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Evolution of governments--jk


Why We Need Government


     Thirty-eight years ago at Temple University, during Anthropology Week, I saw a film on the village life in the highlands of Borneo.  It was an enlightening glimpses of what must have occurred with our Stone Age ancestors.  There were three emphasized patterns:  family labor, religion, and warfare. Women did 90% the family labor including primitive farming and they also took care of the pigs.  The men dominated the religious life (they were the only ones who entered their sacred longhouse), and they guarded the tribal territory.  A couple of them would act as lookouts.  In the long house as part of the religious practices drugs were taken.  Thus the men contributed little to the sustenance and material well being of the tribe.  Their days were divided between the longhouse and guarding the tribal territory:  placating the gods and violence was the role of men.  Intertribal violence caused an estimated 20% of death for men, and intra-tribal violence was minimal.  During the year of the filming there were two deaths from warfare, one by ambush and another during the only battle, which was to avenge the ambush.  Their principle weapon consisted of an extremely primitive bow.  (Social evolutionary pressure were acting against increasing the rate of killing by ritualizing the battles and keeping the weapons primitive).  The ambush had followed a kidnapping of 3 of their enemy’s women in a raid and the taking of several of their pigs.  The highlands are heavily populated, thus hunting contributes little to food supply.  Most of their meat comes from domesticated animals.  The useful contribution of men was protective, a need which they created.  The contribution of women of was to supply the food and rearing the children. 

     The activity of the men is related to increasing social status.  Today it is through material accumulation, in Borneo it is through establishing of social bonds with other men, and this pecking order is mostly determined by the status as a warrior and through religious practices.  In some societies there are the priests, but in the village filmed there was no such hierarchy. 

This evolution in community life in the late Stone Age cast men as warriors and women as maintainers of the family.  This is common to most stone-age jungle settlements around the world.  There are variations in the pattern of course, especially in the contribution to food production by the men.  The interaction of environment, over-population pressures, and the genetic proclivity to violence creates an ugly prehistory and history for mankind.  Clearly our ape ancestors were not like the peaceful, loving Bonobo (Pigmy) Chimps. 

 Men in these primitive societies have created a need for protection and then provide it—protection from the gods and violence. In historic times, in ancient Greece, warfare played a much larger role, and men wore the double hat of farmer and warrior. Their contribution to food production was greater and placating the gods less.  Modern society we have evolved in the direction—especially in the last 2 centuries—towards have both parents in the labor force and having the state through schools do more of the child rearing.   

Currently our two-party system is like the mafia of the 60s in New York which controlled trash collection for that city:  they provided an essential service, but at an inflated price.  Our political parties provide services, but like the mafia they take care of themselves first.  And part of this taking care of themselves first is looking after their corporate contributors to their election.  This comes with a price, the compromise of the public wheal for the sake of satisfying the interests of the corporations who fund their campaigns.  The current trend is towards more dancing to the pipers who pay for the tunes.  How the flute will be wrestled from the corporate hands, I cannot phantom.  One can only hope that education and social movements will make dancing the corporate tune a guarantee of not being elected.  But I do not see this change on the horizon.  Possible it will happen in Europe or the Orient, and then we will eventually follow their example.  The production of ideas by the media has been effective in blinding enough of the electorate as to their true self-interests.  Removing the flute from their hands would be like turning the mafia into a competitive company collecting trash in New York.  But like the Mafia trash collection, an effective monopoly has been set up by our Government.  With the mafia, there were forces sufficient to dislodge them; with government there is no effective 3rd party movement threatening to upset the old apple cart in the interest of the public weal.




1).What the film missed is the means by which the pressures of overpopulation were prevented.  In most areas there are significant pressures which turn warfare and tribal squabbles into deadly encounters at a much higher rate.  For example the Yanamonos (Amazon Basin) males have a mortality risk at the hands of another of over 25%.  Population pressures result in development of a warrior culture with and escalation of violence.  However in New Guinea in the highlands, this pressure is much less.  Jarred Diamond (Natural History June 05) stated that they practice abortion—I wonder how? 

There is a social evolutionary advantage in those areas where population/starvation pressures are greatest:  tribes by conquering new regions can thus increase their gene pool.  By killing off 1/4th of the adult male population, most of whom are less fit, they assure that there is more food for the those who produce children and do most of the food production and also for their children—again preservation of genes.  Moreover, the surviving warriors are better fed, which improves the defense of the tribal territory.

Another important vector is this process is boredom:  violence and its threat relieve boredom. This explains why young men, they feel the effects of boredom more, so eagerly heed the call to arms.  I recall reading in Arrian’s account of Alexander, how easy it was to raise new armies in the lands he just conquered.  Governments thus provide both population control and entertainment through going to war.

     As Plato noted until we replace the lot of politicians with those of philosophers (meaning lovers of wisdom, which would include the assiduous promotion of the public weal) we will continue to have the great waste of corruption, war, and failure to manage for the sake of the public weal.


 jk's blog on the proclivity for war


In classical Greece the primary purpose of government was the two-sided coin of war and defense.  Courts and public works consumed a much smaller percentage of taxes.  The low productivity per hour entails less tax money available.  However, when Athens dominated the Delian League, the windfall income was quickly consumed by the politicians headed by Pericles.  This role of warfare, including weapons and fortifications, today consumes between 30 and 50% of income for governments.  Government has grown into providing a second vital service, that of the promotion of commerce.  To do so, they help to maintain the infrastructure of roads, utilities, and like, and of assuring domestic tranquility primarily by opposing religious, ethnic, and class violence (though there are unfortunate examples where government partook in such violence).  There is a steady evolution of government into a role of promoting the public wheal.  


The need for warfare is directly related to the violent side of human nature and the relief of boredom.  If man were by nature much less violent, then the consumption of resources for war preparation and the building of armies would not occur.  Given that we are what we are, there is hope, for education it is observed creates other habits and activities, and those of learning on an average are less violent. Boredom contributes less.  In the ancient world, Alexander the Great had no difficulty in recruiting mercenaries.  The willingness of men to join is related in part to the tediousness of daily life.  The automobile has done much to reduce boredom as well as shorter workdays, television, radios, and computers.  Increased leisure time entails a reduction in tedious labor.  It has been 35 years since the last major (Vietnam) war, and globally there has been a steady decline as measured by percentages of population and costs in warfare over the last 60 years.  Hopefully, within the next 2 centuries both warfare and its preparation will cease, and life will be far less tedious.  I am an optimist. 







Corporate structures:


1).  Privately owned corporations.  Because of tax laws business are structured into corporations, and thus even in a tightly held not traded corporation there is a division of stock, generally within in one family, and there is at least on paper corporate officers.  The stock theoretical worth is equal to that of the net assets of the corporation.  The net assets are called book value.


2).  Publicly traded corporations.  Each shareholder owns a percentage of the net assets of the corporation; however, the shares are worth what they can be sold for.  If one takes the today’s price of the shares and multiples it by the number of shares outstanding, the value will be at some multiple of the book value.  However if more people attempt to sell shares than purchase on a given day, the price of the shares decline, and thus so does the book value. 


3).  The sales price of a corporation (as during a merger) is the one way of evaluating a corporation’s worth.  It is often above the book value (assets minus debts) because a premium is paid for its good will (name and customer base) and projected future profits.


4).  When a corporation buys another that is publicly traded, normally there is an exchange of stock so that the shareholders of the corporation purchased have their shares retired and replaced with the shares of the purchasing corporation.   


5).  Corporations can function efficiently without a stock market.  It is all a matter of management.  Enron is an example of bad management.  State run can do well.  I worked from 1966 to 1968 for the Pennsylvania State Liquor Board.  Their distribution system was far better than those in adjoining states, and the profits flowed into the state treasury and thus help fund public services. 





There is a greater degree of transparency in a socialist economy.  The banks do not make a profit, which they pay out to share holders.  There are no stock bonuses to top management, which for the larger corporations in the United States amount to 10’s of millions of dollars annually.  The average earning on sales for a US corporation is about 10%, that is after all expenses are deducted.  With sales of $1B, than means they have tacked on to the price of their tractors an additional 10%.  A $100,000 tractor costs them $90,000 (including all expenses), the farmer is paying an extra $10,000 which goes into the corporate accounts.  Part of that will be given away as dividends on stock, the rest can be used for projects such as corporate expansion, stock buy back, or purchase of assets such property.  These profits are not necessary for there  


Another unnecessary expense comes from marketing.  In a socialist country, the government can simply evaluate the tractors, and published their evaluation.  Thus the farmer will be able to make an informed choice when purchasing a tractor.  Moreover, there is no incentive to make parts that would fail early so as to promote sales of replacement parts. 


As I have repeated said, social is a superior economic system, but it won’t work until the most noble, moral, intelligent people run government.  To have Bush, Kerry, and like run things would be to duplicate the failure of the Soviet Union. 


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