Friday, September 5, 2008

Basic Precepts [I] - 5/18/07

[This was my first real post, save a short introductory post. I had a bit more of a high-blown tone when I started, a little more college essay perhaps. But I think the philosophy here is close to what I feel, that we don't pay enough attention to risk and the costs of that risk.]

It would be unfair, I think, to jump in and start commenting on current events without giving you, Gentle Reader, some idea of what beliefs I have that underscore that commentary. So I plan a series of Basic Precepts posts in which I try to convey a sense of the ideas that inform my thinking.
Civilization is social order promoting cultural creation. Four elements constitute it: economic provision, political organization, moral traditions, and the pursuit of knowledge and the arts. It begins where chaos and insecurity end. For when fear is overcome, curiosity and constructiveness are free, and man passes by natural impulse towards the understanding and embellishment of life.
This is the first paragraph of The Story of Civilization by Will Durant. It is as good a summary of what man has been striving for over the last centuries, but it is long. For me, civilization is more succinctly defined as the actions and institutions we have created to reduce risk.

From earliest times, all of the most basic inventions of humankind have been designed to reduce risk, from the finding of permanent shelter to the reliable production of food to division of labor to the creation of communities and so forth. Society itself, and all its derivations, exist primarily to give a sense of security to all people who fall within the group (I am not unaware that the creation of weapons, to choose one example, increased the risk to outsiders - the notion of community as "common" is something we struggle with today).

Therefore, everything that we do today as a society that increases risk to sizable segments of that society needs to be examined closely. When an administration suggests putting Social Security at risk, making it market-based, we should question the wisdom of that thinking. When we go to war without a clear idea of our objectives. long- and short-term, it is fair to wonder why. When we allow jobs and careers to be sold to the lowest bidder without an understanding of what will replace them, it is necessary for us to identify what this increase in risk will accomplish.

The greatest single gift that has been bestowed upon us is the civilization that we inherit and the desire to increase it (and become more inclusive as to its application). It is a grave concern when we reject that gift.


mcfnord said...

i agree 99%. here's where i disagree: we don't "allow" jobs and careers to be sold to the lowest bidder. this happens naturally. if we had intention in the matter, i guess that could be to "prohibit" relocation of jobs. throughout civilization's history, one party has been fairly free to contract with another party for the purchase of labor. indeed, this is a fundamental tenant of capitalist production. it's a wider labor market now, but not necessarily a fundamentally different one. i do think it's necessary for the hiring party to be aware of the risks of the new relationship, and i also think government should assist unemployed people in finding new work. but i don't know how to describe employment shifts as our choice, or as something we can control. if each instance of employment creative destruction required someone to "allow" it, i'd probably be some sort of farmer in a barely-evolved, controlled economy.

mcfnord said...

Losing these jobs because America won't welcome these workers doesn't hurt Microsoft as much as it hurts America. My soapbox? Ha ha no I have one. Just trying to talk to YOU specifically on these matters.

Androcass said...

We allow it in the sense that we do not do real valuation of the costs, permitting a corporation to internalize the benefits and externalize those costs. I am not saying that we can or should prohibit these shifts (we'd probably mess it up), but neither do we need to permit them as a pure profit play.

I would also contend that the labor market of today is substantially different from yesterday's, that the underlying assumptions are so altered that some are profiting from those dislocations.

At any rate, my goal has always been to provide awareness; I am not so foolish as to believe that we can remake the world in any particular way.

mcfnord said...

some people profit from changes in markets. those people are usually called "the smart ones". at least there's a market.

yes, we need to permit them as a pure profit play.

if we discover a land of people who can and will work for half, then we all might need to begin accepting half, but after a period of profits, commercial ventures will begin producing twice as much! that's a desirable outcome! (and eventually the new work force becomes a new force of consumers, competition for labor increases, and the market rises. look, more pie!)

this breaks down when labor or environmental safety are ignored. but that's it, baby. nobody owes me a job. nobody ever offered me long-term job security.

hmmm, awareness. well, yeah, i'm aware of global labor trends in my field. carrie certainly wants action. i don't believe you're all circulating this kvetching about labor globalism in the interest of awareness. carrie wants to build a wall. she's got the mortar all ready to go! this can't be about awareness. aware of what? "yeah, in the 90's someone flew me to Manhattan and put me up in Times Square because I knew C++." you bet times have changed. is there really a market for this sort of perspective/awareness? what's the point of pointing it out?

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