Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

dissecting the profit motive

Let’s examine one of the most fundamental values of American culture:  the profit motive.  In our society, it is believed that all of human development and progress should be driven by the desire for profit.  This is what we call “free-market capitalism,” the notion that people are inherently greedy, and that progress can only be attained when the potential for vast material wealth is offered as a reward for any given action.  In other words, the sole motivation for any human being to do anything is the prospect of receiving vast sums of money in return.

At its core, capitalism is a societal extension of the concept of survival of the fittest; it is a form of social Darwinism.  Capitalism is the law of the wild applied to human society.  It is a system whereby humans behave like animals, fighting for scraps for themselves and then saying, “I got mine, so fuck you.”  If one examines the human species on an evolutionary timescale, it becomes obvious why such a system is prevalent in our primitive civilization.  Humans are an extremely new phenomenon, having come into existence only very recently on the cosmic calendar.  To summarize Carl Sagan’s great analogy from his classic Cosmos, if the history of the universe were condensed to represent one single calendar year, humans did not appear on the scene until one minute before midnight on December 31.  If you haven’t heard this analogy before, think about it for a moment.  If you have heard it, think about it again.  Really think about it.

As a species, we are still in our infancy.  Yet on this earth, we are the only species to have become self-aware.  Self-awareness, therefore, is in its infancy, still in its early, formative stages.  As a result, it is to be expected that primitive animalistic instincts are still deeply ingrained in our collective psyche.  Simply put, we just haven’t yet had time as a species to think through all of our innate instincts, some of which happen to be quite barbaric.

Capitalism is an example of an animalistic belief system that is a remnant of our primitive past.  Believing that it is acceptable for one person to flourish while another starves is reminiscent of  the pack of wolves that allows one of its members to wither away simply because it isn’t big enough or strong enough to physically compete with the others.  It is like the mother bear that allows one of her cubs to die merely because it isn’t aggressive enough to steal food from its siblings.

Now, as a civilization, is this really what we want to be?  Do you we really want our society to resemble nothing more than a slightly more complicated form of natural selection?   Is survival of the fittest truly the most desirable law of the land?  As humans who possess the capacity for self-reflection and forethought, would it not be much more preferable to examine our societal structure and develop one which is more in agreement with our highest ideals and dreams?

The problem is that there are far too many people in the world today who would view these very questions with disdain, and would respond in a predictably cynical manner; a shocking percentage of people enjoy the status quo, and take great pleasure in prospering at the expense of others.  And why is this?  The answer is intimately tied with the very reason why our animal instincts still exist today in such a prominent role.  Namely, as a species we are still evolving; we are an incomplete product.  Many people are loathe to admit this, but the simple fact is that some people are more evolved than others, just as some animals have developed evolutionary advantages over their counterparts.  The pace of evolution is not uniform; some organisms represent the cutting edge of progress, while others resemble earlier and more archaic specimens.

To put it more bluntly:  those humans who behave like animals and cling to animalistic belief systems – such as capitalism and the universality of the profit motive – do so because they are animals.  Their intellectual capacities have not yet evolved to the point where they are ready – or perhaps willing – to cast off their innate barbaric impulses in order to move beyond to a reflective, intuitive, self-aware world-view.  Such people are living based on instinct alone, and have not yet refined their thought processes to the extent that they are able to live truly autonomously.

Before I am accused of being a bigot, or a racist, or some such absurdity, let me clarify that I am not suggesting that these people are physically deficient in any way, by dint of their genes or other innate characteristic.  Any organism that meets the criteria to be classified as a homo sapiens also bears the capacity for critical thought and self-awareness.  In other words, any human being, by definition of being human, possesses the ability for self-reflection and critical insight.

However, it seems that our genetic predisposition is to be naturally animalistic and aggressive in nature; survival of the fittest, capitalism and the profit motive are apparently the default settings for our brains.  Those people who still cling to such antiquated and  primordial belief systems do so simply because they have not yet utilized their newly-evolved human brains enough to move into the realm of genuine self-awareness.  They are like a newly-evolved bird who fails to use its wings to fly; the bird possesses the capacity to fly, yet lacks the breadth of self-understanding necessary to do so.

So the next time someone extols to you the virtues of our capitalistic, every-man-for-himself system, just chuckle quietly to yourself and reflect on the fact that this person, though human in guise, has the thought patterns of an animal.

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2 responses to “dissecting the profit motive

  1. Pingback: Study Suggests the Conservative Brain is Less Evolved « Failed Empire

  2. Josh February 18, 2011 at 1:13 am

    I really like that you’re equating capitalism with the law of the survival of the fittest. I just want to make a suggestion: it seems a bit self-defeating to critique the law of the survival of the fittest as a framework by which we organize our society and then yourself use/embrace the very same law as a framework by which to judge capitalism’s defenders e.g., ” those humans who behave like animals and cling to animalistic belief systems – such as capitalism and the universality of the profit motive – do so because they are animals. Their intellectual capacities have not yet evolved to the point where they are ready – or perhaps willing – to cast off their innate barbaric impulses in order to move beyond to a reflective, intuitive, self-aware world-view. Such people are living based on instinct alone, and have not yet refined their thought processes to the extent that they are able to live truly autonomously.”.

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