Dirk asked, then what do we do.
The evidence on that is clear.
To the greatest extent possible, try multiple “safe to fail” experiments. In all systems, have as much replication and redundancy as possible. And the selection process has to have a large random element, because every had biases that blind them to possibility.
We must have societal evolution, that is a given. The context has changed enough that it is unavoidable.
That is something that the Integral and “Spiral Dynamics” folks have at least partly right. The problem with their approach is that they do not go nearly deep enough into the systems of biology, or the mathematics of far from equilibrium non-zero sum games, to get a really decent understanding of the levels of complexity that they are really dealing with. They oversimplify.
In the short to medium term, next 5 to 20 years, I don’t see any way of stabilizing transition that doesn’t involve some sort of universal basic income, and it has to be at a relatively high level – for every individual on the planet.
We need a lot more focus on basic science.
We need to start really measuring, at fine scale, flows of energy and nutrients through ecosystems, and measuring the sets of conditions that species are optimized for,
We need to give everyone a basic education into the nature of complex systems, the many levels of the fundamental role of cooperation in human existence, and the need of all complex systems for flexible boundaries. Many of our current legal and social systems have little or no flexibility in practice for the majority of people (for the elites yes – but not for ordinary mortals).
So yeah – complex; deeply and irreducibly complex.
[followed by Back to Marks original Post]
I find that Deneen constructs a total straw man definition of Liberalism.
I don’t find much of value in his writing.
I call myself a classic liberal, and it is nothing at all like what Deneen describes.
For me, liberalism is to value individual life and individual liberty above all else.
And there is a hierarchy of value just in those two – and life comes first.
Thus there must be an acknowledgement of all the many levels of systems and boundaries necessary for the many levels of life that are embodied in any particular individual, and all that the wider social and ecological systems contribute to that. That is far from simple.
If one oversimplifies, beyond the necessity imposed by the particulars of any specific context, then one poses a threat to life (which is to say one is not honoring the highest liberal value).
To be a liberal in this sense is not to ignore tradition, but to search out and clarify the many levels of values embodied in tradition, and to honor those, at the same time as we explore the infinite and unbounded space of all possible strategies and algorithms and possibilities that lie beyond the boundaries of the explored.
At its highest embodiment classical liberalism is honoring those hard won lessons from our deep past, but not being entirely bound by them either. And there can be no clear boundaries in such a complex mix of interwoven levels of systems.
So the more conservative in society will always misinterpret the liberal (which is, clearly in my view, what Deneen does).
Part of being a responsible liberal is acknowledging that we are as individuals also part of many levels of complex cooperatives; so there must eternally be a tension between the view derived mostly from lessons of the past, and the view derived mostly from the possibilities inherent in a not yet materialized future.
For me, Deneen understands very little about liberalism.
Liberalism at its best acknowledges the many levels of tension present, and seeks to find practical ways of working through those tensions to deliver the greatest degrees of security and freedom possible – to everyone. And there can be no absolute certainty in such things, as the entire notion of absolute certainty is an over simplification of something profoundly more complex – but even admitting of the possibility of such a thing can be too terrifying for many on the conservative end of the spectrum of humanity.
For me, classical liberalism very closely embodies the patterns of evolution that have allowed humanity to evolve, and there is irreducible uncertainty and complexity present in those patterns; and pretending otherwise is simply a display of ignorance.
Any attempt to conflate liberalism with communism is simply wrong.
Communism is about central control. In this sense it is exactly the opposite of classical liberalism, as it removes freedom.
Marx correctly identified some issues with markets and exchange values (though he failed to recognize the core systemic issue; but his solution was worse than the disease.
So no – Liberalism has not failed, it is still limping along with a very tiny group of liberals doing what it takes to keep the rest of humanity alive in spite of their ignorance and fear and willful blindness and outright hostility.
And to see anything less than an acknowledgement of that reality in a group such as this that purports to understand something of the complexity of logic and strategy and reality is somewhat frightening.
We are complex Pawel.
We have many levels of most things.
In terms of life – we have many sorts of replicators within us, each part of us – RNA, RNA/Protein, DNA, cells. Then there are the levels of memes we embody.
Similarly with values.
We value the basics of life, like air, water food.
We have other biologically encoded values – like mating urges, fear of snakes, etc.
We have culturally instilled values.
We can have levels of chosen values.
Not a lot about us is simple.
We are composed of stacks of complex systems, each new level built upon the earlier levels.
Each level has its sets of strategies, tensions, etc.
Any level that allows for the emergence of greater complexity is essentially cooperative.
We are very complex entities, when you start to understand the nature of the systems that we are composed of, and the nature of the sorts of processes that have allowed things like us to evolve.
[followed by – Sigurd provided a link to Deneen Giving his first public lecture after the publication ]
Agree with the general thrust of most things he says, but he doesn’t go nearly deep enough.
It really does require a deep systemic investigation of the strategies of evolved systems, and he doesn’t explicitly mention that at all – though he does refer to many of the thinkers who looked at the phenotypic expressions of “being” rather than those who sort to more deeply understand the systems below those phenotypes.
Liberty is one of my highest values.
It is number 2.
It come behind life.
Life is # 1.
Any action that is a threat to life is prohibited.
The deeper one looks at the levels of systems, their boundaries, and interactions; the more clearly one gets to see the general classes of things that do not promote long term life.
The value of life demands that liberty is restricted to the class of actions that do not pose a significant long term risk to life.
The deeper one looks at that – the more complex it gets.
One can make a strong case in history and logic that exchange based values generally promote life and liberty in systems where most things are genuinely scarce. But that entire system is predicated on most things being genuinely scarce.
Fully automated systems change that whole systemic landscape – fundamentally.
So in a real sense, I agree with Deneen that much of the complexity of tradition life in the traditional market space has been lost, and that is a real danger.
I agree with many of the dangers he sees, but I take it further, much closer to the root (the radix). Call me radical if you like.
And I am beyond any reasonable doubt that markets and money are now the greatest systemic threat we face; and that transitioning to an abundance based frame of thinking is essential for our long term survival.
So for me, the freedom to pick up a gun and shoot someone is clearly annulled by the demand the respect the life of all individuals.
Deneen probably goes as far as anyone who wants to visit Washington can go, and survive.
I’m about as far from Washington as it is possible to get.
I want to survive, for a very long time.
I want everyone else to have that option too, and for all of us to have as much liberty as possible.
And I agree with Deneen, that the only sort of liberty that has any value is the sort that is constrained by all the many different levels of necessity implicit in all the different systems present. That is nothing at all like following whim, and much more like being responsible for one’s duties. And it is what is on offer, so we might as well enjoy it.