May 22, 2012

Capitalism Isn't Working



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CAPITALISM ISN'T WORKING! (or it's working just fine, and this is how it's SUPPOSED to work).

So a couple years ago, about three years ago, I made a video called...
I actually don’t remember what it was called. I’ve deleted it. It was about Capitalism, and how I found the idea that we should be “smashing capitalism” to be infantile. One argument I made was: how would you get avocados for your vegan burrito? What would the incentive be to bringing food from that far away? Would you barter for a hemp necklace?

However, I had made a terrible mistake. Since the word “capitalism” is so propagandized, it’s come to be synonymous with a LOT of things that it has absolutely nothing to do with.

In the video I’m mentioning, I had conflated the term “capitalism” with “markets.”

In reality, capitalism actually has NOTHING TO DO WITH MARKETS. Capitalism simply means that we as a society think that it’s okay for some people who have a lot of money, to buy all the stuff, and then get even more rich simply through the fact that they own all the stuff. Capitalism necessitates abuse of labor. It is in the DNA of capitalism that labor is abused and exploited.

It is under capitalism, that a worker builds a house, and then has to pay the capitalist for the right to live in the house he built with his own hands.

It’s under capitalism that a worker makes hundreds of shoes all day, but is paid so little for his labor by the capitalist who owns the factory, that he cannot, in a day of labor, earn enough to buy a single pair of shoes for himself.

It’s under capitalism that a worker makes enough clothing in a day to clothe a neighborhood block, but is paid so little they would have to save for a month to purchase a single shirt they made through their own labor.

It’s under capitalism, that workers harvest every day from the fields the capitalist owns, enough food to feed a village, but the worker has to pay the capitalist their days wages for the right to eat a single meal’s worth.

You don’t have to think about this very hard to come to understand why so many of our brothers and sisters are homeless, shoeless, naked, and hungry. The game is rigged that way.

These things, the field, the farm, the factory, the financial institution, these are what people are talking about when they say “the means of production.”

What is the value that the capitalist provides in any of these aformentioned situations? The capitalist does no labor, and simply through owning the factory, owning the field, owning the bank, and therefore controlling the money, the capitalist is able to create even more wealth for himself by exploiting the labor of his fellow man.

At what point did we decide that THAT was a good way to organize our society?

Now, it’s often said that capitalism is an economic system. That’s a complete misnomer. Systems have closed loops and sustain themselves. Capitalism is a straight line. What do I mean by that?

Have you ever played the game monopoly? Well, monopoly and capitalism operate under very similar rules. So long as everybody has a fairly equal share of property, and the money keeps getting passed around the board equitably, the game can go on for what seems like forever. But eventually, somebody gets enough of an upper hand that you can see the game is already over. People start losing their homes in order to pay their bills. Sudden expenses come up that you can’t cover, and you start losing the very things that allowed you to participate in the game to begin with. Then slowly and surely, one person ends up owning everything, simply by the virtue of the fact that they own more stuff than anybody else to start with, and then the balance of power tips forever in their favor from that point onwards. And so eventually all the money and all the property ends up in the hands of one person. And that’s how you win Monopoly.

That’s also how you win capitalism. That’s where we’re at right now, on the precipice just before the super-wealthy end up owning every property on the game board, and all the money in the bank, while the rest of us are unable to play the game at all. To the 1%, to the Koch Brothers, I say, congratulations, you win at capitalism. Nobody else has anything. You win.
Another word that people use capitalism as a stand-in for is Democracy. Truly Capitalism and Democracy could not be further from each other in meaning.

Under capitalism, your workplace is organized in a hierarchical structure, in which one person, or a small cabal of people own everything, and reap all the profits from the labor of the workers. The workers have no input in the direction of the business, how it is run, how their fellow workers are treated, etc. If your average workplace were a government, we would readily call it fascism. So let’s call it what it is-- fascism.

Worker-owned autonomous workplaces, however, looks very different from Capitalism. Under worker-owned and operated cooperatives, the workers all share ownership of the means of production. They are all paid equally for their labor, they all share equally in the profits, they all share equally in the losses. Workers come to consensus how to run the business, and how their fellow workers are treated. If this workplace were a government, it would be called a “democracy.” Another word for democracy in the workplace, is “socialism.”

So Socialism and markets are not mutually exclusive. In fact there are many worker-owned cooperatives that you already know about and probably purchase their products regularly, like Land O Lakes butter.

Now, most workplaces are capitalist. Which means that there is little to no democracy in our economic sphere. Which means that a few are enriched through the exploitation of the labor of the many. And in a society where money is legally seen as equivalent to speech, and in practical terms is equivalent to power, it’s quite clear that capitalism CREATES a ruling class, and is the OPPOSITE of democracy.
The lack democracy in our workplaces is the ROOT CAUSE of why there is so little democracy in our governmental systems. For information how to to start your own worker’s cooperative, go to usworker.coop