Sunday 19 February 2012

Capitalism's Real Enemy

The true enemy of capitalism isn't socialism, for capitalism and socialism can coexist happily.

Think about it. Capitalism needs a measure of socialism to provide it the infrastructure necessary for it to exist, such as roads and railways to facilitate commerce. Those capitalists who rail against socialistic governments’ alleged “coddling” of the old and ill are also doing themselves a disservice, because it’s these pensions, these job-creating drives, and these health-care measures which create a living and needful market for their products. It's as difficult to imagine capitalism existing without socialism as it is to imagine the totally deregulated utopia of libertarian lunacy fancy. Simply put, it couldn't.

I’d also betray some of my own convictions and say that socialism, in a pure form, is impossible to carry on for any length of time with success. The reason is that we aren’t creatures like social insects, especially termites, which are hard-wired genetically to work completely selflessly for the common good. A pure socialist government would require psychological changes in human beings which would probably even affect the genetics of our neurology. 

What we aren't

Something more akin to a wolf or hyena pack, where the pack cooperates but individual members compete, is more likely the form a socialist human system can manage. Sad, but there it is.

What we are

Anyway – to get back to the point:   

The true enemy of capitalism is corporatism, for the primary purpose of corporate existence is profit at all costs, and that in turn means the eradication of competition, starting with the small trader or independent agent - the backbone of capitalism and one of the pillars of local social structure. Where corporations come, capitalism withers away, and except for the profiteers, all who are left are merely slaves; either wage slaves at the beck and call of the corporate masters (note how the first thing big corporations demand in a new market is the “loosening” or “liberalisation” of labour laws) or consumers who have no alternative source of supply. Corporations keep talking about how “efficient” they are – what they mean is that they want complete monopoly, and that’s why advanced capitalist economies have anti-monopoly laws in place. They know the logical end-point of corporate “efficiency”.

I agree that the logical basis of all capitalism is greed, and that capitalism is on the whole a destructive force. On a level of organised capitalism - above the small trader or local firm – this is perfectly true. But the small trader is a different kettle of fish.

The small trader, the backbone of capitalism anywhere, is part of the community in which he operates. He’s worked perhaps for many years to build up his business. Perhaps it’s a family firm stretching back centuries. His clients are people he has a personal relationship with, the people among whom he’s grown up and whose goodwill he depends on to carry on his business. The last thing he’s interested in is short-term profit at the expense of long-term viability. In biological terms, his relation to the community is symbiosis, like a one of those little birds who clean crocodiles’ teeth while they lie basking on the river bank.

The small trader

The giant company is a completely different monster. It’s ruled, not by local people, but by MBAs who will never see the people who will buy the products, and whose only motivation is the next corporate bonus or job offer, and who begin looking for a better paying job even before getting stuck into a new one. The corporations they rule over live only from quarterly stock report to report; they couldn’t give a damn what happens five years down the line. If things get really bad they can invoke the idea that they are “too big to fail” and get bailed out by a compliant government, and they are well aware of it.

For the corporate entity, human beings don’t exist. What exists is a mass of figures, and the greater they lie on one side of the balance sheet, the better, and nothing can be allowed to come in the way. Competition is intolerable and must be crushed, and the small businessman, operating always on a thin margin, is highly vulnerable to being crushed. It’s not a surprise that most modern capitalist economies have seen the virtual eclipse of the sole entrepreneur or minor partnership. The backbone is broken, and the ethical basis of the small businessman’s existence is scattered to the winds.

One might call the corporate entity a parasite, but I wouldn’t even dignify it with that name. A parasite, like a tapeworm for example, has to balance its own rapacity with the host’s level of tolerance. A parasite which kills its host is a dead parasite. Corporatism is much worse than honest parasitism, not least because it depends on a get out of jail free card when all else fails. A parasite has to live or die with the consequences of its actions. A modern super-corporation doesn't, and makes sure by political donations and influence-buying that it doesn't.

The noble tapeworm

Of course, I am no economist, so everything I said in this post is wrong. Probably.

Or not.

1 comment:

  1. No, I think everything you've said is very politically astute. The small business person is like the owner of a merchant ship, traveling for trade and business. Giant corporations are like pirates, stealing, raping and pillaging.


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