Beyond the Knowledge of Good & Evil

In an attempt to find common ground on some of the issues of our times in which truth is treated as a matter of personal-group opinion at best and non-existing at worst, I have focused on the content of the opening statement as a start. Left-right, male-female, black- white, young-old, gay-straight, atheist-evangelical, scientist-creationist, Buddhist- Christian-Moslem-Jew, Republican-Independent-Democrat, amateur-professional, novice-expert, idiot-elite unless they are simply an inveterate liar and can’t help themself, all will agree with these three known truths.

A comment is in order with respect to this last dichotomy which I include to make a point; idiot is a term used by some experts, both actual and self-described, for novices of a given field, whether deserved or not; elite (oft with expletives) is a similar term used by some novices for expert ****s (or anyone referenced by a similar term) of virtually any field or station, sometimes deservedly, sometimes not. The use of either is generally tinged with a degree of frustration of one party in dealing with the other or an incitement on the part of one party to mobilize support in a contest against the other—to throw shade as they now say.

The term idiot is rightly regarded with suspicion as a pejorative, but its usage would bene!t from some rehabilitation—that is some understanding of its original meaning. According to my sources, it entered the English language by the 12th century from the

“Latin idiota ‘ordinary person, layman; outsider,’” though prior to that could be found as “in Late Latin ‘uneducated or ignorant person’.”

It would appear the term was not initially used as a description of an individual’s innate intelligence; rather it was an indication of that individual’s social station. Unfortunately in the minds of those who incorrectly assumed that ones station in life was a result of divine favoritism (and not an indication of what the Almighty deemed the best !t for HIS—or HER—needs or preference in carrying out a divine plan), intelligence and station in life were apparently thought to be aspects of the same thing. (After all, the thinking might go, why would someone as smart as God waste intelligence on some peon whose whole purpose in life is to wait on me.)

Since preservation of Latin was chiefly the purview of the Roman Catholic Church and by extension the educated elites, it is understandable that the clergy would be the ones to introduce it to the masses, basically unchanged. It is of further interest that idiota was introduced to the Romans by the Greeks, here transliterated as

“idiotes, ‘layman, person lacking professional skill’ (opposed to writer, soldier, skilled workman), literally ‘private person (as opposed to one taking part in public affairs)’,”

such public people being presumed professionals—presumed by whom we might wonder—based on their celebrated status. It would be interesting to know whether it was the Greeks who first passed it along in reference to the Romans when they began to trade with lo Stivale, or the Romans who subsequently picked it up from the Greeks and turned it on them when they took over the city states and became the principle people ‘taking part in public affairs.’

At some point it became a patronizing term (from that term’s Latin origin patronus as “a lord-master, a protector,” and not originally itself pejorative, that is, not used with contempt or to imply malevolent intent or incompetence on the part of the target ) used by the patron for an “‘ignorant person,’ from idios, ‘one’s own’,” as in ‘everyone’s entitled to one’s own idiotic opinion’ used when all that was needed was ‘everyone’s entitled to an opinion’thereby avoiding the double redundancy. (In this regard we re-quote Mark Twain from this same source, “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”) 

The idea that such an idiot is one who knows only what he knows about his own narrow experience of life, and ignores what his beneficent lords and masters could teach him based on their vast knowledge about what is good and what is evil, makes sense to them naturally, to the lords and masters that is; but it also has a certain salience in today’s topsy-turvy, where despite the fact that there are truly elites that are idiotes and idiotes that have become elites, there remain idiotes that are idiots . . . or vice versa.

This protecting-perhaps-condescending connotation for idiot, as an indication of individual experience, became conflated in the 1800’s with the concept of inherent individual mental capacity when certain patrons of the youthful field of psychology appropriated it to refer to the lowest rung in their ladder of mental development and pro!ciency as equivalent to that of a normal three year old. It was thereby scientifically canonized as an objective classi!cation of an essentially subjective distinction of mental capacity, while tacitly referencing a recognized, albeit archaic, measure of social status.

It has since been decommissioned for scienti!c usage, presumably on the assumption that it is used as a pejorative for a condition over which the individual targeted has no control; it makes fun of people who cannot help themselves, which every bully must learn is taboo. This is reason enough, as pejoratives are always problematic; often being e#ective when used to convey reasoned disapproval, but always being destructive, to the user, his target, and social cohesiveness when used to convey contempt. The problem with the deprecation of this term, however, is that the initial use has already given a scientific, Darwinesk imprimatur to an equating of mental fitness and development with socioeconomic status and success, and this connation is fundamentally untrue and debilitating to society as a whole. Perhaps this mistake could be rectified if the term were to be rehabilitated in light of its original meaning, as a private amateur in contrast with a publicly recognized expert or professional. An amateur is etymologically ‘one who loves’ participating in a particular activity without economic or social regard, while a professional exhibits a degree of expertise in that activity and generally for recognized economic benefit.

The problem for the expert and the amateur alike is that it can be extremely satisfying to call someone an idiot; when referring to someone who says or does something that they, by reason of their age and public station in life, should know is stupid, i.e. should know doesn’t make sense. It is, or should only be, satisfying when someone presents themselves in public as an authority, an expert, on some subject, but obviously doesn’t know WTF they are talking about. And it is satisfying in that context because it is true; it is true because the person pontificating, so often in the media, is trying to appear to be an expert, but it is obvious that they are an amateur, a novice, an idiot, and we just want them to own up to it.

And so we say, “What an idiot!” as so often seems warranted. We just want them to give up the pretense of expertise and admit to being an amateur. It’s okay to be an idiot, an amateur. I am an idiot in a lot of things, but I am a professional human being by virtue of knowing when it applies. All an idiot has to do is answer, “You know, you’re right, I am an idiot!”, and BAM, just like that they become an expert human being. It’s a miracle!

My mother, God rest her soul, is reminding me of the word’s of Jesus from the sermon on the mount,

“Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, (a word of contempt meaning an inferior, stupid person) shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, (the Greek original transliteration is moros as in moron, someone with the mental development of a pre-adolescent) shall be in danger of hell fire.”

The Bible, KJV: Matthew 5:21-22

So it should be with some trepidation that an individual calls someone an idiot. We shall discuss the psychological implication of this later.

This admonition states exposure to the risk—the danger of the judgement, of the council, of hell fire—that results for an individual who perpetrates these actions; it does not state a guaranty of loss that might follow that exposure—the actual judgement, council punishment, or hell fire. There is still the possibility of redemption if the perpetrator seeks forgiveness, in other words renounces such activity and attempts to make restitution as it might apply; but the primary significance of these verses is the statement that there is the same risk and potential loss to an individual from indulging in unjustified anger or from speaking with contempt or hatred as there is from committing the act that might proceed from that hatred—in this case, murder.

Note the warning concerning anger applies if it is indulged “without a cause”, implying that there are circumstances under which anger can be justifed; but the same does not hold for speaking with contempt which puts the speaker in “danger of hell fire”. This speaks to one of the central tenets of Christian teaching, that the indulgence of a motivation, an emotionally charged thought, that if acted upon would lead to harm of another person, can be equal in consequence for the perpetrator as the commission of the act.

To anyone who thinks that human beings are simply, though finely evolved, animals whose thoughts and feelings are contained within their brains, and whose identities die with those brains, this make no sense. But what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. We are souls, souls that temporarily occupy, that temporarily view and navigate this world through a body and not bodies that generate a contemporaneously conscious soul, and we survive the dissolution of the brain and body with a degree of emotional and mental function, including memory, in tact. Whether we die a peaceful death or are murdered, this is the case.

Any transgression we might perform is ultimately not to the body of another soul, for without that soul the body is insensate, a corpse; it is to the feelings, the thoughts, the emotions, to the integrity of that soul; and to ourself. So for the transgressor, the risk of retribution for a sin of violence is no different or greater than indulging anger without cause, or showing hatred or contempt toward another soul. Note that it is entirely acceptable to be angry with good cause toward someone you love and hold in respect.

From the perspective of Christian teaching, to this group of transgressions we can add the only unforgivable sin, blaspheming the Holy Spirit; that is the Spirit of Truth; that is engaging in deception of others and of one’s self, among other things. You simply cannot live in the realm of heaven, the state of blissful communion with the divine, if you refuse to accept the truth or try to keep it from others. For in the words of Christ according to John, of those who opposed the truth,

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

The Bible, KJV: John 8:44

For the devil, an adversary, speaks as an idiot, an ignorant individual, without knowledge, because he speaks not to convey truth, but to satisfy his own lusts, his own desires, and so those who do likewise satisfy their desires in a similar manner by ignoring the truth.

In this context this last piece of scripture is not without irony as the admonition of Jesus in Matthew is indulged by him in John. The prohibition against pejorative in the first quote appears to be contravened in his condemnation of the ignorance of those who do not accept his teaching in the second, but this disregards the fact that Jesus understands that deception motivates those to whom he speaks and not just a lack of understanding, and so he speaks the truth about that motivation. The are motivated by an unwillingness to understand the truth because they know it would jeopardize their status in the world and their manipulation of other people; They are driven by malice because they believe, mistakenly so, that their individual gain can only come at the expense of someone else’s loss, someone who they assume would like to do the same to them; that life is essentially a zero sum game in which you must dispatch your enemy before they dispatch you.

So the pronouncements of Christ, his admonition in Matthew and his judgement in John, is based on his understanding of the ill will that motivates these individuals, but more importantly, that their ill will is a preemptive intent based on what they perceive as malice in others. In the history of mankind, this logic of identi!cation with what is good and against what is evil has no end; it is this that is the signi!cance of the biblical story of the temptation and fall from grace of Adam and Eve, of their hitherto un-perceived nakedness and the subsequent self-conscious identi!cation with their bodies and its pleasure and pain and its knowledge of these three truths with all its ramifications.

It is the Truth beyond this knowledge of good and evil that Christ addresses uncompromisingly at the sermon on the mount, when he states,

“But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. … Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; … Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

The Bible, KJV: Matthew 39, 43-44, 48

This is not a license for passivity or pacifism; it is the admonition not to engage in hatred, in ill will, in revenge, in preemptive violence, even if angry and defending life and limb of oneself or those one loves; it is no small order.

This wisdom is essential to his mission, which is a moral mission and not primarily a metaphysical one concerning the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven at some point in time. Morality is based on an understanding of human nature and when practiced assiduously leads to a maturing of that understanding and in time to wisdom and necessarily thereby to metaphysical knowledge and of awakening to that Kingdom within, into the cosmic hierarchy; regardless with which religion an individual may identify, or if any. Morality is a way of living that trumps any theological catechism or belief or metaphysical doctrine, because it consists of addressing Life with humility, as it is, without presumption of how it should be for the individual’s wants and needs, yet with awe and gratitude about what it o#ers in the way of joy through all manner of interaction with and respect for others and the sense of grace that brings. Morality leads to harmlessness, which leads to release from concern about the results of one’s actions, which leads to the power to make the most of any circumstance. Thus Jesus Christ responded as stated,

“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.’ ”

The Bible, KJV: Luke 17:20-21

It is often the intent in which a term or phrase is used that determines whether it is true or not. A pejorative term can be used as an expression of contempt, which is never acceptable, or as an expression of disapproval, which is acceptable, and even necessary, if it is done appropriately. When so done, as an instance of rebuke of an individual who should know better and who one hopes might see the error of their ways, it can even be emotionally satisfying; especially after one has initially bit his lip about the matter. But if the rebuked are incapable of seeing and understanding what is a genuine error, a rebuke may result in little of its intended corrective effect and a possible frustration of communication for the one using it. Such frustration, with the necessary introspection, can lead to a reexamination of the problem and redoubling of e#orts required to bridge the impasse; without such introspection, it can result in a doubling down of the initial pejorative, this time with clear contempt, accompanied by the assumption that the censured party is either an idiot, too recalcitrant to admit their mistake, or a villain, committed to it as a ruse for nefarious purpose. What starts out as a good-natured ribbing then becomes an attack that can be viewed by the target as an existential threat. The only answer to such frustration is to withdraw from the confrontation without the intended communication and to follow the course that one must follow.

The problem has to do with the question of emotional maturity as much as it does mental ability and perhaps more so. When we look out at a gathering of a group of professionals (I will use independent catastrophe insurance adjusters as an example, since I am one of them) at one of the required annual continuing education seminars, we know that there is a certain level of skill and expertise among the members with respect to the principles of the group. While there is a certain existential component to the members a$liation and even some existential group identi!cation given that the occupation is the primary source of income for most of them, there is little to no existential identification with the individuals giving the presentation as leaders; the term ‘independent’ is emphasized for a reason.

Most of these individuals, who are of all types but generally older, must have developed some level of maturity with respect to running a small business—a few will have developed those businesses into fairly large enterprises based on the catastrophic economic implications of the line of work. What I, we, anyone, can’t tell is the emotional state of the speci!c members of the group. A majority will likely be happily married, attending in order to maintain a rewarding life or just to be able to continue paying the bills. Some will be going through divorces and be in some degree of emotional disarray. Some will be preoccupied with problem !les that they can’t get closed and paid. Some will have little or no open !les and therefore no current income and be a bit concerned. Many will be looking to hook up business wise, a few in other ways. Some will be facing medical challenges, some of which come with age, some from the erratic nature and demands of the profession, and some for no known reason at all. There may even be one or two who are in the midst of a true existential crisis.

Anything we might say about the emotional state of the group would be a generalization at best; how any particular individual adjusts to any of these basic human issues, how they are motivated to respond is an unknown. Statistical methods, however based on sampled data of similar groups, can give an educated probability pro!le as to these motivations. It is probable, for example, that the majority of the members of this particular group will be registered or vote Republican for the very simple and straight- forward reason that they are self-employed, often self-unemployed as some would say, and hate to pay income taxes to what they see as a wasteful government, be it national, state or local.

This is not because they don’t recognize the benefit that comes from government, especially in light of the fact that one of the primary sources of income for some members of this group is the operations of the National Flood Insurance Program or NFIP run by FEMA. It is for several reasons, but in no small measure because the income tax accounting system as currently configured is set up on an annual basis for individuals who have a steady income from year to year from which withholding can be budgeted and taken, where as most independent catastrophe adjusters make their income in varying amounts seasonally, often going several years without appreciable income, making it diffcult to budget and withhold taxes, so that when such taxes are paid, they are in a lump sum. The knowledge of the time and effort that went into making this lump, not to mention the long hours and fatigue spent in making the larger sum on which the lump is calculated, is then contrasted in the mind of the payer with observed governmental waste and pork barrel politics, be it real or anecdotal, the fairness of the juxtaposition is judged, and the decision at the ballot box is made as an existential resolve.

Questions of a candidate’s fitness for office, of enlightened government, of equal opportunity, when perceived to be financed at least in part by the individual payer through their inherently sporadic efforts in a naturally risk laden business, all take a back seat in this decision. We can take this psychology outside this particular group to any group of individuals exercising entrepreneurial spirit, business initiative, and self- reliance within the visceral context of economic uncertainty and making ends meet, and we will find a similar dynamic across a sizable segment of the group. The idea that the good will and positive proceeds of their self-initiated and self-sustained efforts—accruing only due to their assumption of personal existential economic risk—are coveted by lawmakers and their constituencies—who seem to believe and act as though they have a guaranteed right to a portion of these proceeds which are not guaranteed to the producer —is the height of idiocy. Not all insurance claims adjusters are independent catastrophe adjusters, but for those who are salaried employees of insurance carriers, with the pay not so attractive and the working conditions at least as stressful, the psycho-dynamic is probably not that different.

The macro-economic truth, of course, is a bit more nuanced than this genuinely honest perception, as we shall examine later along with the matter of an income tax. Within the context of an adherence to laissez-faire economic principles and at a set level of public safety net services funded by a general income tax, with the advent of automated informational systems, in most expert or skilled groups the pressure is on to automate processes wherever possible. The adjusting business is no exception. The effect in most business is to replace work involving decentralized, individual expert human judgment with work requiring fewer, often less skilled centralized human monitors of a dispersed, system of calibrated automation; big government or big business brother. The result of this rationalization of the production process in a free market economy, which means in the absence of public policy to the contrary, is to reduce the market value of any human skill set that is in excess supply to the commodity level and to transfer as much as possible of the production costs to technology—to the even lower amortized cost and greater reliability of automated capital equipment.

The commodity level of any fungible good or service is the short term cost to produce it absent any entitlement or other economic rents in a competitive market, which means in the case of labor, to maintain it from paycheck to paycheck. The cost of the scarcer increased skill set of labor required to maintain and operate the augmented technology will move higher, until its supply exceeds demand and causes it to trend back toward commodity levels.

Note that the long term cost of any labor is not a direct function of the physical productivity of that skill set or the market value of the product of that labor, but is rather the current living costs of maintaining that labor times a skill/availability factor set generally by the ratio of the demand for that labor skill relative to its available supply. Of course the general trend toward commodity labor under laissez-faire shifts a greater portion of the tax revenue base from that labor to the higher skill set where it meets with relative resistance, while putting pressure on the tax funded public sector safety net, which itself is pressured for increased use do the the shrinking size of the private safety net due to commodity pricing.

The only individuals who can afford goods and services other than commodity goods and services—which it should be noted are not necessarily of inferior quality or utility—are those who are employed with a skill/availability factor that is greater than 1, and thereby receive a greater income, including self-employed individuals with equivalent pro!tability. In addition, the only individuals who can afford the private safety net are these same >1 individuals, while the <1 (less than 1) commodity skill set individuals are stuck with a shrinking public safety net, and we have not even gotten to the matter of bearing the costs of externalities.

As an independent catastrophe claims adjuster, I am still in the >1 category, though the pressure is always on the insurance adjustment industry to commoditize its services, that is until the next big hurricane hits the mainland and the demand for services boomerangs. Many individuals reduced to the <1 category in this and every other industry understandably have a different view of the tax code, though many will for various reasons, not the least of which is personal honor, or perhaps pride, identify with the <1 group. But this reduction in status generally has nothing to do with individual competence or effort or honor or integrity; it has to do with luck and market forces, including technological innovation, and their ramifications that no one can foresee—well except perhaps for a few expert elites.

Those individuals who have already spent some time in the <1 category, due to blind market forces or to a stigma placed on them by the prejudice of other human beings, or to their own personal peccadillos, are likely to know that a private safety net is unattainable for them and a public one, the only possibility. This presents a problem for their communication with those who think that the public sector is supposed to be what is left over after the members of the private sector take whatever they want, including as much as they can get of the three branches of government—in the US anyway, this being a global issue. In fact as previously discussed, historically in some societies the public sector was the arrogated private domain—by a supposed divine right—of an absolute monarch, with use entitlements passed out to his subjects as that monarch saw !t.

That changed with the American revolution when the founding fathers and the citizens whom they represented—based on their understanding that they were sovereign (while on this earth) by virtue of an inalienable relationship to Almighty God that required no intermediary, other than perhaps Jesus Christ—arrogated to themselves individually their own private property as established under British Law and to themselves collectively as public property, the former entitlements and property rights of good King George III and of his “eeing, loyal subjects (and of course those of various native American societies); said public property to be later augmented by the generous sale of Louisiana by Napoleon Bonaparte to the US federal government and the cessions of various wars, treaties, and purchases over the century that followed.

The offspring of those founding fathers and citizens, of which I am one, along with the offspring of the various waves of late arrival immigrants, of which also I am one, have generally respected this mix of private and public property, the latter of which made possible, for much of this progeny and their corporate affliations, the entitlement of private access to much of this public property at bargain prices; and there are segments of such progeny and their corporate affiliates that have their eyes on the rest of that public property—again at bargain prices. While I am in full agreement that any productive enterprise works best when the personnel working in that enterprise have skin in the game, I am also knowledgeable enough to know that some enterprises are best left answering to the private individuals involved in their operation while some need to answer for their operations, in whole or in part, to the general public. I am also wise enough to understand the difference, based in large part on the matter of externalities and the nature of cost.

Economics is essentially and etymologically a study of the management of household resources, originally private households and now the household as defined by a governmental, and thereby political, grouping of the global society, so that the subject of economics is inseparable from the subject of politics. Economics studies how best to produce and consume goods and services using human and other natural resources; politics describes by whom and how those goods and services are produced and consumed, so the subjects are intertwined. Between production and consumption comes the subject of distribution which is the nut of the matter.

Until a few hundred years ago, most humans consumed what they produced close to the location of production. Fine textiles and jewelry, non-perishable foodstuffs, precision tools, rare commodities, and other objects only the few entitled individuals could afford came from afar, but most individuals raised their own food, tended their own livestock, gathered their own fuel, fashioned their own tools, carded, spun and knitted or wove their own cloth, built their own houses with the help of friends and other members of the community, and traded with then for those items they did not or could not produce themselves; sometimes that trade involved a barter for their own labor based on whatever skills they might have developed. If these individuals were serfs or slaves at manual labor, they did this as their needs demanded with whatever time they had left after working for the lord or master.

This was generally the case when the Americas were colonized by the Spanish and Portuguese and the English, Dutch, and French. It continued to be the case as the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were written. But it is not the case now. I do have on the kitchen counter some basil grown outside the back door and some local strawberries in the refrigerator, but next to them are some blueberries that a few days ago where growing in Chile. A few years ago I did build some cabinets and bookshelves in the living room, but one of the vehicles that I drive (the other came from Detroit) was made, or rather assembled in Japan; perhaps it was outsourced to the US, I am not sure, but it has a recognized Japanese branding. If we were to try to go back to the way it was two hundred and forty yeas ago, there would be global chaos and the death of billions of people as a result.

The global supply chain, which includes both unfinished consumption and production goods as well as those of the finished kind, involves a necessary degree of diversification and outsourcing of both finished and unfinished production and requires a certain level of expectation and trust on the part of trading parties. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of individual trading decisions and judgement calls must be made every day to maintain this system, and I am not speaking of trades in securities, I am talking about the goods and services trades that allow the securities industry to maintain its value. The efficient operation of this global economic activity, through the national political economies of which it is comprised, requires a level of decentralized, authoritative decision-making with people, once more said, ‘with skin in the game’, whether they are officials of private, private-corporate, public-corporate, or public operations.

The world appears, hopefully, to have learned the Marxist utopian lesson that reliance on a collectivist public sector to produce most of the goods and services needed by an advanced industrial society is fraught with signi!cant and perhaps insurmountable problems. Even in the absence of the motivating fear of a Stalinist police state or the adoration of Maoist youth brigades, even in the spirit of a Christian utopia of brotherly love (as Pennsylvania was conceived by William Penn, though it protected the right to private property), effective management of a country’s resources requires decentralized decision-making and reward for those efforts; rewards not just so the entrepreneurial class will have more to spend, but profits to offset the downturns and losses, so they will be in a position to weather the rough times that inevitably come.

Still there are some efforts that are not effectively carried out by private concerns, being inherently fertile ground for abuse, chief among them being the maintenance and operation of a standing military and police. There was a time (and still is in some minor regards) when the raising or maintenance of an army with a degree of national scope involved the private efforts and money of a general or general staff. But the most successful military enterprise in history, the US Armed forces, is essentially a public institution, where an individual member’s efforts are ideally rewarded based on their value to group operations; in accord with the socialist dictum, ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his merit’.

This public organization is due to the inherent infeasibility of an army or police force finding a transactional exchange mechanism by which to fund the sustained production of their services, which from an economic perspective is the provision of a safe and secure area for the production and exchange of goods and services of the individual citizens, of the private sector. This same logic involving the lack of a logical transactional exchange mechanism for funding revenue applies to the maintenance of the capital base of the military and police, and of infrastructure and public capital, including the production and maintenance of human capital in the form of childhood and continuing education, health service and retirement, to which I would add public adjustments for externalities, the external costs of private transactions that fall on the public domain.

A discussion of political economy necessarily includes the function of capital. Capital is essentially a productive resource that is not consumed directly, but can be used to produce consumable goods and services. In a broader sense it can include inventories of finished goods that have yet to be sold, but it necessarily includes natural resources, intermediated goods and unfinished goods in process, and any assets, including plant and equipment, required for the production of finished goods or other productive goods. It also comprises any financial instruments, including money, that can be exchanged for such assets held by others or for current operational expenditures.

Capital is generally viewed as distinct from labor, but all of these types of capital are the product of human effort, manual or mental, from raw material extraction to entrepreneurial risk assessment, and the value of that effort is set by the market for each skill set, by the intersection of its demand and supply, where the supply price is set by the cost of whatever resource or entitlement is required to produce that effort plus any trade profit and economic rent the owner of that effort is capable of realizing. When the demand for a given skill set exceeds the supply, as in a >1 condition, the supplier, including a business, is in a position to extract a trade profit in addition to the cost of living which can be applied toward a private safety net; when the skill set is rare and in great demand, an economic rent can be added to that trade profit, further enhancing the safety net, where the safety net includes any long term costs of living in excess of current expenses. When the supply level exceeds the demand for a fungible skill set, as in a >1 condition, any trade profit or economic rent vanishes and the cost of labor becomes whatever current expenditures the worker must make in order to live and get to work on a sustained basis. In a long term market condition at a >1 skill level, that labor becomes a commodity and cannot command a surplus necessary for funding a private safety net.

Some of the individuals in this >1 economic pattern, though hardly all, are likely to compare the waste and indi#erence they see on a regular basis among some of the members of the <1 group, with their pious admonishments to pray or work harder, against the many instances of rejected requests for employment or aid and the desperation of the nutritional, habitational, and medical needs of their family and friends, and get the idea that these individuals, some of them anyway, are clueless, selfish idiots.

It is hard at times to listen to the absurd statements and hyperbole from the extremes of both sides of the political divide and not want to say, ‘What a fucking idiot!’ or ‘Wafi” But when the rhetoric on either side of this debate heats up and anger becomes tinged with condemnation leading to contempt, there is a risk that the other side will interpret this escalation as hate, proceeding from a well of existential evil. The natural emotional response to existential evil is containment, removal or annihilation of the source of evil if possible. Once you have decided someone is a threat to your life and liberty, the response appears to be unavoidable; ultimately that can lead to politically motivated murder and genocide. And so it is wise to tone down the rhetoric and show yourself not to be an existential threat to anyone, unless and until they prove themselves to be — prove, not appear to be — an existential threat to you. So to them it is better to say simply, ‘What an uninformed individual!’ or better yet ‘What a feckless immaturity!’ thereby retaining a less offensive version of the acronym, ‘Wafi’

Or finally, we can impersonalize the discussion even more with ‘What a fruitless interaction.’ ‘Let me offer you some of the benefit of my lifetime of experience, so you won’t have to make some of the same idiotic mistakes I have made.’