Pure -isms

A long time ago, I wrote about political terminology, but I guess I'll give it another spin. Even then I was muddling political terms with economic systems and I'll do it again now. Actually, no: I'm pretty much just talking about economic systems. And pretty much just two of them: capitalism and socialism.

In my opinion, any purely applied economic system is doomed to its obvious point of failure. Pure capitalism leads to de facto slavery wherein a few people own all the necessary resources and everyone else is completely devalued (for instance, consider if one person or group owned all the drinking water — only those who owned water would have any power.) Pure socialism drains the desire to create as all of ones needs are met which, in turn, leads to economic collapse as there are no workers to provide the services.

As such, I think there are two viable alternatives: capitalism tempered by socialism, and socialism tempered by capitalism. At first blush they seem nearly identical, but I argue that there is a critical difference: how it affects personal priorities.

Let me start with a socialist system tempered by capitalism because, at this point that I'm writing, I think doing so will make a more interesting argument with a stronger impact. If someone comes up with a new idea, their socialist side asks, "how will this help people?" They'd tend to favor ideas that help people. Then — as their socialism is tempered by capitalism — an idea that really does help people will lead them to financial reward.

On the other hand, a capitalist system tempered by socialism leads one with a new idea to think, "how can I make money with this?" As such, they'd tend to favor ideas that make money. But tempered with socialism, ideas that are socially costly would necessarily be financially costly to those who manifest that idea.

I find myself frustratingly mired in the latter scenario. In particular, I tire of people telling me, "you could make a lot of money with that." I feel terribly alone making things that I think help people and not getting attaboy'd for that facet of it. When I build a tall bike, people never seem particularly impressed that it makes the world smile — that it makes everyone just a little happier. When I talk about some new bike safety blinker, nobody cares that it might prevent someone from getting hit by a car. [Yeah yeah, I'm on a bicycling kick.] All they seem to care about is money. And they think I am (or that I will be, or that I should want to be) rich because of it.

In essence, I'm mired in the same thing that burns the midnight oil of the anti-socialists: I tire of people lingering around waiting for a cash hand-out. I'm not some goddamned leprechaun with a pot of gold stashed away hoping you don't find it. I'm just trying to have fun. That's among the oldest and most tenacious of my philosophical thoughts (I remember arguing with my high-school guidance councilor that "having fun" was a valid life goal.) So I cannot believe in any alternative. Money is not everything. He who dies with the most toys most certainly does not win. And money can't buy happiness. (Ok, so that last one really is the pacifying aphorism.)

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  1. Pingback: The Blog of Jason "Jayce" Olshefsky » Blog Archive » The Failure of Capitalism

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