Debugging society - part one:
Thoughts on free markets and a capitalist economy
Competition is what I call a destructive motivator. Meaning that to thrive in a competitive market it is to your advantage if your competitors (opponents?) struggle. This is not a healthy situation, not productive for society as a whole. Cooperation on the other hand is a constructive motivator. It is good for you if your partners thrive. If competition is the only viable motivator (as seems to be assumed) how can it be that even in a capitalist system the greatest leaps in productivity come when people cooperate? Rebuilding after a war, causing “economic miracles”? Building up to a war? Why, if competition is the only viable option, do we expect friends and family to work by wholly different and opposite principles?
Supply and demand is a broken system as well. There are lots of things that are in huge demand and are not in the hands of capitalism to supply (rightly so). Think about our natural resources like air and water. The demand is huge and never-ending. Yet at the same time they have no monetary value attached to them. Which means it’s not, cannot be, in a capitalist’s interest to invest in, or even just to conserve them. But the alternative also isn’t possible. We cannot attach a price value to natural resources as that’d mean poor folks would only get three breaths a day or something…
Another key observation is an individual worker's productivity. In previous centuries, when work mainly consisted of manual labour, all workers were pretty much equal. Sure, if you put in twice as many hours as your neighbour or are twice as strong as him you might manage to work twice the land he does. But basic physical principles prevent huge differences in work productivity. Not any longer. Technology has changed all that. A farmer using modern machinery can easily be a hundred times as productive as one that doesn't. A logger with modern equipment cuts down a whole forest in the same time even Hercules needs to cut down a single tree with his axe. A good software developer is light-years ahead of a bad one. This increase in an individual's productivity is a good thing. It is enabling. Only because humanity invents ever more powerful tools do we progress and are able to sustain our numbers. And yet, capitalism punishes these advances. Oh sure, the one productive farmer is rewarded for his work. Yet the 99 others that are now without work are now without work- read: unemployed. This too, should actually be a good thing, because they are now free to pursue other venues. Yet their choice of alternative occupations is severely limited by what the market supports. Unemployment is only bad because it is made so. Think about it for a second: How often did you say “If I only had more free time I could…”. Unemployment is the ultimate in free time. Granted you need a system in place to keep the 1 worker that supports the 99 unemployed happy and working. The current system’s answer is to punish the 99 and make them all compete for the 1 worker slot. Is there really no alternative? More on this in another post (as it is a topic that interests me very much because my job as a software developer is basically making other people’s jobs superfluous).