Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rethinking Assumptions: Who Sets the Rules of Capitalism?

I've been reading an essay called "Marxism in the Shadow of Hobbes" by John Sinisi. He first presents Adam Smith's "one system of property rights that leads to general prosperity and economic developement." In this system:

1) The state (courts and police) guarantee property rights to prevent conflict over resources.
2) The state guarantees individuals the rights to use, sell, and rent their properties as they choose.
3) The state enforces each individual's rights concerning his or her own body and person.

Sinisi then introduces the neo-Hobbesian criticism of Smith's system: individuals in Smith's system may find that the rules of the system itself put them at a disadvantage. They will break or bend the rules when it is to their advantage.

Edgy has recently come to similar conclusions, and is overjoyed to hear that he is not alone. (Thanks, neo-Hobbesians!) The rules of the American economy may well be biased against some people, or even entire classes of people. Furthermore, why are the rules of the market unquestionable when everything else in the market is negotiable?

Edgy is a gentle Anticlown, and hates violence for the sake of personal gain. Edgy is not talking about violence here. But I do think (without knowing much about neo-Hobbesians) that this framework explains a lot of things. For example, when music producers demand too much for their product and no competitive alternatives exist, consumers will start "breaking the rules." The cost of breaking the rules (e.g., risk of lawsuit) is just another kind of price that music consumers pay to get what they want.

Edgy doesn't recommend copying music illegally, especially now that you can buy it on iTunes for a buck. But it does explain a lot, doesn't it?