Wouldn't you say removing the hierarchical structure of society removes incentive for overachievers?

A point you made in an earlier video was the corrupt hierarchy structure that allows people on top to put people whose job depends on them in awkward positions with their demands and whims (e.g. Weinstein or basically any employer most people have had a horror story with). An opposite point that I would like your comment on is that the very nature of hierarchical structure tends to also allow SMART people who WORK HARD (i.e. competent people) to be recognized as experts in their field allowing them to rise above the rest and lead them, which gives them an incentive in the first place to work towards the top of such hierarchies. I understand the barriers of entry to many, many of the lower class , as I've seen most of your videos and have great respect for your work as a counter culture, but how would a society progress without the most industrious people being rewarded in such a manner?

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  • Nicholas Anderson
    commented 2018-02-07 01:24:14 -0500
    There are some important questions based on your outlook(and what you believe societies outlook should be) that need to be clarified in order to provide you with an answer to your question. Do you believe in equality regardless of gender, race, circumstances of birth or any other variable that can facilitate an us vs them mentality? Do you believe that society should be meritocratic? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then it is contradictory to support a system that rewards individuals for the genetic intelligence they possess at birth by granting them economic advantage and power over others. It IS appropriate to reward them for the intelligence they have obtained through hard work. Intelligence is as much a function of economic circumstance as genetic inheritance. Technically allowing people to exploit an advantage for self enrichment based on a genetic advantage at the expense of those less genetically endowed is just another class division.

    This is not to say that these people should be ignored or held back from their potential. In fact we should have a system that facilitates the absolute potential of all individuals. However, many many studies have shown that cooperation is a higher quality economic and educational system than competition. Nor does intelligence naturally endow common sense or decency, both important qualities for leaders(unless this is a Machiavellian competition) . Incentivizing antisocial behavior for individual advancement IS the basis for Adam Smith’s “invisible hand of God” and therefore free market economics. That is the philosophical argument.

    Additionally we have to address the more tangible issue. Is Capitalism a meritocracy? Does it actually reward individuals based on their ability and contribution? In short does it fulfill the distinction that you attribute to it? Well it doesn’t cultivate the potential of individuals with anything near equality. It creates scenarios where hard working and intelligent people cannot advance without performing explicit or undignified acts for those placed above them. It allows individuals to dictate the terms and conditions of advancement at any given time for an entire population: Nepotism, systemic unemployment, environmental destruction(which robs the future of equal opportunity). Capitalism has “succeeded” by it’s ability to mask it’s transgressions as humanitarian and egalitarian processes. The meritocracy is an illusion pandered to the ego’s of all it’s participants. True meritocracy requires social recognition not individual concession.

    With the background information out of the way, the question becomes how would a society with the preceding values incentivize the competent to perform. The answer is twofold. First that equality would simply manifest more competence. Capitalism reduces labor to it’s simplest to improve efficiency. Additionally by simplifying and consolidating skillsets capital creates a scenario where labor is an appendage of the machine, completely dependent on the whims of labors market value and incapable of developing beyond the needs of these skills and therefore obtaining any more labor value. This systemic devaluation would not exist in a company that required it’s employees to run an enterprise cooperatively, because they would cultivate diverse skillsets and as a byproduct, competence. The second motivator is that a gifted individual still possesses a very important power, social standing. Brilliance and perception are traits that allow individuals to persuade rather than dictate. Reducing one’s power to a single vote does not reduce their ability to voice their thoughts and ideas or prevent them from obtaining the respect among their peers. To be equals, but perhaps first among equals. Of course there are hurdles to be overcome, but in our society economic advantage is social advantage. Separating these concepts is one of the major driving motivators for a cooperative private sector.

    I’d love to open a dialogue about this. It’s a common argument against socialism and I believe that it needs to be overcome.
  • Nicholas Anderson
    tagged this with upvote 2018-02-07 01:24:13 -0500
  • Misha
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2018-02-03 06:51:42 -0500