As regular readers know, I’m not keen on capitalism. But that doesn’t mean that I’m against markets. This causes no end of confusion with people, who think that capitalism is the only economic system with markets. As far as I know, there is no economic system that does not have markets. It’s just a question of how those markets are controlled. And I want to demonstrate how leaving markets to themselves really screws things up. (Capitalism just makes it all that much worse, but I’m not going into that today.)
I just started reading the third volume of Simon Callow’s Orson Welles series, One Man Band. In the preface, he makes note of a number of books and diaries that he made extensive use of. For example, he notes that he used Keith Baxter’s memoir, My Sentiments Exactly, as a primary source for his discussion of Chimes at Midnight. (Baxter played Hal in the film — wonderfully.) He also cites François Thomas (Author) and Jean-Piere Berthomé’s Orson Welles at Work. Callow says his debt to the book is “immense.”
Baxter’s memoir does not have a single review on Amazon — a good indication of just what a big seller it was. Orson Welles at Work is an academic book, written by two European film professors, and selling for $79.95. It’s popular among Welles fanatics. But it wasn’t popular in a general sense. The thing is, neither of these books were meant to popular in a general sense. But without these kinds of books, something like One Man Band could never even exist, much less be popular.
Books That Couldn’t Exist Without Books
Now I’m not criticizing Simon Callow in this regard. I think his writing on Orson Welles has been great. The world needs these kinds of books. That’s especially true in the case of Welles who has been written about widely, but always by biased sources (those who loved him and those who hated him). It’s good to have people who are willing to wade through all that (and more — Callow does independent research too) and try to make sense of it. That doesn’t make it objective, but it gives a more complete and just telling of his life.
So it makes sense that there would be far more people who want to pony up the money for One Man Band than Orson Wells at Work. But how does that justify Simon Callow (already a wealthy man from his acting) making so much more money than the authors who he depends upon? I don’t think it does, and this is why I think that markets need to be controlled.
The Problem With Markets
This is a concrete example of something I’ve talked about in theory. In the life cycle of a technology, the people who make all the money are the ones who have the good fortune to be in the cycle at the right time. Thus, the World Wide Web created lots of millionaires whereas as the ARPANET did not. And this is a fundamental problem.
Whenever I bring this up, people are quick to ask me if I have a solution. I don’t. And after that it is left. It seems we always come back to Churchill, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” And “democracy” is always equated with capitalism. And we move on because: Soviet Union!
We have to get past the idea that the system we have in any way rewards people properly. There are fundamental problems with markets themselves. It would be nice to leave such problems to the economists, but they don’t seem much interest in moral philosophy — and that’s what I’m getting at. For economists, it is all about efficiency. We need to move up a level, and start asking the difficult questions that go beyond whether one system is one or two percent more efficient than another.
 I have some ways of making it better. We could get less of the controlled economy when it comes to keeping the rich rich. We could also get more of a controlled economy when it comes to helping out the poor.