Our economic system (a.k.a. capitalism) is broken! The number of times I’ve read and heard this is countless, and thus quite telling. It tells me that far too many believe that our economic system is basically fine, but that it just needs some fixing. A little tweak here and there will do it.
Continuing to strive to fix an economic system that never was intended to serve everyone’s very human needs, such as; basic life needs (i.e. food, water shelter, health, safety) and ensuring a sustainable environment in support of the viability of life—is a fool’s errand. You can’t make something fit our needs that was never designed or intended to do so—a badly designed suit can never really fit well.
Capitalism, as argued in so many postings here (which I invite you to explore), is a system that disregards life itself for the sake of the wealth accumulation of a select few—the winners. It is a system of competition where I win and everyone else loses. Now some might say I like competition, I enjoy competing. Well competing by participating in a game might be fun, and even enjoyable, but playing the game doesn’t determine or impact how you live and you can stop playing the game and take on other activities. But to make living your life a win-lose phenomenon would be a brutal way of existence—life’s experience should not be that of The Hunger Games.
Furthermore, the very nature of competition lends itself to autocorrelation, where winning (next time) favors those who’ve previously won: those without substantial holdings can’t possibly be competitive and are thus destined to experience loss, and lots of it. Why do you think professional sport leagues engage in player drafts whereby the worst performing teams the previous season get first picks?
Profit Contextualizes Everything
Why is profit maximization and material value the guide in all decisions and not quality and human value? Why are collectives of workers (i.e. labor unions) discouraged if not outlawed and yet collectives of corporations (i.e. industry associations) very much allowed if not heeded? Why do so few own and control so much? Why does the saying those having gained so much have done so at the expense of so many seem to ring true?
Everyone and everything out there is an object to be manipulated and exploited for the benefit of someone’s—but clearly not everyone’s—material self-interest. In this system, your life my life—even the life of the exploiter–has no inherent (human) value since what counts is the sought-after material gain. All that matters is whether the exploitee, the other, can serve some measure of outer value for the exploiter.
Unavoidably, in this system of self-interest maximization we serve the system’s interest, it doesn’t serve us. Accordingly, through our participation we (tacitly) cast ourselves as objects in the game’s overarching process of exploitation. In effect, the characteristics and size of the exploited population has changed and increased over time to meet the ever-increasing profit desires of the capitalist class. With the goal is unlimited wealth accumulation then exploitation has no bounds!
If you doubt this, just take a few moments to look around at what’s happening, and has been happening for far too long. The practice of capitalism is doing what it is intended to do, exploit and destroy life itself. This destruction manifests as unhealthy water, air and food products, unlivable environment (ever-increasing heat, prolonged drought, significant melting of polar ice, rising sea levels, massive and longer-lasting wildfires, frequent and stronger hurricanes/typhons), and rising income inequality with below or barely subsistence wages for an increasing proportion of the population and exorbitant gains realized by the (already) wealthy. All of this is the effect from the motivation for unlimited material growth by any means possible.
Capitalism is the ultimate competition system, enacting war on the universal needs of life for the material benefit of a few. It is a system for and of losers, a parasitic system that destroys its host such that eventually there will be no ultimate winner. Eventually, we all lose!
How can such a system be embraced by so many? Why is it that the vast majority of people are complicit in the destruction of their own life, that of their family and more profoundly in diminishing the viability of life on earth?
A Couple of Answers Why
Two interrelated answers come to mind: internalization and addiction. Internalization of the notion that extrinsic motivation is the seed of all human behavior and thus it is our very nature to strive to maximize our material self-interest. Consequently, an individual’s life’s aim is in alignment with the system’s aim, so there is no questioning and no alternative. This is further supported by a tacit societal commitment to a materialistic and mechanistic worldview, the system of orientation of capitalism. This all fits quite nicely into the capitalist’s need for compliant individuals, while simultaneously each holds in their mind the illusory notion of (their) individualism and autonomy. All substitutable cogs in the wealth accumulation machine. So it follows, individually we feel we must strive to be successful, which is defined and measured by the size of one’s bank account and the number of toys it affords.
Life in society is a competition, where each individual strives to make him/herself more saleable—a marketable commodity—in pursuit of a materially rewarding career. The educational system, which should be about human development, has increasingly become about job skill training. All of this contextualizes life as a competitive game, and of course we not only feel the need to stay in the game, we are led to feel the need to become more marketable. The need to develop a career far exceeds that of developing our humanness, developing as a human being, which would benefit the welfare of everyone.
Consider, the context of capitalist society as one large monopoly board wherein we all move around the board in pursuit of material gain. Forever seeking that ephemeral feeling of pleasure from winning in this game, has us addicted to the game itself. Addicted to hoping that this time we (just might) win, so we stay in the game by repeatedly throwing the dice. But with each throw the rentiers are the ones amassing increasing material gain. Yet there is a very large number of players who never get a chance to even Pass Go, never earn the minimum subsistence. Needless to say, the rentier class needs us to stay in the game; if we refuse to throw the dice the game ends. So we’re exhorted to dream and hope that our day will soon come; all we need to do is continue to work hard (in service to their interest of course) and play by the rules of the game.
We all lose the more capitalism is practiced! The need to re-think the intent of the economic system (and correspondingly the intent of each and every business) is paramount. Each business enterprise must cease participating in the system against life; the system that is increasingly diminishing our development as human beings and the viability of humankind.