Mutual Destruction

Posted: October 30, 2010 in Free / Open Software
Tags: ,

Capitalist dogma teaches us if everyone looks after their own self interests, then we’ll all be better off. But, of course, the proponents of this edict don’t actually believe that individuals will truly excel on their own, by themselves.

Suppose you decide to start your own business, and you go to the bank for a loan. The probability that you will receive credit is quite closely related to who you know. And here I don’t mean it’s best if you know the bank manager. I mean, if your business plan lists a catalogue of successful business people among your friends, acquaintances, or family, and lists them as people who will aid you, then hold out your hands for the bags of money you will receive. Further, should you happen to be the son or niece of a dominant political person, then your hands won’t be large enough. You’ll need a wheel barrow. So, we don’t need to listen to social critics to understand nepotism, cronyism, the way the world spins. Just look at the practices of banks.

The “self-made man” is a myth. When did he ever exist? The business man/woman needs allies, partners, customers, employees, relationships with government representatives, regulators, suppliers, etc. Even capitalism cannot deny our social nature. The mantra of small business advisers is “network, network, network.”

The sentiment in us all to engage in mutual assistance is so intuitive that it’s amazing that a book, Mutual Aid, was required to remind us of it. The greatest contribution that the internet makes to our well-being is as a vehicle for mutual assistance. People will give total strangers advice on how to tile a bathroom floor, how to make a raspberry soufflé, or how to trim Fido’s nails. And this is all natural.

But the unnatural thing about the capitalist order, is that we are meant to rally our troops for the purpose of committing combat with the opposition. Ultimately we are not meant to foster kindly relations out of mere chumminess. The relations are solely for the purpose of using our “friends” in order to annihilate the opposition. When will we move beyond this?

  1. Peter Tran Art says:

    I deplore the Randian notion of the ‘Self made man’. People on the lower fringes of the capitalist system could work for as hard and long as they can, but they would never transcend their positions of being manual labourers. It’s healthy to be skeptical of the whole capitalist framework.

  2. Misteriousness Al says:

    I agree that if we all go after our self-interest, we’d be all better off. And when I say that, I am not putting down mutual aid and assistance. Actually, quite the opposite. The only healthy self-interest is that restrained by the Law of Equal Liberty–because otherwise, self-interest becomes socially counterproductive to self-interest. I overall agree with your post, though.

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