Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Article: Capitalism for a New Millenium

- by Petros Iliadis

  If further evidence were needed that capitalism is incapable of
taking society forward, the last ten years have provided it. Not only the ongoing nightmare of the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and soon India and Pakistan – which has led to the death of many tens of thousands and over 5,000 ‘coalition’ soldiers – and the unfair bombing of Korea, Vietnam and Serbia but also the inability of capitalism to take any effective action towards climate change, social discrimination and inequality. In some ways,the most graphic illustration of capitalism’s crisis is not the so-called credit crunch or the inability to cope with natural disasters such as the tsunami at the end of 2004, the South Asian earthquake or Hurricane Katrina,nor the countless thousands who died unnecessarily, and those still homeless (including in the US, the richest nation on the planet) but the actual theory hiding behind contemporary capitalism.

  We are told that because we are greedy, self-interested animals, an
economic system must reward greedy, self-interested behaviour if we are to thrive economically. Are we greedy and self-interested? Of course. At least, I am, sometimes. But we also just as obviously are capable of compassion and selflessness. We certainly can act competitively and aggressively, but we also have the capacity for solidarity and cooperation. In short, human nature is wide-ranging. Our actions might be rooted in our nature, but all we really know about that nature is that it is widely variable. In situations where compassion and solidarity are the norm, we tend to act that way. In situations where competitiveness and aggression are rewarded, most people tend toward such behaviour. Why is it that we must choose an economic system that undermines the most decent aspects of our nature and strengthens the most inhuman? Because, we're told, that's just the way people are. What evidence is there of that? Look around, we're told, at how people behave.

  Everywhere we look, we see greed and the pursuit of self-interest. So,
the proof that these greedy, self-interested aspects of our nature are dominant is that, when forced into a system that rewards greed and self-interested behaviour, people often act that way. Doesn't that seem just a bit circular? A bit American.

  Despite all the euphoria of 1990, when communism fell and capitalism
was anointed the winner of the cold war, a hard look at the economic and social condition of the world today reveals that capitalism has failed to provide the people of this planet with a good life. Of the world’s six billion people, half of them live on two dollars a day or less. While people die from diseases related to overeating in the so-called developed countries,children die of malnutrition elsewhere. In the First World, most of us eat regularly. But let us not focus only on the conditions we face within a predatory corporate capitalist system, living In the most affluent country in the history of the world, but also put this in a global context.

  Half the world's population lives on less than $2 a day. That's more than 3billion people. Just over half of the population of Africa lives on
less than $1 a day. That's more than 300 million people. How about one more statistic: about 500 children in Africa die from poverty-related diseases,and the majority of those deaths could be averted with simple medicines or insecticide-treated nets. That's 500 children -- not every year, or every month or every week. That's not 500 children every day. Poverty-related diseases claim the lives of 500 children an hour in Africa. Apologists for capitalism have always said that it was just a question of the developing countries acquiring democracy, free-market economic systems, and some good elbow grease and they too would enjoy the “good life” like the citizens of Europe and North America. But the long awaited “take-off” for the economies of the poorest countries seems nowhere in sight. In these countries capitalism is a clear failure. But what about in the “developed” world,surely capitalism is successful there? A few years ago one could indeed have argued that capitalism has succeeded in the industrialized countries of the Northern Hemisphere. But even in the countries with high per capital income there were and still are tremendous disparities.

  Under capitalism wealth is not evenly distributed and even in the USA, 25%of the people live below the poverty line. Can we really say that we have
an ideal or even a well-working economic system when millions of people are struggling just to survive? The current global financial crisis underscores the inequality, fragility and unpredictable future of the capitalist economic system.

  While the US government gets ready to bail out banks
and financial institutions that have failed due to their reckless greed, no one is there to save the thousands of ordinary people who are about to lose their homes and life savings. It’s time to take a stark look at capitalism and shout down the politicians who continue to shamelessly chant that “the fundamentals of the economy are sound”.

  The fundamental premise of
the current economic system, that the unlimited accumulation of wealth by a few individuals will result in the good of everybody, is a clear lie and the sooner we face up to this, the better off we will be. When we try to hold onto our humanity, statistics like that can make us crazy. But don't get any crazy ideas about changing this system. Remember: There is no alternative to predatory corporate capitalism.

  Capitalism is admittedly an incredibly productive system that has created
a flood of goods unlike anything the world has ever seen. It also is a system that is fundamentally inhuman, anti-democratic, and unsustainable.Capitalism has given those of us in the First World lots of marginal or questionable values in exchange for our souls, our hope for progressive politics, and the possibility of a decent future for children.In short, either we change or we die – spiritually, politically, literally.


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