Monday, July 12, 2010

The Inherent Limitations of Capitalism

After much contemplation, below is a brief list of the inherent problems and fundamental shortcomings I've found in the capitalistic/for-profit paradigm. It's my belief that these problems reflect the adolescent mindset that created the system. Adolescents are fond of win/lose games, because they require external validation to feel good about themselves. Adults, on the other hand, prefer win/win games, because they validate themselves based on how much they are able to self-actualize and contribute to the well-being and success of others. Feel free to explore these issues more deeply, to ask questions and challenge your preexisting beliefs around capitalism for yourself. It's vital for humanity's social evolution and maturation that we let go of all the unexamined beliefs that have been instilled in us since childhood, and discern for ourselves what feels more right and true as we move forward...together.

1) Capitalism is designed to facilitate the flow of human creativity through a direct-exchange process (I'll give something to you if you give something to me) rather than an indirect one (I'll take what I need out of the larger system and when I'm able I'll give back whatever I can produce for everyone else's benefit.) Indirect exchange is nature's blueprint. The flower feeds the bee, which feeds the bear, which dies and feeds the insects, which nourish the earth, which feeds the flower. Because direct exchange is overly simplistic and highly limited - I may desperately need your corn but you have no present need for my masonry skills - we invented money to represent conceptual value and reduce the inherent problems with direct exchange. However, the human population and its concurrent ability to be more creative and productive over time have been expanding exponentially, so our need for money to change hands for an exchange to take place is actually hindering our ability to create and exchange all we're capable of doing and producing. There isn't enough money in the world to effectively match all our efforts and abilities; we now have to wait for it to become available BEFORE we can perform.

2)In a for-profit paradigm, "success" means continually taking out of the system MORE than you put into it. Even if you then reinvest your profits, you're doing so in order to take out even more than you extracted the first time at a later date. Since everyone is continually taking out more than they're putting in (or trying to) the system itself grows consistently more impoverished. One of the first rules of biology is that any whole must be greater than the sum of its many parts. Unless we design human society around that principle, the system is bound to collapse. Why be part of something that forces you to be "less than" you could be on your own? (The seething resentment this fosters explains why so many of us feel alienated and try to game or cheat the system.)

3)Allowing the "free market" (buyers and sellers) to dictate what gets produced and how it gets distributed is fundamentally undemocratic, because it denies a vote to those who don't have enough money to participate in the decision-making process. What gets produced is thus predicated upon who can afford to pay for it; how it gets distributed depends upon how much people are willing to bid for an item as they bid AGAINST each other. It's an amoral system conceptually; when applied to living beings it becomes profoundly immoral. When we fail to feed human beings who can't afford to buy the food they need to survive AND we've destroyed their ability to provide for themselves through ownership laws and other property restrictions, we're valuing monetary profits above life itself.

4)Capitalism requires constant growth and continual consumption to satisfy the ever-present profit motive and thus sustain itself. Our primary motivation is to acquire ever MORE. No living organism can consume and grow forever without destroying its host in the process, so capitalism is an inherently unsustainable model that must be released, or it will inevitably collapse.

5)Capitalism functions like a Ponzi scheme. All global lands have long been sold off and parceled out to the wealthy privileged few who got here first, so all new humans born into this world arrive with a huge disadvantage as the population rapidly expands. Like any Ponzi scheme, capitalism will thus always produce more winners than losers. Since the value of money is relative - I must have more money than you to outbid you for what we both want - no amount of cash infused into the system can correct that fundamental flaw. Prices will simply rise to siphon off the newly infused cash, enriching the wealthy even more.

6)Capitalism promotes unhealthy competition by fostering a 'destroy the enemy' siege mentality. A destroy the enemy approach promotes more, cheaply made products at lower prices, which cheapens society and creates more waste in the long run. Healthy competition asks the question, "how can I improve upon what has already been done by others?" Its aim is to elevate society by making it more beautiful, functional and long lasting.

7) Capitalism discourages cooperation. Anti-trust laws were invented because we can't trust our companies not to collude against the best interests of humanity in their quest to earn a profit. If companies were motivated and rewarded NOT by monetary profits, but because they performed a valuable service for the social good, they could get together and share ideas that could facilitate far more rapid advancement in how we produce things, as well as in what we're producing.

8)Because capitalism requires constant consumption to generate continuous profits, it must manufacture needs to induce spending by the wealthy once basic needs have been mainly satisfied. (An example of a manufactured need is a product like health insurance. Another would be cable TV.) Capitalism also creates artificial lack by deliberately keeping supplies of goods tightly controlled and limited, forcing people to bid up for them so adequate profits can be made. This keeps people trapped in the economic system by forcing them to continually labor to earn enough money to pay for the things they believe they need to ensure their own survival. It also destroys human trust and core competency by turning us all into children, entirely dependent upon an economic system that doesn't genuinely care about our well-being, to provide us with what we need.

9) Capitalism, through its use of money to represent conceptual value, has promoted the worship of an abstraction over a genuine appreciation of tangibles. As a result, our reverence for the importance of each thing based on its own inherent worth has been greatly diminished. For example, we intuitively consider a $10 hammer more valuable than a 20 cent orange - ask any schoolchild and they'll regurgitate the "correct" conceptual answer. Ask an indigenous person in the Brazilian rain forest which is more valuable however, and he'll tell you that if he's hungry, he appreciates the orange. If he needs to build something, he appreciates the hammer. One is NOT more valuable than the other - they're both priceless when they are necessary!

10)Capitalism fails to value the uniqueness of each individual. The social imperative to make money as a goal unto itself enslaves people to the labor force in exchange for their daily bread. People in need of a job to survive are not free to explore their skills, talents, passions and abilities and discern what they can best contribute to the whole over the long run. Capitalism therefore creates obstacles to genuine self-actualization.

11)Capitalism is a dangerous practice, in that it consistently undermines and exploits the one thing that can truly sustain us long-term - our planet - so a few people can gain short-term strategic advantage over the rest of humanity. It removes the sanctity of life - the undefinable aspect of nature that MOST defines us - from the social equation, by placing personal material success ABOVE the survival of the very fabric of life that supports us all.

12)Capitalism reinforces human frailty by blaming the "losers" for their failure to succeed in a system that - by definition - MUST always have more losers than winners for it to work. Since money is relative, I can't be successful unless I possess more of it relative to nearly everybody else. Clearly then, the more money I'm able to hoard, the more losers there will be in relationship to me. Blaming the so-called losers for not being able to lift themselves out of such a system destroys our trust in our abilities as a species, and discourages us from confidently and courageously exploring our own capacities. We "surrender" our dreams to the need to work for a living, rather than reach for the stars to discover and bring forth the best in ourselves.

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