Capitalism Makes Everything Better

– by Gitabushi

Dairy Queen has a lunch basket for $4, $5, or $6 that includes 3, 4, or 5 chicken strips, fries, gravy, drink, and a sundae.

McDonald’s has a $5 meal deal, too, I think.

woman in brown classic trench coat eating mcdo fries during daytime
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Subway’s franchise owners are complaining that the $5 footlong sandwich is hurting their ability to make money.

pizza on table
Photo by Fancycrave.com on Pexels.com

The prices might be slightly higher in high-cost areas like New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, or Hawaii.  But these are prices in DC, which is very nearly as high in cost of living (housing, at least, isn’t far off Hawaii pricing).

Everyone accepts this as normal.  It isn’t.

I can buy a full album of music for $10.  Maybe less. It depends on the album, the artist, how famous they are, etc.

Everyone accepts this as normal.  It isn’t.

Everything gets more expensive over time.  Inflation is a reality of life. Everyone wants to make more money than they did last year, and so they get raises, but property values also go up, taxes go up, the cost of goods go up.

Here is where I talk about how candy bars used to cost $.25 when I was a kid (with a digression of how we don’t have a “cents symbol” key on computers anymore).

Everything gets more expensive. Everything.

Except there are significant exceptions in electronics.  And food.  And entertainment.

Why?

Capitalism.

Human nature is human nature.  People will always be selfish, greedy, and corrupt.  Capitalism actually harnesses those urges to make things better.  If you sell something, and want to make more money than you are now, you can slip the local government some cash to help hamstring your competition….but the more successful you are in selling with their help, the more they will demand to keep helping you.   Corruption may work, but it also holds hostage everything you gain from it.  So a better choice is to figure out how to do things better to cut costs.  Which puts pressure on your competition to cut their costs.  Which probably encourages you and them to pressure your supply chain to give you cheaper resources, which gives them incentive to cut *their* costs.

Okay, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know all this. What’s my point?

I don’t think most people realize what an incredible miracle Capitalism really is. Most people haven’t been alive long enough to see how prices change. Of those who have been, I’m going to assert that most don’t really think about it, or if they do, just complain about how cheap things were when they were a kid.

I’ve always paid attention to inflation. I don’t know why.

When I was a kid, the big soft drink was the 12-ounce can.  It cost a quarter. It stayed that way for several years. Then over the course of about two years, the price rose to $.50 a can, and it stayed that way for at least a decade, even as 16 oz and 20 oz drinks were introduced. The $.99 16-ounce, and then 20-ounce drink became the standard.  Now it’s just under $2 in most places, just above $2 in places taking advantage of convenience. Except that they will often have specials where you can get large cans of cheap soft drinks (like some overly sweetened tea or something) for $.99.

When I was a teen, if you wanted to call a friend out of town, you had to call long distance. It cost quite a bit.  I would wait until after 9pm so it would be $.35/minute. Then the government broke up Ma Bell, and very quickly, the cost became $.10/minute, although you had to sign a contract or do other things to get that as a discounted rate.  And it stayed that way for a few years. Then $.05/minute.  Then cell-phones came in, and you paid for how many minutes you used each month, with an up-charge for long distance.

And then, long distance charges disappeared.  And voice call limits evaporated into thin air.

What I’m trying to give a sense of is how it progressed unevenly.  We hit plateaus of prices.  Then there would be a big change.

When I was a kid, they didn’t have meal combos. You went into a fast food restaurant and ordered a la carte.  The drink was one of the more expensive items on the menu. The largest was probably a 20-ounce drink.  As a la carte prices rose over time, suddenly meal deals appeared. They started at $3 when I was in high school. By the time I finished college, they hit $5. And stuck there for decades.  Along the way, drink sizes rose to the point that in some fast food places, the *smallest* you can get is 32 ounces. And now, many meal combos are $7 or $8, and that’s understandable.  But there are enough places and options offering $5 meal deals that it is worthy of note.

They may be loss leaders. In some cases, they may be harming profitability of franchise shops.  But while everything has more than doubled in price over the last 30 years, it is still possible to eat a filling, nutritious meal for the same price as back in 1988.  Competition, and cost-cutting moves like economy of scale, still make it possible for sellers in multiple industries to make good money and live well despite prices roughly similar to 30 years ago. Or cheaper.  This is insanely successful.

As I’m fond of saying, the United States is probably the first nation in history where poverty is marked by obesity, rather than starvation.

Now compare to what has happened in every socialist nation in history.  Yes, yes, true socialism has never been tried. Well, it has never been tried because it *can’t* be tried. The selfishness, laziness, and corruption that has always prevented True Socialism will always prevent True Socialism. It can’t be avoided. As those human foibles are incompatible with Socialism, humans are incompatible with Socialism.

But Capitalism harnesses those weaknesses and conditionally turns them into strengths.

I’ve been writing about Socialism more often than probably should be necessary.  I know I’m preaching to the choir in most cases.  But there are two reasons I’m doing it. First, I follow two speculative fiction authors on Twitter who are committed Socialists.  I can’t just go berate them, because of respect for celebrity and success.  They have no reason to listen to me, and would block me if I just got derisive and dismissive.  So I feel like I have to craft my arguments carefully so that I can make dispassionate, reasonable arguments against their views, and then pick my moments.  I know I probably won’t convert them, but it is a worthwhile challenge.  Talking through my musings here helps prepare me to take the battle to them, calmly and respectably, when opportunity arises.

The other reason this is important, though, is because Democrats are moving more Left, and Socialism is becoming their openly stated goal. Nationalized Health Care, higher taxes, Bernie Sanders defeating Hillary in the 2016 Dem primary (but losing only cuz Hillary cheated), the popularity of Democrat Socialist Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez…

We need to be better prepared.  We have to marshal our arguments and take it to the kids.  And I hope my writings help you in this, to some extent.

Yesterday, I had a notion that is growing more attractive to me: There is no such thing as an economic system.  There are only political systems that can be combined in different ways.

What is an economic system? What is an economy?  An economy is just people exchanging goods, services, and markers of value.  So an economic system is the rules that govern how people exchange these things.  And what do we call the framework which determines how these exchanges are governed?  Political systems.

The Socialist author who engages me often is very congenial. We haven’t actually devolved to an argument even once. He recognizes that Socialism hasn’t worked, but explains it with a variation of the “True Socialism” argument.  His point is that due to human weaknesses, authoritarianism creeps into the Socialism and destroys it. He posits that we’ll have non-authoritarian socialism when we achieve true Post-Scarcity. My counter-arguments are:

  1. Post-Scarcity isn’t a threshold you cross. It is a gradual spectrum, and our food prices indicate we are already in post-scarcity. Moreover, there are two reality shows that prove we are already ridden with post-scarcity problems: My 600-lb life and Hoarders.
  2. Because of the problems of laziness and over-consumption, Socialism will still inevitably display authoritarianism
  3. Wealth is energy. We won’t have total post-scarcity until we have unlimited free energy, and Socialism, with its focus on giving people fish every day instead of teaching people to fish, siphons away resources needed for us to achieve unlimited free energy

Point Two is restating my point that there are no economic systems, only political systems that govern the way we interact for exchanging value.

So what Capitalism is, is a system where the government does not, in principle, pay attention to your exchanges of value.  It can’t ever achieve that purity of principle, because people are lazy, corrupt, and selfish.

But it goes back to the political view of people and value.  Socialism believes that mankind can be perfected, and that if all the negative influences are eliminated (through pervasive education when young, execution when adult), people will live effortlessly according to the socialist rules of value production and exchange.  Capitalism believes that mankind can never be perfected, and that best you can do is establish incentives so most people have reason to interact with honesty and honor, and establish penalties for those who don’t.

I could keep musing on this for hours.

One of the follow-on thoughts I’m caught in the grip of considering is how the US Constitution set up checks and balances to minimize corruption and fraud, but how zero-sum power games crept in via Wilsonian Progressivism, and now wealth masses are big enough to swamp the whole system if we don’t start making some changes.  So what changes can be made to our political system to add more checks/balances to discourage vote fraud, nationalizing of local elections, and the socio-economic version of regulatory capture?

I think we can improve on the original US Constitution. Not by replacing or amending it with new/different goals, but by extending the checks, balances, and decentralization of power beyond just federal government, yet without impacting inherent freedom.  More thought is needed.

Also, I will soon write an article on how wealth/income inequality is actually a sign of societal wealth, of economic health.

What thoughts did this overlong piece stimulate?

 

Advertisements

29 thoughts on “Capitalism Makes Everything Better

  1. You make great points that I agree with. I only disagree with the idea that we have to marshal our arguments in order to defeat socialism.

    If this worked, we’d be hailing Ben Shapiro as an international hero instead of a guy who makes sarcastic remarks after every socialist victory.

    Socialism and it’s appeal is argument-proof. Facts and their rational, well-reasoned recitation have no effect. Socialism’s historical record of verifiable failure only makes the socialist dig their heels in deeper. Only mockery, utter defeat at the ballot, and maybe even actual violence, can defeat socialism.

    We’ve tried arguments for over a century to literally no avail. None. Socialism is ascendant despite all the overwhelming evidence against it because the strategy good people (yes, I’m calling socialists bad people) have deployed have failed repeatedly and spectacularly. Time for a new strategy.

    Again, my preferred methods are mockery and electoral defeat. Maybe even prevent those who would vote for socialism from being imported into this country en masse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ideas are resurgent because people forget history, but I wouldn’t call socialism ascendant. It’s been beaten before. We won the Cold War. Just may take some hard times to remind people how terrible an idea it is.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I would call socialism ascendant, especially as Reagan-style, outsourcing, open borders, free markets über alles style capitalism has failed so many young people. I actually think AOC will be president, or come damn close, in 2024, maybe with Beto as her running mate. Demographic changes + indoctrination + economic hard times for an entire generation and a half = socialism looking like a good idea.

        And of course it will fail. And the hard times you speak of will come. The question then becomes, will these people learn from it? And will we still be one nation at that point?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. People seem to think the US experiment liberty is at its most perilous point.
        I think we’ve been at worse points, or at the very least, at points just as bad.
        The Civil War and Reconstruction were probably worse, in terms of division.
        Tammany Hall was probably worse, as far as corruption.
        Post-WWII was probably worse, as far as fervent belief in Socialism is concerned…there really *was* an active Communist movement in the US. McCarthy wasn’t all that wrong.
        The assault on traditions and morality was as bad in the 1920s.
        There are always cycles.
        I personally think the Left is so shrill because they sense they are on the verge of losing credibility and power, after feeling like they on the cusp of silencing Conservatives forever with Obama’s election and subsequent damage to the US Constitution.

        We aren’t destined to win, but we aren’t destined to lose, either. The story is still being written. Don’t lose heart!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m not losing heart because I agree with you that there are always cycles. We happen to be at or near the bottom of one.

        Look, our enemies are stupid, at least as stupid as they are evil. I think it’s wrong to think they’ll defeat themselves though. They need some help defeating themselves, and that’s why I get so frustrated with GOP Inc., because they hate fighting and I don’t think they really want the forces of socialism, et al., to lose. Gotta keep fighting.

        But I totally think AOC has a great shot of being president someday. That’s how I see the societal trends, at least. I’d love to be wrong.

        Like

      4. I’d just add –

        In 2014, how many people thought Donald Trump would now be president? Back then I wouldn’t have been comforted knowing he’s in the White House now, but presently it does give me some hope.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. In the spirit of helping you work these thoughts out for future battle, I’ll present the Marxist counter arguments, such as they are, as strongly as I can:

    – There is no such thing as human nature. As Marx put it: “it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” You only think there’s a human nature because that is what your group – your class – believes. If we change the social existence of men, their consciousness will change accordingly. As we change the social existence of men, their consciousness will change – will be raised – until the socialist premises are achieved in their natures. They will become woke.

    (Corollary I: your arguments mean nothing, since they all arise from and are dependent on your current false consciousness. You must become woke, which is in no way the end result of an intellectual process. You just get it or you don’t, and if you don’t, well, it’s the reeducation camps and a shallow grave for you.)

    (Corollary II: Marxists are not interested in what you have to say. They, not you, will tell you what you believe, because they have achieved higher consciousness and you, trapped in false consciousness, are simply too benighted to see, even to see what you yourself believe and how it springs from your mistaken class consciousness.)

    – Similarly, when you say some individual men will work harder under a Capitalist system, and that the results of their labor on the whole benefit everybody, you are confusing cause and effect: people are entirely subject to historical forces. What you mistake for personal initiative is just Capital H History progressing, expressing itself in the evolving consciousness of the masses. The individual is nothing, the collective everything.

    – Logic, and everything that flows from it such as science, technology and rational argument itself, are likewise social constructs – are results, not causes, of the social existence of man. No conclusions reached logically from within false consciousness have anything more than a temporary utility, as the very framework within which such arguments are valid is changing. What seems false today may be true tomorrow. What’s important is staying on the right side of History.

    (Note: here’s where we get into Marx’s spin on Hegel’s dialectic, as well as Hegel’s rejection of the law of non-contradiction. A thesis is merely opposed by its antithesis; the synthesis ‘suspends’ the contradiction without rejecting it. The rigors of logic are for the little people – scientists, mathematicians, technologists. *Real* philosophers, who are by definition those who accept Hegel, are not.

    Hegel & Marx really buy this. Most socialists are merely woke, they have not followed the arguments – why would they? Even if they have heard them, their teachers are certainly brooking no challenges to them, so they are unexamined, simple statements of the Way Things Are. But they have picked up enough to know that *you* are laboring under false consciousness, or are simply Wrong and Evil. When they should have been learning stuff, they were merely expanding their capacity to tolerate cognitive dissonance to the point where they could swallow a whale. So to speak.

    So good luck! A side note: we had some friends through school, where Mrs. is a corporate lawyer and Mr. an academic unable to get work in his field, with a couple kids. They both say they are communists. When life got hard, the marriage fell apart. I mention this because of two things: Socialism, with its emphasis on class warfare, makes individual responsibilities (such as preserving a family for your kids) seem trivial. Therefore, when it’s time to man or woman up, there’s no there there. Disavowing communism/socialism/ Marxisms (they’re all the same – ask Solzhenitsyn) might require owning up to your own failings – and that’s too painful. Second, as I’m fond of saying, socialism is a revenge fantasy for people with daddy issues – which happens to describe both these sad people, and, franky, every other serious commie I’ve ever met. The useful idiots come in all flavors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Everything about Leftists seems to come down to daddy issues.

      I had a general understanding of the examples of Marxist brainwashing you provided, but it *is* helpful to have them all spelled out and condensed. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes of course, it was clear you had an understanding – I was just trying to give you a target against which to hone your attack. Although the commentor above is largely correct: The left is not interested in argument. They are interested in victory. It truly is a death cult.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Another thing: there are true Marxists, who are I fear completely lost short of a miracle, but many more useful idiots, people who have rarely if ever entertained a thought about much of anything, or who have fallen for the appeal to their emotions that socialism is just the obvious way to take care of the weak and poor, and that opponents are mean and closed-minded. And, perhaps even more who will, in the words Bolt put into Henry VII’s mouth in Man For All Seasons, “follow anything that moves.”

    I don’t know how to tell the difference, but I should thing it would become apparent rather quickly in any discussion, and that tactics could be modified accordingly.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There was a clip on twitter today with Tucker Carlson saying that kids don’t watch news, and if you talk to them, you often encounter those who say, “They’re lying to us!” and will then think for themselves.

      The problem is, their fallback position of “They’re lying to us!” is “The Man/The Suits/The Corps are lying to us! It’s all Consumerism and Socialism is the Way to Go!”

      These are the people I want to be ready for.

      Because they peeled back one layer of the onion. But they are stuck in the ennui of a largely Sanitized for Your Protection world, and they need to realize the world is so much better now. We have more choices, and many of the choices encourage laziness and selfishness…there are too many spiritual junk food options. I want them to learn to blame that on poor choices, not this abundance of riches we have.

      The signal-to-noise ratio on Good Decisions amongst all this wealth is not in our favor. But part of growing up is learning to manage that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Inflation is neither natural nor inevitable. It’s a consequence of increasing the supply of currency without having the currency backed by any real goods. It’s a deliberate action, a way of imposing a concealed tax. If the state causes your currency to have 5% less purchasing power then you have essentially just paid at 5% tax on your savings.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Big macs are for those who hate their hearts. REAL people eat spicy italian subs, toasted, from Subway! ;-)

    I’m in the camp of “It is just too late”. Things are going to devolve until violence is the only answer because the other side simply ignores everything they don’t like. They will lie, to others, to each other, to themselves as long as it furthers their ideas. Reason, logic and facts are the last thing they want and they will crucify you if you use such things.

    Sorry to be a downer, but even with Trump keeping so many of his campaign promises, all I hear are people comparing him to Hitler and I’m sick of it…

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s