Capitalistic Methods, Socialistic Goals
Looks like the political system in the US is gearing up to ask the age old question once again: What do we want: Capitalism or Socialism?
(Experts will warn you that that’s too simplistic. The real question being presented is “Do we want feudal capitalism or democratic socialism?” So feel free to interpret it that way.)
But I believe this is a false choice. I have a left and a right side and I need them both to walk. Neither capitalism nor socialism has all the answers. I’d like to propose a smart compromise.
What we really want is: Capitalistic methods, working towards (democratic) socialistic goals.
Capitalism is great at making people work hard and smart, but weak at setting goals for what to do with the results of that labor. (Democratic) Socialism is great at setting those goals, but weak at coming up with ways to achieve them.
Let me explain further. Look at the descriptions of heaven as defined in any religion. It is a bunch of “angels” or “beautiful souls” floating around happily, being really nice to each other, playing music and dancing. All under the watchful eye of an all knowing benevolent god. No need for money, no possessions, no pain, no unhappiness. Everyone following their passion to the limit. Everyone’s basic needs met, and no one asking for much more.
And this vision is universal. This is what we really want in the end. (Pun intended!) 🙂
Unfortunately, this vision of utopia does not work in the real world. The real world has real people, not angels. We all have our fears and insecurities, weaknesses and biases, needs and desires. Plus, the real world is constantly changing, placing ever newer challenges in front of us and forcing us to adjust.
Trying to bring this utopia into practice by simply passing laws and allowing all means of production to be owned by societies rather than individuals, etc. does not work. People lose their drive to work, systems become corrupt and inefficient, the utopia slips away real quick.
So we need something that takes into account reality of human nature and reality of the world.
Capitalism is the best answer we have come up with so far. Fear and greed are great motivators, and if managed properly in a lawful and fair and competitive environment, we can use them to build very secure and prosperous societies.
And, as should happen, such secure and prosperous societies generate excess wealth or resources. And then the question becomes, what do we do with those excesses? And also, when we have such excesses, what happens to our basic assumptions of fear and greed on which this whole system is based? Do they still remain valid?
Evidence shows that once people have a sufficient amount of excess, the importance of fear and greed as primary drives diminishes significantly. At least for most people. Other factors, such as work-life balance, pursuit of passion, pleasure and parties, family and community etc. become more important. Essentially, when our stomachs are full, we start longing for the heavenly utopia.
Unfortunately, since capitalism has taken us this far, we are unwilling to let up on it. We think we should push it even harder. Some people convince themselves, that, in the absence of fear and greed, human society is basically just a big game. It’s not about money or resources anymore, it’s purely about winning the game.
This is a perversion. This is not what we really want and this will ultimately lead to our ruin. We don’t want our societies to become just big games and the purpose of our lives to become winning the game at any cost. That’s a terrible way to live!
I like to say that every human philosophy eventually gets driven off the cliff by its most ardent followers. In the last century, ardent socialists drove socialism off the cliff. At present, ardent capitalists are trying to drive capitalism off the cliff.
This is stupid.
We want the heavenly utopia as I described earlier. We want our lives to be driven by our passions, not fear and greed. We want to live happily ever after. And we are so close! All we need to do is to not drive the car off the cliff and divert it towards the meadow!
In other words, we create a system where we follow capitalistic methods to get our societies working and creating wealth and excesses. But then, we stop short of it turning into a perverse game. We use those excesses to create a utopia where everyone is happy and healthy and able to indulge in their passions.
And this needs to be a dynamic balance. During lean times, we will need to rely harder on our capitalistic system and work harder. At other times, we can enjoy our socialistic utopias a bit and indulge our passions and pleasures and families and communities more.
We want to follow capitalistic methods, but the ultimate goals of those endeavors should be (democratic) socialistic.
What do you think?