Any self-respecting capitalist would gladly run his most profitable version of something like the Rolls Royce Company. If he had any sense at all (and he didn’t achieve his goals by being stupid), he would rather offer the highest quality product or service at the best price the market could bear. That would include the best benefits package for his elite workers and their families, superb educational facilities, healthy communities with low crime and low-priced survival necessities. All the benefits Learners will seek, this wise capitalist would arrange for his workers and consumers in order to make the best product and the maximum profit.
In spite his desire to excel in this manner, he must take into account weapon taxation both direct and indirect. Either the quality of his product must suffer or he must find some other way to short-change his customers and workers so as to defray taxation that offers him no gain. The greater the value of his product and the higher his profits, the more war taxes he will be expected to pay and the more they will distort his cost-benefit analysis. He will have to reduce the quality of his product and use the savings to defray his weapons expenses. His employees, clients and competitors will have to do likewise, in proportion to their success.
This restriction is inevitable in every so-called free-market enterprise.
It is only on PeaceWorld that a self-respecting capitalist could satisfy hisand build the Rolls Royce Company of his dreams. It is only there that cost cutting would become business suicide if it reduced the quality of products or services. The race would go to the manufacturer or service provider of the highest quality, not to the lowest cost cutter at quality’s expense. On WeaponWorld, he has to betray his topic of passion—as we must, each our own.
There is nothing wrong with Capitalism, per se, even though it can adopt one of two forms of growth. Once it shifts from one form to the other, it poisons the society that tolerates its presence much less its control.
The first form of capitalist growth can be called The Garden. In it, the resources of Capital are invested in areas lacking those resources. Passionate gardeners cultivate the soil, supplement its nutrients and water it as required. They plants trees, shrubs and flowering plants to suit their taste; rip out weeds and unwanted plants, and leave the ground clear for favored ones. Theirs is the work of capital at its best: superior to any other form of economic development.
In the second form, the gardeners walk away or are otherwise indisposed. They no longer tend their garden, and weeds proliferate, revealing the second wave of capitalism. All the nutrients, soil and water that had been accumulated to further the growth of beneficial plants get sucked up by the other kind. They smother the old growth with the sole goal of self-propagation. Everything else must suffer while they thrive.
This process cannot be reversed except with tremendous labor and care. As time goes by, the garden will require more and more upkeep for little additional return. After all, a garden is a garden: nothing more and nothing less.
Another analogy would compare the healthy cells of a growing body to the virus that attacks it. The first form of capitalism would consist of the body’s careful regulation of clean water and nutrients to nourish its cells and allow them to grow, whereas in the second a virus invades with the sole intent to multiply at the expense of the host. It takes over any cell it finds, converts that cell’s growth machinery to produce new viruses, then explodes it to release new viruses among remaining body cells, and so on: the feedback destruction of capitalism gone wrong.
Nowadays, the most powerful people have persuaded themselves that viral or weed growth offers them more profit than the garden or body variety. They’ve abandoned long-term growth in favor of the weed type: more profitable in the short run but ruinous in the long.
Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt & Co., New York, 2007, describes this transition quite clearly. She reviews a series of synthetic and/or natural disasters, followed by political takeovers, which let international tyrants cannibalize the economy of entire nations.
The Chicago School of Economics ‒ represented by Friedrich von Hayek, Milton Friedman, Leo Strauss (the infamous town crier for “the noble lie”) and other fanatics of laissez-faire Capitalism ‒ drew a self-serving analogy between the annihilation of a sick psyche by administering electroshock and psychoactive drugs in crushing doses (even though those malpractices never worked), and the annihilation of popular progress considered excessive, by a succession of wars, natural catastrophes and fresh-baked tyrannies. In short, psychopaths run amok and dictate terms to the rest of us. In brief, psychopaths run amok and dictating terms to the rest of us.
In honor of this philosophy, Chicago School economists took the first opportunity (and every one since) to silence the voice of the People and sabotage its will. Once they had succeeded, they could strip out public services, savings accounts and retirement funds; dramatically multiply unemployment by ruining local commerce and dismantling factories; and burden the People with enormous public debts, such as to forbid it to recover its initial vigor and potential won so painfully in the recent past―all to the profit of laissez faire capitalists.
From Iran and South America in the 1970’s, across Poland and Russia in the 80’s, the Asian Tigers in the 90’s, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the annihilation of Iraq, massive bankster payoffs succeeded each other. Each new disaster brought more profit to their coffers in exchange for lesser outlays of time and effort.
All they needed to do was silence anyone who intended to benefit the People and enforce Justice. They bankrolled white-collar criminals to do their bidding, backed up by well-paid military to come down hard on remaining dissidents. This combination required few funds and brought in an enormous bottom line.
Naomi Klein’s healthy alternative to this kind of Capitalism can be found at http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-take/.
Actually, this misbehavior can be traced to the inception of Capitalism and even further back, to the origin of mass societies. Each of them grew up enslaving as many individuals on the periphery as they could get away with, destroying other societies to loot them, and exterminating “primitive” societies they caught in their path. Nothing new there.
The clearest example I can find in history is that of Tamerlane (Timur the Lame, or Conqueror, 1336-1405). He embellished his capital city, Samarkand, into one of the wonders of the world. He decked it with vast riches, magnificent parks and monumental architecture. He filled his court with genius musicians, artists, scholars and pious men. He did so by turning every other city on the Silk Road into piles of ashes and pyramids of rotting skulls. Needless to say, the Silk Road’s commercial network withered along with his capital city after his death, since no accommodations remained for merchant convoys. The Silk Road never recovered, even centuries later, even today.
Too bad: those who were once Garden Capitalists have become permanent addicts of the Weed variety. Each new disaster they engineer delivers a thousand additional small cuts to the collective psyche (now the whole world). They profit in proportion to damage they inflict.
Marx deplored the fact that capital must inevitably exhaust its worthy investment objectives. As a society matures, the margin of growth of its commercial enterprises shrinks as they compete with rivals of equal value and output. In the long run, a modern capitalist’s only alternative is to destroy more or less completely any rival entity and then invest in its ruins: his only way to raise his profit margin over time.
Given a planet economically closed (globalized) in which commerce and industry have equalized more or less everywhere, nowhere is left for Capital to invest and expect returns superior to those of the past. Only by systematically smashing various economies in turn, then investing in the ruins, can Capital surpass its historic profitability.
This can be seen as a kind of slash-and-burn agriculture where farmers burn down parcels of forest and plant their crops in the ashes. Once the ground loses the fertility from that burning, they move on to the next plot of forest to burn.
As long as the farmers are not too numerous and the great forest can grow back and fill in the blanks, this trick works quite well. However, once people grow too numerous and the forest shrinks in proportion, it becomes a formula for desert waste and ensuing starvation.
Having suffered from the slash-and-burn habits of Capitalist investors for the last centuries, long before the World Wars (sic), the Earth has come to the point where everything that remains, after each “bigger and better” forest fire, has lost its compensatory growth. At this stage, the world economy has come to resemble a desert waste where once stood a thriving forest. As an illustration and warning, the natural world has reached a similar state of degeneration: petroleum is running out, as are potable water, coral reefs, mild climate and other geophysical resources and survival necessities for civilization.
As raw materials become more expensive to extract and process, the sole economic resource left to draw upon will be the basic sustenance of world populations. A case in point is the conversion of food crops into way too expensive biofuel.
Once the People’s sustenance is stolen and adulterated in greater volume to satisfy the demands of Capital, and once those profits are shifted to a shrinking clique of billionaires and their clients, the People will rise up to oppose their theft by force of arms. Since weapons have become so deadly, (the sword was the optimal tool of tyrants; the AK-47, that of the masses; and the virus, the lone gunman’s), that fight will just aggravate the problem by wasting more resources, infrastructure and lives than could have emerged from a peaceful resolution.
As for those among the rich and powerful who justify their misdeeds with “too big to fail”; the Romans discovered a form of punishment for legions disgraced in battle but needed to fight another day: decimation. One wrongdoer of this kind may be brought low for the sins of nine of his peers without diminishing their capacity yet promoting their better behavior in the future. Two out of ten if this correction does not take the first time.
According to this logic, the only place left for Capital to invest is in outer space. Earth must be seen as a home ground no longer subject to the destructive exploitation that Capital requires. Its governors must treat Capitalists who maximize their profit at the expense of the People, of any people, as enemies of mankind to be ruthlessly criminalized and forced to conform to more civilized behavior.
The world economy is not yet ready to exploit outer space and its (for the time being) unlimited resources. That project will require a few more decades of intensive development of mankind’s basic requirements. Only then will sufficient intellectual, capital and infrastructure resources be available for this task. In the meantime, any reduction of them for short-term profit must be criminalized, and capitalist financiers, regulated to within an inch of their financial lives.
This will prove a difficult task, since Capital can call on great gobs of cash to hire criminals and con-men to carry out their dirty work in their capacity as politicians, the military, the press, NGOs, and other social service selectees.
World leaders will be called upon to adopt a dialectic of fanatical devotion and revolutionary purity. They will have to create an information network of such certified purity that only they could maintain and protect it. PeaceWorld is the only stage on which such people and their props could grow; any other would offer trivial returns in exchange for the huge self-sacrifice and devotion demanded.
Since this policy will hurt Capitalists bad by dragging them to the brink of bankruptcy and economic suicide, they are the only ones qualified to determine how rigorously it may be applied without killing the Golden Goose, to the limit of their tolerance.
I call on Capitalists themselves to admit the corner into which they have painted us. They must understand, with a gaze more penetrating than greed, what the stakes are for themselves, for their dependents and for the rest of humanity. I’m relying on the fact that they, too, have children who’s future they must guarantee insofar possible. Mere ramparts of dollars and mercenary garrisons will crumble under the shock of future socio-ecological challenges. It is Capitalists and they alone who may promote the world leadership required for this undertaking; only they can regulate themselves and check the worst misdeeds of their co-evils.
In the absence of this transformation, the world economy is likely to spin out of control at the hands of its sociopathic profiteers. At that point, the toll of losses and destruction will stagger the imagination. Civilization is not likely to survive.
Those are the choices we face: we, the People and those odd fellows whose topic of passion is Capital.