Capitalism itself fundamentally emerges from the simple elements of individual agents participating in trade. As soon as intangible concepts like “money”, “interest” and “profit” are incorporated into the picture, economic growth for participating parties becomes decoupled from the real availability of resources, usually at an accelerated rate. With this basic history, many of us find ourselves in the present, profit-maximizing environment of capitalism-as-usual. For a counter-example of how modern finance has driven the unprecedented “progress” of the past century in the West, consider how economies operating under strict Sharia Law might display slower signs of relative growth when participating banks, companies and individuals are unable to charge or benefit from “riba”, or, profitable rates of interest. In essence, capitalism-as-usual in the developed world will not go away any time soon, nor is such a thing even possible. What capitalism-as-usual needs is not a completely dismantling overhaul (although, how awesome could that be?) but rather, a sustainability caretaker. Thus far, humans have not been successful in nurturing an economically, environmentally, culturally healthy form of capitalism. Capitalism emerged and arose by our very doing, and today we live amidst a culture of capitalists who accept the detrimental, adverse effects of capital flow on Western society, the global citizenry and planetary life as a whole.
Nevertheless, capitalism-as-usual is the economic environment in which we are all existing, and unfortunately this environment creates abundant wealth for only a very few, or: wealth inequality. And though we are all currently trapped inside this environment of inequality, it doesn’t have to be this way. So is there a means to coax out fairness from an innately unfair system? Of course, but the work requires humility, empathy and a sense of responsibility to do that which is good for the whole and the self as opposed to only good for the self. The presence of the billionaire class appears to make equitability a seemingly impossible goal, and yet, there is nothing hopeless about it because the harms of greed can actually be quelled through collective human initiative and financial education.
If the environmental conditions include greed, de-/unregulated capitalism, and innocent phools being phished, then changing the environment can be theoretically accomplished through pointed, determined, financial education. When the next generation or a significant proportion of a population gets smarter, acquires more and more useful knowledge, the environment changes in a responsive, commensurate capacity and new behaviors will emerge to adapt to it. Just as we all ought to infuse our economic lives with antifragility in order to protect against that which emerges from the unknowable future, so should we also cultivate our present faculties to accommodate adaptation to those things which constantly emerge anew.
The simple act of paying attention to the relevant details significantly improves the financial literacy of practitioners, as well as their overall intelligence. Michael S. A. Graziano‘s attention schema theory plainly lays out the strong interconnectedness between paying attention/exercising awareness and the correlated degree of consciousness that is present in decision-making. Improving attention translates to improving consciousness which tends to generate improved intelligence.
Though it may seem obvious to try and simplify the complexity of the economic system so that financial knowledge may be attained by the masses, we must take care to guard against “simpletism”, which only appears to be helpful, but is really a precursor for delusion. Strong financial foundations need to be laid while children suffer little-to-no consequences for their financial behavior. Upon this foundational education may a person’s adult financial behavior be fortified against those who would exploit or manipulate it. Only through this fortification (financial literacy) may the opportunity for a person’s financial freedom emerge. And from this freedom will emerge a new generation of consumers who consume with intention, with the mindfulness that even though we’re trapped inside an economic system that seems determined to destroy life as we know it, we are each burned by the responsibility to be good stewards of the resources of our planet so that we may ensure that our resources are sustained and available to all and for all of our future’s history.
A pipe dream?
Maybe not. LOPSIII commerce is one such alternative to capitalism-as-usual that enables the emergence of a more sustainable economy. Obviously, capitalism-as-usual creates an environment in which we all believe that rich people are smart and poor people are dumb. But what happens when a new system emerges from these conditions that creates a large population of people who have more money than they actually need to provide for themselves? And what if these people do their part to ensure that their money spreads as it grows? What happens then? Hopefully, we will all get a chance to see.