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my radio says capitalism is about to collapse

I sat down to eat breakfast -- er, that is, lunch, I guess -- this afternoon, and turned on the radio, and pointed the rather vague tuning apparatus to about 91 FM, and I didn't know which station I'd gotten. Somebody was talking about how listeners were probably out of work. It could have been OPB, KBOO, or even maybe some commercial DJ. Then the guy started talking about networking and revolution, and I knew it was KBOO. So far so good. Then another guy jumped in, and they went back and forth about capitalism and very quickly concluded (between each other) that capitalism wasn't just a big problem, but that it was COLLAPSING UNDER ITS OWN WEIGHT and was soon to be no more. Then they played a reggae song about Babylon coming down.
Really? Marx & Marley said so, thus the end is nigh?!

It seems that a lot of radicals in Portland subscribe to this theory. It's kind of the left-wing equivalent of the "survivalist movement." Isn't this the same logic that left a lot of "activists" feeling rather foolish on January 1, 2000, when, like, the entire effect of the worldwide Y2K disaster was the Yahoo! website had the date wrong for a few hours?

Capitalism has gone through many collapses. Individual investments collapse. Individual investors lose lots of money. Entire industries and technologies go away. Depressions linger for years. That doesn't mean capitalism is necessarily going anywhere. It just seems like wishful thinking to me. When the oil runs out, won't the capitalists go back to exploiting human & animal muscle power, or coal, or biodiesel, or something? When the population bomb finally hits the wall, won't we be the ones to go hungry while the money guys at Intel eat all they want? I mean, isn't that really more likely?

I'm not saying that events can't come together to create a crisis for capitalism, I'm just saying I don't see it happening, and I don't think these guys on the radio really see it either. I think they're mixing up technological instability and political instability. For real, the oil age is past its halfway point, I agree, but capitalism could be here for a while, and I don't see it "collapsing by itself" anytime soon.
But... 18.Mar.2004 16:46


There's much truth to what you say; however, let's not forget that the modus operandi of capitalism is externalizing internalities. In other words, spreading costs (environmental, social and otherwise) in other places. The problem is, as Maltheus predicted all those centuries ago, that once there are no more "other places" the system can no longer sustain itself (or the planet). I think that's kind of where we are now. I have no doubt that the current system will eventually become unrecognizable, whether through environmental meltdown of some type or a tripping point in social evolution when a critical mass truly understands how we are being fucked. Whether this happens tomorrow or in another hundred years, and what sort of world follows, is what our present actions will determine (unless a massive environmental meltdown is already on the way).

ok, if you don't see it "collapsing by itself" anytime soon - 18.Mar.2004 17:00


what will keep it functioning any longer from this point?

Of course it won't collapse by itself 18.Mar.2004 17:26

Capitalism is a front for power grabbers

The U.S. is a mixed economy and the sheeple will support it and starve themselves at the same time.

Down with Fake $$$ 18.Mar.2004 19:50


Current capitalism is based on a fiat currency meanining that the legal counterfeiters get paid neverending credits from the nations they have under their spell in exchange for the valuable 1's and 0's they enter electronically into the banking computer systems. It is a ponzi scheme that will of course collapse under the strain of fake value in exchange for real commodities until they have scammed the producers of the world of all their resources. Or before the people wake up to the scam they can morph into a new even better scam called the cashless society control grid. Or just outright slavery.

well, let's see here 18.Mar.2004 20:01

a few more points

All the system needs to sustain itself is more submission.

The process can turn the world into a garbage dump, and we can have more capitalism in a garbage dump. Security prices can collapse, investors can freak out, and then the "winners" who bet against the grain that month can congratulate themselves and the game can proceed as before.

Look what happened after the internet bubble collapsed. Nothing happened. More capitalism.

Marx's "declining rate of profit" scenario ignored things like chaos theory (which didn't exist 150 years ago) which explains how equilibrium is not a threat. The moment-to-moment unpredictability of market details keeps things interesting enough to keep the ruling-class players at the table without threatening the system itself.

Ordinary folks also have an intuitive sense that the Dow can't just go up forever. But it's just a number. Stock prices are based on expectations of profits, and all the corporations have to do to make new profits every day is keep screwing people. Stock prices go up, and when they get high enough the corporoids just split each share and keep going. It's just a game.

And all the system has to do to survive environmental catastrophe is not give a shit. They don't give a shit.

Counterpoint 18.Mar.2004 22:54


Capitalism says your radio is obsolete.

Capitalism is natural 19.Mar.2004 00:14


The mercantilist system with farmers producing the foods and artisans creating the goods are sold by the merchants or themselves at the market. Capitalism is just an more advanced exxtension of this. Freedom or democracy cannot coexist with any other economic system.
Socialism , communism, Marxism are unnatural conglomerations and depends on a central authority to organize and hold everything together. In a hunter and gatherer bands of 25 people, communism worked because they were all related, but in a large society this is impossible for any length of time.

'Bob'? 19.Mar.2004 09:05


...at the height of the 'cold war', both the ussa and ussr each had about 2.5 million laws on the books; if capitalism is so natural why does it need cops and armies and judges and jails to function...

print more money 19.Mar.2004 14:59


The US congress and President have approved printing up almost 2 trillion dollars in new money in the last 2 years. Isn't that more capital?

capiltalism is natural? 19.Mar.2004 16:58


What!? Capitalism is comfy for a few people at the top, and it's good at perpetuating itself in a way which may seem positive, but it is FAR from natural! Capitalism, in general, is based on the few prospering from exploitation (Grabbing at as much capitol as they can with little or no regard for anything else, like environment, working conditions, etc. etc.) while the many live in a minimal comfort with carrots dangled infront of thier noses (Constantly being subjected to the notion that if they keep working hard and being quietly normal, they too can drive a nice car and live in a big house with a big T.V.)... capitalism screws too many people over for it to be natural in any way. (Look at what U.S. capitalist imperialism is doing to say Mexico, India, the Phillipines, and so many other places)
The communism that didn't work well in other countrys didn't do so because of a whole lot of bad circumstances; the people were for the most part disorganised, lived on badly kept land, and were constantly terrorized by the screwy government, not to mention most of the means of production and distrobution being sabotaged by the governent as well. If you look at Russia today, the economy is still pretty crapy, for a lot of the same reasons. There's a big difference between Communist or Socialist economy and the governments they are often associated with.
The root form of a communist economy, with strong human bonds, worker controlled businesses and more evenly spread goods and services seems a lot more ntural to me, and a whole hell of a lot of people.

I'm going to make a guess that the Bob guy maybe lives in a nice house and has a moderatly nice car and doesn't see the awfull effects of capitalism on a daily basis. Maybe not, maybe he's just in denial...

Getting on the train 19.Mar.2004 18:34


(Look at what U.S. capitalist imperialism is doing to say Mexico, India, the Phillipines, and so many other places)

Well just off the cuff, cuz I'm in a hurry; US outsourcing jobs going to India is giving India a real boost economically. Mexicans come to the US and take the jobs nobody else wants bad enough and they send the extra money they make to Mexican relatives and most Phillipinos greatly appreciate our help in fighting the Islamic terrorists in their country.

busy bob's topic-of-the-hour 19.Mar.2004 21:11


Bob's changing the subject; what he said before was that capitalism is the only "natural" mode of human interaction, and that

>Freedom or democracy cannot coexist with any other economic system.

Now he says

>US outsourcing jobs going to India is giving India a real boost
>economically. Mexicans come to the US and take the jobs nobody
>else wants bad enough and they send the extra money they make to
>Mexican relatives and most Phillipinos greatly appreciate our help
>in fighting the Islamic terrorists in their country.

India was never the starving shithole it is now until the British Empire took over. Mexicans would presumably rather "come here" -- across a line drawn by racist and nationalist Europeans -- and "compete" for the same jobs everybody else wants, but racism and nationalism and other wonderful natural ideas say Mexicans are only to be tolerated if they stick to the shitty jobs. How Bob knows how "most Filipinos" feel is a mystery to the rest of us. I'm sure "most Filipinos" also "greatly appreciated our help" when "we" slaughtered them in massive numbers and conquered their asses in the first place over a hundred years ago.

But really, Bob, we weren't here to talk about how great capitalism is. You can go post comments at CNN to talk about that -- except CNN doesn't have comment posting! Ha ha! Isn't capitalism great? The question was whether or not capitalism is on the brink of collapse. Thanks for writing.

Primitive capitalism 19.Mar.2004 21:41


Well if capitalism in the US collapses then it will most likely be replaced by the most primitive type of capitalism which is the weekly MARKET which is still the main economy in most simple agrarian societies. I was in the Central American highlands and the Indians still meet once or twice a week in the villages and towns for market day, most often on Saturdays. Try to talk them into collectivizing their crafts and goods and youll be lucky if you survive. Ya see, the free market and trade system depends on individual private ownership. Try to take away their blanket "for the good of the state" and youll be sorry.
Fast forward to full fledged capitalism. When do you take away the company that some dude sweated and risked years for, "for the good of the state". If you think about it collectivization and communism are really quite absurd. Ownership by the workers is really by the state. The state owns the means of production means you have no rights. Democracy of course would be impossible as well because no one would vote for communist candidates as it isnt in their best interest. No democracy -no freedom.

the Achilles heel of capitalism 19.Mar.2004 22:40

brings freedom for all

If you think about it capitalism and corporatism are really quite absurd. Ownership by the capitalists is really by the state. The state owns the means of production means you have no rights. Democracy of course would be impossible as well because no one would vote for capitalist candidates as it isn't in their best interest. No democracy -no freedom.

There, that makes a lot more sense.

Of course, one of the funniest things about anti-communist rhetoric and dogma is how people say communism isn't in people's best interests and yet we're supposed to be afraid of its takeover. Why? Because of course the capitalists know what's best for everyone, especially those dark skinned people in other countries and poor people in this country who are too stupid to realize that an extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a small percent of the population benefits them.

Of course, democracy is no more tethered to capitalism than any other economic system. Democracy exists where people have power, as they don't in corporatist authoritarian states like the US. Of course, authoritarianism has called itself communist as well, but that doesn't make it true, we could instead talk of authoritarian capitalist countries and authoritarian communist countries. In either case the desire for freedom will eventually destroy those systems.

No worries though, the capitalists Achilles heel is that they don't recognize the inherent flaws of their system enough to keep it working. For example, if they could just throw a bone to the poor every once and a while they could probably sustain the system for quite some time. Since they are unwilling to see the problems being caused by massive government and corporate corruption they will not do so. Such is the way all empires end, an orgy of greed and ignorance followed by collapse.

Regulations 19.Mar.2004 23:04


I agree uncontrolled capitalism can lead to problems. Like people, corporations can become criminal and out of control. Take Enron for example, or Standard Oil back when it was a monopoly that had to be broken up, or Phillips Morris who advertised on TV or to kids. I think there should be many more regulations for corporations, like junk food companies or auto manufacturers for better gas mileage etc. But that doesnt mean all corporations are bad just like it doesnt mean all people are bad. Private ownership is the only economic system that can motivate people to grow and improve the economy. Socialism , communism are based on the false presumtion that all people are motivated to work hard for the good of the state. As the communists found out, some work and more cheat. People will never be that altruistic.

if that's what you were taught 19.Mar.2004 23:27

liberation from slavery

Then you should demand your money back. I thought about educating you to the true nature of capitalism and communism, but to what end, by informing you I'd be working against the majority of people in the world who will benefit from the collapse of global capitalism and the fall of the US empire. My advice to you Bob, is enjoy it while you can because it will be gone within your lifetime. And we owe it all to the short-sightedness and greed of the few who benefit from this capitalist economy and the human thirst for freedom and liberty that grows with each passing moment of wage-slavery.

The people hold the power, as always.

now tell us how you REALLY feel 20.Mar.2004 03:03

just kidding

We already knew that most people visiting this site think that capitalism is, at best, a necessary evil, or else that it's a really bad idea which SHOULD go away at its earliest possible opportunity. But the point is that SHOULD and WILL are not the same thing.

Commentators on the left and the right both seem unable to differentiate between their subjective expressions of approval or disapproval, and any objective appraisals of viability. It's as if they think that their adulation will hold the system together, or that their scorn will bring it down. Can't we disapprove of something without telling ourselves fairy tales about how the bad dream will go away in the morning?

is all "capitalism" the same? 20.Mar.2004 07:59


Seems to me that a capitalism of individual owners who are making their own decisions and accountable for the results of those decisions is quite a different matter from a capitalism of faceless global corporations which are accountable to no one, yet have a licence to steal and kill at will and to influence-- or even become-- the government.

So far, no one has seen fit to make that distinction.

Capitalism ("primitive" capitalism probably) might work for the long run-- certainly it did in pre-industrial societies for millenia. Corporate capitalism looks like the same thing as fascism, and is a cancer on society that will eat the entire body politic. Unfortunately, it appears to be so far metastasized that killing it will kill the entire body. I suppose the civilization is doomed.

Can't say as I will miss the snowmobiles in Yellowstone.

Study the Robber Barons 20.Mar.2004 10:09

as they were called

At the end of the 19th century and the beginnng of the 20th century, the skulldruggery and power of the European financed corporations to overpower independent operators of competing business reached such ridiculous porportions that the people demanded their government restrain the power of the "robber barons" as they were commonly called, to monoplized and eliminate free-enterprise in Anmerica.
Since then the "robber barons" have learned from their mistakes. They now own the tools of credit, the three branches of government along with controlling the military for their oversees adventures.
Corruption is at its height and the tools of the wage earners are at its nadir.
Time to show our collective anger at this imbalance in our society.

Hooray! 21.Mar.2004 20:02

street dancer

I just had the most amazing dinner ever. I wildcrafted (or urbancrafted I suppose) about two pounds of dandelion greens and roots from empty lots and a couple of handfuls of chives from a friendly yard in the neighborhood and cooked them up with braags, garlic and ginger. All of it but the braags came from within two miles of my house! This is the best time of year for wild greens! Hooray for spring!
Yeah, I know this is in no way relevant to the article...sorry about that! (not really actually) :)

How to fix the system! 23.Mar.2004 20:16

Bird dog

Any needed products like food and the basic items for life would have to be at a system that is not for profit.

All others like boats,cars, and other items not needed to sustain life would be run by a for profit system.
Who needs to have a fur to live day to day!

Kids would not go to bed with an empty stomach or have to sleep in the streets and be forced to live a life of crime to survive.

But as we all know greed will continue to rule the world.

It's a bit like a game of connect the dots.
You play, look back and move forward.
As a society the human race does not have the right to use the definition as stated in the dictionary: Humane.

History has shown this!
Why do you think the wars continue?
A society that is run by the elite for the profit they can make is bound to fail!

But they do have religon that teaches people to watch the magic show, but not pay any attention to the holier than thow ideal!
Only to what they want to demonize!
What was said about casting the first stone!

They are so cought up in the self-rightous tunnel vision the can't see around the blinders.
So they continue to chase the carrot.

anything is possible 27.Mar.2004 06:32

chad indy@chadl.com

if you ask me, anything is possible. i think that a socialist democracy could absolutely work. obviously we can't expect every human in the world to become altruistic overnight. however, if enough people in the world or america were altruistic enough, a system could be erected that would ensure that GREED could not compromise the system. I don't have this system fully worked out, but i still think anything is possible. i don't think that things have to be one way or another. i think things can be whatever way the majority of the people want them to be.

For starters, I think the system would have to be fully democratic. everyone in the system would need the ability to vote on everything. if we were to see this in america even, this imperfect democracy, we would all see drastic and beautifull changes.