The internet age has the uncanny ability to spread information, much like the printing press centuries earlier. But unlike long form books, content is distilled and made ever smaller. The process of moving from books, to articles to bit sized videos is that information, tightly packed can spread, but the message becomes lost. One of those lost messages has been anti-capitalism.
In vogue with people making dating profiles and kids on campuses, anti capitalism is what it says it is: anti capitalist. Rather than call themselves socialist or communists or any other ists, millennials especially, have come to using this term to spell out their hate for the system but also in admission that the others do not work.
Having studied economics, but largely from a political standpoint, discourse around economic models really killed my faith in humanity. Our inability to understand the problems of our time will hurt all attempts to make positive change. In terms of anti-capitalism my argument, and that of notable academics like Yanis Varoufakis is, we aren’t even capitalist anymore. And I bet Marx would agree.
A philosopher by training Karl Marx came to economics through political philosophy. Back in his time there was no such school of study as economics. What we know today as economics took off with Alfred Marshall right before the turn of the twentieth century Those who did study markets and money and such were known as political economists. We could see Marx as one of them. A wonderful storyteller and brilliant thinker Marx was the one to coin the term capitalism, and give prominence to its good features. The son of a bourgeois man, Marx saw the potential in capitalism, and it made up his philosophical view of historical materialism.
Based on Hegelian philosophy, historical materialism is the process by which the material conditions of a society give rise to contradictions that push society forward. So in the Marx age feudalism was pushed out because it was capitalism that could best take advantage of the flaws in the feudalist system. Specifically around property. For Marx capitalism was the stepping stone to socialism, and finally communism. Seen as a necessary Marx knew socialism would naturally come from the class conflict, spurred by societal distinctions made between workers and owners.
Not only would Marx probably not agree with the term anti capitalist, but its very existence would prove his own failure to properly articulate his philosophical vision. Without the nuance of Marx’ philosophy, current anti-capitalists are blind to the plain fact that capitalism is dead, if not dying, and it’s to socialism, but for the rich.
Economics 101. To have perfectly competitive markets, two specific things are necessary: perfect information & competitive markets. To the first one, think of the food we consume, pumped with chemicals given names like IB345 or imudoxinol or whatever, put on the back of packaging this means basically nothing to anyone without a background in chemical gastronomy. This already is not perfect information. And this is not even mentioning the misuse of science to sell us lies on everything from lead pipes to baby formula. So already one pillar of the capitalist lie is gone. Next, perfect competition. So what kind of phone do you have again? What choice in cable provider or grocery store or news outlet do you have? More than ever the world operates on oligopolistic terms. Oil, the resource that fuels everything, is headed by a conglomerate of producers that artificially control the price called OPEC. Such a necessary good in control of so few is already justification to dismiss perfect competition as a fantasy cooked up by Ben Shapiro and the Chicago Boys. These two pillars of capitalism are far from the utopia we were told about. Without them our calculations of supply and demand are thrown out, but one could argue this is just monopoly capitalism still.
In 2020 the Federal reserve released 25% of the US money supply into markets through multiple means, including the rad new fashion called quantitative easing. First used in Japan in 2001, and later in the US in 2008, quantitative easing is the Fed’s process of propping up markets by directly releasing money through the bond market. Essentially this means that the US government is buying up private debt, and corporate shares, along with providing liquidity to banks. Paying off the debts of multi billion dollar companies and increasing stock prices, the Fed subsidizes those like Elon Musk, who instead of actually needing to make a profit can rely on the Fed to bail them out. This is on top of the near zero taxes groups like Amazon pay, while also receiving government grants. When China does the same thing it’s communist but in America it is just good ol fashion capitalism.
So as we move through this pandemic the few oligopolies like Facebook, Amazon, Chevron and Monsantos continue to pay little to no tax, get free money from the government and also are key figures in writing their own regulation. Varoufakis calls this techno feudalism, I am not sure if I agree. For me, it seems Marx was right, socialism would come after. But it’s not socialism for you or me, but the poor Jeff Bezos. Our poverty today is not at the behest of some invisible market that is technically flawless but morally corrupt. It’s the same as it was in Marx’ day and in 2000 BC. Those at the top of the hierarchy will kick the ladder down, so that no one else can climb up.