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Capitalism Is Dead (It Just Doesn’t Know It Yet)
The game is over. Corporations won
“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.” — Benito Mussolini
Capitalism is dead.
It just doesn’t know it yet.
Before we dive into why capitalism is dead, it’s important that we understand a few terms so we’re all on the same page:
Communism is the common ownership of all property, achieved through revolution. (This is not great.)
Socialism is the common management of all industrial and productive property, achieved gradually. (This is not great.)
Capitalism is the private ownership of all property for private gain. (This is not great.)
Now that we’ve got some terms down, let’s dig into why all three are guaranteed to fail, and what we can and should do about it.
Communism is a terrible idea.
Bureaucrats and idealogues literally do not know how to run a business, which is why they became politicians in the first place. To think that they can master-plan a whole command economy, not steal a huge chunk of the wealth for themselves, and not see the masses suffer in crushing poverty is laughable.
A communist “success story” literally has no historical precedent, because it is impossible to successfully execute in practice. Even the Ch!nese government practices capitalism abroad to enforce communism at home.
Because Marx based communism on Chr!stian principles. The breathtaking phrase “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is lifted directly from Acts 11:29 and Acts 4:35.
It is this lofty ideal to which communists strive, and clearly, this would make for the best possible world — but how could a secularist state use (anti-Christian) force to compel millions of people to act like Jesus and selflessly serve strangers and even enemies? It just can’t happen at any scale.
Instead, communism ends in despotism and dictatorship, with sociopaths hoarding most of the resources while the vast majority starve.
Socialism is a terrible idea.
While not as violent or militant as communism in its takeover approach, it still relies on the faulty notion that low-skill politicians somehow magically know what’s best for every single person in a nation and should therefore be put in charge of all industrial and productive property, IE, the economy.
Like communism, a socialist “success story” literally has no historical precedent, because it is impossible to successfully execute in practice.
Because when a handful of people control the economy, things fall apart. Economics is a game of specialization, of supply and demand, and thousands of other variables that no few dozen folks can keep in their head.
There is certainly room in society for a measure of democratic socialism, and in the states for a tiny bit of it has been tried — namely, the Nordic countries — it seems to have some pretty great outcomes for the contributor class.
But because true democracy has never actually been tried by any nation in history, socialism ends in despotism and dictatorship, with sociopaths hoarding most of the resources while the vast majority starve.
Rules-free-market unfettered capitalism is a terrible idea.
Capitalism is the private ownership of everything for private profit.
Most people love a good little bit of capitalism; even those brave We Are The 99% Wall Street occupiers owned their tents and bandanas.
I love owning (or rather, stewarding) my own socks and shoes.
Admit it: Most of you love owning your phones.
But I’ve been to North Korea and have seen first-hand what happens when people own nothing, including their own clothes. It’s terrifying.
Capitalism’s biggest flaw is that people love money, and capital quickly becomes sovereign over democracy. It’s like capitalism is loaded with an IED, a handmade dirty bomb that’s ready and willing to blow itself up.
As we have seen time and again, if private ownership capitalism isn’t strictly governed by real democracy, it quickly falls into corporatism, oligarchy, feudalism, or worse.
Perhaps a little context is necessary:
Jeff Bezos controls Amazon, Whole Foods, The Washington Post, IMDB, Zappos, Souq, Blue Origin, Kiva Systems, Alexa, DPReview, Fabric.com, Woot, Goodreads, Twitch, Audible, Elemental, Quidsi, Annapurna Labels, Accept, Living Social, Twilio, HomeGrocer, Bill Me Later, eZiba, BankBazaar, Kozmo, Ionic, Songza, and Wine.com. Plus he has VC stakes in Lookout, Juno, Grail, Workday, Vessel, Domo, Fundbox, Stack Overflow, Everfi, Remitly, Rethink Robotics, General Fusion, MakerBot, Unity Biotech, General Assembly, Business Insider, Google, Uber, and Airbnb. Plus he owns at least eight mansions and 100,000+ acres, a $500,000,000 hyper-yacht, and a bunch of penis-shaped rockets. He recently devoured MGM and immediately announced a cheesy 007 James Bond reality show.
Warren Buffett owns massive chunks of nearly fifty companies including Apple, Amazon, Amex, Bank of America, Chevron, Kraft, Mastercard, Sirius, Visa, Wells Fargo, P&G, Johnson & Johnson, Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom, GM, Merck, T-Mobile, GEICO, and Coca-Cola, which itself has devoured more than 400 competing drink companies.
It makes you wonder when monopolists will stop growing larger and larger. And then one day it occurs to you…
They will not stop until they are stopped.
The end of capitalism
There are currently over 2,750 billionaires on Earth.
In the year 2000, billionaires controlled less than $1 trillion.
Today, they control more than $13.1 trillion.
1350% growth in a single generation.
And they’ve grown their wealth by $5.5 trillion during the pandemic so far.
The world’s richest eight men now own more than the bottom 4 billion.
Meanwhile, 690 million people go to bed hungry every night. 5.5 million people move into slums each month. 9 million people die from starvation each year.
Pretend for a moment that we held a global referendum and asked the following question: Is it moral and right to allow individuals to hoard extreme wealth in the face of overwhelming widespread poverty, documented democratic subversion, and environmental catastrophe? If humanity saw itself as the global family that it truly is, it would be morally impossible to not limit the amount that one family member could hoard while another suffered and died.
Let us do a bit of math and chart our trajectory. When will billionaires stop amassing more wealth? The answer is clear: They won’t. Our total global wealth is currently $431 trillion. In the past twenty years, billionaires have grown their wealth by 13.5 times, to $13.1 trillion, far outpacing the poor and total growth in global wealth. At their current pace, billionaires will control $176 trillion in twenty years and $2.3 quadrillion in forty.
You heard that right: If we do not stop them, and they continue amassing capital at their current pace, billionaires will control the entire globe’s resources within our lifetime.
In other words: Capitalism is dead.
Capitalism is a game that requires a huge amount of players. Reduce the number of players to hold-only investor-players while eliminating the work-players and consumer-players and there literally is no game.
The gold is in the middle
It is perhaps ironic that all three systems (communism, socialism, and capitalism) tend to end up at the same place — with a dictatorial, centralized, command economy.
All three systems are naively idealistic — and all three fail in practice because of human nature.
What, then, should we do?
In Aristotelian philosophy, adherents are encouraged to seek the golden mean, the preferred middle way between the extremes.
Do we really want unlimited private wealth hoarding or unlimited government wealth control?
To me, it makes the most sense not to ban private property, nor to make all property public, but to place reasonable democratic limits on private property and public property. The reality is that today’s billionaire monopolists simply will not stop until they are stopped.
For some reason, the idea of placing any sort of reasonable ceiling on personal wealth accumulation is a horrifying thought to many small Western minds. As Thomas Paine said:
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”
Fish do not know they live in water. We have been raised in a dog-eat-dog-survival-of-the-fittest-winner-take-all-losers-suffer-and-die economy, but the cold reality is that unlimited individual wealth accumulation is a moral crime against those in poverty.
The solution is frightfully simple
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” — Archbishop Hélder Câmara
The permanent solution to unbridled capitalism is a “radical” idea that will be common sense to future generations:
Individual private wealth must be limited.
As one Redditor put it:
“Once you reach 999 million dollars, we give you a plaque that says, “Congratulations, you won capitalism,” and we name a dog park after you.”
Luckily, every sane person on earth believes in limiting private wealth. To prove this thesis, we simply have to take it to the extreme: Should one person be allowed to control the entire globe’s resources while the other eight billion starve to death on the streets? Every lucid person on earth would say no.
Obviously, we can democratically bicker over the exact number for our new global private wealth limit — 10 million, 100 million, even 1 billion — so long as we agree on the underlying fundamental that private wealth must have an upper limit.
Older right-leaning billionaire sycophants may scream “Communism! or Socialism!” But they fail to realize that I am not advocating for central ownership or central control of the economy. That’s what billionaires are actively working on.
The only way to protect capitalism is to democratize capitalism. Without reasonable limits on private ownership, capitalism is replaced by corporatism, and then despotism.
Limiting private wealth isn’t optional for the survival of our species: it’s now required for the survival of all species. In the time it took you to read this far into this article, the world’s billionaires gained $62 million while sixty people moved into slums and thirty children died of hunger.
There is a likely-apocryphal story attributed to Michelangelo about the carving of his seventeen-foot marble statue of David, which is often cited as the world’s greatest sculpture. When asked how he did it, he supposedly replied:
“It was easy. All I did was chip away everything that didn’t look like David.”
This is what the Latins called Via Negativa… the art of adding by subtracting. There is much to be done in this world, and much of it is an undoing.
When it comes to economics, via negativa might be all we need to reasonably level the playing field.
If any democracy chose to eliminate the axis of economic evil — interest, rent-seeking, and corporate profit — the societal benefits would be deep, wide, and long-lasting.
Ban these three forms of exploitation and the billionaire and monopoly bubbles will quickly deflate.
Ban these three forms of economic exploitation and innovation will explode.
Ban these three forms of exploitation and affordability will quickly return to the masses.
Interest, rent-seeking, and corporate profit are the weapons by which extractive capital wages war on the contributing commons.
Sadly, the average person is asleep at the wheel of life, not realizing they are hurtling toward a world without any private ownership for themselves or anyone they know.
For the masses, capitalism is dead.
They just don’t know it yet.
Jared A. Brock is an award-winning biographer, PBS documentarian, and the cell-free founder of the popular futurist blog Surviving Tomorrow, where he provides thoughtful people with contrarian perspectives on the corporatist anti-culture. His writing has appeared in Esquire, The Guardian, Smithsonian, USA Today, and TIME Magazine, and he has traveled to more than forty countries including North Korea. Join 20,000+ people who follow him on Medium, Twitter, and Substack.