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10 January 2008

The Lost Art of Cooperation

*The Lost Art of Cooperation
by Benjamin R. Barber*

What's gone wrong here? Why, as a nation, are we so obsessed with
competition, so indifferent to cooperation? For starters, competition
really is as American as apple pie. America has always been deeply
individualistic, and individualism has presumed the insularity and
autonomy of persons and, thus, a natural rivalry among them. Capitalism
also embraces competition as its animus, and America is nothing if not
capitalistic. Even the American understanding of democracy, which
emphasizes representation and the collision of interests, puts the focus
on division and partisanship. There are, of course, democratic
alternatives. Systems of proportional representation, for example, aim
to ensure fair representation of all parties and views no matter how
numerous. But our system, with its single-member districts and "first
past the post" elections, is winner take all and damn the hindmost, a
set up in which winners govern while losers look balefully on, preparing
themselves for the next battle.

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