How Society Grew Cold. Dependence on Cold Institutions
By Joe Jarvis - September 02, 2017

The downfall of freedom and happiness: dependence on institutions out of your control.

I’ve always blamed the government.

Governments start the wars, carry out the genocides, steal from the people. Governments lay the foundation of an unjust society, by creating a hierarchy from the beginning. Some make the laws, and some must live by them.

But the government is only half of the picture.

I always trusted in the power of the free market.

The free market is the true democracy which responds to the people. It is controlled by demand and quelled by consumer pressures. Economic self-interest ensures a proper check on the wealthy from becoming too evil.

But there is no free market on a macro level. There is only the collusion of the government and industry.

They have positioned themselves as the mother and the father of society. How? By destroying the institutions which once stood in their place.

The Marriage of Government and Industry

In his book Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari describes a human transition. Populations went from farming societies inherently based on the sun and seasons, to industrial societies of assembly lines and time tables.

This caused many upheavals. Warm organic institutions–like family and community–were replaced by cold calculated ones–like factories and welfare. “Most of the traditional functions of families and communities were handed over to states and markets.”

Of course, this meant dependence on government and industry for survival. The roles of family and community had been outsourced. Now the government would take care of you, and industry would sell you fulfillment. All the structures humans evolved with quickly melted away, or became diluted.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the daily life of most humans ran its course within three ancient frames: the nuclear family, the extended family and the local intimate community. Most people worked in the family business – the family farm or the family workshop, for example – or they worked in their neighbours’ family businesses. The family was also the welfare system, the health system, the education system, the construction industry, the trade union, the pension fund, the insurance company, the radio, the television, the newspapers, the bank and even the police.

When a person fell sick, the family took care of her. When a person grew old, the family supported her, and her children were her pension fund. When a person died, the family took care of the orphans. If a person wanted to build a hut, the family lent a hand… But if a person’s illness was too grave for the family to manage, or a new business demanded too large an investment, or the neighbourhood quarrel escalated to the point of violence, the local community came to the rescue.

The community offered help on the basis of local traditions and an economy of favours, which often differed greatly from the supply and demand laws of the free market. In an old-fashioned medieval community, when my neighbour was in need, I helped build his hut and guard his sheep, without expecting any payment in return. When I was in need, my neighbour returned the favour. At the same time, the local potentate might have drafted all of us villagers to construct his castle without paying us a penny. In exchange, we counted on him to defend us against brigands and barbarians. Village life involved many transactions but few payments. There were some markets, of course, but their roles were limited. You could buy rare spices, cloth and tools, and hire the services of lawyers and doctors. Yet less than 10 per cent of commonly used products and services were bought in the market. Most human needs were taken care of by the family and the community.

On a small scale level like that, people were held accountable when they leached off the system. Families and communities were also the enforcement structure of this social insurance. Gossip was an important function of accountability. You can bet people talked if someone balked at their duties. The next time they needed something, they might find themselves in a bind.

But in addition to the obvious replacements like police, welfare, and corporate jobs, there was the matter of replacing the emotional aspects family provided. Governments and industry teamed up to give us a solution.

Markets and states do so by fostering ‘imagined communities’ that contain millions of strangers, and which are tailored to national and commercial needs. An imagined community is a community of people who don’t really know each other, but imagine that they do. Such communities are not a novel invention. Kingdoms, empires and churches functioned for millennia as imagined communities…

The two most important examples for the rise of such imagined communities are the nation and the consumer tribe. The nation is the imagined community of the state. The consumer tribe is the imagined community of the market. Both are imagined communities because it is impossible for all customers in a market or for all members of a nation really to know one another the way villagers knew one another in the past…

Consumerism and nationalism work extra hours to make us imagine that millions of strangers belong to the same community as ourselves, that we all have a common past, common interests and a common future. This isn’t a lie. It’s imagination. Like money, limited liability companies and human rights, nations and consumer tribes are inter-subjective realities. They exist only in our collective imagination, yet their power is immense. As long as millions of Germans believe in the existence of a German nation, get excited at the sight of German national symbols, retell German national myths, and are willing to sacrifice money, time and limbs for the German nation, Germany will remain one of the strongest powers in the world.

But we can keep what we like about government and markets, and do away with what we don’t. We can form new “tribes” that give us actual mutual aid which communities once gave. We can move to or create villages that match our needs and desires.

That way, we interact with warm institutions. Structures we are a part of and can influence. They are made up of people we know, and have real relationships with.

The government gives us imagined communities in order to control us. Nationalism makes sure we are ready to fight the next war, providing bodies and wealth to fuel political ambitions.

The market gives us imagined communities as a way to sell to us. Apple users are part of an exclusive club that signal they are wealthy and hip. Doesn’t that make you feel fulfilled?

But what about a community of people who are all passionate about farming, making their own products, and trading goods and labor? We can keep our smart phones and internet access, just like 10% of the village economies of the past relied on outside merchants. But when it comes to our water, electricity, food, hygiene products, and even entertainment, it is already quite easy to provide all that on a community level.

Now that the world has been so voluntarily centralized by the internet, we can decentralize in ways that benefit us. We can create little communities without becoming hermits. We will be free to come or go as we please, no forced labor, false choices, or communist utopia. Just voluntary groups who offer warm alternatives to dictatorial and industrial institutions.

I don’t want my barber to remove my appendix when I get appendicitis. But I wouldn’t at all mind my neighbor providing my children’s education, with the help of the countless resources on the internet.

We are now in a position to meld the best of both worlds. We can reach back and choose what was great about pre-modern community governing structures. And we can hold onto the technology and civilization that we like in today’s world.

Society is like a pendulum which swings from one extreme to another. But each sway loses some energy and brings us closer to equilibrium.

The advance of industry gave mankind countless benefits. But at some point, it went too far. We need to learn how to reintegrate warm institutions into our lives, without doing away with the benefits that large scale industry has provided.

In a sense, humanity was once so dependent on small scale warm institutions that we stagnated, and could not advance. People suffocated as the pendulum stopped and reversed.

Once we finally did break free, we lost all touch with warm institutions. Cold institutions replaced the family, and now many feel alienated and depressed.

Can we find an equilibrium? Can we meld markets and governance into family and community life in a way that both frees us from the tyranny of government and corporations, but allows us to remain free individuals?

The Pendulum is Ready to Swing Back

Radical experimentation in governance is required to heal society and correct the trajectory. Stagnation is the best we can hope for with the current model of government and corporate collusion.

We need to restore the community structures of the past. We cannot simply do away with institutions people rely on and expect no turmoil. Rather, a model of a better society needs to be created.

This is why the next movement that will drastically improve civilization will be a period of decentralization of institutions, marked by voluntary association.

You don’t have to play by the rules of the corrupt politicians, manipulative media, and brainwashed peers.

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  • Don Duncan

    I once favored decentralization and was always against centralization. Now, I don’t favor either over the other. I am content to let the free market decide. I am certain the best way will vary infinitely, changing with time, depending on the institution or enterprise or activity.

    For example, I expect a worldwide standard of weights/measures, probably the metric system, will replace all others. I expect the language used in commerce to be standard also. You might say a “one world standard” will govern these areas. This is practical, logical, but not possible yet, under the present obsession with violence over reason. This faith in force is an impediment to progress, to life. It never works, but that does not deter its universal employment in the political realm. All argument for it fail, but that does not deter. That qualifies it to be called superstition.

    So, now I categorically oppose all superstition, however small or seemly innocent. It’s a bad psychological habit to indulge. And it can creep into every facet of life, every decision, eroding sanity. It is common, but that does not make it unavoidable. That does not make it an inevitable choice. It makes it dangerous, anti-life, and suicidal.

    No scientist who used it as sole support for a theory has been taken seriously, and for good reason. It is unscientific. It is unreliable, unverifiable. A superstition may turn out to provide a guide for an action, but that does not justify it. The means must always be valid or how can we trust it?

    • Marten

      “If one takes care of the means….The end will take care of itself”

      • Don Duncan

        Spoken like a true voluntaryist.

      • Hi, Marten,

        “If one takes care of the means ….. The end will take care of itself” has morphed and IT is now content and a constant with “If one takes care of the memes …… the end will take care of itself”

        Do we here deny the future is a mass of self fulfilling tales, both creative and destructive, cast as pearls before swine in the present to change the past and deliver alternate augmented bigger picture shows/mediated productions/Newspeak Movements?

        Which tales are you choosing to believe are true with a following? Do they form an *APTly **ACTive ***PACT?

        *Advanced Persistent Threat/Treat
        **Advanced Cyber Threat/Treat
        ***Persistent Advanced Cyber Threat/Treat

        In ITs Purest Phorms, Words Create, Command and Control and Destroy Worlds and it is why certain configurations of them are highly prized [think Nobel] and greatly feared [think bloody revolution and mass extinctions/purges/executions]

  • davidnrobyn

    Interesting discussion, Joe. I think, however, that this is the real reason for society’s coldness:
    “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”–Jesus

  • Marten

    The Gov. is a fear Machine…..”You know your Country is dying when you have to make a distinction between what is moral and ethical…..and what what is legal” – John De Armond-

  • Kernel01

    Joe Jarvis hits it out of the park again. But this U.S. Government Leviathan (Swamp Creature) on the Potomac will continue to devour us with its never-ending goal to control every aspect of our lives for our own good, and made possible by instantaneous communications technology. Forget about Mark Levin’s and Professor Gutzman’s “Convention of States” initiative ‘cuz the Federal Beast will quash that as soon as it gets traction. The best merging of Government & industry would be to ‘somehow’ downsize, streamline, and make Government “competitive”, but that’s not in Government’s nature — it’s an un-drainable swamp that will only be reformed thru revolution from the outside, since Washington cannot clean-up its corrupted cronyism.

  • georgesilver

    Dear Joe Jarvis,
    You keep trying to analyse society and look for a better way and forget to look at history and what’s in front of your face.
    Mankind is an animal with certain traits. He forms groups that eventually ends in someone being the head honcho. So that the ‘head man’ can remain in power even when he’s old he recruits a ‘religious’ man who says he is god’s anointed one. The society growths and more people want to be in the ‘non-working elite” living off those that do the work. This eventually grows to a point where the non-workers out number the workers and the whole system collapses and starts again. This is the point we are almost at now.
    Forget all the fancy ideas of a utopian society and look at human nature and how it runs in cycles. Your ideas work for a short while in these cycles but will always fail.
    The only way is to know what period in the ‘society cycle’ you are in and make the best of it..

  • autonomous

    Imagine that it takes a village. Imagining the future is just as futile as imagining a past. Both ignore the exigencies of the present. Sociology is just an imagined past, just as evolutionary theories are. One can accurately imagine what is just beyond the next mountain only on the basis of having crossed many other mountains and after having survived the experience. In the same way, one can look back beyond where one had begun only on the basis of the same experience. But the further one looks in either direction, the more apt one is to losing sight one’s own immediate present. One is always in danger of forgetting one’s own selfish actions that have harmed one’s self and others. This world and all who live in it are on the path of death and destruction. Any philosophy that fails to take that into account is on unsure foundation. If there is no one outside of our reality who is available for guidance, we have no hope of building a better life for ourselves and our community, however defined. Without a loving God, we are doomed.

  • I always trusted in the power of the free market.

    The free market is the true democracy which responds to the people. It is controlled by demand and quelled by consumer pressures. Economic self-interest ensures a proper check on the wealthy from becoming too evil.

    Care to furnish leads in Augmented Virtual Realty AIMarkets with Global Virtual Travellers/ARGonauts, to kickstart Moribund Extant Bankrupt Markets into AIReal Life with Programs BetaTested to XSSXXXX, Joe J?

    Fortunately is the IntelAIgent ProgramMING challenging to discover ITs Magic Paths/Heavenly Trails.

    Re: For Journeys Never Before Realised as Being Easily Possible and IntelAIgently Designed Probable

    Indeed. Clearly we need him to go and have a little chat with these numbskulls.Will Godfrey

    I can reveal, Will Godfrey, that messages and emails have already been sent regarding novel numbskull solutions for mounting difficulties. AI to InterNetional Rescue:-) ….. and I Kid U Not too. Chatting is really revealing.

    Of course, the System that IS is catastrophically vulnerable to Executive Admin light years behind the Quantum Development Curve in the Virtual Space Place Race, so expect Renegade Rogue Raiders to Tempt Market Traders when the Politically Inept and Corrupt fail to Correct and Connect.

    Let Monied Markets make the Running.

    But there is no free market on a macro level.

    Having read all of the above, Joe, now you know there is at least one.

    This is why the next movement that will drastically improve civilization will be a period of decentralization of institutions, marked by voluntary association.

    Voluntary association with what? A Colossus?

  • You have read a good book but you paint peculiar picture about communities (a rosy picture). Of course communities cared for their people, or at least when they fit in and were useful, but if they didn’t like you for some reason, you could be expelled or left to die. In fact, if you left your community, you had often one option to survive. A man could join the army and a woman could become a prostitute (the words of mr. Harari).

    You can’t call that warm. This is misplaced nostalgia. The communities of the past were forced or at least customary, and certainly not voluntary. The rise of the market and the state go together with the rise of individualism. Now communities are mostly voluntary because people feel that they can make their own choices in the market and that the state will care for them if needed. If there is no state or market then people will be compelled to join a community, even when they do not want to.

    • Col. Edward H. R. Green

      “The rise of the market and the state go together with the rise of individualism. Now communities are mostly voluntary because people feel that they can make their own choices in the market and that the state will care for them if needed.”

      Government and free markets are inherently incompatible; consequently, the former undermines the latter by usurping the liberties and legitimate individual rights of all.

      Free markets enable people to exercise their personal sovereignty, to trade to mutual benefit, to earn their income, and thus provide for themselves throughout their lives, and to have the means to be charitable toward others in difficult straits.

      Conversely, government infringes unjustly upon one’s sovereignty, seeks to control all transactions via its mandates (minimum wage laws, etc.), robs people of their ownership and control over their own monetary and other property via coercive income and real estate taxation, and eminent domain–all legalized forms of theft, but theft nonetheless–and uses much of that stolen money to fund its “caring” welfare schemes, thus making its participants and administrators the recipients and beneficiaries of stolen property.

      “If there is no state or market then people will be compelled to join a community, even when they do not want to.”

      Absent a government and its coercive devices (the state) and unjust laws (e.g. anti-discrimination laws), no one is enslaved to anyone and thus forced to join any community. People voluntarily and peacefully interact, congregate, and create free markets.

  • jacob

    Read Larkin Roses’s “The Greatest Superstition.” It awakens readers from their slumber about what government really is and its false authority. It’s just a huge gang with enough power to control what most people think about it. Mass hypnosis.

  • unbubbleslayr

    The reason people stuck together was because they were poor and there were no alternatives to being taken care of if things went bad. It was survival. Now it is not government that takes care of us, it is fellow tax payers. True we can do without government, many communities in America have come together to do without government funded services.