Ioan Bizău | personal website for the post-FB era | home | posts | now

Socialism and capitalism as different layers

Too often we talk about socialism and capitalism as being two opposed philosophies that cannot coexist. But the truth is they are simply two sides of the same coin. Same as good and evil will always exist in this world, so will socialism and capitalism. The only question is how.

The natural order

Both in nature and in traditional human societies individuals organize themselves in layers of cells with the lower layers tending towards socialism while the upper layers tending towards capitalism.

Bee hives are socialist forms of organization and so are traditional families. Villages or tribes are less so, but still they are more socialist than city states or kingdoms.

At the opposite end of the hierarchy, if you consider two people with no prior relationship with each other trying to interact, it would be a pure capitalistic interaction.

This makes sense because the closer you are to somebody the more likely you are to trust them. By default you would trust a family member or a neighbor and help them without even thinking about when they will pay back, but you would not lend money to a stranger.

This also means that you are less likely to see people close to you as competitors and more likely to collaborate with them.

The current order

What we see in the world now is pretty much the opposite of the natural order. Entire nation states are becoming more and more socialist and there is even a serious push for global socialism while capitalism is being increasingly hated.

And yet many people don’t really know their neighbors and the family has become pretty much irrelevant as basically all human-to-human interactions became capitalistic.

How this happened

The simplest explanation I could come up with is that this reversal happened gradually with the rise of the welfare states.

Free medical care, the concept of pensions and state-provided education all paved the way to the irrelevancy of the family. The state took the roles a traditional family would have in a society by providing ready-made solutions to the basic human needs.

We need both

Pure capitalism and pure socialism only exist in utopias (or distopias). Trying to completely eliminate one would be like trying to eliminate good or evil. Balance comes from having both work together.

It’s not a question of which one is more important because they are both essential. Capitalism pushes society forward while socialism provides the safety net.

The question is where should we have socialism and where should we have capitalism.

The way I see it socialism can only work bottom-up because it is based on trust whereas capitalism is the default mode of interaction and fills up the upper layers where socialism cannot reach.

Socialism is voluntary in essence which is why if you try to implement top-down socialism you always end up with totalitarian regimes.

Where are we now

We have already reversed the natural order. We have state-provided healthcare, education and pensions. Young people don’t really see a point in starting families because careers seem more important.

And yet we are at a crossroads. Because nothing is really black or white in the world. We can always push things one direction or another depending on how we act.

If we follow the current trend the state will keep taking more and more of our responsibilities. Which is great in a way — who doesn’t like free health care? But it is also dangerous in that the more they do for us the less it is left for the bottom-up structures to do. At the end of this path we would theoretically end up with a world government having full control over every aspect of our life — a Brave New World.

We can try to reverse the trend not so much by raising against those in power (in fact that is a very bad way to do a revolution generally) but rather by taking responsibility over our own life. This is not a single step but rather a lifelong journey. Jordan Peterson famously has “Clean your room!” as one of his rules for life and that is indeed the best start. Once your room is clean you can think about being healthier, learning something new, starting a business, starting a family, homeschooling your children, growing your own food, being more connected to your neighbors, trying to solve conflicts directly rather relying on authorities… All these steps increase self sovereignty and decrease reliance on the state.

The more sovereign you are, the more you can help others. The more you help others, the more they rise towards sovereignty. The more sovereign individuals, the more antifragile the society.