Sunday, July 07, 2013

Where I'm at

Okay so this started coming to me so I may as well write it down: 

Most of the problems of the modern world are caused by capital. Global warming, deforestation, toxic waste, mining, slavery, the global financial collapse in 2008, massive and growing inequality, sweatshops and 1300 dead in a factory in Bangladesh, food that doesn't have any food it in, the obesity epidemic, the rise of type 2 diabetes, 1 in 10 Americans on antidepressants, 11% of kids diagnosed with ADHD, most cancers, corruption of our political system, imperialism and neo-imperialism, death squads, the drug trade -- all of these are caused by capital. 

The evidence to prove that case is obvious, overwhelming, and incontrovertible. You do not have to be Marxian to understand this but apparently it helps -- Marx and the schools of thought that have evolved from his initial insights have done the best job of illuminating the problems caused by capital over the last 150 years. 

BUT, and here's the thing that most Marxians and anarchists do not understand -- getting rid of money, property, or markets does not necessarily solve these problems. Indeed the places that have tried to rid themselves of property, money, or markets (for example, the Russian Revolution, China under Mao, Cambodia under Pol Pot) have produced all sorts of horrors of their own -- genocide, famine, prison labor camps, authoritarianism, a massive system of corruption (indeed corruption IS the political system in those countries). Part of the problem is that money is a funny thing -- what is it? -- a stored symbol of value, a universal method of recording promises between unrelated parties? It's pretty tough to replace that without introducing all sorts of additional problems and complications. 

So I guess where I'm at is that many of the fiercest criticisms of capitalism are indeed correct. And also many of the fiercest criticisms of alternatives to capitalism are also probably correct. The only viable alternative that I can see at this point is the Scandinavia model -- capital is allowed to do its thing, but it is controlled and directed towards more socially useful purposes through massive taxation, financial regulations, currency controls, taxes on financial transactions, etc. (I get that not all of these measures are in force at one time depending on the country). But capital is always the genie that gets out of the bottle, that figures out how to spill beyond its container in ways that poison the entire system. I'm open to other alternatives, I'm just not seeing them yet. (I guess zero growth economics looks promising too, but it's still so new that I don't fully understand it yet).

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