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Social Equilibrium

Globalization has disrupted whatever level of social equilibrium had existed before. The appearance of the eventual equilibrium to be reached after the current global economic and military conflicts are resolved is not clear.

Human beings are a social creature based on a monogamous family structure, surrounded by the local community. This basic structure at the lowest level has apparently remained for as long as there have been human beings. Our closest genetic relatives, the chimpanzee and the bonobo have different structures for this basic community level. The chimpanzee group has an alpha male to dominate, often with the use of force and he can maintain a harem for offspring. The bonobo group has a dominant female for some decision making but conflicts within the group are resolved with non-violent touching or grooming and the infants are raised by the mother with help of others where the baby's father is nearly always unknown.

The recent book Guns Germs and Steel is a good overview of how the social structures of the mid-20th Century were reached.  As human communities grew in size, where conflicts were no longer between close acquaintances, some form of government was needed so the larger group had someone considered objective for such resolution. As groups became even larger, some behavior monitoring group becomes necessary, otherwise known as a sheriff or police.

As these small groups competed for local resources, physical combat became one method of establishing ownership, so violent warfare has been around for a very long time. This applies to both chimpanzees and to humans.

As the numbers of communities grew, another level in the social structure arose, that of the nation state. This provided a new level of management, to arbitrate between communities and to foster trade. At this point markets can develop, where farmers can supply their harvest to more people while businesses can supply goods and services to the wider needs of a more diverse group.

The businesses within each nation typically found their market bound by how far the goods could be transported intact. Certainly some international trade has existed a long time, like the Silk Road.
However businesses could obtain funds from only local banks as few international banks existed, so businesses used local labor or slaves, another practice that can be found throughout human history where subjugated people were sometimes forces into servitude. There were very few, very large companies, which were typically more of an extension of the European government that created them, like the Dutch East India Company and its competitor the English East India Company.

This was the previous state of social equilibrium. The competition between nations offered some checks on the behaviors of others, where if one nation became too powerful or arrogant, the nearby nations could unite to combat that excess. This can be seen in the various wars of the past few thousand years.

If one company became dominant, either its own hubris or eventually some competing company would cause its downfall.

The Bretton Woods System established in 1944 created an international financial system. The subsequent rise of multinational corporations have upset this earlier equilibrium. These executives can move their funds and their projects across international borders. The layers of government can be bought off to the detriment of their constituents.

The European financial community created the European Central Bank to manage a new international currency, the euro (1999). This was not done for the benefit of the citizens in Europe, it was to benefit the banks.

Unlike earlier times when widespread public demonstrations could effect social change, like defining a 40-hour work week, allowing women to vote, or instituting new legislation in response to the civil rights movement, or even terminating the unpopular war in Vietnam, this new international system lacks any checks on misbehaviors. The economic crash of 2008 is an obvious example of this where inappropriate financial speculation lead to huge unfunded liabilities. Greece is an example of a poor resolution where instead of getting rid of the odious debt, the citizens are being required to suffer to maintain the inappropriate payment to the banks responsible; many public demonstrations were unable to get a better, fairer resolution for the citizens. America is on the same track where low interest rates continue the flow of funds to the big banks (including those mainly responsible for the financial disaster) while the economy contracts, causing high levels of unemployment and under employment. The 1930s had instituted social reforms to prevent the elderly from being unable to afford their retirement (Social Security) and their health care (Medicare); now those programs are on the chopping block as corruption in the financial community needs more funds, to the detriment of most citizens (those retired as well as everyone else who is not wealthy and will eventually retire). Instead of expanding a single payer health care system like Medicare to all, the Health Care for America (2010) plan requires everyone to make payments to health insurance companies (or be subject to a fine), to ensure their profitability of those companies while no concern is shown for the actual health care of the population.

The many public demonstrations by millions of people around the world in 2002 and 2003 were unable to stop the unwarranted American invasion of Iraq, a disaster for millions in the Middle East with its resultant death, misery, and forced migrations affecting so many in Iraq and several adjacent countries.

The international financial structure truly benefits only those at the top of the hierarchy, where the rest will get whatever is allowed to 'trickle down.'

As a number of topics in this site mention, large social structures like international corporations and banks do not allow a level of accountability. The executives at the top, like most people who cannot see their victims, will act with little empathy for those affected by their decisions. This lack of empathy will no doubt lead to suffering for those affected, even if those making the decisions are consciously aware of those impacts.

With no apparent checks in the current social structure for inappropriate behavior at the international level, I cannot predict how the next state of social equilibrium will look. Right now in 2013, where the democracies in the large industrial countries are dominated by funding from the large corporations so change is unlikely to come from the elected representatives in those governments, it looks like austerity measures and continued economic contraction will persist as those at the top seek continued wealth, with much of it being stored in off shore accounts rather than being distributed to others in the country. This vision could be called a social collapse.

Humanity has been based on local accountability, where people can elect or overthrow their local political personnel. As governments grew in size, mechanisms were always required so people could maintain some method of control, even if only a recall procedure to get rid of someone outside of an election cycle. Recent election cycles in America have seen concerted attempts to prevent public demonstrations from effecting the conventions, to prevent public influence on the process. Recent disclosures of NSA tapping only confirm the democratic process is in deep trouble, where the citizens have no way of knowing how their personal information is being treated by their government.

Corporations typically lack any way to get rid of executives other than through a shareholder action for publicly held companies. Privately held companies might have to endure their bad management until the company either collapses or merges with another (when the various management teams are changed for the new entity, a process which typically requires some review of the personnel involved at various levels).

Unfortunately there is an inherent human trait to seek some conformance. Any political leader or corporate leader seeking reform will be confronted by opposition by his/her piers seeking the current situation (no matter how unfair to however many people) to continue to their personal benefit, as well as perhaps avoiding participation in getting some blame for that situation.

International entities have no real 'local' presence so the different population groups affected by their corporate policies have little recourse than enduring whatever misery those policies bring.

Humanity needs changes in the current social structures or else the trait of human nature to become immune to the suffering in those unseen will have severe consequences for the large majority of humanity.
created - June 2013
last change - 06/16/2013
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