Later this week the new Michael Moore film 'Capitalism: a Love Store' comes to theaters nationwide. As of the writing of this piece I have not yet seen the move, I am just a lowly citizen-journalist and don't have the connections to get invited to an advanced screening. That said I have seen and read much about this highly anticipated documentary from the basely hilarious and artistically fearless political gadfly that is Michael Moore.
The premise of the film is that capitalism is evil and that through unchecked greed and the engineered advantage of the ultra-wealthy over all others the wealth of this nation is grossly unbalanced and that that is inherently undemocratic. As much of a fan as I am of Michael Moore films I don't accept the conclusion fully, specifically the evil part. I don't go in for absolutes like good and evil for obvious reasons. But I do agree with the insight in to the inconsistency between capitalism and democracy that Mr. Moore points out, a position I've held myself for many years.
The warm and fuzzy description of capitalism would typically be: an economic and social system in which the means of production (also known as capital) are privately controlled; labor, goods and capital are traded in a free market; profits are distributed to owners or invested in new technologies and industries; and wages are paid to labor. Now that sounds great! Unfortunately, this textbook definition fails to factor in the real-world realities.
In actuality privately controlled also means privately amassed and privately wielded not for the public good but for the private owners profits, often in contravention to the general welfare. Public financing of private ventures through political corruption is always the preferred mode to private wealth accumulation with the public i.e. taxpayers getting stuck with the bill in the end. The markets in capitalism are rarely free, they may start off that way but they quickly become sullied and iniquitous due to the inherent corruption in a system founded on greed. And finally profits paid to owners are in direct conflict with wages paid to labor i.e. the less you pay labor and the harder you work them for their already low wages the more profits there are for the people making all the decisions. Further, with our system of publicly owned companies being at the core of our economy and with their inherent obsession with the bottom line and with labor often being the greatest of their expenses, the trimming back of labor equals increased stock prices and subsequently greater value in the company. The newly unemployed must now go without, the remaining employees must pick up the slack for no increased wages or benefits and the tiny fraction of people at the top of this unholy pyramid, the elitist owners, simply sit back and reap the greater profits.
As you can see in respects to capitalism I am in full agreement with Mr. Moore (except for that evil thing). The problem is that he and I and all others that agree with us are up against a well-established but completely false American axiom; Capitalism equals democracy. For just under a century now all of us have been taught from day one in our churches, schools, social-networks and from the media that communism is bad. Further and as a result of it being at odds with communism, capitalism is good. More importantly we've been taught that communists are inherently un-free and subsequently capitalists, being the antithesis of communists are free. With 'free' being a political synonym for democracy one must conclude that capitalism must have and therefore equals democracy. The problem is that none of this is true.
Capitalism by its very nature amasses wealth in small quarters. As a result a very limited few will have and control great wealthy while the vast majority will get by on modest means. With the political reality of money equaling access; to politicians, industry leaders, the media, etc., capitalism confines true influence and subsequently power over our political and economic futures to a very few. Further, in respects to the law our legal system is set up in such a way that the more you have the better representation you can afford. Therefore in addition to political and economic advantage capitalism also provides legal benefits to the wealthy that the masses are not afforded.