Tag Archives: wealth

Money destroys democracy

17 Jul

Equality is at the core of a 1 person, 1 vote democracy. Your vote is a unit of direct political power. It doesn’t matter who or what you are, your vote matters just as much as the next person’s. It doesn’t matter what title comes before your name, or what your bank account statement says, at the end of the day my vote is just as powerful as yours. Without this equality democracy couldn’t function.

Unfortunately, things are not as simple in reality as 1 person, 1 vote. Is money speech? Is it a form of your free speech to choose to give your money to a political cause? If money is speech, does that mean those with more money have more speech then those with less money? What if a small group of people pool their resources so that they have an inordinate amount of speech compared to everyone else? What if they use this inordinate amount of speech to affect politics? Now you no longer have 1 person, 1 vote system. Money = speech = power; money = power.

 

At this point democracy starts to crumble. A person’s vote becomes irrelevant when there are much larger units of power in play. It’s similar to the difference between an arithmetical increase and an exponential increase. A large group of individuals can coalesce around a cause, but if another group has more money, they will have more influence and power. Congratulations, you’re now on your way from democracy to oligarchy.

The degree to which you’re an oligarchy depends on how much big money is involved in politics. This issue has always been around since the start of democracy, however, only relatively recently have we’ve seen the advent of super PACs and corporations pouring millions into politics in order to twist the law in their favor. The more money in politics, the less democratic those politics become.

“Well what’s the problem with that?” some might ask. If you’re fine with some people having more power than others, then you need stop your flag waving and acknowledge that you don’t support democracy. While you’re at it, stop using democracy as a buzzword completely. Democracy as a term has become as debased and valueless as liberty, freedom, and terrorism have in the past decade. They are cheap, gilded terms devoid of any real meaning.

“Why shouldn’t the rich have more power? They have more stuff and thus more of a stake in society.”

No. The amount of material objects you possess doesn’t matter. We all have the ultimate stake in society, our lives. When someone dies for their country, we say they paid the ultimate price. It is the most valuable thing we have as individuals. Your fancy cars, houses, and trust funds are drops in the bucket by comparison.

Trying to understand the rules of the game

2 Jan

Natural selection is the engine that drives evolution, but within the heart of natural selection is a concept that is central to all of existence; there are rules to the game that determine who wins.

This concepts of rules exists in every aspect of our lives. The rules may change from scenario to scenario, but nonetheless there are rules. We are born into this game not knowing what the rules are for each scenario, and as we grow up we hope to uncover little by little what those rules are. In order to survive and prosper you must understand the rules of the game, for it is only then that you can manipulate and maneuver through them.

The most immediate and glaring example of the existence of these rules is in evolution, from whence we first discovered the concept of natural selection.

In evolution, the goal of the game is to survive and pass on your genes to your children. Nothing else matters. Anything that hinders you in this process will be phased out. A bird better adapted to catching a worm will survive and have children more successfully than a bird more poorly adapted to this task. Those are the rules. That which is most efficient in helping you achieve the goal of the game wins. There is no mercy or tolerance for anything less. Such is the brutality and indifference of nature.

One of the biggest challenges we face growing up is uncovering the true rules, the true mechanics of the game which are often hidden under the more palatable false rules.

For example: “Just work hard and you will succeed” portends that the most efficient and best way of achieving the goal of succeeding is by hard work. Surely the harder you work, the more you will succeed.  While hard work is definately needed in a lot of situations in life, this is a misleading explanation of the rules.

In 2010 Nike’s CEO Mark Parker made 13.1 million dollars. The average Vietnamese Nike sweatshop worker makes $.26/hr. In order for the sweatshop worker to make the same as the CEO, she would have to work nonstop for 5,748 years. Most of these workers are trapped in sweatshop jobs with the choice to either work 40 hours in overtime a week or starve to death on the street.  Obviously in this scenario the notion that “hard work equals success” is a delusion.

A less extreme example is in the American workplace. Yet again, as children we are told that the rules are “hard work equals success” and that knowledge gives us a leg up. While these are both true in some degree, we quickly learn that this is not how the game functions. In order to achieve the goal of getting a promotion and being “successful” it is more important who you know than what you know.

We see the same thing in the dating world. From the onset guys are told that in order to succeed (ie, have lots of sex) the rules are “be sweet and caring.” Yet what it takes years for some guys to figure out, and others never learn, is that maximizing sweetness and caring in an attempt to maximize success fails because sweetness and caring equate to boring, and boring = death. Hence why aggressive asshole guys are more successful in having lots of sex because, while they might be assholes, they’re interesting.  (Now if the goal was to have a stable and healthy relationship and not just copious amounts of sex, then the rules would change and sweetness and caring would be more important)

Another great example of the concept of rules and false rules in action is politics. Ostensibly politics is about how to best lead the nation, how to best maximize the quality of life for the people who pay taxes and make up that nation. A naive person who still believed this would likely also believe that the rules would favor politicians and legislation best suited to this end. (I was once one such naive person) However, if you closely follow politics long enough, you will quickly discover that this is not the goal of the game, nor how the game operates. The game has never been about “the nation and the people who comprise it.”  That is just glittery lip-service every politician gives to half-heartedly mask the true mechanics of the game, namely the self-enrichment of the powerful players (the politicians) within the game.

In politics, as in much of life, those with the most money win. It is the cold and indifferent fact of the game, no different than the fact that the slower bunny will be dinner for the wolf. We may cheerfully delude ourselves with David and Goliath stories, but in the end the mechanics are what they are, irregardless of your strongest desires.

This is why nothing more than PR campaigns and package re-branding will ever be done about global warming until the problem is so severe it starts seriously hurting profit margins. (By which time it will be too late and our life sustaining eco-system is destroyed) This is why despite a 70% approval of a public option in healthcare the measure was defeated. Competition would have been bad for business for those who were writing the congressmen’s checks.  This is why America’s deficit will never be brought under control. Politicians will pay lip-service and feign outrage over the debt and then turn around and add $3.9 trillion in debt over the next 10 years by giving taxcuts to themselves and the other richest people in America.  That is the reality of the politics game and how it is played.

So the question then becomes “Is there a way to change the rules?” I honestly don’t know. The only example I can think of where we’ve changed the rules slightly is in basic survival. Over the centuries science has developed new technologies that increase our life span. Child mortality has fallen drastically in most parts of the world, and many people who normally would not have survived thousands of years ago do. Chances are you’re one of them. I know I am. I have poor eye-site; if it were not for the science of optics, I would be blind to everything 5 feet away from me.

Even if the rules pertaining to human survival have been tempered by technology, the rules regarding prospering and politics have not. Ultimately the rules regarding those two games effect the rules regarding basic survival. (Earlier I gave the example of global warming) So far we as a species have been unable to effect the rules governing politics and prosperity except by temporarily resetting them through violent revolutions.  “Cruel leaders are replaced only to have new leaders become cruel.” I’m not sure if it is possible to effect a paradigm shift other than regularly tearing everything down. But I digress.

I just wanted to reflect on the existence of these rules that govern every scenario and how one task of growing up is discovering these underlying principles through experimentation and observation.

Republicans,Wallstreet, & Bipartisan BS

21 Apr

You have to be delusional to think that republicans have your best interests at heart as an average American. All politicians are corrupt, but they take the cake! At the same time Goldman-Sachs is charged with fraud and the democrats are trying to push through a financial reform bill to control the banks that destroyed our economy, the republican top leadership marches down to Wallstreet to meet with the very people who caused the crash.

Seriously? Having secret conversations to ask for directions from the corporations is bad enough, but physically walking down there to pay homage to your masters?

Look, it’s no secret that republicans for the longest time have been in the pocket of big business. They are the rich man’s party, the defenders of the status quo. As long as the status quo supports rich white men, they will fight to protect it. How do they get the poor average American to vote for them then? Religion. They wrap themselves in it and claim to be the party of “family values” and morality. The poor average Joe joins up out of gullibleness thinking he’s supporting the party of decency, then they screw him and blame the democrats. It’s all very cynical and calculated.

The republican leadership cries Obama isn’t being bipartisan. That’s bullshit on a stick. Obama and the democrats have bent over backwards time and time again trying to reach out to the republicans, and EVERY time they spit in their faces. The democrats have reached out so much, compromised so much, that it’s severely pissed off their base. The whole time they’re looking like fools because the joke’s on them.

You see, what they don’t understand is that it’s all part of a carefully crafted republican plan. Become the party of NO! and say NO! to everything no matter how good it might be. This way the democrats, who are pussies, will give and give and give until their bills truly are shit. Then the republicans will let it pass. When the worst happens because the bill is shit, the republicans will blame the democrats for passing it. They are doing it on purpose. Fuck the average working man, the party’s never really cared about them. They can easily be kept in line with their religion and fear tactics. Just conjure up some bullshit about that n***** president coming to kill you and they’ll froth at the mouth. The money is what’s important, so as long as we’re on our knees servicing Wallstreet, everything is ok.

Why get dressed up for church?

11 Apr

Growing up I hated having to get dressed nice early every Sunday morning for church. I would ask my mom why we had to get so fancy just for church and she would reply with something along the lines of “we have to look nice for god.”

At the time that made sense to me, but now, looking back, it’s not very convincing. Why does it matter to god if we get dressed up all fancy? He already knows how pious or impious we are in our hearts; fancy clothes aren’t going to fool him.

The reason everyone gets all dressed up for church is simple. It’s a display of wealth. For the longest time, church has not only been about religion, but it was the main social gathering. In ye olden days, people would go there to socialize, gossip, and meet potential spouses. Church was where you were most public, where you wanted to show your status in the community.

Religious leaders are no exception. The most obvious example of ridiculous wealth being used as a display of status is the Catholic Church.

Need I say more? (And yeah, that’s the extreme end of the spectrum, but there still is a lot of gold in regular catholic churches)

Now,  a big part of the protestant reformation was aimed against exactly this kind of opulence and shameless display of wealth. While most protestant churches are definitely much simpler and plain than catholic ones, they don’t get off the hook completely.

Mark 10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God


Religiosity vs quality of life

12 Mar

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a measure of the quality of life in a country.

Gallup poll compiled a ranking in 2009 of the most to least religious countries.

When I looked at the two, I noticed a trend. Some of the worst places on the planet, as measured by HDI were also some of the most religious places.

The US seems to be the obvious exception to the rule, but if you look closely at the US, you see the trend reflected there as well. The most religious states are also the poorest states.