I can’t recall where I originally had this argument. It’s an interesting one with no real solution or conclusion, but it’s interesting. It’s the kind of thing that you can posit or postulate, but because it involves rewriting history, no one really knows what the ‘best’ answer is.
I am of course talking about socialism versus capitalism. I don’t describe myself as either a socialist or capitalist, or subscribe to one political party. My thoughts and beliefs tend to span the entire gamut — and if you read this blog regularly, you’ll probably know how I feel about most important issues.
I’m not going to tackle politics itself — I don’t think I’m educated enough to do so — but I want to cover one topic in particular. It’s an argument that’s cropped up a few times over the last few years, as technology has begun its (scarily) rapid consummation of the world and its day to day activities.
So, exposition first: I am capitalist/right-wing when it comes to matters of technology. The arguments I have are usually with socialist, left-wing types.
It goes something like this: ‘It’s sick that these large tech companies are so rich! And there are so many poor people in Africa without technology! Those CEOs on billion-dollar salaries make me SICK! …’ — you get the idea. Basically, spread the love. You see, technology is so damn all-encompassing. It affects healthcare, education, amenities, entertainment — the benefit of advanced technology is SO VAST that most of us can’t begin to imagine its impact on the world.
But would these socialists be quite so socialist if we weren’t living in some kind of utopian world? Are there socialists in sub-Saharan Africa? Do tribes share their deer with the clan next door? How about if they invent a new kind of spear — do you share that technology? Or do you look after your own first?
My argument goes something like this: capitalism drives invention. Capitalism is all about SELFISH NEED. But it is selfishness that inspires ingeniousness. If your kids are being bullied by some thugs with knives, do you report it to the State and trust it will get sorted out? Or do you make your kids body armour and teach them how to fight?
That’s perhaps a bad analogy, but you get the idea? Are you as likely to fight for someone on the other side of the world as you are for your friends and family?
How many inventions have been made with the Developing World in mind?
So the way this usually goes, in politics, is that a conservative party rules for a while, technology flourishes — and then ‘the people’ feel like change has to be made and a socialist government comes to power. I’m not suggesting it’s a bad thing that there’s a change of power. God knows it’s good to shake things up occasionally, lest things become stagnant — and you never want a country to become stagnant. (The robot workers vs. labour unions is a good example?)
I just hope there are no iPhone or BlackBerry owners that are also socialists. It’s incredibly hypocritical.
The counter-argument is obviously this: why are we so inherently selfish? Can we change that, or do we have as much chance of that happening as the deconstruction of racism?
But the sad truth, whether we like it or not, is that we are selfish. We’re never going to push the development of technology solely for other people.
The Developing World should be grateful for our inventive endeavours. And we should be proud of them, not ashamed.