First published in 2015
The Resist Capitalism hashtag on Twitter has made me laugh for a variety of non-funny reasons. It amuses me that there is a backlash to an efficient brainwashing system that has led us to the point we are at today. If you care to go through some of the old economics articles from the cloud on this very blog, you will see that it is a topic close to my heart.
Having said this, the level of economic education displayed by some of the tweeters is woeful. Here is a brief line-drawing of how the economy developed from the cave until today.
First there were cave dwellers, who survived by hunting and gathering. As Hobbes said, life without cooperation was nasty, brutish and short, and large prey was difficult to catch without assistance. Therefore caveman A either killed caveman B, or grunted at him to assist him in bringing home the bison.
Cavewoman A and Cavewoman B were not much better, but survived marginally longer if someone was there when they gave birth. Hence humans learned to cooperate over simple tasks like not starving to death, drowning, being killed by animals or dying in childbirth.
As territories are finite when you are on foot, the local economy at this point was somewhat small and uncultivated, and so no permanent leader was necessary until more cavepeople joined the first few. At this point people assumed tribal roles.
Once we have a defined territory and tribal roles, cultivation becomes possible, leading to a pre-feudal scenario where division of labour reflects division of wealth.
The leader, picked by the tribe and thereafter either inheriting or taking the leadership role, makes decisions such as who wins the argument, when to fight other tribes, and what to show and tell visiting strangers. Therefore if anyone innovates, it makes sense to present the innovation to the leader, since he/she is more likely to figure out what the innovation is worth and how to go about maximising the benefit. Therefore, a pre-feudal scenario, whilst something of a wolfpack, is still vaguely fair, since there is an element of democracy simply by the fact nobody is volunteering to overthrow the leader.
As cultivation and toolmaking progresses, the economy develops into a feudal economy, and the innovations and quality of produce goes up. In theory, and in many cases in practise, wealth trickles down fairly readily to the cooperative peasants, since if it doesn’t the local, land based economic machine is very easy to stop if everyone agrees, forcing the feudal leader to capitulate to whatever the cooperative peasant workers want.
As this scenario develops, a smart leader uses people against one another and forms a militia, to protect the land holdings and maintain order. Maintaining the peace and an effective military force is made much easier if you have an organised religion to add to the mix. Nobody would have heard of Jesus or Mohammed if their armies had not kicked ass in the face of paganism or less well armed militia. Organised religion also provides a rudimentary education, healthcare and local orphanage services, and networks across Europe to share information in order to develop more efficient baby economic systems.
Cottage industry is really started with wives of useful sturdy peasants making yarn and textiles from home, travelling merchants paying for the items they produce, in order to keep them alive between payments from the leader, who is now considered to be a member of the landowning classes, due to his experience and violence in the course of time. Leaders of leaders are now selected, to enable several local economies to join forces to expand. Successful areas become richer, hold markets and pageants to show off their wares, and further benefits are enjoyed by the leader/landowner, who by now believes he has a given right to more than everyone else.
Cottage industries, gathering raw materials from the merchants rather than the landowners, become bigger with time, and gradually mechanise until townships form around bigger working units. Urbanisation commences, with supporting services such as gambling houses and brothels. Spare children from the original rural populations now go to the growing towns. At this point there is a need for the beginning of socialism, since a purer capitalist system is developing. As you can see, Socialism is simply the cooperative peasant workers reminding the leader/landowner/merchants/factory investors that since they cannot survive without the workers, the workers should be fairly treated.
Do you get it, yet? It is not, as you seem to have been told, a question of capitalism versus socialism. It is capitalism regulated by socialism, and rightly so. Problems with socialism arise when it becomes more complicated, and people forget that the entire system arose in the first place for everyone’s survival and not necessarily competition between competing interests of rich and poor. In no way should it be considered OK to starve out your supplying nations just because you can, or allow industry leaders to dictate when you go to war. Economic history is full of examples of the money dictating the mores of religion and nationalism. Never mind the war, look what the money is doing.
Another alarming feature of the twitter hashtag was the number of people who seemed to think that they were being presumptuous to discuss this. You have the time and the privilege of thinking about it. Unless you come from a fascist corporatist state, which many of you do, there is no reason why you cannot discuss alternatives to capitalism. However, it is not capitalism you should be resisting. It is corporatism. Corporatism is the road to a very real hell on earth, and it is reaching critical mass in Europe and the USA. All that GM pollen is rotting your brains.
Capitalism, on the other hand, is your democratic way of reversing the pickle we are all already in. Instead of handing your money to the same people every day, assuming that you are getting a better deal on your Iphone, tablet, broadband supplier, supermarket, bank, etc. you really ought to be considering who benefits. The only people who can stop the rich getting richer are you, the masses, and you do it by voting with your wallets.
Spend your money with wisdom. Stop supporting gargantuan companies that you know perfectly well tell your governments what, when and how to act. Stop supporting whore-politicians espousing the lies of corporatism, and stop assuming money means talent or wisdom, because it does not. Use less chemicals, and don’t think anyone genuinely cares about your new mobile or clothing, because these things do not matter as much as your fellow humans or descendants.