October 14, 2008

Economics, Part II: Endgame

Let it never be said that our theology posits that human beings are in control of initiating salvation - God already took the first step by extending Grace to us. Grace is so cool precisely because it means we don't, can't, work for our salvation; we couldn't earn it anyway, as many capitalists have begun to think we could. Grace means that salvation comes first, regardless of whether or not we think we deserve it, a "precursor" to all that follows (contingent upon our acceptence). But the trouble is that we still have to WORK. In a socialist state, we are not encouraged to work, we are encouraged to "mooch" off the state and produce as little as is absolutely necessary. In a capitalist state, we HAVE to work (work is thus a given) and are so surprised when all we need is offered to us at the right moments that we try to pay back what we think we owe. But once again, both have their issues.

In a socialist state, there is little encouragement to produce; the state takes over distribution of resources. In other words, the few take responsibility for the many. But who are those few? What human beings can possibly make the sort of decisions that will impact the many, without partisanship or flaw? (sidenote: the irony of this is that the more liberal democrats tend to swing socialist, yet this is exactly what they accuse Bush of doing with Iraq and Afghanistan; likewise, conservative republicans who accuse the democrats of socialist tendencies want to mandate-by-law who can "marry"). In a socialist state, the products we get are utter crap - they don't work well, they break easily, etc., because there is no motivation aside from either negative reinforcement (i.e. those guys with the clubs and the tasers watching you) or your own conscience - which, given that socialist states employ guys with clubs and tasers, is obviously not someting that happens. The few control the many in order to produce. Workers learn to work the system, because there is no reward for them if the produce a few more units. We see this in every socialist society: human beings are inherently lazy, and will get out of work they are told to do if they possibly can. The socialist state creates factories, assembly lines, for everything - everyone gets the same, everyone is valued the same (except the ruling class, who are "more equal"), and the workers do as little as possible to survive: in the end, the masses are treated like dirt.

But it goes both ways. In a capitalist state, we are encouraged, socially-pressured, to compete for the goods and services for the very reason that we value those goods and services. Capitalism works through competition, rather than cooperation; when cooperation happens, it's within a group that is competing with another group. It's no wonder that evolutionary theory came out of a capitalist framework, as the two are remarkably similar: survival of the fittest. What ends up happening is that there's always that one guy or girl in the midst of us that has a little more ambition, a little more time, maybe is just a little smarter, or has the luck to come across that one labor-saving device, and so the person ends up leaps and bounds ahead of us all. What happens then? In order to keep up, the rest of the society has to speed up too, at the cost of every other part of their lives (social, familial, leisure, etc.). The few end up controlling the many, in a very different way. It leads to a sense of entitlement, to a sense that "I deserve what I have" because "I earned it" and "I worked hard."

The irony is that often, as one generation succeeds another, "I" did NOT work hard because "I" inherited that wealth; "I" has an attitude of entitlement. Likewise, one can inherit poverty as well. The American dream is one of getting ahead, of acquiring more stuff and a comfortable life, but it is an unattainable dream because the world is not made of infinite resources; those that control the resources do so because way back in time, an ancestor made a few smart decisions that would help him and thus his succeeding generations become self-reliant. Sure, we'll occasionally find the one rich guy who falls from grace after squandering his wealth, but socially speaking, it's almost unheard of. There's a certain measure of protection built into the system to prevent this, "insurance" and other scams that prey on our fears but, occasionally, do pay off. Likewise, not everybody in poverty remains in poverty. Sometimes a kid learns to beat the system, or works really hard and "makes something" of himself or herself, and can secure relative security through extremely hard work. But generally speaking, the capitalist system is one of polarization: the rich become richer, as they invest and buy up those who can't get ahead, and the poor become poorer, as they lack the resources necessary to invest and build in the wake of the wealthy. But they too find an attitude of entitlement, because since the rich inherited their wealth, why can't they give some of it to us so it will be "fair"?

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and neither feels they should have to work for it.

It is exactly the same in both socialism and capitalism - because people are inherently selfish, having been taught that way by their elders for generations (not necessarily in principle, but certainly by example), the system becomes ever-more polarized. In socialism, an elite ruling class develops to oversee everyone (and thus controls the wealth for themselves), and in capitalism, an elite wealthy class develops over generations and collects the wealth. The two systems have the same endgame through different methods but the same cause: human depravity, selfishness, and greed.

(to be continued ...)

1 comment:

Dan said...

"because people are inherently selfish" - how true. I want what's best for me... isn't that why I'm discussing economics, so that the economy will be good for me and maybe my kids, if an when I have them.
I'll be honest and say, yes, for the most part - I'm selfish.
God help me.