Co-operation More Powerful Than Competition

An excerpt from: From Corporate Globalization to Global Co-operation, Page 90

“Neoclassical economics and right wing philosophy would tell us that the most powerful driver in human nature IS individual self-interest in the rational pursuit of maximum wealth for minimal effort. Wouldn’t that mean that co-operatives were just utopian dreams
out of touch with what drives “economic man” and destined to remain on the fringe
of the economy? Are people social and co-operative by nature, or competitive and
self centred? These are questions that need to be responded to by both heart and
head because they go to the very core of what it means to be human.
In considering scientific answers to these questions we begin with a reflection
on the emergence of life on our planet. In his 2012 book The Super Cooperators,
Martin Nowak, one of the world’s leading theorists on evolution, points out that
for life to move beyond single-cell organisms cells needed to co-operate. As life
became more and more complex, it was an explosion of co-operation that made it
possible. If the cells in your eyes did not co-operate you would not see this line of
words. If the cells in your brain did not work together you would not understand
anything. All complex life is based on cell co-operation, without which there is no
intelligence and no emotion.5 When cells cease to co-operate and begin to multiply,
simply reproducing themselves, it is called cancer. The absence of co-operation in
cells leads to death.”

This is the foundation of co-operation in life.  As life advanced so did co-operation.  As the book argues the success of humanity owes more to cooperation than to competition.  Humanity has now reached the stage where it must choose between the positive constructive forces of humanity – caring, sharing, compassion, empathy and love – and the dark forces of human nature – competition, greed, hyper individualism and selfishness.  Will our future be win-win-win or win-lose-lose- lose?  Will we choose life or destruction?  Climate change or sustainable, ecological co-operation?  Me first or us together?

Let us choose life.

 

Searching for Meaning

In our own lives, what is more important, what we consumed today or what we contributed to our families, our communities and our world?  What would leave us more dissatisfied, knowing that we acquired a less than perfect automobile, didn’t have the latest electronic gadget or that an idea we had failed to make the world a better place for our children because we did not have the authority or legitimacy or power to accomplish it?  Is our reality as consumers the most important part of our beings or is it the part that is most likely to destroy the world around us through the consumption of wants rather than needs?  Let me suggest that unleashing the creative, caring and loving parts of our humanity is the most powerful source of meaning for human beings.

Imagine a world where we owned and controlled our work spaces, co-operating with colleagues to help each other be the best we can be.  Where we focused on using our talents and gifts to improve the lives of our families, communities and world.  We can build that world bit by bit, workplace by workplace.  We can replace capitalism and a world focused on money with economic democracy and meeting human need.

Why are so many people angry?

When the economic elite takes and takes and sets the rules for how the economy works and how trade will benefit them, it destroys hope and produces despair.  Despair is where anger grows.  When those who practice the politics of fear, lies, hatred, violence and revenge find despair and anger they cloth themselves in righteousness and win elections.

The average worker at Google makes a pretty penny, as one would expect of a massive, super profitable tech company: about $89,000. Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai pockets a staggering $100,632,102, over 1,000 times more than the typical Googler.  In fact 1,130.69 times $89,000.”

Text and graph courtesy of http://inequality.org/

Making the Vision visible

 

“For example, despite being surrounded by farmland, Marks (Louisiana)  residents had to drive 20 miles to the nearest Wal-Mart just to get fresh vegetables. But Shreveport Federal Credit Union changed all that by organizing local farmers into a worker-owned cooperative, renovating a building, and creating what became the Delta Muletrain Farmers Market.”  James Trimarco posted Mar 17, 2017 in YES Magazine (www.yesmagazine.org/ )

It is About Humanity and Planet Earth

From the preface of From Corporate Globalization to Global Co-operation

“This book is not about economics or politics or society. It is about where they
all meet. It is not value free. The vision that drives it is the search for a better
world. The motivation for writing it is grounded in a growing apprehension about
the capitalism-driven trends of the last fifty years, a profound belief in the general
goodness of humanity and a sense of realistic optimism. It is a set of reflections
about the human condition and how we might better organize our thinking,
structures and processes to enhance human dignity. Intuitively and rationally, I
have come to the conclusion that the ideas, principles and values of co-operation
offer the best opportunity to enhance human dignity. My bias is that co-operation
is more important and healthier than competition; that forgiveness is better than
revenge; that giving and sharing produce a greater sense of personal well being
than getting and hoarding; and that love produces a better world. If these things
are true, we should base our actions and organizations and our economic, social
and political systems on co-operation, forgiveness, giving, sharing and nurturing
love. We have not done so.”

“To work against creation, or to subdue it, will ultimately lead to our own destruction, for we are enmeshed in it. The dignity of people and the dignity of creation are sides of the same coin.”

We should not feel fear about abandoning the ideas of capitalism.  What we should fear is clinging to them until they destroy human society and the natural world that supports our life.  We need to shift to business models that have as their purpose providing for human need.  Meeting that need means looking after each other rather than exploiting each other.  It means developing a healthy relationship with nature that will support all forms of life on the planet rather than mining nature to grow the wealth of the already very, very wealthy.  It means that meeting human need is not done as a means to hoarding more wealth, but because we need a better world.

Every day we should try and find some way, large or small, to disconnect from capitalism and build a co-operative economy.

Harnessing Discontent to Build Rather than Destroy

There are powerful forces in our world unleashed by growing inequality.   They are a significant part of where Donald J Trump found the people who were so angry they stopped thinking and voted for him.  They fueled Brexit.  They are being used to whip up anti-immigrant and religious hatred across Europe.  A key source of inequality has been the series of trade deals designed by huge corporations for their benefit and the benefit of those who own them at the expense of workers whose jobs are disappearing, wages and benefits shrinking.  Youth are looking at futures significantly worse off than their parents.  Huge debts, unstable work opportunities with no hope of the home ownership their parents enjoyed.  They will not have the homes they grew up in.  Some inequality facts:

http://inequality.org/income-inequality/

http://inequality.org/wealth-inequality/

This is a global phenomena

http://inequality.org/global-inequality/

Books

http://inequality.org/books-inequality/

There are positive visions that we can adopt to build a better world and there are negative ones that can be used to destroy and sew chaos.   Stirring hate between groups for political purposes – the politics of lies, fear, hatred, violence and revenge – has often been a tactic of political extremists from the right and left.  The outcomes legitimize the worst fringe extremists.   A warped nationalism is often part of the tactics.   “Just as love for one individual that excludes love for others is not love, love for one’s country that is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.”  Eric Fromm, The Sane Society.  The America first rhetoric is idolatrous worship.  We need to turn to the positive visions.

A vision of Global Co-operation as explored in my book or Rutger Bregman’s proposal for a ‘universal basic incomes’ to eliminate poverty in his book Utopia for Realists are both visions of a better world.  They seek not to pit people against each other but to link hands and spirits in a common constructive endeavour.  Both ideas would eliminate poverty.  Both would provide space for people to make the contribution to society they wish to make.

But is it realistic to think bold new visions are more than idle dreams?  Says Bregman:  “I’ve heard for three years that many of my ideas are unrealistic and unreasonable and that we can’t afford them,” he says, by way of preamble to a more comprehensive reply. “And the simple answer is ‘Oh, you want to stick to the status quo? How’s that been working out?’” (Andrew Anthony in the Guardian 26 Oct 2017 (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/26/rutger-bregman-utopia-for-realists-interview-universal-basic-income?CMP=fb_gu)  Growing inequality into the foreseeable future may be someone’s vision but it is surely even less realistic.  It is insane.

People who see themselves and their children being sacrificed to feed growing inequality should be angry.  And they can and should do something.  They will get more satisfaction out of building a better world than being betrayed by the false promises of billionaires who unlike them do not pay taxes.

Oxfam, Inequality and Co-operation

“The Oxfam report An Economy for the 1%, shows that the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population has fallen by a trillion dollars since 2010, a drop of 38 percent. This has occurred despite the global population increasing by around 400 million people during that period. Meanwhile, the wealth of the richest 62 has increased by more than half a trillion dollars to $1.76tr. The report also shows how women are disproportionately affected by inequality – of the current ‘62’, 53 are men and just nine are women.”  https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2016-01-18/62-people-own-same-half-world-reveals-oxfam-davos-report

This is the opening paragraph describing Oxfam’s newest report on inequality released for the DAVOS meetings .  It is this performance by the global capitalist economy that fuels the unrest that is opening the door to the politics of lies, fear, hatred, violence and revenge.  Elders are told their pensions are no longer secure and there will soon be too many of them to care for.  Young people are told to forget stable careers, having pensions and benefits, paying off huge student loans or owning a home.  Parents see a bleak future for their children and grandchildren. This is not the output of a functional economy but a faltering one.

Is this the climate that could allow millions of good people who are desperate for change to be manipulated by the politics of lies, fear, hatred, violence and revenge to vote for a billionaire who does not pay taxes, cannot seem to tell the truth and who is a self-confessed sexual predator?   Is this what causes angry and bewildered people to elect a leader who will cut government services, lower taxes on corporations and the rich, and allow destruction of the environment their grandchildren will inherit?

From Corporate Globalization to Global Co-operation suggests an alternative.  There are practical steps young people and elders can take.  Many people took steps to shift to an alternative during the Standing Rock demonstrations in North Dakota.  More about that in a later post.  In the meantime read the Oxfam’s report, An Economy for the 1%.  Then think about how we can create a new economy individually and in groups.