Making the connections: resource extraction, prostitution, poverty, climate change, and human rights

Making the connections: resource extraction, prostitution, poverty, climate change, and human rights

Editor’s note: This article has been published in The International Journal of Human Rights. Unfortunaltly we don’t have the rights to publish the whole article which is behind a paywall, but we are publishing the extract and some quotes.

Featured image: The surface mine storage place, mining minerals and brown coal in different colours. View from above. Photo by Curioso Photography on Unsplash

ABSTRACT
This article describes the connections between resource extraction, prostitution, poverty, and climate change. Although resource extraction and prostitution have been viewed as separate phenomena, this article suggests that they are related harms that result in multiple violations of women’s human rights. The businesses of resource extraction and prostitution adversely impact women’s lives, especially those who are poor, ethnically or racially marginalised, and young. The article clarifies associations between prostitution and climate change on the one hand, and poverty, choicelessness, and the appearance of consent on the other. We discuss human rights conventions that are relevant to mitigation of the harms caused by extreme poverty, homelessness, resource extraction, climate change, and prostitution. These include anti-slavery conventions and women’s sex-based rights conventions.

Farley writes: “In this article we offer some conceptual and empirical connections between prostitution, resource extraction, poverty, and climate change.1 These associations are clarified by Seiya Morita’s visual diagram, in Figure 1.2 In the short term, resource extraction leads to a sudden increase in the sex trade, as shown by the arrow on the left side of the diagram. In the long term, resource extraction causes climate change as indicated by the right arrow. Climate change then leads to crises in peoples’ ability to survive extreme events such as drought, floods, or agricultural collapse. These climate change catastrophes result in poverty which then mediates and channels women into the sex trade. The arrow on the bottom of Figure 1 illustrates this process.

The initial phase of resource extraction launches and expands prostitution
“At first, colonists and their descendants subordinate indigenous people who live on lands rich in natural resources. Historically, extraction industries have exploited young, poor men who are paid well to perform jobs that no one else wants because the jobs are unplea- sant and dangerous. This initial phase of resource extraction temporarily results in a boom economy with cash-rich but lonely working-class men. In order to pacify the workers and enrich the pimps, women and girls who are under pimp control are delivered to workers in these boom/sacrifice zones such as the Bakken oil fields in USA and Canada, gold mines in South Africa, coltan mining regions in Colombia, and logging regions in Brazil.3 This movement of trafficked women increases prostitution both in the boom town and in neigh- bouring communities. Following is an example of this process.

“The Bakken oil fields of Montana/North Dakota/Saskatchewan/Manitoba are located in lands where the Dakota Access Pipeline causes physical, psychological, and cultural damage to the community, and ecocidal harm to the land and the water.4 In 2008, large numbers of pipeline workers moved into the Bakken region’s barracks-style housing which were named man camps. Sexual assaults, domestic violence, and sex trafficking tripled in communities adjacent to the oilfield sacrifice zones,5 with especially high rates of sexual violence toward Native women.6 Adverse consequences of living near extractive projects include increased rates of sexually transmitted infections and still- births; general deterioration in health; ecological degradation and climate change; threats to food security; and political corruption – all of which severely impact women.7 When resource extraction is terminated, for example when coltan mining was halted in Congo because of environmental protests, the newly expanding sex trade remains in operation, an enduring legacy of colonisation. Belgium’s domination of Congo gradually shifted from state to corporate colonisation.8 The Belgian colonists’ commodification of the nation diminished the people’s social and political power, leaving them poorer, with fewer resources, and often desperate for a means of survival even before the later phase of climate change occurred. This sequence happens wherever resources are commodified. Initially, a boom economy based on resource extraction creates short-term job opportunities and wealth previously unknown. Prostitution is established both to pacify the workers and to generate money for pimps and traffickers. When the boom economy goes bust, men’s continued demand for paid sexual access, combined with women’s need for survival – drive the institution of prostitution, which remains even after the extraction industry has ended.”

Melissa Farley (2021): Making the connections: resource extraction, prostitution, poverty, climate change, and human rights, The International Journal of Human Rights, DOI: 10.1080/13642987.2021.1997999

The whole article is accessible here: https://doi.org/10.1080/13642987.2021.1997999

Melissa Farley
Melissa Farley is a research and clinical psychologist who has authored many articles and 2 books on the topic of prostitution, pimping/trafficking, and pornography. She is the executive director of Prostitution Research & Education, a nonprofit research institute that conducts original research on the sex trade and provides a library of information for survivors, advocates, policymakers, and the public. Access to the free library is at www.prostitutionresearch.com.

EXTRACTION: ARTISTS RAISE A RUCKUS

EXTRACTION: ARTISTS RAISE A RUCKUS

This article first appeared on the Association for the Tree of Live Website.

By

A ravenous, yet decrepit cyborg – part machine, part zombie – lurches onward as it is programmed to do. Its hunger is so insatiable that it eats its own flesh; it eats its offspring; and it eats the future. The catabolic effects are inescapable and its death rattle reverberates for miles. An entire city lives inside this beast. Yet in this late hour, inhabitants put their heads down and carry-on as usual, for they are all dependent upon this monster for their very own food, water, and shelter. No one dares utter a stray word, until the day one brave soul holds up a mirror that reveals who they have become.

A decade ago, I attended a series of contentious activist meetings with Rio Tinto, the mega-mining corporation that owns the massive Kennecott copper pit in the Salt Lake Valley. Rio Tinto planned to expand the mine, and activists were pushing back. The meetings foundered and collapsed upon the lack of viable possibilities for avoiding local impacts and for making operations more sustainable. Activists’ proposals were considered impractical and unprofitable. Ultimately, Kennecott got its expansion and activists got nothing.

Jean Arnold, Civilization, 2012, oil on canvas, 42 x 42 inches.
An early Egyptian pyramid is seen with the gaping hole of the Kennecott copper pit. As civilization builds up monuments to itself, it must tear down into Earth for her treasures.

As a visual artist, I took my angst to the studio and captured eviscerated earth in a series of paintings and drawings, depicting large-scale mining operations that are rarely seen or considered by the public. What better way to reveal our civilization’s insatiable hunger for resources?

I realized that the mining industry cannot be greened, intrinsically by its very nature. Mining casts a long shadow: habitat loss, land theft, worker exploitation, local health impacts, and groundwater contamination, to name just a few issues. Without mining and other forms of extraction, Industrial Civilization could not exist. Yet we rarely ponder our Wonder-World’s material basis and its extraction costs.

Turns out I’m not the only one working in this vein – far from it.

This year a broad panoply of photographers, painters, poets, and printmakers are raising a ruckus in a four-continent constellation of almost sixty exhibits, installations, performances, and events under the rubric “EXTRACTION: Art on the Edge of the Abyss.” When EXTRACTION originator Peter Koch announced the project, it took off like wildfire. Creators are shining lights on all forms of the omnivorous extractive industry, “from mining and drilling to the reckless plundering and exploitation of fresh water, fertile soil, timber, marine life, and innumerable other resources across the globe.” The project’s broad definition begs the questions: In our civilization, what isn’t based on extraction? What isn’t affected by extraction?

The Algonquin word “wetiko” reveals extraction as a symptom of the culture-wide soul-sickness driven by domination, greed, and consumptive excess. It blinds humans from seeing ourselves as part of an interdependent whole, in communion with all of life. It is through this toxic mindset that the world is divided up and consumed for profit.

Extraction is an uncomfortable topic: it confronts us with our system’s voracious appetite for taking Earth’s riches without reciprocity – the very epitome of wetiko. Sure, we can point at capitalism, corporations and elite interests, but as participants in this wetiko culture we are all infected by this mind virus.

Far beyond a “problem” – extraction and its consequences pose a predicament without escape. Humanity is hitting planetary limits: declining resources, excess CO2 in the atmosphere, and plastic choking our oceans. Many of the proposed “solutions,” are just new iterations of the same paradigm, bringing more extraction. For example, see our blog “We are Strip-Mining Life While We Drink ‘Bright Green Lies’” as to why “green” tech will never save us. Humanity has dug itself deep into a hole from which few of us may emerge.

Since stories create meaning, the “wetikonomy” seeks to maintain itself through a tight control over its own narratives. In our situation, the system rewards those that uphold its delusions: endless growth, techno-magic, fulfillment through consumption, and superiority over nature. We are told there is no alternative and things are getting better all the time.

Stephen Braun, The Hoarder, 2009, raku ceramics, 24 x 30 x 8 inches.
Clinging to the same mentality at the root cause of the crises.

The pressure to act according to these grand-yet-contradictory narratives is pervasive, which means compliance is near-universal. Witness the charades played by world leaders and diplomats at decades of climate conferences, giving lip service to fossil fuel phase-out while maintaining the techno-growth-extraction paradigm – essentially mocking the stated climate goals by clinging to the same mentality at the root cause of the crisis. Does anyone think this year’s climate conference, COP26 in Glasgow will play out differently?

Why are people so willing to surrender their agency? Society is captivated by a grand bargain described by social critic Lewis Mumford in his 1964 essay “Authoritarian and Democratic Technics”:

The bargain … takes the form of a magnificent bribe … each member of the community may claim every material advantage … food, housing, swift transportation, instantaneous communication, medical care, entertainment, education. But on one condition: that one must not merely ask for nothing that the system does not provide, but likewise agree to take everything offered … Once one opts for the system no further choice remains.

In other words, the bribe offers everyone a share in the largess, that is, the cornucopia of material goods unleashed by this industrial economy — as long as one does not question the costs to others, to ecosystems, or to the future.

The wetiko-spirit hates to be seen and named, as this begins to dissolve its parasitic power over its host. Dissent against the existing paradigm is ignored, penalized, or co-opted – that is, absorbed into the hegemony. Until it’s not. The time comes when costs become unbearable, limits are reached, and opposition finally boils over.

Thus, the last thing the power structure wants is a cultural spotlight on extraction, which exposes the core of our malady. And certainly not through art, which has a visceral, soul-level power – a power that scientific reports, statistics, and warnings do not have. Art can play a prophetic role: bearing witness to unsettling matters and grabbing attention before we can turn away. It can portray possibilities previously unconsidered, vitally needed at this time.

Jos Sances, Or, the Whale, 2108-2109, scratchboard, 14 x 51 feet
This very large scratchboard drawing was inspired by Moby Dick and the history of whaling in America. The whale’s skin is embedded with a history of capitalism in America—images of human and environmental exploitation and destruction since 1850.

EXTRACTION co-founder Edwin Dobb (now deceased) posed the question of our time: Can we break the spell? A growing chorus on the periphery – Greta Thunberg, poets, painters, performance artists, Extinction Rebellion – is revealing the sociopathic end-game holding us in its grip and unraveling slowly in real time. Learning to see wetiko within ourselves and our culture can begin to break its spell. Can we come to see our own hubris? Contraction is coming whether we like it or not – how can we deal with this if we are spellbound? We have no individual or collective roadmap for the coming post-extraction Reality.

The EXTRACTION project’s exhibits and events are winding down, although organizers hope for continuation in some form. Only a few more venues are scheduled to open, yet its effects will continue rippling outwards. The project has legitimized the extraction art movement and showcased some of today’s most potent work. It has broadened my own definition of extraction-inspired art, which helps me see new possibilities. The project will live on in the evolving work of extraction artists and in others forging authentic responses to our global predicaments. Art is all-too-often wed to money and societal embrace, compromising its own power and obscuring rather than illuminating Reality. Artmaking on the margins is not easy, so supporting this work is necessary.

Chris Boyer, Atlantic Salmon Pens, Welshpool, New Brunswick, Canada (44.885980°, -66.959243°), 2018.

Art that challenges the wetiko-extraction paradigm will become even more relevant, as extraction’s impacts widen. Extraction art is not going away, until extraction itself goes away. While industrial-scale extraction has “only” been with us for four hundred years, art has been with us for thousands of generations, since our early ancestors rendered images inside caves.

Listen to an audio of this blog, narrated by Michael Dowd.

Learn more about the EXTRACTION project.

EXTRACTION megazine (648 pages): download for free or purchase a printed copy for $25 + $7 shipping.

Partly a group catalog of extraction-related artwork, each artist or creator’s individual contribution documents their own personal investigations into the extraction question. The project is by no means limited to the visual arts—in these pages you will also find poetry, critical writings, philosophical treatises, manifestos, musical scores, conversations, historical or found photographs, and much more.

Make a donation to the EXTRACTION project.

Mother Nature, Inc.

Mother Nature, Inc.

This article originally appeared in Counterpunch.

Editor’s note: What is the Endgame of capitalism? First destroy the planet for profit then profit on the protection of what is left. Just look at how the market commoditized bottled water, in plastic to boot. How much does a bottle of clean air cost? It will not end until people are turned into copper tops. This is The System, see Surveillance Capitalism.

BY Robert Hunziker

Featured image: Ryan Gsell – CC BY 2.0


Wall Street investors have hit the jackpot. Soon they’ll be able to buy, own, and dictate The Commons, public lands, the world of Mother Nature. In fact, a pilot project is already in the works with ecosystems up for sale as Wall-Streeters anxiously prepare to gobble up the valued benefits of Mother Nature.

According to the NYSE PR Dept. they’ll IPO nature: “To preserve and restore the natural assets that ultimately underpin the ability for there to be life on Earth.” What? Really?

And, according to NYSE COO Michael Blaugrund: “Our hope is that owning a natural asset company is going to be a way that an increasingly broad range of investors have the ability to invest in something that’s intrinsically valuable, but, up to this point, was really excluded from the financial markets.”

Then, does this mean that neoliberal capitalism is becoming nature’s beneficent caretaker so environmentalists can stop wringing their hands about the horrendous loss of wild vertebrate life, down a whopping 68%, and loss of wetlands and loss of huge chunks of rainforests these past few decades, all of which echoes a guttural sound of impending extinction? Answer: Don’t count on it.

For starters, there’s something extraordinarily distasteful and downright disgusting about Wall Street buying control of nature’s resource capabilities. It bespeaks of an upside down world where the ludicrous becomes acceptable, but is it really acceptable? Is it?

The main character in this new scheme to own the world is a new asset class with a very plain name that says it all: Natural Asset Company or NAC. Yes, if you are a billionaire, get ready to buy up to 30% of the world’s natural resource beneficence to society. It’s going to be offered on the biggest auction block of the world, the New York Stock Exchange under the cover of sustainability of nature and protection of biodiversity, wink, wink!

Of course, this prompts a series of questions, headlined by when does Mother Nature morph into a tollbooth?

In simplest of terms, NACs allow for the formation of specialized corporations that hold the rights to the ecosystem services produced on a given chunk of land. The services might be sequestration of carbon or clean water or possibly rare Tibetan mountain air or maybe a lake teeming with trout in the wilderness. The possibilities are endless when auctioning off major chunks of an asset as big as the planet.

The NAC will maintain, manage and grow the natural asset that it has commoditized, working towards maximizing the profit potential of the natural asset, although, of course, this is not emphasized in the PR material. Nevertheless, it could lead to near-infinite profits. After all, the living Earth does rejuvenate and replenish and service ecosystems on its own accord, a natural process that goes on forever. Why not own it?

If ever there has been a time for the people of the world to drop whatever they are doing and focus on one issue, now is that time. The Commons is for sale! Think long and hard about that proposition, study it, discuss it, and decide whether to agree that Mother Nature should be monetized. If not in agreement, then do something, tell everybody, tell anybody who’ll listen, carry poster boards in the street, join a protest march, bang pots and pans, do something to relieve that breakneck pressure building around your temples!

The Intrinsic Exchange Group, in partnership with the NYSE, is currently working with the Costa Rica government on a pilot project of NACs in the country in order to institute its protocol for ownership of forests, lakes, waterfalls, mountains, meadows, caves, wetlands, in essence, all of nature. Costa Rica is the proving grounds for ownership of Mother Nature, whether she likes it or not.

First, NAC identifies a natural asset, like a forest for example, which is quantified using special protocols that have already been developed by various coalitions amongst multinational corporations, which in and of itself is remarkably terrifying. The NAC decides who has the rights to the natural asset’s productivity and how it is to be managed. It is then monetized via an IPO on the stock exchange. Thus, the NAC becomes “the Issuer” to potential buyers of the natural asset that the NAC represents. Essentially, NAC is a real estate agent of Mother Nature. The buyers are institutional investors, or the occasional billionaire, that want to own the rights to the benefits of wetlands or rainforests or natural water springs or rarified mountainous air or hot springs or whatever they want to own. The world is their oyster to buy, own, enjoy, and profit by.

Throughout all human history nature has been The Commons or the cultural and natural resource for all of society inclusive of natural processes like air and water. But now private investors are deleting The Commons with claims of “conservation and sustainability” of 30% of what’s called “protected areas” of our precious worldwide assets.

According to initial calculations, NACs will unlock $4Quadrillion in assets as a new feeding ground for Wall Street investors to buy the rights to clean water and clean air and trout streams and bass-laden lakes and gorgeous picturesque waterfalls and lagoons, an entire forest, or maybe eventually extend into the oceans. Who knows the range of possibilities once nature is transacted on Wall Street.

Monetizing nature!

What’s next, what’s left?

The Commons is property shared by all, inclusive of natural products like air, water, and a habitable planet, forests, fisheries, groundwater, wetlands, pastures, the atmosphere, the high seas, Antarctica, outer space, caves, all part of ecosystems of the planet.

The sad truth is Mother Nature, Inc. will lead to extinction of The Commons, as an institution, in the biggest heist of all time. Surely, private ownership of nature is unseemly and certainly begs a much bigger relevant question that goes to the heart of the matter, to wit: Should nature’s ecosystems, which benefit society at large, be monetized for the direct benefit of the few?

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

The Myths of Capitalism

The Myths of Capitalism

This article is from the blog buildingarevolutionarymovement.

This post lists and challenges, debunks, pulls apart the following myths of capitalism:

  • there is no alternative to capitalism
  • capitalism is the only system that provides individual and economic freedom
  • everything is better under capitalism
  • as capitalism increases the size of the economy, everyone benefits
  • free-market capitalism is the best way to run the global economy
  • capitalist economic theory is the best
  • capitalism maintains low taxes, which is good for workers and businesses
  • capitalism promotes equality, work hard and you’ll get rich
  • capitalism fits well with human nature
  • capitalism and democracy work well together
  • capitalism gradually balances differences across countries through free markets and free trade.

There is a liberal capitalist myth about progress. A determinist (set path forwards) view that things will continue to get better. I completely disagree with this perspective and it is clearly wrong if you look at history, esp the last 40 years. I will describe and challenge this myth in a future post.

I would like to start with a quote from 23 Things They Dont Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang:

“Most countries have introduced free-market policies over the last three decades – privatization of state-owned industrial and financial firms, deregulation of finance and industry, liberalization of international trade and investment, and reduction in income taxes and welfare payments. These policies, their advocates admitted, may temporarily create some problems, such as rising inequality, but ultimately they will make everyone better off by creating a more dynamic and wealthier society. The rising tide lifts all boats together, was the metaphor.

The result of these policies has been the polar opposite of what was promised. Forget for a moment the financial meltdown, which will scar the world for decades to come. Prior to that, and unbeknown to most people, free-market policies had resulted in slower growth, rising inequality and heightened instability in most countries. In many rich countries, these problems were masked by huge credit expansion; thus the fact that US wages had remained stagnant and working hours increased since the 1970s was conveniently fogged over by the heady brew of credit-fuelled consumer boom. The problems were bad enough in the rich countries, but they were even more serious for the developing world. Living standards in Sub-Saharan Africa have stagnated for the last three decades, while Latin America has seen its per capita growth rate fall by two-thirds during the period. There were some developing countries that grew fast (although with rapidly rising inequality) during this period, such as China and India, but these are precisely the countries that, while partially liberalizing, have refused to introduce full-blown free-market policies.

Thus, what we were told by the free-marketeers – or, as they are often called, neo-liberal economists – was at best only partially true and at worst plain wrong…the ‘truths’ peddled by free-market ideologues are based on lazy assumptions and blinkered visions, if not necessarily self-serving notions.”[1]

Myth – there is no alternative to capitalism

The argument goes that there is no viable alternative economic system. Centrally controlled governments have been tried and failed. Capitalism isn’t perfect but it’s all we’ve got. [2]

Simplistically this is an argument against planned economies which I will deal with in the free market capitalism section below. The main two examples of communist planned economies are the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. There are many different forms of communism and these are authoritarian examples. They only came to exist and survive in the violent 20th century because they had strong leadership and then used military force to defend themselves against capitalist nations that attempted to destroy them. There is of course more to their survival than this but that is for another post. I’m not in the slightest defending the horrific violence they directed to their citizens. Critics of these experiments do not acknowledge all the positive things that we can learn from the Soviet Union – self-management, collectivisation, new housing processes, increases in literacy. [3]

What I want to focus on here is that if capitalism is genuinely the only naturally existing economic system, then why do capitalists have to constantly crush any alternatives. Because, capitalists see these embryonic alternatives as a threat to their wealth, dominance and control. This is done either through extreme media manipulation and propaganda or with violence and killings. This post gives three examples of capitalists crushing alternatives: the Copenhagen squatting movement, New Age Travellers in the UK, and the US-backed 1973 military coup of the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile. Other examples are the tens of thousands killed after the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871 [4], German Revolution 1918-19, the EU drastic threats against the Syriza Greek government in 2015, and the demonisation of Jeremy Corbyn.

Myth – capitalism is the only system that provides individual and economic freedom

The moral argument for capitalism is based on individual freedom being a natural right that pre-exists society. Capitalist society is valued and justified because it benefits humans and enhances economic freedom, instead of limiting it.

This individual and economic freedom is a limited form of freedom. In the #ACFM episode – Trip 10 How It Feels to Be Free, several forms of freedom are discussed. These include comparing the liberal, conservative, radical and authoritarian traditions and their relationship to freedom [5]. They also discussed Isaiah Berlin’s Two Concepts of Liberty – positive and negative [6]. The negative concept is freedom from constraint to do what you want. This is described as the ‘Jeremy Clarkson concept of freedom’ or the ‘anti-woke concept of freedom [7] The positive idea is a freedom to do something and for many, this means that the material conditions have to be created, which resulted in the post-war welfare state. [8]

Myth – everything is better under capitalism

The arguement goes that capitalism has resulted in improved basic standards of living, reduction in poverty and increased life expectancy. There is also the argument that Western capitalist countries have the happiest populations because they can consume whatever products and services they like.

The truth behind this myth is that capitalism results in economic growth, which has come at huge costs – see the economic growth myths below. The myth is that capitalism intentionally results in better living standards for workers and the general population. This relates to the liberal myth about liberal progress (see a future post on this). Any reform or improvement in the living standards of workers and the general population has to be fought for by people and groups (trade unions, social movements or in parliament) who want these improvements. Historically movements challenged capitalism for higher wages which resulted in longer life expectancy and a decline in infectious diseases. The capitalists certainly don’t want these reforms if it means improved rights for workers and limits their ability to increase their profits. The capitalists are of course more than happy to use these reforms as examples of how good capitalism is, when in fact they resisted them and work to undo them. Some capitalists practice a form of Victoria philanthropy but still want to exploit their workers. In recent years life expectancy in Britain and the US has started to decline due to austerity and other reasons. [9]

And to quote Ha-Joon Chang:

“The average US citizen does have greater command over goods and services than his counterpart in any other country in the world except Luxemburg. However, given the country’s high inequality, this average is less accurate in representing how people live than the averages for other countries with a more equal income distribution. Higher inequality is also behind the poorer health indicators and worse crime statistics of the US. Moreover, the same dollar buys more things in the US than in most other rich countries mainly because it has cheaper services than in other comparable countries, thanks to higher immigration and poorer employment conditions. Furthermore, Americans work considerably longer than Europeans. Per hour worked, their command over goods and services is smaller than that of several European countries. While we can debate which is a better lifestyle – more material goods with less leisure time (as in the US) or fewer material goods with more leisure time (as in Europe) – this suggests that the US does not have an unambiguously higher living standard than comparable countries.” [10]

In terms of happiness, people are not stupid. They understand that they don’t have any influence on the direction of society, that things are going to be worse for future generations but there isn’t anything they can do about it. Buying more stuff and going on more holidays is a consolation prize that stops people looking for real change. Also, the number of antidepressant prescriptions doubled between 2008 and 2018, not a sign that people are happy.

Myth – as capitalism increases the size of the economy, everyone benefits

Capitalism results in exponential economic growth, so the arguement goes that this allows companies and individuals to benefit. This relates to the idea of, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’ and ‘trickle-down economics‘ , where if the rich get richer, then this will benefit everyone.

And to quote Ha-Joon Chang:

“The above idea, known as ‘trickle-down economics’, stumbles on its first hurdle. Despite the usual dichotomy of ‘growth-enhancing pro-rich policy’ and ‘growth-reducing pro- poor policy’, pro-rich policies have failed to accelerate growth in the last three decades. So the first step in this argument – that is, the view that giving a bigger slice of pie to the rich will make the pie bigger – does not hold. The second part of the argument – the view that greater wealth created at the top will eventually trickle down to the poor – does not work either. Trickle down does happen, but usually its impact is meagre if we leave it to the market.” [11]

Myth – free-market capitalism is the best way to run the global economy

Capitalism produces a wide range of goods and services based on what is wanted or can solve a problem. It is argued that capitalism is economically efficient because it creates incentives to provide goods and services efficiently. The competitive market forces companies to improve how they are organised and use resources efficiently. [12]

This needs to be broken down into several arguments: the instability of capitalism, free-market vs state planning, free-market economics has only been applied in non-Western countries, corporations need to be regulated, where technology innovation happens, the impact of unlimited economic growth on the environment/planet.

Instability

Since the 1970s government have focused on ensuring price stability by managing inflation. This has not resulted in the stability of the world economy as the 2008 financial crisis shows. [13] Instability and crisis are part of the capitalist economic system. It is a cycle that starts when the memory of past economic crises fade and financial institutions figure out ways to circumvent the regulations that were put in place to stop them happening again. Rising asset prices reduce the cost of borrowing, resulting in market euphoria and risks being underestimated. Lots of money is being made and everyone wants their share of the growing economic boom (Richard Wolff Financial Panics, then and now in Capitalism Hits the Fan). Capitalism also needs crises so that businesses and wealth are destroyed, which lays the foundations for the next cycle of economic growth to start. This is known as ‘creative destruction‘.

There is also the argument that financial markets need to become more efficient so they can respond to changing opportunities and grow faster. Basically that there should not be any state restrictions on financial markets.

And to quote Ha-Joon Chang in 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism:

“The problem with financial markets today is that they are too efficient. With recent financial ‘innovations’ that have produced so many new financial instruments, the financial sector has become more efficient in generating profits for itself in the short run. However, as seen in the 2008 global crisis, these new financial assets have made the overall economy, as well as the financial system itself, much more unstable. Moreover, given the liquidity of their assets, the holders of financial assets are too quick to respond to change, which makes it difficult for real-sector companies to secure the ‘patient capital’ that they need for long-term development. The speed gap between the financial sector and the real sector needs to be reduced, which means that the financial market needs to be deliberately made less efficient.” [14]

free-market vs state planning

This myth is best dealt with by Ha-Joon Chang. He explains that there is no such thing as a free market. First, he describes the capitalist free market argument:

“Markets need to be free. When the government interferes to dictate what market participants can or cannot do, resources cannot flow to their most efficient use. If people cannot do the things that they find most profitable, they lose the incentive to invest and innovate. Thus, if the government puts a cap on house rents, landlords lose the incentive to maintain their properties or build new ones. Or, if the government restricts the kinds of financial products that can be sold, two contracting parties that may both have benefited from innovative transactions that fulfil their idiosyncratic needs cannot reap the potential gains of free contract. People must be left ‘free to choose’, as the title of free-market visionary Milton Friedman’s famous book goes.”

His response is:

“The free market doesn’t exist. Every market has some rules and boundaries that restrict freedom of choice. A market looks free only because we so unconditionally accept its underlying restrictions that we fail to see them. How ‘free’ a market is cannot be objectively defined. It is a political definition. The usual claim by free-market economists that they are trying to defend the market from politically motivated interference by the government is false. Government is always involved and those free-marketeers are as politically motivated as anyone. Overcoming the myth that there is such a thing as an objectively defined ‘free market’ is the first step towards understanding capitalism.” [15]

Robert Reich in Saving Capitalism: For The Many, Not The Few explains how the free market idea has poisoned peoples minds so that they think the negative impacts of the free market are simply unfortunate but impersonal outcomes of market forces. When in fact these outcomes benefit governing class and wealthy interests. [16]

Another challenge to the free market myth is that: “in order to secure profits, and to maintain their position of privilege against potential rivals, capitalists (both individuals and institutions) will frequently work to secure monopoly control of particular economic sectors, limiting invention and production within those sectors.” [17]

Capitalists argue against market regulation and claim that governments can’t pick winners. States construct markets, they enforce contracts, provide basic services and support the monetary system that is required for economic activity to take place. Importantly, they do this in a way that favours certain interests over others. [18]

The 2008 and 2020 economic crises have shown how capitalists advocate the free market as the only way to run the economy until a crisis comes along. At that point, they want state support and bailouts. This is known as “socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor”, “Socialize Costs, Privatize Profits” and ‘lemon socialism‘. This is a good video of Richard Wolff on how American capitalism is just socialism for the rich.

We are told that we are not smart enough to leave things to the market. Ha-Joon Chang summarises this argument:

“We should leave markets alone, because, essentially, market participants know what they are doing – that is, they are rational. Since individuals (and firms as collections of individuals who share the same interests) have their own best interests in mind and since they know their own circumstances best, attempts by outsiders, especially the government, to restrict the freedom of their actions can only produce inferior results. It is presumptuous of any government to prevent market agents from doing things they find profitable or to force them to do things they do not want to do, when it possesses inferior information.”

His response to this myth:

“People do not necessarily know what they are doing, because our ability to comprehend even matters that concern us directly is limited – or, in the jargon, we have ‘bounded rationality’. The world is very complex and our ability to deal with it is severely limited. Therefore, we need to, and usually do, deliberately restrict our freedom of choice in order to reduce the complexity of problems we have to face. Often, government regulation works, especially in complex areas like the modern financial market, not because the government has superior knowledge but because it restricts choices and thus the complexity of the problems at hand, thereby reducing the possibility that things may go wrong.” [19]

Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski state that: “perhaps the strongest argument ever mounted against the left by the right is that the calculation and coordination involved in running a complex economy to satisfy disparate human needs and desires simply could not be consciously carried out. Only decentralised price signals operating through the market, miraculously aggregating an infinitude of disparate information, could guide an economy without dramatic failures, misallocations, and ultimately, authoritarian disasters.” They describe how the Second World War saw governments solve complex coordination problems. [20] In their book, People’s Republic of Walmart: How the World’s Biggest Corporations are Laying the Foundation for Socialism, they explain how most Western economies are centrally planned.

Ha-Joon Chang explains that despite the fall of communism, we are still living in planned economies. The capitalist argument goes:

“The limits of economic planning have been resoundingly demonstrated by the fall of communism. In complex modern economies, planning is neither possible nor desirable. Only decentralized decisions through the market mechanism, based on individuals and firms being always on the lookout for a profitable opportunity, are capable of sustaining a complex modern economy. We should do away with the delusion that we can plan anything in this complex and ever- changing world. The less planning there is, the better.”

Ha-Joon Chang response is:

“Capitalist economies are in large part planned. Governments in capitalist economies practise planning too, albeit on a more limited basis than under communist central planning. All of them finance a significant share of investment in R&D and infrastructure. Most of them plan a significant chunk of the economy through the planning of the activities of state-owned enterprises. Many capitalist governments plan the future shape of individual industrial sectors through sectoral industrial policy or even that of the national economy through indicative planning. More importantly, modern capitalist economies are made up of large, hierarchical corporations that plan their activities in great detail, even across national borders. Therefore, the question is not whether you plan or not. It is about planning the right things at the right levels.” [21]

Free market economics has only been applied in non-Western countries

Noam Chomsky explains that pure free-market economics (he calls it Laissez-faire principles) has only been applied to non-Western countries. Attempts by Western governments to try it have gone badly and been reversed.

Corporations need to be regulated

We are told that a strong economy needs corporations to do well. Ha-Joon Chang explains the argument:

“At the heart of the capitalist system is the corporate sector. This is where things are produced, jobs created and new technologies invented. Without a vibrant corporate sector, there is no economic dynamism. What is good for business, therefore, is good for the national economy. Especially given the increasing international competition in a globalizing world, countries that make opening and running businesses difficult or make firms do unwanted things will lose investment and jobs, eventually falling behind. Government needs to give the maximum degree of freedom to business.”

His response:

“Despite the importance of the corporate sector, allowing firms the maximum degree of freedom may not even be good for the firms themselves, let alone the national economy. In fact, not all regulations are bad for business. Sometimes, it is in the long-run interest of the business sector to restrict the freedom of individual firms so that they do not destroy the common pool of resources that all of them need, such as natural resources or the labour force. Regulations can also help businesses by making them do things that may be costly to them individually in the short run but raise their collective productivity in the long run – such as the provision of worker training. In the end, what matters is not the quantity but the quality of business regulation.” [22]

There is also the myth about the need to maximise shareholder value over the performance of the company. This results in managers focusing on increasing the share value instead of business performance. They are of course related but this approach results in managers making decisions that have negative effects on the company performance. [23]

Innovation

The capitalist argument is made by conservative MP Chris (failing) Grayling:

If you believe in capitalism and free enterprise, then you believe that by allowing people to pursue success for themselves you create a culture of innovation and competition which benefits the whole of society. Free enterprise, business innovating in products and services, benefits the whole of our society.”

Although technological dynamism has been a strong argument for capitalism, investing in research and development it is too risky and takes too long for most capitalists to fund. The majority is publicly funded. [24]

Jeremy Gilbert argues that the creativity that leads to artistic, scientific or utilitarian inventions is not created by capitalism but instead from human interaction on the edges of capital. Then capital feeds on this creativity and transforms it into products to sell. This is why capital must locate itself near great centres of collective exchange and creativity such as London and Paris in the 19th century, New York and California in the 20th century. [25]

the impact of unlimited economic growth on the environment

It’s not possible to have infinite economic growth on a finite planet. [26] Capitalism requires that the economy grows each year. This requires that this year more things need to be made, more energy needs to be used and more people need to be born than last year. Then next year, more of all this is needed than this year.

Myth – capitalist economic theory is the best

Richard Wolff and Stephen Resnick summarise neoclassical theory’s contribution as:

“The originality of neoclassical theory lies in its notion that innate human nature determines economic outcomes. According to this notion, human beings naturally possess the inherent rational and productive abilities to produce the maximum wealth possible in a society. What they need and have historically sought is a kind of optimal social organization—a set of particular social institutions—that will free and enable this inner human essence to realize its potential, namely the greatest possible well-being of the greatest number. Neoclassical economic theory defines each individual’s well-being in terms of his or her consumption of goods and services: maximum consumption equals maximum well-being.

Capitalism is thought to be that optimum society. Its defining institutions (individual freedom, private property, a market system of exchange, etc.) are believed to yield an economy that achieves the maximum, technically feasible output and level of consumption. Capitalist society is also harmonious: its members’ different desires—for maximum enterprise profits and for maximum individual consumption—are brought into equilibrium or balance with one another.” [27]

Economics as a subject is based only on the theories of those who support it. University courses in economics are only taught by those that support capitalism. They do not teach the significant problems with capitalism or the viable alternatives. [28]

Ha-Joon Chang in 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism explains that good economic policy does not require good economists. That the most successful economic bureaucrats are not normally economists, giving examples of Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan. [29]

The author of Capitalism 4.0: The Birth of a New Economy, Anatole Kaletsky recommends Beyond Mechanical Markets: Asset Price Swings, Risk, and the Role of the State by Roman Frydman and Michael D. Goldberg, which unpacks the economic assumptions mainstream economics is based on. Markets are not predictably rational or irrational. They argue instead that price swings are driven by individuals’ ever-imperfect interpretations of the significance of economic fundamentals for future prices and risk. [30]

Myth – capitalism maintains low taxes, which is good for workers and businesses

The arguement goes that low business taxes encourage companies to stay in a country and provide more jobs by reinvesting the money they would pay in tax into the company. Some also argue that low business tax generates more tax for the government. [31]

Some capitalists would prefer to pay no taxes at all. But the capitalists need the things that taxes pay for: police, schools, healthcare, transport systems. These public goods support capitalist society so there are workers to employ (exploit). [32] They also need the welfare state and public services to ensure capitalism’s survival and people do not become so desperate that they rise up and revolt.

The argument goes that low business tax (corporation tax) result in more business starting up so more jobs. Also, the advocates of low corporation tax state that low tax means businesses will reinvest to make it more competitive, [33] instead of giving shareholders a dividend. For this reinvestment argument to add up then the UK would not have the lowest worker productivity rates in the last 250 years or compared to other countries in Europe. The first article puts the drop in productivity down to: the lasting effect of the 2008 crisis for the financial system; weaker gains from computer technologies in recent years after a boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s; and intense uncertainty over post-Brexit trading relationships sapping business investment. The second article explains the decline is due to: less investment in equipment and infrastructure within the business; less spent on research and development; poor national infrastructure (roads and rail networks); and a lack of trade skills, basic literacy and numeracy skills, and lack of managerial competence.

These companies should be reinvesting in there business with more equipment, infrastructure and training. Add to this that the other issues listed in these articles can be resolved by the government but they choose not to because capitalists do not want highly skilled and well-paid workers, only working four days a week because that would give people time to start thinking and organising for how to make society better. [34] This article argues that reducing the corporate tax rate does not increase worker wages or business reinvestment.

There is also the myth/argument that if you increase taxes then the rich and businesses will relocate abroad. This article shows that the rich do not leave if you increase taxes. Also if businesses are going to relocate this will be to reduce the worker wages costs or where environmental regulations are less strict.

This telegraph article [35] from 2015 explains that corporation tax received by the government was up by 12% compared to 2014, even though the corporation tax percentage had dropped. The article does explain that company profits were up, partly because there was little wage growth. Corporation tax is based on the amount of profits a company takes. So while workers are struggling on low wages, UK company shareholders are taking more profits. It also explains that the UK has a lot more start-up companies that in the past. This is just what capitalists want, loads of small business owners who are more conservative, risk-averse and want the status quo to be maintained. This article does drone on about how unfair it is to say that companies don’t pay their fair share. Most people know that most companies pay their taxes. That complaint is directed at Amazon, Apple and the other tax-dodging big players. This article makes the case that cutting corporation tax costs the government billions.

Ha-Joon Chang challenges the capitalist myth that big government is bad for the economy. He explains that “A well-designed welfare state can actually encourage people to take chances with their jobs and be more, not less, open to changes.” [36]

Myth – capitalism promotes equality, work hard and you’ll get rich

This is the ‘American Dream’ idea that you may start poor but if you work hard, you can be successful and rich. This is also known as meritocracy. [37]

The equality that this refers to is the equality of opportunity. Ha-Joon Chang describes the capitalist argument:

“Many people get upset by inequality. However, there is equality and there is equality. When you reward people the same way regardless of their efforts and achievements, the more talented and the harder-working lose the incentive to perform. This is equality of outcome. It’s a bad idea, as proven by the fall of communism. The equality we seek should be the equality of opportunity. For example, it was not only unjust but also inefficient for a black student in apartheid South Africa not to be able to go to better, ‘white’, universities, even if he was a better student. People should be given equal opportunities. However, it is equally unjust and inefficient to introduce affirmative action and begin to admit students of lower quality simply because they are black or from a deprived background. In trying to equalize outcomes, we not only misallocate talents but also penalize those who have the best talent and make the greatest efforts.”

His response:

“Equality of opportunity is the starting point for a fair society.

But it’s not enough. Of course, individuals should be rewarded for better performance, but the question is whether they are actually competing under the same conditions as their competitors. If a child does not perform well in school because he is hungry and cannot concentrate in class, it cannot be said that the child does not do well because he is inherently less capable. Fair competition can be achieved only when the child is given enough food – at home through family income support and at school through a free school meals programme. Unless there is some equality of outcome (i.e., the incomes of all the parents are above a certain minimum threshold, allowing their children not to go hungry), equal opportunities (i.e., free schooling) are not truly meaningful.” [38]

Economic equality is really what we need to be concerned about. Danny Dorling describes how “The gap between the very rich and the rest is wider in Britain than in any other large country in Europe, and society is the most unequal it has been since shortly after the First World War.” [39]

The benefits for this myth for the capitalists is that it gives workers some hope that things can be better if they work that bit harder to chase the material benefits. It rewards some to keep the dream alive. It is also a cover for the business owners, managers and shareholders to justify their wealthy position. They can say they earned their money through hard work. Of course many inherited their wealth. [40]

There is also the capitalist myth that low worker wages mean lower prices for consumers. This has some truth in it but it is mainly a justification for low worker wages and high business managers wages. By this logic, higher manager wages result in higher consumer prices but there is generally lower investment in production costs (equipment and infrastructure). This results in low worker wages and fewer jobs [41]

Ha-Joon Chang in 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism describes how US managers are over-priced:

“US managers are over-priced in more than one sense. First, they are over-priced compared to their predecessors. In relative terms (that is, as a proportion of average worker compensation), American CEOs today are paid around ten times more than their predecessors of the 1960s, despite the fact that the latter ran companies that were much more successful, in relative terms, than today’s American companies. US managers are also over-priced compared to their counterparts in other rich countries. In absolute terms, they are paid, depending on the measure we use and the country we compare with, up to twenty times more than their competitors running similarly large and successful companies. American managers are not only over-priced but also overly protected in the sense that they do not get punished for poor performance. And all this is not, unlike what many people argue, purely dictated by market forces. The managerial class in the US has gained such economic, political and ideological power that it has been able to manipulate the forces that determine its pay.” [42]

Myth – capitalism fits well with human nature

The arguments goes that humans are naturally selfish, greedy and competitive. People that work hard are successful and outcompete their competitors, and are therefore rewarded financially. Capitalism also allows for other aspects of human nature such as altruism, patience and kindness. This is done through the creation of welfare systems and charities. [43]

Robert Jensen’s response to this is:

“There is a theory behind contemporary capitalism. We’re told that because we are greedy, self-interested animals, an economic system must reward greedy, self-interested behavior if we are to thrive economically. Are we greedy and self-interested? Of course. At least I am, sometimes. But we also just as obviously are capable of compassion and selflessness. We certainly can act competitively and aggressively, but we also have the capacity for solidarity and cooperation. In short, human nature is wide-ranging. Our actions are certainly rooted in our nature, but all we really know about that nature is that it is widely variable. In situations where compassion and solidarity are the norm, we tend to act that way. In situations where competitiveness and aggression are rewarded, most people tend toward such behavior. Why is it that we must choose an economic system that undermines the most decent aspects of our nature and strengthens the most inhuman? Because, we’re told, that’s just the way people are. What evidence is there of that? Look around, we’re told, at how people behave. Everywhere we look, we see greed and the pursuit of self-interest. So, the proof that these greedy, self-interested aspects of our nature are dominant is that, when forced into a system that rewards greed and self-interested behavior, people often act that way. Doesn’t that seem just a bit circular?”

And Ha-Joon Chang response to capitalism’s human nature arguement is:

“Self-interest is a most powerful trait in most human beings. However, it’s not our only drive. It is very often not even our primary motivation. Indeed, if the world were full of the self- seeking individuals found in economics textbooks, it would grind to a halt because we would be spending most of our time cheating, trying to catch the cheaters, and punishing the caught. The world works as it does only because people are not the totally self-seeking agents that free-market economics believes them to be. We need to design an economic system that, while acknowledging that people are often selfish, exploits other human motives to the full and gets the best out of people. The likelihood is that, if we assume the worst about people, we will get the worst out of them.” [44]

Myth – capitalism and democracy work well together

The argument goes that capitalism is built on democracy. Everyone gets one vote so they have equal political power, which is not affected by their race, gender or views. Capitalism also encourages people to get involved in all aspects of society to get what they want. This includes getting involved with both governance and the government, from voting in elections to standing in local or national elections. [45]

Robert Jensen explains how capitalism is anti-democratic:

“This one is easy. Capitalism is a wealth-concentrating system. If you concentrate wealth in a society, you concentrate power. Is there any historical example to the contrary? For all the trappings of formal democracy in the contemporary United States, everyone understands that the wealthy dictates the basic outlines of the public policies that are acceptable to the vast majority of elected officials. People can and do resist, and an occasional politician joins the fight, but such resistance takes extraordinary effort. Those who resist win victories, some of them inspiring, but to date concentrated wealth continues to dominate. Is this any way to run a democracy? If we understand democracy as a system that gives ordinary people a meaningful way to participate in the formation of public policy, rather than just a role in ratifying decisions made by the powerful, then it’s clear that capitalism and democracy are mutually exclusive. Let’s make this concrete. In our system, we believe that regular elections with the one-person/one-vote rule, along with protections for freedom of speech and association, guarantee political equality. When I go to the polls, I have one vote. When Bill Gates goes the polls, he has one vote. Bill and I both can speak freely and associate with others for political purposes. Therefore, as equal citizens in our fine democracy, Bill and I have equal opportunities for political power. Right?”

Not everyone does get to vote, some such as criminals no longer have that right. Many don’t bother to vote as the options between several capitalist political parties feel very limited. Government can’t go against global capitalism as the Greek Syriza government found out when it tried to reject austerity in 2015. There is also the problems and unfairness of the First Past the Post voting system, which benefits rightwing, extreme pro-capitalist parties. Also, these parties do better in elections when voter turnout is lower. [46]

Richard Wolff makes the point that we spend half of our time in undemocratic companies. A small group of people (boards of directors and shareholders) make decisions in businesses that affect the workers such as if the business shuts down and moves overseas, who loses their job and who gets the profits. But the workers do not have any say in these decisions. Outside the workplace, people get to vote in our local communities and national government. [47]

Ha-Joon Chang explains that companies should not be run in the interest of their owners:

“Shareholders may be the owners of corporations but, as the most mobile of the ‘stakeholders’, they often care the least about the long-term future of the company (unless they are so big that they cannot really sell their shares without seriously disrupting the business). Consequently, shareholders, especially but not exclusively the smaller ones, prefer corporate strategies that maximize short-term profits, usually at the cost of long-term investments, and maximize the dividends from those profits, which even further weakens the long-term prospects of the company by reducing the amount of retained profit that can be used for re-investment. Running the company for the shareholders often reduces its long-term growth potential.” [48]

Myth – Capitalism gradually balances differences across countries through free markets and free trade.

The arguement goes that countries can use their competitive advantage to benefit themselves and also access goods and services from the rest of the world. [49]

Ha-Joon Chang describes how free-market policies rarely make poor countries rich. The capitalist argument is:

“After their independence from colonial rule, developing countries tried to develop their economies through state intervention, sometimes even explicitly adopting socialism. They tried to develop industries such as steel and automobiles, which were beyond their capabilities, artificially by using measures such as trade protectionism, a ban on foreign direct investment, industrial subsidies, and even state ownership of banks and industrial enterprises. At an emotional level this was understandable, given that their former colonial masters were all capitalist countries pursuing free-market policies. However, this strategy produced at best stagnation and at worst disaster. Growth was anaemic (if not negative) and the protected industries failed to ‘grow up’. Thankfully, most of these countries have come to their senses since the 1980s and come to adopt free-market policies. When you think about it, this was the right thing to do from the beginning. All of today’s rich countries, with the exception of Japan (and possibly Korea, although there is debate on that), have become rich through free-market policies, especially through free trade with the rest of the world. And developing countries that have more fully embraced such policies have done better in the recent period.

His response:

“Contrary to what is commonly believed, the performance of developing countries in the period of state-led development was superior to what they have achieved during the subsequent period of market-oriented reform. There were some spectacular failures of state intervention, but most of these countries grew much faster, with more equitable income distribution and far fewer financial crises, during the ‘bad old days’ than they have done in the period of market- oriented reforms. Moreover, it is also not true that almost all rich countries have become rich through free-market policies. The truth is more or less the opposite. With only a few exceptions, all of today’s rich countries, including Britain and the US – the supposed homes of free trade and free market – have become rich through the combinations of protectionism, subsidies and other policies that today they advise the developing countries not to adopt. Free-market policies have made few countries rich so far and will make few rich in the future.” [50]

Endnotes

  1. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, Ha-Joon Chang, 2011, introduction
  2. https://buildingarevolutionarymovement.org/2020/07/31/why-do-people-support-capitalism/
  3. Jody Dean 11m https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhUvNkJve-w
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Commune#Casualties; Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune of 1871, John M. Merriman, 2016; https://libcom.org/history/1871-the-paris-commune)
  5. #ACFM episode – Trip 10 How It Feels to Be Free, from 11m https://novaramedia.com/2020/05/10/trip-10-how-it-feels-to-be-free/
  6. #ACFM episode – Trip 10 How It Feels to Be Free, from 13m https://novaramedia.com/2020/05/10/trip-10-how-it-feels-to-be-free/
  7. #ACFM episode – Trip 10 How It Feels to Be Free, from 36 mins https://novaramedia.com/2020/05/10/trip-10-how-it-feels-to-be-free/
  8. #ACFM episode – Trip 10 How It Feels to Be Free, from 14m https://novaramedia.com/2020/05/10/trip-10-how-it-feels-to-be-free/
  9. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jun/23/why-is-life-expectancy-fallinghttps://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/peak-life-expectancy.htmlhttps://www.workers.org/2018/12/40054/
  10. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, Ha-Joon Chang, 2011, thing 10)
  11. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 13
  12. https://buildingarevolutionarymovement.org/2020/07/31/why-do-people-support-capitalism/
  13. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 6
  14. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 22
  15. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 1
  16. https://www.alternet.org/2015/09/robert-reich-capitalism-can-be-reformed-americas-wealthy-class-will-fight-it/
  17. Anticapitalism and Culture: Radical Theory and Popular Politics, Jeremy Gilbert, 2008, page 108, also see Capitalism 4.0: The Birth of a New Economy, Anatole Kaletsky, 2011, <ahref=”https://www.alternet.org/2015/09/robert-reich-capitalism-can-be-reformed-americas-wealthy-class-will-fight-it/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>https://www.alternet.org/2015/09/robert-reich-capitalism-can-be-reformed-americas-wealthy-class-will-fight-it/
  18. Tribune Magazine, Spring 2020 The Era of State-Monopoly Capitalism, Grace Blakely page 29, https://tribunemag.co.uk/2020/06/the-era-of-state-monopoly-capitalism
  19. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 16
  20. Tribune Magazine, Spring 2020, Planning the Future page 69, https://tribunemag.co.uk/2020/07/planning-the-future
  21. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 19
  22. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 18
  23. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/maximising-shareholder-value-irony
  24. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/03/socialism-innovation-capitalism-smith/
  25. Anticapitalism and Culture, page 109
  26. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXxVj9MHaCw, Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, William R. Catton Jr, 1982, https://www.counterpunch.org/2007/04/30/anti-capitalism-in-five-minutes/
  27. Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, Marxian, Richard Wolff and Stephen Resnick, 2012, page 52
  28. Richard Wolff 44m https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMbw0d-ebo0&t=289s)
  29. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 23
  30. https://fivebooks.com/best-books/new-capitalism-anatole-kaletsky/ and https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B004P1JEZW/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0
  31. https://buildingarevolutionarymovement.org/2020/07/31/why-do-people-support-capitalism/
  32. Richard D. Wolff Lecture on Worker Coops: Theory and Practice of 21st Century Socialism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1WUKahMm1s 46m
  33. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/corporation-tax-cut/
  34. see Capitalist class project section from https://buildingarevolutionarymovement.org/2020/04/29/what-is-neoliberalism/
  35. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11498135/Why-lower-corporation-tax-means-more-for-Treasury.html – download word doc of article Why lower corporation tax means more for Treasury
  36. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 21

  37. https://buildingarevolutionarymovement.org/2020/07/31/why-do-people-support-capitalism/

  38. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 20

  39. https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/07/peak-inequality

  40. (Capitalism say ‘we earned it’ Richard Wolff Marxism 101 27m and justification why employer paid so much RW Understanding Marxism 117m

  41. Capitalism Hits the Fan, Richard Wolff, 2010, Real Costs of Exec Money Grabs

  42. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 14

  43. https://buildingarevolutionarymovement.org/2020/07/31/why-do-people-support-capitalism/

  44. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 5

  45. https://buildingarevolutionarymovement.org/2020/07/31/why-do-people-support-capitalism/

  46. https://behindthenumbers.ca/2011/04/14/who-benefits-from-low-voter-turnout/

  47. Richard Wolff 21m https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynbgMKclWWc

  48. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 2

  49. https://buildingarevolutionarymovement.org/2020/07/31/why-do-people-support-capitalism/

  50. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, thing 7

Dying Normal

Dying Normal

Editor’s note: In addition to running away from the unnormal normal this culture has created (which in my understanding means to stop identifying with the culture of empire which most people perceive as normal) we must take bold action to protect our only home, and the future generations who rely on us.

Featured image: “Strip” by Nell Parker

This article originally appeared on the blog By My Solitary Hearth.

By Eliza Daley

Central Vermont is under a heat advisory today. There is also smoke from fires on the opposite side of the continent, though rains are periodically washing it out of the sky. Thus sometimes we don’t have the air quality advisory to go with the heat, though last night I could see no Perseid meteors through the combined haze of smoke particulates and equatorial Atlantic humidity. In my small and rural county where around 83% of the eligible population is vaccinated, Delta variant cases are sending people to the hospital at roughly ten times any rate that has been seen in the previous eighteen months of pandemic. A local summer camp outbreak is at 25 sick kids and increasing. Local schools are scrambling to figure out how to pack our unvaccinated children back into classrooms in a few days with no good ideas and quite a lot of hand-wringing. My co-worker on a landscape job had to pull a dead rat out of an active well this week. And there are no tomatoes.

These are the headlines of ecological collapse. This is not normal. There will be no return to normal. Normal was not normal. Normal, as we defined it in the late 20th century, was an ecological aberration, unsustainable in every way. We were merrily gobbling up all the easily accessible resources, especially those that create the abundant energy necessary to gobble up the rest efficiently (meaning profitably, not practically). We dug up, concentrated, and synthesized poisons of all sorts, relying on the magnanimous Earth to scatter and diffuse the toxins, murdering billions of life-forms in the process, right down to the life-sustaining microbes in our own digestive tracts. We killed off much of the biosphere both intentionally — as in the case of insect population crashes due to widespread insecticide use — and accidentally — as in the heat-induced bleaching of coral that is collapsing ocean ecosystems worldwide. We harvested far more than we needed of nearly every natural resource and agricultural product in order to turn the biosphere into wealth for some humans. And we concentrated far too many of ourselves into geographical areas that can’t produce the means to meet our needs at all — but are remarkably good at meeting the needs of viruses and other agents of infection. This is what normal has created.

This overly-hot summer, I’ve seen far too many bleating demands to return to normal. They claim that we have to get back to working in the resource intensive and micro-managed environments of our bullshit jobs. We have to send our kids back to over-crowded classrooms and day-care centers, mostly so that we are then free to go back to the office. We have to fly and drive and spend money on tourism and the service industry. We have to buy stuff — though this last is somewhat muted because there are many ineradicable kinks in the stuff supply lines and there is much less stuff to buy. We have to go to the movies.

Yes, that was an actual New York Times opinion piece. A rather long complaint about the writer’s diminished movie-watching joy because he sat in an empty theater. He also complained about the recent lack of mob emotion at sporting events and music venues and a reduced capacity to gossip around the office water cooler. I think maybe this person needs some real social bonding so he doesn’t have to rely on these shoddy substitutions. However, it must be pointed out that this is the type of person with a New York Times publishing platform. A person in a privileged position of power, influence, and wealth who has such inferior family and friendship ties that he must seek out relief to his feelings of isolation in economic activity. This is what normal has created.

This is what normal has created. But it will not continue. It will not continue not because we will stop it. We are not stopping. We are bleating about our inability to get back to normal. We are endeavoring in every way to keep that normal churning out death and destruction and isolation. The most vocal among us, those with the most wealth and status and public reach, are not even looking to a world that does not include normal. But that world exists; that world is the real world that is ruining normal for us. And it is winning. Normal is not normal. Normal is not sustainable. And the world is showing us that this is true in no uncertain terms, no matter all bleating to the contrary.

Normal will end, probably has ended in spite of all our efforts and bleating, because it is artificial and unsustainable. Reality wins every time. It has taken a while in human terms (though almost no time in geological terms), but normal is losing. In smokey air that covers a continent, normal is revealed as the aberration it always was. In variant viruses that fill hospitals and sicken our children, we see that normal is failing. In the sad isolation that cries out for contact of any synthetic form, we know that normal is wrong.

This week there was a kerfuffle over the latest IPCC report, telling us what we already know of the death of our normal. We have heated the planet — through burning fossil fuels — past any hope of averting disastrous change. They do not use the hyperbolic language because they are not allowed to do so, but the message is quivering underneath their stolid words. They are telling us that the normal we created has destroyed itself. There is no evidence that we can save it. It was never real enough to perpetuate without nearly infinite resources fed into it daily to prop it up in the face of reality. There is nothing of our normal to save.

However, there is everything else. And for that everything, we must make some efforts. I’m not sure I agree with the IPCC findings, but they say there is still hope of saving something of this real world — with some mighty big IFs. IF we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 and IF no tipping points are breached, we have about a random chance — a coin flip probability — of remaining below 2°C of warming and recovering a true normal in some century down the road. These big IFs incorporate some even bigger IFs. To reduce emissions to net-zero means that we need to remove carbon from the atmosphere — with technology that we do not have or natural draw-downs that we have not yet planted. Trees need time to root in and mature, time that does not remain in this IPCC budget. And as to tipping points, we’ve already seen accelerated rates of warming and melting in the polar regions. We’ve already seen population crashes that happen in a year or two. We’ve already seen crushing feedback loops that decimate large portions of the hydrosphere overnight. In other words, we’ve already seen intensification in rates of change that indicates without much doubt that we’ve already breached many known tipping points. The main point of doubt now is what surprises await us.

So I don’t know about the hope of the IPCC. What I do know is that we can all build our own small resilience, and in doing that we might be better able to both effect a carbon draw-down and save what we can of the real world — the world we depend upon. We are already imbedded in the real world. Our failing normal tells us this. If we stop making huge efforts to prop it up, it will go away entirely. Very likely it will go away rapidly. Collapse, when it does happen, is a tipping point. It is sudden and largely uncontrollable. It will hurt. But my suspicion is that it will hurt money and privilege more than it will hurt people and places — largely because our normal doesn’t benefit most people or places. It hurts them. It’s my hope that removing this hurt will balance out the hurt that collapsing normal might cause for most people. Money and privilege can bear the hurt — they are not even as real as normal.

I don’t know about the hope of the IPCC, but I do have hope still. Ironically, it comes from the very headlines that scare me, the very air that is cooking my body and choking me. These tell me that the normal we created is destroying itself rapidly. These headlines are also showing me that we probably can survive that destruction. Not all of us, not without pain, not without massive upheaval. But we are surviving. We are coming together to help each other. We are building new systems to support ourselves in the face of the collapse of the old ones. And large numbers of people are turning their backs on the bleaters. Because humans are a rather practical bunch when it comes down to it, and the practical solution is to run away from all this isolation and destruction and help each other. We’re very good at running away from pain. And at helping each other — as long as we’re not being constrained by artificial normals.

So I’ll bear the smoke and heat and diseases philosophically — though not without grumbling. And I think most of you will do the same. And together we’ll get through this. Mostly by running away.

But I just don’t know about the tomatoes…

The Hidden Face of Animal Research

The Hidden Face of Animal Research

Editor’s note: These kind of frankenstein experiments are another creepy example of this culture’s disconnection and total objectification of nature and our fellow creatures.

This article originally appeared in Counterpunch.
Featured image: Plum Island. Source: kyselak – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Animal disease research in government or government-funded labs often flies under the public radar and it goes way beyond COVID-19 questions. For example few are aware of the existence of the U.S.’ Plum Island Animal Disease Center even though it is located in New York state near the northeast coast Long Island. During the Nixon era, bioweapons were developed there. Now the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service conducts gain of function-like research into vaccines and other countermeasures against foreign animal diseases like vesicular stomatitis virus, foot-and-mouth disease and swine fever.

The 2005 book, “Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory,” exposed biological meltdowns, infected workers and virus outbreaks at the facility including lab leaks that were seriously underreported by mainstream media.

Recently, a French laboratory worker was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) leading to an immediate moratorium on the prion research the worker and others conduct at five public research institutions in France.  Prions, misfolded infectious proteins, cause the fatal brain diseases of scrapie in sheep, mad cow disease in cattle (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE), chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk and CJD in humans. The prion-caused CJD brain-based fatal has been confused with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases in humans because of the severe cognitive and mobility impairments it causes.

While the infected worker is retired, prion research has been halted for three months to determine if a lab accident or exposure explains the illness.

In 2019, a French lab employee who also worked with prions, Émilie Jaumain, died at age 33 of lab-contracted CJD. Jaumain was infected with variant CJD, or vCJD, normally associated with eating prion-contaminated beef, venison or other meat said officials. In humans, CJD can develop spontaneously from no known cause or have genetic causes. Jaumain had stabbed her  thumb with an instrument while cleaning a machine she was using to cut brain sections from transgenic mice infected with a sheep-adapted form of mad cow disease/BSE.

Prions are Widespread and Almost Indestructible

Though prions lack a nucleus, they reproduce and are almost impossible to obliterate as I reported in my 2012 animal disease expose. Prions are not inactivated by cooking, heat, autoclaves, ammonia, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, phenol, lye, formaldehyde, or radiation and they remain in the soil, contaminating it for years.

The prion-caused chronic wasting disease (CWD) has become epidemic in U.S. deer and elk and humans can catch itthough urban communities remain mostly untouched and unaware. Human cases of variant CJD (vCJD) caused by mad cow disease (BSE) in meat that was eaten have occurred in the U.S. but in recent years have been dismissed as “atypical” and thus not requiring herd and offspring searches for “Cow 1.”

Mad cow outbreaks in cattle threaten beef producers, exports and financial markets and CWD outbreaks in deer and elk threaten hunting income and state revenues. Both are barely reported as public health stories by mainstream media because of their serious financial implications.

And, with Midwest deer now carrying COVID-19 including one half of deer tested in Michigan, how might prions interact with the coronavirus? Why is that possible disease adaptation not being reported?

Brave New Animals Are Created for Lab Research

The creation of transgenic, hybrid and chimeric animals is underreported and disturbing. Transgenic mice like those infected with a sheep prion used by Émilie Jaumain are not new and date back to the early “oncomouse” and knock-out mice. “hACE2 mice” were developed to study SARS but interest waned when the COVID-19 predecessor seemed to hide. The mice are now greatly in demand for such research which is back with a vengeance. COVID-19 is, after all, SARS-CoV-2.

Because of the ethical and disease spread/security dangers presented by transspecies experiments, some Western scientists have outsourced such research reported the Sun earlier this year. “Human-monkey hybrids, souped-up viruses, head transplants and gene editing are just some of the tests known to have been carried out by Chinese scientists,” the news outlet wrote.

Most Pandemics Are Zoonotic Including COVID-19

The 1918 flu epidemic originated in birds and the HIV epidemic originated in apes but the zoonosis of COVID-19 has been all but ignored for political reasons. It is now found in U.S. minks, zoo animals and deer.

Whether a fatal animal disease is bred in labs, hunting ranges (CWD), factory farms (BSE) or unhygienic wet/wildlife Asian markets, the possibility of animal-based human pandemics and their variants is the biggest lesson of the 21st century.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).