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Old May 18th, 2011, 05:56 PM   #1
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Capitalism in the Real World vs. Capitalism in an Ivory Tower

This is the tired refrain we often hear from the apologists and advocates of capitalism: ?It?s unfair to lambaste capitalism with the flaws of our economic system, because our economic system isn?t at all true to the core and classic principles of capitalism. If we only had a system that was fastidiously faithful to the philosophy of capitalism then everyone would see what a brilliant and splendorous system capitalism really is.?

Translation: ?I just want to think and talk about what a lovely, lofty system the ?free market? is in theory, I don?t wish to confront the hard-to-defend reality of the socioeconomic injustice and human wretchedness that masses of working-poor and unemployed people are forced to routinely endure as they struggle to survive under capitalism.?

The harsh and dehumanizing reality of capitalism, for the information of any free-marketarian ideologue who hasn?t been down from his ivory tower lately, is as follows. Firstly, a morally unjustifiable asymmetry in the distribution of wealth, with the result that a predatory and plutocratic few enjoy extreme and opulent affluence while the plebian bulk of humanity suffers moderate to extreme poverty and privation (some literally scrounging in garbage dumps for barely edible foodstuffs to sustain their malnourished bodies).

Secondly, capitalism is an inherently dehumanizing system not merely because it degrades men and women with insulting and infra dig indigence, but because it objectifies them into mere factory robots, and supermarket checker robots, and office worker robots, etc., performing menial and servile tasks that generate revenue for owners. That is, under capitalism human individuals are no longer treated as such, instead they?re constrained by the system to accept an existential state of affairs in which they?re stereotyped as, related to as, and valued (or disvalued) as their commercial function, their role in the commerce of the market, i.e. their cog-like job in the economic machine . An economic machine that?s geared to use people, to turn them into means to the ends, to the profits of their employers.

From a humanistic point of view then, the fundamental and enormous sin of capitalism is that it de-dignifies us into things, things that serve someone else?s selfish purposes. And spiritually, this endemic capitalistic thingification and exploitation of working people does us the ultimate injury by alienating us from our own inner creative nature. That is, instead of our economic productivity being experienced as an expression of our indwelling quantum of divine creativity and ingenuity, it?s reduced to an exploitable resource that belongs to a boss or corporation ? we?re effectively estranged from our ultimate nature and immanent godlikeness. It?s not at all a rhetorical exaggeration to say that capitalism?s commodification of ordinary Joes and Janes into wage-earning chattel excommunicates them from the beatitude of their own personal portion of cosmic creativity, that it condemns us to a spiritually forlorn state of living without a keen conscious sense of Transcendence actualizing itself through our daily constructive activities.

Doesn?t this pretty much cover the existential and ethical badness of capitalism? What more can really be said against our system of predaceous and parasitic ?private enterprise?? Well, there is the underlying primitive alpha dog mentality that capitalism in both theory and practice is predicated upon and promotes. Since I?m engaged in critically slicing through capitalism?s bourgeois and Babbittish baloney I?d be quite remiss if I neglected to mention that modern capitalism is just the same old sour and foul-tasting wine of to the strong go all the spoils in new ideological wineskins.

In the grandiose guise of the ?free market?, capitalism gives the ole heave-ho to the last 2,500 years of man?s ethical growth and returns us to a system of society in which the only socioeconomic law in operation is the law of the jungle ? dominate or be dominated. A system in which individuals are shamelessly unfettered from acting upon their animalistic aspiration to achieve and exercise social dominance over their neighbor. A system in which the brutelike striving for social dominance takes the crass form of economic dominance, and in which economic dominance is reached by ruthlessly and rapaciously reaping the fruits of other people?s labors and losses so as to become ?rich?. The modern ?rich man? is just a Neanderthaloid alpha male (or female) dressed up in a business suit and Rolex watch. The vaunted freedom of the ?free market? boils down to little more than society granting people the licentious and amoral permission to conduct themselves in an atavistically self-assertive and avaricious fashion.

In other words, social Darwinism decked out as the doctrine of the ?free market? is the order of the day. Say what?! Well, let me quote the better part of a paragraph here from the Encyclop?dia Britannica?s article on social Darwinism, ?The theory was used to support laissez-faire capitalism and political conservatism. Class stratification was justified on the basis of ?natural? inequalities among individuals, for the control of property was said to be a correlate of superior and inherent moral attributes such as industriousness, temperance, and frugality. Attempts to reform society through state intervention or other means would, therefore, interfere with natural processes; unrestricted competition and defense of the status quo were in accord with biological selection. The poor were the ?unfit? and should not be aided; in the struggle for existence, wealth was a sign of success.?

You might have noted how the article uses the past tense, as if social Darwinism is a dated worldview that no longer informs the thinking of folks who are pro-capitalist. But in actuality just about all of the backward thinking described above is still very much with us, deeply ensconced in the body of ideas espoused by right-of-center politicos, commentators, and businessmen ? by disciples of Reganomics and ?libertarianism? and all the in-vogue schools of economic thought. For example, believers in laissez-faire capitalism still tend to think in terms of the strong, i.e. of people who enjoy affluence, being superiorly endowed with morally excellent traits such as a stronger work ethic, enterprisingness, thriftiness, etc., which supposedly entitle them to the higher quality of life they enjoy. While the weak, i.e. the poor, the unemployed, and the homeless allegedly lack these good traits and therefore should disappear from our communities into the mendicant margins of society ? the next best thing to them literally dying off.

Is this over the top of me? Alas no, according to contemporary conservatives, the weak and inferior, you know, the folks in the lower economic classes, aren?t ?entitled? to anything from society. The very concept of ?entitlements? is every bit as abhorrent to them as to a classic 19th century social Darwinist. And our latter-day social Darwinists, the conservatives, certainly have no trouble with the class stratification of society ? to the conservative mind-set a form of hierarchical society divided into disproportionately empowered socioeconomic classes is quite natural and acceptable. Indeed, rationalizing such an unequal status quo, and unrestricted competition and greed are the hallmarks of conservatism and free-marketarianism. So how exactly has our capitalist society moved beyond the unprogressive social Darwinism of the benighted 1800s?!

It seems that we?re just less blunt and boorish about our regressively, cavemanly social-Darwinian attitudes nowadays, but they still fairly distinctly lurk beneath both the economic realities and ideals of our ostensively ?civilized? world order. This makes for a world order that?s hardly kind & gentle, and that in many instances is egregiously cruel and brutal.

Capitalism, it?s plain to see, is certainly no utopia at all, though the staunch proponents of its theory tend to be quixotically utopian as far as their temperamental unwillingness and intellectual inability to confront the obvious negativity of capitalism?s facts on the ground goes. That capitalism is a socially, morally, and spiritually dismal system in which the majority of mankind is locked into chronic lack and pauperism; is dehumanized and alienated from spiritual and personal authenticity; and has reverted to an uncompassionately Darwinian, downright troglodytic take on economics and society; that all of this is empirically the case, and conspicuously so, doesn?t penetrate the clanky, clunky cognitive armor of free-market fanatics and capitalist cultists one bit.

How so?! The intellectually dishonest and facile defense of the conservative booster of a ?free economy? is to simply reject disconfirming real-world data in favor of the elegance of laissez-faireism, to inanely cling to the psychological safety blanket of ideology in the face of so much human pain. This works well enough to keep Republicans and rich folk cozy in their pro-capitalist creed, but unfortunately it means no measurable change of heart in these dogmatic elitists at the top of the socioeconomic food chain, and no foreseeable altruistically-inspired amelioration of the lot of the average workingperson. Nope, workingpeople can no longer wait for business and political leaders who are invested in keeping the faith in capitalism to give us real change from the top down, we need to begin kicking the system and philosophy of capitalism to the curb of history ourselves, or keep getting our rear ends kicked by it.


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Old May 19th, 2011, 06:28 AM   #2
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And everything else is working so well.
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Old May 19th, 2011, 08:16 AM   #3
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And everything else is working so well.
France is doing well. France is a socialist country (though they have a conservative president atm). Same goes for Sweden, Denmark (the happiest country in the world), etc. Do you know where things are going south? Ireland, almost bankrupt America, borderline failed-state Italy, etc, all capitalist.
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Old May 19th, 2011, 08:52 AM   #4
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France is doing well. France is a socialist country (though they have a conservative president atm). Same goes for Sweden, Denmark (the happiest country in the world), etc. Do you know where things are going south? Ireland, almost bankrupt America, borderline failed-state Italy, etc, all capitalist.
Yes France is a wonderful place. It would be hell on earth for me to live there. I would rather just flush the US down the toilet than have it be like France. See I already know the USA is on a down hill slide. I don't need people to keep telling me that. And the more European the US tries to get the less I give a damn what happens. And we have the the right suit at the tiller to sail our ass right over the edge.
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Old May 19th, 2011, 09:18 AM   #5
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Yes France is a wonderful place. It would be hell on earth for me to live there. I would rather just flush the US down the toilet than have it be like France. See I already know the USA is on a down hill slide. I don't need people to keep telling me that. And the more European the US tries to get the less I give a damn what happens. And we have the the right suit at the tiller to sail our ass right over the edge.
So you'd rather america crash and burn just so you can avoid admitting capitalism has failed?
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Old May 19th, 2011, 09:51 AM   #6
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So you'd rather america crash and burn just so you can avoid admitting capitalism has failed?
I am not trying to avoid anything. I don't think capitalism has much to do with it's success or failure. I think it will fail because too many "Americans" hate America. They want it to become some snotty " Disneyland" movie type country. I felt like we were on life support the day I took down my flag and flag lights. The only way I could see leaving it up (as I have for years) was turn it upside down. And I knew that would cause a stink. I will continue to stand up for our military because none of my problems has anything to do with them. I am damn proud of them.

As for our government, it sucks. It has been going downhill for years. Sad thing is I don't see anyone that I think could or would turn it around. And I mean not a damn one on either team. See it is one thing for an old guy in Kentucky to be "dumb". But when ya watch C-span all day and see the "stupidity" from all sides from so called very smart people it gets a little disheartening. But that's okay. I am past my expiration date anyway. I do have an out if the need becomes great.

Now there is my honest opinion. All of you can get that silly shit of I am afraid to admit everything out of your head and move on.
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 07:33 PM   #7
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I am not trying to avoid anything. I don't think capitalism has much to do with it's success or failure. I think it will fail because too many "Americans" hate America. They want it to become some snotty " Disneyland" movie type country. I felt like we were on life support the day I took down my flag and flag lights. The only way I could see leaving it up (as I have for years) was turn it upside down. And I knew that would cause a stink. I will continue to stand up for our military because none of my problems has anything to do with them. I am damn proud of them.

As for our government, it sucks. It has been going downhill for years. Sad thing is I don't see anyone that I think could or would turn it around. And I mean not a damn one on either team. See it is one thing for an old guy in Kentucky to be "dumb". But when ya watch C-span all day and see the "stupidity" from all sides from so called very smart people it gets a little disheartening. But that's okay. I am past my expiration date anyway. I do have an out if the need becomes great.

Now there is my honest opinion. All of you can get that silly shit of I am afraid to admit everything out of your head and move on.
Sucks to be you.
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Old May 22nd, 2011, 07:50 PM   #8
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Crony capitalism is not capitalism. It is as simple as that; if people don't realize it, they will continue to get played. Capitalism is arguably a lot more ethical than other economic systems given that it emphasizes voluntary action over coercion.

Sure there is market failure, but there is also government failure and historically (and even currently- look at the EU) the latter has been much worse. Same goes for coercion.

Oh, and calling EU members such as Ireland and Italy capitalist- laughable. Also, I wouldn't boast about France right now- just wait to see whats coming in the next couple years with the EU mess.
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Old May 25th, 2011, 09:38 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by David View Post
France is doing well.
Other than the government being the largest employer, frequent strikes, banlieu in flames, racial tensions festering etc etc

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France is a socialist country (though they have a conservative president atm). Same goes for Sweden, Denmark (the happiest country in the world), etc. Do you know where things are going south? Ireland, almost bankrupt America, borderline failed-state Italy, etc, all capitalist.
We represent 25% of the world's economy, we are the most affluent and free society top to bottom the world has ever seen... I'd say capitalism is working out pretty well.
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Old May 26th, 2011, 06:23 AM   #10
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Other than the government being the largest employer, frequent strikes, banlieu in flames, racial tensions festering etc etc
France has it's problems but it's economically stable.

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We represent 25% of the world's economy, we are the most affluent and free society top to bottom the world has ever seen... I'd say capitalism is working out pretty well.
We're not the freest country. We used to be but no more, the honor now goes to Switzerland.
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Old May 26th, 2011, 07:06 AM   #11
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I think the better argument comes from the 19th century when we were arguably the freest nation in history and we saw record growth, philanthropy, and our people generally became wealthier- top to bottom. Britain also experienced a period of comparable freedom as did Japan in the past during which they too experienced such growth and wealth accumulation. Of course all three countries are now far from where they used to be in terms of policy (and in turn, economic growth/freedom). The freest place on Earth is now Hong Kong.
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Old May 26th, 2011, 07:35 AM   #12
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I think the better argument comes from the 19th century when we were arguably the freest nation in history and we saw record growth, philanthropy, and our people generally became wealthier- top to bottom. Britain also experienced a period of comparable freedom as did Japan in the past during which they too experienced such growth and wealth accumulation. Of course all three countries are now far from where they used to be in terms of policy (and in turn, economic growth/freedom). The freest place on Earth is now Hong Kong.
Economically th most free but Switzerland still takes the prize in civil freedoms. And people say direct democracy doesn't work.
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Old May 26th, 2011, 07:57 AM   #13
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Economically th most free but Switzerland still takes the prize in civil freedoms. And people say direct democracy doesn't work.
If you are concerned about minorities, then it doesn't. That can't really be argued considering the majority always gets their way.

As for Switzerland leading in civil freedoms, do you have a source or any figures?
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Old May 26th, 2011, 09:04 AM   #14
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If you are concerned about minorities, then it doesn't. That can't really be argued considering the majority always gets their way.

As for Switzerland leading in civil freedoms, do you have a source or any figures?
I remember reading it somewhere. It might have been Time.

I'll look for a link.
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Old May 26th, 2011, 12:47 PM   #15
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France has it's problems but it's economically stable.



We're not the freest country. We used to be but no more, the honor now goes to Switzerland.
Which has mandatory military service.... and a fairly low standard of living (accepting the tax refugees and other filthy rich immigrants looking for a great mountain view)
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Old May 27th, 2011, 10:21 AM   #16
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The capitalism that true free marketers advocate can be defined as such:

"The free exchange of value, subjectively defined."

Given this definition, the current economic system is not capitalist, and any attempts to label it as such as simply insincere.

I need not provide more reasons than the fact that the government has a monopoly on currency, and sets interest rates. In this situation, value cannot be subjectively defined, nor can it be freely traded.
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Old May 28th, 2011, 12:21 PM   #17
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Crony capitalism is not capitalism. It is as simple as that ...
No, it's not quite as simple as that. For "crony capitalism" is in point of fact what capitalism will invariably and inexorably devolve into in the real world, where greed-driven alpha capitalists, who are not very inclined to respect or play by the rules of ivory-tower free-market ideologues, will always use their clout to rig the system and establish a "crony" system that does away with any hope of a truly "free market". That is, "crony capitalism" is the inevitable end result of any experiment with capitalism. Yep, "crony capitalism" is the only form of capitalism possible off the pages of economics textbooks because its pivotal principle of self-interest will predictably always lead those at the top of the socioeconomic food chain to thoroughly subvert the utopian free-marketeer's ideal of laissez–faire. You see, it's the nature of the people who practice capitalism, it's human nature that makes capitalism infeasible. The sooner we all come to terms with this reality and resolutely toss capitalism in the trash bin of stupidly bad theories, the sooner we cease & desist from trying to realize the quixotic impossible dream of an authentically free market, the sooner we honestly face the moral, historical, and human truth of how capitalism actually lowers the material and spiritual quality of life of billions of people, the sooner we can begin to build a civilization that better actualizes our highest values.


Last edited by charleslb; May 28th, 2011 at 01:03 PM.
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Old May 28th, 2011, 03:34 PM   #18
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No, it's not quite as simple as that. For "crony capitalism" is in point of fact what capitalism will invariably and inexorably devolve into in the real world, where greed-driven alpha capitalists, who are not very inclined to respect or play by the rules of ivory-tower free-market ideologues, will always use their clout to rig the system and establish a "crony" system that does away with any hope of a truly "free market". That is, "crony capitalism" is the inevitable end result of any experiment with capitalism. Yep, "crony capitalism" is the only form of capitalism possible off the pages of economics textbooks because its pivotal principle of self-interest will predictably always lead those at the top of the socioeconomic food chain to thoroughly subvert the utopian free-marketeer's ideal of laissez–faire. You see, it's the nature of the people who practice capitalism, it's human nature that makes capitalism infeasible. The sooner we all come to terms with this reality and resolutely toss capitalism in the trash bin of stupidly bad theories, the sooner we cease & desist from trying to realize the quixotic impossible dream of an authentically free market, the sooner we honestly face the moral, historical, and human truth of how capitalism actually lowers the material and spiritual quality of life of billions of people, the sooner we can begin to build a civilization that better actualizes our highest values.

Of course there will be people that try to take advantage of the system for their benefit by trying to play outside the rules, but that is only possible if the government sells out and that only happens if politician's incentives become to sell out- that is, if the public at large in a republic or democracy stop voting against those who give these handouts. That in itself is a part of human nature and society. I do not claim that capitalism in practice is without flaws, without inefficiencies, or even without periodic market failures. I think it would be foolish to argue such. My argument, however relies on the relative costs/benefits compared to any other system.

Just because ideological free market capitalism might not be exactly the same in the books as in practice, is not a reason to throw it out the window. Can you name any other ideological system that did not behave somewhat differently in practice than theory?

The argument is quite simple and history supports it very well. In thousands of years of human history, the relative periods of free market capitalism (notably those right after the Meiji restoration in Japan, 19th century United States, and part of 19th century Britain) have been the freest and most prosperous for the majority of people- top to bottom- in a history that is otherwise filled with tyranny and misery. Can you name me one system that has produced better, even with its imperfections and variability from text to practice, than free market capitalism?
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Old May 31st, 2011, 12:17 PM   #19
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You gotta love Capitalism. Has anyone seen Michael Moore's film? Very interesting. We are a bunch of university students who just started a new project at pollvote.info, please check it out and let us know what your political opinion is.
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Old May 31st, 2011, 12:22 PM   #20
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You gotta love Capitalism. Has anyone seen Michael Moore's film? Very interesting. We are a bunch of university students who just started a new project at pollvote.info, please check it out and let us know what your political opinion is.
I am no fan of Michael Moore. He is like flies on crap in my opinion.
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