There has been a lot of talk lately about many issues facing our way of life, and a lot of people are asking, “What can we do? How do we change things?” Poverty, homelessness, unaffordable health care, climate change, depletion of natural resources. Pollution so bad our oceans are dying, our water is becoming undrinkable, and our air is becoming unbreathable. We are killing ourselves, and we are killing our planet. Looking at the big picture, we are killing life! What good is anything, especially money, if there is no one to spend that money–if there is no one alive to live here? So, having heard these pleas for help, I started to ask myself, what ideas could I come up with? Can I offer anything to this world so we don’t commit lifeicide? My answer is, maybe…
But before I get into my ideas, I feel the need to state I am not an economist, not in any way, shape, or form. In fact, what I am is a spiritual explorer, a label I have recently given myself, on top of others I gave myself at varying times throughout my life. I study life, not from without, but from within. I am the me scientist. I have only one field of study, me. I have only one test subject, me. And I am my best student. Anything that does not come from within me is just outside interference. I can only know it is real if I find it in me. And it is by knowing me I have come to know life, all life, and where I learned to care about all life. If I can help anyone, big or small, many, or few, or just one, then it is my responsibility to do so.
So, having set my parameters, or lack thereof, I would like to offer the world what I call conscience capitalism. Or, capitalism with a conscience. Why? Because, inside me, I care.
Why do we need conscience capitalism, whatever that is? I am speaking here mainly to the industrialized nations of this world, where capitalism in any form is the dominant way of life. As it happens, I use the word dominant in more than one way: capitalism dominates the nations that use it, but capitalism also dominates almost every nation on earth through having most of the power in the world. We do have socialist nations, and communist nations, and even communal nations, or some kind of mixtures or hybrids of the main four economic/geopolitical systems, but one thing is clear: Capitalists have created such fear in the hearts of the workers-for-wages they rely on to support their capitalism that the workers fear losing their ways of life should any other economic system be tried. It does not matter that this fear is unfounded, or built on false premises, or even false promises! It matters only the fear is there! And therefore we must work with it, and around it.
But how do we, the workers, work with what has come to be called the 1%? All of the wealth in all the capitalist nations in the world is owned by just 1% of the population of the world. Karl Marx tried to warn the workers of the world over 150 years ago this was going to happen. Unfortunately, he did warn the capitalists of the world of what might happen if the workers of the world decided to do something about the 1%. Their response, accomplished much faster than the workers could respond, was to create a deep, unjustifiable, and unreasonable fear of the system Marx and his buddy Friedrich Engels called communism, which Marx and Engels devised as an alternative to capitalism.
The result is, almost everyone in the industrialized world has an inbred fear of anything that is not capitalism, especially socialism and communism. Just listen to the Republicans in the USA today. Democrats are socialists out to destroy democracy. They might as well be communists. And look how many people believe them. How many people voted to let Trump, a Republican, continue destroying the democracy he claimed to want to save. AMERICA cannot afford to lose their democracy. And democracy seems for too many to mean capitalism. So, therefore, the best way to save capitslism is to work with the capitalists.
But, at present, capitalism is running amuck. Once upon a time it paid lipservice to the idea prices will be determined by what consumers will be willing to pay for a product, and by competition, consumers will demand better products by purchasing higher quality products. If ever that were true, it is not anymore. What happened to change those ideas, or should I call them ideals? I don’t think there is one simple answer to that question, and there is not just one answer, but I am going to give you one big answer, and that is credit cards.
There was a time when workers/consumers had to save their money up to buy things they needed. This created a capitalist cycle that looked something like: an owner of wealth or ideas to create wealth would employ workers to create things, said workers being paid a certain amount of money in return for their labour. The workers would then use their money to purchase the things they produced, as well as food, shelter, and all the necessities of life. But, the price of those goods was not based solely on the value that would be determined as the cost of production, there were two other factors, interest on the money used to invest in creating the means of production, meaning that money was another form of worker and had to get paid for working, and profit, which was an arbitrary amount paid to the wealth owner for allowing people to earn money from him. So, the cycle ran with money going from its owner to the workers who paid more to consume than they were paid to produce. This profit in turn is paid to the owner for risking his money in the first place. The controlling factor was that there was only so much money available, and so there had to be some caution given to what to do with that amount of money. And the workers, having only so much money, did have some influence on price and quality.
No more! When the idea of letting people use credit cards to purchase goods they were paid to produce arrived, the wheels came off the machine. Credit started as just a short-term form of non-money. People were very leery about credit cards, buying things on credit, buying only as much as they believed they could afford to pay at the end of each period of time. But that was the generation who grew up having what they called respect for money. They did not believe in spending too much more than they earned in that particular length of time. One problem was, though, the wealth owners started to pay the workers wages of less value, while at the same time asking them to produce products of lower quality. The words planned obdolescence entered into the language–goods made to last only so long so that consumers would have to purchase more of the same goods over and over. This helped lead to wealth inequality, the buying power experienced by the rich as compared to the buying power of the workers. To put it bluntly, there was no comparison.
But the children of those earlier wage-workers looked at credit differently than their parents did: Why wait till tomorrow to purchase something you could purchase right now, and enjoy right now, rather than waiting to buy only that amount equivalent to what you could earn right now? With that concept came the idea: Buy now. Pay later! And suddenly, there was more money around than what was the value of the available money. The money did not exist, except in bookkeeping records that soon turned into computer records. But the idea of the money did. When the wealth owners saw that, their eyes bugged out of their heads! Here were oceans of non-existent money that could not only earn high percentages of interest, but also previously unheard of rates of profit. And they knew the workers would hardly notice, most of them were incapable of high finance. In fact, not only would consumers pay ridiculous prices for the goods they wanted right now, but also the consumers would willingly pay ridiculous interest charges on their credit cards for the right to have instant gratification. Profit rates and interest rates soared. As we all know, the rich became richer, the poor became poorer, and the wealth inequality divide grew, and grew, and grew.
But there is a cost for all these things. There is always a cost. The question is, who is going to pay it?
Right now, capitalism has no conscience. The wealth owners, for the most part, care very little for the workers, and even less for those incapable of working, no matter what the reason. They take, and take, and take, and give little of value in return. The worst part is, what they take they do nothing with. They play games with their fellow wealth owners to see who can own the most wealth. They are numbers on a scoreboard, numbers that do nothing worth anything. That is what has to change. That is what must change.
Money that just sits there, doing nothing but earning interest, can be considered dead money. It is not working for anyone but its owner. It is not helping the wage-workers, nor the poor, nor even the government. The more the wealthy take, the less taxes they are willing to pay, the less money they are willing to pay to charities that benefit the greatest number of people. The less they pay, the more the wage-workers need to pay. This only benefits the rich.
So, once again I say, capitalism needs to grow a conscience. And it needs to grow one soon.