The Eagle's Shadow: Competitive vs. Cooperative Society

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the legend of Icarus, please welcome my brief synopsis. The story goes that a young boy known as Icarus was gifted the power of flight through wings held together by wax and feathers. Before he embarks on his joy ride, the man who brought this gift to him cautioned Icarus, not to "fly too close to the sun". Icarus takes off into the sky only to find himself lost in ecstasy. Unable to satiate himself, Icarus indulges in yet another salient maneuver, but this marveling of his, soon, comes to an abrupt ending as the wings which once brought him pride—now cometh the fall. The theme that those whose incessant arrogance and overconfidence leads to their own failure, has proven to not only be timeless but a cognizance I too see occur within nature. More specifically, the insentient framework that governs our economy: namely capitalist and socialist philosophy. Whose to say, ideas which depend on human participation are excluded from the same paradigms toed by their visionaries?

Donning the Wings

A set of wings must always be tested. Disregarding the vast number of feathers responsible for the United States of America's prosperity—at the very least, education, affluence, and participation are indubitably the marvels observed from this test flight.

A narrative seldom mentioned within the realm of politics, and by extension, mainstream media, is the baffling and flawless representation of Capitalism's success. Absent is discussion on the ascension of the black population beneath an economic system institutionally mischaracterized as kidnapping equity from its participants. Ah, let us forget the age when we would truly hold one another in chains, and admonish the very system which welcomed activity from the same groups once dragged by leash. A foolish sentiment, at best.

Part 1: Education

Remarkably, In the U.S., there are many notions upon which the merit of our standard of education could be expressed; however, seldom few hold candles to the success of the black population's academic ascension. According to Census data published by U.S. government, Russian serfs who had been set free during 1861, just two years prior to the infamous Emancipation Proclamation, had risen to a literacy rate of nearly 30 percent in fifty years; on the other hand, the once enslaved, tired, tortured, and bruised minds belonging to the black population following the South's antebellum era, entered a period of unrivaled growth in their standard of education.

“the magnitude of the accomplishment is still striking, especially when one recalls the overwhelming obstacles blocking black educational efforts. For a large population to transform itself from virtually unlettered to more than half literate in 50 years ranks as an accomplishment seldom witnessed in human history.” — Robert Higgs

To further illustrate why this would be the case, we must analyze the fundamentals of Capitalism. Popularized in a capitalist society is the concept of human capital. To put it simply, human capital is the expression used when referring to an individual's share of skills, intelligence, discipline, and various other traits used to predict their potential economic value. Higher education—for example, is often used by public/private corporations to identify favorable candidates for any given position. Education is intimately related to the success of a market society, which, tends to prefer an educated society. Thus, it's imperative that the capitalist labor force ultimately advances the standards of competition, competence, and productivity.

Part 2: Participation

"No one who buys bread knows whether the wheat from which it is made was grown by a Communist, or a Republican, by a constitutionalist, or a Fascist, or, for that matter, by a Negro or a white." - Dr. Milton Friedman

What was just described to you were the benefits earned by way of the impersonal market. Like Friedman, I too, ask you look to the food in your refrigerator! The farming industry today is one of the most competitive in our economy. Thus, has produced a consumer space absent of classicism, racism, and political vitriol. The financial incentive earned by appealing to potential consumers, and laborers is simply too high. This was not exclusive to the farming industry either, in fact, during the 1920's it was common to see black entertainers on Broadway preforming for entire theatres. Still not good enough? Fine! Happen by chance to be familiar with Jackie Robinson? Yes? Great. Robinson was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers In 1947, famously becoming the first black Major League Baseball player. After playing his debut game at Ebbets Field to a crowd totaling over 26,000. the Dodgers team manager, Leo Durocher, allegedly doused the flames of prejudice by saying, "I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fuckin' zebra. I'm the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What's more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded". What a total badass...Huh? You're still not satisfied? Good grief, this is the last one I got for you!

Capitalism prioritizes participation so much so, that nearly all of the following roles: accountants, engineers, lawyers, physicians, school teachers, socials workers, and nurses held by blacks had doubled in a matter of a decade. Consider this for a moment, this occurred between 1950 and 1960—prior to the equity blacks finally began to accrue post-civil rights movement. Obstacles like Jim Crow, and lawful discrimination in urban environments such as NYC, surely, barred many blacks from being beneficiaries of a capitalist society; albeit, the expansion into white-collar professions as referenced earlier between 1950-1960 only proves to advance my argument—even those once held in cages, may fly.

Started from the bottom, now we're here

The Shadow Beneath Us

Even the eagle has a shadow. The United States, and its economic systems are no exception. Enter the shadow: Socialism.

There, there, I will help you!
There, there, you can help me!

At the level most fundamental, socialist theory differs from its capitalist counterpart by way of governing society. Socialism is designed through a co-operative principle, juxtaposed to the competitive principle powering Capitalism. Economist Karl Marx, prefers to challenge this notion. To Marx, service to Capitalism is service of your own predation. Marx understands that the capitalist society is dependent on the laborer's willful domestication. This relationship is more formally known as base vs. superstructure. Marx believed that the base—political economy (the base of the U.S. in this case is Capitalism), was to inform the superstructure of its demands. The superstructure (religion, media, family, and education) would then uphold those demands. As I said before, nothing is more paramount in the capitalist society than the lifeblood of the economy. As logically rational as this sounds, Marx nonetheless challenges this rational with fierce abstraction. You truly have to wonder, what the hell kind of nightmares did this guy have? Perhaps it was of the vampiric raccoon, Tom Nook, and his dead eyes.

Although Marx is not nearly the only Marxist to enter the stage, for example: Paul Cockshott, Peter Kropotkin, and Guy Debord, and Richard Wolffe are but a few noteworthy Marxists both alive and deceased. The issue with these theorists is that they're radically different from one another. In my opinion, this is by far the greatest issue facing the development of socialist theory. Simply knowing that my shadow exists is insufficient. I must be precise in my identification—lest I lose sight of what exactly I'm looking at/for. Socialism being the shadow to Capitalism is an apt comparison given that Marx's philosophy is still the nucleus; unfortunately, this is no longer the case, and arguably hasn't been since the disbanding of the Soviet Union. Doubtful, I am, in the belief that Americans are aware of this fact. Persuasion requires an identity, and an identity requires persuasion.

Too Close to the Sun

What is worse: crashing down in a blaze of glory, or burning up in search of a better tomorrow? Trick question, you only end up in a pathetic state, regardless of the trajectory's heat. As I evaluate the methods and purpose behind ancient examples of higher education, I realize just how great of an idea human capital was to the social sciences. As I evaluate Capitalism's obsession with supplying the employer with a compatible candidate, I realize how remarkable the relationship is between base and superstructure. As I evaluate the leading socialist theories, I realize how far we've come, not how far we must go. This may sound like a jab to modern Socialism, but it is actually a much needed improvement.

If I may, Id like to reference one of the most fundamental Western Philosophers, George Fredrich Hegel. Hegel spoke of "The great basic thought". In this he described that the world was often misunderstood as a complex of ready-made things, and not what it truly is—a complex of processes. Thankfully, there is a small snippet of literature authored by none other than the associate of Marx, Fredrich Engels. Engels, interpreted Hegel's "The great basic thought" to mean that it is irrational for humans to obsess over eternal truths, and/or solutions; which, to add my own spin, implies that societies fixation on the prospects of no homelessness, no poverty, etc. is an ignorance of the human experience. After all, we created the technology for the wheel, which soon became a carriage, which soon became a bike, which soon became a car, which soon became an 18 wheeler. The human experience is one of infinite progress. To assume we have final destinations, is silly. Their is no logic in thinking of the finish line. The next race begins the moment this one ends.

The experimentation of the modern socialist theory is quite literally playing with fire. Whether it will be a controlled burning of traditional economic methods, or a gender-reveal party sparking wildfire, is the weight of this decision. Socialist missionaries promising a better tomorrow must do this slowly. I recall hearing this as a kid while watching Avatar: The Last Air Bender. However, it seemed all promises for a brighter tomorrow were made by Aang...except for the lone business man who spanned the entire series trying to escape the impending ruin which Aang always brought upon his business. Everyone except for him. Thus, here I am stuck in my first paradox. The human experience is an obsession of enhancement. To deny Socialism, is to deny ourselves potential enhancement. On the contrary, this perpetual need for growth is oddly similar behavior to that of the cancer cell, and/or wildfire. Eerily similar to the insatiable nature of wonder everyone talks about this.

"We must support and value the past, and we need to do that with an attitude of gratitude and respect. At the same time, however, we must keep our eyes open—we, the visionary living—and repair the ancient mechanisms that stabilize and support us when they falter. Thus, we need to bear the paradox that is involved in simultaneously respecting the walls that keep us safe and allowing in enough of what is new and changing so that our institutions remain alive and healthy." - Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

An issue the older American generations have today is their complete dismay of socialist theory. The hypothesis for a centrally planned co-operative based society has taken place—and it failed miserably. So miserably that an entire generation of Americans fear, and lash out at the slightest notion of a socialism. Can you really cast blame upon a person who fears risking their current standard of living on yet another hunch forked from the same ideas that breed the unimaginable horrors of the USSR? Thankfully, the Red Scare placed Marxists in a state of intense intellectual scrutiny for the last half century; as a result, today's interest in socialism, for better or worse, is fundamentally different from the movements of the past.

The leadership I fear most is an apathetic guide lacking too, in patience. As far as I can tell, we all act like Icarus. Socialists are foaming out the mouth with ideas of paradise, where as capitalists prey upon the quantity of capital which can be derived. It is easy to marvel at the wonders of Capitalism, but it is a poor decision if we value the evolution of our culture. Likewise, promises of a better tomorrow seldom manifest their words into reality. As much I enjoy romanticizing the dawn of our next epoch, for the sake of our future, it is important we listen, study, and then speak to the globe's best Economists. If not, well, I find it ironic that an overheated economy is characterized by a sudden crash downward.

Proper wings require innovation, experimentation, and consideration of the highest rigor.

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