Sunday, 18 August 2013
Time Preference and Civilisation, Part 2.
Continued from my previous post.
So jungle-dwelling man A has now twenty apples a day, a shelter, and a flute. Man B has his ten apples a day. Along comes Big Chief, who thanks to his possession of a big club, has an effective monopoly on violent coercion, and says to man A, "that's not fair. To be fair, you must give man B five of your apples, let him sleep in your shelter, and play your flute. Who can argue against equality? Oh, by the way, I have a big club."
So man A is forced to share his goods with man B, who has little incentive to build anything of his own now, let alone maintain anything that man A has made. He has little idea of what went into the making of the shelter and flute, and constantly soils both, much to man A's chagrin. Yet man A is kept in line with Big Chief's equally big club.
Given the insanities of Big Chief, it's perfectly rational for jungle-dweller A to shorten his time horizon to nothing at all. Why save apples when Big Chief will take them away? Why build anything when Big Chief will make him "share" it? Big Chief, oddly enough, does not live with man B despite singing man B's praises, living in his own gated community of his chieftain's hut. Man A makes the rational decision and enjoys the decline. He picks no more than ten apples a day, lets the shelter fall into ruin, and the snick and flute are snapped in two.
Why hold out on the promise of twenty apples tomorrow when Big Chief will take them away, as opposed to ten apples now?
And so civilisation crumbles, this being just one spreading crack in the base.