Imagine a pie. If there are four people splitting a pie, I get first cut, and I cut a piece about half the size of the pie, that means the other 3 peoples’ slices of the pie would have to be smaller than mine. the largeness of my slice has negatively effected the slice of their pie. This is what is referred to as a “Zero-Sum Game“.
Back when I was studying economics, I was often presented with the argument that “capitalism is NOT a Zero-Sum Game“. What that basically means is that capitalists assume that resources are infinite, and therefore the size of one person’s share does not effect the size of another person’s share. This seems to be a cornerstone of capitalist ideology, because I have heard this argument from many die-hard capitalists over the years. Unfortunately for capitalism, this argument is complete malarkey.
OK, maybe 200 years ago, when Adam Smith and John Locke were writing the rules for capitalism, the idea of infinite resources was a little more plausible. Back then, the human race was small, and the Earth was vast and unexplored. It may have been OK for them to make such an assumption at that time, but in today’s modern age, the idea of infinite resources is becoming more and more an antiquated notion of yore.
I mean, we’ve been off the planet and photographed the whole damned thing from space. Its just a pale blue dot. It definitely has dimensions, a finite mass and volume. Not to mention that we have pretty much staked out every single piece of real estate on Earth. There are no more frontiers. So the Earth is definitely finite.
Now, some would argue that the resources of the Universe are infinite, and that’s debatable and definitely pretty hard to prove. But even if they were infinite, our access to them certainly isn’t. With our current means of propulsion, it would be impractical to mine the solar system, let alone outside the solar system.
So, maybe, at some distant point in the future, if and when we achieve Star Trek-like technological capabilities (matter generation, free energy, etc…) then we might be able to say that our resources approached the infinite, but in the here and now, our resources are most certainly finite.
Now, back to the Zero-Sum Game argument. Capitalists will use a variety of means to convince people that capitalism is NOT a Zero-Sum Game. They like to use the ambiguity of a large scale environment to “prove” their point.
“Sure, I’m a millionaire,” they say, “But there are a lot of millionaires! Anyone can be one. Me being a millionaire doesn’t prevent someone else from being a millionaire.”
Now, in the context of the big world, this is almost believable. But in the context of a smaller-scale environment, such as a small corporation, the Zero-Sum Game becomes obvious.
At any given company, salaries are paid by a finite pool of revenue. The company only makes so much revenue a year, and thus the payroll is definitely finite. Therefore, if your boss makes $100k a year, and you only make $30k, and when you ask for a raise the company says “we can’t afford to give you one”, your boss’s high salary is most certainly at least partially to blame for the company’s inability to give you a raise. In other words, the largeness of you boss’s slice of the pie has negatively effected the size of your slice.
This is why at any given company in America, the situation you normally have is a bunch of hardworking, intelligent, underpaid people doing most of the work, while all the company’s revenue goes to lazy, incompetent, overpaid executives. This is the truth of our era, and anyone trying to propagate ideas to the contrary is just a wealthy man trying to avoid getting lynched by the working class he rips off on a daily basis.