In­ter-de­pen­dence

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Dr Ak­mal Hus­sain

IN­TER-DE­PEN­DENCE is one of the defin­ing fea­tures of hu­man so­ci­ety since Homo sapi­ens first be­gan their jour­ney of life on earth in small groups in East Africa about 200,000 years ago. Co­or­di­nated ac­tiv­ity was nec­es­sary for sur­vival since it en­abled more ef­fi­cient hunt­ing, gath­er­ing and re­sponse to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. So­cial in­ter­ac­tion was also a key fac­tor in the de­vel­op­ment of lan­guage through which the in­di­vid­ual could con­vey com­plex ideas to oth­ers in the group and thereby achieve the de­vel­op­ment of hu­man con­scious­ness. It is through this lan­guage-based con­scious­ness that hu­mans were able to ex­pe­ri­ence the tran­scen­dent beauty of the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment around them, and at the same time ac­quire a pro­gres­sively so­phis­ti­cated ob­ser­va­tion-based un­der­stand­ing of its func­tion­ing.

Noam Chom­sky, the great cog­ni­tive sci­en­tist, ar­gues that the ba­sic lan­guage struc­ture (which is com­mon to all lan­guages) rep­re­sents the uniquely hu­man men­tal process through which we are able to in­te­grate in­for­ma­tion and make it mean­ing­ful.

In con­trast to the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal and an­thro­po­log­i­cal ev­i­dence of the es­sen­tial so­cial­ity of the in­di­vid­ual, neo-clas­si­cal eco­nom­ics con­ceives of the in­di­vid­ual in iso­la­tion from so­ci­ety. The pur­suit of in­di­vid­ual self in­ter­est within a mar­ket­based sys­tem, it is ar­gued, drives the process of re­source al­lo­ca­tion, pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion in the econ­omy to reach an ef­fi­cient equilibrium. In this frame- work, com­pe­ti­tion rather than co­op­er­a­tion is the hall­mark of ef­fi­ciently func­tion­ing economies and so­ci­eties.

Yet re­cent con­tri­bu­tions from the com­mu­nity of nat­u­ral sci­en­tists are con­trary to the long-held neo-clas­si­cal model of the econ­omy. For ex­am­ple, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent pa­per by Frans de Waal (Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can, Septem­ber 2014), "Our propen­sity to co­op­er­ate has old evo­lu­tion­ary roots… only hu­mans or­ga­nize into groups ca­pa­ble of achiev­ing colos­sal feats. Only hu­mans have a com­plex moral­ity that em­pha­sizes re­spon­si­bil­ity to oth­ers… and some­times we do in­cred­i­ble things that put a lie to the idea of hu­mans as purely self-in­ter­ested ac­tors."

The pri­vate prof­itabil­ity based com­pet­i­tive mar­ket econ­omy over the last three cen­turies has pro­duced a stag­ger­ing vol­ume of ma­te­rial wealth. Yet its dis­tri- bu­tion is so un­equal that one per­cent of world's pop­u­la­tion owns more wealth than the rest of the 99 per­cent to­gether. While the global elites live in lux­ury, the bot­tom one third of the pop­u­la­tion still lives in poverty.

Th­ese in­equal­i­ties which are built into the struc­ture of cap­i­tal­ism have the po­ten­tial of gen­er­at­ing great con­flict within and be­tween coun­tries that could un­der­mine the very fab­ric of hu­man so­ci­ety. Thus, free mar­kets have an en­demic ten­dency for in­creas­ing in­equal­ity (as shown by the em­pir­i­cal work of Piketty). At the same time the process of pro­duc­tion within a mar­ket based sys­tem tends to gen­er­ate costs for so­ci­ety as a whole (ex­ter­nal costs) which is not in­cluded in the cal­cu­lus of the in­di­vid­ual en­tre­pre­neur. Thus the pur­suit of pri­vate prof­itabil­ity through the con­tin­u­ous in­crease in the pro­duc­tion of com­modi­ties within in­ad­e­quately reg­u­lated mar­kets has over the years caused grave dam­age to the global phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

The process of pro­duc­tion, con­sump­tion and waste dis­posal of in­dus­trial prod­ucts based on fos­sil fu­els gen­er­ates green­house gases which in­duce global warm­ing. The In­ter-gov­ern­men­tal Panel for Cli­matic Change (IPCC) has pro­vided ev­i­dence that shows that the build-up of th­ese green­house gases is in­deed caus­ing global warm­ing and that this is due to hu­man in­ter­ven­tion into the ecosys­tem. As a con­se­quence there has been an in­crease in the fre­quency and in­ten­sity of ex­treme cli­matic events which have al­ready caused great hu­man suf­fer­ing. Sci­en­tists have sounded a unan­i­mous warn­ing that if the av­er­age global tem­per­a­ture ex­ceeds 2 de­grees Centi­grade by the end of this cen­tury, com­pared to pre- in­dus­trial lev­els, it could have cat­a­strophic con­se­quences for the world.

The grave risk to life posed by global warm­ing is ac­cen­tu­ated by the wide­spread pol­lu­tion of sur­face and ground wa­ter, large-scale de­for­esta­tion, tox­i­c­ity of soils and air pol­lu­tion in ma­jor cities. As a con­se­quence there is a dra­matic in­crease in the ex­tinc­tion of liv­ing species on the earth. The present rate of species ex­tinc­tion is 1000 times the pre-in­dus­trial av­er­age (2000 species go­ing ex­tinct per year cur­rently, com­pared to the nat­u­ral ex­tinc­tion rate of 2 species per year). Clearly the so­cial costs of pri­vate prof­itabil­ity have reached a point where the life sup­port sys­tems of the planet are un­der threat.

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