Human action is a most challenging topic for it must address the question why some people are poor and others are not; and why some people are happier than others. And whether there is any relation between these two. Economics and politics are necessarily contributors to all this, as well as a need for security and quality of life. What then is the best way to live?
Those human collectives that give less attention to technology, like transport and agricultural methods, have never grown into great empires. Nomadic people, Roma gypsies and the various hunter gatherer societies do not usually exhibit signs of entrepreneurship or innovation. Instead there are deep seated traditions that tribe members must conform to as a matter of survival and mutual protection.
So broadly speaking, we have innovators on one side and traditionalists on the other. A dichotomy perhaps between the materialist and the spiritualist. By the latter we do not mean a bone idle new ager, but rather someone who appeals to higher levels of consciousness as a superior meaning to life. Indeed some have developed an extraordinary connection with the earth, like the Aborigines and some other indigenous people over the world. They did not appear to value technology or comfort beyond their basic needs for survival, but instead fostered a deep connection with nature.
The problem today is that in many countries where the majority of inhabitants are poor, any meaningful affiliation to their traditions and myths has also been lost. From Africa to the Indian subcontinent, this is clearly the case. The lingering pagan rituals and myths may still provide the downtrodden people of questionable republics with some emotional sustenance and, perhaps more fittingly, an opportunity for emotional release. In the Latin American ferias, the otherwise subdued folk find an opportunity to abandon themselves to revelry and otherwise unacceptable hedonism. The Indian festival of Holi also permits this type of errant behavior. But on the other days, there is a stricter order that people should abide by… with society patrolling itself into conformity.
The use of psychotropic plants has played a significant role in some societies. The shaman could use them to reinforce tribal doctrines in the collective psyche while everyone is in a state of hyper-suggestibility. In ‘normal’ circumstances these entheogens have been known to provide an extraordinary gateway to connect with earth-nature; but they can also serve to reinforce existing systems of belief. Brainwashing. This of course works out well for the shaman, who continues to exert influence and power over his tribe. The power struggle between the priest class and the governing body has been going on a very long time.
It could be argued that technology serves to destroy the emotional and psychological stability that the more simplistic traditions provided. But in the meantime, and as a starting point, it would be useful to enquire simply: why is it that some people, and groups of people, are poor while others are not?
The simplest group of people we can use to observe human action is the family. The family unit is a special bond that we grow to appreciate from an early age. If you manage to break up the family unit, as communism did, then you can control a people far more easily. However some families manage to break up all on their own, through disagreements that cannot be resolved. This affects the ability of the family collective to conduct its affairs and business efficiently. Good friends often start out in business together with a positive sense of trust and common objective, only to end in financial ruin and mutual antagonism. Where does it all go wrong?
You can often discover someone’s values by their behavior. In the case of a close family, where kinship is valued highly, loyalty might be considered to be the highest virtue. If a family member has a disagreement with a neighbor then his own family should support him no matter what, even if the neighbor is in the right. Preservation of self and kin is of primary importance; and this is seen in varying degrees in all areas of society.
In the case of running a family business, loyalty might thus be perceived as a sound strategy. Keep all aspects of the business ‘in the family’. Buy your parts and services from other family businesses and where possible award contracts to family members. If not immediate family then with strategic alliances that are based on mutual loyalty; in ‘one big family’. Or if you are starting out then ask your uncle for a helping hand; his trust in you will foster your loyalty. That way wealth is more efficiently accumulated within the family and out of the hands of outsiders and competitors.
Other businesses that are trying to compete may see this as unfair and will come to beg your family for a slice of the pie, in return for their loyalty. Or they might try to compete using any advantage they can find. Your family might also find ways to sabotage the competition, and vice versa, such as lobbying the government or even through mafia style law and order.
The fact of the matter however is that, so long as there is a free market, any competing businesses need not worry about the competition running its business on a ruthless template of loyalty. Because if a business is built upon nepotism and cronyism it is more susceptible to inefficiency and therefore less able to compete in the market place. So the question then is, how do you optimize efficiency and keep costs down?
The tendency for these close knit enterprises to fall apart is that they are established on the value of kinship. Whereas a family unit established on truth will tend not run into such problems. Here loyalty and truth lead to two very different outcomes. In a competitive environment there may be a perception that loyalty is a most effective strategy, both between colleagues and between business partners… because it is a ‘dog-eat-dog world’ so to hell with the competition. But that is an erroneous judgment, and one that might explain why most of humanity cannot lift itself out of poverty. It is an immoral action, not because it is lacking in humanity, but simply because it does not promote life and prosperity.
If your brother has a dispute with a neighbor, and if the neighbor is in the right, then if truth is your primary value then it is important to speak out on behalf of the neighbor. And if your neighbor can provide a service to your family business that exceeds what your brother can offer, then it is right to give the contract to the neighbor – all else being equal of course. While this may appear to be counter productive, it will in fact 1) provide your business partner with a better service, and 2) foster the spirit of excellence within the family and within the business enterprise. Not behaving in this manner will also deny your brother the opportunity to see the value of truth (doing what is right) and then attend to his own productivity. Then the tendency for the family unit, or the business enterprise, to fall in to ruin due to inefficiency is vastly reduced. Hereby individual excellence demonstrates its moral superiority over loyalty to the collective.
It is vital for the market to be left alone, and for there to be no government meddling in the affairs of business. Even huge businesses that have been around for a long time, employing a large workforce, should not be propped up by ‘benefactors’ in government… and if it should collapse then more efficient competitors will be ready to step in and hire the workers. If there is not enough competition to replace a failing behemoth then it is only because the competition has been denied the opportunity to compete fairly due to existing government restrictions and licensing. The market ‘knows’ things that the government cannot.
Those who are unable to compete may complain that the marketplace is too brutal and lacks the ‘brotherhood’ that any industry needs to flourish in the long term. And they will try to seek agreements on this, from their industry peers and especially from government insiders. But they are wrong. Having a well organized competition helps subcontractors and service providers remains in business, offering value more consistently and at low prices; and it also helps keep government intervention at arm’s length. It also sustains a market for blue collar labor and so people are kept in jobs.
The spiritualist idea that there is something ‘higher’ than materialism is quite appealing, especially to the disillusioned who are struggling in life; and especially to the victims of a government run economy. But this spiritualism is really a symptom of not correctly understanding what matter is. Those who appeal to charity and compassion for the ‘less fortunate’ are interfering with the ability of each individual to achieve his or her excellence. If people are denied the opportunity to see (and suffer) the results of their bad decisions, then there is no motivation for change. If young people are promised financial support and welfare through their life, there is less motivation to strive for personal excellence, in whatever field that may be. If virtue is lacking, young idealistic folk will substitute it for more socialist utopian goals where the collective takes precedence over the rights of the individual. When they become young adults they are already beggars and thieves, using the state as their proxy handlers to a slice of the pie from those that do strive for excellence.
It may be that there are more worthy goals in life than to build a personal empire. But it is the same excellence that builds empires that must take on any vocation in life. New agers may value meditation and spiritualism, but quite often by the time they have managed to get a decent hold of the techniques, any trace of excellence has been clobbered into an emotional numbness masquerading as inner peace. A silent mind is an aware, listening mind in which there is no contradiction. And there is no contradiction in excellence.
While excellence helps to sustain a society or nation from within, how does it manage against a society or nation from without? The danger facing a thriving civilization is that its less affluent neighbors will start laying plans to loot. The best defense against conquest may be for the neighboring state to take on the same values that serve a free market, thereby creating their own wealth and having less need to loot from their neighbors.
Clearly then, there is a battle of ideology between neighboring states. If communication is facilitated through trade then individual excellence will catch on and replace the more isolationist value of loyalty to one’s own kin. As already pointed out, individual excellence will make for a stronger family unit because it is this same excellence that allows collectives to resolve internal disputes.
A third party however might have a grander strategy still. Through the infiltration of society, he can plant the seeds of discord, that the rich are getting richer on the backs of the poor. Enter the communist. For certainly in a free market some will have more riches than others. These riches have been earned through merit but if the perception of the rest can be otherwise influenced then we have a problem on our hands. The newly appointed ‘oppressed’ now seek to lobby both their peers and administrative body (government). The result is a transfer of wealth from those that have it to those that do not have it.
The issue then is that those who created the wealth, and in doing so supported the service providers and their industries, no longer have the means to do so. So they leave if they can and seek to ply their excellence elsewhere if that is an option. Either way, the economy declines and the nation falls into ruin. The communists move in and take control over production and distribution.
For excellence to flourish in a society, to demonstrate itself as the highest virtue, then truth must be valued most highly. There are many complex issues for a society to deal with for there to be consistency. How to deal with miscreants? How to respond to perceived threats from neighboring states? And so on. If there are differences of opinion then it might be fair if everyone has a say and a vote. So long as the truth is made evident through the process of debate and dialectics AND people have eyes to see the truth of it, then the system will work. If the majority start making the ‘wrong’ vote because their ability to see has been distracted (deliberately or otherwise) then the “intelligentsia’’, or those capable of seeing truth, will look to leave for a more appealing society. Therefore a senate, or house of representatives, might be better suited to handle matters of protocol and administration. The suggestion here is that if a society or nation intends to maintain a buffer against provocateurs and infiltrators, then that buffer would be a senate. How to keep the senate from outside influence is another matter in itself. The darks arts, from poison to blackmail, have been around a very long time.
Posted in: Philosophy