Well, a war is upon us it seems, so war must I wage in the name of Sacred Bellona.
Well, okay, hopefully it’s just more of a minor scuffle and the Marxists will go play quietly in their own corners and leave us to ours, but…until that happens, I must resist Marxism. And surprisingly, it comes today from a source not of Gods & Radicals, but Patheos.
Or is that not a surprise.
In fact, it comes today from our old friend Halstead. Why? Because “environmentalism.” Which, I think really, was the same reason he had for starting his whole fight with polytheists. But hey, let’s look at Countdown to Earth Day 2016: #6 Fight Capitalism.
One thing you can do to honor the Earth this Earth Day is to educate yourself about the connection between climate change and capitalism. Read This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. Also check out “A Pagan Anti-Capitalism Primer” by Alley Valkyrie and Rhyd Wildermuth and the writing at Gods & Radicals.
Wait, did I say the source wasn’t Gods & Radicals? Shit. I might have messed up here. There’s a lot of sourcing from Gods & Radicals. And of course, I can only guess with a source like Rhyd and G&R, the connection between capitalism and climate change is of course going to be “capitalism is at fault.”
Despite the fact that the leading climate change pollutant creator is a communist nation: China. Who continues to produce exponentially greater amounts of these emissions than any capitalist nation including the USA.
Our capitalist economic system is fundamentally incompatible with a healthy planetary ecosystem…
There’s a couple of ironic things here though. Capitalism evolved naturally into this world, via the process of evolution. Everyone likes to make a big deal about what capitalism is, but it really comes down to three points.
- The use of capital (i.e. money, coins, or other markers of currency), hence the name.
- The use of capital as a “holder” of agreed upon value, which can then be exchanged for goods.
- Each person may use their capital however they see fit.
See, it used to be that the world didn’t have capitalism. What we had was known as a barter system. If you’ve ever played the board game Settlers of Catan, or gone to some specialty markets, you should be fairly familiar with this system. For those not, though, a Barter Economy basically has people who produce products, and then trades those products directly with someone else for the products they created.
So say a farmer has sheep, and he makes wool. He then takes this wool to town, and agrees to trade his wool with someone else for, lets say, grain. All well and good. But depending on who much the man selling grain needs wool, vs how much wool the farmer has and how bad his need for grain is, how much grain the farmer can get for his wool will vary wildly. There is also the matter of transporting said wool (and said grain). Carrying a few sheep’s worth of wool is heavy, but doable. But transporting 100 sheep’s worth of wool is hard. Transporting 100 bags of grain is hard. And the value of the good you get may not always equal the amount of effort you put into getting it where you sold it.
Hence, why capital came about. Say our farmer decides to sell the wool from his sheep. He can try and negotiate directly with everyone he does business with and try and get them to take some of his wool. Or, he can sell that wool to one man, and in return gain gold coins. Now, it is much easier to transport 10 gold coins than it is 100 sheep’s worth of wool. With those 10 gold coins, he can now buy everything his family needs for the year. The merchant can then take that wool and sell it for 30 gold coins, with 10 coins covering the cost of buying, 10 coins covering the cost of transport, and 10 gold coins being his own profit. (I’m simplifying here, but you get the idea).
Now, does any of this sound “unnatural” or “unhealthy” to you, my readers?
…We live on a planet with finite resources, but our economic system is premised on infinite growth…
This here is a false premise. Capitalism, as explained above, does not require “infinite growth.” All capitalism requires is that people produce goods, sell goods, and that “capital” be used as the medium of exchange for these goods. (And that people have the freedom to buy and sell as they please).
Now, our present economic system is indeed experiencing a period that seems like “infinite growth.” But this is due entirely to the fact that the “market” has expanded. It used to be that the “market” was just that, your local market. Now, as merchants traveled and took their purchases elsewhere to sell, the “market” grew. But there were always limits to a market, mostly set by national borders and the difficulties of travel.
This however has changed in the modern era. With the growth of mechanized transport to heights never before dreamed, combined with communication networks like the internet, a person who makes a good in Alabama can now sell that product to almost anyone in the world. Products made in China can be shipped and sold World Wide. The Market seems predicated on the idea of infinite growth because for the first time in human history, in just the last fifty odd years, the Market went from nominally a couple billion people in “the West” to 7+ Billion people world wide.
You have almost 7 billion people at any given moment able to produce, trade, and purchase. That’s pretty infinite. But it is not, and never has been, required for Capitalism as an economic system.
…And since we can’t change the laws of nature, we must change our economic system…
Here’s the thing though, there are some side effects. In order to buy things, you have to have money. In order to have money, you have to sell things. In order to sell things, you must create things. In order to create, you have to use “resources” because it is a fundamental law of nature that nothing can be made from nothing.
Something to note about most anti-captialists. They really don’t understand what capitalism is. Most of them don’t even seem to understand what an economy is, or that things do not magically appear on store shelves, put their by elven folk working for jolly fat men from northern locals. But they see things that they decide are bad, and they want something to blame for it. Natural environments being altered and destroyed to gain access to the resources existent there? This is evil and something must be responsible.
The truth is that people are responsible. People are the ones who alter the environment and take these resources. Every creature on this planet does that. And there are 7+ billion people on this planet. Now sure, some groups of people have lived within the means of their local area without drastically altering it. And now, those people are no longer “living in peace” with their local area, but shaping it according to their will.
Is this the fault of Capitalism? Well, yes and no.
People have always altered their local area, even when their was no capitalism. It’s called civilization. Tents become farms. Farms become villages. Villages become Towns. Towns become Cities. Cities become States. Etc. And all through this, the local area is changed. Thanks to advances in technology, more people are living longer, producing more people, and in most places, there is not war to thin the ranks.
So a lot of populations have outgrown the “balance” of their resources and now must change their local area to match their needs. This has nothing really to do with capitalism.
The part capitalism has to play with is that it has funded and driven advances in technology that allow people to live much more than they might. Ironically, this technology was spread for humanitarian and egalitarian reasons. And since humans are pretty much the same regardless of ethnic origin, as soon as they can boon, they boom. And capitalism has shown them a life beyond a “Balanced” natural living. Phones, tvs, cars, computers, dental, the list goes on. Which, let’s be honest, sounds a lot more fun than scavenging berries and potentially getting killed while hunting meat. Now, people no longer need to hunt down berries to eat, when they can use money to buy the equipment to transform acres of land into berry farms.
The fuck would you not want to do that?
Capitalism is merely a gateway to a better quality of life for a lot of people, and they’re willing to change their environment to have a better quality of life. To someone like me, that is their fundamental right, to pursue their own happiness and comfort. To an environmentalist though, they’re doing a horrific evil. But since they can’t be “Racist” and demand that these non-white peoples be forced to live without all the comforts and support purchasable via capitalism…they instead attack the system that makes these improvements to life possible.
I’m going to break down the next sentence because Halstead apparently doesn’t know punctuation even worse than me.
This means challenging some of our most cherished myths: the myth that capitalism and democracy are equivalent,…
Are capitalism and democracy equivalent? No. Both have functioned without each other. However, Capitalism and Democracy are very closely aligned as ideas.
In democracy, a person has the ability to vote for someone to represent them, on issues that matter to them, and so forth. They are completely free to vote for who they want, what they want, and how they want it to be done.
Under capitalism, a person has the ability to buy and sell goods. They can buy/sell whatever they like (so long as it is legal), they can choose how much they are willing to spend (and not spend if the price is too high), and no one can tell them on what or how they shall earn or spend that money on except they themselves.
Now of course there are various degrees of democracy and capitalism. Most democracies we have today are not full fledged democracies. There are limits on who, what, and when you can vote. There are rules about certain things you must buy (this typically goes against liberal ideals about capitalism, however), such as car insurance (or now medical insurance).
But as demonstrated, while not equivalent, they are aligned, and many times capitalism has helped maintain the freedom of democracy, and vice versa.
…the myth that capitalist societies are the most happy,…
Well, here we have a problem. How do you define happiness?
If we go with “quality of life” then as a rule, capitalist societies do tend to be the happiest. Given that in communist societies there’s a very high chance of forced labor and/or imprisonment. Not to mention loosing everything you have because the state feels it is unjust for you to have it.
Over all, communist countries tend not to be very happy places to live.
There aren’t a lot of barter economies still around in the world (they all kinda got gobbled up by Capitalists vs Communists in the Cold War), so it’s hard to get a general bead on them. There’s also no real “feudal” economies, so again, impossible to judge. As for migration (think Gypsies, Bedouin, and other migratory peoples) economies, well, I guess they’re pretty happy depending on how well their needs are met. But since most of the ones I know that do that also practice a form of capitalism at times…eh?
So yeah, on a scale of “most happy” I’d say that Capitalist countries probably are. Factually, anyways. It may very person to person or state to state.
…the myth that capitalism was proven to be the “one true economic system” with the fall of the Soviet Union,…
Sure, that’s a myth. There may come a new economic system in the future that beats capitalism and communism. I don’t know. But as for the present, judging by the success of it’s adoption by any peoples not forcibly kept in communism…maybe it is the “one true economic system” of our time.
…the myth that consumers have all the power in a capitalist system,…
No, consumers don’t have all the power in capitalism. Producers also have power in the capitalist system. Arguably, the consumer is the last part of the power.
The consumer cannot consume something that does not exist. Therefore, it must be produced. So the power starts with the producer, for they are the ones who create something. Then the consumer comes into the equation and has the power to consume the product if they choose.
Now, if there is only one producer, and there are a lot of consumers, the producer has much power to set his price. The consumers then have power if they can meet that price and choose to do so. Another person, however, can choose to produce a similar product. Depending on how many consumers there are, both may profit greatly. But if there is a limit of consumers, then the power shifts back to the producers, who may then compete with each other to sell the product for cheaper. Then the power flows to the consumer who then decides which of the two prices they wish to pay, etc.
Ultimately, it balances out. there will always be fewer producers than consumers, so they get to set some of the terms. But Consumers should always have an option of a number of producers and they have the power to choose which one they want based on price, quality, etc.
…and that most pernicious myth of all, the myth that things must always be the way they are now.
No, things must not always be the way they are now. In fact, things have never been the way they are now. They probably aren’t going to be the way they are now in the future.
But this doesn’t invalidate capitalism as an economic system. Capitalism has been around for centuries, even longer in some ways. As long as their has been trade done with coin, there has been a form of capitalism. And the world hasn’t ended yet because of it.
Still, it’s this next part that really…troubles me.
We can unlearn capitalist ways of thinking…
You mean the way of thinking that says people can make and sell whatever they like, to whomever they like, with whomever they like, for the price agreed upon mutually, via the use of currency?
Well, the only other way of thinking than that seems to be people must make whatever is demanded of them, to be given to whomever it is demanded of them, regardless if they like producing or giving it, for reparations dictated by some higher authority with the force capable of demanding the creation of these distributed goods.
That…doesn’t sound very good at all.
…Capitalism infects all of our relationships: with other people, with other-than-human beings, and with the Earth….
Yeah…infects them with the idea that people should be absolutely free to create, sell, and purchase whatever they can without dictatorial powers insisting otherwise.
I mean, are you really championing the idea of economic slavery here, Halstead?
…Consider the way we “value” other people and how we sometimes calculate whether what we get from them is more than what we give in return…
That…has nothing to do with Capitalism.
That has everything to do with you being a dick. Or an asshole.
Look, I am a die hard capitalist. Will be till the day I die and then some. And I do not “value” people on what I can get from them vs what I give in return. That kind of mental calculation has nothing to do with capitalism at all. That kind of calculation comes from being a manipulative, sociopathic individual who doesn’t see people, but items of self aggrandizement and glorification.
And if you think that way, and you want to blame capitalism, you can just stop. Because the problem is you…not economics.
…Think about your relationship to the place you live. Is it a place you “use”, or is it a world you inhabit, cherish, and care for? We learned these ways of thinking, and we can unlearn them.
Well, given that the place I live is a place I inhabit, cherish, and care for, because I worked hard to earn the money to get these things…and that’s as a capitalist…I’m going to go with “das ist gut.”
And if I should “unlearn” those things because they are “capitalist” in nature. That I should not “in habit” the place I live, I should not cherish it, and I absolutely should not care for it, because those emotions come from my hard work…then, well. Fuck you.
Honestly, sounds like you could use a little Capitalism, Halstead.
But let’s just end this by remembering that the man who is currently speaking out against capitalism is not living in a hippie commune, forswearing off capitalism and its evils. Halstead makes his living as a lawyer and I presume is paid by Patheos for his writings. Which is something you will find is a bit of a trend with “anti-capitalists.” They all tend to come from very well off backgrounds, have access to decently paying jobs, and take absolutely no action to leave behind a capitalist system themselves and the wealth it brings them, even as they insist everyone else should give it up because of how “harmful” it is.
Maybe the problem isn’t Capitalism after all…
OK, I have to disagree with you. Capitalism *is* in fact based largely on unlimited growth. At least modern capitalism is. This is where the Marxist concept of falling value comes into play. You make a widget for $5. You get really really good at it and sell a lot of widgets at that price. You hire others, who work for you and must, by necessity make less than $5 per widget in order for you to continue selling them for $5 and turn a profit. Then one of your neighboring counties decides they can produce the same widget for $4, and they do. And they market and sell them to your customers, in your town. Well now you’re losing money on your widgets. So you have to either lower the price, reduce your workers’ wages, lay some people off, or quit making widgets entirely. THAT’s unbridled capitalism in action. And THAT’S where Marx was dead on target.
When capitalism was first developing as a major way of doing business, in the 1500’s, it was heavily regulated by the government, because the government did NOT want people from other areas or nations undercutting the income of established trades. Hence the guilds. And the governmental regulation. It hurts taxes, people, you gotta regulate capitalism in some way in order to keep the tax base happy and the tax income flowing. It was more of a steady state sort of capitalism, growing only as the population grew, protected by the government so that only quality products would be able to be sold, and still involved a lot of barter. Most goods were produced within probably 20 miles of their destination. Luxury goods….different story, always have been and always will be.
This is likely the type of capitalism that will eventually come back into common usage, which will still give Marxists apoplectic fits but hey, can’t please ’em all, you know?
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Lucius Svartwulf Helsen said:
bah, i disagree with your disagreement!!!
Okay, you do have a point there, the only thing I would say is that what you describe isn’t “unlimited growth,” but rather “unlimited competition.” Probably a pedantic splitting of hairs there, maybe. Modern capitalism is, I will admit” very much about “unlimited competition” by opening up new markets. Nothing is really “growing” because those things already existed, they are just now allowed in to compete. I will agree though, that you are right in what the unlimited competition’s negative effects can be. History and economics proves that well enough. But with more risk to everyone, come the greater chance of reward for everyone. Still, there is no perfect system, just systems less horrible than others.
The only way Marxism truly works, and the only way Capitalism ™ truly works, is in an environment of unlimited growth. THIS is what Marxists fail to understand – it’s only the other side of a corrupt and ultimately unworkable coin. They both depend on the same thing – growth – for sustenance.
It’s not *just* new markets, it’s all new infusions of resources! Look at your history! The discovery of the New World saved Europe’s collective ass. More capital in the form of gold and silver, more timber (Europe was being decimated of woodland), more land to expand to, MORE all the way around.
It’s failing now because there are no new frontiers to exploit. And, were Marxism to actually become the way of the whole world, it would face EXACTLY the same problem. Controlled markets, with guilds to protect product and market (and quality, and reputation, and income) are probably the inevitable future. It worked for a thousand years basically. It still works in some form today – via journeymanship in certain trades. And internship in others.
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