Explaining Capitalism Harder

October 16th, 2021
policy
A friend recently shared a sharing of a screenshot of a reblogging of a reblogging of this tumblr post:

Pro-Capitalist's defense of capitalism is just explaining how it works, and then when you say "yes I know, I just think it shouldn't be like that" they explain it to you again but angrier this time
strawberry-crocodile

I really like this perspective, even as someone relatively pro-capitalism, because I think it captures something that often goes wrong in these discussions.

The strongest argument in favor of capitalism is that in practice it works for most things, better than the other systems we've tried. Not because it was designed to work, but because that's just how it falls together. When someone points at a piece of the system that seems unfair or wasteful and says "I just think it shouldn't be like that," stopping it's going to have effects elsewhere in the system, often negative ones. And so pro-capitalism folks often respond by trying to explain capitalism harder: what role is the thing you want to change filling? When people propose removing something without engaging with how it ties in to the rest of the system, it is natural to assume they don't know about its function and try to explain.

As in the opening quote, however, people don't want more explanation of the workings of the status quo. Instead, I think a better response is to think about what you expect would go wrong, and ask if they would expect that. Perhaps they don't, and you can try and figure out where specifically your expectations diverge. Perhaps they do, and they think it's worth it. Perhaps they have additional proposals which work together. Whichever way the conversation goes, I think it probably is more productive?

(Overall my perspective is that while things are much worse than they could be, they're also much better than they have ever been. I really don't want us to break the system that keeps improving our ability to turn time and stuff into what people need. At the same time, to the extent that we can do it without breaking this cycle of improvement, I'd like to see far more redistribution of wealth. In my own life this looks like giving.)

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