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Economics and Human Nature

Our theory of economics is predicated on the assumption that people and wants grossly outnumber opportunities and resources in our society. This is why competition is the basis for our economic system. Biology is as much a testimony to this fact, in the Darwinian interpretation, as the social reality is which denies people jobs and education on the basis of competitor’s performance.

The competitive theory of economics is based upon the ratio of goods to wants. The competitive theory of evolution is based upon our observation of the disproportionate reproductive resources claimed by the fittest members of a species. One of these theories has scientific evidence in support of it. How can we demonstrate the falsity of the competitive theory of economics without overcoming the facts on the ground that wants exceed goods? We must arrange for a new situation in which the wants do not exceed the goods. This set of facts will be more consistent with a new theory of economics and will not require competition. This organization will allow for the deconstruction of the competitive theory of human nature. Without a change in the structure of the market and the social order, how can the same facts (wants>goods) give rise to a new set of interpretations about social and economic reality (that human nature is actually cooperative)?

It is naive to think that we can think up an alternative theory of human and economic nature without a subject matter to work with, an empirical reality to examine, and a group of people who enact and experiment by which we learn. Initial conjectures, even of an enlightened and inspired nature, can only carry us so far. New food is needed for thought. New experience is needed for reflection. A constant stream of empirical data informs, refines, and alters working theories. Understanding the application of theory, both in terms of individual growth and social progress, increases manifold when study and service are intermingled concurrently. There, in the field of service, knowledge is tested, questions arise out of practice, and new levels of understanding are achieved.

What structures can you think of which demonstrate a distribution of resources and needs that allows the corroboration of the cooperative theory of human nature?

1 reply on “Economics and Human Nature”

Your first sentence starts “Our theory of economics…” Who is “Our?” Is that you personally, the Baha’i writings, or economist and business people. I ask because I have never heard anyone assert “assumption that people and wants grossly outnumber opportunities and resources in our society.” That does determine that “competition is the basis for our economic system.” We have competition because we have choice… choice to start companies, choice to go to one school or another or one restaurant or another. The moment there is choice it is automatic that there is some form of competition. That in no way means there isn’t or can’t be cooperation. Competition and cooperation are often presented as a mutually exclusive dichotomy. It is a false dichotomy.

There is no quote or reference in the Baha’i writings that assert that there will not be competition or that competition is inherently unhealthy. Of course, how competition is carried out is what determines whether it is healthy or not. When academics give only “A’s” to every student, when every university will admit every student regardless of grades of money, then we may achieve a non-competitive world. But, that will not happen.

If you are to focus on eliminating competition you must, necessarily, focus on eliminating choice. Only one choice of a university, one restaurant, car, clothing store, etc. That is fruitless pursuit. It is more productive to focus on the expansion of forms of cooperation. But, you must first recognize the many existing forms of cooperation that exists, for example, within industries, among universities, among college students, etc.

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