hong kong phooey

Capitalism might well be a cruel dog-eat-dog world. But unfortunately, so are all the other worlds.

You know how you have those cartoon cow illustrations of different types of economies? In the dog-eat-dog analogy:

  • Free Market Capitalism: is where the big dogs rear the small dogs they’ll eat, and the small dogs have to trust that the big dogs are self-interested enough to keep them alive.
  • State-Regulated Capitalism: is where the big dogs still rear the small dogs they’ll eat, but the guard dogs come and take a third of the pickings, consume most of it, and give the rest back to the half-eaten small dogs as a form of social welfare.
  • Socialism: happens under the supervision of the guard dogs, where the big dogs are expected to rear all the small dogs until they’re big dogs, without eating anything.
  • Communism: is where the guard dogs rear all the dogs by force-feeding each dog only a small amount of its own flesh, which keeps all the dogs small – except for the guard dogs, who eat the non-guard dogs to keep up their strength, so that they can make sure that no dog gets too big as big as them.

I realise that I’m being a bit reductionist – but really, what I’m trying to say is that every economic system is an “evil”. Life is a messy business, and it annoyingly doesn’t align with our beliefs in fairness and equality and what ought to be.

That’s just nature, unfortunately.

We are not born equal: some of us are born better-looking, some with better brain chemistry, some with healthier immune systems, and then there are some that are born into genetic dynasties whose historic strokes of luck have made them rich.

That doesn’t mean that we’re not intrinsically equal as human beings. I don’t think that’s really in question, and I’ve written about it here: Getting Existential About Value.

But economic systems are not about intrinsic equality – they’re all about the extrinsic kind. And it’s where we come up against moral argument: because there is a question around whether our equal intrinsic human value entitles us to an equal extrinsic share in the allocation of resources. And there are basically two sides to that:

  • The Haves – who are usually being asked to accept that they’re not worth enough to society to be so wealthy, so they need to give up their wealth, which is a hard thing to ask of anyone.
  • The Have-Nots – who are usually being asked to accept that they’re not worth enough to society to be more wealthy, so they need to give up their expectation of wealth, which is a hard thing to ask of anyone.

The argument is all one-sided, because the only real argument is “I am worth more than what you are saying while you are worth less than what you think.” The rest is all circumstance and power dynamics.

And I think it’s worth pointing out.

Rolling Alpha posts about finance, economics, and sometimes stuff that is only quite loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, or like my page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rollingalpha. Or both.