Life And Exploiting pointed out that living entails (and is inseparable from) exploiting the environment for resources. Exploiting therefore, at its roots, is constructive. Indeed, the exploitive ability of the creative has improved the quality of life for billions. We should never fear our exploitive nature, but we must manage its excesses.
Over the centuries, we have developed different techniques to curtail humanity’s exploitive excesses, each practice yielding an increased measure of civilization as it took effect. For example, in religious doctrine we command ourselves to love one another and covet not. Progressive nations separate the Church’s power over the mind from the State’s power over the body, to limit the damage that both acting together might do. In the Magna Carta, we placed limits on what a king might bring about. In democratically run countries we expect opposition parties to uncover and expose dishonesty and exorbitance in those we elect to govern. We value freedom of the press for a similar reason. We try to ensure that competition exists in free markets, because monopolies act to satisfy themselves before satisfying their clientele. We develop and enact laws that constrain the ability of individuals or organizations to excessively exploit others or the world’s resources. We set up courts, build prisons, and enforce contracts. Stockholders and legislators hold meetings and hear from auditors. Most definitely, we have learned that humanity’s ever-present inclination to over-exploit must be controlled, and we have developed specific means by which to do so.
Unfortunately, the world has grown into the idea that the most expedient way for one nation to behave toward another is to “live and let live.” Collectively, nations have come to regard other nations as families regard other families who live in separate houses: we avoid meddling in their internal affairs. Even in extreme situations, when excessive exploitation is not being contained and one country, for example, declares war on another, those outside the war zone usually sit on the sidelines and observe, hoping the conflict will be settled without their involvement.
This “hands off” outlook primarily developed because, in the past, the world was large, and distant wars were often little more than topics of detached discussions. However, this is not the case today. Globalization is making the world’s conflicts everyone’s conflicts.
This view that nations should not intervene in the affairs of other nations is slowly changing. We are coming to hold that ethical atrocities (particularly genocide) must be opposed, even when they occur within the boundaries of another nation. We act (although usually not soon enough) if world opinion seems to support an intervention. Presumably this is because such immoral activity, if unopposed, would affect how we view ourselves, and devalue our concept of who we are and what we believe in. We feel a kind of moral obligation to do something, but can’t clearly state why this is so, or what is right for us to do. The universal rationale needed to justify intervention is missing, weak, or unclear.
Section one of this chapter referred to some of the world’s major problems, and to the impression that so many seem to be beyond humanity’s power to prevent. International organizations like the UN are frequently rendered powerless because membership nations lack the moral authority and supporting wherewithal to require other nations to behave responsibly, as various recent (or current) issues relating to countries such as Rwanda, Iraq and North Korea demonstrate.
It is not impossible to influence the internal behaviour of organizations or individuals within any one nation from outside that nation. The clearest evidence of this is the European Union, where Common Market Standards have been developed that constrain a wide variety of activities in member nations. But other examples abound—Interpol and the International Criminal Court being obvious ones. The key to success for any such endeavour is a willingness to participate, brought about by the recognition that participation offers benefits that outweigh the costs.
The means of curbing exploitive excesses within the boundaries of any one nation noted in the second paragraph of this section were originally developed, directly or indirectly, from that society’s collective beliefs in what was “right” and “wrong” behaviour. Frequently, this authority stemmed from ideals espoused by the nation’s major religion. But, globally, humanity holds no common religious ideal. A first step in this direction might be the formation of an organization to explore the possible benefits of developing a meta-purpose and defining its specific meaning. Widening the support for such a purpose might become a second step, and using it to unite dissenting nations might follow.
- See Creativity, Free Will, And A Revelation.
- Individual freedom to exploit is the driving force behind capitalism, of course, and restriction of this freedom probably had much to do with the demise of communism.
Prosperity does not follow democracy, as has been claimed. It follows the freedom to exploit, and capitalism acknowledges this in the mechanisms it employs. Democracy is needed to curb capitalism’s excesses, and so preserve civilization. Freedom (to exploit) must always take priority because living and exploiting are one and the same thing, as Exploiting explains.
- The Magna Carta became law in England in 1215. It is the source of legal practices (such as the right to trial by jury) since adopted by countries around the world.
- Communism, which eliminates competition and free markets, teaches us much about what not to do when running a country.
- The West actively opposed the spread of communism (particularly in the last half of the twentieth century—overtly, as in Korea or Vietnam, or covertly, as in many other parts of the world) only because it felt threatened. The United States, through the UN, declared war in the Gulf in 1991, for the same reason.
- Benefits the United Nations might bring are effectively neutered because nations hold their country’s welfare to be more important than the world’s welfare. This is surely because the world has no common vision of where its heading.