Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Addiction, Poverty, Success - All the same thing? A Brain Theory...

(photo credit: lorelei-ranveig)

Maybe your success, your failure, and your mediocrity
are all the same brain chemical...

Now I don't really believe the brain boys who think that everything is just a machine and that you can cut out parts of the brain or feed it different chemicals and change a person's behavior.

But, in addiction, a person can get the body to physically need a substance in order to avoid painful physiological withdrawal...

So let's try this idea out just to examine a theory:

Suppose (just suppose) there were two chemicals in the brain that monitored behavior - one for success, one for failure.

Both were very potent chemicals and would result in addiction-like symptoms if over-indulged for too long a period. This would explain over-achievers and complete failures, wouldn't it? Both are either addicted to success or addicted to failure.

And the bulk of humanity simply avoids either one and continue muddling along - and, according to them, live the sanest life of all.

This would make government by the majority very popular, since it helps people avoid both extremes - and so their lives would be the happiest if they just do what the government says.

(Three biggest lies: "Your check is in the mail." "That's a really nice tie." "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you.")

This idea we are running down says that people who succeed are addicted to success and so must be helped to curb their addiction so that they can live in relative ease like the rest of us. And those who are addicted to failure must also be helped, so that they can live in a better state.

Unfortunately, this is far from true. Even though our modern tax structure is built on using taxes to redistribute wealth as a means of curbing excessive addiction. While it does make the really uber-rich move out of that country, it doesn't similarly work for the poor. You can't keep handing out money to the poor and expect anything except more poverty.

Getting rich, being successful - that has the same mental process as living your life in continuing poverty. Poor and Rich aren't addicted, but they use the same thought process to get there.

What is that?

Decision - or, more practically, a lot of them.

The rich, successful person decides to get rich and successful and continues to make decisions which create that wealth and achievement.

The poor person has made a long series of decisions which keeps them in the poorhouse - or on government dole - all their lives.

Both live just as long (because now the poor can get all the free government health care they want, just like the rich).

And the government wants to keep everyone in the middle where they are happiest and continue to vote for people like themselves (and so politicians who get rich never dress up - although they make far more than the "average person" they protect). And the government runs the school systems and so trains everyone into believing that this system is right.

Education is just a series of decisions, isn't it?

Now, of course this whole theory is bunk, isn't it? The government doesn't really control everything, does it? (Tin-foil hat conspiracy theories aside...) If they did, we'd all be back in some sort of Mao's China, or Stalin's USSR, wouldn't we? All dressed the same with smiles on our faces.

It doesn't work because you can see people in America who were born to poor backgrounds who became rich, famous, and successful. And you see people who inherited wealth blow it all and wind up bankrupt (like most lottery winners wind up worse off financially).

So what is keeping a person up, down, or in the middle is only that person's capability to decide for themselves and make the changes they want to. No amount of government intervention prevents a person from becoming (and staying) rich, or a person from becoming (and staying) poor.

And this is true regardless of where a person is born on this planet. Sure, in some of the worst countries, it's difficult to get past childhood. And most of us will send any spare disposable income that way if it will do any good. (Sometimes governments will actually keep that aid from arriving, because they've decided to make themselves rich first - big porkers muscle to the front at the trough, after all...)

It's just what we, as individuals, decide what we want to do with our lives.

So, go ahead - get addicted anyway you want. Or just stay happy in the middle. Anyway you go, you'll be successful. Like Henry Ford said: "If you think you can, or if you think you can't, either way - you're right."

- - - -

Now, if you're happy with that - stop here and read no further. What follows is a lecture on how government could run more efficiently (and get out of our lives, but still pave our roads and defend our borders - just more cheaply.)

A note on taxes. (Since I brought the subject up.)

You got to hand it to our country. For generations, our poor have had the highest standard of living on this planet. In fact, if you took the income we consider poverty right now and tried to live on it in some foreign countries, you'd find yourself living in relative luxury there - a prince (or princess) among the throngs.

But I object to raised taxes and here's why:

Taxes are a necessary evil. Without them, we wouldn't be able to pave our roads or protect our country's borders. But that's about the limit I consider they are needed. You can't tax or subsidize social programs successfully. Welfare doesn't work. Pay people to work and they keep working. Pay people to stay poor and they do. Pay single mothers with lots of children and, yes, you get more single mothers with lots of children.

However, if you stay out of people's way, they generally figure out how to make a good living and get along with each other. Ask Russia - it invaded Georgia and overnight lost billions of investments. And within a month, it was one of the first countries to start their recession this time around.

For a brief time, we got to see a fascinating situation occur - when they dropped taxes, revenue increased. Which means that there is a sweet spot for taxes. If you hit the right level, you have all sorts of money to spend.

But the reverse isn't true. Ask California. If you raise taxes, because the programs you are running need more money - what happens? The rich move to another state. And you face the worst budget nightmares possible. Because you've been handing out all this money for social programs and now have to tell people you can't do it anymore.

The trick is to get the right balance of taxes to make it easiest for people to pay - and then drop your budget needs to only what you need to spend it on.

Of course, this means that you have faith in the individual to succeed and make all the money they want. And you have to really want people to bootstrap themselves out of any situation they are facing in their lives.

And it means you distrust the idea that people who run government know better than the person on the ground who pay for them.

I live in a fairly interesting state. Born and raised here (other than about 20 years in California.) They consistently vote down taxes. And guess where people come when they want to invest - you guessed it. And people retire here because the taxes are lower. So the place tends to vote more conservative than not.

The state is also neither too hot or too cold during the year, so it's great for a lot of things. But it's our little secret - so shhhh - just bring your money and retire here and start your second business, we won't tell anyone about our little secret paradise here in Flyover Country.

- - - -

Ok, I've prattled on long enough.

What's the takeaway?
  1. Decide whatever you want to, plan out what you want to achieve, and then do it.
  2. Pay your taxes - but vote for sensible people who will lower them (and spend less).
  3. Live a great life - by choice.