After a week in Cuba my thoughts on capitalism vs socialism:
Capitalism is superior to socialism/communism.
Why do we want socialism?
I believe Socialism is the general idea that the purpose of a government is to take care of its citizens. In the ideal socialist system, the individual wouldn’t have to work; they would be given a “universal basic income” by the government, free healthcare and education, and everyone could devote their lives to personal flourishing (eudaimoniaism).
But is perfect socialism possible? It is; but not without slaves. And no matter how good technology gets, the sad truth is that human slavery will always be cheaper, more effective, and more productive than having an army of robot slaves.
Is low wage workers the same as slavery?
Obviously not. A slave is born into slavery, or turned into slave via trade or conquest. How were the ancient Greeks so productive? Simple: legions of slaves. Even Aristotle writes that an ideal society would have many slaves (Plato himself had a mini batallion of slaves).
But unfortunately in the developing world, most low wage workers are effectively slaves. Consider the legions of low paid workers in China, Vietnam, Mexico, etc who produce our cheap Amazon stuff, or even our Apple products. Capitalism wouldn’t work without them.
I believe that “free trade” and “globalization” is perhaps the nice way of thinking about human conquest for “minimum paid human slaves”.
Modern slavery does exist in some places in the world (which I consider abysmal). But for most of the capitalist world, many of us are figurative slaves.
So why is capitalism good?
Let us not fool ourselves: it is impossible to have a culture of beauty, art, and luxury without the subjugation of nature, animals and other humans. I can say for myself I don’t desire a life in which I’m eating only vegan products; I prefer meat. And I don’t want to be working menial labor or growing my own food or growing my own coffee; I prefer to focus my human metabolism toward philosophical, artistic and aesthetic aims. I like paying money for things, tools, food, or services of what I don’t want to do myself. And the upside:
More focus, energy, and power to work on what is truly meaningful to me.
Cubans are happier than Americans
This is actually the funny truth: Cubans are actually happier than Americans. They have better social relationships, they walk more, they laugh more, dance more, and are less stressed. Nobody is rushed. Life is quite idyllic. Yet everyone would prefer to be in America. Why? America as the land of unlimited upside and opportunity.
We don’t want happiness. We want to feel as if we have room for growth and increased power and prosperity.
We don’t want to live in a prison, under a glass ceiling, or with limits. We like the idea of having unlimited optionality and upside. And what system allows for this? Capitalism.
Star Wars as space capitalism
I recently watched the new Mandalorian series by Disney, and loved it. Besides being obsessed with Boba Fett as a child, I feel that the depiction of the Star Wars universe an honest one:
The world is cruel, cold, violent, and without mercy. Yet there is still so much joy and hope!
People and creatures kill one another for more resources or money (credits). The Empire exists to subjugate the Galaxy under her “benevolent” rule (perhaps George Lucas’ vision was that the Empire was Great Britain; but in this new Mandalorian series it seems the empire is now America).
And who are the Rebels? In George Lucas’ eyes, the Rebels were the Americans. Maybe now the Rebels are kind of a combination of socialist hippy “enlightened” Bay Area folks.