Humanity is Crazy: Why Economies Fail - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#15177805
There are three fatal flaws with civilization:

1) Agriculture
2) Authoritarianism
3) Property

Agriculture is the main culprit. It brings about changes to the human ethic that create Authoritarianism and Property.

The human animal was evolved to work together in small family centered units... tribes if you will. These groups operate on a human ethic that demands people live and work together in order to survive. For about 188,000 years such groups managed to live in small hunter gatherer groups that ranged in size from 50-150 individuals. For such group to survive there were certain rules that had to be observed... an ethic that people work together... within the group... and share the gains of any labor the group performed. Leadership in such groups was generally fluid and the leaders were directly socially responsible to the other members of the group.

Agriculture changed all that. Once a group moved to the agrarian lifestyle we can find in the archeological record a change in housing and social lives that right from the beginning shows how the human ethic gets twisted by the demands of growing crops. Hunter gatherer groups tend to all live in the same kind of housing, eat the same kinds of food and do not have multiple layers of authority or strict roles outside of gender. On the other hand, when people move into an agrarian lifestyle one of the first changes we notice are mansions... temples... and class restrictions.

This change in ethic derives from the idea that the groups in question "own" a certain patch of land. That crops are the property of those who plant them and work them. Such ideas were completely foreign when people first started farming, and such ideas have led to authoritarianism... to control production and force the majority to work for a few "leaders/property owners". Property ideas led to markets and the idea of profit... perpetual, unearned growth, which in turn led to overpopulation as societies learned very quickly that it takes a huge amount of labor to plant and tend crops.

Agriculture is also extremely inefficient from an ecological POV. It does poorly in comparison to a pristine ecology because Agriculture uses less of the energy from the sun to produce life, while also requiring a huge amount of additional energy to sustain. Agriculture tolerates a much smaller group of plants and animals in any given plot of land. This destruction of the original ecosystem upsets the balance that is achieved by a more natural group of plants and animals competing for energy niches to exploit. The additional huge increase in energy required to accomplish an agrarian lifestyle means that more people and animals had to live on any given plot of land than the sun could provide sustenance for. This fact has led to eternal wars as groups struggle to gain ever larger masses of land and people to work that land. Eventually, this fatal flaw led us to use fossil fuels... which is just stored heat from the sun to create the necessary energy needed to grow and "prosper" as an agrarian society.

As a by product, the agrarian lifestyle creates hierarchies of authority which ALWAYS end in a mal-distribution of available resources. Authoritarianism selects leaders from the most ruthless individuals within any social group. It disconnects such leaders from the evolved human ethic and allows such individuals to avoid accountability for their social behavior. This leads such individuals to ruthlessly pursue greed. The more layers of hierarchy a society creates the more unstable it becomes due to resource hoarding by individuals who are inherently sociopaths. Such considerations mean that entire societies are led to pursue the interests of a few criminals at the expense of the larger interests of the society itself. Which is why civilization after civilization falls apart over time.

Then there is the problem with property, and the markets that are created to serve the acquisition of more property and greater fortunes. There is a fundamental difference between wealth and riches. Wealth is what a community creates. Riches are wealth diverted from the community and into hands of a sociopaths... or leaders as we are trained to call them. Such systems create massive social imbalance and instability always leading to strife and wars and eventually to the downfall of the society that created such systems.

The fact of climate change shows civilization to be a fatal trap that has taken 12,000 odd years to spring shut. In that time we've tried many different strategies to overcome the problem inherent to agrarian systems. Only to fail each and every time.

Can these problems be solved? Could we produce and distribute based on minimal need, rather than extreme greed? Could we designed systems of planting that minimize damage? Could we choose leaders that serve rather than that exploit? Could we be focused on responsibly sustaining our lifestyles and seeking ever more efficient ways to sustain our population?

Sure... but we don't.

We make the same mistakes over and over again trying to achieve a different result.

Because greed makes people crazy. It's a mental illness to pursue profit at the expense of life.

And because of the way our "leaders" choose to pursue civilization, people are forced to follow lunatics.
#15178421
I gave this a like, but there is one major error.

I studied Anthropology in College. I learned that farming spread because it could support more people per sq. km than could hunting & gathering.
So, while it maybe true that the natural ecology creates more calories of food for animals, it doesn't create more calories that people can eat.
In fact the difference is large, maybe 5 times more people per sq. km with farming than H&G'ing.

Families can be larger because women don't need to space out their kids until the last one can walk to keep up during shifts of campsites. Families need more kids to help around the farm. So, families are larger. So, the population grows, and grows until it reaches the carrying capacity. At this point, more kids cause poverty. This then leads to the wars that you have a different cause for.
William McNair (IIRC) said that the cause of WWI was population growth in east and SE Europe that led to the Gov. providing education so the young men could work in factories, BUT the few factories that came were not enough. The result was the worst of all possible situations. Massive inequality between the rich and everyone else; along with an educated mass of young men for which the economy had no job. They could not marry and so were frustrated. The result was the nations eyeing their neighbors land. The unemployed but educated youth became radicals and ultra-nationalists. Thus, there were massives preasures, and then one radical assuinated the Archduke and the war was on. They didn't realize that RR and machine guns were going to allow massive armies to be thrown into killing zones and slaughtered as a result. Despit the slaughter, WWII seems to have started for much the same reasons.

The population of SE Europe had started small, because of the huge number of deaths in the wars to drive the Turks back out of SE Europe. This meant there was surplus land around the villages. For 200 years the population could grow and the young could be given the surplus land to raise a family, but this ended when the surplus land ran out some time between 1890 and 1910. Then, as I said, there were not enough factory jobs, etc.

Other than this you have many good points.
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#15178434
Steve_American wrote:I gave this a like, but there is one major error.

I studied Anthropology in College. I learned that farming spread because it could support more people per sq. km than could hunting & gathering.
So, while it maybe true that the natural ecology creates more calories of food for animals, it doesn't create more calories that people can eat.
In fact the difference is large, maybe 5 times more people per sq. km with farming than H&G'ing.

Families can be larger because women don't need to space out their kids until the last one can walk to keep up during shifts of campsites. Families need more kids to help around the farm. So, families are larger. So, the population grows, and grows until it reaches the carrying capacity. At this point, more kids cause poverty. This then leads to the wars that you have a different cause for.
William McNair (IIRC) said that the cause of WWI was population growth in east and SE Europe that led to the Gov. providing education so the young men could work in factories, BUT the few factories that came were not enough. The result was the worst of all possible situations. Massive inequality between the rich and everyone else; along with an educated mass of young men for which the economy had no job. They could not marry and so were frustrated. The result was the nations eyeing their neighbors land. The unemployed but educated youth became radicals and ultra-nationalists. Thus, there were massives preasures, and then one radical assuinated the Archduke and the war was on. They didn't realize that RR and machine guns were going to allow massive armies to be thrown into killing zones and slaughtered as a result. Despit the slaughter, WWII seems to have started for much the same reasons.

The population of SE Europe had started small, because of the huge number of deaths in the wars to drive the Turks back out of SE Europe. This meant there was surplus land around the villages. For 200 years the population could grow and the young could be given the surplus land to raise a family, but this ended when the surplus land ran out some time between 1890 and 1910. Then, as I said, there were not enough factory jobs, etc.

Other than this you have many good points.
.


I don't actually disagree with this... Would you mind quoting the bit where I have it wrong? So I can clarify that. I know that more people are supported per acre by farms... This is the source of population growth, and wealth. I thought I made that point. Not well enough I guess. However, this growth leads to more wealth and the owner's desire for more land... requiring more people. Eventually this pop. growth was limited by the energy available from humans and animals... leading to the Malthusian dilemma... or around two billion people.

This dilemma was solved with the discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels. But prior to that discovery the population couldn't grow because not enough land could be farmed to support increased population... and growth was necessary to the equation, because although the land could support more people per acre, it couldn't support enough required for civilization... without expending the stored energy in the form of fossil fuels... energy from the sun... This is why population growth was baked into the agrarian model. Population pressure required ever more land to farm.... and then more people to farm THAT land... and so on and so forth... a viscous cycle.

So let's say you start with an acre. That acre when farmed could support a huge number of people relative to hunter gatherer societies. But it could not support enough to have the necessary soldiers... laborers... bureaucrats... craftsman... required for civilization to thrive. So the population would quickly overwhelm the ability of that acre to support. Requiring more land... and eventually conflict with neighboring civilization/s... to support the already extant population. Again this was the heart of the Malthusian dilemma.

Thank you for feedback.
#15178439
The part I disagreed with is ---
"Agriculture is also extremely inefficient from an ecological POV. It does poorly in comparison to a pristine ecology because Agriculture uses less of the energy from the sun to produce life, while also requiring a huge amount of additional energy to sustain. Agriculture tolerates a much smaller group of plants and animals in any given plot of land."

Iguess that I disagree with your 2nd post. In that, India and China reached the carrying capacity long ago and their pop. stabalized. Massive poverty kept the people from having too many children. Malthus was right; he just wrote right before we started burning coal. We are now realizing that Malthus was right even if we burn fosil fuels and improve crops faster (like we did), because of other constraints, like climate change.


For me, the reason farmers have more children is not because the rich need more workers, it was because the poor need the help that children gave.

Like now (as in before covid), there is a surplus of workers in the West. We call them the long term unemployed (UE). The EU had several nations with UE over 15% for years. The rich see too many workers, not too few. But, the rich use them as a whip to keep wages low. Still there are far more UE "workers" than the rich need as whips.
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#15178442
Steve_American wrote:The part I disagreed with is ---
"Agriculture is also extremely inefficient from an ecological POV. It does poorly in comparison to a pristine ecology because Agriculture uses less of the energy from the sun to produce life, while also requiring a huge amount of additional energy to sustain. Agriculture tolerates a much smaller group of plants and animals in any given plot of land."


Having a few crops and a few animals on a plot of land means that less of the energy of the sun is being converted into life... from that plot of land... lots of energy niches go unexploited and that means that light from the sun isn't isn't being converted to life as efficiently as whatever biome would exist there if the land wasn't being used for crops. Left to itself any given plot of land will evolve a range of plants and animals to fill all the available niches the energy from the sun supplies to it. Farms on the other hand actively get rid of a lot of the plants and animals that would normally fill these niches. So while farms are great for supporting lots of people and domesticated plants and animals... the overall amount of biodiversity drops which means some energy goes wasted. Especially when you consider that the loss of biodiversity isn't limited to just that particular patch of land.

Steve_American wrote:Iguess that I disagree with your 2nd post. In that, India and China reached the carrying capacity long ago and their pop. stabalized. Massive poverty kept the people from having too many children. Malthus was right; he just wrote right before we started burning coal. We are now realizing that Malthus was right even if we burn fosil fuels and improve crops faster (like we did), because of other constraints, like climate change.


"Fig. 2 shows the historical changes in cropland areas that occurred in China from 1700 to 2009, taken from various data sources. All studies show that cropland areas increased from 1700 to 1950, but the SAGE and ZHOU datasets stand out from the others, with the former showing an extremely rapid increase in cropland areas of up to 230 Mha from 1700 to 1950, followed by a steep decrease after 1950."

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/a ... 811200210X

"In India, human population has increased six-fold from 200 million to 1200 million that coupled with economic growth has resulted in significant land use and land cover (LULC) changes during 1880–2010."

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/a ... 8114001283

Both China and India had huge areas that were populated by nomadic people. As did the Western Hemisphere. These regions did not experience the population growth I'm discussing because they weren't exploited as farms. Once they were civilized farms began to spread and populations began to rise.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Populatio ... y_of_China

If you look at that carefully you'll notice that population in China began to rise along with the activity of Ghengis Kahn... who created a much wider civilization... Meaning more land was exploited for farms.


Steve_American wrote:For me, the reason farmers have more children is not because the rich need more workers, it was because the poor need the help that children gave.


It is true that farmers have more children to help farm... But poverty is a product of civilization. I dealt with this by noting that with farms came mansions... Prior to civilization the people simply could not multiply beyond the capacity of the land to support them. With civilization and the ideas of property and markets that developed along with farming, poverty became an issue precisely because rich people hoarded available resources. Forcing the poor to seek help by having babies in order to stay afloat. Of course more people meant more farms became necessary. But it also meant greater wealth for the hoarders. What you have described is exactly the process I'm talking about. Just without noting that the reason people farmed was to support rich people... This was true in feudal economies... slave economies and even now in modern market systems.

Steve_American wrote:Like now (as in before covid), there is a surplus of workers in the West. We call them the long term unemployed (UE). The EU had several nations with UE over 15% for years. The rich see too many workers, not too few. But, the rich use them as a whip to keep wages low. Still there are far more UE "workers" than the rich need as whips.
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This is the result of automation. That is the rich seeking to reduce marginal costs by actively seeking ways to need to hire fewer workers to labor.

Ephemeralization... ""more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing," " Buckminster Fuller

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephemeralization

This process has been ongoing throughout the history of civilization. However, now we are close to the end of this process because automation is effective enough to support large idle populations. The problem is not that we have large idle population... this was after all one of the main points of civilization in the first place. To free people from having to constantly strive in order to exist. This allowed specialization... and mansions... The problem is that these gains are not shared rationally. So for example, you note the excess workers who are idle, but don't mention the shareholders that are idle as well... because they have the resources necessary to support themselves... at the expense of the workers they've exploited throughout the centuries.
#15178555
Can you pleae explain how the rich make the workers have more kids. The rich keep them on the edge of starvation. What do the rich do to motivate the poor to have more kids?

One of the main groups of "idle" workers are the soldiers and their women.

Yes, the owner class is mostly idle (they do some management 'work') but it is very tiny compared to the working class. So, I ignored it.

I didn't look at the links, but the time period for India (until 2010) is well into both the fossil fuel era and the green revelution era. For China until 1950 it is well into the fossil fuel era. And, both are well past the introduction of sanitation in the West, but I don't know when sanitation and modern medicine reached India and China. Therefore, I think most of the population growth happened in India and China after the end of the pre-industralization era. I thought we were mostly talking about the era before industralization.

BTW -- I keep pointing out this (and all people keep ignoring it), I hope you will comment. When England started making cloth with machines, it didn't impact unemployment as much as it would have otherwise, if the cloth had not been exported to the world. I point out that in India the flood of cheap, high quality cloth caused massive unemployment in India's cloth making castes because who wanted their cloth when English cloth was much cheaper and better too. So, there was less unemployment in England, but much more in India.
. . . Today, we shouldn't ignore such things when automation displaces workers. They did then because of 2 reasons. 1] No one cared about unemployed brown people, and it was on the other side of the world, so who even knew about it?
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#15178558
The human animal was evolved to work together in small family centered units... tribes if you will.


And nothing has changed. These Tribes still exist. They claim Nationalism is relatively brand spanking new. But all it does is it manages to encompass or merge multiple tribes within a single polity or metatribe. Something even kingdoms and ancient republics managed just fine, albeit less centralized back then due to lack of technologies available to us today. Even in the stone age some tribes probably managed to accrue thousands of members. We know for a fact that in ancient Europe some Celt tribes basically showed up in pre-celt Spain, killed all the men and took all the women, growing their numbers exponentially eradicating the native tribe and assimilating it into their now much bigger polity.

And homogenization of tribes is an ongoing process. You just merge 100 tribes into one and call it 'Han' or 'Anglo' or 'Rus'. Over time the umbrella grows larger, but the core tribe remains dominant, they just get bigger and stompier.

Agriculture and growing Power centralization/authority on the back of the means of production merely allows for bigger better organized tribes. There is no contradiction. We are still as Tribal as ever, just on a different scale. Liberal Nationalism does allow for meme countries, that can't exist for long because it has no avenue for forced assimilation or even a core tribal identity. Basically most of the mutted colonial countries will collapse eventually (canada, australia, brazil, USA etc because they have no real unifying tribe and rely on a legacy tribal identity that no longer exists in practice and they keep promoting inter-tribal identity and conflict so they are a dead end), but specialty ethno-polities such as Russia, Germany, Japan, Korea, France, England, China, Spain, Arabia, Iran etc will last forever in some form. Even before there was a unified 'Germany' There was 2000 years of 'Germania' and Germans.
#15178563
@Igor Antunov,
He misused the word 'tribe'. Actually he meant 'band' (according to my Anthro classes in the late 60s).
People lived in bands of 20 to 50 people. They all knew each other very well. They mostly married someone from a different band to form political alliances and avoid inbreeding. A tribe would be a group of bands that shared a common language and had a close alliance.
Later, the clan was added between bands and tribes.
Later still, when people became farmers, the numbers in all these groups grew a lot and the bands became villages.

The Celts you mentioned were iron-age farmers. When the OP said for 188K of the 200K of Homo Sapiens' "time on earth", he was talking about the entire Hunting & Gathering time period. Farming started 12K years ago in at least 1 place.
Much of your quibbles were from the farming time period, so not what he was starting from. By then he knew that tribes were much larger.
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Last edited by Steve_American on 26 Jun 2021 14:53, edited 1 time in total.
#15178570
Steve_American wrote: He misused the word 'tribe'. Actually he meant 'band' (according to my Anthro classes in the late 60s.
People lived in bands of 20 to 50 people. They all knew each other very well. They mostly married someone from a different band to form political alliances and avoid inbreeding. A tribe would be a group of bands that shared a common language and had a close alliance.


AFAIK a tribe is held together by kinship, i.e. blood relationship. A modern state is fundamentally different.

Igor Antunov wrote:Even before there was a unified 'Germany' There was 2000 years of 'Germania' and Germans.


What utter nonsense. :lol:

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