George Monbiot doesn't quite get this competition thing


We've George Monbiot telling us all that this market thing, this rampant individualism, means that we all no longer cooperate with each other. Sadly, this shows a terrible misunderstanding of what markets actually are. They are, of course, a method by which humans cooperate with other humans. Competition is simply the method by which we decide who to cooperate with:

Yes, factories have closed, people travel by car instead of buses, use YouTube rather than the cinema. But these shifts alone fail to explain the speed of our social collapse. These structural changes have been accompanied by a life-denying ideology, which enforces and celebrates our social isolation. The war of every man against every man – competition and individualism, in other words – is the religion of our time, justified by a mythology of lone rangers, sole traders, self-starters, self-made men and women, going it alone. For the most social of creatures, who cannot prosper without love, there is no such thing as society, only heroic individualism. What counts is to win. The rest is collateral damage.

If I grow the pears, you grow the apples, then Bob and Jim make the cider and perry from them, then we sell some and drink the rest, are we competing against each other here? Or are we cooperating over the specialisation and division of labour and then trading in the resultant production? It is the latter of course: competition only comes in when we're deciding whether it's you growing the apples for this enterprise or Charlie in the next orchard over. The same with Bob and Jim: there might be competition to see whether it should be Bill and Johnny making that alcoholic nectar, but the end result is still that competition is how we decide who to cooperate with, the actual activities in the market, in the production cycle, being cooperation.

This same is true if it's Danny in Taiwan making the chips, Yue in China assembling them and Rupert in Cambridge writing the operating system that makes the smartphone work. The market is still the method by which we coordinate cooperation among human beings.

Over and above that misunderstanding there is also this from George:

This is the Age of Loneliness.

Well, yes, intellectual who lives in the depths of rural Wales thinks loneliness is an important phenomenon. There is a reason why the intelligentsia of every society tends to cluster in the cities. We might even identify a little bit of excessive projection from the personal to the general in this screed.