October 31, 2009

'Slaves lose everything in their chains, even the desire of escaping from them.

Things have to change, and one of them is capitalism.

The word ‘capitalism’ invokes an ideology which places a higher value on things (capital) than human beings (labour). A tiny number of individuals own the vast bulk of capital assets. The majority own little or nothing except their labour, and the price of that is out of their control. It is a type of slavery.

The earliest form of capitalism was called "mercantilism", and originated the Middle East. Mercantilism is roughly defined as the distribution of goods in order to realize a profit. Arabic cultures living on the great trading routes had a long history of mercantilism. The medieval Europeans essentially learned mercantilism from their Islamic neighbours and the great European voyages of discovery were entirely driven by mercantile ambitions. As time went on, mercantilism gradually evolved into economic practices which have come to be known as capitalism.

We tend to define capitalism as an economic and social system in which the means of production – tools, factories, land and infrastructure –are privately controlled. The use of human labour combined with this means of production produces goods and services which are then sold. The resultant profits are distributed to the owners or invested back into technologies and industries.

Early advocates of the use of markets did not expect the pure market mechanism to be a freestanding performer of excellence, nor did they take the profit motive to be all that was needed. The failure of free markets lies in the things that the market leaves undone. The present economic crisis has been generated by an irrational overestimation of the wisdom of market forces.

However you define it, there are truly serious defects in the existing economic arrangements and a desperate need to reform them. Capitalism is often confused with "free markets" or "democracy," but whatever we choose to call it, the thing we have is little short of an unstable, conflict-prone and class-divided society. The poor are getting poorer, the rich richer.

Marx originally aligned himself with the burgeoning capitalists, but parted from them because he thought they had become too weak.
Martin Luther King wrote: True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
Louis Kelso used the term "universal capitalism" to describe a free market system where capital would be shared by the overwhelming majority of the population.

We need a revolution to fundamentally change the nature of capitalism. Our system is weighed down by entrenched privilege. If we want more of the same all we have to do is nothing. If we want change we have to wake up and get to work.

The successful exceptions give clues as to how we can move forward towards greater economic justice - the co-operative societies and the Employee Share Ownership Schemes (ESOPS) where broad-based asset ownership by the workforce provide profits for all.

Capitalism – or whatever term you would like to use - has put a lot of food in a lot of mouths, but the benefits have not been dealt out equally. This can only be remedied by a sea change in policies. Workforce ownership in the means of production provides a neat stepping stone to a more just economic future. Unearned benefits from land-use can be shared amongst all the community.

But the benefits go beyond economics. Co-operatives, partnerships and ESOPS will also bring greater corporate responsibility because the decision making process would no longer rest in the hands of the elite few who consider themselves above the law. The working woman and man would collectively make more humane decisions. They would identify with the other ordinary working people whom any decision might affect. Would employee-owned oil producers knowingly dump toxic waste on their fellows in another country? Would partnership- owned factories choose dirty power over clean power?

If you don’t stand up, you might as well lay down.

Black communities across the USA have been savaged by the economic crisis. Black unemployment is twice that of whites - that means 40%. Millions of families are going backwards to homelessness and insecurity. Downward mobility is now a mass phenomenon.

"Banksters" are reporting super profits and giving out obscene bonuses. Their lobbyists are blocking new regulations and presiding over the largest transfer of wealth in history from the working poor to the super rich. Today, there are bank branches in almost every area - except the poorest ones where pay-day lenders reign with usury on their mind and in their interest rates.

When it comes to credit, the poor pay more - and the banks know it and profit from it. Fraud is their middle name and they need to be challenged in the courts and in the streets.

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