Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Philip_Hunt comments on Traditional Capitalist Values - Less Wrong

38 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 17 October 2008 01:07AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (102)

Sort By: Old

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: Philip_Hunt 17 October 2008 01:22:10PM 2 points [-]

"""Make things that people want, or do things that people want done, in exchange for money or other valuta. This is a great and noble and worthwhile endeavor, and anyone who looks down on it reveals their own shallowness."""

Yes it is a noble and worthwhile endeavour. Unfortunately (as I noted some time ago) there are in general two ways that firms can make profits: by making something people want, or by rent-seeking. The former is usually beneficial: it increases the sum of human happiness and welfare. The latter is usually harmful.

A society can be seen as a mechanism for incentivising things that benefit people and disincentivising things that harm people; and the success of a society is largely determined by how well its rules achieve this. It follows that if the rules of a society allow a firm to make profits without making something people want -- for example a firm whose only business is patent litigation -- then those rules are probably harming that society and should be changed.

If the only way a company could get rich was through making things people want, I suspect there would be less criticism of capitalism.