21 March 2007

On a Few of the Evils of Capitalism

Twice during the past week, I have been at academic discussions where a “radical” market capitalist has been the primary speaker. The frustrating thing about these market missionaries is they realize there is no real political opposition to their ideology. So what you hear from these self-righteous zealots are “lectures” about how free markets must be expanded; how people worldwide are doing so well under globalization; and how there are no economic options anyway.

As Andrew Murray wrote in the Guardian, these market advocates continually utilize the argument that “there is no alternative” to the uber-capitalism that we now see running rampant in America and throughout the world. And it is true in the United States at least, that the majority of the left has eschewed any efforts to seriously confront the market system.

But shouldn’t we be more vocal in critiquing capitalism? Should I accept the crap that was given to me at the meetings I attended? From my perspectives the clear answer is no.

Let’s look at just a few of the problems and ask some basic questions about market capitalism. Now I’m sure the conservative right-wingers have “answers” to all of these issues—I doubt however, that the answers are at all valid.

-The rich-poor gap has widened in the United States and appears to be continuing on that course. This is happening in most of the western nations.

-Women’s wages remain well below the wages of men—and the free market has yet to alleviate any of the work/family issues that women are constantly dealing with.

-The health care crisis in the United States is not being solved by the marvelous free market. In fact, it’s clear that the market isn’t working at all regarding this issue.

-Business can move whenever they want, devastating communities and workers—while employees have had trouble even unionizing in their own country.

-Business get huge subsidies from the government—even though the market is supported to be an invisible hand. But governments only retreat when the poor ask for something.

-Globalization was supposed to at least help end wars (remember, capitalist nations don’t fight each other), but we know that the military-industrial complex is now getting more money than ever. The military will always find some way to hog the budget.

-People are working longer and longer hours for less and less money.

-Corporations are canceling or not offering benefits.

-This hyper-capitalism has no moral compass and has done nothing for social justice in this country or around the world.

And in one of the best current critiques of capitalism, Satish Kumar wrote the following in the online journal Resurgence:

"Even where money and material goods are plentiful, selfishness, greed, competition, crime, violence and frustration prevail. Capitalist societies are left with increasing rates of cancer, obesity, depression and stress. Capitalism has failed in human terms. But even more drastically capitalism has failed in terms of the natural environment. Capitalism is rapidly destroying soil fertility, biodiversity and the atmosphere. Capitalism founded on the ideology of unlimited economic growth and industrialised mass production is not only unsustainable – it is blatantly harmful."

Let’s face it, globalization/rabid market capitalism is good…..for a small group of people. The multinational corporations, the weapons and arms-manufacturers, and the global bankers are all doing very well. For the majority—the masses, the poor, the underprivileged……I don’t see this economic system as a panacea at all. It is destroying the earth, its beauty, and its people!

Will we be able to alter the system? Probably not in my lifetime—but why can’t we at least begin to fight back? Why can’t we make sure to critique this system when we have the opportunity?

Capitalism wasn’t handed down by god (and even if it was, that would just give me another excuse to dislike it). Capitalism was set up to benefit certain people, and keep them in power—and that is exactly what it does.

And we must remember, there are socialist alternatives, Marxist theories that explain how capitalism works, and other critiques that are valid and useful. Let’s not give up on this issue—let’s not cede this to the market folks so easily.

And to once again quote Satish Kumar: "We need . . . a system for the age of ecology, a system which is embedded in the care of people, all people and also in the care of the earth and all life upon it, human life as well as animal life, plant life, earth life, air life and water life. We need a system which replaces our capitalist world view with a naturalist world view, and shifts our society from capitalism to “naturalism”.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is good to hear someone rail against the inadequacies of capitalism. This is a difficult subject to speak out against since it seems to enrage so many people. Talking about capitalism for what it is (a human made system, rather than a gift from god as dew points out) puts off a great many of the mainstream public. I've been told "fine, move somewhere else then" countless times for commenting on the problems our society faces because of our capitalistic society. The ironic part is that capitalism seems like a good idea, and it might even work if we bother to try it. But until the government steps out and stays out, or at least regulates to the detriment of big business rather than always for the benefit, we'll never know.