The venerable phrase Homo economicus refers to the theory that all human actions are determined by a rational calculation of personal gain. Drawing on Adam Smith’s famous description of the behavior of the market as an “invisible hand”, Homo economicus moves a step further into an all-encompassing determinism. For post-Christian academics, perhaps it’s compensation for the melancholy, long, withdrawing roar of their ancestors’ Calvinism.
But for anyone who’s not a diehard determinist, human behavior, both individually and collectively, cannot be entirely explained by rational economic motivations. Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, for example, with all its destructive consequences for millions of people, was neither rational nor economically motivated. The most consequential behavior in human history can only be explained ideologically, not economically, and certainly not rationally.
Economics, however, does provide significant constraints on human agency. No matter how fierce and pure are the beliefs of the religious zealot or the Communist revolutionary, the operation of markets will eventually bring them to heel. Economic laws may be ignored, but they cannot be avoided.
However, the fact that human behavior is not totally determined by rational economic calculation does not mean that it is not explicable. When plain old-fashioned self-interest falls short as an explanation, forget Homo economicus, and look for ideology to take up the slack.
When attempting to make sense of the affairs of men, it’s important to ask the venerable question: Cui bono?
This is often, of course, a question of simple economics. Who gets the most lucrative deal? Which public official stands to line his pockets the most under this particular policy?
Follow the money!
When any political economy is enjoying a period of relative stability, economic motives become paramount, and the calculus of self-interest is the best slide rule to employ. Whether legal or illegal — a normal business deal or kickbacks, extortion, and bribes — the money trail is the surest guide.
But human societies are prone to waves of extravagantly irrational mass behavior, whether overtly religious, or in pseudo-rational creeds like Communism. Economics takes a back seat while the violent and ruthless ideologues hold sway.
But even then we can ask, Cui bono? Only this time the benefit comes to those who seek power, the intangible coin of influence and control. Osama bin Laden’s behavior cannot be explained economically, but he is still acting quite rationally in a calculation of what will benefit him the most.
These two strands of cui bono converge in the power politics of the Middle East. The traditional economic incentives are at work among the princes and sheikhs who control the flow of black gold, and the resulting lucre frees up the likes of bin Laden to pursue the other type of self-interest, the lust for power of the ruthless ideologue.
Here in the West we are mesmerized by those barrels of viscous hydrocarbons, and the relentless upward creep of their price. Last month, in response to some of my usual rhetorical excess on the topic, Unaha-closp had this to say:
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Baron, If you were to make “Iran, Iraq, and the Arabian peninsula” into a “smoking wasteland” it would seriously damage oil supply. Lead to large increase of gas price and have a negative impact on the American economy. Perhaps this economic cost plays a large part in reducing the political will to act.
Any military action against Iran and/or Saudi jeopardises a lot of oil production, bad news for those importing oil.
I have no argument with this logic. And, for each of the players in the geopolitical petroleum game, from the oil companies to our political leaders, a rational economic calculus of benefit is what keeps the system in stasis. We are in thrall to the price of oil, and as a result can make no serious move to subdue our real enemies.
But there are other non-economic costs. These are ideological, but not from mad ideologies like Scientology or Communism. These ideological costs involve liberty, the rule of law, the right of free expression, and various other time-hallowed tenets of the American creed.
If we decide that economic calculations require that we surrender this or that small piece of our ideological heritage, will we do so? And if we do so, then cui bono?
In the long run, our ideological self-interest and our economic self-interest converge, because only our traditional liberties are capable of maintaining our economic well-being.
But put that aside for the time being. What happens in the long run, if we give in to this ongoing Wahhabist extortion? Lower prices, now, perhaps… but not forever.
If we took action now, there would be costs — serious costs — but the costs in the long run will be even more severe.
Because make no mistake, we will pay the cost, one way or another, and the cost will be higher later. The cost of the oil will eventually be nothing less than full submission.
Act prudently now, and pay $10 a gallon for a while.
Or wait until later, and say La illaha ila Allah, wa Muhammadun rasul Allah.
There are many people among the elite in the West who seem only too eager to say the shahada and begin their perfunctory attendance at the mosque for Friday prayers. This readiness to cave, to submit, to roll over in the face of the threat from the Great Jihad — it can’t be explained entirely by economic self-interest. Something else must be at work.
I’ve often said that mass insanity is the only possible explanation for some of the bizarre suicidal dhimmi behavior exhibited by various prominent figures in the Western world. When one looks at these incidents and asks cui bono, an answer is not always easy to find.
As an example, take the deliberate policy of facilitating mass immigration into the countries of Western Europe to replace the original population. It doesn’t make any sense. Some businesses stand to make quite a bit of money, but not enough to motivate the whole enterprise. Socialists will gain more votes, but not indefinitely. The traditional rulers — members of the permanent bureaucracy, the managers of state enterprises, the lords of the media — get to maintain and increase their influence, but only for a while.
In the long run, what about the wine and the lager, the nude beaches on the Costa del Sol, bacon and ham, and Frau Schmidt’s pet poodle? What happens when it’s time to say “goodbye to all that”?
Other people are grappling with these same issues. In the comments on a recent post Phanarath, our regular Danish correspondent, had this to say (several comments have been concatenated and edited slightly to make this quote):
Why would anyone want to replace the original populations?
The only logical answer is: to create chaos, and out of that chaos to create a new fascist regime in Europe. But not only in Europe. The same forces are at work in America.
The average European or American is not going to stand for Fascism; it cannot be introduced with the populations we have now. So by introducing more and more and hostile aliens, two things are created. The hostile aliens are used to fascism and are not going to make a big problem out of it, and the original population are made fearful and thereby more easy to handle.
The European Union is clearly heading for a fascist state, and so is the American Union to be.
And most us already know in our hearts where this is all heading. What we don’t know is who wants it to happen. We keep thinking that the “left” are acting out of stupidity or just general dislike of all things western or the “leukophobia” or whatever. We mostly can’t make any sense out of what the motives could be for what is going on, and so we generally think that it’s a sort of accident of different thoughts crashing together in an unlucky way.
You want evidence for a conspiracy? That’s easy.
No population in Europe ever had a majority that wanted huge a immigration of Arab Muslims, but it happened anyway. Not just in one or two countries, but in all countries. And in all countries this fact was kept out of democratic debate.
You talk about PC, as if it was a law of nature. It isn’t. Someone wants it to exist and therefore it exists. To these people right and left is nothing but a joke to keep people occupied.
They want to break down democracy as we know it and take away any real freedom we have. And they will do this while trying to keep us in the illusion that all the adjustments that are to come are being put in place to make us free and/or safe.
It is completely ignorant to believe that all the things that are happening are just happening more or less by accident. The pattern is constant, and therefore it is logical that someone wants that very pattern to be.
Well, I agree with you that it doesn’t make much sense. And the only real argument for a secret agenda I can come up with, is that there really isn’t any other way that things could unfold the way they do.
How can all western nations who are supposed to be free and democratic all the make the exact same mistakes and have the exact same lack of public debate about it, where anyone who speaks against this project is demonized, in the exact same way?
It shouldn’t be possible that many different democratic countries all at the same time decided to eradicate their own populations. At least it’s highly unlikely.
International pressure groups could explain some of it. But its strange that many of them seem more concerned if an imprisoned Muslim doesn’t get his halal food in England than they are about gays being hung from a crane in Iran.
And the EU could be an explanation for what’s going on in Europe. But it doesn’t explain why The US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia are making the exact same mistakes. The US is only about 2% Muslim so far, but they more then make up for this. The US debate about illegal immigrants might very well be one of the world’s most serious cases of mass insanity. I mean, how can you grant a drivers license to someone who is illegally in the country and who is still considered illegal after he gets it? But now he can drive legally? That’s one of the weirdest things I have heard in my life.
Some countries are further along on this path of destruction then others. And here comes another strange thing: The countries that are not so far along seem to learn nothing from the problems the countries further along in the process are having. Every mainstream politician and media outlet seems to be in agreement to ignore all signs of trouble and faithfully continue towards our own demise following the exact footprints of those who went before us.
I know that there are small differences in how things are handled in the different countries. But those differences only seems to be about how fast they are going and how far along they have come. No one takes another path or seeks a different destination.
We have politicians who claim they want to do things differently. But they never do it. They may at best slow the process down for a little while, but basically they stay on track and in line with the other lemmings.
Phanarath has highlighted the essential problem: all these things happening simultaneously across the West can’t be a coincidence. So what’s going on?
I’m reluctant to credit any theories that involve a grand conspiracy. Outside of a totalitarian dictatorship, secrets, even among the powerful, are too hard to keep. Nixon couldn’t do it. Even Bill Clinton couldn’t do it.
But that doesn’t mean that there are no connections.
What I see is a grand convergence of interests, a disparate group of fellow-travelers who benefit in their own different ways from the Islamization of the West. Some are the ideologues, like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez, and some are the amoral capitalists who sell them the rope.
Some are the Socialists who stand to gain votes and retain their power and perks for a little while longer. Others are the owners of agribusinesses and factories who stand to gain from cheap illiterate imported labor.
Some are the ideologues of the old order, the apologists for the liberal establishment that vanquished Hitler and brought the sexual revolution to the magnificently narcissistic veterans of ’68. Anything that validates their moth-eaten worldview serves their interests.
And all too many are the guilt-ridden knee-jerk progressives who will go gladly to their own doom, singing “We Shall Overcome” as they open the door to the grinning man who wears a turban and carries a scimitar.
And every single one of them is marching into the same hole, each triumphantly carrying his own banner. Soldiers of Allah, defenders of the Proletariat, right-thinking Vegans, progressives of all stripes…
When they finally get into that hole, they will have to duke it out for supremacy.
Who do you think will win?