Posts tagged with: capitalism

23-VIEW-master675Under the feudalistic societies of old, status was organized through state-enforced hierarchies, leaving little room for the levels of status anxiety we see today.

For us, however, status competition ranges wide and free, leading to multiple manifestations and a whole heap of status signaling.

Such signaling is as old as the free society itself, of course. Whether sending their children to fancy classes and fencing lessons, accumulating ever-expensive luxury goods, or boasting in the labels of their fair trade coffee and the nobility of non-profit activism, aristocrats have always found ways to signal their superiority.

Yet these preferences have shifted over time, the present form of which is carving out its own unique space. In a recent report from the Adam Smith Institute, Prof. Ryan Murphy explores the situation, noting that while past generations were more concerned with “conspicuous consumption” and “keeping up with the Joneses” – chasing faster cars and bigger diamonds – the current pursuit of status has adapted toward “conspicuous authenticity.”

We are now seeing a “new status signaling,” Murphy observes, where society has “moved beyond associating ostentatious displays of wealth with high status,” opting instead for behavior that signifies we are above and beyond such base behavior. (more…)

Blog author: sstanley
Thursday, February 4, 2016
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030620-N-7391W-007 Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Jun. 20, 2003) -- Cashier Sue Amine assists a customer at the Pearl Harbor Commissary, run by Defense Commissary Agency's (DeCA), in the new Pearl Harbor mall complex, which opened earlier this year. The current commissary sales floor is 29 percent larger than previous commissaries, with wider aisles to maneuver shopping carts and numerous registers to speed up checkout. DeCA's $22.8 million share of the Pearl Harbor mall was funded with surcharge dollars. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Jim Williams. (RELEASED)

Trading $ for groceries > Murdering people and stealing their food

It’s been said before, but it’s certainly worth saying again. Not only does the free market lead to material wealth, but it reduces violence.

On a recent episode of the podcast “Question of the Day,” co-host Stephen Dubner reads a question from a listener: Why haven’t humans evolved as a species away from aggression? Dubner and James Altucher deal with the question in a rather roundabout way. Altucher points out that, really, aggression has dropped for as long as we’ve recorded the data. Specifically, the percentage of violent deaths keeps declining. “As a species, we have been evolving passed aggression and I think a lot of that has to do with trade,” He says. “All these methods of trade have actually limited aggression because I no longer need to invade your country to get your resources. We can trade resources instead. And then it benefits us to be nice to each other.” (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Thursday, December 10, 2015
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elvesIn “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” the famous fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, a cobbler and his wife struggle to survive, barely making enough to eat (never mind investing in the future of their business).

One morning, however, they wake to find that their last scraps of leather have been turned into a remarkable pair of shoes. Not knowing the source of such craftsmanship — and apparently incurious — the cobbler sells them off at a higher price, gaining new capital to grow his business. Each night thereafter, the miracle continues, and the enterprise grows in turn.

Months later, they finally take an interest in the source of such help, staying awake through the night to spot two naked elves, each happily laboring to make more shoes. The wife sews clothes for the elves, who, after finishing their work, express their thanks and graciously depart, never to be seen again.

One can find several morals or lessons in the tale, but Jeffrey Tucker does a marvelous job of highlighting its themes on the meaning of work, the gift of exchange, and the glories of capitalism. (more…)

bernie-sanders-photo1In last Tuesday’s Democratic debate, Senator Bernie Sanders stayed true to his famed aversion to capitalism, proclaiming the fanciful virtues of “democratic socialism.” Yet when prodded by Anderson Cooper — who asked, “you don’t consider yourself a capitalist?” — Sanders responded not by attacking free markets, but by targeting a more popular target of discontent: Wall Street and the banks.

“Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little, by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy?” Sanders asked. “No, I don’t.”

One could be forgiven for not understanding what Sanders means by “casino capitalism.” Is it crony capitalism, in which legislative favors are secured by the rich and powerful (which conservatives also disdain)? Is it bailouts for the big banks (which, again, conservatives also disdain)? Is it basic trade and exchange on a large, complex scale, and if so, at what size does it become problematic? Does he despise the stock exchange itself? Too loud with all its blinky lights and bells? (more…)

kickstarter1Several years ago, as a music student in college, I remember hearing constant complaints about “lack of funding for the arts.” Hardly a day would go by without a classmate or professor bemoaning the thin and fickle pockets of the bourgeoisie or Uncle Sam’s lack of artistic initiative.

Little did we know, a shake-up was already taking place, driven by a mysterious mix of newfound prosperity, entrepreneurial innovation, and the market forces behind it. The digital revolution was beginning to level the playing field and drain power from tanks and banks of all kinds, from the Hollywood execs with dollar signs in their eyes to the aesthetically enlightened cronies at the National Endowment for the Arts. Despite the many prophecies of a creative apocalypse, a bottom-up revolution was taking place.

Amid the sea of new technologies and tools that were soon to emerge — streaming music, streaming movies, ebook publishing — crowdfunding rose as a powerful path to creative independence: artistic, economic, and otherwise. Leading the pack is Kickstarter, with success stories abounding, from inventors to thespians to foodies to photographers, and with routine funding results that actually surpass the NEA. (more…)

francisgmo62815“Defending capitalism on practical grounds is easy,” writes economist Donald Boudreaux at the Mercatus Center. “It is history’s greatest force for raising the living standards of the masses.”

What’s more difficult, it seems, is understanding its moral logic, spiritual implications, and which of each is or isn’t inherent to private ownership and economic exchange.

At what level, for instance, is freely buying a gallon of milk at a freely agreed-to price from a freely employed worker at an independent grocery store an act of sin, idolatry, and exploitation? Such basic transactions are, after all, the bread and butter of a system built on free enterprise and open exchange (i.e. capitalism). From here, it gets more complicated, of course, and even that basic starting point can surely involve corrupt actors and action.

Yet even Pope Francis, discernor of the discerning, seems to struggle in locating Point A of that basic logic, even when railing against its banner. I tend to presume that basic milk purchases are not, in fact, his actual target. But then he continues and without qualification, railing against markets at large and ripping at plenty of positives that dangle well outside the deserving injustices of cronyist corporatism.

The Pope prefers to argue not that capitalism “has its faults” or “demands a virtuous society,” but rather that it is a “new tyranny,” one that followed the ills of communism, but filled the void with something just as tragic. (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
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creativity-capitalism-money-crashCapitalism is routinely castigated as an enemy of the arts, with much of the finger-pointing bent toward monsters of profit and efficiency. Other critiques take aim at more systemic features, fearing that the type of industrialization that markets sometimes tend toward will inevitably detach artists from healthy social contexts, sucking dry any potential for flourishing as a result.

But what if the opposite is true? I offer the argument over at The Federalist.

Free economies introduce their own unique challenges for artists and consumers alike. We are justified in cringing at the array of bottom-dollar record-company execs and merchandising-obsessed Hollywood crackpots (though I will always prefer their ilk to your run-of-the-mill Commissar of the Arts). But the increases in economic empowerment that have led to these many marketing machines have also led to plenty of artistic empowerment in turn.

In an article for New York Times Magazine, Steven Johnson reinforces this very point, observing that the many apocalyptic prophecies about arts in the digital age have not quite manifested. “In the digital economy, it was supposed to be impossible to make money by making art,” he writes. “Instead, creative careers are thriving — but in complicated and unexpected ways.” (more…)