Re-Establishing Altruism As A Viable Social Norm

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Economics & Altruism

"What is called sound economics is very often what mirrors the needs of the respectably affluent."     J. K. Galbraith, Money (1975)

Neo-classical economics rests on a demonstrably untrue assumption of selfishness. What is worse, the accompanying scarcity-based money system effectively punishes generosity and rewards selfishness. We propose an alternative, altruistic system of economics, that does not assume that people are selfish, and that rewards creation rather than transfer of value.

As its consequences for the planet become clearer, neo-classical orthodoxy is coming under attack from all sides. Environmentalists are upset by the ecological damage that results from an unquestioning pursuit of economic growth. The Social Justice Movement criticises the increasing unfairness with which resources are distributed. Within the key institutions of global economic policy such as IMF, WTO, BIS and the World Bank, dissident voices are querying the validity of key assumptions - such as the independence of the legal and financial systems. Money reformers oppose the fiat money and the fractional reserve system that allow banks to charge interest on money that is made out of thin air. The Politicians claim that a 'healthy economy' is of great importance to people's welfare, is increasingly seen as a disingenuous myth of global capital.

According to the post-autistic economics movement, "more and more, economists are realizing that a well- functioning economy cannot rely only on self-interest; it also depends on a culture that includes taking into account the common good" 1.

For some centuries, capitalism was effective at coordinating individual production and distribution of material wealth. It did so in a decentralised fashion that allowed people to work creatively and motivated them to provide for one another. It was widely regarded as fairer than older systems such as feudalism. However, the last half century has seen the coming of the information age, creating a combination of factors that are causing wealth to polarise at an exponential rate. Ever larger enterprises are organised with mathematical presicion that leaves no room for human values. Capitalism has always been exploited (most notably by the central banking cartel), but rent-seeking activity has now come to dominate the world's economy. An increasingly small proportion of the world are owning an increasingly large proportion of its wealth, at odds with the basic human value of fairness, and undermining its legitimacy.

The World Social Forum movement has succinctly articulated the desire for change with its slogan that "Another World Is Possible!" Born out of frustration with a deadening orthodoxy that denies that people care for one another, and encourages an instrumental view of other humans, alternative models of human interaction are emerging very rapidly. Millions of enlightened souls worldwide are conducting grassroots campaigns to promote humane alternatives, that value human welfare ahead of equations.

Our vision is a radical rejection of the selfishness so hastily assumed by the capitalist model. We are working on a relationship-based trading model, to implement an international gift economy, in which people can contribute to the well-being of others, especially their friends and friends of friends. This is a post-scarcity vision, with a more refined psychological model of people and a non-zero sum model of social interaction. Life is not a 'zero-sum game'. If people conspire to be altruistic even in a system predicated on their selfishness, how much more altruistic will they be in a system that rewards such behaviour?

[1]Neva Goodwin, Julie A. Nelson, Frank Ackerman & Thomas Weisskopf: (2004) A Post-Autistic Introduction to Economic Behavior, Post-Autistic Economics Review 28 (Article 4)

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