The Devil and Ideology

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If I seem obsessed with evil lately, it’s only because it’s an important idea to understand. Evil takes many forms, and one of the most prevalent being ideology.

You see, the devil–or whatever you want to call that malevolent part of humanity–isn’t a guy with horns and a pointy tail living in a place full of fire. And the devil doesn’t do stuff to you or force you to do stuff. It’s worse.

The devil makes you choose, of your own free will, to do stuff that’s bad while thinking it’s really, really good.

Tempter . . . seducer . . . dare I say it, the champion of convenience.

This is how we get a world where, for example, babies are killed in the womb in the name of “liberation,” and we all just go, “Meh.”

The worst part of this, the most devilish of all, is that, since no one likes to change their minds, ever, any such behavior that leads to bad results is nearly impossible to reverse.

I’m sure you can see the connection between devilishness and ideology now.

Ideology, and we’re talking political ideologies here, box you into a way of thinking that’s tough to break out of, no matter how consistently bad the outcomes are. It’s the old saying about how when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail come to life.

Ideologies can be useful. They provide a framework for seeing the world, for conceptualizing causes and effects, and for proposing solutions.

In a way, though, they are like science, or at least what science should be: constantly tested, constantly revised, and in danger of being falsified. In short, they should be flexible in light of new information and evidence.

Instead, ideologies become rigid, entrenched, and oddly antifragile. Indeed, it seems that the more holes you poke in a given ideology, or the more flaws you point out, the stronger its adherents devotion. They become highly dogmatic and, dare I say it, cult-like.

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“But Alex, aren’t you a Christian? Isn’t religion just another ideology?”

In short, no. Christianity is (1) a highly individualistic religion, (2) not concerned with political structures, (3) is reliant on a person’s own actions and faith for salvation, and (4) doens’t require forcing every other person on Earth to live the exact same way you do. Other religions might be more akin to an ideology–I can think of one, in particular, that just can’t seem to keep itself out of the news–but I leave further discussion to the experts.

Back to the secular, and smellier, realms of law and politics. Whether you’re a hardcore free-marketeer or a Marxist, your answer to everything is more of the same. The market-worshiper is just as apt to lament “We’ve never had really free markets!” as the communist is to whine “We’ve never had real communism!” And in both cases, there is a strange belief in the magic power of laws, as though laws are powerful spells that can compel proper behavior if only we use the right combination of words!

More, more, more. Hammer, hammer, hammer. Continue reading “The Devil and Ideology”

An Economy of Air: The Gods of the Marketplace

Take a look around at what you’re doing right now. Chances are, especially if you live in a modern Western nation, it’s kind of weird.

“Weird? How can that be? We’re all normal, decent, ordinary, every day people!”

Well, yes. But the thing is, the way we live is a historical anomaly. I think this is why many of us feel a vague unease with the way things are.

Just think about the rhythm of many of our daily lives:

  • Wake up
  • Commute
  • Go to one place for 8 to 12 hours
  • Go home and have a couple of hours to yourself
  • Sleep
  • Wake up

And so on.

“But that’s life!” you might say. “Everybody has to work for a living.” 

And you would right. But the kind of work we do is just so…weird. 

Look at me. I’m a lawyer. I read stuff that was invented by humans and yet is treated as though it has the magic ability to make people do what it says.

The corporate and office jobs I’ve had amount to not much more than trying to make a decision on who to talk to that can make another decision, who then escalated up to somebody else who makes another decision.

Nobody really does anything. It’s ephemeral. We have an economy of air.

People love to mock the so-called “working man,” or people who work in factories or in trades. But at the end of the day they at least made something that was a concrete, tangible, real.

Soon, though, that will be gone. Everything will be automated, even my job. We’re almost there. Some predict we’ll be there in a decade

Will this be good? Maybe. Maybe we’ll have more time to devote to philosophy, the arts, music…but even music has a mathematical formula. And artificial intelligence has almost developed to the point where it can write music

Weird, right?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that things don’t always have to be this way. Yet any suggestion that the post World War II world order might be wanting in several areas is met with reactions of shock and horror.

A lot of the same rebels who love to rail against the status quo recoil with disgust at the suggestion that maybe some things needs to be changed.

Unconsciously or not, so many think we’ve reached the end of history and that there is no other way except this. What we have now is the be-all, end-all and must be frozen in amber for all eternity, fossilized with no hope of change.

Now that’s weird, and is something our forebears sure wouldn’t recognize.

Am I suggesting that we all live in caves? Go back to toiling in the field? 

I don’t know about the caves, but there’s something to be said about growing your own food. You actually feel a connection to the world you live in. It’s hard to feel a connection when you’re sitting in a cubicle farm in some gray concrete slab of a building, or even in a NEW, HIP OPEN OFFICE at some trendy new tech start-up.

At the end of the day, it’s an economy of air. 

Whatever we’ve been given to replace this lack of connection doesn’t quite cut it. Buy this, wear that, think this, watch that, pop this, drink that. Don’t worry about it. Trust us. 

It’s just distraction. Is that why we’re here? To be amused? Continue reading “An Economy of Air: The Gods of the Marketplace”

Robot Lawyers

Do you like your job? Good for you. Do you want to keep your job?

Easy there, chief; not so fast. Chances are, a robot can do your job better, faster, and cheaper. And without complaining.

Are you a taxi driver? Soon we’ll have driverless cars. Do you work on an assembly line? You’re slow and outdated, and you make mistakes. Do you work at a fast food place? Robots can ask “Would you like fries with that?” too.

And they don’t complain about minimum wage laws.

A Wendy's sign outside of a Wendy's restaurant.

Wendy’s showed us how that’s done. Given all of the”Fight for $15″ agitation and the general rising costs of American labor, why wouldn’t they? And “because it looks bad” is an awful reason. Businesses only care about looking good to the extent that it increases profits. The second that “Department of Corporate Responsibility” becomes a money-losing liability, it’s gone, right along with everyone else who can be replaced by robots.

I mean, Wendy’s could just hire cheap foreign, or even illegal, labor. But it wants to stay in business. It also does not want to pay $15 an hour. So there’s nothing left to do but replace workers with robots.

The above scenario is inevitable if you’re a staunch believer in the Austrian school of economics, which posit that the diktats of the purely voluntary marketplace rule all, all actors are rational who do what is best to maximize profit, and anything resembling altruism is dangerous, destructive, and the province of fools.

This is opposed to socialism, which posits, like, why not pay everybody $20 an hour? $40$100? Why even have money at all, man?!

So yeah, the way we do things now, there’s no middle-ground between paying less-than dirt and exorbitant sums that would actually make it difficult for small businesses to stay in business. Surely Wendy’s could throw its workers a bone, couldn’t it?

Ah, but there’s the rub. If you believe in freedom, they shouldn’t be forced to do so by the government. Not that big business does much out of the goodness of its own heart, but I digress.

Back to automation: at the end of the day, doesn’t  it benefit us, the consumers?

Yes it does. I’m a capitalist. I know how the system works. We love innovation almost as much as we like cheap stuff. Just ask the companies replacing us with cheaper foreign versions of ourselves. And don’t complain, because at least you’re not paying too much for that iPhone of yours, you ungrateful plebe. Somewhere, somebody’s stock price isn’t going up because you insist on keeping jobs here.

But of course, there are some classes of jobs that will be immune from the automation revolution. A class of jobs which require such skill and such intellect, such judgment and such poise, such education and such experience, that they require the human touch.

Doctors? Nope, they’re expendable too.

I’m talking about the truly indispensable, the truly elite. If you’re lucky enough to be one of these, then your job is safe for all time. Continue reading “Robot Lawyers”