Friday, 6 February 2009

Building A New Society From The Collapse of Capitalism

This is the first of a series on the economic crisis opportunity.

Karl Marx said “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. In other words we are all expected to contribute to society what we can and only expected to take what we need. Under socialism laziness and greed are both vices.

Unfortunately under modern capitalism greed is considered more of a virtue than a vice and has become the driving force of the economic system. It is greed that has brought capitalism to where it is today.

So is socialism the answer. Rather than try to insert a lengthy treatise into the middle of this post let us just all agree that we are not ready to move to that stage at this point in time.

But we do need to change our way of thinking and the way we live in this world for the good of the planet and it’s peoples.

Capitalism has simply gotten out of control, especially American capitalism where most corporations today operate on the principle that “corporate officers have a fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value”, that is profits, without regards for employees or customers, or communities, or the broader public good.

We have seen it in our communities with the decline of local businesses and the growth of mega corporations. As owners become more disconnected from their businesses concerns for workers and customer value disappear to be replaced by the pursuit of, not just a fair profit, but maximized profit.

And we are all complicit as we sell out our friends and neighbours who worked in the locally owned businesses and local factories, for cheap goods produced abroad by near-slave labour.

Alongside greed, but driven by it, are false assumptions. The first false assumption is that wealth creation is all that matters, and wealth redistribution is an evil of socialism. The assumption being that as long as we keep creating wealth the rich will keep getting richer but enough “crumbs” will trickle down to working people and the poor to keep them happy. This is based on the same theory that sees recessions as the worst thing that could possibly happen. But it is a theory based on continuous and unlimited growth, a dangerous false assumption, The planet simply does not have the resources to support unlimited economic growth without self-destructing.

So where do we go from here. For the moment those responsible are still living their lavish lifestyles, pausing only to fly to Washington in their corporate jets to ask the common people to bail them out with their tax money. But the fact is that the American economy, and even the Canadian economy is so dominated by these mega corporations that their failure would have serious implications for working people.

In the short term governments need to keep the economy from collapsing, for the broader good, But they should not do it on the corporations terms but in a way that serves the common people. In the long term this is an opportunity to change the way the economy works – to an economy that serves the common good, not just corporate interests.

We have seen that countries with mixed economies, in particularly Canada, with a greater degree of government regulation and involvement in the economy have done better than the American pure capitalist approach. We need to learn from that, and build on it. But we need to go much further in building an economy for the people and the planet rather than an economy just for the corporations.

We can build an economy that can provide everyone with a decent quality of life if we responsibly and sustainably utilize and distribute the planet's resources.

Future posts will look in more detail at what we need to do in the short and long term.


Anonymous said...

The trouble with socialism is corruption and politics. Capitalism channels greed and provides multiple channels to live/advance. But capitalism does have its paroxysms and localised corruption.

Militant Dipper said...

Well said. I especially like the part about how were all complicit. Heh that new Walmart super centre will put a few thousand local people out of work but I can get a t-shirt for 12 dollars. Sure the t-shirt was made by a ten year old chinese boy and shipped across the world on a huge fossil fuel spewing super tanker but I got it for 12 dollars.