A Ramble About Capitalism and Socialism and Whether it all Really Matters

Discussions about politics always lead to many arguments over capitalism and socialism.  I don’t really have principles with capitalism in theory.  I think a lot of good can come out of it.  Through that spirit of competition, things that companies compete at can lead to many improvements in technology, and the development of things that people want to help them solve problems and make their lives better.  It’s been difficult to really verbalize what I don’t like about capitalism other than a gut feeling that it misses the mark, so I wanted to explore the topic a bit, and also talk about socialism as well.  Both words sort of don’t do us justice as humans.

*Spoiler alert*

If you haven’t seen the movie Gattaca, which everyone should, then you might not want to read this, although the part of the story I am going to tell isn’t really central to the plot.  The main character Vincent had a younger brother, Anton, who was genetically superior in this sci-movie, Vincent had a heart defect.  They would compete with each other as children by swimming out to the ocean to see who could swim the farthest without getting worried and needing to swim back.  Anton would always win, until one day Vincent won and left home never looking back.  In the future, their paths cross again by circumstance.  Anton is a cop.  Vincent is someone who could be turned in by his brother in this future where genetics is everything.  So Anton and Vincent have a moment of truth, and Anton challenges Vincent once again to their swimming competition, never understanding how it was that he lost to his brother who had a defective heart.  Their initial competition was important for Vincent to realize his dreams and have the courage to follow them.  So as they compete once again and swim out to sea, a determined Vincent is going strong, and his brother Anton falters, is exhausted and starts to drown.  Vincent stops and rescues him, and swims him back to shore.

This is humanity, or what humanity should be.  We may compete as a means of helping ourselves improve, but in the end we are brothers and sisters and when another is suffering, we forget about the competition and we help each other.  This is not capitalism, at least it is generally practiced today.  In capitalism today, you compete to get ahead and whatever the damage in your wake, whatever suffering that might be happening outside the realm of your drive for growth is not your problem.  Can capitalism be separated from selfishness?  In theory the answer is yes, but this doesn’t often seem to be the case.  Does capitalism promote greed, promote the corruption of our better nature? Ultimately it seems to me to promote capitalism as a system to live by that is truly beneficial to all, that promotes liberty, and happiness is a mistake.  Capitalism at best much a sub-system under a larger framework that is focused on the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. Capitalism is a system designed by humans, it was never meant to be a system to design humans.   On the surface it seems to maximize freedom, but I would say that it’s very enslaving.  We are slaves to consumerism, slaves to the constant making of money, slaves to the clock, with no real thought to our happiness which supposedly we are so free to make happen.

amp-quot-capitalism-rewards-hard-work-amp-quot-yeah-right_o_2033411So is socialism better? First let me explain how I define socialism, the word has come to mean so many things:

“A political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”

I will start out by saying that any ideology can be corrupted by greed and if there is a governing body the chance is there.  Socialism is something that seems to be an antithesis to freedom, and in some ways this is correct.  But maybe the better question is, how free are we really meant to be?  We evolved in tribes of about several hundred.  We were mobile out of necessity, and not sedentary.  Resources were uncertain as the environment changed, and as we most likely made occasional mistakes with damaging an ecosystem which we depended on.  But it was like a small town.  Everybody knew each other and took care of each other.  Taking care of children was communal, the idea of ownership was non-existent.  You passed down skills, and I am sure there was competition to help improve skills, but in the end success for the tribe was about cooperation.  Some people had lesser skills, some people were likely injured from time to time, some might have been too old or too young to be very effective, but that was life.  Everybody did what they were able, and for those that weren’t able, you took care of them.  You didn’t work for yourself.  As the best hunter you didn’t say, I’m taking all the meat today, good luck suckers!  At our core, our brains are wired for this idea of the collective, and the empowerment of the collective is an important tenet of socialism.  We are after all a social species.

So why do we see so many flaws in socialism?  The difference between that tribe of several hundred, and cities, or states, or countries, or the entire globe is that we don’t all know each other.  While we may be built for empathy, the fact remains that empathy is much easier to have when you’ve known someone personally (the longer the better), and in a tribe everybody knows everybody and you depend on each other.

In many ways, I feel that capitalism vs socialism boils down to a similar debate between individualism and collectivism.  Two things I’ve blogged about before.  When I frame capitalism as a sub-system in a larger framework I guess I now see individualism sort of similarly.  I am sure individuality played an important role in the tribe.  Someone having creative ideas was surely encouraged, having a diversity of expertise (even if everybody had to have similar skills), would have also been beneficial.  But if someone came up with a better way to catch more fish, it certainly wasn’t profited from.  They wouldn’t have just kept storing fish for themselves and sold them to their hungry tribe members, they would have taught this method to others and shared their haul while others learned.

In the end I just don’t see capitalism as the ideology that saves us all.  It is always going to produce winners and losers, and winners can keep rigging the game to make sure they keep winning.  And even if they intentionally don’t rig the game the privileges they and their offspring gain, compared to those with less makes sure that the deck gets continually stacked in their favor.

But if socialism is a better mirror of our tribal life that our brains are wired for, how do we get around the disconnect between the people we know and those we don’t?  Of course we could look at science and say, hey genetically we are pretty much the same and despite the fact that we are brought up in different environments, fundamentally the same things keep us happy and prosperous.  We could remain curious and continue to learn about other cultures and other problems people face, and see how similar their struggles are to our own, or what we might have gone through in the past.  We could believe in that Greek concept of “agape” a love of mankind, or a higher love that transcends our day to day to lives.  Can these things ever replace truly knowing each other, and develop empathy in the same way?  But they seem like good things to embrace even if in a lot of ways, we have to take them on faith.  We take so many religious myths on faith, so why not something that increases empathy for our fellow human?

I mean the truth is that capitalism can work, but it doesn’t mean you can get away from sharing, helping each other, and working for the rest of your tribe which is quite large in the present day given how much our population has grown and how global the economy has become.  Civilization is such a large departure from how we are wired, but for as many wonders it has created, it has spawned deeply disparate class structures and large populations in which a wealth of resources floats beneath the noses of those who have the most power to help people, and temptation to take over give becomes too great for our fragile minds who evolved in a far more uncertain world than we live in now.  Our fears and uncertainties can also be exploited by others, trapping us into a never ending cycle of divisiveness eroding the empathy which made us the successful species we are.  We are better when we cooperate.  At the end of the day I don’t really care to argue about capitalism vs. socialism, but whatever system we decide as best has to do away with greed.  I hope that one day we can find a path back to that communal culture from whence we came.

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62 thoughts on “A Ramble About Capitalism and Socialism and Whether it all Really Matters

    1. Even Dawkins himself doesn’t say that the selfish gene implies that we as an individuals are selfish. Only that we will evolve traits that will help propagate our genes. For humans those traits are a social ones. They are cooperative. They are reciprocal altruism. In other species the traits are different.

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        1. I don’t think so…I think the gene may be selfish, but there is more than one way to skin a cat. Different organisms arrive at solutions for gene propagation differently. Farming changed everything and took us out of the environment we evolved into and populations exploded taking us away from the cozy comfort of the tribe. I think in our minds still think we must scrounge for resources even if we don’t and I think we have a false sense of security from capitalism because we have a much larger base to gather resources from, so there is no sense that we must live in balance with our environment. It will eventually fail, and probably a lot harder when it does.

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        2. And please keep in mind that I am not saying capitalism is bad, but that as a system of itself it is devoid of emotion and empathy and thus cannot be the sole basis for how humanity moves forward (if it is to move forward). Hunter-gatherer tribes advances slowly, but they advanced together. We are no longer moving together and that’s a problem.

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            1. It’s a good question Pink? Like I said, I think moving together is very much how we evolved (even though of course coming in contact with other tribes wasn’t always too peaceful). The key is to embracing the concept that we are all the tribe. I feel for me sharing is instinctual, and this is where the reciprocal altruism comes in. If I share with you, then you will share with me. So there is some selfishness there in terms of the idea that there is no truly “unselfish act” but I would also argue that it’s much more a symbiotic act…an act for mutual benefit. Kindness builds bonds and attachment. We will be much more successful at getting food together, working together, than working alone, and if I’ve connected to you in an emotional way, you will help me fight off the lion, you will pull me up before fall off the cliff.

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            2. Will I pull you up? Really? I wonder. Hand on heart I can tell you that I’ve been given the most in my periods of highest financial success. I’ve also received the least generosity in periods when things weren’t going as well.
              Consider the difference in how people feel when they’re buying a gift for a wealthy person versus buying one for a poor person…

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            3. Well you would pull me up, because not pulling me up wouldn’t be to your advantage since we could survive better together than apart. Now in a world of 7 billion people, you could just let me die and be friends with someone else. The point is that if everybody were adopt such an attitude it would ultimately be destructive. In a system of people who share, some people can exploit that system.

              And I have no doubt that you have seen the least generosity when you were down, but on average people who are poor are more charitable as a percentage of their income than the rich. Why, because they understand what it’s like to be down and when you’re poor all you really have is each other. You were generous when you were rich, likely because you also remembered what it was like to be down. In our world if you are really rich, you can survive on your own without any help from anybody…well until the poor masses beat down your door and kill you. People who have vast wealth do so at the great expense of the well-being of others and likely the environment also. Imagine being in a hunter gather tribe with every bit of food and weaponry while you threw out crusts of bread to the 300 other people in your tribe. It would of course never happen, because when you’ve grown up with all those people and have bonds you would never do that to anybody. And that’s why I pose the question…with so many people on this earth is it possible to realize that we are all one tribe, given that we can’t possibly all know each other? And if we can’t do we do so at our own peril?

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    2. Yes, but you could always simply buy the property and look at it deteriorate if you’d have enough of renovating.
      Trust me, after a while,mowing a lawn you describe using compass points is not all it’s cracked up to be.
      😉

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  1. I think you’ve got it in a nutshell, Swarn: slaves to consumerism. What capitalism has become, and likely not to veer from in the foreseeable future. Not, perhaps, its original intent. I also wonder if it’s simply human nature to push boundaries, for there a few left in this world in a geological sense. (And so what to do with that competitive spirit it took to forge ahead into unknown territories …) Once there was the Western Frontier. Then there was the ‘unknown’ world, the ‘dark continent,’ the untraveled-to corners (Irian Jaya and Kiribati leap to mind). Now it seems anyone can go anywhere. And if they can’t, there’s always armchair traveling. So what is left to ‘conquer’ but the latest fashion trends or cookware, for example?

    On the other hand, I have no problem with socialism in theory, and I believe your ‘individualism vs. collectivism” is an apt means by which to paraphrase the contrast. I also think many Americans blur the lines between democracy and capitalism – and is it any wonder? We have a government basically run by corporations/special interest groups, and now check out who is about to ascend to the throne.

    In the end, we must be agents of change in a rapidly changing world, or be swept along. And I cannot disagree with your conclusion: whatever does away with greed. That, or we will surely surrender our collective humanity. Aloha.

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    1. So later today … I check into Facebook, only to find this ‘memory’ posted there by, er, FB (wish I could just attach the meme, but there you are): “And I would like to say that according to the Mayan Calendar the 21st of December (2012) marks the end of the Macha and the beginning of the Pacha. It is the end of selfishness and the beginning of brotherhood. It is the end of individualism and the beginning of collectivism.” The talk goes on, and you could Google it, I’m sure – it’s a quote from Eva Morales, President of Bolivia, at the UN General Assembly 67th session.

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    2. Thank you for your comments as always Bela, and the excellent quote below. I like it.

      As I read your words In the end, we must be agents of change in a rapidly changing world, or be swept along.

      I began to wonder, is that maybe the explanation for everything? Has civilization caused the world to change so quickly that all that most of us can do is be swept along? And though some powerful and greedy people may be doing the sweeping for now, ultimately just like any species that fails to live in harmony with its environment, nature will eventually sweep us away.

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  2. I just want to throw this thought out there that maybe your problem with capitalism and socialism is that they’re both devoid of an ethical requirement. Maybe what’s missing is an economic system that has to distribute goods not just according to needs and wants, but also maintains ethical treatment of individuals within that system. In other words, there needs to be a limit on what the individual can do to burden the collective, and what the collective can do to burden the individual.

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    1. Thank you SB for this comment, I would say you have hit the nail on the head, and i guess I thought I had sort of made that case for why I don’t like capitalism, but maybe the same could be said with socialism. I guess I would say that in theory socialism does have some ethical requirements built in, however what is not built in, is ethical requirements on how you implement it. I was reading some argument in comments the other day about socialism and said the problem is that if there is a revolution there will be leaders of the revolution, and those leaders will have power and seem to become corrupted often. And then you just state capitalism all over again. The idea should be that while a revolution might need leaders, once the revolution is over, those leaders need to step aside and cede power to the people, have fair elections, that kind of thing.

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      1. Sometimes I can’t escape the fact that in principle, capitalism and socialism are based on the same idea – that people in the aggregate are better at distributing goods than individuals making individual decisions. Capitalism relies on the “invisible hand” of the market, and socialism relies on communal shared interest.

        What happens when the community is defrauded or when the community acts against an individual’s interests?

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  3. Actually, I think we need a little of both. Extremes in life are rarely beneficial to anyone.

    However, since it seems humans have settled into Extreme Viewpoints, it most likely will take a global catastrophe to even things out. Having said that, I wonder which one will end up being the victor as we try to restore society …

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    1. I agree Nan, I certainly wasn’t advocating extremes, only commenting on the fact that capitalism itself isn’t an ideology to rally around by itself. I see capitalism as being beneficial inside a system that focuses on values like empathy and curiosity.

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  4. theancients

    A very interesting read Swarn. I agree with some of your points.

    My take is: capitalism, socialism, and every other ism, while there are benefits, these systems will always fall short because systems do not run or govern themselves – people do. And as another commenter correctly pointed out, at the heart of each individual is self-centeredness (pride).
    Pride makes it impossible for any human government or human system of governing to perfectly govern or even to adequately meet the needs of all concerned.

    I found it fascinating that you mentioned “agape” love, and I totally agree with you here, because it’s only in striving to love your neighbor (the person you come across at any given moment) as yourself that you move towards an ideal that benefits all humanity.
    My definition of love is totally non-emotional. Love is conscious decision that we choose to make: to be patient, kind, forgiving, abstain from boasting and tallying wrongs done against you (yes, the 1Corinth. 13 definition of love is my ideal).

    It’s said that wisdom begins with a listening heart. I commend you on choosing this path…
    keep listening.

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    1. Thank you for reading, your kind words and your great comments! I agree that ultimately the imperfection in any system is us, but I do think that systems that don’t from the outset explicitly state that we need to love and care for each other are more likely to fail. The idea that it would just sort of magically work itself out seems flawed. I think we’d like to believe that we should just know better, but we are fragile creatures in the end, with a brain that is plastic and is molded by our experiences. For instances studies demonstrate that power is in fact a corrupting influence on our thinking, and that remaining in power too long makes us less empathetic and less effective as leaders. So any type of society that has too much of a class structure, or too much inequality tends to be detrimental. And we do find that inequality is one of the greatest sources of crime and violence within a society.

      Agape is an interesting quality, because what it is, is requiring us to have faith. Agape was also used in the bible back when it was written in ancient Greek and spoke of the love that God has for all creatures. And while I imagine we might disagree on the existence of God, I think we can agree that what might be necessary to save this 7 billion and growing strong “tribe” is to have faith in a love greater than what we ourselves might experience in our interactions day to day with people. Since we can’t know everybody, since we can truly experience everybody, if we still want to regard those people we can’t know as humans who are not too dissimilar from ourselves, it takes faith. For me, the idea of a God can get us into a little bit of trouble if rely too much on God to take care of those less fortunate, because I really do think we have to help each other better. Indeed, although I have not studied every religion extensively, what I’ve learned about Christianity, Hinduism, and Sikhism do promote taking care of each other as a way of loving the Creator. And loving Creation, which to me is the pursuit of knowledge and understand about how it works, and also doing our best to preserve that Earth which sustains us all. The fact that we have this ability for a more transcendent love is an amazing quality of our species, and I think it’s going to take all of us embracing that kind of love to allow us all to truly prosper. I’ve always believed that faith is an important quality for humans. I see it as a quality that steadies turbulent waters, so that fear doesn’t grip us too tightly. Embracing agape is the sort of religion I can see as being helpful. 🙂

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  5. Thanks for the very interesting article, Swarn, one which touches on something that’s at the back of many peoples’ minds: unregulated (Neoliberalist) Capitalism is a busted flush, so what will Post-Capitalism look like? It feels a little like it must have done in the Soviet era, insofar as many intuit the paradigm’s failing, but they still go on believing (or having hope) in its capacity to self-correct, even though they have no idea how. Look at the political response to the ’08 crash; what’s really changed since then other than that we quantitatively eased and zirped ourselves over the gaping cracks in unfettered Capitalism.

    I realise the constraints of tackling complex issues in short blog pieces, but thought it worth noting that the definition you give in italics as to what Socialism is, seems to me to be Communism, not Socialism. ‘Socialism’ is of course an umbrella term for a series of interrelated ideas, but none of which (as currently and generally conceived) advocate the extreme position of Communism in which all means of production are collectively owned by the state and private property as well as businesses are forbidden by edict of state authority. A Socialist society will own and control only public goods, such as money supply, energy, transport, healthcare, education, utilities, and so forth – the things that are essential to all. So, in general parlance, Socialism is not so very far from the ‘mixed economy’ concept of which most Western democracies partake. Yet oddly, ‘Socialism’ is largely seen as a dirty word, particularly in the U.S. Strange to think it was Socialism that rescued the world’s financial system just 8 years ago, in the citizenry taking temporary ownership of vast swathes of the financial sector and in being liable for its accrued losses. I wonder if the citizenry will be quite so acquiescent in its socialising private losses when it all happens again?

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    1. Thanks Hariod for reading and your comment. As it is apparent, I don’t think I did an extremely great job in exploring this issue at the length that I could have, but I wanted more people to actually read it! And thank you for the clarification regarding socialism vs. communism. I didn’t pull that definition of the internet, but after looking at numerous sources I found that socialism ranged from state capitalism, to living on communes, and so I sort of leaned a little bit to that communal end, because I felt that it connected better with themes of hunter-gatherers and collectivism. So perhaps I labeled in correctly to try to make it fit my discussion better. But I certainly agree that a mixture makes a lot of sense and all I really wanted to say, as SB pointed out, is that capitalism is often treated like a principle in which to structure society around, and I see it more as a principle for a society to utilize. Society, I feel, needs to be built under something that fits humans better in the way we evolved, and strives towards the promotion of values that actually help people instead of create separation.

      And I agree, that when it came to the financial collapse caused by the housing bubble, if you are going to be “yay capitalism” then you have to let the banks fail, the car companies fail etc…now maybe by preventing them from doing so we did save many jobs and many people from going under financially, but as you say, that’s socialism, and if the free market is going to work as wonderfully as Republicans here make it out in a boom and bust world, then you have to let the busts happen. Failing to do that you are no longer for capitalism…and if you aren’t going to be for capitalism, then should be at least willing to do socialism right. That’s what makes it so unfathomable that the citizenry helped out the rich, and the rich have not trickled that money down to us. None of it all that surprising to you or I, but the fact that people keep buying the bullshit time and time again just makes you want to slam your head against a table. lol

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      1. Agreed, and perhaps a central problem with unfettered capitalism is that it reifies efficiency above all else, and certainly at the expense of the subjective experience of citizens. We become subservient to an inherent impulsion towards ever-greater efficiency, one which sole metrics are those of stock value and profit, and as pursued through beggar thy neighbour economics.

        With your permission, I’ll leave this video of a well-articualted debate for your readers. It’s on the future of Capitalism, and I should mention that the thesis debated is covered in the first 15 minutes or so prior to the lengthy debate itself, which provides additional viewing for anyone interested.

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          1. Thankyou professor, and I’m glad you found it of some value. I must say, I’m encouraged that this subject is on the table for discussion nowadays, as it seems we need to set our course straight ere too long or else suffer catastrophic consequences in terms of the environment and social cohesion. The past 35 years of neoliberalist, unfettered and ruthless market exploitation simply hasn’t produced for the many, and those many are waking up to the fact, don’t you think?

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            1. …and those many are waking up to the fact, don’t you think?

              Well, it could be much much better and wider an enlightenment, especially in the U.S., but as I’ve been discussing over on Ruth’s blog — Out From Under the Umbrella — in order for “the many”, i.e. the egalitarians versus the plutarchists, to wake… they must also understand the shrewd cunning political tactics of the socially, economically, ecologically insensitive and their tactics. The 80% to 90% bottom-class of the U.S. is not adequately educated enough to counter these groups and lobbyists. :/

              Quality higher education MUST be in freely in the hands and brains of “the many” in order to protect the “Greater Good for the Greatest Number” from the legal and illegal plutarchy!

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        1. This is really great Hariod. I am not certain I am going to get to watch all of it in one sitting…but I’ve gone through the introduction of the the main guy’s idea and the introductory points by the panelist. I also watched this 15 minute video which isn’t nearly as comprehensive, but does a good job of pointing out the problems of what this host describes as predatory capitalism as a central tenet of neoliberalism.

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          1. Great, I love it that this kind of discussion is getting traction at a grass roots level over there in North America, and although I’m not familiar with these left-leaning comedians, I do know that The Young Turks (Dore is on there too, right?) get decent enough viewing figures to suggest a younger demographic is awakening politically. Well done, Swarn, for giving this subject oxygen here; it really is incredibly important, I feel.

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            1. Indeed it is. The fact that so many democrats criticized Bernie Sanders during the primaries shows you how strong the establishment it, but I think it’s impressive how many people Bernie resonated with.

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            2. Hariod, here’s the channel I mentioned. Blyth’s lectures are showing in the top 2 under Popular uploads. The first lecture “Global Trumpism) was especially informative. The second one, where the snippets in Swan’s video came from, is informative, too, if you can tolerate Windy Schiller’s apparent hyper-active caffeine high, who joins Blyth in the discussion.

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            3. Bookmarked to watch (one or the other) this evening, Victoria – thankyou very much. I hadn’t heard much of Mark Blyth previously, perhaps due to him being U.S. based, but have seen him being interviewed by Chris Hedges. I too thought Brexit would happen and that Trump would win – said so unequivocally at Pink’s, as well as elsewhere – but based only on having a sense of what’s in the air, rather than being particularly well-informed or educated, neither of which apply to me. 🙂 But like Blyth says to Jimmy Dore in Swarn’s clip, in retrospect it all seems a bit obvious in any case. What isn’t at all obvious is how Neoliberalist policies are going to fix a broken Capitalism, and yet that’s the way the politicians want (i.e. are being told) to go. We may see the filthy underbelly of Capitalism exposed (yet again) in Trump’s overt deal-making, and already he’s talking about ‘doing a deal’ with China in order to maintain the Taiwan stand-off.

              Personally, I’d like to see fully-balanced mixed economies, ones in which private capital can make its play and take its profits and losses, but that public goods – money, energy, healthcare, transport, water supplies, education, a food supply chain, and so on – are all owned by the citizenry. We have nominally mixed economies already, so the transition isn’t that great, but it’s clear that Thatcherism and Reaganomics (i.e. contemporary Neoliberalism) have tipped the scales far too much in favour of private capital. Socialism and this kind of mixed economy are very much compatible, and it seems that’s not far apart from Paul Mason’s vision of Postcapitalism – he’s not rejecting profit-taking as a risk reward, but that is seen as a societal freedom rather than an ideology the whole of society must sequaciously adhere to.

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            4. Haroid, thanks so much for bookmarking one to watch tonight. If I were to make a recommendation, I’d suggest the first one “Global Trumpism”, because it really gets into the nooks and crannies of what’s happening. If the masses realized just how they’ve been manipulated — if they could see this data he presents, I think it would have a significant impact of them. To visually see the consistent history (shown in these graphs) is mind blowing.

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        2. Enjoyed the video, Hariod. I resonated with a lot of what Paul Mason said, and if we have not reached the end of Capitalism, I agree with Paul that there’s got to be a better version. From everything I’ve researched over the last several years, successful templates already exist, but are not being implemented in most countries for obvious reasons (neoliberal strongholds, greed and power addictions).

          Not long after Trump’s win, I watched two of Mark Blyth’s presentations from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs (available on their YouTube channel). Swarn posted a video that includes a few snippets from one of Mark’s talks at the Institute. I’ll post the channel in another comment in case you’re interested.

          Back to Paul Mason.This 2010 RSA video, with Dan Pink, touches on a lot of what Paul talked about in his thesis (and Zoe Williams touched on as well). Dan presents results from a few studies, which I think Paul was privy to, based on many of his comments. The talk is just under 11 minutes.

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          1. Great video Victoria. It seemed a bit familiar so perhaps you linked it to me before. I also love Dan Pink. He often appears on the NPR podcast I listen to called Hidden Brain with interesting tidbits. As I’ve learned more it seems the more I find that too much of this world we live in simply doesn’t fit us as a species.

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            1. Swarn, thanks for taking the time to watch it (again?). I’ve probably shared the video with you before. Back in 2006, when I published my business website, I dedicated a full page to Dan Pink’s book A Whole New Mind, highlighting key concepts and prevailing trends towards the future of business and the economy.

              You wrote: “I find that too much of this world we live in simply doesn’t fit us as a species.”

              I agree.

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  6. The thing about hunter-gatherer communities (and humans spent 99.99% of existence on the planet in this way of life) it is effectively a ‘closed system’ in that it doesn’t really change. There is no need for it to change. You do not hunt or gather more than you can eat, or reasonably store, or carry. Human groups were small – they became top predators (more or less) but were part of the eco-system rather than attempting to rule it as we do now.

    In the prehistoric past it is thus unlikely that resources were ever truly over-exploited, although post-glacial climate change for one would have challenged people to adapt their behaviour and go for new food sources. We could say, then, that hunters were rich because they had everything they needed. When things ran out, they moved on. Hunters typically have few institutions to bind them, because the need to cooperate in order to acquire food in the first place is too great. Individuals would find it hard to survive outside the group and that is sanction enough. There is self-interest in the sharing then, and the best hunter might have the choicest cut of the carcass, but no one would go without. In this kind of economy, respecting the world that provides you with everything you need is a sacred priority. That is something we’ve rather lost hold of.

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    1. Thank you for reading Tish and for your excellent comment. I agree with you that we are living in a way that is certainly more outside are nature, however my reading indicates that we may not have always been the “living in balance with nature” perfection, and neither is really any other species. If you look at basic population dynamics, like the classic example of rabbits and wolves, wolves may not eat to excess but there will be a situation in which too many rabbits are preyed upon because when there are lots of rabbits for everybody wolves populate quickly. As rabbit populations dwindle, some wolves will starve as the better hunters catch the now less than adequate amount of prey. As wolf populations decline, the rabbits best at avoiding being eaten will populate quickly now facing less predators. So I think that humans, perhaps unknowingly have destroyed habitats unknowingly before, although I am sure in the hunter-gatherer days those ecosystems recovered over time. But even our hunter-gatherer selves hunted animals to extinction. The moa is a great example, and while warmer temperatures were probably a greater factor in the mammoth decline I do think we helped. And it seems to me sensible that we would have not lived in harmony where knowledge was lacking. Were we to know how many mammoths or moa’s about? I mean even as we look at the current crisis, I am sure initially nobody knew that burning fossil fuels would cause this problem. At some point of course we did know, and now not doing anything about it solely rests on us, but I think a lot of the destruction was purely out of ignorance. Early poor farming practices changed landscapes, cutting down trees for fires and housing vastly changed landscapes, the oceans do make an excellent place to dump garbage…until there is about 7 billion of us. But in general I agree with you, and maybe it’s because so much population is urban that we tend to be detached from nature, but then at the same time, at least in the U.S., more urban people accept the scientific consensus on climate change. So I don’t know, but it does feel like life has become detached from the natural world, and has become that way more so with time.

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  7. This was a very enjoyable read Swarn! I echo all your “ramblings”. 😉

    My 22-yr old daughter challenged me about my advocating the Nordic Economic Model, or a close rendition of it, and phasing out American Consumerism/Capitalism for all the reasons you’ve given here. When my daughter challenged me, she mistook my change as Socialism… and as it turned out the old 1950’s definition of socialism was her concept. It was confusing for her because I correlated her church’s charity programs as a form of “modern” socialism, or your descriptions of tribal welfare, asking her “Are they so different?

    As I was reading this, like Nan above, I was asking “Why can’t we have elements of both? Why must the two economic models be infinitely opposed?” Then I came to the realization that if we don’t repackage it and rename it as something new and highly innovated, humanity’s worst virtues will soon surface: screams from the lower unpriviledged of rigging by the wealthy priviledged, and screams from the wealthy priviledged of sponge-fraud by the lower unpriviledged. And BOTH are guilty and justified. Hah! 😛

    I totally agree that the Age of Imperialization (greed) for the planet must go extinct before the human race does… or until some of us can get to Mars and successfully colonize another planet! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahhh, but Professor. Human nature being what it is, what guarantee would there be that the “Mars people” wouldn’t create the same or similar situation in the far distant future? Can we be certain the capacity for greed would not rear its ugly head once again? Perhaps it is innate within the human race …

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      1. Nan, an excellent question! If I may reword it for another point: “What can be expected of Homo sapiens when either too much or too little essential basic life-resources are abundant yet scarce?” History amply shows the full spectrum of humanity’s behavior, brilliant to blind, virtuous to vile and everything in between. I think any sane compassionate human being knows which end of the spectrum nurtures higher percentages of extinction. 😉

        As my 15-year old son said last Xmas, “Here we see that Natural Selection is very good and necessary.” And that comes from a boy who for the last 10-years has been raised (indoctrinated?) in the Fundygelical non-denominational church and private schooling by his mother and maternal grandparents! LOL I was a very proud Papa to hear him say that in front of numerous ultra-Conservatives that holiday. 😉

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        1. I do think that until we figure out how to do it right here, all settling on another planet does is delay the inevitable conclusion of destroying our living environment until it is no longer sustainable. As much as the scientist and me wishes for a Star Trek type future, as a species I honestly don’t think we should be fucking up any other planets until we have learned how to treat this one with more respect! lol

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          1. I don’t really argue much or any of your points Swarn. 🙂 I think history has shown amply that there are specific human personality types which allow us to gauge those types to either be likely to extinguish Earth’s ecosystems, themselves & others, less likely, or highly unlikely. This also goes for those personality types that are either likely, less likely, or highly unlikely to reverse and/or save Earth’s ecosystems, themselves & others, whether on this planet or another. My guess is that on ANY planet there will be the former types with the latter types constantly fighting to keep necessary ethical systems you allude to in your other comment below. My sincere hope is that the human “greed” meglamania gene eventually is removed (mutated) OUT of Homo sapiens. 😉

            Liked by 2 people

            1. So what you’re saying is we are waiting for an evolutionary solution…so about another 100,000 years or so everything will be rosy. lol Well I don’t mind hanging my hat on such a solution, I’m just worried we might not make it as a species another 100,000 years! lol

              Liked by 1 person

    2. Sounds like you handled your daughters challenge well in terms of explaining your thinking process and giving her something to think about. Well done.

      And indeed I am not necessarily advocating one over the other, but rather pointing out that either is meaningless without embracing an ethical system which trumps the economic system. The idea of the collective however seems much more well suited to who we are as humans which is partly why I lean in that direction, but I certainly see capitalism as having value, especially because I think it can be more nimble, and sometimes in this world you need to be nimble. 🙂

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  8. Pingback: Socialism in the 21st Century

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