Many, probably most, human beings are inherently selfish, greedy and grasping, whether acting individually or in groups such as families, businesses, governments, economies or religions.
As an undergraduate economics major at Texas Tech University in the early 1960s, I took a course called Comparative Economic Systems. I made a C in it because of tuning out socialism and communism, making As and Bs in most of my other economics courses.
The professor of the course asked me why I wasn’t learning the material. I told him I didn’t want to, that I believed in capitalism. I can’t believe now how dumb I was. On the one hand, you have total unselfishness with pure communism, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” according to Karl Marx; on the other hand, with pure capitalism you have total selfishness, according to Paul Ryan and extremist Republicans. I don’t believe any of it, yet I think capitalism is potentially the least bad economic system—if it is managed and regulated with some intelligence by governments.
I agree with Buckminster Fuller in his book, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969), and as I pointed out in my book, Business Voyages (2008, 2011), the best long run hope for homo sapiens is for unselfish computers to take over the process of scheduling, producing and distributing the necessities of life for all Earthlings, leaving all other business activity in the hands of selfish individuals and small businesses free to compete, obeying fair rules applied to everyone, monitored by unbiased referees, as in football and basketball games.
It would have been nice if communism had worked; but it didn’t, as the Russians proved, and as the Chinese are in the process of proving; because communism cannot prevent inherently weak and greedy humans from succumbing to the temptations of their baser instincts when they inherit vast power at the top of a dictatorship of the proletariat.
I just finished reading another informative article in The Nation magazine, in its issue of April 22, 2013, by Peter Kwong, “Why China’s Corruption Won’t Stop: The Communist Party is Failing to Heed Demands for Political Reform.” The same thing has happened in China as happened in Russia, and communism may also collapse there. Those at the top in China have stolen everything they can get their hands on. According to Professor Kwong: “There are 251 billionaires in the country today, compared with only fifteen six years ago; 0.4 percent of China’s families own over 70 percent of its wealth. In 2012, there were more than 500 corporate CEOs in the National People’s Congress out of a total of 2,987 delegates. The top seventy members of this body are worth $89.8 billion. In contrast, the wealth of all 535 members of the US Congress, the president, his cabinet and the nine Supreme Court Justices is only $7.5 billion.”
However much our greedy elected politicians and appointed government officials have enriched themselves consorting with lobbyists and industry cronies, using clandestine revolving doors giving them access to corporate money, they are less greedy, and less successful at grasping for money, than their Chinese counterparts, who have schemed, ass-kissed, brown-nosed and finagled their way to the top of the Chinese Communist Party, much like American CEOs scheme, brown-nose, ass-kiss and finagle their way to the top of large undemocratic US corporations.
Back to Buckminster Fuller, it seems to me the best hope for humanity is to turn the scheduling, production and distribution of the necessities of life over to unselfish computers programmed with fair rational mathematical algorithms, outlaw corporations and nations, and let all free democratic Earthlings individually compete producing and selling everything else. This would eliminate unfair concentrations of power in large corporations and governments, thereby reducing greed, strife, hatred, war, etc., and prevent those at the top in various nations from robbing everyone else blind.
It’s theoretically possible to use mathematical linear programming models to schedule, produce and distribute the necessities of life around Earth in such a way as to optimize production given resource constraints in a fair rational manner, producing a social system in which all humans would be born into situations similar to those now being born into by children of the elite rich of all nations, such as children of the royal family of England, top leaders of communist parties, Arab oil sheiks and hereditary monarchs, and the Bushes, Romneys, Kochs, Kennedys, Rockefellers, Fords, Waltons, etc. of the US, producing a social system analogous to that rhapsodized by Bush II during his reign in the US, an “ownership society” in which all Earthlings would be born owning a share of Planet Earth, enough of a share to insure against ever having to find a job to make a living requiring blind obedience to a boss who can fire you at the drop of a hat, but also producing a system providing, if people want it, opportunities that shall enable people lucky enough to have accidentally or inevitably inherited genes and script messages causing them to be especially hard-working, intelligent, talented, studious, competent, creative, and/or good-looking to earn more money, adulation and praise in competitive arenas than those born less lucky.
Richard John Stapleton is an emeritus professor of business policy, ethics and entrepreneurship who writes on business and politics at www.effectivelearning.net. He is the author of “Business Voyages: Mental Maps, Scripts, Schemata and Tools for Discovering and Co-Constructing Your Own Business Worlds.”