Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Illusion is all.

­Dear George,

The anchor that inhibits capitalism’s feral growth is the free market. Even though capitalism appears to worship it, the fact is it's simply a song and dance for public consumption. In truth, capitalism and the free market are anathema to each other.

The problem with freedom is inefficiency. In a free market you have too many plants manufacturing the same thing, you have too many merchants selling it and you have too many journalists covering the same story from too many different and diverse points of view.

The more fragmented and free the market is; the more growth is inhibited.

The trick is to enslave the market while maintaining the illusion of freedom. It’s the same problem the state faces, how to have a democracy without cluttering it up with too many freedoms.

Capitalism has solved this problem by elevating efficiency to the throne once occupied by freedom, all the while equating efficiency with the freedom it seeks to destroy. It is then a simple matter to convince the drones that the surest path to maximal efficiency is consolidation. Who needs hundreds of media outlets when a handful is much more efficient?

The beauty of efficiency is that as it increases, profits increase. Its irony is that as consolidation increases, efficiency declines. To expand, a corporation must go into debt; as debt increases, it is forced to cut costs through layoffs and reduced services. Consequently, the multitude of small enterprises that provided goods and services in an efficient manner morphs into a cumbersome dinosaur that groans beneath the burden of its indebtedness.

As size increases, so does the bureaucracy necessary to keep it functioning. Vision dims as it is replaced with computer generated goals and objectives. A bureaucratic momentum sets in that slowly takes on a life of its own and innovation becomes mired in red tape and countless meeting. Eventually, innovation takes a back seat to data. As one writer put it:

The hubris of the information society is that it imagines that data matter more than understanding and that we are moving closer and closer every day to completing the book of knowledge. The truth is that we are creating vast new areas of ignorance.

But none of this matters as long as the illusion of freedom remains.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

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