hilarious). I've known accounts, Ms. Arka, and you are no acountant, Ms. Arka.

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    Replies
    1. I know a compliment when I hear one. ;-)

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    2. One day soon, we'll make out in the bar of a "Holiday Inn", I'm sure of that.

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    3. Do those things have bars? I thought all they had was "breakfast nooks" filled with frozen bananas and antique cheerios.

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