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Pondering the South African Memesphere – Looking for the Good in Everything

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Anarchy, Libertarianism, Capitalism, Socialism

December 6th, 2008 · Posted by Hugo · 8 Comments

Within certain contexts, I’m quite a fan of anarchy. I believe relationships should be driven out of values and mutual respect, and hence not need rules. The point at which humanity moved away from anarchy, required a government, was when our social groups became too big to be supported by social relationships. (Ponder, Dunbar’s number?)

Depending on how you define anarchy and government, anarchy doesn’t exist. Other primates don’t have a formal “government”, but there is still a distinct form of leadership, a distinct social order through which things function. It emerges out of the social relationships within the troop, which is small enough for everyone to understand how things work. That is what I refer to, when I refer to “anarchy” in the positive sense of the word. Am I an anarchist?

As an idealist, I’d wish we could all build strong enough social bonds, and operate within the contexts of good relationships. Out of the values that come out of relationship, we would not need laws or contracts. There is much to be said about striving towards this, but it needs to start on the relationship front: I feel you cannot promote anarchy, you can only promote good relationships. With a solid enough base in good relationships, an anarchic way of being would flow naturally.

But being more pragmatic, we need laws and guidelines to keep people from being selfishly unfair to one another. Our interactions are too broad, businesses deal globally, and the internet enables social interactions between polar opposites that have no relational base on which to build. Thus we need laws and guidelines to keep the markets fair and friendly. Am I a free-market capitalist and libertarian?

And now the bit in which I become excessively verbose and ruin the original intent of the post:

Could that be we be realistic though? (Pessimist?) Many humans are driven by greed. Free markets and capitalism turn into a new religion, within which you find the usual diversity of believers. There are compassionate elite that have humanitarianism as guiding principles. But you have enough people that are selfishly greedy, driving capitalism in a direction of purely selfish survival-of-the-fittest-bottom-line. The blind hand of an economics/business-based selfish replicator then guides the future, in a direction not necessarily beneficial to humanity, only beneficial to the-bottom-line. And I fear this blind hand, this blind authority.

It brings about the “natural order” of things, in which there are always the haves, and the have-nots. And the American dream, in which anyone can make it if they try, still looks like something of a myth to me. Especially outside of America. And also inside America. Hello the current economic climate. I’m sure completely free capitalism is unsustainable. One piece of evidence confirming this is the existence of antitrust laws / competition laws. But I go further.

The capitalistic system is great at generating wealth, but terrible at distributing it well. In South Africa, the new status quo has promoted a couple of formerly-poor to newly-rich. There were a couple of opportunities for a couple of new members of the wealthy elite (where in 2000 the top 10% is blessed with 44.7% of the income/consumption while the bottom 10% must make do with only 1.4% – CIA World Factbook) – but past inequalities are really tough to overcome.

I believe in the value of life. Digress for a moment: that is kinda a leap of faith, and I’m quite serious about it: I’ll attempt evangelise and convert anyone to the faith. But like all faiths, it also has great diversity within it, in terms of what kind of life is valued and what life is not, and this diversity is unavoidable. Diversity is unavoidable, because it is the very essence of life. Back to the point: within this value-of-life belief, I believe in the value of human life.

So… idealistically (remember I remain a pragmatist), I’d love for everyone to have something of an equal opportunity. I would love it if we could eliminate the cycle that lets one person’s mistakes end up cursing his generations after it. Access to a good education, access to good healthcare, things we can do to work together to help ease the pain of existence: disease and illness, reality, life, is a cruel mistress that acts without much discernment. You could just have really bad “luck” in life, due to the complex interactions of everything around you. So I believe in doing what we can to help.

In short, I’m concerned that capitalism concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital – and does so in unfair manners. So that makes me a bit of a socialist?

Back to the original intent of the post

All that said, I still think the most fundamental grass-roots drive should be to promote good relationships. While socio-economic concerns and government is something we can vote on (yay the power of “vote”), in the end, government remains a handful of people contributing top-down, while millions can contribute from the bottom-up by us focusing on relationships.

Categories: Culture
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8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Hugo // Dec 6, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    According to WordPress’ word count, that’s 834 words. Maybe I should commit to keeping 9 out of 10 posts <400 words.

  • 2 Clare // Dec 8, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I have to confess that I do love the anarchist sense of personal responsibility and active participation. They don’t blindly trust authority because it is authority, they ask questions, but they also realise that they are personally responsible for getting up and changing things. I also confess to socialist leanings in that I believe that certain things which are important/essential to the well-being of everyone such as healthcare, education, fuel and infrastructure need to be either organised or regulated by the state acting in the interests of the people.

  • 3 gerhard // Dec 9, 2008 at 9:33 am

    hugo : cool post. I’m not a fan of anarchy but i do trust m. thatcher approach to acceptance of chaos theory :)

    The point at which humanity moved away from anarchy, required a government, was when our social groups became too big to be supported by social relationships

    Technically we’re moving back into the chaos. We just need to develop one or two more the tools. (math etc)
    you’ve heard of mandelbrot’s fractal? I think what it can teach us is how a ‘system’ is supposed to work. Not in some overarching complex rule set with labels and fixed stupid geo-social rules, but rather a simplified ruleset fractal in nature, dynamic in situational application. in other words, a decentralized form of government capable of centralized decision making . Z = z^d + c

    look, if the universe is fractal in nature of behavior which makes more sense a) superimposing a fixed complex system onto it ( which requires rules apon rules just to justify qualifiers while being abstractly debated to death) or b) devising a simple set that can fit into just about situation?
    I’d hope , kiss is the way :)

  • 4 Johan Swarts // Dec 9, 2008 at 9:47 am

    If you believe relationships “should be driven by x, y and z”, aren’t you merely making more rules?

  • 5 gerhard // Dec 9, 2008 at 10:30 am

    johan : (i was more talking government here, rules of social conduct , on a micro and macro level) the difference lies in the complexity .
    Right now , the situation is , when we come across a new exception we add a new rule. In time , social structure becomes more and more complex and is in fact already so complex that most people don’t actually know how the system works or that they even exist.
    They just live in it knowing only a hand full of aspects and seldom understand why we do things in a particular way. most of the time governance also happens in an authoritative manner , treating citizens more like children rather than people.
    Simplify the rules to enable a much simpler and more universal set that can satisfy the complexity and in the process replace the complex fixed hyper structure that’s evolved?
    again, shouldn’t we be taking an example from nature?

    ‘kiss’, keep it simple stupid :)

    (i think modern governments are rather freudian in the view of people, ie. that people can’t be trusted to make good decisions. so a kagaroo court gets selected and they make decisons on what needs to happen informed by the empty suit problem)
    that may be a bit of a over generalization, but i still see this as one of the main problems facing our society.

  • 6 Johan Swarts // Dec 9, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    If we follow nature’s lead, shouldn’t we then kill of each other when we become hungry? ;)

  • 7 gerhard // Dec 9, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    johan : nature informs our direction but not the finished answers. much like Darwinism informs our understanding but social Darwinism decrees social actions. I would argue the first is a good thing but the second couldn’t be more horrifying.

    man is nature as much as he is part of nature. If the point is to find a better way, then excluding nature would be as retardant as blind acceptance.
    We wander deeper and deeper into wonderland through growing complexity while having the tools to show us the path. Why not make use of them?

  • 8 Hugo // Dec 10, 2008 at 12:35 am

    I do think Johan was responding to me… after all, he used my words:

    I believe relationships should be driven out of values and mutual respect, and hence not need rules.

    aren’t you merely making more rules?

    A semantic argument? ;) If I said “must”, you’d have a stronger case, but as it stands, I said “I believe it should”. These remain my understanding of what relationships are, rather than rules about how to develop them…

    More vapourware peddling: mengelmoes will (eventually) more clearly distinguish who is replying to what. Yay vapourware! Vapourware can solve all your personal problems, provide a kitchen sink, and bring about world peace.

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