The Peoples’ Capitalism


America began as a plutocracy and rather quickly evolved into a corpocracy, or an unequal partnership between Corporate America and Government America, with the former controlling the latter. We now call the plutocracy the power elite of the corpocracy, and it is this power elite that is responsible for America’s economy and its capitalistic economic system. Both the economy and the system serve the power elite, obviously, and not the common good. Assuming you are not one of the power elite, you, like me, are on the short end of the stick. How short depends generally on what your socioeconomic status is. The stick is very short for America at large, for it is becoming, if it hasn’t already gotten there, a third world country, which means a substandard living for many of the citizenry.

I once raised the question, “Is America going to Hell in a handbasket?”1 If it is, there are three “isms” why; imperialism, militarism, and capitalism. There is absolutely nothing intrinsically good about the first two isms. There is no good imperialism, no good militarism. Not so the third ism. All America has ever known and used is bad capitalism. But as Parts 1-9 have shown us, there are many visions of a good capitalism. However, there are probably millions of people, especially socialists, who insist there is no good capitalism. Well, they can believe whatever they want to believe.

That being said, what do I have to offer in this last part, Part 10, of the ten-part series on “economic sanity and alternative economic systems”? A “peoples’ capitalism,” a good capitalism, is what I have to offer. It does not stand alone. It stands on the shoulders of the non-economist thinkers who preceded me in Parts 1 through 9.

The Lodestar for The Peoples’ Capitalism

The lodestar tells us what to aim for, the end goal, which is the creation of a fully functioning peoples’ capitalism, and how we know if we get there. The lodestar is nothing more nor anything less than that prescribed in the first 28 Articles of the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights. At first blush some of the articles seem to have nothing or little to do with a nation’s economy and its economic system, yet these 28 rights could never materialize under bad capitalism.

(1) Innate freedom and equality
(2) Ban on discrimination
(3) Right to life
(4) Ban on slavery
(5) Ban on torture
(6) Right to recognition as a person before the law
(7) Equality before the law
(8) Right to effective judiciary
(9) Ban on arbitrary detention
(10) Right to public hearing
(11) Right to the presumption of innocence
(12) Right to privacy
(13) Right to freedom of movement
(14) Right to asylum
(15) Right to a nationality
(16) Right to marriage and family
(17) Right to own property
(18) Right to freedom of thought and religion
(19) Right to freedom of opinion and expression
(20) Right to freedom of assembly and association
(21) Right to take part in government
(22) Right to social security
(23) Right to work
(24) Right to rest
(25) Right to an adequate standard of living
(26) Right to education
(27) Right to participate in cultural life
(28) Right to a social and international order.

Ordinarily, I regard the UN as a worthless entity, a pawn of the world’s power elite, particularly that of America’s corpocracy, but I give the UN credit at least for enunciating the above principles. But I must discredit if for being feckless. No nation can expect UN enforcement of the 28 rights. The UN declaration is like all corporate codes of ethics, paper principles to be preached and never practiced.

The Lodestar’s Lodestar: Article 25

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

All the other articles are represented in one way or another in Article 25. We must look to it for the criteria for determining whether every human being has the essentials for an adequate living and nothing less. If they do, then it is at least partly due to some form of socially responsible capitalism. Adequacy, of course, is the minimum standard. Millions of Americans and billions of other peoples have far less than an adequate standard of living. They have a miserable standard of living.

Developing criteria, or indicators of progress and reaching the goal, used to be among the mainstays of my working career, but no more. I shall turn that responsibility over to a task force of special people to be identified next.

Setting the Stage for True Reform

Let’s assume the following stage setting. My proposal for a U.S. Chamber of Democracy (USCD) has been implemented.2 It has commissioned a task force, peopled by the non-economists highlighted earlier in this series along with Aristotle and Marx in absentia, and charged with developing and publishing under the auspices of the USCD a proposal for a new national economic policy and a new economic system, the peoples’ capitalism. The proposal would include strategic initiatives, a time table for finishing, and indicators of progress.

The task force would also be charged with polling the opinions of middle class Americans, the socioeconomic group essential to any true democracy and viable economy, and then melding the solicited public opinion with the draft proposal.

Additionally, the USCD would implement my proposal for establishing the “democracy’s commandos,” comprising nearly 20 groups of disgruntled or otherwise receptive Americans numbering in the hundreds of thousands to apply pressure on the corpocracy’s power elite, including its corrupt politicians, to implement the proposal or suffer the consequences.3

The task-force’s strategic initiatives are mostly mine. That is, after all, my prerogative since I fathered the task-force! I have written reams of real and virtual paper identifying and explaining the strategic initiatives necessary for ending the corpocracy (including its endless spying and warring) and achieving true economic reform.4  I will spare you the details and the time by listing in no particular order just those 19 initiatives necessary to create the “peoples’ capitalism” and then arbitrarily pick and summarize just one of them. But I guarantee you, all 19 are solid initiatives, and if they were all achieved America would have a new economic system, the peoples’ capitalism.

(a) End Free Market Ballyhoo;
(b) End Fear Mongering Over the National Debt;
(c) End Privatization;
(d) End Economic Disparities and Poverty;
(e) End Trickle-down Economics Hokum and Blaming the Poor for their Poverty;
(f) Move toward “An Acceptable” Level of Employment;
(g) Increase Wages;
(h) Reduce the Costs of Daily Living;
(i) Move toward a Quality American Education;
(j) End Shut-Out Capitalists: So Much Capitalism, so Few Capitalists!
(k) End Wall Street along with Financial Speculation at Home and Away;
(l) Replace Bad with Good Globalization: Localize More, Globalize Less;
(m) Abolish the Unholy Trinity: The WTO, WBO and IMF;
(n) Repeal Existing Trade Agreements;
(o) End Unsustainable Development and Ovidian Growth;
(p) Make Commerce Greener;
(q) Replace Private Banks with Public Banks: Starting with abolishing the FED;
(r) End Elitist Corporate Pay for Socially Irresponsible Performance; and,
(s) Share Democracy’s Cost Fairly.

I will arbitrarily pick the last initiative, “Share Democracy’s Costs Fairly” and summarize it.

The task force would consider all good ideas on how to achieve fair-share taxation, including Barnes’ proposals for common tax credits. Just as importantly. the task force would peer through the corpocracy’s veil and do a “tax-escape” audit” of all forms of corporate welfare, including tax havens, tax cuts for the filthy rich, etc.5 While this exercise is being done, the aforementioned poll would include asking the polled to rate the importance of the UN’s Articles. Finally, democracy’s commandos would be told about the findings and asked if they would be willing to apply their democracy power to end corporate welfare for the sake of the general welfare.

In Closing

I will close with these short remarks. Yes, neither the USCD nor the democracy commandos exist, but not for my lack of trying for 10,000 or so hours on and off for several years. Yes, it is a wish list of 19 initiatives, but they represent thoroughly studied ideas, and from ideas flow change if opportunities arise. Yes, up against America’s mighty corpocracy, it’s the corpocracy’s ideas that prevail. From those three remarks conclude what you will about the peoples’ capitalism or any other significant reforms in the economic arena ever occurring.

Recapping Parts 1-9

Part 1: Economic Sanity and Alternative Economic Systems introduced this 10-part series on economic sanity and alternative economic systems. I told readers “Never mind that I am not an economist. Instead, please appreciate that I am not an economist.” That led to me trotting out for the umpteenth time my “human equation” for explaining anything involving humans. Getting closer to the subject at hand, I went on to say that “human behavior, even habitual behavior, needs to be motivated. At the heart of human motivation are values, beliefs, attitudes, needs and wants, with the latter two being the most relevant for the topic of this series. Human needs and wants are the bedrock of any economy and any economic system. Money is not the bedrock. It is simply a medium. There was no money when the earliest humans started needing and wanting. Debt, as some economic thinkers think, is not the bedrock. Debt is merely an offshoot of a usually uneven transaction. And since no human, not even a member of a society’s power elite, is self-sufficient, satisfying one’s needs and wants will in one way or another depend on what some other human beings do. So, you see, the psychology of human nature is the bedrock of economics, any economy and any economic system.” While I truly believe what I just wrote, it also gives me passage to writing about economies and economic systems as a psychologist!

Part 2. Economic Insanity Up Close. This article summarizes Roger Terry’s book on “economic insanity.” He is a non-economist and a responsible businessman. Terry contends that the growth-driven capitalism of big, authoritarian, and unaccountable organizations is devouring the American dream. Terry’s features of a new economic system would be a structurally different capitalism, one we’ve never seen before. It would be a “Nation of Owners,” in which there are three levels of ownership: (a) small enterprises, like his own, with the founders and a few partners who share ownership commensurate with their seniority and other factors like start-up funding; (b) larger enterprises, the corporations of today, would be owned collectively by their members, who would elect managers for limited terms of office; and (c) public enterprises, such as utilities, education, defense, and the like, would be created and managed by public boards or local governments. Now that I would add and enthusiastically emphasize would be real economic sanity!

Part 3. Notes on Some Classical Thinking. In this article I “pick the brains” of Aristotle, Adam Smith and Karl Marx. I close by telling readers I’m leaving Smith behind and feel much closer to Aristotle and Marx.

Part 4. The Fringe Economy. Part 4 reviews the book, Short Changed, Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy, written by Howard Karger, who at the time was a professor of social policy.

The fringe economy preys on the poor through seven different medium all controlled by corporations; pawn shops, the credit card industry, alternative financial services such as check cashing and rent-to-own, fringe housing, real estate speculation and foreclosure, the fringe auto industry, and the “getting-out-of-debt” industry such as the multi-billion dollar debt management business. The solution, Karger thinks, is not to eliminate the fringe market because mainstream services are not as accessible physically or as culturally compatible to poor neighborhoods. He suggests numerous solutions, some more plausible than others that would accommodate the realities of these neighborhoods while also eliminating some of the abusive and fraudulent practices of doing business with the people who live in those neighborhoods.

Part 5. Six Economies. This is a review of Riane Eisler’s book, The Real Wealth of Nations. I am not going to summarize it here. She is a genius. You need to read her book.

Part 6. Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. The authors of Natural Capitalism argue that it is needed to “create the next industrial revolution.” They warn that if we continue to ignore the value of natural capital; i.e., nature’s life-support systems for humankind, there will come a time when there won’t be any more life support. My rejoinder was that “America doesn’t need the next industrial revolution. America needs a new and better capitalism that enfolds industry without its corpocracy.”

Part 7. The Uncommon Commons. This is a review of a book, Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons, by Peterr Barnes, co-founder, president, or a director of various socially responsible businesses. He wants “capitalism 3.0” to replace “capitalism 2.0,” the existing economic “operating system.” He complains that corporations, with no resistance from “our” government, are privatizing the commons, profiting from it and externalizing the costs. He defines “the commons” as assets we all share by inheriting or creating them together and subdivides them into three sectors, nature, community, and culture. Together they represent our “common wealth” in contrast to our “private wealth.” Barne’s proposals are among the most unique I’ve ever read on capitalism and deserve your attention.

Part 8. Shared Capitalism. Jeff Gates wrote a book jam packed with ideas about what he calls “shared capitalism for the twenty-first century.” He was once counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee (1980-87). In this role, Gates crafted federal law on employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) and pension plans. In other words, he worked for the corpocracy, and that opened his eyes! Unshared capitalism, he argues, while made to order by the corpocracy, is totally unfit for a democracy. His solution is to make widespread ownership a specific goal of national economic policy. His opinion that people take responsibility for what they own resonates with me, having watched for two decades party-going renters misbehave and scar property in an ocean-side condominium where my wife and I owned and never rented a unit.

Part 9. Spiritual Capitalism. Dana Zohar and Ian Marshall wrote the book, Spiritual Capital: Wealth We Can Live By.  Zohar is broadly trained and thus taps into diverse resources such as classical literature, physics, religion, and psychology. Marshall is a Jungian-oriented psychiatrist and psychotherapist. The authors argue that material capitalism, the kind that predominates in America’s corpocracy, is unsustainable, depleting our natural resources, creating political and social instability, eroding our moral standards, and degrading the very meaning of life in terms of its deepest values and aspirations. Rather than reject this conventional capitalism altogether, however, the authors advocate transforming it into a more positive, sustainable economic system that they call “spiritual capitalism” in the secular, non-religious sense.

It’s defined as the amount of knowledge and expertise available about “meaning, values, and fundamental purposes.” It produces not material wealth that ultimately consumes itself but a self-sustaining wealth “that enriches the deeper aspects of our lives.”

The authors are creative thinkers who forced me repeatedly to think outside my own relatively narrow paradigms. There is much about their views and ideas with which I agree. Yet, the authors’ analysis of the problem and their proposed remedy are too unbalanced and insufficient. Material capitalism is far more than what they call a crisis of motivation. Many other factors contribute to the failings of traditional capitalism. Moreover, relying on a critical mass of business people to shift upwards their spiritual intelligence, as they propose, is naïve and simplistic in my opinion.

Part 10. The Peoples’ Capitalism. You are reading it now.

• Part 1 here; Part 2 here; Part 3 here; Part 4 here; Part 5 here; Part 6 here; Part 7 here; Part 8 here; Part 9 here

  1. Brumback, GB. “Is America Going to Hell in a Handbasket?” The Greanville Post, March 29; Uncommon Thought Journal, April 21; Cyrano’s Journal, April 22, 2013. []
  2. See my book, The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch, 2011. []
  3. Ibid. []
  4. See also my books Corporate Reckoning Ahead, 2015, and America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying, 2015. []
  5. Editorial. $100 Billion the Country Could Use. The New York Times Online, March 13, 2009. []
Gary Brumback, PhD, is a retired psychologist and Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. He is the author of The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch; and America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying. His most recent book is Corporate Reckoning Ahead. Read other articles by Gary, or visit Gary's website.