Sunday, August 26, 2012

Should You Act In Your Own Best Interest?

An anonymous commenter the other day posted this viewpoint on the way the Greeks are coping with the collapse of their country and the recommendations from John Robb:
What you say sounds reasonable from an individual perspective - but from a societal perspective it's horrible. If everyone spent their time farming their backyard rather than productively working somewhere, then our standard of living all declines. In other words, what's in the interest of the individual to protect their future is not in the interest of the corporate whole.
My first thought is "who says what's best for society?"  It's the same as my point from two days ago, about the randomness of the market being better than the bureaucrats who decide what products we need:  the movements of the vast majority of society are right.  They're right because people are moving in their own best interest.  If everyone is doing what's best for them, that makes the movements best for society.  It may displace people in some jobs - the spread out infrastructure for instance - and it sure won't be best for the displaced people, but that sort of displacement happens all the time.   Remember the slide rule industry?  If everyone tried to become more self-sufficient, more resilient, it would surely change society, but society changes all the time.  It's changing now, and the reality of what's going on is what pushes John to make his recommendations.  He's trying to save lives as this megatrend unfolds. 

I don't know what percentage of people would try to get a garden going in their yards, or what percentage of people even could, due to living in apartments with no space, I'm going to bet it's a small percentage for now.  Much like with Tom Baugh's "Starving the Monkeys", I don't know what percentage of the people would leave the life they know to become an independent contractor and I don't know what percentage would leave the life they know to create a small, self-sufficient community.  Would they make that move if they thought their family's lives and safety were at stake? I bet more would. 

Right after that first anonymous comment (obviously long before I write this) commenter Candide3 posted this:
This is exactly what has happened in the Soviet Union, both before and after its collapse. People spent an inordinate amount of time and effort working their 1/7 acre plots for food. Thanks to these plots they never starved, but the standard of living went through the floor.
What the Soviets did was right for themselves and helped them get their society going again, without the episodes of nastiness that have happened so many times through history.


  1. The individuals and their families (direct and extended) have to be in good, stable condition, taking care of themselves FIRST.
    After all, it was the government that got them into this mess, so if the government crumbles, but the individual survives, there's a chance of starting over.

  2. I my 74 years of experience I have observed that what is good for the individual or the corporations is not good for the government.
    It all boils down to less government and more freedom for individuals and corporations and let the market decide the best for all.

  3. Why are we assuming these people know what the hell they are talking about? They are trying to assert as fact the notion that it is impossible to work productively and garden at the same time.

    I worked 40+hours a week in communications at CHP, volunteered as a reserve police officer in town, volunteered as a firefighter for the same town, as well as maintaining a herd of twelve draft horses, eight dairy goats, thirty-two chickens, and a one-half acre vegetable garden, along with a number of mature fruit trees.

    I produced more than enough food to sustain my wife and me, including selling eggs and giving away milk and cheese to friends. I didn't have a lot of spare time to sit and worry about whether or not I was being "productive" or whether or not my self-interest was of any benefit to society.

    These are the same fools who will decide I am not entitled to any health care, as I am no longer "productive" and useful to society. F'k them.

  4. i'm reminded of adam smith's observation re the invisible hand guiding markets.

    and lord acton's remark that "...Every man is the best, the most responsible, judge of his own advantage"

    as in the former ussr, many simply saw what the promise of collectivism was, shrugged and produced for themselves and theirs - the very first and most important market. in turn becoming more valuanle to themselves, without becoming a burden to others.