I’m a bit of an extremist. You’ve probably heard me rant against the ill effects of excess consumerism plenty of times. I thought it’s only fair to do the opposite for once.
It’s Golden Week here in Japan, so everyone is off work for the week and spending the time outdoors in parks, malls, and walking the streets.
On a normal day in Tokyo the streets are a vibrant and lively, but on a special occasion like today when they close down the main streets in Ginza, Shinjuku, and Shibuya to transform them into pedestrian filled walkways, they come alive like nowhere else.
As I walk down the street on my way to get some of Tokyo’s best ramen I can’t help but smile at the lovely scene. Some people walking with shopping bags, others with ice-cream. Some like myself are just people watching. Regardless, all of us are enjoying the signs of humanity all around us. People inherently enjoy being around other people.
An ode to capitalism
Capitalism is a beautiful thing. It’s a leveller of playing fields, an unbiased organiser, a decentralised ruler.
The vast diversity and vibrancy that capitalism creates is magnificent.
It doesn’t discriminate against people, for good or for bad. It cares only if there is a buyer for your seller and nothing more. Its simple rules create solutions to complex human problems, that quite frankly, we haven’t found a better way to solve.
Say what you want against capitalism but it is extremely effective at fulfilling needs. That is probably its biggest fault, that it seems to fulfil the insatiable desires that we keep throwing at it.
So you can’t really blame capitalism for the problems that we face today; the excess consumerism, the greed, inequality, and suffering. Capitalism is the unbiased framework which can be used or abused in any way. Capitalism itself doesn’t promote greed anymore than socialism did.
Since capitalism can be used for any purpose, and since it is so effective at fulfilling our desires regardless how large they get, we need to use capitalism in a way that promotes greater human flourishing. We can’t keep using the system to create more inequality, more poverty, more suffering.
The good news is that things are changing, they have to. With inequality reaching record highs, the system has to rebalance itself else it will collapse. Capitalism works best when there is maximum consumers with buying potential. If inequality gets too bad that any class gets excluded from the system, then the system will get dramatically smaller, and hence less effective.
So what we need is better capitalism. A version of capitalism that accepts it’s inherent weakness (a weakness which is really our own) and prevents us from abusing it. How we do that is a much hard question, first we have to accept that we need it.
P.S. Here’s another really good read on Better Capitalism.