Switching from competition to cooperation
According to legend, the great engine of a free market system is competition. Competition drives down prices and drives up quality. Indeed, as I pointed out here competition is evolution's way of producing greater complexity and organization in the biosphere. So competition is a good thing. Right?
Of course, it depends.
In an ecosystem, competition is the order of the day with a few exceptions. Ecosystems are the milieu in which organisms, populations, continue to evolve and seek fitness within niches. There are any number of symbiotic relationships, certainly, but in such open systems (they have borders with other kinds of ecosystems and the terrain is forever shifting on various time scales) new species invade, predators and prey dance, and some conspecifics compete for food and mates, while others form social groups that compete with other species and groups for niche dominance. It is a mixed bag of competition and cooperation, with competition the predominant mode.
Competition is good for driving evolution up to a point. But it is bad once evolution has produced something like an 'end product'. Bodies of mature individuals, as another example of a biological system, could not long endure if competition were the predominant mode of operations. Competition is active during development, when cell types and tissues jostle for post ion in the developing embryo. Unlike an ecosystem where the choreography is often chaotic, developmental competitive processes are tuned to produce the same results in form with some variation due to environmental influences. Growth, too, is the major activity from conception through childhood's end. But eventually the growth comes to an end and the competition does too. The tissues settle into cooperative processes that define good health. The body enters an extended period of steady-state in which energy flows through doing maintenance work and materials cycle through providing structural replacements as needed.
The human social milieu, today, is very much more like an ecosystem. And that has been a good thing from the standpoint of evolution of culture and social organization. Though billions of people, over the last ten thousand years or more, have suffered and died after living abject miserable lives, the nuggets of progress, of knowledge, of technology, that evolved have positioned humanity for a new mode of existence. It may be that it is time to become like an individual, a unified entity. The conception of a new social order based on the value of human consciousness and implemented in sapient governance should be followed by a development process where some early, orchestrated competition leads to a unified body of humanity.
The world is a whole. It is not so much a set of nations, or ethnic groups, or races. It is not just humanity existing by itself but within the Ecos in which humanity is just one entity. And that entity needs to learn to cooperate with the rest of nature. It is a system in which the parts must adapt to one another to achieve continued existence. And mankind must learn to live without competition as the primary mode of operation.
Living systems don't achieve cooperation among the parts in the sense that each molecule, say, 'wants' to be nice to all the other molecules. Cooperation is achieved through coordination in hierarchical control. Operational processes are regulated to prevent getting out of line. And even the regulatory loops are regulated! We've been moving in this direction for some time, in spite of the antiquated, and woefully out of touch with nature, thinking of libertarianism. The current banking crisis was in part enabled by the lack of regulation, either by adequate laws or by agencies doing what they were supposed to do. It is time to recognize that our human societies are natural systems and will achieve the same kind of stability that living systems have if we follow nature's design.
This will be a conceptual hurdle, particularly hard for the economic-savvy intelligentsia to get over. We have been told, generation after generation, that it is competition that makes our economy great. There was truth to that as long as we were evolving culturally. But we have reached the inflection point where growth and competition can no longer serve as a means for improvement. We're there for the most part. From here on out, improvement must come from sapient governance. And that improvement will be like the individual learning and adapting. Our bodies do not grow, nor do tissues compete as we continue to learn throughout life. There is some competition between synapses as our brains undergo alterations during learning. But it is orchestrated competition, not a free for all. So too mankind as an entity will learn and adapt as a whole. New knowledge will be discovered. New technologies will be developed. But not by the old version of the free market and capitalism. It will be intentional, rational, and sapient.