RE: Capitalism and XML
Alain, I'm a reformed idealist and proud of it. Like many, I'm sure, I've had exactly this discussion countless times with countless idealists, and at the end of the day you won't change people's basic philosophies. I can't resist the temptation to make a few comments on this, however. It's easy to stereotype capitalism and Dawkin's views on genes, but at the end of the day we are forced to compete for scarce resources (food, sex partners, handhelds with color screens, etc.), and this leads to an inevitable conflict of interest among individuals. We ignore this basic fact at our own peril. The only solution is to increase the basic pool of resources at least to the point where everyone has access to the basic minimum (implying that not everyone can have a cool handheld, sorry). In terms of capitalism, it is true that "pure" capitalism doesn't work because it jeopardizes the level playing field that the whole concept of competition-leading-to-progress is premised upon. The good news is that the combination of democracy and capitalism demonstrably works, we've solved a lot of the problems inherent in naive approaches to capitalism and continue to do so. The fact that there has never been a large-scale example of pure communism doesn't mean that the approach is unproven. Many Bolsheviks surely embarked on the communist experiment in good faith, but the system became corrupted very quickly because of the reality of limited resources mentioned above. As far as Dawkin's is concerned, I don't think that he neglects the nurture aspect of human behavior. He's just making a brilliant and vital point: that in the absence of specific socializing influences, we will work to propagate our genes, or more correctly, that our genes will work to propagate themselves. There's an interesting article in the Economist this week (http://www.economist.com/science/displayStory.cfm?story_id=1045223 -- like a good reactionary I read reactionary rags) that points out that purely selfish behavior based on this principle can lead to altruistic behavior on the macro level. Good news for everyone, I say. The bottom line is that we have made more political and economic progress in the past century than in the millenium that preceded it, and this has led to massively less disease and poverty for maybe a quarter of the world's population. The only way to spread this benefit to the neglected three quarters is to continue on the path of capitalism, democracy and free trade. Anyway, I still regret the lack of whisky and a comfortable armchair, which in my view are essential accoutrements to this type of discussion. I sincerely hope that I'll have the chance to meet at least some of you in person and philosophize on these points properly. May in Barcelona? Cheers, Matt > -----Original Message----- > From: arg@u... [mailto:arg@u...] > Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 3:28 PM > To: xml-dev@l... > Subject: Re: Capitalism and XML (was RELAX NG Marketing) > > > OK, since we are off-topic anyway, I'll throw in some of my > middle-aged > lefty thoughts... I feel compelled to first throw in a few > angle brackets > for good measure however, so here goes: <<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>> > > #1 Matthew Gertner wrote: > > >What I find misguided is the idea that we are all in one big > team working > >towards a common goal. I think that the last century or so, > especially, has > >shown that progress is a lot faster when you have a lot of > smaller teams > >competing with each other. > > Why do you correlate "progress" (whatever that means, let's > not even get > into that) and "small teams in active competition" as some > kind of truism ? > Hasn't most progress been funded by governments and, > especially in the U.S., > by the military ? Look at Bush Jr: preaching hyper-capitalism > but, when > reminded of harsh realities by the likes of Bin Laden, > actively practicing > Keynesian politics and supporting the economy through government > intervention, severe protectionism and... military spending. > > >This is the main distinction between communism > >and capitalism. Granted, capitalism is a dirty, ugly thing > that implies > that > >human beings are selfish entities that aim first and > foremost to maximize > >their own success. If you want to call us capitalists > warlords and thieves, > >you won't be the first one. Personally I think that this is > a consequence > of > >"human nature", which is a consequence of genetics, and that > capitalism is > >the effect and not the cause. The failure of anything like > communism to > >succeed on more than a minimal scale is pretty good evidence > that this is > >the case, besides all the anecdotal evidence that you can > experience in > your > >everyday life. > > As John Cowan pointed out, communism never existed - only brutal > bureaucraties where a dominant "elite" (ahem) oppressed the > rest. As for > capitalism, it is mostly preached as an ideology in order to > protect and > extend private interests, but true competition is mostly > reserved to us > humans, in our various social roles: consumers (compete so > that you can have > more than the next guy: bigger car, bigger house, bigger > belly), employees > (compete so that you constantly live in fear of being > jobless, accept low > salaries and crush fellow workers on your way to 'success'), etc. I am > re-reading Orwell's 1984 right now and I think everyone > really should. It > was written with communism in mind but it's striking to see > how well it > applies to present-day capitalism in many respects. That must > explain why > corporate press releases sound like Newspeak I guess. > > Large corporations really strive for oligopolies, as they are more > profitable than monolopies in the long run, and they do their > best to avoid > too much competition. Countries do the same, I mean just look at > 20th-century U.S. politics for a striking illustration, not > to mention Bush > Jr again who would happily bomb Europe, Asia and Africa as well if the > military or the oil industry told him to :-) > > I very much dislike the idea that "human nature" would entirely be a > consequence of genes. This smells badly of socio-biology and > bogus theories > such as Dawkins' "selfish genes". Culture is definitely more > important, and > mankind is not yet an ant colony, at least I hope so. That's > why a baby can > grow into another Hitler or another Montaigne with just the > same genes. > > >I'm all for idealism, but not if it hinders overall progress. > > In other words, you're not an idealist. > > >(BTW: I was going to preface my subject line with "OFFTOPIC, > but I guess > >this is spot on topic for XML Dev, right? ;-) > > Sure, this list is full of amazingly smart and educated folks who will > probably read this before going back to their daily issues, > but I'm hopeful > that the discussion will ring a bell. Call me an idealist. > > #2 Nicolas Lehuen wrote: > > >Genetic algorithms and selection are indeed effective is > selecting the > >"best" entities according to their success. That's fine. But what is > success > >? What is the direction of progress ? Can you tell what is > the objective of > >biological evolution ? I guess not. What about economical > evolution ? Is > >there any economical evolution, to begin with ? Are we > forced to play this > >game ? > > Yes, all good questions, but obviously they don't have > "natural" answers, > only theories that reflect ideologies. That's why citizens > have to debate > these issues at election time instead of blow-job stories or > demagogues > babbling about "security" and the dealth penalty as main > social engineering > tool. > > >When you are using selection and competition in a capitalist > environment, > >success is simply measured in terms of the wealth an entity > can gather from > >its environment. Sharing with other entities ? Yep, only if > it will bring > >you more wealth in the future. Look at the state of the > world right now, > >it's just a consequence of playing this game. > > I think you assume too much rationality here. Much of > economic orthodoxy > assumes a simplistic model whereby "consumers" and > "producers" have perfect > price information, take every decision based upon their sole personal > interest (gain), and the whole process leads to a Global > Optimum. Although > it was demonstrated ages ago (don't have exact reference on > hand) that the > process actually leads to disaster and has to be tightly > controlled by... > state intervention. > > >My point is that you can only safely play the game of selection and > >competition is you have correctly defined your target. The > winners of the > >capitalist game will likely not be humanity, but the game > itself. A shift > in > >objective is required if what matters is humanity, not money. > > Very well said. In fact the only hope for mankind is that we > find the right > balance between cooperation/community and competition. Hey, > this list is a > nice step in that direction, even though people are being too > harsh with one > another :-) That must explain why most members are lurking only, and > incidentally why the active community is made of 99.99 > percent men / 0.01 > percent women (hi, Amy). Female presence is necessary in any > community or it > all ends in a bloodbath. > > Peace & love & angle backets to all, > > Alain. > --- > Alain Rogister > CTO > http://www.ubiquity.be > > > > > > ----------------------------------------------------------------- > The xml-dev list is sponsored by XML.org <http://www.xml.org>, an > initiative of OASIS <http://www.oasis-open.org> > > The list archives are at http://lists.xml.org/archives/xml-dev/ > > To subscribe or unsubscribe from this list use the subscription > manager: <http://lists.xml.org/ob/adm.pl> >
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