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Related Words, Beliefs, Background for Choice #34

Worldview Theme #19A: Competitive Capitalism

Worldview Theme #48B: Liking Co-operation Based Communities

for a summary read these 5 entries in order: competition vs. co-operation, economic system--functions of , capitalism, commodification, exchange value,

\for a summary read these 5 entries in order:  cooperatives principles, cooperatives types of, centralized vs. decentralized,
subsidiarity, ecovillage


appropriate (or soft) technology--technology selected, designed and implemented with the special environ- mental, cultural, social and economic aspects of the community it is intended for in mind. It typically has little or no significant environmental impact and is well suited to an area since it makes use of what is relatively abundant--for example, labor in places where people need jobs. Typically it involves devices that are small, relatively simple, inexpensive, decentralized, and that can preserve meaningful experiences or work for people. In contrast high or hard technology typically has much greater environmental impact, tends to replace people with machines, and can involve more technological complexity, equipment capital outlay, etc. Example: Using lots of workers with hand tools to control unwanted brush and growth in a forest -- so that young trees can get more sun and grow better -- would be an appropriate technology solution; using one person flying over a forest in a helicopter spraying a chemical herbicide to kill unwanted growth would be a hard technology way of accomplishing the same thing.

authoritarianism and collectivism--are alike in that in both the individual gives up certain rights and aspirations and conforms to the beliefs, goals, and expectations of the larger whole (nation, political party, religious group, working group. etc.) that he or she is part of.  They typically differ though in the manner in which members submit to such authority: authoritarian institutions are undemocratic and affected individuals have no real choice, whereas many collectives operate with voluntary participation and leadership seeks consensus agreement of members.  

barter and barter economy—this is based on people simply trading goods and services without the added complication of money. Since no money is involved government levied taxes are avoided

bioregion -- a region sharing common geography, similar biological communities, and other climate, cultural and environmental factors that make it stand out as an organization unit for planning purposes. Note that parts of a given bioregion can be in different countries and that a single large country can contain many different bioregions.

capital -- an economics term referring to accumulated goods and resources (or their value) devoted to the production of other goods or set aside to produce income. Capital can take the form of money, raw materials, buildings, equipment, inventories, etc. While economists have long distinguished between “physical capital” and “human capital”, some have recently extended this scheme to include “natural capital”. see also capitalism

capitalism -- an economic system involving 1) private individual or corporate ownership of capital goods, 2) private rather than state control of investment , and 3) pricing, production and distribution of goods (for the most part) by agents or forces operating within the free market system. See laissez faire.

centralized vs. decentralized ways to govern, meet needs or provide services -- To draw this contrast, consider energy installations...Centralized energy installations are characterized by huge facilities for producing energy, require large capital investment, are owned by the government or large corporations, and depend on a complex distribution system to deliver energy to the point of end use. Examples include large 1000 megawatt electric power plants and big oil refineries. Contrast these with...Decentralized energy installations, characterized by small units for producing energy, owned by individuals, small businesses or communities, relatively little capital investment is required, and they are located where the demand for the energy is. Examples include rooftop solar collectors, and basement natural gas powered cogeneration units for producing electricity , space heat and hot water.

citizenship -- membership in a local, state, or national community that brings with it certain rights, privileges (voting, etc), and protection (as mandated by laws), and can involve meeting certain duties (pledging allegiance, paying taxes, etc).  Being a good citizen is commonly thought to involve working for the betterment of the community.

collective -- a typically democratic and egalitarian-minded  group of people, brought together by a common issue, interest, project or goal,  often after realizing that their political, social, or economic clout greatly increases after joining together.  Cooperatives represent a type of collective, one generally formed around some economic endeavor, with perceived economic benefit in mind.  

commodity--something, often merchandise, that has use or value; see also commodification

commodificationthe transformation of goods, services, information, ideas, nature--even public resources like water or seemingly private human body parts like a woman’s womb —into something that can be bought and sold like any commodity. 

common good, the--can be defined in various ways depending on one's perspective. Some define it narrowly as that which is good for every member of the community; others broaden the community here to include all human beings. While libertarians argue it is a meaningless concept, utilitarians equate it with "the greatest good for the greatest  number of individuals."  

communitas--intense feelings of social solidarity, community spirit, and joyful togetherness. 

community supported agriculture--people in a community join together to support a local farm to the benefit of both.  Ideally, consumers get affordable, locally grown, fresh, high quality and ecologically acceptable food, whereas farmers use this strong producer--consumer relationship to minimize their financial risk and the amount of food they produce that is wasted.  Farmers especially benefit in this latter regard when the consumer group funds a whole year's farming budget.  In doing this the group assumes much of the risk but also increases its stakeholder role--giving it greater input into farming and distribution practices.   

community vs. society--the sociological distinction between two social groups, most notably made by Ferdinand Tönnies in his 1887 book Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft.  According to Tönnies, the former group is built around the personal, family, and neighborhood relationships and feelings of togetherness that one expects in a place where people have direct, face to face contact.  In contrast, the latter group is one of self interest motivated individuals held together by formal regulation and legal framework. There relationships between people are more impersonal, there is less cohesion and less dependence on each other.  Tönnies saw the contrast embodied in his book's title when he looked first at traditional European peasant villages, then at large, modern, industrialized cities.   

competition vs. co-operation--the former involves two or more rivals in a contest where typically only one wins, profits or comes out ahead, the latter involves a mutually beneficial association where people help each other.    

cooperatives principles -- These were formulated in the 1840s by a co-operative of weavers in Rochdale, Lancashire, England: 1) voluntary and open membership; 2) democratic member control; 3) members economic participation; 4) autonomy and independence; 5) provide education, training, and information; 6) cooperate and work with other cooperatives; 7) concern for the community. In general behind co-operation are principles that promote decentralized societies and local control--see subsidiarity in this regard. 

cooperatives, types of--democratic, for profit co-operatives can generally be classed as worker or consumer co-ops. The former are worker owned, with workers investing when they start work; the latter are customer-owned businesses whose goal is to provide customers with low cost, high quality products and services. 

credit union--a member-owned co-operative association that accepts deposits from and loans money to its members.

democracy -- government by the people, typically controlled by majority vote of the people as a whole, as opposed to government controlled by a particular class, group, or individual.  Democracies can be direct--where citizens' votes directly make decisions--or representative--where citizens elect individuals to politically lead and represent them in a legislature with those representatives casting votes on their behalf.  Direct democracy is the type practiced in Athens, Greece nearly 2500 years ago.  It is perhaps better suited for governing smaller institutions (communes, workplaces, communities, cities)--although ballot issues decided in recent California referendum elections provide an example of its large scale application. Use of referendums also illustrates that representative democracies sometimes allow the people to directly decide certain matters.  A democratic government where a constitution guarantees individual rights and civil liberties, along with providing a legal framework, is known as a liberal democracy.

economics--a social science concerned with allocating resources to satisfy human needs and wants, and thus with the production, distribution and end uses of goods and services. It is important to understand that there are alternative ways this allocation might be made. 

economics, behavioral–challenges neoclassical economics based on appreciation of human nature and research involving "how actual people make financial decisions" as Barack Obama put it in 2009.  With economic crisis casting doubt on "markets know best," governments may increasingly turn to behavioral economists' ideas to restore prosperity. 

economics, neoclassical–is based on beliefs that 1) when it comes to allocating capital, free markets know best--thus government interference should be minimal; 2) rational individuals guided by self-interest create efficient markets.  

economic system-- functions of--generally refers to individuals and socioeconomic / political institutions within a society producing, distributing, and consuming goods and services, deciding questions of ownership, and allocating economic resources (and their costs and benefits).  These are handled differently in different systems (capitalist, socialist, etc.)  Specifically these functions include making decisions as to what goods/  services will be produced / offered, at what price and quantity, how production will occur and products distributed, managing the factors of production and associated problems, how services will be delivered, how benefits are distributed, how costs / burdens are shared,  etc.     

economic democracy--while conceptions of it vary, this generally refers to a socioeconomic system that does some or all of the following: 1) transfers economic decision making from the (corporate elite) few to the majority through worker management / ownership of productive enterprises, 2) generally promotes democratic local / regional control over corporate state central planning, 3) charges central government with levying taxes that allow social control of investment, which is carried out locally / regionally, and 4) while retaining the market system, abolishes private ownership of productive resources, and wage labor. With respect to the latter, in worker run enterprises there are no labor costs: workers are compensated by dividing up what is left after other costs have been subtracted from sales  revenues.  With 3) and 4) in this conception, such economic democracy looks like a form of socialism.

ecovillage--defined by the Ecovillage Network of Canada as "self-identified communities committed to living in an ecologically, economically, culturally and spiritually sustainable way." They are often composed of people who prefer living in a decentralized fashion: off centralized power grids, water and sewage systems.

egoism -- the belief that individual self interest is the basis for all human behavior and that this is how it ought to be

end of game strategy -- a strategy that can be adopted by a participant in either games or real life interactions with others in which belief that the game is about to end determines the strategy employed. Examples: 1) if you are certain you’ll never see a particular person again, you may decide that it’s okay to cheat that person out of something , and 2) if you are certain that Armageddon is fast approaching, you’ll have little incentive to care about the long-term environmental health of the planet.

exchange valuemost  basically a commodity’s value based on the price it will bring, what commodity or service / use / utility (in terms of enjoyment / pleasure / satisfaction) it can be exchanged for.  

financial literacy--according to the National Endowment for Financial Education, this is "the ability to read, analyze, manage, and communicate about the personal financial conditions that affect material well-being. Financial literacy includes the ability to discern financial choices, discuss money and financial issues without (or despite) discomfort, plan for the future, and respond competently to life events that affect everyday financial decisions, including events in the general economy."  

free lunch, there is no such thing as a--refers to the belief that neither a person nor a society can truly get something for nothing: even if something appears to be free there are always hidden costs. The costs may have to be paid in the future, someplace far away, by someone else, be distributed over many people, or they may show up in another form (such as an opportunity cost, environmental cost, increased disorder, etc.)  The physical basis for this belief--which becomes a principle for ecologists and others studying closed systems--can be found in the laws of thermodynamics.  Economists link it to opportunity costs being incurred when choices are made. (If something is free, no opportunities are forfeited!) 


gift economythis is based on people simply freely giving goods / consumer items they don’t need  so that those who do can benefit. It has the benefit of the giver avoiding the guilt associated with being part of “the throw away society.” And older people, who have perhaps accumulated a lifetime of things and perhaps in retirement, where they derive income from state welfare state system programs, are indirectly supported by younger working people, can give something back to less affluent younger folks. Websites such as Craigslist, free cycle, etc. freely advertise the availability of things people are giving away.

human capital -- investment made in people, including improving their productive capabilities and health due to investments in job training, education or medical care.

individualism -- a social philosophy and belief system that places individual interests and rights above those of society, and individual freedom, self-reliance and independence above any social contract obligations

innovate--to creatively introduce a change or improvement

Internet– the publicly accessible global information and communications network consisting of millions of smaller computer networks (maintained by households, commercial, educational, and government institutions, etc.) typically interconnected by cable and satellite or wireless links through standard communication (IP) protocols.  It includes the inter-linked, hypertext transfer protocol (http) based, web pages (viewed with a web browser) known as the worldwide web. 

invisible hand --from Adam Smith, a founder of capitalist economics, who in 1776 wrote that in pursuing economic self interest, a person “who intends only his own led by an invisible hand to promote...the public interest.” 

labor union–an organization of workers whose purpose is to promote and advance its members’ interests with respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions.  The power of organized labor in America peaked in the mid 1950s when 31% of the work force belonged to either a craft or industrial labor union.  By 2019 it had declined in America such that only 10.3 % belonged to unions, although in Canada (30%) and some Western European countries it was relatively stronger.  

laissez-faire -- refers to free market capitalism being left alone to operate without government interference

local control of schools—the philosophy that the citizens of a community—including those whose taxes go to support the local school—should have the dominant say in what school policies are and what is taught.  Local citizens would exercise this control by electing school board members.  Typically, to one extent or another, authorities at higher levels of government (county, state, or national) may wrest such control away from the community where the school is located.

micro-credit--the offering of very small loans of money to very poor people who otherwise would not qualify due to lack of collateral, steady job, or credit history. The loans are typically made to boost income generating economic endeavors, and surprisingly have been repaid with very low history of nonpayment.  The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh pioneered this type of lending in 1983.  At the 1997 Micro-credit Summit,  Hillary Clinton remarked, "[Micro-credit] is not just about giving individuals economic opportunity.  It is about responsibility.  It is about seeing how we are all interconnected and interdependent in today's world...It is understanding how lifting people out of poverty in India or Bangladesh rebounds to the benefit of the entire community and creates fertile ground for democracy..." Grameen Bank founder and Nobel Laureate  Muhammad Yunus said, "This summit is to celebrate the success of millions...who have transformed their lives from extreme poverty to dignified self sufficiency through...micro-credit."

money--a token or object that is generally accepted (both legally and socially) as a medium of exchange in paying for goods provided, services rendered, or settling debts. It also provides a measure of value or standard for gauging relative worth / wealth. Most economic transactions directly or indirectly involve money--one exception being a barter economy where money is not needed.

mutualism -- an economic theory popular among some anarchists. Its chief belief is the idea that a market without government interference would not involve profit because firms would then compete for workers just as workers compete for firms. Without government protection of monopolies, its proponents claim, each worker would receive fair and full compensation -- since no deduction for profit to the employer would be removed.  

noble savage view of human nature -- the belief that people, if they lived in a natural state away from the corrupting influence of social institutions, are fundamentally peaceful, co-operative, and altruistically concerned with each other’s well being -- not aggressively greedy, acquisitive, competitive and merely out to advance their own self interest. This view was popularized by 18th century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau.

non-economic variables -- things important in the human world but difficult to quantify or put a monetary value on -- including environmental, educational, health, cultural, aesthetic, sociological, political factors

opportunity cost--an economics concept that puts the cost of resources used in a certain way at the value of what these resources could have brought in or produced if they had instead been used in some alternative way (deemed to be the best).  It represents the most highly valued opportunity forfeited when a choice is made.

personal responsibility, accepting -- Before an individual can overcome some personal difficulty or solve a personal problem, he or she needs to acknowledge that the difficulty or problem exists, by saying something like, “This problem is mine and I must solve it”. In this context, taking personal responsibility means that you don’t ignore difficulties or problems, expect others to solve them for you, or shift the blame to others. In a family or social context, taking personal responsibility can mean voluntarily limiting your choices or restraining yourself for the good of the family, tribe, village, community or whatever. Richard Critchfield refers to this as “the freedom to choose self responsibility”.

profit–the revenue taken in minus the cost outlay associated with a business transaction.

religion, social function of -- according to Michael Shermer, in his book The Science of Good and Evil, religion is “a social institution that evolved as an integral mechanism of human culture to encourage altruism and reciprocal altruism, to discourage selfishness and greed, and to reveal the level of commitment to co-operate and reciprocate among members of the community.”

repair clinic / “fix it” / troubleshooting  clinics—some communities offer free weekend clinics in which local repair experts / do-it-yourselfers volunteer to help people fix items they bring by that need repair. Some libraries offer a similar service for troubleshooting computer problems; some universities offer free bicycle repair services as part of an on campus bike repair clinic. All of this challenges a “throw away” mentality that drives the need for more mining / resource extraction. Critics point out that consumer spending is the lifeblood of the economy and that jobs will dry up if people fix things instead of buying new ones. 

scarcity--a condition that exists when peoples' "wants" exceed the limited resources available to satisfy them.  The related need to decide how limited resources are allocated leads to rationing and a means for doing so.  Price is one such rationing device. People compete  for what is scarce, and in making choices incur opportunity costs. 

small is beautiful -- a philosophy popularized by E.F. Schumacher in the early 1970s, who himself was inspired by Gandhi. . It is a philosophy of enoughness, appreciating both human needs and limitations, and appropriate use of technology. It grew out of Schumacher’s study of village based economics and economic thinking that he later termed “Buddhist Economics”. In this regard he faults conventional economic thinking for failing to consider the most appropriate scale for an activity, and blasts notions that “growth is good”, and that “bigger is better”. He similarly questions the appropriateness of using mass production in developing countries, promoting instead “production by the masses”. He was one of the first economists to question the appropriateness of using GNP to measure human well being, and pointed out that “the aim ought to be to obtain the maximum amount of well being with the minimum amount of consumption”..

Social Darwinism -- the application of Darwinian principles (natural selection, survival of the fittest, etc) to social practices as a natural defense of entrepreneurial capitalism

subsidiarity--a principle that states the matters should be handled by the competent authority at the lowest level.  Some cite this to justify their belief that the family and value shaping institutions of the community (schools, churches, etc) ought to be strengthened.  Subsidiarity is compatible with philosophies that promote decentralized societies and local control. 

subsidy–a government payment or incentive to businesses or individuals given in an effort to support a sector of the economy or encourage some type of production / consumption activity.  Two transportation related examples: 1) at one time USA subsidies to oil and gasoline  producers / refiners were such that consumers paid less for a gallon of gasoline than for a gallon of water; 2) electric cars in many countries are more affordable given government rebates of some % of the purchase price.  Subsidies can have many effects: subsidies benefiting consumers  effectively lower prices; some can lead industries to hiring more labor, exporting more products, expanding, etc. Products not getting subsidies often can’t compete with those which are. From a free market perspective, critics charge that by offering subsidies governments are effectively interfering and “picking winners”-- rather than letting the market do this. Many are not bothered by this charge at all, indeed they instead see subsidies as a tool planners can use to steer an economy in a direction they want it to move.   

succor--help, relief, aid, assistance                             

top down vs. bottom up–contrasting approaches to bringing change, solving problems,  structuring interaction (compare centrally planned economies, market based ones), etc. The former typically involves a very small number of people (sometimes even just one person) at the top setting policy that works its way down through various levels of organization to ordinary people at the bottom. The latter approach typically involves ordinary people at the bottom finding that something works, a groundswell of enthusiasm develops--or in a more modern context something goes viral on the internet--and eventually word of this development reaches all the way to the top. Here is another summary: top down: within a government or organizational power structure...assemble the experts and smartest people  to understand a particular problem have them study the situation, produce a report, and legislate or implement it! bottom up: within a community of dissatisfied individuals...identify each other, share visions, organize, set goals, have meetings make this grassroots people power work to bring change at state, national level

trust--with respect to extending this to another person, it refers to relying on the integrity, character, and ability of that person.  The degree of that trust is in proportion to the belief and faith one has in the honesty, good intentions, and competence of the person to be trusted.

voluntary simplicity -- a simple, typically environmentally sound and ecologically grounded, non-consumerist lifestyle that people voluntarily choose, typically for ethical, environmental or spiritual reasons.  

wealth inequality and capitalismwhile history suggests the market-based capitalist economic system does a far better job at creating wealth than centralized socialist state non-market systems, it also suggests it promotes wealth inequality. In his 1867 book Capital, Karl Marx argued that in such a system capital would accumulate and wealth become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.  Analyzing whether this has occurred based on economic history and data is a key focus of Thomas Piketty’s nearly 700 page 2014 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. There he concludes, 1) “the history of distribution of wealth has always been deeply political, and it cannot be reduced to purely economic mechanisms, and 2)  “there is no natural, spontaneous process to prevent destabilizing, inegalitarian forces from prevailing permanently.”

Win, Win  / non-zero sum outcomes– an outcome of a conflict, dispute, or negotiation where both people or sides come away with something they value, while at the same time feeling like they have not compromised or given away too much.  For those negotiating from an admittedly much weaker position, the “victory” achieved may simply be avoiding shame. For those negotiating from an admittedly much stronger position  it’s important that the agreed outcome is not so unequal or unfair that is not sustainable.  Situations where Win, Win is possible—or made possible by skilled framing of situations—are to be contrasted with Zero Sum games where the outcome is someone clearly wins and someone clearly loses.  The contrast is like shades of gray vs. black & white.  Lessons from Game Theory suggest that resolving disputes to mutual satisfaction means making it a non zero sum game in which both sides win.  Researchers have shown that a TIT for TAT strategy is a good one to use in such games.  They assert its importance in the evolution of co-operation.  Similarly, author Robert Wright says "perception of non-zero sumness underlies religious tolerance."

zero sum game -- generally speaking, a game (which can represent a social or economic interaction or conflict) in which someone wins and someone loses, to be contrasted with a game in which someone can win without someone else losing



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