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Capitalism cannot save us, and we shouldn’t save it

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The whole world is in a crisis, the most immediate cause of which is not Donald Trump — he is merely the American emperor finally exposed for the world to see, naked, crooked, and incapable of saving anyone.

The crisis behind the fake, leader-of-the-free-world is a result of businessmen having seized control of most of our supposedly democratic governments.

It is only during the last 100 years or so that it has been possible to “seize” governments by winning elections.  Corporates only got serious about doing it when socialist or humanist parties won power in a few dozen countries in the 20th century, and passed laws that put social causes before profit.

They regulated banking and mandated public health and common wealth, and chief among them were the Democratic administration of Franklin Roosevelt, Labor governments in Australia and like-minded nations, popularly-elected socialist regimes in parts of Europe and South and Central America, and some of the former ‘communist’ autocracies.

Equally alarming for business was the growing popularity of legislated “rights” — civil rights, women’s rights, the right to clean air and water, indigenous people’s rights, the right to decide one’s own gender identity, and many more. Providing these rights to the masses seriously interfered in the functions of brutal capitalism.

We are in the midst of a social breakdown as the yield of capitalism’s mindless “growth” is revealed to be an exponential growth of waste.

Most of these social reforms and “rights” grew out of the 18th century breakthroughs collectively known as the Enlightenment, which were fundamentally about science replacing superstition, a transformation still very much in progress today.

By the 1980s, global corporates realised that the populations of countries which had prospered were somewhat addicted to these products of enlightenment, but even more addicted to consuming the products of big businesses. So the bosses of business used their media to convince enough people that social spending needed to be cut if the goodies were to keep on coming. Thus, we now have elected governments committed to downgrading public interests, like clean air, art, science, health, and curtailing all those rights, for our own good, where “good” means owning more than our neighbours do.

Corporatists have sold themselves to a thin majority of voters by claiming that they can run things better than nationalist or socialist governments did, or than do-gooders could. Their package of policies is sometimes called neo-liberalism, and right now it is coming apart, its credibility in question, and the men in suits look as scared, or clueless, as the rest of us.

We cannot, however, simply hand government controls back to non-corporate politicians, because the deeper problem behind the crisis is capitalism itself.

Capitalism proposes that unregulated competition for profit, and the consequent private accumulations of wealth, will inevitably produce a safer and ever-more enjoyable life for all of us who work within the system. In fact, universal human fulfillment is no more inevitable under capitalism than was Marx’s communist fantasy born of a “historically determined” proletarian revolution.

The hucksters of laissez-fairyland, including Trump and Turnbull/Morrison and Co. and their vast propaganda enterprises insist that the real problem is too much commonwealth, too much Political Correctness.

What we are in the midst of today is the breakdown of social cohesion as the yield of capitalism’s mindless “growth” is revealed to be an exponential growth of waste, pollution, inequality, oppression, and a cascade of other unintended, negative consequences.

In this pivotal moment, the hucksters of laissez-fairyland, including Trump and his Republican enablers, and Turnbull/Morrison and Co –and their vast propaganda enterprises — insist that the real problem is too much commonwealth, too many social programs, too much enlightenment — too much Political Correctness.

They tell us that jobs are vanishing, wages are dropping, and migrants are swarming over borders, because of feminism, environmentalism, and multiculturalism: these newfangled movements have taken goodies from the older and whiter people and given them to gays, trees, and wogs. This too is part of the neo-liberal project, to blame the failures of capitalism on the expansion of egalitarianism.

Our challenge is to confront the deeper diseases of our era, and to work with everyone across this endangered planet to save us from disaster by environmental breakdown and/or war.

There are many diagnoses of the diseases propagated by our species, and as many visions of what must be done to cure them. I propose that scientific observation and imagination have revealed the major myths from which we must release ourselves in order to find our place in the ecosystems of our planet. Myths such as:

That nature is free. A staggering number of people believe that naturally occurring things such as air, water, sunshine and soil are free and infinitely tolerant of whatever we do to them.

That we are all white men with Christian values. In fact, Australia has more women than men, and Christianity is tied with “no religion” at about 45% each in our latest Census. And despite the noise generated by some churches in the US, Americans too, are increasingly abandoning the myths of discredited religions.

That war is inevitable. Globally, war-based industries cost many times the world’s productive products and services and uncounted damages to human health, ecosystems and infrastructure. We can no longer afford war.

That our “economy” makes sense. It is estimated that the entire tangled web of the global “finance industry” transacted $1634 trillion in the year 2010. Even Lord Adair Turner, chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority, admits that much of what the industry does is “socially useless”. A rapidly expanding portion of the global “economy” is a casino run by algorithms.

In short, we are not a species created by a beneficent god or gods to be destined for greatness or eternal life, and we are not presently managing our lives and our global systems in intelligent or sustainable ways.

We are one species on one planet and we are now knowledgeable enough, and capable enough, to re-design all of our actions to live within the hierarchy of ecosystems we now see we are a part of. And we don’t have much time to do it.

That’s a simple notion, and it can guide everything we must do, all of us, for the foreseeable future. The fact that this will mean abandoning systemic violence including war, and private property beyond our domestic enclaves, is, I agree, a challenge. But unlike blind faith in gods or stars or soothsayers or businesspeople, it has a framework for living that is accessible, practices that are doable, and goals that are achievable.

It’s called science. If you don’t know much about it, find out more. If you hear someone deny it or denigrate it, understand that they are hastening our demise as a species, along with all the other species on this overstressed planet. They may not mean to, but they are.

You can still chant and hum while you do science: just check the ingredients on the package for carcinogens before you light the incense.

32 responses to “Capitalism cannot save us, and we shouldn’t save it

  1. Is this a parody? ‘Breakdown of social cohesion’. Try Soviet Russia, Maoist China, Cold War Eastern Europe, etc etc. Every time I tune into Daily Review, there’s a raving rant against freedom to read. It’s difficult to take seriously an online magazine so out of touch with the lives of most people.

  2. This is the most intelligent article I’ve ever read on Daily Review.
    Way back in the 1920s, capitalists realised that manufacturing processes had become so efficient that they could cut working hours and enable people to enjoy leisuretime activities. Instead, to maintain profits, they turned to advertising and planned obsolescence.
    This created consumerism, which someone described as “buying something you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t know”.
    Of course, the other main problem, not mentioned here, is over-population.

  3. As a science teacher who loves the subject, alas I must confess that science has also sold its soul to Lucifer as well. There is plenty of good science to demonstrate what you suggest Phillip, but also plenty behind the waste and industries of death. English Tories attacked the enlightenment in the late 18th century, due to fear of revolution and alarm at ordinary folks thinking. It never really recovered politically, though much could came from it. Now we have plundered and poisoned the earth and the robber barons have stolen the wealth. The one percent and the global finance industry are parasites, “caterpillars of the commonwealth” to quote Master Shakespeare. Capitalism has failed the world and its greatest power is corrupt and godless despite its religiosity.

  4. Go SET

    WOW!!! That brings back some memories.

    I used to love reading Sear Suzie???

    Some of the letters from young girls were fantastic. Very educational.

    I particularly loved one from a young lady who wrote asking how she could have gotten pregnant when she fell asleep on the beach at Noosa after a Beach Party.

    On a serious note I will be happy to be leaving this mortal coil in about 20 years because it is absolutely turning to shite in a big way. Our politicians are a DISGRACE. As much as I can’t stand BIG DON, I really believe the SWAMP needs a total FLOOD and get rid of them all.
    The only way the planet will be saved is the dramatic reduction of the use of oil, coal and plastics and many other non-natural products as well.

    No Cheers

  5. Brillliantly simply put facts, but obviously no one will dare do anything about it in case they lose votes. The underlying major driving cause is lack of population control, still roaring along at one billion extra every 10 years (exponentially impossibly destructive, and still feeding the churches and governments with poverty stricken cannon fodder)!

  6. Christianity is a ‘myth of discredited religion’ you managed to find room in your anti-capitalism screed to throw in some atheistic bile eh Phillip?

    1. He has to, he’s a blatant communist judging by this article. An authoritarian state can’t function with independent religion.

  7. True that there are many problems in the world and Trump is just one of them but:
    2017 was the best year for humans ever – according to the New York Times we had globally the lowest level of poverty, highest level of literacy, highest average life expectancy and lowest proportion of humans dying violently.
    Why – largely because of market forces and many aspects of capitalism. Those countries who have tried socialism did not fare very well so be careful. Capitalism needs to be harnessed and used and not run riot but its principles deliver.

    1. That is a newspaper report. Where are the facts?
      Better than the Roman Empire?
      What does ” we had globally” actually mean?
      What about the levels of slavery, degradation of natural resources, rampant and useless consumerism et al.

      Not the best year ever in my book – by a long chalk!

  8. “Soviet Russia, Maoist China, Cold War Eastern Europe”

    These were monstrosities born of monstrous times, partly caused by the illness Frazer describes. They are not an argument against questioning our culture of unbridled consumption and suck-the-earth-dry capitalism.

  9. It is about time the anti-social greedies of this world realised that you can plunder our communities, steal our health care and education services for only so long before the pitch forks start coming for them. And don’t blather on about capitalism having raised living standards etc. because it is demonstrably rubbish.

  10. This is rubbish. Masquerading as wisdom. Just a way to make a quid for the author.

    Everything’s in a mess, sure. But this doesn’t help find a way out and that fault is not the big corporations.

    The fault has to be us. There’s really no one here but us. We staff the big corporations. We elect the politicians, marry them, breed with them.

    In the hands of such as Hitler, Mao, Stalin, half of us happily set to killing, torturing, incarcerating the other half.

    There’s a lot of bad and unscrupulous and downright stupid and lazy amongst us.

    But there’s also a lot of good. A lot.

    We need to clearly see the situation as it is, without putting up false demons to blame for everything, understand it is our fault our problem and we’ll fix it.

    Which is like: truth. Get down to truth. Forget this talk of ‘science’. It doesn’t clarify anything. It further confuses the discussion. The big thing about science is merely that it seeks to find Truth. Truth is what we need. And we’ve all got access to that, at least to the search for it.

    We don’t need ‘science’, ‘scientists’ before we can embark on fixing things. We just need to ally ourselves with an honest search for truth.

    And a good starting point is to learn to have some respect for the language and call a spade a spade. Tell it as it is. In words that fit.

    Stop this bastardisation, corruption, destruction of the language by prohibiting this word and that word, this speech and that speech. Not of that helps anything.

    Stop seeking a handy villain to blame for it all. It is us.

    And a good starting place in the good look at ourselves that we need to take is our docile childish belief in religions.

    I didn’t say god. You can believe in a god without needing a religion.

    A religion is a whole set of practices and attitudes, devised by man and presented as devised by god.

    That’s a plain and simple nonsense.

    Follow god yourself, don’t let any man tell you how you should do it.

    So in the interests of getting us, ourselves, we the people into the habit of finding the truth, speaking the truth, using the truth and sorting thing out to help ourselves the best place to start may be right there: admitting what childish nonsense it has always been to believe that any man has any right to tell you how to find and follow your god: if you even want one.

    Ah. I ask the impossible you say.

    Well there you go. But while we are devoted to irrationality and frightened to call a spade a spade the whole thing is truly hopeless.

    It is one thing to grant ‘freedom of religion’ – believe what you like, we don’t care, it doesn’t hurt us – and another thing to accept a blanket prohibition – ‘I must not call your religious dogma, texts, belief irrational, unproven, unhelpful, nonsensical ‘ even if I clearly see them as such from the position of my beliefs, grounded in truth, demonstrable truths.

    That’s not granting of an enlightened freedom. That acceptance of a primitive yoke.

    We are so busy excusing and ignoring each other’s madnesses, irrationalities, that it is little wonder that insane behaviour rules the planet.

    1. “But this doesn’t help find a way out and that fault is not the big corporations.”

      I’m not sure your response does either, and it is quite real to put big corporations at the very centre of this. They corrupt the essence of government, of course they are players.

      And the rest just seemed to me to be “rubbish. Masquerading as wisdom.”

  11. Classical cspitalism runs on the magic-pudding model. But a better one might be to tructure it as a kaleidoscope. It doesn’t grow bigger but always has something novel (hopefully, in real terms, useful) to attract the beholder. Internet services are an example.

  12. I subscribed to this newsletter for interesting and edgy arts news, If you are going to publish left wing Rants Against Everything then I will be unsubscribing.

  13. This is the most succinct essay on the current situation I have read.
    The only area it could have expanded on was the population problem which no one seems to ever address.
    Think of a world with no lions or tigers elephants or whales – just endless people without food or hope in a world turning to desert.
    The answer? Educated women don’t have 9 babies. Take the $700 billion (yep that’s this years US arms budget) and spend it and ours on bringing these societies into the 1st world and like he says science, science, science!

  14. It was the 19th century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche who said that “There is no truth, only interpretations”. The comments on Philip Frazer’s article would tend to support this view. There is much about Soviet Russia, Maoist China and Cold War Eastern Europe (and most of it suggestive of the negative rather than important positive outcomes); but what about Thatcher’s UK, the USA of Bush (x2), and Apartheid South Africa?
    A problem is that most commentators of most of the foregoing have never lived in or under them the systems they criticize or support. We interpret what we read see, and hear about – according to our own background, circumstances, education and, inevitably, the prejudices that are the consequence of the foregoing.
    Personally, I found Philip Frazer’s article to be intelligent and worthwhile. Interestingly, however, two words that so far have not appeared amongst the plethora of descriptions and interpretations, support and criticism of the article, are “understanding” and “tolerance” – one surely precedes the other.
    Perhaps the way forward must presuppose both of these virtues. In their absence what hope is there for the human race going forward?

    1. Apartheid South Africa, it has to be said, was far better than what they have today under a Marxist government. It’s about to become the next Zimbabwe.

      It was the original Dutch settles farming the land successfully that helped cause a population and economic boom in that region. Populations need sustaining.

      Today white farmers are being murdered on mass in the most gruesome ways imaginable and backed by the state. When it goes too far and white farmers have either all been killed or fled – millions of blacks will starve with untold suffering in many other ways.

      Whatever the solution should have been to Apartheid South Africa we know for a fact a violently racist Marxist government isn’t it. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire!

      1. Whatever genuine argument may be behind what Daniel is saying, it is masked by his quite irrational statements. For example, “white farmers are being murdered on mass (sic) in the most gruesome ways and backed by the state”, “millions of blacks will starve with untold suffering in many ‘other ways’ (my quotation marks)”, “a violently racist Marxist government (currently in South Africa)”.

        The Apartheid government produced the factors which necessitated black liberation from their domination, slavery and a lack of a voice for self-determination. With or without Mandela, South Africa is required to go through the social, political, economic and cultural processes that will redeem that society and forge its future. The answer is NOT to go back to the previous raison d’etre.

        Apartheid – far better for whom? South Africa “about to become the next Zimbabwe”? Show me the evidence without reliance on bland and blind statements. Is their evidence to show that white South Africans are any worse of – politically, economically or socially – than they were under Apartheid? And, to be fair, is there any evidence that black South Africans are similarly benefitted by having an Black African majority government? For myself, I am convinced that South Africa is a better place to be now than my experience, albeit limited, of the country in 1971.

        In short, the philosophical question to direct at both the past Apartheid governments and the present African National Congress government is “WHO BENEFITS?”

  15. I think that philosophy needs to be added to the science mix to really understand why we as a race will wipe ourselves out. The article is spot on, logical and makes sense. The forces against it will not give up their ground easily. As Kierkegaard states, the crowd is untruth. Unfortunately the individual is invisible…

  16. Perhaps the next step towards more ” Enlightenment” is for the majority of people in democracies to only vote for “Rational”parties and not to simply vote for the party we “barrack” for. For that to ever happen we need to teach our children to reason. If we “think” well, we may yet survive.

  17. The main power structures today are communist or economic fascists – capitalism doesn’t exist in the west, just a small slither. It’s not even enough to keep our economies going without constant intervention and the continued slow creep to complete communism.

    We’re talking Maoist China, North Korea, Venuswala, The Soviet Union. The list is endless. The evidence is in. We know it doesn’t work and the political elites pushing know this — they just want the power despite what it causes. It’s part of our human nature for some people, unfortunately.

    It’s the slow creep to communism that is causing all the corruption and greed and a continued wealth gap – the ultimate wealth gap being full on communism where the population is equally poor with ALL the wealth held by elites and oligarchs just like in the soviet union.

    How much of Quantitative Easing or money printing to “save” the economy after the 2008 crash — multiple of TRILLIONS of dollars worldwide — ended up in the hands of the top 0.01%. Was it 80%? 90%? 99%? That wasn’t capitalism that was socialism or communism policies creeping in. It was even this PC culture of calling everything racist that caused the US housing market to crash in the first place.

    They did this by forcing banks to lend to black families who had poor credit ratings with government-backed mortgages. When banks don’t have risk the lend to ANYONE. It’s the risk of losing money lending to the wrong people that keeps them in check.

    So, oh yes, we’ll have equality of outcome without ANY capitalism and we’ll all equally starve together. That’s what happens when nobody has the incentive to produce.

    “They Pretend to Pay Us; We Pretend to Work”

    The free market is the most efficient way to redistribute limited resources that have alternative uses that there is. That’s because it relies on the individual choices by millions of individuals who know best what they want and need — and not a handful of clueless central planners. It’s impossible to centrally plan a healthy economy because it’s far too complicated.

    We already know the best way to the maximum prosperity for the maximum amount of people possible. And it’s simple. Property rights, contract law and the none aggression principle. People self-organise free markets because it’s efficient and part of our human nature to freely trade with one another.

    Prisoners self-organise and create their own currencies often with cigarettes.

    We haven’t had a free market since the introduction of central banks who control the cost to borrow money with interest rates – that’s a socialist or you could say fascist policy.

    Via the socialist mainstream media, they are pushing social unrest and race-baiting and lies like never before. They are abusing the free press to push socialism with no commitment to the truth at all. The classic, “the ends justify the means” that communism loves so much.

    Think about that, the ends justify the means. What’s the end result that justifies the means? All we have to do is look back at history and it’s monstrous. Suffer now so you can suffer more in the future. It doesn’t sound too great when the truth is told.

    Communist elites are authoritarian power freaks who want all the wealth for themselves without having earned it and for the rest of the population, half of which buy into it because of the lies, to starve and become slaves — populations under communism are essentially slaves.

    Screw everyday people who want truth, freedom and liberty.

    It’s unbelievable how blind people are.

    1. An entire rant devoted to claiming that the whole world is going communist. It’s as though the whole Thatcher-Reagan free market revolution never took place, and the 2008 crash was the single-handed work of the communists. What planet does this commenter come from?

      1. Greg, Thatcher Reagan mainlined Neo- Liberalism, the “philosophy” maintaining that the rich should rule, because that they are rich, they must be clever, – this has destroyed past civilisations because it is based on wrong postulates.
        The Thatcher Reagan succumbing to no alternative but Materialism was definitely a watershed, but nothing to do with communism, which was pretty well dead by then, as an ideology, let alone practice. – Greg you are confused and living 40 years ago.
        Time to let all that detritus go, – Never too late to change, look at Evonomics, at least some discussion of fundamentals.

    2. “Slow creep to communism”? 42 people own more wealth than the poorest half of the planets population, here and elsewhere everthing has been privatised and markletised, and you think we are on a “slow creep to communism” and there are only a few “small slivers” of capitalism to be found anywhere on the planet?

  18. darren robinson: The moment you start raving about “left wing Rants”, you have closed your mind to any kind of constructive thinking about society. The left wing can be argued against cogently and intelligently. Dismissing them with labels is a sickness, not an argument.

  19. Hi Phillip! This is an idea that you might like:

    Despite the high quality of life that some of the so-called developed nations have achieved, the truth is that the world, considered as a group of countries located in a fragile and geographically limited biosphere, is threatened with extinction due to human conflicts and the depredation of the environment.
    Notwithstanding the good and very important actions taken by groups and individuals in favor of a better world, deterioration at all levels continues to increase dangerously.
    After more than thirty years dedicated to these matters, and since “an image is worth a thousand words” we have come up with a novel idea of designing a model city that has all the characteristics of infrastructure and organization inherent to the peaceful and sustainable society that we want for ourselves and our descendants, whose representation in the form of scale models, animated series, feature films, video games and theme parks, would constitute a model to follow to generate the necessary changes.
    The prototype that we present has some characteristics that are opposed, sometimes in a radical way, to the religious, economic, political and educational traditions and customs that have been transmitted from generation to generation, yet are the causes of the aforementioned problems, and therefore must be transformed.
    If you are interested in knowing about this project, or even participating in it, we invite you to visit our website (written in Spanish and English), where we are working in that sense.

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