The Clash of Ideas: Is Man Inherently Good or Bad? – Trustnodes

The Clash of Ideas: Is Man Inherently Good or Bad?


Ron Paul is no orator, but his message at a bitcoin conference – a very first for any present or former congressman – resonates with many as it does express a very interesting intellectual position. Even a very fundamental position about human nature itself.

The entirety of complexity can be boiled down to towers built on just two assumptions. Currently, the world operates on the assumption that man is bad. A 2,000 years old idea upon which most structures are built.

If one truly believes that man is inherently bad by nature, then man must be chained. Thus you build all these structures that lean more towards limiting freedom.

The other world view, which is rarely expressed, is that man is inherently good or has evolved to become inherently good because cooperation is superior to conflict as many studies have shown.

If one assumes that man is good due to being ordained by god or nature with conscience, then one can trust them with liberty, as long as they abide by some core universal principles, such as do no harm.

Society could then operate on a limited government which provides only some core functionalities. The rest would be left to individuals to operate as they see fit.

To translate, current SEC rules operate on a discriminatory bases whereby if you are rich (an accredited investor) an ICO does not need a license for you to invest. But if you are not in the top 1%, then you are assumed to be incapable of good judgment, therefore the SEC must first require a license by the ICO.

That’s a premise of guilty until proven innocent because the ICO is assumed to be fraudulent unless they go through SEC licensing and even then they still may be fraudulent.

The alternative is to assume ICOs are innocent, unless proven otherwise. And where it is proven they are fraudulent, then those we pay through taxes should do their job and put them in prison.

Instead of a preventive approach, you take a permissive approach, while still having deterrence through punishment for those that breach their own conscience and choose to employ their intellect for harm rather than good.

That population is a tiny minority. A minority which may find some level of underlying acceptance in our society because of this prevailing thought that man is inherently bad and thus must be chained.

If our children were taught that man is good, and that we all have an inherent compass to guide us and if they were shown why it would take the same or less level of work and intellect to earn good keep as bad keep, then that tiny minority may become even smaller still.

Probably not fully extinct unless man has evolved in intellect and wealth to such high point, but they are no way extinct now. To the contrary, their numbers are probably inflated because of this misguided idea that man is inherently bad and therefore cheating is just reverting to raw nature.

If that assumption is turned on its head, then a sway of policies come into picture which would greatly increase liberty, innovation and prosperity.

For man, so trusted to be good, is empowered to think for himself, to provide for himself and even work hard. He is entrusted to judge what investment is good or otherwise, rather than having a central body decide it for them. He is entrusted with freedom, including the freedom of what money to use.

So allowing those closest to events that affect them to freely choose in a free market, with the multitude of choices giving rise to a necessarily better result than if a far away and detached central body made such choices for them.

That’s for one very simple reason. Such central body can not possibly have all the information nor be placed to judge the ever moving events with their decisions necessarily being wrong, to the point the entire system collapses.

Since we do have a free market to some extent, such collapse may be avoided by ingenuity and the freedom to innovate. Leading to potentially a far smoother and more incremental transition to a more productive and a more free world that benefits all.


Comments (3)

  1. I think the question “is man inherently good or bad” is a false dichotomy and a wrong starting point; humans are organic machines of (very) limited rationality and computing power, generated blindly by evolution in an ancestral environment very different from the one we live in. I thought about commenting in that direction but then something captured my attention: isn’t at the foundation of bitcoin and every other cryptocurrency the assumption that every single agent in the system is completely SELFISH? If man were “good” we wouldn’t need a cleverly devised distributed system to prevent double spending, no one would try to double spend! All the complex solutions of cryptocurrency engineering are devised to achieve reliable transactions in a TRUSTLESS environment without giving power to a central authority. It doesn’t sound to me like a faith in the “goodness” of man (even if”selfish” is not the same as “bad”). Maybe the question in the article’s title is just a wrong starting point.

    1. Yes, the answer to the title is both, man is good and bad. The real question is, which assumption prevails. Bitcoin and every other public blockchain currency assumes that the good nature of man prevails and enshrines that in a fundamental assumption of 51% honesty. With more nuance that could be called selfishness, or a better word would be that most prefer cooperating rather than engaging in conflict.

      The current prevailing assumption, however, is that man is bad to a greater degree than good. Thus ICOs, for example, are assumed to be a fraud in need of licensing, (unless you are very rich in which case you are assumed to be good and in no need of protection) rather than the opposite, that fraud is rare and should be made even more rare by actually enforcing current laws to imprison those that out-rightly cheat, rather than preventing everyone in the assumption that the vast majority are out there to cheat all.

      The title doesn’t allow for nuance and neither does an introduction of this complex matter, but you are right, it’s not necessarily either or, it’s a question of degree.

      1. In my comment I wasn’t thinking only about economics or about ICOs but much more in general (but I don’t know if the assumption of the system right now is that very rich people are in no need of protection because they are good, I think that the idea is that they don’t need protection because they can afford to pay experts to help them in their choice and protect themselves, so to speak, and even if they lose a lot they don’t end up broke. By the way, I’m not American, I live in Europe and my perception could be wrong).

        The problem I have with the framing “most prefer cooperating rather than engaging in conflict” is that it looks to me that most prefer cooperating not because of good-hearted nature but because engaging in conflict AND GAIN (more that what they gain with cooperation ) is very improbable (or at least it looks to them very improbable), and it is improbable because the system was devised in a clever way, by design (maybe a better phrase is that right now they think their expected gain is greater with cooperation than with conflict). And the system wasn’t mathematically proved stable (especially in the real world) so at best we can say that continued cooperation is probable but not certain.

        In the end my point is that, even if I can agree informally with your last sentence “it’s a question of degree”, I think that a much more better way to frame this problem when we start designing new systems (and I’m not talking just about cryptocurrencies) is to think in a much more practical, mechanical, game theoretical way, making the least possible number of not-demonstrated, emotionally strong and maybe ill-posed assumptions like “man is good” or “man is bad” but instead:
        – “is man an animal?” YES
        – “is man full of cognitive biases” YES
        – “is man more a rationalizing agent than a rational agent” YES
        – “is man of limited computing power” YES
        – “is the brain of man modular” YES
        – “is the brain of man hackable” YES (with this term I want to loosely indicate all the ways people can be tricked, made addicted to something or subjugated cleverly by someone, brainwashed or simply just persuaded by clever con-men)
        – “is every man a sociopath” NO
        – “is the vast majority of men sociopath” NO
        – “do you need to be a real sociopath to damage others” NO (or if you prefer “the banality of evil”)
        – “there are powerful sociopaths” YES
        – “there are clever sociopaths” YES
        – “there are not-so-clever sociopaths” YES (because remember that not every “villain” is so clever to be a “super-villain”)
        – “there are not-so-clever NON-sociopaths” YES

        Once we have our relevant, well founded assumptions (even better if we can empirically quantify the extension of some of them) we should start considering how the system can be gamed, is it fragile or robust (or if you prefer anti-fragile), how much power is necessary to game the system, is it probable for someone to gain so much power, is it probable a cooperation between “villains”, is it profitable, how much damage they can probably do to the cooperators, what is the worst-case-scenario and how much is it probable, what is the average state of the system and is it also the most probable, how does it compare to other possible systems, etc.

        I’m aware that this way of thinking can sound too complex to put in practice because no one knows the answers to a lot of these question or the way to get the answers reliably, but I think that this framing can help us to remain focused on what is really important and be more useful even if in the end we leave a lot of these questions (temporarily) unanswered and proceed nevertheless with some limited, sandboxed pilot-test. Focusing on ill-posed questions (and fight a war over opposite answers to these ill-posed questions) hampers the progress, distracts us from reality and can become an addictive and very dangerous activity with tragic consequences for some or many.

        I like a lot of things about the cryptocurrencies projects, also because in the last months I was able to make some money with arbitrage, but I have a lot of problems when I see these enthusiastic, clever but at the same time naive (or at least that is my judgment) bitcoin-billionaires making a leap of faith (in the “goodness” of man) and thinking that “blockchains”, “liberty from a central government” and “free market” are the easy recipe to solve a lot if not all the problems of ordinary humans in the real world (which, by the way, is full of economical externalities and limited resources). They remind me of those famous men of the past enamoured and inebriated with their clever, simple, wonderful panecea who ended up sacrificing millions of people on the altar of that idea because no price was too much for it.

        I liked the short but disillusioned (in my view) analysis in the article “Bitcoin Millionaires Announce Plans to Form a Libertarian Country” and I liked very much the final phrase about reality being the final judge of everything. But we must also listen to the response of “the judge” and, in my view, inebriation with a simple wonderful idea like “goodness” or “evilness” (or “liberty” or “communism” or “capitalism”) is sure recipe for deafness.

        I don’t know, maybe in the end our opinions are not very different, we are just phrasing them in different ways.

        Sorry for my less than perfect english. Sorry for the too long comment/reply. If you think I went off topic I apologize.

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