Sunday, June 20

Jeff Bezos is a model capitalist, and we have failed him | David mitchell


IIt is not good to expect people to be nice. That’s an important rule of thumb when working on how to run things, or indeed when designing a system that decides who run things. And if you think you are too cynical, remember not to lock the door the next time you leave the house.

Obviously, many people are very nice. Some people are nice all the time and almost everyone is nice sometimes, but when you try to build a system, thinking about it is a waste of mental space. We hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, with alarms, passwords, locks, tasers, and scanning everyone’s shoes before getting on a plane.

I’m a big believer in human freedom, but you have to remember that people who get freedom can be real jerks. In fact, as soon as you’ve gathered a certain number of them, and that number is much, much less than today’s world population, a large amount of junk becomes a copper-bottomed certainty. You will be aware of some of the effects of this if you are interested in the news.

What is supposedly so smart about capitalism is that, unlike most other great ideas on how to organize things, it does not seek to combat this bullshit, but rather to harness it for the common good. Take communism and Christianity, for example: they are systems that have been widely accepted over the years and their basic trick is to make rules that force people to be nice. Sometimes that works a bit, but whenever the power of those systems over a society becomes completely secure, at the very moment you would expect forced beauty to kick in to everyone’s satisfaction, the opposite seems to happen and the morons begin. have an absolute picnic with the added rhetorical wickedness of being able to go around saying you’re nice.

Capitalism is supposed to be different. Assume that the arseholery is constant and immutable. And it takes the key driving force behind unkindness, people’s self-interest, and creates a structure within which it can work for everyone, a little bit. Within a properly enforced and mutually understood legal and tax structure, people can mercilessly fight for their own enrichment and this will drive the enrichment of others. If you sell more, earn more, buy more; there is a potential virtuous circle.

You can’t just steal things, but you can trade things and you can do things. The rules mean that you cannot lie about what you are selling or what you are paying for and taxes mean that success in doing so puts money in a common fund to maintain the rule compliance structure and depending on the prevailing popular will in In that particular time and place, give support to those whose selfish effort has not gone so well. I think that’s the idea, anyway.

This explains why capitalism irritates many people of generally ideological dispositions, those who have grappled with the issue of human depravity and have sought ways to reduce or prevent it. For them, a system that harnesses and rewards such bullshit is a shameful capitulation to all of our civilizing goals.

If you go back to the first sentence of this article, you will understand that I do not agree with them. But the problem is that, in this polarized age, the discussion seems to end there: “Oh, so we have capitalism, right? Well, I hope I drown you! “The principle of a system that does not discourage ravenous greed, but seeks to simply channel it, is so abhorrent to elements on the left that the rest of the left is seriously hampered in their attempts to scrutinize the details.

And the details are important. The specifics are, for example, the difference between having a normal stock market of shares of different companies (well, useful, let’s go with that) and allowing the kind of mortgage securities trading that, in 2008, almost caused the end of money. . They are not both or neither! But there is a strange consensus between the most committed on the left and the most ethically liberated on the right!

I’m talking about this because I’ve been thinking about Amazon and leveraged private equity acquisitions. I am sorry. Sometimes I almost feel sorry for Jeff Bezos. We fail him. He’s probably not a hugely nice man, but look above. He has done what society clearly asks people to do: He has made an enormous amount of money with brilliantly insightful business strategy. But he’s so good at it, and so amoral in his approach, that the society around him has completely failed to extract all but the meanest side benefits of his success. This is a huge political problem and one that the right wing, whatever they say, is not concentrating on solving.

Similarly, the now common practice of borrowing a large amount of money to buy a publicly traded company and then, once it is bought and immune to scrutiny from the stock market, carrying that huge debt on the shoulders of the company bought, waiting for it to serve. and / or paying for it, is terribly damaging to society. It shifts all risk in the transaction from those who can benefit from it (and therefore should bear the risk fairly) and passes to those who run, work, or provide services to the poor and beleaguered company.

It is like a new type of mortgage that somehow damages the structural integrity of the leveraged home. These houses are now smashing to the ground on all of our main streets, metaphorically crushing the livelihoods that pass by. The best thing you can say about these offers is that might it works fine, but the same can be said for someone who installs a gas boiler without any training. But only one of those practices is currently legal.

Conservatives will sometimes join in the complaints about all of this, but their vested interest is in placating, not regulating, the city. It would be nice if they did something, but it is not good to expect that. So we will have to wait for Labor to regain their capitalist mojo and remember how to work in their own interest.


www.theguardian.com

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