Trust is the core of America’s strength, to generalize, the wider the circle of trust the richer the society

At Civil Horizon: Trust

Trust is far more important than law.

Think of it: how many times have you sued somebody, or been sued? Have you ever been arrested? Each of us interacts with many others in numerous ways every day, and recourse to the law is exceptionally rare. Our actions may be constrained by certain laws; but usually they are far more limited by the expectations of those with whom we are dealing.

Great piece! (Edited for clean up)

The Romans did it

20130604-223315.jpg

This image shows a drill core of volcanic ash-hydrated lime mortar from the ancient port of Baiae in Pozzuloi Bay. Yellowish inclusions are pumice, dark stony fragments are lava, gray areas consist of other volcanic crystalline materials, and white spots are lime. The inset is a scanning electron microscope image of the special Al-tobermorite crystals that are key to the superior quality of Roman seawater concrete. (Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley)

read more at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130604135409.htm

Roman technology was very advanced, their society collapsed due to political and social forces not for a lack of tools.

What the Hayek?

Economist Philosopher F.Hayek

Economist Philosopher F.Hayek

The Road To Serfdom is often referenced and probably like many such books rarely read.  This link goes to a real life Readers Digest version, that seems to hit hard and capture well his central thesis, at least it seems so from the references to his writing.

Its certainly making me think of buying a version either at Half Price books or more likely for Nook.

From the Post Referenced above a few key pieces:

From the preamble:

At that time it was a political philosophy that stood for progress through preserving the Autonomy of the INDIVIDUAL, and the protection of the INDIVIDUAL’S civil liberty. Oddly enough, today “liberalism” equals “socialism.” Equally as odd, conservatism (and in many instances, libertarianism) champions the independence of the individual.

From the first section:

Yet is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that, in our endeavor consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals, we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite of what we have been striving for?

Planning and Power

In order to achieve their ends, the planners must create power – power over men wielded by other men – of a magnitude never before known. Democracy is an obstacle to this suppression of freedom which the centralized direction of economic activity requires.

And despite the somewhat old fashioned and formal words this should have striking impact because it tells you exactly what is going on today and why so many fear it.  It does not matter that we voted ‘the planners’ into place or that they are bureaucrats subject to dismissal.  We are providing the keys to power and we are then likely to forget about them until they are far too entrenched to remove easily.

It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves. When all the means of production are vested in a single hand, whether it be nominally that of “society” as a whole or that of a dictator, whoever exercises this control has complete power over us.

Now this sounds like Communism, Socialism or Fascism not the American way but the truth is that any major part of the social structure-economy in one groups hands creates a massive center of power, privilege and patronage, the 3P’s of tyranny writ small or large.  The 3Ps lead to lawless, corrupt and ineffective organizations.

Individualism, in contrast to socialism and all other forms of totalitarianism, is based on the respect of Christianity for the individual man and the belief that it is desirable that men should be free to develop their own individual gifts and bents. This philosophy, first fully developed during the Renaissance, grew and spread into what we know as Western civilization. The general direction of social development was one of freeing the individual from the ties which bound him in feudal society.

This is not a theologian’s statement it is a philosopher’s recognition of the Christian-European (unstated but clear) understanding of the centrality of the individual as the basis of societies. That societies are are the emergent organization of many individuals interacting with each other.  And societies that provide ‘room’ for people to find their own level and best place in the social fabric are vastly more fair and kind than ones organized in rigid hierarchies and treat or form the person as an interchangeable cog.

From the post script a quote  from Frédéric Bastiat.:

Individualism, in contrast to socialism and all other forms of totalitarianism, is based on the respect for the individual man and the belief that it is desirable that men should be free to develop their own individual gifts and bents.

The Decline of Violence

From Reason Magazine, I hope this is beginning to percolate, it’s actually a perception I’ve had for a long time, that violence of all sorts is declining not increasing.  The perception of greater danger is completely due to the news cycle and our reduced tolerance to violence of all sorts because it is so much less common today than it was even when I was young (and as ancient as I feel I am not THAT old.)

The article is an interview with  Harvard University cognitive neuroscientist Steven Pinker in his new book The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined, where he claims that “You are less likely to die a violent death today than at any other time in human history. In fact, violence has been declining for centuries.”  

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Read the book I have not yet so this is not a review, just a commentary on my own observations and thoughts.

A couple of anecdotes:  Growing up I heard repeated references to kids fighting, but mostly it was reference to the generations before me. I never got into a fight (I was a big geek living in the suburbs so maybe not representative) I was only struck twice by other kids in my whole school career, both events were unprovoked single ‘hits’ due to me being the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In my family’s early days in the US (mid late 60’s) I distinctly remember my father driving us down a country road someplace in southern Indian and seeing two large farm hand types going at each other with bare knuckles with a ring of what looked like relatives and friends surrounding them. This had been typical in the generations before mine but is rare today. Where it exists it is professionalized and as such the repercussions of the violence are ameliorated and diffused (nothing personal about this beating I’m giving you hey mate?)

I hate to say this but all evidence indicates that in our natural state we’re not peaceful types (despite what fringe utopian greens think.) Hunter gatherer clan life was one of constant warfare with nature and other clans (this can be seen even today in the few places where this life style still exists.)  As we moved to more sedentary life violence was reduced.  Again this can be seen, there was and is a distinct difference in the violence levels of farmers vs herders.  As states developed they tended to damp violence, a dead serf is an unproductive serf, also the ‘justice’ of a third-party tended to defuse feuds and vendettas, which had remained very prevalent (and still survive.) Then the violence of the hierarchical despotic governments was gradually ameliorated by various forms of government based on order and not raw power, again a dead serf is not very productive.  Psychologically we began to be able to perceive others points of view as literacy gave us limited insight into the ways others thought and perceived the world.  As mercantilism developed there was more reason to see ‘the other’ as a possible source of value and not a threat, defusing a great deal of hostility.   Then the enlightenment came with the spread of various forms of representative government and a sense of people at all levels of society having worth. Violence of all sorts began to be seen as an evil in and of itself.   Today we are the beneficiaries of a virtuous circle that this long chain of change has wrought, where the less violence we experience the less tolerant we are of the behaviours leading to violence, and so on.

Of course there may be dangers to this: 

  1. We could become so intolerant of behaviours that we begin to make intolerant and anti liberal laws.
  2. In the land of the disarmed lotus eaters the thug with the shiv rules.
  3. Not all places will experience the same cycle or at least not at the same rate and time.  Are we seeing this with Europe vs MidEast, is it a threat  because it leads to self disarmament and then scenario 2 on a large-scale.
  4. People become disinclined to stand up for their rights because all those around them see ‘standing up for something’ as code for unacceptable pre violence behaviour.

But on the whole I like where we are today.  The only real problem I see is that many of us do not take advantage of the opportunities because A) we perceive violence as increasing not decreasing B) lack of self-confidence in one’s ability to deal with violence.  

Now a curious though (stream of consciousness being what it is) do A and B in conjunction with the very real decrease in average violence explain the increasing prevalence of concealed carry laws?   Given the decrease in violence in general does it make perfect sense to have armed citizens able to provide deterrence pressure on the remaining ‘thugs for life’ in society?   It could be argued either way but I think that it is a sensible question to ask.