Friday 29 March 2013

Capitalist mythology

The mythical inevitability of capitalism
Capitalist ideology is rife with pernicious myths. The myth of wealth creation; which holds that inequitable distribution of resources is explained by the magical creation of new resources rather than the transfer of resources from the many to the few.

The myth of the "trickle-down effect"; which holds that the rich feed the poor rather than feeding off them.

The myth of the "path to prosperity"; which holds that those at the back of the queue will one day have the things enjoyed by those at the front if only they are patient.

Outside the bubble of capitalist mythology, resources ultimately and inevitably come down to matter/energy which can neither be created nor destroyed but only transformed or transferred. Wealth is not created but acquired. And it cannot be acquired other than at some cost to another part of the system.

Outside the bubble of capitalist mythology, the only time little fish eat big fish, rather than vice versa, is when the big fish is dead. Or when the little fish take collective action.

Outside the bubble of capitalist mythology, the path to prosperity for most leads only to a place that has been ravaged and depleted by those who got there first. A barren place where all that remains is a sign telling them that their turn will come so long as they don't push. And that they can only hope to make the line move faster by making sacrifices to "incentivise" those at the front.

But perhaps the most pernicious and insidious myth of all is the one being peddled here by Alex Massie. The myth of the inevitability of capitalism. A myth which holds that the inequity and injustice of the capitalist economic system is natural. Ordained. The unavoidable outcome of some immutable universal law rather than the consequence of choices made by those with the power to choose in the interest of preserving and expanding that power.

It is the myth of the capitalist economic system as a remorseless and undeniable force of nature rather than a contrivance of self-serving, avaricious, fearful and fallible human beings.

It is the dogma of despair. It is a message that mocks hope and aspiration. It is the worm in the ear of the masses that speaks to them of the futility of ambition and urges the relief of resignation and the ease of surrender.

It is a denial of our capacity to choose differently. Worse! It is a denial of our right to dream and to be motivated by that dream rather than by fear.

The first choice we have to make is that we will not be denied. That we will insist on our right to have a dream and to strive towards its realisation. And if that requires that we reject constitutional and political arrangements that are an impediment to our striving, then so be it. We will take our independence. And we will take our chances.

Adapted from a comment on Alex Massie: Forging the fiscal future in The Scotsman.
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