Sunday, December 10, 2006

Do we know how to live forever?

"But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
- Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean Baptiste Le Roy (1789)

Death is certain because it is one of the controlling factors that defines life. Taxes are the means by which collectives of people pay others to do what they cannot do or don't want to do themselves.

As unlikely as it may seem that death may be prevented, work goes on in science laboratories for the purpose of determining what causes life to end, with a view to seeing if it's possible to prevent that from happening.

Natural death seems to occur as a result of two primary factors. First, as DNA is reproduced over and over as our cells divide, the strings of genes (chromosomes) become shorter as not all gene sequences are reproduced near the end of the chain. Eventually, genes are incapable of performing some of the functions for which they were designed and cell failure occurs. Second, as we age fewer new cells are produced than old cells that die off naturally. In time, some organs do not have enough working cells to do their jobs.

Taxes became a necessity when humans gathered into clans large enough that individuals were able to specialize into defined groups of experts, such as hunters or tool-makers. Since both hunting and tool-making are so important, that left other tasks that could not be performed by those left at home. The jobs that are done now by municipal workers were the first to be designated as necessary to be done by a group of people, who then needed to be compensated for devoting their time building community buildings and defence structures, for examples.

Taxes are necessary only where a sufficient number of people for some reason do not look after some of their own needs. There are still many people in the world who do not pay taxes because they look after all of their own needs. Most of them "live off the land," are nomadic and seldom use conventional currencies. The more specialized people become in their daily tasks, the more they need others to do what they don't take time to do.

Today we may be surprised at the number of people who live to be 100 years old. In the USA, for example, nearly one million people have reached the century mark. Some biologists estimate that many people born in the latter part of the 20th century may live to be 150 years old. That's because they won't die by accident, by violence, by self destruction of their health or by neglecting their own wlefare.

Genetic manipulation may soon make it possible for people to live hundreds of years. Yet we live in an age where the threat of masssive death rates from new diseases, war, even from genocide exist in many parts of the world.

Living longer will come with a great responsibility. To qualify, we will have to ensure that no one else tries to kill us. That will mean that we will have to care about the welfare of all of humankind, not just of ourselves, our families and our neighbours.

When the world becomes one large village, we must know how to make friends on a global scale. As we know, making enemies is much easier. And much less healthy.

If we don't learn how to make friends around the world and to work together for our mutual benefit and to satisfy our mutual needs, then we will pay all of our income in taxes to defend ourselves from our enemies. For a great number of years.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the path to a longer and better life.
Learn more at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is very well said. Division of labor is a necessity of society where the expansion of knowledge and the complexity of technology lead people to become experts in certain field.

Some people are just good at certain things, i.e. if Bill Gates sold Hamburger, he will be the Microsoft of the burger business.

Naturally, wealth tends to be accumulate by selective individuals who are talented in doing so. Plus, those successful individuals are usually early starters who often make the rule for those fields.

To curb excessive accumulation of wealth in too few individuals, tax plays an equalizer. If anything we need more intelligent tax rate where tax rate should reward those industrious fews and benefit the mass.