Hierarchy in Capitalism and Socialism

Human HierarchyThe video below is really good. However, I think he goes too easy on libertarians. Libertarians are authoritarians.

I know that there are (relatively) serious libertarians who don’t go along with this. There are, for example, a few libertarians who believe in labor unions and are against the totally anti-freedom “right to work” laws.

You can see the authoritarian tendencies of libertarians in the way they fetishize business-people and disregard workers. If the philosophy were really about freedom, it wouldn’t matter what people do. But it matters a great deal to libertarians.

What this all comes down to is their absolute allegiance to hierarchy (what the video is about). What distinguishes libertarians from conservatives and fascists is the means not the ends of their perfectly constructed hierarchy.

Finding Meaning in Socialism

I think about this stuff a lot with regard to socialism. Socialism is a great system for someone like me who, because of my early environment, is highly self-actualized. I personally think that living under socialism causes people to be more self-actualized. But at least for now, most people need external forces to provide them with a sense of meaning.

It is not enough to just give someone money. People need to feel that there is a point to life — beyond a Schopenhauerian one. And I believe that meaning comes mostly from work.

But I mean work in a different sense than we think of as work in a capitalist context. Work is raising a family. Work is caring for a sick friend. It is creating a work of art that no one will ever see.

For conservatives, meaning comes from success in the hierarchy. This is an arbitrary construction. And not an edifying one.

Our mystics now have to operate in the context of a church that must trick people into giving money in the name of having a happy happy time after they die.

And it leads to absolutely ridiculous products that no one ever wanted and no one will ever need. Like GarfieldEats — your one-stop shop for pizzas shaped like a second-rate cartoon character.

But capitalists do have an advantage over socialists: they have a system that gives people meaning. It’s an awful one. A serious heroin addiction also gives people meaning. Few would argue that people should thus become junkies. Yet such an addiction provides exactly the same kind of meaning that capitalism does.

Beyond Hierarchy

Ultimately, what socialism needs is for people to stop thinking in terms of hierarchy. As we know from the transition from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic period, there is nothing natural about hierarchy.

Or rather, it is far more complex. There will always be someone widely considered the best musician; the best woodworker; the best gardener. The problem with capitalism is that it tries to force these innumerable hierarchies in any collection of humans into a single hierarchy.

Most people don’t care that they aren’t the fastest runner or whatever. They find meaning on their own terms — generally being the best human as they define it. This project is not helped by a society that fetishizes achievement in the art of accumulating more money than you could actually spend.

(It’s interesting that in the early 14th century, Dante presented greed as a particularly bad sin. Now greed is the highest good because of the “magic of the market” making us all better off. That was a major apologetic coup by the worshippers of capitalism — one most Christians gladly accept.)

And this is why I think socialism is key to human happiness. By valuing people in all their variety, we treat them as individuals. In capitalism, people are valued as cogs in the hierarchy.

Human Value

This is why we see the absurd display of rich people being asked not just about things they know nothing of but about things that reflect on their position on the hierarchy. Ask David Koch about global warming! Probe Mark Zuckerberg about antitrust law! Ask anyone in the Walton family about anything at all!

The only difference between these exercises and the man-on-the-street interviews (which we no longer see) is that people think billionaires’ opinions mean something.

Society succeeds from the ground up. Capitalism teaches us the opposite: it is only because of the people at the top of our arbitrary hierarchy that we even manage to have enough food. Yet if stranded on an island, I would much rather be with my next-door neighbor than Bill Gates.

We must value people as people and not for where they happen to find themselves on the capitalist hierarchy. That is no different than valuing people on how well they play Red Dead Redemption 2.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

8 thoughts on “Hierarchy in Capitalism and Socialism

  1. It is a great video, because it gets at the essential belief system of conservatives; they’re the “realists.” They know how life works, and anyone who suggests things could be different is living in a fantasy cloud.

    It’s like what Baker always repeats about the economic advantages provided by our patent system; it’s not a magical structure perfected through years of trial and error. It’s very much arbitrary, and there’s no good reason not for us to tinker with it. The same thing goes writ large with our culture that only worships one kind of work — the most fiscally rewarding kind.

    But of course, it’s not just conservatives who fall into this trap. Some rich liberals do as well. The difference is, both rich and poor conservatives tend to believe it. Among liberals, only the rich do.

    • “Among liberals, only the rich do.” Careful, the right-wing liberals have their aspirants too. I don’t think this is true actually. On the other hand, while the majority of people regardless of polarity do not have good reasons for their beliefs (it’s the crowd they follow only), there’s a higher percentage of good reasoning among the liberal (i.e. more than epsilon).

      • Part of the problem with this country is that the Democrats are the only reasonable ones. It’s an indication that our political system is out of balance. And it all comes down to the fact that our system is anti-democratic. One party can maintain control by appealing to a minority.

    • Yes. Although Baker would say that it isn’t arbitrary. It is the powerful gaming the system for their own benefit. And that’s why the very idea of meritocracy is nonsense.

  2. @ RJ — I’m unclear exactly what you mean in your comment. Would you be willing to expand further? Count me as slow, I don’t grasp things quickly. I promise I won’t respond like an asshole. Or, maybe… I SO WILL! IT’LL BE THE WORST INTERNET BURN EVER!

    Eh, who cares about such shit, right? I honestly was a bit confused as to your comment, and you seem like a nice person, so clarify for this here dummy, if that’s OK.

    • I wish my system allowed me to see threads. And obviously, I’m not going to take the time to go look!

    • Thanks! I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last couple of years. My concern has long been: sure John Lennon likes the idea of socialism because he knows that he’ll be beloved in it; what about the rest of us? I still need to do a lot of thinking on this.

      It’s amazing to think that Lennon was only 40 years old when he died. I feel so old!

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