What is left out of the discussion of private property and the commons, and is vital to it, is what I call Contribution to the Infrastructure of Good Order. Those who can only see taxation or other community based appropriation or redistribution as having to be returned to them “dollar for dollar” will have trouble with this idea, but it is ‘bigger than the both of us.’ Such taxation and redistribution is better seen not as giving “what’s mine” to someone else, but as compensating for the infrastructure of good order without which we could not live.
Much of the basis of our positions need to come not from the “logic of economics”, but from a personal ability to empathize with others; this is not some ‘soft headed’ value to be spurned by realists. It is a natural human process that lets us ‘see’ relationships that are not so obvious when we narrow our view to self-interest only. Those who do not or cannot see the needs and suffering of others as having anything to do with themselves, again, will have trouble with this argument.
It is easy, and is standard economics, to see the world in our present zeitgeist as money based and politically directed. It is difficult and foreign to typical thought to see the world and its humans as part of an ecosystem with all the forces, exchanges, compensations and activities, all biophysical, completely integrated into one motion. In this view, capitalism, socialism, communism are but methods of organizing resource distribution and not religions. (I refer here to real commune-ism, not Soviet Communism which had more in common with the authoritarian distortions of American ideological “conservatism” than Marxism)
What will happen to us as a species is really out of our hands (as it has always been for all other species) so long as we do not regard our relationship with the earth as primary. We must use our consciousness tool with wisdom to integrate our capacities, not solely as a weapon in battle with the earth. All the rest is detail; in this case the Devil is in the overall.
We are at the point of needing to decide if human life has any general value (other than as a tool in political trouble making). This question underlies many of the differences that I see among different political and economic ideologies. If human life does matter, then we will have to redistribute the incredible concentrations of wealth currently held in “private hands” (with our best people and best efforts figuring out how to do that) realizing that it is natural for unregulated systems to concentrate….
Living systems are regulated systems and have as part of their essential design, processes for distributing concentrations of all manner of materials. Living and cultural infrastructure is supported by compensating, a process of redistribution, all that are a part of it.
If the consequence of our actions is that human life does not matter, then be prepared, if you are young, to be part of a great ‘readjustment,’ both economic and biologic, of unprecedented intensity. The great struggles will be ultimately among those who have concentrated the greatest amounts of wealth. The earth’s billions of humans will create concerns not about how to educate or feed or care for them, but about how to dispose of so many bodies.
The decision is not one to be made by kings, legislatures, presidents, CEOs or priests. If we do not value ourselves enough to demand that the decision is our own, then the decision is already made. If we will not fight for our inalienable species’ biological givens, and first and most assiduously fight against our own accumulated distortions of idea, value and belief, then the decision is already made.
Our progenitors entered every day with the joy and agony of taking on the struggles of the day. Every moment was an opportunity to apply a skill, to learn a new one, to express directly some special species capacity as a tool for survival. I ‘vote’ with them for 4 billion years of biological lineage on the only planet in the whole universe that is certain to house the living state. We must see that the detail of human economics is finally a lie and a distraction when it denies the living basis of our existence.
We are at one of those moments when monumental consequences mature from simple acts. Decide to be your own master and no one’s slave. And express that decision by fully discovering the meaning of it.