Cactus Club November 1998

8 November 1998...........response to October 14/25 and comments

With respect to Al Lowi's Oct. 14 contribution, I would say that if one considers history, the assertion that we are evolving toward autocracy appears correct. I would add, however, that my fear is that this evolutionary direction is asymptotic -- that is, that we will never actually get there. For as Mr. Lowi himself points out, politics will exist "as long as there is human gullibility, cunning, hypocrisy and fantasy" -- that is to say, for as long as there are humans! Mr. Lowi's statement that "politics will remain a burden on social evolution at least to the extent the emotions of the gullible can be exploited by clever manipulators," would seem to support my reasoning (at least to my cynical mind). I believe it to be part of the human condition that men prefer that others take on their responsibilities, that politics tends to gladly fulfill this function, and that so long as a nation can be as wealthy as ours while its citizens still happily surrender their liberties one after another, further evolution may be stymied.

As to the excerpt from Spencer MacCallum's "The Art of Community," and Mr. MacCallum's later input, Mr. MacCallum managed to address in his latter contribution every single point about the earlier excerpt I intended to address, and in exactly the way I'd intended to address it! Two points that I feel bear repeating: first, that regardless how one defines "community," humans do indeed naturally form cooperative associations; and second, that when considering how common property ought to be administered, it's important to keep in mind that the state is not a necessary part of such administration.

And finally, as to comments about what we do here (upon the happy occasion of our first anniversary), I would only suggest that perhaps we designate one book from the reading list to be the main resource for each given month. This is not to suggest we should limit our discussion to each month's book, but to give us a potential "anchor" to better focus our discussions.

I look forward to Year 2.(JV)

10 November 1998.............Reciprocity and Socionomics

Comment: The following essay by Alvin Lowi expresses some fundamental ideas about socionomics and led to our new Project 14. Please investigate this Project and submit your comments and suggestions regarding it to the Program Director. Visitors to our website and members of our Sonoran Society are welcome to participate. Also, select guest input will be solicited. Please send your input to Inputs will be posted at our First Postulate of Socionomics webpage.

David Ferguson, Director of The Tucson Center for Socionomics Research ("Your Feedback," , 11/2/98), proposed what I would call a "First Postulate of Socionomics." In response to his query, I suggested to him that the phrase "and vice versa" be tacked on to the end of his statement to read as follows:

"Spontaneous social order (civil society) is the basis for interpersonal development and social harmony, and vice versa."

He responded to my suggestion with the question whether this addition was meant to imply that "interpersonal development and social harmony may be prerequisites for spontaneous social order." Then he commented "That's an interesting variation" ("Response," 11/3/98).

However, I wasn't thinking so much of prerequisites as of complements, although in a sense he is correct. Nature seems to ordain that a certain kind of behavior is prerequisite for a certain kind of result, and the kind of result dictates the appropriate kind of behavior. It is axiomatic that means must be suited to the ends sought and the ends sought determine what means are appropriate. But the notion of prerequisites leaves unsettled the question as to how "suitability" and "appropriateness" shall be determined. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg, and who will decide the question?

The idea of prerequisites in connection with society is an uncomfortable one because it tends to inspire arrogance if only out of frustration. Such prerequisites account for Indian wars and immigration barriers. Moral philosophers tend to think that moral man is a prerequisite for a moral society. If only people would live up to the philosopher's ideals, we could at least live in peace. Until then, they are satisfied that man is doomed and it serves him right. This is how the moral philosopher maintains his sanity. Political philosophers are impatient moral philosophers. They think they can create a moral society (set the world to right) by imposing their laws on people by force. The pragmatic ones believe that obedience to such law can at least make men benign. The dogmatic ones are determined to make man moral. Either way, law is considered a prerequisite to order. Such paternalistic schools of thought have held sway since time immemorial through the instruments of church and state even though the test of time has discredited them as evidenced by the violence, paralysis, misery, despair, stagnation and degradation that always seems to follow in their wake.

An alternative way of apprehending the relationship between man and society is in terms of reciprocities. This approach may be unconventional, but it seems to lead more directly to an understanding of the nature of the essential harmony between the individual person and a community of persons, which assures man a social future. More specifically, what I mean is that the development of appropriate interpersonal traits for social harmony is RECIPROCAL with the development of spontaneous social order. In my view, individuals civilize themselves in order to benefit from civilization as that phenomenon evolves from the civilized behavior of those who already know how to behave to realize the benefits of civilized society for themselves. Accordingly, the personal and the social are inseparable and symbiotic.

But what kind of behavior is it that equips people to live socially? It seems very simple and straightforward to me but it is apparently difficult to practice for some people. The behavior I find most fundamental to civil society is tolerance (do nothing hurtful) and reciprocity (do something helpful in exchange for something helpful in return) toward the alien and anonymous as well as the familiar "others." How did some already know such behavior was profitable? This is an intriguing question of human evolution and must be considered intimate with the survival of the species. For instance, how do the genes predispose humans to civility, if they do as suggested by Matt Ridley ("The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation," Viking Press, 1995)?

Notice that the "how" in the above question makes it an operational one demanding instruction as to how to look at the phenomenon referred to. When we have supplied those instructions, we will have a functional hypothesis for scientific inquiry or research without which there is no hope for a science of society as "socionomics" aspires to become. However, for present purposes, we might just say that individuals rise to the occasion. Rarely do they inflict injury on others while they participate in voluntary interactions with their fellows with regularity. And they may become quite proficient at the latter as evidenced by the social progress that has been made. Each person progresses together with others. Each reciprocates with each while all find a growing arena within which to reciprocate.

Please note that I have used the idea of "reciprocity" in two different senses. Initially, I referred to the general growth of socially harmonious traits in individuals as reciprocal with the growth of spontaneous social order or civilization. Subsequently, I characterized the socially harmonious behavior of individuals (interpersonal relations) as being in part reciprocal. The latter idea of reciprocity was a trademark explanation of Spencer Heath's as to how individuals produce social harmony (see his "Citadel, Market and Altar," Heather Foundation or Journal of Socionomics, No. 2 ). In the broader sense of the term as I used it initially, I am trying to explain what Heath referred to as social transcendence, otherwise known as social evolution.

In any case, civilization is not jump-started in the academy or church and certainly not by the emperor or the legislature. It evolves step by step as people learn for themselves how to advance their individual lives, i.e., become more competent in dealing harmoniously with their social environment. This is how I relate human nature (self-interest) with self-government with social harmony with spontaneous social order and back again. Accordingly, the business of civilization is a cyclic, reciprocal process. Shall we say evolutionary? Of course, this begs the question as to how people learn such matters. That they do is obvious. Immersion in the social environment seems essential to the process, which suggests a similarity with learning language, net surfing and the like. Some mathematically-inclined thinkers have characterized the natural social phenomenon as a resonant, complex system in dynamic equilibrium oscillating about an ascendent, asymptotic path or ever expanding and elaborating pattern. A cyberneticist would recognize that such a system containing incentives for the elements to respond to each other with ever increasing energy is subject to a multiplicity of positive feedback loops. Furthermore, they would point out that such positive feedback produces divergence (expansion or ascendency) in the total activity within a dynamic system. On that account, there could be no such thing as a static equilibrium for such a system. It can be considered stable only in the sense that its pulsating behavior expands or evolves over time generally along an ascending path or expanding pattern with no definite limit or ultimate destination. Another cybernetic insight is that the system is bound to pulsate because it is driven by the multitudinous spontaneous individuals comprising it who, acting at random with little inertia or drag, excite rapid oscillations of small amplitude. Nothing inside the system can bring about such phase locking or resonance as would produce boom and bust cycles. This paradigm is akin to the astrophysicists' expanding universe model. It is descriptive of spontaneous order.

Political regimentation of people invariably introduces disincentives for the kind of autonomous behavior that is initiative of positive feedback. Except by accident, such forceful regimentation introduces negative feedback. From a cybernetic viewpoint, negative feedback curbs the natural tendency of the system to diverge from its existing state notwithstanding pressures to change. Convergence to a lower level of activity is a more likely response to disturbances. Negative feedback produces static equilibrium at some lower level than would otherwise prevail with the energy possessed by the system at any given time. This condition is known as the status quo, which is so familiar in politically-dominated environments. Such stability is highly prized by engineers as a property of thermostats and automobile cruise controls. Political regimes strive to achieve such stability in human society as if it was a similar mechanism, just so much clockworks. But a humane or naturally evolving society is not a mechanical contrivance. Static equilibrium is alien to its structure and function. So whenever such alien influences invade it, as by forceful regimentation of individual behavior, wild pulsations are as likely as stagnation.

As I see it, the evolutionary paradigm of socionomics IS this possibly reciprocal relationship between social and individual development. This is a subject that deserves substantial elaboration and investigation. For example, it is comparatively easy to show that a reciprocal relationship exists connecting the oppressive welfare state with uncivilized behavior. To show the converse, which is in the interest of socionomists and is of the very nature of socionomic research, might be a more challenging endeavor because cases of civilized behavior and elements of spontaneous order are not newsworthy nowadays. Relevant observations will take considerably more care and digging.

In restating Ferguson's hypothesis, I hoped to show how socionomics can get down to business with scientific method. Reciprocity can be tested by observation. That is how we will find out if we are "right."(AL)

17 November 1998............extraterrestrial property rights

Please read " A Little Piece of Heaven" by Kenneth Silber. Questions: Will space-based commercial development be our first opportunity to scientifically test the First Postulate of Socionomics?-- (See Project 14)-- What is the relationship between the concepts of property and spontaneous social order aka civil society? Isn't the phrase "public property" an oxymoron? How about "public interest"? (PD)

20 November 1998..............response to 17 November 1998

Your Cactus Club posting of November 17 was most provocative. I hope the following observations will be helpful in illuminating the possibilities for developing socionomics as a science.

If the postulate as stated cannot be tested scientifically in the terrestrial here-and-now where real people live together, it is not a worthy hypothesis for a science of society. At the end of my essay proposing such a postulate, I suggested a test of the related reciprocity idea. I'm sure we can come up with a multitude of such tests if we put our inquiring minds to the task.

Appropriate research topics inspired by the postulate are easy to identify. Its the "experiment" design that is the hard part. Harder yet is the execution of the work consistent with scientific method. This is because the application of such discipline to making observations of social phenomena is unfamiliar. Social phenomena are ubiquitous although one might easily overlook this fact if he is only cognizant of the works of historians and journalists whose concentration is primarily on poignancy and conflict. We don't have to contrive spectacular extra-terrestrial experiments to test our theories. Chances are that our most significant data is not of the newsworthy variety of information.

It seems to me that taking the research out to some asteroid in the wake of a robotic spacecraft merely compounds the difficulty because the subjects of the research remain here. By removing the venue beyond the tread of biological humanity, Mr. Silber has created a rhetorical exercise over an astronautical challenge. But notice that the social issues he raises remain here on earth where the people are. The only "property" involved in his exercise is of the intellectual variety. The other kinds mentioned are purely hypothetical at this point.

But, of course, this is the nature of intellectual property. There would be no other kinds of property without antecedent ideas regarding possible new arrangements of things in nature whether here or there. Gene Roddenberry created a considerable estate right here on Earth with his Star Trek idea ("where no man has gone before"). Since ideas are the product of individual human beings, the situation Silber contrives is not a trivial one and maybe the nature of "property" will not be resolved before property in ideas is fully understood and appreciated. This was Andrew Galambos' dedication (THE THEORY AND PROTECTION OF PRIMARY PROPERTY, Free Enterprise Institute Course V-201). Thomas Kuhn's work (THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS) is also concerned with this social phenomenon.

It seems to me Mr. Silber struggles unsuccessfully in his attempt to extrapolate the social concept of property to an extraterrestrial setting. I attribute his frustration to his devotion to classical libertarianism which holds that rights are a grant of privilege to individuals (private entities) from some higher authority which, it is supposed, vouchsafes them with its presumed omnipotence. It is precisely from such fanciful appeals to a an imaginary higher authority that we get statecraft and real live tyranny, advocacy of limited "government" to the contrary notwithstanding.

The libertarian belief in limited government is unrealistic inasmuch as the "property" to be "protected" is not a legal fiction but is actually a natural social phenomenon that can only be corrupted by such "higher authority" regardless of all good intentions. If there is any such thing as "rights" as distinguished from privileges or entitlements, they are perfected and exercised by individual humans behaving "socially" irrespective of the existence of any courts and armed constabularies. "Rights" develop out of a consensus among equals. Enforceability by a higher authority has nothing to do with forming such a consensus. Then, to give such a consensus a name like "public interest" is to create the illusion of a higher authority and we are off to the collectivist races.

What we perceive as "property" in the social sense is an institution that derives from the voluntary and customary interactions between human individuals. Such interactions occur spontaneously in the presence of other individuals who can communicate with each other. We are inclined to call this sort of congregation a "community" although MacCallum has proposed a refinement to this nomenclature (see his October 25, 1998, Cactus Club posting). In any case, individuals put forth claims to what they consider proper to themselves. Then they appeal to their neighbors for recognition and respect. Their neighbors generally oblige because they, too, seek similar recognition and respect. This kind of reciprocity I call tolerance. The institution of property in society originates in this tolerance phenomenon.

Spencer Heath observed that such claims become socially operationalized in contracts (see his CITADEL, MARKET AND ALTAR). He referred to property as simply the subject matter of contracts. As Heath would have it, whatever cannot be expressed in contractual terms is not property. If ownership is ambiguous, the would-be property remains undefined and unrecognizable to others. There can be no contracts under these conditions and without contracts, there can be no voluntary exchange, another kind of reciprocity. Claimants must resolve all such ambiguities with their peers to be able to engage in contractual living, the hallmark of spontaneously civil society. A threat of violence would seem to be irrelevant to the reconciliation of such ambiguities. Meditation and psychoanalysis would seem to be the more appropriate kind of measures.

Contracts are agreements between people. The "agreement" here refers to a harmonious state of mind and emotional commitment between individuals--"a meeting of the minds," so to speak. Only individual humans manifest this property because it is a biological fact that only they have minds. Moreover, they have exclusive use of their minds to use or not, but they cannot loan them out or give them away. Thus, there can be no such thing as "public property" inasmuch as the public has no mind as such.

What is generally referred to as "public property" is actually ex-property (literally, expropriated private property). Thus, "public property" is indeed an oxymoron (contradiction in terms). Moreover, the term "private property" is a redundant expression inasmuch as property is private else it is not property. (AL)

24 November 1998.................Nature The Great Collectivist

Reflecting on your and Al's thoughts on reciprocity brought to mind several paragraphs in Spencer Heath's CITADEL, MARKET AND ALTAR, pages 193-194, where Heath makes explicit the dynamic reciprocity between the individual members of society and the social environment in which they "live and move and have their being." [Who am I quoting in that phrase? Can't think for the life of me.] The passage (to which I've given a title) is as follows:

Spencer Heath

Physical science teaches that all nature consists of one universal energy and that this energy is organized from primary and elementary units or particles called quanta, photons, electrons, etc. These are the prime individuals, the fundamental units of nature, by the multiplication and in the combinations of which are organized all the actions and events, all the substances and all the structures and manifestations of energy that occur and thus are said to exist.

This casts nature in her role as the Great Collectivist. She brings her ultimate quanta together in myriad forms and her children are the atoms, the molecules, the cells, the structured plants and animals, the societies of men, the stars and the systems of stars. In all these forms of "action" and in us, nature organizes her ultimate elements in all the terror and in all the creative beauty we behold. This is the creative collectivism in which the cosmos evolves.

Shall we say, then, that nature has regard for the mass and not for the individual?--for the whole and not for the part?--that she destroys the unit that the structure may grow? Rather, we may perceive at every stage that only through combinations of their lesser units do individuals come into being, and in this being they are not lost; their natures are fulfilled. Nature works always away from undifferentiated mass towards higher organic unities of the individualized components. It is the nature of individuals to combine and fulfill themselves always in the growth and being of a higher organic unity. Being so created makes them acceptable in this higher membership. In this they are not lost, but their own nature is realized and self-found. Thus alone can they be "saved" from their own disintegration. For it is the law of each individual being that it shall attain such harmony of self-hood, such integrity of life and being, as qualifies it for the associative relationships that constitute a higher order of existence. This is the true collectivism.

Trace this law of nature in the life of man. As his nature grows in balance and beauty, in the fullness and integrity of his own being, does he not become more acceptable for associative relationships, for social integration into a society composed of him and his fellow men? And in this higher, this more complex mode of existence, this community life, does not the social environment and the freedom it brings condition him for still higher growth and realization of self in his individual being? Out of his own beauty and perfections, however unconsciously, man builds his social world, and here he is far more than requited for his individual gifts in that higher freedom and abundance that only the providence of social organization and exchange can bestow. In the Great Society man builds his heaven, for it is the function of the social organization to serve and minister him into the perfection of his individual life.

* Excerpted from Spencer Heath, Citadel, Market and Altar. Baltimore: The Science of Society Foundation 1963, pages 193-194. Distributed by the Heather Foundation, Box 180,Tonopah NV 89049. (SM)

27 November 1998...............response to 11 November 1998

JV says:
I believe it to be part of the human condition that men prefer that others take on their responsibilities, that politics tends to gladly fulfill this function, and that so long as a nation can be as wealthy as ours while its citizens still happily surrender their liberties one after another, further evolution may be stymied. (JV)

Something is missing here. On the surface, I can't fault JV's argument. So the younger generation seems to be going to the dogs. But, of course it has always seemed so. Yet, they always seem to be doing better than their parents (with the possible exception of the offspring of the welfare culture). How so? As he says, "a nation can be as wealthy as ours." It seems to me that social evolution is not so much stymied as merely handicapped.

I think the idea of "happily surrendering liberties" needs further examination. Nobody is born free. We all have to learn how to cope with our circumstances and our circumstances are no doubt more complex nowadays than ever before while political exploitation hasn't changed a bit. Perhaps we might consider the political abomination as like just one more of Mother Nature's bitchy vexations like AIDS. And like AIDS, it is a disease which seems avoidable with further human enlightenment. I guess that's what makes the persistence of political abuse so frustrating. But it is also what makes socionomics so promising.

Technology is and always was the liberating factor in civilization. Who has more freedom, a wage slave nowadays or a survivor of the war for independence? We give government too much credit, and the politicians are very grateful. This promiscuity has to stop! (AL)