SECTION TWO: THE VALUE OF SOCIAL SYSTEMS
The realization of human values depends not only on natural factors, but also on social systems. “Social systems” as discussed here is a broad term refer-ring to all social conditions related to the operation of human society. In addition to the basic governing systems we usually refer to, various other mechanisms, rules, and behaviors such as social patterns, social structures, political systems, legal systems, moral values, codes of conduct, economic and culture policies, and so on are also included. The value of social systems refers to the social conditions that must be ensured in order to safeguard the orderly operation of human society.
We have established that survival and happiness are the highest of human values, and we also know that survival and happiness are the basic pursuits of humanity, yet we often find that many people chose to die in the face of life and death; many people chose pain instead of happiness. These people are completely willing in their choice as they experience no regrets, and future generations respect and admire them for their actions. Such phenomena occur because humans rely on a set of social values when making choices in their own pursuits.
Soldiers on the battlefield charge fearlessly to their death, sacrificing their own lives in defense of their countries. In dire situations, parents would rather end their lives to ensure the survival and happiness of their children. It is faith and emotion that helps people to overcome the fear of death and to sacrifice their highest value—that is, survival—for the benefit of others.
A wife may give up her beloved career to take care of her family and support her husband’s work. An elder brother may willingly give up valuable education opportunities and start work early to support his younger brother through school. Such stories of sacrifice are abundant, for some of us measure choices against other criteria—the criteria of social values.
This does not mean that survival and happiness are not important, nor does it negate that survival and happiness are the highest values of humanity. The truth is just the opposite. Life is most precious for everyone, and anyone who lives desires happiness above all. It is only certain specific conditions of human society that require someone to sacrifice their own survival or happiness for something, or some things. If this cannot be done, human society will lose its procedures of operation, and humans themselves will lose faith in their existence. It is through a long history of development that human society finally established its own social systems.
It is necessary to restrict the values of mankind with social systems. Imagine two climbers trapped on the top of a mountain in a snowstorm with limited food. One climber might kill the other and take his food to survive. In a few days, once the snow stops, this climber might be rescued while his teammate dies. Actions like these base the survival of self upon the death of others. Hitler invaded and occupied many other countries, killing millions of Jews in the process, just to pursue better living conditions for the Germans. This is basing self-fulfillment and happiness upon the suffering and death of others.
Every individual and every group seeks to secure their own survival and ensure their own dreams of happiness. However, the pursuit of survival and happiness must be through proper means, and all aspects of social operation should follow certain rules. If everyone used despicable means to obtain survival and happiness without considering others, the world would be filled with fraud, bloodshed, and terror, and human society would lose all rules and procedure. This would inevitably lead to total chaos; humans as a whole would no longer have a chance for survival and happiness.
Therefore, it is necessary to use a series of social systems to serve and maintain human values. Only by limiting certain people from obtaining values through unjust means and guiding everyone to live, learn, and work along certain rules, and maintaining interaction between groups, can human society’s orderly operation be ensured—and, along with it, the realization of universal human values.
One: The Maximum Value Principle
Social systems in all aspects of human society are established under certain conditions. There will always be corresponding social systems as long as there is human society. Take social forms, for example. Human society transitioned from the earliest migrant gathering period to settled villages, then to the tribal stage, and finally to the national stage that continues until this day. The evolution of social forms was to adapt better to humans’ ever-expanding needs in agricultural production and the enlarging scope of war. In another example, countries have each established their own different political, economic, and cultural systems and defined them in legal terms in order to regulate individual behavior and ensure the stability of society. From a much smaller perspective, every city, street, community, and country has its own set of management models. They each promote a set of lifestyles or codes of conduct appropriate to the community. All of these are within the category of social systems.
The most essential function of social systems is to serve people; it is either consciously or unconsciously formed by prevailing local circumstances, or specifically designed and promoted by a certain power. Because social systems have to regulate and mandate all aspects of society, some of them will restrict and limit the realization of certain human values. However, this restriction only exists to ensure the realization of other major human values. The state enacts laws against homicide, theft, and robbery; this undoubtedly limits the wrongful acts of the lawless, but it is precisely this legal protection that allows the vast majority of people to live peacefully in a safe environment. Such legal systems are social systems that guarantee the values of the majority by limiting the values of a smaller group.
To cite another example, a city may develop rules forbidding littering and spitting in public to ensure the cleanliness of the city. This social system would also limit the behavior of a small number of people, but it would be to protect the clean-living environment of all city dwellers. In other words, it is limiting some less important values for a small group of people to realize the more important values of the whole city.
There are some social systems that limit the values of the majority to serve the values of a small number of people, such as when authoritarian kings demand frequent tributes of treasure, fruit, and beautiful women from all over the country. This is also a type of social system, implemented by the mandatory power of feudal dynasties.
There are also some social systems that fully serve the public and affect no one’s values. For instance, the city government may establish a mayoral service hotline to solve the problems people encounter every day. This type of social system generally only has beneficiaries, and no person’s interests are harmed in the process.
Social systems pertain to all facets of human society; they involve the values of every individual and group. Each person and group will evaluate a social system from their own point of view. How should we define the quality of a social system? What characteristics should an ideal social system have?
Social systems exist to serve human beings. Since different individuals and groups from different generations have differing or even contradictory needs, no one group or generation of people can objectively evaluate a social system. It is argued here that social systems should be established with all of humanity in mind so that the values of mankind as a whole can be maximized. In other words, the whole of humanity should be considered in these systems instead of just individuals, singular groups, or specific generations. Survival, happiness, and other human values should be guaranteed for as many people as possible. This is the fundamental principle that social systems should be built upon. We refer to it here as the “maximum value” principle.
The maximum value principle does not change with the development of society, nor does it alter according to the passage of time. Perhaps one day all the issues discussed in this book will be outdated, but the maximum value principle will not become obsolete. The maximum value principle is the core principle that governs all the research in this book.
As human beings, when we think about ourselves and plan for our future, we obviously hope that all arrangements are aligned as much as possible with our own interests. The problem is that the interests of mankind are multi-faceted—there are many types of values to pursue. The acts of mankind and the multitude of designs we implement for the future of humanity cannot fully satisfy all the values of every individual, group, and generation. A plan that satisfies certain values may be in conflict with other values; when the values of a certain group of people are satisfied, the values of other parts of the population may be damaged. This is completely normal; nothing can be 100 percent perfect, and no plan can be flawless. Loss and gain go hand in hand; this contradiction will apply to the design and evaluation of any social system. The solution to this contradiction lies in the maximum value principle; the good of the majority outweighs the good of the few, and the actions that cause least harm win out.
As we know, the two most important human values are first, survival, and second, happiness. Relative to these two, all other values are subservient. If we look at value systems through such direct lenses, it is easy to manage them. Any issue related to survival comes first, any issue pertaining to happiness comes second, and all other values follow accordingly. Yet if one really dealt with problems this way, it would cause certain chaos. For example, conflicts and contradictions between individuals and countries often exist, and if one simply emphasized the survival and happiness of one party, the other party’s survival and happiness would inevitably be negatively affected. When facing a variety of complex value choices, how would we practically implement the maximum value principle?
1. Happiness Defers to Survival
When considering human values, we will separate humanity into four levels: all humans, human groups, human individuals, and intergenerational humans. “All humans” (or humanity) refers to the whole of mankind and all peoples from all generations; “human groups” includes all manners of assemblies (like countries, nations, businesses, etc.) and non-organized groups; “human individuals” denotes singular individuals or small minorities; and “intergenerational humans” refers to people from different generations.
When we say that “happiness defers to survival,” we mean that when the survival and happiness of humans on a similar scale are in conflict, we must consider survival first and happiness second. This is very simple logic. Since survival outranks happiness when dealing with the same amount of people, happiness must give way to survival during any conflict between the two. The survival of people is more important than the happiness of that same amount of people.
It follows that we cannot deprive ten people of their lives to ensure the happiness of ten other people. On the contrary, if ten people must sacrifice their happiness in exchange for the lives of ten others, that would be a worthwhile exchange of values. According to this principle of deference, anyone who kills another in order to seize their property and wealth is defying the principle of happiness defers to survival. Since the acquisition of wealth is only one category of happiness (not even the whole scope), while life is the entirety of survival, exchanging one for the other is comparatively unreasonable. Of course, this is just a simple value analysis. It does not take into account social factors. The killing and robbing of others is in itself an immoral behavior. If such behavior were allowed to spread in human society, it would inescapably lead to upset, thus affecting the survival and happiness of humans on an even larger scale.
Take another example: if a person was terminally ill and in need of $200,000 to cover medical expenses, would he be justified in robbing someone else and using the “survival trumps happiness” rule to defend his actions? Certainly not. If we simply considered one person’s survival and another person’s money as belonging respectively to the scope of survival and happiness, this value exchange would certainly seem worth it. However, if robbery or other forms of forced possession are utilized, adverse results would occur. Such adverse results would lead to social instability, and many people’s survival and happiness would be threatened. The question boils down to a choice between one person’s survival and the survival and happiness of many people, and the latter obviously outweighs the former. If one person willingly donated $200,000 in savings to save another person’s life, the meaning would be completely different.
The value principles determined here are designed precisely to consider the concept of comprehensive influence. All other value principles discussed in the following take this concept into consideration as well.
2. The Majority Rule
The majority rule stipulates that in terms of survival, happiness, and other values, when assessing within the same value category, the values of the majority are deemed most important. In other words, if the lives of ten people had to be exchanged for the lives of twenty, the value exchange would be meaningful; along the same vein, if the happiness of ten people had to be sacrificed to ensure the happiness of twenty others, that value exchange would also be worthwhile. If the situation were to be reversed, it would not correspond to the maximum value principle.
It is important to note that the majority rule compares different numbers of people within the same value component on things of similar import. The rule cannot be applied if the value component is different—that is to say, the survival of ten people cannot be compared to the happiness of twenty others, and a certain portion of the happiness of ten people cannot be compared to another portion of happiness for fifteen others.
3. Assessments Must Be Flexible
It is obvious that both the happiness defers to survival principle and the majority rule are ideal codes that deal with simple situations. In simple situations, the assessment of values is clear at a glance. A person’s life is obviously more important than a person’s happiness; two people’s happiness is obviously more important than that of one, and two people’s lives obviously outweigh one person’s life. This type of simple value assessment is indeed easily defined.
When it comes to actual problems, the situation will often be far from simple. We will find that we must compare ten people’s lives to the happiness of a thousand others, or parts of ten people’s happiness must be compared with other parts of ten other people’s happiness. These problems complicate the situation; under such conditions, flexibility becomes the key.
For example, the progress of science and technology brought the advent of cars and aircraft as means of transportation, and they can quickly send people across great distances. A car’s one- hour journey on the highway takes days to walk, and the one-hour flight time of a plane equals weeks of journeying by foot. The use of these vehicles makes people’s lives more convenient, relaxed, and efficient; these attributes are all within the scope of happiness. However, the emergence of cars and airplanes also means the appearance of car accidents and plane crashes. People die every day due to car or aircraft accidents. In terms of human values, loss of life is within the scope of survival. If we use the principle of happiness defers to survival as our reasoning, all cars and planes should be destroyed. This conclusion is clearly ridiculous, as the use of cars and aircraft facilitates all of mankind and brings great happiness to humanity. In comparison, car accidents and plane crashes occur relatively infrequently, meaning they pose minimal threat to the survival of humans. When the potential for great happiness conflicts with miniscule threat to survival, happiness ranks first.
Perhaps a group of people needs to be diverted to build a reservoir. These people have lived here for generations, and removing them from their homes would be very inconvenient. They would also have difficulty adapting to a new environment and building a new life. The building of the reservoir would also require a great amount of capital; however, the successful completion of the reservoir could solve many people’s agricultural irrigation problems. For the migrants, moving would be inconvenient, thus making it part of the happiness value. The investment of capital would be a loss in the happiness category as well. For the beneficiaries, the gain would be a rich crop, which would bring a better quality of life, which also fits within the happiness category. These different aspects of happiness cannot be simply compared, so one would have to employ some flexible thinking when deciding whether or not to build this reservoir. Perhaps under certain investments situations, moving one hundred people could only solve irrigation problems for one thousand farmers, in which case it would not be worthwhile to build the reservoir. On the other hand, if moving one hundred people could solve ten thousand people’s irrigation problems, the reservoir would be necessary.
Based on the above judgments, we can draw two clear conclusions: First, the survival of mankind is the highest of all values. Since survival is the number one value, and humanity as a whole outweighs all else in magnitude, the survival of all humanity outweighs everything else. All other values must exist secondary to the survival of mankind. This conclusion informs us that in all problems involving humans, the survival of the species is the most important problem (the focus of this book is on solving this problem as well). In the face of overall human survival, all other values can be sacrificed. Any action that threatens the survival of humanity just to guarantee other values is contrary to the maximum value principle.
The second conclusion is that within the value of happiness, the happiness of all people outranks all other values of happiness. Inside the happiness value, humanity occupies the largest share in quantity. According to the majority rule, universal happiness is most important (this is the other issue this book deals with). No individual, group, or generation can threaten the universal happiness of humanity for their own happiness, as that would contradict the maximum value principle.
The two above conclusions will be the two fundamental bases that guide this book’s research. These two conclusions seem easy to understand and obviously correct, but it is very difficult to consistently and constantly follow them. In the subsequent analysis, we will discover that we have done and are still doing things that threaten the overall values of humanity, and that these actions sometimes seriously endanger the overall survival of mankind. Judging based on the maximum value principle, such actions are clearly big mistakes; they are most unforgivable crimes and also extremely dangerous behavior.
To achieve the maximum value principle, social systems must first be just. Justice is the value of social systems; it is the actual embodiment of the maximum value principle within a social system. If the maximum value principle establishes the standards and goals for social systems, justice is the means and path to achieve such goals.
As the value of social systems, justice includes two meanings: fairness and reason. This so-called fairness basically means impartiality and equality. The vast world encompasses countless beings, billions of human individuals, countless different human groups (such as different countries, different nationalities, different enterprises, different institutions, etc.), and peoples of all generations. Justice requires equal and impartial rights for all human individuals, groups, and generations. Any individual, group, or person from any generation should have the right to equally obtain respective values. This not only requires all individuals, groups, and intergenerational peoples to refrain from depriving others to ensure personal gain, but to be equal and impartial in the distribution of assets and interests.
The reason we say the maximum value principle requires fairness before all is because some people will inevitably occupy more interests in an unjust society; therefore, other people will enjoy less interest, and these people’s values will be impaired. This is only the beginning. Those who seize more interests will definitely be those who control dominant power and resources; they obtain more interests because they have the ability and conditions to do so. Due to the nature of mankind, such abilities and conditions will lead these people to focus even more social interests in favor of themselves. The final result will be that a minority of people enjoy the majority of interests, and they will only accumulate more interests as time goes by. At the same time, the number of people who profit less will grow while the portion of interest they can share in will shrink more and more. Therefore, the ultimate outcome of an unjust society is that the value of most people cannot be achieved, and this obviously does not meet the maximum value principle.
An unjust social system will also propel a very small number of people to seize value from others through immoral means (such as murder, robbery, etc.) in order to ensure personal gain. This would unsettle the entire society, and the vast majority of people would suffer. It would obviously be contradictory to the maximum value principle.
The significance of fairness also lies in the universal pursuit of happiness. Happiness is a product of comparison; only in a just, equal society could the majority of people attain happiness through comparison. The so-called reason means that social systems must consider the characteristics of humans and human society—as well as human adaptation to natural conditions—in order to exist scientifically and realistically.
For example, historians generally believe contemporary humans to be less happy than ancient humans. Today’s world is far more just and equal com-pared to ancient times; the material wealth produced by current technology also far outweighs what has been created in the past. Under these conditions, humans today are less happy than those before us. This obviously means that there are seriously unreasonable factors in our current social system. It is the unreasonable factors in our social system that lead to a reduction in overall human happiness.
It seems that fairness alone cannot guarantee the realization of the maximum value principle, just as humans’ survival could not be ensured in a fair society that was plagued by war. And if people were constantly under various types of competitive pressures, the heavy psychological burden would rob them of joy, thus negating their happiness. A just social system that can realize the maximum value principle must not only be equal and fair, but also a combination of science, realism, justice, and reason.
Enlightenment thinkers proposed the slogan of “freedom, equality, and universal love.” This slogan guided human society from superstition and ignorance to civilization. Taken literally, “equality” and “universal love” refer to fairness, while “freedom” refers to reason. This informs us that human society cannot be just “fair” and “universally loving,” but must also ensure freedom.
A fully just social system’s reason factor denotes much more than just freedom. Many other aspects must be realized to ensure the maximum value principle. In today’s world, most people experience more freedom than before under the ideals of freedom, equality, and universal love, yet they do not experience as much happiness; the highly educated class of today has far more freedom consciousness compared to villagers in remote areas, yet due to the higher level of psychological pressure, they also feel less happy.
All this shows that the reason factor in social systems includes far more than just freedom.
The organic combination of fairness and reason is the key to establishing a harmonious and stable society of justice. The downfall of many regimes in human history resulted from the lack of a good relationship between fairness and reason. For example, the wealth of one affluent group (such as a family) might be accumulated through the efforts of many generations. It would be reasonably acquired. However, if the entire society were suffering in poverty, the wealth of minorities would seem incredibly unfair. Most of the uprisings, rebellions, and social unrest in history happened under the slogan of equalizing wealth and bridging divide. There is an old saying in China: “Poverty is not a problem . . . imbalance is.” If a regime wishes to ensure long-term stability, reason is not enough. Fairness must also be safeguarded.
On the other hand, if too much emphasis was put on fairness, and reason was ignored in the process, new problems would arise. If the reasonable wealth of the elite class was excessively deprived, it would damage their productivity and enthusiasm, the overall prosperity of the society would fall, and a general state of poverty might occur. Mao Zedong Era China and today’s North Korea are all such cases.
When conducting an in-depth analysis on the justice of social systems, we can divide justice into four aspects for discussion: individual justice, group justice, intergenerational justice, and overall justice. The moral values of society encourage people to give up important personal values and exchange their own survival and happiness for that of others under specific conditions. It also opposes the establishment of personal survival and happiness upon the death and suffering of others. This is all within the scope of individual justice. We propose that everyone is equal before the law; every citizen has the right to vote and be voted for, and everyone is assigned benefits according to how much they contribute. These are all in the range of individual justice.
We oppose strong countries, nations, and religious groups who bully weaker ones; we condemn groups who invade, pillage, and commit murder against other countries, nations, or religious groups for personal gain. We advocate for equality and neighborliness between countries and nations; we encourage wealthier countries to support poorer countries, and developed areas to help undeveloped areas. All this is in the scope of group justice. We advocate for fair trade between enterprises and oppose monopoly as well as trade protectionism. This also belongs within group justice.
We oppose the uncontrolled exploitation of non-renewable resources to circumvent resource depletion; we protest excessive grazing, over-cultivation, and deforestation to prevent desertification; we are against the large-scale emission of greenhouse gases to avert global warming; and we contest the use of Freon in order to preserve the ozone layer from damage. We take these pre-cautions to leave clear waters and blue skies for the future generation and to ensure sustainable development for human society. This is within the scope of intergenerational justice.
Whether it is individual justice, group justice, or intergenerational justice, they all revolve around the theme of “fairness.” They deal with relationships between individuals, groups, and people of different generations. In addition to this, human society must also balance its overall fairness. In other words, some things that may not seem fair from a partial view would be fair to the whole society, because the overall interests of mankind sometimes require the sacrifice of partial interests—just as the maximum value principle requires the few to obey the majority (the majority rule). This issue belongs in the category of overall justice.
The overall value of human society, however, may not always be able to be realized at maximum, just as some fair principles may not bring universal survival security and happiness. That is due to the unreasonable factors within such social systems. Within the context of justice, certain parts are devoted to considering rationality based on the whole of mankind. The purpose of such consideration is to realize as many values as possible for all human beings. This is also within the scope of overall justice. Overall justice requires smaller interests to serve larger interests; it opposes the placement of individual interests before group interests, and group interests before overall interests. Nevertheless, we often see countries putting their own interests above global interests while the international community remains helpless to stop them. This is caused by the unreasonableness of social systems.
Looking at the current world from another perspective, we find that human society today is fiercely competitive. People are under constant pres-sure to update knowledge and under constant threat from competition failure. Depression becomes common and the suicide rate climbs continuously. Generally speaking, while people have obtained a level of material enjoyment, they have not obtained similar levels of happiness; instead, they are burdened by heavy mental stress. This is a cause of unreasonable social systems.
Overall justice also considers things based on humans as a species. It deals with the relationship between mankind and other species, as well as the relationship between nature and man. As human beings, we should develop principles of justice from our own point of view. That is why we propose that the overall survival of mankind exists above all else. Any factor that could possibly endanger our survival must be mercilessly eliminated. Perhaps these factors involve the survival of other species, or other issues, but every other problem becomes insignificant in the face of human survival as a whole. Because we are humanity, we cannot sacrifice our entire existence to achieve some sort of morality. Once morality leaves its bearer, it will have no more purpose.
Similarly, for humans as a whole, we cannot sacrifice our universal happiness for the survival of other species, nor can we sacrifice our own happiness as a species to ensure the happiness of other species. The justice principles we formulate must serve the survival, happiness, and other values of humanity; they should maximize the achievement of universal human values. This is both logical and reasonable.
Judging according to the principle of overall justice, Americans like eating beef, Arabs love mutton, the Chinese people like eating pork, and Koreans love dog meat. This dietary issue does not pertain to human survival, since humanity can survive on grains and vegetables. Yet humans require delicious food, and this demand is within the category of human happiness—in other words, the demand for meat satisfies some of the needs for human happiness. And so humans slaughter large numbers of other animals every day, exchanging their lives for our own happy appetites. Relative to other species, humans are immoral. But based on humanity as a whole, the justice principle must serve human values, making this immoral exchange understandable.
The justice principle has also put forth requirements for humans accordingly. We object to the torture of animals, the devastation of rare species, the destruction of the earth, and the pollution of space. In reality, not only do such requirements not conflict with humanity’s happiness and survival, but they fundamentally help humans achieve their values. A caring group can better promote world peace and harmony, a bio-diverse world can better achieve natural unity, and a beautiful earth and clean space is more conducive to human life and guarantees better long-term survival and happiness for future generations of mankind.
Finally, it is necessary to note that there is no affiliation or mutually inclusive relationship between individual justice, group justice, intergenerational justice, and overall justice. They are different social system requirements put forth by different factors from different perspectives.