Capitalism’s excesses belong in the dustbin of history

August 2, 2017

Capitalism’s excesses belong in the dustbin of history.

by Martin Kirk

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Back in February, a college sophomore called Trevor Hill stood up during a televised town hall meeting in New York and put a simple question to the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi.

Citing a study by Harvard University that showed that 51% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 no longer support capitalism, Hill asked if the Democratic party would contemplate moving farther left and offering something distinctly different to dominant rightwing economics? Pelosi, visibly taken aback, said: “I thank you for your question,” she said, “but I’m sorry to say we’re capitalists, and that’s just the way it is.”

The footage went viral on both sides of the Atlantic. It was powerful because of the clear contrast: Trevor Hill is no hardened leftwinger. He’s just your average millennial – bright, well-informed, curious about the world and eager to imagine a better one. By contrast, Pelosi, a figurehead of establishment politics, seemed unable to even engage with the notion that capitalism itself might be the problem.

It’s not only young voters who feel this way. A YouGov poll in 2015 found that 64% of Britons believe that capitalism is unfair, that it makes inequality worse. Even in the US it’s as high as 55%, while in Germany a solid 77% are sceptical of capitalism. Meanwhile, a full three-quarters of people in major capitalist economies believe that big businesses are basically corrupt.

16 thoughts on “Capitalism’s excesses belong in the dustbin of history

  1. I have always believed that unfettered capitalism is the root of the problems that the modern world is facing now. When capitalism is synonymous with greed it’s akin to the old axiom that money is the root of all evil. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with money in itself. When money becomes an end-all of human existence, it becomes untenable. Now money instead of being a servant becomes an evil menace. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?

    • Very good question to ask MO1 and FLOM !

      Better to seek good human relationships, plus respect/esteem from
      the rest of society.

      “Even if you win the rat race, you are still a rat”

  2. Most of us think of capitalism as being locked in an ideological battle with socialism, but we never really saw that capitalism might be defeated by its own child – technology.

    There’s a growing awareness in Silicon Valley of California in the challenges faced by capitalist society. Technology will continue to upend careers, workers across fields will be increasingly displaced, and it’s likely that many jobs lost will not be replaced. Hence many technologists and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are converging on ideas like universal basic income as a way to mitigate the adverse effects of technological innovation.

    I’ve attended a seminar on this topic but the material they dealt with was so futuristic and so complex that it was hard for my simple mind to grasp. After all, I’m not as smart as my mom thought me to be. (Sorry, mom.) What I got out of the seminar was that we might need a hybrid model in the future which is paradoxically more capitalistic than our capitalism today and perhaps even more socialistic than our communism of yesteryear. Which is another way of saying that socialist principles might be the only thing that can save capitalism. Failure to act might lead to a societal collapse.

  3. Yes, Capitalism needs to evolve…as the piece says…but with a hefty infusion of Socialism… post war Europeans were getting it right…until their politicians went insane…

    • Globalisation threw post-WW2 European social democratic governments into disarray.
      Currently, it looks like only the Scandinavian ones are getting it right.

    • Isa, CLF and LaMoy

      We should moved towards what John Kenneth Galbraith called “Humane Society”.

      Galbraith outlines his vision of Humane society.To prevent recurrent stagnation and unemployment, he advises active intervention by the state. Arguing that the federal deficit is being used by conservatives as a pretext to attack social programs, he recommends a progressive income tax that eliminates tax concessions for the affluent, as well as ending government subsidies for business (“corporate welfare”) and stopping the vast payments to the armaments industry.

      His Humane society also encompasses a strong environmental movement, a more open immigration policy and a sturdier safety net for the poor and disadvantaged. Though there are few surprises here, those who agree with the pragmatically liberal Galbraith that both socialism and complete surrender to market forces are irrelevant as guides to public action will find his primer a useful springboard for planning the future. Trump rejects this –Din Merican

  4. “…active intervention by the state…” (Galbraith)…that is Socialism right there…and federal deficits over an extended period indicate just one thing..that governments are not telling their citizens the harsh truth…

  5. Yes, I agree. But if by some magic the IMF and the World Bank is able to take all the wealth of world and then give every man women and child US 5,000.00 each, at the end of five years you will most likely find that all those people who are well off today will be well off then.

  6. G.K. Chesterton once argued that capitalism wasn’t really Capitalism, but corporate socialism. Fewer families owning more and more of the means of production and using the government to protect their interests. Communism on the other hand just disenfranchises the workers in the name of a vacuous abstraction “the people” or the “state’. The problem then cannot be ‘centralized’ but instead be decentralized with greater distribution of the means of production.

    If Capital were owned by as many families as possible, wealth will be allocated more reasonably. Thus he says:
    “The modern city is ugly, not because it is a city but because it is not enough of a city; because it is a jungle, because it is confused and anarchic and surging with selfish and materialistic energies.”

    Likewise Capitalism is failing not because it was capitalistic, but it wasn’t capitalistic enough. The workers, peasants sense of self determinism was hijacked by a tiny ideological faction who were neither progressive, liberal nor ethical. Democracy then becomes institutionalized as a means to divide in order to control.

    Mutualism, first developed by P.J. Proudhon is another form of economic theory is even more ‘anarchic’, but there is no need to get into that at the moment. Suffice to quote:
    “Proudhon though opposed to socializing the ownership of capital, he aimed nevertheless to socialize its effects by making its use beneficial to all instead of a means of impoverishing the many to enrich the few…by subjecting capital to the natural law of competition, thus bringing the price of its own use down to cost.”

    Yup Din, i admire Galbraith for his ideas on post-materialism and technostructure, but like Krugman regard him as a ‘policy entrepreneur’ who writes solely for public consumption – without the depth and clarity of enabling new insights. Since, i’m no economist and much less academically inclined i’d just present Galbraith’s ‘Age of Uncertainty’:

  7. //crypto-currency-based universal basic income
    I would agree with LaMoy. There is no socialist in the game of Monopoly even when everyone does get paid $200 in every round. Bitcoin in nature is no different from gold. Gold does not make the world fair. Neither does gold. I am a Sanders, Jill Stein fan. But, bitcoin and universal basic income is no solution to Capitalism.

  8. For Capitalists to remain so and continue to fatten themselves even more, they have to suck the blood of others (so to speak) they lord over. What they throw to others is bread crumbs and what they keep for themselves is the main dish.

    The economic and political systems are largely and invisibly manipulated and reshaped by this class to bring outcomes favourable to them. They may be stopped in their track by occasional fire-breathing politicians and revolutionaries leading to new regime. But what is radically new generally does not last long. The Capitalists have money power and trusted and influential contacts in State Organs and Political Parties to bring about a new order of political state that does not undermine but serve their interests.

    The State can slay an individual Capitalist but not the Capitalist class. Even if it can, Capitalism will bounce back as history has shown. But for now, Global Capitalism reigns supreme.

  9. This type of article needs to be critically read:

    1) Capitalism is bad compared to what?
    Mr. Kirk: to an imagined more equitable system

    2) What is the cost of creating the imagined equitable system?
    Mr. Kirk: I don’t know. Cost does not matter, “equality” is itself a goal.

    3) What is the hard evidence of making the imagined equitable system works?
    Mr. Kirk: I don’t know for sure. But it got to be a better system, right.

    Here are the my answers:
    1) Capitalism is bad compared to what?
    Ans: Capitalism excess is bad compared to plain vanilla capitalism. But capitalism is better compared to all known systems of economy.

    2) What is the cost of creating the imagined equitable system?
    Ans: A person treat others well because of the person’s characters as taught by family, friends, teachers, and religion teachers. There is no short cut (i.e. cost a lot) to imagined equitable system, unless ones are so smart to comprehend all factors of human society. Karl Max was one of the smart Alex – how good his short-cut theory worked.

    3) What is the hard evidence of making the imagined equitable system works?
    Ans: there are plenty of evidences showing that plain vanilla capitalism pulls unprecedented number of people from poverty; inequality persists under capitalism but inequality in itself is not as bad as poverty.

    • 1. There are different forms of capitalism e.g. the Swedish variety, the Japanese variety, the Singaporean variety, the brutish American variety (where employees can be given the pink slip at any time, even when the company is making lots of profits), the 1Malaysian crony capitalist variety.

      2. Your hero Donald Trump is a man of good character?
      A violator of the US Costitution and a person who plays on
      social divisions?

      3. Karl Mar’x critique of unbridled capitalism remain powerful.
      However his predictions did not come to pass (unbridled capitalism morphed into the welfare state under social democratic governments)
      and his “dictatorship of the proletariat” line gave an excuse for people like Lenin, Stalin, Mao etc. to rule in totalitarian ways.
      And before you try to label me as a Marxist far leftist, I want to emphasise I am a non-Marxist social democrat, but I respect Marx for his powerful writings on capitalism and his discussion of
      “alienation” under capitalism.

      Check out my section on Karl Marx’s thought in my new free e-book
      “Basic Sociology”. Go to and click on the link at the bottom of the webpage.

  10. Playing with words will not take discussion further…unregulated corporate Capitalism, which is the issue, is a far cry from Capitalism…

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