Creators and predators

A piece in the Guardian distinguishes between two sides of modern capitalism: the creative, beneficial side (more or less) and the predatory side. Somewhat simple, but also more balanced than ideologues would have it.

Understanding capitalism is in some ways simple. At its best, capitalism rewards creators, makers and providers: the people and firms that create valuable things for others, like imaginative technologies and good food, cars and drugs. Its moral claim is to provide an alternative to the predatory, locust-like tendencies of states and feudal rulers. It rewards the people who work hard and innovate, and by doing so makes everyone better off – more than any other economic system in history.

But capitalism also rewards takers and predators, the people and companies who extract value from others without contributing much in return. Predation is part of the everyday life of capitalism, in sectors as mainstream as pharmaceuticals, software and oil – where people’s money, their data, their time and their attention are routinely taken in fundamentally asymmetrical exchanges. It’s commonplace in the behaviour of slum landlords and loan sharks, and a large proportion of financial activity exploits asymmetries to capture, rather than create, value.

This distinction sets up the following diagnosis of our current situation:

The crisis we’re still living with resulted from too much predation and not enough creation – a vast extraction of value from the real economy by finance that coincided with a failure to feed new sources of growth in science, entrepreneurship and creativity.

If we can partner and influence the genuinely creative with Dhamma, we’ll have a chance of Dhammic society. (Dhamma and the predation won’t ever fit, except in the delusion of groups like Wat Phra Dhammakaya.) For someone like me who tends to emphasize the selfishness of capitalism, this offers some hope for our predicament.

You can read the whole piece here.

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