The myth of capitalist innovation

I can't tell you how many times I've been told that without capitalism there would be no innovation and how competition is good for society.

But I don't think you could argue that capitalism is what got us out of caves, what helped us discover fire, tools for hunting, the wheel or many of the most important discoveries that moved mankind ahead. The spirit of innovation predates capitalism and does not need it to survive. In fact, capitalism impedes innovation because instead of allowing good ideas to come to life, it adds the requirements of profitability and the ability to compete. Let's look at a few examples:

An often cited argument from capitalists is that you cannot credibly be against capitalism and use a smartphone. But if you look at how smartphones come to market, one thing is very clear: it's a race to the bottom. It's like they ask themselves "How little do we have to put into the next version in order to make them want it more than the other guys' and more than the previous version?". Not to mention the manipulation of release dates which are far from random and the bitter fights over IP with competitors which belies the value of competition.

Which brings us to my other example: Ridesharing apps. Without discounting the challenges ridesharing apps, their staff and drivers present to civil society, the concept itself makes a lot of sense. Ok, so it's not really a sharing economy but it IS a more efficient use of vehicles not to mention that it is more accountable to users than taxis are and more responsive too. And yes, rideshare apps did flout the rules A LOT but that doesn't justify all the pushback taxi companies have given them. It was brilliant, however, for taxi companies to pit taxi drivers against Uber drivers. Deflect by dividing and conquering right? But there's more to it. Taxi companies are currently the "innovative" solution in the market and they're not interested in competing with ridesharing apps because that innovation would hurt their bottom line. Since they have been around for a long time they have the resources and connections to make it difficult for ridesharing to operate on their turf and they have used it to make sure the apps don't hurt their bottom line. Yes, eventually the taxi companies and regulators will have to adapt or see their income streams dry up but for now they're impeding innovation and resisting competition. They are definitely being good capitalists though.

So, can we really keep believing that capitalism encourages competition or drives innovation? I don't think so and I wish people would stop trying to scare people into submission by arguing that it does.

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