What Garden of Eden.
I think it wonderful that you are a romantic; celebrating feelings I think
is generally a good thing, and perhaps it would be better if more
technologically expert people did so more often.
Major collision with the Earth would leave more evidence. The rock creating
the Gulf of Mexico certainly did, probably including the major extinction
that trimmed away the dinosaurs and began the advance of the mammals. I
doubt anything remotely similar has happened since.
People's drive to categorize, explain, and predict things clearly is a
survival trait, and I think it equally clear that we tend to come up with
explanations even in the absence of evidence. Creation myths are I think a
good example. The tendency of mythological gods to resemble simply human
beings with more strengths and powers is another.
There is some evidence I think for two "Edens", neither of which recommend
themselves to me as desirable states. Some genetic evidence suggests less
than 10,000 humans at one time, somewhere in the range of 50 - 200,000 years
ago. Probably entirely in East Africa. Perhaps 20 tribes altogether. These
people clearly did not have our relationship to the world, they were of it
and not its masters. Their lives were short, difficult, without much in the
way of artistic culture, and with a material culture that changed only
slowly, over multiples of 100,000 years.
One theory holds that the last major genetic endowment acquired by human
beings was that of fully expressive language, both in the sense of
inter-personal communication and in the sense of thoughtful analysis. The
indirect evidence for this includes the facts that four things occurred in a
very short time frame, especially considering that proto-humans had been
around for a time an order of magnitude longer with none of these things
happening: (1) The material culture began to change rapidly, adding the
means for living in and subduing most of the world's environments; (2)
artistic culture began to flourish; (3) genetically modern human beings came
to inhabit all the world's continents; and (4) the number of human beings
increased by at least two orders of magnitude, perhaps to 2,000,000.
Eden Number One was a dead end, with nothing to recommend it, other than the
fact that humanity might have then been exterminated by a single disease or
a single natural catastrophe, and the fact that the world at the time would
have little noticed man's demise.
Modern human beings were around for tens of thousands of years before the
next major change, which seems to have first occurred independently in four
different places: Central America; northern China; southern China; and the
Middle East in the mountains from Palestine through Turkey and into Iran.
This was of course agriculture.
One theory holds that as the last ice age lifted, the mountains of the
fertile crescent became an environment with better rainfall, warmer
temperatures, and quite a variety of vegetation growing at different
altitudes. There is evidence that people built relatively permanent
settlements that lasted for 100's of years, before the first crops or
domestic animals. They may have lived a hunter-gather lifestyle that could
be idealized as an Eden, finding adequate food supplies in the wild game and
in the vegetation ripening at different times at different altitudes.
Probably subsistence required on the order of two days or less full time
labor per week. Probably diet allowed a more robust stature than that of
their agricultural descendants. But to characterize this as Eden is to
ignore the benefits of science and medicine, of writing and law, of economic
advance, and of such concepts as individual liberty.
Perhaps the little ice age of the Younger Dryas saw climate dry and cool
enough to force those people to develop agriculture if they were to sustain
their populations. Work as we know it came in to the world. And so in a few
thousand years did civilization itself, as the early farmers began to expand
from original hilly terrain into the plains.
I don't understand the apparent hostility to civilization that seems
implicit in any idealization of any early Eden. It is only through
civilization that the vast majority of us are enabled to survive. It us
civilization that makes possible the higher arts and sciences, including the
DKR project as well as the livelihoods of all of the individuals who
participate in it.
It is civilization and its wealth and freedom which makes possible the
holding of different views on such matters as our origins or what way of
life is desirable, with little fear of violent retaliation from those whose
views differ. This is a very new thing under the sun, and I believe it is an
achievement we should hold as precious.
Government exists primarily to protect us from each other; secondarily to
provide rules or frameworks enabling us to pursue our different goals with
some measure of autonomy and with some predictability for at least the
limits of the actions of others; and thirdly to undertake some tasks of
Government is capable of attempting to direct the life-goals and
life-pursuits of individuals. When used in this way, government of necessity
limits freedom and progress and exposes the people so governed to a
demonstrable practical disadvantage as compared to peoples with better and
more limited governments. I would thing that if the twentieth century has
taught us anything at all, it would be that government is the wrong vehicle
for our higher aspirations.
This is so for two reasons, moral and practical. There is no moral
difference between the overwhelming majority legislating for you what you
should do, and me as an individual enslaving you to my will. Violence and
the threat of violence are required to these ends. The ends never justify
the means; the ends ARE the means.
The practical reason is simply that individuals do not have perfect
knowledge. This is more obvious, more certain, and its implications are more
profound in the case of one individual's imperfect knowledge of the needs
and wants of another. The Free Market uses the actual knowledge that all the
individuals have of their own needs and wants to make its decisions on what
goods and services to produce. This collected knowledge will inherently be
superior to any collective decision-making by planners and authorities.
There is a simple solution to the problem that some things are without
ownership and hence tend to be treated poorly by the markets - such as
species diversity, clean air, or unspoiled vistas. Give them owners. Then
they will be given value in the market place and will be conserved, as all
valued properties are.
Business is nothing but the desires of all individuals, expressed
autonomously and honestly in their purchasing decisions. Government in
contrast reflects the decisions of a smaller group. In Government decisions
are not made autonomously by individuals, they are made collectively by
groups. And government decisions are fundamentally dishonest, in three ways.
First, the leaders are actually acting mostly out of perceived self-interest
(how could it be otherwise?) yet cloak their decisions in expressions of
intended benefit for others.
Second, the decisions about the intended benefits to others are being made,
not by the beneficiaries, but by the leaders, who must know less about the
true desires and true impacts involved than the intended beneficiaries do.
Third, in voting one gives of something which has to him no cost - he can
vote for as many benefits for himself as he likes. There is no feedback
mechanism to prevent the voting in of some mandatory utopia, with all its
well-known consequences. The opposite is true of decisions to buy: one knows
limits to one's purchasing power, and hence must decide amongst
alternatives. There is thus a feedback mechanism to select more beneficial
alternatives over time.
That is what the profit motive is all about: selecting the more beneficial
alternative. I fail to grasp the problem here.
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sat Jun 03 2000 - 18:50:06 PDT