Sunday, April 08, 2012

Thinking Aloud

I wrote this a bit ago, but maybe I went too fast and I ought to step back a bit.

Let's see where we have gotten to.

I have argued that we made a serious evolutionary error in the early Neolithic Era when we abandoned equality-on-the-average as our normal scheme for organizing ourselves and went to follow-the-leader instead.

(The Indus River Civilization suggests that we didn't have to do that, we could have stuck with equality-on-the-average. We just had bad luck that the Indus River dried up.

Anyway, we got stuck with follow-the-leader, because power, the ability to order somebody else to do what you don't want to do yourself, is addictive. People who have power, like people who get addicted to narcotics, don't want to give it up. They will destroy the world, or that part they can reach, rather than give it up.

However, evolution works in a way that affects the species, not individuals. That's why we have been evolving in such a way as to correct the mistake we made.

Follow-the-leader civilizations, as Toynbee showed, are inherently unstable; but we have kept replacing them by other follow-the-leader civilizations. We struggled for close to ten-thousand years replacing one set of failed leaders for another set, sometimes by wars, sometimes by natural mortality.

We kept doing that and gradually improved our technology until we accidentally produced an invention (the cell phone and the internet) that could give the rest of us the same kind of communications power that the elite has.

We can thank Steve Jobs for the iPhone that will let us have the same equality-on-the-average infrastructure that we had in the Paleolithic. Because we can use it to communicate at a distance it doesn't seem to have the drawbacks of a tribal infrastructure. Because we aren't living in close contact with one another it isn't limited to small groups. We can practice equality-on-the-average for populations of billions without getting that upset with one another.

Steve Jobs, whether he knew what he was doing or not, gave us the way to make the next step in evolution.

In that he made the step the canceled out Calvin's shortcut.

Calvin invented a category of people who were not aristocrats, but who were better than commoners. He called them the "Elect", a group of people who displayed evidence of "God's Grace" because they were able to conspicuously consume tchotchkes or status symbols. In effect he created a new branch of aristocracy.

The difference was that the Elect didn't qualify for this aristocracy by having an ancestor who used violence to steal land or other wealth; the Elect exploited some technology, like ocean-going ships, to create new wealth themselves by trading cheap trinkets for expensive tchotchkes.

This proved to be such a good idea that the religious connection was quickly lost and the Elect turned into a "middle" class who had less status than aristocrats but more money than peasants and serfs. But we retained the idea that making lots of money was not quite as good as being born to a land-thief's family, but it was a lot better than doing hard labor.

Since this new middle class couldn't use traditional methods like looting to make money, they had to invent new ways.

The traders went to far places and traded trinkets for tchotchkes.

The Planters farmed export goods like cotton, sugar and coffee on virgin land using african slaves.

The entrepreneurs connected machinery to prime movers so they could exploit women and children as workers who were dextrous rather than strong.

The clerks and mechanics who did the work the owners had been doing invented the game of trading certificates of fractional ownership, and since that meant there was no "owner" to make decisions, they became the bureaucracies that managed commerce and government.

Those bureaucrats are now the elite. They have tried to keep their elite status by reversing evolution for the rest of us. The corporate bureaucrats even went so far as to let the global economy collapse so the rest of us would have less money. They knew that the government bureaucrats would let them have back most of the money they lost, paid out of the money obtained by taxing the rest of us.

The idea was that if the elite bureaucrats lost their money it would be bad for the rest of us. That's nonsense, of course, but it gave the government bureaucratic elite an excuse for bailing out the corporate bureaucratic elite.

That made it clear that politics, instead of being Republicans vs Democrats, is a game of Elite Professional Politicians against the rest of us.

They have divided us in groups called Radical Left-wing Progressives, Liberal Democrats, Conservative Republicans, and Reactionary Right-wing "Tea Party" adherents, with each group of us being conned by a particular story that blames things on the rest of us.

The elite bureaucrats of both kinds keep running things by feeding us a con, but so successfully that we think of the other parts of "the rest of us" as our enemies when they are just suckers like we are but who believe different lies.

The next stage of evolution would be to direct creative technology in a different direction. The notion that making money was good, invented by Calvin to make a place in society for his middle-class followers, is obsolete because the old middle-class is now the elite. Instead of increasing equality, money-based values now increases inequality.

We don't need profit as the goal of social effort, we need efficiency in using resources to produce quality of life.

By making efficiency the goal, rather than profits, we would solve the problem of ecological responsibility.

We would provide efficient food, clothing and shelter as part of an efficient public health program.

By making all production efficient and automated, we would eliminate labor as a part of production.

Human labor would only be used when it can accomplish something that the machinery can't accomplish by itself, and that will be something creative. (See Norbert Wiener's The Human Use Of Human Beings).

That will make the autonomous stage of human development, which includes a generalized creativity, a universal goal for ambition, and, conversely, common labour would be recognized as inherently undesirable because it is not as efficient as automatic machinery in repetitive production.

That would make those people not involved creatively in the efficient production of necessities into a Leisure class with the time and energy available to do the politics of direct democracy.

That would demonstrate that Calvin's invention, while it was the stimulus to using the science of cybernetics to use resources conservatively, has to be replaced by Post-materialist (or Extensive) values to allow us to fit comfortably into an economy based on resource conservation.

That would make the isocratic values of egalitarianism, ecological responsibility, cooperation, and creativity the core values of human civilization.

My theoretical analysis of the evolutionary history of the human species from the paleolithic to today is reasonably consistent and makes sense. What it does not do is provide a time scale. It says that we are evolving toward an isocratic global civilization, and that we are getting closer, but it doesn't give us a time scale.

But we can try to make make some kind of estimate that will help us to be prepared.

We went through something like five stages in the 500 years of the industrial era, so we are probably not going to take much longer than 100 years from now to get to the next evolutionary stage.

On the other hand the bureaucratic elite, both government and corporate bureaucrats have been successfully trying to reverse evolution for the better part of a century, and they don't have any reason to stop, so we could be stuck with that for several hundred years.

So we can't say for sure when we will make the evolutionary transition to an Isocratic civilization. What we can say is that it will eventually happen, and in probably less than a thousand years.

A transition that takes place in one or two years will probably not be planned because it will take the form of a violent revolution that starts with some incident and explodes. Such a transition is not likely to work.

The existing establishment is protected by the police, National Guard and the regular military, and they are all heavily armed. The only way that we could have a revolutionary change in the United States is if the United States Army acted like the Egyptian Army, and refused to participate in the street demonstrations one way or another. The United States Army is not so stratified that the junior and non-commissioned officers would be sympathetic with demonstrators who appear to be left wing.

Given orders to shoot at demonstrators they wouldn't hesitate. They would act more like Khadaffi's mercenaries. But uncontrolled right-wing demonstrators would suffer the same fate.

So the odds are that a one-year scale revolution would simply not work; and would be likely to end up as a right-wing oligarchy.
It would require a longer revolution to get to an Isocracy, something like that described by Sinclair Lewis in It Can't Happen Here. It reminds us that we are in a period like the 1930s, during the period we were recovering from the Great Depression and Fascism was very popular, like the Tea Party is now.

A ten-year scale is slightly more likely because that would involve something like the New Deal that directed the recovery from the Great Depression of the 1930s into a democratic rather than a fascist direction. It would differ slightly because the interests that bind the Republican and Democratic professional politicians are too strong to cause either to adopt Isocratic values.

In that case the process would involve a third party, and that would be difficult to build even using traditional capitalist (i.e., money based) values, much less Isocratic values.

It might be a useful thing to build an Isocratic Party on a national scale even if it didn't win anything except the occasional minor office.

But one shouldn't expect anything to happen with it in the absence of a crisis that could be reacted to. If there were such a crisis, a global economic collapse, perhaps, a well-prepared Isocratic Party could step in with practical solutions that offer a smooth transition to Isocracy.

But that is unlikely because the people who staff a political party do it for the income, and not as a form of public service.

If you have a political party that is staffed by ideological volunteers they will tend to be moved by an ideology too simplistic to be Isocratic, or they will be so sophisticated that they will not only lack popular support, but they will be held in suspicion by security agencies and will be hounded by the police and the FBI. That again is reminiscent of the 1930s.

So a third political party is not a bad idea, but it will not be easy. It is not, however, impossible.

In their pioneering work, Value Change in Global Perspective, Paul R. Abramson and Ronald Inglehart showed that the gradual shift from Materialist values (such as the desire for economic and physical security, [i.e., money]) to Post-materialist values (such as the desire for freedom, self-expression, and the quality of life [e.g., autonomy]) is in all likelihood a global phenomenon. Value Change in Global Perspective analyzes over thirty years worth of national surveys in European countries and presents the most comprehensive and nuanced discussion of this shift to date.

Robert Giacalone wrote in the New York Times: "Extensive Values Adherent growth among the population of industrialized economies has been impressive. One study estimates that 35 percent of Americans are now EVAs, and another study predicts that in the coming decade, EVAs will outnumber those who hold materialist values (currently the dominant group). For this reason, some believe we are not seeing just a change in simple values, but a change in worldview."

A colleague, Carole Jurkiewicz said "Identification of and recalibration toward these values under such conditions is difficult, particularly given the growth rate. Even now, with evidence pointing to a slow, steady growth rate of about one percentage point each year (Inglehart & Abramson, 1994), the number of expansive values adherents does not yet exceed the number of traditional materialists (Kidd & Lee, 1997). But by 2010, the number of expansive values adherents worldwide is likely to outnumber materialists (Abramson & Inglehart, 1992)."

By the time (somewhat later than 2010) we have a majority of EVAs in the population we will be able to put together a scenario that will allow a gradual transition from our present money-based values to Isocratic values.

The difficulty is that we need to have a majority of EVAs who are "out of the closet", and right now (in 2011) we don't have anything near that.

We can expect that the money-based value propaganda of the elite will make EVAs reluctant to "come out of the closet", so we should look for a level of consumption that is less than income would imply, and a reduction of consumer debt, as a measure of E values.

One positive act would be to form an Isocratic Church; which would take advantage of the constitutional protections afforded religious organizations that are not provided to political ones.

An Isocratic Church could openly promulgate Isocratic values: egalitarianism (equality-on-the-average); cooperation (as opposed to competition); ecological responsibility and creativity.
It took me the better part of a hundred years to put these ideas together, so another hundred or two years to spread the ideas around and let people get used to them is not unreasonable; and a church is good for that kind of long-range thinking.