Making the Most of Life: Capitalism v2.0

I would prefer to live in a society where there were abundant medical doctors readily accessible, for instance, and where I felt certain that democratic procedures were robust and efficient. It seems only logical that such a society would inherently be safer, more resilient to impact and prosperous in general.

I value the availability of essential goods and services and democratic freedom among the highest principles for human flourishing. I believe most individuals too would relate. Yet these values are at odds with the main contrarian ideologies I typically discuss / debate against on New Anthro.

This is due to the fact that, to maximise these values and thus human flourishing, we would need to support some of what are deemed to be “egalitarian” principles.

Take medical support; this would be maximised at its broadest by communal support in high quality education, at least in part until tertiary level, giving individuals significant freedom to develop to their fullest in a chosen field and thus provide the greatest returns to society.

Contrary to this is the typical situation; who knows if we let a potential genius slip into obscurity not only because education has let them down, but being the child of a single parent on a disability pension within a lower socio-economic environment, such thoughts cannot even be conceived by the individual. We are all losers in oppressing such potential via socio-economic means.

Likewise with democracy; a society is only as free as it can potentially fathom and accurately articulate. Choice is the result of all propaganda and the average capacity to critical analyse of this information. With lax educational systems, information is judged by compulsion rather than critical merit and politics concerns itself more with branding than beneficial policies. The contrarian rants relentlessly over a loss of freedom and increasing influence of governments in personal life. Surely better education and effective personal democratic power would give free societies greater influence over how their countries are run.

Yet the disturbing real-world slant on the examples above seem all too common-day to me.

Moreover, the contrarian incorrectly assigns freedom to what clearly represents slavery. For instance, with growing population and sprawling suburbia, clogged arterial roadways in peak hour traffic demonstrate where personal freedom makes fools of us all. Growth, as exemplified here, reaches its limit and rather than sacrifice status symbols, such as personal vehicles and favouring instead mass transit orientated development and mixed use / medium density urbanity, we sacrifice time and fuel, becoming slaves to idle waiting for traffic to move.

As for safeness; they say we are only three meals from anarchy. With increasing disparity, more individuals are edged closer to such levels. It is likely the most moral person would become desperate enough to take such risks with the image of their pain-stricken staved child in mind. Indeed that is the conclusion of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in The Spirit Level, where they find that human flourishing is only improved so much by growing per capita income and to improve further means overcoming disparity.

It is not rational to blame such individuals at the lower end of the of disparity. Resource availability and distribution are self-evidently exclusionary to the most poor. Poor educational delivery systems, as mentioned above exacerbate the situation further. The gated community is iconic of decreased safety with increased disparity and growth economies within a finite resource base only furthers this collision course.

Far from being the gushy communal angst for egalitarianism, my concerns address a loss of security – resource security as well as safety – and the highest virtues of the free democratic west; freedom and democracy themselves are undermined by poor planning in large complex societies. We are not investing in resources which promise us the greatest returns through avenues for freedom and prosperity; that is, ourselves and our societies.

Somehow we have allowed egoism, greed and gluttony to take central stage in our planning systems. We have cut the brake lines. Individualism demands respect and unfettered access to resources in an age where seven billion of us attempt to prosper. The bull in the China shop seems an understatement!

The point I am making is not, as the pessimist may argue, to move away from capitalism, but rather to update, refine and improve it.

Just as I would prefer a modern hybrid vehicle to an old fuel guzzler or a modern washing machine with a good water and energy rating over beating my clothes against rocks by a creek, I would prefer a modern capitalism that addresses failing of its predecessor in maximising prosperity and efficiency.

I value the society I was born into. I see merit in developing on the ideas intended within the more general social ideology of this country. I want the best for my children and believe this package is the best package humanity has developed to secure their fulfilment. However, it isn’t perfect and is made even more imperfect with population growth. It needs a firmware update. It needs refinement.

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