The Spoils

Someone else’s theory, with my own reflections:

Let’s assume most of politics is actually people arguing over political spoils–who gets to eat the gov’t pie.

When Gov’t is small, there’s not a lot of pie to argue over. It might be corrupt pie, with all of the pieces going to the family of whoever’s in charge, but there’s just not much to fight over.

When gov’t is big, there’s a lot more pie to fight over. The bigger the pie, the more fighting we should get.

With gov’t spending somewhere around 40% of GDP, that’s a fucking HUGE pie. No wonder people fight so much over politics. It doesn’t really matter if you think “privilege” is a dumb or brilliant word; it does matter if you get free healthcare, a job building drones, or food stamps, and as a result, you will probably fight pretty hard to keep whatever part of the gov’t pie you are and fight pretty hard against people you don’t like getting more of the pie.

At 40%, it’s not even meaningful anymore to talk about the benefits of socialism vs. libertarianism; our system is socialist and it’s going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Most likely, it will only become more socialist (and btw, it’s the Republicans who actually do the most to push us in the socialist direction by increasing the % of GDP that’s gov’t spending–they just like to spend it all on bombs.)

At its most extreme, the problem with socialist systems is that if one group of people effectively captures the political system, they can just decide that they don’t want to give any resources anymore to those guys they don’t like, and the result us Holodomor, because 0% of 100% is death.

At its most extreme, the problem with libertarian systems is also death, though in a much less organized way–see the Great Depression, or whatever example you’d like to supply.

We might for amusement try to calculate which kind of system kills more people, fail, and argue endlessly. (I charge you with doing this for me, so I can skip straight to discussion.) We’re not at a point where we really need to worry about the extremes of either system, but I do think we are at a point where we should worry that the size of the gov’t pie is simply too big for a peaceful society.

Should we, as a society, attempt to scale back the size of the gov’t pie simply for the sake of a more peaceful society where growth is driven more by innovation and economic activity? Or should we embrace the robot economy and head even further down the socialist path, just keeping in mind the importance of getting everything comfortably divided now, rather than later, when it will be much harder?

Your thoughts and opinions?

3 thoughts on “The Spoils

  1. “…Or should we embrace the robot economy and head even further down the socialist path…”

    You really should read “Dennis M. Bushnell, Future Strategic Issues/Future Warfare [Circa 2025] ” he goes over the trends of technology coming up and how they may play out. His report is not some wild eyed fanaticism it’s based on reasonable trends. Link.

    Page 70 gives the computing power trend and around 2025 we get human level computation for $1000. The only way that this can have no meaning is if computers go crazy with human or higher than human level computation. This idea comes from Larry Niven, Pournelle, etc. great Sci-Fi writers in the grand space opera tradition. I just don’t believe it. Every since this computer trend has been established Sci-fi has had a hard time dealing with it. Greg Egan has a great series “culture series” where the computers become partners with us but we have no assurance that this is the case.

    The real problem is not that the machine is smart it’s that it has no empathy for humans. How does empathy work? I don’t think anyone knows. It’s hard enough to program intelligence. We know people with no empathy cause all sorts of problems. What about psychopathic super machines. It’s frightening.

    I see three futures that are coming very fast. They will probably be set within 15 to 20 years. One is where the robots do all the manual labor for us. Grow our food, all the dirty work and we will take it easy with plenty for all. Along with this could be nuclear power, especially molten salt reactors, which can easily provide all the needed energy for the whole planet at very high rates. With enough energy city farming could leave lots of room for nature. Might be too boring for some but it’s better than number two.
    Number two the wealthy and psychopaths control the robots and kill everyone off not “in the club”. I have no doubt, although it would take several pages of lengths of links to begin to prove it, that psychopaths are in very large numbers controlling many positions in our government and corporations. Even worse, they being psychopaths, they would after killing all the normal people move quickly to killing each other off. There would be very few or no people left. Maybe even nothing but robots like in the Berserker War series of science fiction that have no function but to end life.
    The third is not much better. We get the AI’s but something goes wrong. Say a corn growing AI in Iowa notices all the areas it’s not growing corn. Somehow comes to the conclusion that the humans are screwing up it’s ability to maximize corn production. Makes a virus to kill all humans and proceeds to cover the Earth with corn. The AI after doing so is deliriously happy.

    The reason why people fear the future is it’s really scary. Look at all the bugs and viruses in a simple personal computer and think about what the odds are something will be detrimental in an AI’s programming.


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