Capitalism Without Rules

What would capitalism without rules look like? What “invisible hand” guides capitalism’s actions and to what result?

There is an invisible hand guiding the physical world to all the forms and processes of our “world.” It is the in the laws that control the rates, that set the proportional relations of the various forces. But this fundamental reality is only metaphor for other “invisible hands” in evolution, social relations or economics. Appeal to invisible hands in these situations are no more than the failure to illuminate the designs of process.

The appeal of capitalism exists largely in its making acceptable the concentration of wealth and in its religion-like faith in a common, generally negative human attribute as a positive guiding principle: human greed. Capitalism is a social and economic design that gives great freedom to the most greedy. Greed and wealth concentration are intellectually supported under the argument that the invisible hand of greed will design the best possible distribution of wealth based on the most efficient use of resources. And it denies that humans have the power, or should have the power, to control wealth and resources.

This ‘leave it to the market’ argument overtly suggests that we should not trust other people to control the process of wealth distribution while hiding the fact that the very most acquisitive and ruthless of us are doing exactly that under the cover of ‘the market.’ Trillions of dollars of wealth have been taken by the tax and credit system over the last 8 years (and for many years before) and “redistributed” to the economic elite, a polite term for the greedy sociopaths at the core of these economic actions. This is being done primarily with war, the healthcare (sic) system and the credit system.

The “bailout” of Wall Street is not a bailout at all. Embezzling is slow. To get big bucks in a hurry requires a robbery and a robbery requires the hold-up note. All the planning can be done in secret, but with a robbery there comes the moment when intentions must be made clear: “Fill this bag. I have a gun in my pocket.” We have just been through such a moment, with the note written in all capitalism, so most people missed its true meaning.

“Fill this bag. If you don’t your lives will be ruined and children’s lives will be ruined.” In capitalism the note reads: “The Market has been damaged by excessive attempts of foolish people to regulate it and so trillions of dollars must be given to the managers who are guided by the True Invisible Hand to save us from a great depression, social unrest and civil war.”

What this boils down to is that capitalism, as an economic process, seeks to remove the rules that guide economic behavior, and as economic capitalism melds into political capitalism, what ever form of governance was in place is replaced with fascism. This has been the major movement of historical process in competition with democratization. Global corporations have championed democracy as a way to gain deep power in government, to take control of taxation, reduce political restraints from popular autocrats and manipulate political process.

Capitalism restrained by democratic socialism, capitalism used as resource distributing economic device and not as a religion is a functional design. But it is a little like having a gorilla guarding your house; he might at any moment realize his power to take over the whole place.

This is what has happened and, I fear, that we will see the full effect of capitalism without rules for the next many years. It will look a lot like other times in history when the powerful separate from and dominate the great middle by reducing them to servitude. Only this time we are facing an ecological end of track. How the elite will handle this reality as it manifests more and more clearly will, I suspect, not be pretty.

James Keye is the nom de plume of a retired academic and small businessman living with an Ecological Footprint of 1.6 earths. He can be reached at Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.

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  1. Donald Hawkins said on October 11th, 2008 at 8:07am #

    A person on one of the financial channels Friday said that it’s like the computer is playing thermo nuclear war and we can’t turn it off. Now that was good stuff. Chess is complex you know move forward backward sideway’s. Now it sure look’s to me like we will get one chance at this and the this is the survival of the human race. So we get a V bottom and off to the races back to normal. I don’t think so. Most people are starting to understand how serious climate change is and what it will mean for all human’s and major effects in just 10 years you know food water. Many of us don’t care if our fearless leader buys property in Paraguay or Henry worked for Goldman or Wall Street has to change we see the problems and are trying to find answers. Now buying property in Paraguay or hoping for a V bottom is not the answer. It’s going to be a little harder than that. To go ahead the same way BAU and back to normal people will know that is not the answer and think and do things like buy property in Paraguay or sail off in the sunset in a rather large boat but that is only a few the last time I checked there are 6 billion plus of us. There is still time and some hard choices need to be made. The fight is now and think of this as a kind of war. Good game of checkers anyone?

  2. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 11th, 2008 at 8:42am #

    questions, questions:
    is the nazification of US completed? or in the middle of completion?
    or anywhere btwn onset and the ending?
    sorry folks, i need to ask also this: is nazification in nearly all other countries also going on?
    if so, is it at a different degree of development in each of the countries where nazification can be espied?
    exceptions r nam, cuba, china, venezuela?
    probably, the socialists in china wld not be forced to limit freedoms if it wasn’t for the relentless effort by to so many countries to destroy socialism?
    i think that US had been more nazified than any other empire or land.

  3. Donald Hawkins said on October 11th, 2008 at 2:24pm #

    It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption. I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis in our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
    The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of evil. (Albert Einstein, 1949)

    Well put don’t you think and I must say next week will if nothing else be fascinating to watch those egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate.

  4. john andrews said on October 11th, 2008 at 11:53pm #

    I think one of the biggest errors made by the left is the evil of Capitalism.

    My dictionary defines Capitalism as follows: ‘A system in which private capital or wealth is used in the production or distribution of goods.’

    That’s it. It doesn’t say anything about manipulating the law to create an economic system based on gangsterism.

    In other words, Capitalism and wealth is not the problem. The problem is that rich elites have taken over law making machinery and obviously use it to suit themselves. The solution is simply (in theory anyway) to take back law making machinery and return it to where it belongs – in the hands of the people.

    Society should provide for those who want to work harder than anyone else in order to make lots of money – it simply needs to ensure that those people never control the law.

    Abe Lincoln once said:

    ‘I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country…corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will surely follow.’

    He sure got that right.

  5. AaronG said on October 12th, 2008 at 4:29am #

    My name is Human. I look at a tree and marvel at its design and beauty and appreciate its ability to provide food, fuel, shelter and recreation (for those clever enough to carve a kayak!) to living things, both animal and human. On a hot day I am thankful for its existence.

    My name is Corporation. I look at a tree and marvel at my balance $heet as I cut it down. I appreciate its ability to provide food, fuel, shelter and recreation for my shareholders, those carnivorous animals. On a hot day I don’t feel heat, nor am I thankful for anything. How could I be? I am a sociopath.

    Human and Corporation cannot co-exist. One of them has to go……………………..

    PS Cheer up everyone……..only 10 weeks to go until Corporation Day, I mean xmas (kis-my-ass) day!

  6. James Keye said on October 12th, 2008 at 6:56am #

    Mr. Andrews,

    I share your consternation with making capitalism a devil just as much as I reject making it a god. But it is a simple syllogism: capitalist models use wealth concentration as a motivation in the distribution of goods. Wealth concentration can, and therefore will, dominate political (and social) power. Capitalist models lead to fascism.

    Ultimately this is function of wealth itself. Excess must be organized and concentrated wealth is its most likely form. The rest flows from this.

  7. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 12th, 2008 at 7:31am #

    james key,
    see it that way, also.
    all our doings r connected to all others; no aspect of our being stands in isolation.
    even a tree affects all of us all the time let alone money.
    capitalism means too much. so i do not deal with this.
    what i study what people do. and what people do everywhere is lie cheat, murder, envy, rage, love, like, dislike, lust for power/riches, etc.
    in most countries they r divided in classes. upper classes dispise and look dwn on lower classes.
    lower classes r miseducated and disinformed in all degrees.
    if that be so, what can we do to lessen lying, cheating, deceiving?
    we can educate people to lie, cheat, deceive less and thereby live in a more livable world. thnx

  8. Poilu said on October 12th, 2008 at 9:27am #

    “I think one of the biggest errors made by the left is the evil of Capitalism.”

    Mr. Andrews: I’m quite curious to know whatever gave you the idea that Capitalism can be construed as an innovation of the “Left”. Such an assertion flies completely in the face of political history.The “Left” (sensu lato) is traditionally far more inclined towards socialism than capitalism — it rather appropriately “goes with the turf”.

    So how the evil of Capitalism can be remotely dubbed ANY “error of the left” is quite beyond me. If you wish to move beyond a mere dictionary definition to better understand the intrinsic evils of Capitalism, actual or potential, I’d recommend a review of The Communist Manifesto, avaialable online at Even a cursory perusal of the first chapter should prove fairly enlightening in that regard:

    “Manifesto of the Communist Party”

  9. Kim Petersen said on October 12th, 2008 at 10:08am #

    “it is a little like having a gorilla guarding your house”

    I always use a rodeo metaphor. Democratic socialism is like a cowboy on the bull (capitalism). Sooner or later (most likely sooner) the bull will throw the cowboy off.

  10. James Keye said on October 12th, 2008 at 10:17am #

    Kim Peterson,

    …a fine and appropriate metaphor. The difference to me is that that the bull is always full devoted to discarding the cowboy. The gorilla, on the other hand, can begin his occupation responsibly only discovering with time his true power.

  11. Donald Hawkins said on October 12th, 2008 at 10:39am #

    People who are fortunate enough to break free from the propaganda and move to expose it as such are “enemy combatants”. It really is that simple.

    I don’t know who wrote that it was out there in all those zero’s and one’s. I like taking something complex and making it simple and whoever wrote that certainly did just that.

  12. Max Shields said on October 12th, 2008 at 11:04am #


    I don’t think the point being made was that the “left” invented “Capitalism” but that the left derails Capitalism as an “evil”.

    I tend to agree with Mr. Andrews more nuanced sense of Capital as a form of leveraging capital for production.

    The issue with Capital(ism) is that it has like so much become an ideology and as such taken on a “believer” fervor. Additionally, Capitalism, with it’s Adam Smith ethic of exploiting a “human” tendency or bias toward self over the collective good has od’d on greed. The idea is to use this “selfish” condition for the betterment of the whole. It is obviously very problematic. In fact it is the crux of all of complaints on the left – and I think rightly so.

    Nevertheless capital is simply a tool. The intent was not to create a global concentration of wealth based on speculation, short sells, hedge funds and the like; any more than Marx’s theories had anything to do with the military industrial complex of the Soviet Union.

    So, in that sense, I’m in full agreement with Mr. Andrews. The distribution of wealth continues to be one of the central issues. Defining wealth is an issue from the get go. We confuse money with wealth and the whole thing goes to hell in a handbasket from there. Furthermore, economists have excluded the major ingediant to all wealth – land and access to natural resources (renewable and non-renewable). As such we continue to deplete what we have rather than to be stewards and husband the scracity on the living planet.

    So, in the end it is neither socialism nor capitalism that are going to correct this course we’re on; and hence the old notions of left and right only confusing and get in the way of real solutions.

    Humans have traversed two paths. This is best illustrated with the indigenous people of North America. When European settlers came to this area, they were met with an indigenous people who were generally inbalance with their surroundings – interconnected with the natural order on every aspect of life.

    Western colonists up-ended all of that and moved in with a furry to displace a harmony with a conquest (powerful weapons) and domination of the land, people and with ideas which would bring us to this point in time. The power of domination has been the “winner” over civilization; but the story is far from complete. Two paths were available, one was able to conquer the other in time. As a species this creature – human life – will not get the last say. The systems – capitalism/socialism/culture/polity – will only have endurance so long as they are interconnected to the larger ecosystem. That ecosystem creates and sustains life itself. An economic system out of sync with that force will not, in the long run survive.

    Both capitalism and socialism grew out of the industrial revolution. That revolution is the western revolution. It is the single path of domination. The indigenous people of the world were not weaned on production. Production requires land. Since the economics of land, which the Native American intuitively understood, was erased from the pages of neo-classical economics, we have continued full bore on a path of destruction.

    Only a correction in that course, one not wed to the old ideologies of left and right, capitalism and socialism, can provide the answer, can in fact, save the species.

  13. Donald Hawkins said on October 12th, 2008 at 11:35am #

    Max I agree and what do we see now. Trying everything they can to keep us on that path to destruction. Who are they. One thing for sure not deep thinking human’s who like making profit off the hard work of others and in many cases just a button on a computer using funny money. The money the power yes but I think the game is what they like the most.

  14. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 12th, 2008 at 12:10pm #

    max shield,
    can u have socialism w.o. capitalism, religion, music, mathematics, sciense, engineering, laws, jurisprudence, farming, fishing, etcetc?
    but let me first point out that, in my conclusion, no one can know capitalism?
    i’m talking about capitalism that may be described thusly: it consist of trillions of our doings and is connected w. religion, socialism or anything else that goes on on this planet.
    capitalism does not exist in isolation; ie, by itself, for itself, and w.o. humans.
    socialism also consist of zillions of interpersonal relationships.
    thus studying or observing accurately/adequately the interrelationships in each of the structures, we may see the differences and similarities btwn them.
    let’s look at work? at one time even children loved work. at one time there was no supervision. there was no unemployed people; except, of course, mentally injured.
    there was no homelessness. there was cooperation. words had full symbolic value. etcetc.
    now, that’s how i envision socialism.
    how do i envision capitalism? well, people work. most hate supervision. rightfully so.
    many bosses r mean and abusive. s’mbody far away is making oodles of money., etcetc.
    as i said in one of my posts, no one can enumerate all of the instances of capiatalism.
    that is why i said no one can know all about capiatalism.
    and i hate w. a passion many interrelationships btwn owners/payers, and their, what to me r, serfs.
    in well-developed socialism there wld not be serfs.

  15. Donald Hawkins said on October 12th, 2008 at 12:59pm #

    A recent editorial in the Copenhagen Post said Greenland is ‘believed to be sitting on a mind boggling 10,000 billion kroner [nearly $2 trillion] worth of offshore oil reserves.’

    Ilulissat is Greenland’s third-largest village, with 4,500 people and just as many sled dogs. Each summer, it hosts dozens of researchers and hundreds of tourists. Many of the latter see Greenland’s famous Eqi glacier breaking off into seawater from the comfort of luxury cruise ships.

    Influential U.S. lawmakers, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), have recently stayed in the village’s posh Hotel Arctic, as have celebrities such as pop singer Bjork and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. The hotel is in the midst of doubling in size.

    Regardless where they stay, nearly everyone who visits Ilulissat seems to have a feeling of suspended reality when they open their hotel blinds each morning.

    Almost without fail, the icebergs they saw the night before have been replaced by new ones.

    How can such massive hunks of ice come and go so fast? After all, they were formed from thousands of years of compressed snow. And they look harder to budge than skyscrapers

    One of them is Swiss-born Konrad ‘Koni’ Steffen of the University of Colorado. He has done field work in the Arctic since 1975 and on Greenland’s ice sheet at least once every year since 1990. His work is cited in major publications.

    He is at the table of most major climate talks.

    Conventional wisdom during the 1970s was that Greenland’s ice sheet would take thousands of years to melt.

    ‘Nobody would have predicted 10 to 15 years ago that Greenland would lose ice that fast,’ Mr. Steffen said. ‘That revises all of the textbooks.’

    His take-home message: Forget the scientific modeling. Greenland is melting faster than anyone’s best guess.

    ‘How can you have an ice sheet so big and respond that quickly?’ he asked. ‘That is still part of the mystery, to be honest.’

    Influential U.S. lawmakers, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), have recently stayed in the village’s posh Hotel Arctic, as have celebrities such as pop singer Bjork and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. The hotel is in the midst of doubling in size and all that oil that very soon it’s drill, drill, drill that profit thing. These Influential U.S. lawmakers apparently didn’t learn much as offshore oil reserves it’s drill drill drill. The Game goes on.

  16. Max Shields said on October 12th, 2008 at 1:21pm #

    bozhidar bob balkas,

    To clarify: I don’t think capitalism or socialism are simply great ideas poorly implemented by imperfect humans. These systems, afterall, are human and therefore with their own share of flaws from the start.

    No, I think the issue is not simply one of an economic system because without an aligned culture and polity the economics are meaningless. Economics are about human relationships, but our material culture feeds off production and consumption. A politics which addresses all issues as if prosperity is defined in material terms cannot only be had indefinitely but will require our use of non-renewable resources at an ever excellerated rate – which we know is unsustainable. For example, if we all bought Prias (including the growing millions in China and India) we would quickly destroy the planet. Not because gasoline consumption, but because of the demand for energy to produce the Prias. It is not about fuel efficiency. It is ALL the economics of endless production/consumption at rates that are larger than any technological fix can begin to match.

    Henry George blended socialism and capitalism without attempting to simply synthesis two ideologies, but to think throught he problem of poverty and progress to its logical conclusions. His thesis requires update to be sure, but his insights into our current predicament, I would argue exceed those of Marx and Smith.

    Today, more of us are far more aware of our limitations in terms of what the planet will allow humans to do. The planet will go on and continue to produce life with or without the human species.

    So, understanding our limits and how within those limits we can broaden our understanding of human needs, not simply as producing and consuming machines, but as community and creative creatures who’s needs in those areas go unfulfilled in the pursuit of the material.

    Today our economy is uneconomic. It costs more to grow than not to grow. It is a vicious unsustainable and unsatisfying life style.

    Human relations are essential. How we relate to one another and the rest of life will determine our ability to survive and thrive within the context of limits.

    We need a sustainable economy, sensitive to the cultures and human relationships its helps to foster. A pertnership society, rather than a hierarchical empire society – as we now have.

  17. lichen said on October 12th, 2008 at 1:30pm #

    It is, actually, the for-profit capitalist ethos which is bringing the world to the brink of an environmental apocalypse, and which causes gross poverty. Everyone should make an equal, living wage in cooperative workplaces democratically run by the workers; trying to inspire idiots to use their advantages to rape the natural resources in order to make more money is a really stupid idea, and there is no ‘original idea’ or ‘work’ that puts anyone above other people, because society and the natural resources are always used to get there.

  18. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 12th, 2008 at 3:05pm #

    r u thinking that socialism may also be faulty because we humans r faulty?
    this is important: we aren’t faulty. we r what nature had made us. it did ist best for us. we r ok.
    ruling class along all? religions propagate idea that we r lazy, stupid, uneducated, etc., and thus need urging, guidance, ruling by our ‘betters’
    that to me is one of the greatest lies ever told. it was told us tacitly and explicitly for at least 10td yrs.
    actually people love to learn, work, etc., unless the ruling class got to them; usually as children.
    what people hate or shld w. madness is the rating of learning. this to me is one the greatest tools in subjugating and turning us against one another for all time.
    the trick is to have managers and not dictatorial rulers.
    remember, we swim in one genetic pool but later as adults we no longer belong in one and only pool.
    u also may mean to say that even in a socialist structure of living, we wld nevertheless overuse, pollute, cut trees just to wipe our noses, wage wars.
    well, i’m a socialist. i pee in a pot all day long; thus do not flush the toilet. i blow my nose w. fingers. i often bathe or sponge bath w. a towel and w. few liters of water which i warm up on patio.
    i wash by hand my shirts in cold water and hang them on the line. i get lostof greens from my garden, etcetc.
    i often do not use toilet paper; i use water to clean self.

  19. Max Shields said on October 12th, 2008 at 3:30pm #

    “r u thinking that socialism may also be faulty because we humans r faulty?
    this is important: we aren’t faulty. we r what nature had made us. it did ist best for us. we r ok.”

    You see the flaw in your logic? You can’t say this in one breath and then say that “religion” or “elite ruling class” is this or that. If they are part of the natural order than they are as “perfect” as the rest of us. No?

    I would argue: Humans are not deterministically perfect, if that’s what you’re getting at. There is an emergence at work for all of life which keeps us for ever changing course.

    The problem is that humans have a cognition which shapes our world view and thus enables us to co-creates it consciously. Whether that’s good or bad for survival is an unanswered question. But we are intentional creatures and our intentions are flawed to the extent that the outcomes are imperfect.

    So, back to my point, it is not the theory of capitalism or socialism that is the problem; nor their implementation. All is flawed. That’s fine up to a point.

    All systems (such as socialism/capitalism) allowed to run their course become dangerous. Life is about constant course corrections. Capitalism in the form of unlimited growth, greed, paper assets and the like is the pathological outcome of a naturally flawed and uncorrect system. Such would be the case with socialism.

    I know of only one perfect system for all practical purposes. And that is the universe, and particularly the earth with it’s perfect balance of life force. It is only by living within that force that life itself can be sustained.

    Beyond that we are playing with fire. And we will most certainly lose.

  20. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 12th, 2008 at 4:25pm #

    i had to reread my previous post to ascertain that id id not label religion nor the ‘elite’.
    i have stated many times that the priests, politicos, educators, media people miseducate and disinform adults and children.
    yes, nature made priests, miseducators, et al.
    nature just like all of us is infinitely-valued. some people educate.
    i’m not going to argue w. nature; it did and does now what it did and does now.
    and that is why i have concluded that unless nature (or god) changes its mind we r, the unwashed, destined to whine.
    we know for certain that naure makes all kinds of people. since we r part of nature, nature is still shaping and teaching us.
    hopefully in future it may teach us to behave differently; fewer murders, robberies, rapes, cheating, etc.
    more coopperation, less competition, etcetc.
    it does seem paradoxical that if one states we and the elite r ok and at the same time say that the elite is wrong.
    especially, in view that there may not be wrong nor right.
    so we don’t know whether our serfdom is justified.
    anyhow, so sprach die nature oder gott.

  21. Donald Hawkins said on October 12th, 2008 at 5:44pm #

    The World that these so called elite’s live in is it real? Yes in the World of human’s and I guess that is why it is so important to keep telling us the average person who is boss. The interesting part is there are other Worlds and I have a feeling the one called Earth very soon well be telling all human’s who’s boss. The time is now and still time I am hoping for a mirical.

  22. Donald Hawkins said on October 12th, 2008 at 7:01pm #

    About 10 minutes ago I was watching one of the financial channels and a man said it looks like Europe heard the call and 450 billion should do the trick. He than said tomorrow we will see if the United States can get it right. This of course is where I heard the laughter of the Gods. Get it right these people with a good map couldn’t find there way home. Dreamland the Matrix play’s funny tricks with your mind. These so called elite’s and I am not talking about a person who comes into my shop to get bait to go fishing who looks and acts like a farmer and grows corn and makes a few hundred thousand a year I am taking about people who you see on TV talking nonsense and telling everybody how important they are because they have on a $1,000 dollar suit and just flew in from somewhere in there jet. I am sure most know that they are nuts but are so far into the system/matrix they are hopelessly in a prison of the mind. Now am I being to hard on these people, No. Most of what I hear them say is not only nonsense and stupid but the arrogance even in the face of the problems we face is incredible to watch. I guess that comes from being the boss and the people around them yes boss you are right no boss I won’t do that again can I get you anything boss. Now I would work for someone who know’s there stuff and I have seen a few on the History Channel. Hint hint

  23. Donald Hawkins said on October 12th, 2008 at 7:40pm #

    I made a mistake as I said I would work for someone who know’s there stuff. I should have said I would work with somebody who know’s there stuff with not for much better.

  24. john andrews said on October 13th, 2008 at 12:12am #


    I didn’t phrase the opening words of my last comment very well.


    Of course the left are not responsible for the creation of capitalism – I meant to say that the left regard capitalism as too large an evil. By focusing too much on individual wealth they lose sight of the bigger problem, which is the inhumane government provided by our leaders.

    The fact that our government is inhumane is not because our society tolerates wealth, it’s because our society DEMANDS wealth by persecuting the poor.

    Providing you have a society where everyone has a reasonable standard of life and need never fear their own society, what difference does it make if a few sad work obsessives want to surround themselves with more money than the next person? Who cares?

  25. mandla said on October 13th, 2008 at 2:44am #

    When communism fell in 1991, Time magazine arrogantly predicted the end of history. The recent events in the capitalist world has re-ignited the interest in how the global economic system works. The obvious starting point is to reformulate a model that can best explain what went wrong and how it happened. It is obvious that this is just a first of the many economic calamities that will beset the market-system economies. It may not be far-fetched to assume that this is the best time to re-evaluate the capitalist system without the emotionally charged ideological rivalry that characterised the cold war era.

  26. James Keye said on October 13th, 2008 at 5:58am #

    Mr. Andrews,

    If wealth were irrelevant to these matters of social justice, then it would be irrelevant (except for the ecological consequences of excess in what ever form it takes). You seem to be asking to maintain the most abstract notions of wealth while hoping to be able to remove from it many of the primary reasons for attaining it. I believe that you are making a distinction between having wealth and using wealth; a very rare condition for a real human being.

  27. James Keye said on October 13th, 2008 at 7:52am #


    I think that you have made a wise observation: that there are times when unbiased evaluations of economic (and other) systems are impossible. I can only hope that you are correct that now is such a time for evaluating capitalism since we are rapidly running out of time to avoid a fait accompli requiring the general suppression of populations. These current financial system machinations (and the oil wars) are the most obvious expressions of the process.

  28. Brian Koontz said on October 13th, 2008 at 9:57am #

    In reply to Max Shields:

    “We need a sustainable economy, sensitive to the cultures and human relationships its helps to foster. A pertnership society, rather than a hierarchical empire society – as we now have.”

    There’s only one serious objection to this model – the colonization of outer space. If outer space becomes able to be colonized and lived on by capitalists and their slaves, capitalism will have an almost infinite resource to exploit, rather than the current meager single planet.

    When one examines the motivations for “environmentalists” one finds that it is not so much “love of the environment” that fuels them, but fear of death (animal, plant, and human). That’s why it’s only in recent decades (when that fear has increased greatly) that environmentalism has become powerful.

    The single way for capitalism to continue it’s reign of terror is to expand to the stars. Other planets will become colonies, the “motherland” where those resources flow will be the Earth, and “environmentalists” and their “love of the environment” will fade into oblivion, since they can just live on Earth, which can be maintained as a lush paradise, as much of the rest of the universe is exterminated.

    This expansion to outer space can only be fueled by high technology, therefore Noam Chomsky is wrong when he speaks of the “neutrality of technology”. Given that the ONLY thing that can sustain capitalism is technology itself, the only way to assure the prevention of a future for capitalism (or hierarchical socialism, bear in mind that many high-tech futurists are top-down socialists, as all that socialism does is redistribute wealth obtained through violence) is to take down technology, so that an expansion to outer space becomes impossible.

    The left virtually ignores this issue, and fortunately capitalists are so short-sighted that their ability to plan for *their* long-term future is meager. I wouldn’t rule it out, however, as the modern left has done.

    ALL powerful states, from those of the United States to the Soviet Union to China, whether Communist or Capitalist, support an expansion to the stars and the perpetual project of capitalist exploitation.

    Where was the American Left during the Space Race of the 1960s? Cheering it on?

  29. Poilu said on October 13th, 2008 at 10:19am #

    john andrews:

    I take your meaning clearly now — thanks for the clarification.

    While I nevertheless hold firm to the conviction that capitalism IS an inherently evil system, I profess that belief only insofar as the raw essence of capitalism is concerned. (Of course, according to the prevailing “free market” capitalism mindset, anything else is simply NOT “capitalism.)

    I would agree that someone who genuinely works harder should be rewarded appropriately for that greater effort — noting, too, that such can also be the case in Socialistic sytems. But under the woefully unregulated Capitalism of this country nowadays, such “proportional remuneration” is more hypothetical than real. Those few who control the vast majority of wealth in this country cannot be considered to be “working harder” in any sense proportional to their frequently massive compensation. To the contrary, a great many of the most obscenely wealthy in the US hardly work at all!

    Still, when I speak of “the inherent evil of Capitalism”, I am referring to its absolute form — unfettered by government restrictions intended to protect the common welfare — where it operates parasitically on society as a whole. I doubt that I would propose either polar extreme (Capitalism or Communism) as an “ideal”, favoring instead a sensible middle ground that blends elements of both economic systems to serve the greater good. (However, to any hardcore “Capitalist”, that brands me a Socialist.)

    The following excerpt probably illustrates my thoughts on this issue far better than I can:

    “America’s Political Cannibalism”
    by Chris Hedges

    ‘… Karl Polanyi [1] in his book “The Great Transformation,” written in 1944, laid out the devastating consequences-the depressions, wars and totalitarianism-that grow out of a so-called self-regulated free market. He grasped that “fascism, like socialism, was rooted in a market society that refused to function.” He warned that a financial system always devolved, without heavy government control, into a Mafia capitalism-and a Mafia political system-which is a good description of the American government under George W. Bush. Polanyi wrote that a self-regulating market, the kind bequeathed to us since Ronald Reagan, turned human beings and the natural environment into commodities, a situation that ensures the destruction of both society and the natural environment. He decried the free market’s belief that nature and human beings are objects whose worth is determined by the market. He reminded us that a society that no longer recognizes that nature and human life have a sacred dimension, an intrinsic worth beyond monetary value, ultimately commits collective suicide. Such societies cannibalize themselves until they die. Speculative excesses and growing inequality, he wrote, always destroy the foundation for a continued prosperity. …’

  30. Max Shields said on October 13th, 2008 at 11:05am #


    Your clarification and mention of the Great Transformation is useful.

    While I appreciate your use of the term “sensible” regarding the blending of Socialism and Capitalism, I would prefer a template void of either term. Not to abandon the best of both but to start with a fresh consensus of Universal Human Needs.

    If we start there we’ll create an economy which is suited for a healthier existence on the planet.

    Again, that doesn’t mean we won’t end up with a sensible combination of Capitalism and Socialism, but we’ll avoid trying to make those work in some kind of homogenized fashion.


  31. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 13th, 2008 at 12:39pm #

    ideally, no country shld have gone to outer space. but some countries have done just that.
    to me it represents an usurpation of universal rights. russia has started it w. sputnik. and may have regreted it. i do.
    it gave US the impetus to also obtain the space. US had also armed the space.
    china, fearing and eventual attack by world plutocrats, was justified to go to space and to militarize it.
    right to bear arms is a universal. and US was the first to use Abombs and militarize space. thnx

  32. Max Shields said on October 13th, 2008 at 2:42pm #


    The reason – compounded growth is in the process of hitting a finite planet. The US (and Western) economies are based on a growth pattern which is in the process of hitting its outlimits.

    So, when we talk about Capitalism and Socialism we need to keep in mind that what we’ve known will be utterly changed because of what is happening. This is a course we are on. How we intentionally adapt to this trajectory is the unknown – it will take a political will which has yet to materialize.

    The established system of government (and these establishment candidates) will continue to lean on the past – what was, when that is clearly unusable.

  33. James Keye said on October 13th, 2008 at 4:37pm #

    I want to thank all who commented – it fascinates me that the comments take on their own direction, but still on the primary issue. We face a terrible and uncertain future; no so much old ones such as me, but the human billions of my species. Toba nearly wiped Homo sapiens from the earth 75,000 years ago. This time it is human activity that threatens the whole biosphere and will change dramatically all present human designs. It is heartening that so many people are beginning to take these matters seriously.

  34. Adam said on October 13th, 2008 at 10:54pm #

    “The invisible magic/wisdom of the free market” = “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, I am the Great and Powerful Oz”

  35. john andrews said on October 13th, 2008 at 11:53pm #


    What I have found particularly encouraging about this discussion is that people seem to be looking for solutions. We seem to be moving on from endlessly proving the system is broken, which we all know, and considering what to DO about it.

    Also most of this discussion has taken a polite and civilised form. I always think its a shame when we sneer at each other. Change is only going to come from us; we could really do with not falling out with each other. Whilst ideas must be challenged and tested and argued against it’s so important to do it in a civilised fashion.

  36. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 14th, 2008 at 4:55am #

    john andrews,
    i’m glad u said it,
    ideally, one shld not even attack ideas let alone people.
    instead, one juxtaposes own ideas. if u don’t like other peoples ideas, facts, conclusions, etc., leave it be and go on and educate.thnx

  37. Poilu said on October 14th, 2008 at 5:06am #

    Max: I’m sot sure we disagree in any substantial way. As for the “blending” I have vaguely in mind, I don’t think it’s necessary to actually “reinvent the wheel” entirely, since that “ideal” has at least been approximated in the past, largely as the result of the New Deal and its aftermath. (Though even Huey Long, essentially the founder of Social Security, was savvy enough to disavow with a wink the notion that such solutions were inherently Socialistic, I suspect his verbal window-dressing was just a ploy to make the much-needed “medicine” — the reform inherent in a social safety net — go down a little easier for the capitalist “purists” of this country.)

    Before Reagan, we had a fairly intact sytem of regulation in this country that served the common good relatively well. We also had much stronger organized labor movements, that helped to balance the human needs of the workers with the corporate greed of the owners. Then came the maverick trend toward “free market” deregulation, privatization, globalization, and union busting. All of those reverse innovations have proven disastrous and are massively contributory to the current financial crisis, in my mind. The “market” is obviously incapable of any self-regulation. So even a solid restoration of the prior, relatvely effective controls over the business sector would go far in eradicating the US economy’s newfound propensity for self-destruction. (Of course, revoking the lingering, historically erroneous notion of “corporate personhood”, in deference to GENUINE personhood, would be a very good idea.)

    Alas, I’m not at all convinced that there’s enough “integrity” extant in the Congress for it to even attempt sincerely to reverse this conspicuously Fascistic trend that’s been enthusiastically pursued for the past few decades. That being the case, the only likely motivator for legislative reform would be the one that’s been used against the people throughout the Bush Regime’s tenure — fear. Only the threat of massive civil unrest and upheaval, I think, is likely to upset this particular “apple cart”, since we seem to have already reached the state of “Mafia capitalism-and a Mafia political system” envisioned by Polanyi (above).

    A “consensus of Universal Human Needs”? Sounds pretty optimal to me! Plus we do have some foundation for that in established UN philosophy. The problem, of course, is ever getting it into the “gut” of the US, which MAY just require a little Gitmo-style force-feeding.

    May we [the People] prevail, Max! Otherwise, I see this country quite possibly heading down the same long, dark tunnel that was entered by Germany in the mid-1930’s.

  38. Poilu said on October 14th, 2008 at 6:41am #

    WOW! Talk about an exceptionally powerful piece of writing that fits this topic splendidly!:

    “What Rough Beast…”
    by William Norman Grigg

    I have to admit, I’ve long had a profound admiration for Libertarian sentiments (as well as Socialist notions), with notable exceptions — primarily the unequivocal deference usually afforded to “free enterprise”. People, I believe, should be free; capitalism, I think, should be WELL-regulated.

    Alas, there’s no truly fitting label for my erstwhile ideology, since “Libertarian Socialism” is essentially considered a variant of Anarchism. (Lucky for me that I’m not much of an ideologue, or I’d be chronically confused.) 😉

  39. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 14th, 2008 at 8:42am #

    it is easy to be confused when comparing capitalism w. socialism, communism, fascism, et al.
    i get even more confused/frustrated when anyone, includes me, tries todefine these ideologies.
    one can define these ideologies or plans of action forever and one still wld never finish defining them.
    definitions and definers need the word “is”, otherwise no go.
    and the little word “is” implies permanence/immutability/knowing all about it.
    it also reefies them; ie, their things .
    i use the word “does” . what capitalists, socialists, communists do, that’s the ques’ns to ask.
    and we know much of what they have done and do now.
    the word “do” or “does” , when used w. descriptive language makes pleasant learning and reading.
    to me all ideologies may evaluated as undefinable. believers do that.
    they do run, but in a circle. and most never break out of the constraints imposed on them by mad priests.
    fortunately, we know a lot ab what religious people do.
    we know they separate selves from us and most other believers. we know they kill one another; they used to stone people to death and still do in some part of the world.
    they had slaves, servants, serfs. so did the capitalists. and one cld go on and on ab the use of labels w. aid of the word “is” and descriptions.
    and true/false answers only apply to descriptive language.
    and friends, i’m running in all directions; i’m not inside the box. thnx

  40. Poilu said on October 15th, 2008 at 2:50am #

    “i use the word does . what capitalists, socialists, communists do, thats the quesns to ask.”

    bozhidar bob balkas: Well said! The theoretical fundamentals of most ideologies are rarely implemented completely in the real world, and those that are often mutate rapidly in response to circumstance. As a result, espoused ideologies are almost never implemented. (One exception might be Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime, and we all know how well that worked.) So, “is” and “does” ARE often significantly different. “Never the twain shall meet.”

    And kudos to you! I agree, the standard “boxes” are typically far too limiting. Many years ago, I was introduced to an article on “adaptive muddling”, the normal process by which constructive consensus is usually achieved — i.e., adapting to real-world circumstances and muddling collectively towards a mutually acceptible solution. I was incredibly impressed at the time with the idea that, as haphazard as the process sometimes appears to be, it usually works out far better than attempts to pursue any rigidly dogmatic agenda, which may not address the full scope of the problems and may even fail to recognize them, due to inherent limitations in such models.

    Sadly, profoundly democratic approaches like that are no longer much in evidence here in the Fourth Reich — at least within our “government”.

  41. Max Shields said on October 15th, 2008 at 7:08am #

    I agree that ideologies (and it’s nearly impossible not to espouse an ideology of one sort or another) can and frequently does take on a fundamentalist fervor.

    Human nature has the capacity to correct course. The course premised on a balance. Within that balance are infinite possibilities to create. If we are locked into human systems such as our economic and culture theologies they/we will take us straight off the cliff – crash and burn.

    Human’s naturally consume more that any other species, but we have the capacity to husband much of what we consume and to intentially care and be stewards of scarcity. For example, a compelling argument can be made that humans are not naturally warring creatures. That war is an anomoly or exploitation of our nature to be secure. That people can be “driven” to war is a fact; but it is an intentional act of domination and power; not a natural inclination.

    As this consumptive/economy unravels, there is no certainty that we will not fragment into authoritarian fiefdoms; but there is choice and it is collectively and individually ours.