Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

You can live without oil. You can't live without yourself

I promised no more politics post and this will contain no reference to politicians, just to philosophy. It's about rational self-interest versus ideology. Socials consider the fist evil and the second "righteous". They are wrong and it can be easily proved: You can live without oil. You can't live without yourself.

Rational actors might want to take your resources. If taking your oil by force is cheaper than buying it, it's rational to take it. So rational, "My country First!" leaders can be ruthless and unjust. But even if they are, you can keep living on without oil. Actually, they will need staff to operate their newly gained oil installations and employing locals is cheaper than moving a big bunch of citizens so far from home. Your workforce is a valuable asset and no one can take it from you, as slavery already proved to be ineffective. No matter who rules your land, as long as he is rational, he has a reason to protect you from harm and to give you proper salary for your work.

An ideological leader believes that he is righteous and everyone else is evil. He doesn't want your oil, he wants you! He wants you to take his ideology and become his zealot. You don't have any bargaining chip against a believer. You either
  • believe as he does and then you serve the "cause" without question
  • don't believe and then you are a heretic and must be destroyed in the name of righteousness!
This is why I'm looking for leaders who show signs of self-interest, even in ruthless, unjust forms and fear leaders who justify actions with morals. Under the first type, I can live. Maybe without oil or land, with tiny assets compared to the leaders, but can live a happy, mediocre human life. Under the second type I can resist and die, or become a zealot and ... die trying to kill heretics in the service of righteousness.

But, but, but... you can't let invaders take your land and oil, that's your heritage! Actually, not. I don't own a single mine shaft, a single acre of farming soil or forest. As a rational person, I must realize that the resources of "my country" are actually private property of other people. I have no reason to care if that person is my countryman or an American or German or Russian or whatnot. It's not mine, so I don't care!

Finally, look around the World: in lands conquered and annexed by rational leaders, there is peace and order, even if by oppression. In lands conquered by idealists, there is chaos and massacre.


Anonymous said...

> No matter who rules your land, as long as he is rational, he has a reason to protect you from harm and to give you proper salary for your work.


Stalin wasn't an ideologue. He gave zero shits about communist ideology; he was interested in acquiring and maintaining power. He made an alliance of convenience with Adolf motherfucking Hitler.

And yet he still killed people rather than letting them do their jobs. Why? Because he concluded that the risk of *disloyal* or *ineffective* service was too great. He could have kept his military officers in place and then hired millions of secret police to keep watch on them. He could have used wargames and proficiency tests in order to squeeze out the hidebound traditionalists who dreamed of cavalry charges. But it was cheaper to just liquidate them all and train replacements.

The same thing happens in most democracies. When your political party takes over the seat of power, you *don't* interview every single dude appointed by the previous administration. Some of them might be highly competent, and they might be willing to enact your preferred policies. But it would take too much effort to verify all of that, so you don't bother doing it. The standard response is to fire everybody and replace them with loyal sycophants.

It will certainly be cheaper to hire Iraqi oil-field workers than to fly in roughnecks from Texas. But the Iraqis might sabotage the plant as part of a terrorist plot, or half of them might disappear overnight to join ISIS, or they might steal vital parts to sell on the black market (because the economy sucks and their family is starving). Foreign workers yield fewer surprises.

Also: we're assuming that the ruler is self-interested. He doesn't really give a shit how much it costs to run the refinery, because that's not his money. It's taxpayer money, and the costs are obfuscated through layers of budgeting and bureaucracy. If he opts for Iraqi workers then Joe Taxpayer might save a few pennies ... but who cares? If he signs a billion-dollar deal with Exxon then he'll receive a personal kickback of 50 million. A rational man maximizes his personal utility.

maxim said...

The catch is that it is impossible to stay rational for too long without an underlying structure of ideas informing said rationality.

Esteban said...

But the pursuit of rational self-interest, as opposed to rational collective-interest, is an ideology in and of itself.

Gevlon said...

@Esteban: no, because collective interest must be articulated by a leader. "The USA" can't speak, its president can. But everyone can speak for his own self interest.

maxim said...

Everyone who is anyone in terms of analytics refers to USA as a deeply ideological country. The idea in question is american exceptionalism in various permutations and combinations with all the other common ideas.

Phelps said...

"Actually, they will need staff to operate their newly gained oil installations and employing locals is cheaper than moving a big bunch of citizens so far from home."

The Middle East is an exception to this, actually. Arab society (being ideological) produces such bad, incompetent, shiftless workers that it is cheaper to import Americans and other Westerners at inflated wages to actually get the work done.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: this is true for the elites. But remember the Trump victory! He was elected against the whole media, against 2x bigger election chest, against the whole elite, against rigged polls, against false personal accusers, because the people believed in what he said:
- no Muslim migrants
- out with the illegal immigrants
- peace and cooperation with Russia
- America First, the rest of the World is not our problem

This is what the ordinary American people believe. They aren't evil, they are oppressed. Their votes mean nothing, as shown by the betrayal of Trump. But they aren't a hostile population like the Sunni Syrians or Iraqis who literally blow themselves up to kill Westerns and Russians. "The USA" is not the problem. The military-industrial elite is.

@Phelbs: Hungary had lot of Arab university students. They were secular (no big beard, no Hinjab) and they did OK academically. I don't think Arabs are inferior people. Religious fanatics (regardless of religion) are the problem.

Phelps said...

That's why I was specific to arab society producing bad workers, rather than arabs being inherently bad workers. There's some selection going on -- the arabs who go to a foreign school and adopt secular ways are tacitly rejecting arab society as a whole.

maxim said...

I'd like to point out that three of Trump's points out of four fully align with the idea of american exceptionalism. The point on Russia never really sounded too loudly in his campaign, but i also doubt that when Trump said "peace and cooperation" an average American didn't hear someting along the lines of "make them play by our rules, because our rules are the best in the world".