Is Capitalism the Best System for New Technology?
Benji Lampel
31

There is a puzzle piece missing to the picture you’re outlining, though, one that completely changes things. It’s the answer to the question, But where does food come from?

In your description there’s a sense that food and other safety net services will just appear, that this abstract notion called “society” will hand it to the people who need it. But look behind the abstraction — behind the thought — and in the end there are only the real world individuals that society is made of.

Where does food/healthcare/housing come from? Individual people have to provide it. There is no way that “society” can provide these things without individual people giving up parts of their lives and resources to make it happen. Individuals pay very real costs to make this happen.

When we speak in abstract terms that very important factor can be overlooked. In fact, sometimes the abstract terms are used specifically to avoid thinking about the costs placed upon individuals.


So, we reconsider your picture with this fact included. Without the lens of abstraction obscuring the costs borne by individuals suddenly “the artist will be free, his nees provided for by society” turns into “other people will be burdened with the cost of providing for the artist.” The artist’s new freedom is actually the misperception of others’ obligation.

Or look at it the other way: in your composition you emphasize cooperation. Well, why does the artist take a day job to afford food? The answer is that he’s cooperating with others: he provides whatever services during the day, and in return others provide him with food. The two parties are cooperating for their common good.


I think you’re on to something when you talk about looking past capitalism as an economic theory and instead look at it through a practical lens, at the way it’s actually practiced. But you didn’t go all the way, since you kept theoretical the notion of suppliers. THAT stayed theoretical in your picture, with products coming from some abstract society or company or… something.

Once you finish the picture and include the practical matter of the individual farmer who bears the burden of making food or the doctor who sacrifices to provide healthcare, suddenly the picture resolves in the opposite direction.

It becomes these people who lose their real freedom for the sake of the artists’ hypothetical freedom to choose an abstract path through life.

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