Incentives and Power. (Part 2/2)

What does all of this entail in terms of incentives? When living under the market system, people will tend to deal with each other as peaceful individuals, because that is how they can profit the most. Violence and war are generally less profitable, because agents have to shoulder all its financial and reputational burdens. People will tend to concentrate on how to improve their own lives, and by extension that of others. Our natural selfishness is channeled towards good ends (the so-called “invisible hand”).

On the other hand, when living with dominant collectivist systems, people will tend to deal with each other as tools of dominance. They will adopt either social warfare or open warfare as their method, doing violence to their own values and other people’s values. Their belief in realism will tend to break down, as the ruling class will do anything for people to take their arbitrary mechanisms seriously. People must believe that all opinions and beliefs which follow the framework of the collectivist system are equally worthy.

The main factor regulating the kinds of incentives we get from a system can be said to be the power relations regulating it. This may seem counter-intuitive. After all, we have been indoctrinated to believe that democracy is the one true political system, and that all other systems are oppressive. We are indoctrinated to believe that specific religions are superior to other religions. We are also indoctrinated to believe that there is no salvation outside of a a specific framework of power (such as democracy or monotheistic organizational religion). Finally, we are indoctrinated to ignore the power relations inherent to structures- we are taught, for instance, that statism promotes “equality”, even though in reality it cannot because of its strong ruling class. We are the victim of constant Special Pleading. The upshot of all this is that we are constantly made to believe that power relations don’t really matter.

And yet they do, greatly. The presence or absence of power relations dictates whether a system will return healthy incentives or unhealthy incentives, across the board.

This is not to say that a system with healthy incentives cannot have any power relations, but merely muted ones. The market and science have power relations. Indeed, it is a much lamented fact that the modern economy is full of power relations. However, these relations are not overpowering, but rather muted, as they all have built-in accountability. The relations between an employer and an employee, or a consumer and a producer, are made accountable both by the fact that the relation can be disbanded by either party at any time, and by the law of the land.

On the other hand, religion has fewer constraints (especially when it is allied to the state), and the state has precious little constraints at all. It is certainly not accountable to the law, since it creates the law! Things that seem like constraints on the state are almost always tools of state expansion. So-called “checks and balances”, for example, ensure that the state grows at a pace conductive to slow memetic assimilation of constraints. A state that grows too fast becomes quickly too unacceptable for the population at large. Voting ensures that only the best (most acceptable, most effective) exploiters rise to power, and that the state grows in ways that people can accept. The state is really accountable to no one except other states, which can band against those that lower their own legitimacy.

The most important factor of statism is its separation of the population in classes defined by their power relations- the ruling class, the exploitative class, the working class, and, in democratic systems, the welfare class. There is, in fact, relatively little difference between monarchy, democracy, fascism, communism, except insofar as they afford more or less legitimacy to the ruling class depending on context. Popular fascist dictators can afford to kill their detractors, and monarchs can scarcely afford to raise taxes without a strong military or religious support, but they all basically do the same things. Same for the different monotheistic religions, that is to say, based on god-worshipper and church-parishioner power relations: regardless of their doctrines, they fall into similar patterns of behaviour, with differing legitimacy depending on the stage the religion falls into.

The most devastating power relation in all of society, by far, is that of “parenthood”. It is the ultimate asymmetrical power relation: the little child is completely dependent on his “parents” for his survival and flourishing, and has no choice but to obey his “parents”. The “parents” are only held accountable by extremely unreliable and ultimately ineffective state mechanisms. Thus abuse on a gigantic scale is allowed to take place- verbal abuse and physical abuse are constants, with more extreme cases of constant rape and torture also existing. Not only do “parents” fall into obvious incentives brought about by their absolute power, but they also dictate the incentives that their children have to follow.

The inequality inherent to these power relations (except those of “parenthood”) is ostensibly designed to enforce “equality”. Monotheists claim that we are equally “sinful” and worthy of eternal torment. Statists claim that we are too selfish, that some people exploit others, and that we need a level playing field. They both believe that their system makes everyone equal. But in fact, they are doing the exact opposite- they are creating layer after layer of inequality.

Power relations generally do not lead to healthy or meaningful relationships. One can be conditioned to believe that one’s oppressors are good- slaves certainly did, and we know about the Stockholm syndrome. But in general, they only generate resentment and simmering hatred, and ultimately heightened social warfare. Healthy, voluntary, progressist relations are the result of a healthy incentive system, which is the result of a system which has subdued power relations. And this may just be a side point, but we do observe that Middle Ages Iceland, the paradigmatic example of market anarchy, is reported as having been more progressist as regards to gender roles than the statist countries of Europe at that time.

One thought on “Incentives and Power. (Part 2/2)

  1. […] Go to part 2.  Posted by Francois Tremblay Filed in Worldviews and semantics […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: