Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,
The Central State and its core directives, central planning and ever-widening control of every aspect of life, is eroding the human essential: community.
Rather than the rah-rah phoniness of the President's State of the Union speech, which was predictably filled with Soaring Rhetoric (tm) and promises of more central planning and state expansion, let's consider the real state of the union.
Two related truths are self-evident: that community is essential to human progress, communication, development and well-being, and that the current global systems of the central state (socialism) and cartel-state capitalism (capitalism) actively dismantle community.
These basics inform the view that the only way forward is a community-based economy that recognizes and restores community as the foundation of human life.
On the most fundamental survival level, if humans were isolated, solitary hunter-gatherers, humans would likely have gone extinct long ago, as we simply aren't as capable as our competitors. If the species did endure, it would be equivalent to other solitary Great Apes--small in number and isolated to small pockets where it could survive.
Our dominance ("success" if you prefer) as a species flows directly from our social nature and the development of ways to spread better techniques, i.e. knowledge and cooperation, via spoken and eventually written language.
Yes, opposable thumbs boosted our toolmaking abilities and year-round fertility boosted our reproduction rates, but these advantages would be marginal were we a species of isolated individuals. Indeed, the fundamentals of sociobiology support the notion that human longevity results partly from the genetic advantages
bestowed by grandparents, i.e. a generation of elders who can aid in child-rearing and serve as a repository for experiential knowledge/wisdom that would be lost to short-lived species.
In our current system, the impersonal state replaces the core value created by participating in community with welfare checks; there is no need to bother cooperating and working with others once the state provides the basics of life.
A similiar dynamic is implicit in corporate capitalism, which assumes that large corporations dedicated to pursuing profit wherever such profits might be greatest can successfully replace communities with corporate "communities" of workers and supervisors.
In The Strange Disappearance of Cooperation in America (submitted by correspondent Cheryl A.), The author proposes that social cooperation waxes and wanes with wealth inequality: as inequality rises, so too does polarization. People become less cooperative and socially engaged as polarization increases.
The correlation between loss of community and wealth inequality is only the first step. This sociological perspective misses the political point, which is the structure of our centralized state-dominated economy leads to both wealth inequality and the loss of community from the same dynamic: the substitution of the state/corporation as the organizing/controlling structure for society, displacing community.
Our state-cartel system creates aimless armies of unemployed people who receive just enough from the state that the incentive to rebel is eroded, but this does not fill the gap left by the destruction of community with anything positive or fulfilling: it simply maintains the void via bribery.
The entire notion that corporations pursuing maximization of profit for their shareholders can organize society to benefit everyone is nonsensical; how could organizations dedicated to reaping profits replace multi-layered communities that meet needs that cannot necessarily be commoditized for a profit?
Longtime correspondent Bart D. cogently summed up these issues:
"When boiled down to real world conditions, for a society and economy to operate sustainably and successfully, people have to do things for and with each other, and BE SEEN to be doing it.
From an evolutionary perspective a community would form the basis of the economy in which individuals lived their lives. Each participant would have known, in social terms, every other participant to some degree.
In such a ‘traditional’ system, individual participants were heavily incentivised to be valued by others. Being valued for your good works and deeds increased your chances of having other individuals help you out when you were individually unable to support yourself for some reason (sickness, old age, personal disaster).
In economies of small and local scale you really strived to have others feel they owed you something based purely on their sense of fairness and conscience, because people interacted economically and socially with the same people. This creates a pool of good will that functions as ‘social security’ (This has since been transmuted into the Frankenstein of ‘debt’ and ‘taxes’ both of which are grudging rather than volunteered.)
That type of interaction has been and is continuing to be eroded away in the modern economic system that seeks desperately to separate social relationships from economic relationships.
Thus we have the disconnect between small business taxpayers and welfare recipients that sets up the perfect conditions for corporatocracy and the bizarre ever-expanding debt economic models of the west.
What the architects of these current systems have lost sight of is that the illusion they created by pumping free credit into the system only works on some parts of the economic system and at the cost of GREATLY undermining the social component of the system."
Richard Dawkins makes much the same point in this interview published in The New Republic:
"Now, there is another kind of altruism that seems to go beyond that, a kind of super-altruism, which humans appear to have. And I think that does need a Darwinian explanation. I would offer something like this: We, in our ancestral past, lived in small bands or clans, which fostered kin altruism and reciprocal altruism, because in these small bands, each individual was most likely to be surrounded by relatives and individuals who he was going to meet again and again in his life. And so the rule of thumb based into the brain by natural selection would not have been, Be nice to your kin and be nice to potential reciprocators. It would have been, Be nice to everybody, because everybody would have been included."
This is not to suggest there isn't a role for the state and profit-seeking organizations in society or the economy; it is simply to state the obvious that the wholesale replacement of community by the state has eroded an essential of human life that cannot be filled by impersonal states and corporations. States and corporations cannot "fix" what's broken with the model of state-cartel capitalism/socialism because the model itself is the problem.