Monday, March 21, 2016

The Perpetual Motion (Political) Machine


One of the few things a couple of people remember about high school physics — apart from how to build catapults to hurl frozen pumpkins into the air — is that neat stuff like time travel and perpetual motion is impossible.  They both violate the second law of thermodynamics: for a thermodynamically defined process to occur, the sum of the entropies of the participating bodies must increase.

In English, that means when something happens, entropy increases and you can’t get it back to make something as if it never happened.  “Entropy” is the process of running down.  In a closed system (meaning one that you’re not adding anything to), entropy always increases until nothing can happen.  It never decreases.
Having said that, we now qualify it.  Time travel is possible, and you can have perpetual motion.  How?
Time travel is actually easy.  We do it every day.  Every single one of us is traveling to the future at a rate of one hour per hour, one day per day, one year per year.  Some of us aren’t happy with it, but we’re kind of stuck with it.
What about perpetual motion?
Even easier!  Politicians long ago figured out how to have a perpetual motion political machine.  How does it work?
See?  He does look like Errol Flynn.
We call it “the Robin Hood Effect.”  Robin Hood, of course, was the guy in the book you never read who looked just like Errol Flynn and spoke perfect English instead of Norman French or Anglo-Saxon, and who stole from the rich to give to the poor while carrying out spy operations for the Nazis and staying at the Sherwood Schwartz Hilton on Gilligan’s Island with Alan Hale, Sr.
Or something like that.
Robin Hood, however, did not invent the Robin Hood Effect.  It came in with Oog, Chief of the People on the Other Side of the Hill.
Oog saw that the people on the other Other Side of the Hill had mammoth meat, and his people didn’t have any, i.e., those others were rich, while his folks were poor.  Realizing that his constituents would kill him and eat him if he didn’t solve the mammoth meat shortage, Oog decided that the people on the other Other Side of the Hill had to share with (meaning give everything to) the people on the Other Side of the Hill.
Of course, he could have organized a mammoth hunt himself, but it didn’t occur to him that he and his people should work when somebody else had done so and thus had plenty of meat to go around without others having to work.  That would be wasteful.
Mammoth hunting for fun and profit.
Being a leader whose thoughts were instantly translated into action, Oog seized his club and persuaded the people on the other Other Side of the Hill to give their mammoth steaks and chops to the people on the Other Side of the Hill.  This made the people on the Other Side of the Hill rich, and the people on the other Other Side of the Hill poor.
Making a long story short, Noog, the Chief of the people on the other Other Side of the Hill, knew a good thing when he saw it.  Why organize another mammoth hunt if those people on the Other Side of the Hill are just going to come over and take away the mammoth meat again?  Why produce anything, in fact, if you can just take it from somebody else?
Being a reasonable fellow, however (i.e., half the size of Oog), Noog wasn’t about to try and club his counterpart into submission, so he went to Oog and explained to him that since his, that is, Oog’s, people were now rich and his, Noog’s, people poor, social justice demanded that Oog give everything he had taken back to the people on the other Other Side of the Hill.
After the funeral, the late Noog’s people got organized and ganged up on Oog, took their stuff back, and ate it before the late Oog’s people could get organized.
A few thousand years later, a politician realized that taking from the rich to give to the poor worked much better if he 1) didn’t take everything, and 2) was careful to keep enough for himself, plus a little extra for encouragement.  It also gave greater job security if, once you turned rich people into poor people, you reversed it and turned the new rich people back again into poor people, and the new poor people back again into rich people, with (of course) a fee to compensate you for your trouble each time.  Then, you start all over again by turning the old/new rich into new/old poor, and the old/new poor into new/old rich, and so on, ad infinitum.
This is “political perpetual motion,” and continues until people start to catch on and realize that it’s much better to be productive by owning — and using — their labor and capital to produce marketable goods and services for themselves than simply taking what others have produced and that the others will want back as soon as they are able to take it.
The problem, of course, is where anybody gets the wherewithal to be able to employ one’s labor and capital profitably — or even have capital in the first place.
We’ll look at that tomorrow.
#30#

No comments: