Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

War and Promise

On Government

What is war? It’s been said war is a conflict of visions. That’s true, but it’s also too broad. All human conflict, whether between two individuals or two nations, is a conflict of vision. But societies with totally different visions can exist together with only minor squabbles for centuries. Example: the Muslim Middle East and the Christian Europe. War is violent action taken as the conflict of vision about property between two groups of people. When the Cold War was about ideas, the participants rattled spears and built nukes (neither of which, the talking nor the super-weapons, had strategic value. They existed merely to perpetuate each other.) . When it was about property we had wars: Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan.

Wars often confuse the line between conflict of vision (ideas) and conflict of property. An idea outlives a man, sometime by hundreds of generations. When a man believes in an idea, he shares a vision with his peers and with the past. Likely, he hopes to ensure that vision for his future generations as well. It is for his vision that a man is willing to witness the specter of war and risk death and mutilation. He believes he is fighting for something just and right. He is motivated and dedicated. All actions he undertakes he does with precision and zeal. He will do things which he would never do were he not at war. He kills. He beats. He undertakes bayonet charges into machine gun nests. In short, he fights till the death against incalculable odds because he has a vision.

However, all the belief in the world will not save an untrained man. The most skilled pilot on earth may perish for the lack of a superior air frame. In fact, no training, no matter how advanced, nor equipment, no matter how fantastic, can train a man to be bullet proof or teach his flesh not to burn. If he is to live, or even only die well, rests not only on his willingness to use the training and equipment he has been given but also in the hands of superiors he will never see or know. If he obeys, it is purely because he has faith that the “officers appointed over him” are working him toward the vision he believes. When he no longer believes this, this faith (called morale) begins to wain, and the military begins to fail. When the man no longer believes the military he serves will bring about his vision, or worse, believes his vision is no longer attainable, mutiny is an ever present risk. When a man no longer has any faith in his own capacity to interpret the world and form a vision, he begins to doubt his own humanity. His superiors must still do their duty. He must still do his, and so he is made to do it, at the point of a gun if necessary. This in turn decreases his love of humanity and himself by association. Doubting his humanity, he unleashes the animal side of his nature. Atrocities are committed against him to motivate him. He commits atrocities to others in return. War crimes often result.

The above are the two sides of micro war. It shows how war is fought at the man to man level and touches on macro war. Macro war has only one side: total social efficiency. As mentioned, the soldier is, above all, a man of faith. He believes in his NCOs. He believes in his officers. He believes in the officers’ officers. He believes in the government of his land, its ruler, and its laws. He has trust in his weapons to do exactly what he has been told they will do. He is willing to risk his life because he believes that if he dies to gain an invisible goal than another man in the same uniform will be following behind to make that invisible goal tangible. But what produces all of the objects of his faith?

His armed force produces his NCOs and officers. But what produces his armed force? Actions of the past (traditions) and current action. But what produces traditions and actions? They are produced by people who carry with them all of their own visions and values. What produces a president or king? Ultimately the ruler is produced by his own interpretation of the culture and the culture itself. He, like the soldier, is a product of the society. From the arms the soldier carries, to the weapons he uses, and the laws which guide their use, everything the solder believes in, from his vision to his weapons, is produced by the society he belongs to as surely as his boots are produced by a boot factory and his bullets from an armorer.

There is no such thing as a non-combatant or a non-target at this level. The soldier is a product of his society; to fight him, we must fight the whole society. It is typically seen as moral to bomb a rifle factory and wrong to bomb a church. Moral on what grounds? If the war is over sooner than more (on both sides) are spared its carnage. If the armament manufacture is right to destroy, then the rails that bring the steel to the factory are an easier target. Steel isn’t mined with shovels. So hit the bulldozer companies. Nothing runs without fuel so hit the refineries.

But what really runs the smoke stacks and the factories is people. People acting on faith. Faith that the employer will pay, that their pay will buy them food, clothing and shelter till the next pay check. But what justifies this faith? The law. The law will be applied justly and fairly. They will get paid because the law says the factory must pay them for what they agreed to receive. They have faith in the law, which is from faith in the society as a whole.

In the end we are fighting the whole society, but not the vision. No matter how strongly a person or people group chose to interpret reality the interpretation has little power to change reality itself. The overall vision of a society has no meaning whatsoever outside its effect on total social efficiency.

Total social efficiency is impossible to calculate accurately, but can be approximated easily enough. Production moves in a cycle. First an idea is imagined, then executed. The execution of the idea exposes new minds to the idea which creates ideas for improvement, which in turn exposes more people to the ideas and creates new ideas. True production isn’t about tonnage. All the products in the world are so much junk without good design. To be produced, an object must first be imagined. Thus, the way a society relates to inventive and imaginative people directly effects the foundation of the production cycle.

Human life is a finite resource. Historians believe that the rise of the leisure class (reflected in the first urban areas, job specialization, and class structure) is ultimately what created technology and philosophy, since at least some people had the time to think about these things rather than focus the whole of their mind to survival. The more time humans spend doing things that aren’t creative the lower their productivity will be.

Total production efficiency (TPE) is simply, an average. The time a person spends thinking ideas and executing them vs. the time they spend doing other things. Ultimately, a good judge of the TPE of a society is whether selfish acts lead to social/moral behavior or antisocial/immoral behavior. In a society with a highly efficient legal system a person who seeks only to maximize their own creative potential can do so without violating law. (This will be expounded on shortly.)

Proper government is a very controversial subject in any land, but particularly here in the USA where relative freedom of speech combined with great wealth leads to constant discussion. Arguments range from not only what government is, but which government (International, Federal, State, county, or city) has the right to execute whatever action is being debated. Included in these arguments is the constant question of whether or not the task at hand is best left to government or in the hands of individuals and organizations. (In reality
the last argument is often not seen clearly. The true question at hand is whether the best way to accomplish the service is through an organization who can demand obedience and one who cannot.)

All of these things and more fall under the simple Total Social Efficiency (TSE) concept. Consider the following: To conduct tank warfare a government needs two basic things: tanks and crews. Using the example of China and the US: If Chinese tank/crew units are over all about a tenth the total tactical quality of US tanks (ie it takes 10 Chincom tanks to best 1 US tank) then, at first blush, the US wins. . Even if a Chinese tank/crew is strategically and tactically worth 1/10 a US tank and the total cost of crew training, tank construction, etcetera is 1/10 as well, then it is an even to even match. The US would win because each of our tanks cost so much less per capita of tax payers.

But if we use TSE we can add another factor. If the Chincom tank is produced at 85% TSE, and the American tank is produced at 90% TSE than the Americans are assured victory. However, if the Chincom tank is produced at 90% and the American tanks are produced at 90% then victory is is only a matter of supply line length. If supply line length is included then we have a simple number which allows us to predict the outcome of all battles.

A good example of this in action is the Vietnam conflict. American forces where better trained and better equipped than their adversaries. And yet the war was lost. Total Social Efficiency favored the Communist. The Viet Cong’s TSE was extremely high. The Viet Cong (VC) may have been a mobile society (ie not per say bound by a region or area but held together by a common vision) but they were indeed a society with their own laws, regulations, values, morals, culture, etc. All societies have certain natural resources and the VC’s was manpower. Since they had an infinite labor pool (the then starving masses of Mao’s final revolution.) the cost of labor was zero. The cost of weapons was the labor it took to steal them or transport them down the Ho Chi Men trail (since the cost of labor was zero, either option was acceptable). The cost of training was kept consistent with the access to recruits. ( By this time conditions in South East Asia were so horrendous that there was very little to lose by joining an army.)

Thus weapons, soldiers, and training and vision were very cheap. The Americans were in the opposite situation. Weapons were expensive, soldiers expensive and unmotivated (draftees are not known for their vision), and training expensive. Add to this a multi thousand mile supply line and the results were very predictable. TSE is a per capita number. It is what each person of the society must pay for the service the government renders. The VC’s TSE was tiny. The US TSE was enormous. The US lost 50,000. The VC lost perhaps as few as 3,000,000. But the VC lost 3 mil out billions. The US lost 50,000 out of millions. The per capita cost in men and machines was enormously higher for the US. Thus, an adversary who was very poor in everything necessary for modern warfare won against a juggernaut, because the unique TSE which each operated under.

Furthermore, the selfish behavior (man’s natural state) aligned with VC victory and US failure. The cost of being a soldier in South East Asia was very low. You were most likely starving and most likely being brutalized by a local warlord. The cost to benefit ration of joining the VC was high. To the US youth however, your cost to benefit ratio of participating in the war was somewhat lower.

Thus, the law of the VC made selfish acts for personal benefit legal while the law of the US made selfish acts for personal benefit illegal. The relative cost of enforcing law was less for the VC than the US since the VC law gave higher benefit to lawful behavior. (Both societies offered approval for leaving home and becoming a hero through submitting yourself to a greater cause. In Viet Nam it was joining the VC in the US it was hiding in Canada.)

To return to the present day, let me list at least one possible use of TSE. Social Security is a form of insurance. Like all forms of insurance, one pays daily for a service which will be provided upon the loss of something. In the case of SSI, that something is income. Arguments rage perpetually about whether or not SSI is best provided by the Federal government, private enterprise, or some combination of the two. Other than TSE it doesn’t really matter. If the US is at war with a society who is all other ways is equal to the US except in the regard of SSI which it provides cheaper, the adversary is guaranteed victory! If we are in all ways equal to our enemy except for something as seeming unrelated to war as SSI, the enemy has a few more cents per tax dollar per person. That revenue will tip the balance!

Thus, it matters not what the “perfect” expression of government is despite partisan debates to the contrary. All that matters is the governments efficiency. For when we face our enemies it is this efficiency that we fight. If our society is to survive the 21st century then we must bring our public policy into this light. Government programs must be handed to whatever level of government can provide the best service at the lowest cost. Privatization must be considered whenever cost/service ratio states so. Taxes must be cut to provide as much income as possible for everyone, encouraging creativity through leisure as well as creating a wider margin which taxes can be raised to in an emergency, and laws in which the cost to benefit ratio of obedience tempts men beyond forbearance must be taken off the books. Coercion breeds dissent, and whenever possible it should be eliminated.

This is not to imply a heavy handed cut of government, and society is made partly of its laws and the government that enforces them. Social programs are imperative to victory. Nothing is free. Even that which is given away cost someone something. If a society has a totally socialized health care system that cost per capita less than our semi-socialized semi-private system does, all other things being equal, that society is assured victory, because more of the money can go to producing ideas, technologies, and men to win.

We need laws. We need good laws, but I say again if the US is to survive the coming social and economic upheavals of the 21st century, we must make laws that give the US world class services, regardless of the provider. Otherwise another society, perhaps China, will have the capacity to destroy us, if for no other reason than a younger bureaucracy allows more of every tax dollar to go the services the government exists to provide. Whether they use that capacity will depend on many things, but I for one, am not willing to risk it.


April 12, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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