An Orgonomic Theory of Economics: Biological Economics
By Leon Southgate
At present, we live in a global, borderless, world. If I have £100 and you produce a service or good that is ‘worth’ that amount you may well let me purchase it. Apart from this virtual money system (by virtual I mean that the ‘money’ system mainly exists in our minds and conventions) there are few borders between people’s property and services. Exchange between people and entities, far removed from each other, happens continuously.
This is not how nature works. Nature does things for free – there is no virtual, numerical debt system in nature (which is all that money really is). But, and this is a big but, nature allows things to be shared for free only within increasingly larger borders or membranes that limit the free movement of energy and things. Nature is a world of free exchange - but a ‘contained freedom’ that exists only within borders – or membranes.
Membranes in Nature
As Graeber pointed out in his history of debt, money, contrary to popular belief, may not have evolved from barter after all. There are no anthropological indications of societies based on barter. People probably worked the land tribally or cooperatively until cities emerged and with them the first known temple-banks about 3500BC. There are occasional clay tokens found in the early agricultural societies (8000BC to 4000BC) but their use was not widespread – perhaps tokens were used between tribes that on an individual basis farmed and shared land cooperatively. We do not know. However, we do know that most of human history is a record of cooperative living, and in the native societies, where they still exist, societies are cooperative and without a debt system (money). Atomistic, trading peoples who swap and pay for each other’s services with money appear to have only existed since about 3500BC and then only within the developing cities until modern times. The version of human history as portrayed by modern economists - the individual farmer/trader who barters and trades with other hardy individuals is mostly fictitious according to Graeber. The other modern myth – that of the increasingly specialised tribe’s people who find that they now need a money system, is also mostly imaginary.
Modern money may actually have emerged fully formed as the records of loans kept by the ancient Sumer temples. These records were inscribed on the clay tablets in the ancient cities and are some of our earliest known writings. They recorded and quantified a person’s debts and were stored in the temples. Money is a virtual, numerical accounting system for debts, or in other words, a formal record of our obligations and promises. This was what money was five thousand years ago and nothing has changed since. Money doesn’t need to evolve – it is the same today as it was then.
You can sell the representations of this debt (the clay token, the clay tablet, the tally stick, the bank note, the sophisticated banking ‘instrument’, the electronic information) or use it to buy things. However, this requires that the new owner of the debt token/debt symbol be convinced that he can use that representation of debt (the bank note, the ‘instrument’, the electronic info’) to collect on what he is owed in the future. So money is not a non-moral system of exchange that simply smoothes the wheels of commerce and industry. It is a rather a mathematical record of debt, of obligations. Whoever controls the issuance of this debt often claims extra payments on the principle quantity loaned (in the form of interest payments). Interest-bearing debt means there is always more actual debt than the ‘money-debt’ in circulation.
Clay Debt Records
Coinage has a separate history it appears and is not the same thing as ‘money’ though the two are easy to confuse. Graeber argues that coins may have partly developed as a way of feeding and clothing soldiers. Instead of having a huge working estate and slave population to maintain your army you simply issue coins and demand taxes paid in those same coins. Thus the king or government can turn its entire population into an unpaid army-maintenance outfit. According to Graeber, this is how it works: king issues coins to soldiers, soldiers give coins to population in return for goods/services (the market), population pays some of those coins back to the king (tax) - the circle begins again. All the while the king can claim the coins are there for the citizen’s benefit.
So money may have emerged in two ways: as a system of debt ran by the temples and secondly as a way of maintaining early armies. Money always was virtual, numericised debt . The credit card has been with us for thousands of years – whether the credit, debt and interest exists on a computer or a clay tablet is of no consequence, except perhaps for computers being more efficient. Coinage may have been a separate system of endebting civilians to the army.
It is interesting that both our banks and our religions are still based on ideas of unrepayable, eternal debt. We owe the banks for our houses even though they take no risk beyond typing the value of our homes into a computer. We owe God, for our lives and hold a debt of sin that cannot be repaid in this life. It is interesting that Mohammed was a merchant-warrior and was the only world religious figure to specifically believe in free markets. He believed prices were set by God and one must not interfere with them. However, the market has usually been a by-product of the state and has always been closely controlled by it Greaber argues. In Islam the state and religion are officially fused in any case. In London, now the centre of the world’s financial markets and the inheritor of the Sumerian tradition, the districts of Temple and Bank stand side by side. Capitalism emerged in Sumeria, it is not a Western idea. The free market is also a Middle Eastern idea. George Orwell made the government buildings in his prophetic book ‘1984’, black pyramids – a pyramid is something we associate with the Middle East. He knew exactly what he was doing.
States may develop markets as a way of paying armies and of creating subjugation in conquered populations. This might be why the ‘market’ is now so highly revered in the West by our politicians. Not because the politicians want to relieve you of the nation state but because they are working, consciously or otherwise, towards a bigger, more powerful, global state. States cannot exist without markets. A world state needs a world market. In reality, a free market has never existed. It has always been a sloping playing field with the most powerful nation playing at the top end. Free markets are only for poor countries, state-assisted markets for the rich ones.
On an individual level, in the past, if you have been conquered and wanted to live you had to produce what your conquerors wanted you to – otherwise you wouldn’t be able to buy enough food at the local market (where, since the destruction of your cooperative community, you are now forced to obtain provision). If you don’t produce what is wanted and sell it at the market you won’t have enough coins to pay your tax and the conquerors will relieve you of your life, property or family as punishment. Debt and usury (high interest-bearing loans) were always seen as a subtle means of warfare by conquering armies against native populations. This is the historical reason most religions are against usury or interest payments, if only in theory and not in practise.
Today, most people work, in jobs they would rather not do, to pay taxes and mortgages they would rather not pay, to benefit people who fraudulently own their homes. A bank owns most people’s homes for most of their working lives yet it has taken no risk to acquire that property beyond typing a number into a computer. If you fail to pay for their profit (interest) they take your property away from you as though they had personally taken the risk. What gives a bank the right to issue money and then claim payment for issuing that money? The person who actually created the new money was me and you. As money is debt, the person who took out the mortgage or loan actually created the new debt-money from scratch – the bank merely formalised this process (with the government, police and army acting as enforcers for the bank’s privileges against the interests of the people). Perhaps a ‘money’ formalisation service is worth paying a modest amount for – but not a service we should all be enslaved to forever. As a side-note most of the money today exists as electronic credit. The only true control on the money supply is the bank’s willingness to supply new credit. ‘Fractional reserve’ where a bank loans a greater proportion than what it holds in stock and ‘fiscal’ rates have little effect on this. The amount of money is mainly affected by how much the banks will loan. The banks have a great power over which sectors will prosper and when. This is less so in Asia where governments have retained more control over banking (basically the Chinese government tell their banks how much to loan in which sectors),
Most anthropologists agree that before states emerged people exchanged most goods and services without markets, debt systems or barter. This was done either through community-based sharing, often facilitated by the local matriarchs or cooperative work and living. Markets appear to have developed alongside centralised states, warfare and debt. The three are inextricably linked according to Graeber. Barter has always existed but not as the main means of the exchange of daily goods. No barter-based society has ever been found anthropologists now believe. So the economics textbooks just made them up to support their story of money being a non-emotive, non-moral means of exchange. What modern economist would want to admit that money is a subtle, mathematical accounting system of debt through which we are all coerced? It sounds much nicer to say that money is just a facilitator of the exchange of things and services. Nice, but not true sadly.
We’ve had capitalism – the existence of virtual ‘capital’ or in other words, ‘money’ and its increase through interest-bearing loans, for five and a half thousand years. Our modern world has only been around a few hundred years and is based practically on industrialism. Modern democracy on the other hand owes its existence to many complex philosophical and practical considerations from religious ones such as Catholicism (and the separation of church and state), Hinduism (and non-centralisation) to the Enlightenment (and the individualist pursuit of ‘reason’). Certainly our modern world has roots extending far beyond capitalism. Our two topics here (capitalism and industrialism) are not necessarily dependent on each other. They are certainly not connected in time. So perhaps we could profitably have one without the other. Henry Ford, who encapsulated industrialism, implied that the banking system was not a friend of the people. His cars would have been a success with or without interest-bearing loans and virtual money. Humans would still have a society where energy and things move around, where new ideas occur and inventions are invented, where people play music, eat and have a good time, whether or not money and capitalism exists. Humans are not going to stop being humans just because their lives are not controlled by a banking system.
In our current system we pay for our houses over and over again. One family buys a house. They pay the bank (which fraudulently owns this house) many times its natural value in interest payments over the course of 25 years, until they eventually acquire the property for themselves. All this happens just a few years before they may need to sell it again, to pay for nursing care or some other expense. The kids have grown up and moved away to find work in our atomised society – they are also paying into the banking system. The house gets sold and the whole process begins again, with another family paying many times the house’s real value to the banks. So the banks get paid the value of the house over and over again. In a cooperative system, the house would be bought once, at its real value and could then provide accommodation for perhaps centuries. Children could live, grow and retire in the same community property without ever having to spend their lives paying a bank for the privilege.
To start the main part of this essay we need to first agree a simple definition of economics. I have defined economics as the way energy and things move around society, which seems a reasonable definition to me.
1. The First Principle of Biological Economics - Membranes
How does nature conduct its economics? To answer this, we must first enquire, what is the simplest form of biological entity? If we can get some clues as to the energy economy of the simplest organism we can then move onward from there.
Wilhelm Reich discovered an organism halfway between living cells and inanimate matter. It is formed when matter is heated to very high temperatures and then placed in water. It is not much bigger than a small clump of half a dozen viruses. This delicate bag of living plasma has been missed by most mechanically-minded scientists, who prefer to kill and stain their high magnification samples or to examine them alive but at relatively low magnifications, say 100x. Thus they miss the ‘bions’ which can only be seen at 4000-5000x in living samples. Some mainstream scientists have documented similar vesicles to bions (such as Cell Wall Deficient Forms) but are not usually aware of their biogenetic origins (biogenesis means the emergence of the living from the non-living). A number of maverick scientists have discovered biogenesis vesicles very similar to Reich’s bions but no one else has documented the entire bion process and its relationship to health and illness.
Bions (From Pulse of the Planet 5, Backcover)
Ironically, bions exist at a kind of ‘post-Pasteurisation’ phase (Pasteur refuted the notion of biogenesis). Bions emerge in a kind of super-Pasteurisation environment. In other words, beyond simple heat treatment of food (‘Pasteurisation’ to kill germs) when intense heat completely breaks down matter, tiny new living formations can emerge from non-living matter (biogenesis). Modern scientists simply haven’t looked at live samples at very high magnifications under the right conditions (after very high heat has been applied to matter which is then immersed).
The most basic form of ‘life’ appears to be just a bag of living plasma surrounded by a membrane – the bion. The simplest form of life is therefore not the animal/plant cell, which biologically speaking is very complex. That such a complex entity could have spontaneously formed, at some point in the distant past is entirely unfeasible, but that is another story altogether.
I have personally seen living bions appearing from completely sterile superheated iron particles in sterile lab conditions. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that these vesicles are alive and no doubt whatsoever that they could not have been the product of contamination, or due to the erroneously named ‘Brownian Motion’. No living thing could survive being heated to the incandescence of iron particles. I saw clearly living entities forming from the once molten iron which moved around and pulsed like the living biological entities that they clearly are.
So the bion membrane is the first structural principle of life. It is also the first principle of this theory of biological economics. I realised membranes were the key to how nature exchanges energy and things. Nature does not simply do everything for free. It is more complex than that - yet still quite simple. Nature exchanges things for free but only within, and limited by, increasingly larger membranes.
Within the first membrane, which I equate to the individual in society, we have simple, free movement of plasma and energy. The individual considered alone is like the bion floating in solution. Our current society economically is actually quite simple, despite appearances otherwise. In an organism the smallest structure belongs to myriads of more complex structures – the organelle belongs to a cell, the cell belongs to an organ, the organ belongs to a body, the body to a tribe of animals, the tribe to an ecosystem. In our current economics we are just atomised individuals belonging to nothing but an amorphous mass. From a biological viewpoint our current economics is no more complex than protoplasm.
The individual in society, from the biological perspective, could be likened to the simplest membrane-covered structure inside a living cell, the organelle. So, for the purposes of this theory, I am comparing the individual not to the simplest biological structure in nature – the bion, but to the smallest functional unit in a complex organism – one of the ‘organs’ of a cell – an organelle. This is rational as in society we are within a complex ‘organism’ and as individuals we are the smallest ‘functional component’ of this social ‘organism’.
Within the cell’s outer membrane each organelle performs its functions and takes whatever nutrition it needs freely according to the dynamics and structure of the cell. So if we were to copy this principle of the body cell to society we would perhaps form a cooperative of a certain size – cells tend to have an approximate number of organelles. Within the basic cooperative goods and services would move more or less freely, according to the functional needs of each individual by methods agreed by the individual cooperative. Nobody would be coerced or expected to do anything in return for their sustenance. Like in a cell, everything functions according to its own intrinsic nature, no part is left out or forced to do anything by another part.
Each cell’s outer membrane performs the function of allowing some things to cross and denying access to other things. So there is not completely free movement beyond the cell outer- membrane. Again applying this to society, within the basic cooperative energy and goods would move more or less freely but less freely beyond it, and according to the conventions of the individual cooperative.
At the next level upwards we have more complexity - cooperatives of cooperatives – in other words, in biological terms, organs. Within the liver for example, blood is processed and moves around the organ’s different structures. So in societal terms a group of cooperatives might have a set of functions that it specialised in and a set of rules for sharing goods and services within the ‘cooperative of cooperatives’. So for example, one group of cooperatives might be good at music. Knowledge and goods, services and performances could be shared between that ‘cooperative of cooperatives’ relatively freely but in a slightly more limited way than within each individual music cooperative. Another ‘cooperative of cooperatives’ that specialised for example in making things might have a different more limited way of exchanging goods and services between their constructive ‘cooperative of cooperatives’ and the music ‘cooperative of cooperatives’ for example – but it could all be done for ‘free’.
So for an individual music co-operative to get, for example, a vehicle, would mean passing through a number of ‘membranes’ – those of their own individual cooperative, the slightly larger ‘cooperative of cooperatives’ that the individual cooperative belonged to and then those of the manufacturer’s cooperatives. However, if the vehicle had been made to last a century and could do 200 mpg no one would mind - even though it might be quicker to go down to your local car dealer today and put your credit card in the machine (assuming you are ‘good’ for the newly created debt-money). The nature of goods and their quality would be radically altered in a cooperative, biologically-based society. There would be less goods, delivered less quickly but the goods themselves would be more personalised and of very high quality. Technology is also changing toward supporting this kind of society. Three dimensional printing and decentralised energy creation could be two key components.
There are analogies with the Hindu system of working and goods-producing castes but I would hope that nature is not as authoritarian or as circumscribed. Hinduism itself may have been more much more egalitarian, matriarchal and free in the distant past before patriarchy violently affected it. In any case, in nature there are free-moving cells, the blood-cells, which move between all the body’s ‘cooperatives’ and there is energy in the form of ‘breathe’, ‘electricity’ and indeed ‘life-force’ which moves relatively freely beyond most boundaries (but still according to certain conventions or functions). Perhaps some individuals or enterprises would reflect this moving, circulatory function in a nature-based economy. Thus the presently circumscribed, static aspect of Hindu working collectives/castes would not be reflected in a truly nature-based economy. Also cells can change their function under certain circumstances or move from one area to another. Nothing is set in stone in nature. However I believe the actual idea of Hindu working cooperatives, based on function, probably emerged in the long distant past from trying to copy nature. Also it has been argued that Hinduism’s antagonism toward centralisation, partly because of the decentralised collectives it encourages, has helped India to become the world’s largest democracy.
So if economics were to reflect nature we would have I believe a system of inter-circling inner and outer cooperatives and groups of cooperatives where goods and services move increasingly less freely but without charge or numericised debt. Membranes allow free movement of energy and goods within the membranes but they also restrict the passage of energy and goods beyond the membrane. Within the individual cooperative, energy and goods would move more or less freely - all the basic needs of the living would be taken care of within the individual cooperative. You don’t get a situation in nature where one part of a cell allows another part to wither away if it can be helped.
Within the next level of cooperation, the ‘cooperative of cooperatives’, goods and services would move relatively freely but in a more controlled fashion. Individual cells within the liver exchange energy and perform the functions of the liver together but energy and material is mediated by their cell walls and moves less freely than within an individual cell. Between cooperatives of cooperatives goods and services would move more slowly again and so on. Cooperatives of cooperatives would be like the organs, all organs exchange energy and material, free of debt or charge, but in controlled ways that help the functioning of the whole organism.
So the individual in society would be like the organelle.
The basic community, the cooperative, would be like the body cell.
The specialised wider community, a cooperative of cooperatives would be like the body organ.
A group of cooperatives of cooperatives would be like the organism.
And so on.
At each level goods and services would move free of charge, debt or payment but in increasingly controlled ways. Goods and services would move freely and to each ‘organelle’ according to their needs within the basic cooperative. Within the ‘cooperative of cooperatives’ goods and services would move according to certain rules agreed by the individual cooperatives. Between the ‘cooperatives of cooperatives’ goods and services would move according to agreements made at that level and so on.
There might also be circulating individuals or groups moving between the cooperatives at all levels who would be serving the function of the body circulations.
The existence of membranes limiting the movement of goods and energy automatically makes nature local in terms of its economics. Nature is not known for its outsourcing. Lions don’t purchase food from another part of the world or travel further than is needed. Some animals travel great distances in their migrations but this is about flow, they are still living locally, just that their locality changes. A cell gets most of its nutrition directly from the local blood and lymph supply, a foot cell doesn’t take blood from the hand, it takes it from the local network in the foot. With an absence of virtual money systems to enable distant entities to trade with each other most sharing of goods would occur between local cooperatives. That is not to say that goods and services wouldn’t circulate widely, without charge. As in a body some things do travel to enable the body as a whole to function. The immune system and various circulatory systems are networked. In fact if a health service were to be made to be more ‘biological’ we could perhaps concentrate on a distributed, localised service that concentrates on prevention rather than cure – just like the immune system does in a body. In terms of consciousness, nature is non-local - scientists have shown that a non-local telepathy exists in animals for example (Sheldrake). So a universal access to society’s consciousness would reflect biology, and indeed we already have this today, in the form of the internet for example. But in terms of physical, practical exchange of energy and goods, what economics is primarily concerned with, nature usually localises through using inter-circling membranes.
2. A Second Principle of Economics in Nature - Cooperation
A second guiding principle of biological economics is cooperation. Every single cell in your body is a non-hierarchical cooperative. The organelle is the basic functional component of a living cell. Within a cell there is no hierarchy. Rather each organelle has a specific, equally important function within the cell. Yet thanks to Darwin and his cohorts, we are supposed to believe that competition and hierarchy is the basic condition of nature. This is like saying black is white, peace is war. How have we been so thoroughly fooled by a philosophy of such unadulterated fascism? There is no greater theory of fascism than Darwin’s evolution that only the fittest are to survive. Yet people who claim to be humanistic claim that nature itself is a fascist system, and somehow that is alright, because it’s scientific. I believe it is not scientific and it is fascist. It is often the same people who want to prevent any other theory of life, other than their own, being taught – in the interests of the truth. Hitler recognised that Darwin’s evolution was a fascist theory – although he lauded it and thus thought he had nature’s support for his Nazi doctrines.
You can’t have complex biological life without its basic material unit, which everyone agrees is a cell. A cell is a cooperative, it is non-hierarchical and non-competitive. Cells are organised into groups of cooperatives which are also non-hierarchical, non-competitive and organised according to function. This is what we call a body. Most people agree that bodies are useful to being alive. Where do we find competition and survival of the fittest within a body? Nowhere - unless it is sick.
Between bodies, in ‘nature’, there is some competition but only as a secondary, less important principle and only then, when there is health, within a larger cooperative framework. Why is it that many natural programmes on TV focus only on competition and survival of the fittest? Is it to programme us? For example, saplings compete for light it is true, but the forest itself is a cooperative ecosystem. In health, trees communicate and assist each other. Animal predators and prey compete to survive but the actions of, for example, wolves, assist the trees and herbage to maintain free of overgrazing. This then enables a greater variety of prey species to live. There is systemic cooperation even between predator and prey animals to maintain an environment for the benefit of all.
The more health there is in an ecosystem the more cooperation is evident, the more degraded it becomes the more competition takes over as the remnants of the previously abundant ecosystem fight it out for survival. Lions only start to attack elephants for example when deprived of easier prey by a degraded environment. In other words, competition and survival of the fittest only become the guiding principles when an ecosystem is actually dying.
3. A Third Principle of Economics in Nature – Pulsation/Balance
Organisms pulse, seas have tides, the Earth rotates through night and day, galaxies spiral. Everywhere in nature a homeostasis (or balance) is maintained through pulsation. But three hundred years ago we threw the living, pulsing universe out and accepted an alternate proposition - that the universe was dead as a doornail and came from a cosmic egg. This tiny cosmic egg exploded in the biggest explosion ever and then continually expanded like a clockwork machine – the Big Bang. It is utterly ridiculous when you think about it. Apart from sounding completely stupid, there are many scientific problems with this idea. Firstly it was a theological idea that became ‘science’ when background radiation and the so-called expanding universe were ‘discovered’ (evidenced by the red shift effect). It was a theological idea because the Big Bang implies God – if there was nothing before the Big Bang there was no prior natural cause to create it. Therefore no natural explanation can account for the cause of the Big Bang as traditionally conceived by science. Scientists have made up all sorts of fairy tales to try and get around this, none of them at all convincing or evidenced.
But in any case, the universe is not actually expanding evenly – there are young galaxies right next door to aged ones (don’t even mention that some galaxies appear to be fusing with each other energetically). The background radiation could be evidence of something else, like life-force, rather than the discarded wrapping paper from the Big Bang takeout. So the Big Bang, and with it all the philosophical implications we have taken onboard, maybe just imaginary. See Halton Arp, a groundbreaking astrophysicist, for more on the Big Bang controversy and problems with the expanding universe view.
But despite this quite probable wrong turn of the scientific mainstream, the idea of a mechanistically expanding, clockwork universe and its eventual collapse into the Big Crunch has been enshrined into our economic system for us all to worship mindlessly. To stop expanding continually in present economic terms is ‘death’. But the universe may not be expanding continually. Parts of it are probably expanding with other parts contracting, possibly forever. In any case, whoever is right, pulsation is undoubtedly the central tendency throughout nature and homeostasis – balance - the result. The need for continual expansion is not natural, it is a crooked philosophy based on our manipulation into a non-living machine.
We could house, clothe, feed and entertain all 10 billion of us without having to continually ‘expand’ (there is some consensus that our numbers will probably peak around the 10 billion level). And of course, as we get richer our numbers would naturally decline as they are already in fact doing (our rate of growth is declining but our overall numbers have not yet peaked). The depopulation crisis may be next centuries worry. We already have more than enough food to feed 7 billion people. There’s no reason why we can’t feed 10 billion, unless we remain slaves to our present system of inequity that allows a billion people to go hungry whilst the food to feed every last one of them is simply wasted.
4. Would it Work?
Previous economic systems are based not on how nature or our planet actually works but on the consensus ideas of societies. These ideas are not naturally evident - they have often been enforced by ruling classes or conquering armies through violence or deception. America, for example, did try to free itself of Europe’s banking systems but got ensnared in its traps eventually with the Federal Reserve and its numerous economic depravations being the result.
Societal ideas are often derived from the hierarchic and violent nature of leadership and of the family. The family has in the past often been a mini-army with the man as a head of state in miniature. This naturally extends to a village, a city and a state – just as Plato and Aristotle imagined. The state with its ‘head’ is just an authoritarian mega-family, a more controlled, legalistic version of the tribe with its ‘strongman’ leader. Corporations are just armies for making stuff, with their own mini-head of state, the CEO. Countries, an even bigger army with democracy often relegated to voting for the overall war general. Organised criminals are a central part of this system, they are organised in exactly the same way as kingly states – they are just mini-Kingships and an essential part of the ‘system’.
Future needs might be simpler, especially if everyone isn’t working most of their time for the benefit of the banks. If we are not continually making more stuff to throw away perhaps we wouldn’t need to work so many hours a week - we’re not cows, monkeys have more leisure time. If the system wasn’t being continually milked for increasing profit because of interest-bearing loans perhaps we could make things that last or share higher quality devices. A cooperative could have a washing machine that might ‘cost’ in terms of labour and raw materials, the equivalent of ten machines today – but it would last a lifetime and serve many dozens of people, the same for cars or other goods. If it did break down it could be repaired or upgraded easily if new technology came along. And if someone wanted a sports car or a grand piano, there‘s probably someone, somewhere, or a cooperative that would enjoy making it. In reality, it takes thousands of people to make anything- if you take into account every step in the process from raw material to end product. The whole history of civilisation has had to occur before you can use that kettle or pop some bread in the toaster. The whole human race and the whole planet contributed to each product you use. So it would make sense to share stuff according to function or need perhaps. But it needs to be remembered too that scarcity itself is also an illusion. There’s enough for everyone to have whatever they need. Without continual brainwashing most people just want a nice life, to express their selves and to be loved. Ownership is to some extent an illusion too, we don’t own things - they own us.
But I am not proposing a left-wing utopia. If people want to own things they could, no one would stop them in a genuinely cooperative society. A person owns their own body and the things we use and create are like an extension of the body. If most individuals were free of the worries currently imposed by banks, government and other authorities their priorities might change. We might be more concerned with what we can create and contribute than what we can own. Also a cooperative society is not to be confused with a communistic one. Many cooperatives today incorporate private property for families or individuals, some call this co-housing. Just because something is cooperatively run doesn't exclude private, individual ownership of parts of it. Also the atomistic, individualistic society of today is not very old. We lived in extended families until as recently as the 1950s, even in the West. As our society becomes ever more authoritarian it is becoming more communistic in a bad way. The USA, which used to be a bastion of individualism, wants to tell people even what drugs and vaccines go into their bodies. We need to start to reverse that process.
But all of this change need not happen overnight, it could happen gradually or in phases as cooperatives become more prominent in living and business or in education. Revolutions have often put the even more violent in charge. Besides which the current system is not new, it has been around since the birth of the ancient cities in Sumeria and has successfully survived many a revolution. The credit and debt, interest-bearing system of virtual money emerged with the Sumerian temples. Five and half thousand years of capitalism doesn’t need to be changed in one day. Cooperative enterprises appear to be growing, perhaps biologically-organised cooperative societies could be our next economic system – or a part of it perhaps.
It could be said that we already have a cooperative system to some extent. The family is the ‘cell’ that nurtures us and the wider society, the body. We belong to our family ‘cell’ but we venture out into work groupings, social organisations and online groups like blood flowing through an organism. Perhaps these processes are like the biological system I’ve been describing. On closer examination it is not really like a biological system presently. We are more like atoms that retreat into a shell of family but move around through various environments like individuals moving through a maze. Here we are moving through the work part of the maze or the part of the maze where we have fun, perhaps we feel we belong here or there for a while but essentially we are atoms moving through the intricate mass of a society to which we do not truly belong. Just look at our cities from above if any proof of this concept is needed – our cities do not look biological from above, they look like a circuit board and the cars and people move around like electrons mechanically hurtling through a maze.
It could be argued that this picture of a biologically-based cooperative economics is communism or would only be suitable for those on the edge of today’s society. However, many aspects of what has been outlined could just as equally be called moderately right-wing – the pulling away from a centralised society and the independence of small communities for example, the reliance on ones reputation in the community and between communities, self-reliance of small groups, rejection of overt state authority. Those who would say that individualism is the cornerstone of human freedom are right in many respects – valuing non-conformity and allowing individuals to express themselves is important. What can be overlooked however is that humans have never existed as individuals – most of our history has been of humans existing in groups and acting cooperatively. The idea of the rugged individualist bartering for their survival with other independent souls is mostly a modern myth. This myth may have come about when economists such as Adam Smith imagined what life would be like without money. They took their own money-based society and imagined it exactly the same but without money. Naturally they imagined something that would take the place of money and so the myth of barter was born as Graeber has noted in his book, History of Debt.
We have also seen how our ideas of freedom have got mixed up with the idea of a ‘free’ market and ‘free’ monetary exchange. The so-called ‘free’ market came as a by-product of bloody state creation in the Middle East, the same for monetary exchange – neither of which reflected very much real freedom in society. Human societies are founded on something much deeper than markets and money and our economies could reflect this.
Economically, nature is a stateless, private and cooperative system I believe. It is stateless as there is no overarching, overt, external authority. It appears to be mostly private as each organism or collective of organisms ‘owns’ its own body or group of bodies. The environment can perhaps be considered as an organism, so perhaps the environment is also mostly private in nature. Newtonian or Cartesian ‘machines’ are very poor analogies for natural or cosmic environments, an organism is much closer to reality – see Sheldrake’s arguments in The Science Delusion for more on this. Descartes was a psychopath who cruelly experimented on living dogs yet for 300 years we have believed him that the world and its contents should be viewed as a machine. Perhaps Newton didn’t privately believe the wider universe was a machine anyway, he believed in many things, including magic.
Nature is overwhelmingly cooperative in practise and its basic unit, the cell, is an absolutely ideal example of the cooperative. A lot of people are unhappy with our current system. A billion people are not even getting enough to eat when there is plenty of food – a truly shameful situation for the human race. It should be noted on the positive side however that in recent decades we have taken hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty and are feeding more people than ever before.
I had thought that although animals all have body cells with a similar number of internal organelles* they actually organise in many different ways and in many different numbers of groupings, from the often lone cat to the industrious army-like ant. However, humans seem to be a multipurpose amalgam of nature - we don’t fit completely into any one single category, being a bit of everything it seems to me. We are a mostly naked, semi-aquatic, sweating omnivore biped with an oversized brain, small guts and sensitive skin. We are so weak an infant chimp could give us a good thrashing yet we can run for 26 miles at a time through a London marathon on a hot day – thanks to our strange nakedness and ability to sweat. So perhaps averaging out how nature organises things could be a fair starting place for such bizarre creatures as us.
*It is quite hard to find out how many organelles on average there are in an animal cell, if anyone knows please let me know.