Profit Is Not A Motivator – It’s A Sensation.

On a facebook conversation Ron writes:

Capitalism and Socialism have become emotionally charged misrepresentations of their ideals, so I won’t go there. Profit is not a driver, it is a derivative of the current market system. If profit really was a motivator, we wouldn’t have Wikipedia, nor the pursuit of knowledge through the arts and sciences, teachers, missionaries, peace corp volunteers, filmmakers, social entrepreneurs and more.

Which is a great opportunity to clarify the concept of ‘profit’.

Epistemelogically, profit isn’t a motivator, it’s a SENSATION.

We have to act. We have to plan. we have to coordinate with others in a vast and complex divisino of labor in real time. In this world we cannot SENSE the world of this complexity without abstractions, any more than we can measure large volumes of objects without numbers. Prices are a nervous system, and profits and losses are the sensations we take from that nervous system when we cooperate in large numbers on complex goods and services. Where we agrarian (equal in subsistence poverty), this would not be a problem. But there were no doubt, tribal leaders that saw farmers as a threat to their way of life, just as you see complex production as a threat to your sensibilities and way of life.

The problem with this system of abstract quantitative sensatins is that while it WORKS extremely well, it a) exacerbates the differences in our intellectual abilities even more so than our physical abilities – physical abilities which have been rendered immaterial by technology, and b) our tribal sentiments of ostracization and status-seeking are exaggerated by the individualism that results from this division of knowledge and labor. Everyone on earth now has adopted capitalism because it is a necessary technology for an advanced economy in a distribution of knowledge and labor. We humans have tried and abandoned attempts to control the means of production – at the cost of a hundred million dead. We have tried but not yet abandoned attempts to control the distribution of wealth – although it appears to be breaking down substantially in the west at present. My suspicion is that we will not succeed at redistributing wealth across the american empire, but that we will fragment again into nation states because nation states that are small, favor redistribution, because they recreate our tribal community, and feed our tribal sentiments. ie: big is bad.

If you want to make people happy then seek small states with high redistribution. Break up the empire and you’ll get what you want. But you can’t have it within the empire. People in smaller states are happier because they can balance the capitalist information system with the size of their society while maintaining status signals under cultural homogeneity. If you don’t like that, then you need to give licenses for birth rates, so that we can let 4/5 of the population die off, and we can return to agrarianism but with our current base of technological knowledge. What you can’t do is destroy the information system that make it possible to keep this many people alive on the planet, nor can you alter the basic consumptive nature of man.

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