By David Moore
Capitalism is the economic system on which our society is based. The basic principles underlying capitalism such as free market, profit motive, and supply & demand are the powerful driving forces of commerce we wake up to and interact with every day. It can be demonstrated that this capitalist economy has provided masses of people with an abundant food supply, a comfortable standard of living and even led directly to modern miracles like medical breakthroughs, humans in space, computers, TVs and washing machines in every home.
Yet, there is a dark side too. The longer I live and the more I read and learn about how the world works, the clearer it becomes that this system brings with it some very harmful and negative effects on people and the world. Therefore, I believe that right thinking people have a responsibility to study the problems, identify how this economic system is flawed and work hard toward fixing or reforming our chosen system of commerce for the greatest good for humans and all living things. So, what’s wrong with capitalism? I’ll describe four basic areas.
1. First and Worst
The result of capitalism on our society is that it concentrates wealth in the hands of a relative few. Something like 80% of wealth is held by 15% of the population. Therefore a wealthy elite actually controls and exerts power over the majority of citizens. It produces a society with wealthy people in a privileged class. With enough money, one doesn’t actually have to work or contribute anything because money generates more money through capitalist investments – that’s right, money for nothing. At the same time there is an underclass of people who live, and are even trapped in poverty. And although governments have developed vast bureaucracies of ‘social programs’, the poverty persists. Our capitalist system breeds inequality and exploitation. This problem is first and worst because it is a profound contradiction by our economic system of what our political system of democracy proclaims as its highest ideals – equality and freedom. It has brought us to our current situation where leaders like former president George Bush and our Stephen Harper can take our nations to war in foreign countries and say they want to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan. I think they are using the word democracy as a code word for capitalism, because our leaders seem to be driven more by the power and influence of commerce than peace and well-being for other countries. The cost of these wars could end world hunger and cure preventable disease.
2. Second and Scary
Capitalism in the modern era has given rise to the corporation as the organizing structure which runs big business. The film and the book The Corporation describes in clear detail and example the dark side and fatal flaws inherent in the corporate structure. Corporations, by law, are required to do only one thing – deliver profits to shareholders. Corporations do not have a conscience or a moral imperative. And so it is not surprising that our fast paced industrial society, in the process of performing the modern miracles of capitalism for the masses, has caused irreparable harm to the environment and poisoned the planet with pollution. We now
have global warming, species extinctions, famines and cancer epidemics to face because corporations are able to call the sources of these problems ‘externalities’ and write them out of the corporate equation. The corporate world has harnessed the power of mass media in a way that would surely shock George Orwell. Billions are spent on propaganda (advertising) which effectively creates a demand for useless goods that fuels the consumer society which is destroying the balance of nature.
3. Thirdly and Dirty
Wealth is power. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. These are clichés we’ve all heard, but they are still around because they continue to ring true. We have governments, politicians and elections with regularity, but the forces of corruption behind the power of wealth has the tail wagging the dog. Big business says ‘jump’ and big government says ‘how high’. Year after year the charade is enacted for the consumption of the media and the public masses. Politicians perform their roles and act as if their decisions are for the public good while all along they know who and what is running the show and running the world. The Republicans and the Democrats in the U.S. and the Conservatives and the Liberals in Canada are all in on the charade and it makes modern elections into a rigged crap game. The groups that actually have the most power never run for election – the banks, the cartels, think-tanks, organized crime and the ‘security’ agencies. This dirty deception has spawned the awful and frightful nightmare of the military – industrial – intelligence complex which is a virtual hidden government. It operates far and wide in a manner that is the antithesis of an open democracy.
4. 2 Much of a Good Thing is Bad 4 U.
Capitalism, if it had to choose one word as its symbol, would choose GROWTH. Grow the economy, watch the Dow-Jones trading average go up, predict the ever rising GNP (gross national product) and keep flooding the consumer market with goods that people don’t need but can be hypnotised by advertising into wanting, then buying. The ever increasing consumption of the world’s resources and ever increasing quantity of waste, garbage and destruction of the environment can lead to only one final outcome: planetary systems collapse from climate change, disease epidemics and starving masses, then hysterical leaders waging nuclear wars. But you won’t see much repetition of that prognosis on TV or coming out of politicians’ mouths. Responsible citizens making objective observations of simple inevitable facts who are not under the influence of metaphysical fantasies can probably agree on one conclusion: the world soon may reach, or has already exceeded, its carrying capacity for humans. The warning signs are cropping up, don’t you think? That means that the wise need to promote and support the opposite of growth.
That’s my shortlist of fatal flaws. Libraries could be filled with all the books written on these various topics and their spin-offs. This is my attempt to put into a few words some of the thoughts that go through my mind while lying in bed at night, reading a newspaper or listening to the nightly news. I’ll get back to you with the solution as soon as I’ve got it figured out.