The Endgame of Capitalism

Carl Gibson, co-founder of US Uncut, penned this wonderful critique of our economy called ‘The Endgame of Capitalism”.  Here are a few passages:

he board game “Monopoly” was originally invented in the early 20th century to warn players of the dangers of free market capitalism. The original title was “The Landlord Game,” made to show how property owners exploit their tenants with exorbitant rent. The game eventually evolved to include rules that let players charge higher rent if they owned all the railroads or the utility companies. But the endgame scenario of Monopoly is a lot like the endgame of capitalism that we’re witnessing today – no matter how the game starts, the wealth will eventually accumulate in the hands of one player, while the other players have to sell off their property to pay their debt to the owner and, eventually, lose everything they have…

…In a recent Daily Show appearance, Al Gore made a half-hearted attempt at explaining the idea of “sustainable capitalism” to Jon Stewart. But even Gore’s description of capitalism as the only economic system that works sounded incredibly outdated to those of us who weren’t millionaire media moguls or TV personalities. We’re witnessing the endgame of capitalism, where a few wealthy individuals and corporations have accumulated most of the wealth while the rest of us are left to fight for the scraps. And it looks a lot like the endgame of Monopoly, where every player is selling off their house and foreclosing their property to pay the one player who already has everything. And when the Monopoly game has gone that far, the only thing left to do is flip the board over, scatter all of the winner’s winnings, and try playing something else that everyone can enjoy.”

Read the full article here: The Endgame of Capitalism

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Generally, Gibson’s critiques are ones that political economists are aware of –that the pursuit of an ironically impossible ‘self-regulating’ market system works only to increase wealth in the hands of an elite few, while having devastating effects for lands and people.  As Karl Polanyi astutely proved in ‘The Great Transformation‘ (his detailed work on the emergence of the global market economy), “leaving the fate of soil and people to the market would be tantamount to annihilating them.”  The ‘free market’ can never truly be free, it necessitates government intervention and strict maintenance to survive –often, as history has shown us, through the barrel of a gun (see The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Kein).  Despite this, neoliberals still claim that everyone would benefit from the ‘self-regulating’ market, if only we could get rid of all these pesky measures that protect peoples’ well-beings, like social security or environmental protection.  As both Klein, Polanyi, and several others have shown, when any ‘self-regulating’ market system has tried to expand, there has been so much social and environmental fall-out that intervention and protectionist measures have always been necessary –if not demanded.  More often than not, the economy can be growing whilst society and the environment are thrown into dissaray –in other words, a functioning economy absolutely does not automatically translate into a functioning, fair and sustainable society.

Our pursuit of this ‘benefit for all’ –equality and a healthy planet– through capitalism is therefore inherently contradictory and doomed to repeat the same patterns.  From colonialism, to capitalism, consumerism, and now corporatism; the system is about dispossessing the 99% of land and security, so that they will be forced to form the labour class that allows capital accumulation to flow up to the 1% unimpeded.  The blindness of the majority of the North American population to how these processes function threatens to bring human civilization on this planet to a crippling end.  Luckily, more and more people are becoming aware, informed and suspicious of the increasing inequalities they see in America and around the world.  Luckily, the very processes of capitalism that make the world so unjust and unsustainable might prove to be its downfall.  capitalism

In the video below, renowned academic David Harvey asks if it is time to look beyond capitalism towards a new social order that would allow us to live within a system that really could be responsible, just, and humane.  He asserts, “Any sensible person right now would join an anti-capitalist organization –and you have to… But I don’t see us debating or discussing this.  And unless we’re prepared to have a very broad-based discussion that gets away from, you know, the normal kind of pablum you get in a political campaign –that “Everything’s gonna be okay here next year if you vote for me..” — that’s crap!  And you should know it’s crap, and say it is.  We have a duty, it seems to me, those of us who are academics and seriously involved in the world, to actually change our mode of thinking.” — David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography

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2 Comments on “The Endgame of Capitalism”

  1. arjun bagga February 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    Brilliant article.

  2. daveclark955 February 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Truth.

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