Photo by Ameer Basheer on Unsplash

Selfishness

I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.

Question: Is action out of self-interest beneficial when it impairs someone's freedom? E.g., we farm animals, and they give us milk, eggs, and meat. The animals live in pitiful circumstances for our self-interest. We impair their freedom, and we benefit from it; however, to what extent does it benefit wellbeing. Is our well-being more important than the well-being of an animal? I really doubt it is, and if I could change one thing about the world, then it is the sheer misery that living beings unnecessarily endure.

Management

In the twentieth century, our methods of mastering man became total, where one party could control the whole of a people. The people would obey that party even if that meant doing things one ought to think immoral. Total control could only be achieved through bureaucratisation. If one had to do all the awful actions by himself, then at one point, he would collapse under the weight of his conscience.

Now we live in a world which can only function because of the interference of one's freedom. The business models of the biggest corporations in the world are centred around it. And I wonder if that really is a good thing. Because the corporations are so vast that even governments have become dependent on them. How long will it take till history repeats itself?

The wealth that has come to us comes at a cost. Where we primarily benefited, people on the other side of the world face poverty, famine, and political unrest. There is enough food (wealth) for everyone, but it is not distributed evenly because of political division. It would not be a problem if there were adequate investments in developing countries, but instead of investments in developing countries, money tends to flow towards the land of the free (America). A leakage of wealth floats like a cloud of doom above the developing world. People who succeed in the developing world tend to invest in US dollars, and when the opportunity arises, they vote with their feet and leave their country.

Actuality

When I think about the war in Ukraine, I cannot but feel saddened by the unnecessary misery the people endure. But I also know that the discomfort is not only caused by Putin. Putin rather is a symptom of a much larger worldly problem — he is possessed by the Zeitgeist. I fear that what has to come will change the course of history. The question is, will the future look bright?

It seemed that the world in which we lived would never change and that the wealth and freedom we acquired would keep on growing. However, one has to ask, where does that wealth come from? Much of our wealth is due to innovation; for example, think about an iPhone. On the other side of the coin, much of our wealth comes from developing countries that manufacture the iPhone. Innovation is excellent; however, modern slavery is not. One would think that when someone manufactures an iPhone, he earns income and sooner or later is raised out of poverty. However, in the world we inhabit, money tends to flow to where it is most secure. The poor save their money in low yielding US treasury bonds instead of high yielding investments in their country — then he becomes reliant on that rich country, and the developing country is none the wiser.

So, one can imagine what the implications of sanctions can be. The money that one has saved over the years becomes inaccessible (gone). Your employer cannot make income payments to your country. What are the effects when your savings and income are gone? When savings become inaccessible, a panic arises. Sooner or later, people stop working because they do not receive income. Now that cheap labour becomes scarce, prices will increase, which will have ripple effects throughout the supply chain. Not to mention the danger it forms to the world order. We are giving a signal to the developing world that at any moment, we can prevent them from accessing their reserves. This forms an enormous danger to the dominance of the US dollar because other nations might become less willing to use it.

Explanation

When America sneezes, the world catches a cold. Now we face rampant inflation that can only be overcome by stringent monetary policy. Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. While the energy prices rise because of a supply shock, other products fall in price. When one has to spend more on energy, one has less to spend on other products, and the demand for other products falls, eventually causing the price to decline. But how do we deal with this when the energy prices are ingrained in everything. We print more money and increase people's wages, which seems straightforward, and that is fundamentally what the central banks are doing by keeping the interest rates below the inflation rate. But at what point does it becomes a self-fulfiling prophecy? E.g., Peter has a store and expects his costs to increase and therefore raises his prices. Paul buys products at Peters store, sees the prices rising, and demands a higher salary from his boss.

So, why are we seeing inflation now and not earlier because Europe and Japan had low-interest rates and quantitive easing for quite some time? For years the energy and shipping prices were incredibly low and continuously went down, even to a point where a barrel of oil went into negative territory. Meaning that you would receive money when buying a barrel of oil. Europe and Japan needed to increase the money in circulation; otherwise, the price of goods would start to decrease, causing people to save their money instead of spending. E.g., if Paul does not spend on products at Peter's shop today, he can buy more tomorrow. This is called deflation, the inverse of inflation.

The environment we are in now is different than before. Where prior prices went down, now prices go up. So, what are the dangers? I: There is a good chance that central bankers cannot handle the situation because most have not been in a situation like this before. The last time this happened was in the seventies. II: Due to a recent pandemic and conflict in Ukraine, there is a lot of instability, making it difficult to make critical bipartisan decisions. III: Since governments have a lot of debt, inflation is a tool to decrease their debt burden, incentivising them to not adequately deal with the problem. IV: Important issues, like climate change, get not dealt with. Instead of focussing on making us less reliant on fossil fuels politicians, that are only in power for a short term have an incentive to find a quick fix and therefore support the fossil industry to lower the costs of energy. V: Increasing interest rates to fight inflation will drag the developing world into famine. When interest rates are higher, finding financing becomes more difficult (expensive), causing money to leave developing countries faster and dragging them into a crisis. Where there is less money to change hands, there is less work. When there is less work, there is more poverty.

Coda

At one point, we will feel it in our pockets in the form of inflation. Populist politicians will scream and shout that it is all because of China and Putin. We become furious and sympathise with our populist politicians, so we elect them into office. Now that our pretty politicians are in office and we have handed over the passwords of our nuclear arsenals, one can imagine the consequences.

It is something to fear, but other power-hungry politicians also see the storm heading our way. They might see an opportunity to use the behavioural technology we have carefully designed to their advantage. They might say that the only way to contain the panic and danger of a nuclear threat is to interfere with people’s free will. E.g., we all know anti-vaxxers formed a threat to society, so we better impair their ability to interact with other people. Politicians could take the same, maybe more extreme measures during the threat of a nuclear war. If we have to pay with our own free will, that is only a small price compared to total destruction. At least so, one would argue.

Admittingly it becomes difficult to think about these moral questions when total destruction is involved. However, we should not forget that we, the people, are the ones that elect representatives. When it is obvious that a politician forms an existential threat to the people, he is not likely to get elected. I want to convey that politicians have an enormously powerful manipulative tool, namely creating the fear of a nuclear war. We should stay strong and not get persuaded to give our freedom away. Because impairment of one’s free will is essentially slavery and can never be for the greater good.

Next to nuclear winter and surveillance feudalism, a third option is Realism. Why Realism? Well, because now we live in times where our reality gets distorted. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we ask questions and seek the truth. So that we can carefully deal with the cards we have. We should eliminate the immense excess in financing that constitutes bad incentives without a flight of capital from developing countries. We should rationalise that a nuclear war is a game we all lose. Finally, we should realise that ones free-will is the pinnacle of modern society.

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