Mainstream views o’ competition are baffling, probably due to the paradoxical nature o’ competition—it’s self-defeating nature.
What does “competitive” mean? It means that the conflict is fair. What is fair conflict? That in which the challenges to all parties are equal; & yet, the goal o’ competition is the opposite: to give oneself as many advantages over others as possible.
Prototypical competitions avoided this problem due to 1 variance from economic competition: limited periods. In prototypical competitions, like races, contestants start @ the same level—or @ levels meant to even people o’ different skills, which could be considered the “coddling liberal” version—& the contest ends @ a specific point.
Economics doesn’t work that way. Rather than starting & stopping @ specific points, it goes on forever, with different individuals starting—being born—& stopping—dying—a’least every minute. This ensures that any period but the very beginning o’ human existence has been rigged by the past & that any period will rig the future.
Thus the paradox o’ the idealistic form o’ competition—so-called meritocracy. Rather than being an enlightened fair fight where the superior succeed & the inferior fail, people become sponges off their own circumstance & use what advantages they start with to build mo’ advantages & mo’ power, making it so that the victors are not the superior, but those who are already victors.
Those with power also have power over the means with which one can gain power, & are wise ’nough to keep those means so that they benefit themselves.
Politicians use their control o’ election systems to entrench themselves into positions even with low public support, such as through gerrymandering.
Political parties use that same control to monopolize the election system, allowing them to collude through policy fixing. If Republicans & Democrats agree on a policy, they can eliminate the public’s control over whether that policy is implemented or not by eliminating the choice the parties don’t want entirely.
Richer people use their superior economic power to give their preferred candidates superior political power—’gain, independent o’ public support—& thus use that political power to gain extra economic advantages, spinning a self-perpetuating cycle.
Even without direct influence in politics, richer people can simply use their superior economic power to gain mo’ economic power by leveraging their power over the property needed to create resources. This is called “capital” or “usury,” & is oft defended as “time preference,” but ignores unequal economic origins that twist people’s gains ’way from their own action—& thus makes their gains unmeritorious.
Hence the absurdity o’ economists’ “perfect competition” theory1,—which, to be fair, even most economists don’t take seriously—either worded so vaguely as to be meaningless or so paradoxical that it essentially requires a communist economic distribution to be valid.
The main definition I’ve seen falls into circular logic—as all visions from the church o’ the market inevitably do: when no participant is strong ’nough to control price. ’Course, whether prices are unequally controlled by any participants is defined by whether the market is truly competitive or not; thus, we have no concrete knowledge o’ whether any market is competitive or whether any prices are fair, leaving this definition a mere black hole o’ empty air as intelligent as the average postmodernist nonsense, saying nothing @ all.
Economists’ vague language hides the paradoxical requirements o’ perfect competition. They talk o’ “big #s” o’ participants so that they can hide in the gray area ’tween capitalism’s tendency toward having property controlled by a tiny minority—but 1 that can still be greater than just the uniform monopoly found in “communist” countries like North Korea—& perfectly decentralized access to the market: economic democracy, which is also “communist” through the magic o’ economics’ Orwellian language.
The paradox is the same: in order for conditions to be fair, they must be equal, so that we can make them unequal in a fair way, & thus end the very fair conditions necessary for tomorrow’s competition.
This is the summation o’ the requirements:
Perfect info: perfect info requires equal access to info. But it’s the very market o’ the media that ensures that this isn’t the case—that assures that the rich have better access to info than poor people.
No barriers to entrance or exit: As I mentioned, any lack o’ money or resources @ all counts as a barrier compared to one who lacks this lack, & thus this amounts to equal distribution o’ resources. ’Gain, like reverse-Marxists, neoclassicals argue that communism is the 1st step toward the glorious meritorious revolution o’ capitalism!
0 transport costs: O, come on! This 1’s obvious!
Profit maximization: This doesn’t fit under my earlier point, but is still wrong, nevertheless.
Homogenous products: I love how economists’ cure for capitalism is by tearing out its purported heart. 1 o’ the strengths o’ western capitalism in contrast to Soviet economics was the colorful creativity o’ its products caused by purported decentralized economic activity, as opposed to the generic gray sameness mindlessly manufactured by Soviet inc. Economists tell us that these gray samenesses will be necessary for true competition.
All labor is equal: Remember how people—inaccurately (para 16)—mocked Marx for purportedly not believing in differences o’ skill in labor. Well, apparently that assumption is necessary for perfect competition as well.
Property rights: Note that this doesn’t apply to people in the past. Native Americans can be robbed o’ almost all they own & forced to live with that destitution in the present; but we must protect the gains from that theft as ardently as possible.
Rational buyers: Since we’re talking ’bout humans, we can throw this out immediately.
No externalities: “Duh… What’s pollution?”
1 o’ the articles I linked claims that only a few economies or industries hold all o’ these. They must have a skewed view o’ economics—for 1, since industries all affect each other, it’s impossible to have a industry that exhibits all o’ these without all doing so as well, not to mention the aforementioned resource distribution problem & the deceptive quality o’ their vague language.
The fact is, perfect competition is the capitalist equivalent o’ communist Utopian fantasies. Much as communist Utopians would write out the conflict & complexities that come with the differences ’tween so many unique people, capitalist economists’ models—fiction stories if written by the shittiest writers in the world2—write out the complexities o’ interaction ’tween humans to push the fantasy o’ their imaginary benign capitalism.
Interestingly, ’mong that list I failed to notice the most common issue o’ competition that economists tend to obsess over, despite its unrealistic value…
Individualism & Competition
The Social Spencerists3 who conflate individuality & competition couldn’t be mo’ wrong: the best way to fail in the world is to forgo the competitive strength o’ collectivity. Whether it be government bureaucracies, corporations, political organizations, or labor unions, classes always succeed when they exploit their shared power to overpower those who are divided.
& despite the sneers @ Marxists, you can’t deny the results o’ its broad tenor o’ “class war”—also known as class competition: the most successful businesses are some o’ the most class conscious, not only in their ardor to connect themselves to any powerful entity—through mergers or investment in political campaigns—but also in their fear o’ the competitive loss from collective lower-class action, never by individualists. Meanwhile, no lower-class person has ever succeeded through individualism: they’ve either connected themselves to the upper-classes (mo’ beneficial but applicable to less people) or formed collective groups, such as unions or political parties (less beneficial but applicable to mo’ people). & despite economists’ criticism o’ labor unions, note the content o’ their criticism: workers in labor unions still benefit; it’s those who aren’t that purportedly suffer4. In essence: workers in unions have competitive advantages over those without unions, & thus unionization is still a wiser decision for the rational self-interest o’ those who unionize.
The individuality/collectivism dichotomy is as paradoxical as competition itself. The ol’ Smithist fable regurgitated by economists o’ widespread selfish individualism having altruistic outcomes for the public has the obvious contrast with collective action selfishly taking from others.
But wouldn’t the very selfishness that causes one to push one’s workers as low as possible also convince one to forgo the collective gain o’ individualism—spread thin—in favor o’ the individualist gain o’ collectivist action?
No surprise then that businesses prefer to collude with each other & governments; & no surprise that, in response, workers forgo sharing the gains o’ widespread individualism with corporations that refuse to do the same by forming collectives to get their own share o’ the pie. Much as vulgar socialists who criticize rich people & businesses for being selfish without examining the economic system that pushes them to do so, economists ignorant o’ concrete reality chide lower-class people for acting as any rational individuals would to maximize one’s self-interest through pushing their own wages higher @ the loss o’ collectively-inferior workers. Is it then no surprise that collectivism is so common in economics nowadays when the market proves time & time ’gain that it’s superior by rewarding it mo’ highly?
When the urge for collectivism is so strong in so many classes o’ people, how can the religion o’ individualism possible survive, much less thrive? Even those who claim to support it always sneak their hand in the cookie jar when they think nobody’s looking: a cursory search through websites like Source Watch shows the sheer # o’ “libertarian” think tanks with ties to politics & funded by numerous corporations—all for the collective goal o’ benefiting the general rich class’s rational self-interest.
& what’s to become o’ those who remain resilient in their support for individualism? How do they get power? How could they overpower the closely-connected, vast collectivists?
They can’t. Thus we understand why collectivism thrives & individualism dies: collectivism is stronger. Thus, all political & economic groups learn that they must either join the same collectivist flag or die. You can be sure that any pundit or businessperson successful ’nough to have their own books, TV shows, or other media consumed by the masses must’ve chosen collectivism, or else they wouldn’t have these things in the 1st place.
Indeed, when one thinks ’bout it, isn’t the market nothing but collectivist action? What is trade, the blood o’ the market, but scratching ’nother’s back for getting one’s own back scratched—collusion. In contrast, what is “collective” politics such as the lower-class public using their numeric superiority to enact welfare & regulation but them using their strength to compete with the rich. What could be mo’ entrepreneurial? Mo’ capitalist?
Market-thumpers will, ’course, complain that these money changes create no value; but doesn’t the Subjective Theory o’ Value tell us that we have no right to decide what is & isn’t valuable? Aren’t these economists being just as much “class warriors”?
Thus, to twist a quote from Mark Bevir: we are all collectivists now.
The sad thing is, I’ve probably only scratched the surface o’ what is surely the most broken conception o’ economics.
But can we blame economists? What are they s’posed to make o’ such a paradox? After all, we can’t just ignore competition; however paradoxical it may be, it’s very much real, hypocrisies & all. How do we deal with this irreconcilable conflict ’tween idealism—either creating an impossible perfect competition or eliminating competition entirely—& reality with its shitty version o’ competition?
As said in The Jungle, what should we fight for: something we want & can’t have or something we can have & don’t want?
1 I couldn’t get a consistent definition in 1 page, so here’s a few:
2 My favorite part o’ deductive “sciences” is that their standard for success—internal consistency—is the same that fantasy writers hold in their world-building.
3 Herbert Spencer can take credit for his own shitty ideas & stop dragging Charles Darwin down with him.
4 Taylor, T. (2012). The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works. p. 134.