We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

That doesn’t actually address the problem, does it? Humans are status seekers – as with most mammals to be honest. So, if we’re not going to use the production of value for others as our status to seek then how much better or worse off are we all going to be with some other metric?

Tim Worstall

10 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Lee Moore

    Tim W is of course correct. Human society in which status can be achieved by making money (or singing pop songs, or playing football, or telling jokes, or landing a jet aircraft on a river) is a lot more peaceful than human society in which the only route to high status is being a successful warrior.

    But it’s deeper than that. The instinct to pursue status is not some weird, contingent, oddity that has mysteriously cropped up in the behaviour of social animals, who might just as well have evolved to pursue something else. There’s a reason for it.

    In animals, status aka the dominance hierarchy is itself peace inducing. The establishment of a dominance hierarchy reduces the need to fight for scarce resources, in particular, mates. Number 7 does not need to fight Number 3. They know which way it’s going to go, so Number 7 can back off, to mutual benefit. Number 3 avoids risk of injury. Number 7 lives to fight another day.

    There may be a certain amount of scuffling to resolve doubts about relatively close positions in the hierarchy (who has not witnessed this in the office round promotion time), but that is way more peaceable than fighting every time you have a conflict of interest with someone else.

  • Stonyground

    I keep chickens. When you introduce some new hens to the flock you get fights. Before long the pecking order is established and the fighting stops.

  • Gene

    People will always seek status and markets will always exist. Take away the ability to achieve traditional types of status, and other types of status will arise to take their place. Eliminate free markets by instituting top-down government controls on everything, and now you’ve created a new market–in political influence.

  • Eliminate free markets by instituting top-down government controls on everything, and now you’ve created a new market – in political influence. (Gene, September 15, 2019 at 2:51 pm)

    Kravchenko (I Chose Freedom) notes it in communist society; everyone focussed on politics and no-one on production, though the politics involved much verbiage about increasing production. Both Burke (at the time) and Thomas Sowell (in retrospect) comment on it in Ottoman society; people of ability devoted much of their time to “mutually-thwarting intrigues” rather than to mutually-assisting free enterprise.

  • As regards the comments of Stonyground (September 15, 2019 at 6:31 am) and Lee Moore (September 15, 2019 at 3:04 am), any status-marking mechanism will have the effect of (temporarily at least) reducing overt conflict in a society. Given that cost of not having one at all, Tim Worstall’s point is whether the status mechanism is derived directly from – or translates directly into – raw power of the higher over the lower, or whether the high-status individuals must (in a fairly literal sense) buy their respect and influence from the lower (i.e. must pay the lower for it).

  • Stonyground

    Unlike chickens, I think that humans wanting to improve their lot, whether materially or with improved status, is their incentive to work hard and be productive. I think that different people judge status in different ways. Having a flash car is proof of material success but to some people it identifies you as a knob. I am really fit for my age and a couple of years ago I did an Ironman triathlon, some people are in total awe of anyone who can do an ironman, to others I’m just as much of a knob as the guy in the flash car.

  • Jim

    Its just the latest version of the New Soviet Man concept – the idea the Left have in their head that human social orders can be re-arranged however they like, and human characteristics will magically change to fit in with the new order, rather than the original social order having arisen because of the fundamental characteristics of human beings.

    Its the basis of the fundamental difference between Left and Right: the former think Man is totally malleable by his surroundings, while the latter consider that Man’s characteristics are immutable and thus its better to work with them, rather than against them.

  • Tim Worstall

    “comment on it in Ottoman society”

    An interesting example of a society with a 100% inheritance tax…..

  • Runcie Balspune

    some people are in total awe of anyone who can do an ironman, to others I’m just as much of a knob as the guy in the flash car.

    The problem with “status” is it is valued differently by individuals, the corner house of a street can be attractive (more garden, only one neighbor) or not (more garden, more outside walls to heat), therefore unless some Bernie thinks they are smart enough to declare what the value is of something, it is infinitely variable, such is human nature.

  • Paul Marks

    Plato answered this question – if wealth is not going to be the measure of success in a society, then POWER will be (Plato thought this was a good thing – I do not).

    Wealth is NOT power – one can turn to a wealthy man and in traditional, “Red Neck”, way say “yes you have lots more money than me – but I do not care”.

    Power is the ability to use violence to make other people obey you – it is true that some rich people (such as “Woke” Big Business) support government power being used to control every aspect of the lives of human beings, but it is NOT true that wealth is power – although it can pervert it.

    One must always be able to say – “no I am not going to sell you my worn out shack – even though you and the government want to build some great thing on the land”.

    A sort of Senator (soon President) Warren type society where Big Business and the government work together to “achieve social goals” would be a nightmare – one must NOT have regulations making sure that only “socially responsible” (i.e. “Woke”) business enterprises are available in financial services, social media and so on.

    There must be CHOICE – there must be alternatives (in every industry) that are NOT “socially responsible”, which are not interested in “social justice” and “social reform”.

    Otherwise the nightmare pushed by Plato and other collectivists is upon us.