Anniversary Post: Botany Bay

Welcome to Botany Bay! Now go home!On this day in 1770, James Cook first landed in Australia in a place he will call Botany Bay. It was there that he first met with the aboriginal tribe, Gweagal. I think that must have been interesting. It is like us looking into the sky every day and mostly seeing nothing — perhaps a small airplane in the distance. And one day a huge spacecraft shows up filled with people we did not previously know about. It is not surprising that the Gweagal were intrigued but shy toward the strangers.

These kinds of interactions between civilizations are fascinating to me. They show the lie of the libertarian utopia. As you may have noticed, Botany Bay is not under the control of the Gweagal. But when Cook showed up, it was their land. In fact, archaeological digs indicate that settlements date back 5,000 years. Meetings between stronger groups and weakers groups tend to go the same. Things often start out nice enough with trading. But after a while, the stronger group decides that they would like what the weaker group has. And regardless of how the stronger group justifies it, in the end it comes down to the fact that they take it.

This is so ingrained in people, that the great defender of individual rights herself, Ayn Rand, could not see that her own philosophy ultimately degenerated into: might makes right. Matt Bruenig has dealt with the subject from a philosophical standpoint, Non-Aggression Never Does Any Argumentative Work at Any Time. But the truth is that not even the libertarians who claim to follow the non-aggression principle even stick by it. And it doesn’t make sense, anyway. Would it have been all right for the first human to think of it to say, “I own all property.” And then no one could do anything because that would be interfering with his “rights”?

In a perfect world, we would have a just way of divvying up resources. But in the real world, we have no such method. So we stick with what we’ve always done: might makes right. And that is why bad things happen when civilizations collide. That’s not to say that “might makes right” isn’t also what’s happening in downtown San Francisco, but it isn’t as big an issue.

Happy anniversary for the “discovery” of Botany Bay!

4 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Botany Bay

  1. “That’s not to say that “might makes right” isn’t also what’s happening in downtown San Francisco, but it isn’t as big an issue.”

    Not to you maybe. Having been pushed out of my home in Seattle, I might disagree.

    • On an individual level, I will yield to you. And I think it is is worse to be alone in such matters. But from a societal standpoint, the mass dislocation and genocide against weaker peoples has been a bigger problem.

      • The genius of capitalism is that it produces both mass dislocation and social isolation. As for genocide… neglect in this society often seems active enough to qualify. Denial of food, shelter and medical care… and I can never get out of my head one such incident in Seattle — a homeless woman was trying to shelter behind a dumpster in mid-winter. A city collection truck came along and crushed her to death.

        • But there’s nothing we can do about it because capitalism is the natural system and to save that woman’s life would cost ever so much more suffering because the iPhone would be 50 cents more expensive. No, our biggest problem is a failure of imagination. As a society, we are convinced that this is the only possible way for things to be — as though all the benefits of globalization had to go to the top. By economic theory, globalization should make everyone richer. But our political system saw too it that the gains weren’t shared — at all.

          But truthfully, I’ve given up on capitalism. I think it has been shown to be as much of a joke as communism was. But I look out at America and see people more committed to it now than when the system actually worked to some extent. It’s sad.

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