Capitalism is nature?

I have heard it said by a guy I met in a barber shop that Capitalism is the natural system that has been in place since time immemorial, and that socialism goes against nature. I wholeheartedly agree. We are supposed to compete, it’s SUPPOSED to be a dog-eat-dog world. If you do not evolve, you die. It’s called Natural Selection. There is no invisible caste system keeping the poor from becoming rich, they just do not have what it takes to evolve and grow, and so, they are stuck where they are. This guy actually defended the 1st Baron Rothschildhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Rothschild,_1st_Baron_Rothschild, citing a story in which he wrote one man who felt that he should distribute his money to the poor a check for only 16 cents, saying that that’s how much everyone like him should receive. Now, I can’t say I know much of Nathan Rothschild, 1st Baron Rothschild, but I will continue to say that socialism defies nature, and you cannot go against nature. I will also state that unless you have the will to evolve, instead of just saying that you DESERVE to be rich and powerful, then you will never be rich and powerful.

I think this gets capitalism, socialism, and evolution wrong all at the same time. There’s competition for just about everything but competing is not all we do, and there’s nobody who determines that we are “supposed” to compete. You can make a strong argument that capitalism is simply a better fit for human nature than socialism is, but it hasn’t always existed and it’s not the only way to live. It’s an economic system, not a law of nature.

The idea that we’re “supposed” to compete and that’s all we’re supposed to do is absolutely ridiculous. Cooperating can do a lot to improve your chances of survival. If multiple people don’t get together and pool their capital, you don’t have much in the way of capitalism, and if people don’t cooperate, you don’t have civilization. Assuming you live in the U.S., you’ve benefited from policies and behaviors you’re suggesting are socialistic and against nature, whatever that means.

Ok, I contend that if you put any utopia socialism in place, you will end up with a “hidden capitalism” working behind the scenes in black markets and underground trading.

If you think this is possible, what would cause this “hidden capitalism” to emerge? Human nature possibly?

How does one engineer socialism on a large scale without having it decay into a “veneer” of socialism? (Especially since the ones at the top in charge of such a govt are humans too!)

Humans seem to be good a cooperating for a concrete forward-looking tasks such as building a bridge. A bunch of people stand on side of the river and notice if they pool their labor, they can chop down a bunch of trees and built a nice strong bridge.

However, humans are horrible at “cooperating” at vague social equality agendas such as total population health conditions, balance of favors, or mating preferences. The “cooperation” and “compassion” of this type is limited to families. You can’t extend the brotherhood sisterhood mentality to 100 million citizens. Even socialistic Sweden can’t do it. They have racism and prejudices just like anybody else.

Yeah, but it’s completely sociopathic to suggest that we just let nature take its course. We intervene in the natural course of things all the time (ever had toothache?) Why not intervene to support those in need?

Also, it’s really short sighted to overlook the need to build a caring society. I can’t be bothered to go looking for examples, but there must be loads of people who have contributed significantly to the world you enjoy, who would have died or failed were it not for some act of charity or social support in their earlier life. I think it’s probably quite likely that your very existence could be traced back as dependent on something that wasn’t brutally capitalistic in its nature.

I think what you’re saying is plausible, and like I said, capitalism may be a better fit for human nature because it works with that “this is mine” impulse. But it’s hard for me to answer why something would happen in your your hypothetical.

I’m not sure what you mean by balance of favors or how people are bad at cooperating for mating preferences, but in the West the health of the population has improved by leaps and bounds in the last 100 years or so. Competition is partly responsible, and so are social safety net programs and sharing of information.

Probably not, but so what?

We cooperate as much as we compete, despite our fetishism for capitalism. The only people who genuinely think like you describe are psychopaths. If people really had the attitude you describe, you’d spend most of your time hiding from them. A society like you describe literally wouldn’t last a week, it would be the “war of all against all”; it would be like a maximum security person, but with even worse people and no guards. And on top of that, capitalism isn’t a synonym for competition; it’s about money, about capital, and capital is something that had to be invented. So no, it isn’t natural.

Nonsense, and nonsense. Natural selection doesn’t have anything in particular to do with either capitalism or with your personal social success. What makes you think the poor guy with ten kids is an evolutionary failure? You can be God-King of Earth, and by the standards of natural selection you are a failure if you have no children; and the poor guy you’ve never heard of is a success if he has many. Nor do people “evolve or die”, individual humans don’t evolve, period. And being poor doesn’t necessarily mean anything beyond bad luck, having poor parents or living in a stratified society, nor does being wealth necessary mean anything but having rich ancestors or being lucky.

We “defy nature” all the time, not that nature is the ravening mindless omnicidal thing you are describing. Chimps cooperate better than what you are describing. And plenty of people have plenty of will, are capable, work as hard as humanly possible and die poorer than when they started. Effort and will have little to do with wealth; luck and privilege are much more important. And again; no individual evolves.

I thought the grand idea was to build a caring society*. Not just a caring tribe of a dozen bushmen sharing the meat of a successful animal hunt.

(*society in this context means millions and millions of people.)

“Capitalism” doesn’t have to be “invented.” It’s in the very fiber core of being human. You don’t need “money” to define capital. You actually have it backwards. The modern concept of “money” derives its ultimate value from human capital.

A primitive woman will use her pretty face and access to her vagina as “capital.” She can use such capital to convince a man (or men) to climb coconut trees, write poems, or slay dragons. This assumes a free a society for such a woman to exercise power over her wares. Even if it were not a free society, it would simply mean that the king or leader in charge of other womens’ vaginas has the “capital” to trade them for anything of interest. Perhaps trade 10 island virgins for 10 white European guns.

A primitive man that happened to have the brainpower to remember where particular animals roam and which way the stars move to plan the best time for planting will consider that talent his “capital.” He can trade on that as well. Again, no modern concept of “money” is required.

Both the primitive woman and man also have to “compete” with others. If they do nothing, they die.

I guess there is a point to be had. We no are no longer naturally selected, We kill each other off in terrible wars and in private quarrels, but we are not necessarily killing off the weakest among us. I’m not saying we should, either, but when your species is at the very tippity-top of the food chain, there is very little any of us have to fear from nature.

Nonsense. That’s just the American fetish for capitalism, making a small part of human existence into some One True Way. People all the time do things out of the human impulses towards cooperation and kindness. We aren’t all psychopaths, motivated only by personal profit and advancement. And even psychopaths need to pretend to be better than what you are describing in order to avoid notice.

And what fits even better with the “this is mine” impulse of nature is a complete lack of property and theft laws, so that one can fulfill the desire for material goods unburdened by threat of jail no matter what force or deception is used in obtaining them. Funny that we don’t see anyone suggesting we go back to that, even though it is even more in keeping with nature than capitalism supported by the “rule of law” is.

So once you accept some government interference in your economic system, it’s a matter of degrees as to whether you stop there or go on to today’s more “regulated” capitalism, or 1950’s style European socialism, or complete government control of the economy.

So the argument should be amended to “I support capitalism because it adheres closely to the parts of nature I like. We should still outlaw the parts of nature I do not like, such as theft and agricultural collectivism.”

Capitalism requires a system of property rights. Property rights requires a social structure or government powerful enough to enforce property rights.

In a “state of nature” you don’t have capitalism, you have a band of hunter-gatherers. Yes, hunter-gatherers trade with each other, but the exchange of goods and services isn’t capitalism, only a particular type of exchange can be capitalism.

If a big guy with a sword and covered with armor rides his horse into your village one day, and proclaims that he’s the lord of the village, and everyone owes him 10% of their crops tomorrow if they don’t want to be chopped in half, is that capitalism? That exchange–your crops in exchange for not getting killed–is called feudalism.

But then a funny thing happens. That guy who would be happy to chop you apart if you fail to give him your surplus gets very unhappy when you villagers fight each other or steal from each other. Why? Because the less you peasants produce, the less there is for him to steal for himself. And so your liege lord enforces contracts, he punishes peasant-on-peasant crime, he organizes collective infrastructure projects. And it is in this context that capitalism arises.

I’ll also point out that besides cooperation, people do aggressive or nasty things all the time that don’t profit them. Whether it’s walking away from a job where they don’t like the boss, punching someone who insulted them, cruelty for its own sake, or choosing to die fighting against an oppressive regime. This idea that people are one dimensional profit machines ignores most of human nature both good and bad, it doesn’t reflect human nature.

The idea of what? Society has to exist before you can have capitalism or socialism.

All of that was said by Der Trihs, not me. I’m not sure how good a definition of capitalism I could craft on my own, but I think at this point you’re turning it into a philosophy rather than an economic system and expanding the idea of capitalism beyond anything useful.

Sorry, but that’s just bullshit. We’ve made a lot of changes that have allowed far greater numbers of people to survive, but it is not true that natural selection no longer applies. As long as people compete for resources and reproduce, natural selection applies. Even if they didn’t…

That’s been happening for thousands of years. And animals kill each other off in essentially the same way.

When did we only kill the weakest people? That is really not how evolution or society works.

Exactly. Private property rights are necessary to capitalism, but they are unnecessary to humanity. It’s quite possible that, just as capitalism has spread to replace previous economic models in much of the world, an economic system that adheres even better to human interests will replace capitalism one day.

Actually, I think your barber might be remembering an old Little Orphan Annie strip, and substituting Rothschild for Daddy Warbucks.

It’s all about having a niche. I learned this in Environmental Science during all my schooling. All creatures in nature, great and small, serve a purpose. That purpose is called a niche. Now apply this niche philosophy to human beings. If I want to have a niche all to myself, then I must find a purpose. I have to become an entrepreneur, and create and sell a product that the people want. I then have a niche, because I am selling widgets. People like my widgets, and thanks to the measures I’ve taken to keep the design specs of my widget a secret, no other company can make a better widget than me. If someone else wants to find their niche, they’ve got to corner another market.

I am saying that we select ourselves, we are our own predators. Nature does not select who lives and who dies among us, we do.

As Katharine Hepburn said in The African Queen: “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.”

Just because something might be “natural” does not make it right or good (which are subjective value judgements).

That doesn’t sound very natural. There’s only so many niches possible in a tribe of 20-40 adults.

In the most natural state, socialism (or it’s equivalent at the tribal level) is probably more “natural”. It’s what we all practice within our immediate family, even today. As our social contacts expand, we tend to move more towards a market economy (which is not the same as capitalism). We trade things, value for value.

But I’m using those terms loosely. As **Lemur **pointed out, any real economic system requires a government, which we typically don’t see much of in hunter/gatherer societies.