To make capitalism work: change the utility function (an extract from Waterford)

I thought I would publish some extracts from Waterford. Not the grizzly gory bits but the serious stuff.  Here is a description of how the people’s utility function changed so that they could still run on capitalism but without it doing the same damage as before.

From Chapter 4, Manxy’s Peace, p70.

What was it, then, that gave people purpose, deprived as they were of the need to seek celebrity, status or wealth? That purpose was the well-being of society and of the natural world; the purpose was this: the reduction of suffering of all creatures, human or non-human; to help those that randomness had made less fortunate; to celebrate in common the wonder of creation; to restore lost worlds and species; to preserve all that was beautiful or ugly, all that was fragrant or that stank, all that had life; to relish every smell or sensation that nature provided; to resist mediocrity and selfish gain; to take from the land gently; to give, to be kind; to love. Most of all, to engage in many and varied acts of kindness.

J. N. Stone categorised seven pursuits which took up most of our lives.

The greatest was the pursuit of truth: reading, conversing, attending school, researching alone or in groups, exploring, investigating and challenging assumptions. We increased our understanding of the mechanics of the universe, including the natural world and the minds of men and women and their society.

Next came the pursuit of justice. This meant to prevent the suffering of animals, birds, insects and humans – of anything living. The route to justice was kindness. We learnt to make acts of kindness and, since we understood the connection between things, we were sure that our acts of kindness actually led to justice.

To pursue justice, we had to learn the skills of justice: life-long study of wisdom and compassion. We also needed abilities in communication, mediation, meditation, negotiation and clear thinking, as well as medicinal and veterinary expertise, learning how to preserve and restore habitats, and duller activities such as programming computers or driving the few vehicles which still required a human touch, or manufacturing weaponry. All this was required only to pursue justice effectively.

Fourth came beauty. Discovering and appreciating the world’s beauty was a slowly acquired art, not to mention the creation of more beauty for all our senses, in music, art, theatre, sculpture, food and drink, alone or in groups. There were some with a crude or stunted appreciation of beauty – some liked gaudy, clashing colours; others forgot about colour completely, while some did not treasure harmony. It would often be those previously trained in architecture who still felt that beauty was an extension of their own brilliance, and they would need many years of quiet reflection and humbling before they began to create objects which met the very high standards of our culture.

At this point in J. N. Stone’s speech at the Royal Society of Compassion in England, someone interrupted:

‘All right for you, mate. What about the diggers? What about the pickers?’

‘Yeah,’ said another. ‘Call a fifty-hour week justice?’

‘No bloody time for justice in Hartlepool,’ said a third.

Stone blushed and stammered. ‘Oh … you don’t realise how lucky you are.’

Amid whistles, Stone continued his lecture.

The fifth discipline was physical health. We would take vigorous exercise and, occasionally, competitive sports (taking manly pleasure in outwitting our sparring partners, but always remembering that it was only a game). Usually exercise was built into one of the other pursuits, not as an art form for its own sake. This saved precious energy.

The sixth pursuit was love. Little needs to be said of this, except that as people became more and more healthy and their cheeks were flushed with the meaningfulness of life, the choice of mate became more difficult as there were simply so many beautiful people! This meant that more time was needed for love – to taste and savour the cornucopia of sensual variety as well as to learn the arts of seduction.

A heckler whistled lusciously.

Finally came the passing of these skills of living to our children. We maintain our wholesome culture by devotedly schooling our children. Schooling has become more varied than in earlier times, since parents have more time and suffer less from the stress that distanced them from those they loved or should love. Sometimes children learn at home, sometimes in classes, like in the schools of long-gone generations. Sometimes they travel long distances and meet children from other countries, embarking on adventures lasting several weeks or months in wild and uninhabited terrains and places.

It was discovered that children were as creative as adults, and in many areas of learning it was hard to tell who was teacher and who was pupil. It was as if learning was an effort in common, from which all benefited by an increase in knowledge, understanding, skills and love.

The purposes, then, were old-fashioned: truth, justice, beauty, love and good health, and these were sustained through acts of kindness, learning and teaching. The sense of gain which had previously been obtained from wealth and social advancement was now won by seeing the results of one’s own labours – the dawning of understanding, a forest restored, the thankfulness of strangers and the joy of a child’s discovery. By the good fortune of the laws of physics and the fine work of the technologists, the pursuit of these purposes could be done with rather limited use of energy and encroachment on the space of other species.

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