Capitalism is Cancelled

A sign from the Women's March in Los Angeles on January 21, 2017. Photo by Trevor Schock.

The way that we think about economics and the government is changing, as more and more people are noticing the weaknesses in our current capitalistic system. I believe that capitalism is fundamentally flawed and the economic system used by the majority of the world was designed to exploit people. Many of us are exploring ways we can create a better world for everyone. Bernie Sanders, a self-identified socialist, is arguably the most popular politician in the U.S. right now. A 2016 survey conducted by Harvard that polled adults between the ages of 18 and 29 found that 51% did not support capitalism, and 33% said they supported socialism. These factors suggest that a significant number of people are growing tired of capitalism and many are looking for alternatives.

Anti-capitalism has many different interpretations, but at its core, it is the belief that capitalism inherently exploits and oppresses working people. Most anti-capitalist movements define themselves as communist, socialist, or anarchist, but they all have roughly the same goal, and that is the abolition of capitalism and all hierarchies. The version of anti-capitalism I support is anti-state, anti-imperialism, and pro-people.

The most well known anti-capitalist theories were developed by Karl Marx, who is best remembered for writing the Communist Manifesto (1848). In his 1867 book "Das Kapital," he fully delved into how capitalism works and how we can work against it. According to Marx the only way to achieve equality is for workers to own the means of production. What he meant by this was that the working class should own the tools they use to create, rather than those tools being owned by business owners. If workers owned their tools, workplaces, and materials, they could make full use of the things they create, and share them with their community rather than selling them.

There are a plethora of reasons why the entire premise of capitalism is flawed, but one of the major problems is the fact that capitalism prioritizes profits over people. This is why businesses throw away food they can’t sell while people go hungry, and why there are empty homes but no lack of homeless people. This isn’t an accident, it’s simply the way the system works. In order for capitalists to make money, they need to create classes, and they need to have poor people. Business owners won’t make money if they pay workers anything close to the value of their labor, and If capitalists actually cared about the people they employed, those workers wouldn’t be protesting for something as meager as a living wage.

Exploitation is an essential factor of capitalism since business owners make a profit from the labor of their workers. Capitalism creates a narrative that just any worker can gain enough capital to eventually open their own business and then make a living for themselves when in reality, this rarely happens. Upward mobility in capitalism is almost impossible because capitalism creates other ways to keep people oppressed. The system uses white supremacy, classism, sexism, and other tools of oppression to keep people poor by pitting working class people against each other.

Those opposed to the concept of a society without capitalism will argue that greed, supposedly an integral part of human nature, will motivate some to take advantage of the majority. Without a government to stop the greedy people, they can get away with whatever they want. The reality is that greed is more likely a product of capitalism. Regardless, in a society without capitalism or government, the majority of people in a community would still have enough power to group together and stop a greedy person from taking advantage of others.

There are a lot of different perspectives on what a society without capitalism could look like, but the reality is while parts of it will be dramatically different, a lot may stay the same. People will still be working, but they’ll be working together. We’ll still have schools and teachers, they’ll just be more democratically run. There will likely be community gardens and more libraries. Our basic needs will be more easily met because the labor of the people will be available to the people. Of course, it won’t be a utopia immediately. A society like this hasn’t existed and there will be plenty of trial and error while we figure out how to do things best, but to say it wouldn’t work is irrelevant because we just don’t know yet. The real question to ask ourselves is this, "If capitalism works, why are so many people starving?"

The rich will likely never support a world without capitalism. In this kind of society, they will own less, profit less, and have smaller houses and fewer TVs. However, there are more workers than there are capitalists and if workers mobilize, they can create a community that serves their needs better. It’s possible to have a world without starvation, homelessness, and poverty. The people in power tell us that we need their existence, but we don’t. We can create a world without capitalism that works for regular people.