Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Socialist Universe

Over at Pharyngula right now, PZ has recruited the Pharyngular Hive Mind to help come up with answers to creationist claims during a debate. Being as I'm a metaphor junkie, this one from commenter James really struck my fancy:
Capitalism works through a disparate group of businessmen, each acting in their own interest. There is no central plan, each businessman tries out different ideas, the successful businesses grow and thrive, the bad ideas result in businesses. The result is development and growth.

Communism doesn't accept that this is plausible and instead beleive that a system as complex as a modern economy must be planned ie designed by a single authority. Communist economies are inevitably less successful than capitalist ones by any standard you care to employ.

When dealing witht he Christian Right this may have some persuasive power. After all if you beleive in free market capitalism you have to beleive in emergent complexity, whether you realise it or not.

Of course, everyone but the hardest-core Randroids will admit that every capitalist society can and should, like the universe, function within a system of constraints, which is to say socialism of a greater or lesser degree. If pure Communism is a "command economy," and laissez-faire capitalism is an "at-will economy," then you could phrase the happy medium as a "suggest economy." As Richard Dawkins put it, "Life is the result of the non-random replication of randomly varying replicators." The fixed rules which govern the functioning of these myriad and random replicators are exactly and precisely analogous to the sort of regulatory constraints you find in a working capitalist society -- occupational health and safety laws, tax codes, environmental regulations, service levies, the availability of resources and infrastructure (everything from sanitation and electricity to the labour pool and client base); all of these things are the non-random governing principles in which the myriad and random complexity of the marketplace function. Which also explains why some species of businesses thrive in certain environments, and the same species of business will die (go out of business) in others.

Without a functioning system of constraints creating an orderly and healthy system in which business can grow and thrive, what you wind up with (that is to say, pure laisssez-faire capitalism) looks an awful lot like, oh, say, Somalia for the last decade or so. If you really want to live like that, be my guest, but include me out.

5 Comments:

Blogger Anne Johnson said...

At the turn of the preceding century, the form of exploitation being used in America to subjugate workers and suppress unions was called "social Darwinism." The "fittest" -- i.e., the rich capitalists, deserved what they got at the expense of their starved workers. It was also during this era that communism drew the most American adherents.

Oh and BTW, I was using OxyContin in my blog entry as an example only because I know the side effects of that medication from writing about it. It's never used to cure anxiety, except by certain radio personalities and other law-breakers.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Eli said...

Yep, that's the big irony: Conservatives are big believers in Darwin when it comes to economic matters.

3:27 PM  
Blogger imfunnytoo said...

Please tell me that "Randroids" above means that crazed Objectivist philosophy....

Of any and all ideas in the world, the only one I hate *more* than the Christianists is "Objectivism"

3:29 PM  
Blogger Interrobang said...

Yes, that's exactly what it means. I just cacophemise (the opposite of "euphemise") the hell out of the word because I can't stand them either. :)

1:22 AM  
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