Exposés of Capitalism|
Quotes on Capitalism
Factory FarmsCan You Be Doing More to End Factory Farming and Grow the Plant-Based Food Industry? We’ve all heard the phrase “vote with your dollar,” countless times. It’s a phrase that calls people to boycott or support companies whose values align with their own. But how often do you think about this phrase in-context of what you eat every single day? If you’re like most people, you probably do anytime you choose to pay a little extra for food that is organic or touts a specific health benefit you’re after. Increasingly, when people choose to buy plant-based foods, they are not only voting for that particular brand, they are also voting to reform our industrial food system.
Over the past 30 years, Americans have started to do something that previously may have seemed unprecedented: they started to eat less meat. Thanks in large part to growing education and awareness about the health implications of consuming red meat (not to mention the stray hormones and antibiotics in cheap meat and dairy), in addition to the environmental impact of factory farming … oh, and the horrific conditions the animals are subjected to in these facilities, people started voting with their dollars for plant-based alternatives.
In the past decade alone, demand for plant-based proteins and dairy alternatives has shot up. So much so that Big Meat and Dairy are actually pushing to ban these products from bearing the labels “milk” or “beef” (yes, they are arguing that the reason their sales are down and almond milk is up can all be chalked up to “consumer confusion”). The overall plant-based meat alternative sector is set to hit a market worth of $5.2 billion within the next two years, and food giants like Tyson and Cargill are actively investing in companies that make plant-based products. But this isn’t just another story of a fad consumer trend making a new corporation rich. The success of plant-based foods is a win for human health, the environment, and animals all in one … not to mention these products can help us feed our growing population without completely decimating our natural resources.
Growing the plant-based food industry and creating change in our current food system is a cause near and dear to Michele Simon, the Executive Director of the Plant Based Foods Association. If you haven’t heard of this powerhouse organization yet, it is a trade group representing the nation’s leading plant-based foods companies. The Plant Based Foods Association aims to level the playing field for plant-based foods by lobbying to eliminate policies and practices that place plant-based meat, milk, eggs, and butter at an economic disadvantage, such as labeling restrictions.
In a recent episode of the #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias podcast [https://eftp.co/podcast], Michele gets into the various ways our current food policy is failing the rising plant-based space. From checkoff programs that pay for multi-million dollar ad campaigns to subsidies for crops that go toward feeding livestock, these government-funded initiatives artificially lower the cost of meat and dairy, begging the question: Are we doing enough to change our failing food system by simply eating plant-based foods? In short, no.
If It Feels Like Capitalism is Killing You?—?That’s Because It is What American Collapse Teaches Us About Capitalism (and Fascism)Eudaimonia 11-1-18 Umair haque
It’s become something of a global urban legend. People in other countries ask me often, aghast, curious: “Do Americans really sometimes have to choose between medicine and food and shelter? I can’t believe it! Is it true?” I nod, having had acquaintances who’ve made just that choice. But now we know a hard number--42% of Americans who get cancer will go bankrupt as a result. A shocking, bizarre, and horrific fact of daily American life--yet somehow also totally unsurprising.
About half of Americans will face the gruesome choice--your money, or your life. If that reminds you of being mugged for your life savings at gunpoint, you’re not wrong. And yet it’s just one grim daily reality among many, all of which can be summed up this way.
If it feels like capitalism’s killing you--that’s because it is. (No, you’re not alone.) Now, I don’t mean mom-and-pop soda shoppe capitalism, I set up a small scale business hoping to earn a decent living doing something interesting and fun--I mean mega-scale Walmart Wall St capitalism: the predatory kind. Instead of telling the story with statistics--which in the present case, hide more than they reveal, since those statistics were designed to tell us how ultra-rich capitalists are getting, whether or not the average person’s life, democracy, the planet, the old, and the young all burst into roaring flames--I’ll tell it a different, and to me at least, a truer way.
ultra-rich capitalists are getting, whether or not the average person’s life, democracy, the planet, the old, and the young all burst into roaring flames
Maybe, in depression, or despair, or disability, he went to the doctor, who prescribed him opioids--capitalism again. Maybe he went to rehab, now big business. Maybe he ended up in a private prison. Probably, he lost his family, home, belongings, what little savings he had along the way. Perhaps you think I’m overstating it. Good--I am, deliberately, a little bit.
Let’s imagine none of that happened at all--instead, he just got cancer. Bang! He has an even chance of ending up in exactly the same place. Do you see the moral of my story? Let me make it clearer. No exit. All roads lead more or less to the same destination for the average American now--nowhere. But what happens to a life that goes nowhere?
Do you think all these things don’t affect us severely and negatively if they are re-experienced every day--dramatically shrinking the quantity and quality of our lives? That they don’t alter our bodies and minds in profound and lasting ways? People can survive all the above, sure--some of them, at least. But that is the point. Many simply won’t--and now aren’t. Which ones? I’ll come back to that, too.
The question isn’t: how is capitalism killing us--the question is how ISN’T it? Perhaps you think I exaggerate. Then why is life expectancy plummeting— something that isn’t even happening in the world’s poorest countries? Why is the suicide rate skyrocketing?
Was there a plague, a meteor strike, the long-feared communist invasion (LOL)? Of course not. Capitalism is what’s killing Americans, my friends. (Ironically, funnily, sadly, though, many Americans are more wedded to capitalism than their very own lives, let alone those of loved ones, let alone those of their neighbours and peers--a point I’ll return to, when we discuss how fascism rises.)
Marx called all this immiseration--just think of all the forms of human misery. Aren’t they what capitalism really produces, by now, in America? It’s (objectively) not, after all, producing happiness, trust, kindness, riches, longevity, truth--but the very opposite: trauma, despair, fear, hopelessness, powerlessness, panic, stress, poverty, and the consequent rage, anger, and cruelty they ignite.
How many ways, just in my little example above, is capitalism killing Americans? It is killing them with fear and stress--will my kids survive at school today? It is killing them with overwork--and underpay (at a job, usually, in which they have no autonomy or are assigned no worth, whose only purpose is making the ultra rich ultra richer.)
It is killing them with the relentless, bone-crushing pressure of endless competition.
With the trauma of never quite being able to make ends meet, and going deeper into debt every year. With never being able to retire.
Through eviscerating the social bonds in their towns and communities--where once there was a high street, now there’s a Walmart at the edge of town. By giving them cheap thrills or addictive escapes to numb away all the above with--Fox News, or worse yet, perhaps, Facebook and Fentanyl. Wham! That is what immiseration--all the forms of human misery--really means.
(Think about immiseration as capitalism’s great dilemma. You are exploited ruthlessly and relentlessly if you’re fortunate enough to have a job, and abandoned, neglected, and preyed upon, if you don’t. Either way, you will have a life of trauma, which, of course, shatters you. It’s capitalism’s dilemma writ large?—?your money, or your life.
You are exploited ruthlessly and relentlessly if you’re fortunate enough to have a job
The point is this. America is something like history’s greatest experiment, that much is true. But not really in freedom, justice, or bravery--come now, it was a segregated country until 1971.
America was an experiment in capitalism--what would happen if we built the world’s most capitalist society, ever, one where everything from healthcare to education to energy to media was privatized by the bucketload, concerned only with profit, whose shares were traded by hedge funds relentlessly by the nanosecond to maximize it, not a moment’s peace, sanity, or reflection allowed? The results are in, and they’re grim. Capitalism’s a spectacular failure--or an equally spectacular success, depending. What do I mean by that?
Capitalism is doing to Americans exactly and precisely what it promised to do--act as history’s great Darwinian engine of natural selection. It is winnowing the weak out ruthlessly, mercilessly, constantly, relentlessly. Every nanosecond of every day of the year. Watching, tracking, counting, judging.
What is really happening in America today? Any kind of infirmity is punished with increasingly absurd severity--to the point that by now, getting sick, or losing your job, might just very well end up costing you your money, or your life, and maybe both.
Capitalism institutionalizes the idea that only the strong should survive.
But it’s mechanism of selection isn’t by any means natural--it’s artificial. “Strength”, in capitalist terms, means the most selfish, greedy, ruthless, cunning, violent, narrow-minded, short-term, and crude--the most predatory, in other words.
And so what we are seeing in America today is that capitalism is working spectacularly well at doing what it promised--to make sure only the strong survive. Now, the problem is that being “strong” in this warped and stunted way, this predatory fashion, is inimical to everything that a sensible person should value more than money: democracy, love, truth, meaning, purpose, goodness. If there seems to be a shortage of those things around today, it’s not a coincidence--capitalism killed them, too, because to it, they are all forms of weakness to be eradicated.
So capitalism’s success is also society’s failure. And that is why America is imploding violently into neo fascism. Let me make the link clearer.
When people who have been indoctrinated all their lives long to believe that only the strong should survive, that weakness is a crime, that this law of the jungle is the only correct and just moral law, and therefore basis for a political economy--and yet they seem to be the ones getting selected out, what are they likely to do?
Human beings do not give up on their cherished beliefs easily, do they? And so people who have been told, over and over again, that only the strong should survive, when capitalism appears to be failing them, will quite naturally turn to fascism.
Fascism also promises that only the strong should survive?—?and the weak should perish. Only it does it a little more explicitly?—?but do you see how closely aligned these two ideologies are, fascism and capitalism, already? It is no great leap from to the other, then?—?because one does not have to give up one’s fundamental beliefs at all, but only redouble them. That is much easier, because it does not require any real thinking, examination, it does not ask one to change one’s mind.
So there is the American--or some of them, perhaps enough of them, anyways. Capitalism has failed him spectacularly--he is immiserated, living a day to day existence in which the fundamental principle is: your money, or your life. But only the strong should survive. Maybe if he finds someone weaker, someone to abuse, hurt, harm, someone to prey upon himself--then he will survive, too.
Do you see how easily the mental leap from capitalism to fascism is made? Bang! It happens in the blink of an eye, precisely because there is a natural path from one to the other. Both say that the strong should prey on the weak, and that way, everyone is better off--and so all the frustrated, exploited prole has to do is have the epiphany that if he begins to see himself as a predator, rather than a loser, the world is restored to moral order. Now he can do what is right--which is to cause the weak to perish, and that way, be one of the strong, who survives.
But now society is imploding. A vicious spiral has begun, from which there may be no unravelling. As the immiserated prole becomes a predator, as a way out of a meaningless, pointless life of pressure, stress, despair, pain, and fear, he is just doing what he has been taught--only the strong should survive! The weak must perish! But with that one small step also go democracy, civilization, and freedom.
All that is what the sad, funny, strange story of America teaches us. Capitalism left to its own devices implodes naturally into fascism, because, just like in America, it doesn’t care if people live or die, which is to say, it’s quite happy killing them?--ence, people in a rich nation who get cancer end up bankrupt, or send their kids to school wearing bulletproof backpacks.
And yet it also teaches them that law of ruthlessness, greed, and cruelty is what is moral, just, fair, and noble--and what is immoral is gentleness, humility, selflessness, and equality--because only the strong should survive.
But if only the strong should survive?—?and you are the weak one?—?then maybe if you prey on someone weaker, a little more abusively than you have been preyed on yourself, you will be a strong one, too.
Capitalism is trying to kill you. Maybe, to prove you are strong, you should try to hurt, abuse, harm, kill someone more powerless than yourself. Bang! That is the fascist moment. (It continues like this. Dehumanize them…scapegoat them…ban them…expropriate them…eliminate them.)
If it feels like capitalism’s killing you--that’s because it is. The problem is that human beings, the funny and foolish things that they are, do not often do what is commonsensical. If capitalism’s killing you--it’s probably also killing everyone else, too. So maybe the answer is to choose an ideology which does not believe in killing anyone at all. One where everyone is a genuine equal, so no one needs to destroy anyone else in order to rise higher in the first place.
Such a system is made of public goods--things like public healthcare systems, which we can all use, without me having to exclude and deny you--and we often call it social democracy, to put things simply.
And yet the problem is, for Americans at least, making that leap would require changing their cherished fundamental beliefs--the very ones capitalism has taught them. “But wait--that would mean only the strong don’t survive, and the weak don’t perish. And if that happens, then everything falls apart! The weak will overwhelm society, and there will be no strong ones left to fight them! We can’t allow that to happen. Or at least I can’t!” LOL--you laugh, perhaps.
And yet, so seems to go the thinking of many Americans. So much so that they are willing, quite literally, to sacrifice their lives for capitalism. But capitalism is just an ideology. Or is it a god now? It’s hard to tell, sometimes. Still, that makes America something more like the Soviet Union before it. Americans are now happy, willing martyrs for capitalism. The question is how many of them know it.
An earthquake is rippling across the globe, toppling nations like dominos. You don’t look very hard, or very far, these days, to see a grim truth. The world is collapsing into fascism. There’s Brazil, electing a man who cheers torture and mass killing. There’s America, so far down the spiral that neo-fascist violence is now becoming normalized. There’s Hungary, Poland, Turkey, and so on. Even in Western Europe, neofascists are rising--barely kept at bay, with varying degrees of success (or failure).
What happened to the world? There many reasons fascism rose?—?but to my mind, two forces stand out in particular, which combined to create something like a perfect storm.
Since social media dehumanizes inherently, rather than humanizes, we are much more likely to choose scorn, abuse, and hate over intimacy, understanding, and connection.
So social media is addictive--that much you know. What you don’t, maybe, is that it has addicted many of us to hate. We live in a time of systems crashing and collapsing, when people feel powerless, helpless, thwarted, frustrated, failed--a point I’ll return to--for now, just imagine the sense of power, the pleasure, the intense dopamine rush, that comes from having someone to blame, attack, vilify, demonize, scapegoat.
Do you see the problem here? People feeling an intense sense of dread and rage at failing systems find an addictive technology that rewards them with a dopamine hit every time they dehumanize someone. A magical machine that delivers pleasure, and only asks that they pull the lever of hate. Can a democracy survive that? The psychological dynamics, I think, are much the same, I think, as the pleasure of the good German beating people up on the street, or seeing Jews wear yellow stars, or shouting at dirty, filthy immigrants, in the 1930s.
Social media is grooming people, if you ask me--it is creating social, cultural, and psychological structures and systems of dehumanization. Grooming people for what? To become fascists. And by that I don’t just mean the obvious candidates, but people who probably wouldn’t have become what we think of today as neofascists otherwise. How many people wouldn’t be part of this wave of demagogues and hate if they didn’t spend hours a day on Facebook, Twitter, and Snap? I’d bet the answer is: more than enough to have stopped it.
Now. What is feeding the hate machine of social media? Why do people need to feel such a sense of dominance, control, and power that they seek it compulsively the way lab rats press levers for cocaine? After all, such a burning need implies that they feel helpless, powerless, and thwarted. The answer is failed economies. Fascism is always an economic phenomenon--as much as American intellectuals want to imagine the opposite. They have been wrong all along--so why pay much attention to them at this grim juncture? I don’t.
There is not a single example in history of fascism striking prosperous societies.
Instead, fascism is the implosion at the end of capitalism’s natural tendency to collapse. And today, that is exactly what is happening--fascism is rising worst and fastest and hardest in societies which are plagued by combinations of ills like spiking inequality, shrinking middle classes, stagnant incomes, absent savings, and poor social support systems--lives lived at the edge, if you like. Why is that? The reason is subtler than you think.
Fascism is a middle class, or a lower middle class, phenomenon. We don’t often see those at the very bottom of the social hierarchy turning fascist--instead, it’s the downwardly mobile ones. In Marxist terms, it is the frustrated, aspirational prole [public], whom capitalism has promised a bourgeois lifestyle--riches, power, status.
What is capitalism really promising the prole who aspires to upwards mobility--rather than solidarity? That one day, he will have someone to exploit, too, just as the capitalist exploits him. That is the dream capitalism gives the prole--at least the one foolish enough to believe in capitalism.
The problem is that capitalism has no intention of ever giving the aspirational prole anything but subsistence wages--less money, for more work, with less security, and a destroyed social contract, to boot.
Why would capital take any of its income and share it with labour? And so, in America, for example, it didn’t: over the last fifty years, labour’s income share has fallen, while capital’s income share has exploded. Wham! A classic setup for a fascist collapse. (How sad, then, that American economists don’t seem to know their subject well, or at all, really.) Why?
Because the prole was promised a glittering dream of exploitation--being above someone else, being better than someone else, living off someone else’s labour, all the very same things the capitalist does to him. But precisely because capitalism promises what it can’t deliver, it implodes into fascism. Given enough stagnation, the prole’s thwarted aspiration simmers in a cauldron of resentment, and then boils over into rage.
Now along comes a demagogue. The demagogue says: “They are the reason you don’t have the money, power, and status you were promised! Those dirty, filthy subhumans!” See how neatly this all works?
The prole does not have to change his expectations, beliefs, dreams, ideals, or values. He has been seeking someone to exploit--to abuse, just as capitalism abuses him--and now the demagogue offers him just such a target. It is the one who is even more powerless than him--the one at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The immigrant, refugee, Mexican, Jew, and so on. Bang! This is the spark of collapse.
Now, instead of challenging capitalism upwards, reforming their society so it’s genuinely more prosperous, free, just, and stable, the frustrated, aspirational middle class begins to punch downwards. They demonize and scapegoat those lower than them. They avenge their imaginary wrongs at their hands, perhaps by murdering them in broad daylight.
Do you see how all these things are linked? Let me make it clearer. Capitalism collapses into fascism by placing a middle class at the edge of subsistence--no matter how “rich” a society may be financially--and such a middle class then begins to wreak vengeance on those lower down than it. They become subhumans, predators, parasites. Babies become monsters with the fearsome power to infect and contaminate everyone. Now a society is a place which must be cleansed and purified. Snap! Fascism has arrived.
This was, of course, the story of the 1930s. What makes today different is the pace and speed of the storm. Why did it happen so fast? So much so that in just two years, America, for example, has bans, trials for infants, camps, and mass political murder?
The hate machine of social media is why.
When a downwardly mobile middle class, already full of bitter rage, frustration, and disappointment, meets a magical machine that rewards them with pleasure every time they click the hate button--bang!! They’ll be conditioned to spite, scorn, and abuse, a little more and more viciously, every day.
What happens when such a class has been told to wish to exploit others, and they meet a magical machine that delivers them a dopamine rush, every time they abuse, shout at, demean, or dehumanize someone? Tap, tap, tap. They’ll hate faster, harder, and more violently every day--what else is there to live, really? What happens when there’s a demagogue modelling how to press the hate button hardest--how to abuse, hurt, and vilify people the most? They’ll follow his lead--like mindless automatons, imitating and copying his behaviour, attitudes, words, beliefs.
The hate machine of social media rewards people in pretty intense psychological turmoil and pain--suffering the trauma, grief, and shock of social collapse--with endless pleasure, dopamine, relief. But the price is a a social tsunami of hate--because such technologies are history’s greatest engines of dehumanization.
The more the hate lever is pulled, the more people are conditioned and groomed to become fascists--to see the world in rigid hierarchies of humanity, with themselves, eternal victims, at the top, and the hated, feared, and despised subhumans at the bottom.
When the perfect hate machine of social media met the searing precarity of capitalism’s frustrated, aspirational proles, told to look for someone to exploit, the world imploded into fascism, my friends. There are other reasons, to be sure. And I am not saying, of course, that old racial and tribal divisions don’t exist--of course not: I’m saying the above amplify them, especially in societies which haven’t done a very good job of really healing them. The question before us now, then, is this--what are we to do about these twin forces tearing the world apart?
Is Capitalism Killing Us? By Paul Craig Roberts August 17, 2018
A strong case can be made that this is the situation we currently face.
Ecological economists, such as Herman E. Daly, stress that as the external costs of pollution and resource exhaustion are not included in Gross Domestic Product, we do not know whether an increase in GDP is a gain or a loss.
External costs are huge and growing larger. Historically, manufacturing and industrial corporations, corporate farming, city sewer systems, and other culprits have passed the costs of their activities onto the environment and third parties. Recently, there has been a spate of reports with many centering on Monsanto’s Roundup, whose principle ingredient, glyphosate, is believed to be a carcinogen.
A public health organization, the Environmental Working Group, recently reported that its tests found glyphosate in all but 2 of 45 children’s breakfast foods including granola, oats and snack bars made by Quaker, Kellogg and General Mills.
In Brazil tests have discovered that 83% of mothers’ breast milk contains glyphosate.
The Munich Environmental Institute reported that 14 of the most widely selling German beers contain glyphosate
Glyphosate has been found in Mexican farmers’ urine and in Mexican ground water.
Scientific American has reported that even Roundup’s “inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.”
A German toxicologist has accused the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the European Food Safety Authority of scientific fraud for accepting a Monsanto-led glyphosate Task Force conclusion that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.
Controversy about these findings comes from the fact that industry-funded scientists report no link between glyphosate and cancer, whereas independent scientists do. This is hardly surprising as an industry-funded scientist has no independence and is unlikely to conclude the opposite of what he is hired to conclude.
The point is that if glyphosate is carcinogenic, the cost of the lost lives and medical expenses are not borne by Monsanto/Bayer. If these costs were not external to Monsanto, that is, if the corporation had to bear these costs, the cost of the product would not be economical to use. Its advantages would be out-weighed by the costs.
It is very difficult to find the truth, because politicians and regulatory authorities are susceptible to bribes and to doing favors for their business friends. In Brazil, lawmakers are actually trying to deregulate pesticide use and to ban the sale of organic food in supermarkets.
In the case of glyphosate, the tide might be turning against Monsanto/Bayer. The California Supreme Court upheld the state’s authority to add the herbicide glyphosate to its Proposition 65 list of carcinogens.
Last week in San Francisco jurors awarded a former school groundkeeper $289 million in damages for cancer caused by Roundup. Little doubt that Monsanto will appeal and the case will be tied up in court until the groundkeeper is dead. But it is a precedent and indicates that jurors are beginning to distrust hired science. There are approximately 1,000 similar cases pending.
What is important to keep in mind is that if Roundup is a carcinogen, it is just one product of one company. This provides an idea of how extensive external costs can be. Indeed, glyphosate’s deletarious effects go far beyond those covered in this article.
GMO feeds are also taking a toll on livestock.
Now consider the adverse effects on air, water, and land resources of chemical agriculture. Florida is suffering algae blooms from chemical fertilizer runoff from farmland, and the sugar industry has done a good job of destroying Lake Okeechobee.
Fertilizer runoffs cause blue-green algae blooms that kill marine life and are hazzardous to humans. Currently the water in Florida’s St. Lucie River is 10 times too toxic to touch.
Red tides can occur naturally, but fertilizer runoffs fuel their growth and their persistance. Moreover, pollution’s contributions to higher temperatures also contribute to red tides, as does draining wetlands for real estate development, which results in water moving quickly without natural filtration.
As water conditions deteriorated and algae blooms proliferated, Florida’s response was to cutback its water monitoring program
When we consider these extensive external costs of corporate farming, clearly the values attributed to sugar and farm products in the Gross Domestic Product are excessive. The prices paid by consumers are much too low and the profits enjoyed by corporate agriculture are far too high, because they do not include the costs of the massive marine deaths, the lost tourist business, and the human illnesses caused by the algae tides that depend on chemical fertilizer runoff.
In this article I have barely scratched the surface of the problem of external costs. Michigan has learned that its tap water is not safe. Chemicals used for decades on military bases and in the manufacture of thousands of consumer items are in the water supply.
As an exercise, pick any business and think about the external costs of that business. Take, for example, the US corporations that offshored Americans’ jobs to Asia. The corporations’ profits rose, but the federal, state, and local tax bases declined. The payroll tax base for Social Security and Medicaid declined, putting these important foundations of US social and political stability into danger. The tax base for school teachers’ and other government employees’ pensions declined. If the corporations that moved the jobs abroad had to absorb these costs, they would have no profits. In other words, a few people gained by shoving enormous costs on everyone else.
Or consider something simple like a pet store. All the pet store owners and customers who sold and purchased colorful 18 to 24 inch pythons, boa constrictors, and anacondas gave no thought to the massive size these snakes would be, and neither did the regulatory agencies that permitted their import. Faced with a creature capable of devouring the family pet and children and suffocating the life out of large strong adults, the snakes were dumped into the Everglades where they have devastated the natural fauna and now are too numerous to be controlled. The external costs easily exceed many times the total price of all such snakes sold by pet stores.
Ecological economists stress that capitalism works in an “empty economy,” where the pressure of humans on natural resources is slight. But capitalism doesn’t work in a “full economy” where natural resources are on the point of exhaustion. The external costs associated with economic growth as measured by GDP can be more costly than the value of the output.
A strong case can be made that this is the situation we currently face. The disappearance of species, the appearance of toxins in food, beverages, water, mothers’ breast milk, air, land, desperate attempts to secure energy from fracking which destroys groundwater and causes earthquakes, and so forth are signs of a hard-pressed planet. When we get right down to it, all of the profits that capitalism has generated over the centuries are probably due to capitalists not having to cover the full cost of their production. They passed the cost on to the environment and to third parties and pocketed the savings as profit.
Update: Herman Daly notes that last year the British medical journal, Lancet, estimated the annual cost of pollution was about 6 % of the global economy whereas the annual global economic growth rate was about 2 percent, with the difference being about a 4% annual decline in wellbeing, not a 2 percent rise. In other words, we could already be in the situation where economic growth is uneconomical.
Thom Hartmann: How the GOP Used a Two Santa Clauses Tactic to Con America for Nearly 40 Years This scam has been killing wages and enriching billionaires for decades.
The Republican Party has been running a long con on America since Reagan’s inauguration, and somehow our nation’s media has missed it – even though it was announced in The Wall Street Journal in the 1970s and the GOP has clung tenaciously to it ever since.
In fact, Republican strategist Jude Wanniski’s 1974 “Two Santa Clauses Theory” has been the main reason why the GOP has succeeded in producing our last two Republican presidents, Bush and Trump (despite losing the popular vote both times). It’s also why Reagan’s economy seemed to be “good.”
Here’s how it works, laid it out in simple summary:
First, when Republicans control the federal government, and particularly the White House, spend money like a drunken sailor and run up the US debt as far and as fast as possible. This produces three results – it stimulates the economy thus making people think that the GOP can produce a good economy, it raises the debt dramatically, and it makes people think that Republicans are the “tax-cut Santa Claus.”
Second, when a Democrat is in the White House, scream about the national debt as loudly and frantically as possible, freaking out about how “our children will have to pay for it!” and “we have to cut spending to solve the crisis!” This will force the Democrats in power to cut their own social safety net programs, thus shooting their welfare-of-the-American-people Santa Claus.
Think back to Ronald Reagan, who more than tripled the US debt from a mere $800 billion to $2.6 trillion in his 8 years. That spending produced a massive stimulus to the economy, and the biggest non-wartime increase in the debt in history. Nary a peep from Republicans about that 218% increase in our debt; they were just fine with it.
And then along came Bill Clinton. The screams and squeals from the GOP about the “unsustainable debt” of nearly $3 trillion were loud, constant, and echoed incessantly by media from CBS to NPR. Newt Gingrich rode the wave of “unsustainable debt” hysteria into power, as the GOP took control of the House for the first time lasting more than a term since 1930, even though the increase in our national debt under Clinton was only about 37%.
The GOP “debt freakout” was so widely and effectively amplified by the media that Clinton himself bought into it and began to cut spending, taking the axe to numerous welfare programs (“It’s the end of welfare as we know it” he famously said, and “The era of big government is over”). Clinton also did something no Republican has 'e in our lifetimes: he supported several balanced budgets and handed a budget surplus to George W. Bush.
When George W. Bush was given the White House by the Supreme Court (Gore won the popular vote by over a half-million votes) he reverted to Reagan’s strategy and again nearly doubled the national debt, adding a trillion in borrowed money to pay for his tax cut for GOP-funding billionaires, and tossing in two unfunded wars for good measure, which also added at least (long term) another $5 to $7 trillion.
There was not a peep about the debt from any high-profile in-the-know Republicans then; in fact, Dick Cheney famously said, essentially ratifying Wanniski’s strategy, “Reagan proved deficits ''t matter. We won the midterms [because of those tax cuts]. This is our due.” Bush and Cheney raised the debt by 86% to over $10 trillion (although the war debt wasn’t put on the books until Obama entered office).
Then comes Democratic President Barack Obama, and suddenly the GOP is hysterical about the debt again. So much so that they convinced a sitting Democratic president to propose a cut to Social Security (the “chained CPI”). Obama nearly shot the Democrats biggest Santa Claus program. And, Republican squeals notwithstanding, Obama only raised the debt by 34%.
Now we’re back to a Republican president, and once again deficits be damned. Between their tax cut and the nearly-trillion dollar spending increase passed on February 8th, in the first year-and-a-month of Trump’s administration they’ve spent more stimulating the economy (and driving up debt by more than $2 trillion, when you include interest) than the entire Obama presidency.
Consider the amazing story of where this strategy came from, and how the GOP has successfully kept their strategy from getting into the news; even generally well-informed writers for media like the Times and the Post – and producers, pundits and reporters for TV news – '’t know the history of what’s been happening right in front of us all for 37 years.
Wanniski was tired of the GOP failing to win elections. And, he reasoned, it was happening because the Democrats had been viewed since the New Deal as the Santa Claus party (taking care of people’s needs and the General Welfare), while the GOP, opposing everything from Social Security to Medicare to unemployment insurance, was widely seen as the party of Scrooge.
The Democrats, he noted, got to play Santa Claus when they passed out Social Security and Unemployment checks – both programs of the New Deal – as well as when their "big government" projects like roads, bridges, and highways were built, giving a healthy union paycheck to construction workers and making our country shine.
Democrats kept raising taxes on businesses and rich people to pay for things, which didn't seem to have much effect at all on working people (wages were steadily going up, in fact), and that added to the perception that the Democrats were a party of Robin Hoods, taking from the rich to fund programs for the poor and the working class.
Americans loved the Democrats back then. And every time Republicans railed against these programs, they lost elections.
Wanniski decided that the GOP had to become a Santa Claus party, too. But because the Republicans hated the idea of helping working people, they had to figure out a way to convince people that they, too, could have the Santa spirit. But what?
“Tax cuts!” said Wanniski.
To make this work, the Republicans would first have to turn the classical world of economics – which had operated on a simple demand-driven equation for seven thousand years – on its head. (Everybody understood that demand – aka “wages” – drove economies because working people spent most of their money in the marketplace, producing demand for factory output and services.)
In 1974 Wanniski invented a new phrase – "supply side economics" – and suggested that the reason economies grew wasn't because people had money and wanted to buy things with it but, instead, because things were available for sale, thus tantalizing people to part with their money.
The more things there were, he said, the faster the economy would grow. And the more money we gave rich people and their corporations (via tax cuts) the more stuff they’d generously produce for us to think about buying.
At a glance, this move by the Republicans seems irrational, cynical and counterproductive. It certainly defies classic understandings of economics. But if you consider Jude Wanniski’s playbook, it makes complete sense.
To help, Arthur Laffer took that equation a step further with his famous napkin scribble. Not only was supply-side a rational concept, Laffer suggested, but as taxes went down, revenue to the government would go up! Neither concept made any sense – and time has proven both to be colossal idiocies – but together they offered the Republican Party a way out of the wilderness.
Ronald Reagan was the first national Republican politician to fully embrace the Two Santa Clauses strategy. He said straight out that if he could cut taxes on rich people and businesses, those tax cuts would cause them to take their surplus money and build factories, and that the more stuff there was supplying the economy the faster it would grow.
There was no way, Wanniski said, that the Democrats could ever win again. They'd be forced into the role of Santa-killers by raising taxes, or anti-Santas by cutting spending. Either one would lose them elections.
When Reagan rolled out Supply Side Economics in the early 80s, dramatically cutting taxes while exploding spending, there was a moment when it seemed to Wanniski and Laffer that all was lost. The budget deficit exploded and the country fell into a deep recession – the worst since the Great Depression – and Republicans nationwide held their collective breath.
But David Stockman came up with a great new theory about what was going on – they were "starving the beast" of government by running up such huge deficits that Democrats would never, ever in the future be able to talk again about national health care or improving Social Security.
And this so pleased Alan Greenspan, the Fed Chairman, that he opened the spigots of the Fed, dropping interest rates and buying government bonds, producing a nice, healthy goose to the economy.
Greenspan further counseled Reagan to dramatically increase taxes on people earning under $37,800 a year by doubling the Social Security (FICA/payroll) tax, and then let the government borrow those newfound hundreds of billions of dollars off-the-books to make the deficit look better than it was.
Reagan, Greenspan, Winniski, and Laffer took the federal budget deficit from under a trillion dollars in 1980 to almost three trillion by 1988, and back then a dollar could buy far more than it buys today. They and George HW Bush ran up more debt in eight years than every president in history, from George Washington to Jimmy Carter, combined.
Surely this would both starve the beast and force the Democrats to make the politically suicidal move of becoming deficit hawks. And that's just how it turned out.
Bill Clinton, who had run on an FDR-like platform of a "New Covenant" with the American people that would strengthen the institutions of the New Deal, strengthen labor, and institute a national health care system, found himself in a box.
A few weeks before his inauguration, Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin sat him down and told him the facts of life: he was going to have to raise taxes and cut the size of government. Clinton took their advice to heart, raised taxes, balanced the budget, and cut numerous programs, declaring an "end to welfare as we know it" and, in his second inaugural address, an "end to the era of big government."
Clinton was the anti-Santa Claus, and the result was an explosion of Republican wins across the country as Republican politicians campaigned on a platform of supply-side tax cuts and pork-rich spending increases. State after state turned red, and the Republican Party rose to take over, ultimately, every single lever of power in the federal government, from the Supreme Court to the White House.
Looking at the wreckage of the Democratic Party all around Clinton by 1999, Winniski wrote a gloating memo that said, in part: "We of course should be indebted to Art Laffer for all time for his Curve... But as the primary political theoretician of the supply-side camp, I began arguing for the 'Two Santa Claus Theory' in 1974. If the Democrats are going to play Santa Claus by promoting more spending, the Republicans can never beat them by promoting less spending. They have to promise tax cuts..."
In reality, his tax cuts did what they have always 'e over the past 100 years – they initiated a bubble economy that would let the very rich skim the cream off the top just before the ceiling crashed in on working people. Just like today.
The Republicans got what they wanted from Wanniski's work. They held power for thirty years, made themselves trillions of dollars, and cut organized labor's representation in the workplace from around 25 percent when Reagan came into office to around 6 of the non-governmental workforce today.
Over time, and without raising the cap, Social Security will face an easily-solved crisis, and the GOP’s plan is for force Democrats to become the anti-Santa, yet again. If the GOP-controlled Congress continues to refuse to require rich people to pay into Social Security (any income over $128,000 is SS-tax-free), either benefits will be cut or the retirement age will have to be raised to over 70.
The GOP plan is to use this unnecessary, manufactured crisis as an opening to “reform” Social Security - translated: cut and privatize. Thus, forcing Democrats to become the Social Security anti-Santa a different way.
When this happens, Democrats must remember Jude Wanniski, and accept neither the cut to disability payments nor the entree to Social Security “reform.” They must demand the “cap” be raised, as Bernie Sanders proposed and the Democratic Party adopted in its 2016 platform.
And, hopefully, some of our media will begin to call the GOP out on the Two Santa Clauses program. It’s about time that Americans realized the details of the scam that’s been killing wages and enriching billionaires for nearly four decades.
The Deadly Rule of the Oligarchs By Chris Hedges February 12, 2018
Oligarchic rule, as Aristotle pointed out, is a deviant form of government.
Oligarchs care nothing for competency, intelligence, honesty, rationality, self-sacrifice or the common good. They pervert, deform and dismantle systems of power to serve their immediate interests, squandering the future for short-term personal gain.
“The true forms of government, therefore, are those in which the one, or the few, or the many, govern with a view to the common interest; but governments that rule with a view to the private interest, whether of the one, of the few or of the many, are perversions,” Aristotle wrote.
The classicist Peter L.P. Simpson calls these perversions the “sophistry of oligarchs,” meaning that once oligarchs take power, rational, prudent and thoughtful responses to social, economic and political problems are ignored to feed insatiable greed. The late stage of every civilization is characterized by the sophistry of oligarchs, who ravage the decaying carcass of the state.
[... perfect description of the thinking of Trump and his ilk.]
Oligarchs accelerate social, political, cultural and economic collapse. The unchecked plunder leads to systems breakdown. The refusal to protect natural resources, or the economic engines that sustain the state, means that poverty becomes the norm and the natural world becomes a toxic wasteland. Basic institutions no longer work. Infrastructure is no longer reliable. Water, air and soil are poisoned. The population is left uneducated, untrained, impoverished, oppressed by organs of internal security and beset by despair. The state eventually goes bankrupt.
They lose touch with reality. In the end, they are overthrown or destroy the state itself. There is no institution left in America that can be called democratic, and thus there is no internal mechanism to prevent a descent into barbarity.
“The political role of corporate power, the corruption of the political and representative processes by the lobbying industry, the expansion of executive power at the expense of constitutional limitations, and the degradation of political dialogue promoted by the media are the basics of the system, not excrescences upon it,” the political philosopher Shel' Wolin wrote in “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.”
This Is Your Brain on Money: Why America’s Rich Think Differently Than the Rest of Us Economist Chris Dillow cites research by Cameron Anderson and Sebastien Brion, showing that overconfident individuals are seen by others as more competent. He argues that, “overconfident people are more likely to be promoted. And this could have positive feedback effects. Higher status will itself breed even more overconfidence. (E.g. “I got the job so I must be good.”) And if bosses employ like-minded subordinates, the result could be entire layers of management which are both over-confident and engaged in groupthink.” Many other studies cited.
Making America Great Through Exploitation, Servitude and Abuse By James Petras [a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York] February 11, 2018
Can anyone say with a straight face that the US remains a nation of free and autonomous citizens?
The public denunciation by thousands of women and a few men that they had been victims of sexual abuse by their economic bosses raises fundamental issues about the social relations of American capitalism.
The moral offenses are in essence economic and social crimes. Sexual abuse is only one aspect of the social dynamics facilitating the increase in inequality and concentration of wealth, which define the practices and values of the American political and economic system.
Billionaires and mega-millionaires are themselves the products of intense exploitation of tens of millions of isolated and unorganized wage and salaried workers. Capitalist exploitation is based on a rigid hierarchy with its private prerogatives, which enables the oligarchs to demand their feudal privileges, their seigniorial sexual predations.
US capitalism thrives on and requires unlimited power and the capacity to have the public treasury pay for its untrammeled pillage of land, labor, transport systems and technological development. Capitalist power, in the United States, has no counterpart; there are few if any countervailing forces to provide any balance....
The much-celebrated technological innovations have been subsidized by the state and its educational and research institutions. Although these are financed by the tax-payers, the citizen-workers are marginalized by the technological changes, like robotics, that they originally funded. High tech innovations flourish because they concentrate power, profits and private privilege.
The hierarchical matrix of power and exploitation has led to the polarization of mortality rates and moral codes. For the working poor, the absence of competent health care has led to the massive use and abuse of prescription opioids and other addictive drugs. For the upper class, it has led to the flagrant physical and psychological abuse of vulnerable employees, especially, but not exclusively young working women. The prestigious bourgeois media blur the class polarization by constant reference to what they term ‘our shared traditional democratic values.’
The most advanced forms of entertainment thrive in an environment of absolute impunity in which the occasional exposé of abuse or corruption is hidden behind a monetary settlement. The courage of an individual victim able to secure public attention is a step forward, but will have greater significance if it is organized and linked to a massive challenging of the power of the bourgeois entertainment industry and the system of high tech exploitation. Sexual abuse of an individual in the workplace is just part of a chain that begins with exploitation of workers in general and can only be stopped through collective worker organization.
Servitude and moral degradation are the outcome of an atomized, impotent laboring class who may change one boss for another or one vulgar president for a moralizing hypocrite. We hope that the exposés will start something but without class conscious organizations we '’t know what will arise.
Slavehood 2017 By Peter Koenig [an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America.] May 04, 2017 "Information Clearing House"
When in the 18th and 19th Century African slaves did not ‘behave’, they were cruelly beaten sometimes to death as a deterrent for others. They were deprived of food for their families. Their women were raped. They were traded to even harsher white masters. Their lives were worth only what their labor could produce. They were treated as subjects, devoid of human warmth.
Today we have become all slaves; slaves to the powers of mafia bankster of finance; slaves to the western lie-propaganda; to the lobbies and their giant all dominating corporations – to the war-industry, because we happily believe what we are told about ever-increasing terrorism that needs to be fought with eternal wars; slaves to the environment-destructive hydrocarbon industry; to the pharma-industry; to the Monsanto-ized agroindustry; to senseless consumerism – and foremost – and summing it all up: to greed, endless greed that drives endless growth, nurturing endless competition fomenting adversity, destroying solidarity, instead of amical cooperation for a harmonious human cohabitation.
As people of western nations, we are enslaved to an all-engulfing neoliberal fascism – to a predatory economy. Corporate lie propaganda drip-feds our brains. We haven’t even noticed it. We are enslaved to so-called ‘leaders’, put in office by obscure foreign masters of deceit – the ever-stronger corporate controlled propaganda machine – the six all controlling Zion-Anglo media, whom we believe whatever lie they vomit – because it is more comfortable to believe a lie than to confront the truth – that’s self-imposed slavehood.
That’s how far we have gone. Because we are clearly on an almost irreversible downward track – sliding and running towards our own demise – into darkness – the darkness of chaos and bloody wars, endless wars against self-invented terrorism; wars that keeps our western economy running – and our armchair politics alive. Wars that kill and slaughter millions and millions – but all in ‘far-away’ lands. We are told we are protected. Our police and military watch over us. The new gods – money and military.
Although ‘pride’ was never an appropriate term to integrate our soul and minds, as we the western powers – have for centuries enslaved, raped, exploited and slaughtered the indigenous people, those who have for millennia, for history of mankind survived and passed on our human genes from one murderous civilization to another, always in the hope that the new one would see the light.
We can only hope that the patience of these native people, the survivors, our saviors – will prevail, that before we disappear in darkness, in the void of a manmade blackhole, we will awake, open our eyes and seek the light – become finally human, the term we have fraudulently applied to ourselves – the western civilization.
Independent thinking has become a crime, as it impedes the advancement of slavehood. Education is designed to kill individual thinking and the wide range of inventiveness – because it’s dangerous – for those who enslave and control us. ‘New-speak’ education has to make us thinking what the system wants us to think. That’s what western education has become in the last 50 years – a farce to keep us as non-thinking idiots.
Idiots are easily enslaved and exploited and sent to wars – to steal foreign resources to satisfy the greed of a few. We love to be cannon fodder, as we were told – enslaved – to believe that good patriots love to die for their country. We are blinded and avoid seeing that we are dying fighting to satisfy puppet leaders’ greed for power and money – whose power is nothing more than that allowed them by the Masters who control the world and who pull the strings on their marionettes.
Hating Capitalism10 Reasons to Hate Capitalism Counterpunch by Gary Engler. The economic system encourages greed and denigrates cooperation and collectivism.
Global EliteExposing the Giants: The Global Power Elite ICH By Robert J Burrowes August 31, 2018
Developing the tradition charted by C. Wright Mills in his 1956 classic The Power Elite, in his latest book, Professor Peter Phillips starts by reviewing the transition from the nation state power elites described by authors such as Mills to a transnational power elite centralized on the control of global capital.
Thus, in his just-released study Giants: The Global Power Elite, Phillips, a professor of political sociology at Sonoma State University in the USA, identifies the world’s top seventeen asset management firms, such as BlackRock and J.P Morgan Chase, each with more than one trillion dollars of investment capital under management, as the ‘Giants’ of world capitalism. The seventeen firms collectively manage more than $US41.1 trillion in a self-invested network of interlocking capital that spans the globe.
This $41 trillion represents the wealth invested for profit by thousands of millionaires, billionaires and corporations. The seventeen Giants operate in nearly every country in the world and are ‘the central institutions of the financial capital that powers the global economic system’. They invest in anything considered profitable, ranging from ‘agricultural lands on which indigenous farmers are replaced by power elite investors’ to public assets (such as energy and water utilities) to war.
In addition, Phillips identifies the most important networks of the Global Power Elite and the individuals therein. He names 389 individuals (a small number of whom are women and a token number of whom are from countries other than the United States and the wealthier countries of Western Europe) at the core of the policy planning nongovernmental networks that manage, facilitate and defend the continued concentration of global capital. The Global Power Elite perform two key uniting functions, he argues: they provide ideological justifications for their shared interests (promulgated through their corporate media), and define the parameters of action for transnational governmental organizations and capitalist nation-states.
More precisely, Phillips identifies the 199 directors of the seventeen global financial Giants and offers short biographies and public information on their individual net wealth. These individuals are closely interconnected through numerous networks of association including the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Conference, university affiliations, various policy councils, social clubs, and cultural enterprises. For a taste of one of these clubs, see this account of The Links in New York. As Phillips observes: ‘It is certainly safe to conclude they all know each other personally or know of each other in the shared context of their positions of power.’
The Giants, Phillips documents, invest in each other but also in many hundreds of investment management firms, many of which are near-Giants. This results in tens of trillions of dollars coordinated in a single vast network of global capital controlled by a very small number of people. ‘Their constant objective is to find enough safe investment opportunities for a return on capital that allows for continued growth. Inadequate capital-placement opportunities lead to dangerous speculative investments, buying up of public assets, and permanent war spending.’
Because the directors of these seventeen asset management firms represent the central core of international capital, ‘Individuals can retire or pass away, and other similar people will move into their place, making the overall structure a self-perpetuating network of global capital control. As such, these 199 people share a common goal of maximum return on investments for themselves and their clients, and they may seek to achieve returns by any means necessary – legal or not…. the institutional and structural arrangements within the money management systems of global capital relentlessly seek ways to achieve maximum return on investment, and … the conditions for manipulations – legal or not – are always present.’
Like some researchers before him, Phillips identifies the importance of those transnational institutions that serve a unifying function. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, G20, G7, World Trade Organization (WTO), World Economic Forum(WEF), Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, Bank for International Settlements, Group of 30 (G30), the Council on Foreign Relationsand the International Monetary Conference serve as institutional mechanisms for consensus building within the transnational capitalist class, and power elite policy formulation and implementation. ‘These international institutions serve the interests of the global financial Giants by supporting policies and regulations that seek to protect the free, unrestricted flow of capital and debt collection worldwide.’
But within this network of transnational institutions, Phillips identifies two very important global elite policy-planning organizations: the Group of Thirty (which has 32 members) [https://group30.org/] and the extended executive committee of the Trilateral Commission (which has 55 members) [http://trilateral.org/]. These nonprofit corporations, which each have a research and support staff, formulate elite policy and issue instructions for their implementation by the transnational governmental institutions like the G7, G20, IMF, WTO, and World Bank. Elite policies are also implemented following instruction of the relevant agent, including governments, in the context. These agents then do as they are instructed.Thus, these 85 members (because two overlap) of the Group of Thirty and the Trilateral Commission comprise a central group of facilitators of global capitalism, ensuring that ‘global capital remains safe, secure, and growing’.
So, while many of the major international institutions are controlled by nation-state representatives and central bankers (with proportional power exercised by dominant financial supporters such as the United States and European Union countries), Phillips is more concerned with the transnational policy groups that are nongovernmental because these organizations ‘help to unite TCC power elites as a class’ and the individuals involved in these organizations facilitate world capitalism. ‘They serve as policy elites who seek the continued growth of capital in the world.’
Developing this list of 199 directors of the largest money management firms in the world, Phillips argues, is an important step toward understanding how capitalism works globally today. These global power elite directors make the decisions regarding the investment of trillions of dollars. Supposedly in competition, the concentrated wealth they share requires them to cooperate for their greater good by identifying investment opportunities and shared risk agreements, and working collectively for political arrangements that create advantages for their profit-generating system as a whole.
Their fundamental priority is to secure an average return on investment of 3 to 10 percent, or even more. The nature of any investment is less important than what it yields: continuous returns that support growth in the overall market. Hence, capital investment in tobacco products, weapons of war, toxic chemicals, pollution, and other socially destructive goods and services are judged purely by their profitability. Concern for the social and environmental costs of the investment are non-existent. In other words, inflicting death and destruction are fine because they are profitable.
So what is the global elite’s purpose? In a few sentences Phillips characterizes it thus: The elite is largely united in support of the US/NATO military empire that prosecutes a repressive war against resisting groups – typically labeled ‘terrorists’ – around the world. The real purpose of ‘the war on terror’ is defense of transnational globalization, the unimpeded flow of financial capital around the world, dollar hegemony and access to oil; it has nothing to do with repressing terrorism which it generates, perpetuates and finances to provide cover for its real agenda. This is why the United States has a long history of CIA and military interventions around the world ostensibly in defense of ‘national interests’.
An interesting point that emerges for me from reading Phillips thoughtful analysis is that there is a clear distinction between those individuals and families who have wealth and those individuals who have (sometimes significantly) less wealth (which, nevertheless, is still considerable) but, through their positions and connections, wield a great deal of power. As Phillips explains this distinction, ‘the sociology of elites is more important than particular elite individuals and their families’. Just 199 individuals decide how more than $40 trillion will be invested. And this is his central point. Let me briefly elaborate.
There are some really wealthy families in the world, notably including the families Rothschild (France and the United Kingdom), Rockefeller (USA), Goldman-Sachs (USA), Warburgs (Germany), Lehmann (USA), Lazards (France), Kuhn Loebs (USA), Israel Moses Seifs (Italy), Al-Saud (Saudi Arabia), Walton (USA), Koch (USA), Mars (USA), Cargill-MacMillan (USA) and Cox (USA). However, not all of these families overtly seek power to shape the world as they wish.
Similarly, the world’s extremely wealthy individuals such as Jeff Bezos (USA), Bill Gates (USA), Warren Buffett (USA), Bernard Arnault (France), Carlos Slim Helu (Mexico) and Francoise Bettencourt Meyers (France) are not necessarily connected in such a way that they exercise enormous power. In fact, they may have little interest in power as such, despite their obvious interest in wealth.
In essence, some individuals and families are content to simply take advantage of how capitalism and its ancilliary governmental and transnational instruments function while others are more politically engaged in seeking to manipulate major institutions to achieve outcomes that not only maximize their own profit and hence wealth but also shape the world itself.
So if you look at the list of 199 individuals that Phillips identifies at the centre of global capital, it does not include names such as Bezos, Gates, Buffett, Koch, Walton or even Rothschild, Rockefeller or Windsor (the Queen of England) despite their well-known and extraordinary wealth. As an aside, many of these names are also missing from the lists compiled by groups such as Forbes and Bloomberg, but their absence from these lists is for a very different reason given the penchant for many really wealthy individuals and families to avoid certain types of publicity and their power to ensure that they do.
In contrast to the names just listed, in Phillips’ analysis names like Laurence (Larry) Fink (Chairman and CEO of BlackRock), James (Jamie) Dimon (Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase) and John McFarlane (Chairman of Barclays Bank), while not as wealthy as those listed immediately above, wield far more power because of their positions and connections within the global elite network of 199 individuals.
Predictably then, Phillips observes, these three individuals have similar lifestyles and ideological orientations. They believe capitalism is beneficial for the world and while inequality and poverty are important issues, they believe that capital growth will eventually solve these problems. They are relatively non-expressive about environmental issues, but recognize that investment opportunities may change in response to climate ‘modifications’. As millionaires they own multiple homes. They attended elite universities and rose quickly in international finance to reach their current status as giants of the global power elite. ‘The institutions they manage have been shown to engage in illegal collusions with others, but the regulatory fines by governments are essentially seen as just part of doing business.’
In short, as I would characterize this description: They are devoid of a legal or moral framework to guide their actions, whether in relation to business, fellow human beings, war or the environment and climate. They are obviously typical of the elite.
Any apparent concern for people, such as that expressed by Fink and Dimon in response to the racist violence in Charlottesville, USA in August 2017, is simply designed to promote ‘stability’ or more precisely, a stable (that is, profitable) investment and consumer climate.
The lack of concern for people and issues that might concern many of us is also evident from a consideration of the agenda at elite gatherings. Consider the International Monetary Conference. Founded in 1956, it is a private yearly meeting of the top few hundred bankers in the world. The American Bankers Association (ABA) serves as the secretariat for the conference. But, as Phillips notes: ‘Nothing on the agenda seems to address the socioeconomic consequences of investments to determine the impacts on people and the environment.’ A casual perusal of the agenda at any elite gathering reveals that this comment applies equally to any elite forum. See, for example, the agenda of the recent WEF meeting in Davos. Any talk of ‘concern’ is misleading rhetoric.
Hence, in the words of Phillips: The 199 directors of the global Giants are ‘a very select set of people. They all know each other personally or know of each other. At least 69 have attended the annual World Economic Forum, where they often serve on panels or give public presentations. They mostly attended the same elite universities, and interact in upperclass social setting[s] in the major cities of the world. They all are wealthy and have significant stock holdings in one or more of the financial Giants. They are all deeply invested in the importance of maintaining capital growth in the world. Some are sensitive to environmental and social justice issues, but they seem to be unable to link these issues to global capital concentration.’
Of course, the global elite cannot manage the world system alone: the elite requires agents to perform many of the functions necessary to control national societies and the individuals within them. ‘The interests of the Global Power Elite and the TCC are fully recognized by major institutions in society. Governments, intelligence services, policymakers, universities, police forces, military, and corporate media all work in support of their vital interests.’
In other words, to elaborate Phillips’ point and extend it a little, through their economic power, theGiants control all of the instruments through which their policies are implemented. Whether it be governments, national military forces, ‘military contractors’ or mercenaries (with at least $200 billion spent on private security globally, the industry currently employs some fifteen million people worldwide) used both in ‘foreign’ wars but also likely deployed in future for domestic control, key ‘intelligence’ agencies, legal systems and police forces, major nongovernment organizations, or the academic, educational, ‘public relations propaganda’, corporate media, medical, psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries, all instruments are fully responsive to elite control and are designed to misinform, deceive, disempower, intimidate, repress, imprison (in a jail or psychiatric ward), exploit and/or kill (depending on the constituency) the rest of us, as is readily evident.
Defending Elite Power
Phillips observes that the power elite continually worries about rebellion by the ‘unruly exploited masses’ against their structure of concentrated wealth. This is why the US military empire has long played the role of defender of global capitalism. As a result, the United States has more than 800 military bases (with some scholars suggesting 1,000) in 70 countries and territories. In comparison, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia have about 30 foreign bases. In addition, US military forces are now deployed in 70 percent of the world’s nations with US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) having troops in 147 countries, an increase of 80 percent since 2010. These forces conduct counterterrorism strikes regularly, including drone assassinations and kill/capture raids.
‘The US military empire stands on hundreds of years of colonial exploitation and continues to support repressive, exploitative governments that cooperate with global capital’s imperial agenda. Governments that accept external capital investment, whereby a small segment of a country’s elite benefits, do so knowing that capital inevitably requires a return on investment that entails using up resources and people for economic gain. The whole system continues wealth concentration for elites and expanded wretched inequality for the masses….
‘Understanding permanent war as an economic relief valve for surplus capital is a vital part of comprehending capitalism in the world today. War provides investment opportunity for the Giants and TCC elites and a guaranteed return on capital. War also serves a repressive function of keeping the suffering masses of humanity afraid and compliant.’
As Phillips elaborates: This is why defense of global capital is the prime reason that NATO countries now account for 85 percent of the world’s military spending; the United States spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined.
In essence, ‘the Global Power Elite uses NATO and the US military empire for its worldwide security. This is part of an expanding strategy of US military domination around the world, whereby the US/ NATO military empire, advised by the power elite’s Atlantic Council, operates in service to the Transnational Corporate Class for the protection of international capital everywhere in the world’.
This entails ‘further pauperization of the bottom half of the world’s population and an unrelenting downward spiral of wages for 80 percent of the world. The world is facing economic crisis, and the neoliberal solution is to spend less on human needs and more on security.
It is a world of financial institutions run amok, where the answer to economic collapse is to print more money through quantitative easing, flooding the population with trillions of new inflation-producing dollars. It is a world of permanent war, whereby spending for destruction requires further spending to rebuild, a cycle that profits the Giants and global networks of economic power. It is a world of drone killings, extrajudicial assassinations, death, and destruction, at home and abroad.’
Where is this all heading?
So what are the implications of this state of affairs? Phillips responds unequivocally: ‘This concentration of protected wealth leads to a crisis of humanity, whereby poverty, war, starvation, mass alienation, media propaganda, and environmental devastation are reaching a species-level threat. We realize that humankind is in danger of possible extinction’.
He goes on to state that the Global Power Elite is probably the only entity ‘capable of correcting this condition without major civil unrest, war, and chaos’ and elaborates an important aim of his book: to raise awareness of the importance of systemic change and the redistribution of wealth among both the book’s general readers but also the elite, ‘in the hope that they can begin the process of saving humanity.’ The book’s postscript is a ‘A Letter to the Global Power Elite’, co-signed by Phillips and 90 others, beseeching the elite to act accordingly.
‘It is no longer acceptable for you to believe that you can manage capitalism to grow its way out of the gross inequalities we all now face. The environment cannot accept more pollution and waste, and civil unrest is everywhere inevitable at some point. Humanity needs you to step up and insure that trickle-down becomes a river of resources that reaches every child, every family, and all human beings. We urge you to use your power and make the needed changes for humanity’s survival.’
But he also emphasizes that nonviolent social movements, using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a moral code, can accelerate the process of redistributing wealth by pressuring the elite into action.
As I read Phillips’ insightful and candid account of elite behavior in this regard, I am reminded, yet again, that the global power elite is extraordinarily violent and utterly insane: content to kill people in vast numbers (whether through starvation or military violence) and destroy the biosphere for profit, with zero sense of humanity’s now limited future.
For this reason I do not share his faith in moral appeals to the elite, as articulated in the letter in his postscript. It is fine to make the appeal but history offers no evidence to suggest that there will be any significant response. The death and destruction inflicted by elites is highly profitable, centuries-old and ongoing.
I would also encourage independent action, in one or more of several ways, by those individuals and communities powerful enough to do so.
If we cannot persuade the global power elite to respond sensibly to that predicament, or nonviolently compel it to do so, humanity’s time on Earth is indeed limited.
Exposés of CapitalismHarvard Business Review calls bullshit on today's "capitalists" by Arendt for Class Warfare Newsletter, 6/15/14. "Capitalists seem uninterested in capitalism—in supporting the development of market-creating innovations.
"... business jargon has mashed true innovation together with cost-cutting. (Sorta the same way today's Democratic Party has mashed progressivism together with corporate welfare.)
"...it’s no longer true that capital is scarce... Therefore, austerity can be seen as a form of looting - privatization (and subsequent under- or dis-investment in public assets) and the ruthless extraction of the life savings of the middle class, as it struggles to keep its head above water."
"Murray Bookchin: US political thinker whose ideas shaped the anti-globalization movement...
""Capitalism is a social cancer," he argued. "It is the disease of society"...
"His magnum opus was the Ecology of Freedom (1982). "The domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human," he wrote. "The long-term solution to the ecological crises is a fundamental shift in how we organise society, a new politics based on face-to-face democracy, neighborhood assemblies and 'the dissolution of hierarchy'"....
"In Remaking Society (1990) he wrote: "To speak of 'limits to growth' under a capitalistic market economy is as meaningless as to speak of limits of warfare under a warrior society. The moral pieties that are voiced today by many well-meaning environmentalists are as naive as the moral pieties of multinationals are manipulative. Capitalism can no more be 'persuaded' to stop breathing"...
"Without Bookchin's book, Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1971), anarchism would not be the force within the anti-capitalist movement that it is today. Bookchin parted company with anarchism in 1998, refocusing on "communalism", but his writing lifted and sustained the movement from the 19th into the 21st century" (Mike Small. "Murray Bookchin." Guardian Weekly, Aug. 11, 2006: 25).
"...a recent study from the Pew Research Center disclosing... "45% of Americans believe little or nothing of what they read in their daily newspapers...
The role devised by the Times for itself was to be the credible organ of capitalism ("newspaper of record"), with reports and editorials premised on the belief that US capitalism can produce a just society in which all can enjoy the fruits of their labor in peaceful harmony with their environment and the rest of the planet.
"The evidence is in. The case is proved a million different ways. American capitalism can't do that. It's produced an unjust society run by a tiny slice of obscenely rich people (including those controlling the New York Times) with a vested and irreversible interest in permanent war and planetary destruction" (Alexander Cockburn. "Join the 14 percent club! We won!" The Nation, May 30, 2005: 8).
Land of Opportunity"Up until the 1960s, upward mobility was at the core of the American Dream. Then, the dream began to unravel, slowly at first, but picking up momentum in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Today, the US can no longer claim to be the model of upward mobility for the world...
"And what of that Old World, that caste-bound, class-defined purgatory so many millions of people fled from to start over in the American Eden? It is slowly becoming the new land of opportunity. More and more emigrants are choosing Europe over America...
"Europe is a more promising place for those anxious to move on up. According to the data collected by the Luxembourg Income Study, the most authoritative database in the world on income distribution, the United States ranks twenty-fourth amont the developed nations in income inequality. Only Russia and Mexico rank lower. All eighteen of the most developed European countries have less income inequality between rich and poor...
"...the US was dead last in the growth rate of total compensation to its workforce in the 1980s... 0.1 percent growth after that... at the same time, corporate profits, as a percentage of national income, reached their highest level since the 1960s...
"...income mobility appears to be LOWER in the United States than in other OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries.
"America, it appears, is the land of opportunity for a small segment of high-income earners and a land of misfortune for many others. There are more poor people living in poverty in America than in the sixteen European nations for which data is available" (38-40)...
"the sink-or-swim mentality [of the US]... The World Values Survey found that 71 percent of Americans "believe that the poor have a chance to escape from poverty," while only 40 percent of Europeans believe that's the case. Strange, indeed, coming from a country that now has the largest percentage of its population in poverty of any major developed nation...
"Undoubtedly, the frontier mythology plays a significant role in understanding American attitudes about inequality and poverty. But there is also likely a more unsavory side to the issue. Racism... we find that many American associate poverty with black America, even though in terms of raw numbers, there are more whites living under the poverty line...
"White America can't afford to believe that the American way of life might, in some way, be to blame for the destitute conditions many black Americans find themselves in...
"Europeans... belief that market forces, if left to their own devices, are often unfair and, therefore, need to be tamed. Government redistribution, in the form of transfers and payments to those less fortunate, is considered an appropriate antidote to unrestrained market capitalism. That is why in Europe the notion of creating social democracies.... has flourished since World War II...
"The US is particularly stingy when it comes to helping the working poor. The legal minimum wage in the US in the 1990s was only 39 percent of the average wage, whereas in the European Union it was 53 percent of the average wage. In the United States, unemployment benefits are also less generous than in the European Union" (Jeremy Rifkin. The European Dream. pp. 40-43).
Job Creation"...say the economists... the American economy has been an engine of job creation... "The American Miracle"...
"A closer look suggests that many of the new jobs created had little to do with superior entrepreneurial talent or better managerial skills or the quicker adoption of new technologies, but with other factors that artificially boosted the employment figures for a brief moment only to disappear just as quickly once the stock-market bubble burst...
"...real unemployment during that period was significantly higher, approaching the unemployment levels in the European Union. That is because more than two million discouraged workers simply gave up and dropped out of the workforce and therefore were no longer counted in the official statistics, and the prison population soared from 500,000 in 1980 to two million people today. Nearly 2 percent of the potential male adult workforce in the United States is now incarcerated. Moreover, many of the workers who did find employment in the boom period between 1995 and 2000 were temporary and part-time, without benefits, and for the most part underemployed... While the US Labor Department put the official enemployment figure at 6.2 percent in the summer of 2003, real unemployement, when discouraged workers who have given up are counted, is 9 percent of the workforce...
"...runaway extension of consumer credit, which allowed Americans to go on a wild buying binge... the result was that America's family savings rate, which was about 8 percent in the early 1990s, sank to around 2 percent by the year 2001...
"The US economy is experiencing its worst hiring slump in more than twenty years...
"Were the European Union to aban' much of its social net in favor of a more libertarian market approach, its 455 million people might find themselves saddled with the kind of deep social ills that now plague the United States, from great inequality to increased poverty, lawlessness, and incarceration. That's a high price to pay when we consider the fact that the American model not only has failed to deliver real job growth but also has forced millions of Americans into long-term debt and bankruptcy" (Jeremy Rifkin. The European Dream. pp. 52-55)...
ArticlesCapitalism Is a ‘Suicide System’ capitalism isn’t the end all be all of society, and if we want our planet to persist, it may be time to consider other economic systems and other ways of living life that '’t lead to suicide... “We can organize communities differently; we can organize the world differently,” concludes the “Trews” host with excitement. “We can love each other differently.”
Yes, there is an alternative to capitalism: Mondragon shows the way, Richard Wolff: Why are we told a broken system that creates vast inequality is the only choice? Spain's amazing co-op is living proof otherwise
Yes, There Is an Alternative to Capitalism: Mondragon Shows the Way: Why are we told a broken system that creates vast inequality is the only choice? Spain's amazing co-op is living proof otherwise, by Richard Wolff
Chris Hedges: The Myth of the Free Press The mass media blindly support the ideology of corporate capitalism. They laud and promote the myth of American democracy—even as we are stripped of civil liberties and money replaces the vote. They pay deference to the leaders on Wall Street and in Washington, no matter how perfidious their crimes... The role of the mass media is to entertain or to parrot official propaganda to the masses.
But to maintain this myth they have to destroy the credibility of journalists such as Webb and Assange who shine a light on the sinister and murderous inner workings of empire, who care more about truth than news.
Quotes on Capitalism"The major western democracies are moving towards corporatism. Democracy has become a business plan, with a bottom line for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope. The main parliamentary parties are now devoted to the same economic policies - socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor - and the same foreign policy of servility to endless war. This is not democracy. It is to politics what McDonalds is to food." - John Pilger
"We do not have free market capitalism in America; we have crony capitalism" (David Kupfer. "[Interview with] Robert F. Kennedy Jr." The Progressive, Nov. 2006: 33-36).
"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries." - Winston Churchill
"Fascism is capitalism in decay.: - Vladimir Lenin
"Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That's the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone." - John Maynard Keynes
"I served in all commissioned ranks from a second Lieutenant to a Major General. And during that time, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism." - Smedley Butler
"They talk about the failure of socialism but where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America?" - Fidel Castro
"The left is back, and it's the only path we have to get out of the spot to which the right has sunken us. Socialism builds and capitalism destroys." - Hugo Chavez
"In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy." - Fran Lebowitz
"Capitalism is against the things that we say we believe in - democracy, freedom of choice, fairness. It's not about any of those things now. It's about protecting the wealthy and legalizing greed." - Michael Moore
"Here's what I don't think works: An economic system that was founded in the 16th century and another that was founded in the 19th century. I'm tired of this discussion of capitalism and socialism; we live in the 21st century; we need an economic system that has democracy as its underpinnings and an ethical code." - Michael Moore
"The decadent international but individualistic capitalism in the hands of which we found ourselves after the war is not a success. It is not intelligent. It is not beautiful. It is not just. It is not virtuous. And it doesn't deliver the goods." - John Maynard Keynes
"Chicago is the product of modern capitalism, and, like other great commercial centers, is unfit for human habitation." - Eugene V. Debs
"I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating... because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition." - Fidel Castro
"Capitalism cannot reform itself; it is doomed to self-destruction." - W. E. B. Du Bois
"Capitalism has destroyed our belief in any effective power but that of self interest backed by force." - George Bernard Shaw
"There's definitely evidence that capitalism at its most ruthless rewards psychopathic behavior. When you look at the worst corners of the American health insurance industry or the sub-prime banking market, it really feels like the more psychopathically someone behaves, the more it's rewarded." - Jon Ronson
"Fascism is capitalism plus murder." - Upton Sinclair
"The trouble with capitalism as a system is that only those who have or can get capital can make it work for them, and that leaves out damn near all of us." - Molly Ivins
"The government may change faces from time to time, but it's not like we fight wars for democracy - we fight wars for capitalism and for oil." - Woody Harrelson
"Western capitalism is a looting mechanism. It loots labor. It loots the environment, and with the transpacific and transatlantic 'partnerships,' it will loot the sovereign law of countries." - Paul Craig Roberts
"Capitalism offers you freedom, but far from giving people freedom, it enslaves them." - Ian Mckellen
"Capitalism is an evil, and you cannot regulate evil." - Michael Moore
"I have come to the conclusion that capitalism is successful primarily because it can impose the majority of the costs associated with its economic activities on outside parties and on the environment." - Paul Craig Roberts
"World wide capitalism kills more people everyday then Hitler did. And he was crazy." - Ken Livingstone
"Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class." - Al Capone
It’s Brillig In America
By Paul Edwards November 02, 2018 "Information Clearing House"
Lewis Carroll knew nonsense. He pretty much invented the verse version. We, who live in a country in which nonsense defines national behavior, are effectively blind to that reality, judging by our universal acceptance of it.
We’ve been force-fed bullshit by ruling elites forever and, though bullshit is not nonsense, it’s the perfect cover for it. Nonsense, by definition, has no rational basis and makes no sense. Bullshit, in contrast, is often coherent and plausible and disseminated by authority it has caused Americans to embrace reams of pernicious nonsense immeasurably ruinous to them.
This has much to do with the Buffoon-in-Chief, yes, but his is only a part, and not the most grievous, in the complex of existential idiocy under which Americans ignorantly labor. To take the greatest, most odious examples of the screaming nonsense that encumbers us, start with what’s laughingly referred to by the Cognoscenti as “monetary policy”, viz.:
1. Congress must “borrow” from somewhere the money it spends and rake it back in taxes to “pay” for services. Perfect nonsense. Relentless bullshit persuaded us this is so. It is not. Congress creates money from nothing because it’s empowered to do so, taxes aren’t “collected” but are written off to diminish the extant money supply, and they “pay” for absolutely nothing.
2. Social Security and Medicare will go broke very soon if we don’t cut them because payroll taxes won’t pay their increasing cost. Purest nonsense. Congress could sustain and augment them forever if it would, without increasing taxes since taxes don’t “pay” for them. The will of Congress determines which programs are funded and which are not. It has always lavished money on elite financial entities with the closest ties to it through baldfaced bribery. That group does not include The American People.
3. The world is full of nations that are evil, while we are not, and one of them is always determined to attack, invade and destroy us, so we must spend money that could make our education, health care, infrastructure, and natural environment the envy of the world, on war and preparing for it. Utter nonsense. No nation since 1812, has had any such intention. A roaring torrent of bullshit from our owners has enabled the poisonous Military/Industrial/Congressional Complex--Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman--and our coddled, stupidly generalled, over-teched military monstrosity to extract the life from us.
These are just the prime examples of the sick nonsense that rules us.
It is that tiny upper echelon of the Capitalist Cabal that owns and operates our criminal government like a Mafia racket. It is that vicious, diabolical, unelected cadre of warlocks, ghouls and vampires that, using scientifically tested, academically ponderous, legally impenetrable glossalalia, creates and disseminates the vast compendium of bullshit and mythology that enslaves and dehumanizes our citizenry, and lives, like a parasite, a remora, a metastatic cancer, on the blood and flesh of its own country.
Colby Glass, MLIS