Socialism vs Capitalism: Systems Thinking Reveals a Radically Different Perspective
A systems thinking approach to the nature of economics and hierarchy
There is a tremendous amount of posting and debating on social media about capitalism and socialism. Mostly, it consists of biased news articles, philosopher quotes and a whole lot of political party fealty.
Almost nobody is discussing these subjects in the context of systems/complexity theory which has already been well established as the definitive scientific and philosophical understanding and explanation of emergent systems of which economies, government, culture, society, are all quintessential examples used in introductory courses on the theories and I really mean those are just course 101 topics.
“In some theories of particle physics, even such basic structures as mass, space, and time are viewed as emergent phenomena, arising from more fundamental concepts such as the Higgs boson or strings. In some interpretations of quantum mechanics, the perception of a deterministic reality, in which all objects have a definite position, momentum, and so forth, is actually an emergent phenomenon, with the true state of matter being described instead by a wavefunction which need not have a single position or momentum. Most of the laws of physics themselves as we experience them today appear to have emerged during the course of time making emergence the most fundamental principle in the universe[according to whom?] and raising the question of what might be the most fundamental law of physics from which all others emerged. Chemistry can in turn be viewed as an emergent property of the laws of physics. Biology (including biological evolution) can be viewed as an emergent property of the laws of chemistry. Similarly, psychology could be understood as an emergent property of neurobiological laws. Finally, free-market theories understand economy as an emergent feature of psychology”.
In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence occurs when an entity is observed to have properties its…
What is Capitalism, Really?
Capitalism is an emergent phenomenon that arises from the interactive behavior patterns of humans, which stem from our most basic, fundamental nature. We fear pain and death, we are addicted to pleasure and most of all, we want to proliferate our individual genome. Social and cultural environments have become mediums through which these fundamentals have come to be expressed as consumerism, but also as means of power and domination.
Humans default to hierarchies within social organization and this remains true for the most successful humans within the commodities trading, consumerism paradigm of human organizational evolution.
Capitalism or really, the emergent phenomenon of unbridled exchange of goods and services between individuals competing to survive and prosper, is by it’s very nature, a totally unplanned, distributed organization. The silk routes are the best example, really and I’m going to rely heavily on them to explain just exactly how this all works.
The Silk Routes, commonly, but less accurately referred to as “The Silk Road”, initially formed, connecting the far East, Middle East, and European countries in 130 BC and went on to grow for hundreds of years before their scale was even known. Marco Polo is famously credited with first exploring them in 1254. The individual participants, the traders, the consumers, were totally unaware of the greater, emerging thing in which they were a component. All the while, culture, philosophy, technology, and foreign resources were rapidly spreading out and dramatically changing distant cultures and civilizations and doing so entirely by the most fundamental nature of organization and systems behavior. This occurred over far greater time spans than would allow for any individual or group of individuals to be credited with planning or controlling it. That is capitalism.
On the other hand, there are centralized, hierarchical systems: Gangs, empires, cities. These do not randomly emerge from human interaction, rather they are inevitable, they are the default mode dictated by human nature, human psychology. Throughout human history, before the global markets of today began to form, hierarchies have been competing with each other. From early, indigenous American tribes to European and Persian empires, resources have almost always been the pivot point of conflict. The most successful groups maintain control of resources and as well, often exhibited the most prolific technological advancements with which to gain or maintain advantages in the struggle to survive through domination.
What Happens When Capitalism Meets Hierarchy?
Over time, capitalism became the fuel for hierarchical power. This natural, emergent phenomenon produces many opportunities for hierarchies to become much more powerful and successful as civilizations begin to become connected through emergent networks. For example, the most traveled trade routes across Europe and Asia would not only give rise to highly successful gangs that would go on to control large territories and overthrow local governments as a result of their resource acquisition strategies. As well, small towns turned into large cities and civilizations unknown to the rest of the world would go on to become massive empires that would forever change the landscape. All largely by extorting portions of decentralized capitalism taking place in their territories, most often using threats of violence as is still the primary means, to this day. Quite simply, hierarchies find and attack veins of market concentration. If a group has the man power and weapons, it can simply take control of the prosperity flowing through the territory. On the other hand, some hierarchies are lucky and simply happen to already govern a population that becomes economically energized. In any case, it is a case of two things effectively merging and becoming a new kind of thing.
So, fast forward a bit, continuing with the Silk Routes; as some traders inevitably became very successful, they gained enough influence by possessing the highest value, highest volume commodities, they were able to buy protection and favoritism from hierarchies. Thus begins the merger of hierarchical organization and decentralized economics, giving rise to exclusionary economics. When you are successful enough to influence and even manipulate the power of hierarchies, you enter a new, exclusive realm, safe from the cut-throat free market and thus, we begin to see the nature of hierarchical and centralized systems or at least one inevitability of them. That is, they are corruptible. Not only are they corruptible, but becoming corrupt is simply a part of their life cycle.
Today, in the United States, the capitalist villain isn’t actually capitalist, at all. Well, not in the traditional, survival of the fittest sense. Bailouts aren’t capitalism, subsidies aren’t capitalism, heck even patent laws aren’t capitalism. The “villains” simply operate in an exclusive economy that is manifested within the matrix of political power that governs what can more or less be described as “tax cattle”. Often times, this is in the form of investing in political careers and both of the dominant political parties, to gain subsidization, effectively milking the “tax cattle”.
Possibly a more common form of exclusionary advantage is the use of money to influence the otherwise insane, irrational masses (I’ll unpack that divisive statement below), to vote for some regulation that’s branded as necessary for one reason or another, but really just serves to eliminate market competition.
Modern Examples of Exclusionary Economics:
The Medicare Modernization Act comes to mind. What the MMA effectively does is eliminate cost negotiation of drugs paid for with tax dollars which obviously resulted in pharmaceutical companies being able to arbitrarily price drugs. Nobody wants socialized healthcare more than pharmaceutical companies. You’ll find this is all exactly not at all anything resembling capitalism or a free market. In many places, it’s also illegal to collect rain water, cover more than a certain percentage of your roof with solar panels, sell lemonade without a license, etc. We really shouldn’t even be having debates on capitalism when the context is within a country who’s government requires tremendous upfront costs for something as simple as selling lemonade. These things aren’t the “social contract”, they are legislation that was lobbied for and funded by those manipulating a corrupt government to isolate themselves from competition. The insanity that is the mass psychology that drives a democracy of millions of people, truly is a remarkable thing when you consider that it is actually a resource, a stable, global currency. I’ll just say, if you can show me an example of masses exhibiting coherent decision making, I would really like to hire you to manage my investment portfolio. Political parties really are like analytical day traders or maybe they are more like brokers and advisors.
So, here we are, today, a population existing after decades of drug wars, more and more taxes and regulations, it’s illegal to sell lemonade or be self sufficient and we blame tech entrepreneurs for our financial struggles.
Wealth Redistribution is a Mode of Systemic Cannibalism
Enter wealth redistribution. This is a very controversial subject that almost immediately divides people like a hot knife through butter.
Put simply, wealth redistribution is systemic cannibalism. To some, this statement will trigger emotion and that really highlights the ideological and sort of tribal nature of this entire conversation. It’s not that it’s good or bad. I’ll leave it to you to feel one way or the other. Just consider that all hierarchies become corrupt and all complex organizations eventually break down to some lower baseline order of sustainable complexity. Wealth redistribution is effectively the downfall of a hierarchical system that came to be by synergistically organizing about decentralized energetic modulation. It is entropy through systemic cannibalism, not unlike bacteria breaking down a corpse.
Here’s an analogy: Consider for a moment, a maple tree that is living in ever-increasingly dry soil. This tree was young when all of the older surrounding trees began to die. As each died, the soil was fertilized, and the younger tree benefited from the microbial activity. Eventually, the tree finds it’s self alone and soon, it’s fallen leaves become a very noticeably large portion of the fuel that facilitates the microbial, digestive soil. This cyclical state of complexity being broken down into digestible energy slows, but soon fails to stifle the inevitable fact that the tree is simply an unjustifiably complex component for it’s immediate ecology. The conditions that gave rise to something as large and complex as this tree have ceased and it will begin to break down to a level of justifiable complexity, probably microorganisms. From there, new plant species will arise and take over, those who’s seeds were waiting for the direct sunlight that the trees have been blocking. These plants will be much smaller and have much better adapted root systems. Effectively, the nonlinear organization of matter and energy in the system reemerges more distributed than before.
That analogy isn’t just analogous through some philosophical perspective, it is analogous because it tells the story of exactly the same fundamental nature as virtually any emergent system including, of course, an economy.
What’s happening now?
As we move from a point of resource abundance and human scarcity, to human abundance and resource scarcity, the value of a single human is diminished. Individuals compete just to have a job and so, wages decrease and people inevitably look to the big hierarchy to provide for them. The hierarchy that is only as powerful as it is, as a result of the hard work and economic energy of previous generations that came about during conditions that are no longer present. But the hierarchy is now totally corrupt and controlled by those organizations powerful enough to turn hierarchy into an exclusionary economic tool.
Giving the government more power and depending on it even more, is inevitably giving more control to those exclusionary organizations, but that really is arbitrary in the broader, systems theory perspective. All that is really happening is systemic cannibalism along the breakdown of an unjustifiably complex organization. To the individual, participating in this systemic break down, may seem completely irrational, but humans are not supernatural and mass psychology is anything, but rational from the individual perspective. All humans inevitably behave and abide by much more fundamental natures of organization and hey, I mean, who are we to argue over a future we won’t inhabit? In ten thousand years, the United States might just be a vague, brief mention in an ancestor simulation that nobody pays attention to while they travel to other dimensions. Nobody is in control, least of all a democracy of several hundred million of people.
Thanks for reading.
Let me know your thoughts!