I - RULES OF NECESSITY
6. DEAL WITH THE OCTOPUS
Freedom and equality, as challenges to be met, bring us to the question of power. Man is a stiff-necked animal who would rather do his own thinking. Man's basic lust is for a God-like relation with the universe that lets his will run unopposed and un-dependent. What challenges his independence makes him insecure, aggressive, and he fights it whenever he has half a chance. What men cannot fight alone, each for himself, they fight in packs. Rulers, Kings, Governments exist to lead the pack when a common hunt or fight is necessary.
Governments also are composed of stiff-necked animals, which would rather do our thinking for us. The basic aim of Governments is a God-like relation with the people and, as they are always opposed, they are always insecure and aggressive. Rulers have a tendency to rule, not only during pack-hunts and common fights, when they are tolerated, but in-between skirmishes, when everybody feels they should stop meddling and disappear.
The purpose of social contracts is to determine what is and what is not a pack-hunt for the people, what is agreed to be in the collective interest and a fair object for rulers' intervention and what people consider a threat to their freedom. They aim to create order out of anarchy, providing a clear mandate for the State and a definite set of rules for individual behavior. To have order out of anarchy, a trade-off is required: individuals let go of some freedom to obtain security.
Whether the protection they seek be against their fellow men or against Mother Nature, whether the citizens entrust the State to maintain law within the land, to protect the borders from foreign foes or to help in the quest for affluence and away from want, citizens let go of part of their freedom in exchange for security. As little freedom as possible, of course; a government for the individual is always a constraint, a necessary evil and, even in the best of circumstances, a more or less benevolent octopus.
Let danger arise and we are sheepish with the octopus. When we feel more
secure, we become more impatient with constraints and less tolerant of tentacles
of all sorts... Now, with machines, Helots, freedom from want, a stable
government and peace on our borders, we do feel more secure. What is the
best reasonable deal that necessity and circumstances conducive to freedom
will let us strike with our own octopus? Such a good deal that it is a little
scary, for what people want now is not just another set of rules, or another
Government, but fewer rules... which simply means less government! The creative
imperative will modify not only our way of working but also our ways of
ruling and the objects of State intervention. We will need a new deal with
the Octopus to redefine how the State will exercise control in a
Creative Society and what it will control.
The ultimate tranquilizer
Let's deal with the "how", first. No other ways are left, it seems, but consensus and benevolence, and this is quite a significant change. Until the Industrial Revolution, the almost exclusive concern of the State had been security, meaning of course the security of the effective majority. The State would protect its borders and would apply "law and order" and the like at home, not only to criminals but also to troublesome Have-nots. The dependence of the effective majority on the rest of the population to enjoy security was occasional - in case of war, for instance - so that most of the time it was rather passive compliance that was expected from the people. Great days for negative reinforcement.
Then, industrialization brought the promise of more affluence for all and of previously unthinkable luxury for the few, at the price of a modicum of planning and teamwork. To this end, the State gained control over work and production, and welfare became the prime object of the State's intervention. Interdependence developed between producers and consumers, between top-dogs and workers, and this need for an active participation of the labour force in day-to-day life made it more convenient for the State to put aside strong-arm tactics and to adopt new forms of control, smoother but more pervasive. Positive reinforcement.
Even totalitarian regimes followed that path, and although in some places sticks may still be around, they are not highly praised nor unduly popular. Black, red, or democratic, all modern octopuses now rule mainly through the effective control of the distribution of industrial goods in their respective societies. Machines have put the accent on positive reinforcement, and it has made States kinder than ever before to their people. To rule with positive reinforcement, they must, however, maintain a state of optimal stress in society and place friendly tentacles all around the individual.
Twentieth Century octopuses, both Black and Red - fascist or communist - have put to use the tools of modern technology and have proven to be even more tentacular than their predecessors. Even our democratic WINs, although the guiding principle may have been that the State, as representative of the collectivity, would simply have a mandate to rule over "matters of collective interest", have let these matters proliferate and have invaded the private life of individuals. Our own meek octopus, as we have seen at length, relies on seduction, tricks for toil and well-doctored income redistribution.
Now, as the creative imperative gathers momentum, we will become simultaneously more individualistic and more interdependent by an order of magnitude. We will need more interface and organization and yet, we will accept less government... To further complicate matters, material goods, including wealth, will seem to become less important in the life of people, and control over their distribution less of an effective instrument of power. Will rulers cease to confide in positive reinforcement and the Octopus be driven to try and get, insidiously, a "better hold" on individuals? Very unlikely. Boys will be boys and rulers will rule, but negative reinforcement measures are very inefficient and impractical to apply... It's upon the ways of power that is imposed the final rule of necessity: benevolence
From now on, power will have to rest on an ever broadening effective majority. Let's not say "on everybody", this would be demagogy; just on an effective majority of people which will become steadily larger to reflect the fact that more people will become irreplaceable and have a more significant bargaining power in growing interdependence. We will see a trend towards democracy.
Together with democracy, will appear a need for consensus that will lead
to extreme reliance on positive reinforcement. Not only because it is intrinsically
more effective, but because it is more "popular" and that, the
closer we get to democracy, the more "popularity" becomes a sine
qua non for political effectiveness. The Rule of Benevolence is that
there may be only two options open to future governments, in their relations
with the people: "give"... or "give more". The creative
imperative may be the ultimate tranquilizer for an Octopus that has already
learned pretty good manners.
Framework for freedom
Wonderful... but "ultimate tranquilizer" could also be a good name for whatever puts old dogs to sleep. A government that can't say "no" may be as impotent as a man who can't say "yes". When we have all this freedom coming to us, what will we get as a framework for freedom? What kind of government, what kind of structure of power will we build that will keep the tentacles from tightening around us..., and yet will not end up in committee-type impotency, will prevent anarchy and will command commitment from Alphas? To design an adequate framework, we must have a clear perception of the new situation and wholeheartedly accept the consequences of the creative imperative, both on motivation and on the control processes.
The social structure we have at present, like any social structure, is merely the old "chain of command" in modern garb, so we may look back without qualm at what went on "in the beginning". People, as we said, fight in packs; what they cannot do individually, they will assemble and do in groups along the lines of affinities or interests. They normally will gather into groups small enough to facilitate identification to the group and the development of personalized relations amongst members.
For any group to become responsible for anything and to achieve any objective whatsoever, its members must renounce at least a minimal part of their freedom and accept that some group decisions will be binding upon them. When they do, some "authority" is transferred from the individuals to the group, an authority which is backed by the strength, the "power" of all the consenting group members: the effective majority.
Small groups may also delegate authority to some higher-level groups, socio-administrative units that may have greater means at their disposal and/or a broader outlook, so that they will be able to cope with problems of common interest to participating smaller groups. The "groups of groups", in turn, may do the same and delegate authority to still higher-level units which will handle more encompassing responsibilities. And so on, until some entity at the top may be endowed with the delegated authority to take charge of all matters of universal interest, and to do it in a way that will reflect the consensus and maintain equilibrium.
This is the way it was in the beginning, the way of democracy: power building from the bottom up. It is also the way of differentiation and of negentropy on the march, as leaders rise to the top, rung by rung, carried by those who have faith and trust in them. The alternative is what we might call the way of the King of Babylon. The way not of democracy, but of pseudo equality enforced from above.
Rulers are not keen about differentiation. Differentiation for the State is a headache. If power can be grabbed, rulers like nothing better than equality amongst all those below the Very Top, and direct link to unchallengeable omnipotence. It used to be God and the Divine Right of Kings, but "The People" will do fine. When the Top has its direct mandate from above - and the Authority and Power that goes with it - it can delegate them down a chain of command of its own... and then do its best to destroy any authority that comes from below and such power as goes with it.
Power is prevented from building the bottom up, and then the flatter the hierarchy, the shorter the chain of command, the more interchangeable the tools... the more power vested in the leaders of the pack who can control a larger group of "equals" with a smaller effective majority... and the more tyrannical can be the Power at the top.
In the heydays of machines, "global planning" was all-important, workers were interchangeable and they wanted to be "equals". Centralization was efficient, and power could "come down as a yell" from the Top, through a chain of command in which most intermediaries held their status by "delegation" from above.
Helots have ruined that scheme of things, because this type of structure will not work in our days of interdependence and emphasis on personal relations, in the coming days of aloofness when workers will take orders, instructions, or even advice only from "friends" and only when they choose to do so. A creative society will have to take these factors into account. We will renounce the way of the King of Babylon, because interdependence, combined with affluence and a need for strictly positive reinforcement, will make this way impractical and we will revert to the original way to establish chains of command: from the bottom up. This is democracy.
People will gather in groups to face the challenges of the new society, these groups will merge into higher-level groups and, because individuals will respect and obey nothing more readily than these groups to which they will choose to belong, it it these groups that will become the basic building blocks of the new power structure. We will be forced to abandon the "delegation from the top" approach in favor of more delegation from below. A deal with the octopus will finally imply a re-structuration of our society's chains of command.
There will be three guiding principles for re-structuration. First, that all authority rests with the individual, except that which he has chosen to delegate; when in doubt, or when some residual power is at stake, always consider that it has not been delegated. Second, that not only the power of decision, but control over execution also, should always rest at the lowest possible level, as close as possible to the end-users, so that only the minimum which efficiency demands should be entrusted to higher-level groups. Third, that within the scope of its mandate, and for as long as it lasts, one in authority needs no confirmation to decide and to act.
Along which lines will the groups be formed? It would take a book just
to explore the possibilities of group formation. The crux of the matter,
though, is that these groups, high and low - and the corresponding multi-tiered
distribution of authority and responsibilities from the bottom up - will
come to be recognized as a formal power structure and, eventually, will
come to be the power structure of a Creative Society; the creative
imperative will give birth to a more democratic regime, in which more people
will actively participate, through groups and "groups of groups"
that will make up the structure of power. On top of it all, since there
is always a "top" to every society, will rest a much more benevolent,
fatherly Octopus, a State that will give..., give, and give.
The new targets
So much for the "how", now about the "what" of power. What will be the new targets of State's intervention, what will be the activities that the State will control in a creative society? It will, of course, try to obey the most sacred principle of management: make sure that its authority is sufficient to cope with its responsibilities. Seems pretty obvious, but for our Octopus to respect this principle will require some serious adjustments.
Endowed at birth with the power and authority it needed to achieve its initial goals of "law and order" and "security", the State faced some discrepancies, in the Thirties, when it had to become champion of the underdogs for the sake of equilibrium. Since then, looking more and more like Santa Claus, State the Father, with his bag of goodies and his low profile in guidance, has handled responsibilities for which it had no authority.
With the consequence that it had to take deviously the authority it needed, and now may sometimes use this extra authority beyond the scope of its responsibilities. The State, for instance, took the responsibility to provide every citizen with a minimum "level of subsistence" income, a commitment that circumstances have changed to a "level of consumption" income. We feel this to be normal, but since this is impossible without some control of the production system that provides this income, the State, although it has never been granted any authority over what people should or should not buy, actually manages the production system through indirect controls and "encourages" the patterns of consumption that are convenient: see military spending, trade barriers, and support for smoke stacks industries.
In all WINs, citizens now expect the State to see to it that goods and services are produced in the nature and quantity that correspond to their needs and wants. We expect the State to do so in the most efficient manner, imposing a minimum of efforts upon the workers (considering the current state of technology), and even to expand the limits imposed by the availability of human and natural resources... Has it ever received this mandate? On the other hand, a modern State is not expected to interfere anymore with personal culture and ethics; what could be more typically a prerogative of the individual? But the State, at present, retains authority and considerable leverage in these fields, a reminiscence of days when State and the Church went hand in hand. This is why, for instance, you cannot go naked in the street or support euthanasia.
We must obviously go through the social files and match the State's authority and responsibilities; do away with obsolete obligations, but also make sure that all mandates are clear and that the means at hand are sufficient for the State to fulfil its responsibilities. There is a new social contract in the making, a contract which will give some more power to the Octopus... but over a much smaller part of our lives. It will include all the clauses needed for the State to interface effectively with work, wealth and production.
What are the main social targets to attain, now, as we stand ready to exit the Age of Toil and to enter the Age of Creativity? They coincide with the three threats we mentioned before: to reintegrate the Epsilons and Do-not's as equal partners in the new society before they revolt, to make arrangements on the huge public debt before the bum cheque bounces and we are led into war by frustrated top-dogs, and to set new social goals for us all, before we just roll up into a big ball of complacency and, out of sheer boredom, give up the ghost as a society.
Looking at these threats and targets, we realize they have something in common: WORK. Work, as we have known it, is not needed anymore, and a social structure based on work, on wealth as capitalized work, and on production through the use of work and capital... is just about to crumble down if not helped across transition to the Creative Society. This is the problem we have to cope with immediately.
Consequently, the State must have the authority, directly or indirectly, to modify our production objectives and production processes, to indemnify adequately all parties that may suffer a prejudice from such transformation, to distribute fairly the burden of work and the training opportunities amongst the potentially active population.... and to provide each individual with this "level of consumption income" without which an industrial society will not survive. It does not mean that the State should try to manage itself work, wealth and production, the basic tools for affluence, but simply that wielding the power at its disposal it should see that the best orientations be taken.
This is what States are for, and people actually demand more State control of these "tools", most of all of "work" which lies at the source of the present crisis. They do, and they will, more and more, in inverse proportion to the importance of work in their life. In a society where work, in the job framework, may mean 1000 hours a-year or less, Homo Sapiens will gladly give this much time for the State to monitor.., if the Octopus agrees, on the other hand, to keep away from the other 7,736 hours of the year and to renounce attempts to try and control the rest of the life of the individual. The Rule of Benevolence says the State will oblige.
A deal with the Octopus must first settle the Work Crisis. Only when
this is done, will we be in a position to help also wealth and production
adjust to the requirements of a Creative Society. As we begin to draw a
new social contract, it is work and the management of our human resources
-work allocation, education, training, workload distribution, income
security and the status of the self-employed - that will have first
to be rethought entirely, in order to give the people what the people demand:
full-employment together with the security of guaranteed income.
This, will be Clause #1 of the new social contract.
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