The Widdershins

0 = 0…

Posted on: February 25, 2014

A wonderful Tuesday to all Widdershinners everywhere.

“You’re not going to talk to me that way!”  Nine shots later, Jordan Davis never talks again.Zero Sum I win You lose

Wearing a hoodie in the rain seemed perfectly normal to Trayvon Martin, but it was a fear-inducing violation of the sovereignty of George Zimmerman’s  reign in his “gated community.”

Putting electrified fences along the border is effective in managing animals on Iowa farms so it ought to work with immigrants.

Voting ought to be hard for those who are different.

Same sex marriage will devalue opposite sex marriage.

Women are taking men’s jobs. 

The last day a good immigrant came to America was on the day Ellis Island closed.

Each of these are results or rallying cries of those seeing the world as a “zero sum game.”  A game in which the total of all the gains and all the losses are zero — never more, never less.

Income Disparity ChartTo make sense, a zero sum game is premised upon a pleasingly satisfied world as it exists at that very instant.  Zero sum games are premised upon the proposition that time never progresses.  It is also premised upon the belief that there are a finite amount of rights, a finite amount of resources, a finite amount of fairness, a finite amount of love, a finite amount of understanding, and a finite amount of everything good and dear to humankind.

Take for instance immigration — the height of zero sum thinking.  “If there are more immigrants working, they must be taking the jobs of Americans,” the thinking goes.  Nothing could be farther from the truth, immigration increases the size of economy and thereby increases the number of jobs.  I cringe every time I hear some dogooder say in defense of immigration, “There are some jobs Americans just won’t do.“  In other words, let’s allow immigration to the point of work Americans are too lazy to do — backhandedly endorsing the zero sum game of  Americans not wanting those jobs anyway.

Or take same sex marriage for instance.  Giving same sex couples the right to marry will in some fashion, in the Never Separate the life you lead from the words you speakworld of a finite amount of love, devalue the marriage of opposite sex couples.

Or in voting rights cases — if people might vote differently, then it must be more difficult for them to vote.  If you take such logic to its ultimate conclusion, why have two parties?  In fact, why have voting at all?  Why not have a super-computer in the bowels of the NSA churning out the optimal decisions for maintaining the fallacy of the status quo?

I’ve been hearing “zero sum game” more and more lately as pundits try and explain how a polarized electorate sees the world.  Each time I hear someone say “zero sum game,” what I hear is, “Too bad time must continue to tick away.  Why can’t time stop?  Why must things change?  Why can’t people just be satisfied with the way things are?  Why can’t people be satisfied with less?”

We All Do BetterTime doesn’t stop.  Rights, just like dreams, are not finite — by their very nature they are elastic.  Complexity leads to interdependency and  interdependency leads to a painfully slow education of “we all do better when we all do better.”  Bill Clinton often talks in terms of, “instead of winning and losing, the complexity of the modern world will force us to find solutions of win/win.”

I hope we will someday see a world where we will understand a win coming at the expense of another’s loss is diminishing to everyone.  It will be the same world that understands war is bad, peace is good, tolerance is superior to hate, and parceling out need is merely delaying the inevitable.

This is an open thread.

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7 Responses to "0 = 0…"

As usual, you have most eloquently said a mouthful.

That chart on income disparity says soooo much. And no, I’m not resentful of the rich being rich.

A point I didn’t get into the post is this: The people who believe in a zero sum game are, not the “great Americans” they claim to be on talk radio, they are the people who have given up hope on the American dream. To believe that rights and dreams and hoping for a better way are in some way limited and must be withheld from the “others” are people who don’t believe in the ideals of America.

Plenty of economists believe that satisfaction with the status quo is the death knell of a society, meaning that satisfaction stymies innovation. It would be an interesting case study to see just what the billionaires or their companies have invented in the last 10 years.

Great point Prolix. I have been arguing with Obots at the GOS. Why I put myself through this I do not know. They are just as bad now as they were back in 20008. Obama is awesome. Obama disappointed me. Well, too bad you brought into his rainbow and ponies marketing plan and marketing plan was all it is.

I have had several such conversations with friends regarding their disappointment. While I should, I suppose, feel validated, I really just feel sad.

Me too Chatblu. This is what comes of obsessing over one vote and not a whole body of work.

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