Competition – currently a square peg in a round hole?
Friday, 17 December 2021
The modern thoughts around a viable society says that a free-market economy must underpin a democratic State. Underpinning this free-market concept is the ‘code’ of competition. Translated this means that people in business are driven to perfection when they are trying to outwit others occupying the same space. Is this the correct and sustainable paradigm? Does this ‘outwit’ mean out-moralise or is the intention an outcome at all costs no matter the harm caused along the way?
Many modern scribes say that the free-market approach to economy has its problems but nothing else works. Communism, where control is centralised in the State and no competition is allowed, has proven to be a complete disaster. I would suggest that neither of the two paradigms are the solution. The alternative is to be found in the Threefold social order concept where understanding the ‘false and misplaced’ modern concepts around competition play a key role in unlocking the code for a correct understanding.
Let’s take a look at what competition in the economic sphere leads to. One can take many examples, for example from car manufacturers to bakers, and the outcomes will be the same. The leading thoughts are something like this:
- Make a niche product and be number one or two in this piece of the market.
- Don’t share anything with others about how we think and what we do.
- Lock suppliers into technology and supply agreements.
- Automate as much as possible so that one has less people and fewer of the problems that they bring.
- Don’t worry about how and where from you get the raw materials so long as they are appropriate and on time.
- One expects ones’ competitors to be doing the same.
- There is no love lost between us.
- If we can take their customers, good for us.
Where does this lead economy?
Some would say that this is definitely going to lead to better products at a lower price – Viva competition and capitalism. But look at the leading thoughts carefully. We know that without human morality products produced under the concept of competition lead to environmental abuse. The evidence of this is obvious in global warming, plastic islands floating in the oceans, dying ecosystems, forest destruction and so on. These are direct consequences of the immorality that accompanies competition without limits. It seems to be clear that advancing the paradigm of competition in the Economy sphere has the consequence of nurturing burgeoning immorality and greed while the economy grows. The very foundation of all economic activity is, however, the material world of the Earth. Nothing can be produced without sourcing the material from the environment. And yet we are willing to destroy this very base, our environment, in the name of competition between producers to get this material, more cheaply than the next, at all costs. The capitalist gets money while those without, like religious leaders, artists, doctors, teachers, judges, police and the like get little and live with the consequences of those active nature destroyers driven by competition in the economy.
There is an alternative paradigm that takes the concept of competition out of the Economy sphere and places it in the Liberty sphere – we take the square peg out of the round hole and place the square peg in a square hole.
What is meant here?
We all want others to be moral. “If they move in this direction, I will follow” is a common stance. Morality is developed in home, school, and religious life. (We have become so bankrupt morally that few of us even value morality any longer. If we have money or capital, we can do as we please, is also now a common conceptual foundation for life.) If we were more sensitive to our own conscience we would value morality more and would have an inherent inner thirst to want to promote a healthy home life, a real foundational schooling system free from political and economic interference, and a religious life that would seek out the meaning of life and our conscious connection to our own conscience and morality. If competition were to be found in this realm, where morality and its source was sought – meaning that we work as free individuals in search of the Good and the True with ever more earnestness and commitment and search out others ahead of us in this path – we would find a burgeoning of ethics being applied in all three spheres of the social order. The economy would automatically start to be bound also by morality and not only greed and self-indulgence. (Rudolf Steiner said in this regard ‘Wherever I see something I must honour because it is superior to me, not only must I honour it, but I may also trust myself to develop everything within me that will make me similar to it.’)
Many people would agree that the above is idealistic and possible but that the economy would collapse without being tied to competition because there would be no drive to do things effectively and why would people want to work hard if they don’t get the material rewards associated?
Let’s test this out.
What we all really want from economy are things for our material needs. We want them available and at affordable prices. We also want them available to all people in society. We don’t want economy to be inefficient and funded by taxes. In other words, we want the products coming from the economy to be both relevant to our needs and efficiently produced. We want nature, the source of all economic activity, to be sustained and healthy. For this to happen we need economy permeated by morality and conscience.
How would this look?
Here are some pointers:
- State research, performed with morality, would identify goods and services required by area.
- Economic activities would be called upon to fill these needs, enough but not too much.
- These economic organisations would be privately owned and the capacity required driven by the objective material needs of the communities in these areas.
- There would be sharing of technology and learnings and even cross over of staff if two production/supply units were required to operate in one area.
- Their locations would be agreed so that the overall cost to the market was as low as possible and there might also be approved market arrangements between them if necessary.
- Prices would be set based on the real and openly objective costs to produce and remain producing efficiently.
- Where one plant was able to operate viably and the other not, the people managing the latter would be trained further, or better people, identified jointly by the Liberty and Economy spheres, would be called to play a role.
- These people would then try to operate the plant within reasonable constraints that would make the products available within the agreed costs and revenue structures and provide the products to the market to the right specifications and affordably to the majority.
- Moral people, a moral community, would want to achieve all this. The whole challenge to meet the criteria would be a moral one and not one of competition and hiding incompetence in false promises and poor products made by people working in abusive conditions while ruining the planet.
Surely the outcomes of the above paradigms and approach would be something like the following. People working in production would, carried by their love for morality, produce as best they could for others as this is what they themselves would expect when they purchase goods made by others. They would focus on relevance and efficiency in the economy process out of moral freedom because this endeavour is in itself what drives their own capacities to know what is moral in what they learn along the way. The fact that the Economy sphere is based on associative concepts and not competition would mean that competence in all economic senses would be spread much faster and much wider across the sphere and hence have incredible cost and environmentally favourable consequences. Waste of all sorts would be minimised including oversupply of capacity and products and the misallocation of human competence to areas in the economy that don’t need this.
Competition in the Economy sphere is like a square peg in a round hole. Here we need associative concepts in its place. ‘Competition’ in the Liberty sphere would produce so much benefit to the whole of humankind.
Do we have the insight to see this? Do we have the personal will to start this process?