G'day and welcome

G'day and welcome. This is a journal of my journey with yin/yang polarity.

Polarity can be used to understand all natural phenomena; from the origins of the material universe and life, through the nature of consciousness and on into social forms. I hope that you will join me on this journey........

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Forging a Genuine Third Way

G'day to you all. Been a little busy with working as a carpenter, but managed to produce the following article. Online Opinion once again said that they would run it. I also submitted it to the Westender (Brisbane's West End - an independent newspaper) and to the Australian, although that would be a pretty big step up for me if they publish it.

Forging a Genuine Third Way

Gilbert Holmes 2/12/10

The concept of a ‘third way’, which lies between the extremes of the left and right but is somehow qualitatively different from both, is essentially a great idea.

From Machiavelli to Marx, Hobbs to Rousseau, Smith and Ricardo to Kropotkin, history is peppered with important thinkers from both ends of the political spectrum, so what could be wrong with our taking a mix of good ideas from the left and the right and blending them together in a way that enables us to meet the challenges of our newly globalized, highly technological and ecologically threatening human society?

The third way somehow recalls to us the middle way of the Buddha, and the words moderate and inclusive spring to mind. A great idea! In practice however, unfortunately the third way has made a bit of a false start.

Based on the political strategy of ‘triangulation’, where one party attempts to take the middle ground by claiming their opponent’s policies as their own, the third way as defined by Bill Clinton in the USA and Tony Blair in the UK appears to have meant little more than an embrace by the centre-left political parties of the world of the neo-liberal economic agenda, with its policies of privatization, deregulation, trade liberalization and economic growth.

To date therefore, the third way could perhaps best be understood as such: In their efforts to counter the previous dominance of the conservatives, (especially Reagan and Bush Snr in the USA, Thatcher and Major in the UK), the centre-left made a shift to the right in an otherwise ideologically vacuous rebranding.

Surely we deserve better than this! Indeed, looking at the broader historical context of left/right politics, a genuine, much more interesting third way can be understood to exist than the one offered by Clinton and Blair.

Broadly speaking, left wing economic policies are focussed on the collective. Lefties believe that the role of government is to facilitate people to cooperate and share together, to manage the commonly owned productive assets of the society and to redistribute wealth so that all people have a relatively equal standard of living.

Right wing economic policies on the other hand focus on the individual. Righties believe that government’s role is to free up individuals to pursue their own interests, to promote private as compared to common wealth, and to encourage people to look after themselves.

It is the nature of our society that it tends to swing back and forth between these archetypal opposites. If either side dominates for a time, then the other side will rise up to challenge that dominance. But there is an alternative to this. We can find a balance: this is the third way.

Over the last century or so, a major conflict between the forces of the left and right has played itself out, with our global society negatively polarized between socialist and capitalist ideologies. Following the collapse of the USSR and China’s embrace of capitalism with the end of the cold war, the advocates of right wing economic policies began to claim the moral high ground.

We saw the rise of neo-liberalism, and as mentioned above, neo-liberal policies became embraced by both centre-left and centre-right political parties around the world. Far from being the third way as Clinton and Blair claimed however, neo-liberalism actually meant a shift to the right for the already right-winged global capitalism. A more genuine third way actually lies significantly to the left of here.

What this shift to the right has meant for democratic nations of the world is that political opportunity is beginning to open up on the left-hand end of existing mainstream parties. This can be witnessed by the rise of Barack Obama, the Liberal Democrats in the UK, the left-leaning Julia Gillard in Australia, and the increasing importance of the Greens in political discussions around the world.

A genuine third way however, will involve much more than just a shift to the left in global politics, and we will need to be informed by much more than just a vague discontent with the excesses of neo-liberalism. What we are looking for is something qualitatively different from the existing left/right dynamic.

Considering the challenges with which our global society is faced - a rapidly shrinking world due to an increasing population and technological capacity, and the necessity of transitioning to a post-carbon future to name a couple – advocates of a qualitatively different approach are indeed finding an increasingly receptive audience.

Economic growth for example, may still be spoken about as the panacea of all ills by the treasurers of the world, but the list of authors and other thinkers is already long who are asking the apparently simple question: How can we have continuing growth on a finite planet? Aren’t we already using 1.4 times the Earth’s regenerative capacity?

And then there is the growing focus on localization, embodied in the permaculture and transition movements among others. These are driven in part by concerns about global warming and peak oil, as well as a belief in the importance of community. The focus here is away from globalization and toward creating diverse, interactive and interdependent local economies.

In short, in the aftermath of the cold war, with the battle between capitalism and communism melting into history, a great reassessment is taking place concerning the institutions of governance and economics, and the appropriate shape and direction that they should take.

With this reassessment, outside of the capitalist/communist dichotomy, a number of difficult questions will need to be answered: How do we use fewer resources/pollute less? How do we maintain employment without economic growth? To what extent should we protect local economies and to what extent should we be open to trade? How do we assert local democracy and maintain control of local assets? What are the appropriate forums/democratic mechanisms for working out issues of global and geo-regional politics?

The traditional answers will no longer suffice. While there are those among us who would continue to rock the boat one way or the other, most of us are oriented toward stability and balance. We are moderates, and we do not wish to see ongoing conflict between the left and the right.

For this reason, it is those political parties that can remove themselves from the left/right splice, and look for genuine, structural solutions to the upcoming challenges to our socio-economic system, that will be best positioned to lead us into the future.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Diversity and Self-Reliance vs Specialization and Free-Trade

Just had this article published on Online Opinion. Was really proud of it when I wrote it but yet to receive a lot of response.

Diversity and Self-Reliance vs. Specialization and Trade

Gilbert Holmes Nov. 2010

I was saddened to note that a new political party, the Australian Protectionist Party, has begun to raise its head in Australian politics over the last few years. This new party has taken its name from the Protectionist Party of Sir Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin, the first and second Prime Ministers of Australia.

Advocating in favour of protectionist economic policies, Barton tells us:

“The tariff will not (be) in any sense prohibitive. It will be a moderate tariff. … I am a protectionist and I will endeavour to protect as far as possible the productions of our own soil. … Our industries have grown up under protection and the Government will not be a party to a policy that would be their destruction. It will be a tariff that will product sufficient revenue without discouraging industries. It will be a tariff calculated to maintain employment”. (Taken from the Australian Protectionist Party website)

100 years later, while the small farm is practically a thing of the past, and Australia doesn’t really have a manufacturing industry anymore, we find that unrestrained free trade is consistently championed by the smiling faces of the media, as well as by leading politicians from both the left and the right.

Call me old-school, but I actually think that there could be a lot of votes in protectionism; and this is why the emergence of this new party is making me sad. It turns out that the first Australian political party in living memory to actively advocate in the broad sense for economic protectionism is a small band of right wing extremists who’s overriding concern is to protect us from an invasion of non-Anglo-Saxon migrants and refugees.

I can only hope that they will once again fail to register their party for the next election. If they do succeed however, as much as you would like to see us move toward having more diversity, interdependence and local self-reliance within our domestic economy, please don’t vote for them!

The idea of free trade is based primarily on David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage, which tells us that even if one region is better at producing everything, the greatest efficiency in production can be obtained, and all parties will benefit, if each region focuses on specializing in producing what they are relatively best at, and trades with one another for everything else.

The simple beauty of the mathematics of comparative advantage has delighted economists for nearly 200 years now, beguiling them and apparently blinding them to any other possibility. For the modern day economist, the mantra, ‘comparative advantage is right, free trade is good’ is central to their identity.

But there are actually some serious and quite obvious flaws in the theory. It turns out that our organic lives do not mesh so well with the mathematics. To begin with, comparative advantage does not take into account the costs (economic or social) of restructuring the productive infrastructure of a region so that it is producing what it is relatively best at.

Let us say that one region has a long history of growing bananas, but another region has begun growing bananas more cheaply (perhaps due to lower labour costs, better soils or more water). Comparative advantage tells us that the first region should accept the unrestricted import of the cheaper bananas, which will of course put the local banana farms out of business. The local population will therefore need to retrain, build new productive infrastructure etc.

Under such a circumstance, we can see that it is quite possible that the costs associated with this restructuring will outweigh the benefits of getting a cheaper banana. This is actually exactly the reason that WTO sponsored free trade talks have repeatedly failed: because developed nations can see that the cheaper banana available from poorer countries is not worth the economic costs –not to mention the political- of undermining their farming communities.

A number of thinkers, including David Ricardo himself and Herman Daly more recently, have also pointed out that the theory only works if capital is immobile. In other words, if one region is able to purchase the productive assets of another region, (through foreign investment, which is widely encouraged and practiced in the modern interpretation of free trade), the mutually beneficial aspects of comparative advantage quickly go out the window.

Our newly unemployed banana farmers for example, may soon find themselves working as under-skilled workers for a foreign owned business that has also bought up most of the newly unproductive former farmland in the area. “Jobs, jobs, jobs!” we would be told by a happy politician, and “Yes to free trade and foreign investment!” forgetting that it was free market policies that cost us our farms and old jobs in the first place. Adding insult to injury, we can also note that all of the profits generated by this new business will be taken out of the region.

In short, considering these shortcomings, I would have to say that free trade is best considered as an extreme, with no trade its opposing extreme. The middle, balanced way, which both the Buddha and Sir Edmund Barton would recommend, is to implement moderate protectionism.

Protectionism is about providing incentives that encourage people to invest their capital locally, as well as to purchase the goods and services that they require from locally owned and operated businesses. This will promote the development of diverse, locally focused businesses within a region, therefore encouraging local interdependence and self-reliance.

Economic policies that promote moderate protectionism, as compared to the current focus on free trade, would significantly alter outcomes within our socio-economic system.

Considering development aid for example, the current focus is to create export oriented businesses, with the hope that this will generate enough income for a region that it will be able to purchase its requirements. While it may stimulate economic growth however, this will encourage top-down management, tend to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few business owners, continue the drift from the country to the city as people look for jobs, etc.

If instead of this we support the development of locally focused businesses, and provide some protections for these businesses against competition from external sources, this will encourage a locally driven, steady build up of management capacity and other skills, as well as a productive asset base for a region. It would build community where people live.

We could also consider the role that protecting our domestic economies down to the more local levels of society could play in helping us transition to a ‘post-carbon’ future.

Short of some unknown ‘technofix’ coming to our rescue, moving away from a carbon economy will involve shifting away from an agricultural system that is heavily dependent on oil for its production and distribution, reducing our transport requirements generally by promoting the local production of the goods and services that we require, getting people out of their cars and into gainful employment within walking distance of their homes, etc.

In short, a post carbon future will involve a shift toward economic diversity, interdependence and self-reliance within our neighbourhoods, villages and cities.

It seems to me that the most simple method of supporting this transformation of our society is through providing a system of trade tariffs and other mechanisms that encourage people to buy goods and services that are produced as close to home as possible. This will provide a significant contrast to the economic and cultural vacuums that free trade policies have helped to create within our communities.

In concurrence with Sir Edmund Barton, I believe that these tariffs and other protections should be set at moderate levels so that, while they support the continued existence of diverse, locally focused businesses, they do not support ongoing inefficiency or profiteering.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lessons for a New Paradigm - The Dual Drivers of Evolution

The below article has just been published on Online Opinion.

By the way the last post that I put on that site, (the previous article that I put on here) is still going great guns. It has been close to the top of 'this week's most discussed' for three weeks now, with more than 250 comments.

Lessons for a New Paradigm – The Dual Drivers of Evolution
Gilbert Holmes 12/10/2010

Initiating a profound shift in the way that we understand the natural world and our place in it, Charles Darwin is perhaps the most distinguished scientist of the last few hundred years.

Continuing the rise of science and the corresponding decline in the power of the ‘church’, Darwin’s theory of natural selection told us that the diversity and complexity of life result not from divine intervention as was previously thought, but from natural processes associated with how organisms interact with each other and with their surrounds.

As with most great ideas, at its core, Darwin’s theory is very simple, and once grasped, appears obvious and logical. Essentially, the theory is that as a population of organisms progresses from generation to generation, chance variations or mutations occur. Some of these variations will be advantageous to the individual carrying them, and this will mean that the individual is more likely to breed than its companions and therefore pass on the variation to subsequent generations.

In this way we can see that as time progresses, a population of organisms will continue to evolve. We can also see that because of the chance nature of variations, two isolated populations of the same species will invariably change in different ways, and will eventually become different species.

While there is I believe an essential truth in the concept of natural selection, we can also recognize a significant error in Darwin’s thought, and this error has had important implications for how we conceptualize ourselves and the natural world.

To understand this error, we need to take a look at the broader belief systems of the post-enlightenment era in which Darwin postulated his theory. In short, Darwin can be understood to fit within a pattern of popular theorists who across a range of subjects stressed the separateness of the individual entity.

Rene Descartes, beginning his analysis with “I think therefore I am”, told us that human consciousness is forever separate from the surrounding nature, and that our goal (through reductionist science) is to conquer that nature. Continuing this theme, Isaac Newton describing the material universe as a machine made up of separate atoms that move around bumping into one another.

Hobbes described a war with “each against all others” as the starting point for the compromise which results in civilized society. Adam Smith described competition between (separate) self-interested parties as the engine of a healthy economy. Freud described the emotions of isolation, the drive toward physical pleasure and away from fear, as central to the human condition. Etc.

Into this pattern popped Charles Darwin, and with the tide swimming strongly in favour of this ‘separatism’ (my term), it is little wonder that Darwin would stress competition between individual organisms as the driver behind the processes of natural selection. This competition came to be known as ‘survival of the fittest’.

I am fully aware that many of you will be protesting to yourself right now that survival of the fittest is not about competition. Instead, it is about whatever is best suited to the situation. This may involve traits that enable an organism to dominate its environment, but it can also involve the capacity to engage in symbiotic and cooperative relationships. If an organism will benefit most by acting cooperatively, it is variations that help enable that cooperation that will facilitate the best chance of survival.

I agree with you. Darwin saw that as well as fighting with one another, organisms will also work together for mutual benefit. For Darwin however, any cooperation between organisms was just a junior player; a subcategory of the all-important competition for survival. Darwin saw cooperation within the biological realm in a similar way to how Hobbes viewed human society; as a compromise between essentially self-interested individuals.

Darwin even expressed some sadness that he should conceive of nature in such a brutal light. In the Origin of Species, he wrote, “Nothing is easier to admit in words the truth of the universal struggle for life, or more difficult – at least I have found it so – than to constantly bear this conclusion in mind.”

The most famous critique of Darwin on this front was provided by Peter Kropotkin with his 1902 book, ‘Mutual Aid’, in which he claims that cooperation is in fact far more important than competition in the processes of natural selection. Building on this claim, he then goes on to suggest that the desire to cooperate is the principle motivation of the human organism, and that we should therefore immediately reestablish our society as an anarchist paradise.

So what is the answer? I suggest that we can look for it as part of a new paradigm that can be seen emerging within our current society.

This new paradigm can be understood to be emerging from between the extremes of the separatism described above and the ‘collectivism’, espoused by theorists such as Marx, Engels and Kropotkin, which rose up to oppose it.

The new ‘balanced’ paradigm has been steadily growing over the last couple of hundred years until now it has arguably come to dominate our way of thinking. This new paradigm finds its roots in the increasing influence that Eastern philosophy, which recognizes paradox and polarity as central to nature, is having on the West.

We can also look to Rousseau, who asserted that humans are paradoxically motivated by both self interest and moral virtue, and that our social institutions should reflect this, with both high levels of social organization and high levels of freedom. We can understand the increasing levels of democracy within our systems of government over the last few centuries in this context.

Hegel gave us the dialectic, with progressions in nature swinging between the polar extremes of the ‘thesis’ and the ‘anti-thesis’, as well as tending to find balance with the ‘synthesis’. We have seen the emergence of modern physics, which tells us that the stuff of the universe is paradoxically composed of both matter and energy at the same time.

We can also see the growing influence of Karl Jung’s theories of psychology, which have polarity built into their structure: anima/animus, extrovert/introvert etc. We can look at systems theorists, with their concept of nature being composed of holons; distinct entities which can be both broken down into smaller holons and which simultaneously form a part of larger holons.

We can also understand the emergence of the human and civil rights movements, feminism, environmentalism etc, as having grown up within the cradle of this emerging new paradigm.

In short, the new paradigm tells us that we are both matter and energy, feminine and masculine, separate individuals and a connected community, self-interested and benevolent, competitive and cooperative.

Applying this new mind-set to evolution theory, we can look at dual drivers behind the processes of natural selection; parallel streams, each of which is equally important.

On the one hand we can view evolution from the perspective of the individual as was Darwin’s focus, with the individual organism competing with it’s surrounds and passing on (what came to be understood as) its genetic heritage. At the same time, we can look from the perspective of the collective, with the evolution of eco-systems and communities, interdependent and cooperative relationships and the passing on of cultural heritage.

In 1976, Richard Dawkins gave us the concept of memes, units of cultural heritage (such as music or language), passed on within the larger brained organisms from generation to generation, but Dawkins is still focused on the individual. Simply through shifting our perspective, we can readily see that the passing on of cultural heritage has been going on throughout the entire evolutionary process.

Cultural heritage can be understood quite simply as the evolving forms and relationships within our ecosystems, and this cultural heritage is equally important to genetic heritage in determining evolutionary outcomes.

As much as it is the characteristics of a specific organism that will enable it to prosper or not, it is the shape of the ecosystem within which that organism lives. Ecosystems and communities, with their continuing and evolving relationships, will squeeze the direction of evolution, destroying that which does not fit and promoting that which does, just as surely as will variations within particular individuals.

So there we have the dual drivers behind natural selection:
• The individual/self-interest/survival of the fittest/genetic heritage
• The community/benevolence/mutual aid/cultural heritage.

These two drivers feed into and overlap one another, with the individual and the community each effecting outcomes for the other. We can see dual motivations within the individual organism: to commune with and to control its surrounds. We can also see both competitive and cooperative relationships existing side by side within a community.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I just submitted this article hopefully to be published at onlineopinion.com.au

Marxism Destroyed the Dialectic
Gilbert Holmes September 2010

GWF Hegel was not a good writer. Subsequently, it is easy to become lost in the complexity of the philosophical system that he developed, rather than to gain insight into the simple concept that underlies that system.

Hegel gave us the dialectic, and while the man has failed to gain popular recognition, the dialectic itself is a particularly beautiful philosophical concept.

To properly understand this concept, we need to take a look at Hegel's influences. While much has been written about the place that Hegel's ideas have within the history of Western philosophy, it is actually the influence from Eastern philosophy that is much more apparent. Most specifically, Hegel was inspired by the concept of yin/yang polarity.

The dialectic is a simple idea. Essentially, when we look at any progression within nature, we can discern a tendency to swing from side to side between archetypal, polar extremes, as well as to sometimes to find a balance between those extremes. In a nutshell, that is it, with the three parts to the dialectic progression often called the thesis, the antithesis and the synthesis.

Looking at some examples:

Consider a young person trying to deal with their emotions. We can imagine that they will be angry and aggressive at times, (the thesis), and weak and lost at other times (the antithesis). As they mature, they will take something good from each of the extremes and blend them into a positive balance, becoming both strong and gentle (the synthesis).

Or we could look at a population of rabbits introduced to an island. At first spreading out and expanding in numbers, the rabbits eventually eat all the food. Their numbers decline again. If uninterrupted, this cycle will continue, with swings between a high and a low population until eventually a stable population is reached.

We could also look at the tension between law and crime. If there is high levels of crime, the law will become tighter in response. If the law is too restrictive, however, the people will fight against it. Hopefully at some stage we will come to a happy balance whereby the law is sufficient to constrain destructive elements, yet relaxed enough to enable us to go about our diverse lives.

We have looked above at examples from the fields of psychology, biology and sociology. Actually, the dialectic can be used to understand any progression within nature, on the large scale and the small. Whilst it is widely applicable however, to date the dialectic has been most extensively applied in relation to understanding a single subject; the progression of human history.

And this is where we have run into a problem.

Being a member of the 'Young Hegelians' in his early years, the most famous exponent of dialectics is Karl Marx. Because of this the dialectic is generally considered in relation to Marxism.

Marx's version of history, which has come be known as dialectical materialism, provides the cornerstone for his political and economic theories. It was dialectic thinking that led Marx to divide society into the opposing proletariat and bourgeoisie, inspiring the opening line to 'The Communist Manifesto': 'The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.'

While we do have to credit Marx with some wisdom for being able to recognize the importance of the dialectic, there are unfortunately some serious errors in his interpretation of the concept.

With the addition of 'materialism' to the dialectic for example, Marx and friends essentially told us that the way that we think is determined by the structure of our society. In other words, we will be selfish and greedy if we live in a capitalist society, and kind-hearted and benevolent if we live in a communist society.

Believing that our minds are currently corrupted by capitalism, therefore, and that as soon as capitalism is destroyed we will all want to move into mutually supportive communes together, this has led to the unfortunate tendency within socialist/communist circles to focus on revolution rather than on designing better systems of governance and economics.

Marxist thought has also largely lost Hegel's concept of the 'synthesis', whereby a resolution between two opposing conditions is found through taking something good from either condition and blending these good things together. Instead of looking for a synthesis, Marx believed that communism would rise up and destroy capitalism.

Even with these serious flaws in the Marxist interpretation, Marxism has managed to maintain something of a monopoly over the concept of the dialectic, with the controversial nature of Marxist philosophy tending to inhibit exploration of the dialectic in non-Marxist contexts, either for the purpose of analyzing human history or in other areas.

Looking toward the future therefore, while remembering not to throw the lovely dialectic baby out with the bathwater, let us try to move beyond the Marxist interpretation of the dialectic.

Aiming for a more appropriate understanding; taking a look back over our global society over the last few centuries, I suggest that we can recognize two principle dialectic tensions playing themselves out.

The first is the tension between spirituality and materialism. Beginning perhaps in the early1600's, we saw the dominance of religiosity being undermined by the rise of science and the 'enlightenment'. In more recent times, with modern physics aiding our understanding, and with the increasing influence of Eastern spirituality on the West, a synthesis of spirituality and materialism can be seen to be emerging in the form of a nature based spirituality.

The second of these dialectic tensions is between what I like to call separatism and collectivism. Separatism tell us that we are essentially separate from one another, that we are self-interested and that interactions between us are ultimately competitive. Collectivism on the other hand, tells us that we exist as a community, and that we are benevolent, loving and cooperative. The conflict between capitalism and communism can of course be understood to have occurred within this context.

A more balanced worldview, a synthesis of separatism and collectivism, will tend to tell us that we are paradoxically both separate and connected; both individuals and a community, both self-interested and benevolent, both competitive and cooperative. I believe that this balanced worldview is emerging within current times.

We can see that following the long struggle between capitalism and communism, and with the subsequent decline of communism, that our economic institutions remain skewed toward competition and capitalism. Strong forces have been emerging however, that are advocates of a more balanced approach. As testimony to this, we can witness for example the emergence of the human rights, civil rights and peace movements, the advances of feminism and environmentalism, and the increasing democracy within our systems of government over the last century.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Free Trade Ideology is Misplaced

Hi, I just set this piece up to start a discussion on onlineopinion.com.au

The Free Trade Ideology is Misplaced
Gilbert Holmes August 2010

The idea of free trade is based on David Ricardo's 'Theory of comparative advantage'. The basic idea is that: even if one party has an absolute advantage in the production of everything, both parties will be better off if they specialize and trade with one another.

Wikipedia gives some simple examples http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage

Unfortunately, while it makes a lovely mathematical model, our lives do not actually fit well into the pattern. Pursuing comparative advantage to it's logical end would be like pursuing freedom all the way to anarchy or stable governance all the way to totalitarianism.

Unfortunately, the neo-liberal agenda continues to exert vast influence over the institutions of our global society, and the 'free trade' bandwagon rolls on. Free trade is often spoken about in the media for example with the assumption that it is a good thing.

Instead of 'free trade', what we are actually looking for is balance.

On the one hand, we want to enable trade across boundaries. This will enable us to purchase what we don't have and will help ensure that local producers are maintaining their efficiency.

On the other hand, however, we want to encourage people to buy locally produced goods and services ahead of those that are imported. This will encourage diversity, interdependence and self-reliance within local economies.

Looking for this balance, I have been working on the concept of a 'locality tax'. This tax would be increasingly applied on the purchase of all goods and services depending on how far away from the purchasers home the good/service was sourced.

I suggest that the tax be applied down to the neighbourhood scale. As an example then, if a person wished to source an item produced in another country, they would have to pay the tax first to their own neighbourhood, then again to their village, their city, their state, and their nation.

Encouraging local self-reliance down to the neighbourhood scale through a mechanism such as this is not only sensible in economic terms. It will also I suggest, be an important step in our becoming an ecologically sustainable global society.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Invisible Right and the Invisble Left

Hi all,

Here's an article that I just wrote specifically hoping to get it pubished on onlineopinion

They said maybe after the election.

The Invisible Right Hand and the Invisible Left Hand

Gilbert Holmes Aug 2010

In 1776, Adam Smith published his work, 'The Wealth of Nations', within which he detailed the actions of 'the invisible hand' of economics.

The basic concept of Smith's invisible hand is that; when self-interested parties compete against one another, rather than there being one winner and one loser, benefit often results not only for both parties, but also for the broader society.

The actions of Smith's invisible hand are easily observed. As a simple example of this, let's say, desperately trying to make a dollar, that I invent something useful; a cup. Having invented this magical item, I then sell as many cups as possible at the highest price that I can get.

Let's say that it costs me $1 for every cup that I sell, but that I sell them for $20 each, and I quickly become exceedingly rich. Far from ripping off my customers, however, from their perspective they are getting a great deal. Instead of walking down to the creek five times a day for a drink, now they only have to go there once a day to fill up their cup. The $20 that they spent may be saving them $5 worth of time every day.

We can also see that because each of the cup owners now only has to go to the creek once a day, a significant amount of previously unavailable energy has been freed up, which can of course be applied to other useful purposes. Extending the example still further, someone from the next village might see what I am doing and set up another cup selling business. This might mean that in order to gain customers, I have to drop the price of my cups to a measly $3.

Since its release, the profound and simple logic of Smith's invisible hand has switched on the ‘lightbulbs of the mind’ of generations of apparently deep thinkers and economic policy makers.

Leading directly to the idea that free competition between self-interested parties is the engine of a healthy economy, Smith's invisible hand has provided something of a social conscience for free market capitalism. It is the single most important concept that has driven the laissez-faire agenda over the last few centuries, and which continues to drive lassez-faire economic's most recent manifestation, neo-liberalism.

Unfortunately, in describing the positive results that spring from self-interested parties competing with one another, it turns out that Smith’s invisible hand only gives us half the story. Smith has left out of his theory the simple concept that there are times when we cooperate together, and that positive economic outcomes can also be derived from this cooperation.

It appears that we may actually be looking at two invisible hands!

Looking at these two invisible hands, we can call the positive effects of competition the ‘invisible right hand’, and the positive effects of cooperation ‘the invisible left hand’.

Like the invisible right hand, the actions of the invisible left hand are also easily observed. Let’s say that two backyard gardeners, instead of each owning a wheelbarrow independently, decide to share the use of a single wheelbarrow. While it may cost each of them $5 worth of time to negotiate the usage of the wheelbarrow, each has saved $40 on the purchase cost. What's more, because the resources are being used efficiently, there are now more resources available for use by the rest of us.

If they were to look only at the actions of this invisible left hand, someone might be forgiven for thinking that, instead of competition between self-interested parties, it is actually cooperation within a mutually supportive community that is the engine of a healthy economy. Such is apparently the thinking behind communism.

While we can recognize an important truth in both the invisible right and invisible left hands however, it is not one or the other that is true, but both. The invisible left and the invisible right hands exist together, with cooperation and competition therefore providing a dual driver behind the processes of economics.

So what does this mean for us? In short, as the Buddha said; to be happy, we are going to have to learn to walk on the middle road. We’ve got to try to get the best out of both competition and cooperation.

Positivity can result for us, both as individuals and as a society, through the processes of both competition and cooperation. If either is expressed in the extreme, however, it will be negative. What we need is balance.

If either competition or cooperation is allowed to dominate, it will do so not only at the expense of the wealth generating capabilities of the other. It will also begin to chew away at both our personal freedoms and the cohesiveness of our communities. This can be readily seen by looking back over the history of experiments with both lassez-faire and communist policies, where negative outcomes tend to increase in direct proportion to how extreme, in either direction, the policies are.

Looking at our current economic system, we can recognize much that is cooperative. On the small scale for example, many of us live with our families and/or friends, sharing resources and working together to maintain the house, etc. On the larger scale, we can of course look at the payment of taxes in exchange for the provision of infrastructure and the organization of social processes by governments.

While there is cooperation, however, it is the competitive economic processes that are more prevalent. Most of us own or work in private businesses, source the majority of our requirements from private businesses, etc. This prevalence of the competitive can of course be understood in the context of the political struggle between the capitalist and socialist ideals and the subsequent decline of socialism.

Intruding into this picture, we are faced with the fact that our world is getting smaller and smaller; we are becoming a global community, increasingly interacting and managing our common interests on a global scale. We are also increasingly pushing against the boundaries of our planetary ecosystem. Our shrinking world is therefore effectively presenting us with the challenge of having to create a democratic, ecologically sustainable global human society.

Bringing balance to the processes of our global economy will be central to our being able to rise to meet this challenge. To bring about this balance, without sacrificing the efficiencies that are available to us from the competitive aspect of the economy, we will need to encourage development within the cooperative aspect of the economy.

Close to homes, this will involve mechanisms that encourage the rebuilding of interdependent relationships on the neighbourhood and village scales. This will enable us to cooperate together in the production of some foodstuffs and other resources as well as to share in the use of various resources, for example (and I know that this will be hard for some of you to take) swimming pools and cars. Encouraging interdependent relationships at the local levels of our society will also support the development of locally focused, private businesses.

Increasing employment opportunities close to our homes, reducing our reliance on transport, encouraging a vibrant interactive culture close to our homes, encouraging efficiency in resource use: in these ways, mechanisms that promote interdependent cooperative/competitive local communities have the capacity to considerably reduce our use of resources while at the same time maintaining or increasing our quality life.

On the broader levels of society, we will need to track away from our current emphasis on privatization and move toward having significant investment by governments in the productive assets of the society. These assets can then be managed on behalf of the people, with any loss or profit shared by all of the people.

A strong cooperative aspect to the broad-scale processes for the production and distribution of goods and services will also provide an important buffer against any slow down in economic activity, providing employment and maintaining a turnover in the economy. This will help us move away therefore from our current destructive addiction to economic growth.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Balanced Paradigm - Charter

Hi Folks,

I've been looking into starting an organization dedicated to trying to build consensus around the kind of structural changes that we would like to see within our global society in order for us to move toward a more democratic and ecologically sustainable future.

The 'inaugural meeting' is tomorrow. Three people are expected and while this does sound modest, I have big hopes for the organization.

Remembering polarity, (especially the third fundamental polarity as I call it between separateness and connectedness), the policies that I advocate look for a balance between polar extremes. Balance between the cohesiveness of the state and the freedom of individuals. Balance between the competitive and cooperative aspects of the economy.

Specifically therefore, what I advocate in favour of is a decentralized global society, (with relatively high levels of local self-reliance and political autonomy), with a directly democratic political system tiered upward from the small neighbourhood to the global scale. The economic system that I envisage encourages cooperative enterprises within the tiered social structure as well as the pursuit of locally focussed, competitive private businesses.

For a fairly detailed overview of all this, you can check out this thing that I have prepared a month or two ago (currently my work and in draft form though ideally it can become a document that is owned and contributed to by many) called 'The Balanced Pardigm - Charter' I'll pop a copy of it here for you.

The Balanced Paradigm

Draft Charter

(June 2010)


A new paradigm is coming to maturity within our modern society. This document attempts to define a shared political vision for this new paradigm, this new way of thinking, and in that way to help us rise to the challenge of creating a highly democratic, ecologically sustainable global human society.

Central to the new paradigm is the concept of balance. As members of the new paradigm, we consider ourselves to be reasonable and moderate. We are advocates of a balanced, middle way.

Looking for balance between the cohesiveness of the society and the freedom of the individual, we advocate in favour of both the democratic governance of society in the broad scale, including at the global level, and high levels of local political autonomy down to the level of the small community. We also advocate for a balance between the cooperative and competitive aspects of the economy, whereby people are encouraged to pursue their own private interests more locally, while at the same time a broader, more cooperative structure for the society is maintained.

The Challenge

We are passing through a unique period in the unfolding of human history. As our world has become smaller through improvements in communication and transport technology, we are becoming capable for the first time in our history of organizing ourselves on a global scale. Also, as our technological capabilities have increased, and our population has expanded, we have become capable for the first time of damaging the ecological integrity of the Earth, the very cradle from which we have grown, on a global scale.

What we are faced with then, is the challenge of learning to live with one another, and within the bounds of a healthy ecology, on the global scale: In effect, we must recreate ourselves as a globally unified, ecologically sustainable human society.

Fortunately for us, we have realized that those same forms of social organization that will allow us to most effectively live within the boundaries of a healthy global ecology will also allow us to live the most harmoniously with one another, and to attain the highest levels of democracy. We commit ourselves, therefore, to the effort of transforming our global society, through means that are vigorous yet peaceful, in the direction of those more ideal forms of social organization.

The Paradigm

There is a new paradigm emerging within our current society. Made up of new ways of understanding nature, ourselves and our society, this new paradigm can be called the balanced paradigm. This balanced paradigm represents a middle road between the extremes of 'separatism' and 'collectivism'.

Separatism tells us that each of us, as separate individuals, is consistently motivated to control our surrounds in our own self-interest. This leads to an on-going competition between us. Collectivism, on the other hand, tells us that we are ultimately connected with one another, and through concern for the whole, we are motivated to commune with one another. This leads to cooperation.

These opposing ideologies tend to war with one another, both within our minds as belief systems and in the form of our social institutions, in an us-or-them struggle. The tendency of these two to fight one another, and therefore negatively polarize our society, can be seen most clearly evidenced in recent history in the struggle between capitalism and communism.

Whilst however, the two extremes and the battle between them have managed to steal the headlines, the last century will perhaps best be remembered for the rise of the middle, balanced paradigm. Instead of either/or, the balanced paradigm operates with a both/and framework. The balanced paradigm tells us that we are both separate and connected; that we are motivated to both control our surrounds in our own self-interest and to benevolently commune with our surrounds; that interactions between us occur within a framework that has both competitive and cooperative aspects, etc.

While it lies between the extremes of separatism and collectivism, the balanced paradigm finds its philosophical roots in much more than just our collective rejection of these extremes and our desire to find a compromise between contradictory opposites.

Influenced by the Eastern concept of yin/yang polarity, which recognizes polarity and paradox as fundamental to nature, the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (1770 – 1831) was perhaps the first to describe for a Western audience the three paradigms flowing through human history, and to advocate in favour of the balanced, middle way. The influential sociologist, Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968) used a similar, three pronged analysis in his interpretation of the unfolding of human history, with the balanced, middle position being the most ideal.

The roots of the current emergence of the balanced paradigm can be traced back several centuries. We can look, for example, at the increasing democratization of our systems of government over recent centuries, which has sought to balance the freedom of individuals with the cohesiveness of the state, as running parallel with the growth of the balanced paradigm. The revolution is physics in the early 1900's has also helped to shake us from our sleep, informing us that the stuff of the universe is paradoxically composed of both separate particles and interconnected patterns of energy at the same time.

We can also look at the emergence of feminism, which aims for equality between the more overt, competitive masculine and the more subtle, cooperative feminine. More recently, the awakening of environmental consciousness, which seeks to balance the needs of the human society within the bounds of a healthy global ecology, is also a good example of the increasing relevance of the balanced paradigm.

Especially over the last century, therefor, the balanced paradigm has grown until now it has become, or at least is quickly becoming, the dominant mindset of the modern world. While both our numbers and our influence are increasing, however, we are as yet relatively weak in our ability to steer the direction of our society.

With the decline of socialism, we have been left with a world dominated, in a political and material sense, by the ideology of 'separatism'. With this dominance, we have witnessed the dissolution of our communities at the neighbourhood and village scales. We have also seen the prevalence of the 'free market', which sets each against all others in a competition that sees the wealthy and powerful as the winners, and democracy, the global ecology, and those who are already impoverished as the losers. Under the weight of its own momentum, this destructive machine rolls on.

As the balanced paradigm continues its rise, however, and we increasingly coalesce around a shared vision for the future, our political power increases. Guided by concepts such as the need to rebuild small communities and to move toward local self-reliance, the importance of 'fair trade', and the need to work within the bounds of a healthy ecology, a broad-scale political agenda behind which we can unite is taking shape. This document is an attempt to define that broad-scale political agenda.

As members of the third paradigm, we support what is balanced, moderate and reasonable. Our strength is in our numbers. With a clear vision to guide us, that is both broad enough to be inclusive and defined enough to be powerful, our goal is to reach out and gently grab the reins of political power, and so steer our global society toward a more democratic and sustainable future.


The search for the ideal democracy is the search for balance. On the one hand we are looking for the society to be effectively governed in the broad scale, with central government that is able to protect against divisive elements, and facilitate the various parts of the society to work together for a common purpose. On the other hand, we want to allow individuals as well as distinct, smaller communities within the broader social structure the freedom to control what is happening within their own lives.

In one context, these two concepts can be understood to be mutually exclusive; the more group cohesiveness we have, the less personal freedom we have and vice-versa. This is not necessarily the case, however. When they are mixed together in the right balance, the two concepts actually support and nourish one another. In the same way therefore, that it is possible for us as individuals to be both very strong and very gentle, it is possible for our society to have both very high levels of organization on the broader scales and very high levels of freedom more locally.

Searching for this ideal balance, this ideal democracy, we advocate in favour of a layered social organization, tiered with a series of levels from the small neighbourhood to the global scale. We also advocate for this society to have an appropriate degree of 'decentralization', so that each level of organization, while remaining an integral part of a cohesive, larger grouping, (neighbourhoods within villages, villages within cities, cities within states, states within nations etc), would have a relatively high degree of local self-reliance and local political autonomy.

With this focus on local self-reliance down to the neighbourhood scale, we aim to create and maintain vibrant, rich communities that encourage people to undertake a large part of their economic and social activity close to their homes. Moving us away from fossil fuels and nuclear technology, encouraging efficiency in resource use, moving us back toward organic and diverse agricultural practices etc, we believe that these vibrant, human scale communities form the cornerstone of an ecologically sustainable human society. As well as this, we believe that these small, interactive communities also provide the foundation for a highly democratic system of government, not only locally but also within the broader levels of our global society.

We are advocates of 'direct democracy'. Within a directly democratic system, a community's representatives within the government of broader regions is under the direct control of the community that they represent. Representatives are allowed to vote, and otherwise express the opinions of the community that they represent, only as they are instructed by that community. Representatives are also recallable at any stage. In this way, within a directly democratic system, members of government are employed to perform a role that is clearly defined for them, rather than as policy makers or power brokers.

Considering briefly the basic structure of a how a directly democratic system could work; each 'neighbourhood' could have one representative in the executive (the day to day decision making body) of the 'village' and one representative in the legislature (the body that provides the legal framework within which the executive operates) of the next tier out, the 'city'. Expanding this system outward, each village would have one representative in the executive of the city and one in the legislature of the 'state', each city would have one representative in the executive of the state and one in the legislature of the nation, etc.

As can be seen from the above example, a directly democratic system of government can be tiered outward indefinitely, with each level of government directly controlling their representatives within the broader levels. It is easy to see, however, how without the existence of small communities, intimately scaled so as to allow every individual a voice in the management of that community, direct democracy can never work.

Looking at our society in the broad scale, we are advocates of effective geo-regional (for example South East Asia, South America or Western Europe) as well as global governance. Government on these broad scales has the capacity to bring together vast resources, which can be used for large, complex projects that would otherwise be much more difficult to achieve. As an example of this, we can consider the space programs of the geo-regionally scaled USA and the former Soviet Union. Imagine what we could achieve with a unified world!

Broad scale governance also plays an important role in maintaining peace and stability; helping to facilitate positive interactions within its jurisdiction, preventing war and the wide scale abuses of human rights and the natural environment, etc. For this reason, much as Queensland as part of Australia, or Andalusia as part of the Spain, does not currently need an independent military, effective governance of our society at the global and geo-regional scales would have the potential to make redundant the independent militaries of the nations of the world.


Just as the the search for democracy can be understood as the search for balance, so can the search for the ideal economic system.

Within our global economic system, the balanced paradigm seeks to balance the cooperative aspect of the economy, whereby people and communities at every scale are encouraged to work together for mutual benefit, with the competitive aspect of the economy, whereby individuals and communities are enabled to pursue their own private interests.

The tiered system of social organization described earlier, with a series of layers from the small neighbourhood to the global scale, provides the ideal framework within which a well balanced, cooperative/competitive economy can operate. With the economy well balanced within this framework, cooperatively speaking, communities at every level, employing community members for the purpose, will each run various enterprises aimed at supplying the needs and wants of that community. At the same time, competitively speaking, individuals and communities will also be engaged in selling products/services to, as well as buying them from, the surrounding society.

Central to our vision of society is the idea of creating and maintaining diverse, interdependent, relatively self-reliant communities down to the level of the small neighbourhood. With this in mind, and looking to maintain balance between the cooperative and the competitive, between the cohesiveness of the broader society and the freedom of individuals and distinct, smaller communities within that broader society, we believe that a middle road must be found be found, whereby on the one hand people are encouraged to source their requirements locally, and on the other hand, trade between different regions is enabled.

This could be achieved through a system of trade tariffs, widely applied across all levels of the tiered society from the neighbourhood to the broadest level, which would have the effect of making products and services increasingly expensive the further away from home they are sourced. Looking for balance, it will be important that these tariffs are set high enough that they have the effect of stimulating diverse, vibrant local economies, yet low enough that they do not encourage the continuing viability of consistently inefficient industries within a region.

A 'locality tax' of this kind will encourage the establishment of small, locally focussed private businesses. As businesses become more successful, however, and therefore more important in providing for the requirements of the broader society, the incentive will be for the business owner to work toward establishing partnerships with the community government structure, and in that way introduce the business into the more cooperative aspect of the economy.

Applied to investments, a system of trade tariffs such as this, along with other restrictions and inducements, will encourage people to invest their capital locally, in small, private businesses and businesses primarily owned by the neighbourhoods, villages etc within which the investor lives. In this way, a community of any scale, along with the members of that community, will tend to control the large majority of the productive assets within it's bounds.

Turning our attention briefly to currencies, we advocate for a single global currency value. This, along with the setting of minimum wage levels, environmental standards etc, would mean that similar products will tend to be produced for a similar cost in different areas. This will prevent areas with cheap wages and/or lower standards from being able to sell cheaply into an area where costs are higher, undercutting local businesses and in that way undermining the economic integrity of that area.

Along with this single global currency value, we also support the idea of local cash currencies, distributed at perhaps the large village or small city scale and exempt from the locality tax mentioned earlier. These local currencies will expedite trade close to people's homes, encouraging them to move around within their local areas (walking, riding their skateboards or bicycles) buying and selling from one another. This will be friendly to the establishment of small, private businesses, and encourage interdependence and self-reliance on the local scale.

With the above policies and others, we aim to establish an appropriate balance within the society between the rights of individuals and distinct communities to accrue private wealth, and the maintenance of a relatively egalitarian society, whereby a large gap between the rich and poor is prevented from developing. Beyond certain limits therefore, as an individual or distinct community becomes increasingly wealthy relative to the surrounding society, we support the idea of it becoming increasingly difficult for them to increase further or to maintain that wealth.

Looking also at the control of land within the society, we advocate that instead of being privately owned, all land be leased (with individuals tending to lease from their neighbourhood, neighbourhoods from their village etc, and all land ultimately held in trust by a global government). Such a scenario would help ensure that basic access to land can be guaranteed for all people. It would also mean that the control of land would not in itself be seen as an investment. Instead, if an individual or community wished to control a large area of valuable land, rather than being allowed to buy and sell for a profit, the control of that land would present an ongoing financial burden.

With our focus on ecological sustainability, we also advocate in favour of a tax on resource use and other ecologically damaging activities. The application of this tax to the use of fossil fuels especially, (along with other, government imposed restrictions on their use), will actually stimulate a move toward the much more localized society envisioned by the balanced paradigm.


Described above is the basic framework of the kind of society that we would like to live in. In relation to specific issues, we advocate policies that move society in the general direction outlined above. In other words, we support the idea that all aspects of the life of the society, including governance, law making and enforcement, the provision of welfare, economic production etc, be facilitated as locally as possible. At the same time, we support the idea that recourse be available to the broader organization of the society where it is appropriate.

We support the democratic and cohesive organization of our global society on the broad and broadest levels. Along with this, and central to what we are working to create is a system that encourages diverse, vibrant, interdependent, democratic and ecologically sustainable communities at the more local levels of society.

With our focus on both the large and small, on the one hand we support the concept of a common identity for all of humanity, with the necessary tools in place for people to communicate and engage constructively together across all boundaries. On the other hand, encouraging people to interact within their local communities will help to facilitate cultural diversity, with the various art forms, languages and spiritual beliefs etc being allowed to develop independently in different areas. In this way, we hope to create over time a society composed of a rich mosaic of unique cultural identities.

As the balanced paradigm, let us continue in our efforts then to rebuild the infrastructure of our neighbourhoods and to draw the institutions of our global society back from their current focus on separateness and competition; back from the extreme of 'free trade' with its concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, its destruction of nature, and its development model that says that each region should specialize heavily and trade for everything else; back from a society made up of isolated individuals each hopping in their cars to drive to work or the supermarket.

The balanced paradigm is a moderate voice, advocating what is fair, reasonable and balanced. While we are strong in our resolve, working for change both within our own local communities and within the broader patterns of society, we support processes of change that are gentle and peaceful.

This document has been prepared by:

Gilbert Holmes

Brisbane, Qld.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Letter of Intro

Hi all, I wrote the below letter yesterday as an intro for myself. I applied to speak at the Woodford folk festival coming up over the new year and they asked me for some more details. Here is what I wrote......

(As you can see, my current focus has been on the political applications of polarity.)


I spoke to you on the phone a little while back concerning my application to speak at the Woodford festival.

What with having to work for a living and having been working on the book, I have been keeping my head pretty low for the last couple of years. I haven't got a lot in the way of short articles or youtube videos that I can send you therefore.

The powerpoint presentation that I have is also both out of date and off topic, being about my broader metaphysical philosophy rather than my more specific subject matter, which is the application of that philosophy to understanding human society.......so hopefully you can get a clear enough picture of where I am coming from from this letter.

Yes, so my background as a philosopher is actually more with metaphysics than with socio-economics, and my special focus is on the concept of polarity. Specifically I look at three 'fundamental polarities' that together define all phenomena within nature. These are yin/yang which are the underlying polarity. Being/non-being which relate to the structure of the material universe and separateness/connectedness which relates to interactions.

Trying to understand society, the concept of separateness/connectedness polarity is especially important.

As separate individuals, each of us is motivated by our own self-interest to control our surrounds. This leads to an on-going competition between us. At the same time, we are also connected and this motivates us to commune with our surrounds leading to cooperation.

Both competition and cooperation are 'good' so long as they are in balance with one another. We can for example be both intensely strong and intensely gentle. If we are one without the other however, we will be either dominating or push-over weak.

Likewise within our society, we need to look for a balance between the apparently paradoxical concepts of separateness and connectedness. Looking for the ideal democracy, for example, can be understood as looking for the ideal balance between the connected cohesiveness of the broader society and the separate freedoms of individuals and smaller communities within the broader structure.

Within economics also, we will look for a balance between the competitive aspects, which results from people running around doing whatever they want, and the cooperative aspects, where people work together collectively for the good of the whole.

So that is the starting point for my analysis of society.

When I began my research for the book, I discovered a concept called the dialectic. This concept was developed for a Western audience by G.W.F. Hegel after meditating on yin/yang polarity. It was subsequently made famous by Karl Marx, although in my opinion Marx seriously bastardized the idea.

The basic idea is that; as nature progresses it tends to swing between archetypal (polar) extremes as well as to sometimes find a balance between these extremes. For example I might be angry then peaceful, angry then peaceful before eventually finding a balance as both strong and gentle.

While it can be applied to understanding all progression within nature, the dialectic has to date mostly been used in helping us understand the progression of human history. Looking at the 'fundamental polarities' that I mentioned earlier (and with yin/yang as the background polarity), I look specifically at two dialectic progressions. From the being/non-being polarity, we can witness the society becoming either more materialistic, more spiritual, or as I suggest is happening now, more well balanced between the two.

The second dialectic progression that I look at within our historical development, and which is more important for my analysis, relates to the separateness/connectedness polarity. On the one hand we have the 'separatist' world view, which tells us that we are ultimately self-interested, and that interactions between us are ultimately competitive. This separatist world view has risen to dominance with the 'enlightenment' through thinkers such as Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and the Sigmund Freud, and economic thinkers such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo. While many of us believe that the dominance of this mind-set is coming to an end, this 'separatist' paradigm continues to dominate much of our thinking as well as our social and economic institutions.

This separatist world view has of course not been without it's opponents. The 'collectivist' paradigm
tells us that we are ultimately connected with one another and therefor ultimately loving and benevolent by nature. Interactions between us are essentially cooperative. This collectivist perspective has been espoused by thinkers such as Spinoza, Kropotkin (who challenged Darwin by asserting that 'mutual aid' is the principle driving force behind natural selection) and most especially Karl Marx and friends.

The battle between the separatist and collectivist paradigms has of course played itself out most clearly in the fight between capitalism and communism. While the fight between these two opposing ideologies has stolen the headlines, however, we can also recognize the rise of a third, balanced paradigm. This balanced paradigm takes something good from each of the opposing camps and blends them together. Looking at how this balanced paradigm has grown over the last few hundred years, we can look at the influence of yin/yang philosophy on the analytical Western tradition, there was Hegel, Rousseau, Jung, Albert Einstien and friends (who told us that the material universe is paradoxically both separate physical particles and interconnected patterns of energy at the same time). More recently, we can look at the rise of feminism and environmental consciousness within the framework of this emerging paradigm.

This, therefore is what I talk about in relation to the 'emerging paradigm'.

As part of my book, I also look critically at various systems of governance and economics and advocate in favour of what I believe would be more democratic, egalitarian and ecologically sustainable.

There are two key features to the kind of society that I promote:

  • A social structure tiered from the small neighbourhood to the global scale, with a decentralized, and directly democratic system of governance that can provide both democratic governance for the broader society and high levels of political autonomy for distinct communities down to the neighbourhood scale.

  • An economic system that, while facilitating complex and some large scale production on the broader scale, encourages relatively high levels of local self reliance for communities down to the neighbourhood scale; with incentives in place to encourage people to both establish privately owned, and locally focussed small businesses and to engage with their communities in cooperative enterprizes.

As you can see then, I cover a fairly broad range of topics. I would really love the opportunity to present some of my ideas at the festival.

Going from the more abstract to the more detailed;

  • I could look at the metaphysical framework for my analysis, looking at the polar framework that I use with its application across a range of natural phenomena.

  • I could look at my interpretation of the dialectic within human society, with the separatist, collectivist and the emerging balanced paradigms.

  • I could offer a critique of modern society, focussing on free market economics ('Ridiculing Ricardo, Shoveling Smith') and/or the institutions of government.

  • I could paint a picture of my idealized version of society, arguing in favour of ecological sustainability, direct democracy and a more local focus for society.

  • I could also offer an overview of all of these ideas, such as contained in this letter.

Depending on how you could fit me into the program, I am excited at the thought of running either one or more presentations. I'd also be very happy to be included in any panel discussions.

As I mentioned, the book that I am working on will unfortunately not be completed by the time of the festival. (This problem has been compounded by my having to stop writing over the last few months in order to earn an income - I am a carpenter.) It may be at a stage, however, where it is close to finished, so I might for example be able to collect a list of interested people.

Over the last few months, while I have not been able to put much time into writing, myself and some colleagues have been looking into starting an organization who's focus is to work with other organizations (FOE, the Greens, the transition crowd etc) in trying to develop and advocate for policies in relation to structural issues of governance and economics. We will for example be looking to take something to the FOE organizing committee and set up a policy group within the Qld Greens over the next few months. The Woodford festival could be an excellent platform to promote our efforts in this regard.

Thanks very much

Gilbert Holmes


Hi aaaallllllllllll,

I know that there are heaps of you out there!

Welcome to my blog on polarity. Hopefully we'll get some interesting content on here at some stage.