It’s turning out that Capitalism was just a slightly longer route towards the type of corrupt centralization of wealth, power and resources seen by its main ideological opponent, Communism.
OK, this undoubtedly underestimates the good Capitalism has done. It has certainly been servicing the progress of humanity and the social order for a longer period of time than Communism — or any other recent socio-economic ideo-policy, mainly by doing a much better job taming human greed and pouring that energy into a mechanism beneficial for the welfare of populations at large. Education, health, social mobility, and fundamental safety are at unprecedented levels thanks to the encouragement of our basic desire to GET MORE, and that being facilitated and leveraged through free markets.
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“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is perhaps the noblest of intentions. An aspiration reverberating through the ages. Its allure is no surprise, as it serves both as a particularly defensible moral position and as a comfortable idea to base one’s identity around. Unfortunately, in our era, the attempts at instating it were dependent on exercising a form of game denial; we had to ignore the fact that humans tend to take more for themselves as long as no one’s watching. That we measure ourselves by how much we have compared to others around us that we perceive as separate, and that that is a major driving force in our psyche, manifesting itself in the accumulation of material wealth.
And so, when making decisions about flows of energy and resources, communists in discretionary positions take just a little more for themselves and their clan than they allocate everyone else. The effect worsens the higher up the pyramid you climb, as not only does greed have freer reign, but one tends to also require the additional power to maintain their position at the top.
Consequently, there’s no way for Communism to actually achieve its goals at present time. As long as non-transparent central planning is the only way to allocate resources without a free market, someone’s always there to treat you unfairly. Capitalism, with free markets regulated to the extent that they prevent power concentration and other unfair advantages, is actually a vastly superior method of organizing an economy such that each gives according to their abilities and receive according to their needs.
That is, until the economy starts being centrally-planned as well. It just takes Capitalism a little while longer than Communism.
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All sorts of economic theories verging on the religious have been integrating more and more deeply into modern day capitalist-ish systems. In their core, there is a delusion about just how widely and effectively the top of the pyramid, the central planning committee, the government, can top-down manage the economy. To benefit the actual network of people creating value and exchanging it through an open market. This similarly-enticing delusion comes in handy especially if you’re one of those people at the top, as it ensures that you get to wield all that collective power as your wise and entitled self chooses.
And here we are again. Rather than creating the type of “new deal” that would benefit all people from the ground up, that would give a stimulus to the real economy, to people producing value and allowing the markets to distribute it to those who need it — or even giving directly to those unreachable by the market for any reason, one of the desirable features of a government — our central planners, in reaction to the extreme hit the pandemic has landed on us, are using the opportunity to misuse their position at the top, to centrally scheme, to divert the flows of energy and resources to benefit themselves and the members of their exclusive clans. One of the latest economic entities “too big to fail” in the US and receiving what amounts to a government handout was a billion-dollar luxury cruise company. Merciless capitalism for the proles, cushy socialism for corporate America.
While major western-style economies are still much more free than any Communist country ever was, we’re quickly closing the gap. Unless something radical changes, the US government’s only claim for superiority over its old arch-rivals will be in it virtue signaling about still being a democracy, another dubious claim.
Am I painting a grim picture or what?
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What we’re examining here isn’t only an issue of Capitalism or Communism. This is a disease inherent in most systems, where rather than using the system to play the game, some players dedicate their efforts to gaming the system. They become “over-adapted” to the ecological niche and proliferate to the degree that their relative weight in it is so big the entire balance may fall apart. That thing we feel guilty about doing to Planet Earth? That’s a natural evolution of all growing, complex systems.
I propose that the solution requires a heightened awareness of the phenomena — which is why I’m doing my part here, as well crafting new and better game-systems that offer greater opportunities for their participants to play non-zero-sum games — such that they inevitably replace the old paradigm. I invite all of us to do just that, and intend to write more posts on the subject at another time. :)