The Future of Capitalism
Listening to the delectable Yanis Varoufakis this evening, (he moves beautifully) it struck me what a marvellous idealist he is. His ideas about society and capitalism are charming, but they will not work, sadly. The future for the Eurozone and for the USA is extremely bleak for the general population, and there is very little chance of turning back.
Why? Yanis’ take on the relationship between capital and state is based on the idea that:
businesses appropriate research from society, which is governable
society has responsibility for the people in it
What we have seen from our government in the UK, is that a large proportion of society feels no responsibility for the people in it, and that governments cannot be trusted to function effectively or responsibly when there is a possibility of personal profit. As a thinking and feeling individual, Yanis is adorable, but as a realist, he falls down on a number of counts.
TTIP will give business the right to challenge governments on issues of regulation. In the UK and the rest of Europe, regulation is currently dictated from Brussels, by faceless people who debate in private and are seemingly unchallengeable by the well paid MEPs who sit in the European Parliament. What we have found out about TTIP has been either leaked, or interpreted by people who have limited time to look at the documents, and who are prevented from making notes, taking the time they need to study it, or fully evaluating the information they are provided with. This will not do, for a number of reasons which the public appear to be choosing not to understand.
Yanis’ view of society as being something which falls within governable boundaries has disintegrated thanks to the internet. Intellectual property now has to be seen as individual in nature, rather than as something produced by a collective will. This makes it far easier to exploit, and far more difficult to regulate. In addition, enforcing taxation on business effectively has become impossible, in the event that we do not have tax haven income, we will simply be undercut by systems in place in countries such as Switzerland, the villages of Zug and Pfaffikon being cases in point.
We are all about to be crushed under a capitalist jackboot which is not going to be under anyone’s control, and if there is a suspicion that it is, the person concerned will simply be presented with a self interest situation that they cannot, and probably will not, resist. Responsible idealists such as Yanis and I are a dying, almost dead breed.
Add to this the massive proportion of the UK and USA population who appear to believe that nothing unfortunate will ever happen to them, and that as long as they support the mighty they will be protected, which is not only untrue but a vicious state of existence, and you have a storm which ends in disaster.
As Yanis says, the future mechanisation of deskilled work means that the very people baying for the blood of the less fortunate will very soon be suffering alongside them. As Yanis says, it only takes a small development for AI to pass the Turing test, meaning that human labour will cease to be relevant at all in a massive proportion of cases.
The only good thing about this is that the businesses still need someone to sell to. If we cannot tax businesses effectively, and businesses require nothing but customers, what are we left with but resource hogging consumers with no income? Then nation states truly do become irrelevant, since inevitably anyone functioning internationally will simply choose to base themselves wherever corporation tax is lowest.
The good news here is that individuals can only consume so much. As I have said in previous posts, you have to trickle up, otherwise you cease to function at all. There is no point in continuously benefitting the haves at the expense of the have-nots, because the haves have limited wants. Otherwise you end up with very dirty luxury, since nobody can afford to do the cleaning.
So, what is the answer? My proposal, in my extensive paper for Wolfe, was that the answer is to create maximum income limitations, return to anti trust legislation, and break up large companies. Genetic modification for example, should not be in the hands of chemical companies, and companies such as Walmart should be restricted to one line of retail trade. This keeps companies as competitive instead of domineering forces, and it creates new opportunities for the general population. We certainly do not want TTIP or TISA, which are inherently corrupt deals designed to confuse those being courted to sign them. We allowed them to get too big, and now we have a major and urgent problem with companies bigger than nation states.
If we cannot persuade the public to vote with their wallets, we have to persuade governments to join together to prevent the unlimited growth of individual businesses. Capitalism is lovely, but it is no respecter of human suffering. Since there is no way of making a global decision to do this, we also have to take into account that a less altruistic country is always going to allow the existing giants to function without restriction, and we have to be prepared to punish them accordingly. Otherwise the future involves destruction beyond our current imagination, as we return to a dark age of clearing the starving bodies from the street, whilst others hide in their rooms, eking a living from underselling their ideas to unfettered corporate monsters.