I haven't checked my mail in 3 years but hey, give it a shot.
Response to Michiel's brother about capitalism.
I was called today with a seemingly random question from a friend. 'Has capitalism caused anyone to die from hunger?'
This happens to me more often then is reasonable to assume. I teach history and therefore people assume I know everything they need to know at any time. Just wait until I get my masters degree. Then I get to boss history around because, that's what a masters degree is for, right? History, OBEY!
Anyhow, the question got me thinking. Has capitalism caused anyone to starve from hunger? Yes it has. People have most certaintly died from hunger in capitalist countries, even the United states which somehow still maintains its facade of intrinsic goodness. Why is there doubt about this? We all know the pictures of uncaring factory owners with big sigars, forcing children to work, forcing families to buy crap vegetables at their stores and even children made to work. Is this new to anyone?
Capitalism and the people of Earth
I was puzzled by how Michiel's brother couldn't know this. Although I don't really know him and he might have been the guy who tried to shut everyone up at Michiel's birthday party by shouting the word 'mouth!' at them its reasonable to assume he has at least a basic understanding of history and its implications.
So, brother of Michiel who's name I've kinda forgotten. Just take a look at this illustration from somewhere around 1900 and see how common folks actually saw capitalism:
Common folks very commonly assumed capitalismw as evil and with good reason. Its baqsically an exploratory system that makes the most of business ventures and resources. The profits usually go to a very select group of people and the workers who do the actual physical work get paid for their troubles. That's the idea. Its a good idea too, potentially for the workers as well because capitalism has the potential to generate a lot of profit if performed with skill. Early capitalists, from Mercantilism on turned making profit into a artform.
There are problems with people making money, getting most of the money.
At the period from the eighteenth century, the commercial stage of capitalism originated from the start of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company. These companies were characterized by their colonial and expansionary powers given to them by nation-states. What do you suppose companies do when a nation-state tells them to do anything to make a profit?
Its called colonialism and its a surpridingly kind word for what is in essence countries and companies under them looking for profit in land that doesn't belong to them and murdering the shit out of any locals that don't agree with all their stuff being stolen. This is capitalism in its crudest form. making a profit over the backs of anyone who happens to be there.
Child labour and capitalism
Of course, it could easily be denied that colonialism comes from capitalism as it happily continued when the big companies for the most part got out of the way. The Dutch East India company eventually disappeared and the official Dutch government settled in Indonesia, not to leave for 300 years. Making a profit turned into 'the white man's burden', a ludicrous concept where Europeans take it upon themselves to educate the poor coloured man to proper western standards. Ok, so that's an extreme example. Capitalism doesn't have to lead to permanent colonialism.
No, it can just as easily lead to massive abuse of the workers in its own home countries. If you're interested do a google search for 'child labour 1900' and let your jaw drop open if you haven't seen any of that before. Yes, capitalism lets people starve. It also lets children do hard manual labour, lets people lose limbs in machines and lets them get deadly pneumoniae in damp cellars.
This also happened in the US in the nineteenth century. The low value of child labor in agriculture may help explain why children were an important source of labor in many early industrial firms. Capitalism, my friend. If people can work and you don't have to pay them much then it happens. It was only the national government which ended child labour and much to the chagrin of factory owners both here, in the Netherlands and in the United States. Here, it was the child law of van Houten that ended it in 1874 but it was only truly ended in 1900 with the arrival of forced education, a source of much chagrin of many children right to this day because the little dumbasses don't know how good they have it....
Capitalism and DEATH!!
Ok, so there have been no capitalism firing squads and that's mostly because capitalism doesn't represent a geo-political whole and as such no fixed spheres of influence. Its an economic system and even communist China has seen the benefits and has delved in. Firing squads usually belong to oppressive political regimes which can adhere to fascism (popular in the thirties of last centiry), communism (still popular in N-Korea), socialists, bolsjewists (why not..), fundamentalists of any religion, maoists, and every flavour of nationalists. Capitalism as such is hard to define politically. Mostly, capitalist countries are democracies although China is busy flounting that in our face. There is even a theory that capitalist, democratic states never go to war with each other although that could just be coincidence.
Capitalism doesn't kill by firing squad or gass chamber. It kills by exploiting the workers and neglecting their needs for as long and cheaply as possible before someone stops it. During the construction of Hoover dam, laborers at the Dam had no voice in the settling of wages, hours of labor, working conditions, safety or living conditions. It was appalling. Why could this happen? There was noone to check if conditions where right. There was no strong government organ to monitor conditions. The dam was important for America and so Frank Crowe, lead man of the project, got to do what he wanted and if dozens of people had to die due to poor conditions, then so be it. The essence of the capitalistic mind.
The modern world
Nothing has really changed. Capitalism still thrives on exploiting people, governments and resources and there is no alternative. Communism hasn't worked out and anarchism is so stupid we might as well all start praying to the machine god for our baked toast each morning.
Is unbridled capitalism the answer to modern day problems, like I understand you believe, brother of Michiel? No, it isn't. Really, it isn't. Remember the child laws that protected children from manual labour in factories? Government. There are many such examples. The government in a democratic country is chosen by the people and in order for it to be re chosen it has to do something for the people, have their interests at heart. Corporations and companies don't aswer to anyone but their stock holders and so making a profit tops everything. Your brother lost his job due to capitalism. Its an understandeable system but tough as hell. The govenment has made sure he now gets money in order to not go broke and be forced to live under a bridge (although that might be an improvement over the house he now occupies.... OOOOO BURN!)
Look, I'm no big fan of the government either. They never get everything right but unbridled capitalism is an infinetely worse idea. People only out to make profit will not look to your interests. We see plenty of examples here in the Netherlands. Gas prizes have never been higher due to speculation of stock brokers. Public transport has taken a huge downward step since it was privatized and gotten a lot more expensive. The Dutch railway system is run by the NS, which might be an abreviation for Neverending Sorrow. Due to privatizations it is now more expensive then ever before to heat up your house and electricity is now so expensive it might be cheaper to just pay 5 Polish dudes to walk continuously in a treadmill to generate the stuff.
Then now what?
Please, stop listening to people who say borderline retarded things like 'abolish all income tax!'. Yes, that might have worked in the 17th century when dirt roads were considered high tech but in this century I want to drive over a road that is properly constructed and not by the lowest bidder from Taiwan by Chinese slave labour. I've watched Tea party video's and Sarah Palin interviews and unlike most of Ron Paul's followers I've read some of his 'issues' on his website. There is no easy answer. The government is necessary. It keeps a check on capitalism and capitalism provides us with wealth. Smaller government means more liberalism for the big companies and they use that freedom to make money. Over your back. Just look at the crisis of 2008. Car companies sucked at making money because most of the profit didn't go to developing new products but to already obscenely rich managers and stock brokers. Give the government the power to do something about this. A strong government keeps capitalism in check. This is absolutely a necessary evil.
And finally, because its ridiculously easy to find pictures that make fun of capitalism, here's my favourite:
Orientatie op geschiedenis, Arie Wilschut (red)
|Yes, this was not funny and way to serious. Next week I'l put up a monkey or something.... peasants!|