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Capitalism’s Four Horsemen

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With the advent of the Industrial Revolution the world gave way from hunger to boredom. If at first it was the skill of reproducing food that was the hope for a civilized society, it turned over time to more refined forms of entertainment. Pushed by increasing expressions of wealth and decreasing inequality (what increases is our concern for it!) is that the course of history puts us, like no one else, at the top of the ladder of progress.

Man, given to the most dwarfed views, attends with disdain a unique moment in material goodness and moral refinements. Here the question that assails the well-informed reader is the following; what makes us, then, so ungrateful to the evidence that puts the welfare of the people so close at hand? Having put aside the malice which we could not suppose most of them to be either reckless or ignorant, for it would rob wealth of its clairvoyance, it only remains for us to accept that it is the very source of wealth that conspires against itself. But how is this possible?

Capitalist competition does not destroy in isolation, but as a consequence of an act of creation. Each article made available to the market ensures the displacement of others in disuse. Seen in this light, and encouraged by the moral baseness with which man channels his needs, we are ready to identify the four betrayals that wealth commits against itself.

The first is anxiety: wealth and uncertainty are like first cousins; wealth is inconceivable without danger. The source of value with which wealth is clothed lies in the convenience of providing solutions to unprecedented problems. However, man has not been favored to stand firm before the unknown but trembling before what awaits him. In fact, his aversion to risk is behind the deformed concern with which he deals with inequality. Countries where competition is ironclad are coincidentally those that put the most effort into combating inequality. This is not because inequality hinders the effective exercise of wealth, but because of the need to provide certainty in an increasingly unpredictable world.

The greater the wealth, the greater our perception of risk. In the face of this, society reacts uneasily, using the management of social policies that give a revulsive twist to uncertainty. It is therefore natural and paradoxical that in the most advanced societies, competition gives us more, not less, desire for regulation (the most developed countries are at the top of the list in terms of fiscal pressure and public spending).

Not content with this, competition clings to increase our sense of fragility. And not for anything other than the exercise of instability from which it is driven. My reader friends already know that the only permanent thing is monopoly; competition, dynamic at its highest levels, makes wealth precarious.

This is the reason and no other why many accuse the friends of capitalism of being greedy. Not content with enough, the capitalist would aspire to the maximum, brutalized by an insatiable thirst for profit. However, reality is contrary to this fact and greed would not be a twisted reaction as the clear proof that wealth is never wealth at all. Let me explain. The ease with which the great fortunes see their wealth squandered (Facebook lost more than six billion dollars in a few hours of interruption) reveals the need to clear any limit to profit: what can be lost quickly responds to the fact that it never belonged to us at all. The richest are not those who hoard the most wealth, as is often presumed, but those who see the least threat to it.

Along the same lines, fragility is linked to the feeling of threat with which competition destroys every time it progresses. None of us will find extravagant that saying that goes like this: “competition is healthy as long as it doesn’t touch me; monopoly is better for me.”

In addition to uncertainty and instability, there is now the bitterness of being overtaken by the rapid progress of industry. The disaffection generated in us by this fear of being lost, displaced by the inertia of competition, squeezes out our natural contempt for a system which, in its threat, makes the most valuable things flourish. The iron law of capitalist competition goes like this: the greater the abundance, the greater the feeling of impoverishment. And it cannot be otherwise, especially when we consider the last of the horsemen.

Under the strict laws of competition, nothing is ever enough. The demand placed on our shoulders by the need to surpass the competitor every day snatches from us the natural tranquility of seeing ourselves comfortably idle (temptation of the socialist.) The man born to prosper clings to laziness to see his project start from it.

However, the fire of survival does not sprout in him as it does in the rest of the neighboring species. Its destiny, much more marked in the heart of God, demands perfection, refinement; dignity! And what better way to comply with this than the change with which competition is accompanied every day.

Here is our aversion added to our natural laziness to see whipped the delicious tranquility that our body craves. It is thanks to competition that our skills are refined, put into play, knocked down in many cases, triumphant in others, and yet the only channel to the civility we dream of. So far from our own creature, we have to commit our time to heal the rough edges and put ourselves at its level. Dear reader: it is not less capitalism that the world needs, but more humanity.

Antonini de Jiménez es doctor en economía y ha fungido como profesor universitario en Camboya, México y Colombia (actualmente es profesor en la Universidad Católica de Pereira). Trotamundos infatigable y lector sin escrúpulos // Antonini de Jiménez has a PhD in economics and has served as a university professor in Cambodia, Mexico and Colombia (he is currently a professor at the Catholic University of Pereira). He is a tireless globetrotter and unscrupulous reader.

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