Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Greed is Not a Timeless Sin

Pride is a timeless sin, and every sin can be cast as a special case of pride. Greed is a special case of pride that is fully invalid outside special conditions, particularly food shortage. Moderns care about greed due to hysteresis. There are strong cultural and genetic memories of the threat of starvation, which make greed feel important despite being entirely irrelevant.

In the modern world you have to be exceptionally crazy to manage to starve to death. 

If there's not enough food for everyone to eat their fill, it's very possible for one person to eat their fill and thus cause another to starve to death. If you don't eat enough usually all that happens is your body switches to higher-efficiency lower-efficacy metabolic pathways until you get enough to eat again. Thus everyone can survive the lean times in fine health as long as no individual eats too much - is "greedy." I find it's not even particularly uncomfortable to eat quarter-rations every two days. Though certainly you need to let your hunters eat more, since my tests were sedentary.

Likewise, without refrigeration, it's easy to bring back more meat than you can eat before it rots to inedibility. However, under valid property rights, the kill is the sole property of the hunter who can distribute it as he pleases. Or not at all. There's no point in keeping the meat away from the hungry until it rots, though. Especially as your tribe is basically your family. Doing so is "greedy."

Likewise, in a tribal society you don't use money inside the tribe. Too much hassle. Selling the meat would make sense, but they wouldn't have anything to sell back. (You can see many internet denizens want the internet to work like this.) The hunters would end up with all the money ("greedy") within weeks, and thus be unable to sell the meat anyway. 

If these conditions apply at all to industrial society, it is in weird niche settings. 

Peasants will compromise on just about anything but won't compromise on staying alive. Thus the only true necessities are food, water, and shelter. ("Meat and mead" if you're not speaking a zombie language.) Technically entertainment is also necessary but in practice it's hard to get rid of entertainment. Not something that disappears naturally.

Everything else can be substituted or done without, rendering greed a non-issue. In practice food is abundant, not scarce. (For now.)

P.S. The niche settings will need advice about greed to an especially negative degree.

1 comment:

Karl said...

Interesting that you don't mention the need for family formation. Maybe it's true that a peasant will comprise to anything if he has food, water and shelter, but I doubt that's true in a long-term arrangment.

If the compromise doesn't give the man a reason to believe he has a chance to have a wife, I expect, he'll try to renegotiate, i.e. revolt or flee.