Unequal Societies

A Facebook post by Deb to my page

A response to a Facebook post by Deb – Wondering if it is even possible to prevent the worst trajectories imagined in this article . . .
Are we about to witness the most unequal societies in history?

Not only possible but essential and likely. [To Deb’s wondering]

One of the things that seems to be the case is that morality is an essential part of any system that wants to survive a long time.

The one thing that is common about systems of morality, is that all surviving cultures have one.
Cultures without them tend to self destruct in an escalating cycle of conflict and violence.

Strategic systems that want to last a long time have to be based in cooperation.

One can generate systems that generate high minimum standards for all, and allow for individuals to move to any level they can as a result of their efforts above that minimum (within the limits necessary for survival of social and ecological systems – all complex systems have limits that must be respected).

That seems to be what Jordan Peterson is pointing to with his research.

If we head down the path of decreasing minima, it should be obvious to all that it will end badly for all.

Those at the top do in fact seem to be getting the idea that markets and universal abundance are antithetical to each other, and if they really want to live a very long time, they must opt for abundance for all, in cooperation.

[followed by – in response to to Deb thinking it unlikely.]

Hi Deb
I stress that what I am proposing is not by any definition socialism.

What I am saying is that we are the most profoundly cooperative species yet to evolve, and we are not purely cooperative, but are multi-modal depending on context.

I am also saying that the evidence from a strategic study of evolution is that new levels of complexity are associated with new levels of cooperation, and that raw cooperation is always vulnerable to exploitation by cheating strategies, so at every level cooperation requires sets of attendant strategies to detect and remove cheating strategies and thus maintain the cooperative.

I am also saying that such strategic sets are present and necessary at all levels. When one understands this aspect of evolution, then far from being nihilistic or favouring any sort of post-modernistic relativism, evolution actually demands effective moral constructs at both the social and ecological levels.
Understanding that, and the need for such boundaries for the survival of higher order complexity, it becomes in the long term personal self interest of everyone to maintain such things.

And it is not simple, as the set of necessary boundary conditions can be very context sensitive – such that what works and is necessary in one context can actually be quite destructive in another context.

And in a very real sense, this is exactly what is happening in terms of money and markets as stores and measures of value. Markets work well when most things are in fact genuinely scarce, but when automation delivers the possibility of universal abundance of anything (what people actually need), then markets actively work against the delivery of any such universal abundance.

Thus we are in an age when our exponentially expanding ability to automate the production of goods and services has the promise to deliver universal abundance of all the physical necessities to allow everyone to self actualise in whatever way they responsibly choose (because there are very real social and ecological responsibilities and limits present), but the classical notions of markets and values associated with them in history now work against the interests of everyone, as they tend to concentrate wealth into fewer and fewer hands (without providing for the needs of all).

So we can continue to use money as an abstract measure of value during this transition period, but for planning purposes we need to alter the way we have created and distributed money, such that everyone has enough for a high basic standard of living and the freedom to make real and interesting choices (within responsible limits). That does not meaning putting any sort of upper limit on wealth, and it does demand that we put a high lower limit in place.
The security of everyone, even those at the top of the distribution, is actually dependent on this.

It seems that the current attitudes towards free markets and post modernistic nihilism are based in a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution, one based in the very simple (and wrong) idea that evolution is all about competition.
Competition is an aspect of evolution, but not the aspect that leads to complexity, but the aspect that drives back to simplicity.
Cooperation is what allows complexity to emerge, and the emergence of such complexity has classically been in environments where most risk to individual survival has come from factors outside of the population of others like self.

The next level seems to require that we recognise that we are all far more alike than we are different, and that the interests of all of us (including our personal liberty) demand a level of cooperation that is above the interests of market values.

All of that is clear to me, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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