We already live in a society based on love

I often see people proposing that an ideal society would do away with money. It would instead be based, say, on love.

Money is a method of social accounting. There are those who abuse it. But for most, it's what compels us to do lots of boring things that we're good at, which help others; instead of fun things we're not so good at, which help only a few.

We already have a society based on love. The fact is that the love of other people is not easy: the sacrifices it requires are hard. Money is a measure of how many boring, unfun things we've done to help other people, as if we loved them, for little benefit to us. Anyone who wants to do these things out of love, can already do so and collect payment as an afterthought. Since most of us don't actually feel this much love for others, money motivates us to do this work for those we do love.

What people are actually proposing is an economy based on fun. This would create about as much material well-being as a child creates playing in a sandbox. Heck, the child won't even build, maintain, fill up or clean the sandbox, unless bribed.

Comments

DanSmith said…
Hi Denis, I've been reading your blog for a while, and quite like it; you manage to take on certain topics with a unique combination of thinking outside the box and frankness, which I personally find quite refreshing.

As for this one, I'd be hard pressed to qualify it as such. The core hallmark of true love is selflessnes; you do something for someone you love, with the intent that your actions will benefit them (granted, that doesn't necessarily mean, that the outcome will be to their benefit), without regard for your own benefit.
What your thesis implies - unless I'm misunderstanding it -, is that the amount of my income (to keep it simple, let's say my business income, is my only income source), is directly correlated to how selflessly I've behaved towards my clients. I'm having great trouble seeing, how various, clearly very effective revenue increasing methods, such as:
"dopamine-hijacking" marketing, manipulation based sales tactics, financial engineering (especially the whole derivatives world and mutual funds), cutting costs on product quality (e.g. poisonous Chinese toys, dangerous pharma drugs) etc. reconcile with your hypothesis. Who uses such tactics on someone they love? And this doesn't even take the employees, sub-contractors, environment into the account; even if I do behave in a "love like" manner towards my clients, I can be a complete asshole towards my employees (mobbing, tyranny, pressure etc.), my sub-contractors (not paying them on time etc.), the environment (pollution etc.). Your master thesis that "We already live in a society based on love" needs to account for this as well, and here it's even harder to reconcile it with the reality.
IMO this can't simply be brushed aside with "there are some who abuse it", since these things are wide-spread and pervasive, across all sorts of industries.

Given that capitalism encourages our selfishness, and tries to harness it for the greater good - in which, to a degree, it also succeeds -, it's very unlikely that this would result in a predominantly selfless behavior, which would be a necessary ingredient, in order to have a "society based on love".
denis bider said…
Hey Dan!

The gist of it is: we enter relationships out of love too, and still many relationships end up being abusive. Still other relationships, which we might not call abusive, have various substantial faults, which the partners may tolerate or not.

The people who make the unethical decisions you listed, like putting lead in toys, are certainly not driven by love for others. Other people, who serve their customers well, may certainly be abusive to their employees. But these abusive aspects undermine society, they are not what makes society work. These are undesirable flaws, like abuse in a relationship undermines the relationship; it is not what makes the relationship work.

To a significant extent, it seems to me the meaning of our lives here is to learn how to love. To the extent our relationships and societies function, it's because we have partially learned this. To the extent we fail, it's because we have partially not.

One of the greatest challenges for humanity is our in-group / out-group tendency, where we offer love and loyalty to the in-group with which we identify, and we dehumanize the out-group. For example, a man in the US might identify first with his family (will act unjustly against non-family to benefit family), then as a police officer (will act unjustly against non-police to benefit fellow police), then as a member of a party (will act unjustly against other party to benefit own party), then as an American (will act unjustly against people abroad to benefit the US), then as a human (will act unjustly toward animals to benefit humans).

This tendency is absolutely disgusting and morally inexcusable, but it is present in 50% of people or more. They even consider it as a virtue because they value loyalty. Sports fandom is a playful expression and a celebration (!) of this tendency.

Still, this tendency is a form of love. In the above example, the person loves his family, loves his fellow officers, loves his party, loves his country, and loves humanity. The problem is, he takes this love as permission to act unjustly toward those outside of the in-group with which he identifies in a given decision. His actions are motivated by love, and he is even proud of it. The problem is that the love is selective.

To a large extent, capitalism succeeds because it overrides our in-group / out-group tendencies with a rule-based system where we must act in a certain way, which for the most part is a just way, respecting the rights of everyone involved. We are begrudgingly forced to act as if we love strangers; as if they are in our in-group, in a way that is not selective.

Our rule-based system then works because:

- Individuals (employees) participate for the love of their in-groups, especially family.

- The rules require everyone to act as if everyone else was part of an in-group, and therefore must be treated fairly.

In a very real way, then, this system takes the love that we feel for our in-groups and extends it, more or less successfully, to everyone in the system, even if 50% of the population is not actually mentally there. This is a great achievement.

The abusive situations you describe are not what makes things work, they are failures. The system works despite the failures, not because of them. We like to focus on the failures because humans have a documented negativity bias.
DanSmith said…
Hey Denis,

"The gist of it is: we enter relationships out of love too, and still many relationships end up being abusive. Still other relationships, which we might not call abusive, have various substantial faults, which the partners may tolerate or not."

Personally, I wouldn't say such relationships have a lot of love in them; again, I'm aware that this is a high bar, but in my opinion "love" is mostly defined via selfless behavior towards the ones we love.
Abusing them, is clearly not a selfless act; at best it can be borne out of our own insecurities, mostly probably out of desire to control them, and at worst from sheer pleasure at causing them suffering.
In any case, the underlying motivation derives from our own selfishness. Surely a lot of people in such relationships genuinely believe, they're in love, but again, if their
relationship is based mostly on selfishness as opposed to selflessnes, than that's not love. Effective self-delusion doesn't change that.
You must have some, participant independent, definition of love, and IMO the one I've offered in my original post fits the criteria.


"But these abusive aspects undermine society, they are not what makes society work. These are undesirable flaws, like abuse in a relationship undermines the relationship; it is not what makes the relationship work."
Agreed, but I think you're arguing against a straw man here; I've nowhere stated a contrary position.

"To a significant extent, it seems to me the meaning of our lives here is to learn how to love. To the extent our relationships and societies function, it's because we have partially learned this. To the extent we fail, it's because we have partially not."
Interesting perspective, and one I can, to a large extent, agree with.

"One of the greatest challenges for humanity is our in-group / out-group tendency, where we offer love and loyalty to the in-group with which we identify, and we dehumanize the out-group. For example, a man in the US might identify first with his family (will act unjustly against non-family to benefit family), then as a police officer (will act unjustly against non-police to benefit fellow police), then as a member of a party (will act unjustly against other party to benefit own party), then as an American (will act unjustly against people abroad to benefit the US), then as a human (will act unjustly toward animals to benefit humans)."
Completely agree with this one.

"This tendency is absolutely disgusting and morally inexcusable, but it is present in 50% of people or more. They even consider it as a virtue because they value loyalty. Sports fandom is a playful expression and a celebration (!) of this tendency."
IMO this is a quite harsh judgement; most likely humanity is this way, because this is what historically speaking worked, what enabled you to survive. After all, love is limited - if you agree
to my definition of it-, since actions of selflessnes are limited; there's only a limited amount of time I can spend on loved ones, before the day runs out; there's only a limited amount of money I can spend on them,
before I'm broke; there's only a single life that I can sacrifice for them,...


"Still, this tendency is a form of love. In the above example, the person loves his family, loves his fellow officers, loves his party, loves his country, and loves humanity. The problem is, he takes this love as permission to act unjustly toward those outside of the in-group with which he identifies in a given decision. His actions are motivated by love, and he is even proud of it. The problem is that the love is selective."
Completely agree.
DanSmith said…
"To a large extent, capitalism succeeds because it overrides our in-group / out-group tendencies with a rule-based system where we must act in a certain way, which for the most part is a just way, respecting the rights of everyone involved. We are begrudgingly forced to act as if we love strangers; as if they are in our in-group, in a way that is not selective."

Our rule-based system then works because:

- Individuals (employees) participate for the love of their in-groups, especially family.

- The rules require everyone to act as if everyone else was part of an in-group, and therefore must be treated fairly.

In a very real way, then, this system takes the love that we feel for our in-groups and extends it, more or less successfully, to everyone in the system, even if 50% of the population is not actually mentally there. This is a great achievement."

I wouldn't say this is out of love, but out of fear. Fear of repercussions which will follow if you don't conduct yourself properly, which range from:
- legal consequences (e.g. trying to cheat a stranger aka out-group member, in a business transaction)
- social consquences (e.g. having a rumour spread that you're not trustworthy, if you don't stick to your word)
- self-image incongruence (e.g. not giving up my seat to an elderly person in a packed train, will make it harder for me to think of myself as a decent person)


"The abusive situations you describe are not what makes things work, they are failures. The system works despite the failures, not because of them. We like to focus on the failures because humans have a documented negativity bias."
Again, agreed and nowhere have I taken a contrary position.
DanSmith said…
Haven't really commented much on blogger before, hence the poor formatting. Tight on time ATM, but will try my best to improve it, going forward :)

PS: Seriously frustrated, that you don't get the edit option (I know you can delete, and re-submit, but that's just hassle).
denis bider said…
Dan: Personally, I wouldn't say such relationships have a lot of love in them

Abusive relationships have some of the most love in them. The love is being misused.

The person in the abusive role may be a narcissist or a sociopath, in this case they do not love. But the abuser may also love strongly and lack emotional intelligence. Their reasoning might be "We have such a fundamental connection, he/she could not possibly leave."

The person in the victim role does not walk because of the love they feel. They haven't been brainwashed into feeling it, it's not Stockholm syndrome, they actually feel it. It's actual love. The abuser is a real, flawed human being and is lovable. The person in the victim role lacks the discerning that love is not enough, that the relationship has to be functional.

In my experience, twin flame love exists and is the strongest form of love. It lends itself easily to dysfunction because the love is so strong it creates a need, a fatal fear of losing it, which leads to a tendency to clutch the other person and/or enable them in whatever problems they have.

Dan: in my opinion "love" is mostly defined via selfless behavior towards the ones we love.

Then my computer loves me the most because it is completely devoid of ego, it serves me in complete selflessness.

Along the same lines, according to your definition, no one can love you as much as the car you drive. It will protect you unto its own destruction, without a moment's hesitation.

If selfless behavior your only definition of love, then your ideal is to become an object with respect to the other, an object for them to dispose with as they like. In my view, that's not love. I suspect it's also not in yours. If you want to argue from a definition of love, rather than an intuitive understanding, then this attempt will not do.

I have seen "love" defined as identification with another person or being; seeing from their perspective; recognizing the validity of the self in them. That seems sensible to me, but it involves no action at all.

"Selflessness", to me, is tragic - it involves devaluing your own self to validate another. Validating another is love, but devaluing yourself is the opposite. "Selfless love" is therefore a contradiction in terms. Your car offers you selfless love, or the plate and fork from which you eat.

The love you offer others should not devalue yourself, so therefore should not be selfless. It should recognize the validity of the other while recognizing the validity of yourself. The love you offer another should be fair.

This is as much as I have time to write. I might come back to the rest later.
DanSmith said…
Hi Denis,

I was waiting for the second half of the answer before answering, but anyway I'll answer just this part then.


Abusive relationships have some of the most love in them. The love is being misused.

See below.

The next three paragraphs I can't really comment on, since I don't have any reference experience in such relationships. But the "selflessnes criteria", as further elaborated below,
still applies.


Then my computer loves me the most because it is completely devoid of ego, it serves me in complete selflessness.

Along the same lines, according to your definition, no one can love you as much as the car you drive. It will protect you unto its own destruction, without a moment's hesitation.

At first, I thought you were joking, but once you repeated it in the 5th paragraph, I realized you were giving this as a serious counter-argument. I can't really believe that
I have to explain this, but here we go: Love is an emotion. Inanimate objects don't have emotions, hence they can't love you.

Also, I think, by listing those examples in my previous reply, I gave you an idea of what I meant under selflessnes.


If selfless behavior your only definition of love, then your ideal is to become an object with respect to the other, an object for them to dispose with as they like. In my view, that's not love. I suspect it's also not in yours.

Selflessnes and having a healthy self-respect aren't mutually exclusive. The above falls under the latter, not the former - you're right, I certainly don't aspire to that.
There's love for others, and love for yourself. The former is manifested via selfless behavior towards the ones we love, and the latter by selfishness; a spectrum that goes from the sort of "objects" you describe,
and to the narcissists at the other end. The optimal spot is a healthy ratio between the two.


I have seen "love" defined as identification with another person or being; seeing from their perspective; recognizing the validity of the self in them. That seems sensible to me, but it involves no action at all.

The very word "emotion" comes from Latin, and has action at its root: movere - move. Love being an emotion, should manifest itself in action at some point. And if that action doesn't largely
consist of selflessnes/honest intent in benefitting the ones we love, then that's not true love. Yes, the feelings that underpin love might stem from what you're describing, but that's not real
love if it doesn't satisfy the mentioned criteria. That's why abusive relationships, IMO don't have true love in them; likely because such people aren't capable of it, through some unfortunate combination
of nature and nurture related factors, and are stuck just in the first "feelings part" of it, that I've described.


If you want to argue from a definition of love, rather than an intuitive understanding, then this attempt will not do.

Whose intuition? Peoples intuitions on love fall on a very wide spectrum, from those who see them as giving their children the best lives that they can, or those who're willing to
give up their lives for their country, to those who abduct children and lock them in their basements.


"Selflessness", to me, is tragic - it involves devaluing your own self to validate another. Validating another is love, but devaluing yourself is the opposite. "Selfless love" is therefore a contradiction in terms. Your car offers you selfless love, or the plate and fork from which you eat.

The love you offer others should not devalue yourself, so therefore should not be selfless. It should recognize the validity of the other while recognizing the validity of yourself. The love you offer another should be fair.

See the "self-respect" comment above.
denis bider said…
Apologies, the reason I have not made further replies is because I'm really not in a position with time to reply further.

Of course time could always be taken from other things, but I find that the 80/20 rule applies to debate, as well. This is to say, 80% of the benefit of the conversation can be derived from the first 20% of the conversation. Conversely, if one insists on extracting the next 16% of the value, that requires holding 4x as much conversation. And then, to extract the next 3.2%, that requires 16x as much conversation, and so on.

Besides time limitations, I have a repetitive stress injury which I have to manage, which also prevents me from investing too much into one thing.

I hope the exchange so far was useful for something. :)
DanSmith said…
No worries, I understand. I rarely engage in commenting online, but interesting to learn about this thesis.

Hope your RSI gets better soon! :)
DanSmith said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
DanSmith said…
Just one last addition:


That's why abusive relationships, IMO don't have true love in them; likely because such people aren't capable of it, through some unfortunate combination
of nature and nurture related factors, and are stuck just in the first "feelings part" of it, that I've described.

This might have been written in a harsher fashion, than I meant it; I don't think that people who are/were in abusive relationships are destined to this diminished form of love forever. Most likely with will and effort, this can move towards a true love. After all, feelings and thoughts form a feedback loop.

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