Action vs. Reaction

I have given much thought to the idea of the rational actor. While an action stands on its own as a whole, complete and deliberate set of motions, a reaction stems directly from circumstances created outside of your control. This is where it intersects with manipulation. It would be fair to say that one who does not react makes himself less of a target for manipulation. Strings pull puppets.

A recent conversation with a friend gave rise to this question: when is one behaving rationally, and when is one being manipulated to react ‘rationally’ – in such a way so as to elicit the exact behavior desired by those who seek your manipulation?

Imagine living where you want to live, a town or city close to water, forest and beauty, working hard and earning a high income in a career that suits you for the time being. You bemoan the decline of culture and politics and exorbitant taxes, but you carry on regardless, carving out your own space despite living amidst the Kali Yuga. You then realise that if you moved to Singapore or Hong Kong, you could keep an extra $60,000 per year of your income, and escape the increasing socialism of the west. You move there and seem to escape your predicament.

The problem with this answer is that it doesn’t fully answer the question. At the heart of socialism is greed and envy. They want your money because it’s only ‘fair’. So you react, by going to a place, so far removed from nature, with a culture of rank consumerism, so that you can spend more money on shopping, hotels and restaurants? Their greed has made you jealous of your income, and in the process you have become one of them, a detached consumer, your only solace that you get to keep more of what’s yours.

It does not follow that high taxes, wasteful government and over-regulation are the ‘price’ we pay for western civilisation, culture and family. I am all for reducing your taxes, using offshore structures and internationalization. But be careful to act, rather than react, lest you become a product of the greed from which you are trying to escape.


  1. This hits close to home. I’m dying to move out of fascist Maryland and into some sort of small-government utopia, but I’d be content with resisting the decline in Colorado or Montana. I won’t ever escape the socialism but at least I can keep a little more of what’s mine and enjoy the scenery in the process. I can’t imagine that another $60,000 would make me happy hanging out with Jim Rogers in some sclerotic southeast asian city-state. Life is too short.

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