Cost and The Destruction of Wealth – infinitespiral.net
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I’ve defined Wealth as the measure of the ability to engage the Process of satisfaction of desires. Furthermore, I’ve examined the dangers of ascribing infinite value to things, particularly rights.

To tie this all together, we need to examine the difference between value and cost. I’ve defined value (and values) elsewhere as the way that actualizers express their desires through action. Actualizers “say” what they value by what they do.

It is action that conveys value, because every action is a cost. As long as actualizers are limited in space and time, they must choose which actions to take based on what they value. The action they take is the cost of realizing their values. Actualizers will seek to take actions that they perceive to cost less than or equal to what they value.

The key difference between cost and value is that costs are not subjective, whereas values are. The exact degree of the cost is subjective, but it always exists and always must be paid. The action must be taken, and insofar as we are bound up in time and space, you must choose to give up one action in favor of another.

When we fail to respect the subjective values of other actualizers, and force them to take one action over another, we destroy wealth by robbing them of opportunities. This is known as an opportunity cost. Opportunity costs are inflicted whenever subjective values are ignored (even your own!) and other values are imposed. This is why large governments and empires fail – eventually enough actualizers’ values are no longer being respected, and so they no longer recognize the institution as viable and revolt.

There are times when it is impractical to respect subjective values, and it is in those cases where we do not engage in personhood with another actualizer. This is acceptable, if the cost is truly not worth it to you; but one should be wary that cutting yourself off from the opportunities that emerge from other actualizers will generally destroy wealth for you. It is for this reason that, when I talk about the use of force, there is a difference between using force when you could have engaged another as a person, and doing so when the force is outside the context of ethics entirely.

For example; it may be beneficial for me to treat a bear or a tree as a person as long as I can, but since we do not possess a means of communicating values to each other in any meaningful sense, using force on a bear or tree is outside the context of ethics. On the other hand, we know very well that it possible to engage other humans as persons (see Definitions; personhood arises when two actualizers can communicate and understand values).

Therefore, when we wage war on other viable potential persons, we destroy wealth. War is always a destruction of wealth, and should only be undertaken when there is no other way to communicate values. This can happen if the other actualizers are clearly NOT engaging in personhood with you (i.e., by trying to shoot you).

Yes, there have been “just wars”. But the majority of the time, they are waged by the power of very few imposing their values on others. This includes wars on concepts in addition to wars on nations (i.e. the War on Drugs is an exercise in wealth destruction due to the willing ignorance of subjective values). Wars destroy wealth. The reasons to not wage them are not moral, they are not due to some inflated sense of pacifism or righteousness – they are simply, wildly, impractical for getting what we all actually want – to engage the Process of Satisfaction of Desires.

4 Responses

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  1. Adam

    If my perception of the most efficient way to engage a process for satisfying my desires involves suppressing other people’s processes (creating a net loss in actualization), should this stop me?

    Also, I think dealing with bears involves ethics- it can communicate its values to you through maulings

    May 31, 2011 at 12:35 pm
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    • jayson

      That’s basically what the definition of intelligence is. If your goal is to maximize actualization, then you should seek to avoid cutting yourself off from opportunities whenever possible. I.E., it’s stupid to be “bad”.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:01 pm
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      • Adam

        So this justification for not going to war is only valid to someone who values everyone’s wealth as much as their own?

        May 31, 2011 at 1:11 pm
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        • jayson

          Sort of – everyone’s wealth IS as valuable as your own. Being smart just means actually recognizing that.

          May 31, 2011 at 1:16 pm
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