Do I Deserve What I Have? Part II

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  1. A camping trip is a one-time thing — it misses the dynamism of a market system, a dynamism that has relentlessly lifted people out of poverty over the last two centuries in a way that would be hard to achieve through a socialist system. People see the world as a zero-sum game. Charging for access to water on the camping trip means one persons gets a bigger slice of the pie and another’s is smaller. But under capitalism, the pie keeps getting bigger. Growth is powerful.
  2. A camping trip is self-selected — people who already care about each other — a camping trip among strangers would be very challenging. That’s the ideal Cohen is urging us toward — camping with strangers. A camping trip doesn’t work with 10,000 people let alone 100 million. It’s not just that we’re strangers — the information problem becomes overwhelming. How can we possibly begin to figure out how each person’s skills can work together with the skills of others to create a productive society where people enjoy or tolerate what they do with their working time? On top of that, the caring problem is insurmountable as well: human being can’t care about even a thousand people as individual human beings. Human nature was designed for camping trips, not modern economies.
  3. Einstein is wrong. The current system isn’t predatory unless government grants monopoly power to a favored player or takes my money and gives it to a crony of the politicians. Most of the people who make large sums of money under markets do that by creating something that pleases people more than the alternative. As John Papola and I write in Fight of the Century: Give us a chance so we can discover/the most valuable ways to serve one another. Steve Jobs wasn’t a predator. Lebron James isn’t a predator. There are some predators on Wall Street, sure. They’re not capitalists. They’re socialists bailed out from the consequences of their choices using my money against my will.
  4. Under capitalism, most people have enough leisure to take a camping trip using the camping tools and outdoor wear produced by the innovations stimulated by the profit motive. You are free to cooperate in a socialist way voluntarily rather than being forced to cooperate at the point of a gun.



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Russ Roberts

Russ Roberts


I host the weekly podcast, EconTalk and I'm the co-creator of the Keynes-Hayek rap videos. My latest book is How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life.