Monday, 13 September 2010

'Free' market capitalism is the engine of inequality

We live in a world of inequality, yet we rarely question where this inequality comes from. By inequality, I mean inequality in power and wealth, and these two inequalities are connected. In a democratic and just society we all, as citizens, ought to wield equal power as voters, and we all ought to expect economic justice - a fair reward for our work and an equal say in how our workplaces are managed and controlled.

Inequality creates social degradation, social division, underachievement, criminality and great unhappiness. It is iniquitous and corrosive to the social fabric. So why do we have inequality? Some people would have us believe that the source of inequality is purely down to individuals. In our capitalist society this seems logical. Don't some 'work harder' and 'do better' than others? Don't some 'get on' while others don't? So it seems. But it's not like that. We live in a capitalist society. Our economic system is a great big engine which drives inequality. You can't have an equal society with capitalism, which is why inequality seems natural to us, because we have lived with it all our lives.

But there is nothing natural about this inequality - it is manufactured by capitalism. You cannot have capitalism and a socially just society. The two are mutually exclusive. Karl Marx explained to us how capitalism generates economic inequality through the mechanism of surplus value - through which workers work for free to provide profit for their employers. This is an inevitable consequence of capitalism, the mechanism by which capitalism works. It is what creates great inequalities in wealth between worker and capitalist. Over time it creates the society we live in now with a small number of super-rich and billions living in poverty and deprivation.

I've just been reading some of Tony Blair's book 'A Journey'. It's a fascinating read in a dark bizarrely comic way. Tony Blair built New Labour around 'getting on' and the chimaera of meritocracy. But Blair, like all those who believe in the 'free' market, was and still is, deluded. He tried to achieve social justice by employing the very market methods which work against it. He failed. The proof of the pudding is that after 13 years of these policies Britain is more unequal than it was before.

If you believe in a creating a socially and economically just society you have to eliminate capitalism. You need to create an alternative economy based on public provision, mutualism and the private sector. It's important to understand that the private sector does not equal capitalism. Rupert Murdoch is a capitalist, your local hairdresser is not. There is plenty of room for local private and social enterprise in a socially just society. Just no room for capitalist corporations and their shareholders.


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Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Diversity is key to a healthy society. Perfect equality can never allow diversity of thought or culture because "difference" allows "inequality".

So, I believe inequality is sometimes a good, and healthy thing for society. The evils we see that come from inequality are not inequality itself, but social injustice and the abuse of social advantages and extreme exploitation of humanity. Lets fight against social injustice by uplifting the poor, the weak, and the helpless. But striving for perfect equality is in essence striving for slavery.

You may not agree but this is how I feel on the subject, I am doing a college study on his topic and I felt like I would share some thoughts and opinions as one who feels a strong need to support the poor and weak, but also believes in free-market and opposes social slavery.

Unknown said...

Free markets have reduced poverty (while increasing the potential for inequality) across the world. Inequality in the form of social position and power will always (and have always) existed far before "capitalism" was even a concept.

Like you said at the end of your comment:
"There is plenty of room for local private and social enterprise in a socially just society. Just no room for capitalist corporations and their shareholders."

I agree to an extent. The problem with Communism is it prohibits private enterprise and deprives the worker of the direct fruits of his own labor. A carpenter making chairs in his basement would not be allowed to sell them or "trade" his personally created goods in exchange for anything else under pure Marxist Communism because "personal property" and the means of production are forbidden.

While I acknowledge severe flaws in current Capitalistic society, the flaws I've seen in historical attempts at Communism far, far outway the worst evils of Capitalism. We need a hybrid system with the best of both worlds and none of the negatives. I don't know if that is even possible, perhaps one day.

@HT4ecosocialism said...

I have said many times on this blog that capitalism and the 'private sector' are not one and the same thing. Capitalism is a particular mode of production, you local hairdresser is not a capitalist.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I want to hear more of your thoughts on inequality, however.

Tex Shelters