Michael Parenti says, “The essence of capitalism is to turn nature into commodities and commodities into capital. The live green earth is transformed into dead gold bricks, with luxury items for the few and toxic slag heaps for the many. The glittering mansion overlooks a vast sprawl of shanty towns, wherein a desperate, demoralized humanity is kept in line with drugs, television, and armed force.”
Capitalism’s contemporary form, neoliberalism, is characterized by “…privatization, deregulation, globalization, free trade, austerity and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society.”
Neoliberalism’s flaw, I believe, is its “belief in sustained economic growth as the means to achieve human progress,” and misplaced “confidence in free markets as the most-efficient allocation of resources.”
The universal crisis of inequality was created by neoliberal capitalism. An article in The New Republic says, “Some people can make unimaginable fortunes in microseconds, while others still scratch a living out of the dry ground. Eight men, it is calculated, hold as much wealth as the poorest half of the planet: 3.6 billion people. A global system underlies this vastly unequal distribution of wealth and power.” It states further, “The current rules all but ensure that governments act in the interests of capital.” And more importantly: “But the things that neoliberalism has trouble seeing are, at the present, far more consequential: deep inequalities, accompanied by a sense of powerlessness, of being left behind by a global system that operates with no regard for the interests or voice of the majority. […] Furthermore, the primacy of capital in neoliberalism means that crises will be resolved on the backs of the poor, with cuts to the welfare state and public services, though it is not the poor who cause them.”
The global recession of 2008 was caused by the pop of a fictitious capital bubble, the product of a neoliberal economic agenda.
In South Africa – and in most absorbed nations of the US-aligned power structure – right-wing policies reign supreme: austerity, deregulation and privatization. Capital dictates policy, not democracy.
Regulations protect consumers and workers from exploitation. Corporations lobby for deregulation to enable profitable exploitation. They want to give as little, gain as much. That’s why the farmers in India are protesting.
John Pilger says, “Privatization is theft.” The methodical sabotage of public institutions inevitably transfers power over to private corporations, who then dictate public policy and discourse. These corporations are not subject to democracy; their only goal is increasing profit margins and investor bottom lines. Their intentions have no respect for humanity or nature. Whatever you hear otherwise, you will discover, upon close inspection, is lip service towards good public relations. Economy has been decoupled from Society; what is said about the economy is inconsistent with the state of human welfare. As Caitlin Johnstone says, “Abnormalize the use of ‘the economy’ when you’re really talking about the stock market. If you’re talking about something that can be described as ‘booming’ while millions are facing eviction, you’re not talking about the economy. Call it ‘the rich man’s casino’ or something.”
Gillian Schutte says, “As South Africa has become more neo-liberal over the years, so too has the violence against the poor increased. In fact, violence against the poor has become commodified as manifested in the security industrial complex that has developed and flourished in the gaping divide between the rich and the poor. Neo-liberal policies ensure wealth stays concentrated in the hands of the top 10 percent and relegates every one else to hierarchical pockets of struggle. This means it is the poorest of the poor who carry the biggest burden and are victimised by this system. The poor are rendered valueless in an economic system designed to work against them. They are dumped like human waste into spaces where the chance to make a living is virtually nil because capital-intense industry has no use for them. They do not keep up with inflation. The price of food has doubled because there are no regulations capping prices. Neo-liberalism is a giant, devouring Pac-Man. Whatever it cannot make profits from, it spits out into the wasteland that has become the reality for the majority of black South Africans. This economic system is also increasingly turning the screw on the middle classes. Twenty-three years of rampant capitalism and neo-liberal policies have rendered many unable to access adequate nutrition, let alone health and education.”
The obscenely wealthy multiplied the enormous power they wield by the rise and interconnectedness of global corporations. Corporations rule and run the world. Today, their influence and power supersede that of governments. Think of Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Tesla, Johnson & Johnson, Facebook, Walmart and Google. These conglomerates command reverence. Their tendrils penetrate deep into our lives.
Again, we look to Parenti for commentary. In Against Empire, he writes, “The diseconomies of capitalism are treated as the public’s responsibility. Corporate America skims the cream and leaves the bill for us to pay, then boasts about how productive and efficient it is and complains about our wasteful government.”
Globalization enables capitalism to run amok worldwide, offering a billionaire the opportunity to siphon wealth from a country across the world. Parenti says, “Designed to leave the world’s economic destiny at the mercy of bankers and multinational corporations, Globalization is a logical extension of imperialism, a victory of empire over republic, international finance capital over democracy.”
Alison McDowell says, “The global economy runs on debt finance, extraction, and war. It forces the masses to navigate poisoned environments and gig-economy employment. Living under such stress has profound negative consequences for our physical and mental health, our relationships with our friends and family. Everything is out of balance, and the billionaire class uses that to its advantage. Corporations sell us ‘solutions’ in the form of disease management and workforce re-skilling that never solve the problems they’ve made for us.”
Pepe Escobar quotes Billions in explaining it another way:
Johnstone says, “In reality, the world is still very much locked into zealous worship of the great god known as capitalism. And it is choking the world to death.”
Here is my opinion: Capitalism is a false religion. It is the worship of money and market. Its nature is to pathologically seek out profit at any and all costs. It demands infinite growth on a finite planet, with little to no regard for ethics or sustainability. It promotes hierarchy and engenders subjugation. It is inevitably antagonistic and destructive. Corporations are leading us to extinction. They must be democratized and regulated.
Before the “commie” accusations start flying, let me point out that the alleged failure of one system is not an excuse for the crimes of another. Anyway, what we have now is corporate socialism: corporations are prioritized and protected by policy; corporations are insulated from market failures and bailed out by public funds/taxpayer money.
John Steppling simply says, “Many on the left seem to have forgotten that capitalism is actually bad. That the reason the planet sinks under the weight of pollution and militarism is because of capitalism.”
Imagine how things would work in a healthy democracy. The scientist applies science – a means to answer a question – to produce potential solutions, along with their pros and cons. The politician – representing the will and needs of the people – evaluates and applies one of those solutions based on risk/reward. The journalist holds both scientist and politician accountable. You would be naïve to believe that any one of these three elements is not susceptible to corruption. The corruptor is the corporation. Corporations create a tightly-controlled, profit-driven ecosystem incorporating all aforementioned elements. This confluence is motivated by – and run on – money. This essay highlights how important money is to people; which is what the scientist, politician and journalist are after all: people. Take the corruption of Evidence-Based Medicine for example.
Wealth buys power, and the wealthy use that power to enable an even greater consolidation of wealth. Read Alan Macleod’s piece on how economic elites have an outsize say in public policy. Laws are literally written (or left unwritten) to serve business interests first.
Jonathan Cook makes the case that capitalism is inherently violent and follows a suicidal trajectory.
Many historical figures have spoken out against the innate cruelty of capitalism. Institutionalized racism is one of its symptoms. Martin Luther King Jr said, “The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.” Joe Slovo said, “It’s not difficult in South Africa for the ordinary person to see the link between capitalism and racist exploitation…” Richard Pryor said capitalism promotes racism. Fred Hampton spoke about how race is used to divide the classes within the capitalist framework.
The ruling class have recognized the unsustainability of unfettered capitalism. Inclusive Capitalism – a wolf in sheep’s clothing situation – is being sold as the solution. The year 2020 was meant to experience a global economic recession. Enter Covid-19 (1, 2), the pretext for The Great Reset – Capitalism’s Death March, led by Davos Man, engineers of our current predicament.
The next part is Traditionally Awful.