Saturday, October 24, 2015

Capitalism - For Profit or Pigs?

Now I don't pretend to be an economic expert, or someone who really holds an answer to the best socioeconomic infrastructure for our fair land. And I don't know about "isms" such as communism and socialism, which apparently are – from all the public relations media kits – horrible systems that would crush the wonderful free market we enjoy in America today.

But there has got to be something inherently evil in this capitalism thing ... or perhaps it’s just something inherently evil in the humans who would use the system to apply leverage over others less advantaged. 

Yes, leverage. I mean it truly IS a system of leverage right? And – given the proclivities of any of those humans who wield an ego within a societal structure – can such a system ever really work? 

Now again, my brain – it ain’t that big. I don’t understand the ins and outs of our capitalism society, even though my pop was an Economics Major and I have an outrageously high credit score. 

So I just keep it at a simple level for my understanding.

It doesn’t take too much analysis to see that the word “capitalism” has at its root the word “capitalize.” Capitalize? Capitalize on what … and over whom?

We live in a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and the middle class – normally burdened with the highest tax load – starts to fade from view. This means that some people at the top (the infamous 1 percent) experience powerful leverage over others, as they capitalize on their good fortune.

Now, I’m all for healthy competition and believe hard work should be rewarded. But just like the competition found on the baseball diamond, the football gridiron or the hockey rink, our economic landscape must have hard-and-fast, black-and-white rules and regulations that are applied equally through impartial means. This way, no one agency, person, corporation or monopoly can completely squash competitors because of some unfair advantage.

But who are the referees and umpires within our economic landscape? Are they impartial? And do the laws created here apply equally and to everyone?

I am guessing that the game is rigged. I have a friend who says those wielding power in the business world – the bankers, the mortgage lenders, the politicians – are INDEED living by "The Golden Rule.” And that sounds so incredibly sweet and honorable and loving ... until you hear him define it as “those who have the gold make the rules.”

Such a sick reality is seen clearly when, for example, banks are bailed out with funds supplied by tax money from those ripped off by the poor practices of the same institutions. It’s seen when the common person gets dinged with a financial penalty when they can't afford manditory healthcare, while healthcare CEOs make upwards of $50,000 per day. It’s seen when one pretty-boy pharmaceutical owner chooses to raise the cost of an AIDS medication Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill because he notes how undervalued it has become, and because - well - he can.

I have also run into this imbalance on a very basic and personal level. A simple example comes in bank fees. Whenever we make a mistake on our checking accounts, say in a late payment, we are accessed a $25 to $35 fee by the bank. However, when our banks make a mistake on our account, what fees do they pay?

The game is rigged.

What results have we seen when the leverage is held by those who have climbed up the ladder, through either sheer hard work or a silver spoon leg-up from a family link or a crony member of a “good ole boys club?” The result is the growing gap between classes, as those with the leverage apply it harder and harder and harder, in order to get their way … in order to capitalize.

It’s put well in an October 4 story by freelance writer Jennifer Lea Reynolds: “It's no secret that various industries increase customer pricing so the company can make a profit. That's Economics 101. However, when prices surge so exorbitantly that the average person can barely afford an item while the company walks all the way to the bank, that's Greed 101.”

Whatever label we assign and whatever level we are looking at it, there must be something wrong with a capitalistic system that rests on this strategy: “How can I get the most amount of work out of this person and pay him or her the least amount of money?” Compare that to this strategy: “How can I take the best care of a vendor, employee or consultant who is taking care of me?”

We meet up with the latter consciousness very rarely, perhaps because of being trapped in puny identities as lizard-brain humans with separatist personalities, lowly individual competitors without honor. The idea – at this point in our evolution – that people will rise above their competitive and capitalistic traits and then, just because, be generous and trickle down the wealth to all is ludicrous and naive.

No – there is a conflict of interest in this system. We want the most out of someone and reward them the least in return. This is a system based on separation, a care for the little self, and a disdain for the other. The interests rest with the individual, and not the collective. This is not about a relationship or the trade of goods and services in a win-win, but rather it's about how one person can best USE another for their own sake. At core, it’s rotten. At root, it’s darkness. At the center, it is evil.

It is a haven for the ego to push for its will over the good of another. It’s the prison system where someone dominates over another, calling the shots, having the upper hand, holding the cards, and wielding the weapon.

You have experienced the negative aspect of this system in various ways I’m sure. I have a friend who lives in a rich neighborhood, drives a nice car, has all the money he could need. And even so, instead of paying a Webmaster what he had bid and what he deserved on a web design project, this friend asked, "Can’t you come down in price for me and help me out?"

In his warped haggling, it wasn’t ever going to be about the win-win or the right action born of generosity and an abundant mind. It was all about what he could get for himself regardless of another person’s good. Even after getting an incredible discount on the project, was my friend gracious and full of gratitude? No, that would not be the behavior observed in what could only be called a “capitalistic pig.”

And what does all this come down to? Leverage. There is that word again. That is the bottom line in this capitalistic system, and it does not work. Not in the long run. People who wield leverage will always fight to maintain that leverage. It is what separates them from their brothers and sisters. It is what makes them "powerful," and in the end ... wretched and ruined.

I’m reminded of the bad guys and good guys of the old myths and movies that included a scene involving a duel. Routinely, the scene was set up the same each time, and for dramatic effect. The good guy would be in a sword fight with the bad guy, and the bad guy would accidentally drop his sword. What would the good guy do? He would throw him the sword to continue the battle, on even and fair terms. Then when the good guy dropped his sword, what would the bad guy do? He would totally use that leverage to attempt to kill the good guy. And the viewing audience would feel the rage.

On the deepest level, we know that right action is not based on advantage or leverage, but rather fairness and equality.

So what would work here? I don’t know about an “ism,” but I believe the structure that would ultimately work in any society is one based on an honor system, as we remain in honor and integrity with a higher law – called “natural law." It would be a system based on a unity founded on a common denominator of which no one would rise above in stature, self-interest or entitlement. It would be based on the win-win consciousness where all parties’ needs are considered and covered, where giving equates to having and hording equates to lack, where abundance is found in a flow that starts from within, where a community so aligned in abundance and care would be able to take care of its own … where as Creedence Clearwater Revival sang, “people on the river are happy to give.”

Whereas I may or may not have some of the solution, I do know that the leverage found within a capitalizing society and mentality will not get us to where we want to be. Nor to a place of being who we need to be.

James Anthony Ellis is a writer and producer who isn't sure which "ism" would ever be attached to him. Colloquialism? He can be reached at

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