Barbarian Financiers
Barbarian Financiers

Interesting youtube clip on the US housing market. It provides evidence and reasoning as to why things will get a lot worse.

The video also makes a comment at 10.14 about the problems resulting from barbarians taking over. This reminded me of this fascinating post on the return of the barbarian at Ribbonfarm. The post covers so much about our world. Once it is fully incorporated into the framework through which we see the world, many things may look quite different.

I can’t do justice to the post by extracting aspects of it. It really is one to read in its entirety and is quite short. Nevertheless here are a few extracts:

As you settle down and accumulate stuff, the risks of existence gradually decrease and the surpluses available for hedonism increase. The net effect of both is that less actual thinking, but more work, is required to exist.

To peek ahead a bit, settled civilization is a fundamentally Gollumizing force. It makes you comfortable, stupid and addicted to the security and accumulated fruits of your labor.

The pattern is a simple one: a settled civilization grows old, stupid and tired, and a vigorous barbarian culture swoops in and takes over from the top, and gradually gets civilized and stupid in turn, until it too is ripe for destruction by pastoral nomads on its periphery.

“barbarians” are on average, individually smarter, but collectively stupider than a thriving settled civilization.

One-on-one, a lower barbarian can outthink, outfight, and out-innovate a civilized citizen any day.

But a settled civilization at its peak can blow a lower barbarian civilization away. Not least because at the very top, you still have Veblen’s “uncivilized” higher barbarians (or, to use the Ribbonfarm term, sociopaths). But once it begins its decline, the greater live intelligence of the barbarians begins to take effect.

The explanation for this contradiction is a very simple one: by definition, civilization is the process of taking intelligence out of human minds and putting it into institutions. And by “institution” I mean something completely general: any codified organizational form based on writing will do.

The post is the first time I have thought through the negative consequences of the trend to outsource cognitive functioning to gadgets such as smart phones. Also I’d previously seen our civilisation as enhancing our intelligence in an individual sense. Now I am not so sure. It certainly enables greater productivity and the ability to access more knowledge. But what true effect is it having on us? Perhaps there is something to this after all?

There is much here that warrants a full post. Perhaps once I have finished Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class, Tempo and Snakes in Suits. I will return to the topic.

At this stage all one can say is that barbarians have always shaped the world. They are simply writing a new chapter with their activities in the financial markets.



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