The World has Lots “More” Now What? II

In years gone by, powerful leaders exerting maximum control could plausibly claim they needed this power to protect the governed from attack or to lead them to “More” by taking it from others. Fighting with and taking from others was justified by presenting your culture as superior to others. From Imperial Rome to Imperial China outsiders were considered barbarians. Much easier to take their goods and enslave if you see them as inferior. In the modern world, these claims just don’t hold up. Recent German history illustrates the point. Prior to World War II Hitler claimed the Germans were being denied their Lebensraum. Invading Poland and other “inferior” nations were imperative to give them the territory needed for its natural development. Today even with unification Germany has less territory yet is much wealthier. With a declining birthrate, the country has had to actually import workers and allow in migrants. After spending 2 Trillion euros on joining east with the west, the country has no interest in taking over Poland or Ukraine anyone else.. Much more profitable to just trade with them. Closer to home, we would love to back what we spent occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. It surely didn’t gain us “More.”

As we pointed out in our last post, innovation was at best a very slow contributor to humanity gaining “More.” Top-down government and culture were essential. The educated elite made and recorded the laws, maintained calendars, and made the proper tallies. For most of mankind being an elite was gained by heredity. 10% or less of humanity used their positions to acquire whatever “More” there was to be had. The rest of mankind was mostly at the bottom. For thousands of years, this was mankind’s basic organization. Then the 15th Century A.D. came and the pace of innovation accelerated to the point it is the main determinate of gaining “More.” As change could now come from anywhere at any time we, in turn, have to be more nimble and flexible. Top-down governance of everything just can’t keep up with what is happening from the bottom up. The more controlling a government is the less efficient. If this wasn’t true the Soviet Union with its 5-year plans would’ve won the cold war.

Today the most controlling top-down governments such as Cuba, Egypt, North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela not only have failed to lead their citizens to”More,” but managed to provide “less”. The question is whether China will join them. Taiwan and South Korea liberalized from one party states to a democratic market dominated countries and gained much “More.” For a while, it appeared China was heading in the same direction. Then Xi Jinping took over. Facial recognition, the social credit policy and concentration camps for Muslims match or exceed anything George Orwell ever penned. It looks like the Chinese Communist Party is bent on joining the “we have to stay in power at any cost club”. President for life Xi seems aligned with those leaders with lifetime job security in we provide “Less” club. The one thing all the members have in common is they have maintained absolute control over their citizens no matter how much pain they have to inflict on their citizens just to maintain control.

China because of its size is of utmost importance to continue the march of humanity to “More.” The nation is at a crossroads. It either to moves to a responsive flexible society like its neighbors Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan and continues on its journey to “More” or it becomes North Korea or Venezuela on a much greater scale. Remember the Chinese Communists went down that road before with Mao’s Great Leap Forward. A failure setting China back for decades. Worse it cost 45 million lives. Is Xi out to break that record?

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The World has Lots “More” Now What?

From at least 10,000BCt to the 15th Century AD Humanity at it’s most advanced level was organized on a strictly top-down basis. Agriculture involving most people underpinned of these societies. Highly labor intensive, agriculture needed organization. When to plant, when to harvest and where and how to store the harvest called for certain retained knowledge. As we have pointed out in this series on “More”, a society can only get “More” in three ways, take it from somebody else, trade for it or innovate. Once the easy areas were planted only innovations such as irrigation and better tools, akin to the plow, axes and saws could bring more land under cultivation. Unfortunately, major innovations were few and far between. For instance, the wheel came into use at about 3,500BC, but as a potter’s wheel, not for transportation or carrying burdens. That came even later. The wheelbarrow dates only from 600 BC in Greece. That left it for trade and taking stuff from others as the preferred ways to get “More.”

Settled agrarian communities with seemingly abundant food and fiber, couldn’t help but attract those looking to relieve them of the fruits of their labor. The protective organization was a necessity. Military and policing needed leadership, organization and a means to pay for it. Accumulated knowledge had to be preserved and passed down. Who keeps the calendar? Who makes and enforces the laws.?

Trade, the other means of acquiring “More” also had its requirements. Exchanging goods need central protected markets and routes. It’s no wonder towns and cities combined administration, religion and markets in a protected area.

Laws, religion (often the same), administration and trade then all needed ways to preserve and tally. Fortunately, civilizations learned to write, read and compute. Sadly, for most of history, this was laborious, costly and limited. Even if you could read and write cuneiform, can you imagine War and Peace written on clay tablets? As a result, literacy was severely limited. As of late 1475 BC, literacy was 5% in France and 1% in Sweden. Out of necessity, a narrow group of literate elites filled the upper clergy, government administration, military and those in mercantile endeavors across all civilizations. Heredity in most cases played a major part in the makeup of these elites. The other more than 90% of the “civilized world” was an illiterate mass, mostly tied to the soil. Whether they were called peasants, serfs, slaves, coolies or some other name denoting those at the bottom, they, for the most part, led mean short lives, partaking in little or none of the “better things of life.”

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