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By Luc loranhe (2006)
That poorer societies are better is an idea that requires some intellectual effort to get used to.
But it isn't as outlandish as it first appears. After all, we have accepted in other aspects of life that moderation is smart.
Most people in the US and Europe, and even in Latin America and Asia, have enough money to eat as much as necessary to become grossly overweight. But it is now commonly accepted that eating more is not a proper route to more happiness.
However, to eat less when there still is food requires self-restriction, a measure we take against our emotions. Emotionally, we are not properly adapted to an environment with a huge surplus of food. Rather, we are adapted to an environment, not of constant or regular famine, but of a slight undersupply.
I do not just mean: our bodies function better in an environment of a slight undersupply. Even our societies function better under conditions of slight poverty than under conditions of wealth. Because the modes under which human communities evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, were economies of need, not economies of plenty.
So, who needs rich societies?
Obviously, those who want to sell products (mostly unneeded products), want a base of consumers who have enough money to buy them. They also want consumers who don't have yet such products that are equivalent to those they peddle.
And people in poor countries, especially youngsters, typically desire many of the consumer products they can see in the movies from rich countries. Typically, these people believe that when having these products, they will achieve a higher degree of happiness.
Of course, they are wrong. More consumer products do not make people happier.
The happiness that can be derived from wealth is proportional to the degree to which we are richer than our neighbor. If the wealth level is equally raised for everybody, then there no longer is a wealth benefit towards individual happiness.
Actually, the opposite is true. In a rich society with leveled wealth, people need each other less to solve their everyday problems. They are more independent, and communicate less with each other. But because communication is the natural route towards sexual satisfaction, reducing communication has a negative effect on genuine happiness.
A society with a high average level of wealth (like you find them, for example, in Scandinavia) implies definite anti-sexual tendencies.
Females may be initiated sexually at a later age, because there is no economic component in their partner choice. In earlier, less rich cultures, females would marry at an earlier age because it made sense economically. The economic reasons were a good pretext for the sexual initiation as well as the release of children from their parent's control.
Thus, young adults in earlier, needier times acquired earlier two very important aspects of a sense of meaning in their lives: first, sexual pleasure; second, responsibility. I consider this better than a situation in which youngsters virtually are children up to an age of 18, 19, or 20, because they live with their parents and depend economically on their parents.
Just as we can manage the right amount of the right nutrition, including a slight undersupply, for our bodies to be of optimal health, we should be able to manage the right amount of richness for those who live in a society, again including a slight undersupply, for our societies to be optimally suited for people to achieve the highest-possible degree of sexual happiness.
For there is indeed a level of wealth best suited for sexual satisfaction, just as there is a level of nutritional input best suited for healthy bodies.
If the members of a society are so poor that they have problems to avoid malnutrition and sufficient healthcare, then this is obviously counterproductive to sexual freedom, especially if poverty is paired with a low level of public security. In such societies, people will usually seek the shelter of monogamous relationships and families. There are, furthermore, too many problems related to mere survival for people to think of optimizing their sexual experience.
Such poor societies were the norm in history, which is why the common religious models of sexual partnership are all shaped for this kind of societies.
That most people's grandparents or great grandparents lived long-term happy relationships wasn't really a matter of the male part having a more reliable character. It had to do with social and economic conditions of need instead of affluence.
If the members of a society become rich beyond the needs of nutrition and healthcare, then the incentive for social interaction is greatly reduced. The world becomes a golden cage, and people develop neuroses.
Affluence also desexualizes societies, in that it directs sexual interests to consumer products, rather than other people. The more money potential consumers possess, the more will they be targeted by an entertainment industry that wants them to spend their income on ersatz pleasures. For consumers to do so, there first needs to be a scarcity of the real thing, sexual pleasure.
Thus, the whole entertainment industry has a natural interest in ideologies and ethics that make sexual satisfaction more difficult to attain, especially for young adults whose consumer habits can still be formed.
But not only the entertainment industry profits from an increasing scarcity of sexual satisfaction. All the industries that sell status symbols do so, too.
People spend money on sports cars, fashionable clothes, cosmetics, and jewelry not because they would derive direct pleasures from them but because they expect these items to provide them with a competitive windfall in the mating game.
There are other disadvantages to affluence, both on a personal level and on the level of societies. I have discussed them in parallel articles.
So, if affluence is a curse, how to reduce it?
Individual affluence you can keep in bank accounts or other forms of assets, without making use of it. If you can keep it a secret, it won't be very disruptive to your life.
As for the affluence of societies: to a certain extend, the mechanisms of capitalism themselves take care of the destruction. Wars are fought not only because there are conflicts but also because the arms industries of various countries depend on their products being consumed. Other industries, too, benefit from destruction. Nothing better could happen to the refrigerator industry than all refrigerators of the world suddenly being destroyed.
Post-World War II, Western Germany experienced what in German was called the Wirtschaftswunder (the economic miracle). But it wasn't that much of a miracle. It was a consequence of a huge empty market, after so much had been destroyed during the war.
But I am neither in favor of wars, nor of the destruction caused by wars. I am against suffering, especially the suffering caused by humans to other humans. I want for myself a life largely free of suffering, followed by a gentle death, and my best chances for achieving this are in a world in which fellow humans have not been brutalized in and by wars.
Wars also have a substantial potential to result in what may be branded as "moral renewal", which may just be another round of sexual repression.
I think that societies should gradually become poorer, just by becoming more populated.
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Copyright Luc loranhe