Me. Me. Me again in 37 minutes. Beating the dead horse of 'Capitalism is bad'.

Capitalism Q&A from Discord (Dec 2020)21 min read

Economy Globalization Politics Resource Based Economy
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Introduction

This is a Q&A post to answer a great set of questions and comments posted to my Discord server from one of my long time followers on my Twitch live stream where I talk leftist politics a few times a week. I was originally going to post my comments to Discord, but my response became too big to just post there (due to the character limits of Discord), plus I would like to add some links, quotes, and other stuff in there too, so here we go!!

I wrote this over a few days, so it is still rough. =)

Questions and Answers on Capitalism

A. Live Stream Bad for More In-depth Conversations, so DISCORD!!!

Awesome! Let’s Do it! Thanks for posting your thoughts. <3 I understand live streaming is not the best place for a more in-depth conversation on topics like this, because only I get to speak, while you amazing people in my chat are limited to your typing skillz and that small chat box.

It is important to keep in mind that my world view and bias comes from being an American, a veteran of the Iraq war, a college graduate, a small business owner, a political activist of sorts with his own policy site, etc. If you want to learn more about me and my potential biases you can check my About Me page.

I also think that a large part of this conversation will center around your bias and significant potential privilege from living in one of those amazing, almost idyllic Nordic countries where real freedom actually exists, unlike in most of the rest of the world. As we go I will try to point out your potential bias or presence of your “Nordic colored glasses” as we go. I am sooo jealous! <3

B. Capitalism is NOT BAD!!!

Capitalism IS Bad!!! Well, actually, it is really monetary systems that are bad – of which Capitalism is a symptom of. But, yes I do say Capitalism for short because it is easier for people to identify with this emotionally charged word instead of that lower level abstraction of Monetary Systems. I am in the process of completely combining and expanding all 150 pages of my RBE/Capitalism posts into one work and I may try to make that terminology shift from Capitalism to Monetary Systems. Perhaps, in doing so I will be a bit pedantic, but… anyhow. =)

But, yes, still Capitalism is still bad. As a matter of fact, my entire policy site, Interstellar New Deal, is about fixing those very many devastating harms of Capitalism globally, and there is A LOT there. I write a lot about those basics of how it is harmful in the The Final Problem section of my infamous Cancer of Capitalism post where the primary issue is Tension which is the first and most important thing that I tackle there. If you have not read that post (or at least that large section) yet then please read the giant section on Capitalism (The Final Problem); or, at least, please read this current rewrite of the Tension section of that content which I am working on to get you started.

C. Capitalism just needs some tweaking!

1. Massive Horrors are Happening Globally

The annual cost of capitalism - 20 million people die each year
The annual cost of capitalism
– 20 million people die each year

I would completely disagree. “some tweaking” is a gross, gross understatement and, to a significant extent, ignores the majority of the last few hundred years of human history, as well as all of the horrors currently happening all through the world today:

  • pollution
  • climate change
  • slavery
  • genocide
  • authoritarianism
  • poverty
  • sweatshop labor
  • child labor
  • war
  • coups
  • sanctions
  • pandemics
  • the 20 million that die each year
    (Poverty.comUNWater.orgCHOP.edu)

The whole global Labor Movement as well as the movements for Socialism and Communism have been created to combat those visceral harms from Tension, and these are battles that we are still fighting today all across the world. These are all massive symptoms of the absolute failure of monetary systems and competition.

2. Entrenched Historical Harm

The US is, of course, one of the greatest first-world examples of Capitalism’s failure, especially when we have (prior to CoVID) one of the highest level of inequality in the developed world, a 22% childhood poverty rate, homelessness, people dying from rationing insulin, etc; and also studies have shown that the government of the US does not statistically care what the people actually want. They just care about what their corporate and rich owners pay them to think. We are a corporo-plutoligarchy. This is true even if Democrats (a center right party) control everything, although they will throw the people a bone on occasion while still selling us out to their corporate donors. Obama oversaw one of the greatest transferals of wealth in US history (at that time).

In the long term, as we have seen historically, you cannot just get past that Tension issue, which at some point will bring back the bad things into the economic system. Many, many laws throughout every country in the world are all about attempting to deal with the many, many harms created by Tension within Monetary Systems. No matter what progress we make, there will always be attempts to have them undone such as we are seeing quite plainly with the Trump administration which is undoing decades of positive policy changes.

Of course you, you lucky bastard, are from one of those Nordic countries which has great eco-humanistic cultural and economic values and therefore, it will most likely take a long time for the detrimental effects of that Tension to ever be seen, although it will eventually become a thing… eventually. Perhaps, from your standpoint there in Nordic land with great eco-humanistic values and policies, it may require some “tweaks“, although this not at all true for the rest of the world.

As I alluded to in the my Twitch stream, the Capitalist corruptions might even be happening now through the issues created by the external force of the EU and the loss of your sovereign currency which will radically change the way your country will budget and pay for things. Deficit spending will be something that will start to take its toll unlike before, and may not be something that will be able to be sustained as a core of what enables the payment of the mass of socialized programs (as well as high taxation). I imagine that those will see a slow but steady erosion as time goes on, and then those Capitalistic Tension issues (such as austerity) will creep in as a result. I hope not, but that is what I see eventually happening.

In my recent post How might an RBE playout, if it ever did? I did write a section titled Getting to the Transition Point with the Nordic countries as a center point for one of the 4 methods of getting to the transition point in order to shift to a Resource Based Economy. In that section I specifically call to the issues with the European Union:

Here is an excerpt from that section: The Democratic Socialist Vanguard:

Here, we will again look towards those Democratic Socialist countries (Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden), who, while languishing economically under the auspices of the European Union (EU), specifically due to the socioeconomic harm caused by the loss of their sovereign currency, decide to restore their countries’ collective sovereignty, progress, and values by leaving the EU. Those Nordic countries also decide to unite into one collective democratic-socialist union of sorts too.

As part of that unification process and to more further unite these 4 countries ideologically with their collective eco-humanistic values, they hold a large convention and then come up with a values doctrine as their primary cultural and economic guide (hopefully like my 8P3H), which results in radicalizing them, pulling them further towards socializing more parts of their society for the sake of Equity, Humanity, Justice, Compassion, and Sustainability.

Option 2 – The Democratic Socialist Vanguard (How might an RBE playout, if it ever did?, Dec 2020)

We can also take a look at the Demographic Transitions which maps the 5 stages of the socioeconomic progress that Humanity undergoes during their march towards first world status (as well as their impact on population) we begin to see that most developing countries have glommed onto the American model of progress which results in the many horrors that Capitalism manifests, especially the usage of fossil fuels and the unsustainable exploitation of human and natural resources. The American way to progress is NOT the right way for these developing nations to progress, and this is a further long term testament to how broken the process and system is, because that process is NOT driven with eco-humanistic values nor through interdependence. If we truly cared then we would be working to lift these developing countries to first world status as soon as we could with those oh-so-necessary eco-humanistic values, instead of exploiting them like is done now. Why is this so?

3. More than Just Tweaking Required

Fixing all of these horrors like the ones I talk about above requires more than just tweaking. One of my largest policy pages is on economic changes and there is A LOT there, but that is just the beginning. Honestly, the most important policy I have, the Philosophical Foundations, is also the most difficult to implement because the core value of monetary systems is antagonistic to eco-humanistic values. If my Philosophical Foundations were implemented then everything else would eventually follow because they would be a logical extension of those eco-humanistic values. However, most of the world does not have these values, especially the United States, so just “tweaks” to Capitalist policies to save Humanity from its horrors will do nothing in the long term because they do NOT have the values or history to support them.

4. Commentary on Capitalism

Why would we continue to use a broken socioeconomic system which requires an eternal struggle of implementing aggressive levels of monitoring in order for it to not destroy people’s lives and the environment? I have a whole commentary piece titled The Domestication of the Velociraptor which works with this concept:

Your tribe has the option of continuing to unsuccessfully domesticate wild velociraptors or to try to domesticate those wolves that have been coming close to your tribal lands, eating from your garbage, and on occasion eating from your hands.

For thousands of years your tribe has been unsuccessfully trying to domesticate wild velociraptors. You capture them, cage them, and train them up. They act right for a little while, or at least you think they do, but you still see them look at you and your family like they are its next lunch. For a while they even perform as you would like: guarding your homes and flocks, allowing you to pet them, playing with your children, pulling your plows.

Eventually, it acts out tearing off you arm or clawing you. Your people capture and then retrain it. Then it eats your dog. You repeat the retraining process. Then it escapes eats most of the family next door. With a new color of harness you retrain it again with tremendous cries of support and religious services dedicated to it and its amazing potential, because this is how we have lived for thousands of years and this is what is right. You even set the raptors upon the wolves who come near and eat from your hand.

Now the raptor is roaming throughout the streets of your tribe eating whoever and whatever it wishes. Your people live in fear while espousing the wonderful traits of velociraptors: strong legs, powerful jaws, sharp claws, great hunter… even while its fangs are disgorging blood from your spouse’s neck. Your tribal members cry out “Velociraptors are amazing! In fact they already are domesticated, but maybe we need a new harness to make sure this time…”

A tribal member cries out “Look at those tribes over there. They have wolves. They are being successfully domesticated.” Your tribe angrily rages “We already have the superior domesticated velociraptors which eats wolves! How could you even suggest? Those tribes are the enemy. They use wolves. You are a traitor. You are not a member of our tribe.” The member points to the trail of blood left by your spouse’s lifeless body as it was dragged out by the velociraptor. You say “It is my spouse’s fault for not petting the raptor properly.” as you think ‘The raptor’ just needs a new harness of a different color.

You go to the mass grave where your spouse and many of your neighbors are buried as the domesticated raptor fed upon their unsuspecting bodies as it was meant to do. Excitedly you say. “Yes, a harness of a different color is the answer!”

The Domestication of the Velociraptor (Commentary on Capitalism) from The Cancer of Capitalism

D. Voting with Wallet?

Voting with the wallet when it comes to a large scale businesses (national, international, global) especially when they have a market cornered (Amazon, Walmart, Google) is a very difficult method to effectuate change, because of the massive scale of movement required. For this to have any real effect it is only really possible in countries which have strong eco-humanistic values and high levels of equality (such as in those Nordic countries), but not in a place such as the US, or developing countries because of high levels of inequality, poverty, corruption, and monopolization.

Alluding to market forces as a balancer requires an educated buyer which cannot actually exist in the real world which is a fundamental flaw in core economic theory. The closest would be in a country with strong eco-humanistic culture and economic policies. An educated buyer also requires real choice which is also not possible in places where eco-humanistic values are NOT present… so it is not really possible in the majority of the world.

It also requires a buyer which has the extra money to be able to really make that values based choice. Ethical choices tend to be more expensive which means the majority of the people in the world do not have access to those choices, which is a feature of Capitalism (inequality). In societies with significant inequality there is no real choice or an educated buyer, which includes the many, many developing nations (A LOT of the world), and the United States as well. An educated buyer with real choice only really becomes close to possible in a country with low inequality which is a position of extreme privilege to which the majority of the world does not have. The concept is nice to think about, but is not really a thing.

If the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction), this voting with your dollar or lack thereof really, worked at the consumer level quickly and well on a mass scale then Israel, the Arab states, and the fossil fuel industry, Amazon, Google, and Walmart, etc… would all have been devastated decades ago and would have changed, but this has not ever come to pass which is a sad, sad reality.

E. Values Based Decisions for Work Choice are a Thing

Having a real choice in where you work is not something that most people have access to. Again, this is really only a major thing in the Nordic countries (and some other parts of Europe) with all of those eco-humanistic values and low levels of inequality. In much of the rest of the world, they are at the mercy of what ever work is available along with the exploitation that comes with it. In the US where we have student debt, wage slavery, and healthcare debt, right to work laws, no universal education or healthcare or housing, etc… so real choice is not a thing in most places.

Again, to be able to have the chance to make that choice to work somewhere you want to based purely off values requires a position of significant privilege to do so, which most people in the world do NOT have. I know I do not have that real choice here in the US, especially because we do not have universal healthcare, universal education, UBI, etc. =( I have wanted to go back to school for a long time so I could change my profession, but I have not been able to do so. =(

F. Voting Through Investment

1. It Takes Money…

First, it takes spare money to be able to invest consistently. In the US the top 20% of the country controls 80% of the stocks, and the top 10% takes in 80% of the profit per year too which means 80% of the US population really does not have spare money to invest soo much without an incredible level of discipline and frugality (their life style suffering). Again, this comes down to inequality (which is an inevitability within Capitalism).

It takes money to make money and most people (in the US and globally) do not have the money to invest; and therefore they do not have an economic voice in the stock market, and have no democratic economic values based vote in the global economy. This also true for most people in the world, especially in those developing countries. To have stock is a position of significant global privilege which is a voice that most do not have access to.

2. Values Based Investing?

Note: I also use that 7% RoI number too when thinking about investments and retirement planning too.

If you do NOT start investing aggressively at the very beginning of your life then you will have zero room to not maximize your RoI, if they ever have a chance to invest in the first place, which is NOT likely for most people globally due to global poverty and inequality. This is even more prescient a thought when you look at places such as the US where the minimum wage is $7.25. =( So, for most people the discussion will be more like:

Do I invest with my values and not really be able to retire OR do I maximize my ROI so that I can retire as well as I can, if at all?“.

When you are doing so well financially that you do not have to worry about your retirement (started early with aggressive investment with a great salary) is about when that values based investing conversation can really start, because you have already taken care your retirement through maximizing your RoI early enough to ensure that you will have enough saved up in order to retire in the sort of life that you want – which is somewhere over 1 million dollars for a good quality of life so that you do not have to work or worry again.

To be doing so well that values based investing is a conversation to be had is a very privileged position to be in. This is that Tension problem again. And, most people globally will never be in a position to have this conversation, because of the harms of Capitalism and inequality.

3. The Questions We Should be Asking

After talking about this, the next few questions that we may ask ourselves if we truly want to understand what is going on may be:

  • Why is this conversation even a thing? Why isn’t retirement dealt with systematically and structurally so no one has to worry about it ever, so that no one ever suffers in old age?
  • What negative externalities result from this conversation being a thing?
  • Globally, who is benefitting from this suffering and worry, and this position of privilege?

Once you start to answer these questions, you will really begin to see the picture.

4. Sociopathy

Studies also show that along with inequality comes sociopathy, so getting the majority of the rich and affluent people (with all of their sociopathy) who control the majority of the stock market to have a conscience is a difficult thing to do, as we currently quite well see because the Fossil fuel industry still exists, cigarettes are still a thing, the Military Industrial Complex and War Profiteering still exist and are inflicting their harms, as well as many other predatory capitalist companies such as Amazon and Walmart, etc. They all still exist and keep inflicting their harms because what matters to most people in the privileged position to be able to invest is quick profit and market dominance, and with that comes power and the ability to manipulate and control consumer choice, all regardless of the negative externalities caused – poverty, war, exploitation, slavery, pollution, etc. When such wrongs get published a company’s stock prices take a hit with employees taking pay cuts or losing their jobs and benefits, but the stock price always bounces back because there is profit to be made with that dip. This is the Tension at work in the stock market and with inequality.

Do I invest in stocks to: (1) make money (2) or for my values (assuming I had any to begin with) with a lower return on investment? From the current state of things, we see that blindly investing to maximize profit is what is being done, sadly, and much of that is done through massive and soulless mutual funds, EFTs, and whatever else there where the only question that matters is RoI. Those values based stocks portfolios are not the norm and, even if they are, RoI is still going to be a major factor which will warp things as it always does. Values will always eventually lose out to RoI.

G. Economic Pressure Through Purchasing Choices

Sure, some of that is happening, slowly, but not due to your emails or contacts, and definitely not in the short term. Changes are happening only due to long term economic pressures and market trends, but that is a slow, slow process. All of those businesses had the ability to make these changes 10 years ago or to have done the right thing in the first place (which is the real problem), but why didn’t they? What we really need to be asking ourselves is:

  • Why didn’t they do the right thing in the first place?
  • Why did they choose to do the harmful thing to start?
  • And, why are we the people or the government eventually responsible for policing that company’s choice to do the wrong thing?
  • How many people are harmed in the long run because of that ability to choose to do the harmful thing?

Those are real question that you need to answer. They chose benefit (self) over Benefit (society). This will typically be the case as we quite well see with the state of the world today, and because we are even talking about this.

They have to be forced to change because Tension drives them to choose profit over doing the right thing until the long term economic incentive pushes them to do otherwise. And, how much damage have they caused by the time that they have been forced to make a change? How about all of those negative externalities like poverty (under paying), pollution from manufacturing which causes significant long-term health and psychological and economic damage which they company does not have to deal with, until they eventually kinda have too. They get that slap on the wrist of a few million dollars after they have made billions and billions over the years from destroying people’s lives and destroying the environment for fun and profit.

This is slow and basically ineffective in the short term which is the fundamental problem – no real pressure beyond standard rate of change of social and market forces; or it only applies to people in positions of socioeconomic privilege which have a level of sociopathy, so such values based changes are again not the norm or a significant driver.

H. It is Easy to Get Rich, Right?

I have studied investing a bit too. If it was easy to get rich then everyone would be rich, and, as we well know, this is not the case globally with high levels of global poverty, starvation, inequality, etc. Why do the rich get richer? Because they have plenty of spare money to invest. Most stocks are in the hands of the global affluent minority, while the rest of us cannot afford as we struggle to get the bills paid. Like they say “It takes money to make money.” and most people do NOT have the money to do so as global levels of poverty and suffering will attest.

I am thinking this is your “Nordic colored glasses” showing itself again in your magical land of high levels of unionization, minimum wages, sustainable energy, socialized services, etc. Again, most people do not have stocks or the ability to invest on a scale where it can make a long term difference and to pull themselves out of poverty.

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James O'Neill
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