Gongol.com Archives: January 2023
There's a certain type of blockhead who seems to imagine that "capitalism" is to blame for nearly every challenge in life, or even every shortcoming from a utopian imagination of the world. While it is difficult to launch an intellectually honest refutation of the advantages of market economics, it's possible for a person to hold an authentic opinion that some other type of system is better. What is impossible for a person to do with any intellectual honesty is to make out all the various troubles of life as the exclusive fault of capitalism. ■ Consider the following argument, apparently made in earnest: "[C]an you imagine being a human during the paleolithic age just eating salmon and berries and storytelling around campfires and star gazing ... no jobs no traffic no ads no poverty no capitalism-caused traumas just pure vibes" [punctuation, capitalization, and all other errors from the original]. It's difficult to pack that much fantastical intellectual dishonesty into so few words. ■ There have always been jobs to do, whether the prevailing economic system was capitalism, socialism, feudalism, or hunting-gathering. It has always been that way, because the world has always been a place where scarcity of resources has forced human beings to compete -- with each other, with other living things, and with the forces of nature. "No jobs"? "No poverty"? "Just pure vibes"? Nonsense. ■ Blaming anyone's current lack of comfort on "capitalism" is impossibly dumb, if capitalism is defined (correctly) as the idea that people should freely exchange things of value and be free to quantify those things as "capital". Nothing in history has ever worked so effectively to improve the material condition of human lives as capital-based market economics. Compare South Korea to North Korea. Compare Hong Kong or Taiwan to Communist-controlled China. Compare the historical West Germany to East Germany. ■ Markets don't create the scarcity that people blame for their problems. More than anything, they help to peacefully resolve scarcity. It's nonsensical to rely on the boogeyman of "capitalism" as the reason people don't enjoy "eating salmon and berries and telling stories around campfires". Those are choices, and they are enhanced by the production of more salmon, more berries, and more leisure time. Markets do just that. ■ It's ludicrous, too, to romanticize the past: It was often sickly, painful, and extraordinarily violent. That doesn't mean the present isn't too often full of troubles and violence, but it is vastly easier to make the case for peaceable coexistence when one starts from the premise that each individual owns themselves and the fruits of their own labor, whether produced by the hand or by the mind. If you, your life, and your work are valuable, then you have a right to protect them, and the state has a duty to help you do that. ■ Benjamin Franklin phrased it artfully a quarter of a millennium ago: "Is not the Hope of one day being able to purchase and enjoy Luxuries a great Spur to Labour and Industry? May not Luxury therefore produce more than it consumes, if without such a Spur People would be as they are naturally enough inclined to be, lazy & indolent?" ■ Franklin wasn't defending Goldman Sachs when he wrote that; he was identifying a common thread in human nature: That everyone has a hunger to consume, and that it must be satisfied by production. Most alternatives to markets depend upon coercion to get that production done, whether it's the feudal lord compelling work, a Communist government starving 20 million people through forced industrialization, or the chief of a small tribe deciding where and when to hunt. Nothing real in this world comes from consuming "vibes".
After a merger of television and radio operations, what would in a sane universe have been named "Vermont Public Media" has dropped the "media" and is going to be called just "Vermont Public". The compulsion to say "we do more than just media" is strong, but at some stage or another, the "we do everything" approach makes it impossible for a name to make sense anymore. The mind knows something is missing from the name, so then it becomes a game: Vermont Public...Opinion? Engagement? Tacos? What is it, and what does it do? Where is the noun?