Is it just me, in the runup to Christmas, that can’t stop thinking about Capitalism? As its the season of wish fulfilment, I’ve put Capital by Karl Marx on there, along with a juicer, a DVD of It’s a Wonderful Life, and a Norwegian Style Jumper from Primark.
Without having read Marx yet, what I can say about capitalism is this : profit is made from using what money or resources you already have to make more, and the more people you have working for you the more you can make, and the bigger the difference between what you pay your workers and how much you make from their work, the bigger your profits.
The only limit on this being how many hours you can get from your workers, and of course, the limits on how you can treat them, imposed eventually, and long overdue, by governments. They listened for far too long and with far too much sympathy to the businessmen who proclaimed their value to the economy, and claimed they couldn’t survive without slave labour, then child labour, then banning unions, then exporting production to the ‘Developing World’, now zero hours contracts.
And they have some powerful guys on their side :
The idea of getting people to work for free occurred early and was applied with enthusiasm globally : slavery was the basis of capitalism because it obliged people to work, firstly by genocide and landgrabbing within Africa, then by the imprisonment, forced labour, dehumanisation and more genocide on the descendents of the survivors of this process : these are the foundations on which the prosperity of the ‘Free’ or ‘ Developed’ World is built.
Nowadays, apparently, we do things differently : mass enslavement and brutalisation is not an acceptable business strategy, per se, at least in the UK : but because the origins of global corporations are in the Perpetration of Evil, maybe its not such a great surprise, that a couple of hundred years later they are still very much in evidence.
I have been reading recently about the wholesale destruction of the rainforest in central Africa, to make way for oil-producing palm oil plantations. You may think you never eat this stuff : but apparently enough of us do, that without it Mr Kipling would either be out of business, or simply using a more traditional, but more expensive, local ingredient, and making a few pennies less profit on every nutrient free item in the production line.
The picture of the rainforest in Brazil above came from this explanation of the links between economic growth and deforestation : http://rainforests.mongabay.com/amazon/amazon_destruction.html
If I had a choice of what life to lead, I am not sure I would choose to be a hunter-gatherer, with my life dependent on the weather, the outcome of chance meetings with large predators, and my ability to survive childbirth : the value inherent in individual consciousness is of huge importance to me. I am glad for every day I don’t have to spend searching for enough calories to keep going : whether working for a global corporation or living off the land.
It often seems that the only way out of capitalism is through capitalism : from eco-villagers to co-housers, from organic garden volunteers to ethical food businesses : all have benefited from capitalism’s surplus to fund their escape. From doctors to designers, we are all paid from the surplus produced by the exploitation of slaves, but does it have to be so?