Garbage In, Garbage Out

If you want to truly understand Capitalism, you have to start with this basic insight.

Capitalism isn’t a belief system.   It’s just game.  A rule set for buying, selling, and investing.

That’s all it is.

There’s not any moral or ethical element to it.  In fact, if you can get away with it, rigging the game to give you all of the winnings is completely within the rule set.

Of course, people don’t play the game of Capitalism because the “laws” of rational optimization tell them to.  They play it for three reasons:

  1. Avarice.
  2. Fear.
  3. It serves a deeply held belief.

That’s it.

Reasons one and two are crappy ways to motivate people to play the game.  Why?

Avarice encourages a cheating and an aggression that pushes nearly all of the other players out of the game (ever play a game like that?  it sucks).

Fear is a terrible motivator too.  It only motivates a minimum effort.

Whenever the game of Capitalism is being played by people with only avarice and fear as motivators — all we see is squalor and dysfunction.  That result has been inevitable for the thousands of years we’ve played the game (despite PR spin to the contrary, Capitalism is a very, very old economic game).

That leaves us with the last option.  The only good reason to play the game.  The only way we’ve ever gotten good results from the game.  In fact, it’s even narrower than that.

There’s a specific belief that the game of Capitalism has advanced the interests of.  It’s the belief that hard, honest work is a path to economic and spiritual prosperity and that this belief is available to everyone.  

That belief turns Capitalism into a game played by as many people as possible, all striving to push the game forward.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to see that the results we are getting from the game of Capitalism stink.  Of course, all of this failure isn’t the fault of Capitalism.  It’s just a dumb game.

It’s why you and I play it that matters.

AVARICE and FEAR are taking over the game.

Avarice wins when a financial firm like Goldman Sachs goes bankrupt while gambling and it is bailed out by public money.  Fear wins when a similar bankruptcy among homeowners, as a result of the same crisis, results in millions of home foreclosures.

Avarice wins when every state adopts a lottery and gambling to generate tax revenue.  Fear wins when the government encourages you to take out loans to get a degree and no work worthy of any degree is in sight.

The answer to why we play it dictates how we play it and what the outcomes become.

Garbage IN >>> Garbage OUT folks.  It’s all connected.


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Discussion — 6 Responses

  • Brian Hayes February 24, 2014 on 1:08 am

    Is there such a thing as schadenfreude for empathy?

    Reading the 2008 minutes of the FED, a complex enterprise seems to challenge all of us. Civil discourse and a positive stride might help us.

    Can we make our dangerous puzzle universal and cooperative. Can we as citizens help make each other worthy?

  • Chris February 25, 2014 on 10:09 am

    Capitalism may be a lousy system, but if the 20th century proved one thing, it is that it is the best system for the most people. Name one other system with proven results that raised the standards of living of so many people by so much.

  • Benign February 26, 2014 on 8:19 pm

    Capitalism only works when there is a general consensus that fruits should be equitably shared, and when the distribution is not so skewed it provokes dysfunctionality. It depends on the people having empathy. We are all connected. No man or woman is an island. The dream is that we have a caring community. Hard work and material progress are actually irrelevant, actually, so long as basic needs are met. The planet won’t support infinite growth anyway.

    • Vernondo Benign February 28, 2014 on 12:27 am

      Hail fellow!

  • James February 27, 2014 on 6:25 pm

    A distinction needs to be made here. First, there is laissez faire capitalism which is very briefly simplified into the notion that the government interferes little with the market forces of supply and demand. Profit is made and consumer needs are fulfilled through entrepreneurs competing for people’s money. This is not a moral or immoral concept; it is an amoral concept. It also gives opportunity and builds wealth. If you doubt this statement, look at the ‘market reforms’ being made in nations like China which I know does not call itself capitalist (nor should it) but the Chinese have learned that private ventures and ownership of land and businesses create an incentive that can help feed 1.4 billion people while fully accepting that not all will enjoy its benefits. Second, a malevolent form commonly referred to as ‘crony capitalism’ exists where only the illusion of free markets, choice and competition exist. That is what many western nations have arrived at now. It is a perversion of the original and is nothing more than the inside elites running the show under the incorrect label of ‘capitalism’. This system is a threat to all because it quickly closes out those who are not amongst the inner circle.