United The World Stands, Divided It Falls - Choosing Between Capitalism and Socialism

Virtue can only flourish among equals.
Mary Wollstonecraft

Fareed Zakaria
January 24, 2019
Washington Post

“This, then, is the post-American world. Not one marked by Chinese dominance or Asian arrogance. Not an outright anti-American one, but one in which many yearn for a greater U.S. presence. One in which countries are freelancing, narrowly pursuing their own interests, and hoping that the framework of international order remains reasonably stable. But with no one actively shoring up the international system, the great question remains: In a world without leaders, will that system over time weaken and eventually crumble?”

This is the Gloom and Doom Fareed. Below is an essay a week later where he comes on as Mr. Sunshine and Hope. In both essays he ignores the fatally flawed, thousand pound gorilla in the room – consumer crony capitalism.

Now, let’s consider the above, his first essay.

Regrettably, the US is not withdrawing from world leadership because it believes the system is flawed and it is looking for a more sustainable, equitable way forward. We, our current leaders, are withdrawing because they (wrongly) believe their nationalist power, wealth and world hegemony can be increased and more assured by going it alone.

Trump, his GOP generally but not all, claim and reassure their patrons and voter base with this ill-founded notion: “It’s a social Darwinist* world out there! No more operating as one nation among equals. We shall take the lead, dominate through economics and military threat and force, and let all others fare as best they can in our wake. The only globalism** we adhere to is one where the U.S. economically dominates but allows political spheres of influence among its adversary nations. Globalization for us is a very flat pyramid of the world’s nations with the U.S. at the apex. So help us God!"

This national versus international approach is an analogous, individual-weighted take on the individual-group dynamic, the most fundamental aspect of being human. We recently looked at this dynamic in depth at Owl & Ibis – A Confluence of Minds, through my presentation of The Evolution of Western Individualism, Part I and Part II. To analogy being made here is between the individual-group dynamic and a nationalism-globalism dynamic now favoring nationalism.

From a consideration of prehistory, history and current events O&I concluded that a political and economic approach skewed in either direction - one favoring sustained, hardline, libertarian, individual freedom or one that favors fascism, slavery, group dominance - is not better for human wellbeing and flourishing than a sustained balance between the two. That, since the origins of agriculture and urbanization the balance has shifted back and forth between favoring collectivism then favoring individualism. O&I believes there is a deep need among most of Humankind, something fundamental to our cultural nature, to ensure that one approach does not dominate the other indefinitely.

Here's another aspect of that same human nature, something contradictory:

“Humankind has an insatiable appetite for ever-increasing national/tribal control of natural and human resources. We also condone the relatively unfettered use of the tools & exploitative methods we have invented to do so. Both of these have & continue, in more modern times particularly, to dehumanize & threaten our ability to think collectively & behave humanely and humanistically toward each other. Because of this we continue to fail at achieving and sustaining that which is in the best interest of all individuals & their groups.” – JEL
The Evolution of Western Individualism, Part I
Slides 12 & 13

IMHO the poorer countries should not wring their hands over the US withdrawing from leading the global consumer crony capitalist (GCCC) system, as Zakaria tells us they are.

But, alas, the poor nations do fret because most of their leaders emulate the GCCC system, and their masses are mostly in sync with them. US global leadership in the past just made them feel more secure in following along.

Even now, without the US leading, at home the poor nation populaces still prefer a kleptocratic, consumer crony, religion professing, capitalist despot in power, than a learned yet corrupt, secular socialist/communist. One who might deny them the opportunity to get their big house, their plush car, their fancy clothes, their electronic gadgetry, their big bank balance - all the heaven on earth wonders they've learned to dream of from viewing Western movies, videos and TV.

Regular readers of this blog might remember my analogy of the generic primates who come upon a tree filled with ripe figs. Chomp, chomp, eat them all. Burp, sleep. Awake, look for another resource to fully exploit. Poop, have sex along the way. Supplicate yourself before your god(s) if you have any. Tomorrow? Pfft. What’s a tomorrow? It’s today until I die.

This is the basic myopic primate economic, ecological pattern most humans, rich and poor, leaders and followers, are still wedded to. 

But back to the poorer nations. They will be in a better position than the rich ones to respond to the collapse(s). They have less distance to descend, socially and personally, and won’t be as shocked by the psychic trauma and material degradation when they come. 

They know the cycle of boom and bust. They’ve lived it, in some cases repeatedly, or it is still fresh in their local folk knowledge. They also know what to do when it busts.

Go local, very local. Cope as best you can. Work to build a basis for hope but expect nothing. 

We are still a very immature species. But we persist. For now.
* - Social Darwinism is a theory that individuals, groups, and peoples are subject to the same Darwinian laws of natural selection as plants and animals. Now largely discredited, social Darwinism was advocated by Herbert Spencer and others in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was used to justify political conservatism, imperialism, and racism and to discourage intervention and reform.
** - Here is a good explanation of the original meaning and intent of “globalism.”

~ ~ ~

Fareed Zakaria
January 31, 2019
Washington Post

A week has passed. Enter Sunshine and Hope Fareed. Here he is with a Pinkeresque (Enlightenment Now) catalog of progress, an elixir to bolster hope. Yet he gives no real attention to the systemic dead end we face, or any reasons to think that progress will naturally beget more progress.

That dead end I'm referring to is where world order, civilization if you will, through consumer crony capitalism and industrial environmental damage, collapses. 

Fareed is a bright fellow and I enjoy and have learned much from most of his op-eds. Surely he knows that past accomplishments are not always the best measurement of betterment, or sound justification for being hopeful. And that they don’t necessarily foretell what is likely to happen in the future. Still he trots them out. Does it trouble him that we are distraught over the future and he wishes to comfort us? Is he just being a balanced and fair journalist?

Maybe he supports the current crony capitalism (CCC) system. I’ve searched his essays and found no overall condemnations of it. In his 2013 essay he suggests tweaking the system and lauds one of pillars of CCC, the need for perpetual economic growth: “It is possible to be in favor of investment and reform. In fact, that’s exactly what the United States needs to ensure the next generation of growth.”

If sustainability, avoiding extinction, and maintaining a habitable environment are your goals for the future, the means by which and the direction you travel are more important than the milestones you leave behind. The accomplishments of CCC are impressive but do not make a bed of laurels upon which to rest or sustain hope. 

Consider this technological analogy. An electric, air-conditioned computerized bullet train is a big step up from coal-fired steam. But if the train is heading toward a collision with a mountain wall at 200 mph we can’t say it’s heading toward a better future because it’s a better train than its predecessors. A catastrophe is imminent if the train, computers and all, keeps going on the same “track.” Are we indeed on the wrong track, you ask? I agree with those who, based on reasoning and evidence, believe we are. Here’s one.

Making progress and a bleak view of the future are not mutually exclusive. Making progress is no reason to conclude it will continue. A bleak view can still acknowledge that the progress that has been made is impressive.

Systemic reform, economic and political, might be possible. Many believe not, for good reasons. I’m not sure. I’m doubtful but nevertheless hope so.

It’s time, now, to fix things before we “progress” ourselves further toward an ever higher likelihood of catastrophe(s) and collapse.

In closing, please consider the following from my closing remarks in The Evolution of Individualism, Part II, “Individualism in the 20th and 21st Centuries – A Closer Look”:

Though constrained by physicality, influenced by genetics and guided by societies and their culture, the individual has choices - degrees of conformity or deviance.
• Totalitarian slavery and libertarian anarchy are unsustainable, inhumane and contrary to human nature.
• The driving force propelling human flourishing is the protection and tolerance of individual expression.
• Human genius is singular.
• Individuals bring variation and energy to the crucible of Humankind.
• Individuals are formed, aimed and given space by groups.
• Individuals animate and populate social life.
• Groups nourish, express, select among and sustain the fruits of individual effort. They are the forge for tempering and humanely directing and applying individual genius.
• The group is the arena of human life, the winnower, the repository of truth and human wisdom, and the womb and nursery of individual creativity.
• There is no surviving, flourishing or progress without both individuals and groups.
• What causes individuals and groups to break bad, to fail? Extremes of power, wealth, fear, greed, arrogance, ignorance and intolerance. The diminishing of compassion, scope, vision and hope.
• The cure, the inoculation, the safeguard? Greater liberty, equality, fraternity through education about human nature, virtue, pluralism, and cosmopolitanism.


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