The Terminal Cancer of CapitalismBy Paul A. Toth
February 23, 2010
The world shall one day wreak vengeance in retaliation for the current capitalistic blitzkrieg, just as Germany once paid dearly when its own blitzkrieg tactics proved that those tactics could conquer but not hold great quantities of territory.
The nature of power is such that, once unleashed, it automatically rushes towards suicide, unable to satisfy its bottomless desires. In just that way, capitalism will slit its wrists as its conquered territories release themselves from control.
The leader of the post-industrial anti-revolution, the United States, shall cast its gaze upon the earth that once belonged to it and wonder how it all fell apart. But “its” world could only fall apart, and it will fall apart. Until then, we must persist, survive and operate as partisan soldiers.
It would seem impossible to argue that capitalism would, as it has indeed done, produce gross inequities, which could easily have been extrapolated from capitalism’s own mechanistic definition. Yet even Wikipedia’s entry for “capitalism” cannot be agreed upon.
Often, the arguments made for capitalism are supplied by the very citizens most abused and exploited by capitalism. Why such citizens support their enemy can only be attributed to the Stockholm Syndrome. Nevertheless, when illusion and self-deception provide the basis for the post-industrial anti-revolution, everything seems disputable.
That’s courtesy of a study by Dr. Emmanuel Saez. The hand of the market is anything but invisible, Mr. Adam Smith; it’s right there for all to see, a market skewed towards those who, like yourself, begin their journey to prosperity at the crossroads of prosperity and prosperity: “With the life pension he had earned in the service of the duke, Smith retired to his birthplace of Kirkcaldy to write The Wealth of Nations.“
I shall not be unfair and delete that which apparently fails to support my argument. The same source just noted further quotes Smith: “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others and render their happiness necessary to him though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.” This is known as condescension and, in a more modern sense, PR and tax deductions. Thus, capitalism, whether or not Smith foresaw the all-too-predictable widget that would roll off the factory line of his theory, capitalizes upon charity itself. Consider the corporations that support the occasional PBS program that indites the very corporation that paid for the program’s production: all PR is good PR, as they say. Perhaps PBS should be re-monikered as PRS.
Of course, wealth inequity was purposefully encouraged, accomplished and secured by President -X and Vice President -X². As Dr. Saez notes, “…while the bottom 99 percent of incomes grew at a solid pace of 2.7 percent per year from 1993-2000, these incomes grew only 1.3 percent per year from 2002-2007. As a result, in the economic expansion of 2002-2007, the top 1 percent captured two thirds of income growth.”
Well, Mr. Smith?
Communism, as understood (or, more accurately, misunderstood) by those who temporarily had the means to accomplish what Marx intended, failed. The idea that an economic system could operate by some sort of natural law is an absurdity made all the more absurd by the utterly-unnatural industrial revolution. This “orthodox” Marxism was refuted by Marx’s own statements. For instance, consider this from The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd ed., p. 539): “In one letter, he [Marx] specifically warns against regarding his historical account of Western capitalism as a transcendental analysis of the supposedly necessary historical development of any and all societies at a certain time” [my italics].
While Marx’s writings abound with contradictions, it’s clear that the kind of systematic totalitarianism enforced by those who pursued “orthodox” Marxism had little to nothing in common with what Marx proposed. The Soviet Union’s economic system was nothing more than a less-subtle means of exploitation than capitalism would increasingly “accomplish.” In those italicized words, one can finally not glimpse Adam Smith’s “invisible hand of the market,” now at last guiding us by manipulations so subtle that noticing a few deserves a Tothotropolis’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
Fortunately, the entropy of capitalism can be proven an unavoidable consequence of capitalism’s self-definition via thermodynamic and information theory. In the former, ice melts…entropy as inevitable as death. According to information entropy theory, “Intuitively you can think of entropy being generalization of the number of different possibilities there are for a random variable: if there are two possibilities, there is 1 bit of entropy; if there are four possibilities, there are 2 bits of entropy, etc. Adding one more bit of entropy doubles the number of possibilities.” Thus, the information so necessary to the post-industrial age can only increase the range of possibilities until they reach the point of utter chaos. We have reached that point. We must only await the melting of the ice.
For these reasons, I state without levity that Groucho Marxism*, as defined in the glossary on my blog, Violent Contradiction, provides the basis for the most unorthodox Marxism possible. Reformed communism would, under the guidance of this definition, recognize that any system degenerates into entropy. Trusting in systems is like trusting in one’s immortality: failure is certain and tragedy the natural consequence of hubris.
*Groucho Marxism: To succeed, reinvented communism requires an injection of humor as a preventative measure; dictatorships are humorless.
That’s a lot to chew on for a Weds morning.I am probably not qualified to comment on such matters that are over my head but that doesn’t stop me. The impression I have of Marx after reading some bios and chunks of Das Kapital is that his theories were constantly evolving over the years and were in flux when he died. I think of him more as a philosopher than an economist. I still fear that we are living in what Gore Vidal called the Twilight of the Empire. I have enough books to read until I run out of food and in the meanwhile, I hope Groucho Marxism prevails.
David, I’m far from an expert in regards to Marx, but I do know enough to state that you’re correct: his thinking did evolve and was in flux even as he approached death. Groucho Marxism cannot take even Marx without the Groucho. That is, he cannot be taken so seriously that his works become the equivalent of Biblical texts. In fact, his ideas were as misinterpreted by those who supposedly adhered to them as Christianity is by the most fundamentalist of Christians. In the same way the Soviet Union devolved into dictatorship rather than evolving into what Marx proposed (even if his proposed outcomes varied and cannot be properly stated in a brief definition), capitalism has become a godless state religion, which gains momentum as it submerges its intentions within Christian trappings, an amoral morality and an ethical system without ethics, for those who can afford such luxury. Thus, capitalism is nothing more than a tyranny of the senses, and the invisible hand belongs to an invisible dictatorship, one in which the only value is profit.
That is the impression I got, from what little I know (I liked the Francis Wheen bio of Marx) is that even in his lifetime, Marx’s writings were being usurped to fit whatever cause du jour was happening, much the same way Christianity has been used to justify everything under the sun. The economic stress in Germany in 1933 or 34 was enough to pressure Field Marshall von Hindenburg to reluctantly hand his support to the up and coming star of the Nazi party, Adolph Hitler. I wonder if any such equivalent could happen here? I think it is, in another form, that of lobbyists buying out our representatives and denying us affordable health care. Poor Marx and Jesus would probably have a shit fit if they were around to see how their ideas have been usurped. Only Groucho can save us. The trouble with systems is that they are run by people.
Thanks again for your thoughts. I think that, as I realized today, who needs conspiracies when you can afford to tell the truth? And this can be traced right back to the father of what became the American brand of capitalism, Adam Smith, of course. Almost unbelievably, he once stated, “As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce.” I thought to myself, that must be from his book, “And I Didn’t Even Bother Lying to You.”
As I see it, we live under a subtle form of control, one that may not even need to be consciously enforced. That’s to say that what we have now is a natural outcome of capitalism, a system in which control is self-enforcing. Essentially, there’s no escaping it.
However, I do believe one potential mass movement could actually accomplish something. That would entail huge numbers of people simply refusing to repay debt. Having been seduced, in the manner of date rape, into acquiring debt, let the debtors assume the debt they created. In other words, if you’ve been raped by a debtor, and are now pregnant with debt, let the debtor be the father of his offspring. The economic chaos this would create might also create the opportunity for something more to happen.
Well, so, what of the notion that once bureaucracy is firmly in place, it cannot be supplanted, even by a revolution of the most anarchic sort, since the masses will demand from their new leadership ever yet more bureaucracy?
What about the idea that a cult of personality (or whatever revolution you prefer) can overtake the ruling elite, but only to become the ruling elite?
I mean, one gets the distinct sense of a sort of Yeats-ian spiral from the whole thing.
Or maybe that’s your point.
Sorry. That was supposed to be down here. Like a new comment and stuff.
I wish I knew more about economics right now.
Jesus, Paul, lighten up.
Write some fiction already!
That wasn’t exactly my point, but there’s no getting around your conclusion. I’m not idealistic enough, or unrealistic enough, to imagine a revolution ever occurring in this country; there’s too much division and too many competing interests and too many religious beliefs, etc., to form the basis for a coherent opposition large enough to have any effect. Thus, we have what we have today, splinter groups so small that about the only ones to pay attention to them are themselves. The idea of revolution has become ridiculous. One can only hope, as I state, that capitalism collapses under its own falsities and the — in existentialist terms — bad faith of the theory itself. One need only look to the statements made by Adam Smith himself to see that capitalism was indeed created in bad faith, to say the least:
“As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce.”
“With the greater part of rich people, the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. And for those who might refer to Adam Smith’s empty pontifications regarding his own benevolence, consider the following and typically-capitalistic statement: “The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.”
I doubt even capitalists believe that to be true, but they will say it anyway because it follows the line of thought to which they cling like Charlie Chaplin.
The only “weapon” available to members of this society is the refusal to repay debt. I’m not referring to debts owed the tradesman but rather debts owed to corporations and banks that have seduced, in the manner of date rape, a nation of citizens into debt through various manipulations, including underhanded marketing techniques developed by psychologists. For a full understanding of that process, watch Adam Curtis’ “The Century of the Self,” available on DVD from Amazon and other online sellers.
The last sentence raises the point that even films and books that oppose capitalism are simply absorbed by capitalism and become others product amongst all other products, one of capitalism’s most-effective tactics. Punk rock becomes Green Day. Nevertheless, one can choose to at least spend money on that which has value beyond its cost.
By not repaying debts except to those who’ve provided a service at a reasonable rate (which excludes all corporations), citizens exert their only means of rebellion and force the “rapist” to “take personal responsibility” for its own “baby.” The reason we’re constantly being told to “take responsibility for our own actions” is to turn our attention away from the fact that if corporations were forced to take responsibility for their own actions, they would simply collapse. Instead, like trust fund babies, they’re bailed out by the federal government the moment they get themselves in trouble, and that includes Democrats and Republicans.
The only “revolution” possible will be a bloodless one, and it requires one to merely drop debt notices in the trash.
Well, to be fair, it’s not my conclusion. I just can’t remember whose it was. Intro to sociology was a long time ago. Something about 3 types of leadership/governance, one necessarily flowing into the other and how bureaucracy is the end game. The feedback loop from whence there is no return. I remember it making a great deal of sense to me.
Of course, simply not repaying debt is not so simple. I mean, there are mechanisms in place to guard against that sort of thing.
One can declare bankruptcy, but only to great self-detriment and only as a part of that process he is trying to escape. Similar to the bureaucracy issue; you end up a slave either way. So are you suggesting a collective, simultaneous martyrdom? It’s an honest question, not meant to be snarky.
But it seems to me that’s what this would amount to, unless there is some other plan.
I’m afraid you’ll need to start the revolution without me, sadly (and keep in mind, I enjoy a good revolution). I have no education in political or economic theory, I merely have my own personal and anecdotal experiences. I grew up in an urban slum, in a poor (as in sometimes being late with rent because we needed, um, food) family. I and my siblings have all managed our way out and to varying levels of financial gain. While I absolutely and passionately agree that these politically-driven bailouts are completely reprehensible, I am equally appalled at the notions of “reasonable rates” and walking away from debt incurred.
If you offer a service or product, you have every right to be as unrealistic in your pricing as you wish. Guaranteed that some sap will pay it but, if not enough do, you will fail (and should be “allowed” to fail). If it is unaffordable, people will learn to live without it. If they are foolish enough to borrow to simply attain some “thing”, they deserve whatever befalls them. I was pained at $4+/gallon gasoline but it was less painful than walking everywhere and cheaper than finding my own sources and refining it myself. And, while non-payment is indeed a “weapon”, you shouldn’t pull a weapon on someone – especially someone to whom you owe a debt – and not expect to get shot in the face. Frankly, more of America should have grown up around loan sharks – perhaps we wouldn’t be in our current state or, at the very least, wouldn’t have to feign this surprise and horror at being so deeply in debt (“Rick, I am shocked – shocked! – to find that gambling is going on here!”). I’ll end my personal experiences there.
I respect your opinion, Paul, but I do not agree.
I definitely need to lighten up, but only in terms of my weight. I also don’t charge a subscription rate; therefore, I have no complaint department. However, there’s a new story linked right on my Facebook profile page, not to mention my website. Where’s the loyalty?! Here’s the link: http://www.pifmagazine.com/SID/948/
I’m totally loyal, just to your fiction!
I HATE politics. It’s nothing against you, honest.
Don’t be mad. I can’t handle your being mad at me.
A Multiple-Comment Reply:
Becky: I’m suggesting only financial martyrdom. I believe that debtors’ prisons will return, specifically because, assuming what I propose never takes place — as I do assume — the number of people who simply don’t have a choice in not repaying their debt is going to increase, and the repercussions will be severe, although a blackly-humorous kind of severe in my mind. It’s true that debt prevents one from many activities; however, even a judgment secured against a person cannot be enforced…it simply goes on what, for many people, is their already-ruined credit. So let me amend my suggestion: only those with insurmountable debt should apply for martyrdom. They might as well do so because declaring bankruptcy with the idea of starting over again and “taking responsibility for one’s own actions” has been rearranged into a useless option that’s even worse than leaving bad credit as it stands. Not surprisingly, that rearrangement was “accomplished” with plenty of assistance from the “socialist” Democrats. I need Valium.
Anonymous: You’ve missed the point that Americans have been purposefully manipulated into acquiring debt. They were encouraged to acquire debt. I know you’re unlikely to buy and watch “The Century of the Self,” which explains the ways in which psychology has been applied to socially control people, but I heartily recommend that you at least read the following review of the documentary, which will at least give you a better understanding of this alternative viewpoint (as they say, know thy enemy): http://www.villagevoice.com/2005-08-02/film/the-incorporation-of-dreams/
Irene: See my email. I’m not mad at you!
Capitalism in its raw form, as I understand it, is based on exploitation: of resources, of workers, of numbers, of superior position, etc. As such, it is a finite system. We will run out of people to exploit one of these days. Perhaps we already have.
I feel that the rise of the corporations, and the inability of the government, especially during the late 1800s, to grow in step and become a counterweight to their power, is what dooms us, if indeed we are doomed, and I’m not so sure we are.
Paul, pretty thought provoking stuff. Problem is, I’ve only had one cup of coffee so far. I will re-read this when I have another under my belt. Seems to me, a lot of folks on the internet want communism. They think everything that people put up, their books, stories, etc., should be free. And, along with that, the net brings a kind of universal egalitarianism. As any writer who goes Indy on the net knows, you have a cell in the great hive where you can put and promote your work, just like the two billion other souls who are doing the same thing. (I’m still figuring out how to get those billions to take a look at my books). Anyway, that’s the catch that those tricky capitalists have hidden in the system.
I do agree with you about how Americans were induced, seduced, to buy, buy, buy! Now we cry, cry, cry! We did it all on a credit card (some of us) and the party’s over. This government seems to want to ignore that and continue to borrow money so give to people. Foreign folk lend it to us. But I’m afraid that they may quietly tell us, or our government, that they want more than to be payed back with the funny money the presses are pumping out. They may want other stuff. To anyone who is having trouble following this, and I apologize, if you kept borrowing from your golfing buddy over the years, and now you owe him the equivalent of twenty years of your salary, don’t be surprised if he asks you to carry his clubs when you get to the course.
Yes, the shit has hit the fan.
“Current capitalistic blitzkrieg” is so right for the terrible assault on intelligence, independence, and any failure to conform to the customer relations software categories that dictate the blitzkrieg strategies wreaking saturation commercial bombing through all known media. Congratulations.
Thank you for the comments. There are a few of us who know. Why so few when it’s all so obvious? That, I don’t know.