Playing Fair in the Game of Life

by James Wallace Harris, Friday, November 15, 2019

Imagine a poker game with one person winning every pot. Eventually, all the players but that one winner will become tapped out unless someone else starts winning. This is a good analogy for wealth inequality.

The challenge to the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls is making rule changes to the game we all play. Warren and Sanders want to make drastic changes to the rules to quickly make our society fairer to all, but that scares both the conservatives and the older well-to-do liberals. Biden promises to just tweak the rules a bit which enrages the extreme liberals who want significant change sooner.

We’re all playing this game of economic life whether we realize it or not, even when we think we’re not participating. Our economy is a game that everyone plays and the rules are decided by politics, laws, and voting. We like to think we’re a democracy and we all decide how the game is played but that’s not true. The winners of the game keep altering the rules so they can keep winning.

What would society be like if the game was played fair? What if everyone had an equal say in making the rules of the game, how would society differ from how we play the game now? Would wealth start circulating amongst all the players? Or will the winners refuse to ever change the rules? Maybe losers don’t want to change the rules either. Maybe they hope to be winners someday? How many players have to be wiped out before they realize their true odds of becoming a winner?

Right now a majority of our citizens believe everyone should work to make a living, and if you fail you should suffer the consequences. If you doubt this read “The American Right: It’s Deep Story” by Arlie Russell Hochschild. Hochschild had come up with a little story she tells people that’s a Rorschach test for conservative thinking. Read it to see how you react, then read her article for how she interprets your reaction.

You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line leading up a hill, as in a pilgrimage. Others besides you seem like you – white, older, Christian, predominantly male. Just over the brow of the hill is the American Dream, the goal of everyone in line. Then, look! Suddenly you see people cutting in line ahead of you! As they cut in, you seem to be being moved back. How can they just do that? Who are they?

Many are black. Through federal affirmative action plans, they are given preference for places in colleges and universities, apprenticeships, jobs, welfare payments, and free lunch programs. Others are cutting ahead too – uppity women seeking formerly all-male jobs, immigrants, refugees, and an expanding number of high-earning public sector workers, paid with your tax dollars. Where will it end?

As you wait in this unmoving line, you’re asked to feel sorry for them all. People complain: Racism, Discrimination, Sexism. You hear stories of oppressed blacks, dominated women, weary immigrants, closeted gays, desperate refugees. But at some point, you say to yourself, you have to close the borders to human sympathy – especially if there are some among them who might bring harm.

You’re a compassionate person. But now you’ve been asked to extend your sympathy to all the people who have cut in front of you. You’ve suffered a good deal yourself, but you aren’t complaining about it or asking for help, you’re proud to say. You believe in equal rights. But how about your own rights? Don’t they count too? It’s unfair.

Then you see a black president with the middle name Hussein, waving to the line cutters. He’s on their side, not yours. He’s their president, not yours. And isn’t he a line-cutter too? How could the son of a struggling single mother pay for Columbia and Harvard? Maybe something has gone on in secret. And aren’t the president and his liberal backers using your money to help themselves? You want to turn off the machine – the federal government – which he and liberals are using to push you back in line.

Strangers in Their Own LandTo go deeper into what Hochschild is revealing with her “Deep Story” test, read her book Strangers in Their Own Land. She finds that conservatives identify with this story. In past decades I’ve known many conservatives that have told me variations of this story. But their resentments and prejudices keep us from making society fair. What I find ironic is many of the people who resonate with Hochschild’s Deep Story claim to be Christians, but isn’t her story an anti-Gospel?

We don’t have to examine the whole economic system to see how it’s unfair. Just look at companies like Amazon and Uber as samples. A few people in each company make billions while most workers barely make a living, yet each company would collapse without the low-paid participants in their shared game. Why do thousands of employees have to work their asses off so one guy gets rich enough to have his own space program? Why do Uber drivers put in all the millage but don’t get their fair share of the fares? Why is Trump so desperate to keep his tax returns secret? Is it because he doesn’t want us suckers to know he’s rich without paying his fair share of taxes?

What if labor got a fairer share of the rewards of our economic game? Somehow we’ve decided the owners of a company deserve more money than the people who punch the clock. Is that how we really want to play the game? Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders want to make the game fairer by taxing the winners and use the government to redistribute the winnings. This is one way, but is it the only way, or the best way?

If you don’t understand the long history of capital v. labor I highly recommend reading Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. Before the industrial revolution wealth was mostly in owning land, and the landowners used slaves, serfs, peasants, and tenant farmers to make themselves wealthy. When industrialization came along those with capital shifted to owning businesses and letting labor do all the work to make them wealthy.

The reason why capital has always been at war with labor is capital didn’t want to share the rewards of the game. They have always fought unions because of greed. They have always embraced automation because of greed. If they could completely eliminate labor they would. Just see how hard Uber wants to develop self-driving cars, or Amazon to add robotic book pickers. If we extrapolate these trends into the future we’ll have a game with very few winners owning a lot of robots and mostly jobless losers.

Our present economic system is rigged to produce fewer winners. We think because unemployment is low most people are still in the game. But is that really true? The economy doesn’t have a finite pot of money, wealth is always being created. But it appears the 1% are acquiring all the old wealth and new wealth at an increasing speed. Liberals have a history of creating safety nets to keep players in the game. Conservatives even begrudge this level of wealth redistribution. If Warren or Sanders is going to win in 2020 they need to convince a vast majority of players there’s a genuine need to redefine the rules to keep the game from collapsing.

Capital needs consumers with money to spend. That means labor must stay in the game. That’s why we’re hearing talk of guaranteed incomes. If the rich aren’t willing to share their wealth now I doubt they will in this future scheme. This means the present game will end when the very few have corned all the chips and the economy falls apart.

Capital is against universal healthcare because they profit from limited healthcare. Republicans and conservatives are passionately fighting any changes to the game. They see any proposal to redistribute wealth as an attack on the existing game rules that favor them winning. Is there a way to change the game to be fairer to everyone that doesn’t involve redistributing the wealth?

Can the 99% create their own wealth without interfering with the 1%? I recently read an article that said the lower 50% has already been drained by the 1% and now they are working to drain the other 49% percent. Wealth transfer to the wealthier even effects millionaires. For Bill Gates to have $100,000,000,000 means 100,000 people aren’t millionaires. And for every 1,000 billionaires, we don’t have a 1,000,000 millionaires.

How can Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have their own space programs? How many underpaid workers does that take to build that science-fictional dream? Is the game really fair when some winners in society can afford to play NASA and millions of losers are without homes? Even if we rationalize losers don’t deserve anything because they don’t work, does anyone in our rich society deserve to have so little? Bezos and Musk cannot have their space programs without the whole society supporting them.

Isn’t what we want is a fair society that rewards hard work but is passionate toward those who can’t compete? Don’t we also want a society that is ecologically friendly and sustainable? How do we change the rules to get that if the greedy want to keep playing the existing game?

The game requires everyone to play, even when they don’t work or vote. I’m sure conservatives would love to ship off all the unemployable to another country. A certain percentage of the active economy generates wealth by taking care of people who can’t. If they didn’t exist, these caretakers would be out of a job too. We’d have to exile them. But then that would put more people out of work. See the snowball growing? All activity in the economy goes into generating the total wealth of the economy. And yes, building private space programs do create jobs, but how much more economic activity would our economy have if average workers were paid more?

I’m not saying billionaires shouldn’t have their rewards, but couldn’t the rewards of a successful company be spread around fairly? Why do the owners and shareholders get all the profits? Because labor has always been the target of cost reduction. It’s so ingrained that it’s a religion with business. But if the wealthy don’t want to have their taxes raised they should consider raising the wages of their employees so society won’t have to raise taxes on the rich to help the poor.

The trouble is people who have gained seldom want to give back. Of sure, they become famous philanthropists, but that’s not really giving, is it? It’s just another expression of being a winner.

I don’t know why I keep writing these essays. Striving to describe how things work does not change anything. I’ve been reading about Plato lately. He had lots of insights into how things work. And over the centuries society has changed. That’s hopeful. Everyone has way more than what everyone once had. Besides more material wealth, we have more peace and personal health than our ancestors.

Yet there is still so much poverty and sickness in our world today. Can’t we change the rules of the game to help them? Aren’t there more billionaires today because there are more workers getting ahead? Wouldn’t universal healthcare stimulate the overall economy? Would giving the homeless homes stimulate the economy? Doesn’t raising the living standards for the 99%, create more wealth for the 1% to chase?

I see the 2020 election as a referendum. It’s not really about Trump, he’s only the face of greed. Voting for Trump is a vote for maintaining the plutocracy. Voting for a democrat will be a vote to change the rules.

JWH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “Playing Fair in the Game of Life”

  1. It seems to me that what you have accurately described is the only way of life imaginable. I mean remove “capitalism” as a “system of economics” and you are still going to be left with either Socialism (“democratic socialism” people love to call it) or Communism and, yep, those few at the top who have everything and the rest with, at best, “just getting by”.
    But capitalism is exactly that–a system of economics, completely and utterly void of such notions as morality, ethics, and “fairness”.
    The question then is (01) who, exactly, should be “allowed” to insert their morality, their ethics, their sense of “fairness” into the matter and (02) why this person or that, this group or that and not “those people” over yonder.
    And now you’re back to the beginning, literally, to the beginning.
    If you accept evolution as the scientific explanation for the origin of the species, you are now wanting to distance yourself from the philosophy, the practical and inescapable conclusions, inherent within that scientific explanation. Evolution is, after all, about the “natural order of things” and “survival of the fittest”. To achieve this “fairness” in terms of “capitalism” would require everyone (even if meaning just enough people to vote into office the candidates who swear, with their hands on a Bible) that they can and will institute this “fairness”.
    So to preach and demand “fairness” within the context of evolution as explanation for the origins of life is, at best, disingenuous because you are left looking for a “philosophy,” a “code of conduct,” a “government,” a something, anything that you can sell to override the stark simplicity of evolution: The strong survive. Kill or be killed.
    You are looking now for a balance between man’s intellect and reason versus his emotions and passions. In other words, there isn’t one good “reason” for me to give one damn about anyone else other than me and my family…not if evolution explains “how” we got here. And that’s the problem: Explaining “how” with a system of thought completely absent a “why” is the problem.
    So, back to the beginning, people are looking for an answer to “Why?” Why shouldn’t people be “fair,” play nice and get along? It is absolutely a fair question. It is just as reasonable and just as fair to ask “Why should they?”
    Then there is the other explanation for humans being on this planet: Creation. God. (And I never, ever include any other religion or anyone else’s concept of “God” other than that of the Christian religion for the simple fact that I don’t see a whole lot of folks expressing much disdain, contempt, and hatred for those other religions. It is not “religion” they hate, not the “idea” of “God,” but only that of the Christian faith. That’s telling on every level but especially in this context, i.e., political control and governance.)
    So if this “God” created everything and if the Bible might be His “message” to the world, this discussion ends simply enough when you read “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
    So at the “top of this food chain,” you have those who do indeed want it all. Yes, those greedy bastards. (A generalization, not an absolute.)
    Stuck in the middle are those who are content with what they earn, content with their lives. They don’t seek “wealth” and all that madness. They just want an otherwise simple life in which, to quote Shakespeare, “Sire, I am a true laborer. I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man’s happiness, glad of other men’s good, content with my harm….”
    And that, of course, leaves those “poor” people.
    So if there is indeed a “fairness” problem in regards to the “distribution of wealth.” the problem is in the last group, those “poor” people. They simply want, no, now demand, something for nothing. (A generalization, not an absolute.)
    And so it was Jesus who said “The poor you will have with you always….”
    So is the deck stacked against the poor?
    Absolutely. It has been that way, oh, only forever. There is, has always been, and will always be, a “Ruling Class”. And whether that Ruling Class is militaristic, religious, or civil, those “at the top” are always, always going to have more, have more “wealth” than everyone else. And sure, they may well indeed preach, lecture, rant, and give speeches about what “we” need to do to help the “poor”–you know, such things as raise YOUR taxes, provide free food, free shelter, free health-care, and all the rest. None of this, however, costs them a penny because, sure, those in the middle “don’t mind sharing, now do they?
    At exactly the same, however, the “poor” people do indeed keep breeding, now don’t they? What’s that old saying? “The rich get rich and the poor have babies.”
    But the politics of the matter is simple history:
    It was Clinton who shipped those “good” blue-collar manufacturing and production jobs south of the border, back in the nineties, with NAFTA.
    And it is the Democrats fighting like hell to “open” that same border to anyone and everyone who wants to come to this country.
    And now, after all these years and to a degree never before seen, suddenly “everyone” is concerned and worried about the “poor”.
    So everyone keeps coming here, to this country, where “poverty” is so bad that it is still a step up from their homeland. And the wealthy are blamed for not “sharing,” the middle-class is forced to pick-up the tab, and the “poor” get essentially a free ride.
    You and I are both old men. It is a younger generation now calling the shots. Personally, I think the you-know-what is about to hit the fan and the “happy endings” are going to be few and far between…for everyone–wealthy, middle-class, poor, blind, crippled, crazy, black, white…everyone.
    And apologies for the rant. Another night of “sleep for two hours” and then awake for the next twenty-two.

    1. Since we don’t have pure free-market capitalism, we’re already used to constantly changing the rules. We endlessly tweak them. For a long while, probably since the 1970s, the rules favor the wealthy, and they have gained all the power in the rule changing chambers. The game is rigged. But will it stay rigged? Social movements force rule changes.

      We’ve also had socialism since the 1930s. We worry more about the poor because they are more visible, and the contrast between the rich and poor is so stark. Also, the arguments are more heated because we now have two-way mass communication.

      I’m also old and pessimistic. Despite the great ideals of our generation we have not solved our problems. It will be interesting to see if younger generations can. Hopefully, they will learn from our mistakes.

  2. I would echo allot of what Randy has already said,…so by way of summary; if one ascribes to the theory of evolution then the current situation or any situation at any time in history since humans have acquired the characteristics that we deem human (given our present scientific knowledge of social and archaeological anthropology), is all very much predictable.
    As very successful social animals where the only real measure in terms of evolution is our reproductive success, we as individuals are always making risk trade offs between circumstances which would enhance our individual potential for survival and opportunities to pass on our genetic heritage,… with what our brain’s are prepared to risk (security) in relationship to others and the beliefs (imagination) of the larger group.
    Not all brain’s share an equal propensity in this trade off, therefore as evolutionary theory describes it; those with the natural inclination to assume greater risk will overtime assume a greater position of influence over others. This is all well described in the literature (if one subscribes to the scientific evidence to date). Basically this is how the hierarchy within groups is established describing the process of dominance and submission. The Alpha’s get sole rights to reproduction until the next young buck assumes the role etc. The modern version of that same social hierarchy exists today with some individuals holding a more prominent role within society at the expense of others. Thankfully with our increased numbers the social necessity to compete for mates is less onerous, although vestiges of competition in the love wars exist to this day.

    Nothing has changed over the millennium other than societies have become denser sophisticated and complex versions of the same. The same rules have always applied (so far at least)
    The only thing that has changed is that some where between 140k and 40k years ago (current estimates) our particular species has acquired self awareness or Full Theory of Mind, which in turn gives us the ability to ask ‘why’ something should be as it is, when in the physical world everything already is what it is. Our imagination allows us to project into the future all possibilities like “Why can’t we all just love one another and get a long, …etc, etc)

    If we examine the detail: Capitalism is simply the natural process that serves to arbitrate the value of any transaction between humans. In fact, the economy is simply the sum of all transactions between humans and or groups of humans in and given market, in any particular jurisdiction whether between two individuals or the global network of trade. Societies have always functioned in this way. Other systems like Communism fall under the same meaning with the only variation being that the value distinctions are more arbitrary and made by a select cabal of decision makers on behalf of the larger group. Natural selection has weeded out this version to a large extent. Demonstrated evidence being the nation state of China which ostensibly is a ‘Communist Country’ when the demonstrated evidence shows that its economy is very much a capitalist system under an authoritarian regime.

    The notion of inequity or that somehow the natural distribution of influence and power is unfair is simply a product of our imagination. That said if we look at the recorded history of how various aspects of society have evolved including economic/governance and even the re-distribution of wealth as a feature of the modern mixed economy, it all represents how circumstances change overtime. We just have to keep in mind that this change over time is the ongoing sum of all the naturally occurring outcomes of those infinitesimal interactions over that equivalent period of same.
    It’s when we attribute this natural dynamic to ‘choices’ which then leads into the dilemma of ‘why’ and the ongoing effort to solve problems that don’t exist in the physical world that endearing aspect of what it means to be human comes into focus,…hope. That is; the natural order of things will progress in ‘my/our favor’ despite what the actual outcomes turn out to be. The notion of freewill drives us forward in the belief that we can make a difference, if only we ‘choose’ to do otherwise

    1. Hey, brgcorbett,
      It was 1960, grade 03, I was eight years old. I asked the teacher one day: “When a man and woman get married, why does the woman change her name but the man does not?”
      The classroom erupted in laughter. Yeah, it would take lots of years, but I finally understood that most were laughing because they thought it was the stupidest thing they had ever heard…only because they hadn’t thought of it themselves as well as having never heard anyone else ask it. The others, at least a couple, were laughing because they had already, at some point in their lives, asked that same question and were now essentially laughing “at me” because they knew the Pandora’s Box I had opened.
      It is what you wrote:
      “…our particular species has acquired self awareness or Full Theory of Mind, which in turn gives us the ability to ask ‘why’ something should be as it is, when in the physical world everything already is what it is. Our imagination allows us to project into the future all possibilities like ‘Why can’t we all just love one another and get a long, …etc, etc)’.”
      I would use that “moment,” the first time a “human” thought of, and asked “Why,” to define either the end, or beginning, of “Homo sapiens” because the “species” that asked it had certainly “evolved” way beyond what it had been, a new “genus” is the better way to state the thing, I suppose.
      Who, what, when, where, and how. All are questions with at least relatively simple answers, room to disagree, yes, but nothing else comes close to causing the division as does asking “Why?”.
      It then becomes part of the story of Eden, the part I like to think the writers said, “No way. We ain’t adding that.”
      After being expelled from Eden, Adam looks at Eve and says, “Damn, woman. Why do you have to go eat that apple?”
      And Eve says, “What? I didn’t make you eat anything. You chose to do it.”
      And the rest is a matter of recorded human history….

    2. It’s interesting that you and Randy both brought up evolution. The trouble is, we’ve screwed up the natural process of evolution. Sure, there’s still competition but it’s been complicated by many factors. Our species has taken over the planet because we don’t have a predatory species that keeps us under control. Plus our mating habits are no longer constrained by the survival of the fittest. Our society controls many of the aspects that evolution once did. We have created artificial rewards and threats. We have decided that every human being is equal and all should have the same opportunities to get ahead but we have provided a mechanism to make it true.

      As a society, we’ve decided to consciously control the factors that nature once decided. But we don’t do a very good job of it. We allow for overpopulation, we allow ourselves the right to overgraze the land, we protect the weak from dying, and so on.

      The tasks we once assumed belong to God or Mother Nature now belong to us. We decide what is right and wrong. We decide success and failure. We decide who lives and dies. There are no natural checks and balances anymore. We have full responsibility.

      We acquired self-awareness but we have acquired self-control and discipline. Some people are more powerful at playing the game. Are we going to say anything goes? Like the TV show Survivor where it’s outwitting, outlasting, outplaying each other?

      The evolution of liberal thought says we can shape our own society. We can step outside of nature and make our own rules. All I’m asking is shouldn’t those rules be fair? And by that, I mean, give every player equal opportunity to win. Most people come into this world with many disadvantages at no fault of their own. Other people like the children of the rich get a big head start.

      If we truly believed in equality we’d make the starting line the same for all and require everyone to follow the same rules.

      1. Hey, James….
        I’m sorta butting in where I wasn’t invited. I truly do understand not just “what” you’re saying but more importantly, “why”. Where I see the problem–to put into a political context–has split the country right down the middle is a matter of just how far do you want to take this notion. Here is what I mean. You wrote:
        “…give every player equal opportunity to win….” and “If we truly believed in equality we’d make the starting line the same for all….”
        How far do you want to take that?
        For example, should basketball and football players make millions of dollars a year…to play a damned sport while another chap spends 40 hours a week riding around on the back of a trash-truck and makes, maybe, twelve-fifteen bucks per hour? Seriously? Who is of more true value to society, to the world, the ball-player or the trash man?
        The correct answer, the only correct answer, is “B”. Yet no one has a problem with those ballplayers making more money than God. No one challenges it. No one criticizes it.
        Remove ballplayers and insert brain surgeon.
        Ah, this brings out the worst in people because then they start to argue about how much it cost the brain surgeon to get his education so doesn’t he, should he not, make more money than the lowly trash man? Sure, that’s a valid argument but at the end of it all, that whole “big picture” thing, who is truly of more value to society? You remember that New York City sanitation workers’ strike…what, back in the late ’70s or so. Trash everywhere. Rats taking over the damned city. And rats bring a whole litany of diseases and problems.
        So sure, the brain surgeon saves a few lives every year. And that person is always a someone’s wife, husband, child. And that matters…to them. But those men and women who do that lowly, common, dirty work of picking up the trash actually do more to save more lives than all the brain surgeons in the world. And yet, because they are just lowly blue-collar working men and women whose work requires no college, no formal education, well, hell, pay ’em twelve bucks an hour and move on.
        So it takes the form of a question:
        How many ballplayers would there be, how many brain surgeons would there be, if they were paid what the garbage collectors are paid? Right: None.
        You and I are old baby-boomers and we’ve been hearing that crap our entire lives, you know, the “I wanna be a doctor because I wanna help people.” “I wanna be a lawyer…because I wanna help people.” They open their mouths and the lies just tumble out. They are in it…for the money. And again, to prove it, simply “cut” their pay to blue-collar level. There won’t be a doctor or lawyer to be found anywhere.
        You read lots and lots of books. Should those authors get paid “that kind of money” for doing nothing more…than writing a book? Should actors and singers make millions of dollars…for acting and singing? Seriously? The modern version of the old court-jester actually “deserves” that much money?
        But no one ever, ever, ever (!) argues against “those people” and “those” careers making all that money, never!
        And the only answer, every time, always reduces to various themes of “That’s different.”
        It is only, and always only, within the realm of “business” that people get concerned with “why”. Why should those CEO’s why should those corporate entities “be allowed” to make–no, the correct word really is “horde”–all those billions and billions of dollars?
        Part of the answer, of course, is that Supreme Court decision in the late 1800’s that said, “Yep. A ‘corporation’ is a ‘person,’ a ‘legal fiction,’ with the legal right to engage in commerce and business just like a flesh-and-blood human being.” For me, mark that as the beginning of the end for the human race.
        Then in the early 1900’s, there is that “Ford v the Dodge Brothers” legal case. Henry Ford was ready to open another plant to keep making those inexpensive cars so more people could own a car. And the Dodge brothers (their name, not the auto maker) took him to court. And the courts agreed: “Mr. Ford, you are in business. And your primary objective is to increase the wealth of your share-holders and stock-holders.” Yep, you are not in business to make a product that works and is affordable, but you are in the business of increasing the profit of stock-holders and share-holders. Now revisit that previous case (and it was one of those damned old railroad tycoons from the late 1800’s) and this country’s future was, metaphorically speaking, written in stone.
        So there are indeed a lot of people who simply “don’t care”. And by that, I mean that yes, it does indeed appear that a lot of people “don’t care” about the “poor”. But they see the same world I do. And there isn’t anything at all “fair” in any of it, period.
        I mean, hell, I’m 5’5. So much for me earning millions of dollars a year…playing basketball. And I don’t hear anyone “demanding” that “they” change their rules, their standards for me being a ballplayer. I can’t sing worth a damn. Is it “fair” that someone who can sing makes millions of dollars a year? “Fine: Empty your own damned trash.” “No. That’s what I pay you to do.” “That’s okay with me ’cause I ain’t buyin’ your stupid albums or paying to see you in a concert. We’re even.”
        Again, please don’t misunderstand. I’m the guy who went through 60 employers in his 50 years of blue-collar labor. If I learned anything, it is that those “at the top” are indeed the people not only with whom I have nothing in common…in terms of money…but nothing in common, period. They are indeed driven by a passion, that “love of money,” that makes them…well, the kind of people I avoid at all costs.
        And I agree with you that that really does remain the discussion: “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
        My personal problem is, again, that the discussion is limited to only the world of “business,” or to very precise, any and all businesses that are not “entertainment” oriented, again, such as the entertainment industry, sports, and all the rest to which I alluded.
        And it is exactly right there where the country is split right down the middle…and there ain’t a surgeon in the world who catch patch that back up.
        But it was fun while it lasted, right?
        James, as always, you stay safe and be well.

      2. Randy, it’s okay to jump in. Comments are just a bull session.

        I don’t see anything wrong with a basketball player making millions if team can afford them. My objection is we have a very narrow path to becoming a basketball star. What if we had farm teams where potential players could work their way up without going to school or college?

        What brain surgeons make isn’t always tied to their skills, but to the shenanigans of our healthcare system. The same is true of garbage collectors, the system is rigged against them. A brain surgeon should make more than a garbage collector, and that’s not the issue here. What I’m saying is we rig the system to pay most people the least possible while others have a system rigged to pay them the highest that the system can squeeze out of the public. We pay public employees the least possible because we want to control taxes. Because the healthcare system doesn’t have that restraint it’s fees are constantly escalating.

        That you can’t play basketball or sing for a living is not unfair. We can’t have everything we want. But is it fair for some people to get good healthcare while others don’t when there’s no measure of deserving? We now use the ability to make money, and that’s an unfair system. It would be ethical to tie healthcare to wealth if everyone had the same opportunity to acquire wealth.

        We make decisions all the time, but usually to rig the system for people making money. What not make other kinds of decisions?

        All I’m suggesting is we need to tweak the system so it’s not so one-sided for some.

  3. James,…I would agree that the natural process of evolution is being skewed by our relentless ability to modify the natural surroundings of our limited biosphere . We call it technology, and the level of demand for increases in the overall standard of living is driving consumption to ever greater levels. One of the key effects on evolution is the downward pressure on the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) As a species we are actually heading toward extinction given the low variant projections of the UN Population Studies group. The lack of scarcity due to our technologies has all but eliminated growth in population over the past half century or so. When intuition would suggest that the increasing lack of scarcity would lead one to think that we should be headed for even higher rates of reproduction. Alas this is not the case. So the question becomes why has the lack of scarcity aided the population explosion since the dawn of industrialization but in a short 150 years since the increasing lack of scarcity is actually working against reproduction?(a topic for another post)

    The point in my previous reply is that we don’t decide anything. To do do so would assume we are agents of free will which from where I’m standing is an illusion. The actions and behaviours of humans are driven by the same imperatives as any other life on the planet,…survival and reproduction. It’s just that our pursuits of same are much more sophisticated then other species because of our evolved capacity for socialization through language and the subsequent capacity for cooperation and collaboration. The confusion arises when we believe we can influence how events will unfold in the future when in fact events will unfold in the only way they can. Whether we call ourselves Liberal or Conservative we are all the same in relation to how events unfold as the future becomes the past.

    I know we relish the idea that we can actually effect how things could or should be, but in the physical universe in which we exist That is already decided so to speak. We are along for the ride.

    Now some will say that is a recipe for nihilism. I would submit its a recognition of how the universe actually works

    The concept of fairness and equity exists in our imagination. If it happens to be or is evolving to or away from that realization remains to be seen as the future is unfolding in the only way possible.

    1. Brgcorbett, that’s a fascinating idea to think about. Could societies be sentient and have free will. Humans are a collection of organisms that have somehow achieve self-awareness. But self-awareness is singular like a point of focus, and there’s way too much happening in our minds to think there is just one process going on. I don’t believe in free will either, although I do believe we strive for it.

      Since I believe machines will one day be sentient and self-aware I can wonder about societies. I tend to doubt it. But I do believe societies can make collective decisions, either by the sum of all our action or by democracy.

      Reality doesn’t care. It makes no rules other than the laws of nature. But aren’t we evolving to step outside of reality? We can make our ethical rules. The trouble is everyone makes different decisions, or assume what the rules should be, and there’s little consensus. But what if there were? Most of us agree murder is bad. The #MeToo movement is changing the public consensus.

      If we could maximize democracy we could steer society. But declaring 50% the point of consensus is wrong. We need to make it much higher, like 66% or 75%.

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