Thursday, March 15, 2012

Renaming "Capitalism"

I read somewhere  recently that the word "capitalism" has been treated as a dirty word for so long that it's time we came up with a better accurate description of just such a system.

How about "advanced trade system (or society)"?

After all, capital is not about cash, but about what one can get in exchange for something else.  People talk of political capital (you scratch my back, I'll vote for your back scratcher legislation), social capital (I go out with you to improve your reputation and you introduce me to your delightful friend/sibling/luxury car), and other such, without making it clear to youngsters (Get off my lawn, you kids!) that it is, truly, all about the swap.  Money is simply an IOU -- you do me a solid favor or let me have that thing I've been eyeing, I give you a little slip of paper, bit of metal, or set of zeroes and ones in a computer file, that says somebody else down the line will do you a solid, who passes it to the next guy for something, and so on.

I know there are people who believe that using the "greater good" methods will provide for the... ahem... greater good.  But, suppose the rest of your close society tells you that, despite your being quite happy -- and even successful -- working in your fields as a farmer, they need more workers in the toilet paper factory, and you are going, because you are just the right size and ability level to do the job of crawling through the ducts to clean out the air vents every hour of every day.   Somebody else will take care of your crops and livestock, and see that you get your meals from them.  After all, anybody can do that, too, right?  Probably not as happily, but the work will get done.  Sort of.

The advanced trade system, in fact, is the best method for getting done the really nasty jobs in the world. Mucking out stables, as it were -- maintaining landfills, handling toxic substances, clearing highways of dangerous conditions (snow, ice, etc.), repairing sewage lines... with currency, you can entice people to do these tasks and other, even less pleasant tasks.  Even with the more pleasant tasks, offering extra cash can often bring added enthusiasm, getting, as they saying goes, "more bang for your buck".  Without cash incentives, many medications would never have been developed, virtually all labor-saving devices would remain only in the hands of the inventors or others who might have the equipment to copy the originals, and, unless you're unusually talented, even the art in your life would vanish behind the doors of the privileged, the talented few.

In this system, you're trading, rather than bullying, extorting, stealing, or other less savory options for  building a thriving society.

The point is, trading money for items, ideas, and services makes life fairer*, more free, safer, and easier.  Advanced trade advances people.

Everything else is just a matter of semantics, right?

*"Fairer."  Not simply "fair." As has been repeatedly pointed out, even in a movie starring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie, life is never fair.

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