Capitalism is working. Not in the way you think though.
Capitalism, like all things, is changing. In its throes it is sparking humanity’s imagination. What’s coming from that is astounding.
We have capitalism to thank for that.
In its early years, capitalism offered incentives for the powerful to expand their grasp. Satisfy their greed. Those incentives – adventure, wealth, conquest…but also struggles and pain and bloodshed – worked extremely well. Today, as most proponents of capitalism will knee-jerkingly say, more people are better off (and prosperous) than ever before.
There is no doubt about capitalism’s role in all that.
But neither doubt cloud one’s awareness of capitalism’s massive problems.
If it weren’t for those problems, though humanity wouldn’t be striving for something better today. In that way, capitalism has been – and is – exactly what its proponents claim: the best system we’ve devised.
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While attending class at an Apple store, Johnny, our instructor read the subtitles on a video project we were working on. The project was about Copiosis, our economic innovation and the algorithm we’re fine tuning.
“What is it you’re working on?” Johnny asked.
“It’s a new economic system capitalism is evolving into,” we said.
The instructor paused…
“Tell me about it,” He said.
We gave him quite a bit.
“Hmm, sounds interesting. I’m a dyed in the wool capitalist, but I’d like to know more. Gotta website?”
We told him the URL. Then asked: “Dyed in the wool, eh?” That’s when he said something we’ve never heard from a capitalist:
“As far as I’m concerned, nothing so far has been as successful as capitalism in making people more prosperous. Even poor people are better off today thanks to capitalism.”
Did you spot the remarkable part?
Usually, when someone defends or exalts capitalism, they will say something like this:
“Capitalism is better than anything else”.
Or they’ll say, “there’s nothing better than capitalism”.
Or they’ll take liberty with Winston Churchill’s famous quote about Democracy:
Maybe you don’t see the hilarity of such statements. But we do.
When people talk about capitalism, their words have historical context, even though the speaker thinks they’re talking about the future. The unspoken conclusion of “there’s nothing better than capitalism” is, “so don’t even try to make it better because you can’t.”
Imagine! Here was a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist acknowledging what no other capitalist or capitalist sympathizer has acknowledged. His three words left room for possibility.
Those three words?
“…nothing so far…”
Something can be better. And you can bet something is better than capitalism. How do we know? Put aside the fact that we’ve created it. Just consider this. Here, we’ll express it in the form of a proclamation:
- Whereas humanity throughout history can’t help but seek improvement in itself and its world
- Whereas history has shown humanity’s propensity for tinkering with things to make them better, turning salad bowls to salad spinners and straight razors into freakish versions like this futuristic gizmo…
- Whereas even when some aspects of humanity try to hold it back (the electric car), humanity still finds a way to move forward (Tesla) and…
- Whereas the future is a long-ass time, far longer than human history and
- Whereas humanity is constantly birthing more babies and among those babies are more and more challengers of the status quo as seen in the civil rights, gay and now the gender movements, etc., and…
- Whereas a lot of what humanity has tinkered with has benefitted humanity
- Whereas humanity is not likely to stop tinkering with things in order to make them better…
- We hereby proclaim that the future contains something that performs far, far better than capitalism!
It was refreshing to hear Johnny use those magical, mind-opening words. Words that left us smiling.
This should be so common sensical. Yet a lot of people enamored with capitalism can’t conceive of something that can outperform it.
Looking at the world today, it’s a wonder people think capitalism is here to stay when there’s so much evidence showing it’s on its way out. Look closely enough at what’s happening and you can see the one thing that is causing this shift:
Hell, even politicians are getting it. Often, politicians are the last to get anything.
The same is true with democracy. And traditional governments. We’ll write about that in the future.
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Three questions for ya reader:
- “When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?”
- “Are you doing that now?”
- “If not, why not?”
Presuming you’re of adult age, with a career of at least five years let’s say, you’re likely not doing the thing you “wanted to be” when you were a child. Early on in Copiosis’ people’s answers to these questions fascinated us. Usually, they would say something adventurous that they wanted to be. An astronaut, artist, musician, inventor…
Yet the thing they are doing now was comparatively lack luster. As they thought about their childhood dream juxtaposed with their adult reality, you could see and hear, the fire die in their eyes as they talked about reasons why they didn’t become what they wanted back then:
- Too unrealistic
- discouraged by my parents
- Had to take care of my family
- Had to grow up
- Did have the time
- Life got in the way
- Have to earn a living
All of these answers (we’re resisting calling them excuses) point to a deeply inherent feature (not a bug, a feature) of capitalism. Some say it’s a flaw. But we believe it’s a brilliant design element: capitalism’s ability to crush most people’s dreams.
Now, some people will scoff at the idea that capitalism squashes dreams.
But it does.
Sure, there a few people out their living their dreams. But the majority are not. And some of the ones people think are living their dreams are actually living compromises at best, nightmares in the worst cases. And they’re blaming people like racial minorities women, cis-het-white men and anyone else who doesn’t look like them.
People who seem successful on the outside aren’t living dream lives either.
Note the suicides of people like Heath Ledger and Philip Seymour Hoffman, or the struggles of Michael Jackson or Robin Williams. And it’s not reserved to Hollywood.
There are “successful” business people like Kenneth Lay and John Clifford “Cliff” Baxter both of ENRON infamy. And there’s Donald Trump.
It’s easy to think people are happy when you can’t see behind their wealth or success.
It can’t be overstressed that capitalism is not synonymous with freedom. Or happiness. Or success. It is not designed for any of those outcomes. Copiosis is, but let’s stick with capitalism.
Even those who think they’re succeeding in capitalism are still suffering mightily. Nor are they free. Someone once said “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” It rings absolutely true for everyone in capitalism. You may be doing pretty well, but a lot of the well you’re enjoying is heavily dependent on the non-free status of others.
“[non-freedom usually applies] to a situation where a person’s livelihood depends on wages or a salary, especially when the dependence is total and immediate….[and that dependence is limited to a] range of …unfulfilling work that deprives humans of their “species character” not only under threat of starvation or poverty, but also of social stigma and status diminution.”
That’s what non-freedom looks like in capitalism. When someone says “Yeah but, if you give everyone the kind of freedom you’re talking about in Copiosis, then the things needing done no one will do”, they don’t realize what they’re saying.
Think about your needs in the context of modern, capitalist society and it’s really clear that our society is heavily dependent on non-freedom. The conveniences you enjoy – regular garbage pick up, food production (especially the shitty parts of that process), “waste” management (I’m referring to sewage here, separate from garbage “waste”) childcare, elderly care – all the things you’d rather not do or don’t want to do because you have other “better things to do with your time” are taken care of by others.
You explain away the fact that these people often are paid the lowest wages/salaries yet do really important work, by saying “well they’re being paid” or “That’s why I pay taxes” as if that is a good excuse for keeping people in those jobs. And mind you, most of those people in those jobs aren’t there by freedom of choice.
When people counter Copiosis saying “who will do the jobs no one wants to do?” what they are really saying is “those people doing the work that makes my life comfortable better keep doing it because I don’t want my life to change. And I’m not going to do that work. I don’t care how much better off my life may become. And I don’t care how shitty that job they’re doing is. They have to keep doing it.”
That’s non-freedom. For you and the other guy.
A person may be paid for the work, sure. But that person is doing work he MUST do. Not work he would PREFER to do. And sometimes that work is shitty, or boring, or repetitive, or hazardous, or debilitating or dehumanizing.
Those three words are scary to people who have been immersed in non-freedom all their lives as both benefactors AND beneficiaries. Unfortunately very, very few have freed themselves from this paradigm.
So of course the first thing people think of, if people are afforded the freedom to choose is “how will shit get done if we have no slaves (laborers) to do them?” Put more nicely it’s “who will do the work we need done”?
Thankfully Copiosis answers that question by offering a framework where things get done AND people are free. Without the need of human slaves.
Someone responding to our innovation recently wrote: “those of us who believe in freedom use the term communist to refer to socialists and others who advocate the creation of an oppressive, authoritarian government.”
While his assessment of our innovation could not be farther off base, his presumption of his idea of freedom as some paragon of virtue is too. His idea of freedom is based on non-freedom.
In our experience, people who say they “believe in freedom” actually believe people shouldn’t be free. We explain this clearly here. Paradoxically, we believe those who say they “believe in freedom” actually advocate for an oppressive system that, is so sophisticated in its oppression, it causes its proponents and the oppressed alike to think they’re systemically free.
But they’re not.
For clarity: a person who is free can do nothing if that’s what they want to do. A person who wants to spend all their time learning to paint, play video games all day, or fish or whatever, can. And they can do those things (or anything else) without going hungry, living on the street, or getting care for their body (or mind) if necessary. If they’re free that is. They can also get all the education they need or want to learn or improve any skill while doing whatever they want.
That’s real freedom.
And…the person exercising their freedom can do so without anyone else having to do anything they don’t want to do to support that person.
That. Is freedom. Not what we have today. The great thing is, that’s where we’re heading. Thanks capitalism!
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What people who “believe in freedom”, especially in America, advocate for is not freedom. It’s non-freedom. It’s borne of capitalism and an associated epistemology that says “humans must earn a living or they’ll become lazy”.
Proponents of such beliefs may not believe so consciously, or even intentionally, but that’s what they endorse. And there are some proponents who are intentional and vocal about it.
When a person has to “earn a living” they can’t possibly be free. When a person believes another should earn their living, that person is an oppressor.
All this ideological churn is an outcome of the deepest, most powerful feature of capitalism: one that reflects back to humanity its beliefs about itself. As you can see around you, people are getting the messages. And they’re starting to think different.
That would never have happened had capitalism not produced what it is producing.
For that, we (humanity) could be grateful for it.
Maybe in the future we will.