There's a school of thought that argues that markets are the solution to everything. That money is the best indication of value created. That generating maximum value for shareholders is the only job. That the invisible hand of the market is the best scorekeeper and allocator. "How much money can you make?" is the dominant question.
And frequently, this money-first mindset is being matched with one that says that any interference in the market is unnecessary and inefficient. That we shouldn't have the FDA, that businesses should be free to discriminate on any axis , that a worker's rights disappear at the door of the factory or the customer's at the lunch counter--if you don't like it, find a new job, a new business to patronize, the market will adjust.
Taken together, this financial ratchet creates a harsh daily reality. The race to the bottom kicks in, and even those that would ordinarily want to do more, contribute more and care more find themselves unable to compete, because the ratchet continues to turn.
The problem with a race to the bottom is that you might win. Worse, you could come in second.
There are no capitalist utopias. No country and no market where unfettered capitalism creates the best possible outcome. Not one. They suffer from smog, from a declining state of education and health, and most of all, from too little humanity. Every time that the powerful tool of capitalism makes things better it succeeds because it works within boundaries.
It's worth noting that no unbridled horse has ever won an important race.
The best way for capitalism to do its job is for its proponents to insist on clear rules, fairly enforced. To insist that organizations not only enjoy the benefits of what they create, but bear the costs as well. To fight against cronyism and special interests, and on behalf of workers, of communities and education. That's a ratchet that moves in the right direction.
Civilization doesn't exist to maximize capitalism. Capitalism exists to maximize civilization.
That's rare air, with no support, no foundation.
Like the coyote, running of a cliff in pursuit of the roadrunner...
What could be more important?
When we synthesize and invent and leap, we create a rare sort of value.
Nothing ever is. Nothing is flawless, optimized and suitable for everyone.
Instead, all we can hope for is, "the best we could hope for, under the circumstances."
But, because there are circumstances, whatever happens is exactly what the circumstances created. Whatever is happening now is what's going to happen now. There's no way to change it. Perhaps we can change tomorrow, or even the next moment, but this moment--it's exactly what it was supposed to be, precisely what the circumstances demanded.
Which, if we're going to be truthful about it, is perfect.
In the long run, we can work to change the circumstances. We can start today, right now. We must. It's the only way to make perfect better.
It's never been easier to find ways to be disappointed in our performance. You can compare your output, your income, your success rate to a billion people around the globe... many of whom are happy to exaggerate to make you even more disappointed.
It's hardly worth your trouble.
The exception is the dissatisfaction that is based on a legitimate comparison, one that gives you insight on how to improve and motivates you to get better.
Get clear about the change you're trying to make and, if it's useful, compare yourself to others that are on the same path as you are.
If the response rate to your website is lower than your competitor's, take a look at what they're doing and learn from it.
If your time in the hundred-yard dash is behind that of the person to your left, analyze the video of their run, step by step, and figure out what you're missing.
You can always find someone who is cuter, happier or richer than you. (Or appears to be). That's pointless.
But if you can find some fuel to help you reach your goals, not their goals, have at it.
Right there, in your driveway, is a really fast car. And here are the keys. Now, go drive it.
Right there, in your hand, is a Chicago Pneumatics 0651 hammer. You can drive a nail through just about anything with it, again and again if you choose. Time to use it.
And here's a keyboard, connected to the entire world. Here's a publishing platform you can use to interact with just about anyone, just about any time, for free. You wanted a level playing field, one where you have just as good a shot as anyone else? Here it is. Do the work.
That's what we're all counting on.
For you to do the work.
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