Sleight of Hand

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I would like to present myself as an evolved individual who can see beyond the simple confines of the political game.

But I’m not that guy. The fact is, I’m a liberal,a lefty, and a bleeding heart.

I’m a big fan of progressive taxation, redistribution of wealth towards the middle and lower classes, social mobility, and societal investment in things that matter like education and science.

Frankly, I support most liberal causes short of armed revolution.

But my previous post on the ethics of the miles game, has sparked some very interesting conversation.

And one of the themes that keeps coming up is capitalism.

Interestingly, my defense of the miles game seems to place me firmly on the side of capitalism.

So I thought it would be a useful exercise to list all the things that I (Mr. Comfortable Bourgeois Liberal) love about capitalism.

1. It’s simple.

There’s a fundamental honesty to capitalism. It’s a theory that says that human beings are self-interested above all else (and we are, I think.)

The capitalist ideology doesn’t require that people be more altruistic than we actually are.

It basically posits that we are like big children. Concerned primarily with our own survival and pleasure and happiness.

Compare that to communism which requires some evolutionary change whereby people suddenly care more about the whole of society than themselves as individuals.

I like the idea of building an economic theory around humans as we are, not as we wish ourselves to be.

Somehow it seems more adult.

2. It’s sporty!

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The time to gather capital is upon us!

Let’s face it, capitalism is all about keeping score.

Games with winners and losers and unpredictability are fun to watch and fun to play.

And so is capitalism!

3. It’s motivating.

If you’re half as lazy as I am, you know that if you were promised an equal share of the economic pie regardless of what you did, you would be much less productive than you are now.

Fear and greed really help to get you out of bed in the morning.

4. It’s inevitable.

Weather in tribal groups, or monarchies, or communist systems, there are always Haves and Have-nots.

And both groups inevitably strive to move resources in their own direction.

Capital flows towards those who take it. And power and capital are always closely associated.

So why not call a pig a pig? Aren’t oligarchical societies that call themselves communist (think North Korea) as silly as a pig calling itself a pony?

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We are just simple members of the proletariat

So there you have it, my defense of capitalism.

I would like to think that the philosophies espoused in this blog, namely the mixture of Early Retirement Theory and Travel Hacking Theory form a unified theory that is in someway similar to a Northern European social democracy.

On one hand, the miles game encourages it’s players to collect and consume like good capitalists. It’s an arbitrage opportunity that promotes the efficiency of the market. The miles game player benefits himself in clever ways and in doing so contributes to the equilibrium of the credit markets. The player, after all, is nothing if not a rational actor seeking to bring benefit to himself.

The early retiree also brings benefit to himself. But he does so in a paradoxical way. Perhaps even a socialist selfishly altruistic way.

He seeks to consume less, to become more efficient, and to become less wasteful. Not because he’s a pie-eyed liberal ringing his hands over the destructive tendencies of his own society. But because this more efficient way of living promises to bring himself financial freedom, and by extension an even more meaningful freedom from the endless cycle of labor and consumption that our ever-growing capitalist society encourages.

And how does he do this? He saves more of his money and spends less. And he invests the savings in Wall Street.

That’s right in the end he invests it in capitalism.

Could “the hidden hand” be at play here?

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