It seems to me, from the biggest egoist to the most selfless of us, we all use a process I call, Efficient Means, to get our needs and wants met. Simply put, efficient means is the idea that we all take the most efficient path possible, to get our wants and needs met. Like water finds the easiest path downhill, or electricity flows through the path of least resistance, human behavior follows the same paradigm. The opposite of efficient means is direct means. The difference between direct means and efficient means is, to follow the law, mores and ethics of society is efficient means, and to violate the laws, mores and ethics is direct means. Most people understand this logic intrinsically but not overtly. It is important to understand this basic precept of human nature overtly so that we understand what makes our fellow men and women, as well as ourselves… do what we do.
The path we take from a desire to it’s being met is never a straight line. We place impediments in our own paths, as does society, culture, government and religion. That we allow for these impediments, is a sign that we are not simply egoists and criminals, it shows we are civilized human beings. The person who follows the rat maze of impediments we are faced with, can be said to be a rational maximizer, while the person who jumps the fence can be called an egoist. Some impediments are good, in that they standardize society and provide a framework in which to get our wants and needs met, while others are actually ways for the elite to get their needs met more directly… and in doing so, preventing us from meeting ours.
Governmental impediments, law and regulation, can be good or profoundly pernicious. They are good when they accomplish those positive outcomes outlined below, but when government regulation is used as a means to dole out distributive justice by political favor, they are harmful. This type of crony capitalism allows some to jump the fence, getting their wants met by the most direct means possible, regardless of the negative effects on society, the economy and good government. Unfortunately, almost all of us would use direct means, if we knew with certainty we would never get caught, and therefore, never be punished. This is reason enough for providing a framework, as does culture, society, government and religion. Moreover, that these institutional impediments to efficient means be protected, else no one’s needs, including our own… may be met in the future.
Religion places many impediments to meeting our wants and needs. Upon close examination however, those impediments are not intended to stop us, but to enhance our realization of those goals. Were those impediments not in place society would quickly breakdown. Right religion teaches us to be honest with people, regardless of their affiliation, to hold ourselves to a higher standard than we do others, it teaches us to practice fidelity to our spouses and it instills in us the concept, this may not be the ultimate expression of our existence, in fact, this existence may be merely a precursor for a much higher state of being. Giving Pascal’s wager gravitas.
Cultural mores are another source of positive impediments to efficient means. They also provide a framework for getting our needs met, similar to a ladder that helps us reach places we couldn’t otherwise, cultural mores help us meet our needs efficiently and in ways that allow others to meet theirs as well. This greases the mechanism of human interactions, protecting us and our families from the violence of revolution and societal strife, that a large portion of society not getting it’s needs met would certainly produce. Societal impediments amount to the same thing, they standardize our means of reaching our wants and needs, so that we all can efficiently meet them.
In the end we are civilized animals that live best when we self regulate. The society who’s people self regulate, for whatever reason, be it religious ethics, societal mores or cultural norms, that society will enjoy wealth, peace and political equanimity. As children grow they are matured, as were we. This maturity is getting slower and slower while those restrictions like religious, cultural and societal mores are stripped away, by an elite drunk on the notion of materialism and mechanism. Given our natural proclivity for direct means, when these impediments are taken away, coupled with the slower maturation rate of our children, the result must be… no one’s needs will be met, and our society will suffer, poverty, war and political upheaval.