Intuitively, we have a hard time with systems. System behavior is, by definition, output behavior that is unpredicted by the behavior of its parts taking separately. This is a very profound understanding and utterly counter to our intuition and our five-sense reality. We assume our behavior and intention stands on it’s own, and if we mean well in this system, then we can’t possibly be part of something hurting others or something that is destructive to our planet. The truth is, we are involved in a larger order framework – and that framework has its own structural logic. This is why statistical analysis and the scientific method is so critical to our progress in the last century. So we can see through the clouds and limited perceptions that our small brains create. -Peter Joseph, Lecture on The End of Capitalism
This is a profound understanding. What is being said is that intentions and good morals are essentially useless in the current system structure.¹ We can interpret this as playing the role of a cog in a machine. Permitting you go to work and continue to ‘fuel’ the system every week, you are indirectly responsible for the human suffering that capitalism causes.² The take home point here is that externalities is a system consequence and has nothing to do with intentions. As long as we are working within the system, we are part of the externalities.
The second point that I want to touch on regarding this thought is that of our misguided intuition. We often think that if we mean well, we can’t possibly be part of a high evil. This couldn’t be further from the truth in a capitalist society. We are constantly pitted against each other and placed into situations that seem reasonable, but are rather hideous. The striking realization here is that we often look towards social justice or political reforms to embark on these good intentions, but our mission is ultimately wasted on a band-aid reform while the root cause lives on. This is why it is so fundamentally important for activists to understand economics and the game theory of. Without an understanding in economics, activists fight the problems of today blindly.
It’s as if we are all playing a game and can’t interpret the rules. We fight and shout for equality and justice claiming that our oppressors have to acknowledge us. Yet, we do not understand the framework of the game. If we did, we would know that this type of activism is a farce. What we need to be doing is taking the game, flipping it over, and finding a new game where the rules are aligned with equality and preservation.
Since the market system has no mechanism to resolve its own negative byproducts, society has been conditioned to assume that such external issues, these must be moral problems or ethical problems. It can’t be the system, it’s the people. This is the most prevalent delusion that we hear today from the general media. – PJ
The market system is not going to change it’s built-in structural logic and programming simply because people mean well and are trying to be “ethical”. This is a delusion most activists share. There is something to be said about making life better incrementally in a step-by-step approach with political reforms for groups of people, but this is all patchwork. An example that has relevancy is the positive ruling on gay marriage.
What has happened here is a force of activism (LGBTQ community) won a landmark decision, a patchwork of sorts. I would argue that this decision is almost entirely irrelevant in the big picture. Activists fought with such great force and intentions so that they could be acknowledged by the state. This is the equivalent to asking permission from your oppressor to love another slave.
Let’s cut the charade. There’s benefits involved. Being married rightfully enables these benefits to a wider range of humans and that is a win. However, these benefits should not just exist for married couples, but for all of humanity regardless of relationships. This could have been the goal from the beginning (admittedly, this is still patchwork, but it’s a much stronger form of patchwork). To sum it up, we had a powerful group of activists win a decision that, in the big picture, is merely a band-aid of the weakest form that serves to bolster the framework of the system.
For more on this topic: Anarchists on Gay Marriage
I continue to see rises in activism throughout the world, but the activism is ultimately just “noise” if people do not understand the framework that they live under. Market externalities are not entirely solved by activism within the system. Some market externalities include pollution, destruction of climate, public health, resource overshoot, technological unemployment, poverty, irreversible scarcity, and wealth inequality. What is a market externality?
Market externality – outcomes that result from the economic system that are not taking into account by the system.
These outcomes are ignored by the economic system. We like to talk about a ‘green’ economy based on our new focus, but that is merely a pipe dream as the framework simply will not allow it. Capitalism’s infinite growth paradigm will needlessly continue. (Further Reading: Planned obsolesence and ‘scarcity’) Similarly, the market does not know how to manage technological unemployment. We wish for shorter work weeks and a more prosperous lifestyle, but the trend is that we work more for greater inequality. The market does not have a back-up plan for us as population continues to grow, resources become scarce to null, and climate changes our home. These externalities are not accounted for and will leave us with enormous problems. Understanding this framework is the most important piece of knowledge for an activist to understand whose goals are to create a liberated society.
We need to eliminate this parasitic system that we are all taking part of. Every one of us has to start taking responsibility for our planet. The only way to do this is to understand the built in incentive structures that shape our society. Anything short of this is, at best, temporary gains. Unfortunately, the more I look into this subject, the more I align with the anarchist thought that violence will be necessary to fulfill the revolution that will save humanity. As inequality continues to grow, resources deplete, and climate changes for the worse, we are sitting on a ticking time bomb towards revolution. Will the violent revolution come from the people’s passion for liberation? Or will it come from the unbelievable damage done by the socioeconomic system? My wish now is that more people will take a closer look at how their behaviors and actions are shaped by the blueprint of the current socioeconomic system.
The lecture that holds the previous two quotes:
The End of Capitalism – Peter Joseph
As an interesting example of how a market might look like without the structural framework of capitalism built in:
In one free market in North Carolina, every month: two hundred or more people from all walks of life gather at the commons in the center of our town. They bring everything from jewelry to firewood to give away, and take whatever they want. There are booths offering bicycle repair, hairstyling, even tarot readings. People leave with full-size bed frames and old computers; if they don’t have a vehicle to transport them, volunteer drivers are available. No money changes hands, no one haggles over the comparative worth of items or services, nobody is ashamed about being in need. Contrary to government ordinances, no fee is paid for the use of the public space, nor is anyone “in charge.” Sometimes a puppetry troupe performs, or people line up to take a swing at the pinata. Games and conversations take place around the periphery, and everyone has a plate of warm food and a bag of free groceries. Banners hang from the branches and rafters proclaiming “For the commons, not landlords or bureaucracy” and “Ni jefes, Ni fronteras” and a king-size blanket is spread with radical reading material, but these aren’t essential to the event– this is a social institution, not a demonstration. Thanks to our monthly ‘Free Markets, everyone in our town has a working reference point for anarchist economics. Life is a little easier for those of us with low or no income, and relationships develop in a space in which social class and financial means are at least temporarily irrelevant. – Excerpt from the book Anarchy Works
This type of attitude is the antithesis of the current socioeconomic system. Much of what we’ve been conditioned to believe under capitalism is that we have a specific human nature and that we will act upon it. A ‘free market’, like such, exists to counteract that absurd notion.
¹This is a very hidden notion in society as well. Often we consider ourselves to be of high moral ground, but when we interact with the system that cannot be the case. I am not suggesting that good morals and intentions are entirely useless in the sphere of life, but rather, that the system itself has no care or understanding of your good morals. Even the best possible human being will promote needless suffering in the socioeconomic system that we have.
²The prime example giving is that of homelessness. Everyday we go to work with the best of intentions and constantly reinforce the system and therefore we reinforce the homeless population. Intentions are worthless here.