Goals in a Socio-Economic Theory

We don’t understand much of society’s workings, such as when economic collapse might occur, so how can a socio-economic theory be created which accomplishes this?


The universe does not give us goals or purposes or rules or anything else. They are chosen by man. Man chooses according to some preferences, and these preferences are not universal. In other words, there is no genetic programming for goals or anything that might be transformed into goals, except on the individual level. So when we look at entire societies, it is a severe challenge to turn anything, such as these individual goals, into rules for citizens in the society to follow.

This challenge has been overcome in every society, whether or not the rules are recorded somehow or just taught as custom. They vary tremendously, and since social and economic rules are part of the foundation of any socio-economic theory, making choices for them without any universal guidelines is also a severe challenge.

A consistent set of goals is desirable, to the extent allowed by the complexity of social life. Inconsistent goals lead to inconsistent rules for behavior, and this can be exploited by one faction, the one possessing power and force in the society, to be able to suppress all other factions, as there will be some rules that cannot be followed due to inconsistency. These can be used as a faux legitimization of punishment or levies imposed by the power faction on individuals from other factions. In general, however, consistent goals are desirable as it leads to all citizens in the society being able to follow whatever was determined to be in the best interests of the society.

Because there are such great differences between individuals in any society, the set of goals and the rules derived from them must apply differently to different categories of individuals. There are countless categorizations possible, by age, by sex, by caste, by origin, by accomplishments, by abilities, and certainly others. Rules would follow the template: a person in this category must do this and must not do this. Rule negatives can be expressed in the rules by a slightly different template: a person in this category may do this with no interference by governance. If the set of rules is logically created, each of them would relate to some goal, and would contribute to the achievement of that goal in some incremental way.

Goals are adopted because of some emotional connection within powerful individuals, or because of legacy considerations, in other words, at some time an individual or group makes up the rules, and then they stay in place until some other powerful group finds them in opposition with their internal interests and changes them. The goals can be completely opposite: one group may find conquest to their liking, and the society is organized to accomplish that; another group in another society might find that peace through defense is what they desire to organize their society around, and yet another might seek peace through any means including servitude or vassalage.

Categorization can exist via legacy divisions or can change, gradually or abruptly. Some specific caste can suffer an erosion of their perquisites, over a long period of time. Another caste might be freed from serfdom by a single order effective on a particular instant, which might be seen as abolishing a category arising from origin. A new category might be created by a draft order, affecting for example able-bodied males between the ages of 20 and 30, a new category not utilized before in the canon of laws. A schoolchild category can be created out of the larger category of children, consisting of those between 7 and 14, for example.
Most changes in goals, categories and rules affect the economics of interactions between individuals and between an individual and society as a whole, and thus have economic impacts as well as social ones. It would seem quite presumptuous to have a socio-economic theory specify all these details, but several have made attempts at it. The difficulty is getting started, and coming up with some goals, from which other aspects can be derived.

Goals can be chosen for a variety of sources, but underlying them is the desire of the creator of such a theory to have their own emotional framework justified. An author may have revenge as a covert emotion, and want to create a consistent, appealing system which eliminates the power and prestige of the targets of his emotion. Persuasion being what it is, this is certainly possible. Incremental changes would be easier to implement that a system-wide change, so this route might be easier to navigate than coming up with a whole system revision. Picking on the status or privileges of one group and persuading to change only that might be done with even a single book, or nowadays, a single e-book.

If an author does not have any revenge motive, or similar motive generated by their experiences in life or even their own vicarious experiences, what might substitute for that? Greed is one very strong motive, and an author of a new socio-economic system might be propagandising for his own benefit, or for the benefit of a group which will subsequently benefit him, after the new system begins to flourish and be adopted. This would work for an incremental change as well, and could serve as a legitimization of ongoing changes, ones which were not motivated by society being persuaded to change, but by some evolutionary alteration under way in the society to which the writing was addressed.

Besides hate and greed, behind whatever façade the author found convenient, their might be motivations more benign. An emotional desire to help others, or some specific others, without necessarily depriving others of their positions or privileges, might serve as well. Perhaps there is a way to make a non-zero sum game out of changes in a socio-economic theory, allowing this to happen, but likely there would be some collateral damage.

There could also be over-arching goals derived from abstract qualities and quantities, such as population, standard of living, trade, health, eugenics, and more. Consider the concept of progress in the technological sense; this could be used as a goal. As an example, if this latter goal were used, the categories that matter are those related to this pursuit. One category is that of scientists, another would be engineers, and a third would be technicians, all related to the continued progress of technology. Those involved with businesses which promulgate the technology across society would be yet another.

One choice that the rules could try to enforce could be continuous progress, meaning an absence of economic collapse, war, or other social catastrophes. It is true that war might accelerate the development of technology in certain areas, as has happened in our history already, but that only could take place if the development of technology were not already being emphasized and generally pushed forward as fast as possible, which is what a socio-economic system that was being built around this idea should achieve. War can divert resources into the progress or adoption of technology, but if resources are already being diverted in this direction, what more might be done by a wartime setting? Probably very little. Lackadaisical support for technology progress could be accelerated by the needs of war, but for this to exist, the socio-economic system would have had to almost fail in its principal objective.

For war to not occur, it would be necessary to understand the various causes of war, and try to establish the rules of society so that nothing leading to war would occur. Likewise, economic collapse would also have to be understood, and the predecessor conditions leading to it would have to be avoided in some manner. How exactly would some theory prevent these two scourges of society, when the processes that lead to them are not understood? The stability of society would have to be preserved, and this would have to happen even though the society was undergoing rapid change, due to the introduction, continuously, of newer and newer technology. Technology would have to be defined to be supported, but if it is deemed to be the application of scientific knowledge to any aspect of society, then the entire spectrum of science would be supported, and the trickle-down of scientific knowledge in every area of science, as applied to any appropriate aspect of society would also have to be supported. This sounds like a recipe for continuous transformation, and under such conditions, how would war and economic collapse, and any other social catastrophe, be avoided?

Another unknown is the best manner of governance. Take for example the governance of the principal objective, the expansion of scientific knowledge. How is the choice of subject chosen for any group of researchers? How is the allocation of funds to be best managed? How is education to be handled? How are all the aspects of society which contribute to having an educated, scientifically, population to be dealt with, or even determined and listed, much less directed in the useful manner?

This simple example of a goal-directed socio-economic system amply displays that we are far from having enough understanding of even simple-to-describe components of society to be able to even suggest how they might contribute to a social goal. There might be personal opinions about any of these components, as to how they work and how they might be bent to supporting a social goal, but there is certainly no scientific understanding of the various processes that occur within each of them. Perhaps the only conclusion that can be made is that science would need to be devoted to understanding these basic social processes as the very first step of the construction of a socio-economic system that supports a goal, such as technology progress. It could be that the prevalence of war in human history has pushed technology to examine offensive and defensive technologies, but not technologies in the larger part of society. It is likely time to remedy that situation.

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