The hounds of capitalism

Posted 05.18.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | There are a small number of Post readers who seem avid fans of capitalism. Their discussions are academic since theres no strong alternative on the horizon, but this is a topic with a life of its own which continually resurfaces.

Capitalism's supporters reach back into history, seeking to show that there has been a steady improvement in our social structures, with free-enterprise capitalism a flowering of this process. Of course, socialists see a very different history -- as do anarchists and libertarians and the rare neo-fascist.

History can seem to back up almost any theory, so history is hardly convincing -- for anyone's theories. Marx, for example, was certain he had proven that communism is the final flowering of history.

My puzzlement over such blind support for capitalism grows from my personal frustration with our economic system. Why would we want more of a system which must lie to us, apparently, to sell us their products (wall-to-wall advertising, deceptive packaging, hidden ingredients, phoney stats and testimonials).

"The lie" is fundamental to any defense of capitalism, it seems. A common argument is that capitalism gives us "free choice", which other, communitarian systems do not (apparently).

Which choice? The hundreds of look-alike toothpastes, breakfast cereals or detergents? If choice is based on irrelevancies ("all-new flip-top"), does this really qualify as choice? Shouldn't "choice" be reserved for more important decisions, not the flavour of mouthwash?

And if an economic model is based on widespread subterfuge for its success, is that, in essence, a successful economic model? Isn't it a desperate one, one which has to be sold to us, and sold on the basis of irrelevant, false or emotional criteria?

And, oh advocates of the world's corporate superstructure, why are you so keen to defend a system with so few actual players who benefit from it, and from which you yourselves hardly benefit -- apart from a thousand choices of toothpaste, high heels or outboard motors. Shouldn't there be something in it, really in it, for you?

And is an economic system an honest one which requires a huge police and regulatory structure to keep its players honest? Should we need bureaux, inspectors, and regulations on product and workplace safety, false advertising, predatory pricing practises, and exploitive labour relations if this economic system were really working for the benefit of society as a whole (and not just its shareholders and owners)?

Should we need anti-cartel, anti-trust measures for a fair system? Microsoft, Google, Apple, and all giants have had their games called by the referees.

And since we are proud to live in a democracy, is it acceptable that our economic partners are constantly trying to subvert democratic agencies -- buying up media to control the message, buying political parties, and buying representation on commissions, boards, and agencies which are supposed to be regulating these very players?

This last point, controlling the message, may be the answer to all my puzzlement: if we don't have a clue what's really going on, it can sound good.

Does all this sound good to you?


Copyright © 2016 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/05.16