Sunday, August 21, 2011

Living according to human scale

Since we are by nature at human scale, it's fitting that any entity we use, consume, know or in some other manner have contact with should likewise be at human scale or as close to human scale as possible. And as a practical matter, we do when given the choice surround ourselves with entities which are scaled to us.

And the more personal and practical, the more care we take to its fitting our scale. For instance, we scale our running shoes with particular care, because we individually have control over the scale and it’s important that the scaling be as accurate as possible.

‘Practical’ and ‘possible’ are the important terms here because what is practical and what is possible for a professional runner is far different than what is practical and or possible for an amateur. And those like myself who run in bare feet likewise choose according to human scale. But whether professional or amateur what is sought is a practical and possible human scale.

We by nature seek our place. When put in an open field or grassed park we will either move to some fixture, or in some manner create a place by spreading a blanket to form a fixture. We take what is not at human scale and reform it and organize it to human scale.

As political animal we organize our lives according to human scale, or at least we recognize what ordering is most to human scale, which is why subsidiarity is recognized as essential to good governance even if we don't follow it. By subsidiarity I don’t mean the consolidation and centralization the catholic sophists dishonestly argue for, but the principle rightly understood where more perfect communities have a duty to respect the self determination of less perfect communities. An example of which would be parents have an inviolable right to educate their children without interference from a more perfect community.

And so human scale not only refers to physical size, but also refers to other kinds of relations as well. The human scale of authority over children rests in the parents. And according to subsidiarity, the parents may delegate their authority to educate to a more perfect community such as a school, and the school in turn has a duty as handmaiden to help the family as needed to perfect the family because the final good of the more perfect community, i.e. the school, is the final good of the less perfect community, i.e. the family.

Each community is to human scale according to its ordering to the final good of the community. So that the more perfect community is to human scale according to the perfecting of the less perfect community, while the less perfect community down to the family is to human scale as it approaches our scale. Where the most essential human scale as political animal is the family, and the final good of the state is the final good of the family.

Another aspect of human scale is the simple versus the complex. The more perfect community is more complex than the less perfect community. With the family being the least complex or most simple. So that when possible the better solution to any given political activity is the more simple.. Which is fitting because the simple is typically likewise the most practical and easy to achieve.

And this is true generally, the simple is typically more to human scale, so that given a choice between the two, we should choose the simple over the more complex. And choose the more complex only if the more complex proves itself to be sufficiently superior to the more simple.

The simple is more to human scale by nature of its simplicity. So that while we can create with great complexity, the simpler is more to our scale because of ease of production among other reasons, and because the more complex causes intellectual clutter. A clutter which likewise leads to a society of highly specialized technicians running and repairing highly technical machinery.

Horses are more simple than cars, but cars have been prove to be sufficiently superior even though more complex. There is also a false simplicity which is actually a complexity masquerading as simplicity; and as complexity is not sufficiently superior. A good example of which is Thomas Storck’s appeal to subsidiarity where he argues for using horses and a wagon for short distance hauling in conjunction with using a car for longer distance hauling; because while horses are more simple than cars, the owning and using of both horses and cars is more complex than simply owning and using a car.

(It should also be noted that while horses and a wagon is more simple, simplicity is relative to a given society. So that horses and a wagon would be more complex and burdensome if a man where to choose to use them instead of a car in modern society, because modern society is designed for using cars, and not designed for horses and wagons.)

And even when complexity is sufficiently superior, the diminishing return as complexity increases should likewise weight in the balance.

For instance cars keep becoming more safe and more complex with each added safety feature, but complexity costs money. So that while safety is good, the increase in safety becomes less in relation as the dollar amount increases. Further, money is relative to human scale because men taken as a whole in a society can realistically only produce so much per day. And at the end of the day, production is directly tied to money and gives money its worth.

Some men can produce more, some less, but the totality does have a limit and the living wage is relative to that limit, and cars must be affordable within that limit if a society reasonably requires the use of cars as ours typically does.

And so just as a living wage is relative, so must the complexity be relative, or at least the required complexity. In other words societal mandated regulations must recognize that safety is relative to diminishing return and to a living wage. And if an error is to be made, it should be to not regulate versus more regulation, that is simplicity should take precedence with the burden of proof for greater regulation, i.e. complexity falling on complexity’s shoulders.

The same can said of those who posit complex explanations for what we observe in nature, the burden of proof for greater complexity should fall on complexity’s shoulders. God created a world knowable to the most simple, but with a wonderful complexity to give joy of exploration to the most gifted of minds. He gave us a world which is just as it appears to be. A world ordered to be knowable to our unaided senses so that all men could know his creation.

Aristotle gives a very simple explanation for what we see. The brilliance of which is prime matter which is solely in potency and thus never an underlying substance itself, which in turn eliminates the problem the modern materialists face. Because if there is some final underlying substrate which is a substance then it follows that all change must finally be accidental change which is contrary to observation, and of course contrary to the Faith where we hold that Christ is present according to his substance, while all accidents of bread remain.

Aristotle gives an explanation most fitting to human scale because our senses of touch, sight, hearing, etc. are most fitting to human scale in how we know and understand the world about us.

Birth, and child rearing is also very much to human scale. Where home birth, ecological breast feeding, the family bed etc. are all most natural and also most to human scale. The more complex, including hospital births, NFP, cribs and such, can likewise be proven to be sufficiently superior for a given particular circumstance, with the burden of proof for using them falling on complexity's shoulders.

What are not to human scale are the huge baby stores selling a plethora of unnecessary baby items that are not only not needed , but harmful. Conspicuous consumption is not to human scale. And in turn a living wage scale should not assume sufficiency to conspicuously consume because a living wage is properly ordered to what is the required norm of a society, but not ordered to it's irrational excess.

Conspicuous consumption would also be buying and owning land, houses, and similar personal effects beyond one's need. Owning three hundred thousand acres of land may be fun, but it's not to human scale except when the scale is reduced down to human scale by such means as using the land as ranch land where other men also participate in its use being paid a living wage when possible. Albeit most of us are not tempted by such conspicuous consumption if for no other reason than because we don't have the means.

We do have the means to have small isolated farms, but neither are they at human scale, even though they are common through the generations dotting the landscape. Men are by nature social, meant to live in community, and community at a human scale requires physical contact and interaction because distance does matter.

In contrast, the new urban farms because of proximity to neighbors with their town markets and the like are far better, even if the reason for their popularity probably has more to do with unnatural anti-urbanism of man conquering the vile city with fields of lettuce. Unnatural for the same reason libertarianism is unnatural because they likewise in their anti-urbanism reject man's social political nature.

Also in contrast to isolated farms, are factories. Factories are at human scale, because while the ownership may be in the hands of a few, all men working in it participate in the return on invested labor and materials. And in turn are paid according to that investment where the owner has a duty to pay a just, i.e. human scale, wage.

What is not to human scale is employee ownership of large size companies, because when all the employees own the company, in effect no one in particular does, or at least no one in particular will care to the overall good as should be done. Employee owned companies have much in common with large stock owned companies run by a hired gun CEO with the exception that employees at the employee owned company are protected from being sold out by the CEO. Which of course in itself is a good and according to human scale, but the overall company is not to human scale.

Employee owned companies are appealing especially in our own current time because we suffer so much from usury and other forms of using men not according to human scale, i.e. not according to intrinsic human worth or dignity. What is desired is to control the means that can cause us the most harm. And while that desire is good, the means is not.

What we do have the means for which is good, is to simplify our lives to a human scale.

In this regard, the aspect of human scale which gives hope is its relation to simplicity. We live in a American society which is continuously becoming more complex and more burdensome in its complexity, and while most of us can't drop out, we can simplify our own lives.

Simplifying doesn't mean going out and buying a foot pedal sewing machine, or washing clothes by hand; those charlatans with their appeal to subsidiarity increase burden and complexity because electricity and electrical appliances are the societal norm as well as manufacturing norm. What it does mean is organizing our lives to see what is complex and not to human scale, and where we can make changes. Changes which of course are far easier to say than do.

No comments:

Post a Comment