Gift Giving Economies vs. Capitalism

We’ve changed in the last 20 years.  When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, it was because he saw his richer brother nation and wanted to take what they had and use it for himself.  The world responded with horror and we had the Iraqi wars.

Domestically, in the United States, we have increasingly polarized crowds of constituents.  There is one crowd that believes in a “gift giving economy” – you receive goods and services and benefits from others to lift you up.  For the few that reach positions of power to influence others, when you get there, you are expected to flow-down benefit and favors to raise up the next generation.  This manifests itself domestically in President Obama’s goofy statement during the Fall 2012 presidential race:  “You think you built a business?  You didn’t build that.  Others did.”

If you study international security issues, you can see this belief manifests itself in South America economic corruption that has resisted international investments for hundreds of years – ancient Muslim influences, British influence, various other colonizing nations, the United States, now China.  It hard to raise the standard of living where anybody who has a growing business or leads a business enterprise is expected to give away profits or capital to the cousin or brother or distant relative who is having hard times.

The other United States domestic crowd believes that a person builds their own destiny.  The classic argument against this belief that they “move their products on roads built by others” is met with firm rejoinder that they would prefer to build their own roads rather than be taxed into oblivion.  It’s an issue of power.  They want to retain the power to decide where to spend their money.  If it’s taxed away, they are providing the money while someone else – a communal or cultural or legislative momentum – is deciding where to spend it.  Also, they see the necessary supervisors forcing communal behavior (read: government employees and regulations) as an inefficient drain on the overall system of building wealth because they take profits while contributing nothing to the product.

The two crowds of people are becoming increasingly polarized.  The communal crowd has gained the majority in U.S. National politics to enforce their way.  They see the wealth of their capitalist brother citizen and make laws to take it.  Twenty years after Saddam Hussein, we don’t recoil in horror any more.  We call it “making the rich pay their fair share.”  The world has changed.

I can’t conceive of how this situation can be sustainable.  For example, consider what would happen if we stopped all the fights and wrangling by splitting the nation and gave half to the Democrats and half to the Republicans.  Each side should be happy, because they now live in a nation run by their rules.

Yet, consider the sustainability of this new situation.  How long would each side last if you couldn’t tax or do any forced business outside your new borders?  The Republicans would not support taxes on themselves to fund the Democrats.  The Republican capitalism companies would have a lot less customers and employees to hire, and would shrink — unless the Democrats voluntarily decided to buy things from the Republicans, or decided to voluntarily cross the border each day to get a job.

About Brian

Engineer. Aviator. Educator. Scientist.
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