35. The power of human cooperation


We, authors, assume that such a common new belief can easily be found because we all have in common that we are human beings, with the same origin story and the same desire for happiness. We ought to share a belief in the power of humanity, based on the power of names for the things, the power of consulting each other, the power of democracy. The free market economy is slowly globalizing and will hopefully free more and more people. This process will progress more smoothly with the presenting of a story that, in the end, will have the power to replace old, restrictive religious views.

The idea that we will try to offer here, may be seen as an advanced form of the utilitarism of Jeremy Beckham and John Stuart Mill – based on their maxim the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people – advanced by means of the progress of the sciences and humanities in our free market society.

As for the greed characterizing today’s free market society, is that also good as a propelling mechanism, furthering the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people? For our actual neo-liberal market economy, the goodness of greed (introduced by the 1987 movie Wall Street) was propagated as a leading principle by Ayn Rand in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966). After the worldwide collapse of the financial system, Rand’s disciple Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve System (FED), declared "It is not that humans have become any more greedy than in generations past. It is that the avenues to express greed had grown so enormously" and he suggested that financial markets need to be better regulated.[1]

We already defined human nature as a ‘three-stage rocket’ propelled by (1) selfishness, (2) group sentiment and (3) our inclination to harmony. We emphasized that all three inclinations are still active in each of us, dependent from the circumstances. We stressed that the third inclination (to harmony) has always been strong as a result of natural selection, serving survival in harsh environments. Tendency to harmony is good.

Our authors’ vision about the role of greed is that when humans miss a common basic story, this negatively affects our tendency to feel common responsibility (stages 2 and 3 of the rocket). Thus, everybody regresses to the first-stage drive of human nature: selfishness – which implies greed. But for human happiness we need the third-stage drive: striving for harmony.

The fading away of the old Christian basic story that used to define our humanity made consumers feel free. But the omission of our philosophers in seeing the resulting gap and in providing us with a new and better basic story made many people selfish, unconcerned and socially unresponsive. The lack of a beacon in the form of a common Story tended to make parents more hedonistic and less responsible, without setting adequate limits for their children and without setting an example in keeping harmony. Whole generations of youngsters are now growing up without a basic story that might give meaning and sense to their life, and without involvement in the common good. Today, we reap the bitter fruits of living decennia without an effective basic story.

We can overcome this oppressing situation by calling attention for a new basic story, that is in fact waiting to be picked up. How to spread the word: that is our challenge for now. With this book we want to promote not just a motivating universal belief in our common future: we also want to promote the promoting of it.

[1] presenting the Federal Reserve’s Monetary Policy Report in July, 2002

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