The scourge of Cannibal Capitalism

Posted: February 12, 2013 in Uncategorized
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There are many dissenting voices amid this ideological crusade for ‘austerity’. Some argue the Government needs to do more, some argue the private sector needs to do more, some argue that taxes need to be lowered, while some argue we should look to the Postwar Consensus for inspiration. The one query which used to be confined to a handful of far-left dreamers and ideological commies is now beginning to infiltrate into the mainstream, urged on by the Occupy movements: is Capitalism really the right economic system in the modern age? Has it outlived its usefulness? Is it failing in providing a minimum level of opportunity and dignity to all of its subservient practitioners? There was once a time when any such question would be immediately dismissed scornfully, but we live in a new age of Enlightenment, driven by the worldwide web, and perhaps the time is approaching when we can actually break the taboo and discuss whether we should still allow Capitalism to dictate our economic and social progress.

It’s hard to discuss Capitalism without reference to its evil nemesis: Communism. So the mindless soundbite goes: Capitalism is about opportunity for all to get wealthy, while Communism drags even the most gifted down to the level of the most simple. Talk Capitalism down in the wrong circles and be prepared for the backlash, and these kinds of generic retorts: “You don’t like it, go to North Korea”/ “You hypocrite talking of tearing down the system on Facebook on your iPad” / “Politics of envy” etc. etc., ad nauseum.

The problem with many of the Pro-Capitalism comments claiming credit for every great technological advance since the Industrial Revolution is that they oversimplify points, and imply that if Capitalism were replaced with a less divisive economic system then we would all be living in mud huts and rationing electricity while the richer folk would simply flee to some welcoming tax haven. One does not even have to think too hard to counter that the vast majority of great technological advances come from publicly-funded research and development, while Capitalism is merely adept at labelling, packaging and mass production of the finished item.

Rather than attempt to take apart the pro-Capitalism arguments, I’d thought I’d just elaborate on some negative aspects of Capitalism which occur to me, and how I think they are not only undesirable, but actually hold back the progress of modern civilisation.

First of all: planned obsolescence. This is the farcical and deliberate artificial shortening of a device’s lifespan, in order that the company produce, and thereby sell, more products, and generate more profit. This is not necessarily the same as merely updating or renewing existing software. It’s no coincidence that Asian cars constantly better American cars in terms of lifespan and reliability. Are Americans really second-rate car manufacturers? Or do they simply buy into the ‘planned obsolescence’ ideal more? Why do we tolerate buying products that have been deliberately sabotaged to break, wear out or fail before their potential shelf-life is over?

Secondly, do the means of production justify the end product? Is it acceptable that an Apple device is relatively affordable to even the poorer end of the Western market, when it is only so because of the minimal labour costs associated with developing World slave labour or Third World sweatshops? Is it acceptable that acres of rainforests are wiped out every minute to squeeze value out of timber and land for agriculture?

Thirdly, and most importantly perhaps, is that we have, through our current, toxic Neo-Liberal shade of Capitalism, removed almost all balances and checks which kept this naturally avaricious and destructive system working towards any concept of ‘greater good’. Antitrust regulations designed to ensure healthy trading competition and lack of monolithic multinationals killing the market are no longer applied, principally because those same bloated corporations have shrewdly used their massive capital to buy Western, as well as the rest of the World’s, governments. Witness the recent UK ‘horsemeat’ scandal to understand that deceit and cost-cutting is a core principle of ‘Cannibal Capitalism’. The consumer is not so much valued, as misled, manipulated and treated with contempt. The environment is plundered from until it degrades beyond use. Natural resources which should belong equally to all citizens, is arbitrarily claimed and labelled and sold off. Essential public services are now merely seen as another business opportunity; a market to be bled dry. This is what Cannibal Capitalism does: it eats that which sustains it, hubristic in its assumption that the host will not be inclined, nor be allowed, to fight back.

Cannibal Capitalism will not pursue anything which does not have the potential to turn a vast profit. Fantastic leaps forward have been stifled and buried by the vested interests of huge corporations, particularly fossil fuel companies, who not only will not invest in progressive forms of energy themselves, but actively sabotage potential competition who offer to, whether through nations’ Governments or other means. Look at the criminalisation of hemp for an example. The fact that Bill Gates pledges to compensate all companies selling flu remedies if a cure for the common cold is discovered says it all. If big companies are providing a solution for a problem, whether it be cold symptom alleviators, military weaponry or pharmaceuticals, it stands to reason that they will use their financial clout to see off any attempts to eradicate the problem and thus wipe out their market territory.

Cannibal Capitalism does not just devour its own consumers and resources; it also destroys any competition not willing to ‘play the game’. Edison played the game, sold his patents to the right people, while Tesla sought to provide the world with free, clean electricity generation. Cannibal Capitalism is why Thomas Edison died an American hero, and Nikola Tesla died debt-ridden and alone.

With Capitalism we have iPads, fast cars and fast food. Without Capitalism we could have clean, renewable energy for the entire planet, a practical end to warfare, healthcare and education for all, massive space exploration programmes and computers allowing us to use parts of our minds we never knew existed.

Right now, we have Governments saying they are broke, practically throwing themselves at the robber barons’ feet and begging for some ‘investment’ in their countries. And, of course, as it is the corporations’ money, it is the corporations’ rules. The people may wish for affordable healthcare and schools, but the investors only see the potential in logging rainforest and growing bio-fuels instead of food. What happened to the will of the people? Have we regressed right back to new feudal times, where those with money will do what they wish, and those without slave away for a pittance and keep their mouths shut, lest they lose the little they are allowed to have?

I’m not sure which economic/social system would be a preferable or practical alternative to Capitalism. Perhaps some form of Libertarian Socialism, Syndicalism, or similar democratic system under a resource-based economy. There are many obstacles, and, of course, wealthy vested interests, but now is surely the time we brought the debate into the mainstream.

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