Friday, May 30, 2014

Soft Money

For me, Capitalism is merely a thing. It's not inherently good or bad. It simply is. Just, as H. L. Mencken pointed out, the trouble with Communism is the Communists and the trouble with Christianity is the Christians, the trouble with Capitalism is the Capitalists. It's hard to drum up support for a system that people feel is set up in such a way that it's impossible to win by telling them that they should be grateful for the opportunity to lose

But I suspect that what really bothers people about what passes for Capitalism in the United States is that "the 1%" (although, honestly, we're really talking more about the .01%) spend a little too much time claiming that they're being persecuted for "working their butts off," when they're really simply become very good at getting others to the heavy lifting for them. I think that they also but too much effort into blaming people who aren't like them, rather than showing people how it's done. Mark Twain noted that truly great people want to see you become great as well, and I think that we tend to lack that because our culture is driven by the (false) perception of scarcity.

In the end, it takes more than skill to be successful in America. I know plenty of people who have serious skills, but aren't regarded as successes (worst of all by themselves), because the combination of traits and circumstances that it takes is fairly complex. I think that part of the problem is the continued attempts by people to boil it down to nothing more than "skill and hard work" and then a tendency to sneer at people who aren't getting ahead and claiming it's because they're simply too dishonest to own up to their own laziness. The idea that the same traits that were venerated in small agrarian communities also cut the mustard in populous, advanced and technological societies that literally span continents sets a lot of people up for failure. But since they understand that they're doing what they were told to do, and playing by the rules as they understood them, it's no wonder that they look outside of themselves for answers - and often see conspiracies. But I think that a better solution is to have a better understanding of what the rules really are, not just what someone tells themselves to stroke their own ego.

But we don't teach economic literacy as a general skill here in the United States. It's possible to be considered well-educated, and never really have been taught the basics about how the economy that we're expected to live and function in works. Accordingly, for many of us, it's a black box. And I think that this allows for a level of economic judo - the wealthy are using the way we live our lives on a day-to-day basis against us, all the while telling us that the problem is that we aren't doing enough of what we're doing.

No comments: