Tribalism: Good, neutral or bad?

My definition of tribalism: Part of the nature of humanity that leads us to support those from the group we identify with, over those from other groups.

Most people watching an event at the Olympic games will support the contestant from their own country over those from other countries, even when they had not previously heard of any contestants in the event.

This I consider an a simple and benign example of tribalism.

In the case of the Olympics it may be a very tenuous reason to support one competitor, but it can generally be argued that many positives arise from this form of ‘tribalism’.  An even more passionate case can be mounted for the positive aspect of tribalism referred to as patriotism, that can motivate some of the greatest war heroes. But I suggest there  is also a negative side to this same ‘tribalism’ instinct that can drive discrimination, racism, terrorism and even be responsible for war.

Can we restrict tribalism to the benign? Aspects of tribalism will be discussed for consideration in a series of pages :

  • Tribalism and sport
  • tribalism and racism
  • tribalism and terrorism
  • the engine of war



How the ‘basic income’ proposal could change society

The current wealth distribution system is an already a broken system about to face severe attack. As discussed in Robots & Job Terminators, the role of employment is set to change.

canada20flagflagbigfinlandOn engadget, the post How will you survive when the robots take your job? outlines the ‘basic income’ proposal, as put forward by many in the tech industry and being experimented with in Canada, Finland and the Netherlands. This articles provides a great starting point and conveys the basic idea and if unfamiliar with the idea it makes sense to read that article first. This post is about looking further, in terms of thoughts about what else should change if a ‘basic income’ is introduced and what would be needed to make such an idea work. What would such a measure cost, and what would be the impact on society of a total package, of a ‘basic income’ together with a logical set of policies to create a total package? Continue reading

Is our wealth distribution system really broken?

pot_goldA first reaction could be: “ok, the people who voted for Donald Trump clearly feel it is broken, but I am not sure they are that smart”, or “I am doing ok, and I think the system is fair. Yes people like that Elon Musk character have ‘X’ times more than me but he is also ‘X’ times more clever than me so he deserves it!”.

But the system feels sufficiently broken to those who voted for Trump, that they were desperate enough to vote for him, and there appears to be some similarity with the ‘Brexit’ vote in the UK.  Something has to change, even if it is just perception or we are going to keep having to live with these kinds of election results.

Also, either Elon Musk is really clever, in which case we should listen when he is proposing that we need to make changes to wealth distribution (soon, if not now),  or, he is not clever, in which case he does not deserve his wealth.  Either way, we need to consider changes.  Continue reading

Highlander Economics: Does it end with only one?


from IMDB

Back in 1986, the movie Highlander was released. It was actually sufficiently successful to inspire four sequels, plus spin offs and even a reboot. Something in the original clearly stuck a chord, and the tagline and concept ‘in the end there can only be one’  could be part of this.  The plot centres around a small group of individuals, immortals, who become ever stronger by defeating ‘competitor’ immortals in mortal combat.  The immortals all seem have a share of power. Defeat another immortal and grow stronger as the victors gain the power of the vanquished, until only one immortal remains, and the one remaining will hold all the power.  So how closely does the ‘rules’ of the highlander actually match the ‘rules’ for competitor companies?

How accurate is the analogy? Continue reading

How the wealthy become wealthy.

pot_goldIt was a reference to ‘trickle down economics’ that started me on this thought path.  The proposal that simply allowing the wealthy to become even wealthier could generate additional wealth that in a flow on process will trickle throughout the economy and result in everyone being wealthier.  Yes, even Wikipedia seems to largely discredit the idea, but it is still pushed by various politicians.  Cynics may point out those same politicians need to keep their wealthy backers happy in order to fund their re-election, but surely their must be some truth to the idea or we would not vote for them anyway?

Ok, here is my conclusion: the wealthy get wealthy by gaining a small share of wealth from each member of a large population.  To get wealthier, they require either a larger share from each individual, or a larger population. Continue reading

Addressing the ‘ageing population’ problem?

Have you heard of the ‘ageing population problem’? The ‘aging population’ is often presented as a key pillar to support arguments that a nation must keep increasing the national population, or to support . “We need to keep growing our population to minimise the ageing population!”. But does continually increasing the population actually address any proposed resulting from an ‘ageing population’, and is there a real problem to be solved anyway?  The reality is that the ‘ageing population’ is one of ultimate ‘opportune arguments’ that sounds convincing until further inspection, and is raised to support an alternate agenda.  I mean, ageing sounds like a negative already correct? It just must be better if the population was getting younger, surely.

Why do we have an ‘aging population’?

There are two reasons most countries are having an ageing population.  Population growth is slowing due to smaller families, as widely discussed elsewhere on this blog. In a rapidly increasing population, each new generation has a greater population than the previous generation.  In this expanding population, the older generation is much smaller than the younger, and with a small number of the older generation, the average age of the entire population is much lower. Contrast this todays’  relatively stable population, and the generations are of a similar size, so without the ever increasing numbers of younger people, the average age is older.

The second factor generating this ‘on average older’ population is that people are also living longer.   Generally, those considering the ‘aging population’ a problem are not suggesting to stop people living longer,  but rather the argument is that to increase immigration, or move back to having more children and return to a rapidly expanding global population.

What is the resulting  ‘problem’?

The theory is that people reach an age where they can no longer work, and therefore can no longer contribute towards the production of the wealth of the society. The wealth produced by ‘productive’ people, ‘breadwinners’, must be shared by all: wealth producers (breadwinners) and those who can no longer produce wealth(dependants) alike. In economic terminology,  the “Gross Domestic Product” or economy is produced only by those “breadwinners” in the workforce.  GDP per capita, one measure of the wealth of society, is determined by dividing the  “Gross Domesitc Product” by the number of people in the population.  Therefore greater ratio of people who do not produce wealth, the greater the burden on those producing the wealth to produce a high level for the entire population.

This is of course all based on the assumption that the elderly have a much greater ratio of “dependants” than the rest of society.

Immigration is at best a questionable solution.

Every country benefits from the highest possible GDP per capita, and suffers hardship when GPD per capita falls, not just countries seeking to address this ‘aging population problem’.   To increase the ratio of  ‘working population’ through immigration, a country must have an immigrant intake with selected to maximise the ratio ‘of working age’ among immigrants.  The effect of such a policy is to selectively extract ‘breadwinners’ these people from other countries.  Immigration does not change the global ration of old to young, or the global ratio of “breadwinners” to dependants, immigration only changes who lives where.   One countries gain in this equation is another countries loss.

Since it is the richer countries who are in the best position to attract immigrants,  this solution is generally about the richer countries trying to improve their ratio of “breadwinners” by luring these breadwinners from poorer countries.  While these immigrant “breadwinners” may send part of their income back home to support dependants back home, all their income still counts as GDP for their new country and they boost taxation revenue of the new country.  From a government point of view, such a strategy helps rich countries and is a problem for poorer countries.

Returning to “growth age” birth rates as a solution?

The growth age featured larger families, with a far greater ratio of younger people. Whereas the trend of todays more stable population yields a similar number of people in each age group, the peak growth age had far more children and far fewer elderly. ‘Aging population’ solved?  Except that the proposed problem, less dependants, is not solved at all.  It turns out that children are also dependants!  And high birth rates mean far more of them.  In fact, with children now spending longer in education, and then the higher rates of unemployment among young people, the reality is higher birth rates does not reduce dependants, or the cost of dependants, nor increase the ratio of breadwinners at all.  Reality is there are far more ‘self funding retirees’ than self funded children.  The only impact is that the dependants are younger, and perhaps we feel happier about young people being a cost to society?


There entire ‘ageing population’ problem, is a great argument to justify plans and actions by government where the real motivations are less attractive to promote.  I will follow with more posts on these real motivations.

Inferno: How could we limit the population?

dantes_infernoThere is an argument that we currently have more people on Earth than ideal, but even if you accept that we have an overpopulation problem, the idea that a sudden reduction in the population would solve the problem is both absurd, dangerous and damaging.

The premise of the movie ‘Inferno’ is that a virus could randomly target and render infertile one in three humans as a means of population reduction. Inferno is a movie, and a suspense drama, not an actual plan.  But if you do accept that the earth is overpopulated, what would be a real appropriate response, and why are ideas, such that containing in the movie, so damaging? Continue reading