Furthest Right

Sunk Cost

Our people are demoralized. Most of what we hear in public involves how we are doomed and we cannot change course; even on conservative media, readers look toward “gotchas” of the day instead of any kind of long-term plan. They do not believe that one can succeed.

Lots of smug commenters like to say clever things like “there is no political solution” as an excuse for doing nothing except buying guns and blowing off the problem until it is too late. They are following typical bourgeois thinking: the future is a problem for someone else, get whatever you can for yourself (individualism).

They have been crushed by an inertia bias. That is, they do not believe things will change. Therefore, they say things that make them feel better in the short term even if totally insincere.

This type of inertia bigotry shows the danger of being swayed by the sunk cost of a failing civilization:

A sunk cost is money that has already been spent and cannot be recovered. In business, the axiom that one has to “spend money to make money” is reflected in the phenomenon of the sunk cost. A sunk cost differs from future costs that a business may face, such as decisions about inventory purchase costs or product pricing. Sunk costs are excluded from future business decisions because they will remain the same regardless of the outcome of a decision.

The sunk cost fallacy is the improper mindset a company or individual may have when working through a decision. This fallacy is based on the premise that committing to the current plan is justified because resources have already been committed. This mistake may result in improper long-term strategic planning decisions based on short-term committed costs.

Sunk cost is what you have put in so far. If we change our civilization, that will ask of us that we discard most of the past, at least the recent past. Laws will be repealed, assumptions revoked, behaviors discontinued… but worst of all, we will no longer be able to say we spent our time well. We will have to recognize this time as error.

That terrifies people. It means rejecting their own work, their suffering, and the validity of what they have achieved. Most people would rather jump into a nuclear reactor than do this. They want to believe that they are on the path to something good, not that they have to partially start over.

And yet, that is where we are.

As it turns out, the powers that be use our inertia against us. They let us continue to believe in the sunk cost fallacy, which is basically paralysis of decision-making, so that they can manipulate us through Magruder’s Principle or letting our inertia blind us to other options:

Magruder’s Principle is the idea that it’s often much easier to deceive an enemy into hanging onto their pre-existing incorrect beliefs, than to trick them into changing those beliefs.

In other words, if you offer to an enemy a notion that is consistent with his inertia, this requires less energy in changing thought, so he goes for this more efficient option.

Humans do not like to change their minds; not only does it require energy, but it threatens our self-esteem and perception of social status. Admitting that we were wrong or following what was wrong makes us look weaker to others and ourselves.

For this reason, if you give your enemy an alternative to the obvious facts which is easier to cognitively grasp and requires him to change his opinion less, he will go for it. Politicians do this all the time by offering voters a variety of more of the same instead of a variety of actual choices.

Ancient people were skeptics about the ability of most humans to know much of anything because they observed that people simply iterate belief instead of expanding the scope of choices by making reference to the situation as a whole:

But consider the principle that whenever someone is committed to a proposition p they are also (perhaps implicitly) committed to the proposition that belief is the (or at least a) justified attitude towards p. Call this the “Commitment Iteration Principle”. If the Commitment Iteration Principle holds, then Pyrrhonian Skepticism is indeed self-refuting. For Pyrrhonian skeptics are committed to the claim that suspension of judgment is the only justified attitude with respect to some proposition p. By the Commitment Iteration Principle, they are then committed to the claim that belief is a justified attitude with respect to the proposition that suspension of judgment is the only justified attitude with respect to p.

This type of tunnel vision occurs in the Hegelian stepladder: people see an initial human response and react to it instead of reaction to the situation as a whole, sort of like how they react to symbols instead of what they refer to.

Extreme skepticism, like nihilism, is not individualism but a rejection of the bias by the individual in favor of what is easiest to believe. It recognizes that human perception tends to project itself as universal, absolute, and objective when it in fact reflects inertia and individualism.

Ironically the root of that process is peer pressure and the need for the individual to assert individuality against the constant criticism and competition in the herd:

The surprising insinuations of status concerns into every area of life must be understood if one is to understand the nature of the human beast. Consider the toxic power of humiliation. Humiliation is a wound inflicted upon the beast’s status picture of himself, upon the validity of his standing within the boundaries of his own fiction absolute.

Not long ago, in New York, a drug dealer named Pappy Mason was out of prison on parole standing on the sidewalk in front of a bar with a group of his buddies, drinking a beer. A police detective happened to be driving by in an unmarked car and recognized him. He stopped, got out, and said “Mason, you know what stupid is? Stupid is what you’re doing right now, drinking in public. You get your ass back in that building — or I’m taking your ass in.”

Now here was Mason, in front of his buddies. He had a terrible decision to make. Taking his ass in meant taking him to the precinct station and booking him. Drinking on the sidewalk was — a — Mickey Mouse — misdemeanor but it was enough to violate his parole and put him right back in prison. On the other hand, just caving in to some pig of a cop in front of his posse and slinking back into the bar was unthinkable…On the other hand, maybe it was thinkable…To go back to jail — so he did think…slinked back into the bar….You did what you had to do, Pappy — but the humiliation! the humiliation!

A day passed, two days passed — the humiliation! Day after day it festered…festered…Eventually he found himself back in prison for an unrelated offense…and the same old humiliation…slinking back into the bar that night…festered. …Finally, it became too much. He got a message out to one of his boys on the outside: “Go kill a cop.” And the guy said, “What cop?” And Mason said, “Any cop.” And so three members of his posse drove about…looking for a cop, any cop They came upon a young patrolman alone in a police car in front of the house of an immigrant from Guinea who, as it tuned out had been threatened by drug dealers. They had already tried to burn down his house because he had reported their activities to the police. The young cop, named Eddie Byrne, had been assigned to protect him.

It was now late at night, quiet, and the three assailants came up behind the car and assassinated the young policeman. It became a cause of public outrage. It had taken the life of a young man, Eddie Byrne. Yes, but the cops…they had trashed Pappy Mason’s status picture of himself.

For an individual, his social identity is a sunk cost; it is what he has labored to build up his entire life.

If we admit that sociey took a wrong turn, that identity is suddenly in doubt. Even if the individual had no participation in creating this society, like a fan at a rock concert he feels invested in it and therefore defends it. Society is for him a sunk cost, and his sunk cost fallacy is denying that better options can exist.

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