The Capitalist vs. Socialist Debates are Lame
A Complexity Science and Anthropology Perspective
It’s all so tiresome. Do you have anything better to do with your life than to argue one side or the other?
Capitalism vs. Socialism is a false dichotomy. Both are fake. I’ll try to make this brief and never address this topic ever again. I don’t write for the sake of creating content perpetually. Lions don’t go down rabbit holes; rabbits do.
I write so that I can be done thinking about a topic. Want to be done with this topic too? Well, there is only one article left for you to read. You’re at the finish line!
I’m not going to steelman arguments in some Slate Star Codex style, like I said, I just want to be done. So if you miss my point, I’m not going to defend my arguments, just get out of my way and go waste your time arguing with someone else.
Indifference and focus are two sides of the same coin. When you’re focused on your mission, you become indifferent to everything else in life. This debate is a side quest that I’ll briefly address before continuing on my main quest line. I hate writing disclaimers and this is the longest one I’ve given so far. May I be done with writing these one day too…
You can ask 10 people and you’d get back 11 different definitions of “capitalism” and “communism.”
Ok great. What do you do from there? Do you try to compromise with all of them and logically sort through all of them?
I’ve tried doing that before, and it’s a waste of time, so we’re taking a different approach. Any neoliberal or libertarian will already give you a million reason why communism doesn’t work, so I’m not going to waste my time regurgitating all these arguments you’re probably already aware of. They are probably correct and there’s nothing new for me to add.
Instead, the main issue I want to address is that defending capitalism is as dumb as defending the theory of evolution.
One of the strongest arguments for capitalism is that it’s a spontaneous order that rose out of the emergent properties of a complex system. Thus, capitalism is natural and inevitable. If that’s the case, then capitalism is equivalent to the theory of evolution.
If you’re a nerdy researcher and a bear attacks you and either castrates or kills you, do you think Evolution would come to your defense? If you’re a nerdy economist and you got fired, do you think Capitalism would come to your defense?
But you’re praised Capitalism and Evolution your whole life. Surely they would answer your prayers and not betray all your time, effort, and offerings? These spontaneous orders are merciless gods who do not answer your prayers. They are indifferent to the worship and praise from individuals, much like Lovecraftian Outer Gods.
When you pray to Capitalism, Capitalism will be silent. There is no salvation in Capitalism.
Now, let’s return to the assumption that capitalism is a spontaneous order… I don’t deny this, but what are its starting conditions?
When studying the origin of life from a complexity science perspective, we often talk about the primordial soup. What is the primordial soup of capitalism?
For that, I always return to this podcast by my friend MartyrMade. You probably subscribed because of the Girardian takes, so you’re getting some Girard. This is also the key point the vast majority of people missed from Peter Thiel’s interview on The Portal. Thiel cares so much about economic growth because it minimizes long run mimetic violence. Everything that he does is based on this assumption and focuses on this goal.
Libertarians are right to acknowledge that the nonaggression principle is important, but they usually choose to fight over petty details and fail to comprehend why it is foundational. A lack of understanding of the nature of violence is how we end up with silly naive ideologies like anarcho-capitalism.
Violence is deep in our nature. Violence is the way of Evolution. In a sense, rather than being the same as Evolution, Capitalism is anti-Evolution. For billions of years, living organisms seized whatever they needed from other organisms. They did not trade with each other to minimize violence. While symbiosis did exist, it was never a replacement for predator-prey relationships.
Evolutionarily, no other organisms other than humans have tried capitalism, yet we pretend that capitalism is inevitable and natural. Symbiotic relationships between animals that are too different are incomparable to capitalism and socialism. A bee hive is rather similar to communism. A pride of lions is like neither. Prides do not trade with other prides. In disputes between prides, violence is the first answer.
Humans are the only species that trade with strangers of the same species. If you ask evolutionary biologists what was the primary driver of early hominid evolution, none of them would say free trade. They would bring up fire, tools, bipedal motion, language, etc first. These happened before trade was possible.
As discussed in the MartyrMade podcast, the earliest humans were all cannibals. They went from practicing cannibalism to practicing human sacrifice, to practicing animal sacrifice, then finally to practicing symbolic sacrifice. Currency and trade were part of the development of symbolic sacrifice.
Early humans engaged in reciprocal violence that only resolved through the sacrifice of a scapegoat. Eventually, we arrived at a point where the sacrifice didn’t have to be of human life. An animal owned by someone can be sacrificed in the place of the person meant to be sacrificed, then eventually simply any type of property can be destroyed symbolically as part of the sacrificial ritual.
Anything that has sacrificial value has trade value. Symbolic sacrifice made it possible for people of different tribes to trade for goods rather than simply pillaging each other.
Today, our societies are so peaceful that we assume that trading is more natural than pillaging. We fail to recognize that peace and trade aren’t the natural state of human beings. Peace and trade are only possible if we have prior agreements to not pillage each other. In an all out war, you cannot freely trade with an enemy nation.
To make capitalism possible, someone must have already prepaid the cost of violence. Therefore, anarcho-capitalism is even more foolish than communism. At least communists assume that humans can evolve to be more like ants and bees. That has been done in nature before. But anarcho-capitalism has never been possible in nature. Historically, dictatorships are the spontaneous orders that arise from chaos, not some anarcho-capitalist utopia.
Violence always supersedes trade in human instinct. As a kid, did you dream of beating up (even killing) your bullies or did you dream of mutually beneficial trade agreements with your bullies? If parents and teachers weren’t there as authorities to suppress violence, what would you have done?
Here, the governments are analogues to the parents and teachers and companies are analogous to the bullied kids. Then what’s the difference between a government and a company?
Not much, other than the company is incapable of controlling its own sovereign military. A company may have its private security team in the same way that a 5-year-old has his own fists. A company can pretend to be as tough as it wants to be in the capitalist world, but as soon as it gets physically assaulted outside the playground of capitalism, it would come crying to Daddy Government to defend it in the same way a 5 year-old who just got beat up would cry to his dad.
If no government exists to babysit the companies, then eventually one of these companies would gather big enough of an army to police all the other companies that eventually it becomes indistinguishable from a government. The end state of such an anarcho-capitalist utopia is a communist dictatorship where the CEO of the biggest company has control over a bunch of state-owned companies.
Thus, arguing about capitalism vs communism is really naive and boring, and reveal an ignorance of human nature and violence.
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I think capitalism is the second most natural state, as in the natural state after violence is removed. In the presence of some authority that prohibits violence, people default to mutually beneficial yet self-interested cooperation.
For instance, imagine that you’re a kid in kindergarten and you have some toys. Another kid has different toys. You want some of theirs and they want some of yours. You can’t use violence, so what you default to is trade, since we have some natural sense of property and ownership.
Someone could now use the personal/private property argument, but that argument is retarded by definition. If you can use your own property for some uses but not other uses, it’s not your property.
And the kindergarten example could also work with kids agreeing to a form of communism, but I think the property ownership is more natural and common.
But yes, the debate is dumb and neither is really natural, though it’s probably accurate to argue that the order of what’s natural is violence > trade > everything else. I like your point of capitalism being in a way the opposite of evolution. Both are spontaneous order, but working in opposite directions. Though I guess despite communist type organizations being present in nature, communism itself is even more anti-evolution than capitalism, but that depends on whether you’re only arguing about economic policy, or also social programs and related things.
What's the connection thiel sees between economic growth and mimetic violence? no economic growth, economic activity becomes zero sum therefore more violent as participants desire fixed amounts of wealth -> classic mimetic violence spiral. or is it to do with 0 to 1