[unrev-II] Garden of Eden

From: John \ (johnwerneken@netzero.net)
Date: Sat Jun 03 2000 - 18:47:40 PDT

  • Next message: Paul Fernhout: "[unrev-II] Separation of Business and State (was Re: "Ishmael", Caveman Diet, Garden of Eden)"

    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
    common benefit.

    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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