Re: META: Memes and War [was: Tomorrow is a new day]

From: David Clark (
Date: Tue Nov 09 2004 - 09:50:04 MST

Response to Keith Henson:

> Well at one time it *was* the fruit on trees.

The point I made was, it *isn't* now. Wealth today in *our* society is the
result of *hard work* not "manna from heaven".

> The point to my stuff was about stressed human populations being a fertile
> media for war memes.

I do not subscribe to this hypothesis. Throughout the middle ages, there
were only (almost) rich and very poor. It was rarely the poor that started
the wars. When those wars were started by the noblemen, the poor were the
ones to die and their lousy lives were better than being dead. The
situation of rich versus poor in the US and Canada today is magnitudes of
difference from those times. Even those peasants' conditions didn't produce
war. (The French Revolution is probably an exception but it could have been
motivated but factors other than a difference is wealth)

The fact that some people are hugely more productive (individually and
through labor magnifiers like invention and business groupings) than other
people. The fact that some are hugely more capable of creating wealth than
others. The fact that some are hugely more motivated to produce, save and
reinvest wealth makes the egalitarian idea of *equality* a pipe dream that
will not happen. The fact is that people are not born equal in almost every
important way. By using families to bring up the children (at least in
part) also means that children will *not* have an equal upbringing.

> As to how wealth should be distributed, that's a hard question. Much as I
> don't like it, having the rich pay a lot of taxes might be the least
> disruptive method. The point is to get substantially all of the
> to expect an improving future.

Your *solution* to your theory of a *war meme* is totally mute if your
theory is incorrect!

> But I can also see the side that a substantial fraction of a population is
> going to feel stressed and seeing a bleak future if the income per capita
> is redistributed away from some parts of the population to other parts.

I have a different theory of what propagates a *war meme*. Have you ever
seen a war started by a country who felt their military was weak relative to
the country they wished to attack? It might have happened that a weak
military attacked a stronger one but did the attacking country believe the
other country was stronger and attacked anyway. I don't think so. People
perceive wrongs and injustice treatment from other countries and normally do
nothing about it but they collectively remember such things for generations.
When they find their adversary weak, the culmination of all the bad blood
between the countries makes the possibility of war, possible. It is the
relative weakness of the other country that allows the possibility of
*righting the wrongs* by the use of force. You can substitute individual
people for the warring nations and get the same result. People initiate
physical violence when they feel a wrong and detect weakness in their

I am sure this is not the case every time but it seems to fit more cases
than a difference of income within the population which has historically
always been the case.

Your theory is about pacifying your potential opponents by making sure their
standard of living increases at your expense. This creates the appearance
of a kind of weakness that helps to precipitate wars!

> To put a specific example on the table, the US has gone from a nation with
> a big bulge in the middle income distribution to one where there more like
> an hour glass, there being rich folks and poor folks and not much in

This might be true (some would disagree) but it is only bad if the top of
the hourglass didn't deserve to have their favored position. I am sure some
don't deserve to be well off (you could give many examples I know) but what
about the vast majority of high income earners who worked hard and earned
what they have? Even though some poor people are poor through no fault of
their own, productive, useful people will never stay poor for long. So long
as they are free to move where useful work can be found, they can always be
productive if they choose. (For some disabled people this might not be the

> Regardless of my or your political leanings, this is conducive to the
> stressed fraction of the population (large!) being susceptible to war
> and going into war mode.

Most poor people have no inclination to *war* with anyone. How can a
relatively small police force is the poorest ghettoes in the US cities keep
order? They are organized, trained and have better equipment than the poor
people they police. The poorest of the poor in Africa don't wage war even
when they are starving. They just die! If your theory is correct, it
should hold true everywhere, no?

> I think it might be worth adding to having lots of smarts, information and
> time to think about what's desirable, you might want the people
> contributing to the CV to have improving income per capita to keep war
> switched off.

Isn't the idea of CV being "what we would think if we were smart enough" to
exclude the direct contribution to CV of even the smartest of people?
Ordinary people wouldn't add anything to the CV from what I can see. Wouldn
't expanding the goal of getting to the singularity be complicated many fold
if we add the obligation to raise the income levels of all people?
(Regardless of whether they have earned it.)

-- David Clark

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