The slow but certain suicide of Capitalism


I’m not an enemy of Capitalism. From my earliest years some deference was paid to the person who lived in the biggest house in town; who occupied a position of status or rank; the most “successful” relative…. Right or wrong, they were thought to be deserving of being a bit better off.

Today, Capitalism funds my retirement pension (unless its most ruthless advocates achieve a goal of destroying my Union which provides the funding to assure my private pension solvency.)

I also have no apprehensions about Socialism. Indeed, without very strong elements of Socialism in the American economy, Capitalism would die, and Capitalism knows it, but doesn’t have the common sense to know when to quit bludgeoning the middle class and government, which are largely creatures of Socialist largesse – public schools, health and the like.

Examples to debate are endless. The Bible quote in last Sunday’s Passion (see it here) was a most interesting one, cutting the apparent Capitalist of the day considerable slack in how she spent her money.

Oh, if it were so simple.

If I were to pick an exemplar of unfettered Capitalism it would be desperately impoverished Haiti, once the jewel of the French Empire. You can find many examples of extreme wealth there; elite families benefit by friendly laws and have destroyed competition. As one gets richer and richer and richer, defeating a potential competitor is easy.

Poor as it is, I’ve heard post-earthquake Haiti described as a “goldmine”. So, somebody has a monopoly on cement; someone else on school uniforms, etc., etc., etc. And the wealthy in Haiti can enjoy their lifestyle wherever in the world they wish, while the overwhelming vast majority of the people subsist. It is a society of, by and for Capitalism; and in the last 100-200 years it is largely of the American variety. Its cruel circumstances were imported from France and the U.S., largely.

In our own U.S., the Capitalist impulse towards self-destruction is harder to see than in Haiti, but nonetheless it is apparent. We are killing ourselves.

The accelerating imbalance in wealth in America (and elsewhere) is apparent to anyone who cares to look. Last Sunday, 60 Minutes had a segment on burgeoning art markets for the super wealthy.

The wealthy have far more than enough. But, it seems, the more they have the more they want.

A friend of mine, a retired corporate manager and no friend of government or taxes, described this dynamic a few days ago, without intending to do so.

He and his wife spend February and March at one of those Florida Gulf Coast condominium complexes, and they had just returned home.

We were chatting, and the topic got around to where they stay each year.

They rent: $5,000 a month. Two bedroom, 9th floor, Gulf side.

We chatted: The owners of their condo have three or four homes. The 19 floors of their condo has over 100 units; only 6 are year round residents. The condo they rent cost $1.3 million when purchased a few years ago, and probably on a good day would now sell for $600,000. Monthly Association fees are $891, and my friend guessed that the place is rented perhaps four months a year. Most of the year it is empty. There are additional costs for upkeep. There are numerous other similar buildings in this community….

One can gather how a conversation about government, taxes, liberals, unions, etc., would go at dinner in one of the restaurants in this wealthy ghetto. Likely the owners pick as their legal residence the state which has the lowest taxes, and extract every entitlement that they can.

Yes, we have always had the better off, and mostly they were accepted and respected.

But like the semblance of balance necessary to keep a tub of clothes on spin cycle from ruining the wash machine, the obsession with more and more wealth – escalating inequity – is ruining everyone, including the very wealthy.

The wealthy are already a victim of their own greed – imprisoned by their own wealth – but its all they know. The rest of us will just tag along as their (and by extension, our) self-destruct mission continues…unless we decide to do something about it in our still free elections.

Happy Easter.