Several years ago, I remember reading an historical analysis of alien movies and other popular media, with an interesting conclusion that went something like this: With a few notable exceptions, during times of war, widespread geopolitical strife or general oppression or misery, E.T. is generally depicted in popular media as a benevolent visitor, yet in times of peace or general prosperity, E.T. is instead portrayed as a merciless invader. The study tracked several cycles back and forth from aliens being good guys and bad guys, saviors or slavers. I suppose Orwell might have a thing or two to say about that, as would any political skeptic: the masses must have an enemy (even if it is imaginary and lives beyond the stars) in order to keep them "united for the common good" and their attentions diverted from the sleight-of-hand (or "mouth" as it were).
In fact, there is some pretty credible evidence that the entire sci-fi domain (at least insofar as films are concerned) is nothing if not a gentle, alluring introduction to the monstrous tenets of Karl Marx and his deplorable Communism. Take Star Trek, for instance (since a new movie is coming soon — Here I give my apologies in advance to Star Trek fans. My intent is not to taint or diminish your enjoyment of those productions, but rather to leverage certain facts to make what I believe is an interesting conclusion).
By most accounts, very entertaining films, but the undercurrent is this: Mankind has found the workers' paradise, the mythical Utopia. There are no wars, at least not with each other, but only with villainous sub-species who are thinly veiled metaphors for those ugly creatures who would reject Marxist and Neo-Marxist ideologies of the politburo-esque ("vanguard of the people"), The Federation. There are no possessions either because the proletariat dance in their magical gardens of abundance whether they work or not. This is all due to the technological discoveries of free energy and energy-to-matter conversions. Basically, resources are infinite, so there is no want or need or strife.
We've all laughed at the quote that "if the government managed the deserts, there'd be a sand shortage within a decade," but interestingly, in order to successfully operate a communist state (or any statist form or government), one actually must have infinite resources to squander because no finite amount can be enough for the waste and corruption that ensues. Thus, I do suppose that futuristic, high science fiction with infinite resources is indeed the proper platform for Marx's cultist filth.
Oh yeah, and there's also no money in Star Trek, which brings me to the point of this note. Yep, this is where I tie it all together, gold, Star Trek, E.T., productivity, and dark ages, all in a single piece, with a common thread and some semblance of coherence. And it's rather interesting, too, because I'm about to tell you something you've never heard before. I'm going to answer, with great authority, the mystery that biologist, astrophysicists, cosmologists, average Joe's and sci-fi writers of all stripes have pondered to no avail for many years. I'm going to tell you, a priori, what E.T. is really, really like, and absolutely, unequivocally whether E.T. will be friend or foe, and that's not a jest. I can do so with inductive reasoning constructed from eternal truths of the universe, whereas the pros try to use deductive reasoning (or whim) that is virtually certain to produce incorrect solutions. Moreover, they are all looking in the wrong places for their deductions, because the answer to this mystery starts with the seemingly benign concept in Star Trek, mirroring the petulant tantrums of Lenin, in which money no longer exists.
First, I can tell you, unequivocally, that E.Ts., unlike captains of the Enterprise, have money, and they use it every day for almost every transaction, and they make a lot of transactions. Further, the money will almost certainly be a rare, metallic element, such as gold or silver, or an indestructible, painstakingly created alloy.
I know this because the full spectrum of investigation into the matter does not end with Hubble, the patentably absurd Drake equation, or the wisecracking goof, Carl Sagan. Rather, it is rational figures from Aristotle to Adam Smith who have guaranteed this aspect will be evident.
For example, [I paraphrase from a John Lee economics article] Aristotle discovered, formulated, and analyzed the problem of commensurability (how to compensate another and therefore make a fair transaction). He wondered how ratios for a fair exchange of heterogeneous things could be set. He searched for a principle that makes it possible to equate what is apparently unequal and non-comparable. E.g., how does one compare apples to oranges? Or decide whether the go to school or to work? Well, it's all but impossible (or I should say quite inefficient and uncertain) without money.
Aristotle claimed that money, as a common measure of everything, makes things commensurable and makes it possible to equalize (or relatively value) them. He states that it is in the form of money, a substance that has a telos (purpose), that individuals have devised a unit that supplies a measure on the basis of which just exchange can take place. Aristotle thus maintained that everything can be expressed in the universal equivalent of money. He explained that money was introduced to satisfy the requirement that all items exchanged must be comparable in some way.
Most people take money for granted, like air, and very few truly stop to think about the importance of money for society. It is more important than the invention of the wheel, and even more important than a written language. For example, without money, what we know of today as trade, but really any imaginable transaction between individuals (whether human or alien), would be quite nearly prohibitively expensive, whether buying things, going to work, or getting married and raising children. Of course, Adam Smith (a great villain to communists), revolutionized the world with an economic framework that accounted for true productivity and rise from poverty with what he described as division of labor, today termed as comparative advantage. In effect, if you are good at growing grain, while your neighbor is good at mending appliances, you can leverage the optimal skills of both through trade. This comparative advantage results in revolutionary amplification of productivity on a grand scale, and it is what prosperity is all about. We can all master every field of endeavor, merely by devoting ourselves to one field and trading for the skills, labor, and talent of others.
Of course, comparative advantage cannot exist for long without a sound, honest currency. In a word: money. Accordingly, without money, the human race would never, no matter how long one observes, evolve even to hunter-gatherer state, much less to agrarian society. The same applies to E.T., and last time I checked, it would take a highly advanced, productive, and wealthy society to conceive and accomplish a flight of light-years through empty space to visit our blue planet. Yet, without money, there is no such thing as an advanced, productive, and wealthy society, and probably not really even a "society" at all.
Hence, E.T. must have money, which appears to be an immutable requirement. Furthermore, the money must be "honest" such as gold or silver, rather than irredeemable fiat promises to pay or any form of debt-based money. Our own history is rife with examples of the failures of paper money going back to 600AD. They all collapse, and with them the underlying society or civilization. Civilizations that turn to paper money simply do not last long enough: on average a mere 39 years, which is not long enough for a civilization to develop the technological and productive wherewithal to start exploring space. And with each collapse, they must rebuild anew, sometimes from scratch, like our own Dark Ages circa 500AD to 1500AD. A THOUSAND YEARS to recover just to the standard of living that previously existed before Rome debased its currency and imploded thereafter, while Constantinople stood throughout with the rock-solid, honest, gold Bezant.
So I can practically guarantee that when E.T. does land in the UFO, he/she/it will have silver coins in its pockets with a lovely profile of some antennae beauty, and further, being a refined diplomat and all, will display great tact to avoid laughing out loud at our demonstrably ignoramus notions of paper money. I can also tell you that E.T. will decidedly NOT say "take me to your leader."
You see, that phrase is the tyrant's vision, not the hallmark of a free society, where individuals decide their own course and are not the property of the state, the government, or "the leader." Moreover, it takes a free society to have peace, prosperity, and liberty — you know, the ideals behind the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Only a free society, with the notions of individual liberty, free markets, and limited government will ever, ever, ever rise to the level of space exploration and beyond. With very few exceptions, government does not ever produce anything of worth, much less innovate great technological advances. That is all done in a free market by private individuals and entrepreneurs, unhampered by government regulation. Government does, however, destroy these things, most times quite effectively with high taxation, heavy regulation, and bribes to the politically well-connected; or as Mises famously stated, "Government is essentially the negation of liberty" which means the negation of prosperity, the negation of peace, and the negation of great civilizations and accomplishments.
No, our E.T. friend will not come from a "Federation" or some government-sponsored entity, but will be a trader or explorer with great curiosity, and also great kindness and benevolence, having been reared by a free, prosperous, and peaceful society that disdains intervention and coercion. If any of those elements are not present in E.T.'s host civilization: freedom (which is a prerequisite for), prosperity, and peace, E.T. will never, not ever get off the ground to find us across the vastness of space. We certainly have nothing to fear from belligerent, totalitarian races out there (e.g., the Borg). They will never get off their own planet, not alive anyway, even if they do evolve to something higher than an ant colony.
May 12, 2009