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zhao
08-01-2008, 05:50 PM
(this thread is a follow up to Worst Mistake in History of Human Race (http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?6684-Worst-Mistake-in-History-of-Human-Race))

just finished a cultural anthropology audio lecture series and one chapter focuses on the Dobe Ju/'hoansi bands of South Africa. one real living example among a number of other currently functioning micro societies scattered in the remote to us areas around the globe.

a few main points:

• gather 70 percent of their food (roots, nuts, fruits, etc.)
• no authority, only "temporary leaders"
• no private property
• work 20 hour weeks with only division of labour being between sexes
• does not distinquish between work and play
• zero starvation: 100% of population fed compared to 30% starving in the "civilized" world

here is the Gatherers and Hunters (not the other way around) chapter for your pleasure/scrutiny:

14 MB

http://www.mediafire.com/?9tixdt4tetz

this prof actually goes further than me the crazy, in conjecturing that the advent of agriculture and hierarchy and all that was actually the result of power itself and the evolution of human society, and not out of need which came with "little ice-age" and/or population growth.

vimothy
08-01-2008, 05:58 PM
just finished a cultural anthropology audio lecture series and one chapter focuses on the Dobe Ju/'hoansi bands of South Africa. one real living example among a number of other currently functioning micro societies scattered in the remote to us areas around the globe.

a few main points:

• gather 70 percent of their food (roots, nuts, fruits, etc.)
• no authority, only "temporary leaders"
• no private property
• work 20 hour weeks with only division of labour being between sexes
• does not distinquish between work and play
• zero starvation: 100% of population fed compared to 30% starving in the "civilized" world

I have loads of empirical data in support of this, Zhao (drawn from Greg Clark's new book), though there are some rather nasty implications. The most valid comparison is between pre-industrial or developing economies and hunter-gatherers. You are certainly right that hunter-gather quality of life was / is much higher. The price, though, is pretty high. I will try to post some tomorrow.

zhao
08-01-2008, 10:32 PM
I have loads of empirical data in support of this, Zhao (drawn from Greg Clark's new book), though there are some rather nasty implications. The most valid comparison is between pre-industrial or developing economies and hunter-gatherers. You are certainly right that hunter-gather quality of life was / is much higher. The price, though, is pretty high. I will try to post some tomorrow.

not sure what "nasty implications" or "price" yer on about but would be interesting to see. thanks.

Mr. Tea
08-01-2008, 11:16 PM
It sounds great, and I'm not quibbling with any of your data, but I would guess they probably have a pretty low population density.

This leads to the following question: is their population stable, i.e. are deaths occurring at about the same rate as births? Because if everything is as peachy as it seems, births would rapidly outstrip deaths and the population would soon rise to the point where it was no longer sustainable purely (or even 70%!) by hunting/gathering (or gathering/hunting, if you prefer). The alternatives are either a population practicing birth control, which seems unlikely in a pre-technological culture (and, if it *is* there, will only be due to the intervention of a technological culture); or a 'natural' (i.e. high) infant mortality rate, which runs a bit counter to this Edenic image.

Or do you accept that, in situations like this, a high infant mortality rate is a necessary part of the ecological dynamic?

gek-opel
08-01-2008, 11:34 PM
just finished a cultural anthropology audio lecture series and one chapter focuses on the Dobe Ju/'hoansi bands of South Africa. one real living example among a number of other currently functioning micro societies scattered in the remote to us areas around the globe.

a few main points:

gather 70 percent of their food (roots, nuts, fruits, etc.)
no authority, only "temporary leaders"
no private property
work 20 hour weeks with only division of labour being between sexes
does not distinquish between work and play
zero starvation: 100% of population fed compared to 30% starving in the "civilized" world

here is the Gatherers and Hunters (not the other way around) chapter for your pleasure/scrutiny:

http://www.mediafire.com/?9tixdt4tetz

this prof actually goes further than me the crazy, in conjecturing that the advent of agriculture and hierarchy and all that was actually the result of power itself and the evolution of human society, and not out of need which came with "little ice-age" and/or population growth.


Thanks Zhao- about a year and a half ago I was arguing along these lines and got savagely shot down specifically on the issue of how much labour was necessary...

noel emits
08-01-2008, 11:44 PM
Yeah nice one. Next up, the solar array and the space elevator. Oh and free medical grade smack for everyone.

zhao
09-01-2008, 01:30 AM
It sounds great, and I'm not quibbling with any of your data, but I would guess they probably have a pretty low population density.

This leads to the following conclusion: is their population stable, i.e. are deaths occurring at about the same rate as births? Because if everything is as peachy as it seems, births would rapidly outstrip deaths and the population would soon rise to the point where it was no longer supportable purely by hunting/gathering (or gathering/hunting, if you prefer). The alternatives are either a population practicing birth control, which seems unlikely in a pre-technological culture (and, if it *is* there, will only be due to the intervention of a technological culture); or a 'natural' (i.e. high) infant mortality rate, which runs a bit counter to this Edenic Image.

Or do you accept that, in situations like this, a high infant mortality rate is a necessary part of the ecological dynamic?

popular way of classifying societies roughly as follows (numbers from memory and could be slightly wong-kei):

bands: 20 - 50 people
tribes: 50 - 200
chiefdoms: 200 - 500

so the Dobe being example of Band level society have no more than 50. and population is controlled by rules such as no sex for a period of time up to 2 or 3 years after a birth.

Mr. Tea
09-01-2008, 01:36 AM
so the Dobe being example of Band level society have no more than 50. and population is controlled by rules such as no sex for a period of time up to 2 or 3 years after a birth.

Really? Well, fair play to them, not sure I could keep to that!

Gavin
09-01-2008, 01:39 AM
and population is controlled by rules such as no sex for a period of time up to 2 or 3 years after a birth.

Interesting... I was reading about the 19th century Oneida sex cult; they practiced "male continence" -- basically holding it in.

noel emits
09-01-2008, 01:46 AM
and population is controlled by rules such as no sex for a period of time up to 2 or 3 years after a birth.
Wow - most of us wait till we're at least in our teens! ;)

Oh I do make myself laugh sometimes.

nomadologist
09-01-2008, 04:39 AM
just finished a cultural anthropology audio lecture series and one chapter focuses on the Dobe Ju/'hoansi bands of South Africa. one real living example among a number of other currently functioning micro societies scattered in the remote to us areas around the globe.

a few main points:

gather 70 percent of their food (roots, nuts, fruits, etc.)
no authority, only "temporary leaders"
no private property
work 20 hour weeks with only division of labour being between sexes
does not distinquish between work and play
zero starvation: 100% of population fed compared to 30% starving in the "civilized" world

here is the Gatherers and Hunters (not the other way around) chapter for your pleasure/scrutiny:

http://www.mediafire.com/?9tixdt4tetz

this prof actually goes further than me the crazy, in conjecturing that the advent of agriculture and hierarchy and all that was actually the result of power itself and the evolution of human society, and not out of need which came with "little ice-age" and/or population growth.

Am I having deja-vu or did we have this same discussion a few months ago...? I remember we talked about this idea before--is this a new link to a new book or something?

zhao
09-01-2008, 08:26 AM
Am I having deja-vu or did we have this same discussion a few months ago...? I remember we talked about this idea before--is this a new link to a new book or something?

this is a continuation of that conversation, which sits just a few threads down. guess i could have put it in there but whatever.

vimothy
09-01-2008, 10:33 AM
It sounds great, and I'm not quibbling with any of your data, but I would guess they probably have a pretty low population density.

This leads to the following conclusion: is their population stable, i.e. are deaths occurring at about the same rate as births? Because if everything is as peachy as it seems, births would rapidly outstrip deaths and the population would soon rise to the point where it was no longer supportable purely by hunting/gathering (or gathering/hunting, if you prefer). The alternatives are either a population practicing birth control, which seems unlikely in a pre-technological culture (and, if it *is* there, will only be due to the intervention of a technological culture); or a 'natural' (i.e. high) infant mortality rate, which runs a bit counter to this Edenic image.

Or do you accept that, in situations like this, a high infant mortality rate is a necessary part of the ecological dynamic?

Mr Tea you are absolutely OTM! Mortality rates to keep hunter-gatherers in berries and leisure time are through the roof, and there are some reports of tribes people murdering 3/4s of all new-borns to maintain a Malthusian equilibrium at an acceptable standard of living.

zhao
09-01-2008, 01:25 PM
Mortality rates to keep hunter-gatherers in berries and leisure time are through the roof, and there are some reports of tribes people murdering 3/4s of all new-borns to maintain a Malthusian equilibrium at an acceptable standard of living.

source? which "tribes"?

it is easy for biased westerners to lump all societies drastically different from their own into a single "primitive / tribal" entity in their minds. while the reality is that there are hundreds and thousands of non-modern societies each with unique characteristics and practices. so while the murdering babies practice may exist in maybe the Amazon, that would not mean the Dobe in South Africa or any other band or tribes do it; and it doesn't have much weight in an attempt to characterize all gatherer/hunter or non-modern societies with a single stroke.

vimothy
09-01-2008, 01:30 PM
so while the murdering babies practice may exist in maybe the Amazon, that would not mean the Dobe in South Africa or any other band or tribes do it; and it doesn't have much weight in an attempt to characterize all gatherer/hunter or non-modern societies with a single stroke.

Of course. However, the unavoidable facts are that if you want to live a good life as a hunter-gatherer tribes person, your tribe better have one or more of the following things:

A low birth rate;
A high death rate.

noel emits
09-01-2008, 01:30 PM
Isn't the point of this about ways forward?

We have contraception you know. So it's quite simple - if we are saying that some of these models for society have viable aspects then we combine them with those features of our own culture that also work. Saying they have to murder babies is totally specious, even if it is grounded in some kind of facts.

vimothy
09-01-2008, 01:37 PM
Isn't the point of this about ways forward?

We have contraception you know. So it's quite simple - if we are saying that some of these models for society have viable aspects then we combine them with those features of our own culture that also work. Saying they have to murder babies is totally specious, even if it is grounded in some kind of facts.

Eh? I was saying that some tribes practise infanticide. Some tribes do practice or did practice infanticide and you pretty much admit that yourself. The point is not that we win, harharhar1111!!!, but that a natural economy follows certain rules regarding population size and income / living standards (i.e. basic Malthusian logic), rules that are systemic and apply to pre-industrial England, modern developing states and the !Kung equally.

In any case, Zhao is dead right: hunterer-gatherers lead far more comfortable lives than comparative populations. Pre-industrial Europe was more comfortable than Imperial China for the same reason. It's got nothing to do with scoring points.

zhao
09-01-2008, 01:40 PM
Isn't the point of this about ways forward?

We have contraception you know. So it's quite simple - if we are saying that some of these models for society have viable aspects then we combine them with those features of our own culture that also work. Saying they have to murder babies is totally specious, even if it is grounded in some kind of facts.

thank you.

zhao
09-01-2008, 01:45 PM
hunterer-gatherers lead far more comfortable lives than comparative populations. Pre-industrial Europe was more comfortable than Imperial China for the same reason.

eh? which european period are you talking about? 18th century? 16th? which period of Imperial China? elaborate please.

vimothy
09-01-2008, 01:58 PM
eh? which european period are you talking about? 18th century? 16th? which period of Imperial China? elaborate please.

It doesn't really matter. The logic is the same everywhere before the industrial revolution, and still the same in many areas today. More people alive = lower living standards.

noel emits
09-01-2008, 02:09 PM
The point is not that we win, harharhar1111!!!
It's got nothing to do with scoring points.
Indeed.

I wasn't even arguing with you. What I was saying was that in relation to thinking about this at all it's not really relevant in my view that some tribes find it necessary to practice infanticide. I understand you were making a point about optimal populations but it was Mr Tea that asked if people considered infanticide to be necessary in maintaining those societies. I think we agree on all this. I'm just replying because I'm a bit baffled that you say I was trying to score points or say that 'we' are better. I don't like my statement being characterised in that way. I was trying to focus on what I see as the important part. Oh well.

Pah, sod it. I may have misread what you said. I didn't think you were trying to score points. I was just making my own point. Perhaps I should have said 'irrelevant' not 'specious'. Apologies, it's not an argument. My internet connection is too arse at the moment to bother with this.

Mr. Tea
09-01-2008, 02:09 PM
More people alive = lower living standards.

Which can't help but make you wonder about this country in 50-odd years' time, if some of the more alarming population projections are to be believed.

Mr. Tea
09-01-2008, 02:16 PM
but it was Mr Tea that asked if people considered infanticide to be necessary in maintaining those societies. I think we agree on all this.

Umm, I think it was Vim who mentioned infanticide as such, I just said "high infant mortality". There are plenty of things that cause that anyway.

Anyway, I've certainly heard of cultures where, for instance, children are sometimes left to die from hunger or exposure (as opposed to actively killing them - perhaps leaving the child 'in the lap of the gods', as it were) when resources are very scarce, during a famine or a bad winter for example.

noel emits
09-01-2008, 02:29 PM
Ok well rather than get into any distracting arguments I would just like to say that I find this information of interest because I am interested in finding out how humans can progress and how sustainable societies might be organised. That is my agenda.

vimothy
09-01-2008, 02:31 PM
Look: in an economy where the living standard is dictated by the population density, the equilibrium rate of births against deaths is the standard of living, i.e. the subsistence income. That doesn't apply to our society today, because a growing population doesn't necessarily mean a shrinking mean income (empirical fact). In a Malthusian or natural economy, where resources are fixed, more people necessarily leads to less resources per surviving person, i.e. to a lower standard of living.

zhao
09-01-2008, 03:31 PM
I've certainly heard of cultures where, for instance, children are sometimes left to die from hunger or exposure (as opposed to actively killing them - perhaps leaving the child 'in the lap of the gods', as it were) when resources are very scarce, during a famine or a bad winter for example.

i hate losing posts and typing shit twice!!! :mad:

anyway. the above does not apply to the Dobe. if any one listened to the mp3... studying them has lead one sociologist to claim "scarcity is a myth", because the Dobe live in abundance 365 days a year. yet another has coined the term "Original Affluence" to describe Gatherer/Hunter lifestyle -- that is, if one measures affluence not by material possessions but free time.

and it almost goes without mention that the Dobe enjoy superb health.

Mr. Tea
09-01-2008, 03:39 PM
In a Malthusian or natural economy, where resources are fixed, more people necessarily leads to less resources per surviving person, i.e. to a lower standard of living.

This, presumably, only holds true as long as resources are being maximally exploited in the first place. Though of course, if you have a rising population density, this point will be reached eventually, I suppose.

Mr. Tea
09-01-2008, 03:44 PM
anyway. the above does not apply to the Dobe. if any one listened to the mp3... studying them has lead one sociologist to claim "scarcity is a myth", because the Dobe live in abundance 365 days a year. yet another has coined the term "Original Affluence" to describe Gatherer/Hunter lifestyle -- that is, if one measures affluence not by material possessions but free time.

and it almost goes without mention that the Dobe enjoy superb health.

OK, fair enough - extended celibacy is obviously an effective, though pretty drastic, solution to population increase. I imagine you'd be pretty popular if you turned up there with a consignment of johnnies, though. :)

nomadologist
09-01-2008, 03:50 PM
this is a continuation of that conversation, which sits just a few threads down. guess i could have put it in there but whatever.

Was just confused...we all know I agree that agrarian living is unsustainable and not optimal at this point.

Recommend some books about this? I've never come across any.

noel emits
09-01-2008, 03:50 PM
Look: in an economy where the living standard is dictated by the population density, the equilibrium rate of births against deaths is the standard of living
It's still a matter of debate here whether living standards are dictated by population densities. It's blatantly not the whole story.

zhao
09-01-2008, 03:53 PM
a consignment of johnnies

why must the english be so... damned english all the fuckin time?! ;) anyhow i've no idea what that means.

Mr. Tea
09-01-2008, 04:07 PM
why must the english be so... damned english all the fuckin time?! ;) anyhow i've no idea what that means.

Never mind, moosh, lend us yer shell-like an' we'll 'ave you talking pukka in two shakes! :cool:

('johnnies' = 'condoms', by the way.)

zhao
09-01-2008, 04:11 PM
Recommend some books about this? I've never come across any.

about the Dobe? i don't know any off hand but it shouldn't be difficult because i think they are the most studied group in anthropology.

Mr. Tea
09-01-2008, 04:14 PM
Do they live in A-Dobe huts?





sorry.

zhao
09-01-2008, 06:06 PM
Do they live in A-Dobe huts?

no. they are like our spunky druggie theorist from NYC: nomadologists.

Mr. Tea
09-01-2008, 08:11 PM
The meaning of the word spunk is to be covered in your next lesson on UK English, zhao. :)

zhao
09-01-2008, 08:16 PM
yay! more limey slang lessons!

Mr. Tea
09-01-2008, 10:50 PM
yay! more limey slang lessons!

Def. #2:

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/spunk

zhao
09-01-2008, 11:02 PM
well that i knew. it's universal innit?

noel emits
09-01-2008, 11:05 PM
Apparently not in OZ.

zhao
10-01-2008, 08:19 AM
Apparently not in OZ.

by universal i mean english speaking countries... what do they speak in OZ?

you thought it was a random tangent but might not be a bad parallel actually...

as the wizard turned out to be a fraud so might this thing we know called "civilization". it's all smoke and mirrors in the end and we don't need, never needed, any of it.

mistersloane
10-01-2008, 08:59 AM
by universal i mean english speaking countries... what do they speak in OZ?

you thought it was a random tangent but might not be a bad parallel actually...

as the wizard turned out to be a fraud so might this thing we know called "civilization". it's all smoke and mirrors in the end and we don't need, never needed, any of it.

The term acousmetre, pointed out by Jerome Peignot to composer Pierre Schaeffer in the 1950s, originally referred to a Pythagorean sect who were taught from their master from behind a curtain, so that the sight of the speaker wouldn't distract them from the message*

*interestingly in The Wizard Of Oz, the Scarecrow cites Pythagoras's theorem of triangles when he gains his brain, but gets the theorem wrong.

IdleRich
10-01-2008, 09:31 AM
"by universal i mean english speaking countries... what do they speak in OZ?"
I think he means Australia here, a (kind of) English speaking country which exported countless soaps to the UK in the eighties leading to endless hilarity as handsome sheep shearers were routinely described as spunks.

Mr. Tea
10-01-2008, 01:19 PM
well that i knew. it's universal innit?

Ah, right. Well, I dunno about that, but I thought it wasn't widely used in the US.

noel emits
10-01-2008, 01:20 PM
Yes I meant Australia, maybe it's spelled Aus. Spunk as in 'Joss Ackland's Spunky Backpack'.

:)

vimothy
10-01-2008, 01:27 PM
as the wizard turned out to be a fraud so might this thing we know called "civilization". it's all smoke and mirrors in the end and we don't need, never needed, any of it.

Could I ask you a question, Zhao: I know that you believe that life was much better in pre-agrarian societies than it is in our society, but what I want to know is why you think that this is so, i.e. what is the mechanism that allows for a much higher standard of living?

noel emits
10-01-2008, 01:37 PM
Quality of life is about 'quality of experience', that means being happy, fulfilled etc. As it's about 'experience' it is much more a 'spiritual' function than a 'material' one. so although it is important to have the basics of food and shelter there really are way more important things that contribute to what life is. Those also happen to be the very things that are hugely devalued, disregarded and placed out of reach in our so-called civilisation. And more so all the time. I believe that this is not how it is supposed to be and it is certainly not progress. I think it's like some kind of battered spouse syndrome to accept that this way of living is normal for human beings.

vimothy
10-01-2008, 01:49 PM
Ok noel, but given the unquantifiable nature of something so vague as spiritual well-being, could we just focus on physical standard of living (mean income, mean calorie consumption, mean working day, etc) first?

noel emits
10-01-2008, 01:53 PM
Of course you can talk about those things if you wish, I might even join in. But I think it misses the point, certainly the point I was making.

I don't think spiritual well being is unquantifiable at all. How do you feel?

vimothy
10-01-2008, 02:07 PM
Of course you can talk about those things if you wish, I might even join in. But I think it misses the point, certainly the point I was making.

I don't think spiritual well being is unquantifiable at all. How do you feel?

Better than you? Worse than you? 3.5 times the median in developing world countries?

zhao
10-01-2008, 02:16 PM
Ok noel, but given the unquantifiable nature of something so vague as spiritual well-being

it's really not that vague though. the "original affluence" is about having loads of leisure time. which is certainly quantifiable.

and "spirituality" is a thing invented by people who have lost it. ask a Dobe about "spiritual well-being" and he be like "huh?" "what that crazy western sonofabitch talkin bout?"

noel emits
10-01-2008, 02:17 PM
Better than you? Worse than you? 3.5 times the median in developing world countries?
But isn't that a wonderful illustration of the mindset of modern society?

If we look at all the things that really fuck us and our environment up are they not all products of the system we live in?

Alienation (from each other, from the land we live on, from the production of our food, from government...), pollution, lack of community, overpopulated cities, bad food, bad medicine... Yeah it's worse for people in other countries but that's because they pay a higher price than we do.

The other thing is that it's not necessarily about going back to some pre-agrarian society but about where we could be or could have been if the 'big mistake' had not been made or were now recognised.

I suppose in a way I'm undecided but I do sympathise with zhao's position.

IdleRich
10-01-2008, 02:28 PM
"Better than you? Worse than you? 3.5 times the median in developing world countries?"
You sound like a McKinsey consultant.
Or maybe exactly not like I dunno


"the unquantifiable nature of something so vague as spiritual well-being"

vimothy
10-01-2008, 02:37 PM
it's really not that vague though. the "original affluence" is about having loads of leisure time. which is certainly quantifiable.

Leisure time is perfectly quantifiable and a good measure of living standards.

noel emits
10-01-2008, 02:41 PM
I'd prefer to think about a totally integrated life where there is no division between work and play. Leisure is the little bit of leash-ur led out on before being reeled back into the machine maaan. I just made that up, pretty good huh?

vimothy
10-01-2008, 02:44 PM
I'd prefer to think about a totally integrated life where there is no division between work and play. Leisure is the little bit of leash-ur led out on before being reeled back into the machine maaan. I just made that up, pretty good huh?

But that would require that the entire world be geared towards the production of your happiness, that you be at the centre of everything, and that's clearly not the case.

I'm still interested as to why pre-argarian societies have higher standards of living than pre-industrial societies. Can anyone explain?

noel emits
10-01-2008, 02:48 PM
Maybe the world is naturally geared towards providing for human beings? It did give rise to us after all. Do other animals evolve into scarcity and conditions that are not suitable for them? It doesn't even make sense from that perspective.

vimothy
10-01-2008, 02:51 PM
Maybe the world is naturally geared towards providing for human beings? It did give rise to us after all. Do other animals evolve into scarcity and conditions that are not suitable for them? It doesn't even make sense from that perspective.

Other animals follow the same Malthusian logic that pre-agrarian hunters and pre-industrial economies follow.

Scarcity is a fact for all forms of life, it's not a trick.

noel emits
10-01-2008, 02:53 PM
Well setting scarcity aside, we are creating an environment that is antithetical to our needs. That's got to be highly unusual. Pathological.

Maybe it's not so helpful to talk about no division between work and play as such. There's nothing wrong with working as long as you know why you are doing it and it is for the benefit of yourself and those you live with.

vimothy
10-01-2008, 03:02 PM
Well setting scarcity aside, we are creating an environment that is antithetical to our needs. That's got to be highly unusual. Pathological.

Is that really true? Can you expand on this, please?

vimothy
10-01-2008, 03:03 PM
Well setting scarcity aside, we are creating an environment that is antithetical to our needs. That's got to be highly unusual. Pathological.

Also, you must realise that statements like that make any analysis that follows look rather "pie-in-the-sky".

noel emits
10-01-2008, 03:07 PM
Also, you must realise that statements like that make any analysis that follows look rather "pie-in-the-sky".
I just mean 'set-aside'. We'll get around to mechanisms, it's not as if there isn't a case to be made. It's obviously helpful to talk about values and needs as well though.

vimothy
10-01-2008, 03:17 PM
I just mean 'set-aside'. We'll get around to mechanisms, it's not as if there isn't a case to be made. It's obviously helpful to talk about values and needs as well though.

But there's some very important things that need to be established:

Can 6.6 billion people live lives of easy indolence and berry picking?

How?

noel emits
10-01-2008, 03:35 PM
Well i'm arguing that mistakes have to be recognised and values reshuffled. I actually do think that we have the means to provide much better living than we have now even for the numbers of people that are alive today. At present a huge percentage of our labour goes into totally unproductive, even counterproductive activities as regards human life. The rest of it, though immediately useful, often ends up propping up the system that allows that to occur. There's colossal inefficiency, waste, exploitation and corruption. These things are a consequence of misplaced values, of lauding the 'market', which is actually a scam, over human beings and sustainability.

noel emits
10-01-2008, 03:40 PM
Maybe we need to look at some of Buckminster Fuller's ideas about self-supporting (syergetic) systems and how he showed mathematically and rigorously how there were plenty of resources in our world to provide high living standards for every person as long as we realised how things were interconnected and worked together.

vimothy
10-01-2008, 03:44 PM
Well i'm arguing that mistakes have to be recognised and values reshuffled. I actually do think that we have the means to provide much better living than we have now even for the numbers of people that are alive today. At present a huge percentage of our labour goes into totally unproductive, even counterproductive activities as regards human life. The rest of it, though immediately useful, often ends up propping up the system that allows that to occur. There's colossal inefficiency, waste, exploitation and corruption. These things are a consequence of misplaced values, of lauding the 'market', which is actually a scam, over human beings and sustainability.

Woa -- needs massive unpacking:

When you say "means to provide... better living", what do you mean?

How do you propose to enact this (unspecified) system?

How do you think that you as an individual will be able to attain the local knowledge (vertiginous in scope) to understand the global economy such that you will be able to re-structure it effectively?

What is productive labour?

What is un-productive labour?

Where does inefficiency occur and what are its causes?

What do you mean when you say "market"?

What do you mean when you say that the "market" is a scam?

Think there's a lot of unsubstantiated (though maybe just unexplained) assumptions in your thought here, mate.

vimothy
10-01-2008, 03:45 PM
Maybe we need to look at some of Buckminster Fuller's ideas about self-supporting (syergetic) systems and how he showed mathematically and rigorously how there were plenty of resources in our world to provide high living standards for every person as long as we realised how things were interconnected and worked together.

We have an economic system that can do that already.

noel emits
10-01-2008, 05:19 PM
We have an economic system that can do that already.
Which economic system would that be and why is not being used?

What percentage of people have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for instance? How happy is the average city dweller?

noel emits
10-01-2008, 05:26 PM
Just because I do not want to continue trying to explain things in the limited terms you choose to accept does not mean that what I have to say does not have substance.

vimothy
10-01-2008, 05:38 PM
Just because I do not want to continue trying to explain things in the limited terms you choose to accept does not mean that what I have to say does not have substance.

Sorry, I'm not (deliberately) trying to be a cunt, I'm trying to say that you might think "oh we're not doing well and could do much better", but since it's not clear that we agree on what doing well is and what doing better would involve, it's going to be very difficult. There are massive and important systemic limits to knowledge.

You can explain or answer in any terms you like, I just want to know what you mean.


Which economic system would that be and why is not being used?

Don't you see what's wrong with this question? The economic system is capitalism, and it is being used, in a variety of contexts and institutional settings, all of them very different and unique to themselves. It's also not being used in a variety of settings, for a variety of different reasons.

Economics is about the management of scarce resources. Capitalism allows people to make those decisions themselves (other systems do it differently). You might not like the nature or the outcome of those decisions, but it is literally inconceivable that you would be able to make better ones.


What percentage of people have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for instance?

I think this is a good question. People with access to safe drinking water live in capitalist democracies. People without access don't.


How happy is the average city dweller?

Relative to what? But really, I don't think that happiness is important, or an acheivable outcome for any economic or political system.

noel emits
10-01-2008, 05:50 PM
But really, I don't think that happiness is important, or an acheivable outcome for any economic or political system.
That's why need to get rid of all of them.

noel emits
10-01-2008, 05:54 PM
Don't you see what's wrong with this question? The economic system is capitalism, and it is being used, in a variety of contexts and institutional settings, all of them very different and unique to themselves. It's also not being used in a variety of settings, for a variety of different reasons.
It's not working, by any yardstick except how many people can be exploited by how few.

The question was obviously rhetorical. You seemed to be claiming that we had an economic system that was providing high living standards for every preson on the planet. But I'm not so much interested in 'high standards of living' as in having real fucking lives. Maybe they are not comparable at all.

I think this is a good question. People with access to safe drinking water live in capitalist democracies. People without access don't.
Different populations are exploited and suffer in different ways. We just happen to have water at the moment presumably because we are closer to centers of power and it is useful for us to function to a degree.

vimothy
10-01-2008, 05:55 PM
That's why need to get rid of all of them.

Hahaha -- but that won't make anyone happier either, it will just make them all dead!

What about this noel: why do you place such importance on human happiness? Don't you think that this is an unrealistically human-centric view of life, an unrealistically self-centred view of life?

noel emits
10-01-2008, 06:01 PM
Economics is about the management of scarce resources. Capitalism allows people to make those decisions themselves (other systems do it differently). You might not like the nature or the outcome of those decisions, but it is literally inconceivable that you would be able to make better ones.
Capitalism gives most people very little choice in how to manage resources, either locally or remotely. That's a joke.

But I'm not fighting against capitalism. It's 'civilisation' that is the problem. Or rather the fact that we don't even know what a real human society is like. All I want is for people to recognise that. If you don't even have the tiniest inkling of intuition that this might be the case then you are a part of the problem in my view.

vimothy
10-01-2008, 06:07 PM
It's not working, by any yardstick except how many people can be exploited by how few.

It is working according to any measure you would like to choose (except maybe "spiritual well-being").


Different populations are exploited and suffer in different ways. We just happen to have water at the moment presumably because we are closer to centers of power and it is useful for us to function to a degree.

That's a lame explanation. A misleading half-truth at best. Why do people feel the need to invent conspiracies? I guess I know the answer to that one.


Capitalism gives most people very little choice in how to manage resources, either locally or remotely. That's a joke.

Actually, it's probably the defining feature of capitalism, as you would know if you bothered to look into this in any depth.

Noel, weren't you the person who tried to tell me that the division of labour wan't good or necessary? Is this all a waste of time?


But I'm not fighting against capitalism. It's 'civilisation' that is the problem. Or rather the fact that we don't even know what a real human society is like. All I want is for people to recognise that. If you don't even have the tiniest inkling of intuition that this might be the case then you are a part of the problem in my view.

*sigh*

I guess so, yes. Me and 6.6 billion others.

Mr. Tea
10-01-2008, 06:07 PM
What about this noel: why do you place such importance on human happiness? Don't you think that this is an unrealistically human-centric view of life, an unrealistically self-centred view of life?

Why should we have political and economic systems in existence that are centred around things other than humans? I mean, what use is money, when you really get down to it, apart from being spent on goods and services? Goods and services which (supposedly) help make us happy, or at least prevent from being hungry, homeless or ill, which are pretty high on a list of things that can make us unhappy.

So I think there's a lot to be said for the idea that a system that exists purely for making money for its own sake, with no importance placed on what that money can be used for, in the service of real live human beings, is pretty pathological. A religious analogy might be that it's like worshipping a church, rather than the god represented by the church. Er, if you see what I mean.

vimothy
10-01-2008, 06:11 PM
Why should we have political and economic systems in existence that are centred around things other than humans? I mean, what use is money, when you really get down to it, apart from being spent on goods and services? Goods and services which (supposedly) help make us happy, or at least prevent from being hungry, homeless or ill, which are pretty high on a list of things that can make us unhappy.

Ok, I'm not explaining myself very well. There is no reason to expect that the universe will meet your needs. It's like people who say, in order to find your dream job, you should find out what you want to do most in all the world, ring up the head of HR and say "can I have a job?" Life doesn't work like that.

And since it's all subjective and relative, it's possible that I might be happier in some kind of dictatorial, socialist hell-hole, purely because of other variables, or even because I loved our Dear Leader so.

noel emits
10-01-2008, 06:14 PM
I can understand how money might be a useful abstract exchange mechanism. That makes good sense to me. What makes no sense at all as anything other than a TOTAL SCAM is interest. Banks issue money with interest attached from ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

vimothy
10-01-2008, 06:18 PM
I can understand how money might be a useful abstract exchange mechanism. That makes good sense to me. What makes no sense at all as anything other than a TOTAL SCAM is interest. Banks issue money with interest attached from ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

It's what's called the opportunity cost of money, i.e. what's the average rate of return I can expect on capital. If I put money in the bank, the bank invests that money (i.e. takes the long position I'm either unwilling or unable to take myself), and pays me interest, which is the opportunity cost, to me, of not haveing invested that money profitably myself. When the bank lends money, it's the same thing but in reverse.

noel emits
10-01-2008, 06:34 PM
You think my thought is unsubstantiated? You accept the reality of phantoms over things like people and happiness.

The institutions that are handed the ability to manufacture currency almost without constraint and based on no concrete wealth have no business attaching interest to it. They can not treat us as an investment risk, they are there to serve our need for an abstract exhange mechanism, if such a thing is necessary at all. The fact that the system is not set up that way should be very telling. I don't know why you insist on supporting it.

vimothy
10-01-2008, 06:36 PM
You think my thought is unsubstantiated?

I never said that.

Mr BoShambles
10-01-2008, 06:45 PM
The institutions that are handed the ability to manufacture currency almost without constraint and based on no concrete wealth have no business attaching interest to it. They can not treat us as an investment risk, they are there to serve our need for an abstract exhange mechanism, if such a thing is necessary at all. The fact that the system is not set up that way should be very telling. I don't know why you insist on supporting it.

What should a bank be then? Just somewhere we deposit and withdraw money? And if this is the case then how would a bank make sufficient money to provide all their branches, cash points and other technology, pay their staff, and make some profit so that their endeavours were worthwhile (startup costs, running costs) etc etc?

Why/how would a bank lend money if there was no guarantee that their loans would be repaid? It is precisely because of the inherent risks involved in lending money that banks have to charge interest...

Mr. Tea
10-01-2008, 06:50 PM
What should a bank be then? Just somewhere we deposit and withdraw money? And if this is the case then how would a bank make sufficient money to provide all their branches, cash points and other technology, pay their staff, and make some profit so that their endeavours were worthwhile (startup costs, running costs) etc etc?

Why/how would a bank lend money if there was no guarantee that their loans would be repaid? It is precisely because of the inherent risks involved in lending money that banks have to charge interest...

I don't think noel is saying banks shouldn't charge interest, but that they have no right to offer credit at all when they don't have the tangible assets to back it up. Er, I think. Noel?

noel emits
10-01-2008, 06:52 PM
I'm not talking about Barclays down the high street, I'm talking about banks that issue and regulate currency.

zhao
10-01-2008, 06:55 PM
Originally Posted by vimothy
What about this noel: why do you place such importance on human happiness? Don't you think that this is an unrealistically human-centric view of life, an unrealistically self-centred view of life?

but see that is the "modern" warped idea of "happiness" which is self centered and self serving, which ironically does NOT lead to happiness.

i believe "happiness" of one can not exist without the "happiness" of others. and the well being of our species is dependent upon the well being of other species and the environment in which we live.

the Dobe are entirely stress free. and they live in a sustainable, eco-friendly way.

noel emits
10-01-2008, 06:57 PM
I'm going to form the Doobie tribe. Our religion will be Bud-ism.

We will worship Michael McDonald

Mr BoShambles
10-01-2008, 06:59 PM
I'm not talking about Barclays down the high street, I'm talking about banks that issue and regulate currency.

Right... central banks. Anyone know of any good reasons why central banks have to charge interest on the money they issue to governments? There must be stated reasons whether on not they are valid.

Mr BoShambles
10-01-2008, 07:04 PM
I guess there is no good reason to assume that governments won't default on the loans they take out and if they take control of printing money with no mechanism to regulate it (i.e. they don't have any pressure to balance their books) then a downward inflationary spiral is a serious risk. Never good for the average joe bloggs on the street...

noel emits
10-01-2008, 07:08 PM
"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies ... If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs." (Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826)

You all know that one right?

noel emits
10-01-2008, 07:10 PM
"A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men ... [W]e have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated, governments in the civilized world--no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men." (Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom: A Call for the Emancipation of the Generous Energies of a People )

noel emits
10-01-2008, 07:12 PM
On June 4, 1963, John F. Kennedy signed a virtually unknown Presidential decree, Executive Order 11110 , a mere four months before his assassination on November 22, 1963. This decree returned to the U.S. Federal government the Constitutional right to create and "to issue silver certificates against any silver bullion, silver, or standard silver dollars in the Treasury."

As a result, US$4,292,893,815 of new "Kennedy Bills" were created through the U.S. Treasury instead of the Federal Reserve System. In 1964, Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, stated that, "Silver has become too valuable to be used as money." The Kennedy bills were removed from circulation.

....

The importance of these bills is not to be underestimated. The regular Federal Reserve Notes are created through the Fed who exchanges them for an interest-paying government bond. These "United States Notes" were directly created through the U.S. Treasury and backed by the silver held there.

There was no interest to be paid on these bills by the government (or more correctly, by the tax-payer) to the Federal Reserve.

http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article2522.html

vimothy
11-01-2008, 12:16 PM
Right... central banks. Anyone know of any good reasons why central banks have to charge interest on the money they issue to governments? There must be stated reasons whether on not they are valid.

Opportunity cost + risk premium

Mr BoShambles
11-01-2008, 12:34 PM
Opportunity cost + risk premium

Interested to know Vim what you make of the whole central banks conspiracy that Noel is suggesting. Especially this bit from the article he links to:

Rising prices is not intrinsic to free-market capitalism. It is a monetary phenomenon caused by increasing money supply. Money, like anything else, is subject to the laws of supply and demand. The more abundant the money, the lower its value.

If the amount of money were to remain constant relative to population, we would see a general decrease in the prices of goods as technologies and transportation efficiencies improved. This would be a boon to consumers.

Consider the rapid spread of telecommunications and computers, two industries where technological improvements have actually been able to outpace the price escalation caused by the monetary inflation of central banks. Lower prices have led to a surge in consumer usage. People don't hold onto their money in hopes of waiting for a better computer or phone. Quite often they buy a second or third one. The consumer base grows as well because for those who previously could not afford one now can do so.

Despite these blatant observations, conventional economic thought believes that decreasing prices are bad for the economy because it encourages saving. It is widely held that consumer spending, not saving, is what drives the economy.

This is a falsehood, perpetrated by those would stand much to gain by further and further indebtedness of the public. Savings leads to capital investment which is the real driver behind capitalism.

Which 'conventional' economists - if any - believe this? Are central banks necessary and is there any credibility in the belief that the whole system is the hands of a few very powerful bankers who can manipulate the money flow for there own benefits (which run contrary to those of the masses?) I don't know what to make of all this...

vimothy
11-01-2008, 12:40 PM
I think it's kind of right and wrong in equal measure. Bit short of time at the moment, but can suggest Friedman's famous quote as a good starting point for discussion:

"Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon."

vimothy
11-01-2008, 12:49 PM
This bit is spot on:


Rising prices is not intrinsic to free-market capitalism. It is a monetary phenomenon caused by increasing money supply. Money, like anything else, is subject to the laws of supply and demand. The more abundant the money, the lower its value.

If the amount of money were to remain constant relative to population, we would see a general decrease in the prices of goods as technologies and transportation efficiencies improved. This would be a boon to consumers.

EDIT: Inflation is basically an extremely underhand government tax. Noel is veering dangerously close to libertarianism here. He'll be hanging out at the Ludwig von Mises Institute (http://www.mises.org/) next!

Mr BoShambles
11-01-2008, 12:54 PM
Ok so if that is the case then, is there a strong argument to be made that indeed central bankers - by increasing and decreasing the amount of money in circulation relative to pop - are fucking the general public over by making them more and more indebted while raking in huge profits?

vimothy
11-01-2008, 01:15 PM
Ok so if that is the case then, is there a strong argument to be made that indeed central bankers - by increasing and decreasing the amount of money in circulation relative to pop - are fucking the general public over by making them more and more indebted while raking in huge profits?

That's too strong a statement, IMO. The heads of central banks have possibly the most difficult job in finance. I mean, really, who the fuck knows how macro even works? (Limits of knowledge, once again)! And many of them (Bernancke, Greenspan, King, e.g.) are sympathetic to Friedman's monetarism and come from a broadly libertarian stand-point.

EDIT: And in any case, they're independent of the government in all right-thinking states.

noel emits
12-01-2008, 01:07 AM
Ok so if that is the case then, is there a strong argument to be made that indeed central bankers - by increasing and decreasing the amount of money in circulation relative to pop - are fucking the general public over by making them more and more indebted while raking in huge profits?
I'd say so.

Even more fundamentally though by allowing the central banks to issue currency with debt attached governments must continually borrow further money at interest to pay off the debt. In turn of course governments collect enormous sums in taxes from the public to pay this interest.

noel emits
12-01-2008, 01:16 AM
That's too strong a statement, IMO. The heads of central banks have possibly the most difficult job in finance. I mean, really, who the fuck knows how macro even works? (Limits of knowledge, once again)! And many of them (Bernancke, Greenspan, King, e.g.) are sympathetic to Friedman's monetarism and come from a broadly libertarian stand-point.

EDIT: And in any case, they're independent of the government in all right-thinking states.
Obviously they are in a position to manipulate the macro.

Does it really make sense to have the regulation of the money supply in private hands?

vimothy
14-01-2008, 03:36 PM
Obviously they are in a position to manipulate the macro.

Well, that is their job-description, right? They're not making money out of it, they're trying to find the correct balance, to the extent that they are able, i.e. to the extent that they are able to understand macro and the forces it shapes. As an example, look at Alan Greenspan -- lauded, feted, whatever, as a financial genius, until last summer when it all started to go wrong. Do you think this was deliberate on his part?

woops
03-02-2009, 04:52 PM
this was a good thread. i miss noel.

zhao
03-02-2009, 11:33 PM
this was a good thread. i miss noel.

he regularly emitted sense and reason didn't he.

luka
04-02-2009, 05:45 AM
i was just thinking yesterday he was my favourite character on dissensus street.

zhao
04-02-2009, 10:07 AM
case in point of the sense and reason:


Quality of life is about 'quality of experience', that means being happy, fulfilled etc. As it's about 'experience' it is much more a 'spiritual' function than a 'material' one. so although it is important to have the basics of food and shelter there really are way more important things that contribute to what life is. Those also happen to be the very things that are hugely devalued, disregarded and placed out of reach in our so-called civilisation. And more so all the time. I believe that this is not how it is supposed to be and it is certainly not progress. I think it's like some kind of battered spouse syndrome to accept that this way of living is normal for human beings.

IdleRich
04-02-2009, 10:13 AM
"i miss noel."
Yeah, one day he just... disappeared.

zhao
11-03-2010, 08:04 AM
a board member (not sure if would like to remain anonymous?) kindly brought this to my attention quite a while ago. but at the time i was in no mood to (re)start a big topic of dissension. not that i am in the mood now: i am neither interested or have time for flame wars --- would only like to present this material as important information, with which everyone can do what they like.

War & the Noble Savage (http://dreamflesh.com/projects/war-noble-savage/#slidecast)
A Critical Inquiry into Recent Accounts of Violence amongst Uncivilized Peoples

i would start with the slide cast linked to above, as it is a good overview of the book and its key points -- a look at both the history of the notion of the "noble savage" as well as analysis of recent theories concerning them and pre-civilization.

(Vim, you may find this especially interesting as i think it was you who posted the declining levels of violence through out history chart once?)

vimothy
11-03-2010, 11:10 AM
Nice one.

zhao
20-03-2010, 06:20 AM
i am neither interested or have time for flame wars --- would only like to present this material as important information, with which everyone can do what they like.

but don't let the above stop you from responding if you have something to say about the slide show or book and its ideas...

zhao
19-07-2013, 06:19 AM
Primitive human society 'not driven by war' (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23340252)

glad for these truths to begin to be backed by not only what are perceived to be "fringe" (primitivist) voices but sources trusted by mainstream society.


war is not an innate part of human nature, but rather a behaviour that we have adopted more recently.

from another, a bit more indpeth, article (http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/351706/description/War_arose_recently_anthropologists_contend) about this new study:


The new evidence suggests that humans have evolved a tendency to avoid killing in general, the researchers contend. War originated only within the past 10,000 years, in their view, with armed conflicts intensifying as the first states expanded between 6,000 and 4,000 years ago.

additionally, from my archeologist friend Philip Leckman:


the interesting thing here is that with few exceptions (the Yolngu, some of the other Pacific and Indian islander groups) the forager societies that hung around long enough to have their customs and social organization documented and studied by anthropologists lived in pretty marginal environments - they likely had it comparatively rough compared to small-scale pre-agricultural societies in more favorable zones, who had already adopted agriculture, social hierarchies, etc. by the time anyone began documenting their lifeways in detail. and yet even among these marginal groups there's still abundant evidence for the "original affluent society": relatively little time spent on feeding and supplying the group, relatively more time spent on socializing, joking, or hanging out with the family. and that's based on groups in the world's badlands - what would life have been like where food, shelter, etc. were easy to come by?

(conversely, though, it's worth noting that archaeological evidence suggests that hunter-gatherer groups in coastal zones around the world - where aquatic foods were extremely reliable and could be stored and surpluses could be created and leveraged for advancement and social gain - were among the first cultures to develop social hierarchy and inequality (think Jomon, NW coast of US, coastal Peru, maybe even the Magdalenians/Basques). the temptation to develop these unequal systems seems to crop up in all times and places, even [especially?] when there's enough for everyone to live easily).

Marx said surplus is the source of inequity. And there has been observations that it is equally important for these kinds of gatherer-hunter micro-societies to control population size as well as make sure that there is just enough food, not more than needed. And yes, by the time we get to studying them, what remains of these remaining pre-"civilized" groups have been marginalized and pushed to the outskirts of their environments, which is surely drastically degraded and provides resources much reduced compared to conditions prior to the ARRIVAL OF ASSHOLES.

Philip adds:



the current thinking about the spread of agriculture is that in a lot of places it was more a question of the farmers and "civilizers" swamping the smaller-scale folks by settling much more densely (another thing surplus is good for) and using up the available resources than it was actual conquest or genocide. in Europe, for instance, it seems like farmers arriving from Anatolia and the Middle East showed up in greater and greater numbers over time, taking over the lands suitable for farming and grazing. H/Gs living in small bands probably gradually assimilated into the farming societies (you see this among some of the Khoisan and Pygmy groups) unless they tried to fight back. on the other hand, "affluent" H/Gs with access to rich marine resources had larger populations and could more or less keep the farmers at bay until they adapted agriculture (and inequality, hierarchy, etc.) on their own terms - this is probably what happened in northern Spain and why Basque is still spoken today.

zhao
28-07-2013, 07:58 AM
OK where are the staunch supporters of Pinker now?

it's quite common sensical isn't it: a much more abundant earth prior to the extinction of millions of species of plants, many of which probably bore tasty fruits, during the last ice age. Small groups of band level nomads who barely, if ever, even ran into each other. Why on earth would they hack each other to pieces?

in your experience, most people who did not grow out of traumatic or deprived childhoods, do they have an "in-born, genetic bloodlust which must be controlled by The Law, or otherwise it goes berserk at the drop of a hat and they massacre people at random?"

in my experience, most people who are well fed and had relatively healthy upbringings love to share things and good cheer with each other.

There are theories of genocide at the advent of our species, when homo sapiens emerged as only survivor after conflict with other hominid species. I am skeptical, but even if true, that would have happened around 3 million years ago, which still would have left a period of 3 million years in which humans existed largely peacefully, in egalitarian societies with out social inequity or subjugation of any kind.

knowing that this is POSSIBLE seems very important to me.

The often repeated propaganda story of our violent dog-eat-dog past is only an excuse for our violent dog-eat-dog present. It, at even a cursory examination, bears zero connection to reality.

Mr. Tea
29-07-2013, 03:10 PM
it's quite common sensical isn't it: a much more abundant earth prior to the extinction of millions of species of plants, many of which probably bore tasty fruits, during the last ice age. Small groups of band level nomads who barely, if ever, even ran into each other. Why on earth would they hack each other to pieces?


OK, I'm well aware at this point that we're both just rehashing stuff we've been saying for years, but it seems there's no point even trying to resist the Curse of Dissensus, so here goes:

The Edenic image of hunter-gatherers happily roaming the earth with ripe fruit falling into their hands wherever they go is fundamentally incompatible with stasis and equilibrium. When times are good, births outstrip deaths and populations increase. More people = more mouths to feed. In the absence of increasing food supply (which, in a pre-agrarian society, rapidly maxes out over a given region and eventually collapses if put under too much pressure), demand will outstrip supply which will lead to conflict.

The only alternative is for population levels to remain stable, which requires a high death rate - which is kind of incompatible with your idealized prehistory of prelapsarian ease and plenty.

baboon2004
29-07-2013, 04:29 PM
in my experience, most people who are well fed and had relatively healthy upbringings love to share things and good cheer with each other.


This depends totally upon what you are defining as a healthy upbringing, as I radically disagree with the normative idea of what is 'healthy', and I daresay you might disagree with it too. In that case, I would agree with your statement, but with the caveat that the number of people who had genuinely healthy upbringings is actually relatively few (but then you might argue that this is a product of present society, and I'd be largely with you on that).
And that many people who had traumatic or deprived childhoods grow up, through dealing with their shit, to be way more fond of sharing/good cheer than lots who had nominally 'healthy' childhoods by the standards of our society.

zhao
01-08-2013, 03:31 AM
When times are good, births outstrip deaths and populations increase. More people = more mouths to feed. In the absence of increasing food supply (which, in a pre-agrarian society, rapidly maxes out over a given region and eventually collapses if put under too much pressure), demand will outstrip supply which will lead to conflict.

The only alternative is for population levels to remain stable, which requires a high death rate - which is kind of incompatible with your idealized prehistory of prelapsarian ease and plenty.

you are forgetting 1 important element: culture.

in the band-level (<100 members) lifestyle of the nomadic gatherer-hunters, 2 of their fundamental rules are 1. keep population size down (by not murder, but abstinence after a birth) and 2. no surplus: you eat what you can, and never carry excess along.

In this way, egalitarianism and absence of war lasted several million years.

Have you reviewed the new study in the journal Science? A globally reputable, peer reviewed source central to the scientific community, yes? or at least the BBC article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23340252) about it?

What you and people like Pinker claim is not only insupportable and contrary to all evidence, it is deeply troubling: the view that we are essentially evil, and need laws and the state to contain our blood-lust - i guess stemming from the legacy of doctrines like Christianity as well as capitalist propaganda, and indeed civilization itself.

And again, i am not advocating that we "return" to anything. But what i am certain of, is that if we do not know ourselves, especially if we have a sick, distorted, and limited view of ourselves, of our past, and of our possibilities, we can not move forward.


zhao
01-08-2013, 03:36 AM
This depends totally upon what you are defining as a healthy upbringing, as I radically disagree with the normative idea of what is 'healthy', and I daresay you might disagree with it too. In that case, I would agree with your statement, but with the caveat that the number of people who had genuinely healthy upbringings is actually relatively few (but then you might argue that this is a product of present society, and I'd be largely with you on that).
And that many people who had traumatic or deprived childhoods grow up, through dealing with their shit, to be way more fond of sharing/good cheer than lots who had nominally 'healthy' childhoods by the standards of our society.

right, i realize a lot more needs to be said about my brash statement, and it's more complex than that, but i just wanted to get the main point across: when people are not in pain, they are generally nice to each other.

and absolutely right with your last part... i do not mean all "damaged" people are assholes... they are indeed often more humane because of their experience of suffering, and see through the sickness and lies of our society more clearly than those who are well adjusted (to bullshit).

baboon2004
01-08-2013, 12:04 PM
right, i realize a lot more needs to be said about my brash statement, and it's more complex than that, but i just wanted to get the main point across: when people are not in pain, they are generally nice to each other.

and absolutely right with your last part... i do not mean all "damaged" people are assholes... they are indeed often more humane because of their experience of suffering, and see through the sickness and lies of our society more clearly than those who are well adjusted (to bullshit).

yeah, i'd go with your first point. If only it was more societally acceptable to admit pain, because so often inter-personal vitriol is just a result of unacknowledged (sometimes even to themselves) pain on the part of the person being an arsehole. Agree completely that at base, human beings all have both the capacity and the inclination to be decent to each other

Mr. Tea
01-08-2013, 12:10 PM
OK, several points here:


1. keep population size down (by not murder, but abstinence after a birth)

As far as I can see, your evidence that voluntary abstinence was widely practiced in prehistory comes from the fact that it's currently practiced by a single, tiny ethnic group in modern-day Africa. I think it's far more likely that for the great majority of human existence, people did what comes naturally to them (in common with every other living thing) and simply reproduced willy-nilly. Deliberately not breeding is not a trait favoured by selection pressure.

To put it another way: consider two small tribes (or bands, posses or whatever you like) living nearby. One group deliberately keeps its numbers in check, while the other doesn't. Assuming there is sufficient food, the second group's population will increase exponentially, so that even if the two groups started out the same size, after just a few generations the second group will outnumber the first several times over. Now, which group are you more likely to be descended from? Our ancestors were fecund, by definition.

Of course, small populations grow much more slowly than populations that are already large, so for most of human existence there was plenty of new land for the gradually growing population to expand into. It would be very stupid (which is to say, not evolutionarily selected for) for people to start killing each other over resources straight away when one group could just move into the next valley and live there in peace.


2. no surplus: you eat what you can, and never carry excess along.

This probably depends very much on the kind of environment you live in. In tropical areas, plants fruit and animals breed all year round, so there is a more or less constant food supply. In other parts of the world, it's a very good idea to gorge when food is plentiful because the rest of the time, food is hard to come by and it's vital to have energy reserves (which are also useful as insulation, again not something you have to worry about in the tropics).


In this way, egalitarianism and absence of war lasted several million years.

Well, there would still probably have been a hierarchy of breeding rights as there tends to be among the other great apes, but yes, I agree there would broadly have been egalitarianism, certainly compared to nearly all modern societies. And you can't have war without large groups of people to form identifiable 'sides', obviously.


Have you reviewed the new study in the journal Science? A globally reputable, peer reviewed source central to the scientific community, yes? or at least the BBC article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23340252) about it?

Again, sounds reasonable, although the article says "violence in early human communities was driven by personal conflicts rather than large-scale battles" - which is not the same thing as "there was no violence".


What you and people like Pinker claim is not only insupportable and contrary to all evidence, it is deeply troubling: the view that we are essentially evil...

As usual, a huge straw-mannish misrepresentation of what I'm actually saying. I don't claim humans are "essentially" morally anything - all I'm saying is that we are subject to the same evolutionary pressures as all other living things and that it's fallacious to think otherwise. I'm arguing for looking at our species in terms of a holistic ecology, rather than as an exception driven by some divine force of absolute Goodness that's only been thwarted by agriculture, religion, capitalism, racism, traffic wardens, really loud adverts in the middle of films, &c. &c.

droid
01-08-2013, 12:24 PM
Quote Originally Posted by zhao View Post
In this way, egalitarianism and absence of war lasted several million years.

Well, there would still probably have been a hierarchy of breeding rights as there tends to be among the other great apes, but yes, I agree there would broadly have been egalitarianism, certainly compared to nearly all modern societies. And you can't have war without large groups of people to form identifiable 'sides', obviously.

Er... I can only see what you've quoted here, so Im not sure what the argument is, but surely modern humans have only been around for about 200,000 years? :rolleyes:


Anatomically modern humans evolved from archaic Homo sapiens in the Middle Paleolithic, about 200,000 years ago.[15] The transition to behavioral modernity with the development of symbolic culture, language, and specialized lithic technology happened around 50,000 years ago according to many anthropologists[16] although some suggest a gradual change in behavior over a longer time span.[17]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution

zhao
01-08-2013, 04:11 PM
Er... I can only see what you've quoted here, so Im not sure what the argument is, but surely modern humans have only been around for about 200,000 years? :rolleyes:

i am speaking of the entire history of Homo Sapiens. The period of several million years is from the emergence of Homo Sapiens as the dominant Hominid species on earth (which some speculate may have involved genocide), and the advent of Agriculture/large scale societies/war.

If you don't know what i'm talking about, don't waste our time :rolleyes:

zhao
01-08-2013, 04:51 PM
As far as I can see, your evidence that voluntary abstinence was widely practiced in prehistory comes from the fact that it's currently practiced by a single, tiny ethnic group in modern-day Africa.

No, tactics to keep poplulation size down are common with studies of pre-modern life styles. And the Dobe is not just 1 tiny group, but the most studied group in the history of Anthropology.


I think it's far more likely that for the great majority of human existence, people did what comes naturally to them (in common with every other living thing) and simply reproduced willy-nilly. Deliberately not breeding is not a trait favoured by selection pressure.

You are denying that pre-agricultural people had culture of any kind?? You think their micro-societies didn't have rules? And they lived without making conscious decisions? like animals? that is very biased and simply wrong.



To put it another way: consider two small tribes (or bands, posses or whatever you like)

why do you insist on acting as if these are silly terms i made up for fun? These are accepted terms within the study of pre-history, and they mean very, very different things. Band level societies and Tribal level are completely different in size and more importantly, structure - and the latter did not arise until 10/12k years ago, while the former lasted for several million years.

If you refuse to acknowledge what the field of Anthropology and Archaelogy has thus far learnt about our past, this conversation is useless. I thought you were someone who had a bit of respect for science??


One group deliberately keeps its numbers in check, while the other doesn't. Assuming there is sufficient food, the second group's population will increase exponentially, so that even if the two groups started out the same size, after just a few generations the second group will outnumber the first several times over. Now, which group are you more likely to be descended from? Our ancestors were fecund, by definition.

But this did not happen. no groups prior to agriculture experienced population explosion. Please go read your history. The first large societies emerged with agriculture, and none existed before.


Of course, small populations grow much more slowly than populations that are already large, so for most of human existence there was plenty of new land for the gradually growing population to expand into. It would be very stupid (which is to say, not evolutionarily selected for) for people to start killing each other over resources straight away when one group could just move into the next valley and live there in peace.

The period of 3-4 million years, after Homo Sapiens emerged as the only surviving hominid species, is more than enough for some of these groups to get HUGE, like billions of people, like India and China huge, if the dynamic you describe occured at all. But none of the original groups did. There is zero evidence for big societies, and every evidence for tiny "band level" societies prior to agriculture.


And you can't have war without large groups of people to form identifiable 'sides', obviously.

Earlier (last paragraph) you postulated that population did, in fact "MUST HAVE", expanded to large societies even in prehistoric, pre-ice age, pre-agricultural times. Now you agree with me (and science), that there were no large groups. Which is it?




Again, sounds reasonable, although the article says "violence in early human communities was driven by personal conflicts rather than large-scale battles" - which is not the same thing as "there was no violence".

No one ever said "no violence" (that would be absurd). But no systematic, large scale violence, and much less violence than post-agriculture, post-civilization.


I don't claim humans are "essentially" morally anything - all I'm saying is that we are subject to the same evolutionary pressures as all other living things and that it's fallacious to think otherwise.

But we are unique in the animal kingdom in that we have rationality and ability to make considered decisions: and this did not occur only 10k years ago -- the brain development of Homo Sapiens was already much more advanced compared to other primates 3-4 million years ago. And as such, as creatures with more brain power, we surely dealt with the same evolutionary pressures in a different way.


I'm arguing for looking at our species in terms of a holistic ecology, rather than as an exception driven by some divine force of absolute Goodness that's only been thwarted by agriculture, religion, capitalism, racism, traffic wardens, really loud adverts in the middle of films, &c. &c.

not Divine Goodness, no, but our ancestors had much the same brain capacity as us, and figured out a way to live sustainably and peacefully, without power nor subjugation, for a pretty damn long period of time.

Slothrop
01-08-2013, 05:10 PM
But this did not happen. no groups prior to agriculture experienced population explosion. Please go read your history. The first large societies emerged with agriculture, and none existed before.

To me that suggests that the impulse towards population growth was always there but was limited by the scarcity of food and that once agriculture created a (comparative) surplus of food that lid was lifted off population growth, not than that people generally held off shagging until they started farming.

zhao
01-08-2013, 05:53 PM
To me that suggests that the impulse towards population growth was always there but was limited by the scarcity of food and that once agriculture created a (comparative) surplus of food that lid was lifted off population growth, not than that people generally held off shagging until they started farming.

it is impossible, but we still must try not to project our sexuality as conditioned by our environment onto those whose lives are organized in DRASTICALLY different ways.

Abstinence after a newborn for periods of up to 1 year is common, and so is infanticide, as ways to control population. Scarcity of food may also have been a factor, but i'm reluctant to believe to a great extent, because, again, of a much more plentiful earth.

And we must not use our moral codes to judge their practices either, for one thing, we are always completely biased to down play our own systematic cruelty when looking at the other: if infanticide is a part of a sustainable way of life in which the well being of every one is accounted for, it makes sense for that system.

zhao
03-08-2013, 11:46 AM
More and more scientific studies are showing that many notions we hold about our "inherent nature" is actually conditioning of the social systems we have been living in.

Evolution does not favour selfish people, according to new research (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23529849)

Mr. Tea
06-08-2013, 04:13 PM
i am speaking of the entire history of Homo Sapiens. The period of several million years is from the emergence of Homo Sapiens as the dominant Hominid species on earth (which some speculate may have involved genocide), and the advent of Agriculture/large scale societies/war.

If you don't know what i'm talking about, don't waste our time :rolleyes:

Ah, that classic zhaoist humility and politeness...

The *earliest* form of any creatures that could be considered 'human' in the loose sense evolved around half a million years ago, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_(genus)) and the very earliest anatomically modern humans appeared around 200,000 years ago. 'Several' (3-4) million years ago, your 'humans' looked like this:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/A.afarensis.jpg

Mr. Tea
06-08-2013, 04:40 PM
You are denying that pre-agricultural people had culture of any kind??

No of course I'm not saying that, that would be utterly ludicrous. Perhaps you could break the habit of a lifetime and respond to what I'm actually saying, rather than what you've imagined I've said. Your response to me rests on your bizarre equation between "culture" and "deliberate population control through voluntary celibacy". Many cultures around the world traditionally value large familties and encourage fertility, you know, "go forth and be fruitful" and all that. Consider the official Catholic position on contraception even to this day.


no groups prior to agriculture experienced population explosion.

No, because there was very limited and seasonally available food - a problem that was solved by the adoption of agriculture! There was nonetheless gradual population growth - it's thought the total human population was under 10,000 about 70,000 years ago (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toba_catastrophe_theory), whereas humans had colonized most of the world by the time agriculture began in the Middle East. There would have been no need to deliberately limit the population while there was still plenty of land to expand into, which was the case for tens of thousands of years. And disease, predation and hunger would have done a pretty good job of preventing population explosion (without even considering human-on-human violence) for most of our species' existence.


Please go read your history.

This isn't 'history' we're talking about, it's pre-pre-prehistory. And don't you think people might be more willing to engage with you if were just a tiiiny bit less arrogant and high-handed? Especially when you come out with demonstrably incorrect statements like "Homo sapiens existed 3 million years ago".

zhao
08-08-2013, 12:45 PM
Many cultures around the world traditionally value large familties and encourage fertility, you know, "go forth and be fruitful" and all that. Consider the official Catholic position on contraception even to this day.

Many post-agricultural revolution cultures you mean. Which are of course DRASTICALLY different from pre-agricultural ones.




No, because there was very limited and seasonally available food - a problem that was solved by the adoption of agriculture!

a problem that probably did not arise for most of human prehistory, but only relatively recently.



There was nonetheless gradual population growth - it's thought the total human population was under 10,000 about 70,000 years ago (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toba_catastrophe_theory), whereas humans had colonized most of the world by the time agriculture began in the Middle East.

sure, gradual, very slow and gradual. There are lots of evidence of cultural means to limit population in small nomadic groups, but over a period of 70,000 years a little bit of over all growth is reasonable, especially given lush and abundant climates. [/QUOTE]




There would have been no need to deliberately limit the population while there was still plenty of land to expand into, which was the case for tens of thousands of years.

Yet there exists lots of evidence of cultural means to limit population in pre-agricultural nomadic groups.


This isn't 'history' we're talking about, it's pre-pre-prehistory. And don't you think people might be more willing to engage with you if were just a tiiiny bit less arrogant and high-handed? Especially when you come out with demonstrably incorrect statements like "Homo sapiens existed 3 million years ago".

I do apologize for the mistake: what i meant is the entire "Homo" genus, and not specifically Sapiens: "The earliest documented members of the genus Homo are Homo habilis which evolved around 2.3 million years ago; the earliest species for which there is positive evidence of use of stone tools."

But what IS irrefutable is that the history of both Sapiens as well as entire genus of Homo, keeps being steadily pushed further and further back by each advance in Paleontology.

About the "heavy handedness": it is to make a point entirely against the tide of popular belief (i.e. Pinker) which IMO is mostly the result of ubiquitous biased conditioning on behalf of civilization and capitalism.

zhao
16-08-2013, 01:30 PM
"The deep issue here is the ancient Western specter of a pre-social and antisocial human nature: a supposedly innate self-interest that is represented in our native folklore as the basis or nemesis of cultural order. Yet these Western notions of nature and culture ignore the one truly universal character of human sociality: namely, symbolically constructed kinship relations. Kinsmen are members of one another: they live each other's lives and die each other's deaths. But where the existence of the other is thus incorporated in the being of the self, neither interest, nor agency or even experience is an individual fact, let alone an egoistic disposition. "Sorry, beg your pardon," Sahlins concludes, Western society has been built on a perverse and mistaken idea of human nature."

The Western Illusion of Human Nature: With Reflections on the Long History of Hierarchy, Equality and the Sublimation of Anarchy in the West, and other Conceptions of the Human Condition (http://www.amazon.com/The-Western-Illusion-Human-Nature/dp/0979405726)

Mr. Tea
16-08-2013, 01:59 PM
No, because there was very limited and seasonally available food - a problem that was solved by the adoption of agriculture!

a problem that probably did not arise for most of human prehistory, but only relatively recently.

I find that extraordinarily unlikely. The norm for wild animals is scarcity interspersed with periods of abundance. It would have been the same for 'wild' humans, moreso in temperate regions. You can't base arguments on ancient humans in general on a few select modern-day H/G groups living in the tropics.

Let's put it simply: if agriculture was such a universally terrible idea, why is it practiced today by almost all human societies?

zhao
16-08-2013, 02:13 PM
You can't base arguments on ancient humans in general on a few select modern-day H/G groups living in the tropics.

EXACTLY.

The surviving modern-day G/H groups have been pushed to the least abundant part of their former environments, and live under conditions much harsher than before.



the interesting thing here is that with few exceptions (the Yolngu, some of the other Pacific and Indian islander groups) the forager societies that hung around long enough to have their customs and social organization documented and studied by anthropologists lived in pretty marginal environments - they likely had it comparatively rough compared to small-scale pre-agricultural societies in more favorable zones, who had already adopted agriculture, social hierarchies, etc. by the time anyone began documenting their lifeways in detail. and yet even among these marginal groups there's still abundant evidence for the "original affluent society": relatively little time spent on feeding and supplying the group, relatively more time spent on socializing, joking, or hanging out with the family. and that's based on groups in the world's badlands - what would life have been like where food, shelter, etc. were easy to come by?


Let's put it simply: if agriculture was such a universally terrible idea, why is it practiced today by almost all human societies?

Also, you are forgetting a little thing called the Last Ice Age (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_ice_age), an event which drastically changed living conditions on Earth from very good to not-so-good, and which ended, funnily enough, right before the advent of agriculture.