The Real Shit of Capitalism

I can go grocery shopping, and while at the same super-market I can do my banking, get a medical check-up, buy drugs, drink at a bar, eat a rotisserie dinner, drop my kid off at daycare, go Christmas shopping, sit at a cafe, and listen to a live band.

I can buy a 2-liter of Pepsi, or a bottle of water, or stop to eat KFC or Taco Bell and I’d be giving my five dollars to the same small group of investors. I can buy contact-solution, soap, toothpaste, hair-dye, deodorant, or tampons, and I’m giving money to the same CEO.

What extremely sucks about this society of advanced capitalism is how few people are capable of owning so much. Whether or not consolidation is the inevitable, natural outcome of capitalism is debatable – humanity’s only tried it once – but I do like listening to Adam Smith of all people, as he decries, “All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”

We all know the Walmart Effect: Walmart opens, and several businesses close their doors. A super-market opens, and several grocers go under, and the bakery, the butcher, the pharmacist, cafe, optometrist….

Someone opens a fast-food restaurant. Okay, great. Have at it you producer of fine burgers and fries. And then they open 500 more. 10 other people do something similar. Now, if you’d like to own a burger joint in America, your only option is to work for one of these 10 other people – either you franchise one of their stores, or you open a rogue burger-and-fry joint and go out of business because you can’t compete with a national dollar menu.

Same if you’d like to open a hardware store, a barber shop, a pizzeria, a bar and grill, a cafe, a toy-store, etc. Want to make sinks or small-engines? Kohler will destroy you.

This consolidation into massive chains and conglomerations and corporations could very well be the natural, inevitable outcome of a free-market. But we had free-markets before we had capitalism, and we had free-markets long before we had mass-chains, conglomerations, and doctors’ office in grocery stores: we should be able to have a free-market and mom-and-pop toy stores, at the same time.

A market dominated by a handful of people isn’t free. An economy, or a country, where you can’t own your own business, or produce your own product, where you cannot survive unless you ‘earn a living’ as part of a massive corporate beehive, isn’t a free market, or a free country.

I believe in free-markets, but nobody’s free if they need $20 million in capital and a nationwide supply-chain if they’d like to own their own hardware store: our only option is to choose a corporate beehive, and await our bi-weekly allotments of honey. In America, we have no self-sufficiency, no independence or liberty.

“Hey Marty, long-time no see. What beehive are you earning a living from these days?”

 

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Bullshit American Exceptionalism

America is exceptional, we’re told. We’re the best at everything. We’re supposed to lead the world at everything. The point of America is that we’re supposed to have the best economy, the best technology, the best schools, the best military, the best stock market, the best standard of living.

That’s what America’s about, that’s what the role of government is. Obviously, because those are the things politicians and the media refer to as American Exceptionalism.

America isn’t supposed to be exceptional because of Democracy and Liberty. Forget about those things, will you? The whole world has those. America is only exceptional if we have the best economy and the best military. Health insurance, that’s what we’re really supposed to be great at. We lead the world, yeah of course we do, because we police the world. Availability of student loans, that’s what makes us exceptional. How many pairs of shoes did you buy last year? 5? Yeah, because you’re an American, you’re exceptional, man.

We used to be piss-and-vinegar and defiant, anti-authority cowboys and hippies and beats and congregation members, democratic ideals and a love of serving community. We used to pride ourselves on Liberty.

We all want our children to be educated, we all want medical care, economic stability; roads and electricity and neighbors that aren’t shivering starved. These aren’t mutually-exclusive to Democracy and Liberty – Democracy and Liberty allow us to create these. But by placing these needs above Democracy and Liberty, by changing the meaning of American Exceptionalism, Democracy and Liberty have been degraded and our schools suck, we can’t provide medical care, our roads are crumbling, and we’re always at war.

What happened? When did American Exceptionalism mean valuing goals other than Democracy and Liberty? those two ideals that had made us exceptional in the world?

We’ve allowed politicians and the media to redefine American Exceptionalism. I doubt this was an accident.

“You should be worried about terrorists and college tuition because this is how we make America Exceptional again.”

America isn’t about Liberty and Democracy, it’s about policing the world and making sure everyone makes monthly payments to insurance corporations.