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 operating today.

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.