Capitalism Is A Natural Force
"We are here to awaken from the illusion of separation" Thich Nhat Hanh.
Capitalism is a social construct, which promises
to convert potential value into manifested value, much like fire
converts potential energy into kinetic energy. Unfortunately,
our cultural illusion of separation focuses on the narrow fiscal
value of capitalism, which is a poor measure, since money by itself
is of no real value, but only stores against future real needs.
In the book Natural Capitalism, Hawken, Lovins, and Lovins
point out that there are three additional measures of real capital,
natural systems, the infrastructure, and social welfare the people.
These real values are hard to quantize, so they are discounted,
and impoverished by the narrow drive for the fiscal bottom line.
The viability of the natural systems is the
foundation of our entire society and economy. The topsoil depletion
from agribusiness, chemical contamination of our water supplies,
and the Texas size plastic trash island in the north Pacific,
are just a few problems in this arena. The infrastructure health
of our society affects long term economic activity, such as the
situation at the Oroville dam. Finally, real value is measured
by the physical and mental health of the people in our society,
which is obese from our corporate diet, sick with big pharma opiods,
depressed by lack of economic opportunity, and unable to afford
adequate health care.
These values are lost to the fiscal focus,
so the natural power of capitalism begins to resemble a firestorm,
which devours everything in its path, as the folks in Lake County
can attest. In some cases, once started, only nature brings a
wildfire to a halt. In other cases, the efforts of humanity are
sufficient to stop a wildfire.
In civilization, regulated fire is very useful,
but unregulated fire is less so. While you can heat your house
by setting it on fire, this is a very short term solution. But
careful regulation of fire allows us to live long comfortable
lives. Capitalism is similar. Careful regulation allows capitalism
to increase the real, long term values of the natural, infrastructure,
and social values of society. What we are experiencing these days
is the economic cult of unregulated capitalism, which benefits
a few for awhile, while threatening the viability of the entire
planet. This illusion of the "free market", unfettered
by regulation, is one of the most destructive separatist illusions
When Adam Smith wrote The Wealth Of Nations, about capitalism, he assumed that business owners lived in the communities where the business operated. Since they would experience any decline in quality of living resulting from poor business practices, they provided a regulatory feedback to constrain capitalist excess. As businesses grew larger, and as corporations became more numerous, the gap between owner and excess was intentionally expanded, destroying Adam Smith's regulatory assumption. Now owners may not even live on the same continent as the destructive business excess. Of the two dozen key assumptions Smith required for real capitalism, none apply to the actual economy of today, which is why it is solid business sense that it is profitable to kill the planet. We are back to heating our house by setting it on fire. So sad.