Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Cancerous Growth of Capitalism

By Tom Kando

If there is anything regarding the western world’s current economic problems about which there is almost total consensus, it’s that economies must grow. No politician, economist or opinion leader questions this. But I do.

First, a personal note: why should I have to make and spend more money every year? I don’t need new things all the time. I don’t need a new car, even though the average age of my 2 Hondas is 12.5 years. They both run superbly. My friends drive BMWs and Mercedes, so the only reason I would need to upgrade would be to please them.

I-phones? I-pads? Kindles? Androids? My cell phone works just fine (in Europe too, by the way, where the Verizon I-phone does not work). I have everything I need. A beautiful house, overseas travel, Friday night out to dinner and a movie with my wife. I don’t need to “grow economically.”

And what about national economies?

The consensus is that there is only one way for the (Western) world to get out of the Great Recession and out of the debt crisis, and that is to GROW out of it. However, there is a difference between the US and the rest of the Western world: In the US, it is axiomatic that the only action required is to cut government spending. Elsewhere, people agree that the solution consists of both spending cuts and increased taxes. Not only are Europe’s weak sisters (Greece, Portugal, etc.) required to do both of these things, but even an economically healthy country such as France is about to deal with its deficit problem in both of these ways, i.e. by cutting government spending and raising revenue. So has the Conservative Cameron government in Britain. There is only one country where any talk of increased taxation is anathema - the US. I don’t get it. Isn’t what’s good for the goose good for the gander?

Not to mention the fact that recessions require government stimulus spending. The Republicans’ insistence on cutting instead of stimulating the economy reminds me of the medieval medical practice of blood-letting: More likely to kill the patient than to cure him.

So in the US, the epicenter of Capitalism, it’s all about cutting public services, all about hurting the little guy. Nowhere else in the Western world is the emphasis so stark. And not surprisingly, nowhere else in the Western world is there as large a gap between the poor and the rich.

Meanwhile, the dollar continues to decline. This sure shows how strong the US economy is, and how confident the world is in our currency. Ha!

But reduced taxes (at least those of the rich and of the corporations) are supposed to create jobs and to grow the economy. No matter that the rich are more likely to spend their money at Tiffany’s, and that the corporations are more likely to out source jobs.

“Growth” is the universal mantra, however arrived at. Opinion leaders right and left bemoan that the US only grew by 1.5% over the past years. Everyone agrees that we must grow much more, including Obama, Democrats, not just Wall Street. Why?

Growth primarily means more consumption. That’s how GNP and GDP are measured - how much do the people of a given country spend and buy.

But we don’t need to grow. Growth is bad for the world and bad for our girth. We have grown enough. You can’t grow for ever. Once you have grown from childhood to adulthood, you must stop growing. Do you want to gain weight for ever? You want to weigh 400 pounds?

The modern capitalist world’s problem is over supply! We are forced to over consume. We are like the geese being stuffed to make goose liver paté. Advertising is the very essence of our culture: the masses being made to consume what they don’t need. The trinkets, the I-phones, the I-pads, the kindles, the I-pods, the androids, annual new fashions, the planned obsolescence, a country vastly overbuilt with strip malls and commercial properties. You go see a movie at a multiplex, and they show films to audiences of 6 people.

We don’t have a demand problem. There is no scarcity. Do you see lines in front of stores, like in the Soviet Union in the seventies? We consume too much, not too little. Capitalism has become a system for producers, not for consumers. It relentlessly maximizes production and enlists the consumer to buy, to consume and to go broke, ruining his pocket book, his health and the environment. leave comment here