Sunday, 23 September 2007

You Must, Because You Can

I couldn't post a blog last week. I was far too enraged to clearly compose a single thing. Steve Jackson put out a message on his Daily Illuminator that was out of this world. Read this.

September 15, 2007: The Global Perspective

And today on the headlines at CNN.com, we see that while they're eating their pets in Zimbabwe, the U.S. Department of Justice is holding conferences at which it pays $5 per meatball and $4.55 per can of soft drink to feed the attendees.
-- Steve Jackson

This is the very thing that drives me mad. The ridiculousness of the capitalist system is that it allows this kind of injustice to happen. It allows one person to exploit another to the point that people have to eat their pets. And yet, in another part of the world there is so much wealth available that the government can afford to pay too much for food. So, in the face of these horrible statistics we see two failings of our system.

Failure to meet the needs of the needy
The reason that we have a system at all (be it capitalist, socialist, monarchist, or whatever) is open for debate. However, if the system does not look after the needs of the needy, then it is an immoral system and must be changed. We must do more with our lives than simply accumulate money. Money should only be accumulated if it is going to be used to benefit those who contributed to the accumulation in the first place. Zimbabwe has a large amount of labour that could be easily harnessed to help feed Zimbabweans. Does it happen? No. Why not? Because the capitalist system is unfettered by obligation and responsibility to anything except the accumulation of capital. As long as one person does it, the system works.

Failure to create genuine exchange of money for goods
The capitalist system allows anyone to charge anything for anything. This is less of a failure because it is a double edged sword. High prices ought to result in fewer customers and the bankruptcy of the business itself. However, if this were truly the case there would be no outrageously priced anything. Fashion items that retail for many times the cost of the materials and labour are the easiest example. The retailer has convinced the public to become consumers, that they must have this item. The desire to own it is overwhelming, no matter the price.

It could be argued that it is not the system that has caused these things, and that is true. But to quote Murray Gell-Mann, "Everything that is not forbidden is compulsory." It is not forbidden to exploit another human being in order to increase your own profits - therefore it is compulsory. To put it another way, "You must, because you can."

And yet, it is impossible to forbid it. The moment that anyone puts out the command, "You shall not accumulate money at the expense of others" you will immediately be filled with the desire to disobey. You are caught. Trapped. Unable to get out of it except by denying everything around you. Deny your right to withhold money from the needy. Deny your right to live in a suburban McMansion. Deny your right to ignore the people around you. You must do this ...because you can.
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