Comment on Ailsa’s Facebook Page
Ailsa posted a quote attributed to John Maynard Keynes:
“Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all.”
[Schuster 1951 attributed the quote to Keynes, but there is no direct evidence he ever uttered it.]
To which Chris replied that “in a free market, with competition, the only way to get ahead is to give other people what they want. Free exchange does not occur unless both parties are better off as a result of the exchange. Keynes is guilt of putting up a straw man here.”
[to which I replied:]
That is not quite an accurate answer.
While it is true that at the simplest level capitalism does work, and works best, where people are trading in a free market with close to full knowledge, that is not how the system as a whole works.
The degree to which exchanges are free and the degree to which expected benefits match actual outcomes is something that varies a great deal depending on circumstances.
It is certainly true that there are many people who are working close to the boundaries of what is legal in terms of manipulating both circumstances and expectations for their monetary benefit. Enron is one example that was caught at it, and variations on that theme are alive and well in all sectors. The finance sector is now arguably one big scam, and the stock market isn’t much better with less than 5% of the money traded in the stock market actually going to fund new business.
A strong argument can be made that the highest form of evolution is cooperation. Cooperation within capitalist ventures (corporations) is supported. Cooperation by those without capital is treated with great suspicion by many capitalists.
Many of the dictators in the world were put there by American interests to support the interests of American capital.
So while I am totally committed to individual liberty, and property rights, I do so in a way that acknowledges the responsibility I have to cooperate in ways that ensure the welfare of every individual. None of us stand alone. Every individual stands on the shoulders of all who have gone before to build the culture and technologies that support us all. We are very close to the point of being able to automate all of the essential roles in the production and maintenance of all the things that support human life. At that point – we don’t need free markets – we just need freedom (and the responsible respect for all others in their diversity that is its necessary companion).