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The Triumph of Engineering and the Failure of Capitalism -- Will It Produce Socialism of Feudalism?

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Many have concluded that capitalism has beaten all its rivals. "Destroyed" provides a better characterization of the result. Capitalism out-produced the competition and smothered it with goods and services. Definitions of capitalism reveal little. It is usually associated with market hegemony. I have developed an algorithm that describes its fundamental function: take as much in resources from the earth as possible with as little labor costs as possible. I label that algorithm the "ethic of the machine."

Capitalism used technology as its primary means for transforming resources into money. Turning real wealth into virtual wealth (capital) is the business of capitalism. The capital created provides the means of accelerating the process as government prints more money to reflect, for example, the conversion of trees into lumber or the conversion of government debt into bank assets.

Profits increase with scarcity (higher prices), expansion ("growth") or lower labor costs (through automation, outsourcing to cheaper labor markets, braking unions, etc). Hence, conservation and collective bargaining are dirty words in the lexicon of capitalism. The more oil companies pump, the more they make. The lower the wages paid, the more money they can keep.

However, the unintended consequences of the ethic of the machine render capitalism a suicidal strategy -- a short-term fix that cannot be maintained. The few centuries capitalism has been around do not permit a conclusion that it has stood the test of natural selection. Resources are finite, and work is necessary for people's health. Present generations perceive the ethic of the machine as beneficial because technology temporarily suspended the Malthusian trap. (Population growth rates exceed food growth rates.)

The malaise and the chaos now exhibited worldwide have their roots in the ethic of the machine. The exhaustion of resources and the diminishing rewards of labor make it obvious that industrialized countries cannot maintain present modes of production and consumption while those not industrialized continue to face the Malthusian trap. Because few will face up to those facts, present strategies for "conservation" either produce counter-productive results by trading one cause of resource depletion for another or merely providing yet another industry using the same old means of production. Meanwhile, corruption in government increases as money itself becomes the basic resource in the "service" economy. The government now prints money to cover things like interest on money. Inflation can make most of us poor. Just look at health care costs.

Engineering "fixes" govern everything from agriculture to satellites and now embrace genetic tinkering, changing life itself. More unintended consequences lie ahead. While technology can create all kinds of adaptations, only a science that clearly understands natural selection can determine which of those adaptations will serve the survival of the species. In the atomic age, a less comprehensive test of technology's impact will not do.

Present trends indicate an overpopulated future, one short of even the most basic needs (such as water), with ever more scarce and expensive fuel and food supplies and poison everywhere. The question is: How can we adapt to the future? The principle problem is the lack of imagination required to see where we are going. We are what we adapt to. Once we adapted by hunting. We worshiped animals and did not waste them. Now we adapt to making money. We worship it and respect little else. Greed and waste have reached levels not imagined by kings.

Capitalism certainly will not arrest the suicidal means of production now so profitable in terms of creating virtual wealth. Yet, much is being done to preserve it and to continue discrediting socialism, ignoring the fact that all capitalist economies have found it necessary to redistribute wealth and provide social services. From the beginning of WWII to the present, the military located its bases in poor parts of the country and provided millions of jobs and many benefits. The tax code subsidizes many activities. Capitalism's most dramatic failure, the Great Depression, was followed by a permanent wartime economy -- the Cold War to the War on Terrorism -- a very narrow form of socialism financed in part by the international sale of weapons that keep falling into the wrong hands.

Other restricted forms of socialism have followed. Corporate control of politics has generated a government that allows the privatization of profits while socializing costs. Present socialism in America guarantees the profits of the elite while nickel-and-diming those who remain unemployable as a consequence of automation and of exporting manufacturing to cheap labor markets. Extortion in the pricing of things like drugs enjoys tacit government approval. Corporate subsidized conservative talk shows tell outrageous lies to entice people to turn off any empathy they might feel for the victims of corporate profiteering at the expense of labor. The money tribe is financing a war on labor.

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There are two fundamental choices for adapting to the future. One pools resources, determines divisions of labor based on merit, shares the product, and regulates everything based on what will serve survival of the species -- including the preservation of the kind of labor we were genetically designed to do and the equitable distribution of wealth. This is the form socialism must take. The other choice creates a caste system wherein one class acquires the right to expropriate other people's labor.

The efficiency required to survive requires a reinstatement of the commons, the pooling of resources. The most efficient automobile when multiplied by millions will never achieve the efficiency of well-designed public transportation. People need work more challenging than walking dogs. Health care is everybody's problem and should not be a source of profit for middlemen. A victim economy has arisen to help fill the void left by exporting manufacturing.

The Civil War continues in America. The South lost only the military phase of it. For anther century, white supremacy continued through terrorism. The Civil Rights acts of the 1960s drove white supremacy further underground. White supremacy[1] has even bigger plans for the future of servitude -- the destruction of government by political means that will allow the money tribe to make most of us pay outrageous prices for everything from water to health care while accepting minimum wage employment.

The issue raised by the continuing civil war turns on how we will adapt to the resource shortfall and population surplus destroying our land and cultures. Will it take the form of a just socialism or create an industrial feudal society with the new lords and ladies of money and the new serfs -- a marginally employed work force. That dynamic defines the struggle now going on in Washington and state houses -- a struggle that the people are currently losing to corporate greed.

Instead of responding to the shortfall in resources with greater efficiency and sharing, a struggle for control of government revenues for the benefit of those not satisfied by their first one-hundred-million dollars moves on. This insane contest will destroy the economy as it destroys the resource base. The struggle reduces life to a contest for who gets to die last. Diminishing returns and reduced purchasing power, compensated for by debt, will produce fewer and fewer lords and ladies and more and more demoralized workers. This is the stuff of the French revolution.

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The core problem is that we are not adapting to the world that ultimately supports us. Instead, we adapt to the games played for money that capitalism uses to distribute wealth. Only a broad form of socialism can support people while they move from games to sustainable production. The efficient cannot compete without a level playing field. Subsidizing waste and pollution undermines the function of supply and demand pricing. We need regulation of resources, means of production, and consumption that foster efficiency. Wall Street's gambling with other people's money must also stop.

Unfortunately, many only profess support for democracy, but actually prefer class distinctions masked by the philosophy that money provides the proof of God's love. Under the religion of money, survival of the fittest is a Darwinian struggle for money. Any help for individuals by government compromises the proof of God's love. Any limits on the means of making money interfere with God's laws. No need to worry about the consequences of such a philosophy. God will save the faithful in the rapture. This is a formula for chaos, if not extinction, that has tied government up in knots. We do not have too much government. We have too much of the non-functioning government that always emboldens corruption.

The foundation for the follies described here I term natural selection's paradox.[2] Natural selection does not distinguish short-term adaptations from long-term adaptations in the short term. Therefore, if the short-term adaptation uses up too many resources before it fails, the long term-adaptation cannot succeed either. Virtually all policy today is set in short-term contexts. Corporate profits are measured quarterly and stock market prices change daily. The only sustainable ethical foundation for overcoming the paradox employs survival of the species as the primary value. That judgment requires a scientific method, not the fictional narratives that once gave us comfort.

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I practiced law for 30 years as a city attorney. I taught elementary school before that. I became concerned with the many adaptations to our environment that I could not believe could be sustained. How could so many rational people adopt clearly (more...)
 

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