Friday, January 02, 2009

Collectivist Zombies

More of a rant today as vacation was no panacea for markets...

Pope Benedict, in his Christmas address from the Vatican, stated the following:

“In each of these places may the light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity,” the Pope said. “If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.”

While I certainly cannot disagree about the spirit of Christmas, I would vehimently disagree with this notion the world being a better place if only people ignored their self-interest.

Going beyond the impossibility of such a situation given human nature (and ignoring definitional problems of what "self-interest" means), it is extremely dangerous when people DO consider something more important than their self-interest. Collectivism, promulgated by nations, organizations, etc., has a far better chance to make the world "fall apart" than individuals cooperating with other individuals in the furtherance of their several selfish interests.

Subordination of self interest leads, by definition, to individuals acting for the furtherance of other people's goals, without due compensation or contract. Given human nature, this is not good.

And readers here will see where this is going. Economic conditions determine behavior. When conditions are bad (as they are now), deviation from self-interest can turn whole populations into Zombies. The human need for social interaction with like-minded individuals is, thank goodness, very strong...but this need can be subverted in difficult economic times to the great advantage of nations who have unstable populations, weak neighbors, and a need to place blame on someone "else" for their current predicament.

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