You’re not a very good capitalist

It’s politics season, so people are throwing around the word capitalism (usually as an inoculation against the scary socialism) as if they are invoking the name of a personal deity. So what is capitalism in America today? In my parents’ generation, it meant starting your own business, working hard, and making enough money — sometimes lots. In capitalism, private ownership wins out and thrives.

That was when affordable supply chains and bank loans weren’t shutting almost all of us out. Capitalism once was private and gave us all plenty, but now that the infrastructure is in place, most of us find our labors flowing to others. Just look at your own life if you doubt me.

To us, modern ‘capitalism’ usually means taking a wage from a business that isn’t loyal to you, buying your food from corporations, voting for corporate-sponsored politicians, watching corporate-backed news, buying corporate products from mostly corporate brand stores, and filing the rest of the time with corporate-made entertainment. There is precious little ‘capitalism’ left.

Now, if you’ve got a success story to tell, you’re considered one of the lucky ones who escaped the cycle, and everyone’s envious. It takes a unique person these days to smash through the barriers. The common man, the Moms and Pops among us, rarely can. That’s not a viable system. That’s a lottery.

The few people who are rich enough or creditworthy enough to start their own businesses are squashed by the international and legislative advantage that massive businesses hold.

Too many people seem to think hard work is the same thing as ‘capitalism.’ In truth, almost all of us work hard to put the fruit of our labor in an investor’s pocket. Although most of us are very hard workers, few of us are really ‘capitalists’ the way we think we are, and fewer of us still can afford to be. We confuse toil with capitalism.

Why can’t Americans see their lives for what they really have become?

Starbucks facade Chicago

You don't have to dislike capitalism to notice how our wages flow. (Chicago, 2010)

4 Responses to “You’re not a very good capitalist”

  1. George DeMarse

    Right you are Jason. The rules of the game today are wealth rules–literally. The entrenched wealthy are “writing” the rules and the messages. If the average man on the street is failing to make ends meet, Republicans call him “lazy.” Being successful at capitalism is just a matter of “working hard,” they say. So why is it that the middle class household today typically has two earner families working longer hours than ever, but their wages and benefits have risen little since the level of the 70s, when most households were one earner families? Why is it that employer provided health care gets more expensive every year, or non-existent, and pensions are a thing of the past? Why are the public schools so bad that many parents must choose expensive private schools for their children, when they really can’t afford it? Why are savings rates through the floor?
    What about the Democrats? Gee–the “recovery” is just around the corner. Hold on a few more years, we will get back to 2005 “income levels.” We’ve been waiting five years now since the crash and we still have high unemployment, extended unemployment benefits for years, decreased social mobility between social classes, highly unequal wealth disparities for the past 30 years and stagnant wages. If this is what recovery looks like, we’re in real trouble. Oh ya, the financial sector is still pretty much the same, only not making many loans.

    Bottom line–global capitalism is in real trouble. The middle class is in real trouble. No main line politician wants to talk about the failure of capitalism itself. Somebody, anybody, gives up hope and enlightenment.

    George DeMarse
    The Sage of Wake Forest