Two Sides Of A Deadly Coin
Way back in the day, we humans lived in small tribes of a few hundred people. Life was harsh. Getting food was difficult and dangerous. Predators were everywhere, and the food tended to run away. Animals didn’t want to be killed and eaten.
Hunter Gather Instincts
We humans think we’ve advanced far beyond the hunter gatherer days, but most scientists agree that there hasn’t been much evolution in the past ten thousand years. Why ten thousand years? That’s how long we’ve been living in groups larger than a few hundred.
While we have evolved slightly, a few tweaks here or there, our deep instincts haven’t changed much. In fact, many of our modern problems can be traced to having hunter-gatherer instincts in a modern, technological society. The most obvious hunter gatherer instinct is to eat whatever we can, as much as we can.
When food was hard to come by, and we always needed to have plenty of reserves (stored energy as fat) feasting as much as you could whenever food WAS available was a strong survival trait. Today, however, that same instinct makes our clothes keep shrinking.
Production And Consumption
Today, very few of us have ever really experienced hunger. Sure, we go on diets and feel hungry on purpose. But very few people who are alive today (in western countries) have ever been hungry while simultaneously not having any idea where or if they could get food.
Even if you are homeless and penniless, if push comes to shove you could steal something, and end up in prison where you’d at least be fed. But for our ancient ancestors, they very much lived under the real and ever present rule of, “if you don’t kill, you don’t eat.”
The Big Brained Human
Our main selling feature is our big brains. Like anything, this doesn’t come without a cost. For one, the brain is a very expensive organ as far as calories. We have a bigger brain which allows us to think about and make tools, so we can find and kill more animals to feed our bigger brain.
Expensive In More Ways Than One
But one way our brains are extremely expensive is how long we humans spend in childhood. Our brain started getting bigger, and eventually got too big for us to be born with a bigger head. So Mother Nature had two choices.
We could be born much further along, like most other animals, but that would require that women’s hips (and men’s as well) to become much wider. This would allow for bigger brained babies to be born (and spend less time in childhood) but then we would have lost our ability to walk on two legs.
So we are a born with a less than finished brain. Undercooked. In fact, most of us don’t remember much before the age of five. During zero to five, our brains are still developing. Still growing. Still learning basic skills like walking and talking. This makes the human brain expensive in two ways.
First Cost – Calories
The first cost is the amount of extra calories we must eat each and ever day so we can think. Compared to all our other organs, the brain uses way more calories per gram. It is an energy hog to be sure. But this is the very least of its costs.
Long Time Without Productivity
The name of the game of ancient societies was getting food or fighting predators and enemies. Babies, and those who care for them, can’t do either of these. This means that at any given point and time, there were certain members, males above a certain age that were responsible for getting all the meat and fat (from animals) for the entire tribe.
And the women had to collectively watch all the kids while doing their best to gather whatever roots and other food they could get.
This stayed in equilibrium for many hundreds of thousands of years, much before humans became humans. We might imagine children today to get an idea of when they might add to the productivity of the tribe. Perhaps as young as six or seven, but perhaps not until later.
We can imagine that each member of the tribe consumed a certain amount, and produced a certain amount. We can imagine what the day to day production-consumption ratio of each member was. They likely fluctuated on a day to day basis. Sometimes you got a big kill, sometimes you got nothing. But the entire tribe had to be net zero from a production-consumption accounting standpoint. It was impossible to consume more than what was produced by the tribe. And it was not possible to keep food for very long.
Coming Of Age
The idea of a child finally being old enough to start being productive was probably a very happy event not only for the parents, but for the entire tribe. Children likely couldn’t wait until they could get out there and help kill something if they were boys, or help dig for food and get as much as the other women. On the adult side, this was likely a very positive transition from everybody’s perspective.
We might even imagine that parents’ worst nightmares for their children would be boys that couldn’t hunt well, or girls that couldn’t gather well or couldn’t participate in the child rearing of others. When they proved valuable to the tribe, it was almost certainly a very happy event.
Enter The Farmers
Somewhere along the line, hunters became farmers. Nobody really knows how long this took or how it actually happened. But once they could predictably get food out of the ground, and from domesticated animals, they didn’t need to be chasing animals all over the place. This mean a lot more people in one central location.
Production Consumption Accounting Difficult
With hunters in small communities, where everybody knows everybody, it’s easy to see who’s being the most productive. We can imagine that those that were poor hunters would feel compelled to help out in other ways. But when hunters became farmers, this all changed.
Enter The Freeloaders
Being a hunter-gatherer meant it was impossible to skate by without doing your fair share. But once large numbers of people started living in large cities, it was possible. This is a known problem among economists, and it’s also thought to be a driving force in recent evolution.
Diversity Of Labor
Since there were more people, and more food, there were a lot more things people could do. Farming, raising animals, cleaning up after animals, building and fixing tools, building or fixing homes. The only thing that made all of this possible was some type of commodity money system.
Commodity Money As A Human Instinct
If you watch kids trade cards, you’ll see something common happen. Often, kids will accept a card in trade not because they actually want it, but because they know they can trade it for something they do want. This requires the kid in question has a good sense of what is valued by others. That kids do this without needing to be taught, we can assume this is an instinct.
Once a large farming community has settled on a type of commodity money, trade can flourish. Commodity money can be anything that everybody agrees is worth something. So when you sell your wares, or offer your services, you can accept this commodity money knowing you can trade that commodity money for something else later on.
Deception Becomes Possible
With a tribe of hunter gatherers, trying to con somebody would be suicidal. But in a large city of even a few tens of thousands, one might be tempted to cut corners. You might fix somebody’s roof with low quality wood. You might be paid to till a farmer’s soil, but with such a large field that can’t be checked, you might only work hard when you know you’re being watched.
Freeloading Becomes Possible
With so many people doing so many different jobs, the idea of keeping a “production-consumption” balance on the entire society is impossible. It would be conceivably very easy for some folks to cheat their way through life. Receiving payments for jobs that are worth far less than what they collected.
The first freeloaders were the kings and nobles who owned all the land. Kings and other leaders weren’t productive, so they collected taxes to support themselves. When the taxes weren’t enough, they went out and raided other kingdoms and stole their wealth.
This was actually a pretty stable system, as it lasted for quite a while. Several thousand years. Post agricultural societies always collapsed. Family dynasties became corrupt, everybody was killed and a new dynasty took power. But the overall system was relatively stable.
Most people would agree that democracy is a noble system. Pundits on TV talk about democracy in nearly holy terms. That so long as we have democracy, we will attain salvation. That if democracy is threatened, we must fight tooth and nail to protect it. However, democracy might be the worst idea yet.
The Semi Permeable Membrane
Back before they invented democracy, there was the noble class and the peasants. A peasant could only become a noble in two ways. To get enough power and kill a bunch of nobles and acquire some actual land. Or marry into a noble family. To marry into a noble family, one needed to be young, female and gorgeous.
This meant that most people who were born into the peasantry would forever remain in the peasantry. Democracy changed all that. Anybody could be elected into the government. But governments were just as non-productive as they ever were. Modern democracies don’t produce anything. They collect taxes and use those taxes to pay for the things they want done.
The Roach Motel
Governments act as a roach motel. People check in, but they never check out. Governments tend to get larger over time. Government jobs are lifetime jobs. Nobody leaves government to go into the private sector, unless that private sector job is connected to the government somehow. The end result is that this government entity, which exists solely on taxes collected from the working class, continues to get bigger and bigger.
Production and Consumption
Way back in the days of hunter-gatherers, for those who were old enough, and capable enough, there was only one rule. If you don’t kill, you don’t eat. Today, most modern societies have a large group of non-productive government types who exist solely on the productivity of others.
Governments will continue to get bigger. This is pretty much a given. This means there will be more and more people living on the productivity of less and less people. Eventually, the stuff being produced won’t be enough for the total amount of people.
In a small kingdom, this meant shortages of actual food and raw materials. But in a global society, with reserve currencies (dollars are used by everybody) and robotics taking the place of people, it is impossible to tell when the tipping point of doom will be reached.
In primitive societies, three hundred people needed 2000 calories each and every day. The calories they got didn’t last. When they went hungry, they all went hungry and everybody knew quickly. Today, by the time we get to that tipping point, it will be too late.
One response is to milk the system for all it’s worth. This is the strategy of huge companies, individuals and politicians. They figure they’d better get while the getting’s good. If you aren’t one of them who is milking the system, it’s easy to point the finger. But it’s also not a common response to be able to milk the system and not do so. Especially when most everybody else is in some way or another.
Live Within Your Means
However you make your living, by milking the system or by the sweat of your brow, one of the worst positions to find yourself in is when the milk dries up and you have nothing to fall back on. Whatever your situation in life, consider one of the important goals to be consuming less than you produce.
This was the ancient way of life and it is programmed into your DNA to do so. Consuming more than you produce is not natural for adults and it is not sustainable for a society. This is extremely difficult to do, especially when politicians (authority) and everybody else (social proof) are living off credit cards and debt. But if you do manage to live within your means, when the ship sinks, you don’t have to go down with it.
Ignore False Political Promises
Our Frankenstein monetary system allows politicians to promise the sun and the moon and everything in between. They can get away with this because central banks and keep printing money without consequence. Most people believe in free stuff from the government. You don’t have to.
Always Assume Responsibility
Second to the idea of living within your means is assuming as much responsibility for your own situation as you can. Always increase your skills. Your personal skills, your relationships, and your level of self-responsibility are your greatest and most valuable assets. Value them. Build them. Cherish them.
Mind Persuasion has plenty of books and courses all designed to help you get the most out of life with much less stress and effort.