If one could visualize our economy, what would it look like? Would it look like a graph or a string of numbers? Our economy represents a collection of transactions, and if one recorded and traced each transaction geographically, an image would emerge like a flat web among constellations. If one pinpointed each location of concentrated wealth to scale the image topographically, we would see many peaks and valleys. But none of these locations are fixed–their values change and individuals, institutions, and their extensions roam. The result is a boiling image, resembling the patterns of Chaos and harmony of the universe itself, like the surface of the sun.
This is a description of a complex system. They occur everywhere in nature on different scales. The universe is a complex system, our brains are complex systems, trees are complex systems, so are hives and the weather. So when people talk about the unpredictability of the economy, some claim that we don’t understand it as a “dismal science.” But we do know things about defining characteristics of complex systems.
Something that grows stronger from stress is antifragile. Our bodies and minds are antifragile. Nature is antifragile. The economy is antifragile. This is important to grasp. It is important to understand how lack of stress weakens a complex system, making it vulnerable to break and collapse. It is also important to know that a chronic stress, meaning a stress that doesn’t go away, breaks antifragile systems. For the strongest complex system, you want to maximize its stressors that resolve.
A laissez-faire economy grows faster than any other economy. It maximizes market stressors, making everything stronger. We do not live in a capitalist or socialist society. There is a tug-of-war between the two. The debate: either government is not doing enough to make things more equal and fair, or the government is the source of the problem, making the system exploitable, crushing the middle class and keeping poverty where it is.
This is how we treat our economy now: we impose regulations on the economy attempting to make it fair; our attempts deprive the system of natural stressors, resulting in unintended consequences. We compile regulation on top of regulation, depriving the system of more stressors, simultaneously creating chronic stressors that build up and never resolve.
This is how you break an antifragile system.
I tell people I don’t care about the divide between the richest and the poorest, as long as everyone can expect their quality of life to improve. In a hypothetical future, I don’t care if the richest man has fleets and planets, as long as the poorest man has access to healthcare, food, shelter, and entertainment–while enjoying opportunity for upward social mobility.
Money is the currency of our economy, but money is just credit representing human value and work. So even in a future where “money” is obsolete, or different, there will always be an economy; a fluid system connected to human value to facilitate transactions, and make bartering possible. When I was at sleepaway camp, candy bars was our black market currency. Our access was limited, supply was low, demand was high, one could use sweets to barter. In prisons cigarettes are used as currency. In a world without “money,” or in a world with or without abundance, things will still be coveted. There will always be limitations to one’s access at any point stradling time. And this is not a bad thing; this is a good driving, motivating force.
When people think about equality, a common misconception I encounter is that the economy is a finite pie. There is a finite amount of wealth and everyone can only have a limited slice. In truth, the economy is like a bubble that inflates and deflates. The more free the economy is, the more everyone’s slice will grow. Meaning innovation will happen faster, become economically affordable sooner, and everyone will have more opportunity to improve their lot. This is a law of laissez-faire economics.
However, it is also true that in a free market pre-existing wealth grows at disproportionate rates. In a laissez-faire economy, the rich will get richer faster. Still, everyone’s general quality of life will steadily improve at a faster rate than otherwise, and it is the best environment to maximize everyone’s upward social mobility. I think the environment that benefits the most number of people, and maximizes well being, is the one we should choose for human flourish.
You may have heard about a Star Trek economy; being able to do things or go to places because you feel like it, but don’t forget there’s a hierarchy on the ship! There will be no world of perfect egalitarianism, but a world of maximum freedom. There are many people who imagine a world of perfect equality and abundance, but I believe they are naive to how complex systems operate.
I’ve heard people lament that individualism and western ideals are bad and that we need more eastern ideals that embrace the group… I agree there must be balance.
I suggest thinking about western and eastern perspectives like a yin-yang; the best hybrid combines eastern and western cultural perspectives; and sees how to flip back and forth. No doubt we are all in this together, and we want to facilitate the best environment for human flourish and our survival throughout time.
In a future with AI guaranteed basic income, we will still need a free market to operate on top of it. Otherwise we’d risk stagnating our system and make it more vulnerable to unforeseeable events. It’d be impossible to equally distribute everything! Sure we will mine for minerals on asteroids, the ocean floor, and other planets, but this is not a property of scarcity and abundance, but a property of complex systems.
Even with overwhelming abundance there would be no way to remove hierarchies and different roles (no matter how fluid or interchangeable roles are). Egalitarianism becomes less stable the larger the system is. I know this first hand as a polyamorist, but also from my research and understanding of complex systems in nature.
As a species we want to grow as a machine civilization as fast as possible. There could always be bigger fish out there. The free market needs to be able to operate on top of the guaranteed income layer to maximize the system’s strength. People should be able to participate in a free market and compete.
Eventually, it might become moot. There may come a point when we are all members of a plugin-plugout hive-mind augmented by artificial intelligence. Your brain will be backed up in the cloud, you can have multiple bodies anywhere, doing anything; some in VR, others in the real world. You’ll sustain yourself on solar energy, so food will be a luxury; food might even be banned and you might have to get chemical/neurological triggers for illusions of food, because people might decide that it just doesn’t want to end life anymore because it can get all its energy from the sun. And at that point we’ll all be one saying “I am legion.”
But before we get that far, it is important to know Marx is a historicist. The foundation of Marx’s theory is not evolution. The foundation for Marxism is Hegel, History Theory, and the Dialectic. While Marx makes many astute claims about evolution, science, and the enlightenment, the bridge he uses to connect, justify, and claim his ideas don’t have solid pillars to stand on.
Evolution is the result of antifragility. Anyone who learns how complex systems work in Chaos, can see we need to employ biomimicry and learn from the wisdom of nature as we self direct it. We can build and design our systems, but we cannot change the laws of dynamic physics.