This is where we can really get into the whole "The Pearl is a critique of capitalism" notion. The buyer represents capitalism in its most corrupted, least functional form. The whole point of a free market economy is that competition is healthy. In this case, the buyers’ competing for Kino’s pearl should assure him the best possible price for his goods. But alas – the buyers are colluding. They have corrupted capitalism with their greed the same way the pearl is corrupted by jealousy and Kino’s dreams by the hatred of others. But, like the pearl and Kino’s dreams, this doesn’t mean that capitalism is evil; it means the men have made it evil by their actions. If Steinbeck is critiquing capitalism – and that is very much subject to debate – he probably is not critiquing it per se; more likely he is suggesting that a system requiring honesty and fairness might not work in our incredibly imperfect world.