Unbridled Capitalism is Dying.
And now is the time to replace it with something better.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re in parts of Europe, Latin America, or the United States. We don’t have to travel far to see the consequences of the increasing hostilities and polarization between the left and the right of the political spectrum. Whether it’s Donald Trump inciting increased fear and anger towards immigrants and Muslims, or the Brexit movement in the U.K., there are clear indications of rising frustration wherever we look.
The world is a mess. But it isn’t enough to just acknowledge that. It’s important to take this pivotal moment in history to determine the root causes of what’s happening around us, so that one day we can hope to not repeat it. So, what has lead to this increased polarization that’s spread throughout the globe? Why are marginalized, disenfranchised people ending up in this all too familiar place where they are made out to be the reason behind all of our problems? How have we allowed ourselves to get to a place where we believe that the most powerless among us are the reason fewer and fewer of us have any power at all?
The answer is unbridled crony capitalism, and it’s dying.
Let us be clear. There really is no such thing as a “free market”. The whole concept of the free market and essentially capitalism itself has become so engrained in western society, that we tend to view it as if it’s this unique force existing in nature, rather than just another idea that can evolve or be cast aside. The whole concept of capitalism’s free market enterprise is so dominant within our cultural mindset that we’ve forgotten just how fragile it really is.
Unbridled capitalism was not implemented by or for the good of the every man.
More often than not, capitalism’s free market evolves into the crony economic system we see today. It is a system that frequently involves the very richest among us using their positions of power and privilege to exploit that free market, and convince or force us to go against our own best interests. While we would be doing a much greater service to our communities and economies by shopping at our local businesses that might have to charge a little more, our system often ensures we are too poor to afford it. Instead, we are forced to turn to the large multinational corporations like Walmart. Just another unfathomably large business that is keeping their employees poor in the first place.
Capitalism has been pitched since its inception as a system that was designed to extol the entrepreneur and benefit the consumer, but I would argue that naturally evolves in to something that does the exact opposite. If capitalism was really designed to lift up the average small business owner, the employees who work within this economic system would actually be able to afford to contribute to these small businesses.
But what is it about this system that makes it a toxic bubble just ready to burst?
Capitalism by design relies on misinformation. There has to be something that those who actually benefit from this system can point to, and offer as an explanation to the masses as the reason why they’re not able to afford to put food on the tables for their families. All too often, that explanation they offer is the poorest among us, and/or the social safety nets in place to keep them from sinking even lower.
While some might say that socialism by itself cannot succeed because it goes against human nature, I would argue that capitalism by itself cannot succeed because it brings out the very worst of it. We are seeing firsthand how these deep-seeded economic frustrations have nurtured the widespread prejudices that I would say are also a product of capitalism. The racial hatred still present in our society was — and still is — used as justification for the need in a crony capitalist society to keep certain groups of people below others in the name of profit.
Unbridled capitalism like the kind dominating our society can only exist for so long, before the frustration of the working and continually shrinking middle class ultimately destroys it. It is not an exaggeration to say CEOs, pharmaceutical, and healthcare companies are allowed to make a profit by forcing people to die in the streets, and rob them blind just for what they view is the privilege to live. Not only is that kind of system abhorrent, but it cannot be sustained. Capitalism will only draw a profit so long as people can actually afford to participate within its economy, and the richest among us can only steal from the masses for so long before they are rendered entirely incapable of being able to contribute to their wealth.
As a species, we don’t always do so well with change.
No matter how desperately we may want to envision ourselves one day living in a democratic socialist system more like Denmark, Norway, or Sweden, we are conditioned to believe that isn’t a possibility. And why is that? Realistically, we cannot expect our crony capitalist society to be reigned in and scaled back without those who profit from it doing everything they can to keep it in place. All too often we convince ourselves that there is no perfect system in this imperfect world, but we must remember we can see firsthand that there is at least something a great deal better.
We are fortunate enough to live in a time where a significant number of us are no longer buying in to the narrative designed to demonize and turn us against once another. As dark and scary as these times might be given everything that’s going on, this is the moment for change. It is a time to engage in reflection, pick apart the ugly flaws within our society like racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., and analyze from a historical and cultural perspective how we got here. Only by doing that can we move beyond this immoral and dying system, and the only way we can stop ourselves from ending up here again is not by starting the same thing over, but by starting something new.