There isn’t any question as to the ingenuity that capitalism has produced through its natural competition over the centuries. Unfortunately, like any social or economic template, capitalism may have run its course. As reported by Forbes, if our current capitalistic tendencies aren’t addressed, humanity could be starved of resources within a century — but that isn’t even the grimmest part. Species are going extinct 1,000 times faster today than they have over the last 65 million years. Capitalism is spoiling everything’s chance at survival, not just mankind’s.
However, even then, poverty is rampant in every country on Earth and continues to claim families, veterans, even entire neighborhoods. According to DoSomething.org, more than 1 billion people live in squalor across the globe. As capitalism pushes outward, more people fall below that line. Forbes cited research from the United Nations’ projections that estimates a population of 10 billion by 2050. Without adjustments to the current system of capitalism, those generations could be poorer than we can even imagine.
Intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Stephen Hawking are critical of capitalism as well, referring to the “superwealth” that has been hoarded by the businessmen and bureaucrats of society. The Huffington Post examined a Reddit AMA with Professor Hawking who explained that people shouldn’t be afraid of robots or aliens, but should fear the capitalistic system that ensures their oppression.
“If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.”
Chomsky, in his documentary Requiem for the American Dream,deconstructs the formula; concentrated wealth will yield concentrated power, and concentrated power will ensure concentrated wealth. This relentless circle of back-and-forth interest strips the middle class of their education and economic/social potential and has virtually no room for the poor.
Professor Adrian Bejan of Duke University conducted a series of physics experiments that actually prove how broken capitalism is, as reported by the Independent. Professor Bejan compared capitalism to natural water systems; small springs and creeks naturally flow into larger streams until they form big bodies of water. In a capitalistic society, currency acts the same way. Bejan’s example is that the eight richest men have the same amount of wealth as the poorest fifty percent of people across the globe. Money flows from small tributaries into the oceans of the “super rich,” where it stagnates. Only capitalism produces such lopsided lifestyles and labels it “progress” or the “American Dream.”
Capitalism and the Idea of Endless Growth
Trade is a natural part of any society: one person has always required a good or service from another, even before they could properly communicate. Trade makes survival easier for the individual (and any community), so naturally, a form of economics has structured itself around this necessity: capitalism. What capitalists have forgotten is that capitalism requires free trade to be practiced. Free trade does not need capitalism. Those who practice capitalism have conjured the misconception that their ideology has a monopoly on voluntary exchange. Considering capitalism was coined within the last couple of centuries, in comparison to the (tens of) thousands of years humans have been freely trading, obviously no such monopoly exists.
This is a common tactic used by ideologies (and those that serve them). An ideology will take a concept that is precious to a majority and couple it with an agenda. In the case of capitalism, free trade is tethered to the idea of limitless growth: there is always a dollar to be made. The profit from trade will continue to generate itself, and governments, who benefit from such revenue, recognize this. Whereas the benefits of voluntary exchange don’t seem to have a ceiling, profit margins certainly do. Capitalism doesn’t acknowledge this reality because it has already stapled a bottom line to everything, including health and education.
Capitalism is not free trade. It is a market-based society where the daily concern of each citizen is to turn a buck. Capitalism is an economic focus, a social and political distraction. Even without the oppression of government, there is a concept within economics called an “oligopoly.” This is where a market is cornered by a provider to maximize profit in exchange for a higher quality, or even necessary good or service. As these markets become cornered, and fewer options for necessities are available, an economic oligarchy comes to fruition. A person is oppressed if their quality of life is annexed by a politician or provider.
Centralized power and globalization are what make capitalist tendencies unsustainable (on top of unethical). Predators switch between food sources to prevent scarcity — there is always another animal to prey on, and capitalism tries to mimic this model when it says that profit is limitless. Because of globalization, though, capitalism feeds on all of its resources at once. If a pack of wolves gets so large that they must devour all of the deer and rabbits at once, the pack can’t sustain itself, and they starve. Humans close in on an interconnected population of nearly 8 billion. Our forests, oceans, and atmosphere reflect the pitfalls of unchecked growth. People will exchange anything, including each other and their environment, to make a paycheck. City Lab compared the oceans to “McDonald’s ball pits,” as they estimate that more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic have been dumped into the sea.
Being so distracting, capitalism is wildly shortsighted. It is a dollar by dollar system that crushes the spirit and its creativity, sustains needless war, is entirely committed to consuming, and staples price tags to everything. The components of such an ideology provide no incentive, but stockpiles coercion and other oppressive tactics: people tend to be coerced into participating by capitalists because they have already capitalized on space, goods, and resources. This type of behavior is corrosive to the idea of free trade and should be labeled as exploitation. The ideologues who worship capitalism are the same ones who value property above people.
Ideology is already a toxic concept, but a structure of beliefs with such contorted principles and misplaced values should be rejected. Thoroughly. Human consciousness is perhaps the most valuable resource Earth has ever had… to treasure artificial currency over the lives that produce and consume it is evil by definition. If capitalism is as innovative and successful as its super-wealthy engineers claim, there is no excuse for the 22,000 children who die daily due to malnutrition and disease, as reported by Forbes.
The rift between free trade and capitalism should be examined by those who subscribe to the ideology, so they can properly address (and defend) what it is they find so appealing. Perhaps understanding that capitalism has a death-grip on the only salvageable part of their belief system would help some of them be a little more honest in their rhetoric. The globalization of such an economic system doesn’t have room for a contingency plan in the face of failure, and the ship seems to be going down. Correcting the misconceptions of ‘limitless profit’ could serve to help lessen the impact.
Capitalism has convinced its subjects that growth should be endless. As Edward Abbey said, “growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.”
[Featured Image by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images]