I prowl randomly around the net quite a lot. Recently I ran across an essay built around a radical idea – the notion that our modern “techno-industrial” economy is, to state it bluntly, the root of all evil. Interesting idea. I work in “techno-industry” (that’s the essay author’s term, not mine). I’m going to leave the author nameless, and I’m not going to link to the essay, because it was all just a bit “out there and edgy” even for me. But – it did make me think, which is ultimately why I prowl the net to start with.
Does the heavily technological, heavily “big corporate” nature of our world do us harm? It clearly brings us many benefits – we see those around us every day. But does it hurt us too? Sometimes I think that it may. In the far past most humans lived in tiny communities – and even the biggest communities weren’t what we would call huge by today’s standards. Not everyone had a voice – we routinely look back from our state of “modern enlightenment” and condemn history for ostracizing entire segments of humanity, based on race, color, creed, class, or whatever. But – and this is important – I don’t know that we’re really that much better off today. Yes, we have much more widespread democracy. Yes, we have vastly improved the state of race equality, class equality, and so on. But now we live in a world driven by technology – we live in the “Information Age,” and that causes our communities to become truly vast. We have become “more free,” but our voices have vanished into the din, and the real influence is still wielded by a tiny few – just as it has been throughout the entire course of human history.
In some ways the story of human history is the story of the few striving to achieve dominance over the many, via whatever means the then current era offered. Today that means is technology, information, and the corporate organization of the economy. Just during my lifetime I’ve watched the rise of “world” corporations – corporations that consider themselves global entities that transcend any one government jurisdiction or authority.
I call myself a capitalist. But I think that what I really am is an individualist – a believer in liberty and in the principle that the best possible world is the one that rises from the free, willful choices of all men and women. To me that always meant “small government,” but I’ve realized that it also needs to mean “small business.” It needs to mean “small church.” It needs to mean small everything, because every single organization that becomes huge begins to take on an existence of its own and pursues its own interests over those of “us.” And the organization’s interests really means the interests of the few enormously powerful individuals that pull the strings of those organizations.
Can we “have it all”? Can we enjoy the fruits of modern civilization while still retaining individual freedom in a real and meaningful way? I believe we can – and I believe a blueprint was given to us, about 230 years ago. America’s Founding Fathers crafted a system of government that was intended to structure power like a pyramid. Individuals were meant to have primary autonomy over their own lives. Local communities came next – then states – then, finally, the federal government, which was meant to have extremely limited powers. The Founding Fathers did this on purpose. Those wise men recognized the dangers of central authority, and they deliberately crafted a system designed to avoid it.
We let that slip away. We have, step by step, allowed power to crawl upward, first to Washington, and who knows where in the future. We’ve allowed the same thing to happen in the private economy. Our economy is now dominated by enormous corporations – not by small businesses that are primarily an extension of their owners’ wills. Maybe we can have it all – but if we are going to then we are going to have to reverse this trend and tear it all back down. We need a world built around hierarchical alliances of entities that are, ultimately, SMALL and reflective of the needs and desires of real people. Individual people.
I have no idea how we get there – holders of power rarely give it up easily. But, we still live in a nation where votes count. Not everyone in the world can say that, but we Americans can. It very well may be that the people of America are, once again, the shining hope of the future. We can pull power back down into the hands of our states, our communities, and ourselves. And, hopefully, we can do this calmly and wisely. That’s how we want it – we don’t want a crisis that brings the whole thing crashing down without a proper replacement. That will make life awful for everyone. I hope I live to see a leader arise who has the wisdom, energy, and charisma to make this happen.
The politicians aren’t going to like this it. The corporations aren’t going to like it. No large organization is going to like it. But we – the people – need it, and we need it soon. Time might be running out..