Why No Theory?

Why do we want to construct a new economic system outside the framework of any grand economic theory. There are several reasons. First two of the grand economic theories — Capitalism and Communism have already been tried and each failed. Each failed to provide a just distribution of the human necessities. Secondly, all these grand theories are built upon some conception of a fixed human nature. Human nature is not fixed. We are not genetically determined. Human behavior depends on culture as much as it depends on genetics. Human behavior, and thus human nature, is variable over cultures. If a grand theory, based on some assumptions of a fixed human nature, were a true description of human economic behavior, then every culture would have that same economic system. They clearly do not. So any grand theory based on assumptions of a fixed human nature cannot be a true description, an accurate model, of any economy.

So, not only are the individual grand theories wrong, but the whole framework on which they are based — a fixed human nature — is wrong. For example capitalism is based on an assumption that humans base all their economic decisions on a kind of greed — always trying to maximize their individual welfare, their individual utility. There are huge numbers of people in the world today who think this way, or try to. For them almost every decision is about money. But not everybody does this. And even those who think they can make economic decisions this way in many cases they do not. In many cases they are not greedy — they actually want to be generous, be helpful toward other people, and often they do want to avoid harming other people. So the fundamental premise about human nature even for those who believe that everyone is greedy, or should be greedy, is wrong. Beyond this people cannot behave, in many, many situations as the theory postulates. The theory of maximizing your individual utility — called utility theory — is impossible to actually follow in many circumstances. In many situations we do not know, we cannot calculate what our individual utility is. So we surely can’t maximize it. It has been well-known that utility theory is impossible in practice for more than 150 years. Some of the contradictions and absurdities of utility theory have been demonstrated experimentally and described in Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”.

Furthermore these theories are not clear as to what their goals are. Each theory presumably describes a complex of human behaviors, human interactions, human communication pathways — a system — that results in the production and distribution of goods and services by people for people. The theories were created on the assumption that the system already existed (at least for capitalism) and it was the job of the theory to describe the already existing system accurately, even scientifically, and/or mathematically, so that the theory could make accurate predictions. The idea of a goal or purpose of the system didn’t even come up. It was just assumed that there was one, and only one, system existing that had to be described, characterized, modeled, mathematisized, etc. It was not as if anyone had a choice. It was in a kind of afterthought that Adam Smith added the idea that in the capitalist system he described an “invisible hand” would ensure that the results of the operation of this system would be good for everybody. Well, they weren’t and they aren’t.

In reality the goals, the purpose of the capitalistic system is to allow and encourage all individuals to try to get as much money, property, and influence as they possibly can for themselves with almost no concern for what happens to anyone else. This is the main goal of the capitalist systems, their real purpose.

Well, now we know there is not just one such system. There are many variations of capitalism. Every capitalist country has its own version with some socialism mixed in. Communism came and went in less than one hundred years. And of course capitalism has evolved as all human institutions do. The theory has not kept up with the real evolving systems because, for one thing, it was wrong in the first place. It is so quaint to talk about shoemakers and bakers and a pin factory when there are corporations larger than countries and collateralized debt obligations squared.

Our economic and political systems evolve. We change them with every new law adopted. We change them almost every day. Why do we change our laws so much? Right now it is often done to accommodate special interests — to give tax breaks, reduce regulation, give special favors to individuals and corporations who contribute large amounts of money to political parties and candidates. So we change our laws to give favors to a limited class of people — mostly the 1%. Sometimes a law will be passed that has the goal of providing some benefits to some larger class such as the poor, or the middle class, or in very rare cases laws may be passed with the goal of making the whole system work better for everyone. Sometimes laws are passed with the goal of making the system better conform to some economic theory. So we change the system in ways that are haphazard, quasi-random, biased toward helping special groups (especially now to helping the rich get richer and the poor and middle class, the 99%, get poorer).

So what is the obvious change we need? We need to change the goals of all our system changes, of all the new laws we propose and pass. Every law should have the goal of moving our system in the direction of providing a just distribution of human necessities to all people.

It should not matter what such a system is called. To try to categorize the new systems into one or another of the dying grand theories is a waste of time and energy, and worse it just leads to confusion and needless arguments. (See for example the recent discussions about Libertarianism at Naked Capitalism.) If the new systems build on bits and pieces, old ideas, from some of the old grand theories, that’s fine as long as they move our systems toward the just distribution goals.

This is the non-violent revolution we want. First accept and spread the goal of a just distribution of human necessities. Then use the goal to constrain changes to our systems so that all changes move us toward the goal. Since this is trial and error, we don’t know how long it will take, and of course the “error” part means sometimes when we implement a change, it will move us farther from our goal, or it will have unintended negative consequences, and so we will have to reverse that change. This is surely no worse than what we do now. For example the repeal of Glass-Steagall — which allowed banks to gamble with depositors’ money — should probably be reversed.

The changes we make now are generally not consistent with our goal. They are not consistent with each other either. They often cause waste of human and natural resources. They make things worse. Our evolution is just drifting. We don’t know what we are doing. We don’t know where we are headed. We don’t have any purpose except mostly self  aggrandizement.

We can create economic and political systems that move us, step by step, non-violently towards our just distribution goals. But first we must throw out all the dead and dying grand economic theories.

Ideas Diffuse

We are looking at the possibilities for the revolution that may result from understanding some deficiencies in human thinking as described in the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. The basic idea is simple and to some people obvious: If we understand biases, errors, mistakes in human thinking then we should be able to fix or avoid them. Let’s not waste time by getting into the “strange loop” (See Douglass R. Hofstadter’s “I am a Strange Loop”) of whether we are trapped since if human thinking is defective, how can we think our way out of it using our defective thinking? The answer is simply that human thinking is not perfect (nothing is) but it is useful, it works for us in many situations. Besides what else do we have?

I have argued that as human culture evolves, we will incorporate the scientific knowledge about these deficiencies in almost everybody’s minds and thus almost everyone will be able to avoid many or all of the errors and mistakes described by Kahneman. This is how cultural evolution works. New scientific knowledge is discovered. If the new knowledge is sufficiently useful to individual people then it should diffuse to almost everybody in some period of time. New knowledge can also be pushed by our social institutions — schools, churches, corporations, governments, any groups or organizations, as well as by individuals. And to better make a revolution, we should push this new knowledge, since for one thing, it will make propaganda less effective.

Simple. A nice, simple, coherent story. Just the kind of thing System 2 likes and sometimes accepts too quickly. We all know simple explanations can be wrong. There is nothing new about that. But I don’t think this explanation is wrong. Besides I’m going to elaborate this explanation, I’m going to make it less simple. And I am not just relying on my intuition or anyone else’s.

So, let’s look at a specific example. I ended an earlier post with the claim that some day there will be no more stock pickers. This is an example of the above type of argument. Research for more than 50 years has shown that stock pickers cannot consistently beat the stock market averages.

“Although professionals are able to extract a considerable amount of wealth from amateurs, few stock pickers, if any, have the skill to beat the market consistently, year after year. Professional investors, including fund managers, fail a basic test of skill: persistent achievement. The diagnostic for the existence of any skill is the consistency of individual differences in achievement. The logic is simple: if individual differences in any one year are due entirely to luck, the ranking of investors and funds will vary erratically and the year-to-year correlation will be zero. The persistence of individual differences is the measure by which we confirm the existence of skill among golfers, car salespeople, orthodontists, or speedy toll collectors on the turnpike.” — Kahneman p. 214.   

Yet, after 50 years of scientific research showing that trying to pick stocks is a waste of time and money —-

“… Typically at least two out of every three mutual funds underperform the overall market in any given year.” Kahneman p. 215.

—- there are still large numbers of mutual fund managers and individuals who think they have a skill to pick stocks and are still trying to do it. What’s going on here? Doesn’t useful knowledge diffuse? In the above formulation I said “in some period of time”. OK, so there is a fudge factor. Just wait. 50 years isn’t long enough.

This is too simple. It doesn’t really explain anything. Why is 50 years not enough time for the stock picking idea to die out? Kahneman has some relevant comments:

“The illusion of skill is not only an individual aberration; it is deeply ingrained in the culture of the [financial] industry. Facts which challenge such basic assumptions — and thereby threaten people’s livelihood and self-esteem — are simply not absorbed. The mind does not digest them. …” Kahneman p. 216.

“Finally, the illusion of validity and skill are supported by a powerful professional culture. We know that people can maintain an unshakable faith in any proposition, however absurd, when they are sustained by a community of like-minded believers. Given the professional culture of the financial community, it is not surprising that large numbers of individuals in that world believe themselves to be among the chosen few who can do what they believe others cannot.” Kahneman p. 217.

OK, here it is: Facts which challenge basic assumptions are not absorbed.

And the more a new fact is perceived to challenge a person’s livelihood or self-esteem, the more quickly and completely and silently is that fact ignored by individuals and by groups. So the reason stock picking isn’t dead yet is because the idea that stock picking is useless has been prevented from entering the financial community by those in that community. Maybe our cultures are collections of cults. Cults deliberately try to isolate their members from outside influences. They don’t want any new ideas coming in and changing things.

The sea of human ideas is not uniform enough so that any idea can diffuse anywhere. There are partial barriers, compartments enclosed by semi permeable membranes that ideas have to cross. An idea — in order to get into the mind of any individual person and stay there and be used by that person — has to fit in with the ideas that are already there. If a new idea contradicts an idea already there, much mental work will need to be done for it to fit in. So the idea that stock picking is useless will have a very hard time getting accepted into the minds of stock pickers.

Is the idea that useful knowledge will diffuse to almost everybody itself useless? No, because in addition to passive diffusion, there is also active diffusion. Ideas can be pushed deliberately through human communication, education by social institutions, organizations, and individuals.

Ideas don’t exist in isolation. They move around together. So multiple ideas have to be spread together or in some sequence where the earlier ideas prepare the way for later ones. Stock picking may only fade away when our present broader financial systems are changed drastically because of their failures and the great harm they have caused and are causing to our societies. We must help to modify the cults of our present financial systems. We must decrease cultish thinking in general — any systems of ideas that close themselves off from new scientific knowledge. To make a revolution, we will have to push many new ideas at once.

One curious consequence of Kahneman’s book may be a reluctance of people to study and try to understand and use the discoveries about human thinking described in the book because it can be demoralizing to contemplate all the many ways all of us so often get things so completely wrong. Who would want to risk commenting on these mistakes in human thinking and in the process make some of the mistakes being commented upon? I am probably one such person. But we need to try to understand and use this new knowledge. Otherwise, why did Kahneman (and other psychologists) do all this work?

 

Strategic Knowledge part 5

We finish with our list.

In everything we do we are helped by others. We learn and create only by building on the knowledge, the work, of others. We learn our language from our mother and other people. We learn how to interact with other people. We learn almost everything we know from other people. On rare occasions we may discover something new. We may create original art or music. In every case we are building on what we have already learned from others. We are immersed in our cultures and can only combine, rearrange, add to, make implications from things, ideas, knowledge, and information already in our cultures. Very little of what any individual does throughout life is original to her or him. Almost everything we do has been done before by others. Issac Newton, who gave an excellent explanation of gravity and the motions of the planets around the sun, said “I stand on the shoulders of giants”. We all do. We depend on the knowledge and the creations of all those who came before us and we depend on the knowledge and creations of the rest of humanity living today. We freely inherit and use the things built by previous generations — the buildings, the roads, the power plants, the dams, the factories, the cleared land, the irrigation systems, the art, the music, the literature, the sciences, the engineering and on and on —- we get all this for free because of the cooperative work of billions of other people, living and dead.

And some managers of large corporations and some government officials have the arrogance to claim that their contributions to society are so great, so valuable, so important that they should have incomes hundreds and hundreds of times the incomes of the people who actually work to produce useful and necessary physical things or who work to discover and create new knowledge and information for the benefit of all of us.

Considering the interconnectedness, the interdependencies of the activities of all seven billion living people, the contribution of any one individual are almost always insignificant. Maybe J. S. Bach, maybe Michael Jackson, maybe Philip Glass, maybe Albert Einstein, maybe Kurt Godel, maybe Gandhi, —  (feel free to nominate a few others) — have as individuals made significant contributions. But no bankers, no corporate leaders, no government leaders should be on any list of significant contributors to the well-being of humanity.

We are almost never alone. Conflict and competition are not the same. Competition is a form of cooperation. Conflicts exist but they can be limited. Each of these has been discussed in the analysis of cooperation in the post Strategic Knowledge for a Good Revolution.

Thinking with too much fear, anger, or hatred can lead to wars. This has been discussed in the analysis of thinking and feelings and in the analysis of emotions in the post Strategic Knowledge part 2.

 Everything evolves. Everything changes only slower or faster. Every human starts as a single cell. That cell develops if all goes well into a healthy baby in about nine months. That development is a step by step process. That first cel divides into two cells; they divide; and so on. As the cell divisions continues the cells differentiate; they are set to perform different functions. The development proceeds as an interaction between the cells with their genetic instructions and their environment, the mother’s womb. The dividing and differentiating cells get nutrients and energy from this environment. Development continues after birth. The baby learns its mother’s language (almost always). It learns how to interact with other people. The baby, then child, then adolescent, then adult absorbs, learns more and more knowledge and information from the culture it is raised in. This development process is a kind of evolution: each stage can only be built on the previous stages, on what has already been built. The development can always go in various directions depending on the interaction between the individual and the individual’s environment. Societies evolve, cultures evolve. Cultures accumulate things and knowledge and information that was created or discovered in earlier stages, and can only build upon, discover, or create based on what has come before. So they also can go in various directions depending on their interactions with their environments. The earth evolves, planets evolve, stars evolve, the universe is evolving. Even a rock evolves, only usually very slowly compared to us, unless the rock is broken up by us or maybe an earthquake.

One consequence of this is that it is silly for economists to try to find static theories or even equilibrium theories. Any realistic theory must account for change, possibly drastic change, i.e., it must be dynamic; and it must take account of the fact that our societies and cultures and political systems are evolving. The discovery of new knowledge, new methods for doing old things better, brings productivity improvements. Huge productivity improvements have been occurring for more than 200 years, yet there is no or very little place for productivity improvements in economic theories. It is very important to understand that our cultures evolve, our real economic and political systems evolve. To ignore these facts is to ignore large chunks of reality.

We can influence social change. The 99% can and do surely influence social change. We (the 99%) accept and use their (the 1%) money/credit/banking system which is the root cause of business cycles — the booms and busts that have been occurring for the past 200 years (or 5000 years if you read David Graeber’s book “Debt: The First 5000 Years.) The money/credit/banking system is also the scheme which allows the 1% to get richer and richer while the 99% get poorer and poorer. We (the 99%) do not have to use this crooked system. See also previous posts on Control and Influence in the post Strategic Knowledge part 3..

From the day you are born till you ride in the hearse there is nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse (or better). Depression is dangerous, even deadly and anyone with even a little depression should seek professional help. Mania is dangerous. Authority is dangerous. Mental health is good and valuable and important if we want to make a revolution. Mental health means thinking better. It means not thinking with fear, anger, hatred, violence. It means not thinking in terms of caricatures of other people. (Read “Feeling Good” by David D. Burns, M. D.) It is important for revolutionaries to think better and it is important for the process of changing people’s minds, so that they accept the goals and methods of the revolution, since if we teach them how to think better first, then they will be less susceptible to the propaganda of neo-liberalism, they will be less susceptible to the propaganda for wars and violence, they will more easily understand, accept, and appreciate the usefulness of, the value of, the beauty of our revolutionary goals and methods.

I recently read an interesting, yet unsatisfying, book called “A First Rate Madness” by Nassir Ghamei, in which the he argues that in times of crisis we need leaders that are “abnormal”, a little mad. He cites William Tecumseh Sherman, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, all according to him more or less mad. He looked for symptoms of bipolar disorder — what used to be called manic-depression. He classifies these people as abnormal. He claims that people like Neville Chamberlain and General McClelland were normal people who are fine for normal (I guess peaceful) times, but unfit to handle crises. This all bothers me as being too simplistic. He seems to assume that history just happens and people, leaders simply respond. Is he maybe saying that it takes crazy leaders to start wars? If Roosevelt, Churchill, and Hitler had all been “normal”, might WWII been avoided? Churchill, Hitler, and Kennedy all had regular injections of amphetamines and all three had serious periods of depression and periods of mania. I’m not ready to celebrate mad leaders. If Hitler hadn’t constantly been pumped up with amphetamines might he have seen realistically that his war was lost and given it up one or two years before it actually ended?

What’s this got to do with the revolution we need? Only that we want people to work on their mental health, to develop good thinking practices and stay at or near some sweet spot between depression and mania.

We have already discussed that depression prevents action, and that a real danger of the present deteriorating system, with overwhelming bad news, is to cause people to become hopeless and depressed, and thus unable to help us change the system. We must avoid depression as well as we must avoid mania as we see some successes.

Ideologies can be, and probably most are, traps. Limiting your thinking is limiting yourself. We have already discussed this in Strategic Knowledge part 3.

Fear, anger, hatred, disgust are effective propaganda tools. We have already discussed this in Strategic Knowledge part 2, Propaganda.

Complex systems must be changed very carefully one step at a time. Complex systems can sometimes do very unexpected things. There are almost always unintended consequences when a change is made to a complex system. We have discussed this in the post The Structure of Organizations.

Some knowledge speeds up the evolution, the changes, in a society or culture. Freedom of speech should speed up the evolution of a culture. Freedom of behavior consistent with nonviolence should speed up cultural evolution. Both of these allow for increased spreading of new knowledge. Secrecy limits cultural evolution simply because it limits the spread of new information, new knowledge. There are many chunks of knowledge that if spread to enough people could significantly speed up the changing of our present system to a socially just system. Some examples are the knowledge of how to think better such as not thinking with excessive fear and anger or any excessive emotion; and not thinking in terms of personalities, in terms of the estimated goodness or badness of the person rather than listening to what the person actually says and does. Big changes can occur quickly. Some ideas, some chunks of knowledge, can spread very fast throughout a whole population, especially if the population has been prepared by being supplied with the intermediate knowledge required so that the new or radical ideas make sense. The foundation is already there and when the new idea is heard even once the reaction in the vast majority of people is “Yes!, Yes! That’s exactly right. That is what we must do.”

OK, we have analyzed the items on our strategic list. Now can we put the list into some kind of order that will speed up their learning by enough people so we can make the revolution we want?

Strategic knowledge part 4

We continue with our list of strategic information.

Information leaks, always. No ideology can be 100% sealed off from the rest of the world. No secrecy regime can absolutely prevent leaks of information. No encryption system is 100% secure. The algorithms may be unbreakable with present day computers in a time less than billions of years. But mistakes by humans (or machines) cannot be prevented. They will occur with some positive probability. Simple mistakes can result in information being sent unencrypted; the identity of the encryptor is revealed; then keys and future communications are revealed. Nothing is perfect. Information leaks, always.

The importance of these facts is not just that revolutionaries cannot count on being able to hide from government agencies and corporations. The importance really goes the other way: Governments and corporations cannot hide what they do for very long; and ideologies cannot prevent the leaking in of information which is critical of, contrary to, and ultimately destructive of the ideology. Just as there are no closed systems — a closed system has no energy, resources, or information either coming into it or going out of it — except the whole universe, there can be no completely, 100% closed ideologies. So no matter how dreary, tyrannical, repressive, authoritarian an ideology, or governments, or corporations try to be, they cannot control the information coming in or the information going out. We always have hope of being able to change the system by spreading new information to people.

And as a practical matter it is completely absurd for any person or any group to think they could prevent the creation of new ideas or significantly limit the circulation of existing ideas among seven billion people. Modern technologies — world-wide travel, world-wide internet, world-wide cell phones — are speeding up the circulation of existing ideas as well as the creation of new ideas. Information not only always leaks, it often pours.

Most people are not stupid. Almost everybody can learn new things at any age. I know someone who used to say “My keys are not lost. I just don’t know where they are.” I would say “If you don’t know where your keys are, they are lost.” But what she meant was “My keys are not lost in the sense that they are gone forever. I know they are here somewhere. I just have to find them.” Similarly almost everybody can learn new things at any age. Most people just do not know that they can. They go with the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Well we can teach old dogs and we can teach almost all people new things regardless of their age. Some things like sports and playing musical instruments are easier to learn when a person is young. And the people who are the very best at these almost always start learning these physical procedures when they are very young. But older people can learn these things too if their body will still allow it. But mental things — new ideas, concepts — can be learned by older people, in many cases, more easily than by younger people because older people may have had more experience, more accumulated knowledge, on top of which new ideas and concepts can easily be accepted. This assumes their brains are healthy, that their brains have not deteriorated as in Alzheimer’s disease, and that they do not have beliefs which shut their minds to accepting new knowledge — for example being an adherent to a restrictive ideology or believing “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

This is important for the revolution because, as we have said, to make a revolution is to change people’s minds. If enough older people can’t change their minds to accept the revolutionary goals and methods, then the revolution will take longer than if most of them could. This has been long recognized. Many scientific revolutions were not complete until the old guard died off. (Read “ The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas S. Kuhn.) If enough adults can’t change their minds and accept new revolutionary knowledge, then the revolution will have to wait for new generations to accept the new knowledge.  

Force and threats are counterproductive. This has been analyzed in the post The Strategic Advantage of Non-violence.

Altruism exists. This simple fact wasted a lot of minds. The assumptions of classical economics  and utility theory were so strongly held that some people wasted huge amounts of time and mental energy trying to prove that altruism does not exist or that it is really just some special case of utility theory. Altruism exists. (Read the book “The Heart of Altruism” by Kristen Renwick Monroe.) This book shows beyond any reasonable doubt that there are some people who are willing to put their own lives at risk in order to help others. It is hard to understand what all the fuss is/was all about. It is obvious altruism exists. Almost all of us are altruistic at various times in our lives! Let’s start at the beginning. Consider childbirth. Many women have died during childbirth. I’m sure we could find some women who refused to have children for this reason. And most women are/were aware of this risk of death. The very fact that seven billion of us exist right now proves that almost all women were willing to accept this risk for the benefit of their unborn children. We even assume altruism by soldiers who die to save their buddies or who die for their countries. Everything we do has risks. Therefore any time we do anything to help others we are being altruistic. The existence of altruism is a fake problem. Most people in many, many situations throughout their lives cooperate with, work together with, and help other people without thinking about — much less calculating — benefits, losses, gains, or profits. They do it because they want to, because it’s more enjoyable, because they believe it is just a better way to live, at least in those situations where they do cooperate or help one another. People do not always cooperate. They do not always work together. People do not always help others. People are not always altruistic. But most people often are.

Altruism can be taught. Generosity is taught. Excessive selfishness is taught. These and many other human behaviors relevant for getting along with others, relevant to a fair and just distribution of human necessities — can be taught. They can be taught in that people can be shown how to recognize situations where more, or less, of these behaviors is better. The amounts of and the situations that are appropriate for all these behaviors vary from culture to culture. This proves they are mostly taught by our cultures. Thus in any particular culture we can change them.

We must take care of ourselves. Our body and brain warn us of various human needs — when we need food, water, when it’s too hot or too cold, of dangers, when we need sleep, when we need to be with other people. We actually take care of all these needs with the help of other people. nobody lives their whole life alone. Even hermits had to have been helped by other people from birth up until the time they become crazy enough to wander off into the mountains or desert to live alone. So if you want to think of a person taking care of his or her individual human needs as a form of selfishness, go ahead. But as I have just said this “selfishness” is almost always accomplished with the help of other people.

You may have noticed that many of the things we are talking about seem to be variations on a single theme — that we are social creatures — that almost everything we do, we do with other people. We are social creatures. But most emphatically this is not to deny the importance of individual autonomy, maximal individual freedom consistent with non-violence. (This does not apply to governments and corporations.) We must have both individuality and sociality. Neither can be allowed to dominate, or smother, or try to control or limit the other. The social groups we are a part of strongly influence individuals’ behavior. And of course individuals’ behavior strongly influence our social groups. Each continually influences the other through billions of feedback loops. Our cultures influence us. We influence our cultures. We don’t want our cultures to repress our individuality, our autonomy, our freedoms, our creativity, our development in any ways we may choose to go, all consistent with not harming others and our physical world, consistent with peace and non-violence. Nor do we want individuals or groups trying to bend our cultures, constrain our cultures in ways that prevent or limit maximal individual development for each individual person. We don’t want to have some individuals privileged over others or groups privileged over individuals.

The above may be too abstract. I am trying to think about and talk about in a general way that we must avoid two extremes. One is where the culture, the system works in some sense but it restricts individual freedom and individual development for the sake of a smooth running, or efficient operation of the system. The other is where individual freedom is given so much importance that violence is allowed against others and/or necessary resources are diverted from huge numbers of people. We want a system where there is both maximal personal individual freedom and where there is a just distribution of human necessities so that almost all individual people truly have an opportunity to develop themselves maximally all with non-violence and consistent with the limited earth’s resources.

For many people this will seem impossible. But that’s because they can think only in terms of our present very crude economic and political systems. But when you think about all the feedback loops between individuals and their groups, their cultures, we have to try to get to such a balance.

Let me put it more crudely. We don’t want a well running, efficient, stable system where almost all the people are well fed zombies. And we don’t want a system which seems to work fine for a small minority of people but in which there are all kinds of wars and violence and some people are grotesquely rich and others are starving  and the earth’s resources are being used up as if there were no tomorrow.

The remainder of the list is below. I’ll look at some of these in the next post.

In everything we do we are helped by others. We learn and create only by building on the knowledge, the work, of others. We are almost never alone. Conflict and competition are not the same. Competition is a form of cooperation. Conflicts exist but they can be limited. Thinking with too much fear, anger, or hatred can lead to wars. Everything evolves. Everything changes only slower or faster. We can influence social change. From the day you are born till you ride in the hearse there is nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse (or better). Depression is dangerous, even deadly and anyone with even a little depression should seek professional help. Mania is dangerous. Authority is dangerous. Ideologies can be, and probably most are, traps. Limiting your thinking is limiting yourself. Fear, anger, hatred, disgust are effective propaganda tools. Complex systems must be changed very carefully one step at a time. Complex systems can sometimes do very unexpected things. There are almost always unintended consequences when a change is made to a complex system. Some knowledge speeds up the evolution, the changes, in a society or culture. Freedom of speech should speed up the evolution of a culture. Freedom of behavior consistent with nonviolence should speed up cultural evolution. Both of these allow for increased spreading of new knowledge. Secrecy limits cultural evolution. There are many chunks of knowledge that if spread to enough people could significantly speed up the changing of our present system to a socially just system. Big changes can occur quickly. Some ideas, some chunks of knowledge, can spread very fast throughout a whole population, especially if the population has been prepared by being supplied with the intermediate knowledge required so that the new or radical idea makes sense. The foundation is already there and when the new idea is heard even once the reaction in the vast majority of people is “Yes!, Yes! That’s exactly right. That is what we must do.”