King of the Hill and Dangerous Memes (was Re: The new death penalty)

Jeff Bone (
Tue, 03 Aug 1999 14:24:34 -0500

Some of you probably played some variation of a playground game called
"King of the Hill" when you were kids. It's a kind of assinine game
where one person stands on the top of a mound of dirt or whatever;
everyone else attempts to push that person off and take their place,
while the defender attempts to fend off encroachments.

Most dangerous political memes are a variation on that theme. Socialist
and "social democratic" ideals are a particularly icky version of this:
they assume that the hill should be apportioned according to some
imaginary common good. There are two fundamental problems with this
notion: first, it requires that *someone* be the judge of how that
resource --- i.e., the hill --- be apportioned, according to a common
good that may in fact not be agreed to by everyone involved. Second,
and more insidious, it assumes that resources are limited, that there is
only one hill. In fact, Socialism is just a particularly elegant,
intellectual exercise in justifying theft of apparently limited
resources by claiming the existance of a universal common good. And
it's particularly short-sighted; if even short-changes the idea of a
long-term common good.

People, resources aren't limited. Practically speaking, we have at our
disposal essentially unlimited resources. Even on the Earth, there are
far more resources than we often acknowledge. A sort of Malthusian fear
of resource exhaustion coupled with the heritage of feudalism has been
the source of lots of dangerous ideology over the last couple of
centuries. In fact, as far as land goes, I read somewhere that the
entire human population of the Earth could be closely packed into a land
area the size of Florida --- albeit unpleasantly. As for consumable
resources, there is a growing ecological / economic recognition that we
are constantly gaining greater ability to use such resources more
efficiently and sustainably, and that this trend offsets --- or will
eventually be able to offset --- rising demand for consumable
resources. (This of course does not excuse resource waste.)

All this quibbling over this one mound of dirt misses the greater
point: that we can each have whatever resources we want. We don't have
to fight over a particular hill; we can, if we work hard, have our own
hills. And we don't have just one hill --- we have the whole universe
at our disposal.