The Conundrum of Any Free People

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by curiousbrain, Apr 23, 2011.

  1. curiousbrain

    curiousbrain Well-Known Member

    This is the outgrowth of an ongoing thought experiment I have while at work; I don't imagine it will end here, but I felt compelled to share it in the hope of eliciting responses.

    A popular notion in this country is equality; meanwhile, another popular notion in this country is that we (in the encompassing sense of this country) occupy a position of preeminence in the world. It is my general contention that these two are mutually exclusive.


    Let us suppose for a moment that Bob lives a privileged life, while Alice does not; in order for Alice to move towards equality, Bob must relinquish some of his privilege. This means, among other things, that Bob must give up some of what he regards as his preeminence as an entity.

    Likewise, and I'm sure most can see where this is going, the US as a country promotes equality (as do other countries, but the US is a convenient example in this case) both at home and abroad, but yet regards itself as holding a special position in the world - namely, that of the "flame of liberty."

    Not only do these ideals conflict, but a further element of friction can be identified in that a citizen living in this country can almost be encouraged as desiring military supremacy over the rest of the world. The logic in the aforementioned sentence goes, in somewhat simplified form, as follows:

    I want low gas prices, a vibrant economy, and high standard of living.
    Thus, I want plentiful oil supplies, an economy free from extreme foreign influence, and high wages.
    Thus, it is in my general interest for my country to have a huge military and forcibly take the resources required to provide me and mine what I think I/them deserve.

    To put that somewhat more succinctly, it is in the interest of the average American to wage war in the Middle East for oil; or any other region that has valuable resources.

    In a perhaps vain attempt to nutshell this post, because of the unequal distribution of resources in the world, the desire of the citizen of any government for equality and liberty by necessity dictates that others must suffer a disproportionate amount of inequality.
  2. moreluck

    moreluck golden ticket member

    You got Bob & Carol, but you forgot Ted and Alice.
  3. MrFedEx

    MrFedEx Engorged Member

    Have you heard of Libertarianism?
  4. klein

    klein Für Meno :)

    Speaking of "Free People".

    Yemen is free as of today.
    Their dictator has agreed to resign within 30 days, under the condition, his family and other parlament members get to leave the country without prosecution.

    The Middle East is rising, will it become the next powerhouse zone , like Asia ?
    China doesn't have a democracy, nor oil.

    The middle east might be able to top whatever China has to offer !!! ???

    Time will tell.
  5. wkmac

    wkmac Well-Known Member

    Are resources that unequal to begin with or does the idea of a pre-eminent culture prohibit all manner and type resources from coming into play? For example, could some cultures (we'll call Alice, Ted and Carol) use some form of vegetable oil in place of petro but then if that happened and that idea caught on among others, what would that do to Bob's culture that held the pre-eminent position obtained by privilege? What would happen to Bob's superior culture's monetary unit if it was based on petro oil and some vegetable or other plant oil thanks to Alice began to replace it on a larger market? What if Ted and Carol preferred Alice's monetary unit over Bob's, would Bob need to enforce his monetary unit privilege (we'll call monopoly) to maintain economic if not total superiorty?

    If Bob no longer held control of production and distribution over Alice's oil, how could Bob tax it or even regulate it in any way? Could just any local yocal grow the plant, press it for oil and run it in his own car? What would stop Alice and her friends from forming a local non-profit co-op to grow, press and distribute oil in their local community to the economic benefit to all? How could Bob control Alice's production for the purpose of economic planning or Alice control Bob's for that matter when all are free to seek out the best available resources and thus use best allocation of resources to those ends?

    This also begs the question, would a true free market harm a pre-eminent society who had used heirarchial privilege, which we call Bob and then actually benefit a more equitable environment to the equality of Alice and even allow her to compete on equal terms with Bob? Does this then benefit an economic environment based on mutual benefit to all and not to Bob's one sided manifest destiny and exceptionalism? In a true free market, can Bob use a granter of privilege as an enforcer of said privilege to force Alice to labor and pay for Bob's privileged position? If true freed markets make impossible for someone to hold a position of monopoly as privilege issuer in the first place (no one to give Bob his goodies), how can any privilege thus causing the inequality to even exist in the first place?

    And lastly, would the privilege enjoyed by Bob's exceptionalism been a result of naturally occuring events or would the privilege have come at the hand of force and who would own this monopoly of force so as to disadvantge Alice in order to advantage Bob?

    Or consider this scenario. Bob held the superiority position and Ted found oil on his land. Problem was, Ted was under a culture run by Carol and Carol was willing to let Ted do with the oil as he pleased since the oil was on his land and thus his. Now this arrangement harmed Bob's economic situation so Bob conspired with Alice to remove Carol from her position and then once Alice had everything under her control, Alice would nationalize Ted's oil. What Ted was unaware of, on the surface Bob was constantly condemning Alice and her actions yet behind the scenes, Bob had John acting as his agent and was buying Ted's oil from Alice at cheap prices but Alice greatly benefited from other reciprocial agreements with Bob. The only thing Alice had to do was control Ted and Carol with an iron fist so they never discovered her arrangement with Bob. Hmmmm!

    Just a few thoughts and questions of my own!
  6. brett636

    brett636 Well-Known Member

    I disagree with your premises on many levels, and considered replying by attacking the specifics of your argument and why you are wrong. The problem I found is the main fallacy of your entire post is you base it on this idea of perfect equality among people. Equality exists nowhere on earth whether it be between two people or two nations. Nobody is alike and therefore your entire premise falls flat on its face. Some people are more athletic than others, some are smarter, and we all have different experiences going through life making us all unique individuals, but we will never be equal and every attempt to make us so only punishes the successful and rewards the weak to the benefit of those in power. I cannot accept your conundrum as its all based on a lie, and that, my friend, is the bottom line.
  7. curiousbrain

    curiousbrain Well-Known Member

    I used that as a premise because it's the lofty ideal that Western politics claims to stand for; for that reason, it seemed like a reasonable starting point.

    What of people born into privilege - are they somehow naturally better, or is it just the luck of birth? I don't disagree in the slightest that people are shaped by their life experiences and that true utopian equality is probably a pipe dream; I do think, however, that some measure of equality is to be desired. Not only desired, but that it can be achieved without punishing the successful.

  8. curiousbrain

    curiousbrain Well-Known Member

    I have; I'm not sure what you are getting at, though.

    I think, what I perhaps failed to accomplish in the original post, was to illustrate that a society driven by economic self-interest, followed to its logical extreme, would result in its citizens readily supporting a huge military and foreign wars to sustain a high quality of life; and how that flies in the face of the same society striving for equality.

    I'm not sure if that makes it clearer or not.
  9. curiousbrain

    curiousbrain Well-Known Member

    To your general point, I'm reasonably confident I agree in that if any entity regards itself as holding a position of preeminence, it almost by definition implies some sort of rigid framework which grants the preeminence. If that framework were to change at all, the occupant of the preeminent position might suddenly find themselves not so important.

    I think that it takes no great mental effort to view contemporary world events through that lens.

    I think that last sentence highlights the point I was driving at in the original post - which is that the unevenness of world resources causes an imbalance through which preeminence as a world power is granted; the resource or resources which acts as the grantor of that position may change periodically as the world goes through various technological epochs, but that imbalance always exists.

    Even using a hypothetical economic system that was perfectly equitable in terms of exchange, the location of resources that the world runs on are uneven; that grants power because Bob, as the entity with the most resources, doesn't have to bargain with anyone; everyone else, meanwhile, must wheel and deal with Bob to get what they want - even if they get great prices, Bob has intrinisic power they do not.

    Accepting that, and then having Bob proclaim that he wants to spread freedom around the world, is a conundrum - or, at least, I think it is.

    Bob sounds like an enormous buttwipe.

    But, in the context of the original post, I would say the following: Bob's citizens, motivated by a combination of self-interest and nationalism, should be very happy about what Bob did to Ted; not only did they increase their own resources and remove a possible obstacle in the future, but they were able to secure their continued position of power throughout the world. And to say nothing of the continued subserviance of Alice ...

    Now, if Bob's citizens ever started to really believe in equality and consider the sacrifice they would have to make in order to grant equal footing to everyone else in the world, that would be a real problem for Bob. Ted and everyone like him would be psyched, to be sure.

    Keep them coming.
  10. trplnkl

    trplnkl 555

    The first thing that needs to happen is a defined equality, what does equal mean and in what areas does it apply. Our nation ( not sure if we are ted, Alice, bob, carol or john) has never claimed to be equal with the other nations of the world, in fact we have claimed to be exceptional. However we do foster the ideal of individual equality. Perhaps it is the quest for individual equality that makes us exceptional.

    If I understand the original post correctly, the question is do we, as a nation, have the right to militarily force other countries to give us their oil, is that right?
  11. curiousbrain

    curiousbrain Well-Known Member

    Or, that it is in the self-interest of the citizens of this country to support our governments attempts to militarily force other countries to give us their oil (or some other arbitrary resource); and how that self-interest is at odds with the attempt to strive for equality, be it individual, national, or otherwise.
  12. trplnkl

    trplnkl 555

    Thanks for the answer, but still not sure of the intent of the question. Is this truly a hypothetical scenario(with hints of truth) or a cloaked assessment of the US?
  13. curiousbrain

    curiousbrain Well-Known Member

    I thought of it at work in an abstract sense while I was thinking about the US; but it is not a direct assessment of the US. I don't think the average citizen would support war against other countries purely out of self-interest. Least of all, because politicians are rarely that honest - if a war was started for some resource, I would love to see the politician who came right out and said "Yep, we're in it for the resources and nothing else."

    I agree the point is somewhat obfuscated, that is not by intention; it's an ongoing idea I think about while laboring.
  14. trplnkl

    trplnkl 555

    Oh OK, now I unnerstan'. Thanks
  15. wkmac

    wkmac Well-Known Member


    This gets into the deeper question IMO is this inequality a fact of nature and naturally occuring events or is this a result of interventions that distort the situation. Someone in another post (sorry I forgot who it was) mentioned defining equality and it's context and this is a valid point. In the natural state, we are all different, Brett's point being valid in this case and there is no true equality in that sense. This changes however when interventions from 3rd parties take place and they dissort the effects of naturally occuring inequalities.

    Just to cut to the chase whether the politics or economics is on the right or left, the deeper question should be does it require gov't to disadvantage someone else in order for you/me to achieve your/my end result? If so, first off IMO it's socialism of the worse kind or using the collective nature of the state for your benefit and it's authoritarian and no difference IMO of the slave master who enslaves another human being for his own benefit.

    The Declaration of Independence was a statement about mankind in the broadest of contexts however accepting the failures of the writers of said document to live up to it's prinicples. Regardless, the right of every human to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness or in Locke's words, property were never meant to stop at an imaginary line we call a border nor was it meant to exclude other races or cultures. At the same time, the intent was beyond ourselves, accepting these ideals and principles were purely a voluntary action and one others would have to apply to their own world in how they saw fit. At the point of a gun was not how freedom and liberty was meant to spread IMO.

    If there exists a natural right (and I believe that to be so) then going abroad to violate those ideals is the height of hypocracy but then what does it also say about what we've done within our own borders over the last 200 plus years in supposed mission towards those ends?

    Freedom and liberty is often said an illusion and there is some truth in this POV but if one sacrifices his freedom and liberty in a purely voluntary arrangement and he is free to change or modify at any time without having to disadvantage him/herself, then I would think that is about the best one can do. But just as freedom and liberty are in a manner an illusion, so to is power and authority. We all are like Winston, straped to a chair and a cage of rats hanging on our face while Big Brother asks us, does 2+2=5? It is only under these conditions that the illusion of authority and power ever exist in the first place. Remove the coersion (the gun in the room) and you have no means of power or authority to compell the answers you want to hear nor is Winston now compelled to act against his own best interest.

    They are happy with Bob because regardless of election cycle, isn't "A Bob" always re-elected? Different face, different party but it's still always just Bob again. Did it ever dawn on anyone to look closely in the past where Bob's forces helped overturn a "so-called" tyrant and evil person (ironically always in places with resources)? Yet the so-called new democratic and equality ruler (our man) built on the principles of freedom and liberty ideals we extoll so often end up having the bloodiest hands and then we have to take them out only to repeat the cycle all over again?

    You too as I enjoy the discussion outside the box!
  16. wkmac

    wkmac Well-Known Member


    Just wanted to pass on an article from the Dec. 2008' American Conservative magazine. Dylan Hales IMO wrote an excellent piece on New Left historians Gabriel Kolko and William Appleman Williams of whom I also deeply admire. Hales takes not only a very positive view of Kolko and Williams but also shows in many respects that their ideas much align with that of an older american conservative movement that differs much in what is called conservative today. And it's on those points and what you raised in this thread that merge.

    From the article:

    I think in the spirit of your thoughts that sparked the current thread, you may find Hales' comments both thought provoking and at the same time productive to consider in their broader contexts.
  17. curiousbrain

    curiousbrain Well-Known Member

    I would argue both; its a natural inequality because few things are distributed evenly around the world, and its an interventionist inequality because of what a natural inequality implies.

    When "equality" was used in the context of the original post and its subsequent explanations, I meant it in the sense of what Western nations mean when they proclaim that they strive for equality.

    In a narrow context, I agree; in the wider sense of a world view, though, it seems a bit trickier. No individual citizen of any country should be required to give up their own freedoms so that others may enjoy them; but in a realpolitik world, it is almost necessary that some countries enjoy less freedoms because of the natural imbalances - be it populations, resources, technology, or otherwise.

    I agree; that opens up a very subjective can of worms though, when you allow the possibility of applying the principles of the DoI (or other principled document) as "others see fit." At some point, in some land, I'm sure spreading freedom at the barrel of a gun not only made sense, but seemed the only possibility.

    Agreed. I also think it's easier to maintain a double standard of principles at home and abroad, as most people are not willing to apply the same standards to themselves as they do to others.

    I agree; freedom and liberty are doppelgangers of individual desires. It is another quandary of democracies that the definition of freedom and liberty are malleable and change from time to time; proof of this can be seen in how it has changed over the life of this country or any other relatively "old" democracy.

    I share the frustration with a (what I perceive to be anyway) lack of reflection on the part of many citizens. That being said, part of the initial argument I tried to make was that if the people recognized that part of the reason they had the quality of life that they do is because of these "despicable" actions by the government, they might wholeheartedly support them out of pure self-interest.

    You had mentioned transparency in an earlier discussion at some point: is it inconceivable that total transparency would not motivate the population to act much in the same way they do now - supporting foreign wars for resources is one example - except that they would support them out of self-interest instead of political delusion?
  18. curiousbrain

    curiousbrain Well-Known Member

    I read that when you first posted it; intriguing as I recall. I will re-read it and post any worthwhile thoughts I have - been a long few days and my brain wanted to sleep most of the time. Apologies.
  19. island1fox

    island1fox Well-Known Member

    :wink2:As the good old Reverand Al Sharpton now states : No longer equal rights for all--now we must have equal results for all.
    Al does not include effort, determination,work ethic, educating oneself,sacrafice,risk etc etc.

    Alice worked when she was legally able,saved her money,paid attention in grammer school even when it was hard with Bob disrupting the class. Alice studied very hard in High school while working evenings and weekends. Bob dropped out of High school to pump gas off the books until he was replaced by automation and went on welfare and foodstamps.
    Alice took out loans for her Higher Education and also worked P/t for UPS that contributed to her tuition.
    Alice graduated at the top of her class and was accepted into Medical school. More loans, harder work,more sacrafice.
    Bob got hooked on crack fathered seven children from four different women -supports none of them.
    Alice is now working 22 hours a day as a resident Doctor.
    Bob is selling drugs and food stamps and in his spare time -mugging people.
    Alice is now a successful Doctor working in a poor community. With her work as a successful heart surgeon at an upscale Hospital she is able to make a very good yearly salary--250,000. She now has loans to pay back and because of Tort lawyers she must take out a huge liability insurance policy. She also lives in N.Y. with the highest Home prices and Taxes both Property and city.Financially she is just making ends meet.
    Bob is bussed to rallies and holds sign that say the rich pigs like Alice must pay their fair share.Our President Obama claims we should not let rich Alice just sit and count their money--all must sacrafice --liKE BOB.
    Bob pays NO share.
    Alice contributes to society has worked and sacraficed to get to where she is .

    Rev Al keeps yelling that Bob and Alice must have EQUAL results.

    We can go on and look into the future. Whose children will do better ?
    Whose children have the best or any chance?
    Is it the lack of freedom? Is it the lack of resources ?
    Or is it Personal choice ? We are paying for loser bob --his children can lift themselves up --or just like Dad --blame society,blame the government, blame "racism" but never,never look into a mirror and blame yourself !!:dissapointed:
  20. Lue C Fur

    Lue C Fur Evil member

    Excellent points Island!!!!