Dogmatic Capitalism

 

Capitalism has a really bad reputation.

And you know what? That’s a shame. Capitalism has been good to us, and despite the hiccups in the systems and all the abuses that take place and the misguided goal-setting that has become endemic in capitalistic societies, it really is pretty damn effective.

Because of all those caveats, however, capitalism is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a bit like democracy in that way, and as Winston Churchill so famously said, democracy is the worst system of government ever…except for all those other ones we’ve tried.

There are capitalistic rumblings even deep within the belly of hardcore dictatorships like China (I don’t care if they call themselves Communists – a dictatorship is a dictatorship), and because of this they’ve taken to the economic world stage with a gusto that has shocked the experts and rattled the foundations of the world.

So at this point in human development, capitalism is doing pretty well by us. The epic failures the come with it are the result of people who treat it like a religion – they imagine it to be the perfect excuse to misbehave, the ultimate source of forgiveness and a way of life worth becoming dogmatic over.

These shady business-people tend to blame anything that they do wrong on the capitalistic system.

“It’s just business!” they say. “No hard feelings!” Except that there are.

“Well we had to do it, for the company.” Gee, thanks for that.

“Come on, it’s so much MONEY.” Well good! Hopefully you can buy some morality with all that hard currency.

It’s as if capitalism has become an excuse for its own existence. Usually you have to justify your beliefs, but capitalism has become a god to many people – too omnipotent, too omnipresent and too obviously necessary to ever warrant explanation.

And this, they feel, should assuage their guilt over screwing their friends, inciting wars and generally doing everything they can to be worse human beings than their neighbors, all in the pursuit of more capital.

At this point, this philosophy has become so ingrained that its ceased to be a mere belief system and has become a religion. Most of the adherents base their beliefs on faith, not a firm understanding of the complex systems that make the whole thing function, and therefore there is seldom any evolution.

I propose that anyone reading this put an end to blind faith and start to be involved, analytical capitalists who are ready and willing to make changes to the system as necessary.

It would be foolish to think that capitalism is the last economic step, but while its still here, we may as well do it the best way possible.

52 comments

  1. Yeah, that’s why I’m a big fan of social entrepreneurship. You really get the best of both worlds. You get the “you’ll be rewarded for your hard work” aspect of capitalism with the “help the bottom of the pyramid” element of socialism/communism. It’s not a fix all, but it’s truly inspiring what good can come of a social business. There are many examples, but business such as Grameen Knitwear from Muhammad Yunus which turn a profit and help textile workers in Bangladesh is one that comes to mind.

    If more companies focused on a win/win situation between earning a profit and helping those less fortunate we would all be better off.

  2. Yeah, that’s why I’m a big fan of social entrepreneurship. You really get the best of both worlds. You get the “you’ll be rewarded for your hard work” aspect of capitalism with the “help the bottom of the pyramid” element of socialism/communism. It’s not a fix all, but it’s truly inspiring what good can come of a social business. There are many examples, but business such as Grameen Knitwear from Muhammad Yunus which turn a profit and help textile workers in Bangladesh is one that comes to mind.

    If more companies focused on a win/win situation between earning a profit and helping those less fortunate we would all be better off.

  3. Great insights. I’ve never really thought of capitalism as a religion before, but it makes a lot of sense. I think that our generation has the power, knowledge and drive to change some of this bad stuff around though. Richard’s comment before mine elaborates well on social entrepreneurship, so ditto.

    Great stuff.

  4. Great insights. I’ve never really thought of capitalism as a religion before, but it makes a lot of sense. I think that our generation has the power, knowledge and drive to change some of this bad stuff around though. Richard’s comment before mine elaborates well on social entrepreneurship, so ditto.

    Great stuff.

  5. Reading about capitalism makes me want to go out and succeed in a business-type way, but those jerks that screw people over for their own greed, they really are jerks.

    I want to be no jerk. Do you think sincerity should trump making a buck to be successful in this capitalistic country? For example: I sell a product, and I could boost my sales if I tweak the truth just a little bit, not enough to make a discernible difference, but enough. I could, but I don’t because I want to be more sincere than that.

  6. Reading about capitalism makes me want to go out and succeed in a business-type way, but those jerks that screw people over for their own greed, they really are jerks.

    I want to be no jerk. Do you think sincerity should trump making a buck to be successful in this capitalistic country? For example: I sell a product, and I could boost my sales if I tweak the truth just a little bit, not enough to make a discernible difference, but enough. I could, but I don’t because I want to be more sincere than that.

  7. I’m am also a fan of social entrepreneurship. I honestly plan on starting a social enterprise, even though my family doubts its validity and thinks that I’m insane since I’ve never wanted to be an entrepreneur before now.

    Just curious, how is China a dictatorship?? Is there one person with absolute running the entirety of the country?

  8. I’m am also a fan of social entrepreneurship. I honestly plan on starting a social enterprise, even though my family doubts its validity and thinks that I’m insane since I’ve never wanted to be an entrepreneur before now.

    Just curious, how is China a dictatorship?? Is there one person with absolute running the entirety of the country?

  9. Capitalism is such a good idea that we should try it sometime. The current system that we call capitalism is essentially a plutocracy for Western/Northern interests. It concentrates wealth in an absurd ratio, requires consistent growth, extracts wealth out the earth, dispossesses people from their connection to their natural resources and there is no disincentive to do so. That is the nature of the machine, it requires that. “Capitalism” is indeed like a religion and at the center of the altar is growth. We need to think about a new structures that involve de-growth in the same way we think of a-theism. How do we exit this religion that has been constructed.

    Enlightened Capitalism is possible but some broad reforms are needed. Perhaps top of the list is that the resources that the global North/ the West make poor countries give to us at the point of an economic gun need to be paid for at real rates. There is so much to say on this subject but consider that all the countries of Africa and Central and South America are paying an average of $25,000 per minute to northern creditors. This is the face of what we call capitalism.

    I could go on and on about this subject. The last four years I have been making my first film – The End of Poverty?. It is a feature length documentary about the origins of poverty and why it persists in a world with so much wealth. Its finishing up its theatrical run now and coming out on DVD in a few weeks.

    But, yes – we need to exit the religion of capitalism.

  10. Capitalism is such a good idea that we should try it sometime. The current system that we call capitalism is essentially a plutocracy for Western/Northern interests. It concentrates wealth in an absurd ratio, requires consistent growth, extracts wealth out the earth, dispossesses people from their connection to their natural resources and there is no disincentive to do so. That is the nature of the machine, it requires that. “Capitalism” is indeed like a religion and at the center of the altar is growth. We need to think about a new structures that involve de-growth in the same way we think of a-theism. How do we exit this religion that has been constructed.

    Enlightened Capitalism is possible but some broad reforms are needed. Perhaps top of the list is that the resources that the global North/ the West make poor countries give to us at the point of an economic gun need to be paid for at real rates. There is so much to say on this subject but consider that all the countries of Africa and Central and South America are paying an average of $25,000 per minute to northern creditors. This is the face of what we call capitalism.

    I could go on and on about this subject. The last four years I have been making my first film – The End of Poverty?. It is a feature length documentary about the origins of poverty and why it persists in a world with so much wealth. Its finishing up its theatrical run now and coming out on DVD in a few weeks.

    But, yes – we need to exit the religion of capitalism.

  11. Good post Colin! I agree with you on your observations. I also don’t think it is capitalism that we should blame for the economic mess that we are in.

    It is people that have used and abused capitalism. I also like the capitalistic system. To blame capitalism is kind of like to blame money for being the root of all evil or sex for being sinful.

    In the wrong hands money can do a lot of evil, but in the right hands it can also do tremendous amount of good. Same way with sex, it can either be a beautiful spiritual expression of love between husband and wife or an ugly manifestation of a power trip between a priest and an innocent boy.

    I think capitalism is simply more like a microscope in a sense that it really only illuminates and brings the current state of the people and society at large. And while it may not look so good right now, it is not capitalism that we have to go to work on, but ourselves.

  12. This is a great post. I’m a self-proclaimed socialist and really curse capitalism to the core. I am convinced that capitalism, in essence, is exploitative. I’ll paraphrase my hero here: the voluntarism of capitalist exploitation is illusory. Where there is the pursuit of capital, there is the pursuit of profit, and where there is the pursuit of profit, there is the pursuit for surplus value, ergo, surplus labor, which is a social struggle that promotes inequality. Capitalism can’t change that, because that is its essence.

    But your article is like a silver lining. What if it really is possible for capitalism to revolutionize itself? If people can change, then this system that is run by people can change too. I have yet to see it happen, but you’re right: “end the blind faith and be involved, analytical capitalists.” It’s a great step and definitely seems feasible enough. Thanks for this enlightening post, Colin. Perhaps my loyalty to Marxism is just as bad as this dogmatic capitalism. ;)

  13. Good post Colin! I agree with you on your observations. I also don’t think it is capitalism that we should blame for the economic mess that we are in.

    It is people that have used and abused capitalism. I also like the capitalistic system. To blame capitalism is kind of like to blame money for being the root of all evil or sex for being sinful.

    In the wrong hands money can do a lot of evil, but in the right hands it can also do tremendous amount of good. Same way with sex, it can either be a beautiful spiritual expression of love between husband and wife or an ugly manifestation of a power trip between a priest and an innocent boy.

    I think capitalism is simply more like a microscope in a sense that it really only illuminates and brings the current state of the people and society at large. And while it may not look so good right now, it is not capitalism that we have to go to work on, but ourselves.

  14. This is a great post. I’m a self-proclaimed socialist and really curse capitalism to the core. I am convinced that capitalism, in essence, is exploitative. I’ll paraphrase my hero here: the voluntarism of capitalist exploitation is illusory. Where there is the pursuit of capital, there is the pursuit of profit, and where there is the pursuit of profit, there is the pursuit for surplus value, ergo, surplus labor, which is a social struggle that promotes inequality. Capitalism can’t change that, because that is its essence.

    But your article is like a silver lining. What if it really is possible for capitalism to revolutionize itself? If people can change, then this system that is run by people can change too. I have yet to see it happen, but you’re right: “end the blind faith and be involved, analytical capitalists.” It’s a great step and definitely seems feasible enough. Thanks for this enlightening post, Colin. Perhaps my loyalty to Marxism is just as bad as this dogmatic capitalism. ;)

  15. The whole anti-capitalist backlash after the financial crisis extremely knee-jerkish.

    Common, some of the worst hit countries have suffered negative growth of 8-10%. So you’re not getting that second car or second plasma TV, big deal. Yes, some have suffered, but I don’t see capitalism killing 100 million people through famines and persecution like that other economic system beginning with a “C”..

    Besides, if you know your Austrian Business Cycle theory, it’s quite plain to see that the crisis was in fact caused by government intervention in credit- and monetary systems (most “Austrian school” economists where warning about the growing imbalances and impending crisis in 2003-2004, and laughed out of the room)..

  16. The whole anti-capitalist backlash after the financial crisis extremely knee-jerkish.

    Common, some of the worst hit countries have suffered negative growth of 8-10%. So you’re not getting that second car or second plasma TV, big deal. Yes, some have suffered, but I don’t see capitalism killing 100 million people through famines and persecution like that other economic system beginning with a “C”..

    Besides, if you know your Austrian Business Cycle theory, it’s quite plain to see that the crisis was in fact caused by government intervention in credit- and monetary systems (most “Austrian school” economists where warning about the growing imbalances and impending crisis in 2003-2004, and laughed out of the room)..

  17. “Capitalism” doesn’t kill people like Stalin did – true enough. But the system we currently have plunges the world into poverty which kills millions.

    Austrian business cycles did say a crash was coming but the credit/monetary policy is still a symptom. Austrians don’t look at monopoly power. That monopoly power is where the capital comes from to fuel bubbles. That monopoly power is what is unchecked in our current system and what causes whacked out concentration of wealth and causes so much destruction. Even Hayek, the doyenne of the Austrian School of thought conceded that the Georgist approach took into account many forces that his did not.

    The point of this is not to get into a match about economic theory – because we can go back and forth all day on that…but that the current system is destructive on many levels for most people on the planet because it is blindly followed and poorly understood and built on exploitation of people and resources.

  18. “Capitalism” doesn’t kill people like Stalin did – true enough. But the system we currently have plunges the world into poverty which kills millions.

    Austrian business cycles did say a crash was coming but the credit/monetary policy is still a symptom. Austrians don’t look at monopoly power. That monopoly power is where the capital comes from to fuel bubbles. That monopoly power is what is unchecked in our current system and what causes whacked out concentration of wealth and causes so much destruction. Even Hayek, the doyenne of the Austrian School of thought conceded that the Georgist approach took into account many forces that his did not.

    The point of this is not to get into a match about economic theory – because we can go back and forth all day on that…but that the current system is destructive on many levels for most people on the planet because it is blindly followed and poorly understood and built on exploitation of people and resources.

  19. It is by far true that capitalism has it’s bad points, also it’s good ones, but once anything reaches certain point in someones life where there is no more questioning, the problem starts.

    It is as you say, we should try to do it the best way as possible, and if we could why not also break the mold a little by helping those who become poor due to capitalism? Maybe we can find a way to solve that issue and some new “ism” will rise, hopefully a better one.

    I guess the idea is to truly understand the world we live in, even when some face capitalism, others socialism or a dictatorship. We must first understand and then change, or else we might as well fall into another hole.

    This post brings a very interesting topic to the table and I would really like to have a longer talk about this and some other topics. Thanks for the great time my friend.

  20. It is by far true that capitalism has it’s bad points, also it’s good ones, but once anything reaches certain point in someones life where there is no more questioning, the problem starts.

    It is as you say, we should try to do it the best way as possible, and if we could why not also break the mold a little by helping those who become poor due to capitalism? Maybe we can find a way to solve that issue and some new “ism” will rise, hopefully a better one.

    I guess the idea is to truly understand the world we live in, even when some face capitalism, others socialism or a dictatorship. We must first understand and then change, or else we might as well fall into another hole.

    This post brings a very interesting topic to the table and I would really like to have a longer talk about this and some other topics. Thanks for the great time my friend.

  21. that’s extremely oversimplifying…

    capitalism has been good to *some* of us. people fucked by it aren’t going to support it, and that’s a good chunk of the world. 1/8 of the US suffers from hunger. in one of the richest, most resource-hogging countries in the world? seriously?

    capitalism has been terrible to africans in africa and africans stolen from their land and shipped to the US. that’s not a hiccup, not a “woops”, especially not when racism is still fully alive and well.

    i think you need to define what you think capitalism is, because what’s gone on in history, driven by capitalism, is inexcusable. no progress is worth any sort of slavery. even when it didn’t have a name, capitalism made kings and dictators and empires since the start of ‘civilization’. until i see capitalism separated from oppression, i can’t give it merit.

  22. that’s extremely oversimplifying…

    capitalism has been good to *some* of us. people fucked by it aren’t going to support it, and that’s a good chunk of the world. 1/8 of the US suffers from hunger. in one of the richest, most resource-hogging countries in the world? seriously?

    capitalism has been terrible to africans in africa and africans stolen from their land and shipped to the US. that’s not a hiccup, not a “woops”, especially not when racism is still fully alive and well.

    i think you need to define what you think capitalism is, because what’s gone on in history, driven by capitalism, is inexcusable. no progress is worth any sort of slavery. even when it didn’t have a name, capitalism made kings and dictators and empires since the start of ‘civilization’. until i see capitalism separated from oppression, i can’t give it merit.

  23. @Richard: Yeah, there are a lot of great companies coming into being these days that are toying with the traditional capitalistic system. Lets hope innovation keeps coming.

    @Nate: It’s true, we’re at a point in time where we can influence events and change a LOT. I, for one, intend to be in a position to keep those wheels spinning.

    @Tim: That’s the very point I wanted to emphasize..philosophically, I wouldn’t be able to do that, but a lot of people have philosophies that aren’t thought-out. They think if something is in the name of business, then they don’t need to stick to their standard set of morals. Not cool.

    @Mneiae: China is a dictatorship because one party controls all aspects of their society – including the press and economy. It’s not one person in the traditional dictatorship model, but does it make any difference if it’s one person or a few hundred controlling every aspect of so many people’s lives?

    @matt: I’d love to see that film! Have any plans to sell/stream it online?

    @Mikko: Yup, like a gun, it largely depends on who wields it. Then again, in the right hands a gun can also be turned into something else completely.

    @Karla: Thanks Karla! Dogmatism of any sort – regardless of what it’s for – is usually not ideal. It doesn’t allow for the consideration of new ideas and facts as they become available, and that renders you unable to make the best possible decision at any given time.

    @Ash: Thanks for stopping by, lady!

    @Wille: The governments did screw the pooch on the whole credit thing. I’m constantly amazed by the lack of imagination on the part of professional middlemen…err…politicians.

    @matt: Very true. I wonder what the alternative is? Any ideas?

    @Alejandro: By all means, keep the discussion going! I’m really curious about this, as I definitely don’t have the answers. All we can do is ruminate and consider what that next ‘ism’ might be.

    @kaiser: Unfortunately I don’t have the benefit of being a textbook writer, otherwise I’d do my best to simplify less. As it is, though, I wanted to get to the essence of things to get some discussion going. I am curious, though, as to why you feel the way you do about a system that has let to a situation wherein you can express your opinions so freely on a network that is readily available on a machine that is so easily purchased? It’s easy to say you don’t like the way things are, but it’s much easier to tear down than to build. What is this alternative you seem to have in mind?

  24. @Richard: Yeah, there are a lot of great companies coming into being these days that are toying with the traditional capitalistic system. Lets hope innovation keeps coming.

    @Nate: It’s true, we’re at a point in time where we can influence events and change a LOT. I, for one, intend to be in a position to keep those wheels spinning.

    @Tim: That’s the very point I wanted to emphasize..philosophically, I wouldn’t be able to do that, but a lot of people have philosophies that aren’t thought-out. They think if something is in the name of business, then they don’t need to stick to their standard set of morals. Not cool.

    @Mneiae: China is a dictatorship because one party controls all aspects of their society – including the press and economy. It’s not one person in the traditional dictatorship model, but does it make any difference if it’s one person or a few hundred controlling every aspect of so many people’s lives?

    @matt: I’d love to see that film! Have any plans to sell/stream it online?

    @Mikko: Yup, like a gun, it largely depends on who wields it. Then again, in the right hands a gun can also be turned into something else completely.

    @Karla: Thanks Karla! Dogmatism of any sort – regardless of what it’s for – is usually not ideal. It doesn’t allow for the consideration of new ideas and facts as they become available, and that renders you unable to make the best possible decision at any given time.

    @Ash: Thanks for stopping by, lady!

    @Wille: The governments did screw the pooch on the whole credit thing. I’m constantly amazed by the lack of imagination on the part of professional middlemen…err…politicians.

    @matt: Very true. I wonder what the alternative is? Any ideas?

    @Alejandro: By all means, keep the discussion going! I’m really curious about this, as I definitely don’t have the answers. All we can do is ruminate and consider what that next ‘ism’ might be.

    @kaiser: Unfortunately I don’t have the benefit of being a textbook writer, otherwise I’d do my best to simplify less. As it is, though, I wanted to get to the essence of things to get some discussion going. I am curious, though, as to why you feel the way you do about a system that has let to a situation wherein you can express your opinions so freely on a network that is readily available on a machine that is so easily purchased? It’s easy to say you don’t like the way things are, but it’s much easier to tear down than to build. What is this alternative you seem to have in mind?

  25. @Colin: Politics is the business of deferring your mess until someone else has to deal with it, or in the worst case hope it all blows over by the time the next election comes around. Politicians have no interest in cutting even artificial booms short, or do anything but cheap posturing when it turns to bust.

    @Matt: Government mismanagement of credit/monetary policy goes hand in hand with banking oligopolies. However, outside the realm of banking (which, granted is central) so called “Monopoly powers” tend to be very elusive and transient when they do arise..

    As for “built on exploitation of people”: I disagree 100% with you there, everyone has a choice and capitalism is a system where you win by serving others.
    Even low-paying jobs in the third world are not exploitation, for instance: I use a VA in pakistan from time to time – I’m pretty sure she is better of with my money than without it, even at $7/hour.

    Should we refuse employing and trading with people because they are not yet as rich as we are? There is a lot of circular login in that kind of argument..

  26. @Colin: Politics is the business of deferring your mess until someone else has to deal with it, or in the worst case hope it all blows over by the time the next election comes around. Politicians have no interest in cutting even artificial booms short, or do anything but cheap posturing when it turns to bust.

    @Matt: Government mismanagement of credit/monetary policy goes hand in hand with banking oligopolies. However, outside the realm of banking (which, granted is central) so called “Monopoly powers” tend to be very elusive and transient when they do arise..

    As for “built on exploitation of people”: I disagree 100% with you there, everyone has a choice and capitalism is a system where you win by serving others.
    Even low-paying jobs in the third world are not exploitation, for instance: I use a VA in pakistan from time to time – I’m pretty sure she is better of with my money than without it, even at $7/hour.

    Should we refuse employing and trading with people because they are not yet as rich as we are? There is a lot of circular login in that kind of argument..

  27. Colin – the film “The End of Poverty?” is coming out on DVD on April 27th.

    Willie – monopoly goes beyond banking. there is monopoly in land ownership and resource ownership. As for exploitation being built into the system – sorry, but it just is. A classic example with fisheries – international fishing concerns wanted access to Mozambique’s long coastline and rich fisheries. As a consortium they went to the IMF and World Bank to broker an “aid deal” for Mozambique. The IMF and World Bank consented and created told Mozambique that if they didn’t sell their fishing rights to this international fishing concern they would lose access to infrastructure loans. The fishing rights were sold for 11 million dollars. The fishing rights are worth hundreds of millions. But now the entire coastal population that lived a subsistence lifestyle could be arrested or killed for fishing anywhere from the coast to 25 miles out. If they could take their paddling skiffs beyond 25 miles they were safe. So suddenly being a subsistence fisherman isn’t possible so huge swaths of the population are forced to move to the city into squalid conditions where there is no chance for subsistence living and they are now forced to sell their labor at the will and the price of “the market”. This happens with companies that buy land rights from people with out them knowing it – they dam rivers, flood areas where people live and grow crops for foreign export so that wealth goes right out the front door of a nation. This happen time and time again with timber, land, fisheries, mineral rights, gas, metals, oil etc…I can go on if you want and happy to give many many more examples but the current system is built on getting resources for as close to free as possible.

  28. Colin – the film “The End of Poverty?” is coming out on DVD on April 27th.

    Willie – monopoly goes beyond banking. there is monopoly in land ownership and resource ownership. As for exploitation being built into the system – sorry, but it just is. A classic example with fisheries – international fishing concerns wanted access to Mozambique’s long coastline and rich fisheries. As a consortium they went to the IMF and World Bank to broker an “aid deal” for Mozambique. The IMF and World Bank consented and created told Mozambique that if they didn’t sell their fishing rights to this international fishing concern they would lose access to infrastructure loans. The fishing rights were sold for 11 million dollars. The fishing rights are worth hundreds of millions. But now the entire coastal population that lived a subsistence lifestyle could be arrested or killed for fishing anywhere from the coast to 25 miles out. If they could take their paddling skiffs beyond 25 miles they were safe. So suddenly being a subsistence fisherman isn’t possible so huge swaths of the population are forced to move to the city into squalid conditions where there is no chance for subsistence living and they are now forced to sell their labor at the will and the price of “the market”. This happens with companies that buy land rights from people with out them knowing it – they dam rivers, flood areas where people live and grow crops for foreign export so that wealth goes right out the front door of a nation. This happen time and time again with timber, land, fisheries, mineral rights, gas, metals, oil etc…I can go on if you want and happy to give many many more examples but the current system is built on getting resources for as close to free as possible.

  29. Matt: And the IMF and World Bank are bastions of Free Marketeerism and absolutely not government created, government funded self-perpetuating and corrupt bureaucracies, right?
    Your whole argument falls when you start arguing against markets on the basis of what governments and supra-governmental agencies do.

    the IMF and World Bank long since outlived their purpose and these days mostly go around dishing out counter-productive advise and dictats to countries whose governments have been badly mismanaged.

  30. Matt: And the IMF and World Bank are bastions of Free Marketeerism and absolutely not government created, government funded self-perpetuating and corrupt bureaucracies, right?
    Your whole argument falls when you start arguing against markets on the basis of what governments and supra-governmental agencies do.

    the IMF and World Bank long since outlived their purpose and these days mostly go around dishing out counter-productive advise and dictats to countries whose governments have been badly mismanaged.

  31. willie,

    you’ll get no arguments from me about the World Bank or the IMF but they are there to serve the market. Bechtel bought all the water rights in Cochabamba in Bolivia – they erected water meters on roofs so that there was a charge for collecting rainwater. Rivers had razor wire placed on their edges. Water that used to be free or had a nominal charge suddenly went up in price by 300%. Bechtel did that for profit. Bechtel didn’t make water. Bechtel didn’t improve service.

    Look, our economy in the West requires cheap materials. Trade and debt and taxes are structured so that we can keep our way of life and our economy humming. Are you a grocer just meeting the needs of your community by starting a business? Great – your fruit that is flown in cheap from Chile (or other places of course) has price ceilings that guarantees we get affordable fruit. We also require export floors as well so that they must sell certain amounts to us which locks local economies into monocultures which then limits job opportunities which then ruins local soils which then means more petrochemical fertilizers which means more polluted water for the people living in shanty towns outside the fields hoping to have the chance to work that day.

    Want to start a local road patching company? Great – we need those holes patched in our roads! Where does the sand and tar come from? Oh, right until two years ago most of the supply for the worlds concrete and tar came from Venezuela from a contract signed at economic gunpoint decades ago making Venezuela virtually give away their physical land by the square hectare for pennies, literally pennies. No wonder Europe and the US freaked out when they decided to null the contract and form a national concrete and tar company that would sell their sovreign land at a price point more in line with actual costs.

    Housing? Based on cheap lumber and extractive economy. Banking? Based on exploitive credit and debt based on accounting chits as opposed to real money that they actually have. The system we have is built on exploiting. There is no evil Monty Burns character at the top saying “mwah, ha, ha, ha” and tapping his fingers – the system was set up this way. Get stuff cheap any way you can.

  32. willie,

    you’ll get no arguments from me about the World Bank or the IMF but they are there to serve the market. Bechtel bought all the water rights in Cochabamba in Bolivia – they erected water meters on roofs so that there was a charge for collecting rainwater. Rivers had razor wire placed on their edges. Water that used to be free or had a nominal charge suddenly went up in price by 300%. Bechtel did that for profit. Bechtel didn’t make water. Bechtel didn’t improve service.

    Look, our economy in the West requires cheap materials. Trade and debt and taxes are structured so that we can keep our way of life and our economy humming. Are you a grocer just meeting the needs of your community by starting a business? Great – your fruit that is flown in cheap from Chile (or other places of course) has price ceilings that guarantees we get affordable fruit. We also require export floors as well so that they must sell certain amounts to us which locks local economies into monocultures which then limits job opportunities which then ruins local soils which then means more petrochemical fertilizers which means more polluted water for the people living in shanty towns outside the fields hoping to have the chance to work that day.

    Want to start a local road patching company? Great – we need those holes patched in our roads! Where does the sand and tar come from? Oh, right until two years ago most of the supply for the worlds concrete and tar came from Venezuela from a contract signed at economic gunpoint decades ago making Venezuela virtually give away their physical land by the square hectare for pennies, literally pennies. No wonder Europe and the US freaked out when they decided to null the contract and form a national concrete and tar company that would sell their sovreign land at a price point more in line with actual costs.

    Housing? Based on cheap lumber and extractive economy. Banking? Based on exploitive credit and debt based on accounting chits as opposed to real money that they actually have. The system we have is built on exploiting. There is no evil Monty Burns character at the top saying “mwah, ha, ha, ha” and tapping his fingers – the system was set up this way. Get stuff cheap any way you can.

  33. I think the real question is “Is there an alternative to capitalism?” and if we find one, then we can view capitalism more objectively. Until then, I need to accept capitalism as my fate, whether I like it or not. Hopefully we will establish something new in the future – maybe through the wisdom of “cloud”?

  34. I think the real question is “Is there an alternative to capitalism?” and if we find one, then we can view capitalism more objectively. Until then, I need to accept capitalism as my fate, whether I like it or not. Hopefully we will establish something new in the future – maybe through the wisdom of “cloud”?

  35. Isao – there are lots of alternatives that are in the same vein and many are very well thought out and working in small scale but there is a tremendous inertia in the present system. Some authors to look at are – David Korten, Bill McKibben, Serge LeTouche, Mason Gaffney, Tim Jackson, Robert Solow, Lester Brown, Elinor Ostrand

  36. Isao – there are lots of alternatives that are in the same vein and many are very well thought out and working in small scale but there is a tremendous inertia in the present system. Some authors to look at are – David Korten, Bill McKibben, Serge LeTouche, Mason Gaffney, Tim Jackson, Robert Solow, Lester Brown, Elinor Ostrand

  37. Here is my definition of capitalism – the pursuit of doing more good for more people and offering better value for less money as possible.

    What I can’t agree with currently is a society that expects incremental pay rises but no increase in value in a companies product or service, bonuses for giving less and taking more and shorter work days and more holidays but no increased productivity. That is the system we have currently and I think we could learn alot from capitalism.

  38. Here is my definition of capitalism – the pursuit of doing more good for more people and offering better value for less money as possible.

    What I can’t agree with currently is a society that expects incremental pay rises but no increase in value in a companies product or service, bonuses for giving less and taking more and shorter work days and more holidays but no increased productivity. That is the system we have currently and I think we could learn alot from capitalism.

  39. You know, I think that you are right about capitalism. It works but just like anything else, it has its flaws. Today I think the problem with capitalism in America is that international corporations are buying politicians with endless campaign funds just so they can increase their profits with favorable laws. I think this is the main hiccup in our system that hasn’t gone away yet. Maybe the best way to fix this problem is to limit campaign funding to $1 per person or something like that.

    -Ruke

  40. You know, I think that you are right about capitalism. It works but just like anything else, it has its flaws. Today I think the problem with capitalism in America is that international corporations are buying politicians with endless campaign funds just so they can increase their profits with favorable laws. I think this is the main hiccup in our system that hasn’t gone away yet. Maybe the best way to fix this problem is to limit campaign funding to $1 per person or something like that.

    -Ruke

  41. People tend to invoke the pieces of capitalism that work best for them while ignoring the rest of the system. In that respect, it is very much like organized religion. Using the methods and established practices to further your own gain, and blatently disregard much of the tenets of the dogma is where it falls apart.

    That and the fact that greed is often a far better motivator than ethics in capitalistic societies. Unfortunately.

  42. People tend to invoke the pieces of capitalism that work best for them while ignoring the rest of the system. In that respect, it is very much like organized religion. Using the methods and established practices to further your own gain, and blatently disregard much of the tenets of the dogma is where it falls apart.

    That and the fact that greed is often a far better motivator than ethics in capitalistic societies. Unfortunately.

  43. I hear what you are saying about people within the system causing many of the problems, or using capitalism as an excuse for problematic problems. I’m not convinced that the problems are separate from capitalism itself. In capitalism, success is defined by maximizing profits. If stripping employees of benefits, using increasingly poorer quality materials, damaging the environment, or using sweatshop or slave labor increases profits–companies *must* do so. The only reason not to is if negative public reaction would have a negative impact on profits. But it’s too hard to keep track of everything since we’re all so focused on the bottom line.

    Muhammad Yunus proposes a solution to transform capitalism through “social business.” @ Mneiae, it sounds like you might already be turned onto that. If you haven’t already, check out “Creating A World Without Poverty”

  44. I hear what you are saying about people within the system causing many of the problems, or using capitalism as an excuse for problematic problems. I’m not convinced that the problems are separate from capitalism itself. In capitalism, success is defined by maximizing profits. If stripping employees of benefits, using increasingly poorer quality materials, damaging the environment, or using sweatshop or slave labor increases profits–companies *must* do so. The only reason not to is if negative public reaction would have a negative impact on profits. But it’s too hard to keep track of everything since we’re all so focused on the bottom line.

    Muhammad Yunus proposes a solution to transform capitalism through “social business.” @ Mneiae, it sounds like you might already be turned onto that. If you haven’t already, check out “Creating A World Without Poverty”

  45. Well, this is a good illustration for anything taken to an extreme can be too much of a good thing. I’m reminded of a quote:

    “An unquestioned life is a life not worth living.” -Socrates

    So, does same goes true for economic systems.. is an unquestioned system worth having? If its unquestioned then how much better could it be, if we only took the time to look at it. Its why I’m enjoying my studies in Spiral Dynamics and watching how things are evolving here in LA towards building collaborative groups.

    I suppose this is one of the things I love about talking to my friends in the Good Capitalist group.. http://www.goodcap.net/

  46. Well, this is a good illustration for anything taken to an extreme can be too much of a good thing. I’m reminded of a quote:

    “An unquestioned life is a life not worth living.” -Socrates

    So, does same goes true for economic systems.. is an unquestioned system worth having? If its unquestioned then how much better could it be, if we only took the time to look at it. Its why I’m enjoying my studies in Spiral Dynamics and watching how things are evolving here in LA towards building collaborative groups.

    I suppose this is one of the things I love about talking to my friends in the Good Capitalist group.. http://www.goodcap.net/

  47. Great post Colin! No other economic system in recorded history has dramatically increased the prosperity across the board like Capitalism has. It’s easy for critics to argue against some of the social ills that are side-effects of Capitalism though. I can’t blame them. The social ills are a moral issue though; they happen in every other economic system as well. History is littered with examples of that. Adam Smith’s first love was moral philosophy. He didn’t proclaim that you should do whatever possible to get ahead; but rather, that you act in your own self interest within a morally sound framework. The only reason any of us are able to partake in this discussion on the internet is because of the innovations that capitalist societies create.

    “It’s not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” – Adam Smith

    Cheers,
    Greg

  48. Great post Colin! No other economic system in recorded history has dramatically increased the prosperity across the board like Capitalism has. It’s easy for critics to argue against some of the social ills that are side-effects of Capitalism though. I can’t blame them. The social ills are a moral issue though; they happen in every other economic system as well. History is littered with examples of that. Adam Smith’s first love was moral philosophy. He didn’t proclaim that you should do whatever possible to get ahead; but rather, that you act in your own self interest within a morally sound framework. The only reason any of us are able to partake in this discussion on the internet is because of the innovations that capitalist societies create.

    “It’s not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” – Adam Smith

    Cheers,
    Greg

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