27 April 2022

That the good do nothing

That bit about the triumph of evil is a cognitive trap.

Good and evil, as ideas, are a cognitive trap.

Trying to be good will fail.  Always, at all times, in all things.

Morals can function on very small scales; sometimes individuals, maybe immediate family groups, just possibly some kind of voluntary association with few people.  Otherwise, the belief that one must be moral produces post-facto rationalizations.  It doesn't produce uniform or cohesive conduct and it does produce a lot of murder as people make attempts to make other people be moral out of fear.  (Because if you're not moral, anything bad can happen to you and be correct.  It's a mutation of a social control mechanism.)

What you're seeing is the pursuit of a simple material optimization versus a bunch of people saying "but it's complicated!". Of course "it's complicated!" is losing; it is complicated, but that doesn't matter today.  Complicated matters tomorrow.  The simple material optimization matters right now.

This is the great and intractable problem of money; money abstracts interaction.  (Not production, not wealth; money has value because it's exchanged.  So you get a proxy for agency and thus security.)  Once you have this abstraction, "I want all the money" is simple, material — it's not money if you can't count it — and uniformly destructive because things are complicated and tomorrow comes.  More and more agency is required to maintain the illusion of security, until you've got the present, where it's explicitly policy to cause extinction in preference to acknowledging any idea of in-principle limits on the amount of money one person can have.

An effective response cannot arise from "it's complicated!"; maniacal single-mindedness in pursuit of money is unable to care that it's complicated.

It needs a simple material rule.

There are a bunch; life expectancy, agency, security (of person, food, place...), all function as positive rules.  Bounds-driven instead of norms-driven society.  The necessary negative rule is that if you try to get rich, the civil power will prevent you.  (Because you can have security by collective means, or you can have the possibility of security by wealth; you can't have both.  Observation makes this painfully obvious.)

This goes with a supremacy of the civil power approach in politics; your belief doesn't matter, you must argue for a material outcome.

Trying to be good will fail.  Always, at all times, in all things.  Pick a measurable material outcome; that has the possibility of success.


Shoulderless said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shoulderless said...

(Unsure if it's intended, but &#x2014 is showing instead of an em dash on Firefox and Chrome)

Excellent post as always.

Graydon said...


That was simple incompetence, I'm afraid. Thank you for the heads up! (and the kind words.)