Thursday, April 7, 2011

Capitalism as Institutionalized Slavery

What we do to ourselves in the name of work is criminally insane. Most of us don't feel joy in what we do, we're struggling to get and hold a job so we can pay our bills and survive. We buy homes we rarely see because we're too busy out working; we have kids we don't raise because we can't afford to be home when they need our attention. We spend hours in our vehicles on smoggy, overly trafficked roads to get to and from where we need to go - not because our employers can't figure out ways to encourage us to work from home, but because they don't trust us to do the work if they're not watching over us.

In large part we make stuff nobody really needs, then convince others to buy it to satisfy the corporate profit margin. Meanwhile, the stuff we do need to accomplish to ensure the long term success and happiness of our species - infrastructure repair, much better schools, quality medical care for all, sustainable and green housing and food sources, environmental protection and thoughtful resource stewardship, scientific exploration and genuine advancements in human health and well being - don't get done because we haven't figured out ways to make those things monetarily "profitable."

The concept of developing free, clean and renewable energy so people can tap the energy grid of the planet wherever they may be strikes FEAR in the hearts of the corporate system. Why? because if we can all get our energy for free, corporations can't profit off our energy need in perpetuity! Ditto foodstuffs - corporations don't want us collecting our own seeds and growing organic vegetables in the backyard, or raising our own chickens. They want centralized control - they demand centralized control before they invest in new systems - because that way they get to control the distribution, the supply and the price of what we produce.

What we used to call the "middleman," the broker between buyer and seller, has become the monster in the system. The companies that act as middlemen now take advantage of both buyers and sellers, carving off massive pieces of the exchange for themselves in the process and calling that "profit." They're starving the feedback loop between buyers and sellers, hampering the evolution of human society by rendering us incapable of functioning without the middleman, and consolidating power to ensure they continue to expand their reach and capacity to seize ever larger pieces of the social pie. The largest middleman today is the financial services industry, which represents a full 40% of our GDP. What is the function of financial "services," but to match those who have money with those who need it? Yet over the years, that function has lost sight of its purpose as the companies now pay lenders (savers) almost nothing and in many cases charge them for the privilege of saving their money, then they turn around and charge borrowers exorbitant rates of interest (or refuse to lend to them at all) for the right to borrow money that isn't even theirs!

What we call the 'free market' has never been truly free. He who corners the supply can dictate the price, and he who encourages demand by making his product appear indispensable to the public will also profit. He who has little or no money (either by accident of birth or social circumstances) to influence the flow of goods and services gets no vote in what gets produced, in how scarce global resources get used or in how he gets to live and work in this life.

Hint: if you don't get to decide what you want to do with the richness of your own life, you are NOT a free being living in a free society. You're a slave, only one without the benefits of having a master provide your shelter, clothing, food and medical care. Instead, your master provides you with some stingy amount of cash in exchange for your labor, and insists that you provide for yourself the things slaves used to get free from their masters. That way, the master can control his costs, better manage his profits and cut the slave loose if he or she becomes too much of a financial liability.

Capitalism isn't freedom, folks. It's institutionalized slavery being sold to the public as a "free market."