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13. The Anatomy of Hierarchy, from Alternative Economics 101 - TAX Your Imagination!

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The Anatomy of Hierarchy
The Anatomy of Hierarchy
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The Anatomy of Hierarchy by Steve Consilvio

Organizations share common characteristics with one another and with ourselves. Though nominally formed for different purposes, organizations share our struggle between selfishness and egalitarianism. The immediate needs of every group compete against the long-term good for the whole. How can both the individual and the collective be satisfied simultaneously? This question is the study of life in the form of religion, politics and economics. The challenge is the search for balance between the one and the many. The indoctrination we receive may make finding a solution more difficult, because we are learning false differences.

As soon as we are no longer one, we are a group or organization of some sort. Some groups are more formal than others, but as groups grow, they become more sophisticated in how they govern themselves. It is impossible for any organization to operate without a hierarchy. We divide by age and experience in the most basic of cooperative efforts, the family. The old guard must teach the newcomers. All too often, lies are taught with the truth. The next generation has no way of knowing how to separate the truth from half-truths without more experience. 

Our personal imperfections infect every group endeavor. Leaders of organizations make choices for their personal benefit, rather than for the good of the whole. Even with the best of intentions, mistakes are easy to make, too. Organizations allow corruption, error and incompetence the opportunity to expand. Unfortunately, there is no alternative. We need to organize ourselves to survive. Any organization formed for a good purpose with good people can be corrupted, therefore organizational structure and things like checks and balances are not a complete solution. Both corruption and naive incompetence permeate government, non-profits and the business sector with a tragic regularity.

Virtue and enlightenment are a hard fought battle. It takes a virtuous and wise group to make virtuous and wise decisions. Unfortunately, the mathematical volatility of money breeds a moral volatility. Since only a virtuous people can infuse organizations with virtue, we must promote and uphold a standard of virtue, if we are to witness it in our greater society. Distinctions of age, skill and interest require a division of labor, but there cannot be a division of virtue. Our personal participation is fundamental. Patience is a virtue, but change relies upon redemptive self-analysis. The changes we are waiting upon in others, and in institutions, are also latent within ourselves. Do not wait for others to change before you do.

Organizations form the bulwark of our shared value system. Man cannot exist outside of organizations. We are co-dependent on the food, energy, healthcare, educational and financial apparatuses. Our standard of living is considerably more complex than an isolated agriculturalist from a few centuries ago. If we are living at a higher level of sophistication, then logically we should be thinking and acting at a higher level of cooperation, too. 

Indoctrination as Prejudice

Virtue and prejudice coexist in dissonance. Progress requires rejecting the bad habits of the past, but the danger of authoring new bad habits is always present.

Reason and morality are not informing enough choices today. Rather than a logical system of division of labor, many want to trust "free markets' and a perpetual battling for dominance amongst the participants. Competition is the baseline of our political and economic systems, which means that the one must always take precedence over the many: one winner, many losers. 

The competitive approach has made the entire world subservient to the warrior driven by greed, rather than organized by the beauty of the poet, or the logic of an engineer. Of course, the warrior, the poet, and the engineer exist within all men. That is the nature of dissonance. We have to choose which voices we will follow and how we will follow them. We are the intersection of what is good for the self and what is good for all. 

The free market competitive approach drives a reckless ambition that constantly destroys other organizations that are not infused with the same reckless greed. It is not the wisest and smartest that thrive, but the most ruthless and selfish. Those who reach the top in a competitive system may come to regret some of their choices, but at that point the damage has already been done, and new imitators are rising. Wisdom usually arrives later than when we need it. The challenge is to have a plurality of the population be wiser at a younger age.

It is difficult for the wise to disarm the reckless without being equally reckless. Democracy is a great idea in theory, but in practice is flawed. Checks and balances institutionalize competition and ambition. Wisdom gets suffocated. A time of crisis is often an opportunity for the wise to speak, but there is no guarantee of what will follow. (Anarchus described democracy as a system where the wise speak and the fools decide). Some crises bring enlightenment, but it is common for a crisis to bring a compounding of mistakes, too. Crisis repetition is indicative of which trend is prevailing.

Chasing Revenue is desperate, not democratic

A large measure of what drives ambition is a response to inflation and inequality. Organizations sometimes start because the entrepreneur wants to solve a problem, but more commonly it is to solve the personal problem of unemployment. The economy makes people desperate. Forming an organization is a survival response, and the first priority of every group is its own future.

Inflation works against the long-term interests of humanity, but the short-term revenue gain is a necessity for groups and individuals. Waste and volatility are byproducts of organizations battling other organizations, making the economic situation incrementally more difficult. The cooperative endeavor becomes internal, within the group, and more ruthless. The real enemy is inflation, which conquers everyone. Free market proponents claim that organizations failing is good an natural. They are abandoning reason and morality to chance and ruthlessness, which makes no sense. We want virtue, and organizations that are informed by virtue, to endure. The marketplace cannot and should not be trusted.

The true test of democracy is for choices to be made for the public good from various personal perspectives. The same virtues should inform all our decisions, regardless of where they are made. We can eliminate the stress between what is good for ourself and what is good for everyone by analyzing the problems properly. All volatility, whether intellectual, social, or economic, should be regarded as failure. It marks the triumph of folly over wisdom. 

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Steve grew up in a family business, was a history major in college, and has owned a small business for 25 years. Practical experience (mistakes) have led him to recognize that political rhetoric and educated analysis often falls short of reality. (more...)
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