Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Tribe

Hominids originated as bands or tribes. Tribes are our natural biological unit, and all economics comes back to resources needed to preserve the genes in our biological unit.

Universal health care is a corner stone of  smart economics for a tribe.  If everyone is healthy, then the tribe is strong and can kill enough meat for the winter.  If the tribe is sick and weak, then they are going to eat grass and bark through winter, they will be sick and weak in the spring, and their babies will be sickly and die. Every policy maker should want everyone in their tribe as healthy as possible, because a high level of heath in the tribe benefits everyone in the tribe.

Universal education is another corner stone of smart economics for a tribe. If everyone is educated, then everyone understands how to keep the tribe healthy and more productive. If everyone in the tribe  understands science and engineering, then the tribe will be able to make and use better tools and be more productive. America would be richer if it had less bias against women in science, technology, engineering, and math.  And by being more productive, everyone in the tribe will have better food, more resources, and be better able to survive in the long run.  And, better educated people are better able to avoid risk.  The educated homemaker knows how to keep rats out of the house, avoid global warming, and vote for a good leader. see for example   May I point out that Korea has already elected a female President! And, the US is 72d in the ranking of number of female politicians.  From an economic view, that is a waste of resources. America has all of these talented women, and is not using them as leaders is not using them to their full potential.

Any band or tribe or country  that denies these principles is doomed in the long run.  They will be competed out of existence.

Slavery and exploitation can yield short term benefits, but fail as long term survival strategies.  Al Qaeda did not believe in educating women. Therefor, half of the Al Qaeda tribe will not be as "productive", and over the long term, all the members of Al Qaeda tribe will not be as rich as the tribes that do educate everyone. (Osama was a decent engineer, but he would have flunked economics and history.) Likewise, ISIS is pursuing a dead end strategy.  They can only survive as long as they can recruit from other tribes.  It is a path to oblivion.  A good education for everyone, that includes the lessons of history is the only path to a viable society.

Israel is also highly  exploitative.  Only about 20 families control most of the wealth in Israel. Those families got there, not by competence, but by  rigging  the privatization of Israeli companies back in the 1980s.  Those 20 families are taking short term benefits, but they have set up an existential threat to Israel.  When every Israeli soldier had a full stake in Israel, the Israeli army was the best in the world.  Now, the army is losing the feeling that they have a full stake in Israel, and are losing the esprit de corps that made them the best army in the world.  They have better weapons and training than other tribes in the neighborhood, but in a war between Israel and Iran, I would have to bet on Iran.  And, yes members of my family helped win the 6-day war in 1967.  Armies that are sent into battle lose, and armies that choose to go to battle win. That is the lesson of history from the Greco-Persian wars on. Today, against Iran,  Israel could only win by committing great war crimes.  And, tribes that commit great war crimes lose in the long run - remember the Nazis?

The American Republican party  (GOP) has also fallen into a maze of short-term exploitation policies.  They are against universal health care. Or, rather they want someone else to pay the costs so they can have healthy workers, as cheaply as possible. They want someone else to pay the costs so they can have educated, productive workers.  That sounds fine on the surface, but when you think of society in the long term -  there is no "somebody else". All the cost must be paid by the tribe, and the distribution of that cost must be fair, or some members of the tribe will feel exploited. Once they feel exploited, their productivity goes down, and the entire tribe produces less wealth.  In the long run, any tribe that does not show concern for everyone in the tribe loses. Read Hall and Jones, Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output per Worker than Others?. 

I  would assert that if the American South had used free labor rather than slaves, it would have made more money from cotton and tobacco, there would have been no civil war, and in then in 1870, the South would have been much richer. Free farmers would have taken better care of the soil. While in any one year, the profits from cotton or tobacco would not have been as large, but over periods of several decades the net productivity of the land AND the people would have been much higher.  The poor health, education, and poor human capital factors of the slaves was an over all drag on the over all wealth of the region.  Bottom line, slave owners were/are stupid (or at least not very good economists).

In the same way, if America wants to be the richest tribe, it needs to have excellent healthcare, America needs to have an excellent education system at a reasonable cost, and America needs to have everyone feeling that they have a stake in the American Tribe, so that they contribute to the tribe.  Immigration  law must be fair, and the process work.  When the GOP sets a model of selfish exploitation, nobody will work as hard, and the entire American Tribe will suffer - including the GOP.  If the GOP wants to win in the long run, they need to demonstrate that they are a part of the team, and willing to work for the entire team. The GOP needs to show that they are not merely engaging in short term exploitation. Over the long run, voters can tell.  And of course, same for the Democrats.


Ynot said...

I really enjoy your reading your blog. Just wanted to say thank you.

Ynot said...

...and please ignore the horrible typo. Dangit.