13 April 2016

Post Economics

Here's my take on the issue of capitalism versus socialism. Neither of these systems are ends in themselves, only means to an end, and that end is what I'll call "Post Economics". Post economics is a social order that has no economic system at all because people have evolved beyond the need for one. That may sound like fantasy, but there are examples of post economic societies that have existed for thousands of years. They are called monasteries.

The monastery is an enclosed society with very little contact with the outside world. Many are completely self-sufficient. They may start out with donations from outside, from a parent monastery or whatever, of things like building supplies and tools, but from then on everything they need is manufactured within the monastery itself. Food is grown, sheep might be raised for wool to make clothing, trees planted to supply wood, and so on.

Some people might fear losing things they value in a monastic society, but nothing of any value is lost.

Ambition. Monks have no ambition! Yes, yes they do, otherwise they would have never joined the monastery in the first place. The ambition of the monk is the supreme ambition of enlightenment (Kenosis in the Christian tradition, Moksha in Vedanta, Nirvana in Buddhism). All earthly ambitions are but pale reflections of the supreme ambition. On the relative side there is the fulfillment of perfect morality. What is missing is the ambition to collect stuff. Instead of buying new chrome hubcaps or building a gazebo or whatever, you would rather spend that energy helping the less fortunate, the sick, the disabled, the homeless.

Individuality. Well, certainly monks lack individuality! Not true. They may dress the same, and eat the same food, but they do that by choice. Individual monks still possess their individual talents, and it is part of the perfection of morality to develop those talents to their utmost for the benefit of others. If someone is good at medicine that person serves as the doctor. If someone is good at smithing that person maintains the metal tools, monks who can sing serve in the choir, scholars can become experts in particular fields.

Science is not lost in the monastery. The opposite is true, monasteries saved science from being destroyed in the West, and most of the great scientists of the past 500 years started out as monks. It is only very recently that the religious institutions of higher learning have secularised and a small group of atheist scientists have began saying science and religion are incompatible.

Neither is art, or music, or literature lost in a monastic society. Monks still produce great art and great music, they just don't put on a concert to get a lot of money, score some coke, and bang some groupies in a different city every night.

Hedonistic pursuits are lost, but they are also lost in communism since communism sees work as its own reward and wanton sex and drug use as a waste of energy that could be used to work, so the loss of hedonism would only be a problem as far as capitalism and European socialism are concerned.

The primary thing that is lost is selfishness. The thought "What's in it for me?" is the primary casualty of the monastic system. Monks don't ask "What's in it for me?" they do their work out of a sense of duty, to help others and to glorify God. If it's your time to scrub the floors or wash the dishes you don't complain how you would rather listen to Metallica or chopping fire wood. Monks do not act to see what they can gain, they act to see what they can give. Farmers grow crops, doctors heal people, tailors sew robes, and carpenters build things not because they can get money to buy a new Lamborghini (or Toyota), or ridiculous outfits that will be worn once and then put in the back of a closet, monks work because it is what is right.

For most humans, throughout history, this is a truly alien concept, but it is a human concept that has been embraced voluntarily by millions of people over thousands of years.

So about capitalism and socialism? We need to view the debate about reaching the ultimate goal of post economics. Which system will bring more people to eliminating selfishness within themselves? Which system will bring about the desire to glorify God and serve our fellow man? It is a decision that cannot be forced upon anyone. Coercion won't lead anyone beyond economics. Right off the bat we can eliminate European socialism, which is cultural Marxism or social justice warriorism or whatever you want to call it. That's the exact opposite of morality and enlightenment. Soviet socialism is a lot closer to post economics, but it is also entirely authoritarian and centrally planned, so there's that whole issue of coercion. The bad form of capitalism, that I call crapitalism, with billionaire CEOs who run AIG into the ground and get golden parachutes, and celebrities making obscene amounts of money and buying fleets of Maybachs and chopping down a whole acre of mahogany to put in the mansion you never live in, or that allows Apple or KFC to carve their logo on the Moon because "They paid for it," that's pure selfishness, so that's no good either. There has to be something, a healthy, gradual system that will take us to post economics eventually, but we'll never figure it out if we're arguing about economic systems as the end and not the means.

I suspect that that system lies somewhere in a much smaller state, with more freedoms, where like-minded people come together to achieve a common goal. Big huge states of tens or hundreds of millions of people must be broken up into much smaller poleis, because if there is one thing that kills compassion and breeds selfishness and indifference, it is large agglomerations of people. The brain can only associate with so many people, and only so many groups of people can associate with one another before groups of total strangers no one cares about start appearing. Plato said that 5,000 was the ideal number of people for a city-state, and research from modern neuroscience and sociology tells us he was right. Now, that's not a first step, but it is an intermediary goal to work toward. The first step, I would say, would be reducing the size of government, because the present system is not only unsustainable, it was known to be unsustainable 80 years ago. Now it is rapidly collapsing. We must begin to act, and we must keep the ultimate goal of the post economic system in mind when we act so we know which direction to go.