CAPITALISM HAS FAILED. Remind me; what is it exactly?

  • by

In the excellent blog, CAPITALISM HAS FAILED, on Bill Totten’s site,  Sara Robinson, MS, APF points out the shortcomings of what she calls “the model”:

The problem, in a nutshell, is this: The old economic model has utterly failed us. It has destroyed our communities, our democracy, our economic security, and the planet we live on. The old industrial-age systems – state communism, fascism, free-market capitalism – have all let us down hard, and growing numbers of us understand that going back there isn’t an option.

I thought her article would help me in my new hobby: capitalism.

Actually, although well-written and drilling down to meaningful details, like most academics Sara misses the point by using unclear language and terminology and looks at the subject from muddled viewpoints.  This is slightly surprising because there are a lot of practitioners out there who will give you presentations and consulting to guide you through the chain from deep values to vision- mission to policy to principles to systems to processes to practices to work routine descriptions when it comes to banks, for example.

Bit maybe her article illustrates the problem: that we live in such a complex world, use language and terminology in a  muddled way, have democratic systems that we cannot participate actively in, that we as Earth citizens have ended up with results we did not want. It illustrates the plight of the intellectual class who wade around in ideas and never get their hands “dirty”  dealing with real organisations, real policy, real board decisions etc. This intellectual class is maybe  duped into thinking that if you could just invent the perfect “model” or “system” and bring “order” into the way we live – maybe a new world order – then failure would not happen. I think many in this class believe if we just monetarise  everything and have government get out of the way we will not see failure.  It’s not their fault, the game is rigged to allow them to say what the hell they like. Nothing changes.

Clarification #1. Models do not fail you.  They may contribute to your success positively or negatively. Look at it this way: I would rather have an excellent teacher using older models to teach my child than a substandard one using modern methods. The moment you start the model discussion you shift responsibility. The last time I looked, the police were still responsible for crime. Could they turn around and say “we didn’t catch the criminals because we used the  model that  failed us”? Maybe it would be more convenient for the criminals to argue in their defense ” We broke the law because the model failed us”.

Clarification #2. Responsibilities are written into the constitutions of nations. Each nation’s constitution is unique. There is no “we” using the same model. If there are starving people in a nation then look to the constitution and division of responsibilities to find where blame lies-

Clarification #3. Economic models and the Industrial-age “systems” (sic) are not the same thing. A system is not a model and anyway, the so-called economic model is again, hard to pin down. Show me the textbook on that one!

I have several comments on this Capitalism thing (which by the way I am STILL researching a clarification on – the joy of a hobby)

All failures of performance need to be analysed on the spot working from the point of failure. If something goes wrong in  a factory, teams rush to “the spot” to investigate. They ask “why” five times – like “why did the machine fail?”. Then if the answer was, “Not maintained” – “why was it not maintained” etc etc until the root cause is found.

One key to all system changes is to analyse behavior first. You can analyse behavior of things, people and even systems depending on the level you take. For example: the daily activities of the citizens of a nation are depleting their resources in an unsustainable way. Why? Because they are set up that way.

Capitalism is not a system, it is a grammar. Grammar is the systematic study and description of a language, but the terms is used more widely in for example, the “grammar of film”. So I would like to say that capitalism is what comes out from a systemic study and description of ….. well, both normal language and films communicate value, so I guess that would make capitalism the language of money.

Capitalism as a grammar is not a set of rules as such, rather a description. The rules of grammar are not like scientific laws, and not like rules of, for example, driving. They are merely descriptive – describing how people who use the language use it and the perceive its uses.  We have the rules of punctuation for example. What makes them rules is that everyone accepts them and the practice has evolved. And it is still evolving. I just started a sentence with”and” – considered bad practice in school.

The law of supply and demand is one such grammatical item. It has actually never been shown to work in practice, and neither in theory. Its is a rough description of how people talk about money.

Let me make this clear: capitalism is not destroying the planet – people are. It is that simple. Capitalism could exist, like some ancient language, and never be used. People could still destroy the planet. Or not. If you never pushed the accelerator, fuel would never get burned and carbon dioxide would never get into the atmosphere. Capitalism has not failed, people have.

If use of grammar creates a problem you change it. Use of language to communicate over radio has evolved to ensure safety, for example. So we could consider making some changes in the grammar of capitalism.

In fact, just as the situation changed for communication when wireless communication between boats and planes appeared, the situation is changing when the parking lot we have made the Earth into is full.

A subject for my next foray into my latest hobby.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *