Linda Campbell: Capitalism is not an ideology
(Editor’s note: This Other Voices was originally published in August 2013. It is being republished at the request of the author, as reported on page A1 of today’s edition.)
Capitalism is not an ideology. Ideologies are inherently corrupt, especially when they become large, wealthy, and powerful. Ideologies come from man (generic for human). They combine ideas or ideals; (man made) with hierarchy, the oldest (original) form of social structure designed by men (generic for humans).
The hierarchical structure was created to help warriors (mostly male) defend the tribe. When a tribe was attacked, usually by other warriors, the best defense was to have competent members of the tribe (head warriors), who trained and organized the other warriors. This began the use of hierarchy (chain of command). This system also proved efficient for attacking tribes. Hierarchy, useful in times of crisis (first responders), became corruptive when used for other purposes. It creates a top-down power structure (vertical management) where the power is concentrated at the top. When tribes grew and became cities and countries, the warriors of the tribe grew into “armies”. The head warriors became leaders of these armies. These leaders began collecting resources from less powerful countries, allowing them to become richer and more powerful.
These powerful leaders (men) began to desire a “Legacy” (proof of power and/or wealth for immortality) for their descendants. They did this by establishing an ideology that gave them entitlement (special privileges) over other men. The easiest way to do this was to play God (Pharaohs) or have God’s permission to play God (religion). Success of an ideology depended on the principle of justification (“means justify the end) This justified the use of human beings to protect “The Legacy,” History demonstrates that ideologies have, throughout time, been the cause of the misery, brutality and bloodshed that men have inflicted upon other men, all in the name of (fill in the blank).
Capitalism is an economic system, not an ideology. Capitalism (grammatically capitalized) was the first “modern” economic system. Adam Smith in 1791, published Wealth of Nations, which established the study of economics, the ways people of a society distributes and produces goods. The reason Mr. Smith was interested, is that he observed that common men for the first time ever, were not only living like Kings; they were acting like Kings as well, using wealth to obtain political power. He used “Scientific Inquiry”, new methods of research such as objectivity (without prejudice or bias) and observation (looking at a subject as is) to study this new innovation. He found that the fundamental principle of capitalism was scarcity (not enough to go around) meaning that is there is a finite source of “resources” (natural or human). The most successful capitalist (businessman) he observed, was the ability to maintain the rate of accumulation (profit margin). This resulted in the finding that the capitalist who accumulates the most capital has the ability to obtain the most resources for his business (he who has to the most receives the most). Mr. Smith also observed other capitalist practices of controlling business costs and that the biggest business expense was labor. Labor, like all expenses, needed to be controlled so that the successful capitalist would maintain his rate of accumulation.
Starting with the Industrial Revolution, capitalists began to accumulate much more capital (wealth) than the merchants of Adam Smith’s study. The result was not only were they living better than Kings, they became more powerful than Kings as well. Of course, being men, they too desired a “Legacy” so they too established an ideology; Capitalism. They changed the objective language of Mr. Smith into dogma (religious language). The Capitalists changed “He who has the most receives the most to “deserves’ the most. They also gave themselves permission to treat labor as another business expense rather than as human beings. The Capitalist, using the logic of justification, bought politicians to expand their political power. The Capitalist now had the means to create his “Legacy” (empire) and the Capitalists were successful in accomplishing their ends (goals). This didn’t only happen to capitalism; Stalin and Mao did the same with Marx’s ideal economic system of communism.
Capitalism as an ideology has been established in our country. Capitalists have struggled though, as this country was designed to be non-ideological. The founding fathers understood the corruption of ideology. They designed a horizontal leadership system so that one political group could not accumulate power over another (check’s and balances). They were spiritual men (good human beings) and created the constitution around the universal spiritual practice of compassion. They gave the people, the ultimate power, “inalienable” or god-given rights. This constitution has proved to be formable barrier against the many ideologies (partisan politics/special interests) that have tried to subvert the people’s will. The constitution, slowly, is realizing the ideals of our founding fathers. The Constitution has been strong by upholding worker rights, civil rights, and protecting the people’s right to access all opportunities that our country provides.
Currently it looks like Old School Capitalists (my term), using the dogma of Capitalism, are fighting for their ideological lives. It looks like the power of the ideology, Capitalism, is slipping. However the old-school Capitalists, which includes Big Oil, Big Farm (agribusiness) and Big Medicine (health care industry), are fighting to keep their power. The Old School Capitalists are organizing their largest group of followers: rural, working class, under-educated (lack of knowledge) white people (human beings). They have had success with this group (demographic) before, starting with the Civil Rights movement.
These supporters, unfortunately, do not realize that all the Capitalists want from them is their priceless vote.
The Old School Capitalists’, the current high priests of Capitalism, need these votes so they can install (buy) politicians in order to continue to live like kings, as well as act like kings, here in a country designed for “We the People”.
Linda Campbell lives in Nevada City.
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