Looking at the future of Capitalism through Newton’s Glasses

karl marxby motograf

The Vanishing Middle Class (Or Patrick Deneen vs. Capitalism)
[Via Big Think]

There’s a new columnist out there writing for The American Conservative.  You may or may not regard him as conservative.  Patrick Deneen reflects on a semi-depressing book written by my favorite (because most honest) libertarian writer—Tyler Cowen.  Cowen says the good news is that they’ll be more rich people than ever, and that the keys to wealth will be analytic precision and being comfortable with (because highly competent in) the use of high technology. That will be a genuinely cognitive elite; a meritocracy of brains and training, if not of virtue. Meanwhile, the lower part of our middle class and below will continue to sink into underclass lives of permanent underemployment.

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So even libertarian, Tea Party fellow travelers think that capitalism will continue to divide society between those with riches and thos without. That the middle class will simply disappear.

Seems to me that this was the point of Karl Marx’s work – what happens to ‘fix’ this drive of capitalism?

And here we have the same problem Marx revealed – extrapolating current trends against human society is a fool’s errand. They are looking at Einstein’s World with Newton’s Glasses.

I think there are several things these guys may not be seeing.

Capitalism as we know it is changing rapidly. First. technology and robotics is driving the incremental costs for many things closer to zero. Robots work 24/7. The exponential economy is producing more things for less capital all the time.

Second, there will be plenty of young people to revolt against this two party idiocracy these Marxist libertarians describe.The world is aging because people are living longer. But the number of those that will not be happy being a downtrodden proletariat  are still very large.

The millennial generation is about the same size as the baby booker generation. The boomers gave us the 60s, when they were members of a wealthy generation. What will a similar number of young do when poverty is all they see?

Third, capitalism is a wonderful process for more equitably distributing scarce resources. But what happens when there is an abundance of riches? We may well be on the cusp of huge levels of power, natural resources, food, etc.. 

What happens to the idea of an economy when the cost to make things is close to zero and the abundance of resources is great? What happens when a single asteroid has more gold and platinum on it than has been mined in the history of humanity?

For what purpose is the outrageous accumulation of wealth when this happens?

I think we are going to make a shift to a whole new economy, as different from capitalism as it is from feudalism? The very idea of money could be altered. Perhaps everyone gets a life stipend, just as those living in Alaska get a stipend. If one wants more, one can do so. Because many people are not lazy and want to do something, especially for other humans.

We will also have a new frontier – space – that will distort this entire picture. A revolution is going on and too many are still trying to use Newtonian mechanics to understand what Einstein described.