An End to Economic Darwinism


Illustration by Eric Palma

Jason Ghionis, December 27, 2016. Original article published on Mar. 23 2016.

Increasingly recently, the question arises of whether an alternative economic proposal is on the table. As a convincing alternative to today's extreme economic financialization.

To answer this perhaps we ought to focus on the existing economic system's philosophical foundation. To better understand how it came to dominate and why it is in a state of disintegration today.

The dominant economic narrative is based on the notion of “laissez faire”*. A notion which is very much in line with human essence and that is precisely what made it so convincing. A claim that holds true to the degree that we accept that everyone desires to be free to act in order to prosper. This particular theory also claims that personal ambitions benefit the whole as well, all within a framework of perpetual self-regulation. That which is worthy is recognized whereas that which is unworthy is marginalized until it perishes. At the same time, all individual decisions and choices collectively (known as the “invisible hand of the market”) create and foster a “healthy” and “just” framework.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it comprises just one part of the equation. While it claims that what is good for the individual also benefits the whole, it fails to take into account all negative manifestations of human nature. And above all, man's capacity to influence and manipulate situations in “unnatural”, artificial ways. At an ever increasing scale, failing to realize that there are limits , with deviant behaviours not only being rewarded, but being rewarded disproportionately and at the expense of the marketplace as a whole (by employing a rationale whereby “your loss is my gain”).

Contrary to contemporary economic structures, in Nature everything self-regulates in a viable and healthy fashion. Flows are bi-directional and balanced. Its constituent parts also function as members of a unified organism. Whichever part of it violates its functional principles, sooner or later is restored to the natural order.

Man on the other hand rationalizes, convinces oneself of the righteousness of one's actions and while employing the notion of laissez faire as an alibi, constantly violates and without the slightest inhibition the natural order. By amassing more than is needed, by obsessing with competition and outright domination, bringing to mind a kid that above all craves to be the perpetual king of the treehouse. An autistic economic childishness at best.

It is clear by now that the notion of laissez faire, narrowly interpreted and in isolation (as it functions and is understood today), leads to degeneration. At this point, what must surface to complete the equation is a broader appraisal of the situation. Specifically, by focusing on the interaction of the notion of laissez faire with the whole, and in which way they can function to benefit one another.

This provides the basis for the examination of a framework that at first may strike one as contradictory: An individualism in service of the whole and of a whole in service of the individual. A system that will merge two seemingly opposing, clashing notions** (at least insofar as how we perceive them today). That will restore balance between them. That will draw inspiration from how nature works. Just like a tree for example, that functions both as an autonomous entity and as a member of a unified ecosystem.

It is beyond evident that individual actions must align with the viability of the whole. Precisely how can this be accomplished? How can we be certain that each individual, while viewing matters through their personal prism, will benefit the whole in the process? Surely it would be naïve to believe that this will occur consciously just because “it is the right thing to do”. If this were in fact so, we would be living in a very different reality today.

Even though it is a practical impossibility that everyone operates in alignment with that which benefits the whole, surely the scope of deviations can be confined. Instinctively if anything else, matters could be far more balanced if everyone acted according to their true inclinations and desires, and not according to a worldview that has become synonymous with economic Darwinism.

What can be done, is to approximate an ideal situation as much as possible. And the best way perhaps is by having “everyone on good terms with oneself”, to the degree that they do that which they are truly destined to do. By taking as a given that a society of fulfilled individuals is preferable to a society of neurotics, with a plethora of repressions. And a sum of psychologically healthy individuals, is by definition preferable to a sum of neurotics.

The aforementioned could easily find expression within a system whereby:

1. The emergence and the cultivation of the talents of each individual will be ensured by the whole (universal basic income is an example in this direction)
2. Each individual in turn, by doing that which they are truly destined to do, will contribute their maximum towards the whole
3. The individual (and an organization by extension) will operate within a viable framework of bi-directional, balanced monetary flows (this specific “simulation” of ecosystemic flows is more than just feasible in the domain of monetary architecture)

In other words, a talented person should be afforded the opportunity to engage in their true area of interest throughout the most productive and lucid hours of the day, without expending energy in an indifferent occupation simply for the sake of self-preservation. In order to limit and why not, eliminate the waste of vital energy which is the direct result of a mismatch between true inclination and professional occupation. All this within a monetary framework that will replace the single-track, mindless economic growth imperative “at all cost”, with an imperative of meaningful self-actualization. An imperative of rational, viable (from an environmental standpoint too) economic life.

The above is attainable. More so since it is self-evident, that everyone wishes to experience the optimal version of oneself. The only thing absent perhaps, is that ideas such as these*** and similar ideas, have yet to enter the sphere of consciousness, unifying a majority much greater than that which constitutes a critical mass. And of course, a transition from passivity to active claim.

* Which means “Let it/them do”. The term is attributed to Vincent de Gournay (France, 18th century). His source of inspiration, the Taoist notion of “wu wei” (of “non action” interpreted as “non-interference”).

** Additionally, a system resulting from the merging of two opposites (a duality in and of itself) will have as its opposite, itself. In other words, it will not by definition be able to “degenerate” into its opposite.
update: This statement can easily be challenged for its validity. I have addressed this in a subsequent article.

*** Which can be characterized as entelechistic, as entelechy, from potency to active manifestation, to [self-]actualization.