The United States was started as a rational experiment in democratic capitalism based on ideas that inspired its forefathers. They were influenced by ideas coming out of the Enlightenment, specifically Adam Smith, Locke, Rousseau, and the conception of humans resorting to “the state of nature” and acting in bad-faith with one another.
“fuck the monarchy, let’s experiment with a rational government based on contract law and this new capitalism stuff.”
—The Forefathers™, The Federalist Papers
The problem with this type of Hobbesian thinking is “man will resort to kill or be killed in the ‘state of nature’” and therefore the State must enforce contacts to ensure civility and protect the rights of property.
My thinking is more aligned with Zeynep Tufecki:
“We think of society as this Hobbesian thing, as opposed to the reality where most people are very friendly, most people are prone to solidarity.”
Zeynep Tufecki How Zeynep Tufekci Keeps Getting the Gig-things Right
In disasters and daily life, people want to help each other, and feel as part of something greater than themselves. The atomization of the individual, a result of capitalism, continually undermines this fundamental aspect of the human experience.
So when we’ve built our government on Hobbes as our fundamental philosophical ideology, we’ve ended up institutionalizing the idea that civil society is “every man for himself” rather than “every man for each other” and those institutions become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thus, we’ve expanded on the US experiment in capitalism by privileging corporations with more rights and freedoms than humans, but without the social or moral responsibilities. That can only end badly when their only motive is profit. Then we’ve built this enormous apparatus of violence in the US military, the national guard, a decentralized police force, and a word salad of agencies like the NSA, CIA, FBI, CBP, TSA, ATF, hell even the USPS has an armed force. All these agencies assume the average person is acting in bad-faith, and yet we wonder why these armed agents are killing people by the thousands and without accountability and most often with total immunity.
This is all to say, the experiment in democratic Hobbesian capitalism should be cancelled. Its core assumption are all wrong: it assumed infinite resources on a finite planet which is wrong, it assumed the worst of people which is wrong, It absolved corporations of any ethics and granted them freedom and rights—which is wrong.
The experiment is no longer producing the outcomes for which it once promised—based on the idea of the social contract established by Rousseau, which provides for social reciprocity: we chose the laws under which we live. This is less and less the case. We’re increasingly seeing wealth for the few and social precarity for the many, under a system of governance that responds to corporations before it responds to people.
It’s time to try a new experiment in resource allocation and governance that is egalitarian, sustainable, and provides a vision where all inhabitants of this planet act in good faith towards a project for multiple worlds, and many positive futures. Other worlds are possible.