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Berry on competition

03/24/05 | by [mail] | Categories: culture/news

What are People For?I'm not posting this quote from What Are People For? by Wendell Berry because I agree with it. I don't know if I do. But it is thought-provoking and I'd like to hear what everyone thinks.

The ideal of competition always implies, and in fact requires that any community must be divided into a class of winners and a class of losers. The division is radically different from the other social divisions: that of the more able and the less able, or that of the richer and the poorer, or even that of the rulers and the ruled. These latter divisions have existed throughout history and at time, at least, have been ameliorated by social and religious ideals that instructed the strong to help the weak. As a purely economic ideal, competition does not contain or imply any such instructions. In fact, the defenders of the ideal of competition have never known what to do with or for the losers. The losers simply accumulate in human dumps, like stores of industrial waste, until they gain enough misery and strength to overpower the winners. The idea that the displaced and dispossessed "should seek retraining and get into another line of work" is, of course, utterly cynical; it is only the hand-washing practiced by officials and experts. A loser, by definition, is somebody whom nobody knows what to do with. There is no limit tot he damage and the suffering implicit in this willingness that losers, should exist as a normal economic cost (Berry 131).



I agree that there are certain problems of poverty that capitalism cannot solve. I wrote about this on my blog a while back. Basically, a capitalist economy needs a population of unemployed citizens. If everybody had jobs, there would be no competition for work. Instead, employers would have to compete for workers by offering higher wages, which would drive inflation beyond what the economy can handle. As Berry says, there have to be losers for a competitive economy to work. Yet we can’t even be honest about that. We perpetuate the myth that anybody can succeed in America through hard work. Perhaps anybody can, but not everybody.

Kyle [Visitor]http://kyle.brendoman.com03/27/05 @ 15:20
[Member]  http://www.brendoman.com/03/28/05 @ 19:37

I am working thru something like this right now. I am reading Socialism: Utopian and Scientific by Engles. He refers to the relative surplus population as the industrial reserve army.

Henry [Visitor]http://hundiejo.com/03/28/05 @ 21:26

he has definately hit upon a problem of capitalism. Whether or not he is accurate in his dipiction remains to be seen

Henry [Visitor]http://hundiejo.com/03/28/05 @ 21:30

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