General Question

Hobbes's avatar

What if the Government only did three things?

Asked by Hobbes (7257 points ) June 10th, 2011

We are all human beings sharing this planet we call Earth. We share with one another certain physical needs: air, water, food, shelter, and medicine. In order to produce food, shelter, and medicine, we must make some impact on the planet. However, at the moment, we are causing catastrophic damage to the natural systems on which we depend, not to supply these basic necessities to everyone, but to give luxuries to a small minority.

Government, like any human organization, is problematic because people with power tend to want to accumulate more power. A direct democracy would seem to counter this tendency since it would distribute power over the entire population. The problem is that Government is such a complex organization it could never work efficiently, which is why we use the representative system. So, what if Government only did three things? First, give everyone free access to food, shelter and medicine. Second, protect the natural systems on which we are dependent. Third, impartially arbitrate conflicts between people, focusing on who has been harmed and what their needs are, rather than on punishment. If Government were this focused in its role, it seems to me direct democracy or something like it would actually be possible, and that the entire world could practice it. Also, if the Government fulfilled these three functions it seems to me that all other human action could be completely free. If everyone had access to their needs, had a just, flexible and reliable system for conflict resolution, and the environment were understood and cared for, there would be no need to regulate anything else.

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112 Answers

marinelife's avatar

How will the government pay for the free access to food, shelter and medicine?

Hobbes's avatar

Government can pay for anything the people are willing to pay for, that’s the idea. Feeding the world, as compared to, say, continually building ever more sophisticated tools of murder, would be cheap.

mazingerz88's avatar

Giving people free access to food sounds like a recipe for disaster. What if one wants seconds?

bob_'s avatar

What if we could all just take each others’ hands and sing Kumbaya?

Your scenario is thoroughly unrealistic.

Hobbes's avatar

@mazingerz88 – Then they may have seconds.

@bob_ – Why, exactly?

WasCy's avatar

Believe it or not, at one point in my life – probably for a week or two – I was a communist. I read the slogan about “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need,” and I thought, “Of course! That’s how men should live in the world. We do ‘what we can’ and provide for ‘what we need’. It’s totally obvious.”

I had an argument with my father, who listened to my inane ‘revelation’ respectfully, and then asked me two questions: “Who decides what each person’s ability is?” “Who decides what each person’s need is?”

That’s where the breakdown occurs. If you want more stuff, then you inflate your ‘need’. If you want to work less, then you underplay your ‘ability’. In any case, with the whole world working on a system like this, and with the necessarily huge government that is required to settle all of the various questions of “ability” and “need” (and make the necessary transfers of whatever does get produced, and keep what it “needs” along the way, of course!), there won’t be so much to transfer as everyone’s needs grow and abilities decrease.

That’s human nature.

As a matter of fact, if you live in one of the nominal representative democracies that exist in the world today you do have “free access” to food, shelter, medical care, automobiles, energy, education, and luxuries. The problem that you face, of course, is that “free access” doesn’t mean that these things are “free”. But these things exist in markets of all kinds spread all around the world. All you have to do is produce something else (or one of those things) that someone else also wants, and exchange your products and services for those produced by others. It’s called “the free market” and it really works pretty well.

Have all the seconds – and the luxuries – that you want, and are prepared to exchange for.

mazingerz88's avatar

@Hobbes Yes of course, right. But when does it stop? What if a citizen decides he just wants to eat, sleep in his house and take meds when he is sick? And in the course of all these he screws and produces children which might follow his lead. What is the goverment going to do then, create a 4th thing to do?

bkcunningham's avatar

Read about the Mayflower Compact as a beginning lesson in why it won’t work. You heart is in the right place.

King_Pariah's avatar

You fail to understand that there are people who don’t like government, period.

that there are people who want to kill and really have no other want than to kill.

(since there are probably those who disagree utterly and completely with the absolute version of this next statement, I’ll put it this way) that many people are selfish animals only looking to sate their own greed don’t give a damn about the next person. how are you going to stop this? Constantly slap them on the hand and tell them to stop? you can’t unless you find away to destroy individuality and make everyone idiotic pathetic sheep. You’ve designed Nietzsche’s nightmare come true.

that every government is just another form of oligarchy eventually, and the one you set up is way too easy to become an oligarchy.

You’d have a society of people who settle, have no drive forward, and would just be a bunch of cattle waiting for their daily rations and bring trivial problems to the government to solve. A bunch of idiots being led by the few… oh wait, that’s not too different than today… nevermind that.

Corey_D's avatar

I only want it to do three things, but not the three you mentioned. Military, police, and courts. The government you describe is impossible for too many reasons to count.

Also the impracticality of direct democracy is not the only reason we don’t have it. We have a constitutional republic so that we can put restraints on what the majority wants to keep it from taking away the rights of some for the “public good”.

YARNLADY's avatar

I would love to see a true socialist type government.

King_Pariah's avatar

@Corey_D another brilliant point why Hobbes’s gov’t wouldn’t work, or at least wouldn’t be as fair as possible.

prioritymail's avatar

Who would build and maintain roads, etc.?

Jaxk's avatar

Sounds like the ‘Borg Collective’. How appealing is that.

Hobbes's avatar

@WasCy

What I’m proposing is not actually Communism, as I understand it. The idea is that the government wouldn’t be “large” in the sense of being bureaucratic and unwieldy. It would be large in the sense that it influenced the whole world, but it would act almost entirely on a local level via direct democracy.

“The problem that you face, of course, is that “free access” doesn’t mean that these things are “free”.”

The problem I face is that the fact that they aren’t free means that the majority of the world struggles on a daily basis to get stable access to these things. The other problem is that the free market is literally in the process of destroying life on the planet.

@mazingerz88

Then that citizen is entirely entitled to do so. However, people are social beings and have interests and passions. I doubt many people would choose to simply sit around all day every day.

@King_Pariah

“You’d have a society of people who settle, have no drive forward”

Why exactly is it important to have a “drive forward”? What exactly are we progressing toward? I don’t think things get better or worse, they just change. Besides, do you really think people would stop creating if they all had air, water, food, and shelter? People would stop playing music and dancing? People would stop trying to understand the Universe? People would stop loving one another?

“many people are selfish animals only looking to sate their own greed”

I think all people hold the capacity for enormous cruelty and brutality within them, but also the capacity for enormous generosity and love.

@Corey_D

The idea is that the government would be restricted to just those three functions, by something like a Constitution.

@prioritymail

Well personally I would like to see roads disappear, since they transport cars which emit fossil fuels, which are causing problems nearing catastrophic levels.

@Jaxk

The Borg were a pretty thinly veiled stereotype of Communism. Is that perhaps what you’re afraid of? If so, see the top of my post.

Coloma's avatar

Don’t forget a 24 work week and a minimum wage of $20 per hour! lol

King_Pariah's avatar

I think it’s always better to strive forward and become better than what you are. I guess our views on how one improves themselves differs and we’re not going to see eye to eye on this one. But it kinda just clicked, how the hell are you going to be able to handle potential famines? That there is plenty of cause for riot just because you control the food doesn’t mean you have any control on Mother Nature and what she fancies to do next. That gets me thinking, what about natural disasters? How would your society handle that? And is your silence on the other matters I brought up acknowledging them as true? And just because people may have the “capacity” for love and generosity doesn’t mean in anyway that they will or want to.

bkcunningham's avatar

Well sure communism only killed 100 million people last century. But that’s only because the US never really gave it a chance to succeed.

ETpro's avatar

Hey Hobbes. Great question. I’ve missd my facorite tiger. Where’ve you been? How’s Calvin doing, BTW.

The downfall of most socialist systems—not the stuff the Big Lie boys in the GOP and Fox News call socialism, but real socialism, which by definition means that the government owns all the means of production and distribution of wealth, is that there is no incentive to work hard. The natural born hard workers soon realize that they are carrying a cadre of lazy bums who get just as much in services for doing nothing as they get for busting hump to get things done. Productivity, creativity, innovation all tank.

The problem with direct democracy is that as soon as the majority realizes thay can simply vote to strip the rights of minorities one-by-one and confiscate all their worldly goods for themselves, they are likely to do just that.

In a perfect world where we were all highly educated, loving, altruistic champoins of fairness and egalitarianism, your plan would be great. I should love to live in such a society. I’d be able;e to turn my time to the most creative possible pursuits, and probably give far more to my fellow man than I do today. But at this time, I don’t think it’s pro\practical.

But you know what? We humans have to begin the education and moral instruction it takes to make a socialist society work. As robots increasingly take over jobs, we are going to have to find a different p[paradigm than the 9 to 5 grind at the mill or the office. The net 100 years are going to be interesting to live through. We appear to have inherited the old curse, “ay you live in interesting times.”

Hobbes's avatar

@Coloma – The point is that neither of those things would be necessary.

@King_Pariah – But better by whose standards? What does it actually mean to “improve” yourself. You change as you age, but older people aren’t better than younger people.

Famines tend to affect single crops. The potato famine in Ireland happened because everyone was dependent on this single food source. If you grow a diverse crop rather than attempting monoculture (the norm today for Industrial Agriculture), diseases and weather are much less likely to completely destroy what you have. The world would have a single food network, but that food would be produced and distributed as locally as possible. However, if there was a famine in one area, the damage could be alleviated by surrounding areas. Natural disasters could be alleviated in a similar way: the government, run by the people, would give food, shelter and medicine to anyone who needed it.

“that every government is just another form of oligarchy eventually, and the one you set up is way too easy to become an oligarchy.”

The point here is that Government would be limited to just these three functions, and would be organized as directly as possible by the people who those functions affected. This seems to me to be the strongest defense against oligarchy.

“just because people may have the “capacity” for love and generosity doesn’t mean in anyway that they will or want to”

Of course not, and you cant force anyone to love, but people do anyway. I believe that most people would be willing to be this generous if they could see that the system worked.

@bkcunningham – “Communism” didn’t actually kill anyone. Dictatorial governments calling themselves Communist did. In any case, what I’m proposing is not Communism.

@ETpro

Why must there be an incentive to “work hard”? That stems from the puritan work ethic, which is a cultural value, not an absolute truth. Why must the economy grow if it is destroying the world? It seems to me the economy should slow. We need to produce food, shelter, and medicine, and that may take hard work. But whether the work is hard or not isn’t the point: the point is to make enough food so that everyone can eat.

“The problem with direct democracy is that as soon as the majority realizes thay can simply vote to strip the rights of minorities one-by-one and confiscate all their worldly goods for themselves”

The idea behind my proposal is that the power of people participating in Government would be tempered by the fact that the Government only has authority to do the three things I mentioned.

“As robots increasingly take over jobs, we are going to have to find a different paradigm”

I find it interesting that you would place faith in robots to create a new paradigm over your fellow human beings.

Coloma's avatar

Utopian ideas are nothing new.
I create my own utopia, so far, it’s worked out quite nicely. ;-)

Hobbes's avatar

@Coloma

Don’t just dismiss this idea as a “Utopia”. Tell me specifically why it couldn’t work.

Coloma's avatar

@Hobbes

Oh, I think it’s a great idea, but I’m off to bed now. I’m too tired to think anymore today. ;-)

Hobbes's avatar

@Coloma

Fair enough =]

WasCy's avatar

Your idea won’t work for several fundamental reasons.

1. In the first place, your premises are flawed. The idea that “we are causing catastrophic damage” to our environment is not borne out by facts. In fact, the richer societies become, the better their environments, in general. For another thing, government would never “agree to remain small”. This is one of the fundamental problems with all governments at all times.

2. In the second place, and just as fundamental, your intent is a violation of human nature. People do not willingly and permanently supply the wherewithal of existence to “others” without a means of fair exchange, and without feeling that they get something in return for what they give up. It’s the idea of “fair exchange” that makes us work “harder, better, more, and with more innovation” (and with increasing quality and at less cost). These are the elements that you seem to decry the most.

3. Finally, and this is also crucial, “governments” have never provided the things you believe they should offer “for free”. How do you propose that they will acquire or produce those things?

Jaxk's avatar

@Hobbes

Fun to be idealistic but practicality will always beat you down. You think you can get rid of technology and machinery. After all they either create pollution or drain natural resources. Well guess what, if you want enough food to feed the world, you won’t get it by farming with a horse and plow, you won’t get enough cow shit to fertilize it and you won’t get bumper crops by waiting for it to rain. All these things we do with technology. Look where they don’t have it and they’re starving to death. No would be able to help because you can’t send food to where they don’t have it because you don’t like roads or technology. The first part of you plan would have to to kill off about ¾ of the population of the world. I don’t like my odds.

ETpro's avatar

@Hobbes If we automate virtually everything, then there probably won’t be any necessity for humans to work hard in order to survive. We’d work hard at achieving the respect of our fellow human beings. We’d work hard at what we we are passionate about. And those who are inherently lazy could just miss out on the joys of doing that. But right now, it takes a considerable number of people working hard to grow anywhere near enough food to feed 7 billion people, and to transport it to them, and to secure the energy and build the infrastructure for that transportation.

I said nothing about robots creating a new paradigm. I said “we” are going to have to create that. When humans are no longer really required to feed 7 billion people, and provide the transportation, and energy, and infrastructure to make all that happen, what do we do? It is humans who must decide that.

koanhead's avatar

@ETpro Government ownership of means of production and of distribution is a definition of Communism, not of socialism. It’s in the Communist Manifesto IIRC.
I don’t know that a rigorous definition of socialism even exists, but I think that the many Western European countries which offer wide-ranging social services at the cost of high taxation for everyone, and which call themselves “socialist” or “social democratic” are probably the best templates for reference.

YARNLADY's avatar

I don’t think incentive is the issue, but the fundamental “civilized” approach to behavior is lacking in the human race at this time.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

If they only did 3 things, I’d feel like they were really ripping me off – I consider protection to be one of the main reasons for living under a government, instead of just going off into the woods and going it all on your own. I hate that that’s no longer a real option. But really, it’s hard to imagine that you’d get to a place in society where you could worry about providing free food, shelter, and medicine to every person living in said society if you had no protection system, both militarily and judicially, and had to drop everything and form some private defense system any time anyone attacked.

Hobbes's avatar

@WasCy

1. Our current system is dependent on the burning of fossil fuels, which are causing climate change. Active habitat destruction combined with the effects of climate change are destabilizing countless ecosystems. Overfishing has depleted out oceans almost entirely now, and the oceans are changing, again due to climate change.

The idea of limiting government with a commonly agreed upon constitution has worked reasonably well in the US (though recently it has come under heavy assault). The limiting of Government to these three functions would be done in a similar manner. Furthermore, direct democracy, by its structure, distributes power almost evenly so that it cannot be over-centralized.

2. “People do not willingly and permanently supply the wherewithal of existence to “others” without a means of fair exchange, and without feeling that they get something in return for what they give up.”

But don’t you see? The exchange would be that everyone would benefit from this system. Every single person would eat freely, always have a warm and safe place for themselves and their families to sleep, and have free medicine and medical care whenever they were sick. Who wouldn’t want that?

3. Governments don’t provide people with food? Farmers aren’t government employees, but government corn subsidies have made corn and soybeans have made them the most grown crops in the US. Many governments provide free medicine and health care. As for shelter, governments do build buildings, even if they tend not to be homes.

ETpro's avatar

@koanhead No, I gave you the correct definition of socialism in my own words. But here it is in Merriam-Webster. The vast right-wing noise macnine in America has been lying about its meaning so loudly and so often that it’s no surprise that many are confused about its true meaning.

Hobbes's avatar

@Jaxk

“You think you can get rid of technology and machinery”

I do not propose either of those things. I think we must use technology and machinery in ways that do not cause long-term damage to the stability of life on the planet. Furthermore, I think that technology and machinery are means to ends, not ends in themselves. People have used different tools for different purposes over the course of History, but I do not believe that the story of history and human technology is the story of progress.

Hobbes's avatar

@ETpro

The problem with doing everything with robots is that they’re very expensive and complicated to build. Human beings are extremely complex and sophisticated beings and there are nearly 7 billion of them already.

“But right now, it takes a considerable number of people working hard to grow anywhere near enough food to feed 7 billion people”

Our current food system is extremely mechanized, and yet extremely inefficient, because instead of growing varied produce for human consumption, we grow massive ammounts of corn, wheat and soy beans. Most of this is turned into feed for animals which become meat, and the rest is turned into junk food. It is also transported all around the planet, rather than distributed locally. The average meal has traveled over a thousand miles from where its ingredients came from. Because of this, everything must be packaged and preserved. All of this takes an incredible amount of energy, but it’s not necessary if we reorganize the way we make and consume food.

@MyNewtBoobs

If every living person had free access to clean air and water, good food and shelter, medicine and medical care, and an impartial system for resolving conflicts, it seems to me that organized violence would cease. People would still get angry with one another, and sometimes even kill each other, but it seems to me that it would remain on a personal scale.

King_Pariah's avatar

By whose standards is exactly won’t let us see eye to eye, Just reading what you’ve posted has shown me a world I would be utterly disgusted by. And sure, perhaps most would be willing to live in such a manner, but you still have to deal with the few, such as I who frankly just can’t live in such a society. What would YOU do with us? you still have not answered that, what becomes of those who don’t like this world government of yours? OR those of us that are greedy? Or do you make them your politicians?

Also, it may be a limited oligarchy, but an oligarchy nonetheless. Who is going to run this government of yours? The people? Utterly impractical. The people they elect? okay, and how many are there? Oh yeah, A FEW.

I see I forgot to mention this, but Population, how would YOU deal with the population? Current projections show that the world can sustain roughly 12 billion persons, what will you do when the population exceeds that? Or will you take preemptive measures to ensure that it never happens?

Back to natural disasters, in order for any government to be successful, they need to know how to deal with worst case scenarios, so I’m gonna pop one at you. Yellowstone erupts, the ash it puts out pretty much blocks out the sun worldwide, worldwide famine ensues, what then? Of course, the government has special rations it has packed up somewhere to deliver to people, but wait, that would mean that the government would have to ration food ahead of time in case of such a disaster arose? Which would mean NO SECOND HELPINGS. Sure you can argue such a natural disaster is improbable, but the dinosaurs probably thought that too seconds before that asteroid killed them all.

What would prevent people from trying to develop Nuclear Power Plants? Certainly their are arguments that as long as the proper failsafes are present, they pose no risk to the outside enviroment, and they can shove the data and stats in your face that’ll prove it. What about coal plants? The can provide enough data and stats as well to point out that their carbon emissions don’t have any significant impact on global warming and that “global warming” is a trend the Earth has gone through many a times with the strengthening and weakening of it’s magnetic fields.

What about individual wants? will you make every drive eco friendly cars? if so, what will you use to determine that which is and isn’t eco friendly? Ban diesel? why? My Dad drives an F-250 and can easily get 30 mpg, or is that not considered to be good enough gas mileage? Or if he is allowed, would you then ban someone who can’t drive efficiently from driving such a vehicle? And wouldn’t that be then getting involved with people on a level that would interfere with their wants? Or will you make everyone drive battery powered cars so there is no emissions? But battery powered cars pose extremely toxic risks to the environment in accidents. Drive solar powered cars? Their too weak to efficient carry loads.

You haven’t anyway to ensure that civil liberties and rights are protected. “Talking” and “diplomacy” are such inefficient measures to prevent or stop violations. Look at Neville Chamberlain, went and talked to Hitler, “peace in our time,” he said, WW2 broke out. So much for peace. Impartially arbitrate won’t do anything significant short of settle divorce court. Actions do speak so much louder than words.

Also, these three jobs of your government are poorly defined, sure it’s just an OP, but you do need to explain how you would provide countermeasures to ensure that the government doesn’t breach their limits.

koanhead's avatar

@ETpro I suppose I must stand corrected, but still- the “right wing noise machine” has been blatting at me for 20 years that Socialism and Communism are one and the same. Right-wing commentators constantly and consistently conflate the two.

I seriously doubt that Upton Sinclair, Robert A. Heinlein or Franklin Roosevelt would have agreed with Merriam-Webster’s definition- but for lack of a more authoritative citation I must accept yours as definitive, albeit under protest.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Hobbes I disagree that if people had these things, most conflict would disappear, on a more basic level. But to address the idea of “an impartial system for resolving conflicts”, how exactly would you do that? There’s no such thing as total impartiality so long as humans are making the decisions, and having robots make the decisions is even worse because they fail to understand the emotional aspect that’s so important to humans. Not to mention that robots that can think on that level are pretty far into the future. What we have right now, what every government ever has had, in the way of a justice system is not impartial.

King_Pariah's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs actually considering how human technology increases at an exponential level, they’re expecting that AI comes around 2050… that’s not that far off…

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@King_Pariah That’s AI. Not AI perfected.

King_Pariah's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs well with AI at 2050, AI perfected can’t be that much farther off.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@King_Pariah Star Trek was pretty big on imagining all the different AI possibilities. In each and every one, Captain Kirk had to destroy it because there’s no such thing. The technology might be there, but our ability to conceive of an actually perfect AI system won’t be.

ragingloli's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs
Kirk did not destroy Data.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@ragingloli True – but Data wasn’t an AI designed to be a judge, so I’m not counting him in this scenario. Good lord, I had no idea that such a one-off comment would become such a thing…

plethora's avatar

You have a great idea and you are the first one we’ll throw in prison..or kill…simply because we want to.

Hobbes's avatar

@King_Pariah

“Just reading what you’ve posted has shown me a world I would be utterly disgusted by.”

But why? You wouldn’t want to have clean air and water, free food, guaranteed shelter and medical care?

“Who is going to run this government of yours? The people? Utterly impractical.”

The idea here, which I don’t think you’ve addressed, is that limiting government the these three functions would limit its complexity enough that it would be practical.

In the event of a worldwide catastrophe like said volcano exploding, there will be suffering regardless of the political system humans are using. But it seems to me that a system run totally by the people, and focused on meeting peoples needs would be the best possible system to cope with a massive disaster. Because in such a situation, clean air and water, food, shelter, and medical care are exactly what people suffering from it will need.

“What about individual wants? will you make every drive eco friendly cars?”

Personally, I think we will have to find some other way besides cars to transport ourselves. We simply cannot continue to burn fossil fuels at the rate we are. In fact, the current system of transportation is largely only necessary because we are trying to transport all sorts of goods all around the world, and particularly food, rather than producing and distributing things locally.

The point, though, is that it’s not up to me to determine exactly what is or is not acceptable. The idea is that this decision would be made by the people, based on the information and knowledge existing at that time.

As for population, the problem isn’t that there are too many people, it’s that we are consuming too many resources and producing too much waste. If we focused on producing these needs in a way that doesn’t cause damage to the environment, instead of on producing luxuries for a few at the cost of the many, overpopulation would cease to be a problem.

“WW2 broke out. So much for peace.”

WW2 broke out for many complex reasons, but foremost among them was that Germany was destabilized after WWI. That is, the Versailles Treaty combined with the economic stress of the world made it hard for many people to have stable access to food, water, shelter and medical care. People who had luxuries lost them. Thus, people were angry and desperate, and Hitler appealed to that anger and desperation.

“you do need to explain how you would provide countermeasures to ensure that the government doesn’t breach their limits.”

The countermeasure would be a collective agreement like our Constitution, backed up by the will of the people. If anyone wished to not participate in the agreement, they would be under no compulsion to do so. If the agreement dissolves then so be it, but an idea like the Constitution can have enormous power.

Hobbes's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs

I said that organized violence would disappear. I don’t think conflict would disappear, but I think it would be much less pervasive and would appear on a personal scale.

“But to address the idea of “an impartial system for resolving conflicts”, how exactly would you do that?”

One of the main ideas behind this is that of restorative justice. The idea is to focus on the needs of the victims rather than on punishing the perpetrator. So, if someone had been harmed they could appeal to the court to right the wrong. True and complete impartiality in such matters is of course impossible, but when the duty of the court is to help rather than punish, it is less of a problem, and having a diverse group of people with no personal investment in the decision helps a great deal.

Hobbes's avatar

@plethora

Says the man in the suit ;-)

MilkyWay's avatar

I’m going to say this is not a good idea, but a noble thought.
It’s just not possible.

ETpro's avatar

@Hobbes We will see how the price curve goes.ENIAC, one of the first computers,. was the size of a large building and required a refrigeration plant filling a second large building toi keep it running A cheap cell phone today has far more processing power than ENIAC did.

Hobbes's avatar

@queenie

Thank you, but why isn’t it possible? The means certainly exist, only the will is lacking at the moment.

@ETpro

I should have clarified that I meant expensive in terms of resource and energy costs. A machine can be both very efficient at its task and widely available, and yet be inefficient in terms of the energy it consumes. I’m not saying, either, that machines should be abandoned. I for one love the internet and would love to see it stick around. However technology, including the internet, must be mediated so that it does not harm humans or the other life on the planet (on which we depend).

ETpro's avatar

@Hobbes Even with that definition, technology will chil away at the problem till few remember what it even was. I don’t think this is going to happen in the immediate future, but I do think it’s going to happen. So it does mmake sense to begin deciding ow we handle the machines we’ve made making us obsolete.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

This proposal, in short and put simply, is not all that simple at all.

MilkyWay's avatar

@Hobbes
1. As @marinelife asked, who will pay for all the free stuff? I’m sure people wouldn’t appreciate higher taxes.
2. Do you really honestly think everyone likes the government and agrees to whatever they say and do? I’m telling you, they don’t.
3. When you say ” the means exist” , what do you mean? The govenment is struggling enough as it is, do you really think they have “the means” to give out free food and medical supplies?

TexasDude's avatar

only the will is lacking at the moment.

So… how do you create the will, then, @Hobbes?

Also, haven’t you asked this question in a different form once or twice before?

incendiary_dan's avatar

I’ll catch up later, but for now…

It has worked for most of our history, and without the tyranny of overarching government.

mattbrowne's avatar

I think governments and community bodies should focus on frameworks to satisfy the two most basic levels of needs as defined in

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs

Clean air, clean water, the selling of safe food (not the food itself), security, employment rules, health insurance, property rights and so forth.

And stay out of the rest as much as possible.

WasCy's avatar

@Hobbes

The way you keep coming back to “who wouldn’t want clean air and water, free food and shelter and medical care?” makes me think of farm animals. Livestock on a well-run farm has all of what you propose.

If you’re suggesting that we give up all initiative and decide to live as cattle, then you can count most of us out. Even people who are in nominal agreement with the “things” you want to dole out will chafe at the restrictions you will also have to apply.

Have you heard of Pol Pot and his attempt to do pretty much exactly as you propose? Read up on him and get back to us.

Jaxk's avatar

@WasCy

Your not being fair. You get all those things in prison as well.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Jaxk I can’t remember the name of the guy, but some famous prisoner or another was quoted, upon leaving prison and rejoining society, as saying something along the lines of: “I’m not free, I’m just in minimum security now.”

In reference to your comment above about feeding the planet: one, industrial agriculture does not feed the planet. Part of that is distribution issues, but it’s also inherently innefficient in terms of food per acre. It also contributes to soil loss, which means it would/will ultimately end up in overshoot. Two: Permaculture, on the other hand, can produce many times the amount of food per acre, and healthier food at that, while building soil and without requiring machines. The same goes for limited pastoralism. In short, we have too many people to continue to use machines to produce food.

@WasCy That is really one of the simplest and best arguments against communism. I don’t particularly mind a socialized economy of sorts, and in fact prefer it, but such things are entirely possible without the loss of individual freedoms and oppressiveness inherent in Communism.

But really, did you really type “The idea that “we are causing catastrophic damage” to our environment is not borne out by facts”? Really? Can you really say that in a world in which an area larger than the size of Florida is turned into freaking Mordor in Canada just to get the most innefficient oil (and a larger area surrounding it poisoned perhaps forever), a world in which large regions of Iraq have over 80% infant mutations (many of them stillborn) because of depleted uranium rounds, when we have less than 3% of our original old growth forests, where poor women in third world countries get cadmium poisoning from recycling our electronics, when we’ve depleted over 90% of the large fish in the ocean, when 120 species minimum go extinct per day, when we have hundreds of gallons of water tainted with plutonium (a substance that gives cancer 100% of the time with less than a gram) being dumped into the ocean, when there’s dioxin in mothers’ breast milk, where we face ecosystem collapse in numerous places because cell towers are killing bees, when corporations regularly get away with killing thousands in India, when we use seven years worth of our “solar budget” per day…do I really need to go on? I can do this for days, but I really doubt it matters for if anyone’s going to just deny what’s going on.

@Hobbes To finally directly answer your question, I don’t think it is the role of government to do these things. I don’t think governments have any place, anywhere. The link I posted about gift economies (which I know you’re familiar with, but others might not be) clearly shows that autonomous groups of people throughout history have managed to arrange complex social systems that provide for the needs of everyone in the group without tyrannical authority or a parasitic managing class. Personally, I think it makes Marxism look immature by comparison. We don’t even require anyone to mediate disputes, if only we learn to do so.

To attempt to answer @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard‘s question for @Hobbes: the primary catalyst of any change of this sort needs to be cultural; the group consciousness needs to accept the idea as legitimate. Art, music, writing, etc. would be integral to that. It needs to go hand in hand with economic changes, such as underground or alternate economic systems (who’s going to risk their asses for a system that can’t keep them fed?). This is basically the work I’m doing, combining these two things with my teaching. A vein self-sufficiency is integral to any successful social movement.

@MyNewtBoobs Most of the fun AI stuff, if I remember correctly, started in The Next Generation, so it was Picard or one of the other later captains who would vanquish the machines. I think it was Janeway who finally defeated the Borg. Yea, I’ve been nerding out lately.

WasCy's avatar

@incendiary_dan

I stopped reading when I got to “the size of the state of Florida” to check the link and do the fact check on that statement.

Page 6 of that link states “150 square miles” has been developed into oil sands mines in Alberta. That might sound like a lot to people who live on quarter-acre lots or in small apartments in cities, but it’s not the 65,000+ square miles of Florida, and it’s not even 10% of the 1500 or so square miles of Rhode Island.

Exaggeration and hyperbole won’t make your point. I freely admit that human activity – industrial activity of all sorts – transforms land from pristine places like Alberta was into places that no sane person would want to visit, much less live. I stand behind my statement.

Jaxk's avatar

@incendiary_dan

Sounds like a reasonable quote. Still in prison but without the sodomy.

The permaculture sounds interesting But I admit to certain skepticism. I don’t know enough about it to dispute the claims but it sounds too good to be true. If it works without all the equipment (machinery and such) it would be a perfect fit for third world countries that are starving to death. But then again at this point I don’t know what they’re talking about.

WestRiverrat's avatar

One question. If you eliminate all the roads, how are you going to get the food from kansas where it is produced into the cities where all the hungry people are?

King_Pariah's avatar

“But why? You wouldn’t want to have clean air and water, free food, guaranteed shelter and medical care?”

Clean air and water? No issue there. Guaranteed medical care, no personal issue there either. Free food and guaranteed shelter. Issue, big time. Free goods in my personal opinion, encourages laziness and stagnation, people could easily decide to hell with working, I’ll munch fuck and sleep the rest of my days because the government will take care of me.Free food definitely will encourage the world’s gluttons and sloths to prosper in a world of decadence. I believe people need to work to bring food back onto the table, but wait! The food in your society cannot be free anyway because free food will require a large full time workforce to sate the hunger of the world. And how will you reward/pay them for their services and goods? Do you believe that good will is enough? That they need to grow food in order to sate their hunger? That will only result in people growing enough for themselves, and screw those who live in places that it’s hard to grow food and those suffering from famine. So if your going to have “free food” the workers will need compensation, but since the food is “free” then how will the value of money be determined? If there isn’t money, then once again, how will you reward/pay someone for their services or goods? Then Guaranteed shelter, yes, it sounds wonderful, but who is going to be in charge of utilities of the housing? Since you said you’d provide free shelter, that sounds like the work there is for the government to handle, which once again will take a massive workforce of people who’ll need some sort of payment. Congratulations, you already have a government controlled by a few controlling many. With most of the world employed by the government to grow food, provide medical care, and take care of utilities, you in effect have a massive corporation, or an oligarchy.

“As for population, the problem isn’t that there are too many people, it’s that we are consuming too many resources and producing too much waste. If we focused on producing these needs in a way that doesn’t cause damage to the environment, instead of on producing luxuries for a few at the cost of the many, overpopulation would cease to be a problem.”

This doesn’t change the fact that even if everyone had their basic needs met but kept reproducing and surpassed the 12 billion point, which we’re expected to do by 2050, then we’ll once again have to suffer a shortage of resources, will most definitely result in conflict, violent conflict.

”“WW2 broke out. So much for peace.”

WW2 broke out for many complex reasons, but foremost among them was that Germany was destabilized after WWI. That is, the Versailles Treaty combined with the economic stress of the world made it hard for many people to have stable access to food, water, shelter and medical care. People who had luxuries lost them. Thus, people were angry and desperate, and Hitler appealed to that anger and desperation.”

You just took this completely out of context. I was pointing out that diplomacy does not work efficiently on a grand scale and gave an example where in Chamberlain got Hitler to “promise” not to attack Western Europe and settle with the empire he had created at that point in time (Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia…). Does Diplomacy stop terrorism, No. Does Diplomacy get someone to stop looking into nuclear technology or even weaponizing, No. Diplomacy on works between nations that have something to lose, not with one that has everything to gain from ignoring the whines of other nations.

“We simply cannot continue to burn fossil fuels at the rate we are. In fact, the current system of transportation is largely only necessary because we are trying to transport all sorts of goods all around the world, and particularly food, rather than producing and distributing things locally.”

Goods will still need to be transported including food. The are areas of the world which humans can adjust to be able to live in but are nonetheless still inhospitable to crops. Also, with natural disasters, transportation will still be required to get food from point a to point b.

Hobbes's avatar

@King_Pariah

“people could easily decide to hell with working, I’ll munch fuck and sleep the rest of my days because the government will take care of me”

Why is working so important? As long as people work enough to meet everyone’s basic needs, I don’t see a problem with people doing as they please. Plus, I really don’t think many people would choose to simply “munch fuck and sleep”. People wish to create and learn and socialize with other people. These things come freely and naturally. People don’t naturally revert to couch potatoes when they’re not in danger of starving or losing the roof over their heads.

“The food in your society cannot be free anyway because free food will require a large full time workforce to sate the hunger of the world.”

By “free” I didn’t mean that it appears out of nowhere. I meant that no-one should have to be concerned that they won’t have enough food or a safe, warm place to sleep. Of course people would still have to work to produce these things, and I imagine that everyone would be involved with the creation and maintenance of these systems to some degree, as determined by local democratic decisions about exactly how to organize. The compensation would be that everyone gets free food, shelter, and medical care.

“if everyone had their basic needs met but kept reproducing and surpassed the 12 billion point, which we’re expected to do by 2050, then we’ll once again have to suffer a shortage of resources, will most definitely result in conflict, violent conflict.”

There is very strong evidence that people who lead stable lives (that is, those in first world countries with stable access to clean air and water, food, shelter, medicine, and personal safety) have fewer children. Combined with education, the increasing availability of birth control, and a less resource-intensive lifestyle, I think such a situation could be avoided. Furthermore, there are ways to produce food, shelter, and medicine that do not deplete or destroy the natural resources which create them. See the permaculture link @incendiary_dan posted. Population growth is a problem because people are consuming non-renewable resources at an exponential rate. If we slow our rate of growth and slow or stop our consumption of such resources, population will not be a problem.

“diplomacy does not work efficiently on a grand scale”

Sorry, I missed your point before. I think you’re right here. As I said, WW2 was caused by a complex array of factors which neither Chamberlain nor Hitler could possibly fully understand, so such an agreement could never be counted upon. This is why I’m proposing a localized direct democracy. Diplomacy and negotiation do work on a localized scale, where there are few enough variables and where the situation can be readily observed that direct action can be taken and useful agreements reached.

“Goods will still need to be transported including food.”

True. My point is simple that we cannot continue to use fossil fuels as the source of energy for transportation, and that we must distribute things as locally as possible, rather than attempting to ship everything all around the world.

Hobbes's avatar

@incendiary_dan

“autonomous groups of people throughout history have managed to arrange complex social systems that provide for the needs of everyone in the group without tyrannical authority or a parasitic managing class.”

The idea behind using direct democracy to manage this system is to get as close as possible to such an autonomous arrangement while still allowing the entire network to cover the globe, and to be flexible enough to withstand disasters. In such a system, there would be no tyrannical authority or managerial class. The people would directly control the organization of the system.

@WasCy

Whether it’s 150 miles square or the size of Florida, the fact remains that we are utterly decimating the natural systems on which we depend. What about dan’s other points? You didn’t respond to any of them. Why are you so sure that the environment isn’t being destroyed?

incendiary_dan's avatar

@WasCy I got the “size of Florida” from the Tar Sands Q&A site. Whatever numbers they’re looking at are either misquoted or old, since the article is from 2 years ago. The Tar Sands operations have been ramped up a lot in the past two years, so that wouldn’t surprise me.

Industrial activity is necessarily destructive. There’s just no getting around the amount of resources it takes and the fact that the scale alone makes it unsustainable. You can’t do that sort of thing on a purely local level, so you always have to import from new places once you’ve run out of resources. Hell, even organic farming is destructive if it’s done using conventional monocropping; it’s what was used for thousands of years in the Middle East, turning the once thickly forested area into parched desert. I don’t see how you can stand by your point while confronting and even partially accepting what I laid out there.

@Jaxk I really recommend doing some Youtube searches for permaculture stuff, particularly if you do any gardening yourself (numerous gardeners are basically now indebted to me for teaching them about permaculture, it’s that good). In particular watch stuff about Geoff Lawton (especially his “Greening the Desert” stuff), Sepp Holzer, Toby Hemenway, and Eric Toensmeier. I’ve heard some great stuff about permaculture food forests being grown in a variety of regions that are generally impoverished, and it does wonders for the villages they’re in.

And even not going the full scale of the perennial polycultures that are the basis of permaculture, complex companion planting like I’m doing in my garden improve yields per acre drastically. I’ll be sure to let everyone know how much I harvest from my tiny garden (roughly 100–150 square feet). It’s basically all annuals this year (I moved in last year), mostly flint corn, beans, and pumpkins.

@King_Pariah I get free food all the time. I just have to go and get it. Yesterday my lunch was a couple cattail shoots, just had to pull them out of the muck. Woulda had some meat, but I forgot to go empty my crayfish trap. Free food abounds, if only we had more wild spaces to let it grow. :)

incendiary_dan's avatar

@King_Pariah One thing I dislike about demographers is that they assume there’s such a thing as a “natural rate of population growth”. This fundamentally denies that humans make informed and reasoned decisions about family planning, which has actually been the case in most cultures. Women in traditional foraging societies have always relied on longstanding traditions to help them make those decisions; did you know that in North America alone there are over 200 plants used as contraceptives? Human population numbers are not mechanistically tied to their food supplies like some other animals.

Okay, I admit I mostly repeated the words of Derrick Jensen in this comment.

prioritymail's avatar

@Hobbes I share your sentiment about roads to some degree. Urban planning seems to lack foresight (often you are limited by what infrastructure is already in place, but this is not true when a new area is developed, e.g. planned communities), and there are a number of directions one could point the finger of blame. In general, I do agree that we design primarily, and often solely, with cars in mind and neglect other transportation modes like walking and cycling. And I agree that this is not a good thing for anyone. I am the kind of person that wants to have all of life’s necessities within two blocks of my home so that I can walk everywhere. I would love to see roads transformed into parks with bike paths in urban areas, and culture adjust to make cycling a viable alternative to driving.

However, I love driving and I love road trips and I love backpacking in the middle of nowhere to appreciate the best nature has to offer. A car makes that possible. More importantly, roads are an efficient way to transport goods (e.g. food, mail) and so they should not all be scraped off the Earth. That said, we have way more roads than we need which are costly to maintain, and our roads are much wider than necessary. No one else in the world has roads as wide as we do. It is excessive in the same way our airport and border security are over the top and ridiculous. We should go back to the old roads that were half as wide and teach people how to drive. We live in such a fear-obsessed country these days it is crippling our nation.

plethora's avatar

@Hobbes Yes, under your system, we can simply kill you and take your share of food, and your families share, and kill your family too. Who or what is to stop us?

Jaxk's avatar

@incendiary_dan

Actually I have done a little more research on it since my last post. It appears to be an excellent system for societies where the bulk of the population is involved with hunting/gathering activities But less so where a relatively small portion of the population performs these tasks. In other words it doesn’t seem to lend itself to mechanization which inherently allows us to multiply the output per person.

Given the nature of the question, this may be exactly what is being recommended. Get back to nature, fewer machines and less emphasis on technology. Without getting into some esoteric debate on technology, I kinda like the idea that I don’t have to tend a garden or hunt for food. The industrial revolution has allowed us to divert our time away from survival activities and into things that improve our life. Some good, some bad. Everything is a double edged sword.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Jaxk I kinda like the idea that I don’t have to tend a garden or hunt for food.

Even if that would mean less work overall and a three hour work day? My friend was telling me a Thoreau quote the other day about economics: “It takes me less time to walk to the city than it does to take the train.” The point was that the cost of his time to make the money to take the train ends up being more than just the walk. The main thing about permaculture systems, and the hunting and gathering lifestyles that they’re based on, is that they require little work once the system is established, as it mostly take cares of itself. The only work is harvesting, and maybe a little raking up and other sorts of maintenance now and then.

But hey, I like to grow my own food anyway. :)

Jaxk's avatar

@incendiary_dan

I’m sure that helps. I’ve never quite figured out whether you’re good at things you like or whether you like things you’re good at. Which ever way it works, they seem to go together.

I guess my main point was that instead of a thousand people growing and harvesting, we have one doing that for a thousand people. That frees up the other 999 people to do things to make life better. That includes a lot things we don’t like such as building cars but also things we do like such as indoor plumbing. Over the past hundred years we have made tremendous advances primarily because we’ve been able to devote less time to basic survival needs and more time research and advancement. The results as always, are mixed. Some good, some bad.

Hobbes's avatar

@Jaxk

I think you’re comparing on the wrong time-scale. Instead of looking at what happened in the last 100 years, look at what happened 10,000 years ago. The adoption of agriculture actually robbed us of a lot of our time. Hunter-gatherers worked an average of twenty hours a week to meet their needs, and the rest of the time was spent doing all the things people love to do: talk, play music, dance, make art, and make love.

@prioritymail

I think the reasons you mentioned for liking cars are a large part of the reason they’re so popular, but even so the problem is that they’re literally destroying the stability of the planet’s ecosystem, on which we depend.

@plethora

You could, but if you and your family were guaranteed free food, shelter and medical care too, why on Earth would you?

plethora's avatar

@Hobbes That’s not for you to know or understand. The fact remains. We will kill you or throw you in prison and torture you. Not for you to be concerned about our motives. We have our desires and our lusts and killing you and your family slakes our lust to kill. We have free food and we want more, and taking yours is particularly satisfying to us. You gonna stop us? And if not you, then who?

WasCy's avatar

Seven billion human hunter-gatherers are not going to survive on this planet at this time. In addition, the process of thinning those ranks to a survivable population will also wreak havoc on the other species that are trying to live with us. Talk about ‘nasty, brutish and short’, @Hobbes is definitely the name to have to bring up that line of thinking!

Talk to the hunter-gatherers who literally live in dumps in the Philippines and Indonesia, simply because we do have an industrial society that throws away offal with some food and/or cash value that can still be exchanged for food. They can tell you that the idea of living on roots and berries in the forest might be a luxury that is no longer open to them.

Hobbes's avatar

@WasCy – I’m aware of that. There are too many people now for us all to be hunter-gatherers. However, there are ways informed by hunter-gatherer method which could indeed feed the planet. Namely, permaculture methods, as linked by @incendiary_dan.

@plethora – If there are indeed people who simply possess a “lust to kill”, they are very few and far between. Psychopathic serial killers who kill for no other reason than that they desire to are very rare. My scenario involves everyone having free access to all the food they want, thus there would be no reason to take the food of anyone else. In the event that a psychopath who simply wants to kill as many people as possible for no reason is on the loose, I imagine that the entire community said killer is preying on would have an interest in stopping them.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@WasCy Hunting and gathering (and gardening/permaculture, as has actually historically been the case that there’s little to no line between foraging and horticultural peoples) is both more time and space efficient than monocrop agriculture. Your statement is technically true, but misleading. We won’t feed 7 billion of any type of human (we aren’t, in fact) without unlimited fossil fuels, which obviously does not exist on a finite planet. We’ve already lost a lot of our topsoil. We can not sanely entertain any method of subsistence that doesn’t build topsoil and maintain or increase biodiversity. We’re already starting to experience a food crisis globally (see the information laureth compiled) because of agriculture.

It’s either live within the confines of the ecosystem and minimize the effects of overshoot and consciously bring our populations to sustainable levels, or continue being dumbasses and practicing agriculture and make overshoot worse. It’s literally insane to confront the problem of overpopulation by insisting on continuing the least efficient method of feeding people, not to mention one of the least healthy.

@Jaxk But to do that, you have to make life worse, drastically so. How is it better to work two to three times as much on more stressful jobs, to have poorer quality of life and some fairly useless trinkets? Cuz that’s the situation we’re in. It’s double true if you’re in below the poverty line or in a Third World country, since you’ll end up working even shittier jobs for lower quality goods and fewer trinkets, and more likely to live in areas contaminated by the waste produced by the manufacturing of goods for middle and upper-class First Worlders.

What you’re describing is basically the exploitation of the mass of humanity for the comfort and convenience of a small percentage.

@plethora Just because we have a stable economy we suddenly lose the ability the fight back? Fuck that, some might call me a peacenik, but I shoot to kill. You can call me Sheriff Dan. :P

In stable societies such as the one @Hobbes is attempting to describe, there are far fewer incidences of such mental illness. Basically all violence that occurs historically in these societies is from personal conflict, and is usually dealt with before it gets out of hand.

As to what would stop you from killing my family (besides my Kalashnikov)? Probably the fact that in gift economies, your livelihood is directly linked to the wellbeing of your neighbors.

Jaxk's avatar

@incendiary_dan

Bueaty is in the eye of the beholder. I kinda like my trinkets and I haven’t found my life to be worse than the average of say a hundred or even a thousand years ago. Sure it would have been simpler but I’m not sure that means better. I guess we all have different definitions of ‘better’. We’ve made some significant strides in agriculture. They may not measure up to your definition but things like crop rotation and fertilizers have reduced the situation that caused the ‘Dust Bowl’ of the 30s.

I guess the major difference is in our future. We can go back to a simpler more ecologically friendly lifestyle. Limit population growth and wait for the next meteor strike Or some other such catastrophe) to wipe out all life on the planet. When that happens it is unlikely that humans will evolve again (or any intelligent species). Or we can try and make the next great leap. That means getting off this rock and spreading our species throughout the galaxy. And solving some of the great mysteries such as how to eliminate or even reverse the aging process. We tend to make much ado about limited resources but there’s still a lot to be learned. Harnessing nuclear fusion, carbon recapture and recycling. Hell even solar power is in it’s infancy. Going back to a simpler life style may seem ideal to you but not to all of us. I guess we just see things differently.

DancingMind's avatar

But it’s better in more than just an opinion sense. (I’ll try to add, not repeat)
The economy itself is unstable, this system we’ve created, the game we’ve made of it. Even in the simplest sense, we have booms and busts, that come about every twenty years. Regardless of actual ability of the people, their lives and production are governed by this.
Monetary incentives encourage corruption. Just look at the latest US recession. And disparity. The rich top run the world. The secret is, we don’t actually need it to get motivation, we have that all on our own. Not a secret, really, though. Our external-pressure-incentives isn’t even a blink in evolutionary history, and really hardly a blink in our own.
Endless growth, the concept our system is founded on: fundamentally unsustainable. Our world has limits, and we’re killing all other life in our effort to max them all out. Let’s say we do move to another planet… one infinite in its exploitation? Unlikely. And then we’re just running from the mess we made, the mass extinction we created, and we’ll do that over and over again. Who plans for that kind of parasitic existence?
Meanwhile, back on Earth, we’re making more and more, for cheaper and cheaper, worsening the conditions of the near-slave labor enlisted by “third world countries”—more accurate the people unlucky enough to be born into the lack of “opportunities” and slave labor, the other life unlucky enough to be in the way of the bulldozers for the factories. [Just watch Life and Debt. It’s tourist-theme is a little corny but the point it makes strong.] But it’s all good, because our cushy lifestyle is “easier.”
Nevermind the whole planned-obselesence deal, where we always have to buy more, spend more, because none of our stuff lasts.
Nevermind the increase in physical and mental health problems—Australian aborigines, actually, have healthier and longer life spans than those in the ‘civilized,’ ‘developed,’ world. Looking at it in average obscures that. They have higher infant mortality because they don’t have the medical technology, but those that live are running and jumping well through their 70s, 80s, no need for a cane or walker. Cancer there isn’t the disease of the elder, it’s practically non-extistent, except for the rare unfortunate.

We’re not free.
We’re just as dependent on money as those in poor countries, the difference is we’ve managed to demand some improved treatment.
But with all the division of the labor [you grow corn, I make shirts] really all we’ve done is make each other fully dependent on each other, and ignorant of all life beyond our tiny one-dimensional view of it. And bananas, that because of their lack of genetic diversity, that will die a slow, fungal death. And brand-name, expensive, clothes that get holes and go faded, and more important than that, out of style, (oh no!) so that we have to buy more more more more more.

And maybe, if we were able to step off this mad tread-mill race: instead of fighting, we’d be able to cooperate, and instead of spewing out crappy things, we’d be able to create quality. Instead of being the obedient consumer, the obedient employee, we’d be able to be ourselves, and more intelligent versions of our selves.

Last thought: did you know at the poorest areas in the US (at least) those people actually work together and support each other more than the intense and selfish competition at the top? They hardly have enough of anything, and yet they share it with the others that need, too. Because they can see, making a game out of life, doesn’t serve anyone.

Hobbes's avatar

@DancingMind

I couldn’t possibly have said it better.

@Jaxk

The people on this website, including you, are some of the richest in the world. If immortality were invented, who do you think would benefit? Not the bottom 99 percent. In fact, the idea terrifies me. It would almost certainly lead to a ultra-rich ruling class that never dies.

King_Pariah's avatar

@Hobbes If immortality were invented? somebody is behind on their science.

Hobbes's avatar

@King_Pariah

It was just a figure of speech. How about “attained” or “realized”?

King_Pariah's avatar

@Hobbes no, that’s not what I was talking about, the question for modern man is no longer if but when… and estimations put it somewhere between 2030–2050. You can thank Henrietta Lacks for that.

Hobbes's avatar

I’m not so sure about it’s inevitability, and am doubtful of its desirability, since I personally do not want to live forever, and because it would only be available to a select and wealthy few.

King_Pariah's avatar

@Hobbes well if you look at it as only available to to the wealthy, then it’d technically be available to them already. by 2050, scientists do believe that they could make pretty much everyone immortal. And their are plenty of idiots and others who would clamber for it or wouldn’t mind it

Hobbes's avatar

Sorry, but what? If it were possible for the wealthy to become immortal, I’m pretty damn sure they would have done it already.

“by 2050, scientists do believe that they could make pretty much everyone immortal”

Which scientists are these, exactly? What is the evidence for this? They expect to make the people who currently can’t get clean water or enough food or health care or education immortal?

King_Pariah's avatar

Look up TA-65, it’s a “drug” that helps the human body metabolize telomerase which in turn rejuvenates cells by stacking back telomeres onto the ends of the DNA chain. For a 6 month’s worth it’s $6,725 (back in 2009). Sure it’s a bit rough, but it sure as hell is a start.

http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2009/aug2009_Turning-on-Immortality-The-Debate-Over-Telomerase-Activation_01.htm

Hobbes's avatar

“For a 6 month’s worth it’s $6,725”

You just proved my point, though. This is terrifying.

Jaxk's avatar

@DancingMind

I’m sure there is a good argument there but when I think about the future of the human species, The aborigines are not what I envision. Frankly, I would just as soon not go back to that primitive lifestyle. And once again the first step would have to be wiping out the bulk of the population we already have.

@King_Pariah

Great article. I’ve already sent in my first payment.

@Hobbes

Initial costs are always high. Wait for the generic before making that assessment.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Jaxk Given the arguments myself and others have already made about permaculture and such, why do you still think returning to “primitive” life would require such a reduction in human population? And how do you differentiate that from the killing that occurs for the current system to be maintained?

DancingMind's avatar

@Jaxk—Fine. I guess I don’t see the solution as an either-or, though. And if we don’t make changes ourselves, just wait in our decadency of harmful comforts, the limits will decide things for us.

Jaxk's avatar

@incendiary_dan

Maybe I’m thinking too small but nature has a way of providing a feast and famine environment. One year a bumper harvest and the next very little. Things like the mini-ice-age come along and change to environment. Much of our technology is to compensate for such fluctuations. Water where there was none, and shifting some of the over production to where there is less.

There may be a basic philosophical difference here that I can’t get past. Currently we have areas (or countries) of plenty. They have plenty of food, clothing, shelter. I would put the US in that category. Then we have areas where there is great starvation and poverty. I would rather move the less prosperous areas to a life that produces properity than to take the properous areas back to the lifestyle that produces poverty. Yes, the aborines may live longer but in that environment, why would you want to.

Which takes me to @DancingMind ‘s argument. I don’t see any ‘harmful comforts’, only problems to solve.

Hobbes's avatar

@Jaxk

I still don’t see immortality being within the reach of the people who live in poverty today, that is to say, the majority of humanity. It seems to me that such a technology would be used almost exclusively by the elite (those in developed nations as well as the ultra-rich few) to extend their lifespans and therefore their power over the rest of the world.

“Currently we have areas (or countries) of plenty. They have plenty of food, clothing, shelter. I would put the US in that category. Then we have areas where there is great starvation and poverty. Would rather move the less prosperous areas to a life that produces properity than to take the properous areas back to the lifestyle that produces poverty.”

I think it is entirely possible for people to be lifted out of poverty (that is, have stable access to clean air and water, good food and shelter, medicine and education) without transforming into the materialistic, luxury and comfort obsessed society which exists in the “developed” world today. I agree that people in “developed” nations shouldn’t have to give up their stable access to air, water, food, medicine, and education. However, if it’s a choice between some people having luxuries and everyone having stable access to basic necessities, I think there’s only one ethical decision.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Jaxk Agricultural societies are far more prone to famine than any foraging society. This has two reasons: subsistence is not based on only a few similar species that are easy to wipe out, and social technologies like gift economies make sure that lean times are not nearly so lean, and not catastrophic. Agricultural societies can not adapt to drastic environmental change, but foraging and permaculture can. Agriculture, by deforesting, reducing biodiversity, and diverting water, causes droughts. Foraging and permaculture reduce its likelihood.

Jaxk's avatar

@Hobbes

There are certainly times when our technology has caused major problems. Air pollution. water pollution, if you go back to the middle of the last century we were deteriorating our environment at an alarming rate. But since then we have been able move back the other way. Air Pollution has been dramatically reduced, rivers and streams that were unusable have been restored. The answer was not to abandon our technology but rather to use it solve the problem. I’m not trying to say we have those problems licked but we’ve learned a lot and made significant improvements. I don’t believe we have to choose who gets to have luxuries and who doesn’t but rather work to provide higher levels to all. Things like TVs and Computers are both a curse and a blessing. But I don’t see the solution being to get rid of them just because some may not be able to afford them. I would rather work to make them affordable to all. Back to my first point, I like my stuff.

Jaxk's avatar

@incendiary_dan

I can’t help but be a little hesitant to jump on this bandwagon. I’d have to see it working on a large scale, such as a country level to see how the inhabitants fare. Do they learn and progress or do they stagnate as a culture as the aborigines have for centuries.

Hobbes's avatar

“I’m not trying to say we have those problems licked but we’ve learned a lot and made significant improvements”

From all the evidence I’ve seen, the trend is toward quickly accelerating environmental degradation. Air and water pollution, trash buildup, greenhouse gas emission, habitat destruction, overfishing, species extinction, desertification, etc. have all increased drastically since the middle of last century.

“I don’t believe we have to choose who gets to have luxuries and who doesn’t but rather work to provide higher levels to all. Things like TVs and Computers are both a curse and a blessing. But I don’t see the solution being to get rid of them just because some may not be able to afford them.”

I’m not saying we should get rid of TVs and computers because some people can’t afford them, I’m saying that our first priority as a society must be to make sure everyone has their basic needs met before supplying luxuries to those who already do. I like the internet too, and would like to keep it, but it’s not a necessity. Air, water, food, shelter, and medicine are.

“do they stagnate as a culture as the aborigines have for centuries.”

Why exactly do you think the aborigines have “stagnated”? Do you think that all hunter-gatherer cultures were stagnant? I think they were just as vibrant and complex as any other culture.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Jaxk Dude, that’s just ethnocentric bull bordering on racism. Foraging peoples have living, breathing and growing cultures. @Hobbes says they’re just as vibrant and complex as any other culture; as an anthropologist, I say they’re more complex and more well adapted. Their languages tend to be more complex, nuanced, and articulate. Their ”social technologies” have a level of complexity most civilized couldn’t follow. They have lived and do live successfully; we cannot judge them according to the insane mores of civilization.

As for seeing it work on a large scale, there are numerous examples of that, up to and including 95% of our history. The only physical barrier now is that so much land is degraded, but even degraded land grows multitudes of wild food when left untended (some of my favorite foraging spots are formerly cleared areas taken over by weeds and small trees). That, and the civilized governments/corporations.

iamthemob's avatar

In order for the government to do those three things, it would have to do a lot more things as a part of those three things. ;-)

In many ways, you might have actually created a system here where we would end up with more government than we have now.

For instance, for the first and second, you’d need a clean municipal water system. For the first, you’d need emergency services like police, fire, and ambulance. And that’s just the beginning.

King_Pariah's avatar

“ ‘For a 6 month’s worth it’s $6,725’

You just proved my point, though. This is terrifying.”

Proved what point, that only the wealthy can do it? Yes, I admitted that the wealthy already have access. However, this drug is actually amazingly cheap. A 6 month long treatment to rejuvenate your cells back to their prime for $6,725? This is practically the fountain of youth, which could easily be sold at tens or hundreds of thousands or even millions. And compared to other drugs, such as the one (the name escapes me at the moment) that in you can discover you’ve contracted HIV within a week-two week, you can take this drug for a month and there is a 90% chance you’ll be HIV free. That drug will put almost anyone in a hole of debt they’ll never get out of in their lifetime.

Hobbes's avatar

@iamthemob

I’m aware that it’s a lot easier to say “give everyone free access to clean air and water, good food, shelter and medicine” than to actually do it, but I do not think it would result in a more complex government than the one we already have. Just as a start, if the government did not make military expenditures, it would have so much money left over that accomplishing this would be child’s play.

“for the first and second, you’d need a clean municipal water system. For the first, you’d need emergency services like police, fire, and ambulance. And that’s just the beginning.”

Don’t we have those already? Is this a problem? I’m not sure that there’s a whole lot more than that either. The government would also need to produce and distribute food, build houses, run hospitals, and protect the environment, but that’s about it. That sounds like a lot, but compared to what it’s doing now it’s not much at all.

@King_Pariah

I still don’t see the technology ever being available to those who still don’t have stable access to the basic needs I mentioned. If you can barely put food on your table, is immortality really a priority? Maybe Americans and Europeans with enough disposable income will start using it, but as I said, I don’t think immortality is even desirable. I think the fear and non-acceptance of death and change lies at the root of a lot of the problems in our society today.

King_Pariah's avatar

@Hobbes you don’t think it’s desirable because you know better, I’ve casually been poking around the bush in my community and I got a lot of people who think it’s glorious and hoping the day comes sooner than we currently expect it will. Many, if not most, people are fools who can’t think 5 minutes in front of their face, believe me, with a little bit of advertising, idiots will flock like chickens fighting over a meal worm.

Hobbes's avatar

Rich chickens fighting over a meal worm that tastes good initially but in fact robs them of the very thing that gives their life shape and meaning.

King_Pariah's avatar

@Hobbes that is merely your opinion, your observation. To others it is something else entirely.

iamthemob's avatar

@Hobbes

How can a government guarantee food, shelter and medicine if there is no military defense for the citizens?

Jaxk's avatar

@iamthemob

Not to worry, in this ideal world, everyone will play nice.

King_Pariah's avatar

@Jaxk @iamthemob I already got him to more or less admit impartial arbitration on a large scale won’t work.

Me: “diplomacy does not work efficiently on a grand scale”

Hobbes: Sorry, I missed your point before. I think you’re right here.

Hobbes's avatar

@iamthemob and @Jaxk

If everyone on the planet had free, stable access to these things, I’m sure there would still be conflict, but it seems to me it would be almost entirely on a personal level. I believe that organized, large-scale violence would disappear.

@King_Pariah

I went on to say “This is why I’m proposing a localized direct democracy. Diplomacy and negotiation do work on a localized scale, where there are few enough variables and where the situation can be readily observed that direct action can be taken and useful agreements reached.”

King_Pariah's avatar

That still doesn’t take care of the global scale. Otherwise it isn’t one government.

Hobbes's avatar

What I’m saying is that the Government can exist as a global system, but operate on a local level through the mechanism of direct democracy. As far as the actual court system, I imagine that judges would be elected, with their actions and cases being made as transparent as possible, and with the people having the ability to replace any official at any time.

iamthemob's avatar

@Hobbes

The problem with direct democracy, though, is the issue of the “tyranny of the majority.” That’s why the founding fathers set up our country as a constitutional republic (or part of it). I doubt we’ll get to a point where people are generally free from bias or prejudice, and so with a direct democracy you always have the possibility that the majority will yield their power to oppress the minority in some way.

So there will likely always be an element of government that, by necessity, acts to prevent such discrimination from occurring.

incendiary_dan's avatar

What about confederated systems like the Haudenosaunee set up? Each local village/town scale works on a direct democracy/consensus, but then belongs to a larger organization that works for mutual defense and aid and making non-binding decisions? That way each local area maintains autonomy, but they can act as a larger force for defense and such.

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