Willpower Depletion and Poverty

Over at The New Republic, Jamie Holmes, a policy analyst at the goo-goo think tank, New America Foundation offers an interesting argument that willpower depletion is a cause of sustained poverty. In recent years, psychologists have conducted experiments in which they get subjects to make a trade-off, say between eating a cupcake or a carrot. Next, the researchers offer subjects another trade-off, and many give into temptation. It seems that exercising one's willpower depletes it. Holmes argues that the poor in developing countries have to make many more painful trade-offs than do the rich, so that their willpower is sapped all the time, leading them to make bad decisions that keep them in poverty. As Holmes reports:

....the core of the breakthrough is that resolving conflicts among choices is expensive at a cognitive level and can be unpleasant. It causes mental fatigue.

Nowhere is this revelation more important than in our efforts to understand poverty. Taking this model of willpower into the real world, psychologists and economists have been exploring one particular source of stress on the mind: finances. The level at which the poor have to exert financial self-control, they have suggested, is far lower than the level at which the well-off have to do so. Purchasing decisions that the wealthy can base entirely on preference, like buying dinner, require rigorous tradeoff calculations for the poor. As Princeton psychologist Eldar Shafir formulated the point in a recent talk, for the poor, “almost everything they do requires tradeoff thinking. It’s distracting, it’s depleting … and it leads to error.” The poor have to make financial tradeoff decisions, as Shafir put it, “on anything above a muffin.”

Anecdotal evidence from personal experience warning here. After I dropped out of law school during the 1970s Jimmy Carter recession (perhaps an example of failed willpower), I spent some time in food service. I knew that I should be saving some money, but instead I went out with my buddies nearly every night spending my tips on countless pitchers of beer. So to some extent, the willpower depletion research resonates with me. And let's not get into the reseach on procrastination.

So what are the policy implications for poverty alleviation? Holmes notes research finding that willpower can be bolstered by various "commitment products," e.g., ways for people to commit to procedures that automatically produce "good behavior," such as, automatic deposits from paychecks into savings accounts. So far, so good. But how does this research explain human history and the astonishing phenomena of economic growth in the first place? The plain fact is that the natural state of humanity has been abject poverty, until about two centuries ago.

Economic historian Deirdre McCloskey in an excellent lecture on the bourgeois virtues explained that she starts...

...every class I give on history or economics by showing an imagined chart extending from one side of the room to the other in which income per head bounces along at $1 a day for 80,000 to 50,000 years . . . and then in the last 200 years explodes, to the $109 a day the average American now earns. Your ancestors and mine were dirt-poor slaves, and ignorant. We should all make sure that people grasp that capitalism and freedom, not government "programs," have made us rich.

The bourgeois virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, and courage. Of course, many people exhibited these virtues over the millennia, so why did their practice result in the explosion of economic growth only in the past two centuries? Making a long story short, I suspect it's because the advent of the rule of law made various "commitment products" credible. I am thinking about critical commitment products, such as, secure private property rights and fairly enforced contracts, which in turn jumpstarted economic growth. Once economic growth takes off, the trade-offs that people have to make become less onerous and thus less likely to deplete their willpower, producing a virtuous circle of prudence leading to more investment leading to more growth, etc. 

Holmes cites some marginal programs that have been shown to improve prudence among the poor in developing countries. That's great, but if one really wants to alleviate poverty on a massive scale, the way to go is to somehow establish the rule of law. Sadly, there is no top-down formula for doing that.

Some readers might be interested in my column, Poor Planning: How to achieve the miracle of poverty.

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  • Fluffy||

    I think Orwell wrote about this phenomenon at length.

  • Abdul||

    Road to Wigan Pier:

    Now compare this list with the unemployed miner's budget that I gave
    earlier. The miner's family spend only tenpence a week on green vegetables
    and tenpence half-penny on milk (remember that one of them is a child less
    than three years old), and nothing on fruit; but they spend one and nine on
    sugar (about eight pounds of sugar, that is) and a shilling on tea. The
    half-crown spent on meat might represent a small joint and the materials
    for a stew; probably as often as not it would represent four or five tins
    of bully beef. The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and
    margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes--an appalling diet.
    Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like
    oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter
    to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it
    would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do
    such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on
    brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less
    money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A
    millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an
    unemployed man doesn't. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of
    the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say
    when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don't want to
    eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit 'tasty'. There is
    always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let's have three pennorth
    of chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and
    we'll all have a nice cup of tea! That is how your mind works when you are
    at the P.A.C. level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don't nourish you
    to any extent, but they are nicer (at least most people think so) than
    brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment is an endless misery
    that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the
    English-man's opium. A cup of tea or even an aspirin is much better as a
    temporary stimulant than a crust of brown bread.

  • sarcasmic||

    "We should all make sure that people grasp that capitalism and freedom, not government "programs," have made us rich."

    Something else happened two hundred years ago.
    Energy.
    We figured out how to harness fossil fuels.
    This allowed people to produce much more than they needed, allowing for specialization and division of labor on a scale never seen before.
    Were we still limited to wind and water would we be as prosperous as we are today?
    I think not.

  • Fluffy||

    The early industrial revolution in textiles was largely driven by water power.

    I'm not saying that energy isn't important, but it can't be definitive because the important transformations happened before large-scale fossil fuel exploitation came on the scene. I would push it back farther than 200 years, actually - a lot of critical stuff was happening as early as the 1300's.

  • sarcasmic||

    Water power limited the number and placement of those factories.
    Fossil fuels allow factories to be anywhere.

    The wealth explosion happened when fossil fuels became the chief source of energy.

  • yonemoto||

    while what you say is true, you also have to correct for the fact that there are a frickin trillion frickin people on the planet. There were explosions of freedom and prosperity in the past (renaissance, revolutions) that didn't need cheap energy to potentiate themselves.

  • ||

    How many of those were fueled by streaks of plentiful growing seasons though.

  • yonemoto||

    actually more likely fueled by population depletion post horrific plagues:

    http://www.amazon.com/Great-Wa.....019512121X

  • MNG||

    Isn't there a strong historical correlation between being a landlocked area and being poorer than coastal areas?

  • Zeb||

    Makes sense. Sea based trade is still the backbone of global capitalism.

  • Brett L||

    Unless you happened to be an inland crossroad. Lyon, for example had huge fairs in the Renaissance.

  • yonemoto||

    or if you are gold-hoarding watchmakers like the swiss.

  • Keith||

    doesn't explain the parts of the world which are still poor today. Which is kind of the whole point of the discussion.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Like wealth and energy, there is a finite amount of self control in the world. I suggest we tax the unused will power away from rich libertines and redistribute it among the poor of the world.

  • ||

    This is interesting, but like so many other "interesting" counterintuitive explanations of things, it really doesn't make any policy difference. The immediate problem caused by absence of the rule of law is that potential investors can't trust that their investment won't be stolen by whoever is strong enough to do so, and that's already sufficient to prevent economic growth.

  • GSL||

    Eh, I'm not impressed. This is all based on a highly stylized experiment; are they really drawing conclusions about Third World societies based on the stunning conclusion that a college student will eat a cupcake if offered one enough times? And the conclusions sound a lot like Cass Sunstein's liberaltarian "nudging" to me.

  • cw||

    Yes,"we" must "invest" in "nudging" those who can't nudge themselves.

  • ||

    And of course this argument is kind of strange on its own as well, and has a slight whiff of social Darwinism mixed in there too (ie, that the wealthy have more willpower).

    Thought experiment: controlling for all other factors like education and language skills and such, take a wealthy person who's never had to make a tough decision in his life, and switch him with a poor person for whom every day of his life has been like running a gauntlet of survival.

    When they switch places, I would wager that the formerly wealthy guy is more likely to starve than the formerly poor guy is to lose his new fortune. Which totally cuts against the claim that willpower is depleted by its exercise.

  • yonemoto||

    it's true that libertarians have more willpower, and we are indeed wealthy enough for tophats and monocles.

  • yonemoto||

    So, why isn't lindsey lohan a gazillionaire?

  • ||

    When they switch places, I would wager that the formerly wealthy guy is more likely to starve than the formerly poor guy is to lose his new fortune. Which totally cuts against the claim that willpower is depleted by its exercise.

    I've gotta' tell you Randolph I see a lot more lottery winners declaring bankruptcy than I do formerly wealthy individuals begging for their next meal.

    Mortimer

  • ||

    Why the picture accompanying this post wasn't a screencap from Tradin Places escapes me.

  • ||

    Did you miss the part about

    controlling for all other factors like education and language skills and such
  • ||

    controlling for all other factors like education and language skills and such

    Winthorpe how many pairs of people do you think you can find that, after controlling for all other factors, could be wealthy or "running a gauntlet of survival"? The elements that put people at those poles are the "other factors".

    And the reason I eat a cupcake after I eat a carrot is not because I lack willpower but because I rationalize that I have earned it.

  • ||

    RANDOLPH

    It's Christmas Eve and William wants to keep working.

    I'll think of you in Stockholm, when I accept the Nobel Prize.

    MORTIMER

    The wager has two parts - something about a second party turning to crime.

    http://youtu.be/_gekaEzqj5g

  • ||

    Did you seriously just counter an actual study, possessing facts, with a completely hypothetical scenario you just made up?

    And that proves...what, exactly?

  • TOWM||

    And of course this argument is kind of strange on its own as well, and has a slight whiff of social Darwinism mixed in there too (ie, that the wealthy have more willpower)
    -------------

    Not at all what the study is saying.

  • cw||

    In all cerealness, I do wonder what those researchers believe in terms of public policy, if that even applies here.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    You totally forgot about the steam engine, dude, not to mention the spinny jenny, really an offshoot of the horological revolution spawned by Huygens' solution of the monochrone, without which prudence, temperance, justice, and courage wouldn't be worth a rat's ass on a cold Tuesday in Hell.

  • cw||

    I think temperance probably helped, at least abstaining from alcohol long enough.

  • cynic||

    ...so not only is RB not a scientist, but he's also a failed lawyer? Cmon reason, you can do better.

  • ||

    cynic: Can't be a failed lawyer if one doesn't finish law school.

  • ||

    You tell 'em, Ron. You're a "law school dropout." Which means you came to your senses.

  • T||

    My wife refers to herself as a "recovering lawyer" since she doesn't practice. She also makes the comment the most important lesson 3 years of law school taught her is that she hates lawyers.

  • Scooby||

    Some of us figure that out before even applying to law school!

  • ||

    Sugarfree: Which means you came to your senses.

    You hit the nail on the head. This is exactly how I think of my decision to drop out of law school.

  • ||

    Librarianship is largely a 2nd profession, so I see a lot of law school dropouts and ex-lawyers. Poor bastards.

  • ||

    Didn't Churchill say something about wanting to be a librarian when you're 20?

  • x,y||

    Come to your senses about your shameful Obama vote in 2008 yet?

  • ||

    He actually made the best argument for it.

    To punish the republicans.

    He wasn't so much voting for Obama as he was flipping off the Republicans.....and it is hard to argue they did not deserve it.

  • GSL||

    Eh, BS. The best reason to vote in the 2008 election was for gridlock, and that was a vote for McCain: there was no stopping the Dems' triumphs in Congress, so the only utilitarian vote was to put McCain in place to stop their worst excesses.

  • T||

    So, thinking is hard, requires energy, and many people aren't good at it? That's what I'm taking away from this.

  • WTF||

    So, thinking is hard, requires energy, and many people aren't good at it? That's what I'm taking away from this.

    Thus the need for the wise government overseers to do all the decision-making.

  • MNG||

    Interesting idea. Any theory of stratification is going to have to correctly explain some of the regular empirical patterns we see, for example in the US any theory of why people are poor or rich has to explain why consistently 3 times as many blacks are poor than whites. This is why I've always felt that "poor choices" is a poor answer because it just provokes the question "why do black people make these poor choices 3 times as much as whites?"

  • MNG||

    Just like when people are debating why women have less money and influence on average than men by saying "they make different choices based on different values." The feminist can always respond "well, the question then is why do women make these choices and have these values so much more than men?"

  • ||

    I don't disagree that it might be an interesting question, but in a sociological sense and not in terms of policy making. If women, for example, drop out of the workforce in their prime earning years in order to pop out babies, the individual women making that choice are doing it because it's what they determined was in their best interest. If someone values time with their children over monetary compensation, it's not a public policy problem.

  • MNG||

    Even if the result is that the members of groups that have that value will have less power and opportunties than other groups at consistently higher rates?

  • ||

    Yup. To take a page from our friends the feminists, perhaps your definitions of "power" are patriarchal and don't apply in other communities. Another example is poor people (both black and white, near as I can tell) having children earlier and outside of stable relationships. To my way of thinking, they're idiots not to abort that shit and give themselves a chance to be a happy childless professional like me. But if appeasing Jeebus' disdain for abortion is more important to them than living a lifestyle that makes sense to me, it's not my place to tell them their values are wrong.

  • Minge||

    Therefore we must make their choices for them, as they don't know what's best!

  • MNG||

    Yes that follows exactly, thanks Cap'n Strawman!

  • MJ||

    It follows as that is the only practical way to change the results for women as agroup if women as individuals are making those choices for the reason Dagny states which inicates they do not value their group result as much as you do.

  • ||

    Though I am certain I will regret asking, I'm curious as to what your solution to this "problem" might be.

  • Politician ||

    Lambchop, everything is a public policy problem.

  • ChicagoSucks||

    "different" =/= "more"

  • T||

    I can't answer to your second question/example about feminism, but with respect to black men, the government has helped to rig the system against them with minimum wage laws and drug laws.

  • MNG||

    Of course the response is just "why does minimum wage laws and drug laws harm blacks so much more than it harms whites" (in other words, why are they in a position to be harmed more or at a place where such laws harm them more).

  • ||

    Why is that a problematic question? Simply because you do not like the answer - that perhaps those of different genetic makeup (do you think that black skin just came from nowhere?) might have *gasp* different preferences than you think they should have?

  • Zeb||

    And, until the 60s, laws specifically barring blacks from many areas of society. No sense pretending racism, both governmental and private, has nothing to do with it.
    But now I think the biggest problems are the programs supposedly there to help. Minimum wage and drug laws are part of it, but welfare programs and housing projects, combined with shitty schools, just create a permanent, dependent underclass.

  • MNG||

    OK, I can see this argument. Past discrimination puts blacks into situations and mindsets where they are more likely to be harmed by government programs. I'm not sure I agree but this would explain the persistent disparities.

  • Fluffy||

    It might provoke that question to you, but in the absence of coercion it's not really an important question to me.

    Since I'm sure in advance that your answer will be, "Because Fluffy is so mean to them, even though they've never met." That has grown tedious with repetition.

  • MNG||

    "It might provoke that question to you, but in the absence of coercion it's not really an important question to me."

    Uber-libertarian doesn't care, now that's a bit of a shock. But other people might care that this group over here persistently has higher poverty rates than this group over here. Like those with a moral compass for example.

  • ||

    Perhaps some moral compasses are calibrated to individuals, not groups.

  • Fluffy||

    As a utilitarian, you really cannot claim to have a moral compass. So you're not going to get anywhere with that line of argument.

    Leaving that aside:

    If we want to talk about a specific minority individual, we can discuss the justice or injustice of his particular individual life history. But when we DO that, that's precisely how we end up with the "bad choices" paradigm.

  • MNG||

    "your answer will be, "Because Fluffy is so mean to them, even though they've never met.""

    I sincerely doubt that you have been mean to blacks or women fluffy (well, not particularly mean towards them). That's not the issue at all. The issue is, should you give a shit about any lingering effects of the time when people were particularly mean to those groups that is still causing disparate outcomes.

  • T||

    should you give a shit about any lingering effects of the time when people were particularly mean to those groups that is still causing disparate outcomes.

    No. I didn't do it. I'm not taking responsibility for some dead guy's shitty policy. There's plenty of non-coercive ways to mitigate the effects of prior poor decisions & policy without making the government into some arbiter of "social justice". Make the law as absolutely color & gender blind as possible and let people figure out their own ways to cope.

  • A Serious Man||

    Call me racist, but a lot of that shit is self-inflicted. Just lookt at black culture today compared with the Harlem Renaissance of 50 years ago. Do black people today really have a Langston Hughes or James Baldwin? I highly doubt gangsta rap is going to sinspire African-American youths to stay in school and be law-abiding citizens.

    And of course a crappy government-run education system has made it more difficult to create a new generation of educated, motivated African-American students while government-subsidized housing has put all the bad apples together to form gang infested ghettos. So it's NOT that we shouldn't care that racist a-holes spent 150 years oppressing blacks, it's that a certain political party figured out a way to use government programs to ensure that these people remain poor and dependent so they will continue to vote for them. See how that works?

  • ||

    This is a big part of it as well. Though it is a vicious cycle -- the culture is so toxic partly because the people in it have been down for so long.

    Plus, the "leadership" of the black community has a comfortable lifestyle that is dependent on the continued subjugation of the people they're supposedly the advocates for. When and if blacks actually do achieve outcome equality, all these so-called civil rights leaders (more accurately termed the outrage industry) are going to be out of a job.

  • Zeb||

    But is the toxic culture a symptom or a cause of the problems. Relatively affluent white kids are into gangsta rap culture pretty heavily too.
    Culture doesn't just happen for no reason.

  • Tncm||

    The issue is, should you give a shit about any lingering effects of the time when people were particularly mean to those groups that is still causing disparate outcomes.

    But you're an act utilitarian, MNG. You should be celebrating racism and slavery! After all, it keeps jobs for America's ethnic majority and provides them with a steady stream of cheap labor far below the market wage. Utilitarian calculus is a wonderful thing. I don't have to bother with making logical arguments to justify my ethical system, or methodology, or epistemology. I can just skip right to policy preferences.

    By the way, I hope you don't mind me having the government kill your wife and children so we can harvest their organs for a couple dozen people in need of new hearts, lungs, livers, etc. Greatest good for the greatest number of people, right MNG?

  • Sidd Finch||

    "Any theory of stratification is going to have to correctly explain some of the regular empirical patterns we see, for example in the US any theory of why people are poor or rich has to explain why consistently 3 times as many blacks are poor than whites."

    Figure out why the lowest SES white children outscore the highest SES black children on standardized tests, and you'll get somewhere. These silly theories are diagnosing the symptoms, not the cause.

  • ||

    "I am thinking about critical commitment products, such as, secure private property rights and fairly enforced contracts, which in turn jumpstarted economic growth."

    It works this way during tough times in commercial real estate too. It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to do due diligence on a 20 acre parcel--you could go broke just doing due diligence on the parcels you never close on.

    Once you're sure you're closing, spending that money is easy--because you know that property is yours.

    In Mexico, they have a lot of problems with Ejido Land.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ejido

    In order to develop anything on Ejido Land, you need to get a signature on the sale document from every descendent of whomever owned the land in 1934. Many of these family members have lost touch with each other and no longer talk to each other...they may not even be aware of each other's existence.

    So the land just lies fallow.

    No one in the family wants to develop it for the benefit of family members they don't know anymore, and getting 50 or more owners to sit down and agree to one sale document is practically impossible...

    In other words, because the ownership is in a permanent state of murky, huge tracts of incredibly valuable land are never developed. If that ownership hadn't been so murky, that land would have been developed and would have been contributing to the economy.

    Instead it lies fallow--and as each generation is born, the problem just gets worse.

    The other thing I'm wondering about is expected life span changing. In their 20s and 30s, people may have been more adverse to long term commitment when the likelihood of dying in wars, famine or by various diseases was higher.

    I'm less likely to spend money on due diligence for properties I'm less likely to own, and I suspect people in their 20s may have been less likely to make long term commitments when they were less likely to live long enough to see the results.

  • Neu Mejican||

    The plain fact is that the natural state of humanity has been abject poverty, until about two centuries ago.

    Natural state?
    Why two centuries?
    What an odd sentence.

  • ||

    I think he's using the facts.

    Look at this chart:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L....._past_GDP_(PPP)#World_1.E2.80.932003_.28Maddison.29

    World GDP growth is incremental every 500 years before 1700.

    It almost doubles between 1700 and 1820. And after 1820, it almost starts doubling every 50 years.

    World GDP grew more than 2.5 times between 1973 and 2003.

    So, yeah, until about 200 years ago, economic growth was pretty tepid--and then it exploded and continues to do so today.

    That appears to be a fact.

  • ||

    Oh, and for a counterpoint, check out this thread from last week, in which an anti-capitalist troglodyte argues that we should bring back the pre-Clinton welfare system--to keep poor people from competing with the rest of us for jobs.

    http://reason.com/blog/2011/06.....i#comments

    It's not all about why so many of us make these commitments now--it's also about why so many of us don't. When people are shielded from the consequences of not making the kinds of long term commitments we're talking about, that would seem to have a detrimental impact on the economy as well.

  • ||

    The level at which the poor have to exert financial self-control, they have suggested, is far lower than the level at which the well-off have to do so.

    I call shenanigans on this assertion right here. Absent a few billionaires, the well-off have to make choices, say no, accept trade-offs all the time.

    In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the financial stress experienced by the middle and upper-middle classes isn't greater than that experienced by those in the bottom percentiles. Those are people, after all, who have identified financial success a something that is important to them, have structured their lives around it, make sacrifices every day to work toward it, have actual assets at risk, have expectation (personal and social) to meet, etc.

    A truly poor person doesn't make nearly as many decisions and tradeoffs simply because most such decisions are not even available to them.

  • ||

    I don't think he's talking about American standards of poverty here, he's talking about global standards. ie, poverty where the trade-offs are of the nature of conserving calories vs. working harder to produce a better harvest, and the goal is to avoid starvation.

  • Doc S.||

    I instantly got mad at myself for beginning to read the paper on procrastination as i gave myself my "15 minute fart around the internet" break from preparing lectures for tomorrow.

    The bane to my existence.

  • ||

    Try making a trade-off decision every damn day that is: should I spend this entire day working hard, or go take a nap under a tree? Talk about "distracting and depleting." I work 12 hours on Monday, and they expect me to do it again the next day, taking no account for the willpower depletion I've suffered!

  • jbf||

    This applies to the government, too. The federal budget has gotten so enormous and wide-ranging that there are always a huge number of tradeoffs involved in making one.

    As a result, willpower and prudence are destroyed to an unprecedented level, and we get the kind of budgets that we have been getting.

  • Zeb||

    I'd rather eat a raw carrot than a cupcake.

  • ||

    The plain fact is that the natural state of humanity has been abject poverty, until about two centuries ago.

    You are confusing agricultural societies with hunter gatherer societies.

    Agricultural from which we sprung...sure abject poverty.

    Hunter gatherer not so much. They we more war of all against all sort of folk.

    I guess if you define abject poverty as dying young for no good reason other then the world is cruel and dangerous then yeah sure.

  • ||

    Making a long story short, I suspect it's because the advent of the rule of law made various "commitment products" credible. I am thinking about critical commitment products, such as, secure private property rights and fairly enforced contracts, which in turn jumpstarted economic growth.

    Thou shall not steal.
    Thou shall not lie.

    Once again proof that the Judeo-Christian tradition created the modern liberal democracy that we live in today.

  • ||

    Pretty much every culture around the world developed those same mores in theory.

    And of course...if you read, you know, the rest of the Old Testament after the ten commandments you'll note that they weren't observed very carefully during Hebrew history.

  • ||

    That's great, but if one really wants to alleviate poverty on a massive scale, the way to go is to somehow establish the rule of law. Sadly, there is no top-down formula for doing that.

    WTF?!?!

    Read this book:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leviathan_(book)

    The top-down formula is crystal clear.

  • ||

    JC: Hobbes' analysis was not, how shall I say, empirically based.

  • ||

    JC: Hobbes' analysis was not, how shall I say, empirically based.

    And yet we now live in a world where the state has a monopoly on violence and the states that use monopoly through rule of law, justice, equally and sparingly among its citizens are the most richest with the highest standards of living and possess the most powerful militaries.

    and although it was not empirically based it was adopted and survived the selective process of history.

  • ||

    And let's not get into the research on procrastination.

    No, let's just get to it tomorrow.

  • ChrisO||

    Too much of the whiff of social engineering about all this. For the most part, leave people to their own devices. Some will thrive and some will fail. That's the way it is.

  • Robert A. Heinlein||

    Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded —here and there, now and then —are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as "bad luck."

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