Why Jensen is wrong:

by | May 2, 2007 | Stress Blog | 31 comments

From his CounterPunch article (Me in italics. – Scott)

Here’s my shot at the language for this argument.

Capitalism is admittedly an incredibly productive system that has created a flood of goods unlike anything the world has ever seen. It also is a system that is fundamentally (1) inhuman, (2) anti-democratic, and (3) unsustainable. Capitalism has given those of us in the First World lots of stuff (most of it of marginal or questionable value) in exchange for our souls, our hope for progressive politics, and the possibility of a decent future for children.

In short, either we change or we die — spiritually, politically, literally.

Boy, oh boy.

1. Capitalism is inhuman

There is a theory behind contemporary capitalism. We’re told that because we are greedy, self-interested animals, an economic system must reward greedy, self-interested behavior if we are to thrive economically.

Already to be interested in taking care of oneself first is “greed.” But otherwise that’s about right: People are individuals and in the course of living, the choices they make – when unimpeded or subsidized by socialists – create and have created the highest standard of living in the history of the solar system.

Are we greedy and self-interested? Of course. At least I am, sometimes.

Even you?

But we also just as obviously are capable of compassion and selflessness. We certainly can act competitively and aggressively, but we also have the capacity for solidarity and cooperation. In short, human nature is wide-ranging.

So caring means to abandon individual rights in favor of state power? I am to understand that free-marketeers do not believe it within human nature to care for people?

Our actions are certainly rooted in our nature, but all we really know about that nature is that it is widely variable. In situations where compassion and solidarity are the norm, we tend to act that way. In situations where competitiveness and aggression are rewarded, most people tend toward such behavior.

Next comes “agricultural armies.”

Why is it that we must choose an economic system that undermines the most decent aspects of our nature and strengthens the most inhuman? Because, we’re told, that’s just the way people are. What evidence is there of that? Look around, we’re told, at how people behave. Everywhere we look, we see greed and the pursuit of self-interest. So, the proof that these greedy, self-interested aspects of our nature are dominant is that, when forced into a system that rewards greed and self-interested behavior, people often act that way. Doesn’t that seem just a bit circular?

Once the dictatorship of the Proletariat takes over and makes everything fair, people will stop thinking of themselves and become New Communist Men who work only for the love and justice of getting nothing for something.

2. Capitalism is anti-democratic

This one is easy. Capitalism is a wealth-concentrating system. If you concentrate wealth in a society, you concentrate power. Is there any historical example to the contrary?

This one is ridiculous. State power (our unspoken savior from freedom here) is a wealth-concentrating system. If you concentrate power in a society, you concentrate wealth. Is there any historical example to the contrary?

Democracy is anti-capitalistic. What right does anyone have to vote to rob anyone else? Am I free or not?

It is as plain as the clear blue sky that the growth of state power in the 20th century was nothing but a fascist plot to turn the U.S. Treasury and the governments various means of inflicting violence on people in order centralize wealth in ways that free markets never can. DUH!! Here. Take some of that money you “earned” from the taxpayer and spend it on The Triumph of Conservatism by Gabriel Kolko.

For all the trappings of formal democracy in the contemporary United States, everyone understands that the wealthy dictates the basic outlines of the public policies that are acceptable to the vast majority of elected officials. People can and do resist, and an occasional politician joins the fight, but such resistance takes extraordinary effort. Those who resist win victories, some of them inspiring, but to date concentrated wealth continues to dominate. Is this any way to run a democracy?

So the problem is that people are free to keep their property, not that they in fact aren’t because the U.S. congress has been given unlimited powers to separate them from it and give it to others?

If we understand democracy as a system that gives ordinary people a meaningful way to participate in the formation of public policy, rather than just a role in ratifying decisions made by the powerful, then it’s clear that capitalism and democracy are mutually exclusive.

Indeed. Democracy is the God that failed. Abolish the state!

Let’s make this concrete. In our system, we believe that regular elections with the one-person/one-vote rule, along with protections for freedom of speech and association, guarantee political equality.

And unlimited power over other people’s lives.

When I go to the polls, I have one vote. When Bill Gates goes the polls, he has one vote. Bill and I both can speak freely and associate with others for political purposes. Therefore, as equal citizens in our fine democracy, Bill and I have equal opportunities for political power. Right?

Fool! Gates never had a lobbying firm at all until the DoJ prosecuted him for competing too well. Now his interest is pleasing the state instead of his customers.

3. Capitalism is unsustainable

This one is even easier.

Easier than that?

Capitalism is a system based on the idea of unlimited growth.

Not necessarily. It’s the government (of course) inflationary monetary pyramid scheme that dictates so (while failing to deliver much of the time). Besides, doesn’t Jensen know that their are millions of starving people on the planet? He wants us to stop producing now?

The last time I checked, this is a finite planet.

Finite maybe, but big as hell too. I heard Buckminster fuller quoted as saying there’s enough for everyone forever.

There are only two ways out of this one. Perhaps we will be hopping to a new planet soon. Or perhaps, because we need to figure out ways to cope with these physical limits, we will invent ever-more complex technologies to transcend those limits.

Both those positions are equally delusional. Delusions may bring temporary comfort, but they don’t solve problems. They tend, in fact, to cause more problems. Those problems seem to be piling up.

This is just socialist religion here. I say it’s not delusional. Pretty good argument, huh? More problems? Like what? Not refrigerators right? How about Tazers in the hands of cops? Getting warmer?

Capitalism is not, of course, the only unsustainable system that humans have devised, but it is the most obviously unsustainable system, and it’s the one in which we are stuck. It’s the one that we are told is inevitable and natural, like the air.

I guess I’ll just have to argue assertion for assertion: Men are born free. It’s self evident. For example: The Americans who went to Russia to live in paradise made a choice to flee in terror when they weren’t murdered first. Being thus born free, they can do what they like with what they possess, such as, for example, let someone else use it and pay them back some dividends.

A tale of two acronyms: TGIF and TINA

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s famous response to a question about challenges to capitalism was TINA — There Is No Alternative. If there is no alternative, anyone who questions capitalism is crazy.

So what you’re saying is you have no alternative?

Here’s another, more common, acronym about life under a predatory corporate capitalism: TGIF — Thank God It’s Friday. It’s a phrase that communicates a sad reality for many working in this economy — the jobs we do are not rewarding, not enjoyable, and fundamentally not worth doing. We do them to survive. Then on Friday we go out and get drunk to forget about that reality, hoping we can find something during the weekend that makes it possible on Monday to, in the words of one songwriter, “get up and do it again.”

Imagine! Having to produce goods or provide services to make one’s way! Isn’t there some great thief in the sky who can loot my neighbors for me so I can stay home and watch Dallas SWAT? Funny thing about being able to own and trade in property: If you don’t like your job, you can make your own.

Or you can just suck off the taxpayer down at the local subsidized university teaching communism to people who can afford education because their parents – choke – produce goods and provide services.

Remember, an economic system doesn’t just produce goods. It produces people as well. Our experience of work shapes us. Our experience of consuming those goods shapes us. Increasingly, we are a nation of unhappy people consuming miles of aisles of cheap consumer goods, hoping to dull the pain of unfulfilling work. Is this who we want to be?

Yeah! Stuff sucks! I have it only to dull the pain of my corporate existence!

We’re told TINA in a TGIF world. Doesn’t that seem a bit strange? Is there really no alternative to such a world? Of course there is.

Save up and take a vacation? Find a way to make money doing what you want?

Anything that is the product of human choices can be chosen differently. We don’t need to spell out a new system in all its specifics to realize there always are alternatives.

See you guys in the Gulag.

We can encourage the existing institutions that provide a site of resistance (such as labor unions)

Who “protect” the working class from those poorer – who don’t mind.

while we experiment with new forms (such as local cooperatives).

On private property.

But the first step is calling out the system for what it is,

Still waiting for that.

without guarantees of what’s to come.

I have some.

Home and abroad

In the First World, we struggle with this alienation and fear. We often don’t like the values of the world around us; we often don’t like the people we’ve become;

Communists always think everyone is as miserable as them.

we often are afraid of what’s to come of us. But in the First World, most of us eat regularly. That’s not the case everywhere. Let’s focus not only on the conditions we face within a predatory corporate capitalist system, living in the most affluent country in the history of the world, but also put this in a global context.

Half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. That’s more than 3 billion people. Just over half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than $1 a day. That’s more than 300 million people.

Those people need property rights and fast!

How about one more statistic: About 500 children in Africa die from poverty-related diseases, and the majority of those deaths could be averted with simple medicines or insecticide-treated nets. That’s 500 children — not every year, or every month or every week. That’s not 500 children every day. Poverty-related diseases claim the lives of 500 children an hour in Africa.

I heard that’s because capitalism is rampant in Africa. All those free market societies with their low taxes… No wonder they’re poor.

When we try to hold onto our humanity, statistics like that can make us crazy. But don’t get any crazy ideas about changing this system. Remember TINA: There is no alternative to predatory corporate capitalism.

Is this guy for real or what?

TGILS: Thank God It’s Last Sunday

We have been gathering on Last Sunday precisely to be crazy together. We’ve come together to give voice to things that we know and feel, even when the dominant culture tells us that to believe and feel such things is crazy. Maybe everyone here is a little crazy. So, let’s make sure we’re being realistic. It’s important to be realistic.


One of the common responses I hear when I critique capitalism is, “Well, that may all be true,

That’s what they say huh?

but we have to be realistic and do what’s possible.” By that logic, to be realistic is to accept a system that is inhuman, anti-democratic, and unsustainable. To be realistic we are told we must capitulate to a system that steals our souls, enslaves us to concentrated power, and will someday destroy the planet.

And he’s talking about liberty, trade, and capitalism here? No, it is your employer government that is all those things you say you hate.

But rejecting and resisting a predatory corporate capitalism is not crazy. It is an eminently sane position. Holding onto our humanity is not crazy. Defending democracy is not crazy. And struggling for a sustainable future is not crazy.

Believing there is any hope for American when clowns like this represent the “opposition” to the Republican Warfare State is crazy.

What is truly crazy is falling for the con that an inhuman, anti-democratic, and unsustainable system — one that leaves half the world’s people in abject poverty — is all that there is, all that there ever can be, all that there ever will be.

God, is this thing still going? Can your Red colored glasses not observe that the world’s poverty is where the capitalism isn’t?!

If that were true, then soon there will be nothing left, for anyone.

Oh, it’s almost over!

I do not believe it is realistic to accept such a fate. If that’s being realistic, I’ll take crazy any day of the week, every Sunday of the month.

Thanks VS for the opportunity to express my exasperation at the backassward thinking of the modern day American socialist. Forgive me for treating like an email I’m angrily answering in the middle of the night.

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