Updated: Apr 23
This particular Blog uses Dual Interest Theory (DIT) in Metaeconomics to put an economic frame to the story weaved in Brooks, David. Globalization is Over: The Global Culture Wars Have Begun. New York Times, April 8, 2022. The main paragraphs are verbatim from Brooks (2022). The DIT based commentary follows each paragraph in italics. Also, for first time reviewers of DIT based commentary, it is important to know that DIT has withstood substantive empirical testing ongoing for 3-decades (see Chapter 8 in Lynne, 2020, for an overview): It works, and has been proven to provide important new insights to that which can be found wiht Single Interest Theory (SIT) in Microeconomics. DIT solves most puzzles and paradoxes, and frames the economic question in a creative new way. So, here we go with the first paragraph from Brooks (2022):
I’m from a fortunate generation. I can remember a time — about a quarter-century ago — when the world seemed to be coming together. The great Cold War contest between communism and capitalism appeared to be over. Democracy was still spreading. Nations were becoming more economically interdependent. The internet seemed ready to foster worldwide communications. It seemed as if there would be a global convergence around a set of universal values — freedom, equality, personal dignity, pluralism, human rights.
It is about a quarter-century ago when Fukuyama (1992) declared the End of History. Classical liberalism going back to the Enlightenment had given rise to a form of capitalism&democracy that had won. The other “isms” had lost. Unfortunately, as Deneen (2018) and Bromley (2019), and several other contemporary writers (see Lynne, 2020, for an overview) have pointed out, Classical Liberalism has actually failed on many fronts. And, while still giving the best hope for the end of history, it needs repair. Fukuyama (2022) has changed the story, also seeing the failures, and now seeing the role of the state --- but a special kind of state, a Nation-state with an inclusive democracy --- as key in making for a truly viable, classical liberalism based system. In DIT terms, it is about seeing the essential need for the shared other-interest in the Nation-state ( a good and ethical state, that which citizens can go along with), while also seeing the essential need for a shared other-interest across the entirety of the Spaceship, a shared other-interest among all Travelers on the Spaceship.
We called this process of convergence globalization. It was, first of all, an economic and technological process — about growing trade and investment between nations and the spread of technologies that put, say, Wikipedia instantly at our fingertips. But globalization was also a political, social and moral process.
Unfortunately, Neoliberalism as the economic frame and driver of globalization claims the market is all that is needed to bring the technology to bear, and also work to evolve and spread the political, social, and moral dimension within a larger ethical context. Well, it did not work, and, while it is part of it, cannot be the only forum, as in Market Forum-only. All three dimensions --- political, social, and moral within an ethical context --- are, as DIT makes clear, represented in the other (shared with the other, yet internalized within the own-self)-interest. Said other-interest is influenced by the Market Forum but is more substantively evolved in the Other Forum(s) that give context to the Market, as DIT makes clear.
As both Deneen (2018) in Why Liberalism Failed(Classical Liberalism, to include both Cultural and Market Neoliberalism), and in Bromley (2019) who points to Possessive Individualism as driving the Crisis of Capitalism, the problem is (made clear in Reviews Lynne, 2021, 2022) the failure to adequately represent the empathy-based (ethics- based) other-interest from the Other Forum(s). Self-interest driven cultural liberalism and market (neo)liberalism inherently go to excesses, which is exactly why globalization failed, and has been turned into a culture war (the latter being a war between different versions of the shared other-interest). Excesses need to be tempered by that which the other can go along with, the ethics, the moral sentiments as Adam Smith referred to same.
In the 1990s, British sociologist Anthony Giddens argued that globalization is “a shift in our very life circumstances. It is the way we now live.” It involves “the intensification of worldwide social relations.” Globalization was about the integration of worldviews, products, ideas and culture.
Sociology focuses attention on the shared other-interest, that which we share with the other, while (Micro)Economics focuses attention on the self—interest: Metaeconomics integrates the two frames, as in Economics&Sociology, self&other-interest. And, sure, it is possible to evolve a widely shared set of interests across the entire Spaceship. And, it is absolutely essential for such matters as addressing the excessive loading of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, with need for “worldwide social relations” to address sustaining the Spaceship.
This fit in with an academic theory that had been floating around called Modernization Theory. The idea was that as nations developed, they would become more like us in the West — the ones who had already modernized.
Exporting shared other-interest is, well, tricky at best. Perhaps demonstration by example if the best way, and, if the flaws show too much (e.g., the flaw in Market Liberalism which results in cronyism and concentration of wealth and power), it may not be imported.
In the wider public conversation, it was sometimes assumed that nations all around the world would admire the success of the Western democracies and seek to imitate us. It was sometimes assumed that as people “modernized” they would become more bourgeois, consumerist, peaceful — just like us.
As Bromley (2019) as Institutional Economist, and C. B. Macpherson (1962) as Political Scientist and Political Economist point out, and Deneen (2018) as Political Scientist and Political Philosopher would likely agree, the problem is too much focus on the possessive individualism of consumerism. People are to be consumers-only and not citizens of the communities and places in which said people live. And, as Fukuyama (2022) says it, "A society of inward-looking individuals interested only in maximizing their personal consumption will not be a society at all."
It was sometimes assumed that as societies modernized, they’d become more secular, just as in Europe and parts of the United States.
Secularlism also needs a We (it is essential, in our Human-nature), as in a Me needs a We to Be --- the We of religion can play that role, as long as it is a free to choose and not an Authorianism&Religionism version of it. If religion is absent, some other We will (perhaps an extremist group with racial and/or gender overtones) fill in. And, a MetaEcon using DIT would also add: --- but without a Me there is no We. The failure to deal with the We (which Market Neoliberalism fails abysmally) and the Me (which Cultural Liberalism fails abysmally), is the problem: As DIT makes clear, it is about good balance in the joint and nonseparable Me&We, I&We, Ich&Du(for those wanting to put a deity into the equation, think Du), self&other-interest.
They’d be more driven by the desire to make money than to conquer others. They’d be more driven by the desire to settle down into suburban homes than by the fanatical ideologies or the sort of hunger for prestige and conquest that had doomed humanity to centuries of war.
Possessive individualism would prevail. As mainstream (micro)economics proclaims, it is all about maximizing the profit --- maximize income and wealth --- and, then, maximizing the utility it can buy. Busy and happy consumers do not want to mess with destructive, not fun, wars.
This was an optimistic vision of how history would evolve, a vision of progress and convergence. Unfortunately, this vision does not describe the world we live in today. The world is not converging anymore; it’s diverging.
DIT would point to the presumption of converging other-interest, that which is shared among all consumers, looking for lots of inexpensive material goods on which to gorge. It could not evolve under Market Liberalism because it does not recognize the value V of every contribution to the pile of material goods, rather focusing on price P, which for labor as viewed from the business buying same, generally is the price P to keep labor alive, barely. It could not easily evolve under Cultural Liberalism, either, as people often would rather fight about cultural differences than merge or converge onto a common path, especially with Religionism (even worse when mixed with Authoritarianism) afoot. As a result, the transactions costs of the Market Forum sky-rocket, as it is convergence of the shared other-interest in the Other Forum(s) that brings said costs down, and divergence that increases same at an increasing rate (Lynne, Shonkwiler, and Wilson, 1991). .
The process of globalization has slowed and, in some cases, even kicked into reverse. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlights these trends. While Ukraine’s brave fight against authoritarian aggression is an inspiration in the West, much of the world remains unmoved, even sympathetic to Vladimir Putin.
Authoritarianism flourishes when Cultural Liberalism and Market Liberalism fail. As noted, on the Cultural front, people would rather fight than switch, especially when it comes to old books written hundreds of years ago, generally by old men, and now forming the core of a Religion. Authoritarianism with a cultural tag promising to force the others to comply steps in. On the Market front, it fails when people do not obtain an adequate piece of the action, with the wealth produced by the Market taken and kept by a few: Resentment grows, and Authoritarianism steps into fix it, always in a massive con. In both cases, Serfdom for the masses is guaranteed.
The Economist reports that between 2008 and 2019, world trade, relative to global G.D.P., fell by about five percentage points. There has been a slew of new tariffs and other barriers to trade. Immigration flows have slowed. Global flows of long-term investment fell by half between 2016 and 2019. The causes of this deglobalization are broad and deep. The 2008 financial crisis delegitimized global capitalism for many people.
The 2008 crisis was driven by Extreme Greed which is not Extremely Good. An unfettered Neoliberalism framed economy naturally concentrates the income, wealth, and power into a few hands, which then leads to massive resentment. Said resentful people are easily conned by natural move to Authoritarianism & Oligarchism & Religionisn, a devastating triad that does not fix the problem, while putting economies and societies on the Road to Serfdom if on the Left and Another Road to Serfdom if on the Right.
China has apparently demonstrated that mercantilism can be an effective economic strategy. All manner of antiglobalization movements have arisen: the Brexiteers, xenophobic nationalists, Trumpian populists, the antiglobalist left.
Mercantilism can work for awhile, like China building huge trade imbalances from exports without adequate imports. Eventually, a backlash is assured as in the US labor force losing high paying jobs as shareholder (stock price, and incestuous pay of the CEO with stocks) driven business owners and managers buy inexpensive inputs in low wage countries, low environmental quality countries, and outsource production. Mercantilism needs to be tempered by a balancing of the self-interest of export-only trade with the shared interest in balanced exports and imports, essentially no trade-imbalance. Also, the ethics of that trading partner need to play a role --- as in paying adequate wages, working to sustain environmental systems. It is about paying attention to the shared other-interest --- walking in the shoes of the trading partner and asking how would I wish to be treated --- it is about empathy (and ethics)-based shared other-interest which is best for both sides of the trade.
There’s just a lot more global conflict than there was in that brief holiday from history in the ’90s. Trade, travel and even communication across political blocs have become more morally, politically and economically fraught. Hundreds of companies have withdrawn from Russia as the West partly decouples from Putin’s war machine. Many Western consumers don’t want trade with China because of accusations of forced labor and genocide. Many Western C.E.O.s are rethinking their operations in China as the regime gets more hostile to the West and as supply chains are threatened by political uncertainty. In 2014 the United States barred the Chinese tech company Huawei from bidding on government contracts. Joe Biden has strengthened “Buy American” rules so that the U.S. government buys more stuff domestically.
China has been unethical, acting on the arrogance of the leadership of said country and oligarchy of said country (and, Russia, well, obviously unethical in invading a fledgling democracy working to build a capitalism on classical liberalism principles). Also, outright thievery has likely occurred, as related to industrial espionage and taking of intellectual property. Places with reasonable levels of personal freedom to create and invent and earn personal payoff --- not only price P but value V --- made more possible in the US and the UK, are just inherently positioned to make for progress which Authoritarianism & Oligarchism as in China (and, even worse, throw in some Religionism, as in Russia) stops. The Covid Vaccine is a case in point: None of the Authoritarianism based systems came up with viable vaccines, at least not as viable as those in the Classical Liberalism (Capitalism & Democracy) based countries.
The world economy seems to be gradually decoupling into, for starters, a Western zone and a Chinese zone. Foreign direct investment flows between China and America were nearly $30 billion per year five years ago. Now they are down to $5 billion.
As John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge wrote in a superb essay for Bloomberg, “geopolitics is definitively moving against globalization — toward a world dominated by two or three great trading blocs.” This broader context, and especially the invasion of Ukraine, “is burying most of the basic assumptions that have underlain business thinking about the world for the past 40 years.”
If so, having only 2-3 zones would greatly simplify the essential need to evolve a shared other-interest that crosses said zones.
Sure, globalization as flows of trade will continue. But globalization as the driving logic of world affairs — that seems to be over.
Market (Neo)Liberalism has been the driver, as supported by SIT in Microeconomics, as represented in the spread of global markets. And, it has fundamentally failed to bring about that which is claimed, in a kind of Invisible Hand evolution of shared interest in the mutual trade. So, the deeper question has to be: Is Market (Neo)Liberalism, as touted in the ideology of mainstream Single Interest Theory (SIT) Microeconomics, over? Not likely. And, being SIT is not over, it needs to be fixed with DIT, such that it stops failing. A globalization using DIT in Metaeconomics framing could work, albeit an empirical question, not an ideological question.
Economic rivalries have now merged with political, moral and other rivalries into one global contest for dominance. Globalization has been replaced by something that looks a lot like global culture war.
Global culture war is about the content of alternative frames of other-interest. At least DIT has a placeholder for examining the contention made here, that globalization, which is mainly about Market Liberalism, has been replaced by the wars over the content of what is to be within the Cultural Liberalism (or, when not freely chose, the Cultural Authoritarianism) of each place on the Spaceship.
Looking back, we probably put too much emphasis on the power of material forces like economics and technology to drive human events and bring us all together. This is not the first time this has happened. In the early 20th century, Norman Angell wrote a now notorious book called “The Great Illusion” that argued that the industrialized nations of his time were too economically interdependent to go to war with one another. Instead, two world wars followed.
Wars among countries, like in the World Wars, were often wars of the Ego, wars of the Ego-based self-interest, sometimes run by ego-maniacs (self-interest with a narcissistic twist) at the helm. The shared other interest was relegated to narrow versions of it, as in the superior race frame of Nazism. Empathy spread widely, as in Inclusive Democracy, which must run on Empathy Politics, not Ego (self-interest only ) Politics, is essential in order to avoid war. Empathy is about the search for peace, made possible only with walking-in-the-shoes-of-the-other. And, while I have not read the Angell book, it seems the proposition could have been productive, if in fact sufficient empathy had been at play in forming the interdependency.
The fact is that human behavior is often driven by forces much deeper than economic and political self-interest, at least as Western rationalists typically understand these things. It’s these deeper motivations that are driving events right now — and they are sending history off into wildly unpredictable directions.
People have evolved with the reptilian core based tendency, which is primal, to ego-based self-interest. Take it all if you can, as the Econ of SIT in Microeconomics does so take it all. Yet, people also have evolved with a mammalian capacity of empathy-based other(shared, ethics based, that which the other can go along with)-interest, as DIT in Metaeconomics makes clear. And, DIT also clarifies that deeper motivations, deeper interest is represented in both realms, the core being about not only making (which can be good, if everyone gets a piece of the project), but also taking and keeping everything made. It has to be tempered with empathy, and, if not so tempered, “wildly unpredictable directions” are the result.
First, human beings are powerfully driven by what are known as the thymotic desires. These are the needs to be seen, respected, appreciated. If you give people the impression that they are unseen, disrespected and unappreciated, they will become enraged, resentful and vengeful. They will perceive diminishment as injustice and respond with aggressive indignation.
Rage, resentment, and vengeance is ensured by a Market Forum unless it is tempered with the Other Forum. Like Adam Smith made clear, people need to not only Be Loved (i.e., make lots of money, dress well, gain power and all the respect it deserves) but also need to Be Lovely. In easy terms, Scroogism is to be admired only if it is tempered with the Ghosts, the conscience, the Impartial Spectator, the Moral Sentiments, the empathy based other-interest. It is the only way to ensure Justice, which is about empathy based other-interest, that which reasonable people can go along with, as in the Common Law. It is about finding good balance in a joint Scroogism&Socialism, another way to frame the challenge.
Global politics over the past few decades functioned as a massive social inequality machine. In country after country, groups of highly educated urban elites have arisen to dominate media, universities, culture and often political power. Great swaths of people feel looked down upon and ignored.
Resentment is so fed. Unfettered Market Liberalism (free for all, no need for ethical reflection markets), and unfettered Cultural Liberalism (highly educated urban elites also doing as wished without concern for what the other could go along with) ensures same. It is about ethics: Ethics is the key (Bromley, 2019).
In country after country, populist leaders have arisen to exploit these resentments: Donald Trump in the U.S., Narendra Modi in India, Marine Le Pen in France.
Meanwhile, authoritarians like Putin and Xi Jinping practice this politics of resentment on a global scale. They treat the collective West as the global elites and declare their open revolt against it. Putin tells humiliation stories — what the West supposedly did to Russia in the 1990s. He promises a return to Russian exceptionalism and Russian glory. Russia will reclaim its starring role in world history.
The starring role is pointing to Serfdom.
China’s leaders talk about the “century of humiliation.” They complain about the way the arrogant Westerners try to impose their values on everybody else. Though China may eventually become the world’s largest economy, Xi still talks about China as a developing nation.
Exactly. Authoritarianism always arises as about Cultural and Market Liberalism, when not tempered with ethics --- especially the ethics of a kind of optimal and sustainable inequality rather than extreme inequality in income, wealth, and the power it buys --- inherently fail.
Second, most people have a strong loyalty to their place and to their nation. But over the past few decades many people have felt that their places have been left behind and their national honor has been threatened. In the heyday of globalization, multilateral organizations and global corporations seemed to be eclipsing nation-states.
Identity-with place and culture, and loyalty going in every direction, is extremely important to people. Again, everyone needs a We to Be. It arises out of our mammalian capacity, and need, to be part of something. It is empathy-based, while ego-based globalization runs rampant over it.
In country after country, highly nationalistic movements have arisen to insist on national sovereignty and to restore national pride: Modi in India, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Trump in the United States, Boris Johnson in Britain. To hell with cosmopolitanism and global convergence, they say. We’re going to make our own country great again in our own way. Many globalists completely underestimated the power of nationalism to drive history.
Opportunists, all. Each and everyone of said “leaders” just stepped in front of the parade of concern about lost identity, lost “We” and conned the people with the promise to fix it. And, what is the con? DIT make it clear the con is that one can Travel on the Spaceship without empathy-with every other Traveler on said Spaceship. And, if one wants to preserve local empathy-with only a few others within the country-boundaries, sure, DIT can make sense of it. The sense, however, is that every such entity must also reach out in search for common ground, like human dignity and rights to Be Me, writ large or all Spaceship travelers.
Third, people are driven by moral longings — by their attachment to their own cultural values, by their desire to fiercely defend their values when they seem to be under assault. For the past few decades, globalization has seemed to many people to be exactly this kind of assault.
DIT has a placeholder for the “moral longings,” the moral dimension, the ethical context, making it key piece of the analytical system of Metaeconomics, moving it away from the ideology of Single Interest Theory (SIT) in mainstream Microeconomics. DIT facilitates doing economic science while not being opposed to ethical reflection. All such things find place in the shared other-interest. DIT also makes clear that a balanced life means good balance in the material&moral, the self&other-interest. Also, DIT does not require that every longing, every demand, every want be turned into a commodity with a price P. DIT sees a moral longing, a moral and ethical dimension as having a priceles value V. Many things are priceless with value V, and, are very much incommensurable with price P.
After the Cold War, Western values came to dominate the world — through our movies, music, political conversation, social media. One theory of globalization was that the world culture would converge, basically around these liberal values.
It could only happen through the notion of the Invisible Hand being complemented snd supplement by the Visible Hand. Said Visible Hand must be evolved with a volitional pragmatism based set of sufficient reasons (see Bromley, for adopting said liberal values.
The problem is that Western values are not the world’s values. In fact, we in the West are complete cultural outliers. In his book “The WEIRDest People in the World,” Joseph Henrich amasses hundreds of pages of data to show just how unusual Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic values are.
He writes: “We WEIRD people are highly individualistic, self-obsessed, control-oriented, nonconformist and analytical. We focus on ourselves — our attributes, accomplishments and aspirations — over our relationships and social roles.”
WEIRD people are definitely more oriented to the Ego side of what is essential, which is a good balance in the joint and nonseparable Ego&Empathy. And, it is intriguing how generations of students have been brain-washed with SIT in Microeconomics, with many foreign students going home to places where Ego is not the main driver. So, not only is the balance in Ego&Empathy, Individual&Community, Free-to-choose&Control quite different, but the content of that which empathy drives, the shared other-interest, is quite different in the WEIRD other-interest.
It’s completely possible to enjoy listening to Billie Eilish or Megan Thee Stallion and still find Western values foreign and maybe repellent. Many people around the world look at our ideas about gender roles and find them foreign or repellent.
Gender roles have both a fact and ethics content. The more science oriented West, well, yes, a quite different frame is to be expected.
They look at (at our best) our fervent defense of L.G.B.T.Q. rights and find them off-putting. The idea that it’s up to each person to choose one’s own identity and values — that seems ridiculous to many.
Again, science plays a huge role in the matter of understanding the sexual continuum, well documented in all plants and animals, including people. People generally have little in the way of choice regarding identity and values about the sexual orientation: It just is, what it is, empirically, with fact content.
The idea that the purpose of education is to inculcate critical thinking skills so students can liberate themselves from the ideas they received from their parents and communities — that seems foolish to many.
Knowledge arising with critical thinking must have both fact and ethical content. Fact content comes out of the scientific method. Ethics come out of volitional pragmatism in the search of sufficient reason to evolve a particular ethical content to that which people share in the other-interest. And, sure, new facts warrant new ethical content, like the fact that sexuality is on a continuum.
With 44 percent of American high school students reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, our culture isn’t exactly the best advertisement for Western values right now.
Possessive individualism is the reason, and SIT (Me-only) in Microeconomics is one of the drivers. As Marglin (2008) says it, even thinking with SIT works to undermine community, the We-part of life. In effect, SIT, while intentional or not, is fundamentally opposed to community, which is what students are missing in the “Me-only” frame.
Despite the assumptions of globalization, world culture does not seem to be converging and may in some cases seems to be diverging. Economists Fernando Ferreira and Joel Waldfogel studied popular music charts in 22 countries between 1960 and 2007. They found that people are biased toward the music of their own country and that this bias has increased since the late 1990s. People don’t want to blend into a homogeneous global culture; they want to preserve their own kind.
It would be huge loss for people everywhere to move to one kind of music. DIT would see the loss in the payoff in the domain of other-interest in each country, arising from the gains in self-interest only from material goods only in globalized markets.
Every few years the World Values Survey questions people from around the globe about their moral and cultural beliefs. Every few years, some of these survey results are synthesized into a map that shows how the different cultural zones stand in relation to one another. In 1996 the Protestant Europe cultural zone and the English-Speaking zone were clumped in with the other global zones. Western values were different from the values found in say, Latin America or the Confucian zone, but they were contiguous.
But the 2020 map looks different. The Protestant Europe and English-Speaking zones have drifted away from the rest of the world cultures and now jut out like some extraneous cultural peninsula.
Intriguing. Again, DIT helps make sense of it, as each zone is a different shared other-interest. And, DIT points to the essential need to find overlapping parts from each zone. The map needs to be redrawn depicting the overlap areas, like a massive Venn diagram.
Credit...World Values Survey Association
In a summary of the surveys’ findings and insights, the World Values Survey Association noted that on issues like marriage, family, gender and sexual orientation, “there has been a growing divergence between the prevailing values in low-income countries and high-income countries.” We in the West have long been outliers; now our distance from the rest of the world is growing vast.
Disturbing. Guessing the divergence is failure to use fact-based science.
Finally, people are powerfully driven by a desire for order. Nothing is worse than chaos and anarchy. These cultural changes, and the often simultaneous breakdown of effective governance, can feel like social chaos, like anarchy, leading people to seek order at all costs.
DIT clarifies chaos is ensured when either too much self-interest or too much other-interest is the driver. The way to greatly reduce chaos, and arrive at a kind of homeostasis, is to focus on the fact that the Me&We arise jointly, as in Self&Other-interest, Person&Community, Market&Government. Anarchy is assured with too much self-interest; yet, Authoritarianism is not the solution, to bring the order. Rather, the solution is empathy-based facilitation and evolution of the common ground everyone can go along with, guided by such frames as everyone was endowed --- with inalienable rights. It is, then, about volitional pragmatism applied in a joint search for the best way to do things, the rule being sufficient reason driven by fact content and ethical consideration.
We in the democratic nations of the world are lucky enough to live in societies that have rules-based orders, in which individual rights are protected and in which we get to choose our own leaders. In more and more parts of the world, though, people do not have access to this kind of order.
Rules-based orders (and law) evolved out of the empathy-based search for that which the other could go along. A prime type of such order is represented in what the Spaceship knows, and several people have experienced, in English Common Law.
Just as there are signs that the world is economically and culturally diverging, there are signs it is politically diverging. In its “Freedom in the World 2022” report, Freedom House notes that the world has experienced 16 consecutive years of democratic decline. It reported last year: “The countries experiencing deterioration outnumbered those with improvements by the largest margin recorded since the negative trend began in 2006. The long democratic recession is deepening.” This is not what we thought would happen in the golden age of globalization.
SIT based Microeconomics under the driver of Market (Neo)Liberalism has to go in said direction. It was very predictable. The golden age of globalization failed largely because the failure to temper the excesses of possessive individualism, as DIT makes clear.
In that heyday, democracies appeared stable, and authoritarian regimes appeared to be headed to the ash heap of history. Today, many democracies appear less stable than they did and many authoritarian regimes appear more stable. American democracy, for example, has slid toward polarization and dysfunction. Meanwhile, China has shown that highly centralized nations can be just as technologically advanced as the West. Modern authoritarian nations now have technologies that allow them to exercise pervasive control of their citizens in ways that were unimaginable decades ago.
The irony is that brining about unfettered, do as you please without ethical reflection framed globalization is what caused the failure.
Autocratic regimes are now serious economic rivals to the West. They account for 60 percent of patent applications. In 2020, the governments and businesses in these countries invested $9 trillion in things like machinery, equipment and infrastructure, while democratic nations invested $12 trillion. If things are going well, authoritarian governments can enjoy surprising popular support.
Autocratic --- Authoritarianism&Oligarchism --- regimes may do well in the short run, like in China being able to run an extreme imbalance in trade with the US. It cannot survive long-run, as Authoritarianism, which is always linked with Oligarchism, and sometimes with Religionism, eventually creates resentful Serfs.
What I’m describing is a divergence on an array of fronts. As scholars Heather Berry, Mauro F. Guillén and Arun S. Hendi reported in a study of international convergence, “Over the last half century, nation-states in the global system have not evolved significantly closer (or more similar) to one another along a number of dimensions.” We in the West subscribe to a series of universal values about freedom, democracy and personal dignity. The problem is that these universal values are not universally accepted and seem to be getting less so.
Reason is: Said values have never been universally experienced on the Spaceship, as Authoritarianism and Oligarchism is the natural, primal tendency. See Munger and ??, on how even the primarily capitalism based systems inherently go the direction of failure: Temper same, please.
Next, I’m describing a world in which divergence turns into conflict, especially as great powers compete for resources and dominance. China and Russia clearly want to establish regional zones that they dominate. Some of this is the kind of conflict that historically exists between opposing political systems, similar to what we saw during the Cold War. This is the global struggle between the forces of authoritarianism and the forces of democratization. Illiberal regimes are building closer alliances with one another. They are investing more in one another’s economies. At the other end, democratic governments are building closer alliances with one another. The walls are going up. Korea was the first major battleground of the Cold War. Ukraine could the first battleground in what turns out to be a long struggle between diametrically opposed political systems.
Again, usin DIT to make sense of it: Walls are built around narrowly shared other-interest. Walls come down with empathy going every direction, or, as Adam Smith would have it, the moral sentiments going every direction.
But something bigger is happening today that is different from the great power struggles of the past, that is different from the Cold War. This is not just a political or an economic conflict. It’s a conflict about politics, economics, culture, status, psychology, morality and religion all at once. More specifically, it’s a rejection of Western ways of doing things by hundreds of millions of people along a wide array of fronts.
Well, Western ways have been reduced to people consuming goods in material markets. People are consumers, not citizens. And, it is citizens the rest of the Spaceship needs to emulate, not consumers. Citizens have priceless value V, not just money based price P. That is the problem, as Western ways have turned into commodities for sale with only price P; nothing is priceless anymore.
To define this conflict most generously, I’d say it’s the difference between the West’s emphasis on personal dignity and much of the rest of the world’s emphasis on communal cohesion. But that’s not all that’s going on here.
It seems likely what is going on here is the West’s emphasis on the self-interest in commodities with price P, while most other parts of the Spaceship still see shared other-interest not only in commodities. material goods, as in pushpins with price P, but also in poetry with (priceless) value V.
What’s important is the way these longstanding and normal cultural differences are being whipped up by autocrats who want to expand their power and sow chaos in the democratic world. Authoritarian rulers now routinely weaponize cultural differences, religious tensions and status resentments in order to mobilize supporters, attract allies and expand their own power. This is cultural difference transmogrified by status resentment into culture war.
Culture war is over diverging shared other-interest(s), and, yes, if an Autocrat can take advantage by promising to fix it, said Autocrat does so, and, dangerously, often with a Fascist twist fixing it only for the favored who support the Autocrat. It gurantees Serfdom.
Some people have revived Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilizations theory to capture what’s going on. Huntington was right that ideas, psychology and values drive history as much as material interests. But these divides don’t break down on the neat civilizational lines that Huntington described.
More reading for me: I am not aware of the work of Huntington. The reading to-do list just got longer.
In fact, what haunts me most is that this rejection of Western liberalism, individualism, pluralism, gender equality and all the rest is not only happening between nations but also within nations. The status resentment against Western cultural, economic and political elites that flows from the mouths of illiberal leaders like Putin and Modi and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro sounds quite a lot like the status resentment that flows from the mouths of the Trumpian right, from the French right, from the Italian and Hungarian right.
Exactly. And, the major driver is extreme inequality in income, wealth, and the power it buys. Bring back loyalty to employees, support for community, and, yes, taking care of the Spaceship, and the illiberal leaders can no longer con the people.
There’s a lot of complexity here — the Trumpians obviously have no love for China — but sometimes when I look at world affairs I see a giant, global maximalist version of America’s familiar contest between Reds and Blues. In America we’ve divided along regional, educational, religious, cultural, generational and urban/rural lines, and now the world is fragmenting in ways that often seem to mimic our own. The paths various populists prefer may differ, and their nationalistic passions often conflict, but what they’re revolting against is often the same thing.
Exactly. Reds tend to support Market (Neo)Liberalism and hate the Cultural Liberalism of the Blues, including the often ongoing resentment in the Reds from racial and gender differences being brought to the table, starting in the 1960s. The Blues go along with the Market (Neo)Liberalism, started in the 1970s-1980s, as long as the Right leaves the Left to the do the Cultural Liberalism, and, as long as "trickle-down" provides at least a few drips. So, resentment abounds on both Right and Left. And, what fixes it? Ethics. Empathy-based ethics going every direction fixes it.
How do you win a global culture war in which differing views on secularism and gay rights parades are intertwined with nuclear weapons, global trade flows, status resentments, toxic masculinity and authoritarian power grabs? That’s the bind we find ourselves in today.
Challenging, but the starting point is to see the role of empathy-based evolution of the shared other-interest, crossing Red and Blue lines, community and country lines. It is also essential to see that all countries, all communities, all shared other-interest is embedded within the same Spaceship. Nothing is external; everything is internal.
I look back over the past few decades of social thinking with understanding. I was too young to really experience the tension of the Cold War, but it must have been brutal. I understand why so many people, when the Soviet Union fell, grabbed onto a vision of the future that promised an end to existential conflict.
It had to be brutal. I did not experience it, either, albeit I do recall parents and grandparents in dialogue about it.
I look at the current situation with humility. The critiques that so many people are making about the West, and about American culture — for being too individualistic, too materialistic, too condescending — these critiques are not wrong. We have a lot of work to do if we are going to be socially strong enough to stand up to the challenges that are coming over the next several years, if we are going to persuade people in all those swing countries across Africa, Latin America and the rest of the world that they should throw their lot in with the democracies and not with the authoritarians — that our way of life is the better way of life.
Homeostasis in the life of a person, and the community, society, and economy within said person is embedded, requires good balance in ego&empathy, self&other-interest all essential to the only “ism” that works. Said “ism” is a Humane-Capitalism embedded in the “Inclusivism” of a Humane-Democracy. The other “isms” cannot succeed, and countries on the Spaceship that still have some remnants of same in place need to assertively move forward to make it clear: DIT can help frame the conversations we need to be having, on rebalancing the self&other-interest in the system. Putnam and Garrett (2020) have a similar theme, that it is time to bring the "We" back into better balance with "I" as in I&We, Person&Community, and, stop bowling alone. Putnam and Garrett (2020) show the upswing to reasonable balance in I&We took place in the mid-1950s, albeit many gender and racial issues still plagued the US: Yet, it was a time when the American Dream could still be a reality for many. The Dream is now a Nightmare for most, driven by the almost exclusive focus on the "I" and little regard for the "We." Better balance in I&We is essential (like Adam Smith tried to teach us) to peace (mimimal chaos in the political economic system), economic efficiency, and, overall happiness.
And I look at the current situation with confidence. Ultimately, people want to stand out and fit in. They want to feel their lives have dignity, that they are respected for who they are. They also want to feel membership in moral communities. Right now, many people feel disrespected by the West. They are casting their lot with authoritarian leaders who speak to their resentments and their national pride. But those leaders don’t actually recognize them. For those authoritarians — from Trump to Putin — their followers are just instruments in their own search for self-aggrandizement.
At the end of the day, only democracy and liberalism are based on respect for the dignity of each person. At the end of the day, only these systems and our worldviews offer the highest fulfillment for the drives and desires I’ve tried to describe here.
Exactly. It is about Humane-Capitalism&Inclusive-Democracy. Go back to Adam Smith, and (jointly) read both of the books. It is time to fix Classical Liberalism along the lines Adam Smith (and DIT in Metaeconomics) describes.
I’ve lost confidence in our ability to predict where history is headed and in the idea that as nations “modernize” they develop along some predictable line. I guess it’s time to open our minds up to the possibility that the future may be very different from anything we expected.
The Chinese seem very confident that our coalition against Putin will fall apart. Western consumers won’t be able to tolerate the economic sacrifice. Our alliances will fragment. The Chinese also seem convinced that they will bury our decadent systems before too long. These are not possibilities that can be dismissed out of hand.
With vigilance in the West, and attention to what it means to be a citizen in an Inclusive-Democracy, which gives context to a Humane-Capitalism, and the word is spread, the Authoritarianism of said regimes can only fail.
But I have faith in the ideas and the moral systems that we have inherited. What we call “the West” is not an ethnic designation or an elitist country club. The heroes of Ukraine are showing that at its best, it is a moral accomplishment, and unlike its rivals, it aspires to extend dignity, human rights and self-determination to all. That’s worth reforming and working on and defending and sharing in the decades ahead.
DIT based Metaeconomics provides hope, as the economic conversation can now be shifted in the direction of science-based reality about how best to nudge an economic and government system. DIT facilitates seeing the essential need for a joint and nonseparable Person&Community-writ large in the community which is the Spaceship, with plentiful yet tempered freedom to choose by each person Traveling together on the Spaceship.
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