published: 28 Dec 2020
last edited: 3 Jun 2021
This section is going to be a very high level conceptual look at Tension within Methods of Exchange (MoE), so we will not dive into details or examples. Although, the concepts presented here are foundational to understanding everything that we are going to discuss in this work. You can then think of the rest of this book as showing you examples of the effects of this Tension in action.
I. What is a Method of Exchange?
What is a Method of Exchange? A method of exchange is a mutually agreed upon intermediary method or system used to facilitate the sale, purchase, or trade of goods or services between parties.
Here are some historical examples of Methods of Exchange:
- bartering and trading
- mediums of exchange (such as monetary systems)
Historically, bartering, trading, and gifting were the main Methods of Exchange in pre-monetary societies, so mostly prior to the previous 6,000 years or so while Humanity was mostly hunter-gatherers, or in what I will call the early tribal periods (12,000 – 6,000 years ago).
Once we get past that period of about 6,000 years ago after which monetary systems and debt were invented, we see the rapid proliferation of monetary systems with the other forms of exchange still present as needed, until we get into the relatively modern era of the last few hundred years.
Although, earlier Methods of Exchange are still present in the last few hundred years when dealing with more technologically primitive societies such as with many indigenous populations where money has not yet developed; or they are used contemporarily as ways to bypass the inherent limitations and issues found within monetary systems.
In every exchange there is always this Tension between benefit (self or tribe) and benefit (society) that each party has to deal with – that decision about what they want out of the deal, whether they will work for benefiting the self OR benefiting society at large. These two choices are typically mutually exclusive and will drive a society towards either competition or cooperation, respectively.
This Tension within Methods of Exchange manifests as competition which is what drives forward the exchanges. Let us look at a broad definition of competition so we have something to work with:
Competition – strive to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others who are trying to do the same
Before we continue, let us just recognize the antagonism inherent in this word’s definition which sets individuals and society against itself. This should start to raise some warning flags for us all as we start this long conversation.
With each and every exchange a person (tribe, organization, nation, etc) will be working against others in order to gain benefit, and they will have to make the choice on how they wish to act – how much benefit they will wish to gain (more, enough, less, etc) or how much they will benefit society (if at all). This will be guided by their individual values system or lack thereof, as well as what their society’s values and policies allow a party to get away with; and what their negotiating skill or power dynamics will allow them to take.
IV. Compassionless Value System
Methods of Exchange have a subtle yet powerful and compassionless value system visceral to it through the antagonism inherent to Competition which is:
“Benefit (no matter the cost to Humanity or to the Environment)“
The potential results of an exchange can be greatly exacerbated through this visceral compassionless value system of profit no matter the cost, therefore, how exchanges turn out is very dependent upon society’s values which will guide who their policies will empower and protect. Either they empower and protect the people and the environment (eco-humanism) or they will empower and protect businesses and the affluent (sociopathy). The proof of who their policies and values protect will be found clearly within their “socioeconomic pudding”.
When we combine the potential issues of Tension within Methods of Exchange, especially Monetary Systems, within a culture that lacks eco-humanistic values (such as the United States), then this creates an exchange environment ripe for a harmful form competition referred to as exploitation.
Let us take a look at a quick definition of exploitation:
Exploitation – to make use of meanly or unfairly for one’s own advantage
Another way we could talk about exploitation is: competitive fundamentalism – an extreme form of competitiveness which is willing to allow or cause harm in order to gain benefit.
Here are some examples of the general ways that exploitation might manifest within an exchange:
- having a silver tongue (or gift for barter and trade talking) enabling them to get better deals and for others to lose out (to take advantage of)
- having a better or more desirable good or service to trade and therefore more bargaining power (unequal power dynamics) and therefore they receive more compensation for their goods or services and the others receive less (to take advantage of)
- choosing to abuse their extra power, resources, or influence (unequal power dynamics) in order to gain more benefit (to take advantage of)
This potential for exploitation to occur within Methods of Exchange is powerfully present because, from the very start, they set us against each other (competition) in order to gain benefit for ourselves which, if not explicitly and constantly guarded against through culture and policy, will end up creating many societal ills. This visceral societal antagonism inherent to Methods of Exchange decreases social trust by increasing the dehumanization required in order to justify their choice to exploit others for increased benefit for oneself or one’s tribe (self, family, business, nation). This sets up an environment for a cascade of social ills which will be covered in the next major section.
VI. A Values Change will NOT Solve Our Problems
A. Positive Feedback Loop
Over time, the more resources a person accumulates through that process of competing and exploiting others, the more they are able to more effectively influence and control the systems (unequal power dynamics) which will allow them to more powerfully out compete or exploit others, putting all others at a significant disadvantage further exacerbating the harms of their competitive advantage. This will eventually create a psychological snowballing effect resulting in brain-damage through desensitizing them to the everyday task of dehumanization others (sociopathy) in order to be able to freely exploit them for benefit which eventually leads psychopathy as the levels of inequality, exploitation, and luxury amasses.
This problem is especially egregious in today’s world when we have millionaires and billionaires who can buy politicians, governments, and laws which benefit them (unequal power dynamics) while exploiting and murdering humans and the environment for fun and profit all because they have the money and power to do so (sociopathy), while their self-inflicted sociopathic brain-damage removes any dissonant barriers to do so.
In a country that protects businesses and affluent such as the United States there is rampant exploitation not only within the country (domestically) but also extending out to exploiting those countries who are at a socioeconomic disadvantage (unequal power dynamics) such as the countries in the Global such as South Africa, and Central and South America.
In other countries which have stronger eco-humanistic values such as the various Nordic countries (Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden) there are higher levels of equality and environmental protection, and therefore significantly less exploitation there locally, although they still work with and support the extreme levels of global exploitation that the United States inflicts (imperialism, coups, sanctions) because they also benefit from it (sociopathy on a national policy level).
B. Requires Eternal Policy Vigilance
The people and policy makers must be eternally vigilant to protect Humanity and the Natural World from the ever present Tension within Methods of Exchange which not only rewards exploitation and sociopathy, but also reinforces it, if not requires it just for survival.
We may be able to delay the onset of, or to reduce the effects of those problems with:
- a values change (which is what I propose in Part I – Philosophical Foundations @ Interstellar New Deal)
- and/or policy changes (which is what I propose in Part II – Global Domestic Policies @ Interstellar New Deal)
… but that is about it. We can only just delay the inevitable return of its harm because we cannot banish Tension from Methods of Exchange, because it is an inherent part of the system which is powerfully rewarded. It will always be there waiting and lurking for the moment of societal values or policy weakness to claim its triumphant return. It is not IF those issues (exploitation) return, but WHEN.
With competition having people work for their own benefit to the disadvantage of others, which can then be exacerbated by sociopathic exploitation, then the natural result of Tension within Methods of Exchange will be high levels of Inequality.
Is inequality inevitable? Well, we can just look at the world today and see that there is essentially no modern society in existence without significant levels of inequality. If you would like a little more than that globally prescient anecdote then consider this article which shows mathematically that levels of inequality are a forgone conclusion within Methods of Exchange:
In later sections we will go over the plethora of harms caused by inequality and concentrations of wealth in a small minority.
VIII. One Final Question
I will give you one final question to ponder before we move on to the next section:
“How can we create a world based on cooperation and peace between Humanity and the Environment when then core driver of Methods of Exchange is based on Competition which powerfully rewards the exploitation of Humanity and the Natural World?“