OF COURSE THERE IS A FREE LUNCH
Some of us grew up with Robert Heinlein science fiction, others started reading him after we discovered Libertarianism. No, he ain’t no Ayn Rand, but how many people really ever wade through her 1200 page bible of free market worship? I have twice, but it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Speaking of which, I think I’m about due to read it again. It has been over ten years since the last time. Of course, I also tend to stock book series having the vague notion that I’ll be unemployed soon and be able to better enjoy those books without the pesky interruption of a bedtime, or a twelve hour work day. When I first moved to the Compound I was unemployed for three weeks, a near record amount of time in my working career ( once, I was unemployed over a month and ending up eating potatoes for all my meals ), and while there was a HUGE amount of stress involved I did get to leisurely read Neal Stephenson’s Cyptonomicon. I can’t imagine wanting to do nothing but read once unemployed, it loses its appeal during potato meal #32. But I would like the option anyway. Anyway, I do have all three novels by Rand and I guess I’m waiting for the implosion of the economy before I read all about the wonders of capitalism unencumbered by government.
Heinlein’s famous quote was “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. I almost got TANSTAAFL tattooed on me once, but reason prevailed and I got the A with a circle for Anarchy instead. The size of a dime and that bitch hurt. I can’t imagine the appeal of big tattoos. Well, what I am about to say would cause Rand’s head to explode. Bob wouldn’t get too bent out of shape as he had a sense of humor, but Ayn was a bit uptight. You take yourself too serious and you go through life with a broomstick ( or a cross ) up your ass. Hell, even in a collapse you find something to laugh about. Think of the zombie film Dawn Of The Dead, where they were sniping the zombies. That one looks like Burt Reynolds. Boom! That’s good times. You can improvise of course, if there aren’t any zombies around. Look! California plates! Boom. IED. Good for a chuckle or two. Did you see “Inglourious Basterds”? Damn good flick. Look how much fun they were having killing Nazi’s. They could have been all mopey and taking themselves serious. Oh, look, I hate Krauts. Kill, die. No, they added some fun to their hate, spreading terror and scalping and beating in live heads with baseball bats. It’s all about balance. Sure, kill everyone, but have fun doing it. Okay, let’s get to the article, shall we? Enough fantasy. Economics is all about a free lunch. I don’t care if it is capitalism or communism, mercantilism ( which is basically what we have now- look at Steve Forbes. I used to think he was a swell guy but it looks like he is just a whore for investment bankers and Enron style corporations ) or whatever. If the economy progressed past a hunter/gatherer existence into agriculture, it is based on a free lunch.
Do you think it was an accident that hunter/gatherers lasted for hundreds of thousands of years and that every agricultural society after that has collapsed in the space of mere hundreds of years? I don’t think we started farming because we liked asparagus instead of elk steak. It wasn’t like we woke up one day and decided to work 12 hours a day behind a plow instead of going hunting once a week. It wasn’t even that we discovered the domestic foods and animals. I think that was already known and used in a gradual manner. More than likely as a good food security in case of hunting failure. No, I think the only reason the Agricultural Revolution happened was that all territory got filled up and there was no where to go to hunt or gather. People got hemmed in after a certain population growth. The growth was very small. We lived below the replacement level of our food for a very long time. But once we ran out of expansion room, we had no choice but to start farming. Unfortunately, agricultural has with it its own built in destruct mechanism. To defend your crops, and at the end to steal someone else’s to avoid starvation, you need population growth to provide breeders and soldiers. Obviously, this is an iron clad rule, because no agricultural society has been able to stay below the lands carrying capacity and been able to survive attack. There is a reason we keep doing the same thing over and over again. Because we have no choice if we want to try to survive. The odds are 50/50 against, but you take any you can get.
So, you don’t husband resources, you exploit them. It is always a race against time and enemies. This is why you see time and again the same destructive behavior ( pointing out the few exceptions, keep in mind they had the luxury to conserve. If their very existence was at stake they wouldn’t have done it ). The rabble on the street might be stupid most of the time, but in the hothouse competition of rulers, the rapid Darwinism assures that usually the smarter boys rise to the top. They know what they are doing. The idiots were always there, we are talking about the general rule. Obviously, cutting down the last tree is always suicidal on your island. You don’t do it without a very good reason. So, while a society lasts, there is a draw down on resources. Always more than the replacement level, unless they are blessed with isolation and lack of enemies. Free lunch is baked into the system. It is the day to day operational norm.
BLAH BLAH Bison web site http://www.bisonpress.com/