Possibilities and Capitalism

Capitalism gets a lot of justified criticism – conglomerations own everything, banks submerge economies, pharmaceutical CEO’s drastically raise prices for profit. But everything in extreme is detrimentalit’s difficult to justify the categorical denunciation of capitalism.

So I won’t do it. Basic capitalism is using private capital to produce goods or services for a fee: using money to make money. It sounds like a Private Pyle, but it’s not inherently bad; using money to make money can be positive or negative.

Private Pyle, from Full Metal Jacket



Money is the quantification of our possibilities: the more money you have, the more you can do.

You can use your possibilities to further pursue more of your own possibilities – you inherit one million dollars and decide to turn it into ten million by opening a plastics factory. To keep the plastics factory operating, you need a product that’s superior to the cheap China-crap, and you develop better plastic. Your one million dollars is now one billion dollars and you’ve given 10,000 people full-time jobs and revolutionized materials science in the process. You’ve expanded the possibilities of the human race. (Very Ayn Randian.)

You can also further your own possibilities by limiting the possibilities of others. You can slander your competition, or you can purchase your competition, or you can use your money to gut a company, or you can use your possibilities to persuade legislators to over-regulate your competition, or to deregulate your own business. You’ve now expanded your own possibilities by limiting the possibilities of others, and you’re a total asshole with a yacht.

There’s an ethical conundrum —>  What of the CEO that revolutionizes the digital age (expanding possibilities for everyone) but then uses brutal labor in a foreign country and practices engineered obsolescence to keep people buying: isn’t this person expanding more possibilities than he takes? But isn’t he also expanding his own possibilities by limiting those of others, for instance, limiting the possibilities of all the people buying a new Iphone every six months, or the domestic manufacturers who lose their jobs?

Capitalism works excessively well when people open possibilities for themselves by opening possibilities for others, even if this is only a consequence and not a goal, and capitalism becomes destructive when people open possibilities for themselves by closing possibilities for others (Subprimes, TPP, Martin Shkreli).

When people use their Ego (their will, their power, their possibilities) for others, everyone benefits. When people use their Ego to benefit themselves, ie, they greedily build a plastics factory to get super rich – even though they’re only doing it for themselves, they’re giving possibilities to a lot of other people in the process (Ayn Rand again).

But, of course, Martin Shkreli.

Capitalist societies are prosperous and just when people use their Egos to benefit others (open a plastics factory that’s owned by the workers) – and would at least be far less shitty if people would stop expanding their own possibilities by limiting the possibilities of others (purchase and then gut the competing plastics factory).


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