Will capitalism take the planet to hell in a coconut shell? Is capitalism the best known system for the creation, production and distribution of wealth? Does capitalism practise free market, and is therefore democratic? Would capitalisºm be destroyed by socialism and communism? Must capitalism go? What are the facts? The following are seven common misconceptions about capitalism.
1. Adam Smith did not invent capitalism. Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of the Nations between the 1750s and 1770s. It was a painstaking study of wealth, how it was created and distributed in Europe. It discovered that trade, within and between nations, led to exponential wealth creation. In other words, trade in goods, labour, services, capital was creative; he never espoused wealth accumulation for a few. He was concerned with the wealth mechanism; the wealth of the nations; how wealth levered its “invisible hand” through all the estates – from ploughmen, journeymen, shopkeepers to the king’s coffers. Much of his work was descriptive, detailing wealth mechanisms and trends already in existence, not prescriptive. He was an empiricist, economist, social scientist, not an ideologue.
2. Trade came before capitalism. Business and trade imply capitalism; but they are not. These are synchronous with the emergence of civil life, manufactories, towns, ports, before capitalism: in ancient Mesopotamia, China, India, Greece; in Aztec, Mayan, Incan, North American, and other pre-Columbian Pacific civilizations; in the Mediterranean and Africa, both North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Bazaars, markets, merchants, money lenders, itinerant tradesmen, independent farmers, fishermen, artisans, royal estates and charters, trading in labour, money, goods., all pre-date capitalism. Capitalism emerged in 15th Century Europe from the ruins of the feuding Church and Nobility. The Bourgeois capitalists used science, mathematics, technology, national banking in an age of Reformation, Revolution and Renaissance, to ascend to economic and political dominance; it was the revolutionary class of the day!
3. Capitalism is not the opposite of communism or socialism. Communism and socialism became crystallized in the works of Karl Marx and Frederic Engels between the 1850s and 1880s. Marx’s Das Kapital arose as a challenge to the Dickensian city ghettos, the exploitation of proletarian, factory, chimneysweep labour, the grim impacts of industrial capitalism, the “dark Satanic mills” of Europe. Like European Romanticism, it emerged as an antidote to the withering impacts of the Industrial Revolution. Like Smith, Marx was a European materialist. They were products of the anthropocentric, and ethnocentric, the anti-Pagan, the Judeo-Christian worldview of Europe, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic; and had simplified or only rudimentary knowledge of other economic or epistemological (knowledge) systems: in the Americas, Africa, the Far East (the Orient), for example. They affirmed a materialist philosophy: the vindication of the body and lot of man, not the larger planetary orb – the ecological and cosmological.
4. Capitalism is not free market. Capitalism begins with capital, financial capital, banking. The European banks in the 17th Century became the handmaidens of industrial captains, the Bourgeois gent. In time, these banks were granted the liberty to mint paper backed by gold. Much of this gold was plundered from genocidal ventures in the New World. Soon, banks were allowed to practice fractional reserve banking – that is, to lend on the basis of capital it did not possess to the tune of 89 per cent of conceptual money. And in today’s world, printed paper backed by national prestige, power and the aptitude and capacity for war. Monopolies, cartels, tariffs, excises, WTO rules, gunboat diplomacy, parliamentary law, global cabals and Ponzi schemes, all make markets unfree. Nations which are powerful in war substitute war for peace and crash the system when in economic difficulties.
5. Capitalism is authoritarian. Capitalism is a system that has amalgamated astounding volumes of capital to control the “democratic” parliaments, congresses, and senates of the planet, in capitalist nations. It owns most of the planet’s mass media; it smoothens over and alters reality, so that the “well-schooled” citizen becomes a willing tool of his own demise, and knows not, therefore, if he is coming or going. It buys and sells the media, the Church, the security, the military, the education, the trade unions, culture and aesthetics, like hot hops. It has become imperceptible ingrained. We become, as easy as Vaseline and Squeezy, the allies of capitalism’s allies and the enemies of their enemies. Capitalism is a system of ideological and physical domination of the human body and body politic. It is a shared, radioactive dogma.
6. Capitalism is symptom not cause. The rallying cry of many is that capitalism must go. But capitalism will not go just so. This is because capitalism is a symptom, not a cause. It is a symptom of Anglo-Saxon, Judeo-Christian philistinism which has overtaken mankind and the planet. It is philistinic because it is inherently anti-planet, anti-Christ, Mmaterialist, anti-poor, anti-meek, anti-giving. The planet is a vessel for permanent exploitation and conquest. It is – that is man-centered. It is ethnocentric – that is nation or tribe-centered. These worldviews derive from deeply held theocratic beliefs, homocentric myths and misconceptions, taboos and stereotypes that must be continuously questioned and challenged.
7. Capitalism cannot be reformed by capitalists. The idea that capitalism can be reformed internally by capitalists, gradually, is untenable. Capitalism metastasizes, digs in its heels, when radically challenged. Capitalism is the embodiment of, the product of, homocentricism and ethnocentrism myth/ matrix. Very few can jump out of or objectify this myth/matrix. But it must be objectified, overthrown.