Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Profit Motive... not what capitalism is all about.

I'm not a hardcore capitalist because I think I will be a billionaire, or even because I want to be a billionaire.  If either of those things were true I'd want a system other than capitalism, which makes it very difficult for me to accrue massive wealth, and would require decades of my life dedicated to the purpose.

Capitalism is about freedom of choice.  Full stop.

It has very nice side effects; y'know, massive wealth for everybody involved, to the point where somebody with air conditioning and color televisions and smartphones can be considered as living in poverty.

But that's not what it's -about-.  If you start thinking it's -about- the massive wealth, you'll start focusing on other ways of achieving the wealth, and generally fuck shit up trying to optimize a chaotic evolutionary system that I, with my genius-level IQ and no shortage of ego, know better than to think I could improve upon.  It's not about wealth.  It's not about food, or entertainment, or healthcare.  Capitalism is about freedom of choice.

Studies suggesting the profit motive isn't useful in generating innovation aren't demonstrating a flaw in capitalism.  They're demonstrating a flaw in socialism.  Projects like Linux can only succeed in a capitalist society - even ignoring the massive corporate funds which have gone towards making Linux (and every successful open source project to date) viable, even ignoring that a lot of that work has originated in clauses in employee contracts which forbid programmers from owning off-work development, even ignoring all the direct contributions which capitalistic enterprises have made which have permitted these community projects to succeed - these community projects are taking place in a capitalist society precisely because a capitalist society permits them to.

Single-payer healthcare, single-payer education, singly sourced projects are the holy grail of socialized systems.  The arguments used for these things - that we should be improving what exists so everybody can enjoy the superior system instead of creating a choice system in which there would be disparity of outcomes - are universally applicable within socialism.  Within a socialized society, Linux wouldn't exist - there would be only Windows, which everybody is required to use.  If you want to improve something, you have to improve Windows, and only if Society agrees to it, because we can't have unapproved people doing things which affect everybody, possibly adversely.

Capitalism has fostered and permitted Linux, and the open source community.

Of course, this entire argument can be rendered irrelevant by pointing out what profit really is.  Nobody would argue that consuming less to produce more is a bad thing, until we start quantifying the difference in terms of money.  Anger about the profit motive has nothing to do with profit, and everything to do with a hatred of money.  And I'll leave that argument to Francisco d'Anconia.

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