Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Basics for Everyone

"Basics" is a matter of definition. The worst off of our poor (disregarding the self-inflicted substance users for the moment) would be envied by the street beggars of the 1700s. Do you really suppose that if there were a baseline established now regarding access to (not necessarily tasty) nutrition and (not necessarily comfy) shelter that anyone could have for asking that it would solve the poverty problem? Hardly: the definition of poverty would just be scaled up.

If in a hundred years that what the well-off of us have now is had by the poorest, there would be no satisfaction, because they would look to others that had better stuff and complain that what they have isn't good enough. And then someone living in my dream house would consider his life the definition of "suffering".

This was part of the point I was trying to make weeks ago when I suggested that we give free health care as it was available 25 years ago and charge for the better stuff. This proposal was resoundingly rejected by the liberal crowd.

To solve poverty once and for all, you will have to reprogram the competitive spirit so that people are content and happy with their lot in life, never seeking any more power or self-determination (liberty) than they already have.

I read a book about that future in high school (really bad sci-fi but fairly good literature, if you like the slow, fluffy way of absorbing information, that is). They used chemicals on the fetuses in the baby factory to get it done.

And the why of it all is again rooted in the tribe. Those well-fed, safe-from-the-elements poor can never be happy in their hearts knowing that there are others with better food, and nicer houses. The urge to advance and climb the hierarchy is simply too strong.

Sure, there are rare exceptions, where the circuits don't get wired (at least as strongly). An acquaintance has claimed repeatedly that she is happy with her fairly comfortable life of modest means, but it's also apparent she would prefer everyone live in the same state of blissful giving (and votes that way.) In my view, it's an odd psychological accommodation, but it works for her. But to expect that this can be trained into every human is unrealistic at best, more likely disastrous.

In the end, the world where people have all the "basics" as defined today may be achievable, (and in the relative short term too), but people won't be any happier. At all.

And that new world won't be brave either.