More and more often I find myself asking why so many people are attached to the orthodoxy of believing there is to alternative to the market-based capitalist model we find in Britain and the USA today (and to a lesser extent the rest of Europe)? After all, the facts that support the case against such a model are well documented. And even those who doggedly insist there is no alternative would acknowledge there are many ills as a result of this system that touch their lives right now. Whether it be high levels of personal debt, rising prices, job security, or limited access to healthcare and other vital elements of social welfare. They would also find little argument in the assertion that more significant existential threats lie in wait as we face the prospect of global warming and the depletion of the earth’s natural resources.
So why given they accept these problems do people cling to the current mode of government and its economic model? I would contend this can be considered by answering two questions:
- Is there reason to believe the current model can succeed in providing solutions to the problems we face today and tomorrow?
- If we can agree that capitalism doesn’t possess these answers, why do so many people feel this is the only option?
To answer the first question we must spell out the issues that must be addressed and consider how the markets based capitalist system can respond. These issues are manifold, but let us assume that we must answer the most significant of them if we are to succeed in our objective. I’ve already referenced two of the biggest:
- The threat to our environment as a result of global warming; and
- The depletion of the earth’s natural resources.
As with the issues themselves there are many reasons the current market-based capitalist model is unable to respond, this includes but is not limited to the following:
- Market-based Capitalism is dependent on commoditisation. For a market to function it must have a commodity to trade, whether it be a apples, computers or coal. Without resources to create commodities (something that is inevitable if we exhaust all of the world’s resources) market-based Capitalism cannot function. As we see more and more consumers come on-line around the world (something that Capitalism embraces as more consumers means more buyers; thereby increasing the volume and prices of commodities that are sold) the rate at which the available resources is exhausted inevitably increased. Market-based Capitalism has no mechanism to control this process.Market based Capitalism’s promotion of low levels of regulation and objection to public services.
- The vested interest of Big Oil companies in maintaining their grip on the energy market means there is little opportunity for investment in renewable resources to thrive.
- The short-termism of elected governments who have a 4/5 year time horizon, precluding any appetite for governments to make significant investments (e.g. renewable energy projects or green transport) that will see no return in the life of their parliamentary term.
Let us now consider the second questions I posed, why do people feel market-based capitalism (given its inability to provide solutions to the issues I’ve outlined above) is the only option available. Two of the key reasons for this view are:
- The capitalist controlled mass-media’s promotion of market-based Capitalist orthodoxy and non-existent coverage of alternatives
- Two party politics, that is only differentiated by very little in terms of their key economic policy. (Remember the Labour Party was and still is pro-city (i.e. deregulation of Financial services), accepts the need for cuts to public services to address the national debt, and proposes a tax regime that is very similar to the Tories.)
So how are we of the political persuasion that doesn’t fall into the narrow spectrum of two party politics to advance the cause for a more just and equal world that is able to face up to the problems effecting our lives today? Three options that I can discern that are available right now are:
- Use social media to spread the word to your peers, circumventing the capitalist controlled mass-media. The number of active users of social media sites offers a platform that can reach as many people as the capitalist controlled mediums. Spread personal testimony about how your own life and those around you have been effected by the current system, and promote alternative solutions whether local or global.
- Bring together the a broad based coalition of anti-capitalism and environmental groups under a single banner. Building a political party with a big enough membership / voting base to secure national media attention and financial resources. I would contend the Green Party is the most appropriate place to build from, as it embraces both environmental and anti-capitalist agenda, without the dogma that longstanding parties of the left still cling to. In Germany the Green Party is now competing with the two leading parties!
- Internationalise these issues. The globalised nature of the threats we face as well as the mechanisms of market-based capitalism dictate that we need to build coalitions that reach beyond national boundaries. Get involved in Anti-globalisation forums and groups that span nations (see http://www.thezeitgeistmovementuk.com/ or http://www.oneworldgroup.org/).
Its in your hands… Blog / tweet / status update; join the Green party, reach out and make friends with people from outside your own community.
If you’d like to read more detailed analysis of some of the issues I’ve covered in this article I’d recommend the following books (I accept that I’ve provided slim evidence for some of my assertions but brevity is the name of the blog game)…
The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone – Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0241954290/ref=oss_product+)