The problem with everything is that human beings have a tendency to take the short term self-interest choice over the long terms self interest choice. We are, for some reason, wired for it. I understand this, but I’m having a hard time explaining it in words.
Let’s say there is an apple tree next to a town. The tree provides enough apples for everyone. Perfect, right? Wrong. Every person in the town will feel a little bit of an urge to hoard or to take more than their fair share. Will they all do it? Probably not. I believe there is an intrinsic altruism built into some people – maybe altruism is the wrong word – maybe golden rule practicality is the phrase I need to use here. So, the golden rule crowd will realize that they don’t want anyone to take their allocated share, so they won’t take more than their share – it’s a sort of long term self-interest but it comes out as looking like altruism in the short term. If there are people who are genuinely altruistic – they are exceedingly rare – I would suggest that there are only long term self interested and short term self interested people. There are also those who are playing a different game – they give up their share for some percieved benefit. There are many such – pity, honor, respect, or something else. The bottom line is that everyone looks at the apple tree and sees a benefit for themselves – and if the consequences outweigh the rewards for keeping everything even – everyone will have their share of apples.
But we all know that the world does not work like that. Those who seize the advantage early, generally have less consequences than those who do not. Some people realize that and are watching for that opportunity. In any event – the apples become a problem because some people are taking more than their fair share so others are getting less than their fair share. Cause and effect.
The headman of the town – whether appointed by strength, ability, or election – it doesn’t matter. A person steps to the fore and says the apples are a problem now – so we need to make some rules about them…and not everyone agrees. The person taking too many says something like “I work harder to take the apples so I deserve more” and the person getting too little says “Just because I am shorter, doesn’t mean I don’t deserve the apples growing higher” and the person who is canning the apples say “I am taking apples that would otherwise rot and making them into something that will keep” and everyone has a reason why their self-interest is more important than the other people’s self interest.
So, assuming a Kansas cattle grazing war doesn’t break out over the apples, rules are made and people are given the job of making everyone keep to the rules – which of course fails because the people keeping the rules suddenly have an advantage that will be expolited by themselves or by those smart enough to seek to exploit the advantage. So, ultimately, some people are left hungry, some people get fat, some people get rich, and others become poverty stricken. The poverty stricken and the hungry say “Hey, what about our interest?” And the rich and fat say “Why should we have to take care of those who don’t or can’t work as hard as we do?” And everyone is ultimately fucked because eventually, a cold, poor, hungry person cuts the apple tree down to use as firewoodpor simply to even the playing field so that no one has any apples.
What if, however, there was a way to change the way people think? What if, instead of focusing on the short term self interest, there was a way to get them to focus on the long term self interest? In that case, the apples would be harvested by all, the excess would be canned, and the needs of all would be met by the work of all. Wouldn’t that be awesome if something like that could happen?
The problem is that it can’t. Humans are short sighted, selfish, and ultimately unable to work together for a long term collective good.
And that’s the problem with everything.