Archive | January 2015

The Value of Altruism or Platonic Love in Socioeconomic Systems

Altruism appears to have systemic function with respect to economics as well as social interaction. This is something that has been implemented in past and present tribal cultures and is a basic function of the close knit circles of family and friendship. This tends to create an environment of reciprocal support in which the individual is strengthened by the collective thus strengthening the collective. Towards the end of crisis cycles, and in crises in general; this tends to rapidly scale resulting in wide spread solidarity. This is a positive sum game that has been the cornerstone of the strength of not only society but also the precariat specifically throughout recorded history. It is apparent that this is a normalizing property and a natural tool for advancing and transforming society.

It’s surprising how often greed is classified as human nature. This is not something that is supported by the behavioral sciences. In trying to understand what exactly is happening, it’s important to understand that our most basic of function is to respond to our environment in a heuristic manor. To cognitively assess every action would only bog us down. Heuristics is an efficiency that allows us to work by more general rules of interraction. When we have created an environment and the heuristics to accompany it, we cannot take the resulting outcomes as naturally induced behavior. The greed behavior, in this context is more likely a systemic issue rather than a natural aspect of the human condition. This seems to be a result of the emergence of disruptive technologies as I have illustrated in previous blog posts. Human nature being derived from the properties of nature itself is what is being supported. Teasing out what is entropy and what is normal would be the best approach for description and for problem solving.

Altruistic behaviors appear to be normal human behaviors. This is of course judging by the externalities (the behaviors of the underlying and overarching natural systems) and the humans that live within those paradigms. The more closely related humans have emotional bonds that help to strengthen cooperative behaviors. This is similar to the way that nature normalizes entropy.

Religion has always been a large part of social interaction. Before civilization, polytheistic belief systems were one of the major routs that we used to gain an understanding of nature. We are incapable of reconciling more than about a dozen pieces of information. This is why music has its structure of 8 notes to an octave and a hierarchy of intro, verse, chorus, ontro, and outro. All of the information is broken down into more comprehensible pieces. Polytheism may have been a way for early humans to understand natural systems by thinking of them as higher beings. This may have helped us to relate to and respect our natural surroundings. Shortly after the emergence of civilization monotheism emerged. This may not have been a random consequence of social construction. This seems to be the pinnacle of the hierarchy that encompuses the full complement of natural systems.

It may be that the scaling of our systems that occurred with the emergence of civilization influenced our belief systems as well. It seems that there was a desire to have a spiritual connection that was appropriate to civilized society. This was made difficult by the fact that the socioeconomic system had little functional agreement with the surrounding, natural systems. The entropy seemed to therefor spread into our belief systems and negative behaviors began to be commited in their name. Many have tried to address this by instituting a moral axiom revolving around the spread of platonic love. We seem to have an innate behavior that resembles and promotes altruism as part of a natural systemic response.

We’ve spent thousands of years trying to find a socioeconomic, hierarchical structure that would work well for us. We have had a long history of failure in this endeavor, likely due to our inability to reform the socioeconomic system itself. Rather we have adopted new sociopolitical systems in order to find a way to sustain a singular sosioeconomic system through trying to promote and manipulate the externalities. The properties of the socioeconomic system have appeared to be more influential than any sociopolitical system to date. The outcome has been growth along with increased disparity, with the vast majority bearing the brunt and thus resulting in revolt. This suggests that the system is incapable of sustaining the vast majority of the populous. It may be because the system has no intrinsic, altruistic property that specifically promotes that end.

In pre history, it’s thought that Gift Economics was the basis of economies. It’s essentially a scaling of the praternal behaviors to sustain a larger grouping. It’s employing more, capable hands to work cooperatively to see that the needs of the collective are met. The nomenclature doesn’t seem to be entirely appropriate as it’s more of a reciprocal relationship where the individual contributes to the needs of the collective that in turn contributes to the needs of the individual. It’s a non-monetary system where individuals receive physical goods and services if they themselves provide physical goods and / or services to the community. It was likely a very natural system that would have functioned seemlessly with the surrounding ecology as there was no physical symbol in the form of unit currency to distract from it. Pre historic humans likely worked direcly with the ecology and had a long history of experience that resulted in conservative policies that promoted abundance. These are all altruistic behaviors that likely had positive effects.

More recently, business models have been emerging that are fundamentally different from corporate and small business models. With both of the latter, there is a need for seed funding to even get started and coercion to maximize profit margins. This is likely due to the level of growth we are currently in. Maximization of profit in the corporate sense enables growth of stock prices. This is desirable because it prevents the individual stock holders from selling their stocks. If an individual stock holder sells their stock, one of three things happens. The company looses the funds of that stockholder as they are obligated to buy it back if no other entity wishes to purchase it. This may not be an entirely negative thing as a board member could, in principle buy them and in turn gain more financial control. That would be the second scenario that would also explain the personal advantage of being “on the take”. The third would be that someone else might buy the stock and there would be no real consequence. This would be less likely if the stocks were of high and no longer increasing value. Though small businesses are more agile with respect to gaining public appeal in marketing; it’s difficult for them to compete with the price points that are offered by corporations. This becomes more difficult late in a crysis cycle as the vast majority has less to spend. One might think that this is solvable through affording ones patronage to small businesses. Like the corporate model, small businesses have been primarily funded to fruition by traditional lenders. This results in inflation that devalues the currency at a higher rate than wages increase. With those employed by corporations this is explained by the maximization of profit and the raising of fiscal ceilings. Since non-corporate business employ the vast majority of the citizens; it would make sense to support them so that higher wages could be afforded; however the corporations lower price points appeal to the consumers more immediate responsibilities. This is a consequence driven by emotional bonding. This contextually opposes the greed that is commonly blamed. On the surface, this instance might seem to indicate that human nature is to blame; however in the larger scope, the economic system seems to be the source of the issue.

Business models that began emerging in the latter part of the 20th century are contextually different in their motivational policies. It’s been shown in studies that monetary gain is a poor motivator. The newer, more open models are more geared towared innovation and distribution as opposed to personal gain as job one. They are essentially being reformulated from the ground up to be less constrained and more condusive to human motivational systems. Now startups are advised to begin with something that they are passionate about and build a business model around it. This increases the likelyhood of having motivated staff from the beginning. There are new resources for innitial funding that are an alternative to the interest accruing loans from banks or venture capitalists. Croudfunding is a direct line to perspective customers where an agreement is made beforehand and the project is then funded. The more prominant constraints of a croudfunded project are the funding, which is negotiated prior to the official launch and a reasonable amount of time to deliver on the agreement. This is a much more liberal environment than that of traditional business models. This model is a more collaborative and ttransparent model that would likely improve the relationship between businesses and patrons. The bonds between the two are also likely to be much stronger than the brand loyalty associated with the traditional models. The agility of these models would be more condusive to addressing the externalities that are of and in the public interest. This is a possible path to an altruistic socioeconomic system that could have positive effects across the board.