self-interest   139

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‘Has Any One of Us Wept?’ | by Francisco Cantú | The New York Review of Books
"The dehumanizing tactics and rhetoric of war have transformed the border into a permanent zone of exception, where some of the most vulnerable people on earth face death and disappearance on a daily basis, where children have been torn from their parents to send the message You are not safe here, you are not welcome. The true crisis at the border is not one of surging crossings or growing criminality, but of our own increasing disregard for human life. To describe what we are seeing as a “crisis,” however, is to imply that our current moment is somehow more horrifying than those that have recently set the stage for it—moments that, had we allowed ourselves to see them and be horrified by them, might have prevented our arrival here in the first place.

In an essay examining the omnipresence of modern borders and the immigration crisis in the Mediterranean, British journalist Frances Stonor Saunders argues that documents such as passports and visas are central components to how our society values and recognizes human life.2 “Identity is established by identification,” Saunders writes, “and identification is established by documenting and fixing the socially significant and codifiable information that confirms who you are.” Those who possess such documentation possess a verified self, “an identity, formed through and confirmed by identification, that is attested to be ‘true.’”"

"When the violence of our institutions is revealed, when their dehumanizing design is laid bare, it can be too daunting to imagine that we might change things. But what I have learned from giving myself over to a structure of power, from living within its grim vision and helping to harm the people and places from which I came, is that even the most basic act of decency can serve as the spark that will lead one back toward humanity, and even the most basic individual interaction has the power to upend the idea of the “other.” Heeding even these small impulses can serve as a means of extricating ourselves from systems of thought and policy that perpetuate detachment, even in spite of all the mechanisms that have been devised to make us believe in individual and nationalistic self-interest. As obvious as it might seem, to truly and completely reject a culture of violence, to banish it from our minds, we must first fully refuse to participate in it, and refuse to assist in its normalization. When we consider the border, we might think of our home; when we consider those who cross it, we might think of those we hold dear."
franciscocantú  border  borders  us  mexico  2019  borderpatrol  humanism  humanity  policy  politics  donaldtrump  migration  refugees  violence  vi:sarahpeeden  power  detachment  nationalism  individualism  self-interest  decency 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Why It’s So Hard to Put ‘Future You’ Ahead of ‘Present You’ - The New York Times
Sept. 10, 2018 | NYT | By Tim Herrera.

Are there instances when Past You has, quite inconsiderably, set up Future You for failure.

Why do we do this to ourselves? What makes us act against our own self-interest, even when we are acutely aware we’re doing so?....At work is present bias, our natural tendency to place our short-term needs and desires ahead of our long-term needs and desires. A lot of the time this comes in the form of procrastination.....we perceive our future selves the same way we perceive total strangers. In other words: When I’m brushing off responsibilities, part of my brain unconsciously believes that they’re now the problem of an actual stranger. ....starts with thinking of your future self as … you......Let’s say you habitually neglect your retirement savings. Instead of looking at future saving as making “financial decisions,” put yourself in the mind-set of thinking about the lifestyle you want when you’re retired. Picture yourself however many years hence, now retired, living the life you set up. Experts say this simple paradigm shift can change your entire approach to those decisions — even though they’re exactly the same.

Yes, this idea of future projection — “What will my life be like after I make this decision?” — is difficult to wrap your head around, especially when Future You is getting a better deal than Present You.
biases  present_bias  procrastination  retirement  self-interest  self-sabotage  visioning 
september 2018 by jerryking
US and China must find ways to control their elites | Financial Times
July 1, 2018 | FT| Rana Foroohar. Pinboard saved article/artifact #25,000

Success rests on heading off popular unrest, rather than winning trade fights.
Tension between the US and China is driving much of what is happening in the markets today. The analysis has focused on tariffs, currency manipulation, strategic technologies and which country has the most to win or lose in a trade war.

But there is a more important question to be asked when thinking about the future success and stability of each nation: which country will be better able to control its moneyed elites?

In his 1982 work The Rise and Decline of Nations, the economist Mancur Olson argues that civilisations tend to decline when the moneyed interests take over politics. That has clearly happened in both countries, where the levels of wealth inequality are not dissimilar; the top 1 per cent in China own about 30 per cent of the economy; in the US, the figure is 42 per cent.

........Chinese leaders also believe that America’s inability to curb its own elites will be the country’s downfall [Achilles’ heel]....America’s elite business class has, for decades now, sought to distract from rising oligopoly with hypocrisy. US companies complain vociferously about unfair Chinese trade practices and intellectual property theft.
conflicts  confrontations  U.S.-China_relations  U.S.  China  elitism  Rana_Foroohar  the_One_Percent  self-interest  books  economists  Mancur_Olson  entrenched_interests  Achilles’_heel  Xi_Jinping  corruption  Chinese_Communist_Party 
july 2018 by jerryking
Harnessing Evolution - with Bret Weinstein | Virtual Futures Salon - YouTube
- ways to get out of Malthusian conditions: expansion to new frontiers, new technology, redistribution/theft
- some discussion of existential risk
- wants to change humanity's "purpose" to one that would be safe in the long run; important thing is it has to be ESS (maybe he wants a singleton?)
- not too impressed by transhumanism (wouldn't identify with a brain emulation)
video  interview  thiel  expert-experience  evolution  deep-materialism  new-religion  sapiens  cultural-dynamics  anthropology  evopsych  sociality  ecology  flexibility  biodet  behavioral-gen  self-interest  interests  moloch  arms  competition  coordination  cooperate-defect  frontier  expansionism  technology  efficiency  thinking  redistribution  open-closed  zero-positive-sum  peace-violence  war  dominant-minority  hypocrisy  dignity  sanctity-degradation  futurism  environment  climate-change  time-preference  long-short-run  population  scale  earth  hidden-motives  game-theory  GT-101  free-riding  innovation  leviathan  malthus  network-structure  risk  existence  civil-liberty  authoritarianism  tribalism  us-them  identity-politics  externalities  unintended-consequences  internet  social  media  pessimism  universalism-particularism  energy-resources  biophysical-econ  politics  coalitions  incentives  attention  epistemic  biases  blowhards  teaching  education  emotion  impetus  comedy  expression-survival  economics  farmers-and-foragers  ca 
april 2018 by nhaliday
'No Man is an Island' - John Donne
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Olde English Version
No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne
poetry  big-peeps  old-anglo  anglosphere  individualism-collectivism  n-factor  europe  the-great-west-whale  classic  canon  literature  aphorism  aristos  death  coalitions  oceans  universalism-particularism  egalitarianism-hierarchy  optimate  alien-character  history  early-modern  britain  letters  altruism  patho-altruism  us-them  self-interest  cohesion  quotes  theory-of-mind  the-self  whole-partial-many  org:junk 
february 2018 by nhaliday
The political economy of fertility | SpringerLink
This paper studies the political economy of fertility. Specifically, I argue that fertility may be a strategic choice for ethnic groups engaged in redistributive conflict. I first present a simple conflict model where high fertility is optimal for each ethnic group if and only if the economy’s ethnic diversity is high, institutions are weak, or both. I then test the model in a cross-national dataset. Consistent with the theory, I find that economies where the product of ethnic diversity and a measure of institutional weakness is high have increased fertility rates. I conclude that fertility may depend on political factors.
study  sociology  speculation  stylized-facts  demographics  population  fertility  polisci  political-econ  institutions  nationalism-globalism  tribalism  us-them  self-interest  intervention  wonkish  pdf  piracy  microfoundations  phalanges  diversity  putnam-like  competition  israel  MENA  the-bones 
november 2017 by nhaliday
How Civilization Started | The New Yorker
"In “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States,” James C. Scott, a professor of political science at Yale, presents a plausible contender for the most important piece of technology in the history of man. It is a technology so old that it predates Homo sapiens and instead should be credited to our ancestor Homo erectus. That technology is fire. We have used it in two crucial, defining ways. The first and the most obvious of these is cooking. As Richard Wrangham has argued in his book “Catching Fire,” our ability to cook allows us to extract more energy from the food we eat, and also to eat a far wider range of foods. Our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, has a colon three times as large as ours, because its diet of raw food is so much harder to digest. The extra caloric value we get from cooked food allowed us to develop our big brains, which absorb roughly a fifth of the energy we consume, as opposed to less than a tenth for most mammals’ brains. That difference is what has made us the dominant species on the planet.

The other reason fire was central to our history is less obvious to contemporary eyes: we used it to adapt the landscape around us to our purposes. Hunter-gatherers would set fires as they moved, to clear terrain and make it ready for fast-growing, prey-attracting new plants. They would also drive animals with fire. They used this technology so much that, Scott thinks, we should date the human-dominated phase of earth, the so-called Anthropocene, from the time our forebears mastered this new tool.

We don’t give the technology of fire enough credit, Scott suggests, because we don’t give our ancestors much credit for their ingenuity over the long period—ninety-five per cent of human history—during which most of our species were hunter-gatherers. “Why human fire as landscape architecture doesn’t register as it ought to in our historical accounts is perhaps that its effects were spread over hundreds of millennia and were accomplished by ‘precivilized’ peoples also known as ‘savages,’ ” Scott writes. To demonstrate the significance of fire, he points to what we’ve found in certain caves in southern Africa. The earliest, oldest strata of the caves contain whole skeletons of carnivores and many chewed-up bone fragments of the things they were eating, including us. Then comes the layer from when we discovered fire, and ownership of the caves switches: the human skeletons are whole, and the carnivores are bone fragments. Fire is the difference between eating lunch and being lunch."

"It was the ability to tax and to extract a surplus from the produce of agriculture that, in Scott’s account, led to the birth of the state, and also to the creation of complex societies with hierarchies, division of labor, specialist jobs (soldier, priest, servant, administrator), and an élite presiding over them. Because the new states required huge amounts of manual work to irrigate the cereal crops, they also required forms of forced labor, including slavery; because the easiest way to find slaves was to capture them, the states had a new propensity for waging war. Some of the earliest images in human history, from the first Mesopotamian states, are of slaves being marched along in neck shackles. Add this to the frequent epidemics and the general ill health of early settled communities and it is not hard to see why the latest consensus is that the Neolithic Revolution was a disaster for most of the people who lived through it.

War, slavery, rule by élites—all were made easier by another new technology of control: writing. “It is virtually impossible to conceive of even the earliest states without a systematic technology of numerical record keeping,” Scott maintains. All the good things we associate with writing—its use for culture and entertainment and communication and collective memory—were some distance in the future. For half a thousand years after its invention, in Mesopotamia, writing was used exclusively for bookkeeping: “the massive effort through a system of notation to make a society, its manpower, and its production legible to its rulers and temple officials, and to extract grain and labor from it.” Early tablets consist of “lists, lists and lists,” Scott says, and the subjects of that record-keeping are, in order of frequency, “barley (as rations and taxes), war captives, male and female slaves.” Walter Benjamin, the great German Jewish cultural critic, who committed suicide while trying to escape Nazi-controlled Europe, said that “there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” He meant that every complicated and beautiful thing humanity ever made has, if you look at it long enough, a shadow, a history of oppression. As a matter of plain historical fact, that seems right. It was a long and traumatic journey from the invention of writing to your book club’s discussion of Jodi Picoult’s latest."

"The news here is that the lives of most of our progenitors were better than we think. We’re flattering ourselves by believing that their existence was so grim and that our modern, civilized one is, by comparison, so great. Still, we are where we are, and we live the way we live, and it’s possible to wonder whether any of this illuminating knowledge about our hunter-gatherer ancestors can be useful to us. Suzman wonders the same thing. He discusses John Maynard Keynes’s famous 1930 essay “The Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” Keynes speculated that if the world continued to get richer we would naturally end up enjoying a high standard of living while doing much less work. He thought that “the economic problem” of having enough to live on would be solved, and “the struggle for subsistence” would be over:
When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession—as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life—will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

The world has indeed got richer, but any such shift in morals and values is hard to detect. Money and the value system around its acquisition are fully intact. Greed is still good.

The study of hunter-gatherers, who live for the day and do not accumulate surpluses, shows that humanity can live more or less as Keynes suggests. It’s just that we’re choosing not to. A key to that lost or forsworn ability, Suzman suggests, lies in the ferocious egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. For example, the most valuable thing a hunter can do is come back with meat. Unlike gathered plants, whose proceeds are “not subject to any strict conventions on sharing,” hunted meat is very carefully distributed according to protocol, and the people who eat the meat that is given to them go to great trouble to be rude about it. This ritual is called “insulting the meat,” and it is designed to make sure the hunter doesn’t get above himself and start thinking that he’s better than anyone else. “When a young man kills much meat,” a Bushman told the anthropologist Richard B. Lee, “he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. . . . We can’t accept this.” The insults are designed to “cool his heart and make him gentle.” For these hunter-gatherers, Suzman writes, “the sum of individual self-interest and the jealousy that policed it was a fiercely egalitarian society where profitable exchange, hierarchy, and significant material inequality were not tolerated.”

This egalitarian impulse, Suzman suggests, is central to the hunter-gatherer’s ability to live a life that is, on its own terms, affluent, but without abundance, without excess, and without competitive acquisition. The secret ingredient seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy. As he says, “If this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us to embrace a post-labor world, then I suspect it may prove a very hard nut to crack.” There’s a lot that we could learn from the oldest extant branch of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to put the knowledge into effect. A socially positive use of envy—now, that would be a technology almost as useful as fire."
jamescscott  fire  technology  hunter-gatherers  2017  anthropology  johnlanchester  anthropocene  sedentism  agriculture  nomads  nomadism  archaeology  writing  legibility  illegibility  state  civilization  affluence  abundance  jamessuzman  bushmen  kalahari  namibia  khoisan  mesopotamia  egalitarianism  humans  self-interest  jealousy  greed  inequality  accumulation  motivation  society  happiness  money 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Ibram Kendi, one of the nation’s leading scholars of racism, says education and love are not the answer
"“We have been taught that ignorance and hate lead to racist ideas, lead to racist policies,” Kendi said. “If the fundamental problem is ignorance and hate, then your solutions are going to be focused on education, and love and persuasion. But of course [Stamped from the Beginning] shows that the actual foundation of racism is not ignorance and hate, but self-interest, particularly economic and political and cultural.” Self-interest drives racist policies that benefit that self-interest. When the policies are challenged because they produce inequalities, racist ideas spring up to justify those policies. Hate flows freely from there.

The self-interest: The Portuguese had to justify their pioneering slave trade of African people before the pope.

The racist idea: Africans are barbarians. If we remove them from Africa and enslave them, they could be civilized.

“We can understand this very simply with slavery. I’m enslaving people because I want to make money. Abolitionists are resisting me, so I’m going to convince Americans that these people should be enslaved because they’re black, and then people will start believing those ideas: that these people are so barbaric, that they need to be enslaved, or that they are so childlike that they need to be enslaved.”

Kendi boils racist ideas down to an irreducible core: Any idea that suggests one racial group is superior or inferior to another group in any way is a racist idea, he says, and there are two types. Segregationist ideas contend racial groups are created unequal. Assimilationist ideas, as Kendi defines them, argue that both discrimination and problematic black people are to blame for inequalities.

Americans who don’t carry tiki torches react viscerally to segregationist ideas like those on display at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one young counter-protester dead. Assimilationist ideas are more subtle, seductive and coded.

“You can be someone who has no intention to be racist,” who believes in and fights for equality, “but because you’re conditioned in a world that is racist and a country that is structured in anti-black racism, you yourself can perpetuate those ideas,” says Kendi. No matter what color you are.

Anti-racist ideas hold that racial groups are equal. That the only thing inferior about black people is their opportunities. “The only thing wrong with black people is that we think there is something wrong with black people,” a line that Kendi uses like a mantra.

The Blue Lives Matter (the problem is violent black people) Black Lives Matter (the problem is the criminal justice system, poor training and police bias) and All Lives Matter (the problem is police and black people) arguments are extensions of the same, three-way debate (segregationist, anti-racist and assimilationist) that Americans have been having since the founding of the country.

“We’ve been taught American history as a steady march of racial progress,” but it’s always been a dual march of racial and racist progress, which we see from Charlottesville to “their Trump Tower,” Kendi says.

This is the jump-off Kendi uses to frame the most roiling issues of the day. But before he could build that frame, he first had to deal with his own racism."
racism  history  ideas  2017  ibramkendi  via:ablerism  assimilation  inequlity  blacklivesmatter  bluelivesmatter  alllivesmatter  self-interest  capitalism  politics  culture 
september 2017 by robertogreco

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