We continue with the eighth in our series of excerpts from Barry Carter’s book Infinite Wealth. See: 1) The Rise of a Win Win Civilization 2) A Personal Journey of Discovery 3) Why Corporations Don’t Work 4) The Emancipation of Capitalism 5) Mass Privatization: Organizing in the Information Age 6) Decentralized Wealth Creation and 7) The Infinite Wealth Potential of Liberated Humans
And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival now demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in the world; it’s a choice between violence and nonexistence.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Mandate for Win-Win Wealth Creation
In order to have a stable society there must be a balance between social and economic freedoms. If people are wealthy but are severely limited regarding what they can do and how and when they can do it, there will be turmoil. This turmoil comes as people use their wealth and power to purchase social freedoms. They will bribe, buy influence from those in power or pay for others to bend the laws.
On the other hand, if people are allowed to do whatever they want whenever they want, and have little money, or avenues to attain money, there will be turmoil. Many people will use their social freedoms to do whatever they want, whenever they desire in order to obtain money or wealth. They will steal, commit violent crimes, sell drugs and join gangs. There will be con-artists and corruption. All of this occurs because people have broad social freedoms that prevent them from being penalized for their actions.
In an ordered society, social and economic freedoms MUST be balanced or there will be chaos.
Some people yearn for the good, old days when things were simpler and people had respect for others. It was a time when there was order and people were responsible and held accountable for their actions. It was a more peaceful time when it was safe to walk down the street and leave our doors unlocked at night. Our leaders were respected and our justice system worked.
Unfortunately, because of analysis, we have selective memories. We remember the best fragments from the past. When we look at the whole picture, I do not believe the good old days can be classified as such. Taking the whole era into consideration, I don’t believe that there was the respect, responsibility or accountability levels we remember.
Yes, there was less chaotic crime and violence in society, but there was a very high cost for this order. This cost came in the form of severely limited social freedoms for the masses of individuals. People did not have a lot of economic freedom but they also had limited social freedom. Therefore, there was a reasonable level of order.
As we look back over the Industrial Age, we see norms of oppression, with one group limiting another. Within the mainstream population individuals were stifled by conformity, through standardized behavior, thinking and speaking. The norms of the last hundred to two hundred years include exploitative child labor practices, legalized lynchings, castrations and mutilations, legalized racism, sexism and hatred, limited worker rights and mass poverty. Initially, voting rights belonged only to white, male landowners only. As workers tried to organize for improved working conditions, many were violently oppressed; some were even murdered. In the 1940’s and 1950’s people were jailed, blackballed, followed, harassed, searched, monitored and, in some cases, tried and sentenced to death because of their political beliefs. All of the above represent limited social and economic freedoms.
Perhaps the United States was not much better at upholding human rights during the peak of the Industrial Age, the 1940’s and 1950’s, than South Africa in the 1980’s. We look at a country like South Africa as it was in the 1980’s and see oppression of blacks. However, in order to oppress blacks, an entire society must have limited options and freedoms. There must be a very tight code of narrow and rigid behavior for all. You cannot have individual white people standing up and fighting the system—it rocks the boat and creates disorder for all. Most whites in South Africa in the 1970’s (or in the Southern United States during the 1940’s) who disagreed with the segregation policies did so quietly. After all, who wanted to be accused of being a “nigger lover” by their neighbors, friends, business associates and customers. Your business could be ruined or you could lose your job or become a social outcast. Whether in South Africa, the Soviet Union or China during the 1980’s, or the United States in the 1930’s, 1940’s or 1950’s, people did not step out of line because there simply was little social freedom for the vast majority of people. <S><?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = O /><O:P></O:P></S>
In the past several decades, information technology and knowledge power has produced significant increases in social freedoms to the masses. To date, however, the increases in economic freedoms for people have not kept pace, creating instability throughout society. This imbalance lies at the heart of our crime, violence, terrorism and gang problems. The only answer is significantly expanded economic freedoms for all.
Since the 1950’s, social freedoms in the United States have exploded. As a simple example of the growth in social freedoms, in the 1930’s or 1940’s, if a black male in the Southern United States got slightly out of line, he could easily be castrated, lynched or severely beaten by any white person who decided to do so. That was truly an era of “zero tolerance.” Today, however, many black males commit heinous crimes with relatively little or no ramifications. There is a good chance of not getting caught, of getting off on a technicality, or getting off because of the lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, or a plea of insanity or other loopholes. There is also a good chance of getting lost in the red tape. In Seattle, for example, in the early 1990’s 66% of crimes committed with a gun never made it to court because of delays for years, with people eventually skipping bail.
Even if a guilty black male is convicted today, prisons are more humane with educational opportunities, libraries, televisions, fitness centers. In addition, full sentences are rarely served due to overcrowding as well as lenient parole laws. This example represents enormous gains in social freedoms for black males, and is a measure of the expanded social freedoms for all citizens. Though some people may disagree with some of the above because of persecution of black males today by police and the criminal justice system, this is relatively minor when compared to a past history of slavery, lynchings, segregation and violent oppression as the social norm.
Today people openly believe in whatever politics desired, dress in any way desired: use drugs; get pregnant out of wedlock; practice devil worship; produce and listen to any kind of music (even that advocating violence against police and the government.) That is all a reflection of an enormous increase in social freedom.
Information technology and the knowledge power of an Information Age are the primary drivers behind the expanded social freedoms of the past decades. They created the “do-your-own-thing” movement. It is no coincidence that the 1960’s were a wild decade of hippies, sex and drugs. Young people were empowered through information technology and rebelled against rigid limits on their social freedoms. People wanted to do what they wanted, when and how they wanted to do it. They rebelled against standardized thinking and conformity. People rebelled against the government and its war with Vietnam, against racism and sexism. How did information technology trigger this chaotic, non-conformity?
Information technology produced the first ”living room war” in history. Disturbing pictures of death counts, body bags, protests, opposing views, corruption and the general horrors of war were broadcast into everyone’s living room each night. Prior to television, the realities and horrors of war were simply were not real to people (similar to the 35,000 or so people who die of starvation each day globally. Since we do not see these people, it simply is not real). In addition, prior to the Information Age, governments could more easily put positive spins on reality by presenting only fragments of the whole picture.
Although protest against the Vietnam War started slow, more and more people joined the bandwagon. The result was enough internal political pressure for the United States to opt out. Today the majority of people agree that we never should have been there. Information and knowledge empowered people to stop blindly following authoritarian leaders, who in the past had controlled limited information—it empowered people to think for themselves. It empowered people, to synergize, by letting them know that there were others out there with similar thoughts to their own.
As the documentary, The History of Rock and Roll showed, Rock and Roll marked the beginning of the worldview of one humanity; a global worldview. It was the beginning of the coming together of all cultures of the world, which synthesized diverse cultures’ music into harmonious tunes that touched the masses of people. Listening to many of the artists in the documentary, their intent was to do exactly that. The explosion of Rock and Roll was possible only because of information technology through radio, television, phonographs, CD’s, amplifying systems, electric instruments, computers and more. It allowed humanity to begin to interconnect as one.
Most people would consider the Civil Rights movement to have had nothing to do with the Information Age, information technology and knowledge power. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Civil Rights movement was successful only because of new information technology and knowledge power. Without television and information technology, there would likely be the same degree of segregation and injustice now as there was seventy-five years ago for Blacks in the South. The primary tool in the shift in people’s attitudes was the television set and television camera, bringing disturbing pictures of a new reality into every household in the nation with police dogs and water cannons abusing non-violent people. As long as people were not directly aware of what was occurring in the South and local officials controlled the information put out to the world, things would most likely have remained the same indefinitely.
Information was used to shift people’s perception of reality. Perhaps Martin Luther King understood knowledge power earlier than most. Perhaps he understood that information, as a form of power, was far stronger than the powers of violence or wealth. As Toffler shows, violence and wealth had been the two primary forms of power in civilization until the Information Age. The Information Age has changed that, making information and knowledge the primary power in civilization.
King demonstrated this as he used information power with a kind of martial arts strategy, allowing his opponent’s violence and wealth power to defeat themselves. He used the higher quality power of awareness and knowledge, through the television and information technology, to bring about shifts in consciousness of the masses. Indeed, we live in an era of new and strange power—power, which operates by vastly different non-linear rules than the wealth, and violence power to which we have become accustomed.
We see the same liberating trend for individuals and restraining force on central authorities with the Rodney King incident and many other police brutality cases, caught by personal video cameras. Corrupt policemen are now hindered by this kind of scrutiny, with video cameras being in the hands of the masses everywhere. Legitimate police activity is also severely handicapped because of the red tape created by expanding social freedoms, with many complaining that the judicial system favors the accused far more than the victims of crime.
In politics our politicians and leaders are no more corrupt than they have ever been. In fact, they are quite likely less corrupt than at any time in history. However, the horizontal connecting of individual minds enabled by information technology has increased our awareness and thus limits the power of those in authority. Information technology allows us to wake up to a reality that has existed for decades and centuries. We saw this connection of minds defeat Marcos in the Philippines; we saw it in Poland and the collapse of the Soviet Union; we saw it in South Africa with the defeat of Apartheid.
The problem with the transition to a knowledge era is that we have an imbalance of freedoms. As the Information Age delivers more freedom to the individual, it has brought a dramatically higher degree of social freedom than economic freedom. Decades ago people had neither the money nor tolerance from society to do a wide variety of things. Today, there is the tolerance due to enforcement of our democratic Constitution and Bill of Rights in recent decades. However, not there is not the money to satisfy the needs of some people. We, therefore, have chaos.
In addition, after centuries of the masses of people being controlled through serfdom, slavery, racism, sexism and employment and fed a diet of pain, fear, torture and oppression, a lot of negative, distorted distress can be expected to emerge when social freedom is delivered. That is especially true if economic freedom does not arrive at the same time as the new social freedoms.
The social and economic freedom imbalance is nothing new. The late 1980’s Tienemen Square uprising in China and subsequent massacre came from a social and economic freedom imbalance. People in China had begun to enjoy a level of affluence leading them to expect greater latitude of social freedom. The results were the Tienemen Square slaughter. The government has temporarily denied this social freedom through violence power.
As the Soviet Union and Soviet Bloc collapsed, it left in its oppressive wake tremendous social freedom but little economic freedom. This mismatch has produced drug and alcohol abuse, crime, violence, racism, war, ethnic cleansing, death camps, rape, child murder, disintegrating countries and disorder.
There is a direct correlation between the two freedoms—when out of balance, all hell breaks loose. Our current problems with crime and violence will not be solved until there is a balance between social and economic freedoms. Today this imbalance threatens to destroy all of civilization if it is not restored.
A knowledge era automatically decentralizes power to the individual. Today, as a knowledge era delivers more social freedom to individuals daily, it is empowering individuals who have been on the losing side of the win/lose game for decades and centuries. Many people oppressed for the past few hundred years now have a “loser” paradigm. With expanded social freedoms many “losers” now have the social freedom to cause you, your family and much of society to lose with them and this empowerment grows daily with expanding information technology.
Since the losers have nothing to lose and now have the power to force others to lose with them, many are choosing to exercise their new power. Win/lose is evolving to lose/lose directly before our eyes. This lose/lose reality surfaces today as terrorism, gangs, violence, riots, robbery, rape, crime, radical militias and hate groups. Lose/lose is all simply a reflection of our win/lose paradigm, as individuals are empowered in a knowledge society with social freedoms prior to economic freedoms.
In the 1990’s lose/lose violence reached epidemic proportions. Tens of thousands of people were killed on our streets in violence such as: drive-by shootings and gang warfare, tourist killings in Florida, a mass suicide in Texas. There were the bombings of the World Trade Center, the Oklahoma City Federal Building and the Atlanta Olympics. There were airplane bombings, mass public shootings, freeway shootings in California, routine Post Office killings, the hijacking of passenger planes, hundreds of houses burned in arson forest fires in California, car-jackings, and the hijacking of a cruise liner.
Already we have as many people dying daily, at 55 per day due to violence, as in the Vietnam war. We all know of the famous people, like Bill Cosby and Michael Jordan, who have lost family members because of the transition and out of control win/lose. However, there are also tens of thousands of other nameless and faceless people who face the same pain each year.
Though our present level of lose/lose violence is at epidemic proportions, nuclear weapons in the hands of people with lose/lose paradigms puts a whole new light on the issue. In a knowledge era, it becomes harder and harder to protect, control or contain knowledge. Today, any individual can learn to make a nuclear bomb from books in public libraries. This was demonstrated and proven in the 1970’s. Already bomb making instructions are readily available on the Internet with nuclear grade plutonium for sale on the Russian black market. Even the most sensitive knowledge will eventually leak in a knowledge era. However, more importantly, in a knowledge era a wide variety of people will be able to create the desired knowledge for highly destructive weapons.
No explanation is required for what could happen as a few people with lose/lose paradigms explode a few nuclear weapons in a few of the United States’ or world’s largest cities. Today there is no shortage of internal or external lose/lose terrorists from which this type of activity could come and this list will only grow longer as win/lose continues to shift to lose/lose.
Nuclear weapons, however, aren’t the only means by which small groups of individuals can bring an Information Age society to a halt. Chemical or biological weapons such as Anthrax or others could easily be delivered to New York, Los Angeles or Chicago by crop duster airplanes at night. Hundreds of thousands could be killed by one individual. A small team of individuals hitting several cities at once could kill millions and throw our society and economy into chaos. In 1994, 60 Minutes presented a segment on an invisible and odorless poisonous gas that could be delivered to a city like Boston by driving a boat through the harbor. A pound delivered today would cause hundreds of thousands of people to begin dropping dead tomorrow.
Today, our Information Age society and economy rest on fragile technological pillars. As the information superhighway becomes the infrastructure for civilization the pillars of society become relatively easy to sabotage. As we advance into an Information Age protecting these pillars from lose/lose individuals becomes harder and harder and eventually will be impossible.
Alvin Toffler in War and Anti-War talks to a senior intelligence official who says, “Give me $1 million and 20 people and I’ll shut America down.” In an Information Age, power is greatly decentralized to the individual. Fifty years ago a million dollars and 20 people didn’t stand a chance of shutting America down. In the next five years the shut-down-America figure will be far lower, perhaps $500,000 dollars and ten people. In ten years it may be $100,000 and five people. In fifteen years it maybe one person and $10,000.
This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. The longer term holds almost certain devastation unless we shift to win/win. A knowledge era shall provide individuals with enormous power. We are sure to develop the knowledge for far more powerful weapons and destructive ability. Individuals and small groups, in a knowledge era, will eventually be able to produce these new, more powerful weapons. We will not be able to regulate these individuals into not having or using these weapons.
Within the coming decades we are faced with every individual on the planet having unlimited power to destroy or create; each with the power to blow up the planet and end civilization. We are moving to a state of Mass Autocracy where each individual has unlimited power.
Our destructive power is simply far too great to continue our win/lose paradigm. This is because it reaches a point where one loser can set us all back a thousand years. The systemic effects of our win/lose worldview are catching up with us not only through intentional violence but also through other means such as the destruction and neglect of the environment. When we measure profit based upon the fragmented piece of product cost for which one today can be held accountable, while ignoring the part that others in the future pay for, we are practicing win/lose-based wealth-creation. I win by making a profit today producing electricity from nuclear power, but people in the future may lose by having to pay to clean up my waste.
When we do not pay the full cost for what we get when we practicing win/lose wealth-creation. When we try to get people to work for as little as possible while getting them to produce as much as possible we practice win/lose wealth-creation. We have a name for people who do not believe in paying the full cost for what they receive—welfare recipients. Though some refer to this as good business, good bargaining or good negotiating to pay an engineer $36,000 simply because he is naÔve, when you believe he is adding at least $50,000 in value, this is welfare and we are welfare recipients.
Although data is presented and denied regarding the state of the environment and the effects of our actions, the bottom line is that there are limits to the amount of destruction which we can cause to the environment before we reach a state of no return. There are also other areas with equally devastating potential if approached from a win/lose worldview, such as genetics and human cloning. These technologies cannot and will not be contained or controlled.
Today it is truly “win/win or no deal” (Covey, 1989). The evidence shows that a knowledge society must evolve out of its win/lose heritage or perish. Win/lose simply will not cut it any longer. It is not compatible with the power brought to the individual in an era of Mass Autocracy. We are in a knowledge era that has only just begun to provide social freedoms. As information technology grows, it will continue to expand social freedoms faster and faster. The longer we delay in getting economic freedom up to par, the more we shall all lose.
In the next several decades we shall likely see information technology expand social freedoms and individual power beyond the human regulation breakpoint—the point where individual humans cannot be controlled through laws and micro rules. Each individual at some point in the future will have the ability to literally destroy all of civilization. At the “human regulation breakpoint” and beyond humanity must have systems in place to operate a civilization from win/win-based norms and not win/lose-based regulation. “When mores are strong enough, laws are not needed and when mores are not strong enough laws are irrelevant.”
The alternative to a win/win civilization is bleak, including a likely “road warrior era;” a second “dark ages,” as human knowledge and technology, for the second time in history, outpaces human maturity. We cannot grow in technology and knowledge without relative equal growth in wisdom and maturity. Nature will keep these two in balance even if it means a step back a thousand years, to get our technology to match our maturity.
The balance between social and economic freedom is, therefore, not only critically important for peace and prosperity. It is the critical link to our maturity and the survival of our planet.
We are not going back to the limited social freedoms of a pre-Information Age, unless information technology regresses fifty years or civilization crashes. The present cautious wait-and-see, go-slow, reactive, analytical and continuous improvement approach, therefore, must be discarded. We must move rapidly toward as much economic freedom as possible for the individual, in order to match the social freedoms being automatically granted through knowledge power. The only practical system with the power to expand economic freedom fast enough is Mass Privatization and Decentralized Wealth Creation in which individuals are free to control their own destiny and are motivated to heal themselves.
Copyright 2000 by Barry Carter
About Barry Carter.