All “isms” seem to be oversimplifications of an extremely complex (and exponentially getting more complex) reality.
Anyone who has worked with complex systems knows that rules don’t work, as complex systems always adapt to new contexts, so an iterative approach is always appropriate.
What we have is a failure of expectations to mesh with reality.
People who expect rule based systems (economic, legal, spiritual, cultural) to be eternally appropriate are not acknowledging reality.
We live in a very complex reality.
Human beings (even the simplest of us) are complex beyond the capacity of any human being to understand.
Sure, we all must (and do) make simplistic models of everything we experience. Our experience is of a simplistic model of reality created by our subconscious systems.
What we are experiencing is a failure of people to acknowledge the very real complexity within which we exist.
Real complexity is uncomfortable, because it is, by definition, unpredictable.
Most people would rather retreat into various sets of emotionally comfortable simplistic modalities than acknowledge the very real complexity and uncertainty that is with us.
Obeying the law isn’t enough. Cannot be.
The law is always behind what must be done for survival. But that creates impossible dilemmas for many people, because they have no way to reliably distinguish between someone who is genuinely breaking the rule to forward the interests of humanity in general, and those who are doing so for strictly personal gain.
One of the biggest problems we face is the idea that competition supports individual creativity – that is a nonsense.
Competitive environments always drive systems to local minima on the complexity landscape, and that is the definition of constrained creativity – serfdom, slavery, call it what you will.
Complexity, and the diversity it spawns, can only survive in cooperative environments, and that always requires complex sets of systems to detect and remove “cheating strategies” from the cooperative (just the strategies, not the agents exhibiting those strategies necessarily).
Our systems have been overrun by cheating strategies.
Any attempt to recover using rule based systems must fail (the cheats have control of those systems).
If recovery is to happen, it has to be from the individuals up.
A demand for individual freedom, responsibly exercised in social and ecological contexts (not the egoistic freedom to destroy or dominate, but something much more powerful in the long term).
So yeah – we have issues.
Existence isn’t simple.
Try and oversimplify boundary conditions and you break the system (when boundaries become too rigid they become brittle and break – causing system collapse – any and all levels).
Our biggest issue is looking for simple answers where they cannot possibly exist.
We need to start by acknowledging complexity where it really exists, which is in each and every human being, and the wider ecosystems of which we are part.
We have the technical capacity to empower every individual, and to choose technologies that work with the environment, and support individual freedom responsibly exercised – but exchange based systems cannot do it.
I wasn’t quite clear enough.
It is the value measure generated by value in exchange (what we currently call money or market value) that is the issue.
There are many sorts of value.
Value in exchange cannot give a positive value to universal abundance – eg air has no value in a market, even though it is arguably the most valuable thing to any one of us in terms of survival value (and there are many other types and levels of values – entire ecosystems of them).
Thus exchange value based systems (markets, money, capital, etc) cannot possibly generate abundance based systems that work for everyone, as by definition, universal abundance has zero market value. Thus we see an explosion of mechanisms that create artificial barriers to universal abundance (IP laws, health and safety laws, most laws in practice).
And that is not to deny that markets perform many levels of very complex and necessary distributed functions – that is also so. We need to develop other mechanisms for each of those necessary distributed networked functions – and that is possible – but not by any single individual.
So it is a deeply complex set of issues, and it is abundantly clear that markets are now close to, if not already past, the point of posing greater existential risk than they deliver in benefits.
Plenty of unemployed PhDs.
Sure, if you are prepared to do whatever the systems ask, justify whatever you are told to justify, then you can earn money, honors, etc, but that is usually more to do with one’s willingness to be a part of a system, rather than one’s willingness to be a responsible individual exploring the boundaries in a very complex nest of complex systems.
And no – I meant something extremely complex, something that acknowledges the work done by people like Bertrand Russell, John von Neumann, Robert Axelrod, John Maynard-Smith, Elinor Ostrom, David Snowden, Stephen Wolfram, and many others.
It is about acknowledging that there are many classes of complexity that are not predictable, and it is about being enough of a biologist and sociologist to see those systems instantiated within us and within the cultural systems that we are part of.
So it acknowledges very old ideas like ineffability, and the need for a tension between liberal and conservative aspects (all levels, all systems), and it tries to go beyond that, to point to a fundamental reality in evolved systems that are not zero sum games, that is the presence of cooperation in all levels of complex systems that actually experience reasonable degrees of real freedom.
It is about as complex as it gets.