The Cycle Of Capitalism Always Starts Off Good
Capitalism always starts off good. Just like that incident in the Garden Of Eden started with the serpent offering a tasty treat. Seriously, though, I can’t count the many times I’ve encountered a new idea that has hit the market and I’ve thought to myself: “Man, I am lucky to be living in the era and country that I am”. I believe capitalism may just well be the best system for generating innovation.
The problem is, the honeymoon always ends and you realize she was only in it for the money the whole time. What am I talking about? I’m talking about MTV, which started out as a way for unknown musicians to make a cheap but innovative video and have it connect with fans. Then Michael Jackson put out the first million dollar video and changed the whole scene from small-time bands finding an audience to a bigtime star investing money to make money. Was Thriller a good video and a good song. Yeah, but the price paid by all the small-time artists who could not compete wasn’t worth it. And that was just the start. Take a look at MTV today. It still exists, right? Hear any good new artists lately?
Or look at the music industry as a whole. From 1964 to 1967, rock and roll went from I Want To Hold Your Hand to Tomorrow Never Knows, Sunshine Of Your Love, Are You Experienced?, and See Emily Play. An amazing leap of innovation and exploration by an industry that wasn’t yet sure what it was doing. But then the suits took over and maximized profit by replacing risk-taking with marketing. The result was more superstars and less good music. Correct me if I’m wrong.
MTV wasn’t the only TV station that went down the toilet. Once upon a time the History Channel had interesting and informative history programs on it. Once upon a time A&E actually had real arts programming on it. Hell, before striking it rich with Honey Boo Boo, TLC was known as The Learning Channel.
This life-cycle can be seen everywhere you have a good idea reach a certain measure of success. YouTube, which was once watchable, now has a commercial (or two) before and within most every video you watch. But much worse than that, they have manipulated their algorithms so that you no longer find what you want to see so much as what they want to show you. And like everything else from Netflix to Hulu, they constantly feed you their preferred next choice rather than waiting for you to choose what you want to watch. What once was the servant soon becomes the master.
The problem is that innovation which leads to success soon becomes business. And I’m not against people who are successful making a buck, don’t get me wrong. The problem begins when those who are not successful in anything other than turning a profit notice the success of artists and entrepreneurs, see an opportunity to make a buck, and soon have the people who have created something that resonates with others working for them.
Small capitalists are, to a large degree, people who want to do what they enjoy and hope others will appreciate what they do. Or else they are people who are willing to work hard in order to meet the needs of others. Not all of them succeed, and they pay the price for their failures. But those who do succeed, to a large degree encounter the profiteers who have no interest in their vision or in serving others but simply see a way of maximizing short term profit. I’m often shocked that those who call themselves small businessmen do not see the difference between the two.
I do not propose to you any clear-cut solution to the problem of corporate capitalists, but perhaps pointing out the difference between those with genuine creativity and willingness to work hard and those who only wish to spend a buck to make seven might prove useful. There is a life cycle to capitalism, one phase being where innovation is allowed to prosper, and another where rot sets in. If I can help you to realize the difference, I feel I have done something useful, just as the lady at the grocery the other day helped me to pick out the best peaches. But really, the best advice is universal: give it the smell test and watch out for maggots.