Re: virus: Rich and Poor

Tim Rhodes (
Fri, 28 May 1999 03:29:25 -0700

Jim wrote:

>In a liberal democratic marketplace of ideas (about everything
>under the sun)), economy is just one of the areas where this
>competitiveness elevates the quality of the product (market
>concepts). Just as science is open ended so is the market
>philosophy. Dynamism. Not the myth of utopian capitalism.

Yes, I see what you're saying. The Darwinian view of the marketplace makes A great deal of sense. But I might offer that the market behaves more like a meme pool than a gene pool in many respects, and I think this is where many of the more common market theories go wrong.

The products that sell the most will be the best products at getting themselves sold. And that's all. Sometimes this will also be the best quality product--in addition to being the best seller--but there's really no reason why it must be. (Especially in arenas where one is purchasing abstract iconography as much as actual product--things like soda or bottled water, clothing or shoes, and of course, trucks and luxury cars too.) And like memes, what is best for the market may not always be what is best for us as human beings.

What should we demand from our marketplace? If we make no demands and place no limitations we would expect to see a co-evolution of the market getting better and better at getting us to consume, while we become increasingly more suited to our niche within its econo-ecosystem, our culture evolving memeticly to make us better and better consumers.

That is, if no additional selection pressures are put on the system. If we began to select for other aspects we could get different results.

If the stocks of "green" companies, for instance, are bought in greater proportion than their cost/earnings ratio might explain. Or if there was a national tax on purchases over a set amount, $10,000 for instance (with a provision for exemption in the case of a first home or medical expenses). Or if those investing favored companies were the difference between the CEO's salary and their average wage is on the order of 50 or 75 times higher, rather than the 200-250 times that is becoming commonplace. Or if more areas begin issuing their own money in order to retain wealth within their community and keep capital from moving out of the local economy. Any of these, and countless more, could create new selection pressures within the system which may cause it to find equilibrium at different--and possibly more socially beneficial--level.

The point I guess is, left to its own devices and memeticly protected by, as you called it, "the myth of utopian capitalism", the market economy will do what is best for its own propagation before it will ever consider doing what is best for us. And we are as much a part of it's environment as it is a part of ours. And as a result, we should expect it to shape us for its needs just as we shape our environments to ours.

-Prof. Tim

P.S. I'm surprised no one stung me on my, "The market should be tool for the growth of society, not the other way around," comment. Just another bloody case of someone blindly extolling the "should" over the more rational "is"! Great furry bollix!!!

P.P.S. And as a further aside: I wonder if people will realize the scary part of what's going on with their 401k's and mutual funds.

We all have them. We've all invested for our golden years in funds which we hope will prove highly profitable. And the way they'll get good earnings is when the companies they're invested in put the stockholders above everything else. Return on investment, after all. So if you own Phillip Morris and they announce that they're downsizing 1,000 jobs, that's good news for your mutual fund. Or if you own GM and they hand down a three year wage freeze employee salaries--again, that's good news for you and your fund! Or it should be.

But we're all invested in each other now. I can benefit if you get laid off and you'll retire a little richer if my job is downsized so that the companies the bottom line is a little better. We've all got our hands in each other's pockets. So we're all a Paul that gets paid when some other Peter is robbed. But at the same time, we are also, each one of us, the Peter for some other Paul that needs paying.

The question is: Who'll be the first to give up a couple points of earnings on their own retirement package in order to invest in only companies that respect and value their employees? (Now, don't everyone speak up at once...)

It's really a bit of a Prisoners Dilemma in the long run, isn't it?