Capitalism, Climate Change, Corporate $tate, Corporatocracy, Financial Elite, Gross Inequality, Inverted Totalitarianism, James Howard Kunstler, Joel Magnuson, Mass Media Manipulation, Mindful Economics: How the U.S. Economy Works - Why it Matters - and How it Could Be Different, Monopoly Capitalism, Monopsony, Noam Chomsky, Poverty, Regulatory Capture, Richard Wolff, Systemic Disorder, Systemic Fraud in Politics, The Invisible Hand of the Free Market, The Myth of Laissez Faire Capitalism, The Profit Motive
Although I agree with much of what J. H. Kunstler has to say, particularly on his analysis of energy and his critiques of American suburbia, when it comes to his views on the human-made system that is driving this entire train wreck, he gets it dead wrong. Here is a quote from his last blog post:
Now I am, going to reveal to you why it is so difficult to get a live human being on the telephone at these important places: because the more of a racketeering matrix medicine becomes, the more it seeks to evade responsibility for the consequences. That is, the more medicine becomes a criminal enterprise, the less it wants to hear from its client/victims. The same ethos is at work in just about every other realm of corporate enterprise in the USA. Our problem in the USA is not “capitalism,” it’s racketeering. Why we fail to comprehend it is one of the abiding mysteries of contemporary life.
…It ought to be self-evident that this could only happen in a profoundly corrupt, dishonest, and degenerate society, because it took the form of a social compact that accepted this sort of behavior as okay…
Kunstler is perpetuating a deep-seated myth about capitalism that many in American society repeat. Laying the blame on those victimized by an economic system, which by design exploits, disenfranchises, and discards its subjects, overlooks the fact that the problem is the system itself. Capitalism is not an ethical system, and its overriding force of motivation is always the bottom line. Inequality, conflict, and regulatory corruption are all part and parcel of capitalism. History has borne this out numerous times. Unless someone steps in to break them up, monopolies are the natural result of unbridled capitalism (Mindful Economics, Joel Magnuson):
Corporate money greases the wheels of the political system which then passes regulations discouraging competition and favoring large corporations. Regulatory capture is inevitably what happens when successful capitalists amass wealth and buy off the political class whose lifeblood is, after all, money. Under the present system, we will never see a candidate elected to office without a substantial war chest of funds stuffed with corporate ‘donations‘. Government does the bidding of capitalists, not vise versa. We saw this in spades with the election of Obama when all his campaign promises of “hope and change” evaporated into thin air as he filled his cabinet with Wall Street and Goldman Sachs cronies. Who wrote the legislation for Obama’s healthcare reform? — lobbyists for the healthcare industrial complex where, not surprisingly, “the big bucks are currently earned not through the delivery of care, but from overseeing the business of medicine.” The corruption that Kunstler decries is not an aberration of capitalism, but a natural feature of it:
…What chiefly drives this sort of political corruption today is capitalism’s structure. For many capitalist enterprises, competitive and other pressures exist to increase profits, growth rates, and/or market share. Their boards and top managers seek to find cheaper produced inputs and cheaper labor power, to extract more output from their workers, to sell their outputs at the highest possible prices and to find more profitable technologies. The structure provides them with every incentive of financial gain and/or career security and advancement to behave in those ways. Thus, boards and top managers seek the maximum obtainable assistance of government officials in all these areas and also try to pay the least possible portion of their net revenues as taxes. Boards of directors tap their corporations’ profits to corrupt mostly the top echelons of the government bureaucracy, those needed to make advantageous official decisions.
Individual capitalists act to corrupt government officials to serve their enterprise’s needs. Grouped into associations, they do likewise for their industries. When organized as a whole (in “chambers of commerce” or “manufacturers alliances,” etc.), they corrupt to secure their class interests. When such corruption is not secret, capitalists articulate their demands to corrupted officials as “good for the economy or society as a whole.” Such phrases constitute the “appropriate language” that enables officials publicly to disguise and hopefully to legitimate their corrupt acts.
Strict moral codes, regulations and laws have been imposed to prevent individual or grouped capitalists from corrupting government officials. Evidence suggests, however, that neither civic-minded ethics, nor regulations nor laws have come close to ending capitalists’ corruption. Countless government courts, commissions, etc., have hardly ended official complicities in that corruption. Mainstream economics mostly proceeds in its analyses and policy prescriptions as if rampant corruption did not exist. Mass media tend to treat capitalist corruption (at least in their home countries) as exceptional and government efforts to stop it as serious. These, too, are further examples of that “appropriate language” with which modern capitalist societies mask systemic corruption.
~ Richard D Wolff
Noam Chomsky uses the acronym RECD (Really Existing Capitalist Democracy, pronounced ‘wrecked‘) to describe the capitalism that exists in the real world, and he doesn’t hold out much hope for civilization surviving it. Any sort of idyllic form of capitalism only exists in people’s heads and is kept alive by the myth of laissez-faire capitalism (Mindful Economics, Joel Magnuson):
A democracy cannot exist without an informed and intelligent electorate, and when corporations and monied interests intentionally spin the news, the populous are reduced to conspiracy mongers and what Gore Vidal scoffingly called ‘consumer-depositors’ in thrall to the financial elite. Alas, the institution intended to educate the public, aka the Fourth Estate, on matters of vital importance has been thoroughly dismantled and perverted by capitalism. The internet, the last bastion of independent and alternative news, is soon to follow suite (Mindful Economics, Joel Magnuson):
If the masses are unable to see through the spin and distortion propagated by a class of greedy parasites, there is one entity that will not suffer the fate of the dispossessed, dying quietly in some dark corner. The Earth is not so forgiving to such continued capitalist assaults, and it’s not fooled by propaganda such as ‘sustainable development’, ‘green growth’, or ‘corporate social responsibility’. Since pre-industrial times, the global temperature has ‘only’ risen 0.85 degrees Celsius (1.5 degrees Fahrenheit), and we can already see the havoc to civilization’s infrastructure that climate chaos is wreaking. With forecasts of average global temperature to be many fold greater by mid century, it would seem that only a miracle will save us.
Systemic Disorder published an important essay yesterday on the systematic destruction of labor rights throughout the world. How long will these myths about capitalism persist until the exploited finally wake up and realize their blood, sweat, and sacrifice are what fills the coffers of the über rich? Many at the bottom of the economic hierarchy bend over backwards to apologize for our current system, calling it everything but capitalism. No matter how often capitalism fails, no matter how many people it kills, it is religiously touted as the only and the best economic system available despite its flaws. Will humans continue to amuse themselves to death, defending a systemically self-destructive system?
We watched the tragedy unfold
We did as we were told
We bought and sold
It was the greatest show on earth
But then it was over
We ohhed and aahed
We drove our racing cars
We ate our last few jars of caviar
And somewhere out there in the stars
A keen-eyed look-out
Spied a flickering light
Our last hurrah
And when they found our shadows
Grouped ’round the TV sets
They ran down every lead
They repeated every test
They checked out all the data on their lists
And then the alien anthropologists
Admitted they were still perplexed
But on eliminating every other reason
For our sad demise
They logged the only explanation left
This species has amused itself to death . . .