Left-liberal economist: So, what society needs to be stable is upward mobility for the 99%. That's what's missing in all our growth. *Upward mobility*.

Me: Upward? As in, raising your relative social status? Relative to others?

Economist: Yes.

Me: For the 99%.

Economist: Yes.

Me: All of them.

Economist: Yes, we just need every member of the 99% of society to be able to constantly improve their social status relative to every other member of the 99%.

Me: How?

Economist: Cage fighting.

Me: Do you... do you understand that if two people fight one another, one wins and the other loses?

Economist: No no, that's impossible. Two people fight in a cage with deadly weapons, both win. And the cage gets bigger. That's what my equations say.

Me: Can I check those equations?

Economist: N... no. No. But they're very good equations.

@natecull What argument are you trying to dismantle with that story?

@Hyolobrika The idea that competition leads to better outcomes for everyone.

At some point, if you keep competing, you get a small group of winners and a large group of losers.

Surprise: That's precisely what's happened. Why are we shocked?

If we want actual beneficial outcomes for all, we need to stop framing it in terms of 'upward mobility' and 'opportunity', because those are still ideas derived from 'winning a contest'.

We have to stop the contest entirely.

@natecull @lrhodes I don't think the people you're talking about are real economists. Economists call the belief that prosperity only comes as a result of increase in relative standing "the fixed pie fallacy". They generally consider it to be wrong. They tend to say things like "A rising tide lifts all boats" instead.

@faun @lrhodes

<< Economists call the belief that prosperity only comes as a result of increase in relative standing "the fixed pie fallacy". >>

Yes, and I think their belief that that belief is wrong, is also wrong. At least in the context of competive capitalism.

<< They tend to say things like "A rising tide lifts all boats" instead. >>

That is indeed what economists say, and also what has manifestly failed to occur (especially in housing, but elsewhere) since the 'recovery' after 2008.

@faun @lrhodes

The rising tide of an 'economic recovery' has in fact sunk many boats. Rising measures of 'wealth' are in fact concentrating wealth in fewer hands, not more. And actively removing it from the majority. And that's just in the past 11 years.

So the economists are missing something vital.

@faun @lrhodes

Hence why the economist in my story is saying 'it's okay, make people fight and they both win! the cage gets larger! it's not zero sum! you're better off from that punch in the face!'

because that's what the economists are saying even as, right before our eyes, the cage shrinks and the wealth recedes from us

since it seems like I need to spell this out.

@natecull @faun @lrhodes it helps to consider that “economist = politician who uses math”

I am not being snarky. It explains a lot. In particular the endless debates with no resolution in sight: they are not seeking a common truth, just arguing for a political viewpoint.

@Tryphon @natecull @lrhodes that is also adequately explained by it being an inexact science, of course. Heated, interminable arguments characterise them all.

I would like to argue that for something to be political, there must always be a real disagreement about values rather than just spirited confusion about facts, but I guess that isn't true.

@natecull Markets aren't really, like, *about* competition.. they're about trade. You don't have to be obsessed with competition to benefit from trade. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who aren't.

Known Capitalist Peter Theil sometimes says "capitalism and competition are antonyms", which, if you understand what he means, is kind of terrifying.

@faun << You don't have to be obsessed with competition to benefit from trade. >>

Entrepeneurs talk about 'disruption', by which they mean 'competing so hard that we literally destroy the entire category of anyone who isn't us'.

It's not easy to look at that and say 'yeah, I can exist in that world without competing'.

I agree that trade *shouldn't* be about competition. But in markets dominated by capital, it turns out to be.

Getting capital out of markets would help a lot, I think.

@natecull Yeah... I guess... It's just that every now and then I notice an area where competition ought to be happening and it isn't. Like, payment processing... they've all just happened to have the same prices as each other for like a decade.

And when the cost of housing stock "goes up" without demand really changing (when landlords refuse to compete on price) they just act like they aren't doing that, like some other mysterious force is raising the price

@faun I think that competition, when it's treated as competition, is only ever a temporary state. You fight until there's a winner. At that point, there's no competition anymore, the winner gets to do whatever they want. That's what we're now seeing.

I think we need some state of mutuality that maybe looks LIKE the 'competition' phase we see in new markets, but which deliberately does NOT reward winners with everything. We need an ecosystems approach that rewards balance and multiplicity.

@faun @natecull if markets were mostly about trade they would just be called “trade”. Markets mean a bidding process and competition on price and other factors.

And imo the “rising tide” or “non-zero-sum” game are meant to falsely imply everyone’s a winner. But many people can still lose even in a positive-sum game, and they do.

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