Tag Archives: misery

Back to the needs of Capitalism

It seems I’ve been informally challenged to a debate. Robert from Making my Way is attempting to refute the points I raised in the needs of Capitalism.

There were various points raised which I will attempt to counter.

There can be no infinite goods.

Yes and no. While Robert took ‘infinite’ in the literal sense, I did not mean or require it that way. My first example was not of machines producing infinite food but quite enough food to feed everyone five times over, thus bringing the price of food to nearly zero.

Robert’s explanation of how such thing can never happen due to limited resources is simply skirting the issue. Not only that but we already have the capability to produce infinite goods (digital goods due to their nature are infinite, and yes, Copyrights are very much indeed a form of artificial scarcity) and enough food to feed the world population. The reason why we do not is exactly the problem I raised in misery and profit.

This is not strictly about self-generating goods. It is about having enough goods so that the price, due to supply, drops to (nearly) zero. Even when such thing would be overwhelmingly positive for the whole of humanity, as in the case of food or shelter, for capitalism this is negative.

The argument about trends is laughable. They do not apply to everything and people impoverished do not care about them. Honestly I don’t even know what you are replying with that.

Basic needs for free are not possible

Here I believe I need to clarify. Of course someone will have to do the work to produce the food people eat but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about having enough increased production from each food maker that the amount of food produced by very few people (or none as in the case of the theoretical incredible food machines) is enough to feed everyone in the earth. As these few people do not need to be paid a lot for the staggering amount of food they would provide, the relevant costs of this for each person would be close to zero.

Now you have to realise that we’re talking theoretically here. It may very well be the case that we may never reach this level of production (although the rising production per worker in the modern day points otherwise) but we’re talking that if it were possible, it would not be even feasible under capitalism.

It’s unclear why you conflate work with misery, when work is simply a fact of life. You might as well say life is misery.

You misunderstand, I do not say that work is misery. I say that misery is what Capitalism uses to make people do the unwanted work.

Capitalism is the best thing we have because of how the world is

This is actually false. Capitalism is not here because it’s the best thing. We can already feed and shelter everyone in the world, even without infinite resources (as humans are not infinite either) but that would mean that there would have to be a redistribution of wealth. The rich would have to become less rich in order for poverty to go away.

Because of Greed, these people do not allow that to happen. Because of misery, the endless brutal cycle continues.

The fact that Capitalism is what is in force now does not make it exempt from criticism. Shutting your eyes does not make it’s problems go away. There are indeed systems that can work better than Capitalism and even if there weren’t, it should be our duty as humans to invent them.

Things that were not addressed

While Robert attempted to refute or skirt what was generally easy, the basic issues were not addressed.

Capitalism requires misery and Capitalism requires greed.

What Capitalism needs

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's n...
Image by just.Luc via Flickr

In previous times I have had sporadic thoughts on how would it ever be possible to reach a utopic society through a system such as Capitalism. I just couldn’t fathom how such a thing could occur.

My classic thought example was that we develop machinery that is capable or creating enough food to feed the whole populace of the earth 5 times over. This would be obviously be a good thing for everyone as nobody would ever have to starve again but I couldn’t just see how our current society would work with it.

The recent Quote of the Day gave me the insight, or rather the mental push I needed. Capitalism just cannot work with such concepts. While things like infinite goods (food & shelter included) would seem as something positive for any humans, for the concept of Capitalism they are anathema. When you have infinite food, automatically the value of it must approach zero. When you have enough place to shelter everyone on earth, by necessity, the cost of residence must approach zero.

Thus, there is absolutely no way for a capitalist to ever want to invest in a technology which would produce any kind of infinite good unless they can act as the monopoly or they can insert artificial scarcity. And indeed, we already see these kind of limitations used where much more good would be done without them.

A good example is genetically engineered food-producing plants which are much more resistant to disease and produce a higher wield. The companies that created these seeds have also made them produce sterile plants, the seeds of which will just not grow. Thus farmers are forced to buy seeds from the company every year, instead of using part of their crop to sow the next year.

Artificial Scarcity.

My biggest revelation however was not that. It was that Capitalism needs two very specific things in order to be able to exist. These two things incidentally, are the ones that prevent the world from ever approaching Utopia. Misery and Greed.

Why Capitalism requires misery

Can there ever be a Capitalistic society in which work is not required in order to be fed and sheltered? I can’t see how it can. If this happened, it means that the cost of food & shelter would have become zero. But if the cost of food is zero, then there is no profit to be had, thus nobody would care for producing food and shelter, which means there will be a shortage and thus the price will rise above zero due to supply and demand. Thus it’s impossible. (unless we can make the aforementioned machinery somehow)

It does not stop only there but this is the basic idea. Capitalism requires people to be in some degree of misery so that it will be able to sell them something to alleviate it. A healthy human does not need medicine. A fed human does not need food. A warm human does not need shelter etc.

Misery is the driving force that makes humans take the worst, but necessary jobs. Without misery you would not have people willing to be abused at McDonalds or a Nike sweatshop. It is the acid which turns humans into the necessary grease for the economic gears.

Without people being in some state of misery, all those industries which exist to prevent or stop it must cease to exist. Without it, nobody would be willing to put humiliate or punish himself for the thankless benefit of others. And finally, without misery, the only other thing left to keep Capitalism going is greed.

Why Capitalism requires greed

Although greed is very closely tied to misery (one who does not have the object of his greed becomes miserable) it plays such a big role in a Capitalistic society that I believe it deserves special analysis.

Greed is arguably the basic driving force of capitalism. When misery has been vanquished for an individual, it is greed that takes the baton and drives them to continue playing the capitalist game.

A content human is the true enemy of Capitalism.

Having a society where work is not required for basic food and shelter would mean that there would be a significant amount of humans stopping working in order to do the activities they really enjoy. Perhaps these activities would simply be a waste of time, or perhaps they would be some of those activities that are not considered valuable enough to sustain someone (notably the arts). These people would thus not be productive member of society as defined by “what people will pay for”.

Capitalism requires people to be greedy and greed demands capitalism. It is a vicious circle that a society cannot break away from without a significant shift in beliefs and desires which will lead humanity to ditching both of them together.

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