“He achieved the impossible during the election race . . . .

” . . . he may be doing it again.” So says a headline in my morning paper today. Nonsense! He may have been lucky with a fickle electorate. Trump will not be so lucky with his political advisors — no matter how extremist some of them are, or even more so, some of his specialist civil servants. He’ll not be allowed to be anywhere near as dangerous as some fear he might be.

If they decide to impeach him, as they were going to do in Nixon’s case, how will be react? There’s lots of fascinating events almost immediately ahead of us.

The why of social hierarchy

A recent essay discusses the reason why the pecking order is so interesting in our own and others’ lives.

The main point of social hierarchy in humans is why it should have ever evolved in the first place.  It is the social context in which the instinct of the female can operate when she wants a child.  She will always generally choose upwards towards the best males available for partnership with best abilities, intelligence and genetic fitness.  She will ignore the unfit and inept males, so that they will be unable to pass inferior genes onwards to children.

It is our quality control mechanism. Without our DNA would increasingly flounder in a morass of average abilities in in which a steadily growing number of harmful recessive genes and obfuscate the necessary genes for species survival.

The most permanent attribute of all

With his wild tongue, Trump has now gone far too far when describing judges as ‘so-called’ judges.   Judges don’t have to be the most honest people in the land nor the brightest nor the most knowledgeable about the law.  They happen to be the individuals given the responsibility of protecting the most precious attribute of any civilized culture — the permanency of a sense of justice.  When that is gone nothing remains.

Man’s prolific inventiveness

In the advanced countries we spend by far the most of our surplus income on ‘status’ goods (and services).  We gather these around us in order to show our friends, work colleagues, local neighbours and sometimes — if we are very rich — the public more generally, just where we think our social rank-order is, or ought to be.

As a simple check-list of what constitutes a status good rather than a necessity or a tool, does it satisfy the following criteria?

1. Originally, it was an exceedingly expensive hand-made unique item made only for the very rich;
2. It was later capable of being made in successive stages of automation until mass-producible and relatively cheap;
3. It is highly desired by individuals in all social ranks as a guide to show others during social interchange;
4. It has to be readily perceptible by others — visually, audibly and tactilily, particularly on first meeting.

We have run out of new status goods, but man’s prolific curiosity and inventiveness will no doubt continue  whenever it’s a case of “necessity is the mother of invention”.  Instances of these include environmental catastrophe, man-made mess, more energy-efficient infrastructure, and search for a better scientific hypothesis than the one in current use.

The unavoidable scenario

It is a deeply unfortunate fact of life that the medical knowledge gained in the last 250 years has also been the cause of the world population growing from about 1 billion people to about 8 billion as now — with a further 3 billion to come in the next 35 years as middle-aged poor people around the world proceed into old age.  Only then — around 2050 — is there likely to be a tailing off.

Already, half the population of the world is unable to eat an adequately nutritious diet.  This will become immensely more serious in the next 35 years as the middle-aged hump mentioned above grows older but also as 0.5 billion Chinese people and perhaps as many Indian proceed to a better proteinaceous diet.  This will require something like 10 times as much grain to be fed to farm animals and fish as now, so the total result will be a diminution of the present barely adequate diet of 0.5 billion people.

Ir will take at least 200 to 250 years for the world population and adequate food supply to get into pre-1750 balance again.  Not a single growth economist has yet produced a model to show how this scenario can be avoided.

Incalculable investing in the new era

About 30 years ago it suddenly became politically incorrect to use First, Second and Third World without somehow demeaning all those countries who were not Firsters.  Instead, we had “developed” and “developing”.  I’m sure others besides myself become confused sometimes.  Perhaps they ought to be typeset as “developed” and “developing“.

As a reminder, First World countries are the Seven which first set the industrial revolution going in the early decades of the 19th century — Britain, France, Belgium,  The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and the United States.  Between them they presently monopolize fundamental research across every scientific faculty that has yet been set up.

The Seven were joined in later decades by another seven — Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Israel, Sweden and Russia — which rapidly caught up by copying Western technology.  Between them all fourteen produce, and trade, high value goods and services almost exclusively with one another and have reached the highest levels of cultural pursuits.

Two World countries are those which might, in due course, break through into the fourteen above.  They are Brazil, China, India, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and about twelve former communist countries of eastern Europe.  These have yet to show that they are capable of developing scientific research of the relevant depth and width to be able to innovate the new goods and services of tomorrow’s economy and thus get to share the First World’s standard of living.

This still leaves about 170 countries which have registered as nations with the United Nations Organization.  These can only be regarded as Third World countries because they have little to offer besides food and other low value resources for exports to mainly First World countries .  They have no education system worth speaking of — never mind scientific research.  They have little by way of adequate government and most will be suffering one way or another under dictators.

There will be some, though, with superb ecologies that make them attractive to both scientists and holiday makers. Taking care in developing these for sophisticated tourism and saving their wild life  at the same time will probably become highly profitable to some countries and their people in decades to some. But their one and only master strategy is, of course, to get their populations down — to approaching the sizes they were about 250 years ago.

This is a totally different scenario from the one that most orthodox economists were assuming — if not promoting — in the years before the 2008 Crisis.  This is that the world economy could keep on growing for centuries to come.  But this will be impossible because it would need a parallel growth in the use of high intensive energy.  The world economy has to stabilize at some stage, and it may be that we are not far off that now.

And we are also entering a world of advanced service occupations in which heavy investments — in education and training — will have to be made.  The rub is that, unlike now, when reasonable calculations can be made of what the returns might be, this will not be possible in tomorrow’s world.

How virtuous are you?

What makes you what you are — and our success in life?

Let’s assume that the basic bedrock of success is intelligence.  If we ask psychologists what makes for intelligence there is general agreement that it’s 50% genetic and 50% environment.  We could now speculate a little by suggesting that 50% of the environment is due to the culture you absorbed from your parents, and 50% due to the external environment experienced after puberty.

Further, the latter could be due to physical circumstances — and contingent shocks — but also the friends we make and the socialization skills we acquire in the work and social groups we are comfortable with as we approach full adulthood at around the age of 30.

For most individuals with normal levels of testosterone their future lot is largely settled at around the age of 30 years.  For the more ambitious it depends on whether they have sufficient intelligence and ability to practise a myriad of new social skills in order to insinuate themselves into a higher social level.  More gratifyingly, members at a higher social level like what they see and offer a way into joining their group.

If we add up all the percentages for average individuals we have something like — 50% +25% +12.5% + 6.25% + 6.25%.  There’s not a lot of room there for individual decision-making is there?  If we do the same for an individual too ambitious to stay for long in any one adult group before moving upwards, we have — 50% +25% +12.5% + 6.25% + x% + y%, ‘x’ being environmental circumstances, ‘y’ being individual personality change and genuine free will when it comes to taking decisions. How virtuous are you?