Competition and Co-operation

Having watched Rich Hall’s recent excellent BBC4 programme, ‘Working for the American Dream’ on the development of the USA, and coming across the United Nations focus on sustainable development, led me to this reflection.

The USA was built on conquering supposed virgin lands, and people making loads of money by exploiting those lands, their resources, indigenous peoples, and the people who actually did the work. The system was essentially competitive, and at the top the US system still is. It appears to be still dominated by those with money and power, and there is an apparent aversion to co-operative ideals – hence the bizarre denigration of ‘socialism’ as in some way bad, and the refusal to countenance universal health care.

Due to the size of the USA and its economy, this system has to some degree been exported across the world, but significantly resisted by more co-operative or collaborative approaches, notably in Europe, where provision of social and health care are regarded as important. US disdain of this has become clear, in the shape of the Trump administration, which even appears to seek to undermine the great collaboration of the EU.

Meanwhile, the UN wrestles with the issue of sustainability in a world of incredible challenges on climate, biodiversity, resource depletions and all their consequences. What is clear is that there are now no virgin lands to be colonised, and indeed we must create some to give nature adequate sanctuaries. It is also clear that the world’s problems can only be resolved by co-operative approaches.

Of course, in psychological terms the adolescent stage of development of ego is characterised by differentiation and competition. As we develop and grow psychologically we naturally open up more to love, empathy and co-operation. A similar process operates at a ‘nation state’ level.

The world cannot wait for the USA to ‘grow up’, but if only it would.

Featured image shows tug of war at 1904 Olympic Games, St. Louis,
by Charles Lucas via Wikimedia Commons


5 thoughts on “Competition and Co-operation

  1. What make you think that the free market is not a cooperative approach? And why do you not think socialist and supranational projects like the EU cut the majority of people off from the chance of cooperating with others?


    • Yes a genuine free market, overseen by government to ensure it remains free, can be co-operative.
      I look at societies in Europe and in the US. Left to themselves big corporations do not actually support the free market and try to ensure their own success by non-free-market monopoly, buying government favours etc. Small people get left behind unless protected to some degree by social provision, which is generally better in Europe than US. eg free or low cost healthcare is in my opinion far superior to the US system as it gives dignity to all.


  2. The power to break up monopolies is one thing, and governments had it long before the current age of the giant high-tax welfare state. But the downsides of creating a state capable of ‘fixing’ inequality, sickness etc are so big – regulatory capture, loss of agency and choice of citizens (a definite kind of indignity), inefficiency (witness the price of regulated v unregulated sectors)…
    Anyhow, I only came here for the Mint Moth!


  3. Thanks for dropping by. Having lived my life in Europe since the end of WW2, I just don’t see the point of going away from the social safety nets that are in place and work reasonably well. In the end, of course, it’s just a matter of degree. Most important is reasonably impartial, transparent and responsive governments – to all interests.


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