Writers Should Thank the Free Market

It doesn’t surprise me that a popular sentiment on writing Twitter, and Twitter more broadly, is anti-capitalist, or seemingly against free markets (the phrase I prefer). I imagine the average Twitter uses skews left and I imagine the average writer skews left (and I looked it up; Twitter users are indeed more likely to identify with the Democratic Party, according to Pew Research, although of course, that doesn’t equate to anti-capitalism or being against free markets, but it tends to track quite nicely).

For an example of anti-capitalism or anti-free market mindset I saw recently on writing Twitter came from a lit mag; I found it rather myopic and dark:

I’m curious how they would elaborate on the latter part of the statement.

To first start backward and expand on my point about finding this dark: Among the reasons I embrace and have such an affinity for the philosophy of free markets is because I find it to be exceedingly beautiful, not so dark and bleak. That is, I find the narrative arc of how capitalism pulled us out of unbelievable poverty, and still is doing so with developing countries within my lifetime, to be a beautiful, virtually unknown and untold story.

On the myopic front, think even just for a second about what the grand sweep of history is: Brutal, abject poverty for the vast majority of people for thousands of years.

From the United Nations: Why don’t we talk about this more?! We extreme poverty in half quicker than expectations. That’s remarkable!

If your entire existence is built around trying to merely survive on a day-to-day basis, wondering when, where from and if your next meal is going to come, or if you’ll live to see it if it does, there isn’t much time for something that is a uniquely modern feature for billions of people nowadays: leisure.

Capitalism created leisure. Capitalism pulled the vast majority of human beings out of unspeakable, abject poverty and created the concept of leisure. And with it, the ability to be creative, to do art and to be writers. To write.

To be sure, obviously, art has existed for as long as human beings have existed. It’s innate within us. It’s the counter to the existential crisis we experience. We’ve been creating art and singing since the caveman days. But in terms of our most precious commodity (time) and dissemination? It largely was the domain of those who had the means and status to engage in it and pay for it (and those means varied).

Now? Capitalism, accumulated wealth and the resulting technology has created the most democratic, decentralized society (relatively speaking) in the history of the world. Anyone at any time and anywhere can write and publish a book themselves. Someone doesn’t have to go through HarperCollins or Penguin Books anymore. They can publish a book right from their own home.

None of this is to say there aren’t constructive criticisms of capitalism and/or modern society, or that self-publishing and marketing yourself isn’t freaking hard, but it’s utterly bizarre to me that creative people don’t recognize that capitalism has given them the ability to exercise their creativity, their artistic talents and give it to the world in a remarkably, relatively easy fashion compared to our ancestors.

The fact that I no longer need to busy myself with daily survival or the arduous task of washing clothes or whatever else, is an extraordinary achievement of modern society.

That’s the division theory of labor in action. Instead of worrying about my food, or changing the oil on my car for a less severe example, I can focus on other things.

It’s a laughable idea to even think about leisure being something that would take up hours per day of someone’s time in most of any other point in human history than in the age of the Industrial Revolution, and really, within the last 150 or so years.

Or put it to the data: Human Progress data showed that globally, a worker could expect to work 2,227 hours in 1950. By 2016, a worker would expect to work 1,855 hours. Over that same time, global inflation-adjusted income per capita rose from $11,578 to $24,400.

In other words, we work less to make more money, again freeing us up for pursuits that have nothing to do with basic survival or meeting our needs.

I’m sure people will attribute that to labor movements, unions and anti-capitalist forces, as they tend to, but I think we have free markets, as hindered as they are by governments, to thank for it.

So, this writer at least, thanks the fact of free markets, voluntary exchange and the free movements of people for accumulating enough wealth and therefore leisure, for me to not have to work as much for what I earn and freeing me up to create at my leisure.

That’s only one of the beautiful outcomes of a free society, which necessarily entails free exchanges and commerce.

As I was re-reading this piece, I realized I published a piece just yesterday saying I didn’t think I had any controversial writing opinions. Whoops. This one probably takes the cake (which, I’ll go ahead and thank capitalism for the abundance of cakes in the world).

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