I was recently asked why I oppose Capitalism so loudly and consistently even though I am in a position of relative privilege at this point in my life. These are a few of the bullet points.
At the most basic and personal level, Capitalism steals the joy of a job well done, the satisfaction a working person derives from knowing they have done something well. Instead of benefiting us and our communities, our creativity, passion, and expertise are all repurposed to support the owner’s goals, their ends.
The wage system is fundamentally a form of systematic theft. The owning class‘s profit margins are the difference between the value your labor creates and what they pay you. So every day you trade hours of your life you can never get back for a fraction of the wealth you created. In a small business the owner may also be a worker, but the bigger the business the more wealth the owners can steal from their employees.
Wage slavery isn’t the only form of systematic theft under capitalism. Quite often, bosses don’t even pay the pitiful wages we are owed. The FBI estimates that wage theft amounts to billions stolen from workers every year, almost as much as all other theft combined. The same business that would press charges if you stole bread to eat will happily steal your overtime pay and expect you to work off the clock.
They don’t just steal the wealth we create and the wages we are owed, they steal our lives. ‘ We are forced to spend the majority of our waking hours working to make people who are already wealthy even wealthier. There is no such thing as ‘work life balance.’
Capitalism is fundamentally anti-human and defines people’s worth in terms of their wealth and the wealth they can produce for others. All human interactions become transactional and people are taught to see others in terms of their utility, not their humanity. Wealth inequality kills friendships, rips apart families, and leaves us all poorer.
For hundreds of years and in every country, Capitalists have actively encouraged racism, classism, religious sectarianism, & other systems of oppression as tools to divide opposition.
Economics are an aspect of culture – not separate from it – and Capitalism is a culturally specific economic system based on norms and values of a historical anglo ruling class. Its propagation across the world via imperialist conquest spread and enforced those values, erasing other systems of belief and re-shaping all of the cultures it conquered, replacing their indigenous value systems with its own. Its spread is nothing less than cultural genocide – in addition to the long list of physical genocides committed during that process.
Capitalism requires infinite growth. This has only been possible historically via imperialism, conquest, and genocide as the capitalist nations first conquered and subjugated their European neighbors and then spread across the rest of the world.
Going forward, the requirement for infinite growth is a death sentence on a finite planet. None of the worlds major industries would be profitable if the environmental costs of the pollution they create was factored in (see also: externalities).
This cannot be reformed because under Capitalism, short term profits to boost share prices make long-term planning impossible and trade the future for temporary benefits. Every cost that the capitalist doesn’t directly pay (externalities) is irrelevant to the capitalist. This is the cause of environmental devastation that threatens all life.
Capitalism is rabidly inefficient, the narrow focus on self interest and wealth accumulation makes looking at the big picture impossible.
The public good has no value to the capitalist, and so collectively owned things (the commons) are endlessly privatized and pillaged. From the theft of land in the Highland Clearances and the Enclosure movement to the theft of human beings in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, this has been a continuous process over centuries. Modern examples include illegal fishing fleets that strip mine the ocean, governments leasing mining and logging rights on publicly owned lands to private companies, and the theft of humanity’s collective intellectual property.
All of the intellectual capital of our species – the common heritage of humanity- is up for grabs for the capitalist. Meanwhile, new inventions are patented and privatized instead of returning to the commons – even though they would have been impossible without building on the work of previous generations of thinkers. This is an act of theft. This systematic theft of what should be collectively owned intellectual property now even extends to the building blocks of life itself. Capitalists patent and privatize gene sequences created by billions of years of evolution by right of ‘discovery.’ Columbus lives on!
Worse, Capitalism perverts the progress of technology by investing in technologies that benefit the ruling class at everyone else’s expense. So we have precision missiles, smart bombs, autonomous drones that rain death, fantastic life-extending medical procedures (that are only available to the rich)… and our power is still generated by fossil fuels or solar panels built using lithium from open air mines that destroy everything around them. The public good is not profitable, so it does not attract investment capital.
Most of the counter-examples that defenders of capitalism like to point to were actually developed using public funds… and then privatized. The recent publicly-funded Covid vaccines are a classic example – taxpayers footed the bill to develop them but the results are now legally the intellectual property of Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, etc. It’s blatant theft. Even the internet that I’m using to write this essay was developed with public funding and then privatized.
Capitalism relies on economic disparities in order to function. If everyone had the startup capital to go and start their dream company following their passion, there would be no one to work for them. Without wage labor to exploit, capitalism cannot exist. Capitalism would literally collapse without inequality – it is the threat of homelessness and starvation that enables the system to function. The machine is oiled with our blood, sweat, and tears.
Even by the most conventional of definitions, Capitalism is a criminal system. Every time a capitalist releases an unsafe product, steals your wages, or forces workers into unsafe working conditions knowing it will kill or maim, it is a crime. But because the State always serves elites, these crimes are never prosecuted.
Capitalism is quite literally “rule by capital,” and renders the vast majority of humanity slaves to a machine that only serves itself. As a result, rule of Law is a lie under Capitalism – laws only apply to the working class. Even in those rare cases where the crimes of the capitalist class are so egregious that they cannot be ignored by the State, the penalty is rarely more than a fine – and usually a fine far smaller than the profits of the crime. Individual capitalists are virtually never held accountable.
This article could go on forever. Every aspect of the Capitalist system is designed to bring out the worst in humanity. It is a system designed by sociopaths that breeds sociopaths and normalizes their behavior. It must be utterly destroyed for any of us to have a future.
Teaser photo credit: By Thomas J. O'Halloran, photographer – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs divisionunder the digital ID ppmsca.03199.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1382866