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When will the left be honest? Capitalism is the problem

One of the great things about life is that we get to learn.
We can evolve and become as intelligent and informed and spiritual as we allow ourselves to become. Or we can allow our egos and past alliances with flawed perspectives to resist admitting when we were wrong so that we can change.

Thanks to a little critical thinking and some wisdom gained through life experience,I have evolved enough politically to understand that capitalism is at the root of most of our problems. A fundamental concept I would of resisted as early as just a few years ago. But I no longer believe that capitalism can be restricted or regulated into submission, be it by increasing government or eliminating it.
I too was sadly and quite easily sucked into green-consumerism. I was sold the idea that I really wasn't helping the Earth unless I was spending my money on Earth friendly products from "environmentally conscious" companies. I had been convinced by the green-left that I could rescue this beautiful land by trading in environmentally-unfriendly corporations, vehicles, energy, food, factories, and house cleaning products for environmentally-friendly ones. In addition to greatly decreasing my ecological footprint, I made several lifestyle changes and even traded in my truck and bought a diesel VW and ran biodiesel. While this was an important part of my own personal evolution, I realized later that what I was doing was mostly just making myself feel better while continuing to support a suicidal culture.

Fortunately I have come to understand that change won't happen through the market, change is only going to happen when we live a life in deep connection with the earth. My wife of 27 years patiently waited for me to catch up with what she knew and lived long before I finally "got it". I.E. Capitalism has proven to be environmentally and socially unsustainable, so future prosperity will have to come from a new economic model. The advocates of free markets and green consumerism refuse to see the forest through the trees.

Ron Paul's anti-war anti-fascist candidacy has created a legion of both young and old followers who in addition to ignoring the overall implications of Ron Paul's Libertarian ideology, have bought into the idea of "Green" economics (aka Natural capitalism and sometimes referred to as anarcho capitalism) The Anarcho-Capitalists would have the corporations control your lives with no government to stop them. Their free market ideology is based in the claim that short and long term profits can be equal if not greater when a higher value is placed on the environment and happy workers. But the truth is that they basically believe in maintaining society's power structure as it currently is.

So can we get the Ron Paul cheerleaders to be honest for a minute? What these advocates for free markets do care about is capital.

Their first priority isn't to save the environment. Their priority lies in what's going to make money through exploiting the earth and the consumer's wants and desires. If it takes a little bit of changing how they manufacture their product to make sure they are still raking in the high profits, then that's what they'll do.

So can we get the Ron Paul cheerleaders to be honest for a minute? What these advocates for free markets do care about is capital.

Their first priority isn't to save the environment. Their priority lies in what's going to make money through exploiting the earth and the consumer's wants and desires. If it takes a little bit of changing how they manufacture their product to make sure they are still raking in the high profits, then that's what they'll do. When I began to think more critically about this new "eco-friendly" phenomenon, I asked myself, "How is this really any different?"

Most of these so-called "green" companies that are now toting eco-friendly labels such as "USDA Certified Organic," "Free Range," "Pesticide Free," or "Fair-Trade," aren't really concerned whether or not all of the old growth forests in the world are destroyed, or if your local park is bulldozed to be replaced by a strip mall, or about high levels of mercury from factories that's being emitted into our water systems and causing very harmful health repercussions, or that the air pollution in some areas is so bad that children are growing up suffering with severe and acute cases of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, or about worker mistreatment, or about animal suffering and exploitation.

Corporations are still corporations, mass production is still mass production, industrial agriculture is still industrial agriculture, greenhouse gas emissions are still green house gas emissions, worker and animal exploitation is still worker and animal exploitation. Essentially, nothing is really changing. A lot of oil, natural recourses, land, and beings are being used and exploited in order to produce on this large of scale, even to make eco-friendly products. So it's clear to me now that buying in to "green" companies really isn't going to cut it. In order to truly liberate ourselves, the Earth, and the animals we need to cut capital and consumerism out completely.

If Not Capitalism, What? 19.Jan.2008 20:55

Negativity Goes Only So Far

Capitalism is radically flawed. What else is new?

Socialism is basically flawed with a productivist thinking that has never showed much concern about the environment or other species.

A new political and economic way of thinking, and new social and political practice is called for. All roads lead to Hegel, or fall back into Hegelian binaries, Foucault was fond of pointing out. Marx made an excellent critic of capitalism. I'm not down on Marx. But for today's praxis, Marx is only a first baby step, and a very limited one.

Steve 19.Jan.2008 23:38

Jim Lockhart jglockhart@comcast.nt

As you already said,"change is only going to happen when we live a life in deep connection with the earth." I can see that you understand this as the pivotal problem facing us at this important moment in our time upon the Earth..

Personally, I feel that, ultimately, political and economic ideologies have very little to do with how people, cultures, societies or individuals conduct themselves, either towards each other and/or towards the Earth.

There is something deeper, more intrinsic, more pervasive than the Economic systems which subordinate populations and direct their energies according to specif ideologies. And that is Human Nature.
It is inherent human greed, not the inherent greed of any particular system which ignores the delicate web of Life connecting us all. Whether Capitalism, Socialism, Monarchy, all systems become destructive because of the Human compulsion to have more, allow others less, as if this somehow protects them from an uncertain future.

Throughout history, in whatever political or economic system you might choose to observe, there are those whose unscrupulous greed and avarice wrecks havoc on the environment, on people, and eventually on the institutions through which they have gained and wielded power.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I find it as erroneous to blame the Economic system for our plight as it is to upbraid these "Green Corporations" for their conduct. Neither are the root of the problem. The problem is the spiritual condition of each one of us, how we relate to one another and to the Earth.

These are all connected, and until we have an Economic system, a Political system, and unfortunately for us all, a Spiritual system which takes this obvious fact for it's basic premise, we will continue down the same road of Wars, Poverty and the host of eternal ills which have always plagued the Human Race.


Good call 20.Jan.2008 04:01

Physical Reality

Well Steve, I for one would like to say that I'm glad you've come to the conclusion you have. I agree and think it is about time that people realize the system that we live under is destructive.

The question Jim poses as to whether an economic system is the problem doesn't fully address the issue. Eliminating capitalism is important, but no it's not the entire equation. People have been conditioned into the way they are to day by a system of atrocities. I don't for one moment believe that human nature is the cause of capitalism, I believe that capitalism is a development of a system that has been oppressing us for thousands of years. The system is there to keep power out of the hands of the many and place it with the few. Who the few are doesn't really matter, though of course those in power would like to retain. People have been taught to believe that they are undeserving of freedom, and that only a select few are worthy to live well, be it through money, politics or divine decree. That idea has been fixed in the mind of people and in order to eliminate it we need a social revolution as well as an economic, and anti-authoritarian one. No anti-capitalist that I've ever met has said that all we need to do is change the economy, I think that we all recognize that in order to eliminate capitalism we must change our way of thinking and acting toward each other as well.

It's also important to consider that even if, and I think it is a rather remote possibility, human nature is avaricious, people can effect the way that they think, there is no reason to believe that if a society wanted to change that people are incapable of it.

Capitalism: One of Many Problems 20.Jan.2008 05:52

Abstrations and Idealisms Mask Materiality

The problem with making Capitalism the main boogeyman is that it them becomes too easy to sit in your armchair and not get yourself dirty with the muck of material day to day struggles on a wide variety of "fronts of resistence."

Instead of making an issue of economic system "primary", think of someone who might claim that, "eating meat is the underlying and main problem of society." Anti-carnivores might not eat meat themselves, but if they fall into idealism they set up a metanarrative in which "things are not going to change radically" until meat-eating is overthrown.

Intstead, both capitalism and meat-eating are "issues" imbedding in a broad material reality. Struggles of resistence should understand how capitalism functions, what its weaknesses are -- but the fight should be on specific fronts.

To march with sign saying "Eliminate Capitalism" is not too much different that marching with a sign that says "Eliminate Unethical Behavior". Its too ideological, abstract. We fish swim in the sea of capitalism. Do you tell people to stop swimming? You can point out the sky and you can point out that it would be better to swim in a different sea that wasn't so polluted -- but becoming a bird or finding a different ocean are at best long term goals.

Captialism, Abstraction and Materiality 20.Jan.2008 09:05

Words as Clubs

There is a famous essay called White Mythologies in which a European linguist compares abstract words to coins which have their face value worn off. A word that has its material aspect intact -- raccoon or dinnerfork for example -- is less linguistically prone to usury. But a word like capitalism or terrorism can be claimed by the "metaphysicians", and those in power to make such claims, as a word that is worth anything they stipulate. American linguists of course don't want to consider words as material objects.

"evolve, damn it!" 20.Jan.2008 16:25

Luigi Pontevecchio

There was a bumper sticker I saw once somewhere that read "Evolve, Damn It!" At this point that about sums up my feelings about capitalism. As with Marx, I cannot "condemn" it when it is seen in the context of human history: surely it's better than feudalism, for example! But it's not the "end of history," humanity can do much better, must do much better.

Recently, I've been learning about the work of people like the presenters at the Cooper Hewitt "Design for the Other 90%" exhibition. ( http://other90.cooperhewitt.org/) As horrific as the waste and ecological destruction of late modern capitalism is, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that work like this is being done, work that has lifted millions of people out of poverty using small-scale, affordable, ecologically friendly and innovative technologies that enable poor people to help themselves. Now, it turns out that once people reach a certain level of modest economic wellbeing and ease, they seem to universally want a lot of the same luxuries (cars, tvs, air conditioning, etc) that people in the rich countries mostly take for granted today. "Consumerism" is a vice of the affluent but a devoutly wished for dream for the poor.

I don't know what the answer is to this conundrum. I despise consumerism, but who am I, a rich bourgeois from the affluent West, to judge someone living in sub-Saharan Africa who aspires to own their own little car someday?

I hope that someday consumerism and capitalist excesses can be moderated just enough in the rich countries of the world that we can help the world's poor people to enjoy the creature comforts they feel they've been cheated of until now, while still saving this planet for future generations while we of the formerly gluttonous imperialist nations learn some humility and simplicity.

anarcho-capitalism 20.Jan.2008 20:19

aaaky

I completely concur about the problems inherent in corporations. I also agree with you in regards to the myth of 'green consumerism'. Buying ourselves out of guilt won't work.

That said, I fully and wholeheartedly support Ron Paul. You are incorrect in assuming that Ron Paul is 'for' corporations. I suggest you do some more research into this. Ron Paul is against corporate welfare. Ron Paul is against lobbyists and power corporations currently have in our federal gov't. Ron Paul is against the federal legislation that empowers corporations, such as how we now treat corporations as US Citizens (and I hope you're well aware of this issue and agree with him.)

Now, on the other hand, Ron Paul IS libertarian, so yes, he is all about the free market. I am not a libertarian, and I definitely differ in opinion on many of his beliefs here... but understand that he's coming from a good place. Most libertarians (such as Ron Paul) do not believe corporations would survive in a truly free market - that instead, they are a result of gov't interference. Ron Paul's extremely limited gov't seeks to remove the negative impact of gov't on the economy.

Here's the thing - large corporation often grow out of complicated regulations. Heavy regulation acts as a barrier to entry for smaller companies and therefore limit competition. Corporate welfare also supports the growth of corporations since only large corporations benefit from corporate welfare - small companies are generally out of luck. In other words, according to libertarian theory it is gov't interference in capitalism that large corporations arise in the first place. And again, while I don't totally agree with libertarianism (I don't consider myself a capitalist), if forced into the economic paradigm of capitalism I DO agree with them. Our gov't is tailor made for the rise of huge monolithic corporations - and it's only getting worse now that huge monolithic corporations control many aspects of gov't via lobbyists and other techniques.

Ron Paul wants to GUT all this. To think this means he supports large corporate powers is a misnomer of the highest order.

Peace,
aaaky

Talk to someone who's lived under socialism 21.Jan.2008 14:38

anon

I've worked with several people who grew up in China or Soviet Russia, Poland, Romania. The state basically decides what you are worth to the state and what you get to do with your life. Don't like it? Drink lots of vodka.

In China or the USSR, after public school you took tests. If you scored high enough, you went into college. If not, some state job, either military or working in a state-owned factory. Your home, your abundance and quality of food, vacation time, etc was all decided by the state. If you were a good athlete in school, you might get sent to a camp for promising gymnastists or other sports players. If you did well enough, you would be compelled to serve the state with pride as an athlete. If you didn't do well enough, you went back to school and hopefully tested high enough to go to college.

Say you didn't want to work in a factory and just wanted to paint pictures and sell them in Red Square. Not if the state didn't like what you were painting. Say you didn't like working in a coal mine and wanted to quit and go work as a fisherman. Only if the state approves it. Think you might work your way up to management? Not likely, because cronyism is the rule when the state controls everything.

I've met and spoken at length with about 20 different people who grew up under communism. None would ever want to live through it again. Capitalism, if properly regulated (like Ron Paul wants it to be regulated to control anti-competitive behavior) at least lets you decide what you want to do with your life and be able to work hard to make for yourself a better life. Want to be a farmer for the Soviet or Chinese state? Whatever additional efficiency and productivity you come up with will be taken by the state. Capitalism has been perverted into socialism in disguise in the U.S. Once you see that, you will understand the error of this arguement. Capitalism is a system that requires freedom. Socialism is a system that gradually destroys freedom.

re: anon 21.Jan.2008 15:52

max

Please realize, the USSR and China were NOT socialist!!!!

there is a huge gulf between Stalinism and Socialism, but you've read very little on the subject due to your American corporate education.

please read:

the revolution betrayed, by Leon Trotsky

In Defense of Marxism, by Trotsky

Socialism: What it is, what it isn't , by Ann Robertson

re: max 21.Jan.2008 20:52

anon

So I would read a Bolshevik propagandist to understand socialism? I've read some of Trotsky and I've read the Communist Manifesto. Granted, the picture painted is one of a workers utopia, but it didn't really work out that way did it? Why was that considering that Lenin and Trotsky had control? No propagandist who wishes to make the people vote against or support an agenda that is in direct conflict with their best interest ever tells the truth. The trick is to make the people buy into a lie.

Believing Trotsky and Lenin about socialism is like believing Bush or Reagan when it comes to trickle down economics. I guess that story has a nice ring to you, the same way it has a nice ring to all the Republican middle class who venerate Reagan while their jobs get sent over seas and their real standard of living is eroded. It's the same reason why semi-modern, pro-socialist organizations like the Fabian Society came to be based on John Ruskindism arguments for British Imperialism.

As a peace offering, I would say that I support socialized forms of government for those things that cannot ethically be justified by allowing them to ebb and flow with the marketplace. Here I disagree with Ron Paul. Health care is a perfect example, since many aspects of health care are subject to perfectly inelastic demand. However, the market for most goods should be regulated ON THE FRONT SIDE to ensure fair competition. This is what our current one party system has done, both Republican and Democrat, by making sure that markets are protected from risk by laws and the entry of competitors.

I would say to you, look how quickly it took the socialist, Trotsky-esque ideals of countries like Russia to be disintegrated into state totalitarianism. By contrast, the monopolist/fasicst forces of the world have been working diligently for 150 years to seize control of the US, Canada, UK, etc, and still haven't managed to do so completely. It's easier to seize control of a single state-controlled system than a distributed, open market system where the players always change. That should be prima facie evidence enough for why capitalism is a ultimately a more corruption-proof system of government.

We need to be talking about Patriarchy, not socialism! 21.Jan.2008 22:52

anastasia

All of these systems, capitalism, socialism, etc are patriarchal systems. We need a complete upheavel and try something that respects nature, women, people of all colors and sexual orientations. All of the above mentioned systems keep rich white men on top, women on the bottom, nature to be used as we humans please. Read Rianne Eisler's 'Sacred Pleasure' or 'The Partnership Way' to get more of an idea of the difference in nature-based inclusion.
It may already be too late.

We are not humanity 22.Jan.2008 14:31

Brian the Green

Jim Lockhart wrote:

"There is something deeper, more intrinsic, more pervasive than the Economic systems which subordinate populations and direct their energies according to specif ideologies. And that is Human Nature.
It is inherent human greed, not the inherent greed of any particular system which ignores the delicate web of Life connecting us all. Whether Capitalism, Socialism, Monarchy, all systems become destructive because of the Human compulsion to have more, allow others less, as if this somehow protects them from an uncertain future."

It is not true that ALL systems become destructive. Indigenous people have been around a million years without being destructive. They lived here in the NW for at least 10,000 years without destroying the rivers, salmon and other species. I don't believe they had a compulsion for more.

The reality is a single culture, OUR culture (industrial civilization), is the system that destroys the planet. Both capitalism and socialism are destructive, when based on industrial civilization.

I agree with Anastasia that we need to move beyond heirachy, control and domination to a system of community, cooperation and partnership. Riane Eisler has written about these changes. So has David Korten and others.

There are numerous examples of these shifts happening as we speak. The more each of can unplug from the old system and support the emerging system the better. Take what you know and teach others. Remove as much energy and support as you can from the corporate system and let's watch it die in a pile of hubris.