Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Enemy of Capitalism

With the arrival of the new iPhone, I find myself musing about whether or not I should get one. Yeah, it's got a better screen. And two cameras. And video chat, albeit only iPhone to iPhone and only on WiFi. It's pretty cool.

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with my current iPhone. Which is also my third iPhone, after my first had a cybernetic aneurysm and my second picked a fight with the tile floor in my kitchen. I really and truly don't need anything other than the phone I have. I find myself thinking that way about a whole bunch of the objects I use.

My eight-year old Honda minivan, for example. It's got around 90,000 miles on the clock. It's got a few dings in it. But it still fits our family plus three. It still carries around a crazy amount of stuff. It's not as efficient as I'd like, but it's just as practical today as it was back in 2002 when it rolled off a factory line in Ohio. It was wonderfully designed and engineered, and I will, after cleaning and vacuuming it out, sometimes just marvel at what an amazing job folks did creating something so useful. It's also comfortable, riding smoother and quieter than the shiniest new Coupe DeVille that ever sat on a dealer's lot when I was a kid. I have no need for anything better.

Then there's my motorcycle. It's ten years old. It's got about 38,000 miles on it, which is a whole bunch for a sportbike. It is, shall we say, "cosmetically imperfect," at least as much so as the guy who rides it. It's reaching the point where it can be accurately described as a ratbike. In a brief fit of madness earlier this year, I thought I might be rid of it. But then I rode it again, on a beautiful Spring day. As air snarled through the intake, and the bike sprang forward, I realized that in every way, it meets my motorized two-wheeled transportation needs. I do not need to replace it. More importantly, I have no desire to replace it.

Our house? Much the same. I am content with it. While there are always things that need to be replaced, and things that can be improved upon, I find that with most of the things in my life, I am content with what I have so long as it works.

I fear that might make me dangerous. Lingering contentment, a pervasive sense of being at peace, and quiet, lasting happiness are the enemies of global capitalism.

3 comments:

  1. "Lingering contentment, a pervasive sense of being at peace, and quiet, lasting happiness are the enemies of global capitalism."

    Wouldn't that read better with those things described being, "the enemies of unhinged consumerism."? I think that's what you've described in your post. Capitalism is after all an amoral system but I think it could certainly be argued that it is often in the hands of an immoral people.

    But that just opens a whole other set of conundrums involving one's definition of what is moral, etc. Leave it to me to muck it all up.

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  2. @ Jonathan: It does open up quite the can o' conundra. I tend to view morality as teleology, meaning, morality is the purpose towards which a being orients its existence. To be truly amoral, a system must have no purpose or aim.

    Capitalism, as Nobel Economist Milton Friedman definitively stated, exists for the purpose of maximizing profit. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that capitalism is moral, but that the goal and purpose of it's moral paradigm is not that of the Gospel.

    Or something like that.

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  3. Ohh I love a nice bit of conundra...it's lovely on toast with a bit of jam.

    "Capitalism, as Nobel Economist Milton Friedman definitively stated..."

    That's a portion of the problem. Seems definitions of capitalism are as varied as those that support it.

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