Friday, 20 April 2018

The golden rule

The first point is that I am not a Christian, the second is that I am not a Marxist or really even a socialist. I am a rational humanist but not quite from the same view as Steven Pinker. I am a Liberal, a moderate a fence sitter and someone who moves with the shifts of contingency. I would say most that I am a pragmatist. I take ideas from when and where they are needed to fit the current situation. I understand that complexity makes long term inflexible beliefs dangerous and often counter-productive. I do not believe in straight-jackets of a particular political/social/economic belief system. However there are one or two fundamentals that we should apply.

The golden rule from Christianity is "do as you would be done by". All other religions have equivalent versions of the basic idea that we should all be nice to one another and behave in ways that we would expect others to behave towards us. This is part of the basis on which we construct human society.

There are those that argued and continue to argue that society is not actually fundamental and who use the arguments of evolutionary science to dispute that society is necessary. These people are an not just ignorant they are an abomination. Their arguments have long been refuted by Axelrod and his work on cooperation and the experiments based on the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma.

You may think that abomination is too strong a word to apply to them but it is not. These are the hawks and defectors in game theory. Why are they so dangerous? They are so dangerous because they not only pursue an egoistical view of the world where only their self-interest is served, they also undermine trust in general and between everyone else. They are a cancer in a social world and only ostracism is a fitting punishment for them. If they remain part of society then they are parasites taking from the majority doves. They are even deceitful enough to try and convince they population that hawks out-number doves but this can never be the case. Tit-for-tat proves this. Defection is the exception and not the rule.

The difficulty is that most of our politicians, media moguls and financiers are these abominations and this has undermined trust in society so severely that we are now staggering from one crisis to another. I agree with Pinker that the world is significantly better now than at any time in the past. Where I disagree is that we are orders of magnitude worse off than where we should be because of these parasites in our midst.

I was reading Marx and Marxism by Gregory Claeys when it became clear to me how we have strayed from the golden rule. It comes from his definition of what a socialist wants.

Socialists seek to reorganize society to satisfy the needs of the majority without the poverty, inequality, competition and waste associated with capitalism. Like many of their Utopian predecessors they imagine ways of belonging to groups and of relating to other people which are more generous, kind and peaceful, and which minimize or abolish exploitation and oppression. They embrace values like friendship, trust, harmony, fraternity, unity, and solidarity, which seems to be waning in modern society, but which might be recaptured or created anew. p28
Who can argue that they think that generosity, kindness and peace are what we want to aim for in the future or that oppression and exploitation are to be avoided? Who will argue that friendship, trust, harmony and solidarity are bad things? If you are against this then you are opposed to the golden rule to do to others as you would have other do to you.

That is what these abominations try to argue and they have sown their seeds of mistrust, deceit, inequality and exploitation for the last 50-60 years as they seek to roll back the post-war settlements. These are the neo-cons where con is the most appropriate word, they are deceivers. Sometimes they try to hide by using the term neo-liberals but they are not liberals. Liberals did not believe in unconstrained capitalism, they believed that there had to be a communal input even if there was to be as much personal freedom as possible. Look at the social housing of Cadbury's and all of the philanthropy of people like Carnegie etc. For them philanthropy was part of the business and not just an add on. Even Ford understood that he needed to pay his workers enough that they could become customers. Compare this to someone like Larry Ellison who is a philanthropist at gun-point.

There is a golden rule and that is that society does exist and it does so because most of us believe in being nice to one another. Society does not triumph over the individual as we still do have individual needs. Instead they are locked together in the same way as waves and particles are locked together in physics. There is a complementary duality between the rights of the individual and the communal benefits that we all derive from society. Those that deny society are unnatural and wrong they are liars.

I find it very hard to reconcile this golden rule with the behaviour of the current politicians in both the US and the UK. Brexit is the child of these abominations and Trump is these abominations personified. Both the UK Conservative party and the US Republican party have allowed these abominations to dominate and until they can cleanse themselves they deserve to have no future part to play in government.

We can have another Utopia when we cut out these cancerous individuals. That does not mean the Leninist and Trotskyist view that violence is the answer. It is simpler than that we just need to ignore them, not vote for them or buy from them. Democracy means that in the end they depend on the community through capitalism as we are their consumers. We are their voters and we create their success. If we deny them this then they will wither and fail we just have to see past their deceptions and false promises.