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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 10/4/19

Capitalism Works Great--Except When It Doesn't

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Democracy, if we ever truly had it, is rapidly disappearing in America today. If most people want background checks for guns, universal health care, a higher minimum wage, action to limit climate change, and higher taxes for the wealthy, which they do, the government will not allow these to happen. Same for most other important issues, both locally and nationally.

The reason is because our favored political system, capitalism, and its inevitable corollary, greed, has increasingly devoured what we used to call democracy (or republic, if you prefer). As everyone knows, money is power, as well as being the symbol of success in our consumer culture.

America's Value System
America's Value System
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Here's a challenge: name an important problem in America today that is not caused or exasperated by capitalistic greed. I maintain it will be very hard to do. That is because those who control our country, big corporations and billionaires, dominate Congress and other decision-making institutions in the United States. They make the rules.

Let me make clear that capitalism, also called free enterprise or the free market, the basis of our economic system, is not inherently bad. In fact, there is no other economic system that has proven to be more innovative, creative, and productive than capitalism. But without the necessary checks and balances, unrestricted capitalism becomes out-of-control capitalism, which has led us to where we are today, an America that has lost its bearing and is floundering in a sea of debt, poverty, injustice, and fear.

Think about it. Climate change, poor health care, mass shootings, environmental destruction, computer breaches and hacking, easily available pornography, election fraud, financial crimes, poverty, and of course, nuclear weapons and wars, can be instigated or worsened by greed. There may be a few problems and issues unrelated to money and greed, but not many.

Being essentially amoral, and human nature being what it is, an unregulated free market will invariably fall prey to the forces of greed. It will inevitably spin out of control and turn into a voracious monster, plundering everything in its path. That is what is happening right now in this country, with a few powerful corporations and billionaires accumulating an unprecedented and disproportionate share of this great country's wealth, leaving the rest of us scrambling to pick up what few crumbs we can find.

All the little stuff, the outrage of the week, the big news story of the day, the latest screw-up by a famous politician or celebrity, it's all a distraction (don't forget, the major media is owned by a few big corporations). If we don't fix the systemic problems, our slide into the junk heap of history is inevitable.

More than just our smaller paychecks, failing schools, bloated military, and the other results of the Darwinian drift of our economy, the worse damage out-of-control capitalism has done has been to our psyche. It has eviscerated our collective soul, purging Americans of our most decent instincts and values. We have been left with a country that is no longer offering the promise of the Great American Dream, and is no longer a beacon of hope and possibility for the rest of the world. Instead, America is all about greed, materialism, and the accumulation of wealth.

Where once Americans cared about each other, we now distrust one another. Where once we strived to erase poverty, we now ignore or disdain it. Where once peace was a priority, we now unquestioningly accept perpetual war. Where once we were concerned for civil liberties, we now look the other way as our privacy and rights disappear. Where once we valued truth and facts, we now ignore them in favor of winning an argument or scoring a political win. Where once we cared about improving lives, we now give priority to accumulating money and cutting taxes.

Can this be changed? I wish there were an easy answer. Unfortunately, the billionaires and big corporations seem to have already won. They have the most power and influence in our country and, because of lobbying and legalized bribery in government, control the media and the politicians who can effect change.

A major overhaul of our political and economic systems is desperately needed. Where it will come from is, at this time, unclear. But if we don't rein in the excesses of capitalism, we will become like the Romans, just one more failed empire for future students to read about in history books.

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Arlen is a writer/blogger living in Monterey, CA. His political blog is thebigpicturereport.com. He also writes a quotation quiz "What's Your QQ?" at quotationquotient.com.

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7 people are discussing this page, with 10 comments


Arlen Grossman

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Will America ever give up its obsession with capitalism? I'd like to see some form of democratic socialism, but I won't hold my breath.

Submitted on Friday, Oct 4, 2019 at 11:25:05 PM

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Aleksandar Sarovic

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I have discovered how to create good capitalism. To achieve this goal only the elimination of unemployment through shorter work hours is needed. If people unite behind it, the social problems of capitalism will go away. Elimination of unemployment will increase demand for workers which will increase their salaries. The workers will be able to purchase more which will grow the economy. I have presented more about it in the article Full employment is a turning point for capitalism.

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 5, 2019 at 2:06:08 AM

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nelswight

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SUPERB truthful article, Arlen.

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 5, 2019 at 1:48:10 PM

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Capitalism is a very petty system that appeals to the small minded, guilt ridden person. Wealth isn't personal. It's social. The need for capitalism to define wealth as personal is obvious in that it justifies social hierarchy and aristocracy. The mechanism of the justification is psychological. Capitalism must successfully claim that human nature is fundamentally one of greed and narcissism. Towards this end, Darwin's evolution is a tool that must be preserved as an orthodoxy of self interest. As long as science and religion rationalize social class, greed, and aristocracy, the human race is doomed. Liberal reforms extend the life of a system that is anachronistic and backwards.

Submitted on Saturday, Oct 5, 2019 at 2:36:36 PM

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Spoken like a true Marxist. Capitalism as an economic system gives us all agency to utilize our capital as we see fit. Any system needs rules and constraints against abuse, but capitalism supports freedom in a way that socialist control (e.g. communism) never can.

Submitted on Monday, Oct 7, 2019 at 4:57:36 PM

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What freedom have the wast mayority of people commonly known as workers in capitalism? Freedom of slavery? Yes but it looks like controversion in terms.

Capitalism needs only one regulation to become a decent social system. It needs to eliminate unemployment by shortening work hours. This will increase workers' salaries. They will be able to purchase more which will grow the economy.

Marxism demaged the idea of socialism. Socialism will not need rules but more developed market than capitalism can afford. It will open competition of workers for every work public position any time. Once socialism come, bye bye capitalism.

Submitted on Monday, Oct 7, 2019 at 6:13:50 PM

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Do you seriously believe that an economic system can function without rules? That's a novel idea that seems to be at odds with reality.

Submitted on Tuesday, Oct 8, 2019 at 12:32:52 AM

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Have you found one not very defined sentence among other genius ones to respond to only? Yes, you have. The market has rules which are not set by authorities but by the nature of people. These rules will continue to develop naturally. The market does not require laws, so in the future, laws will not be needed at all. I mean this seriously.

Submitted on Tuesday, Oct 8, 2019 at 11:45:15 AM

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THE CHALLENGE:


Here are 10 important problems in America today that are not caused or exasperated by capitalistic greed.


1. people with more that have more than 10 items at the speed checkout.

2. The idiot on his cell phone that doesn't see the light change.

3. Locking myself out of my bank account because I didn't notice I had caps-lock on.

4. Harry Potter movies.

5. The Black Panther movies.

6. People that suddenly realize that they have the wrong genitals.

7. The leadership of the UN being taken over by a ill-informed Swedish girl.

8. Chris Rock and Al Franken performing the same riff about John McCain not really being a war hero, and then the press fainting when Donald Trump referenced it.

9. The sheer recklessness of Barack Obama spending 15 million or so on a House within spitting distance of the ocean which he knows will flood it.

10. Emojis

AND It's "exacerbated" not "exasperated"

Submitted on Sunday, Oct 6, 2019 at 3:37:32 AM

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Jill Herendeen

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Re: "...there is no other economic system that has proven to be more innovative, creative, and productive than capitalism." True, but ONLY because no other economic system has been ALLOWED by the powers that be. But discussing just that is enough for another article or three.


Our immediate problem in the U.S. is that a) our vote "count" is secret, and so every election since HAVA (and probably some before) has probably been fraudulent; and b) our ONLY recourse, aside from voting, is going on strike. Which, as the jobs rapidly dwindle due to automation and offshoring, the few ppl privileged enough to hold jobs are understandably reluctant to do. Either we need to organize a sustained general strike (including material support for the workers who're jeopardizing their jobs), or/and, we need to take direct control of vote-counting ourselves. Good luck with either one. Good luck even getting ppl to understand that being forced to trust someone else to "count" your votes FOR you doesn't work well.

Submitted on Tuesday, Oct 8, 2019 at 7:10:03 PM

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