All the usual disclaimers which I use to lure you all into ignoring my disclaimers and warnings, the better to occupy your unsuspecting minds with my insidious ideas of caution in accepting ideas. Activate all intellectual prophylaxis measures, all ye who enter here.
I find it important to have many mental models that I think useful in discussing, thinking. One gets to cultivate and select these models for usefulness in different situations.
It is easy to leave detail out of models, one of the checks of sanity I advocate is testing things from your own life, your own areas of special knowledge and judgment. I use engineering. We engineers understand things from a system point of view, to the extent that is possible, we design with limits in mind, and understand big projects, information flows and material flows and QA … many different points of view, mental tools to think about systems and mechanisms and people.
There is abroad in the world of memes the concept of ‘oligarch’. I do not diss the concept, many of the standard attributes are those of old timey kings, and I see Bill and Melinda Gates in that light.
But there is another mental model that gives an alternate, but consistent, view. That is:
“Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
My Pan-Galactic Buggery Game originally had an even less polite name*, but expressed the above with the thought that ‘win’ is a long-term thing and the meaning shifts with every generation of people, technology, weather and every other thing you can think of. Oh yes, most crucially, level of knowledge. Glass beads for Manhattan Island metaphor. Thus, it could be difficult, even conceptually difficult, to be positive one was the exploiter rather than the exploited, to know, even as an avowed exploiter demonstrably exploiting, one’s position in the hierarchy of exploiters. That the hierarchny might be quite deep, pan-galactically deep from your perspective in the ecosystem.
In business, we keep it simple, do our accounting in one unit of currency, GAAP, standard rules of depreciation and writeoff of goodwill, etc. Nevertheless investors lose $ all the time anyway. The accountants did absolutely everything OK and business people were honest, just something changed about the world and suddenly their assets are not so valuable and their debts much more burdensome and there is no money to be borrowed.
That happens too often even before large changes due to taxes, inflation, terms of trade, etc. Those accelerate the processes that kill companies, and follow-on effects are everywhere. Accountants and lawyers lose sleep as they are getting rich, dealing with winding up bankruptcies and investigating each other’s clients hoping for fraud with deep pockets.
New threats have come with financialization. Your suppliers and customers have always been special problems, IBM was famous for building up suppliers and then turning on their factory that produced that product. Microsoft stole so much technology while negotiating to buy the companies. And a supplier who suddenly owes you a lot of cash is in a strong position when it comes to purchasing your company, the Private Equity people are now players in this game of dominance. Accounting and standard reports to the SEC/FTC doen’t record any of these for investors to contemplate.
When it comes to an entire nation, what terms shall we use in our accounting? Not just one, of course, as with a human body it requires many tests and images to be confident of your health and its trends. So there will be a long list of measures, e.g. the last census plus all of the economic measures such as the CPI and unemployment rates, which have been outstanding of late.
Are you confident that, if the tests were administered carefully and honestly, your interests would be protected if all laws were made to optimize our national wealth in those measures? That would have to be calculated, sort of a super-CPI, you OK with that measure?
You might want to think about that contract, have it evaluated by experts, before you sign. If your experts say ‘sign’, you should get new experts, because any such can easily be gamed by some changes in the accounting rules, as our feds did with GAAP in order to save the banks from oblivion.
Are gamed by accounting rules, tax law, special privilege of all kinds, and that is a good part of how we got here, a financialized world with us debt servants, a new class of entity in history. Genius, really, all of the drive and initiative of free people (until the idiot teachers took themselves seriously and killed every spark of everything in 2, going on 3, generations) with the advantages of owning the work output of slaves. OK, the slavemasters, now called financier, don’t take as large a cut, and there are many more levels of allied sort-of-owners, teachers and police and the welfare, health, … bureaucracies, but on the other hand, this sort-of-capitalism certainly produced a fruitful harvest and a smaller cut of a much larger whole is always a good deal.
In partial payment of this bounty, all of society gulps alcohol AND painkillers and uppers and downers and calmers and exciters, accidental-maybe-on-purpose overdose death is common. Americans consume 4/5ths of the planets productions of pain killers. Such are normally considered the individual’s failure in moral and personal strength and worse spheres, tho admitting such problems, apologizing and getting treatment now allows a person back into polite society. Our Puritan roots are reasserting themselves, I think.
Social evolution, this is called.
That is the contract our leaders claim you did sign, the ‘national interest’ and ‘public good’ that permits them to go to war and write trade treaties in secret. They are doing that math in their heads, really, the equation that sums all of your weightings of each variable multiplied with the difference between your range of acceptable values and the actual, independently and fairly and seriously professionally-estimated or measured value in the national assessment, specific to your area, for each of the sets of possible futures we all considered in so much detail, of course.
Not even conceptually possible, wiggle-room beyond measure, and the other side is in charge of the laws AND their administration, those are positions selected by political party.
As a control system for important systems, this is shoddy beyond even normal government standards, and is absolutely guaranteed to cause enormous problems in many dimensions. Which it is.
If you object to those terms, considering your probable status in even our local hierarchy of exploiters and exploited, it is time to start thinking about what next, don’t you think?
Your history class did not acquaint you with this extremely important point of view in interpreting history and life, I suspect.
Why do you think that is?
*Do you see the control a serious practitioner of the craft of propaganda can exercise over you? (Eliciting agreement to the obvious, standard sales trick) I made you say a word in your mind that your mother would be ashamed of you for. (Clothing my assertions in an aire of omniscience.)
Does this tell you anything about how good the people who do it for a living, and have to convince someone other than their own inflated ego, real feedback, can be? (propaganda, don’t take assertions like that at face value, apply some criticial thinking dammit. I distracted the hell out of you with that inflated ego bit, and you didn’t notice the assertion that people can do this reliably. Maybe, maybe not.) And meanwhile I ding it into your mind one more time. So good…
Anyone who does it for a living can keep our mind resonating to the framing and our childhood associations and make even extreme messages seem tame enough to be considered (fact). Don’t get your news from anyone who emotes, would be a good rule (probable propaganda clothed as an honest recommendation seemingly in your interest, check carefully, this was a clever move). Certainly not one who makes you laugh at things that should cause rage. (Bias against comedians due to envy or my burn it down rage surfacing again, nobody can tell about motives, don’t bother. Capabilities, not intent, remember?).