RE: capitalist religion (was: NANO: _Forbes_ cover story)

From: Reason (
Date: Wed Jul 18 2001 - 23:34:36 MDT

> > > How much less
> > > likely do you think it will be when governments can no longer break up
> > > monopolies or unhealthy concentrations of power? Do you think
> the simple
> > > system of a free market offers any solution to consolidation of
> > > power into fewer and fewer hands?
> >
> >This only happens because of the government regulation that
> raise the cost
> >of entry for small companies to the point where it doesn't happen.
> I am surprised. Do you really think that is the only reason power becomes
> concentrated?
> What about when a small company tries to enter a market, the big players
> reduce their prices to below cost so as to put the new entrant out of
> business? That is a tactic very often used.
> How about this one: the big player buys the small startup.
> There are plenty of other tactics too, that are not so above-board.

Well, yes. None of which is particularly bad in my book. People will do
this. My only problem is with systems of regulation that stop people from
acting in the way in which they tend to -- it's wasteful of societal

I should emphasise that the only yardstick that I care about is the rate of
technological advancement; a vigorous corporate environment in which
anything goes -- including all of the above mentioned tactics and many
others -- is par for the course and will lead to better and faster
advancement. What I don't like is an environment in which anything goes
except trying to compete with the incumbents -- this stops things from
advancing. Darwinism with healthy mutators, but regulation cuts down the
mutation rate.

Companies that winge publicly about people having the temerity to compete
with them make me want to grind my teeth. Naming no names.

> >All monopolies are unstable;
> In the long run, I agree with you. What I think worries most
> people is the
> incredible damage to the people and the economy that they can wreak along
> the way. Sure, they have to fall eventually, but they could last hundreds
> of years... do you think the next generation should have to deal
> with that legacy?

What damage can a monopoly do if there's no regulation that prevents small
competitors from arising at a fairly rapid rate? Monopolies spur the
development of other companies and new technologies, because they
demonstrate the existance of a market. Sooner or later one of the newcomers
will take down the giant, and I think your timescale of centuries is way out
of proportion. Companies don't last much beyond decades in their chosen
market even with all the help of a friendly government to keep the
competition down.

The damage that a monopoly causes when there is regulation to prevent new
companies arising in their space is to retard and slow down development

> I am amazed that you would choose Microsoft here; they are a
> great example
> of the kind of error that capitalism is prone to. They are corporate
> bullies that produce a substandard product, yet they have grown to
> incredible riches through shrewd marketing.
> Have you read the Halloween documents?

Of course; I use and develop open source software.

But going back to the above; nothing that Microsoft has done is particularly
wrong from the point of view of my technology advancement yardstick and the
way in which companies evolve. Microsoft tries all the tricks to keep power
and market share, other technologies and companies arise (constantly) to
challenge it, which means the advancement and new development has to go on
at a breakneck pace to keep ahead of the game. And in the end, MS of course
will lose large chunks of certain markets to open source concerns. Remains
to be seen where they'll be in a decade.

My point being this is all fine; all par for the course. Things move
forward. Imagine a computer industry regulated like the telecommunications
industry...we'd all still be using 286s. If they'd even been invented.

> I actually hope that somehow open-source will give us the model
> for moving
> forward into the future. I am not sure how yet, but it sure feels like it
> combines the best of all worlds.

It's a good philosophy for the development of software-like biological and
nanotechnological systems (wherein bugs can be really unpleasant), but I'm
sure this topic has been covered to death on this list. My take on open
source is more of an efficiency one: it's good because technology doesn't
end up lost in copyright when companies die, because it spurs growth by
making use of otherwise idle resources, because bugs are shallow. And a
million other reasons. Everything except documentation. When the open source
movement can figure a way to make documentation happen well and happen
early, without the intervention of a company, it'll conquer the world.

> >Someone earlier said that power ends up in the hands of those
> with control
> >of resources sooner or later in whatever system you're in. Very true. The
> >big advantage of capitalism over other forms of economic
> government is that
> >is doesn't attempt to get people to act in non-natural ways. Why
> fight the
> >tide?
> Because of the abuse by those natural accumulations of power.

People will always abuse power (for any definition of the word 'abuse').
They will also always seek to accumulate it. You cannot prevent this from
happening, so why try? It would be principled, but a waste of resources
better devoted to other causes that would have more beneficial effects.

> >And the reason decentralized control is good is above: it's a
> very good way
> >(indeed, probably the only way with the computing power available now) to
> >flow with the desires and actions of the governed.
> I can't argue with that. That's what I want too. What worries me is that
> capitalism with its pricewars, mergers, and buyouts always ends up
> centralising power... just as all other systems do. It is a bit more
> promising, and delivers a heck of a lot along the way, sure, but
> I can see it ending up in the same place.

Again, I think that this is a consequence of our inability to practice a
decent form of government. This leads to an inability to practice more than
a hobbled, protectionist form of capitalism. Now if we had a libertarian
participatory democracy of the form described in Enders Game (to save myself
some time typing here, damn I'm lazy), or at least some form of government
in which we did away with career politicians in favor of people who actually
know something about each issue that needs addressing....

But that's a whole other thread to avoid getting into.


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