Capitalism is…

Capitalism is theft.

The harsh and subservient labors of most citizens fantastically enrich a few others who don’t have to labor at all. In general, those who work longer and harder get less. Those who work less long and less hard get more.

On the upper West Side of New York City, barely a mile apart exist neighborhoods in which the average disposable income is on the poorer side about $5,000 per year and on the richer side about $500,000 per year.

The richest people in the U.S. are worth more than the populations of whole countries. The poorest people in the under bridges in threadbare cardboard shelters, or stop living at all.

This gap is not due to different industriousness or talent. It is due to social relations that force the many to enrich the few.

Capitalism is alienation and anti-sociality.

Within capitalism the motives guiding decisions are pecuniary not personal, selfish not social. We each seek individual advance at the expense of others.

The result, unsurprisingly, is an anti-social environment in which nice guys finish last.

In U.S.hospitals, roughly a half a million people a year die of diseases they did not have when they entered. This is in considerable part a matter of hygiene and other correctable problems.

Yet there is no massive campaign to save these lives. It would not be profitable.

Starvation the world over has the same root cause; to feed the poor is not as profitable as over feeding the rich.

What health we attain, what food we eat, what housing we inhabit, comes to us because someone was seeking not health, sustenance, or shelter for all, but profit for themselves.

Economic logic seeks profit rather than social well being. Benefits for the weak arise only as a byproduct, not an intention, and rarely at that.

As Keynes put it, “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”

Capitalism is authoritarian.

Within capitalism’s workplaces those who labor at rote and tedious jobs have nearly zero say over the conditions, output, and purpose of their efforts.

Those who own or who monopolize empowering positions have near total say.

Not even Stalin controlled when people could rest, eat, or go to the bathroom, but corporate owners routinely exercise such power.

Corporations annihilate democracy.

Capitalism is inefficient.

Capitalism squanders the productive capacities of about 80% of the population by training them primarily to endure boredom and take orders, not to fulfill their greatest potentials.

It wastes inordinate resources on producing sales that aren’t beneficial, and on enforcing work assignments that are coerced and therefore resisted.

Capitalism is racist and sexist.

This is not intrinsic to the relations of production, but occurs because under the pressure of market competition owners inevitably exploit racial and gender hierarchies produced in other parts of society.

When extra economic factors reduce the bargaining power of some actors and raise that of others or when they impact expectations about who should rule and who should obey — seeking profit, capitalists abide and even enlarge the injustices.

Capitalism is violent.

The pursuit of capitalist market domination produces nations at odds with other nations.

Those with sufficient weaponry exploit the resources and populations of those lacking means to defend themselves, at times even unleashing unholy war.

Capitalism is unsustainable.

Markets propel short term calculations and make dumping waste on others to avoid costs an easy and unavoidable road to profit.

As a result, money grabbers accumulate and accumulate, ignoring or willfully obscuring the impact not only on workers and consumers, but also on today’s environment and tomorrow’s resources.

We see the results in sky, water, and soil, mitigated only by social movements that force wiser behavior.

I could continue detailing the morbid failings of capitalism, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

In 2004 only a relatively few people are made so immoral by their advantages, or so profoundly ignorant by their advanced educations, or so confused by media, that they fail to see that capitalism is now a gigantic holocaust of injustice that is anti-human in virtually every respect.

As John Stuart Mill put it, “I confess that I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on; that the trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other’s heels, which form the existing type of social life, are the most desirable lot of human beings.”

Capitalism is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous — and it doesn’t deliver the goods. In short, we dislike it, and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place, we are extremely perplexed. What do we want instead?

Excerpt taken from a speech by Michael Albert. See Parecon: Life After Capitalism


15 thoughts on “Capitalism is…

  1. The difference between capitalism and socialism is that under capitalism, people have the choice to apply themselves and succeed. Under socialism, all people are slaves to the government which tells them what they can have, where they can live, what work they can do and how successful they are allowed to be( under every socialist society to date that is just barely surviving)

  2. Is that really the difference or is that just some crusty old piece of propaganda bouncing around in your skull mr dcbarton?

  3. Ballbag, if it is just some piece of crusty old propaganda, how do you explain Russia where it was decided by the time a student was 10 years old if he or she would go to college and and where they would work? Why do Cuban cigarsnot have the quality they had prior to Castro? People need to have the opportunity to advance through their own labor and effort. If you go to your assigned job, work hard and get exactly what the guy next to you, doing the same job, but not putting any effort into his or her work, and you never have an opportunity to advance beyond what the lazy person is getting, you won’t put any effort into your job either. Socialism sounds great until you figure in human nature. People have different wants, needs and desires. That can only be realized through individual effort and application. That means capitalism, not socialism, is the better system for for individual advancement

  4. The capitalist system has created a situation in which so many people are in such vulnerable life situations. Socialist revolution is the path to solve the situation.

  5. Capitalism didn’t create a situation in which people are in vulnerable life situations. Laziness created that situation for those people. Capitalism creates a way out of bad situations, but it requires one to do gfor one’s self. Solialism is just a great way for the government to control all aspects of our lives. I neither need nor want government control over my life.

  6. Dcbatron, I live in a country (Venezuela) where 7 million children live in poverty. With the total Venezuelan population totalling around 26 million, 7 million kids is a huge number.

    What future lies ahead for these children? Many children do not have access to education. There are over 3 million Venezuelan children outside of the school systems. Many parents can barely manage to feed and clothe their children, must less worry about their education. When food, clothing, and housing are your principal worries, it can be tough sending the children to school. More than half of all school age children never finish secondary school.But more than education, these children will never have the experience of living in security. Their chances of finding good employment are very small. Their chances of ever accumulating any sort of wealth in their lives are almost none. Chances are good that they will get involved in drugs and crime, if they even reach adulthood at all. Their houses are usually small, of 2 or maybe 3 rooms, in which multiple families live together, with adults, children of different ages and married couples at times all sleeping in the same room. This, along with malnutrition and insanitary conditions results in a very difficult environment in which to develop and grow up.

    Therefore, I ask the most important question of all, what are their chances of having a full, rich, fulfilling life? How will they develop and use their potential? How will they ever develop an understanding of the world? What kind of fulfilling work will they be able to find? 55% of Venezuelans work in the informal sector of the economy. This basically means they have no formal job but are doing random activities on the margins trying to get by. This could be selling various articles, washing car windows, driving a makeshift taxi, and many more.

    Why do these conditions exist?
    There is a long story behind this question, and a complex explanation, but it basically comes down to wealth and class. In Venezuela, as in the rest of the third world, an economy which creates wealth for the country has never been developed. For 500 years, the resources of Venezuela have been exploited, exported, and used by industrialized nations to create wealth for themselves (capitalism). The only wealth this has created for Venezuela was, and is, for those Venezuelans linked to the imperialist system; those involved and in control of the exporting resources, and in the business of importing foreign-produced products (One of the richest Venezuelan’s is Gustavo Cisneros, who holds the Venezuelan frachises of DirecTV, Playboy, Pepsi, America Online, and a large part of Venezuelan media); those in the financial sector, owners of industry, and, of course, the agents of the imperial system; politicians, lawmakers, and lawyers. These groups are made up by a very small minority of Venezuelans.

    Class warfare has prevented the bottom classes from ever taking control and changing this economic structure. The large majority of Venezuelans belong to the agricultural or urban working classes, the most exploited, poor, and neglected classes who have always lived in a very backwards situation, suffering from illiteracy, lack of healthcare and extreme insecurity. From the very beginning, these lower classes, the masses, have been prevented from exercising power, from participating the the political system, and from having any rights. They have been totally marginalized and excluded. Meanwhile, the wealthy nations of the world accumulate all the wealth of the poor nations.

    These are the vulnerable life situations created by capitalism I refer to Dcbarton.

    What should be done?
    Since the majority of Venezuelans live in these conditions, any democratic government should represent the interests and needs of this largest sector of Venezuelan society. Socialist President Hugo Chavez has been doing just that. He has developed government programs, called Missions, which seek to solve the problems of the poor. The missions include health programs, education programs, cheap government-subsidized food, soup kitchens, and physical infrastructure programs.

    Working in the barrios, with the people, gives me a general picture about the extent of these government programs and their effectiveness. I hear the opinions of the people about the political process they are living, and if the programs are improving their lives.

    The interesting part about these programs is that they require the community themselves to be the protagonists. They must get organized, decide what they want to change about their community, how to change it, elect leaders, and design a plan for their community. Later, the government funds the projects while the elected leaders, with supervision of the community, handle the funds, and hire people from the same community to carry out the projects.

    So, not only does it solve the physical problems, (such as dangerous living situations, sewage systems, drainage systems, roads, walkways, water systems, replacement housing) and social problems (health care, education), but it also gets the community organized and involved. After the process of physical and social improvement, an organized, united, and transformed community will hopefully be left behind. However, transforming a society that has lived 500 years of imperialism and exploitation is not an easy thing to do.

    We have a lot of freedom in Venezuela. We do not live in a city where we are spied on each day, on every street corner with CCTV or speed cameras on every corner. We are not severely penalised with taxes on our cars and homes like you are in the West with council taxes, road taxes, congestion taxes etc. Ours is a true participatory democracy in which all our invited to participate and is of and for all the people.

    I believe your ideas about what socialism is show very little understanding of what socialism really means. I hope that I have clarified what I meant by vulnerable life situations. To suggest that these kind of problems have anything to do with laziness demonstrates great ignorance.

  7. Yanee,
    I gues you missed the point of what I was trying to say. As far as living in poverty, it happens all over the world, and always has the same things in common, namely an economy based on creating opportunity for the masses by allowing the masses to create their own opportunities. That is capitalism. The beauty of capitalism is that maybe you don’t find fulfilling work, maybe you create fulfilling work.
    You say that Venezuela was exploited for 500 years. Maybe, but we can’t look at 500 years ago, try looking in just the last 50 years. 500 years ago it was a different world, ruled by royalty worldwide, that doesn’t apply in today’s world, mostly thanks to men and women like the founding fathers in America who made the effort and took the risks to throw off the shackles of royalty. You blame Gustavo Cisneros and the “agents of Imperialism”. I say they are the best hopes of the Venezuelan people. They are the people that can show the Venezuelans how to work and compete in a capitalist system. But they cannot be blamed for the failures of the Venezuelan people. What you need to remember is that each of these people who you claim are the problem depend on the people to work for them and to buy their products and services. The average people have the power to bring about all of the changes they want and need. If they fail to do so, it is as I said in my earlier response, laziness. You say those in agriculture are the most exploited and neglected. I say those in agriculture have the most power, if they are willing to use that power, if not they can blame only themsleves for the conditions they live in.
    You say Hugo Chavez is representing the needs of the people, I would say he is exploiting and enslaving the people. You point to the programs providing health care, education, government subsidized food , I would say that is a way to control the people while making it look like he is their friend. But I would also point out that Chavez socialized the nation’s oil industry. Oil is something that Venezuela exports and makes substantial sums of money from. by socializing oil, Chavez puts that money in the government’s pockets instead of the pockets of those who invested in or worked in the oil industry. The government never pays what private industry pays.
    But if the people of Venezuela are willing to sit back and blame the world for their problems, they will never get beyond those problems. And allowing a “used car salesman” like Chavez come along and convince you that he is helping you by giving you a sandwich while he clamps on the chains of slavery is what I would call ignorance. Socialism is never the solution. The people must have the ability and desire to succeed on their own terms. That requires capitalism. It also requires people to stand up and take responsibility for themselves and their lives. America didn’t get where it is over night, it also didn’t do it by whining about King George mistreating the colonists. America got where it is by standing up and taking the bull by the horns. Our founding fathers did it on their own. Unfortunately, many people in America have forgotten the lessons that our founders taught us. Now we seem to be sliding down a spiral to the same situation Venezuela is in, socialism. Socialism requires people to be victims, victimhood is a choice people make on their own. I choose to be in control of my own life, for better or worse. What is your choice? To be in control of your own life, or to be a slave to Hugo Chavez?

  8. Yanee,
    this is typical of the left, “if you disagree, you are stupid or ignorant.” The facts remain, that the people are responsible for fixing their own lives. Government involvement always leads to Government dependency. Capitalism requires individuals to earn their own way, that empowers people and puts them right where socialism “claims” to want to put people.

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  13. I disagree… Capitalism is just a economic system, every economic system can be managed by greedy and untrustworthy people. Our system in America has been ran into the ground by our government leaders. The prosperity here in America is because of capitalism and freedom. Where has big government and Socialism worked? Nowhere!!! China, Russia, Cuba…
    With capitalism, individuals or groups get rich and the people that work for them make less money. $7.25 a hour minimum wage. With China’s socialism, government gets rich . What’s the minimum wage??? Our Founders freed us from a Feudal Monarchy to our free Capitalist republic. Should we return freedom to a Socialist Government? “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When people fear the government, there is tyranny” – Thomas Jefferson.

    read my blog and thoughts: Konstipher

    • I agree with Noam Chomsky above and reject Konstipher’s association of totalitarian dictatorships and tyranny with the genuine Marxist tradition. (American capitalism, with its foreign occupations and massive prison population, is not exactly a paragon of freedom!)

      Why is it necessary to adopt a socialist program? Because the capitalist system has failed! The existing economic system has nothing to offer the working class but exploitation, poverty, repression and war. The facts speak for themselves.

      The capitalist system has entered the most serious crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In response to this crisis, workers must advance a socialist solution.

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