Crapitalism: Definition and Cure
by C.A. L'Hirondelle, May 27, 2011
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Intro: Writing about 'crapitalism' sounds like a joke or a juvenile rant, however, it is common to describe many modern products as 'crap', and not uncommon to refer to the current market system 'crapitalism' (as can be found in a quick internet or twitter search). A more detailed definition was called for, as well as a proposal for a solution.
see - Crapitalism slideshow (youtube)
Crapitalism takes good resources and turns them into crap in order to keep the consumption/jobs cycle going. Crap products are harmful, wasteful or designed to break. For example, turning good water into high fructose pop that ruins people's health; using good resources to make disposable products destined for the landfill; using good agricultural land to grow ingredients to be used in crap fast food; turning chickens into little fatty meat bombs of hormones and antibiotics. And the ultimate end-of-the-world crap factory - war - makes profits and GDP go up while everything gets blown up. (See Why Peace is Bad For The Economy) There is a way out, and it is not to follow down the road of jobs and growth.
None of this is news. There have been mountains (and forests) of anti-consumption critiques written by environmentalists and Adbuster-type activists. However, a crapitalist critique recognizes that consumption is systemic issue —and not a moral good/bad issue— because the current economy cannot function without high levels of consumption.
Here is a bare-bones description how the current economy functions:
Production + Consumers = Jobs = Money = Life
Production - Consumption - Jobs - Money = Death (shortened lives and ill health)
Production without consumers = bankruptcy. Or, as Adam Smith said, the purpose of production is consumption (Wealth of Nations, 1776).
For example, donut makers need consumers for their donuts, or they go bankrupt. This also holds true for non-profit and public service jobs —all depend on having clients, students, or patients, etc. No consumers, means no money, which leads to poverty, which leads to early graves.
Advocating cuts to consumption without proposing an alternate way for people to get incomes is illogical and unethical, because the economic crash from cutting consumption would crash first on the heads of people on the bottom of the income pyramid.
A crapitalist critique neither demonizes people for their consumption habits nor demonizes people for having jobs in harmful industries; for until there is an alternative income system, what choice do people have? Without a structural change, consumption is required to keep the economy going. No purchases by consumers means no wages for workers.
MONEY FOR ALL OR MONEY FOR NONE
There are two ways humanity could escape the forced-production, forced-consumption (crapitalist) economy: money for all, or no money for anyone.
In the future is it entirely possible that society and the economy will evolve to the point where money—as we know it—will no longer have a purpose.
However, a sudden end to the money system would cause immediate crises for those with least access to resources and the skills and tools necessary to use those resources. It would starkly and swiftly reveal real value, versus fake value. Small scale food farmers, hunters, fishers, plumbers, healers, artisans, crafts people, mechanics, engineers and technicians of all kinds would be highly valued. Media personalities, pundits, economists and other professional BSers
would see their status fall. The rural folk admonition to 'beware of people with clean hands' would take on new resonance.
For some, this may sound like fun, however, under a scarcity-based economic model (even if it is a falsely created one) a sudden switch to a 'no money' economy could also create ugly scenarios envisioned in Mad Max films, or more thoughtfully in Ever Since the World Ended, or more fantastically in Kurt Vonnegut's book Galapagos.
MONEY FOR ALL
A sudden 'no money for anyone' path would be highly disruptive and risky. In contrast, 'money for all' via a universal livable income implemented in each country in the world would at least create the possibility of a peaceful transition from a crapitalist to a livable economy. And, if we end up with a 'no money' economy in the future, it would be a gradual evolution on an abundance-based economic model and not on the scarcity-based model that might lead to a scary Mad Max world.
"This condition of unintelligent respect on the part of the general public is exactly what the financier needs in order to remain unfettered by the democracy"
—Bertrand Russell, The Modern Midas
Before the chorus of 'but where will all the money come from?' starts, we need to understand that money is just a tool humans invented, and so are all the rules about money. There are even rules that countries 'borrow' money and pay interest to private banks (huh!). And the very practice of charging "interest" is actually a mathematical impossibility. Attempting to impose theoretical rules onto a natural physical world is exactly what is driving environmental destruction in the rush to turn natural resources into cash.
|“Living capital [natural capital, human capital, social capital], which has the special capacity to regenerate itself, is the source of all real wealth. To destroy it for money—a number with no intrinsic value—is an act of collective insanity.”
— David Korten, The Difference Between Money & Wealth
Money is not a scientific reality like gravity; there are no scientific rules governing money (this should be obvious to everyone by now). Moreover, if money supply is supposed to correspond to productive output, the rise of digital and 'information' products tosses that equation right out the window. And it should have been tossed out a long time ago: the theory that money comes from production (an idea also held by some on the left) never had any validity since it excludes all unpaid work, mostly done by women, which also happens to be the very work upon which the entire economy depends.
Inventor and futurist Jacque Fresco succinctly explains money vs. the real world:
|"If all the money in the world were destroyed, as long as we have sufficient arable land, the factories, the necessary resources, and technical personnel, we could build anything and even supply an abundance."
People just made up all the rules about money, so we the people can also change these rules. In each country in the world we could amaze ourselves and decide to implement a universal income at a livable level appropriate to conditions. (See Robley George's SocioEconomic Democracy.)
NO VOGON OVERLORDS
As many other basic income writers have emphasized - it would be a universal benefit, going to everyone, and without a bloated means-testing workfare bureaucracy with Vogonic sadistic overlords. John Calvin died over 500 years ago, he probably didn't make much sense then and his Calvinist work ethic is certainly is not the philosophy to be following in a world of automation, digitization and robots.
GOOD VIBRATIONS FROM AN UNCRAP MOVEMENT
An Uncrap movement made possible by a universal livable income* could have other beneficial outcomes. With the stability it would bring, it would create conditions where skills of real value (as previously mentioned) could be learned or relearned in the case of traditional skills that are in danger of being lost.
(Note about hunting: I strongly believe in the vegan diet, however, in certain environments, such as the far north, hunting is an important skill to retain.)
Old tech and new tech could flourish side by side and the false division of work and life could be mended. In spite of current barriers, there are trends already in that direction (e.g. the Swarm Economy).
We could begin to look at questions about work more rationally because our judgment would no longer be distorted by worries over doing away with a critical (tipping point) number of people's jobs.
|"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.
FROM CRAP ECONOMY TO LIVABLE ECONOMY
High-quality, aesthetically pleasing, long-lasting products could be made because there would be no cross-purpose of having to make things that don't last in order to perpetuate sales and jobs.
High efficiency innovations in transportation could happen since there would be no cross-purpose of having to perpetuate the 1 in 10 jobs currently in the auto-sector.
Healthy foods and slow foods could flourish since there would be no cross-purpose due to worry of mass unemployment in the fast food sector. A focus on disease prevention and good health could develop since there would be no cross purpose from trying to grow a disease-focused medical and pharmaceutical sectors.
|" 'The best diseases, from a business point of view,' said Crake, 'would be those that cause lingering illnesses. Ideally--that is, for maximum profit--the patient should either get well or die just before all of his or her money runs out.' "
—Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake, 2003
And there could be a focus on ensuring healthy environments for children (and child abuse prevention) that would have numerous benefits to create a healthier happier adult population.
The transition could be gradual. The job system would still be around, but there would be less pressure and stress. Currently the urbanization of the world is driven because people move to cities to get jobs. However this trend may reverse: rural environments may see more subsistence enterprises to take root to enhance people's standard of living (e.g. more experimental building techniques, more eco-villages, more small organic gardening).
Innovation in living arrangements would also be immediately possible since current welfare systems are based on a system of penalities. For example, In BC, if people find a way to reduce their rental costs, their benefits are reduced by the same amount. If they get temporary work the extra income is deducted dollar for dollar (exceptions for people on disability benefits).
With less stress and more time, people could engage in community organizing to address problems as they arise (e.g. neighborhood assemblies such as what was in happening in Argentina in 2002). Artisans, crafts people and inventors of all kinds could also find new ways to innovate and collaborate.
To help people who favor having more structure in their lives, VOLUNTARY initiatives could also be started along the lines of what was done in the 1930s in the U.S. with the Civilian Conservation Corp (see the movie Cradle with Rock for an entertaining view of the 1930s WPA).
ON DOING NOTHING
The idea that people would 'do nothing' has been disproved by pilot projects in the 1970s ( Manitoba Mincome); by the pilot project in 2007-9 in Namibia; by the everyday evidence of masses of unpaid work being done by mothers and other unpaid cares; and by those who contribute to the "Swarm Economy".
But even if —worst case scenario— people suddenly want to 'do nothing' and have 'no initiative' this would actually be preferable to people wanting to do destructive economic activities: selling harmful products to children, clear cutting forests, poisoning watersheds while mining, etc. etc. etc. After all, it was human greed-based 'initiative' that drove the pillage of the earth's resources. Having a bit more of 'doing nothing' would actually allow some healing to happen.
I think that there is far too much work done in the world,
that immense harm is caused by the belief
that work is virtuous..."
—Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness, 1932
The idea of people doing nothing is an emotional trigger for many people. They usually have an association from having lived with someone who was a slob who refused to clean up after themselves. Paradoxically, a society with a forced work ethic (often soul-sucking or body-destroying) creates people who rebel against work when they are in their 'free' time. We must differentiate between 'respect-the-earth' laziness from the 'disrespectful-to-others' laziness (systemic vs. individual analysis) or crapitalism is going to eat the planet.
See also: The Last Taboo and Jobism
"The job system is a massive diversion machine: wasting precious resources—natural and human—to create mountains of crap."
*Along with guaranteed livable income (GLI), other terms for this policy include basic income guarantee, basic income grant, citizen's income, citizen's basic income, minimum income guarantee, national dividend, citizen's dividend, guaranteed annual income, LIFE grants (Livable Income For Everyone) and Buckminster Fuller's Lifetime Fellowship.
Next in this series of 2011 articles will be a look at the roots of how we think about hard work (from traditional male experiences which excludes unpaid work); and how the overpopulation meme is a sneaky way to blame mothers for all the world's problems.
C.A. L'Hirondelle has been researching and writing about guaranteed livable income from a grassroots perspective since 1998.
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