Archive for January, 2008

Who is poor and who is wealthy is a matter of perspective

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Dear Reader,

Are you personally poor? Do you consider yourself poor? Are the people you see in your daily life poor? How much of the population are poor? How poor? These are questions that perplex and give rise to feelings of magnanimity in us.

Who is the poorest of the poor in the USA. Probably a homeless man? Take the homeless man in the USA. He probably sleeps outdoors in a tent or box in summer. Has access to clothing in the winter through the Salvation Army and many other charities. He also has access to the best healthcare in the world. (no matter how destitute a person is in the USA if he or she shows up at a public hospital, needing medical assistance, they by Law, must receive it). He misses some meals, but almost certainly gets one good meal offered to him a day. In winter he hopefully has access to a homeless shelter at night.

Now lets take the lower class Haitian. He or She according to the news is now reduced to eating mud cookies. Made with dirt mixed with oil and some other tasty ingredients. That is their one good meal. Live in mosquito infested slums. With raw sewage running down the street, ala middle ages. Has access to the astounding health care system of Haiti. And are subject to violent street gangs.

I’m thinking, that from the Haitians frame of reference, the homeless man in the USA has it pretty good.

How poor is poor in the USA. Poor is defined as a family earning below a certain annual adjusted level, around $16,000. The earned income credit is to boost working poor income up to or above the poverty line. So lets take $15,000 as a figure that is considered poor in the USA. The per capita GDP in the USA is around $17,000.00. So poor, is a family making less than the average individuals per capita GDP.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the per capita GDP is around $400.00 a year. Allowing two bread winners, that is $800.00 a year for the average couple. Meaning that most families in Sub Saharan Africa are living at about that level. The poor American family making $15,000.00 a year is making 19 times as much.

The cost of living in Sub Saharan Africa is much lower than in the USA you might argue. Not so, due to the leveling affect of the monetary exchange. Dollars should buy the same amount of goods in any country. We know that this is not absolutely true, because of tariffs, taxes, regulation, trade barriers, etc… but in large part, averaged over many countries, this will hold true. Especially as markets are integrated into the global one.

Once again we see that poverty is a matter of perspective, or relative to ones frame of reference. What does this teach us about poverty? That if we want to make a real difference in poverty, the means we should use, is to grow the GDP so that the relative level of poverty is raised.

When the biggest problem of poor families is obesity, this is unheard of in human history, save for today.

Who Should Rule?

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Dear Reader,

It seems to me that one possible way of grouping people would be, group A would be people who thrive on conflict, group B would be people who are ambivalent to conflict, and group C would be people who detest conflict.

Clearly, group A would not, at first glance, appear to be suited for governance. However upon closer examination, Politics is nothing but conflict. Conflict with other parties, conflict with the people, conflict within the party, and international conflict. Only a person inured to struggle ever gets to a seat of power. Those who are thrive on conflict, and have a thirst for dominion over society will naturally be drawn to that power. Their enjoyment of conflict will quickly inure them to the struggle, that is politics.

When one enjoys a thing, one is good at the thing enjoyed. A person who has a real enjoyment of conflict will naturally be good at it. Giving the A group person a leg up in any struggle. The dross floats to the top. They will naturally get the power they so desire.

Group B people to whom conflict is neither enjoyable nor loathsome and are drawn to dominion over others will take longer to become inured with the amount of struggle it takes to get a seat of power. They will have a leg up in that they will be better at facilitating rectification. Some will persevere but most will fall aside upon finding a better avenue for their talents.

Group C people who are draw to dominion over society must avoid politics. Those who don’t quickly learn the truth of the statement that, politics are nothing but conflict. They chafe at the struggle and must find another avenue for their interest.

Therefore we can safely conclude that most people who are in positions of power in our government and other governments, are group A people. But, are they the best people for the job?

Notable exeption

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Dear Reader,It seems to me that a good case in point of a person putting the interest of the State and Society above his own, is from the story of Tarquinious Superbus by Livy. This example comes from the back end of the story.

After being dethroned, essentially by Lucricia’s sacrifice. Tarquinious Superbus, the last Etruscan king of Rome, made a last effort at regaining his seat. In this effort he enlisted the aid of two Roman Patrician brothers, along with several co-conspirators. The plan went awry, and the conspiracy was discovered. The father of the two brothers, (a Senator), personally ordered the immediate execution of his sons for their part in trying to bring back a tyrant to Rome, and overthrowing the new Roman Republic.

After watching his sons executed and overcome with grief, he went home to prepare the funeral. Then the other conspirators were brought up before the people. Trembling at what they had just seen, the conspirators, (who would have certainly murdered hundreds of people with no compunction whatsoever, had Tarquinious returned), pleaded for their lives. The people were so moved they almost gave them exile instead of execution. Some of the more stalwart plebeians and Patricians ran to the father and told him what was transpiring. The Father gathered himself up, went back to the Forum and talked sense into the masses. The conspirators were executed, and the resulting Republic lasted for nine hundred years. The people of Rome were granted nine hundred years of Liberty for this virtuous act. (A virtuous act that is clearly outside of my capability).

What does this teach us about the quality of mercy that should be shown to the Aristocracy?


Saturday, January 19th, 2008

Dear Reader,  

It seems to me that, in the whole of human history the Elite have not been held to the same standard as the people. The Elite have been given extreme leniency in all manners. With few notable exceptions. Exceptions that make the point.

Take the story of Coriolanus, in Plutarch. In short, He was a hero of Rome then tried to get the People’s Tribunes executed. The Plebians, upon hearing this, clamored for Coriolanus’s execution. The Patrician’s begged for mercy, after all this man is Patrician. Mercy was granted. BIG MISTAKE! Coriolanus went to the Volscian’s. The mortal enemy of Rome at the time. Raised a Volscian army, and invaded Roman territory. Captured a Latin town and MURDERED all the residents. Then marched on Rome itself! At the gates of Rome Coriolanus’s Volscian army rested. Inside Rome the people quaked with fear that the mercy that they had granted Coriolanus had not been meted out to the Latins who had done nothing to Coriolanus, why should the Romans expect better? The mother and wife of Coriolanus took his children and marched out of the gates of Rome and rite through the enemy lines, and met Coriolanus in his tent. ‘Great’ thought the scoundrel. My family is now safe, I can reduce Rome without possible regret. Upon meeting with him, his mother and wife entreated him to call off his attack on Rome. Coriolanus refused Rome would meet the same end as the Latins. Not to be deterred, his mother and wife announced that they were ROMANS and with Rome lay their destiny. Spun and marched right back into Rome, with his children. Coriolanus was so upset that he turned his army around and marched back to Volscian territory. The Volscian King greeted Coriolanus graciously. Coriolanus had brought back a great deal of spoils. Then later the King had Coriolanus murdered.

What can we learn from this story about whether it is wise to give the Elite too much mercy?

Wise for a Prince but is it wise for politician?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Dear Reader,It seems to me that, if people do what is in their best interest’s. Then we can assume that people don’t do what is not in their best interest’s.

Take for example the politician who’s entire constituency is the poor or disadvantaged (P&D). It is in that politician’s best interest’s for there to be a great many P&D. Many P&D magnify the power of said politician. So the inverse is also true that very few P&D would probably loose this politician his/her seat. Few constituents mean few votes.

It would be in this politician’s best interest’s to enact policies that would increase the number of P&D. When those policies appear, (on an emotional level), to help the P&D, all the better. We have a situation where a politician is using Machiavelli’s maxim “a wise Prince [politician] thinks of a way that his subjects rely on him for everything and in every way will insure their loyalty,”

Therefore, it would be against this politician’s best interest’s to enact policies that serve to decrease the number of P&D. Again Machiavelli’s maxim that “the end justifies the means.” Both quotes from “The Prince” Niccolo’s treatise on how to be an effective tyrant.

Wise for a Prince but is it wise for politician?

Safeguarding the Societal Myth

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Dear Reader,

It seems to me that, when I was a child in Vermont the local societal myth was “I won’t bother you or yours, as long as you don’t bother me and mine.” The influx of people who didn’t share this ethos eventually undermined and flipped it to “If you do anything on your land that I don’t like, You will be hit with a lawsuit so fast your head will spin.” The first obviously human hearted, the second certainly not human hearted.

There was a critical mass of the population that moved in with the new ethos. They were largely, unduly enriched from trust funds. Upper middle class youth, the most dangerous people in the world. They have time and money to spend on what ever they fancy, like Nazism, communism, etc…The newcomers sought to force their vision on society, a vision honed in the bowls of universities. No matter the damage and friction to the workings of society.

Is there a way to prevent this abuse without restricting a persons liberties?

Human Heartedness

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Dear Reader,

It seems to me that, The fundamental test of what is Human Hearted is by applying the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” It is that simple. If one wonders if a law, idea or attitude is Human Hearted, he can simply apply this scalar. It will reliably measure it‘s Human Heartedness.

One must however, have an open mind. Also being able to see from many different perspectives at the same time, to really be able to deem this or that is human hearted. Unless the answer is obvious. Even then the obvious can be misleading.

Human heartedness however transcends the Golden Rule, it also incorporates the concept of the perpetual improvement of the lot of all mankind. Ideas that lead to that end are also Human Hearted. These are two pillars of Human Heartedness.

One must have an open mind as to the means to this end. Forcing some outcome one thinks is human hearted is the antithesis of Human Heartedness. The means must be Human hearted for the end to be.

Isn’t the depth of a truth measured by it’s simplicity, that gives rise to it’s complexity?