Model of man and social/economic systems

Here’s some random thoughts about how some subjects should’ve been explained at school to make understanding it easier. Or maybe they were and I was unlucky.

Humanity has built a lot of various legal, economic and social systems that base on different principles and approaches. Recently though I came to a realization (better late than never) that since they all are based on relations between people we should look at how an individual man is treated inside the concept.

Primitive societies had rather vague understanding of everything, so real people were only those belonging to the same tribe. If you extend it a bit you can either get racism and Nazism (when you believe that the only real people are those you’re related to by blood) or nationalism (when you believe the same but it’s rather about belonging to the same country). And similarly if you believe that any human being is precious no matter what then you get humanism.

Speaking about the status, the attitude to the others defines a lot too. For example, in Ancient Egypt captives from the wars with the neighbours were called “living dead” because Egyptians didn’t know what to do with them. Later it was made possible to force others to work and thus slavery was invented (later it mutated into serfdom). At first it was only for the people of the low status (poor or foreigners), later it was extended to the majority of the native population (especially for serfdom).

But it’s not just forcing others to work, it’s about building a hierarchy in general. In democracy all people (well, whoever is considered to be people) are considered to be equal so people elect somebody to do some task instead of them and hope the votes of morons and smart people even out. If you believe that all animal are equal but some animals are more equal than the others, you get a lot of variants. Primitive societies tried meritocracy where those contributing the most get the most influence. Slightly more advanced societies came with the idea that whoever has the most power can dictate to others what to do—which ended in dictatorships. Some also had an idea that the status should be dependent on who your parents were and that’s how we got caste societies and feudalism. Some went even further and declared that their power is inherited not merely from some random warlord with the biggest army but rather it has divine origins—and that’s how you get monarchies (which explains why religion was so important in the Middle Ages—having different beliefs also meant that you didn’t acknowledge the government). And if you believe that the community knows better than an individual (considering how crowds behave one would doubt that) you get socialism.

And since both slavery and socialism have been mentioned, it’s a good time to talk about economic systems in general. Slavery operates on a slave being essentially an object that needs managing. Serfdom is the same but with a bit more of free time for the serf. Socialism treats people as equal parts of the machine (or, as somebody put it, a perfect system for prison—do allocated job and get your fixed ration). Capitalism, as it was seen by Adam Smith, considers people greedy bastards that would do thing for themselves while contributing to the common good (if the system is organised that it gives the most benefits that way). Communism expects people to be rational and caring about the others so they can create a society where there’s no need for exploitation and there’s enough of everything for everyone (it is no wonder it has never worked).

The main problem is that most of the people are so stupid and they do not always act in their own interests. That is why no system mentioned here works good for a large amount of people: no matter what you choose people will either find a way to game the system or to ruin it with their irrational behaviour. I reckon that it’s impossible to have a model of a man close enough to reality let alone to build an effective system based on it. And if you think it’s easier to change people to fit some existing model then you should remember how well those experiments by Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and Stalin ended.

2 Responses to “Model of man and social/economic systems”

  1. AndrewR says:

    Do not forgot interesting pieces of science fiction:

    and gou probably can find more unusual/non-mainstream thoughts by randomly ‘prompting’ google or other search engine with surprize pairs of words.

  2. Kostya says:

    I mostly remember The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress with its various ideas on family and government (even more so, most of the ideas about government were proposed by a character who had not believed in them being implemented).

    In either case this post is not about inventing a new system but rather about pointing out how all of them are flawed from the start since they don’t even get their basics right.