By Mark Webster. Originally published at Dissident Voice.
The Limitations of the Capitalist System in a Finite World.[C]apitalism has always been sold as the best way for the greatest number of people to benefit from their own labor. I would agree that was true enough over most of our U.S. history for men of European decent. The real question today is whether or not our unregulated “capitalistic-democracy” is actually working as we’ve been promised it should. Can we really call it a “democracy” where political candidates are voted in by corporate big buck$ to serve only their own financial interests? Can we really call it a capitalist society if the larger majority who, although ideologically may side with capitalism, are not participating in the economy as capitalists themselves? Over the past few decades we’ve been witnessing an ongoing transformation from capitalism toward what looks to be nothing less than corporate controlled feudalism. If we allow the momentum to carry us in the same direction we’ve been going, suddenly we’ll all wake up and acknowledge exactly who our masters are.
At one time the world was thought to be infinite with an unlimited supply of natural resources waiting to be discovered and forged into useful tangible consumables. The competitive nature of capitalism as practiced for over 200 years is revealing some flawed reasoning and systemic failures which are adverse to the well-being of the majority whom the capitalist system is said to serve. The rule of producing with the least expensive method seems common sense towards conserving energy, raw materials and human labor as well as toward maximizing bottom line profitability, but in reality unchecked capitalism today is excluding a large percentage of people from being capitalists themselves as well as limiting available choices for the greater and vast majority. Fewer choices mean less freedom and puts capitalism at odds with the overall best interests of our population and society as a whole. Like some religious folks who think freedom of religion means “freedom to impose their religion on you”, so it goes with capitalists with the Supreme Court having granted them the “legal right” to freely impose on our society through legislation which benefits those few with enough capital to sway an election. With a few absolute and simple truths being understood it’s easy to see how the economy can be manipulated to create more or less jobs as well as manipulated toward producing more or less goods. [pullqute]Having collectively invested in the capitalist ideology for over two centuries, the current U.S population is now sensing something’s amiss and yet many display an absolute phobia when discussing system failures or any possible alternatives.[/pullqute] The results of this phobia allow the public to be easily manipulated into a collective denial of system failures as well as a collective denial concerning the conflicting objectives between capitalism and democracy in general. These failures and conflicting objectives are due in part to the limitations of the capitalist system in a finite world.
Imagine a world with unlimited resources where any industrious individual or group could conceivably work their way into any market on a competitive basis. But to the contrary we live in a finite world where the majority of the U.S. population is actually being excluded from participating as capitalists. It’s true many do work in competitive capitalist industries of one sort or another. However, the people at the bottom and middle levels of the wage scale often earn only enough, or less than enough, to do little more than get by. These people are not practicing capitalists themselves but are merely employed by capitalist companies. Many in our economy have neither the means nor the opportunity to move up the ladder, and for them the capitalist system might as well be non-existent; calling those people capitalists themselves is little more than a mind bending exercise holding them personally responsible for a system which is unable to deliver the advocated promises. Almost all are slaves to the system if they want to maintain their current standard of living. While they do have a great potential for moving down, and even being forced down by circumstances beyond their control, in all reality there is very little room for the vast majority to move up. And, of course, those at the very bottom of our economic pyramid have no choice but to solicit or accept charity and government handouts with the possibility of being forced into crime. No matter how you classify the people at the very bottom they’re not capitalists themselves unless you consider soliciting handouts and criminal activities as the endeavors of productive capitalists. And speaking of soliciting handouts, isn’t that what big business does with all the campaign funding and lobbying in D.C. to effectively pass laws purely for their own benefit while putting the rest of us under their thumb? I suppose in their case, propaganda must take exception and mislabel undue-influence as capitalism.
The idea that anyone can reach whatever level of success they desire, while it does happen for some, is far from being a universal truth and is absolutely one of the biggest myths ever propagated. There are 500 Fortune 500 companies and at any given time there may be 3,000 qualified individuals who want to be the CEO of any one of those 500 companies. Yet simple math deems it impossible for 2500 of those 3000 individuals to realize their aspirations at any given time. Imagine there are 40 jobs in a manufacturing plant and 300 qualified people who want those jobs at any given time. When there are more applicants than positions across nearly all aspects of the economy, there is a certain percentage of the population which is automatically excluded from participating in the capitalist system at their desired and qualified level of success – this includes all those employed who apply for a more fulfilling or financially rewarding position. Are they all doing something wrong which keeps them from reaching their own self-determined level of success? As we’ve already determined there are only 500 Fortune 500 CEO positions just the same as there are a limited number of positions for any particular occupation in the U.S. and the entire world. Having a stratified economic pyramid mandates that some are required to stay at the bottom or the middle, and if you’ve made it to the top, you can retire any time you wish. So in our capitalist system where, through personal endeavor, we should all, with competence, be able to rise to any desired level on the economic food chain; but as reality dictates, it simply isn’t even mathematically possible. Again I’d like to say, “one of the biggest myths ever propagated”.
The total number of possible jobs and the total of what can be produced on planet earth are both exclusive and finite numbers. It’s easy to recognize some of these finite limitations by looking at industries which require natural resources to compete in a capitalist system. If there is limited farmland on the planet with all of it being owned and not for sale, then by default everybody else is excluded from entering the market as a grower of farm produce. When all mineral deposits are already owned and not for sale, then by default everyone else is excluded from extracting and mining minerals. Renewable resources contained in the earth’s ecosystem are not unlimited and if we harvest too much of certain stocks, it actually becomes counterproductive. The overharvesting of any particular fish species results in limiting their reproduction capabilities and reduces the future annual harvests and future number of fisherman as well. Having limited finite and renewable resources automatically excludes a certain percentage of the population from being able to participate as true capitalists working and profiting to their full or desired capacity.
Imagine that a handful of oil companies have rights to all the world’s oil reserves, and they decide to control the flow of oil to maximize benefits and profit longevity for themselves and their progeny for generations to come. This is already in place on some level with oil producing nations having agreed to quotas calculated to serve their interests. It’s not hard to understand their calculations can raise or lower the price of fuel. So the flow of oil being controlled prohibits a certain percentage of the population from participating as capitalists in the oil business, as well as prohibiting other businesses that are partially or completely stymied by the costs and availability of oil. Any manipulation and artificial controls on the use of natural or renewable natural resources is an exclusive device which automatically limits the number of people who can be capitalists in one or more industries. It is a reality that markets are controlled by calculations to maximize benefits for either a very few, or a very many. The point here is [pullqute]there’s no such thing as endless economic growth on our finite planet, nor is there any such thing as pure unmitigated capitalism for any and all individuals who wish to participate.[/pullqute]
A very obvious reality which causes jobs to disappear is the use of robotic, automated and computer systems. Imagine a crazy world where unlimited profit is valued more than the well-being of society as a whole. This crazy world is building machines to do the jobs humans once were paid to do. So if machines are replacing humans and humans aren’t getting paid, then who is going to buy the consumables manufactured and harvested by machines? These machines have understandably benefited the bottom line of capitalist companies. Indeed, to stay competitive in the capitalist system it became necessary to employ machines. Some of the derived benefits to capitalists employing machines are pretty much self-evident with reduced labor costs as well as reduced labor disputes. But the former workers who were replaced with machines are not part of the group who capitalized the company, and are not getting a share of the companies increased profits nor benefits due to machines being employed (This is yet more evidence that those former workers were not active and practicing capitalists themselves). Workers don’t benefit when a machine takes their job. Neither do they benefit when there’s an abundance of labor competing for fewer jobs due to machines being employed. The bottom line here is that machines, although wonderful labor saving devices, do not necessarily serve the best interests of the majority in a pure capitalistic society as practiced in a finite world.
There are several large industries in our U.S. economy which don’t actually produce one tangible object for human consumption. These non-producers have determined they don’t need to produce anything and yet they can still rake off large percentages of the tangible consumables produced. Some of the larger non-producer industries include banking and finance, insurance, legal and government among others. These groups of non-producers are by default pure consumers in the economy and we’re going to label all those employed in these industries as “ultimate-consumers”. Ultimate-consumers absolutely do not produce one tangible consumable item themselves, they only consume. The government takes in a percentage of profits derived from the labor of others, but they produce no tangible item from which they profit while maintaining themselves as ultimate-consumers. Many who’ve been programmed will now automatically say the banks lend money which allows others to produce tangible items and although true, the fact remains the banks still don’t produce any one tangible consumable item themselves. The banking, insurance, legal and government industries are all intertwined by laws and industry practices in an overall system which leaves the consumer with no choice but to purchase some of their non-tangible “products”. Those laws which intertwine these industries and guarantee their profits are nothing more than a set of arbitrary rulings which could be arbitrarily changed at any time for the benefit of overall society. If, for instance, all the ultimate-consumers of the world suddenly go out and produce tangible consumables, then those who are already producers would not be required to produce as much; and, theoretically, since the same amount or more tangible consumables could be produced, everyone could maintain the same or rise to a better standard of living.
Assume that every dollar is made honestly and a percentage of every dollar represents the labor of one or more individuals who have produced a tangible consumable. And instead of dollars people are given labor credits which are the same as having dollars they can make purchases with. If they store enough labor credits away, they can take five years off work, and instead of working to pay their bills they just pay with the labor credits they’ve saved up. We’ve all heard about the post 2008 government stimulus packages designed to infuse money into the economy with the hopes of providing a kick-start. Now think of the labor credits as dollars and understand that storing away dollars, by taking them out of the general economy, is the exact opposite of a stimulus package. Please reread the previous sentence until you have a good understanding of the underlying ramifications. The billionaires themselves don’t benefit once they’ve accumulated enough to live out fifty lifetimes in absolute luxury. Of course, hundreds of billion$ in assets may be needed if one suffers from grossly exaggerated financial insecurities or outright selfishness and egoism with the possibility of some enjoyment thrown in while watching others struggle and actually suffer through no fault of their own. By storing these dollars away people that invest may be benefiting themselves personally, but it does not change the fact they are stifling the overall economy by not recirculating their earnings directly back into the system. And, yes, there are those who will now claim the stored money will be re-invested to create yet more jobs. Please refer back to our discussion of a public inflicted with a phobia causing a denial of reality and being easily manipulated because of it.
And now let’s take a look at the 1980’s “Supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics or “Reaganomics” as it was often referred to. This was one of those false promises stating that re-investment of wealth accumulated by the rich would create jobs all the way down the economic ladder. So many Americans bought into “Reaganomics” at the time and some still believe it will deliver the promises. In the end the implementation of the policy revealed itself as either flawed reasoning, or pure propaganda designed to lower the tax rates for the wealthy while limiting public outrage. Just like the scenario above where storing money away by taking it out of the general economy has the real effect of being the opposite of a stimulus, Reaganomics was and is that same system and has historically proven itself to be a complete falsehood when implemented in our finite capitalistic world. What we’re seeing today is yet more Reaganomics with a relatively very few acquiring more and more wealth, while the vast majorities get by with fewer choices, less purchasing power and less freedom.
The intention with all of this is not to propose solutions but rather to point out a few of the simple but pertinent realities affecting the entire U.S and world economies. Many would think it’s all too complex to change a system we’ve invested in for over two centuries. Much of this complexity is due to the “ultimate-consumer” machinations which have been arbitrarily created through legislation that ultimately serve the selfish purposes of those same “non-producers”. I consider the “complexity argument” to be a denial in acknowledging the limits and contradictions contained within a capitalistic-democracy, as well a denial of the economic feudalism which capitalistic-democracy is delivering the majority into. At this time our politicians are unable to honor their sworn oaths of office due to the realities of campaign funding and election laws which they themselves enacted. We could all just throw up our hands and surrender to a life of serfdom for the vast majority of ourselves and those we leave behind. It does seem a puzzle and “would be” difficult nut to crack, but the truth is any changes deemed beneficial could be made with an informed public working to effect political change.
My personal belief, though possibly naïve, is that a sweeping grass roots reformation is more likely to occur than redemption of our corrupted two party system administered by all the corrupted intellects which pervade and influence Washington D.C. And to the contrary, my belief is that it’s naïve on the part our government non-servants and their masters to think they can all continue leading us down this dead end road. In fact, the U.S. government and insecure oligarchs are frightened by the possibility of us taking back what is legally and rightfully ours. Their fear is revealed through all the NSA domestic spying and preparation to combat even peaceful civil unrest through the Minerva Research Initiative along with the recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), HR 1540). They deserve to be scared as well as blamed for effectively replacing our democracy with economic feudalism. Nothing scares those who are guilty more than having the truth regarding finite-capitalism revealed to the masses. This is after all our democracy, as in we the many, directly opposed to them, the few. Most if not all laws concerning business, the legal industry, and use of natural resources, as well as the political funding and lobbying laws were all arbitrarily legislated to begin with. Any law(s) can and should be expanded or repealed if deemed beneficial to our county and society as a whole.
Mark Weiser was thrown into this world without any say as to when, or where, and to whom I would be born. My story is the same as all others in that respect as we all come from this same earth and began the same way. There is absolute truth in all matters among human kind, even if it’s that truth we’re afraid to acknowledge or don’t yet know. The truth where I’m concerned is preferable to anything else; it’s where my search began and where it never ends. Mark can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org Read other articles by Mark.