[p2p-research] Capitalism's Self-Inflicted Apocalypse by Michael Parenti

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Sat Aug 15 21:38:19 CEST 2009

Someone just sent me this link; some people here might like it.

"Capitalism's Self-Inflicted Apocalypse" by Michael Parenti
   After the overthrow of communist governments in Eastern Europe, 
capitalism was paraded as the indomitable system that brings prosperity and 
democracy, the system that would prevail unto the end of history.
   The present economic crisis, however, has convinced even some prominent 
free-marketeers that something is gravely amiss. Truth be told, capitalism 
has yet to come to terms with several historical forces that cause it 
endless trouble: democracy, prosperity, and capitalism itself, the very 
entities that capitalist rulers claim to be fostering.
   The corporate capitalists no more encourage prosperity than do they 
propagate democracy. Most of the world is capitalist, and most of the world 
is neither prosperous nor particularly democratic. One need only think of 
capitalist Nigeria, capitalist Indonesia, capitalist Thailand, capitalist 
Haiti, capitalist Colombia, capitalist Pakistan, capitalist South Africa, 
capitalist Latvia, and various other members of the Free World--more 
accurately, the Free Market World.
   A prosperous, politically literate populace with high expectations about 
its standard of living and a keen sense of entitlement, pushing for 
continually better social conditions, is not the plutocracy's notion of an 
ideal workforce and a properly pliant polity. Corporate investors prefer 
poor populations. The poorer you are, the harder you will work-for less. The 
poorer you are, the less equipped you are to defend yourself against the 
abuses of wealth.
   In the corporate world of "free-trade," the number of billionaires is 
increasing faster than ever while the number of people living in poverty is 
growing at a faster rate than the world's population. Poverty spreads as 
wealth accumulates.
   Consider the United States. In the last eight years alone, while vast 
fortunes accrued at record rates, an additional six million Americans sank 
below the poverty level; median family income declined by over $2,000; 
consumer debt more than doubled; over seven million Americans lost their 
health insurance, and more than four million lost their pensions; meanwhile 
homelessness increased and housing foreclosures reached pandemic levels.
   It is only in countries where capitalism has been reined in to some 
degree by social democracy that the populace has been able to secure a 
measure of prosperity; northern European nations such as Sweden, Norway, 
Finland, and Denmark come to mind. But even in these social democracies 
popular gains are always at risk of being rolled back.
   It is ironic to credit capitalism with the genius of economic prosperity 
when most attempts at material betterment have been vehemently and sometimes 
violently resisted by the capitalist class. The history of labor struggle 
provides endless illustration of this.
   To the extent that life is bearable under the present U.S. economic 
order, it is because millions of people have waged bitter class struggles to 
advance their living standards and their rights as citizens, bringing some 
measure of humanity to an otherwise heartless politico-economic order.
   In sum, free-market corporate capitalism is by its nature a disaster 
waiting to happen. Its essence is the transformation of living nature into 
mountains of commodities and commodities into heaps of dead capital. When 
left entirely to its own devices, capitalism foists its diseconomies and 
toxicity upon the general public and upon the natural environment--and 
eventually begins to devour itself.
   The immense inequality in economic power that exists in our capitalist 
society translates into a formidable inequality of political power, which 
makes it all the more difficult to impose democratic regulations.
   If the paladins of Corporate America want to know what really threatens 
"our way of life," it is their way of life, their boundless way of pilfering 
their own system, destroying the very foundation on which they stand, the 
very community on which they so lavishly feed.

Anyway, this helps explain why in theory markets work to some extent 
(ignoring external costs etc.), but in practice, if a rich-poor divide 
increases, given it takes money to make money, then eventually markets will 
fail in various ways if not taxed and regulated -- although even then, 
excessive wealth in markets may capture the taxing and regulating processes 
to their own benefit. That is one point made in "Capitalism hits the fan":

--Paul Fernhout

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