Pure capitalism is beginning to look really similar to pure feudalism. Renegade sociologist, Holly Wood explores how we’ve passively accepted the private expropriation of public wealth. 

Illustration by Rachael Bolton

Capitalism is very simple. Capitalism as an economic system is essentially defined as the process of private expropriation of public wealth. Technically, the Earth is every creature’s inheritance but we in our late modern wisdom have conceded that only a select handful of people will get to profit from its resources while the rest are forced by either gunpoint or starvation to serve them forever or die.

But of course, ironically, defining capitalism for what it is has you thinking me perfectly barbaric. What, no, you gasp and sputter. Surely, capitalism is the most just and fair distribution system of all time! No one could dream of a better, more equitable, more efficient, more beautiful social machinery than that which is spontaneously engineered by the invisible hand of the free market!

Right, the invisible hand fracking our water supply.

The invisible hand that makes our rivers flammable.

The invisible hand that cooks the ocean.

The invisible hand that is melting Antartica.

The invisible hand that chains teenage girls to sewing machines

The invisible hand that traffics children into sex slavery.

You know, the invisible hand holding humanity down by the throat.

That one.

Good stuff that, apparently.

Remember about ten years ago, the government rewarded failed banks trillions of dollars for irreparably fucking up the economy? Remember how virtually no individual responsible for the collapse lost their jobs? In fact, most of them were rewarded with very large bonus checks from their shareholder boards for demonstrating their genius in making the American taxpayer clean up the mess when they all shat the floor.

My god, it was brilliant. Hardly capitalist in the traditional, value-producing sense, but nevertheless masterful in the new capitalist art of shitbag science.

Brava, Goldman Sachs. Brava.

Have you ever stopped to consider that the majority of the wealthiest people don’t actually perform any kind of employment whatsoever? Sure, a few wealthy people run companies and shit, but most don’t. They don’t have to. Being rich means you never have to work. You earn money sitting on the toilet.
The most typical rich person lives on the compounding interest of their forebears’ estates. They don’t manage this estate portfolio themselves, no, dear god, because that would mean working. It would mean researching opportunity horizons and studying futures. Taking investment seriously would mean having to learn shit. While there are many Brahmin sons who live for investment, most of the rich kids I know waste their inheritance flitting from one rehab to the next until they shit out a kid who then wastes their share of the inheritance flitting from one rehab to the next. Rehab migration: the natural lifecycle of the bourgeoisie.

But between stints “recuperating” from doing absolutely fuck all with their lives, these shitbirds outsource their financial obligations to wealth management firms and hedge funds who take their money and make hundreds of little gambles in an effort to make them more money. And with their money so well-taken care of, the rich go back to doing fuck all while earning thousands of dollars a day in passive investment income for absolutely no godly reason.

And because the wealthy truly do not give a fuck about what these wealth managers do with their piles of money so long as those piles get appreciably bigger over time, these wealth managers in turn simply invest in shit they know will keep making money. Like deforestation. And pipelines. Or Israeli bullets that will scream through Palestinian children. Whatever sells. It’s not exactly hard to make money if you’re willing to invest in the strangling of the planet.

All this so Shitbird Jr. can Snapchat his first nervous breakdown on a yacht anchored in Ibiza.
Innovation is a distraction. Don’t kid yourself thinking our GDP grows because smart inventors are getting rich off good ideas. No. Most money is still made the old-fashioned way — through sheer violence.

Rich people force poor people to work for them for wages. The poor do not get to negotiate these wages. Wages are what the market dictates is a fair price for one hour of their labor. Though a cashier at McDonald’s handles easily hundreds of dollars in an hour, she will be paid $7.25 an hour regardless of what her employer earns from her labor and they will insist this is fair. She may hate her job and cry every night on her mother’s pullout couch wishing she could find a better, higher-paying job, but all of this suffering is her choice, obviously.

Oh, that’s right — a lot of people think that if you’re not being coerced to work by top-heavy goons by gunpoint, you’re somehow not being coerced to work. They like to spin these weird pretzels of logic where those without money or resources are actually free to live in a world where the rich have now privatized the commons and kicked out the ladder. When confronted with the reality that single moms work because if they don’t their kids are taken away, they shrug and insist those moms shouldn’t have had kids. When confronted with the bleak dilemma that many millions of chronically ill people face staying in horrible jobs every day to keep their health insurance, they shrug and insist it’s their own fault for getting sick in a country where medical care is prohibitively expensive. So on and so forth.
Capitalist shitbag science means the rationalizations for injustice never end. No, unless you’re literally being held down by gunpoint, none of this will ever qualify as coercion. They always win because you’re always free to choose something else — apparently.

Before Capitalism, what is now the United States was just a sandbox of tribes living off little more than the fish, nuts and berries they found in the woods for thousands of years. Where I live now in Northeast Pennsylvania, the Delaware tribe lived long, healthy lives primarily eating the same kind of deer that today live to fuck up my garden.

Now Capitalism has my neighbors spending most of their days driving to a job that I know pays them less than they need to feed their kids. But surely this isn’t coercion. They are free to work. And, of course, their kids are free to starve.

For reasons that lay beyond my comprehension, we call this situation progress because whatever this shitbaggery is, it more closely approximates “pure capitalism” than what the Delaware were doing.
That the deer are more free than my neighbors taunts me.

So in sum, Capitalists believe that civilization is an asymptotic function where humanity is approaching but will never reach capitalist perfection. They insist that any economic system occurring before ours must be bad since ours more obviously approximates the yet unmet capitalist ideal. They insist that because we have never achieved “pure capitalism,” the problems of modern society can and will be solved by further freeing regulated markets.

This is shitbag science. This is the argument that because we have never quite achieved perfect capitalism, none of the consequences of contemporary capitalism are problems we should solve. Instead, we should think of society as on the mend, improving as we approach greater, purer capitalism.

But the true capitalist ideal isn’t an ideal you would really want. The endgame of capitalism would be the massive expropriation of the world’s resources into the hands of a few obscenely wealthy people, leaving the vast, vast majority of Earth’s denizens propertyless and without access to the necessities for life. There would be constant violence as those at the bottom drown each other, gulping for air. We’d be seeing armed security employed in the sad work of mowing down the dispossessed. Children would be selling themselves on the street for bread and shelter. Grandparents would be swallowing the last of their pills to spare their children the extra mouth to feed.

But of course none of that is happening now because we have yet to reach “pure capitalism.”

Can’t wait to see what that looks like.

This piece was originally published on Medium and was reproduced with the permission of the author.

Holly Wood

Holly Wood

Holly first caught the bug for social analysis as a child, raised by a tiny waitress in the dying tourist town of Swiftwater, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Wesleyan University, she is now a PhD student in Sociology at Harvard. Her research focuses on understanding the needs of America's poor and working class families to better retool social policy. On the side, Holly is a student of social interaction. She writes in detail on Medium: https://medium.com/@girlziplocked.

Her guiding thought in life has always been: "He who is nice to you but is rude to the waiter is not a nice person."
Holly Wood

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10 thoughts on “Why Capitalism Is Just Shitbag Science

  1. I for one am sick of the false argument that rich people just get to sit on their money and make interest with no work. That is the most ignorant childish jealous greedy reaction and only reveals the accuser’s projection of their own laziness on people they don’t even know or understand. Have you ever tried managing a portfolio of investments against our regulation-fueled rocket-propelled levels of inflation? I don’t just have the luxury to lock my dollars in a safe and have them screw like rabbits to produce more dollars. Dollars must leave the safety of my tight grip, risked toward a hopefully-productive endeavor, one which the FDIC and taxpayer do NOT insure, and only if I’ve chosen wisely will they return to me. If I simply place them in the care of a steward, then we must both share profits and then she’s likely taking more risk with my money than she can afford to reward me for.

    1. Oooo, Chad I bet you get real mad at people on “food stamps” or Medicaid. I’m real, REAL sorry you have to manage your own money. That must feel a lot like oppression. The American people won’t stand for this wage gap much longer. Fear the pitchforks. Fear the fire.

      1. Lol, more projections there from Patricia. I’m sorry the media has brainwashed the American ambition and work ethic right out of you (do you think the centralized media structures are owned by your fellow pitchfork holders or rich guys from old money? hmmm) and replaced it with a feeling of helplessness and rage. I don’t get mad at people on food stamps, I once was one and in today’s broken economy I can’t say I wont ever need such help again. (However, I feel my local community of spiritual and religious folk and organizations are better suited to provide that help than is a government which is structured to enable corruption to thrive in darkness.) I feel compassion for the needy, pride in knowing I have helped them, blessed that I have been able to help them, and, pity that the vast majority won’t ever realize that the state structures they hope will help them is actually designed to keep them dependent. “Gap”? A truly free market results in no abrupt statistical threshold. State subsidized entitlements do create unnatural statistical aberrations that counter the effectiveness and efficiency of the markets. Any engineer worth anything will tell you that she early learned that once a measure becomes a target it can no longer be a good measure.

    2. That’s the way it used to work. It sure as hell doesn’t work that way any longer — not for the real wealth anyway. Read Michael Hudson’s “Killing the Host” and get a clue. The situation is actually far worse than portrayed by this article and unsustainable.

    3. Inflation is caused mainly by investments and debt-based loans from banks. Maing money from money means something, somewhere must cost higher to generate a profit. This is pure parasitism.

  2. This author is angry and frustrated. Yes “pure capitalism” is similar to feudalism.

    The capitalism practiced today is what, for a long time, I have termed “Hoggism,” propelled by greed and the sheer love of power over others. “Hoggism” institutionalizes greed (creating concentrated capital ownership, monopolies, and special privileges). “Hoggism” is about the ability of greedy rich people to manipulate the lives of people who struggle with declining labor worker earnings and job opportunities, and then accumulate the bulk of the money through monopolized productive capital ownership. Our scientists, engineers, and executive managers who are not owners themselves, except for those in the highest employed positions, are encouraged to work to destroy employment by making the capital “worker” owner more productive. How much employment can be destroyed by substituting machines for people is a measure of their success – always focused on producing at the lowest cost. Only the people who already own productive capital are the beneficiaries of their work, as they systematically concentrate more and more capital ownership in their stationary 1 percent ranks. Yet the 1 percent are not the people who do the overwhelming consuming. The result is the consumer populous is not able to get the money to buy the products and services produced as a result of substituting machines for people. And yet you can’t have mass production without mass human consumption made possible by “customers with money.”

    It is the exponential disassociation of production and consumption that is the problem in the United States economy, and the reason that ordinary citizens must gain access to productive capital ownership to improve their economic well-being.

    Nearly 60 years ago, binary economist Louis Kelso postulated: “When consumer earning power is systematically acquired in the course of the normal operations of the economy by people who need and want more consumer goods and services, the production of goods and services should rise to unprecedented levels; the quality and craftsmanship of goods and services, freed of the corner-cutting imposed by the chronic shortage of consumer purchasing power, should return to their former high levels; competition should be brisk; and the purchasing power of money should remain stable year after year.”

    Without this necessary balance hopeless poverty, social alienation, and economic breakdown will persist, even though the American economy is ripe with the physical, technical, managerial, and engineering prerequisites for improving the lives of the 99 percent majority. Why? Because there is a crippling organizational malfunction that prevents making full use of the technological prowess that we have developed. The system does not fully facilitate connecting the majority of citizens, who have unsatisfied needs and wants, to the productive capital assets enabling productive efficiency and economic growth.

    Kelso said, “We are a nation of industrial sharecroppers who work for somebody else and have no other source of income. If a man owns something that will produce a second income, he’ll be a better customer for the things that American industry produces. But the problem is how to get the working man [and woman] that second income.”

    Economic democracy has yet to be tried.

    America has tried the Republican “cut spending, cut taxes, and cut ‘entitlements,’ eliminate government dependency and shift to private individual responsibility” and the Democrat “protect ‘entitlements,’ provide tax-payer supported stimulus, lower middle and working class taxes, tax the rich and redistribute” through government brands of economic policy, as well as a mixture of both. Republican ideology aims to revive hard-nosed laissez-faire appeals to hard-core conservatives but ignores the relevancy of healing the economy and halting the steady disintegration of the middle class and working poor.

    Some conservative thinkers have acknowledged the damaging results of a laissez-faire ideology, which furthers the concentration of productive capital ownership. They are floundering in search of alternative thinking as they acknowledge the negative economic and social realities resulting from greed capitalism. This acknowledgment encompasses the realization that the troubling economic and social trends (global capitalism, free-trade doctrine, tectonic shifts in the technologies of production and the steady off-loading of American manufacturing and jobs) caused by continued concentrated ownership of productive capital will threaten the stability of contemporary liberal democracies and dethrone democratic ideology as it is now understood.

    Without a policy shift to broaden productive capital ownership simultaneously with economic growth, further development of technology and globalization will undermine the American middle class and make it impossible for more than a minority of citizens to achieve middle-class status.

    For putting us on the path to inclusive prosperity, inclusive opportunity and inclusive economic justice, see my article “Economic Democracy And Binary Economics: Solutions For A Troubled Nation and Economy” at http://www.foreconomicjustice.org/?p=11.

    For how to make EVERY citizen PRODUCTIVE see my article “What Is Needed To Resolve The Destruction Of American Jobs Problem?” published by The Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/593adb89e4b0b65670e569e9.

    Support Monetary Justice at http://capitalhomestead.org/page/monetary-justice.

    Support the Capital Homestead Act (aka Economic Democracy Act) at http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/, http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-a-plan-for-getting-ownership-income-and-power-to-every-citizen/, http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-summary/ and http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/ch-vehicles/.

  3. I’m trying to conjure a mental picture of a trust fund baby, with the stereotype rich kid name, Chad, who spends his day diligently managing his copious investment portfolio without the assistance of financial advisors, and then sits down in his free time to defend his capitalist work ethic in the comments section of a left wing journal. Is his pet unicorn playfully nuzzling his silk smoking jacket?

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