Capitalists: The Flat-Earthers of the 21st Century


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monopoly-manI’m not just talking about the old white guy with the mustache and top hat in Monopoly. I’m talking about all the folks who think the market will save us and that the economy must grow and that to be critical of all that is to be unpatriotic or a threat to social order. And I’m talking about the people who vote for capitalist political parties.

Flat earth.

Capitalism and the lever-pullers have no answers and plenty of denial about climate breakdown. The economic model is bankrupt, yet it has the power to compel humans and the comprador politicians to pump trillions into the system so it can continue to economically rape us and the planet.

David Harvey has a very clear critique of capitalism’s disease, in this engaging animation:

A first start is getting rid of the notion of economic growth, perhaps with the Steady State Economics model. We should also be mobilizing as individuals and groups that don’t regard capitalist growth as a social good. Why?

Once upon a time it was the aristocracy that controlled the wealth and power. Then we got a sense of democracy and said that land-owning white men should be able to compete for wealth; it should not come to you by accident of birth. Ha.

Then we eventually let women and non-whites vote, but by then the new feudal system of corporate control was in place. But this new and improved economic culture had two manipulation layers grafted onto it:

  1. The manufactured culture of ownership lured working people to marry a mortgage and invest in mutual funds so they too became entrepreneurs and would vote for conservative economic ideals, even to their own detriment, all the while ensuring they wouldn’t smash the system.
  2. Democracy ensured that we had the illusion of choice among politicians who would represent different views; it’s too bad that the “left” in North America is neither left nor progressive, for example people wanting to be US president in 2008 were almost all right wing.  A quick look at the BC NDP in the 1990s published today demonstrates what “left” meant to that incarnation of the party.

George Carlin had a few thoughts on this American Dream of self-made prosperity and such bullshit. That less than 50% of British Columbians voted last year indicates people seem to be catching on.

But how can we get rid of our ingrained, uncritiqued tendency to hope the economy recovers and GDP grows?

Mobilize and learn.

In the last year in Toronto, there have been a series of meetings of individuals and groups who don’t drink the capitalism Kool-Aid: the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly. They have some moderate breadth of membership, but they need to expand to include more different kinds of representation. But when organizations are incapable of presenting an alternative to capitalism, the people need to step up.

Maybe the GTWA won’t change the world, but these kinds of interaction and engagement are exactly what we need. And we need them everywhere.

Indeed, if human beings could cooperate on a mass level, we could accomplish great things, like thinking up a new economic model.

Trade has been going on for millennia, but capitalism is just over 200 years old. We can continue an economic model if we step out of the box. And with climate breakdown bearing down on us, it’s time to leap out of the box and drag our politicians…or their replacements…with us.

  1. We can move to an economy that works for human beings instead of people existing as economic slaves to corporations.
  2. We can move to bioregional economies to reduce GHG production from transportation.
  3. We could live closer to where we work, not just individually, but en masse.
  4. Transit could be free–meaning publicly funded.
  5. We could regulate limits on single occupancy vehicles and tax the inputs and fuels to keep economists from calling the environmental effects externalities that they can simply ignore.

Steady State Economics is all about imagining an economy without the addiction to growth, which only serves the rich and destroys the majority of people and the planet along the way.

One way out of the growth box is to read the position statement of the Center for the Advancement of Steady State Economics below and sign on to endorse the ideal and implementation as an individual or your organization. It will inoculate you against the growth meme we have endured all our lives.

Whereas:

1) Economic growth, as defined in standard economics textbooks, is an increase in the production and consumption of goods and services, and;

2) Economic growth occurs when there is an increase in the multiplied product of population and per capita consumption, and;

3) The global economy grows as an integrated whole consisting of agricultural, extractive, manufacturing, and services sectors that require physical inputs and produce wastes, and;

4) Economic growth is often and generally indicated by increasing real gross domestic product (GDP) or real gross national product (GNP), and;

5) Economic growth has been a primary, perennial goal of many societies and most governments, and;

6) Based upon established principles of physics and ecology, there is a limit to economic growth, and;

7) There is increasing evidence that global economic growth is having negative effects on long-term ecological and economic welfare…

Therefore, we take the position that:

1) There is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and environmental protection (for example, biodiversity conservation, clean air and water, atmospheric stability), and;

2) There is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and the ecological services underpinning the human economy (for example, pollination, decomposition, climate regulation), and;

3) Technological progress has had many positive and negative ecological and economic effects and may not be depended on to reconcile the conflict between economic growth and long-term ecological and economic welfare, and;

4) Economic growth, as gauged by increasing GDP, is an increasingly dangerous and anachronistic goal, especially in wealthy nations with widespread affluence, and;

5) A steady state economy (that is, an economy with a relatively stable, mildly fluctuating product of population and per capita consumption) is a viable alternative to a growing economy and has become a more appropriate goal in large, wealthy economies, and;

6) The long-run sustainability of a steady state economy requires its establishment at a size small enough to avoid the breaching of reduced ecological and economic capacity during expected or unexpected supply shocks such as droughts and energy shortages, and;

7) A steady state economy does not preclude economic development, a dynamic, qualitative process in which different technologies may be employed and the relative prominence of economic sectors may evolve, and;

8) Upon establishing a steady state economy, it would be advisable for wealthy nations to assist other nations in moving from the goal of economic growth to the goal of a steady state economy, beginning with those nations currently enjoying high levels of per capita consumption, and;

9) For many nations with widespread poverty, increasing per capita consumption (or, alternatively, more equitable distributions of wealth) remains an appropriate goal.

Another world is possible, but we need to decode our brainwashing to get there.

I’ll see you outside the box.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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