The Berlin Wall of Capitalism

Almost 20 years ago the Berlin Wall came crashing down on top of the Communist system which had dominated eastern Europe for most of the 20th Century. Soon the zealots of capitalism were crying for joy that their religion had triumphed and that socialism had failed.

Capitalism, often mistakenly equated with free market economics, has indeed been a positive force for change in western Europe and North America. The high standard of living which we enjoy has been created by the forces of capitalism which have channeled the desires of millions of individuals and organized the sources of production to provide those individuals with both the needs and the desires of their choosing. When compared to the life styles of the rest of the world we are indeed fortunate and much of that can be attributed to the sheer power of the capitalist system.

Free market economics has proven to be an excellent means of making economic decisions. It allows each person to make the individual decisions that best suit that person and the aggregate of those decisions to come together to make the economic decisions that power the economy. There is no better system to couple with a liberal democratic political system which values individuals and believes that each individual is the best person to make decisions for him or herself.

Having admitted that capitalism and the free market economic system which nurtures it have worked to provide us with an excellent standard of living however does not mean that it has worked without problems. However, the believers in the church of Free Enterprise will never make any admission which is critical of their religion. That is unfortunate.

Suddenly the world seems to have realized that global warming is truly a problem and that we as citizens of the globe are the causes of the problem. With this recognition the wall of capitalism has fallen on top of the western economic system and we can not fail to ignore it.

Even Prime Minister Harper seems to have been forced to admit that there is a problem here. If a committed priest of the religion of capitalism is able to recognize the problem, can the rest of the committed be far behind?

Global Warming is the first issue to bring this realization home, but it is not the only one. Coupled with it are the dwindling supply of oil and other resources, the extinction of species, the over fishing of the sea, the lack of places to dump our refuse and the huge disparity of wealth between the peoples of this planet. Not only has capitalism failed to solve these problems, it is the direct cause of them.

According to free market theory each individual goes in search of the greatest individual good, whether as a consumer or producer. The result of this is that no one looks at the long term effect of his actions, only at the immediate gratification of his needs. Modern capitalism has relied on that effect to power its growth through advertising and the mass media, to encourage consumers to buy products as quickly and as often as they can. Every year more goods are produced and more goods are sold, many of them unnecessary in the grand scheme, but all filling some individuals sense of needs satisfaction. The result - we are using up the resources of this earth faster and faster and at the same time creating larger and larger amounts of waste material that must be disposed of in more and more difficult ways. We have reached the age of disposability where our greatest duty as a citizen is to consume greater and greater amounts of the raw materials of our earth and produce greater and greater amounts of rubbish.

This must end. The realization that global warming is real and that we humans are the causes of global warming is the first of a series of realizations that are going to bring the capitalist system crashing down as we replace the duty of a citizen to be a consumer with the duty of a citizen to be a steward of the environment. The religious zealots of capitalism are going to resist this change, but the wall has fallen.

2007/02/17

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