The Growing Anti-Capitalist Movement

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m seeing more open grumbling about capitalism than I used to. There was a time one could not say that, maybe, capitalism really doesn’t work in the long run without being shouted down. But now I see people grumbling about capitalism almost every day. Even the Pope is running around saying that the unfettered pursuit of money is the “dung of the devil.”

The problem, of course, is that capitalism doesn’t work for the masses unless you regulate the hell out of it, which the high priests of capitalism will not accept. Ironically, the past 30 years of deregulation (while celebrating the triumph of capitalism over communism) have done a bang-up job demonstrating that Karl Marx was right about one thing, at least — capitalism carries the seeds of its own destruction.

I don’t have to persuade you “regulars” why this is true, but those of you who wandered in late can read A Wealthy Capitalist on Why Money Doesn’t Trickle DownCapitalism Simply Isn’t Working and Here Are the Reasons Why, and More Compelling Evidence That Free Market Capitalism Doesn’t Work Without Government Regulation.

If the true believers of capitalism had the sense God gave cucumbers they’d be at least considering re-instating some of the old safeguards, such as the Glass-Steagall Act, to save capitalism from complete collapse someday. But they won’t. It’s against their religion. See this commentary from a blogger whom I doubt it all that wealthy —

[Sen. Bernie] Sanders moronically said to John Harwood on CNBC, “What I think is obscene [is] when you have the top one tenth of one percent owning almost as much as the bottom 90.”

That’s capitalism.  That’s our history. That’s why  we are not Vietnam or Cambodia.  We are not the old USSR or Tiananmen Square in China.  We are successful because success is not legislated, but achieved.

And I’m sure this guy genuinely and fervently believes that allowing the nation’s wealth and resources to be hoarded by people who really don’t work for it, whom we did not elect, cannot control, and possibly wouldn’t even like much if we met them makes America strong, and he will continue to believe that as long as he is able to cling to a middle-class lifestyle. But if the nursing home dumps him on the street some day because Medicaid has been scrapped to pay for more tax cuts for the rich, he may be in for a shock.

As the current system works for fewer and fewer of us, I’m seeing more people, younger people especially, say out loud that capitalism doesn’t work. It’s not really a movement yet, but if current trends continue I think it will be in three to five years or so.

I’m seeing suggestions that government should encourage profit sharing and more stock ownership among employees. I see the Birkenstock crowd is big on something called the “sharing economy,” which I take it means you can rent out your stuff when you’re not using it. But it seems to me these are band-aids, not cures.

On the other hand, economic adviser Jeremy Rifkin says that capitalism is about to experience  “the most exquisite of deaths.”

“We are seeing the final triumph of capitalism followed by its exit off the world stage and the entrance of the collaborative commons,” Rifkin predicts.

This is not socialism but an entirely new economic model. That sounds exciting, but what the hell is it? I’ve read the piece and cannot make sense of it. But maybe some of you will.

13 thoughts on “The Growing Anti-Capitalist Movement

  1. You seem to be speaking against capitalism in general. Capitalism isn’t bad, per se. Unregulated capitalism is evil.

    • //Capitalism isn’t bad, per se. Unregulated capitalism is evil.// That’s pretty much what I said. You have to actually read the posts, dude.

  2. Ok, so what kind of name is Ibod Catooga , (or erinyes) ? Funny stuff !! 🙂
    I’ve been watching this movement called “the Venus Project”. The home of the organization is in Venus, Florida, which is way down US 27 near Clewiston, the sugar cane capitol of Florida. It’s kind of a utopian dream, but pretty interesting. You can Google it.

  3. Rifkin’s been saying this kind of thing for a very long time. I’ve followed him for decades and am sympathetic to his pov (especially when I was young, naive, and idealistic), but I think he tends to seize upon every bit of data as evidence for his pre-determined point of view. It’s telling / suspicious that an average educated person can barely make out what he’s trying to say.

    If anything, a free and open internet has empowered individuals and has cut through well established corporate structures. But these empowered individuals typically establish new corporate structures to carry out their mission (think Jeff Bezos of Amazon or Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook or the guy who invented HotMail). At the bottom, the internet has enabled people to share things like their cars (Uber), but these are low paying jobs nobody would do if they didn’t have to. Count me very intrigued at how the internet has changed everything, but completely skeptical at how this somehow spells the end of capitalism.

  4. I must have absorbed it from the zeitgeist or something, but when a friend of mine built a 3-D printer a while back, I started having Jeremy Rifkin-like thoughts. The level of technology, the quantity and range of resources and the types of energy available, seem to be major players in determining the sort of economy that grows out of their exploitation. For a long period of time, capitalism was the most efficient way of harnessing these elements, or at least the best that we could come up with. Political systems and the organization of societies seem to be on a parallel course. Capitalism and democracy have often worked well together on occasion, but they worked best when they balanced each other out, when they were oppositional in their power. Currently, we can see now how capital is trying to devour democracy; participation in the democratic process is itself being commodified. We used to vote for the millionaire of our choice, now we vote vicariously for the billionaires who prop them up. For some, like the libertarian blogger linked above, this is progress.

    A new iphone or iwidget comes out every few months because there are millions of people who can still afford them. The market is driving their innovation. This isn’t necessarily all good. We could all get along perfectly well with last years model or even a flip phone and more productive capacity could be directed toward something more beneficial. – I know, “planned economies” haven’t always done so well.- But, what happens when most of us have descended into serfdom and the market shrinks? When mere thousands instead of millions can afford the new iwidget, that’s a market contraction and pretty soon new versions will only be coming out once every few years. Oh, the humanity!!

    There are a number of things that seem headed for a grand alignment. The one that may step to the head of the line is environmental. Resources, energy and the pollution that their extraction and use causes will simply be at too great a cost to continue to produce the sweet trivialities that capitalism has provided for us. With more and more of us occupied by selling each other hamburgers, the market and the need for innovation will diminish. Technology really seems likely to make most labor obsolete. Alas, robots can make excellent hamburgers and never reveal the secret sauce recipe!

    I have no idea what’s going to happen, but, it seems, the we’ll have to unhitch ourselves from the profit motive. That seems unthinkable right now, but profit is the driver for so much waste and exploitation that it is an unaffordable luxury.

    I think I’ll need a few more cocktail hours dedicated to this issue before I can conclude this rant. Sorry.

    Have you ever noticed that Libertarians have certain “tells?” When I saw that word “moronically” in the excerpt, I just knew it was a Libertarian piece. I must have ESP or something!

  5. Capitalism ends when the last squeaky tumbrel bring the last capitalist, crying and bemoaning his/her fate, to the rusty and dull guillotine!

    Socialism, my friend’s!
    We all share.
    The wealthy are still wealthy – relative to the rest of us.
    But the poor, and other folks, will be much better off!

  6. I’ve been reading David Graeber lately. Debt. The First 5000 Years. Not a high profile guy on this subject, but he has a good eye for where capitalism is heading and where it’s dragging us as it proceeds. I highly recommend his article On The Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs. Folks at LGM hate him. But they can be a snooty lot over there at times.

  7. That piece from the American Thinker (sic) is typical–the most fervent defenders of capitalism have no idea what it actually is.

    Then again, I’m not sure that anyone really knows what exactly capitalism is, or what is the difference between capitalism and socialism. If Sweden, for instance, is a paradigm of a certain kind of socialism, then it would appear that socialism and capitalism are not mutually exclusive. There is, after all, a stock exchange in Stockholm.

    And then of course the Libertarians will go on and on about Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand, but what about his pin factory? He’s describing how modern, efficient production methods demand a high degree of specialization and coordination. That involves centralized planning, which is currently thought to be the very essence of socialism.

    Personally I think both terms are worn out, and I think we do need to rethink some of these categories. Along those lines, I strongly agree with goatherd’s argument against the profit motive, and I think that’s something a lot of people get confused about when they rail against corporations. I’ve fallen into that myself, but I’m now convinced that the issue really isn’t with the corporate form in itself, but the idea of a for-profit corporation. I might even concede that for-profit corporations can be useful for some kinds of economic development, but they have no place in certain industries, like medicine and education.

  8. It’s a pretty superficial observation, but the right has railed against nearly everything they oppose as “socialism” or as they are fond of saying, “SOCIALISM!!!!!” Anything mildly beneficial to working people, or that acknowledges such a thing as a common good gets the same label. So, young people who are getting the short end of the economic stick are looking at the laundry list of socialist bogeymen:

    Universal health care, free education. the social safety net, unemployment insurance, collective bargaining, “entitlements” and so many other things that might help them out. Their most likely responses is to ask, “Where do I sign up?” The right has worn this gambit down to the nub and young people may not be falling for it anymore. I’ve seen a number of articles, some even talking about communism and Karl Marx without the customary snarl on their lips.

  9. I’m seeing the same thing among young people I know – and I’m in Silicon Valley. There’s a general sense of dissatisfaction that’s not crystalized yet.

    The general sense I get is there’s something brewing but it’s still forming. I agree with you we’ve got about 3-5 years before it forms anything. I suspect in part this is why Hillary Clinton started echoing the more left-wing of her party – because she sees it coming, and because she can (forgive the choice of words) capitalize on it.

    Awhile ago I was discussing the current state of the economy with friends, including how the gains didn’t go to us. I ended up estimating that had the gains in the economy been more evenly distributed I would have been looking at making 33% to 100% more in my profession.

    But at least I have a profession. The young people I know are often struggling, frugal, and not overly happy.

  10. I’m always amazed when the financial reports come out, and the stock holders and CEO are disappointed when the ‘numbers” don’t go up. The working schlub is told just be happy you have a job.
    Keep an eye on that woman paying for groceries with food stamps or WIC cupons, she might sneak a steak or some shrimp past the food Nazis.
    There will have to be changes, this system cannot afford to live.

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