If only money mattered

25 May

Natural selection is the engine that drives evolution, but it is not restricted to just living organisms. In nature, natural selection’s goal is the production of more offspring. The more babies an organism can have, the more successful it is. It’s beautiful and simple.

Yet this engine can be used to drive other things besides making robins redder or deer run faster. Natural selection is at work in capitalism as well. Here the goal is to make more money instead of more babies. Businesses that do well, or make more money, prosper while businesses that don’t make money flounder and die. The whole process works to make businesses more efficient. It cuts off the fat and makes everything leaner.

Yet in a system where only money matters, what about entities whose goal is something other than making money? Museums, libraries, parks, etc. I guess these would fall under “public goods”, or services that can’t be measured in dollars and cents. In order to survive in a system where only revenue counts, these entities would have to be given protection, usually in the form of subsidies and tax exemption. Though I feel there are some who would have a problem with this, like the developer who wants to plow down a park to build another mall.

I guess what I’m trying to say is there are things that are very important to me that don’t make money. I and other patrons of these entities are too few in number when compared to the masses to financially support these institutions. Normally, under the rules of natural selection, that means they should wither and die. What is to be done? Is it right to tax other people to support things that I cherish?

In the US we have a constitutional republic. People vote, but it is not a pure democracy. Our founding fathers knew the dangers of a pure democracy, that it would lead to mob rule, and instituted a republic where, although the majority would rule, the rights of the minority were respected. Can the same thing be applied economically? Should it be applied?

What would an unregulated system where only money mattered look like? I think it’d be a world where museums, libraries, and theaters would die off. Maybe not entirely, but there would be drastically fewer of them than we have now. Educational programs of all kinds would wither and die, unable to compete with “American Idol” or “Dancing with the stars”. Everything would be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, for that’s where the most money is.

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