The New Republic
A Kevin Annett Newsletter
October 13, 2019 Volume I, #18
The one-sided see-aw...
Give It Up For Capitalism
A holding company is the people you give your money to while you're being searched.
- Will Rogers
When you’re dumping a monarchy and starting a republic, a lot of thought should be given to capitalism, because your monarchy is the bull goose of all capitalisms. With a republic, you can go either way.
Everybody talks about capitalism but nobody has done anything about it recently. Except maybe for Gary Engler, a Canadian writer who brings a bar sinister perspective to the subject (with the Top 10 reasons we should all hate capitalism), and Richard D. Wolff, an American who converted a long interview with David Barsamian into a book called "Occupy The Economy: Challenging Capitalism." That last item may make sense because in the last couple of years we've occupied just about everything else.
Let’s start with Gary, who notes as #1:
“Capitalist corporations suffer from a personality disorder characterized by enduring antisocial behavior, diminished empathy and remorse…. If corporations could be sent to a criminal psychologist, they’d be diagnosed as psychopaths and locked away forever.”
Well, yes and no, I’d say. A strange thing happened on the way out of the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt actually saved capitalism by trashing it. Well, not entirely. Roosevelt enacted legislation to hobble capitalism's excesses, while at the same time creating "entitlements" (as the Republicans say these days), and forcing the top 1% to pick up the tab.
It would never work today, because modern capitalists don't scare that easily. FDR told the rich (in 1932 you were rich if you had anything left on payday – or if in fact you HAD a payday) if you don't pony up, the Unions and socialists will get you. Don't forget, everybody in those days was listening to Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck, not Snoop Dog and Ten Cent.
It worked. Of course, there wasn't a Mitch McConnell in the Senate in those days. Roosevelt also took job-creating government action because the free market wasn't doing it. And of course there wasn't a Nancy Pelosi in Congress in those days.
Next, there’s the greed factor, an important item jn American business. Engler has something to say about that, too. (#2)
“Capitalism encourages greed. But greed is only good for capitalists. For normal people it is very bad for our communities, which rely on altruism, compassion and a generalized concern for others.”
But the greed model isn’t paramount, compared with what we should do now, says Wolff, since there's a real wolf at our door. The real wolf is the capitalistic coyote who has spent 30 years maximizing profits over workers' dead bodies - resisting regulation, lowering taxes on himself, off-shoring, union-busting, and just generally screwing the middle class.
Gary Engler agrees, pointing out that (#3):
“Capitalism is a system of minority privilege and class rule based on private ownership. This gives a few rich people the power to buy and sell jobs, which means they can build or destroy entire communities that depend on those jobs.”
What we need, both Wolff and Engler would agree, is more control by more people. We've had enough of a few guys in every corporation bossing all the rest over what is produced, how and where, trashing unions, the environment and even their own companies, which they're leaving anyway in golden parachutes.
The way to do that is to give every worker a say in - hey, wait a minute, that's like communism, right? Apparently. like everybody works four days and on the fifth, say Friday, instead of saying “TGIF” and heading for the nearest bar, they all have a meeting and decide what to do next.
That sounds pretty unAmerican, but Wolff is serious. He wants capitalism to become like democracv. Gary Engler isn’t far behind (#4):
“Capitalists praise freedom and individualism, but they destroy freedom and individualism for everyone but themselves. The vast majority are asked to follow orders, act as if we are machines, and limit our creativity to profits for our bosses.”
I like the way Bill Maher describes Capitalism. He says it's like 100 guys are in a big room and they order in 100 pieces of pizza. Vegetarian, whatever. Then one guy takes 90 pieces and leaves 10 for the other 99 guys. So somebody says: "Hey, you wouldn't mind taking 89, would you, so the rest of us could have 1/9th each?" And the first guy - who is a capitalist - says: "But that would be socialism."
As #5 in his top ten bitches about capitalism, Engler drops this one:
“… capitalists undermine unions and other organizations that encourage workers to cooperate with each other and act collectively.”
Well, things might be pretty bad with American capitalism, but it's sure better than what they have in China - State Capitalism – in which all the revenue flows to the state, i.e. the Politburo, either eight guys or six, depending on whether or not it's an off-election year.
Roughly 300 million people, the middle class, average about 20 grand a year; the other one billion are out in the boondocks so they only need less than a thousand bucks a year to live, and the eight guys in the Politburo get all the rest. One eighth of 1,300,000,000 is a lot worse (or better) than 1%, it seems to me. And it's definitely better than Maher's split on the pizza. That's why most other governments and economists are so enthusiastic about China's Gross Domestic Product, not to mention their gross domestic politicians.
But Engler can’t stand it (#6): “Capitalism turns people into consumers through advertising, marketing, entertainment and even so-called news… so that ever more profits can flow into the hands of a tiny minority.”
Au contraire. Other American writers have pointed out the advantages of capitalism that are not generally understood. For instance, capitalism not only trickles down on the people underneath (and stimulates demands for umbrellas, awnings and insurance coverage), but one historian named Diedre McCloskey explains that the industrial revolution can be traced directly to an improvement in how society values entrepreneurs.
For example, the first industrial revolution taught children (who were forced to work in coal mines at the age of nine) early entrepreneurial skills more quickly than those kids in backward nations where they didn’t have to work.
But according to Engler, money speaks louder than words – or worlds (#7):
“Capitalism is a system in which the principle of one dollar, one vote, dominates that of one person, one vote… those with the most money are entitled to the most say in directing our governments and our economy.”
Another economic essayist named David Boaz traces the notion that capitalism is a dog-eat-dog culture. In present day China, the culture is more like people-eat-dog, whereas during the centuries when China was a feudal society, it was often a case of dog-eat-people. This sub-cultural innovation has also enhanced China's burgeoning dog food export industry.
For Engler, a dog-eat-dog society results in total self-interest, which is a bad thing (#8):
. “Self-interest leads capitalists to seek profit everywhere, regardless of the damage done to other people and the health of the planet’s ecosystem. Self-interest leads capitalists to destroy any rival economic system (such as indigenous communal land use and respect for nature) that can be a barrier to their endless quest for profit.’”
And yet a third economist has noted that in a study of not-for-profit hospitals versus free enterprise hospitals (the Paul Ryan model) the for-profit institutions outperformed the others in areas such as hip-replacement surgery, which took place three times as often where there was an intentional profit motive.
Is this a good thing?
Not according to Engler, because it isn’t democratic (#9):
“Capitalism is not a friend to democracy but ultimately its enemy… If people use democracy to weaken capitalists, the rich and powerful turn to various forms of fascism in order to keep their privileges.”
It's almost unanimous among economists, at least those on commission, that self-interest is a vital factor in channeling people's self-interest into social benefits. A Chinese economist, Mao Yushi, points out that the "paradox of morality" is such that everybody works harder when he/she is pieced out. I had suspected as much but never found the courage to say so.
For Engler, self-interest is more destructive than positive (#10):
“Capitalists make profits from global warming, from destroying our oceans, from pumping chemicals into the atmosphere and from patenting everything including life itself. Only by getting rid of capitalism can we rescue our environment.”
If you ask me, capitalism hasn't always been that great. In 1921, R.H. Tawney, the English philosopher, wrote a book called "The Acquisitive Society." In fact, he got so acquisitive himself over the success of the book that the following year he produced an even longer more expensive book entitled "Religion and The Rise Of Capitalism."
His major point was that in the past, economic activity was merely a single aspect of human experience, but with the decline of the Church and the advance of capitalism, the market was magnified into a society where all aspects of life are ruled by economics. This differs from the social philosophy of Reverend Kevin Annett, who proposes a just society featuring the decline of both the Church AND capitalism, especially the Church.
Sometimes, and I know this for a fact, those economic concerns even "magnified" in the Church itself, like in the ballooning of the assets of the Vatican Bank in the last century or so, once the Spaghetti Cardinals (I thought that one up by myself) learned the more sophisticated disciplines hitherto known only to the Fuggers (not a misprint), the Rothschilds, the Goldmans, the Sachses and the Gambinos.
. I leave it to economist Joseph Shumpeter to decide whether capitalism will survive. In his book "Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy," he sort of says he doubts it, but then again, it just might. According to Shumpeter, without individual innovation, profit will vanish or become unimportant. The profit-making impulse arises, with all its anomalies and abuses, from the mechanism of competition and is the remuneration of selling power. In proportion as the profit-makers become fewer, they become more open to attack by the multitude.
And right now, although our capitalistic society taught me to never split an infinitive nor to end a sentence with a preposition, that's about where we're at.
There are only two basic choices, with regulated gradations possible within each"
1) People own things individuals, or
2) People own things collectively (or "corporatively"), with or without elected control: Shareholders are elected by subscribers, deep state controllers are not. (So, the distinction is NOT WHAT YOU THOUGHT! I.e., at a certain magnitude, what's called "capitalism"t A that level called "corporatism", actually become more democratic; while, if the controllers are deep state controllers, cut the people out entirely, and that's the idea.
Now, which would you rather have?