Monday, October 14, 2013

Long Term Cap

There's a legitimate argument for capitalism in the sense that it motivates free riders to work or starve. In order to overcome that argument, you have to be able to place faith in people to perform unpleasant tasks when others have already granted them, and promised to continue granting them, basic sustenance.

That's a difficult thing to do. Whatever the sins of industry, they're an improvement over "everyone gradually lays down and dies."


  1. It's not difficult at all. How pleasant is digging dirt out? How come doing exactly that on my grandpa's village house is among the better memories from my teenage years? And how come I resented doing the exact same work a few years later as a construction worker (briefly) even though was actually paid?

    The biggest free riders are the present day middle class - the smug, self-congratulating assholes convinced that their comfortable paychecks are the result of their personal "virtue", "creativity" and "hard work", rather than crumbs from the colonial profits sprinkled upon them from upstairs to buy their loyalty to the system.

    I may even prefer a world where I lay down and slowly die to a world where assholes sitting atop the cumulative technological achievements of mankind use that as an excuse to rule over me.

  2. I've heard (though have not verified), that some large medieval cathedrals have been built purely based on a local initiative, by commoners using their local currencies, pitching money, labor, materials as appropriate. No capitalism, no slavery involved, and some of these cathedrals are damned majestic, even if it took centuries to build - what's the hurry anyway? You put up a few stones, your kids put a few more, and so on.

    1. The proponents of capitalism, then, would come up with claims of social coercion to explain any process of survival or development--the evolution of selfish genes requires a negatively-derived motivation (essentially to avoid pain or death) rather than a positively-derived one (essentially to contribute). Capitalists have proven astute at disregarding evidence, but even if they were right about any given set of evidence, there'd still be an element of faith in future humanity in rejecting a death-based economy. You have to be willing to believe that tomorrow's children will be so good as to take care of you even if you don't have an inheritance with which to threaten them.

      And this one does believe that; however, many criticisms of capitalism are ultimately doomed, because they originate from the belief in the selfish world, and so must needs paint themselves back into the capitalist corner, however unappetizing it seemed at the beginning of their objections.

      That's why "capitalism" serves as such a good crucible in these matters--so many staunch radicals support the market-based perspectives of elite organizations while, at the same time, loathing plutocracy. However large that loathing, their pride in pop-scientific achievement leaves them advocating, ultimately, a world where survival is only a biological form of capitalism.

    2. Well, plenty of great thinkers have argued with some success that humans are motivated not just by the absence of pain, but also by the longing for the good, so there is no reason, in principle, for these beliefs to not ever be resurected.

      Also, social sciences, as loathsome in some respects as they are, have nevertheless shown useful things such as human nature and human motivations are not fixed, but interact with the environment. Accordingly, environment and institutions rewarding the worst brings out the worst, and vice versa.

      The problem is that at this point our institutions are more or less self-sustaining bureaucratically. It would take a major collapse or an unexplained and unanticipated mass awakening for alternative beliefs to take hold.

      Which is such a shame. All it takes is a leap of faith. What's the worst that could happen (that's any worse than the status quo)???

  3. Maybe it works for some, but it is precisely the competitive nature of the capitalist game that turns me off - I am not motivated to participate and excel, I simply want to withdraw and not play at all. Accordingly, I have planned all my life and career choices around this (I am now in academia, which is still plenty competitive, but at least nominally is a place for contemplation where things happen on their own time). Yeah, it's a luxury, and I am very happy I can afford to NOT play.

    The need to specialize to survive is another turn off and a killer of potential. I like reading, writing, and teaching allright, but I also want to go in the wild maintain powerlines, perhaps a stint on a fishing ship or two in alaska, nuclear plant maintenance and design, etc. Not going to happen. (Of course, nobody is really stopping you from at least reading about these things in your free time, but as any educational researcher that actually thinks and reads knows, you do not learn anything unless you actually do it and solve it yourself)

    1. "Specialization" is another trick to stymie progress. By mocking as worthless the input of those who haven't devoted their youth in servitude to the discipline of a prior generation, we bar people from contributing to more than one or two "fields" in a single lifetime.

      From DaVinci to Jefferson, Americans love fantasizing about "masters of all trades," but in practice, they crush that sort of stuff early. Academics are scrupulous in punishing their students for criticizing "other disciplines," and if someone manages to get degrees in different fields, they can always be accused of being "not current" in the one in which they're making trouble.