Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The United States Is Anti-Civilization

How do civilizations fall? It's a tough question to answer because no two civilizations are alike, despite common characteristics. Because most people have little to no background on economics, political science, and history, this too leave little understand of how it happens.

I personally can only account for the United States and what my perceptions are. While I could probably discuss the fall of ancient Israel, I doubt I could do it much justice. Besides, most civilizations are different in how they start and how they end anyway, so it is difficult to draw comparisons. At best, the United States is similar to the Delian League, but even that is a fallacious comparison at best.

I can only account for what has worked versus what hasn't worked and what is clearly not working in the United States today. In other words, I can only attest to what has kept this nation going and what is clearly causing it to deteriorate.

First of all, I'm going to define what a civilization is. Primarily it is a group of organized individuals who have a common culture, government, and divided labor. The last part is key as it allows people to pursue a specific set of skills rather than become a jack-of-all-trades in order to survive. Most people go to a grocery store to get their food, instead of growing or raising it, for example. Likewise, culture represents the values of that group and finally government is often in a civilized society, usually echoing the culture values of the group.

But what makes an individual civilized? What is it about the individual living in civilization that makes him or her adhere to a behavior that not all of humanity shares? Given the past two centuries of colonialism and imperialism, it is clearly not the infrastructure that makes a civilization. That is probably a mere side effect of civilized society. The American Indians, for example, could not sustain more than 1 million people on the North American continent while following their tribal ways. When the colonizers came from Europe, they brought ideals and customs that accounted for not just the short term gain, but the long term as well.

This is the key as to how a civilized person behaves. A civilized person will never base economic actions solely in the short term but will also look in the long term, often times not only in his or her lifetime, but in his or her children's lifetimes as well. Having a low time preference is one of the foundations of a civilized individual.

As far as time preference is concerned, this seems to be integral with culture. Different cultures have different emphasis on time preference. It could be argued that in the modern United States, with all it's "multicultural glory", that there are several sections where low time preference is favored over high and vice versa. Certain people within this vast country seem to prefer long-term gain while others prefer short-term gain.

The cultural impact of time preference is important. Culture applies to the ideals, attitudes, tastes, and religious beliefs that are commonly accepted within a group of people. Despite the fact that I am an individualist, I always try to account for culture. In ancient Israel, it could be argued that when they began to worship idols, they developed high time preference attitudes over the low time preference attitudes that established at the start of their nation. And let's be honest, sacrificing your children to Moloch isn't exactly a low time preference activity.

My talk of time preference is important and it is an important concept to understand because civilization hinges on a large collection of people with a low time preference. While the percentage of people within a civilization with such attitudes is not a hard number, it is fairly clear that once the number of people with high time preference overtakes people with low time preference, we begin to see civilization decay.

Which brings me to the main topic of my post. There was a lot of set up for this because very few people really understand the implications of what is being discussed here. I doubt most people even read up on such topics. In any case, I believe that the United States of America is currently anti-civilization and will continue on its path until it is split up into smaller nations or collapses completely. This will not happen anytime soon, unfortunately, and will probably be a violent process that will last for decades once it has really started.

Look at our nation and determine if we are living in a country that promotes low time preference or high time preference. Let's start with some common government policies. Social Security is a great example of promoting high time preference. Instead of individuals consciously saving money in their own way for retirement, it merely has people forcibly paying into a huge collection pool which pays out to them when they reach a certain age, regardless of whether or not they are able to retire or are even alive. On top of that, the current funds for Social Security payouts comes directly from the taxes of the people who are still working. In essence, Social Security is really a policy that encourages high time preference over low time preference.

Banking policies are another huge factor in this. Debt of any kind is really something that reflects a high time preference attitude. While we could argue the merits of home mortgages, we could all agree that credit cards reflect high time preferences. When you buy something with a credit card, you are essentially taking out a loan to buy something which you will pay off later. If that is not the central core of high time preference, I don't know what is.

On a more national scale, the Federal Reserve operates in a very high time preference mindset. With the interest rates at near zero percent, they are essentially trying to stimulate the economy in order to avoid short term collapse. The people who operate the Federal Reserve do not seem to be too concerned with the long term implications of this, which are either huge debt deflation or hyper-inflation. Neither options are good for the common citizen, but the short term is the only thing that seems to matter.

Within our entertainment culture, the only thing that seems to matter is the short term. From mass consumerism to television shows and movies that depict self-centered characters, we never really see people with low time preferences. The black culture is especially explicit when it comes to this with depictions of living for the moment or living to get the next fix, be it sex, violence, or drugs. But these attitudes are not limited solely to black entertainment and can be seen in all entertainment, although it tends to be more subtle.

Think about the products that people buy. There are hundreds of different forms of junk food that are sold on the shelves in grocery stores. People eat out more than they ever did. Mass consumerism has taken hold and is often justified in the name of freedom or capitalism but never criticized for being the civilization destroying practice that it is.

There are many other things I could point to which demonstrate that the United States as a whole is on the road to decay and destruction from within. Very few people are willing to address the serious issues that pervade our failing country and fewer still are willing to face it.

Understand that I am not asking for laws to be passed or companies to be boycotted. Neither will produce any positive result. I am simply asking for people to change their thinking from the primitive, tribal thinking that surrounds high time preference and to instead focus more on low time preference thinking. It is a difficult thing to do, as I am certain that most people's thinking is patterned more toward high time preference rather than low time preference.

If the United States falls, use this knowledge as a primer for understanding why it fell and what a society needs to do in order to avoid it in the future. I don't know what the solutions are, I just know that a culture with a predominantly low time preference attitude will survive for a very long time while the opposite leads to primitive, barbaric societies.