Sunday, July 11, 2010


People enjoy stable lives. Stability, peace, comfort - most people find these desirable. But these qualities are not to be had for any long-term period, judging by our history as humans. For the bulk of our history getting food and securing shelter were daily chores and so stability, peace, and comfort could be had for only a short while - an evening, perhaps, and then a season after developing agriculture. Technology has been the path to lengthening the relative periods of peace and tranquility for the human race, and we've come to a point that a lot of instability is idiosyncratic - it depends on one's personal decisions.

A strange thing has happened, though, over the past 150 years (or so) in industrialized countries. We've come to a point where we believe the natural instability inherent in human lives can be reduced or even eliminated. How? By giving the responsibility of our lives over to the state. We can see it clearly in social security operations: welfare, unemployment, state medical care - of course all paid for by taxes. Taxes are absolutely certain. I don't find them desirable in the least. But it also comes up in other policies: central banking, for example; rate-setting for utility companies, for another.

These policies have the effect of introducing greater stability and comfort into peoples' lives, this is true. But it is a short-term effect. Maybe a few years, maybe even a decade. But the trade off for this short-term stability is long-term instability. The payment for stability today is a sudden shock tomorrow. We can see this now, in our economy. All the spending by government, fueled by taxes and borrowing has led us to a point where state budgets are cracking up. My point is that, if people were left to manage their own idiosyncratic instability in their own way, this universal sort of crack up would not be happening.

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