An alternative to capitalism

Harry Cook is rightfully concerned with what new political economy can replace what we today laughingly call "capitalism," aka the current wasteful, repressive, anti-democratic, politically corruptive, labor exploitive, ecological nightmare system that cannot function without regular and massive injections of taxpayers' money (see Cook's July 16 guest opinion "Where is the alternative to capitalism?").

Yes, transitions are difficult. As Eve said to weepy Adam upon their eviction from paradise, "Where do we go from here?"

As a preface, let me make it clear that our nation is one short step away from fascism. That is, government under corporate control and dedicated primarily to the care and feeding of vested economic interests, a system maintained by ceaseless propaganda and indoctrination in TIA — "There Is No Alternative" to capitalism. The corporate mass media do a fine job of indoctrination in this matter, while our underfunded public schools are unable to cope with educating the children of so many millions of impoverished, excluded and alienated citizens.

At the same time our political class, our "representatives," are, with few exceptions, beholden to corporate interests that provide the funds for their campaigns — in a less besotted age it would be called "bribery."

Harry lists some of the impediments to change: for example, an apathetic and uniformed electorate — both conditions, by the way, exactly how the Ruling Class wants citizens to be.

He also claims that there is no actually working "socialist economy," which will surprise American right-wingnuts who see Scandinavia and even France as "socialistic." It is true that those political economies retain a great deal of private ownership of the means of production, but, really, those "capitalist" entities are under very tight democratic supervision and social control — to the extent that Norwegians see President Barack Obama as a very conservative, rightwing president, as indeed he is. My point is, give me those Scandinavian models as the first significant step toward true socialsm.

Harry insists that, if we are to install socialism, we must first "replace the market mechanism of capitalism, especially the investment function." It seems to me that, on its record, if there is anything in capitalism that demands replacement it is precisely those two functions: Both the capitalist market and the capitalist investment function have utterly failed (to say nothing of being ecologically disastrous) and must be replaced by something that is at once rational and supportive of a fair and decent society for all.

Were it possible in our crippled democracy (or "demockery"), we could so direct and control our economy in ways that benefitted all instead of just the top 2 percent and their subordinates. This would entail, of course, the end of our "consumer economy," the end of what Alexis de Tocqueville described as Americans "incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives." Without a "capitalist" in sight, we have the ability to provide sufficient, healthy, sustaining food, clothing, shelter, health care, lifelong education and access to recreation and the natural world. That is, a decent life for all, allowing everyone the full self-realization of their human potential.

Of course, we must give up the "American Dream" of never-ending gluttony and find our place in a steady-state economy within an ecologically sane world. That is, I maintain, a small price to pay for such a human and humane society.

Gerald Cavanaugh is a retired professor of history and social theory who has lived in Ashland for 15 years.

Share This Story