Thursday, September 20, 2018

Were Men Angels

We have a number of different discussion boards at work, and one of them is dominated by a handful of partisan characters who seem to spend a respectable deal of time posting various items that show their opposition in the worst possible light.

After one such post depicted the relationship between the Republican Party and American Christianity as particularly cynical, a discussion spun up over the idea that a society composed entirely of people of a consistent belief system would have no need for a government, presuming they strictly adhered to their beliefs, since there would be no interpersonal conflict between them that would ever necessitate the intervention of police or military forces, and the legislative functions of governance would be moot.

I am dubious of that interpretation of principle and religions. The world, as I understand it, in its natural state, contains perverse incentives. And while principle and religions often seek to control or ameliorate the effects of perverse incentives, they are unable to alter the world in such a way as to remove them. As an example, there is no ironclad correlation, let alone causality, between work and survival. Some people work extremely hard, yet do not survive, and others survive quite well on minimal, if any, work. The result is that there is an incentive to find ways to survive while minimizing the amount of effort expended. And while this can lead to innovation for greater efficiency, it also leads to cheating and fraud both are effective. This is simply the nature of the beast. From where I stand, the just world is a fallacy.

But I understand the attraction of seeing interpersonal conflict, at any scale, as being due to the perversity of individuals, rather than incentives. It holds out the hope that some form of broad-based unity or education could create a perfect world. It's a nice dream.

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