I wrote most of the following years ago, in grad school. Little did I know, in a few years I would watch my boyfriend be brainwashed into an Anarcho-Capitalism cult!
Did I mention I have a “The Polish Ambassador” addiction? Here’s another song by TPA to listen to during this post. I can’t wait to see him live again in the Fall!!!! If you ever get the chance to do so, please, take advantage of the opportunity. He is an amazing showman!
There seems to be some people in the world who think we need to get rid of all government regulations and our economy would do better and everything would be hunky dorey and even homelessness would end. Yeah, right, people really believe that! The ideal of laissez faire capitalism is what many people believe strongly is best. These people often think our problems are all from government intervention and if we would just leave companies alone, they would do all the right things and never pollute our water or air or cause harm to their workers, customers, or anyone who just gets in their way because they would self regulate somehow, with the magical powers of “the market”. Invisible hands are way more rational than invisible sky gods.
That’s kind of like anarchy. It’s like assuming that if we just got rid of all laws and government, people would all just do the right thing and we wouldn’t need laws and government. That got me thinking, it will never ever possibly work out that way because capitalism, just like society itself, is a human social endeavor. We can’t escape our humanity just by starting a company. The company doesn’t run itself like an Android, it is run by people. Groups of people, even with oversight from other people, aren’t infallible (think Nazi Germany, slavery in the US, etc). Groups of people are just as prone to the idiotic mistakes of individual people and immoral behavior, maybe even moreso because of groupthink, because when we agree we think we are extra extra right. So, there’s this idea that somehow the competition of the market will make it work out ok in the end. OK, except, that is assuming that there is competition if we deregulate the marketplace, but often when we step out companies just get bigger and bigger and this gets rid of competition. Say the Nazi’s had won WW2, or if Pearl Harbor had never been attacked and the US stayed out of WW2, then the Nazis would have won and competition between countries would be down because they were taking over everything, but they weren’t doing it by being a great country, at least, morally.
So that got me to thinking about another human social endeavor, science. Science is done by humans with the goal of better understanding how the universe works. The goal is truth, at least, of science as a whole. The goals of individual scientists are varied, some may just want to make a name for themselves, some just want to know more how the universe works because they have the curiosity gene (I totally have that!), some may just like doing math (string theorists!). What keeps scientists from always doing bad stuff, ie. fraud, screwing over other scientists, etc? Well, first of all, if someone finds out you have done fraud you are so screwed, you will lose all respect you ever had and lose your entire life in science, often even have your PhD taken away. Scientists do not let fraud just go (though this doesn’t seem to be true in the climate change community, but we know now it’s not science but a psuedo-religion and religions don’t really care about truth). We take it seriously because it goes against the entire basis of science, ie. the search for truth. So fundamentally, scientists self-regulate fraud, at least, eventually. In capitalism, fraud and other bad behavior can get you forward and is often in line with the goals of making more money. The only way it backfires is if your customers find out AND take that out on you. However, your customers aren’t always the ones negatively affected by the fraud and it doesn’t necessarily go against everything they hold dear, so the incentives to take bad behavior out on the company are not so strong. In addition, bad treatment of workers, assuming there is not currently a worker shortage, won’t really affect a majority of customers. The self-regulation of the marketplace is nowhere near as strong in incentives as science. And science is SO NOT PERFECT, even with strong incentives to at least try to keep our noses down on the search for truth and not let our stupid fallible humanity screw things up too much.
What other forms of self-regulation exist in science? Well, to actually get your science “product” out into the “marketplace” of ideas, you need to publish in a peer reviewed journals. Peer review is a major form of self-regulation in science. If your product sucks or doesn’t make sense or whatever, the idea is to catch it before it gets sold. This is not at all like anything in the capitalistic marketplace. Imagine if you send all your competitors your product and had them test them out before you sold it? That’s just not going to happen. That is a strong form of self-regulation. It’s certainly not perfect, as scientists too can get into groupthink and convince themselves of things that are wrong or ignore possibilities because they go against the currently accepted paradigm, but it’s certainly better than not having peer review at all, I think. Maybe there’s a better system, but this is what we have for now.
I am a scientist at heart. I have a deep love of science in me. But you know what? I realize that it ain’t perfect and it never will be because it is a human endeavor. The capitalism lovers don’t even seem to realize that capitalism won’t be perfect and people will be hurt in the process. At least science, for the most part, has universal goals that I think are good, though the results of science can lead to stuff like atomic bombs and other sketchy, not so good for humanity things. But those are more like applications, the search for scientific truth is, in my opinion, a noble human endeavor. But fundamentally, I know that we need to keep regulating the market of scientific ideas, and may even need to develop better methods of self-regulation. And there will still be mistakes. Fraud still happens now sometimes, but when it’s discovered it is dealt with swiftly. I feel like, as much as I love and respect science, I also recognize its faults and realize it is inherently flawed because it is a human endeavor and humans are not perfect! Seriously, we are idiots at times. So why do the laizzes faire capitalism people seem to think that their system, with even less strong incentives to act morally, is above human idiocy? I’m not saying we should regulate to the degree we currently do, just that to me, believing with all your heart that regulation is evil and makes things worse just seems like another psuedo-religious belief system to me. And I’m just not that gung-ho, sorry AnarchoCapitalism/Libertarianism. As much freedom as we can have is AWESOME, but not at the expense of needless human suffering if we can prevent it with some amount of regulation.
A major problem I see with regulation is that it happens at the government level and in my country, the USA, we have decided that money is speech and thus corporations and other monied interests have bought our “democrazy”. Can public funding of elections end this for good or will those with power always grasp for more in an immoral fashion for their own benefit, or towards their own goals that may not be what is best for the country and its citizens? That is a very good question. But we may never find out because the people with the money really don’t want us to so they won’t be supporting any candidates who make this their main issues and the people in my country don’t seem to realize that is actually THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE IN POLITICS. Until we make our politicians work for us again, how can we trust that anything they do is for us and not those who will help them get re-elected by ponying up the big $? Even good ideas are corrupted by lobbying and campaign donations. I really think this is the one issue that both sides of the political spectrum ought to be able to agree on. But will we ever actually do something about it?
By the way, if you’re a die hard Objectivist/AnCap and you tell me “the non-aggression principle implies the state is evil” I’m going to laugh at you. I’ve heard that simplistic argument before directly from the guy who isolates his cult victims from outside ideas using that argument and emotional programming to fear statists as holding a gun to their heads; I realize how appealing it is, but I just don’t really buy into it. Being a scientist, I care more about real world results than having a cute little logical-sounding simplistic theory for everything. Guess what, Newton’s laws are pretty cool too, but they don’t actually describe reality on the quantum level. I know there are cute little just-so stories for how x, y, z would work out so much better in your AnCap Utopia, but seriously, if you’re wrong and it doesn’t work out very well and leads to a vastly larger amount of human suffering and misery, will you still stand by that argument and your theories for how everything is going to be so much better? I just can’t believe an untested theory with all my heart the way some people seem to be able to. AnCap is the string theory of political theories. These guys sit around and mentally masturbate over how these things are all gonna work so much better in their AnCap utopian civilization, without any means of testing their theories with a great amount of risk to human beings. Cool, that’s cute, keep thinking about that, but if you call me evil for not dedicating my life to an untested theory, you’re just being silly. Stop please.