Capitalism: soon to be a barbaric relic?
“The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom—and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. In the twenty-first century, only nations that share a commitment to protecting basic human rights and guaranteeing political and economic freedom will be able to unleash the potential of their people and assure their future prosperity.” Written in 2002 by the American council of the National Security Strategy under the leadership of then president George W. Bush, this self-satisfaction belongs to a bygone era. Western capitalism – narrowly surviving the crisis from 2007 to 2010 which left it fatally wounded – is in its final phase as its infected wounds splutter out inequality, social unrest and colossal debt.
The triumphalism of the early 1990s that saw the sacred American capitalist standard ordained supreme moral leader is far removed from today’s reality! Everything seemed to have started so well though. Wasn’t democracy supposed to be in some way a natural consequence of Russia and China’s embrace of capitalism? Milton Friedman – who asserted that a society that favours income equality over freedom “will end up with neither” – is now completely outmoded since to us our freedom only has a functional value left, at best a driver allowing us to reach material objectives. Our defense of liberties – of Freedom – seems barely credible as we surrender it to corporate and banking profits, gargantuan institutions who continually impose their diktats upon us.
How might we prevail with these humanist values, but how can we be taken seriously in our efforts to impose the concept of human rights on other nations when – under the guise of this same freedom – a tiny minority on our side of the fence is amassing excessive wealth and power all for itself? With such a backdrop, it is much easier to imagine the end of capitalism. After all, no social system has lasted forever, and even less likely to do so is an order as intrinsically unstable as that of capitalism. The question is therefore not so much whether capitalism is going to collapse and disappear, but rather what will replace it in a world – the world of tomorrow! – where human labour will no longer be a necessity.
However, no one – and definitely not politicians – is ruminating over or taking charge of the social model that we wish to organise for our immediate future. Will it be a society in which individuals will have the possibility (if they so desire) of freeing themselves from work? A society offering to everyone access to medical care, housing and adequate income, even without having to work? Or will it be a hierarchised order in which an elite will dominate the masses while exerting strict control over access to resources and goods?
In other words, will the lightning-speed progress of science and technology be used in service of individual freedom and our collective quality of life? Or will economic and financial domination tighten its grip and end up enslaving the masses to its imperious requirements of competition and profit? It’s called oligarchisation, or capitalism between consenting adults.