Social Mobility

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12279627

The BBC article asks “Is social mobility good?” It’s a striking question and we often would immediately answer “of course!” However, I think social mobility is often somewhat illusory and social mobility doesn’t necessarily make people happy.

How might people be happy and get what they want without social mobility? There’s some interesting thoughts on how utopian egalitarian societies might look, both in political theory and science fiction, often riffing on anarchist political theory. If everyone has what they need and most of what they want, they don’t need to compete for status or competitive edge. People are free to excel at the things they are best at. We can be driven by pride even when competition is no longer the primary motive. I would argue that the cooperative side of humanity is more potent force of creation than the competitive side. I’d even like to think as capitalism (an incredible system for growth & change) finds itself bound by limited natural capital, our society can begin to seriously imagine a society that is based on zero growth. Capitalism has been an amazing (although often brutal) vector for the human race, leading to many innovations in medicine and technology. However, I think it’s time for other systems to get a shot. Humanity deserves better than it is getting & social mobility seems to be increasingly difficult as profit has become an end rather than a means.

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2 Comments

  1. What incentives will people have to improve, invent, or innovate if competition is ruled out? The profit motive provides necessity. Success and failure have little meaning when necessity – the mother of invention – is murdered by altruism.

  2. People have more than one motive to innovate. People innovate so they have more free time. They innovate because they’re creative and are proud of what they do. Necessity as the mother of invention is less and less I think. Collaborative solutions, particularly in natural resource management, are often much more robust than competitive solutions. Our current system hardly even encourages competition anymore. Fewer and fewer companies control more an more of the market in many sectors: Food, Technology, Energy, Transportation, Pharmaceuticals, Health “Care”/Insurance. This model encourages staying one step ahead and quashing/stealing innovative ideas from below, not innovation.


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