The Illogic of Capitalism
north america / mexico |
opinion / analysis
Saturday December 30, 2006 01:54 by Jae Muzzin - Windsor Guerilla Gardening Collective roadwindsor at riseup dot net
Under capitalism, the condition for economic activity is the business owner's ability to reap profit. Under logic, the condition for economic activity is to alleviate material scarcity. Under capitalism, food is produced to sell for profit. Under logic, food is produced to feed people. Under capitalism, the Earth is a resource. Under logic, the Earth is our habitat.
The Illogic of Capitalism:
1)There can be a shortage of consumable goods, yet massive unemployment.
Labour produces goods, so it's logical that when there is a shortage of goods, more labour is needed to end the shortage. This is a very simple concept, and anywhere there is poverty, there are people looking for work who see employment as a way to eradicate this poverty. A community without adequate housing would logically seek to build more houses, and a people without food would logically seek to grow more food. As humans, we are able to find solutions to problems, and we are willing to labour at these solutions until the problem is solved.
In spite of the logic described above, poverty and unemployment go hand-in-hand in capitalist societies. Through private property laws, capitalists literally own the means of production. They own and control the land, the tools, and the assets required to produce goods and alleviate poverty. When the preconditions of production are such that the capitalist will profit from this economic activity, the capitalist will use these assets to produce goods, and through the wage he gives to his employees, they are able to purchase goods which keeps them from falling into material scarcity. However, when the preconditions of production do not allow profit to be made, either because of market forces or otherwise, the capitalist halts production and closes the factory, farm or shop. Although unused, the capitalist class (banks, mortgage companies, holding firms), retains ownership of these assets incase they can be used at a later time or sold off. With the business closed, and the employees out of work, they no longer have a wage to purchase the necessities of life. So the workers are now in a position of material scarcity. Logic would tell them to labour and produce the things they need, but this solution is not viable because the means of production are owned by the capitalist class, and this ownership is enforced by the state, which has a monopoly on violence thus preventing people from forcibly taking back the means to produce.
Under capitalism, the condition for economic activity is the business owner's ability to reap profit. Under logic, the condition for economic activity is to alleviate material scarcity.
2)There can be enough food for everybody, yet people go hungry
Food alleviates hunger, so its logical that when there is hunger, food will be produced to end that hunger. All species have the ability to feed themselves, and the procurement of food is a prerequisite of any living being. Modern humans have the ability to control their food production, and almost every geographical region on Earth has the ability to sustain human life. Given these facts, there is no reason why any person should go hungry. But as we shall see, capitalism finds ways to ignore the most obvious of logic.
In "developed" and "underdeveloped" countries alike, people go hungry who are not able to acquire the food they need to maintain a healthy diet. Despite the vast amounts of food being produced, people still cannot find enough to eat. Once again, the illogical capitalist pursuit of profit is to blame. By using food as a way to reap profit, the emphasis is put no longer on feeding people, but on securing a fruitful economy for the owning class. By alienating people from the growing and processing of food, the capitalist economy forces us to procure food through monetary exchange. Inherent in capitalist economy is the monopolistic accumulation of money by the owning class, thus the vast majority of people are left with little or no money and entrapped in debt and servitude. Since we trade money for food, and the distribution of money is grossly unequal, it follows that the distribution of food is grossly unequal. This is proved empirically by observing that the poorest of people are also the ones who have the least food available.
Since we proved that the unequal distribution of food is due to the unequal distribution of money, we may hypothesize that an unmediated, direct method of producing food would alleviate hunger (ie people/communities growing their own food). This hypothesis is true, but only if we do not consider the capitalist monopolization of land and assets. For people to grow their own food, they must first procure land, but this would bring them into conflict with the capitalist owner of that land, who has the violent force of the state on his side.
Under capitalism, food is produced to sell for profit. Under logic, food is produced to feed people.
3)There can be impending ecological disaster, yet a continued drive towards development
Science shows us that modern humans are having a detrimental effect on the environment. Logic tells us that we must adjust our living habits in order to preserve the world's ecosystems. This has become engrained in people's consciousness, and individuals have taken on initiatives like reusing goods, cutting down on their waste, carpooling, etc. As humans we have the capacity to determine how we are harming the Earth, and we have the empathy to stop these harmful practices. However, the institutions, social organization, and production methods imposed on us by capitalism have made true ecological reform impossible as long as capitalism continues to exist.
The goal of the capitalist is to reap profit and accumulate more wealth. The method of reaching this goal is through economy. The process of producing and selling a commodity is how capitalists make their profit. The labour of workers is sold on the market (by selling the goods produced by these workers), and the capitalist gives only a fraction of this money back to the worker (this is the wage system). The surplus from this sale is what gives the capitalist wealth. From this, we can ascertain that without this process of producing and selling, the capitalist would have no way of procuring wealth. Thus production is necessary for the existence of capitalism, and the more commodities that are produced, the more surplus wealth is generated for the owning class. With more wealth, the capitalist is able to buy more assets, which in turn makes him more wealth, and this perpetuates until he is able to beat other businesses in a price war or outright buy them out. This is the 'grow or die' principle often cited in capitalist economic discourse. We know that matter and energy cannot be created from nothing, so this growth of production is only possible if we take matter and energy from something else. The only possibilities is to take matter and energy from existing production facilities, or natural resources. The clearcutting of forests, the depletion of fish stocks, the scarcity of fossil fuels, these are all examples of capitalist production growing at the cost of the natural world.
Other kinds of ecological destruction(CO2 emissions, species extinction) are byproducts of the economy that capitalists created. Since profit is the goal of the capitalist, and economy is the source of this profit, it follows that the existence of the economy takes precedence over the existence of a healthy environment. It is not possible for a capitalism to balance both concerns, because this violates the 'grow or die' principle, which is inherent to capitalism.
Under capitalism, the Earth is a resource. Under logic, the Earth is our habitat.