Wednesday, September 18, 2019

There Is No System

Speaking with younger people about economic issues today, I noticed they are overwhelmingly convinced that there is a System that we operate by, that can be modified, rather than economic forces that operate to move an economy.  They think of the free market as some sort of apparatus that we can install, modify, or remove, then put another in.  This is perhaps the great victory of Marxism, to teach the lie that capitalism is one system among many, and quite optional.  The free market is like gravity, and operates as a force.  Like a jet which can fly great distances if we spend enough energy in the form of fuel, we can overcome the gravity of the free market in many ways.  We just have to spend a lot of energy - that is, money and other resources like attention and manpower - in order to do that.  We do spend that energy to overcome that gravity, and I'm glad we do.  I think a social safety net is a wonderful thing, to a point. To create roads, laws, banking, marketplaces - these are good things, and so are defense, culture, education. We think those either improve the market or just make life worth living. But I also recognise that all energy put into overcoming gravity has a cost elsewhere.  We can hold the forces of the market at bay for a time, and sometimes ride them out or smooth them, but they keep operating, even while we sleep.

That is why they say “the system is broken” if people at minimum wage can’t afford housing, or jobs disappear.  They are envisioning the country as some sort of machine, an apparatus.  Within that framework, their ideas make sense.  That framing secretly supports the idea that there is plenty of money out there, it just has to be redirected or used differently.  It also ties into the idea that the government is the country.  It is either the structure itself, or the manager of the structure, and nothing happens but for its operation.  That the country and its economy might be something much larger than the government, and the government a force that can destroy as well as encourage it, is just not on their radar.  They can’t see the world another way.  It is the subtext behind “You didn’t build that,” the idea that the government has done the heavy lifting by providing laws, enforcement, and a place to do business.  The individuals and businesses are its children, sent out to do good things to be brought back into the family home. If someone is making way more money, it doesn’t mean that some part of the economy is flourishing, it means that something isn’t working right. By thinking the government is everything, they think too small. Power isdistributed, as I have written for years, even in such insanely oppressively governed places like North Korea, and hugely more in the West.

I’m getting irritated just thinking about it and don’t want to write more.  I will only summarise by noting this is their picture of how the world works, and I don’t see how much change of heart is going to result as long as that picture is in place.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

Over at Maggie's Farm today there was some discussion on California's Rent Control law, which I thought applicable to this post.