Is a Just Capitalism Possible?

The signs are not good. Lest we good American “consumers” get too wrought up about rich capitalists, let us remember that we are the ones who willingly “consume” the things that capitalists provide at low cost. And we rarely wonder why they are so cheap? Wal-Mart shoppers rejoice that they can afford things. But they are affordable because they come from people and countries that are systematically looted and exploited for the sake of profit.

Corporate capitalism has a lot to answer for, but it is we-the-people who drive the cars that are a major part of global warming, and who buy the cheap clothing made in Bangladesh’s dangerous sweatshops.

Consumer goods are cheap
because poor countries are
systematically looted and exploited.

The more you study it, the more dismayed you become over the actual, real-world consequences of corporate capitalism. It is so bad that a strong case can be made that capitalism itself is genocidal. Structurally genocidal, as Garry Leech argues in his book, Capitalism: A Structural Genocide. (Unfortunately, his solution is revolution to establish socialism, which I reject totally.)

No, capitalist monsters don’t move into a resource-rich area and murder all the aborigines there. They don’t have to. The very structure of capitalism does it for them, for us, and very few of us even realize our complicity. The deck is stacked against Third World nations and the poor everywhere, and there are numerous examples of how it works without our even knowing about it.

Take NAFTA, President Clinton’s “free trade” agreement, which affects Mexico and other nations of North America. But “free trade” agreements are never free; there is always a gross imbalance between the parties. Our heavily subsidized Big Ag industrial grain crops had collected in mountains of surplus, with billions of dollars given to Big Ag for that purpose by the US taxpayer. Mexico and the other countries were forced to accept these heavily subsidized industrial crops from the US that were dumped there and sold well below market rate. It made US corporate Big Ag rich. But, as in other “free trade” agreements around the world, Mexico was not allowed to subsidize its own crops. In Mexico, Haiti, and elsewhere, the result was that millions of small farmers could no longer make a living. In deep poverty, they were forced to move to awful urban slums, and it will never be possible for them to return to their land.

The inherent structure of capitalism
causes exploitation and poverty.

When Big Capital discovers something they can make money from, they move in and take over. They call it an “investment opportunity”, but it’s really an opportunity for plunder of natural resources they don’t own, and massive exploitation of the weak and poor. The most dependable outcome of capital exploitation is that aborigines all over the world, but especially in the Third World of the global south, are driven off the land that has supported them for millennia, and into city slums. It happens either because there are no documents of ownership, or the corporation or corporation-controlled government simply cheats them out of their land. When the capitalists obtain the land, they can be relied on to destroy it by removing the natural resources, after which it is usually uninhabitable. The Nigerian oil fields are a good example. Capitalists get very rich, billion-dollar rich, and millions of people are impoverished, their lives ruined. If there is big money to be made, there will always be capitalists willing to do anything to get it, regardless of the consequences to everyone else, regardless of the moral outcome. The consequences are often quite evil, and are the main reason for hatred of the US around the world.

That’s what’s wrong with capitalism. It’s cruel. It’s structural genocide, built right into the system of capitalism.

Capital must continually expand; stasis is not possible. It’s grow or die. To do this, cheaper labor and materials must always be found, thus the continual search for new places and new people to exploit. This brings more wealth to rich capitalists. But “consumers” must continually consume more to keep the expansion working and the wealth of the rich growing, thus the billions of dollars spent on advertising to get us to spend ever more money.

Cheaper labor and materials
must always be found.

But we usually don’t need “more”; it’s a manufactured necessity. If you don’t agree, consider this: So much used clothing is donated to Goodwill and similar organizations that they frequently run out of space to display it, and are forced to dispose of tons of wearable goods. The so-called “advanced” nations generate millions of tons of trash materials of all types, much of it usable in one way or another. In poor nations mountains of less valuable trash support thousands of people, who pick through it for things that can be sold or recycled. Those tube televisions we no longer use were all shipped to poor nations, where people recycle them by sitting on them and breaking the picture tubes with hammers, wearing no protective gear at all. Dead freighters are run aground in India and chopped up by men in flip-flops, men who are frequently injured or killed, but never well paid.

There is more than enough of everything needed in the world for every single one of the seven billion of us to live in reasonable comfort and peace. The built-in rapacious imperatives of capitalism are the major reason we do not. Understanding the truth of this shows us that our world is badly out of balance.

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