"People have often been willing to give up personal identity and join into a collective. Historically, that propensity has usually been very bad news. Collectives tend to be mean, to designate official enemies, to be violent, and to discourage creative, rigorous thought. Fascists, communists, religious cults, criminal 'families' — there has been no end to the varieties of human collectives, but it seems to me that these examples have quite a lot in common. I wonder if some aspect of human nature evolved in the context of competing packs. We might be genetically wired to be vulnerable to the lure of the mob." ~ Jaron Lanier
The Great Stagecoach Robbery
Column by new Root Striker David Calderwood.
Exclusive to STR
It’s Political Season and the airwaves are stuffed with Great Plans from Great Men, full of promises to Fix This and Fix That. I guess the goal is, “He who makes the Most Believable Promises Wins.”
Does anyone else share my sense that I’m a passenger on a stagecoach that is being robbed?
I’m not alone on the stagecoach, of course, and it is instructive to watch how others respond to having guns stuck up their noses as sticky fingers reach for their money.
The Honorable Mr. Pol, a local magistrate and long-time town selectman, is negotiating with the robbers over how to apply their demands. His position includes words I don’t understand like VAT and FAIR and income distributions, but it is obvious his point is that the robbers’ hands grab the money from other passengers’ wallets. Mr. Pol has figured out that the robbers are members of the local Fraternity of Important People and part of the loot will end up in his re-election campaign, so the robbery is No Big Deal. In fact, he has no wish to see the robbers’ demands decrease at all. To the contrary, he suggests new ways to steal more efficiently. I even heard a rumor that Mr. Pol is the robbers’ “Inside Man.”
Mr. Wall, the local banker, is the richest man in the state. He has correctly recognized the robbers as his employees, so he happily surrenders his wallet, secure in the knowledge that he’ll get all of it back plus a percentage of the loot taken from other passengers, a prospect that causes him to exhort us all to hand over everything we have of value. He even offers to help the robbers take the money from our wallets without using guns and completely without our knowledge (the result is that our money buys less stuff, of course).
Ms. Dee Pendant, a young wife and mother, tearfully thanks the robbers for their honorable actions. She gladly surrenders her purse and profusely thanks the robbers for not raping or murdering her. She has heard rumors (started, no doubt, by the robbers themselves) that the hills are teeming with barbarians who, in the absence of the robbers, would slaughter the stagecoach passengers with abandon. Her sister, a young unmarried woman with three kids, has nothing in her purse to steal and figures she may get a few coins the robbers drop as they ride away, so she, too, smiles and nods as the robbers strip me of my cash.
So there we have it, I am surrounded by people who benefit from my being robbed or have embraced the self-serving lies of the robbers themselves and thus encourage them to rob me even as those willing victims prostrate themselves in obeisance to the criminals who accost us. I am surrounded by people who have no wish to see the looting end or decline, only that they pay less and gain more from the process.
I like simple templates through which to interpret the world. Using this template, I can easily classify most pundits, newspersons, columnists, bloggers, academics, and other assorted Important People into one or another of my fellow passengers’ personas.
So long as I am surrounded by such scoundrels and the naïve, the odds favor a lot more robbery. Sadly, this degrades the value of all wealth for, in a place where everything can be stolen from you, why produce?
At its heart, the current system rests on the normalization of theft throughout Western Civilization. Every man and every woman is encouraged to take whatever swag their mitts can reach, creating a system that concentrates the dwindling wealth in a very few hands while impoverishing every other participant, willing or not.
It’s not rocket science to see what this promises to do to living standards. The real question is how a population steeped in a poverty of morality will react when the reality of financial poverty is fully grasped.
There is no honor among thieves.