Making competition co-operative, self-interest nontoxic, and society wise

Nathan Otto writes: “How do we transcend the past competitive paradigm with an enclosing cooperative paradigm? For instance, the fierce competition of football is enclosed with strong cooperative agreements about the referees, the lines on the field, and so on. These rules are ultimately enforced by the crowd of “spectators” who actively provide the entire context for competition.  On a global scale, this context of humanity-with-a-voice has been weak or missing, such that governments and corporations operate in a moral “wilderness” without a transparent context of right action and sustainability.”

This excellent perspective aligns with one of the most important evolutionary dynamics I’ve been studying with Michael Dowd, Connie Barlow, John Stewart, and others.  That dynamic, which has operated since the Big Bang, is this:  In evolution’s drive towards greater complexity — that is, towards greater wholes comprised of more densely interconnected parts — the breakthrough dynamics have always been those through which the self-interest of the parts becomes aligned with the well-being of the whole.

This offers some obvious places to focus our efforts to transform our global civilization:

1.  Internalize economic externalities.  Incorporate the true costs (ecological, social, etc.) of a product or service into its price in the marketplace.  When this is done, products and services that produce social and environmental damage cost more than comparable products that are more benign.  This totally reverses the current destructive dynamic that makes the “free market” so toxic — the current ability of producers to pass on the costs of their toxic activities to nature, taxpayers, future generations, etc.  When those costs are “internalized” into all prices, the natural inclination of self-interested consumers, corporations, etc., to seek a low price “magically” (i.e., systemically) aligns their behavior with the well-being of the whole.  One familiar example is carbon taxes, which reduce people’s fossil fuel consumption while generating both funds and markets to develop sustainable energy sources.

2.  Focus on economic indicators (such as the Genuine Progress Indicator and other “quality of life” indicators) that measure the real health of human and natural communities.  Our current economic policies are governed by indicators like the total amount of money spent (GDP) or the percentage of people without jobs (unemployment) which fatally ignore the vast majority of productive activity going on, most of which happens outside the monetized job-based economic paradigm — for example, parents caring for their children, forests generating oxygen and rain, volunteers constructing Wikipedia, etc.  Furthermore, these mainstream statistics like GDP fail to account for the life-degrading implications of increases in certain kinds of production like weapons systems, cancer care, disaster cleanups, etc. — or for the dangers involved in the casino-like speculations of global finance.  Government and investment policies based on quality of life indicators would tend to create contexts within which people (and other living things) would be validated for their real contributions to the Whole.

3.  Create holistic democracy — politics and governance guided by the wise voice of the whole rather than by the temporary winners of polarized partisan battles.  We have the capacity now to bring very diverse voices — perspectives, interests, parties — together in dialogue, deliberation, choice creating, and other conversational engagements which produce coherent, healthy policies, programs, budgets and other manifestations of governance — including distributed self-governing activity.  We have the capacity to generate a legitimate, wise, recognizable “voice of the Whole”.  This does not refer to us creating a partisan platform we proclaim as the voice of We the People — no matter how honorable and pure our intentions or how holistic and integral our worldview may be.  Rather it involves helping We the People discover approaches to public issues that ARISE OUT OF the interactions of a full spectrum of perspectives.  As that new and true voice-of-the-whole becomes increasingly present in our political life, more and more people will recognize its value and align with it, reducing the power of partisanship.  If we focus on building this as a SYSTEMIC CAPACITY rather than just supporting its use here and there, or just sponsoring events that work on public issues like that, we will thereby create a civilization that is capable of learning its way into its own constantly self-renewed collective wisdom.

We can and should explore these and many other applications of this principle of creating systems whereby people and organizations end up cooperating on behalf of the whole even when they seem, at a lower level, to be competing or just pursuing their self-interest.

I see such systemic transformations as NECESSARY complements to our efforts to shift the larger story and destiny of the civilization.  The Great Story – the science-based eternal creation Story of Evolution (now becoming conscious of itself through humanity) as espoused by Michael Dowd, Connie Barlow, Brian Swimme, Thomas Berry and others – cannot by itself produce the changes we want without major systemic changes.  These two dimensions of transformation are intimately bound together.  The systemic changes are both supported by the Great Story AND serve to ground, manifest, and REAL-ize the Great Story in the world.  And both the Story and the Systemic changes arise out of AND GENERATE the kind of consciousness we need — to the point where I believe our efforts to change the consciousness of individuals will not impact their collective behavior enough unless we change the systemic context within which those individuals operate.  We all know highly conscious beings — including ourselves — who do things like drive SUVs and elect politicians that continue our disastrous course.  If we lived in different economic and political systems, that could be very different.

How do we create a coherent vision of transformational stories, systems, technologies and consciousness — a vision in which it is OBVIOUS how all those facets of transformation depend on each other and how they can be synergized, embracing all our various gifts and initiatives?  And how do we weave that vision so that it is not simply a utopian destination but a new form of self-organizing CAPACITY through which civilization can continually transform and develop itself guided by ever-increasing understanding and wisdom?

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