Necessity vs Preference In Political and Ethical Theory

[I]t is all well and good to attempt to construct political and ethical philosophy as the family becomes the village, the tribe becomes the city with a division of labor, and the people become the nation with an anonymous market.

It is necessary to do so.

But preferences must compete with necessities. We may prefer something but it must in practice be possible.

We can temporarily distort necessity, as we with fiat money – because we can. We can permanently distort morality by sanctioning competition as virtuous – because we can.

But in human history there are many preferences and few necessities.

Those tools that compensate for our limited intellectual abilities: our senses, perception, memory, reason, calculation, and planning are the necessities of human existence.

We adapt our norms and institutions to those necessities. Not the other way around.

We are not wealthier than our cave dwelling ancestors. The only human currency is time.

But through the division of knowledge and labor we have increased the purchasing power of our time to levels unimaginable to those who came before us.

[R]omantic, egoistic, anthropocentric vanities encourage us to believe we make directional choices in our evolution but we do not. We seize opportunities good and bad. We forgo opportunities good and bad. And we pay or gain the consequences – by trial and error.

Then we congratulate ourselves on our wisdom, and justify to ourselves our errors.

The future is opaque and kaleidic.

At best, we can attempt to improve our suite of tools, and choose those norms and institutions that increase our sense, perception, memory, calculation, planning, and information sharing.

So that we constantly narrow the scope of our trial and error, and in doing so, increase the purchasing power of our time in this earth.

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