|Image courtesy of SFWeekly|
This is part one of a series on local sustainability.
Capitalism is an economic system that is, by definition, run and controlled by the few.
Not too long ago, businessmen (such as Henry Ford) and most economic theorists (Keynes and his followers) understood that this system could become bloated, unworkable, and cannibalistic if it wasn't controlled to some extent by other factors, such as living wages and governmental oversight. Over the last thirty years, though, there's been a systematic undermining of those protections (or, limitations, according to the dismantlers). Wealth disparity is at an odds, and the US - through recession and bull and bear markets and this Great Recession - no longer has a fair economy.
When few people hold most of resources - most of the jobs, most of the money, most of the land in the land - those few people run the country. They control the use of resources. They control the options for well-paying, living-wage jobs. The opportunities to eat well and with comfort. The ability to be housed. To be insured against calamity or disease. The ease and access to transport.
When those few people run the country, the fate of the rest of the country rests not on the strength of the country as a whole, but on those few people. It is no longer a democracy. It is an plutarchy - control by the few wealthy for the purpose and benefit of the few wealthy.
And the hope of salvaging the country is lost when the elected and governing powers are also given to the elites. Thanks in part to rulings such as Citizens United and loopholes such as Super PACs (both were corporations and individuals are allowed to put as much money to use for whatever political purpose they choose with close to no oversight), those with the most money are now given unrestricted power to publicize the very politicians that they handpick, and therefore have unprecedented access to those politicians. When the electoral process is largely a popularity contest, the one with the most publicity wins - not the best or the most effective official, but the one with name recognition.
Even prior to CU, the big firms (whether they be agriculture or financial or oil-based) were already writing their own rules within Washington. But now, the American people have been locked out of not just the Republican base (despite the claims of the Tea Party-led pols), but the so-called Party of the People, the Democrats.
Why? Because a few people (and corporations) have access to nearly uncountable funds. Funds that we are told are used for job creation and research and development and are, therefore, untouchable. The more money they make, we are told again and again by (vocally by one party, but the message is reinforced through mainstream media and the "other" party's actions and legislation), the better chance we have to end this recession and enter into another period of unparalleled prosperity.
But that will not happen. The previous period of unparalleled prosperity neglected about a third of the US population - who couldn't even afford basic medical insurance, who lacked food security, who spent over half their income on simple rent alone, who wouldn't be able to afford their children without the basic governmental aid that is right now - yet again - being threatened.
And there is very little room for new job creation - but plenty of job loss. The old jobs of manufacturing are gone - to other countries whose infrastructures are purposefully being wrecked in order to provide cheaper workers. And the jobs of the service economy are also quickly leaving.
Capitalism needs for a few people - a fraction of a fraction of the population - to amass enough wealth and therefore make the important decisions of what should be funded - capitalism thrives on the fact that a few people are good with oddly abstract concepts like "wealth creation" and "economic growth." In order to continue in their positions of economic power, those same individuals need to make decisions to keep the growth going and the accumulated capital back to themselves. And they have full power within the legislative, executive, and judicial branches to continue this for as long as they would like.
It all sounds like a scam to me. And perhaps it is. The most complex, perpetual pyramid scheme ever.
And maybe that's why citizens are disengaged from politics and from business success. Maybe that's why we're all checking Facebook and playing Mafia Wars all day long. What else is left for us? No job is secure. And despite the protests of a good friend last night, no industry is safe.
The one-third working poor minority is growing, and more and more Americans are becoming either unemployed or underemployed - as well as those who are not even counted anymore and those who are feeding their families on minimum wages.
The ideal situation is to share the wealth, for all to have a say in how the businesses of running the country and smaller businesses are run - but in a way that is protective of all. If the ownership of a business, for instance, were equally shared (instead of the disproportion that we see in the case of stockholders), the owners of that business would all have equal say in how the business was run. Likewise, they would all want that business to run well, for they all have equal stake in the success of that business.
Their work would be more meaningful to their own success.
Next, if none of the industries are safe, what is there left to share?