Thursday, September 30, 2010

Capitalism has got to go

The other night, Susan and I saw a television commercial for a new and infinitesimally improved type of contact lens, and we thought, "All the money (millions and millions of dollars) that goes into developing and marketing such an unnecessary product as this." (And this is hardly the most egregious example!)  Meanwhile, a 3 year old toddler is being gunned down on the streets of Boston. This is crazy!  It's just crazy!  Capitalism is MANIFESTLY unable to deliver resources according to need, except in the sick, twisted, circular definition of "need" put forward by capitalism's apologists.  We can pay millions for trinkets, but we can’t afford the policing, educational resources and jobs programs that would make inner city youth feel they had real life alternatives other than joining a gang and dealing drugs.  How much longer can we tolerate this monstrous system?

The rationalizers of markets claim that capitalism will reflect peoples “real” needs, as determined by their marginal utility.  That people’s “free market” decisions reflect their marginal utility isn’t really something that can be proven – it’s taken as self-evident.  And since we can’t know what is in people’s minds except by their actions (as expressed in their market behavior), the only way we have to measure people’s needs is by what the market produces.  This leads to the circularity in the argument that says market outcomes are good because the only way we can know what is good is to look at what the market produces, which, since markets satisfy peoples real needs, which can only be measured their market behavior, must be good.

The problem is that market theory fetishizes isolated, individual, decision making models, but this is not the way we make our BEST decisions.  Our best decisions are made collaboratively, after discussion and deliberation with our friends and other interested parties.  That is to say that GOOD decisions are made collectively, deliberatively, democratically.  Classical economics has built a whole theory of “optimal” resource distribution around the WORST kind of human decision making – isolated, individual, selfish, snap-judgments.

Now there’s a word for making economic decisions collaboratively, deliberatively, and democratically.  That word is SOCIALISM.  Socialism gives us a theory of resource distribution based on the BEST kind of human decision making.  Capitalism gives us a theory based on the worst kind.  And so capitalism always gives us bad results.  Capitalism gives us the things we think we need when we’re unconsciously reacting to hormonal stimuli (don’t even get me started on advertising...)  It does NOT give us the things we would REALIZE that we needed if we stopped and thought, listened to other people, and considered what our priorities really were.  And THAT leads to horrible maldistributions of resources in ways that don’t satisfy ANY of the needs that most of us REALLY feel.  As the sorrowing parents of far, far too many murdered children, in Boston and elsewhere about this nation and the world, could tell you.