What crushes human endeavor? Generally, humanity: a few people innovate, produce, create, organize, and lead, and everyone else follows along, but resents being in that role, so starts trying to sabotage the process.
This creates a crisis because when a society succeeds, it has trouble picking a future direction, usually complicated by the various crises it has encountered by rising above the herd, and thus provoking the ire of the herd. Civilizations die by class warfare for this reason.
One method to halt the class warfare comes from economics, which presents us with “the free rider problem.” Essentially, the more free riders there are in a system, the more the burden falls on the productive few, who then self-destruct. But it starts out simply enough:
The free rider problem is an issue in economics. It is considered an example of a market failure. That is, it is an inefficient distribution of goods or services that occurs when some individuals are allowed to consume more than their fair share of the shared resource or pay less than their fair share of the costs.
Free riding prevents the production and consumption of goods and services through conventional free-market methods. To the free rider, there is little incentive to contribute to a collective resource since they can enjoy its benefits even if they don’t. As a consequence, the producer of the resource cannot be sufficiently compensated. The shared resource must be subsidized in some other way, or it will not be created.
Economists point out that no business would voluntarily produce goods or services under these conditions. When the free rider problem looms, businesses back away. Either the shared resource will not be provided, or a public agency must provide it using taxpayer funds.
In other words, once you get a free rider in the door, you are on the way to socialism. That free rider will — since all groups act only in their own self-interest alone — bring along more, and import some if he can. Then the free riders take over, the productive collapse, and socialism “is the only answer.”
Free riders show us the essence of the the tragedy of the commons. Society itself is the commons, and when there is no cost for taking from it, people take all they can and leave nothing left, sort of like hoarders during a pandemic.
The only way to oppose free riders consists of a basic morality of “good to the good, bad to the bad,” as Plato suggests. This rejects egalitarianism, or “good to the good, and good to the bad too,” which makes it more efficient to be bad than good.
Our society finds itself experiencing a vast sea change from the modernist morality of tolerance to a traditional morality of privileges-with-duties, meaning that those who contribute are rewarded and those who do not go elsewhere, or end up as bones.
This seems vicious at first, but like natural selection, it allows for the best to rise and therefore society to improve; “progress” is a false proxy for this. It also allows civilization to survive and the individual to be recognized for what he or she does that is good.
In the long term, this provides a better life for everyone but the bad, which is about what you expect from a good society. Good opposes bad, after all; they are mortal enemies.