Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Economic Darwinism

I've been struggling to find an economic policy that I can agree with. I was flirting with socialism recently but I don't think I can ever call myself a socialist. I've been a capitalist but I have issues with the problems that cut throat capitalism brings, like monopolies. Essentially, I'm a capitalist, but a liberal capitalist. I'm a populist. I believe there's nothing wrong with someone profiting from a clever idea, and hard work. The issue I have is what happens when that business becomes too powerful and starts crushing the ideas and opportunities of others. It becomes a monopoly, or part of a duopoly, and then eventually we're living in a Corporatocracy, like we are now.

My friend is a die hard capitalist. He follows the more conservative line of capitalism, traditionally held by Republicans. He's all for globalization, outsourcing, tax cuts for the rich, and the cut throat tactics used by many corporations. He justifies all of this by the idea of economic Darwinism. Survival of the fittest, or the cruelest. He seems to acknowledge that many of these tactics are somehow immoral, or have negative consequences, but he feels they are necessary in order to succeed. It's very Machiavellian. It's very Wall Street.

I'm a big fan of Darwinism. I regard Darwin as a genius. He made some mistakes in his original theory, and as a result, Darwinism, has been improved upon with modern evolution. Regardless, Darwinism's essential principal is the same however, and that is of course, survival of the fittest. This plays out pretty evidently in the animal kingdom: The strong and cunning survive, and the weak, the slow and foolish die. I'm very weary of applying Darwinism to other areas of the world, such as economics. Survival of the fittest in economics means the strong will dominate the weak because they can, and the weak will have no choice than to submit to the will of the strong, or die. The strong will make it so that the weak cannot get into power and become strong like them, but they will dangle an illusion of opportunity just far enough in front of the weak so that they'll chase it, but can never reach it. There are always going to be those who do not make it in capitalism, and what about them? I've argued with my friend for hours about the fact that our current economic policies create more of the losers who won't make it in this system. He says they can always get another job that will pay more and I respond by asking where that job is going to come from. Is it going to be created out of thin air, like most of our money is?

Economic Darwinism scares me. Do we have to apply Darwinism to everything? I understand it existing in nature, in that it's not necessarily how I want things to be, but I'm willing to accept its existence based on the evidence derived. I don't expect every species of animal to care for the weak, although some actually do. But we are human beings. We have the ability to reason and apply logic to the toughest problems that face us. We created our economy, it's man-made and not natural. The forces of greed have taken over as I feel they inevitably would under capitalism. Can't we have a free market with some protection mechanisms placed in that ensure the poor and middle class aren't exploited by the rich? Can't we have some common sense policies that undermine or prevent tactics that increase short term gains for some, but will punish and create losses for the many in the long run?

I say no to economic Darwinism. I am not that strong financially and I've pretty much accepted the fact that I'm most likely never going to be rich. My friend is positive that he will one day join the upper crust in the top percentile of money makers. That's why he supports economic policies that favor the rich and powerful: he thinks he'll be one of them someday. That's the illusion the rich have dangling in front of our eyes just out of reach, while they do everything they can to make it harder for the poor and middle class to grow economically.

So I ask, what's wrong with just being middle class? Is the whole purpose of life to be rich? Is being middle class as embarrassing as begging for money on the street nowadays? Should one be ashamed to only have one car, or only two computers? Our goals in life have been warped by the hood of economic Darwinism pulled over our heads, blinding our sight with meaningless consumption that leads to debt, and the destruction of our natural world, all to make the rich a little more of what they already are.

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