Essay from

Science and Economy: The 'Small is Beautiful' Alternative

--Capitalism isn't the 'absence of ideology': it is the
ideology that says--like Marxism but with a twist:
"Might is Right"
Aristo Tacoma

Millenia ago, Aristotle, walking together with his
students (who took notes, that which became the teachings
of Aristotle), offered the opinion that the seeking of
knowledge is good in itself. It doesn't have to be
justified in any way in particular: it is part of human
nature, human freedom, and the joy and love of living, to
endavour to perceive correctly and have good insights, and
come to ever-deeper understandings about the cosmos in
which we inhabit.
  Scroll ahead to the twentieth century, and a number of
writers tried to distinguish between work that leads to
deeper and better knowledge, from work that merely
perpetuates illusions and foggy thinking. For instance,
Karl R Popper suggested that what we ought to call science
is that which lends itself to be checked; that which has
ideas that are open to change; that which says: let us
twist our theories to fit with reality, rather than trying
to twist facts to fit with our ideologies.
  The same K R Popper also summarized one of the main
points of the teachings of Karl Marx to be this: Might is
Right. Marx held that capitalism is doomed to collapse,
and the proletariat, the workers, will get power by virtue
of the natural processes of economic history as it will
unfold; hence, their power will overcome above capitalist
powers, and it is right: it will win, and so it is right.
In a word, might is right.
  A mid-twentieth century novel, The Spy Who Came in from
the Cold, by John Le Carre, sums up this view. In it, a
girl working in a library, who is a commuist, expresses
her central view in this way: "I believe in history".
  With the collapse of the Soviet Union and its political
fanfares, a particular form of capitalism, which we can
call 'big-is-beautiful capitalism', or, more dryly,
'monopolist-oriented capitalism', came to be regarded, by
dominant forces in the West, as an inevitable approach
when the illusion of marxism is removed. It came to be
seen as, in a sense, an 'ideology-free' approach. Let us
add, for clarity, that this capitalism wasn't presented,
in leading newspapers, as either monopoly-oriented or
centralization-oriented. It was presented as something
that, when it overtakes a country, simply makes this
country into a "land of opportunities". It wasn't said
that these countries in fact will become "lands of 
monopolies". Today you can buy any brand of sunshades, any
brand of dish washing machines, any brand of cars, and
in many cases--at the same price--the choice of brand 
won't make much of a difference for the same type of thing.
The reason is of course that these things are the same
things, produced the same places, with few exceptions.
Despite all the diversity of brands--with but few 
exceptions--they is all the output of mostly the same set
of centralised industries, merely packaged differently. 
Even Mercedes-Benz doesn't look like anything other than 
mostly any car in the world. They are mostly all part of 
the same rebranding-of-centralised-products idea. In 
contrast, the core notion in diversity economies--or 
economies that we can call 'small-is-beautiful capitalism'--
is of course that each good brand has (to borrow a 
german/english technical word from quantum mechanics) 
an 'eigenfrequency'. A characteristic fingerprint or 
frequency with which one can have a personal resonance.
  That is to say, when you engage with a product, then,
ideally, you engage with that which Robert Pirsig in his
classic novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance 
(and later writings) calls Quality. And that quality 
cannot be mapped to a reductionist scheme; it cannot 
be monopolized; it is the expression of first-hand
expert skill and enthusiasm of real human beings doing
good engineering works for the love of it.
  The monopoly-orientation type of present-day capitalism
isn't the absence of ideology: it is a very specific
ideology of the 'might is right' type implemented
directly into the lawbooks of the various capitalistic
countries,--in what is said and in what is not said. For
instance, when antitrust (anti-trust) laws (ie, the laws 
that prevent the ganging up of dominant companies into 
informal structures that steer and rule the market) are 
weak, that's part of an ideology that allows big companies 
to join up and rule over even much of the political 
establishment. In today's world, antitrust laws are 
extremely weak; they are a laughable nothing, compared to
what it takes to create a diversity economy. 
  Once mutually trusting monopoly oriented industries are
getting the upper hand, by means of weak antitrust laws,
they strengthen this process in a positive feedback loop, 
by exercising their might so as to remove obstacles to further
monopolisation and centralization. Internet is obviously
subject to the same. 
  And to get a type of Small is Beautiful Economy perhaps 
along the lines as also Ernst F Schumacher proposed, a lot 
more is required to curb what seems to be the instinctive
greed rising to the fore of most large company owners--
so as to keep these companies at a size that is meaningful
compared to the size of the market. It requires a much-needed
element of common sense implanted into the rules.
  To see all this and act on all this demands tremendous and
unseen clout of fresh young politicians--especially when it
comes to doing it without leaning on the good-old-bad 
extremist ideology of Karl Marx. I presume that some writers
somewhere are raising these issues but we don't have any
legendary writer in the history of political thinking of
the celebrity type doing it (unless you regard E F Schumacher
as one such). Ayn Rand, as I understand this pro-egotism 
writer, is all pro-monopoly, when it comes to the effect of 
what she writes; even though most writers on economy 
including her pay more or less lip-service to 'diversity'.
To implement a diversity-oriented capitalism is not merely
good sense: it is the only thing that makes sense in the
long run, given a vision of the human being as a being
worthy of freedom, variation, unfoldment and possibilities
along the lines that Aristotle suggested. But then we also
need strong rules; and--as Aristotle also proposed--
correspondingly strong rulers to implement them. Democracy
won't do it when the main opinions of the democracies are a 
product of the hypnotic fabrication of the large industries
(this is not a small theme, I know).
  To connect these musings with science:-
  In science, what we have at present is something
radically different from what Karl Popper and people like
him (Carnap, Quine, Naess etc) suggested. In most of 
twentieth century, most countries with respect for themselves
had compulsory philosophy education as part of the necessary 
background to attain to a science degree: though perhaps
more eg in Europe than in USA, for pragmaticism of a 
certain industrial kind has long had a grip on many 
thought processes in USA, also when it comes to education.
  For instance, in Norway, Arne Naess, the first philosophy
professor that Norway had, personally saw to it that the
Examen Philosophicum had in it a variety of ways in which
quasi-scientific thinking could be challenged in the
minds of those who sought to go on to higher studies in
any field, be it politics or science. Today, there's no
pride, no depth, no duration left of that exam: it is
merely a formality, something one has to go through, and
go through quickly, in order to get on with the real
thing. Much the same can be said about the higher
education processes in most countries today.
  We once had Latin language studies as part of the 
thought-stimulation and mind-deepening that education
was supposed to bring about, in addition to some light
geometry and algebra. In their stead today we have, mostly,
an analytical mathematics that fails to inspire, a barren 
mathematics, a set of techniques whose only virtue is that 
they can serve engineering processes--these are but rarely 
a servant of pure thought. Computer languages ought to have 
taken up this role, but apart from a bit of Lisp taught at 
some universities with an eye to logical clarity, most
thinking about computer languages at the higher 
education places are centered on how to use these
to make flashy game-like menu-driven products for
"users"; and the languages themselves have become, by
and large, detoriated by too much industrial concern. (And
this despite the work of Kurt Goedel early in the 1930s
that showed the incompleteness of much of all of present
analytical mathematical approches.)
  It is true that in scientific articles as they are
printed, these articles do have references, at least
indirectly, to the idea of the Scientific Process. Here,
for instance, the scientist is assumed to entertain
several hypotheses with equillibrium in mind, and to
look to facts in a dispassionate manner; and to weigh the
evidence, and to suggest relationships without asserting
causes and effects. But in the printed article we are
speaking of the 'science as product' element. 
  For in the early 21st century, we are experiencing the
constant publishing of a vast, indeed inhumane quantity,
of these so-called "scientific articles". In any field
there is every year produced much more than any human
being can study in depth during a lifetime. There is 
a vast number of journals--some of them have a large
number of sub-journals associated with them--many of them
have hundreds of pages, and small typefont--and there are
correspondingly large, and strong, scientific institutions
behind them. These are in charge of vast amounts of money,
relative to what is available in toto for the scientific
community, and this in a world offering relatively few 
interesting jobs to what is more or less an ever-growing 
  These scientific institutions have what we can call an
'inertia'. They are rolling on like great boulders down a
mountainside. And, like boulders crush things in their 
paths, that which doesn't fit the interests of these 
institutions, are financially, and sometimes in other 
ways, crushed and flattened. While Albert Einstein and 
others like him suggested that scientific research is
best done entirely outside of scientific institutions,
today's mega-factories of socalled "scientific results"
are conglomerates with a uniformist attitude, to an extent
that makes even the most bleak predictions in Thomas
Kuhn's ideas of science revolutions come true. Things that
don't fit are polished away: but this is hard to tell,
because the incredible quantities that are, each day,
delivered with the stamp of 'science' on it. Science has
become, professionally, the task of reproducing
invulnerable ideas: and the strength of technology 
derived from bits of "successful science" earlier on 
lends it the prestige it cannot possibly have in any
other sense.
  Once in a while some people deliver scentific articles
that are influenced by theories and assumptions not at
all shared by the mainstream science and its powerful
interests and its money. In such cases, editors of these 
journals may call in groups of investigative scientists 
to have a criticial and sceptical look at how the 
scientific report was produced: what went on prior to 
it, eg in the laboratories. A group may drive out and
force a shut-down of the laboratory, carry away PCs and
put tape on the equipment. This is how a paradigm defends
  Now seen in abstraction, scepticism about the scientific
background process is an great good thing: that science 
is evaluated in terms of its process, not merely its product,
not only when the science comes out of labs, but for any
type of science or research in any field whatsoever. That is
exactly what is needed. But when this scepticism becomes
the vehicle of defense of the existing dominant theories
it doesn't do any much good after all.
  After all, most of the writings on the philosophy of
science concerns, indeed, science as process--and as a
noble attitude towards reality, in which personal biases
should be pushed aside in favour of a balanced view of
fact. But what we see at present is that the scientific
community, with its might of money, with its prestige, its
rulership over research jobs and research labs, its
immense filtering as to who can publish something and who
cannot, and all that--this community calls on the process
of science to be investigated only when it goes against
its paradigm. As long as things do not pose a threat to
its chief ideologies and assumptions, the scientific
process isn't investigated--only the scientific product.
  And this allows an immense number of products to be
published while money "isn't wasted" on looking into the
processes. Science as a factory, then, has run amok: it is
a gigantic machine, pouring out things in the name of
science while not looking at its own process. This is the
natural effect of the particular type of ideology of
monopoly-oriented capitalism wedded to scientific
esbalishments. The big companies often want big science 
to support their greedy agendas. They do not care about a
process as long as they can get away with not caring
about it. This influences the language of science; it
influences very strongly what things are regarded as moot
and not within the area of science to investigate; it
influences the whole attitude in scientists as to what is
deemed 'interesting' to look into, in science; and it
clearly also lead to a detoriation of the process of
science. In short, the dictatorship of money leads to
a collapse of science, and what is called "science" isn't
at all worthy of that name anymore. This is the cold, flat
fact. This is, if you like, the scientific take on the
present state of science: it should, like the sports
results of previous years, be somehow suspended; so that 
sports events this season can take place in a fresh context, 
as a competition between human beings partly for the fun of
it, not competing against the recorded milliseconds of
ghosts of the past, who may or may not have competed on
fair grounds.
  In design it sometimes applies that Less is More. As for
science, clearly, Less is indeed, Much More, when the 
process of science has become so inattentive that its
results are only right sporadically. Science is about 
the personal understanding of human beings in a first-
hand way--coming to a greater clarity about what is going 
on in the world, at all levels--and this is something
that requires, as Momo in Michael Ende's novel, an
exceptional quality of listening (ie, in this case, 
listening to reality, or what David Bohm, in conversation,
called having "seeing as the first priority"), and, when 
necessary, to go slowly, even backwards. This means that 
the focus on productivity in a narrow economical senses such 
as when grains or shoes of a certain mass-produced kind are 
made, should yield to give place to a focus on quality of the 
process of science. The quality of process will decide what 
is to be produced, rather than a superficial review of the 
product by a committee of more or less loyal peers. Otherwise, 
what we get is a pollution of the rationality of humankind. 
Science can only filter itself of illusions by giving 
plenty of attention to process and being willing to give 
up the tendency to produce more and more output at 
less and less costs. It should be a costly process to 
produce anything of science: and it may be a great 
sign of good science going on that nothing is produced 
at all, especially when there is honesty about this and
this lack of results is documented as part of the process. 
Science can only be science when there is no dictatorship 
of money at all. Money, of course, by itself is or can be
a good thing: we should really say--the dictatorship of 
'big-is-beautiful' capitalism must yield an instead 
we must have something along the lines of a 
'small-is-beautiful' capitalism. The latter is not merely
a romantic idea but a practical approach: for those who 
are interested, they can find living examples of such 
a capitalism all over the world, in pockets of almost 
every society around. It is possible to raise such a 
better ideology of money to the state level, and to 
introduce it to the scientific communities. This requires 
a political will to implement changes, and to challenge 
the Might is Right attitude of the barons of present-day 
  As Arne Naess once formulated it (in conversation), 
we must challenge the idea that 'big is great'. We can put
it this way: we need to move from a 'big-is-great' view to 
a 'small-is-great' view.

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