Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Capitalism: a savage and destructive system

There was an editorial in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago about the superiority of the market economy, basically cheer leading for capitalism as the most successful system of production possible.  How anyone can make this argument in the light of the very same capitalism being rescued from the edge of the abyss by public funds and "socialistic" type measures baffles the mind but we expect this from a mouthpiece of capital like the WSJ.

It's harder to grasp when such praise comes from American workers who more often than not call themselves  "middle class" which complicates things.  There appears to be a middle class and a lower class in the US , I'm not sure if there's an upper class although the term 1% perhaps covers it.   But the working class seems to have disappeared until we come to understand that the working class in the US is called the middle class. This is a remnant of the post second world war boom.  But the material conditions that gave rise to the idea of the American Dream have entered the history books, never to return.

Most US workers today are in no mood to lavish WSJ type praise about how great capitalism is barring the most politically backward. In the US, home prices have dropped 34% over the last 6 years and this was where US workers were told to put our money, "safe as houses" had a real meaning here.  The home was the college cost, retirement, the nest egg.  Now, many working class families are stuck paying off $500,000 mortgage loans on homes worth half that much.  More than two million properties are in foreclosure and almost one in four under water the Wall Street Journal reports.

Myself and other writers on this blog have pointed to the incredible anger at the rich that exists in US. Back in 2010, the US Chamber of Commerce found through its focus groups that its public campaign to breathe new life in to the reputation of the market in the public's eyes could not use the term "capitalism". The Chamber found that most people felt the term capitalism meant the strong devouring the week.  Despite the individualistic, selfish, view of the world that the 1%'s mass media touts as human nature and the propaganda that those who find themselves in hard times are there through their own failures, the feeling of compassion and solidarity for others among human beings is a powerful one and this crisis has hit many who thought they were safe.

This inherent class solidarity has to be undermined and broken. As Union busting lawyer Martin Jay Levitt wrote in his bestseller "Confessions of a Union Buster: "The enemy was the collective spirit.  I got hold of that spirit while it was still a seedling; I poisoned it, choked it, bludgeoned it if I had to, anything to be sure it would never blossom into a united workforce...." Things haven't changed.

The housing crisis like the economic crisis in general is global.  From Spain to Ireland, China and the US, housing and household debt is holding back economic growth.  Consumers are unwilling to spend and banks unwilling to lend.  Earlier this month, the IMF appealed to capitalist governments around the world for some restraint on cuts in social spending on services, jobs and wages as the intensity of the assault is likely to push the world economy further toward the cliff's edge and it is fostering social unrest throughout the world

Government (taxpayer) intervention will help, the IMF says pointing to Roosevelt's Home Owners Loan Corp created during the Great Depression: "By making mortgage payments more affordable" the IMF says, the HOLC, "...effectively transferred funds to households with distressed mortgages" which was intended to boost consumption."  The journal neglects to mention the 1937 depression and the war production that followed.  It was the war at a cost of some 50 million dead that saved capitalism that time.

These are the conditions that pertain in some of the advanced capitalist countries, the wealthy ones. For the world's poor, the countries that capitalism will not develop because it is not profitable to do so, life is a living nightmare.  According to UNICEF 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.  Capitalism has the means to feed them, or provide them with decent water and sewage systems, but like any other commodity, and food is a commodity, if you can't buy it you don't get it.

In our world where the market reigns  72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school in 2005; 57 per cent of them were girls.  And these are regarded as optimistic numbers, the global capitalist crisis has no doubt made matters worse.  Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.

Capitalism is especially savage to children:

10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (same as children population in France, Germany, Greece and Italy.

1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

Yet this happens in the midst of extreme abundance as these figures from Global Issues show:

The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined.

Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen. Since then, we have wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and the US, the world's preeminent arms dealer building hundreds of facilities throughout the world to defend the interests of the global corporations.

These conditions we are told have to do with the qualities of men and women, bad qualities. They are the product of inferior races and poor ignorant people that are not capable of governance. It is human nature, some are clever and creative and others are indolent.

But this is a product of a global economic system, a system of production we call capitalism.  It is the failing of an unplanned system of production where private individuals own the means of producing the necessities of life and how these necessities are produced and distributed in society.  The products of our collective Labor belong to these private individuals to do with them what they will. Inherent in this system of production is poverty and hunger, sickness and disease, wars and conflicts over the control of resources and rapacious struggle for profits.

This is civilization?  No, this is a nightmare, it's madness.  It has to go.

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