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I'm continuing my reporting on the next installment from Conservative Estimate, the recently founded website that is devoted to demolishing Conservatism. Today, Alfred George finishes his attack on the conservative Myth of Scarcity, showing that fear of other people is a deeply negative emotion that leads to profound disfunction in society.

If you would be so kind as to follow me across the symmetrical orange swirl . . .

Yesterday, Alfred George completed his attack on the fear of shortages, showing that there is no need to fear scarcity of energy or money. (Earlier, he showed that there is no need to fear scarcity of food, water, or land either.)

Today, he uncovers the dark view of human nature that underlies the second part of the Myth of Scarcity, the part that tells us we need to fear that our fellow humans will revert to savagery in the face of scarcity. He shows that fearing others is not necessary. Rather, it is a choice that we can either indulge or reject.

Why do we not need to fear a reversion to savagery? Because

[t]he Hobbesian story that man is a brute unless controlled by force is no longer applicable to modern society. Of course, there is a certain plausibility to this story. . . . But by and large the world has moved on, and such people are no longer the representatives of most human beings.

This is because there is another story that can compete with Hobbes’s story. Americans, for instance, live in a political system founded on the insights of John Locke, among others. Locke, unlike Hobbes, did not view human beings as fundamentally amoral near-animals who need to be constrained by fear of punishment. . . . [He thought that] we are creatures who can resist our fearful instincts, side with our better angels, and use our minds to overcome adversity. . . .

If you accept Hobbes’s story, your opinion of your fellow creatures has to be overwhelmingly negative, and you learn to act toward them suspiciously. If you accept Locke’s story, your opinion of your fellow creatures may be much more charitable, even overwhelmingly positive if you like, and you can learn to act toward them with forbearance and cooperativeness.

And why is brutish selfishness not inherent in human nature? Because
[h]istory shows us plenty of examples in which people instead reach down into themselves and become better than usual under conditions of stress. The way in which they do this is to use their intelligence to reinforce their positive impulses when dealing with difficulties, rather than responding impulsively to their fears. . . .

It is always our choice whether to behave one way or the other. It is never an automatic response, and so it does not show anything determinate one way or the other about our human nature. We always have the freedom to choose whether to act like beasts or like angels.

So George concludes that the entire Myth of Scarcity is spectacularly wrong: not only is there no need to fear shortages, but there is no need to fear what other people will do in the face of shortages.
The conclusion of all these reflections should be clear. The Myth of Scarcity is based on faulty evidence, poor thinking, instinctive fears, and pessimistic assumptions about our fellow human beings.

We have the necessary external goods and the necessary internal goodness to make the world as good as it can be. We have only to choose to do it.

You can read today's whole post here.

Tomorrow, Mr. George will begin to demolish a new conservative Myth. The Myth of Scarcity leads to an even more sinister Myth, a belief that makes people behave badly in society, and motivates wide-spread antisocial sentiment in the hearts and minds of Conservatives. This is the Myth of Self-interest.

I'll be reporting back each day as a new installment appears.

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Comment Preferences

  •  my only quibble is that Conservatives (0+ / 0-)

    see Man as amoral; instead Man is immoral as their ideology embraces the Fundamentalist view of the Fall and Man's degraded nature.  The concept of Scarcity also embraces the theological view of Exceptionalism, so that not only are all things scarce, including such abstracts as civil rights, but only a special chosen, God blessed few are worthy of those scarce resources.

    Therefore we can see the ideological/theological roots of such actions as the justification of voter suppression efforts by Conservatives

  •  nice diary (0+ / 0-)

    The biggest, most cynical lie in the world is that there is not enough to go around.  It is the foundation of supply-side economics.

    Call exploitation and debt slavery whatever you want.

    by jcrit on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 04:37:50 AM PST

  •  Instinct-driven people do exist and they (0+ / 0-)

    tend to be self-centered and predatory, perhaps as a consequence of some pre- or peri-natal insult with interferes with the cognitive and emotional connections in the brain and leaves them incapable of perceiving their own kind as kind. In other words, they perceive other humans as impediments to be over-come or dominated, lest they be injured by them. If they perceive themselves existing in an environment of scarcity and stress, it may well be because they lack to skills necessary to manipulate the natural environment and their survival depends on being able to manipulate other people who have those skills and actually produce enough to share.
    Perhaps it is simply a perception problem which, strangely enough, has been perpetuated by people who define themselves as economists. They needed a theory to justify their own neediness and came up with the notion that demand is what gets the whole thing going -- akin to an infant assuming that its sucking produces the milk.

    We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 05:03:42 AM PST

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