Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who Are These People?

When I think about my family, I ask myself, who are these people? The first qualities that come to mind line up something like this:

Patriot Act torturers, murderous, sanctimonious, sentimental.

Then I calm down. OK, they are in the camp that ended the American Democracy. The government now can legally abduct anyone and take him away somewhere and keep him there forever. Rights to life, liberty, property, free speech, free association - as long as you are here - don't mean a whole lot when you can be legally taken away from here by force at any time.

I know that to understand someone different from yourself you have to go back in memory to a time when you did what they did that you don't understand. This should always be possible, since we have all been children, at one time or another. And childhood provides examples of everything in behavior good and bad.

Rights to life, liberty, property - as long as you are here: what does this remind me of from childhood? Games.

Let's take this as our beginning. Game theory of the marketplace teaches us that we should be honest as long as it produces more profit than being dishonest, that honesty leads to more transactions and higher prices. Game theory also teaches that at a certain point the honesty that brings more profit than dishonesty should be replaced by dishonesty, to take full advantage of the opportunity for profit the reputation for honesty has produced. Game theory teaches that the dishonesty is sooner or later discovered, and then that particular marketplace game comes to an end. The player either retires on his spoils, or starts again in a new market where he is a stranger.

Anyone who follows the news sees this sequence played out every day. In Los Angeles, for example, we read about the city officials of one poverty stricken suburb paying themselves million dollar salaries, and the city of Los Angeles itself using Federal Government money, so-called stimulus funds, to change lightbulbs of traffic signals at a cost of $5000 per intersection, not counting the price of the bulbs.

My family would then seem to be in the phase of dishonest mining of their reputation of honesty. Western civilization, which begins with the knowledge that doing good is its own reward, has passed them by.