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Reciprocal economics

Today’s human society is upset because the reciprocity in economics has been disturbed and even eliminated. If this is not restored fast balance will follow a natural and unpredictable cause of global magnitude. Nature is our best guidance in these kind of situations. Even though the human systems of economics are highly artificial, they follow similar patterns as nature’s systems of interdependence for life, growth and survival.

Economics may follow an artificial path, life of humankind is still connected to the laws of the universe, even if we neglect this openly. If reciprocity is just contained in the artificial circuit of human systems, such as personal labor versus financial reward, without relationship with the natural world, eventually the natural world will break through again, with catastophical results for humankind. An example we see in varios cities (eg Lima) around the world where clean water supplies are reaching precarious levels caused by the positioning of the urban concentration according economic interests only.

Reciprocity represents the complexity and diversity of complex balance through taking something by giving something else back. A tree takes CO2 and gives oxygen back, using the carbon for its own purpose . When a plant dies its material components return to nature for a new cycle of life providing life in the meantime to many other species.

When a bee searches honey it takes pollen along that fertilizes other plants. When an animal eats a sweet fruit it swallows the pits. The seeds use the mobility of the animal to get to new grouds and the excretion as nutrition for the early growth proces until it finds permanent nutrition in the new environment.

Reciprocity is complex and allows for diversification of relationships between species, eliminating competition for the same resources and allowing for many life forms to cohabitate peacefully together. Risks are eliminated by the diversity of relations allowing rapid new connections to be made in nature when any single reciprocal line is interrupted for some reason. Diversity in reciprocity is the source of security of life on earth and maybe in the entire universe. Simplification would enhance the risk of death and elimination.

Humankind has concentrated its entire dependence on money as only reciprocal means. Over time we even eliminated different value systems to concentrate on globalised unified currencies and organization. Nature already teaches us that this is not only risky, it is potentially lethal for the entire system and species. Any snag in the system can upset humanity all together.

The fact that the entire human structure concentrates solely on financial dependence, without hardly any reciprocity with nature (we use up natural resources but give nothing back) makes our situation even more dangerous. It is like bees depending on nectar but cutting away the flowers to build hyves. This is autodestructive. So is human behavior.

Solution: Human societies and organization forcefully need to start concentrating on reciprocity in a much larger variety and diversity within human systems and our relationship with our environment. We are taking too much as a debt on our future, not only in financial systems of debt but also in natural cycles of using without giving hardly anything back in diversity. Our waste is even unnaturally concentrated or burned, instead of spreading throughout the globe. Nature reacts in a different way than key performance indicators of centralized business and finance. Nature finds its balance in a natural way and takes back even if this ends the options of human progress.

We are individually in change of our own taking and giving when we work and live our lifestyle. Modern institutions only survive because of voluntary human (democratic) commitment. Money may be an instrument of power over human beings but only when you eliminate nature entirely from your life. If you allow nature to provide you with part of the abundance directly you will be able to bring some balance back into your own life. At the same time you shorten the usage cycle eliminating debt. Debt does not exist in nature.

If you look at your own lifestyle (what you eat, have in your house, use for holiday, your car, etc) and ask yourself what you have given nature back in return (directly or via the companies that you purchase your goods from, how much do they give back?) for it then you get a feeling of your universal liabilities and the degree you may be affected by a crash of the system.

It is a worrying aspect of current human society that reciprocity in diversity is not considered at all by us nor our human organization. We take and take more and exchange it into long term financial debts without considering our responsibility with our surrounding. Question then arises “are we capable to turn this around still?” Probably not. Least we can do is try. I try with sustainocracy, local for local but find it to be complex. Not complex in logic but in getting humankind to understand the need, the urgency and our vulnerability if we don’t.


  1. Sugel says:

    These explanations are not mutually exclusive, and they could all have operated ancestrally. Still, there is overwhelming evidence that social exchange (reciprocity) is a major feature of human social life, and its centrality has selected for an array of psychological adaptations to implement it (e.g., Cosmides & Tooby, 2005 , & see here for extensive discussion). These analyses demonstrate that the evolution of reciprocity among our forager ancestors inevitably carried with it a halo of generosity as a byproduct. Hence, the widespread conclusion that reciprocity cannot explain the experimental findings of excess generosity is erroneous: The studies reported in this paper shows that selection based solely on the personal gains in trade made possible by reciprocal exchange nonetheless almost inevitably creates organisms that cooperate in one-shot encounters. Hence, more complicated and indirect models (though internally consistent) are unnecessary for understanding the patterns of human cooperation they were designed to explain.

  2. This example meets the criteria that are described in Robert Trivers’ model. However, some important elements, which are essential to establish reciprocity, are not yet shown: The criterion that an individual doesn’t expect an immediate payment. In the cleaner-host system the benefit for a cleaner is always immediate. The criterion that failing of one individual to act altruistically will cause the other one to avoid future altruistic acts. This will be very hard to show since such failure will mean death of the cleaner.

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