Capitalism or Charity

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

i liked this article

In an ideal capitalist society, a pretty straightforward hypothesis for how to do the most good is: make the most money you can. (If this doesn’t make sense to you, you aren’t familiar with the basic pro-capitalist claims. If you’re interested, Time Will Run Back is a good book to start with. It’s a novel about the leaders of a socialist dystopia trying to solve their problems and thereby reinventing capitalism.)

I think the way this works is something like: for you to get money from someone, you have to give them something they value more than the money.

So let’s say that person A has 100 value points for $10, but they have 1000 value points for a loaf of bread. So if you have a loaf of bread, and you have 100 value points for your loaf of bread, but you have 1000 value points for $10. So if you trade with the other person, both of you would have lost 100 value points, but gained 1000 value points, for a total of like 1800 more value points in the world now.

So if you can keep making bread, and finding people who want bread more than money, then you’re adding value to their life.

I don’t see a problem with this example I gave.

I am worried that this example might be going against yes/no philosophy tho, putting value points on things. that feels like weighing to me.

if someone was going to decide whether or not they should buy the bread, they could make an IGC I think. they could do something like: Goals: have a loaf of bread, spend less than $20. Idea: buy loaf of bread for $10. Context: I want to make butter toast and already have a toaster and butter.

So there aren’t value points in that, it’s just a yes to buying the bread.

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If I prefer A over B, and you prefer B over A, then we can trade A for B and both benefit. This works without value points. And it’s a way of making the world better than EA doesn’t seem very interested in.

Instead, EA is like “We’ll give those people C for nothing, cuz we’re pretty sure they’ll really like C.” This can go wrong. It’s hard to tell how much they like C whether getting the C to give away is worth the price, and whether they’d rather have D instead. One of the candidate solutions for this is to give people cash instead of doing other types of charity, so they can use the cash to buy whatever they most want. This has some upsides and downsides. The large majority of charity isn’t based on handing out cash.

In trade, you judge cost and benefit for yourself, and your trading partner judges stuff for himself. In typical charity work, you judge cost for yourself and benefit for someone else, and the charity recipient doesn’t judge much of anything (they do have some options like to decline the charity – they get to judge if participating is better or worse than nothing).