While the false debate continues in mostly right-wing circles that today’s Capitalism is some aberrant form of “true” Capitalism, the end game and final victory of Capital continues to play out with multinational corporations becoming the ‘winner take all’ in their complete takeover of the world’s economies and governments. As discussed before, the TTIP and TPP are the latest maneuvers in this corporate grab for power, wealth, and resources. Any last vestiges of environmental protection, worker rights, and sovereignty will be shredded. No illusions of democracy should be maintained in a world of corporate feudalism where gross social inequality will have become irreversible and the will of common people smothered by the abuses of great wealth:
“[The TTIP] proposes to establish a Regulatory Co-operation Council combining US and EU regulatory agencies with the purpose of working towards deeper ‘regulatory co-operation and increased compatibility for future and existing regulatory measures’. For example, health and safety regulations and food standards between the US and the EU will be made ‘compatible’, or more simply put, downgraded or removed.
The TTIP and TPP are intended to include investor-state dispute settlement clauses. When a corporation considers its expected future profits are being harmed by a government it can lodge a case before these tribunals consisting of three lawyers who represent corporate interests. These lawyers have no conflict of interest restrictions on their operations. There are no limits on the awards that can be claimed against governments and very limited rights of appeal for governments. Even if a government wins a case it must pay the tribunal’s costs and legal fees – averaging $9m a case. UNCTAD reports a tenfold increase in such cases since 2000. Any health or environmental policy that conflicted with corporate interests would be subjected to these extra-judicial tribunals. Tribunals are currently organised under World Bank and United Nations rules. The compensation is taken from the taxpayers.
Of the world’s ten biggest law firms, ranked by revenue, four are British and six are US. A golden age for corporate lawyers beckons! ConDem Coalition government Minister without Portfolio Ken Clarke explained, ‘Investor protection is a standard part of free-trade agreements – it was designed to support businesses investing in countries where the rule of law is unpredictable, to say the least.’
The following are just a few of the cases that corporations have brought to the investor-state dispute settlement tribunals: …” – link
The PR machine continues to churn out lies even under the glaring reality of today’s obscene wealth disparity. One particular study, entitled Your Fate? Thank Your Ancestors, was discussed in the New York Times recently, proclaiming that an individual’s path to success or failure in any society is foreordained in their genetic make-up and family lineage. Of course genes do play a part in the intelligence, talents, and behavior of every individual, but this particular meme is based on the myth that people in present day capitalist economies live and operate within “modern meritocracy societies” wherein everyone has the freedom and opportunity to develop and utilize the full potential of their talents. As one commenter at the New York Times rightly stated:
“This [study] appears to be one of a growing number arguing for the inherent superiority of some people over others while strenuously avoiding terms like superiority. The claim that some are born to lead and rule and others to be ruled over is as old as human civilization.”
Such propaganda serves the purpose of those at the top of the capitalist social hierarchy, allowing them to justify capitalism’s grotesque social inequality while at the same time preaching to the masses that their poor standing in society is a result of their genetic heritage and not the result of a structurally unjust and undemocratic system. In other words, those at the top deserve to be there and so do those at the bottom.
Many people remain under the spell of the American Dream which promises they can rise to the top of this corrupt system or at least receive the trickle down benefits it claims to offer, but the stark reality of shrinking wages and pensions, persistent unemployment, and rising costs of bare necessities prove otherwise. It’s known as “the meritocracy myth” and one book with that title, written by two professors, explains that a person’s social status is based more on factors such as class structure, politics, and race rather than on individual merit and initiative. Their major arguments are summarized below:
“Factors associated with Individual “Merit”
1.) Money makes money.
Sources of revenue that are unrelated to jobs, such as income from capital gains, dividends, interest payments, government subsidies as well as appreciating assets of wealth such as businesses, real estate, and stocks are predominantly owned by a small fraction of society’s upper echelon. This maldistribution of wealth illustrates that America is not a “middle class society”, but one of the haves and have-nots where wealth is concentrated at the very top of the system.
“…the shape of the distribution of merit resembles a “bell curve” with small numbers of incompetent people at the lower end, most people of average abilities in the middle and small numbers of talented people at the upper end. The highly skewed distribution of economic outcomes, however, appears quite in excess of any reasonable distribution of merit. Something that is distributed “normally” cannot be the direct and proportional cause of something with such skewed distributions…”
2.) “Your IQ has really no relationship to your wealth.”
“Most experts point out, for instance, that ‘intelligence,’ as measured by IQ tests, is partially a reflection of inherent intellectual capacity and partially a reflection of environmental influences. It is the combination of capacity and experience that determines ‘intelligence.’ Even allowing for this ‘environmental’ caveat, IQ scores only account for about 10% of the variance in income differences among individuals (Fisher et al. 1996). Since wealth is less tied to achievement than income, the amount of influence of intelligence on wealth is much less. Other purportedly innate ‘talents’ cannot be separated from experience, since any ‘talent’ must be displayed to be recognized and labeled as such (Chambliss 1989). There is no way to determine for certain, for instance, how many potential world-class violinists there are in the general population but who have never once picked up a violin. Such ‘talents’ do not spontaneously erupt but must be identified and cultivated.”
3.) Hard work does not necessarily equate to economic success.
“Applying talents is also necessary. Working hard is often seen in this context as part of the merit formula. Heads nod in acknowledgment whenever hard work is mentioned in conjunction with economic success. Rarely is this assumption questioned. But what exactly do we mean by hard work? Does it mean the number of hours expended in the effort to achieve a goal? Does it mean the amount of energy or sheer physical exertion expended in the completion of tasks? Neither of these measures of “hard” work is directly associated with economic success. In fact, those who work the most hours and expend the most effort (at least physically) are often the most poorly paid in society. By contrast, the really big money in America comes not from working at all but from owning, which requires no expenditure of effort, either physical or mental. In short, working hard is not in and of itself directly related to the amount of income and wealth that individuals have.”
4.) Mental Attitude
“According to the culture of poverty argument, people are poor because of deviant or pathological values that are then passed on from one generation to the next, creating a “vicious cycle of poverty.” According to this perspective, poor people are viewed as anti-work, anti-family, anti-school, and anti-success. Recent evidence reported in this journal (Wynn, 2003) and elsewhere (Barnes, Gould ;1999, Wilson, 1996), however, indicates that poor people appear to value work, family, school, and achievement as much as other Americans. Instead of having “deviant” or “pathological” values, the evidence suggests that poor people adjust their ambitions and outlooks according to realistic assessments of their more limited life chances.
An example of such an adjustment is the supposed “present-orientation” of the poor. According to the culture of poverty theory, poor people are “present-oriented” and are unable to “defer gratification.” Present orientation may encourage young adults to drop out of school to take low wage jobs instead staying in school to increase future earning potential. However, the present orientation of the poor can be an “effect” of poverty rather than a “cause.” That is, if you are desperately poor, you may be forced to be present oriented. If you do not know where your next meal is coming from, you essentially have no choice but to be focused on immediate needs first and foremost. By contrast, the rich and middle class can “afford” to be more future oriented since their immediate needs are secure. Similarly, the poor may report more modest ambitions than the affluent, not because they are unmotivated, but because of a realistic assessment of limited life chances. In this sense, observed differences in outlooks between the poor and the more affluent are more likely a reflection of fundamentally different life circumstances than fundamentally different attitudes or values.”
5.) Moral character and integrity
“Although ‘honesty may be the best policy’ in terms of how one should conduct oneself in relations with others, there is little evidence that the economically successful are more honest than the less successful. The recent spate of alleged corporate ethics scandals at such corporations as Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen, Adelphia, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Duke Energy, Global Crossing, Xerox as well as recent allegations of misconduct in the vast mutual funds industry reveal how corporate executives often enrich themselves through less than honest means. White-collar crime in the form of insider trading, embezzlement, tax fraud, insurance fraud and the like is hardly evidence of honesty and virtue in practice. And neither is the extensive and sometimes highly lucrative so-called ‘irregular’ or ‘under the table’ economy—much of it related to vice in the form of drug trafficking, gambling, pornography, loan sharking, or smuggling. Clearly, wealth alone is not a reflection of moral superiority. To get ahead in America, it no doubt helps to be bright, shrewd, to work hard, and to have the right combination of attitudes that maximize success within given fields of endeavor. Playing by the rules, however, probably works to suppress prospects for economic success since those who play by the rules are more restricted in their opportunities to attain wealth and income than those who choose to ignore the rules.”
Nonmerit Barriers to Mobility
1.) The effects of initial class placement at birth on future life chances.
“…those born into great wealth start far ahead of those born to poor parents, who have a huge deficit to overcome if they are to catch up. Indeed, of all the factors that we might consider, where we start out in life has the greatest effect on where we end up. In the race to get ahead, the effects of inheritance come first and merit second, not the other way around.
Inheritance provides numerous cumulative nonmerit advantages that are available in varying degrees to all those born into at least some relative advantage, excluding only those at the very bottom of the system. Included among these nonmerit advantages are high standards of living from birth, inter vivos gifts (gifts between the living) such as infusions of cash and property bestowed by parents on their children at critical junctures in the life course (going to college, getting married, buying a home, having children, starting a business, etc.), insulation from downward mobility (family safety nets which prevent children from skidding in times of personal crises, setbacks, or as the result of personal failures), access to educational opportunities as well as other opportunities to acquire personal merit or to have merit identified and cultivated, better health care and consequently longer and healthier lives (which increases earning power and the ability to accumulate assets during the life course).
Another advantage of inheritance is access to high-powered forms of social and cultural capital. Social capital is one’s ‘social resources’ and refers to essentially to the value of whom you know. Cultural capital is one’s cultural resources and refers essentially to the social value of what you know. Everyone has friends, but those born into privilege have friends in high places with resources and power. Everyone possesses culture—bodies of knowledge and information needed to navigate through social space. Full acceptance into the highest social circles, however, requires knowledge of the ways of life of a particular group…”
2.) Bad Luck
“Bad luck can take many forms but two very common forms of bad luck are to be laid off from a job that you are good at or to spend many years preparing for a job for which demand either never materializes or declines. In looking at jobs and job opportunities, Americans tend to focus on the ‘supply’ side of markets for labor; that is, the pool of available people in the labor force. Much less attention is paid to the ‘demand’ side, or the number and types of jobs available. In the race to get ahead, it is possible and all too common for meritorious individuals to be ‘all dressed up with no place to go.’ For the past twenty years, the ‘growth’ jobs in America have disproportionately been in the low wage service sector of the economy. At the same time, more Americans are getting more education, especially higher education. Simply put, these trends are running in opposite directions: the economy is not producing as many high-powered jobs as the society is producing highly qualified people to fill them (Collins 1979, Livingstone 1998).
In addition to the number and types of jobs available, the locations of jobs both geographically and within different sectors of the economy also represent non-merit factors in the prospects for employment. For instance, a janitor who works for a large corporation New York City may get paid much more for doing essentially the same job as a janitor who works for a small family business in a small town in Mississippi. These effects are independent of the demands of the jobs or the qualifications or merit of the individuals holding them. Differences in benefits and wages between such jobs are often substantial and may mean the difference between a secure existence and poverty… rates of poverty in the United States continue to vary by region and locations within regions suggesting that geography is still a major factor in the distribution of economic opportunity.”
“…those with more education, on average, have higher income and wealth. Education is thus often seen as the primary means of upward social mobility. In this context, education is widely perceived as a gatekeeper institution which sifts and sorts individuals according to individual merit. Grades, credits, diplomas, degrees, and certificates are clearly “earned,” not purchased or appropriated. But, as much research has demonstrated, educational opportunity is not equally distributed in the population (Bowles and Gintis 1976, 2002, Bourdieu and Passeron 1990, Aschaffenburg and Maas 1997, Kozol, 1991, Sacks, 2003, Ballantine 2001). Upper class children tend to get upper class educations (e.g. at elite private prep schools and ivy league colleges), middle class children tend to get middle class educations (e.g. at public schools and public universities), and working class people tend to get working class educations (e.g. public schools and technical or community colleges), and poor people tend to get poor educations (e.g. inner city schools that have high drop out rates and usually no higher education). Educational attainment clearly depends on family economic standing and is not simply a major independent cause of it. The quality of schools and the quality of educational opportunity vary according to where one lives, and where one lives depend on familial economic resources and race. Most public schools, for instance, are supported by local property taxes. The tax base is higher in wealthy communities and proportionally lower in poorer areas. These discrepancies give rise to the perpetual parental scramble to locate in communities and neighborhoods that have reputations for “good schools,” since parents want to provide every possible advantage to their children that they can afford. To the extent that parents are actually successful in passing on such advantages, educational attainment is primarily a reflection of family income. In sum, it is important to recognize that individual achievement occurs within a context of unequal educational opportunity.”
4.) Loss of Self-Employment Opportunities and the Offshoring of Jobs
“…self-employment is popularly perceived as a major route to upward mobility. Opportunities to get ahead on the basis of being self-employed or striking out on one’s own to start a new business, however, have sharply declined. In colonial times, about three-fourths of the non-slave American population was self- employed most as small family farmers. Today, only seven percent of the labor force is self-employed (U.S. Census Bureau 2002). The “family farm,” in particular, is on the brink of statistical extinction. As self-employment has declined, the size and dominance of corporations has increased. This leaves many fewer opportunities for “self-made” individuals to enter existing markets or to establish new ones. America has witnessed the sharp decline of “mom and pop” stores, restaurants, and retail shops and the concomitant rise of Wal-Marts, Holiday Inns, and McDonalds. As more Americans work for someone else in increasingly bureaucratized settings, the prospects of rapid “rags to riches” mobility decline.
In addition to the decline of self-employment, manufacturing has also experienced drastic workforce reduction as production facilities have increasingly moved to foreign countries in efforts to reduce costs of production. This is a significant trend since the United States became a world power based on its industrial strength, which supported a large and relatively prosperous working and middle class. Some service jobs, such as customer service and computer programming, are also being moved to foreign countries in increasing numbers. All of these trends are occurring quite independent of the merit of individuals but nevertheless profoundly impact the opportunities of individuals to get ahead…”
“Discrimination not only suppresses merit; it is the antithesis of merit. Race and sex discrimination have been the most pervasive forms of discrimination in America, [but others include] sexual orientation, religion, age, physical disability (unrelated to job performance), physical appearance…”
In addition to the worsening inequality endemic to the system, the social fabric of society will be torn apart by a world now in the throes of multiple ecological crises. The availability and affordability of food and water will be magnified by anthropogenic climate change as the agricultural regions of an overpopulated world are ravaged by drought, flood, and fire. Infrastructure will begin to fail more frequently as extreme weather begins to rack up damage. The aloof elite, who ensconce themselves behind gated walls and the luxury that their wealth buys, will fan the flames of resentment and civil unrest in a desperate population scrambling just for the necessities of life. The cultural myths of capitalism are fraying and the collapse of industrial civilization, unable to change its omnicidal course for sundry reasons, is seemingly written in stone.