Walk into the grocery store. There are two hundred varieties of mustard, seventy-nine types of beer, three hundred breakfast cereals. This abundance shows the triumph of capitalism over communism, yes, but does it also demonstrate something we need?
Our society operates by creating excess and keeping what does not fail, even if it is not necessary. There are thirty types of mustard which are neither good nor bad, putting them on the good-better-best scale at “good.” How can anyone choose among them? It is an act of randomness which would please Sartre.
When you look at any category of products or institutions, what you find is those who have not been disqualified by scandal or failure, not those which have been selected for excellence. In other words, this is a negative standard; those which cause problems are eliminated, but the mediocre and uncontroversial lives on forever, like a talisman of entropy.
This explains why we need aristocrats, or those with arbitrary (to the rest of us) power to take what is and reorganize it toward what is excellent. The question is not “what has not failed,” but what is pointed toward excellence for the next 10,000 years or longer. And for most, this question is not just forgotten but denied.
A manager can look at a list of what has sold, and decide that since people are buying a product, or might buy it, it should stick around. This leads to a glut of product types and confusion among the customers. In reality, most people need good, better and best options and less variety, with less investment in novelty and keeping people employed doing nothing of importance.
This contradicts our contemporary idea of equality, where if someone will buy a product, it is equal to others. But as we see, people do not know what to buy, and the result is a proliferation of trendy/novelty products and a consequent displacement of quality ones.
There are two basic approaches to large-scale organization. Top-down order consists of a few rules applied from the perspective of the whole, where bottom-up consists of several basic rules applied at a granular level. Neither applies to humanity: as thinking beings, we can do better than either replacing nature (top-down) or subverting it (bottom-up).
Instead, we should aspire to a type of order that is both natural, or working within the flow of natural laws and tendencies, and purposeful, in that we implement a goal according to several principles compatible with that goal. This is like what an editor does: he sees the text, takes what is there, and improves or enhances it, but does not try to re-shape it into something it was not.
While we know the problems of centralized, top-down ideological order like Communism and National Socialism, relatively few have only begun to criticize the bottom-up order of our society. Bottom-up orders produce averages, where top-down orders are fragile. An order based on principle tends to be fragile and collapse when contradictions emerge.
Our contemporary praise for our bottom-up order is that with freedom and free markets, we beat the Soviets. Perhaps we are attributing the wrong source for our victory. What won the Cold War for us over the grey, sedentary and doctrinaire Soviets was not bottom-up order, but an order based on positive acquisition: individuals were rewarded proportionally for their contributions, instead of receiving a binary acknowledgement of obedience.
But, without some form of principle, our bottom-up order has become overgrown. Our energy dissipates into millions of redundant structures which do not provide resilience, but a specialization based on the need for the equal mob to prove themselves individually “different” and “unique.” This leads to a total loss of unity and with it, any sense of goal or principle.
Perhaps much as the Soviet Union collapsed under too few options, the West will die under too many.