The play chips are not imaginary, the rich have better lives in almost all aspects.
I know very well communism as such does not work, and that at our current stage of development we need prices and markets for resource optimization. And laws and judicial systems and so on.
The play chips are imaginary. We play by the rules due to convention, not due to a law of nature.
The rich are better off not because only a marginal percent of population can be better off, but because how the current economic system stochastically distributes the captured value from various economic processes.
Their main happiness comes not from being "better" than anybody else, but because their resources enable them to avoid the lower rungs of maslow's hierarchy of needs and focus on self actualization.
Society can change. Anything else is misogynic fantasy. USA was born out of hate of kings and aristocracy and the taxes imposed thereof, of the hate of existing status quo of hereditary benefits and cronyism of state power.
Sure, it was not better for a large category of population, but it was a society designed, that functioned differently than anything else before it, and remains functioning to this day. It was born into a world where anything else but a strong monarchy was a whimsical daydream.
Change happens. There is no reason to accept status quo if it seems unsavory. One must remain a realist and a humanist while one is at it.
Saying "nothing but the current system is possible" is delusional denial of empirically proven changes societies and economic systems can go through.
The British Empire continued into the "sun never sets" level. The effects of the British Empire on the colonies has been a mixture of good and bad. They thought about it hard, in a John Stuart Mill way about it. They were often wrong, many were horrifyingly venal about the colonies and it all ended soon enough.
The fundamental problem is that the ability of people to be terrible is a real challenge to counter. It's simply not easy. And the classic Conservative trope is that we really don't know how we got here in a comprehensive fashion.
We live in an utterly amazing time.
I'd also dump Maslow soon. There's too much hubris amongst the rich and powerful for it to work well.
Sorry, I was a bit hyperbolic. I did not claim the founding fathers were anything but what you say.
From historical perspective, what they achieved, was an exceptionally good outcome. Namely - they created a new system of government that did not degenarate into a dictatorship despite the tumultuous beginnings and enormous popular and military support for some of it's leaders (e.g. Washington).
My purpose was to point out that designed changes on how a society operates can be implemented and the change can be implemented in good form. The USA was perhaps a bit too extreme example, as there are many others, less radical as well.
"I'd also dump Maslow soon. There's too much hubris amongst the rich and powerful for it to work well."
I've found the hierarchy of needs a fantastic model in simplicity and power in exploring human condition. What specifically is wrong with it?
Example: there was much meddling in the 1930s with farm production. It took until the 1970s before the modern version of farm subsidy latched in - call it 4 decades. ( See the film "King Corn" for an excellent treatise)
I've just never been able to use Maslow to make predictions. It just doesn't explain things like poets at all. People who "move up the Maslow hierarchy" often become duller and duller - all the weight of maintaining that drags em down. I've known too many people who didn't know where their next meal was coming from, and for some of them, that was a sort of freedom.
I think the magic of the Founders was all the shuffling off to The Colonies of all the malcontents and radicals, in a time when that produced favorable results. You'd get more current theory at Harvard than at King's College.
I would still hold not replicating a familiar monarchy or degenerating into a dictatorship was an achievement. I'm not saying anything about any other aspects.
The thing with psychological models is that they are models and as such cannot replicate all observed phenomena. Just like physical models can't. In general we can observe that poor people lack the resources for doing what they like and struggle unhappily while rich people need something else than just wealth to keep them happy - a long term goal, a hobby and so on. I think Maslows model captures this phenomena on the level of human populations. It does not explain art. I doubt no model understandable to humans could capture all facets of human life.
The US model hasn't really been all that replicated - the Parlimentary model has proved to be more common ( possibly because of the extent of the British Empire ) . The US has advanced the idea of democracy but it's done differently. I would say we do not really know why the US has worked out as well as it has.
I just think Maslow is too reductive. There are some really happy poor people out there. To my eye, a lot of outcomes for especially, say African Americans in the US depends on much more ephemeral factors - like strong family ties - than Maslow would predict.
Meanwhile, wealthy people can be quite anomic and neurotic. I've done medium well, and I spend my time as if I were a student and trying to connect with family. The people I know who have done better seem more isolated and feel more trapped than I do.
Happiness is as much a chosen thing as a matter of resources.
The comment to which I replied chaffed at thinking there could be any other system than what there currently is. To me this is a dangerously rigid way to view the human life. Everything should be questioned, if only to find answers.
Yes, historically we are doing pretty good. This proves sometimes changes in systems improve things. This is why questions that generally lead peoples to think of other systems should be approached with kind questioning and inquiry rather than scoffing them as rubbish off-hand - we should amswer why they often are impossible.
"That's a profound problem. We're limited now by artifacts of human cognition."
Yes, this is a very good summary of the other half of the problem. The other is figuring a dynamical model of the economy (which might or might not be impossible).
Anecdote: Many of my high school friends and peers went on to pursue medicine. I pursued engineering. Multiple times I was asked by these people, "You're smart so why aren't you spending your life making a difference?" Your comment and its ilk remind me of that question.
Your friends were delusional. In the world, there is a pool of change agents driven by intrinsic drive, and some of them can make an actual difference, but I don't think there is any way to choose becoming the specific agent who matters - rather, one can only join the pool and do ones best.
As you describe it, your friends thought they asked why you don't want to be the change agent who matters (which is a non-sequitur). They could have asked why you don't want to jump into the pool and dedicate several years of your life to a possible dead end career (which they probably didn't ask).
I asked why it's bad to whish for different economic environment for those in the pool.
I may have misinterpreted the discussion before my comment, though.
The crapton of data is produced and relied on because of broken philosophy of system. That could be changed as well (I don't know how).
"We are quite in danger of sending highly trained and highly intelligent young men out into the world with tables of erroneous numbers under their arms, and with a dense fog in the place where their brains ought to be. In this century, of course, they will be working on guided missiles and advising the medical profession on the control of disease, and there is no limit to the extent to which they could impede every sort of national effort."
Fisher, R N (1958). "The Nature of Probability". Centennial Review. 2: 261–274