Cory Doctorow on the origins of capitalism

2024-04-20 15:03:00 +07:00 by Mark Smith

Cory Doctorow in his piece about why capitalists hate capitalism:

For capitalism’s philosophers, the rent / profit distinction was key. Rents bread complacency and stagnation. The feudal Lords got the same rent no matter what. There was no incentive to re-invest those rents in better agricultural tools, or advanced training for surfs. If your surfs invented a better scythe that let them bring in the harvest in 1/2 the time. You, their Lord, got no benefit from it. What’s more, the lord on the next estate over faced no threat from the competitive edge your surf’s bold innovation conferred.

Maybe the lords gained no advantage from the better scythe, but surely that's to the surf's advantage. They could make a killing selling their new invention to other surfs in nearby estates. Soon enough and all the surfs have halved the amount of time they need to spend working the land.

He continues:

But profit was always subject to competition. For capitalism’s theoreticians, competition undergirded capitalism’s virtues. The fear of a rival taking your business with a product that’s better and / or cheaper sets the capitalist on a continuous hunt for efficiencies and innovations that deliver better products at lower prices. The fear of a rival luring away your best workers who are not bound to you, the way that surfs were bound to their lord’s land, forces you to find ways of keeping your staff happy and thus loyal.

So the capitalists essentially freed the lords from their surfs, in exchange for becoming the managers / baby sitters of said surfs, but with the understanding they could exploit them for their labour. And presumably the lords were investing in the capitslist, sharing in the profits.

The OG lord is essentially just creating a surf out of the capitalist, who does the work of wrangling the surfs. Perhaps I'm missing something here, but isn't this just lord surf fractal?

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