TRANSLATE THIS ARTICLE
Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Dr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year's clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See: integraldeeplistening.com and his YouTube channel.
The Importance of Mundane Relational Exchanges for Integral Development
Integralists, progressives, libertarians, and sincere conservatives have been misreading the sources of the decline of the West for decades now, in various ways that only make the decline faster. A cynic might say that is a good thing, because the entire rotten edifice deserves to collapse, and the sooner the better. However, when economic bubbles burst, it is not those who have the most resources and are most in collusion in exploitation and bubble maintenance that are hurt the most, but those who have the fewest resources and are least responsible for the socio-cultural cancers that destroy their hosts. The elderly and children are first into the abyss. An understanding of Wilber's relational exchanges and economist Michael Hudson's analysis can help us focus on the critical societal acupressure points that are most likely to help us understand and better prepare for a collective catastrophe, which appears to be increasingly likely.
Relational exchanges are “goods” that holons use to maintain quadrant balance and evolve. In Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (pp. 99-100), Wilber describes them:
…using just the three levels of matter, life, and mind: all of these levels maintain their own existence through an incredibly rich network of relational exchange with holons of the same depth in the environment. The physical body exists in a system of relational exchange with other physical bodies— in terms of gravitation, material forces and energies, light, water, environmental weather, and so on— and the physical body itself depends for its existence on these physical relationships. Further, the human race reproduces itself physically through food production and food consumption, through social labor organized in an economy for basic material exchanges in the physiosphere.
Likewise, humanity reproduces itself biologically through emotional-sexual relations organized in a family and an appropriate social environment, and depends for its biological existence on a whole network of other biological systems (and ecosystems)— it depends upon harmonious relational exchanges with the biosphere.
Finally, human beings reproduce themselves mentally through exchanges with cultural and symbolic environments, the very essence of which is the relational exchange of symbols with other symbol exchangers. These relational exchanges are embedded in the traditions and institutions of a particular society in such a way that that society can reproduce itself on a cultural level, can reproduce itself in the noosphere.
In short, as holons evolve, each layer of depth continues to exist in (and depend upon) a network of relationships with other holons at the same level of structural organization. I usually refer to this, for short, as "same-level relational exchange." The point is that all holons are compound individuals, compounded of their previous holons and adding their own distinctively emergent pattern; and each level of these holons (i.e., every holon) maintains its existence through relational exchanges with same-depth holons in the social (or macro-) environment.
Wilber collectively calls this series of relational exchanges, “goods,” and in integral Psychology adds two more, soul (psychic vision, God communion, God union), and spiritual (Godhead identity, sahaja) exchange. His hierarchy of relational exchange therefore ranges from the material (food, labor), emotional (sex, safety), mental (membership-discourse, self-reflective exchange, autonomous exchange). AQAL, religion, spirituality, and mysticism all focus on the last two, soul and spiritual relational exchanges. Psychotherapy generally focuses on mental and “reflective” exchanges. Evolutionary biology largely focuses on the emotional exchanges, while economics focuses on material exchanges.
Relational exchanges primarily deal with the LR social and systemic quadrant because they emphasize interaction between self and other through the type of transactions each variety entails. However, at the same time, they are statements of what we value (LL), who we think we are (UL), and what we spend our time actually doing (UR).
We can use Wilber's concept of relational exchanges and Hudson's critique of neoliberalism to help us recognize and reduce several false or misleading, but very common explanations for the accelerating collapse of Western civilization. Here are several of them.
Our in-group is made up of the good guys
What group is going to see itself as wrong or evil? Our sense of self depends on our justifications of what we do. When what we do is challenged or called into question, our identity is threatened, in an experience called cognitive dissonance. We typically do whatever we need to do to eliminate that psychological and emotional discomfort. First, we deny the information that challenges our world view and sense of self. If that does not work, we rationalize our actions so that our motivations and our actions reflect each other. If that still does not reduce our cognitive dissonance, we will attempt to suppress or kill the source of the threat to our identity. The only reason why we will identify with “the bad guys” is when and if some out-group provides us with status, and that relational exchange is important to us. In such instances, being “bad” is “good.” However, most of the time we are all in competition to prove that we represent the spearhead of truth, goodness, justice, baby-kissing, and Boy Scoutery. We need to get over this delusion. To our out-groups we are in collusion with the forces that exploit and kill them. From their perspectives, we are not the good guys, and to base our sense of self on that delusion is to live in a self-destructive world of denial.
It's the other party that is the enemy. Both the left and the right, the individualists and the collectivists, have drunk the pervasive neoliberal Kool-Aid that the oligarchy, plutocracy, deep state, and their media accomplices continuously serve up. Hudson describes the predicament as one in which
.. the American economy is polarizing between people who inherit enough money to be able to have their own housing and budgets free of student loans and other debts, compared to families that are debt strapped and running deeper into debt and without much savings. This financial bifurcation is making us poorer. Yet neoliberal economic theory sees this as a competitive advantage. For them, and for employers, poverty is not a problem to be solved; it is the solution to their own aim of profitability.
Neoliberalism does not deal with, nor does it care much about the real economy— whether people make enough money to live, raise families, support health care or afford an education. Neoliberals care about maximizing profit, and the most money is to be made in the financial sectors of stocks and housing. Those in the financial sector do not produce things humans need or use; instead they make a profit by trading the abstracted value of things.
Hudson points out that the basic concept of neoliberal economics is that
…if a country just lowers its exchange rate more, it will be able to lower its wages and living standards, paying labor less in hard-currency terms until at some point, when its poverty and austerity get deep enough, it will become more competitive.
This is reminiscent of the mindset of fascism, which unites governance and business, so that maximization of profit rules with all the power vested in the state. Slave labor is therefore ideal, because it maximizes profit, and economic imperatives drive societies toward extreme bifurcations of plutocrats and slaves. Neoliberalism makes money by making money. We have seen that economic philosophy implemented recently in Greece, with the destruction of its economy by “austerity” imposed by neoliberal debt holders in Berlin, Frankfurt, Brussels, and Paris, and carried out by politicians who ran as liberals and progressives. For those who care to recognize inconvenient truths, the gutting of Greece provides an important object lesson in how progressives in today's world, once in power, prove themselves to be loyal servants of neoliberalism. This is a realistic interpretation of the presidencies of both Clinton and Obama, and it is a realistic prediction of what the next Democratic presidency will be in practice, regardless of the principles on which candidates run for election. Whether you choose Pepsi or Coke, you're still drinking toxic sugar.
We live in a world of forced choices, all of which advertise themselves as freedom, but which, upon closer examination, are forms of “trickle-up” economics: socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. According to Oxfam, the world's 26 richest people currently?have?the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion. How did we get ourselves in such an unjust, and worsening, global predicament?
According to Hudson, our current neoliberal predicament began in the 1980s when the question was,
…who would be the basic planning center of society. Would it be the financial sector— the banks and bondholders, whose interest is really the One Percent that own most of the banks' bonds and stocks? Or, is it going to be governments trying to subsidize the economy to help the 99 Percent grow and prosper? That was the social democratic view opposed by Thatcherism and Reaganism.
Neoliberal economics increasingly hollow out economies, support the slow but inexorable accumulation of capital in the hands of a handful of extremely wealthy and powerful people, and increase class divisions between the haves and the have-nots, all in the name of egalitarianism, pluralism, democracy, and freedom. How bad is this problem? Elections, as well as our incessant disputes over which party or candidate is better, keep us fighting over which is better— Pepsi or Coke. Republicans and Democrats blame each other; we endlessly debate the merits of each position when the choice is between soft or hard neoliberalism. In either case, the result is austerity economics that claims massive debt will not allow the government to provide collective social goods, such as infrastructure improvement, free education, or access to affordable medical care, but is always willing, even eager, to create more debt in order to fund the military or bail out the financial sector. This is a colossal scam and it continues because we ignore it and allow it.
Neoliberalism, which governs Western economies today, and therefore our lives, is in reality pseudoliberalism, facism masquerading as human rights. We are married to appearances of freedom and justice while our imprisonment and exploitation increases. Trump is unsettling for us because he makes our impotence and collusion in our own destruction obvious, while smooth politicians like Clinton and Obama make the sheep go quietly to their butchering. Such tools of the plutocracy add sugar to the buckshot they pour down the gullet of the collective jumping frog while figures like Trump simply tell us buckshot is good for us. Do debates over whether capitalism, socialism, libertarianism, anarchism, or panarchism are the problem/solution reduce trickle-up, class divisions, or bring prosperity to a greater number? Aren't such disputes more likely to be intellectual rationalizations for deep-seated emotionally-grounded beliefs and biases that we are too identified with to objectively recognize?
I have my own pet theory as to who the enemy is. This includes conspiracy theorists, social justice warriors, anti-Semitics, Zionists, the MSM, the Deep State, Trump, Clinton, Putin, China, those nasty North Koreans/Iranians, Maduro, Gafni, Wilber— pick your flavor of Villain of the Week. Essentially, this is an exercise in futile self-righteousness. Does it really matter whether or not the Rothchilds control the world economy? Does it matter if we have proof that our government lies to us? Are there still people na?ve enough to believe that it does not? Does it matter if Wilber is a flawed human being or ignores science that disagrees with his world view? Much more important is our obvious tolerance of the lies and corruption of government and of those politicians for whom we vote, such as Hillary Clinton, because they are “the lesser of two evils.” A vote against our enemy is not necessarily a vote for our interests. But this reality seems not to be so important to most voters. Why, when such a vote serves to strengthen the plutocracy? Our unwillingness to adopt affirmative skepticism toward those we respect and look up to is also a sign of our determination to protect our sense of self at all costs, because to challenge the legitimacy of our heroes is to challenge our own self-worth.
It's a lack of consciousness that is the enemy. This is a favorite “solution” provided by Wilber, Integralists, progressives, and liberals in general. If we only get 10% of the population to understand AQAL, if we only get the conservatives to see the error of their ways, if we only stop discriminating and love gays and immigrants, if we only give women equal pay for equal work, then there will be the dawning of the Age of Asparagus or something. Gender rights issues have largely been won in the West, largely because the plutocracy could care less. Such issues have no effect on their bottom line. When businesses realized how much gays spend on weddings and in general add to the economy their resistance changed to support; as it finally dawns on governments and pharmaceutical companies how much money is to be made through the legalization of cannabis, resistance is melting away across the country. A focus on the raising of consciousness would be better spent recognizing the reasons the wealthy generally put profit before people. It has to do with the addictive nature of fundamental relational exchanges and the multiple ways that society rewards those who excel at their maximization.
The working poor are too busy hustling two or three jobs to find the time or bandwidth to learn about AQAL or “consciousness.” They are too stressed, fighting to access fundamental material and emotional exchanges for themselves and their families, to find any relevance in dealing with higher order relational exchanges. This is why Wilber advocates upaya, the Buddhist term for “skill in means,” or the recognition of the relational exchanges on which a person is focused and to meet them on that level. The problem is that it is easier to dismiss such people as “deplorables” or “red” than to recognize that their relational exchange emphasis is as legitimate as ours. In addition, the plutocracy sees poverty as a feature, not a bug, because it keeps the populace asleep, dreaming, and sleepwalking instead of asking uncomfortable questions about the discrepancies between professed plutocratic motivations and what their actions actually produce in society.
We tend to admire and assume competence in those who secure fundamental relational exchanges of food and labor, sex and safety, status and power for themselves and their families, giving them the benefit of the doubt in our assessments of their ability, character, and judgment. We identify with our idealized, bigger than life fictive ego ideals and suppress challenges to those false narratives because they generate cognitive dissonance that threatens our sense of self. This largely explains the success of people like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton as well as that of spiritual pandits and gurus. Plutocrats, who typically have secured all of these material and emotional relational exchanges, have enormous advantages in courts of law, the financial world, and in the realm of networking, which represents a world of wealth all its own.
Avoidance. The strategy here is to keep us preoccupied with stuff that doesn't affect the plutocracy but merely provides us a drama-based hit of dopamine and endorphins. Distraction and avoidance are the contemporary version of Bread and Circuses, and it could be generated by anything: social media, getting caught up in the drama of geopolitics, movies, video games, gossip, work, substance abuse, vacations, or buying more stuff we want but don't need. The technological revolution provides an endless stream of “gee whiz” distractions from the buckshot being poured down our throats. Obviously, all of these activities have their functions and do not have to be avoidance strategies, however it is wise to assume that they probably are. The question then becomes, “Is the source of neoliberalism “out there” or is it in my own preoccupation with downstream priorities and my ignorance of how they deconstruct the quality of my life in all four quadrants?
Exceptionalism/Elitism. This can take several forms. We might think, “I'm different; it can't/won't happen to me.” “I won't get a chronic disease that is expensive to treat so I don't need to be concerned about the high cost of health insurance.” “I don't break the law so I don't have to be concerned with pervasive invasions of privacy and violations of my constitutional rights by police, courts, and government.” Or, we might think, “I see the big picture; these ignorant and deluded people in government and finance don't.” That big picture might be human rights, AQAL, or the world from a mystical perspective. Whether or not we see a bigger picture has little or any impact on the ability of the powerful to offshore jobs, make education and healthcare obscenely expensive, or destroy our First Amendment rights to privacy. “Seeing the bigger picture” is another way of saying we have the luxury of focusing on higher relational exchanges than those struggling to survive. While having a more integral world view may be personally reassuring and even true, those exploiting and abusing us by removing the means of securing foundational relational exchanges that we require to live, are laughing all the way to the bank, The rationalizations we generally tell ourselves to justify our elitism and exceptionalism, while essentially ignoring the collapse of the environmental and socio-cultural contexts on which we depend, include our competencies, higher education, status, power, money, mystical experiences, special knowledge of AQAL or some other multi-perspectival world view, and ethical superiority (“We're Democrats, Libertarians, or Panarchists and social liberals; you aren't.”) The nefarious conclusion is: “Because I am exceptional and belong to an elite such as a religion, club, social strata or nation, I get to Pass Go and Collect $200, but you don't.” Elitists tend to think, “If you only become more like me and adopt my world view, you will be happy, prosperous, and loved.” The implication is that if you don't or won't, you will be unhappy, poor, and hated. The corollary is, “It is my responsibility to make sure that you are unhappy, poor, and hated so as to maintain my exceptional and elite status.” We can more easily spot such motivations in plutocrats and political opponents than in ourselves. Why?
Focusing on the wrong relational exchanges
The lowest relational exchanges are the most important, because if they are not secured, the higher ones exist in a state of existential anxiety, perpetually avoiding recognition of their vulnerability and envying those who have secured those foundational goods. Idealists of all stripes tend to discount the importance of these fundamental relational exchanges, focusing instead on building sky hooks intended to magically hoist humanity out of its misery. Elitists are typically idealists, in that they proclaim the sources of both human suffering and liberation to be internal, discounting or ignoring the overwhelming conditioning, scripting, and control exerted by the larger socio-cultural contexts in which interiors are embedded. Conservatives are also idealists in this sense, in that they generally place responsibility for human suffering on interior, personal factors.
The first relational exchange, “food,” is best understood as wealth, or the economic means to purchase those things which feed us, not only materially, but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Wealth provides us not only with food, shelter, and security, but with the time and resources to advance our education, as well as the ability to travel, network, and expand our horizons. Those who have more money have more freedom and security; therefore, most people envy those who have more money than they do. This bias remains a psychological reality despite the well-known fact that food, as a relational exchange, diminishes in importance in proportion to its availability. The more we have, the less value is provided by the addition of more consumables.
Integralists, progressives, and the religious generally focus on higher relational exchanges rather than on lower ones. Progressives and the “spiritually evolved” can carry out any variety of abominations in the name of the furthering of higher relational exchanges. It is difficult to understand how comprehension of intellectual abstractions is more important than raising the living standards of the poor or demanding justice for victims of societal abuse, but these seem like largely intractable problems, and we can easily feel powerless when we think about them. One consequence of a preoccupation with higher level relational exchanges is that such people render themselves victims of those who build their lives around the maximization of lower relational exchanges. Progressives tend to focus their attention and energy on idealistic “solutions” that merely allow powerful and official thieves to continue to steal them blind.
Because of the fundamental necessity of securing “food” as a relational exchange, it is most likely to be the primary motivation behind any and all beliefs and actions, regardless of how they are presented, advertised, or rationalized. “Cui bono” or “Who benefits?” is an ancient principle which still applies today as much as it did for the Romans. This principle was classically stated by Watergate “Deep Throat,” Mark Felt, FBI Associate Director at the time, when he told Bob Woodward, “Follow the money.” Wealth as a relational exchange is not always the primary motivation behind action, but it is the first hypothesis to rule out. To ignore it is to pretend that humans are driven by higher motivations than they usually are. Humans are indeed capable of nobility, but that nobility is authentic and reliable to the extent that it presupposes a stable foundation of earlier relational exchanges. If those are not in place, or if someone is addicted to a lower one, like the acquisition of wealth, status, or sex, then focusing on higher relational exchanges can be a hollow charade, diversionary strategy, or means of maintaining our elitism at the expense of others.
One of the advantages of looking at reality from the perspective of relational exchanges is that it cuts through many ideologically-based mythologies that are used to sustain multiple fundamental human delusions that are currently preventing the evolution of humanity. For instance, in regards to the foundational relational exchange of food, there is no difference between Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians in that they all have supported, in one way or another, neoliberal economics. The common response to this charge is, “You don't understand Democrats, Republicanism, or Libertarianism,” or, “Those Democrats/Republicans/Libertarians who do support neoliberalism aren't real Democrats/Republicans/ Libertarians.” The reason we know that these arguments are rationalizations and delusions is because when any of these groups actually get into power they pursue neoliberal policies. Yes, there are notable exceptions, but as a general rule, this is the case.
Neoliberalism, as an economic doctrine, is a form of imperialism. Michael Hudson, who is a clear, persuasive, and influential economist, states the broad collective interests of all political parties in the US to maintain economic imperialism:
Imperialism is getting something for nothing. It is a strategy to obtain other countries' surplus without playing a productive role, but by creating an extractive?rentier?system. An imperialist power obliges other countries to pay tribute. Of course, America doesn't come right out and tell other countries, “You have to pay us tribute,” like Roman emperors told the provinces they governed. U.S. diplomats simply insist that other countries invest their balance-of-payments inflows and official central-bank savings in US dollars, especially U.S. Treasury IOUs. This Treasury-bill standard turns the global monetary and financial system into a tributary system. That is what pays the costs of U.S. military spending, including its 800 military bases throughout the world.
The US governmental system is designed to secure food and safety relational exchanges at the expense of other nations. This reflects the basic human emphasis on individual and collective self-preservation. Fundamentally, it is unfair to out-groups— those with whom we do not identify. In terms of physical evolutionary demands, this priority makes sense; repressing or killing out-groups is time-tested and is an effective survival mechanism. However, like the diminishing returns of wealth, so as humanity moves into social and noospheric priorities in its relational exchanges, the exploitation of out-groups becomes less and less effective as a survival strategy, due to the increasing interconnectivity of all groups. Therefore, while economic imperialism is justifiable from an evolutionary perspective, in the form of giving priority to food relational exchanges, the more that humanity awakens to the awareness that how we treat others is how we are treating those aspects of ourselves those others represent, the less tenable exploitation and the abridgement of human rights becomes.
In a never-ending pursuit of the maximization of profit, neoliberal plutocrats use this strategy not only on foreign countries but on US citizens. Hudson states,
Since 1980 the U.S. economy has been made very high-cost. Yet there also has been a huge squeeze on labor, by raising the prices it has to pay for basic needs. Even if wages go up, people can't afford to live as well as they did thirty years ago. A radical restructuring is needed in order to restore a full-employment industrial economy. You need de-privatization, you have to break up monopolies, you need the kind of economy and economic reform that America had under Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. I don't see that happening.
Trump's economic motives
Trump is accelerating the deconstruction of the US through the application of neoliberal economics. Hudson's explanation for Trump's bizarre economic decisions is clear and to the point.
Nobody installed him; he installed himself. I don't think most people expected him to win. If you look at the odds that professional bookies and oddsmakers gave from the time he announced his candidacy, most people thought that sleepy Jeb Bush would get the nomination, and that Bush then would lose to Hillary. So there were indeed attempts to install Hillary or Bush. But nobody tried to install Trump. He made an end run around them, by straight talk, humor and celebrityhood. He didn't have advisors that he would listen to, because he's always been a one-man show. And he doesn't really know what he's doing economically. He knows how to cheat people, victimize suppliers, and how to make money in real estate simply by not paying suppliers, and by borrowing from banks and not paying them. But he has no idea that you can't run an economy this way. Being a real estate mafioso isn't the same thing as running a whole economy. Trump has no idea and I don't think anyone knows how to control him, except maybe Fox News.
Understanding Trump's economic motivations not only helps us to make sense of his often bizarre actions and pronouncements but allows us to understand that economically, he is a neoliberal, as are almost all politicians in the West. This is a factor that is far more important than debating whether Trump has a narcissistic personality disorder, is a puppet of Putin, or is in the pocket of Zionists and Israel. His neoliberal roots are more important because the principles which Trump is following that are hollowing out the US and Western economies have been followed by all US presidents post World War II, and arguably since Theodore Roosevelt. In fact, neoliberal economic policies of Lincoln were a major precipitating factor for the Civil War. Neoliberalism is a pernicious, chronic economy-destroying economic disease. Understanding and combating it is fundamental to making the changes that integralists and progressives want to make in the world. According to Hudson,
Trump wants interest rates to be low in order to inflate the housing market and the stock market even more, as if that is an index of the real economy, not just the financial sector that is wrapped around the economy of production and consumption….Trump imagines that if you keep interest rates lower than those of Europe, the dollar's exchange rate will decline. He thinks that this will make U.S. exports more competitive with foreign products…He believes that this will increase the chance of rebuilding America's manufacturing exports…This is the great neoliberal miscalculation. It also is the basis for IMF (International Monetary Fund) models.
The IMF is the primary weapon the US has used to privatize foreign economies and make them economically dependent on the US, essentially forcing “austerity” on their citizens, which means lowering their wages and standard of living through the mandated paying off of unsustainable levels of debt generated by the IMF, World Bank, and EU. We have seen this IMF-mediated process recently at work in the destruction of the economies of Greece and the Ukraine. Those countries who will not take the medicine of IMF, like Russia and Venezuela, deal with devastating sanctions.
Since Clinton and his repeal of Glass-Stegall, the US has put neoliberal principles to work on itself, resulting in its own economic deconstruction. Why would the government want to do that? Governments that exist to advance the interests of plutocrats are not nationalistic, despite Trump's “Make America Great Again” slogan. Money knows no national allegiance. The allegiance is to maximizing profit, that is, to maximize the relational exchange of food.
If you're an investor, you can make more money by dismantling the U.S. economy. You can borrow at 1 percent and buy a bond or a stock that yields 3 or 4 percent. That's called arbitrage. It's a financial free lunch. The effect of this free lunch…is to build up foreign economies or at least their financial markets while undercutting your own. Finance is cosmopolitan, not patriotic. It doesn't really care where it makes money. Finance goes wherever the rate of return is highest. That's the dynamic that has been de-industrializing the United States over the past forty years.
Trump's guiding idea is that lowering the dollar's value will lower the cost of labor to employers.
This is not just the guiding idea of Trump, but of neoliberalism, which is as much the state religion of the EU as it is the US. When you lower the cost of labor to employers you lower the ability of labor to consume the products employers make, because employees make less money. To the extent that economic growth is predicated on increased consumption, neoliberalism is the enemy of economic growth. What it actually supports is the enhanced financial status of the rentier class of plutocrats, not the economic health of any society. Both Republican and Democratic administrations since at least Reagan have been not so different from Trump in economic policy; they have all been neoliberals. Their strategy is to put a boa constrictor stranglehold on the food relational exchange and squeeze.
Trump is attempting to depreciate the dollar so that it buys more foreign goods, with the aim of using that capital to rebuild American industry. But Hudson points out why this strategy fails:
…it won't help much if the dollar goes down by 1 percent, 10 percent or even 20 percent. If you don't have factories going and if you don't have a transportation system, a power supply, and if our public utilities and infrastructure are being run down, there's nothing that currency manipulation can do to enable America to quickly rebuild its manufacturing export industries…American parent companies have already moved their factories abroad. They have given up on America. As long as Trump or his successors refrain from changing that system— as long as he gives tax advantages for companies to move abroad— there's nothing he can do that will restore industry here.
Economists have known for over a hundred years that neoliberalism doesn't work. But because government— all governments— tend to be captured by wealthy elites, addiction to food as a relational exchange has demonstrated it has the persistence and determination to outlast and outplay all alternatives until it generates its collapse, and with it, the collapse of society:
The 19th-century American School of Political Economy developed the Economy of High Wages doctrine…They recognized that if you pay labor more, it's more productive, it can afford a better education and it works better. That's why high-wage labor can undersell low-wage “pauper” labor. Trump is therefore a century behind the times in picking up the IMF austerity idea that you can just devalue the currency and reduce labor's wages and living standards in international terms to make the economy more profitable and somehow “work your way out of debt.”
It is important for integralists, progressives, and liberals to understand that the deck is stacked against reform and why that is the case:
You can help labor or you can help Wall Street. If running the economy means helping labor and improving living standards by giving better medical care, this is going to be at the expense of the financial sector and short-term corporate profits. So the last thing you want to do is have somebody run the economy for its own prosperity instead of for Wall Street's purpose.
On an international level, this scheme is hostage taking:
Other countries have to pay us or else we'll bomb them. The military dimension to this arrangement is the U.S. position that it would be an act of war if other countries don't keep spending their export earnings on loans or U.S. stocks and bonds. That's what makes the United States the “exceptional country.” The value of our currency is based on other countries' savings. The money they save has to be held in the form of dollars or securities that we're never going to repay, even if we could.
The threat of sanctions or outright military aggression is a regression to a pre-conventional “might makes right” morality, not so distant from the law of the jungle. It is this willingness to use brute force against innocent victims that makes neoliberal economics the prevailing approach to wealth as relational exchange in the world today.
Since 1971, world diplomacy has essentially been backed by American military power. It's not a free market. Military power keeps countries in a financial strait jacket in which the United States can run into debt without having to repay it. Other countries that run payments deficits are not allowed to expand their economies, either to rival the United States or even to improve living standards for their labor force. Only countries outside the U.S. orbit— China, and in principle Russia and some other countries in Asia— are able to increase their living standards and capital investment and technology by being free of this globalized financial class war.
But this approach is backfiring, as the nature of greed and power is to over-reach and thereby bring about its own collapse. Countries like China are now awakening to the reality that the US will never honor the redemption of its huge bond holdings. That is fundamentally why China is reducing its bond purchases, shifting to trade using its own currency, and developing its own international transaction clearing agency.
The irony is that Trump is breaking up America's financial free ride— its policy of monetary imperialism— by telling counties to stop recycling their dollar inflows. They've got to de-dollarize their economies. The effect is to make these economies independent of the United States. Trump already has announced that we won't hire Chinese in our IT sectors or let Chinese study subjects at university that might enable them to rival us. So our economies are going to separate.
What difference, if any does this make?
While we could take the attitude of the Borg in Star Trek, that resistance is futile, and move into a position of passive helplessness toward socio-cultural factors that are largely beyond our control, it is clearly both healthier and meaningful to take small but meaningful steps that together, add up to major shifts in social incentives. Raindrops wear down mountains. Such steps focus on healthy interventions at the levels where the problem exists in society, in the material and emotional relational exchanges, not in the more ethereal mental, soul, and spiritual exchanges.
Independence from the US economy makes the world a safer place
Not only is it more difficult for the US to sanction countries that do not trade in dollars, when the world economy collapses due to the failure of neoliberalism, those countries which are most independent financially in their relational food exchanges are most likely to pull through without severe damage. The personal corollary is to diversify your own financial resources. The easiest way to do so is to network with a broad group of interdependent others.
When feasible, buy locally
Jeremy Rifkin has explained how world economies are moving toward decentralization of energy, production, and communication. These processes lessen the stranglehold of geopolitical monopolies.
The more debt you have the more your time and labor are captured and your freedom reduced. We have a two-tiered system of debt management in the West; businesses can receive protection from creditors without major repercussions, while you and I cannot. Ethical considerations also apply to individuals while ethical considerations often are not factors in business and corporate decision-making. While those same standards that individuals are forced to work under should apply to business owners, bankers, brokers, and politicians, that is not going to happen, due to the political power of the plutocracy. Therefore, consider treating your debt as if you are in the business of balancing profit and loss in your life, and when you can no longer do so, look for ways to offshore or neutralize your debt. In fact, such a consumer revolt may be the only way that economies will ever migrate to a fair and equitable approach to debt.
Don't waste your time on issues that do nothing to change the balance of power
While power isn't everything, all relational exchanges involve power and its application. While ideas can and do change the world, noospheric relational exchanges are, on the whole, less powerful and effective than the small, daily choices that we make in what we buy. Consider every purchase a vote. Who and what are you voting for today? Name brands are usually votes for monopolies and the neoliberal status quo; making price your priority usually is to vote for offshoring of both income and jobs. Some companies exploit the planet, labor, and minorities more than others. Knowing which ones do so and “voting” against them through boycott is a meaningful economic and political act.
Look for small acts that collectively make a big difference on a global scale
If you are concerned about global warming, consider using Ecosia as your search engine. As of mid-2019, Ecosia has planted over 60 million trees world-wide using advertising revenue generated by our on-line searches. You do not have to be searching for products for your searches to translate into rebuilding our planet's lungs.
If you are concerned with global economic inequality, consider loaning the global poor $25.00 through Kiva. When that loan is repaid you can re-lend that money again and again. I have built up some $250.00 that I relend to third-world farmers, students, and women all over the world. While a loan of $25.00 is in itself, when it is combined with thousands of other people making similar loans, we can change the future for many struggling fellow humans who are basically ignored by the world economic system. This is also an example of intervention on the level that is needed. These people don't need to learn about AQAL. They need money to buy more livestock, fertilizer, or seed.
There are many other opportunities, with more being created weekly, to make a large difference through small collective action. Find causes that matter to you.
Recognize that the problem is embedded in human nature
Historically, across most societies, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer over time. Changing politicians or one's form of government may slow down the process of trickle up and the gutting of society, but there is an inexorable slide toward the accumulation of wealth by those who have wealth at the expense of those who do not in any post-hunter-gatherer society. Two forces that counteract this tendency of humans to put personal wealth before collective human interests are law and debt forgiveness. Law works to mandate transparency and accountability. For example, Glass-Stegall really did reduce the pace of neoliberalism while its repeal by Clinton really did increase the rate at which plutocrats plundered the economy. It also appears that the democratization of instruments of spying are not only reducing our freedom but are also reducing the freedom from accountability available to plutocrats. Tools developed in the name of increasing public safety and security are being turned on plutocrats and forcing greater transparency, and with it, greater fear of accountability. The result is better behavior out of increased fear of being caught for bad behavior. Debt forgiveness, a principle which Hudson explores in great detail, involves a periodic redistribution of income by the state.
Balance all four quadrants
Paying attention to the quality of our relational exchanges is a way of infusing the “profane,” that is, mundane material and emotional exchanges, with the more sacred mental, “soul,” and spiritual exchanges. We bring fire from heaven into our daily economic and behavioral choices. A focus on the LR aspects of all relational exchanges brings the mundane into the sacred, meaning a minimization of escapism and non-grounded idealism and left-quadrant reductionism. Socio-cultural contexts do constrain and in many ways direct the expression of our individual consciousness, judgments, and behavior, and unless we recognize and understand those constraints we will not know what we do not know. Victims of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, we will be secure in our mystical experiences and superior world view, all the while climbing Mount Stupid.
 Michael Hudson and Bonnie Faulkner, "De-Dollarizing the American Financial Empire", www.unz.com, July 3, 2019.