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  • Writer's pictureFred Guerin

On Parasitic Capitalism

Capitalism, we have been told by those who have benefitted most from it, is 'the worst economic system...except for 'all the others'. We don't usually hear about the specifics of 'all the others' from the elite capitalist class. Presumably, it should be enough for us to just accept what we are told by the powerful--that capitalism is necessary for progress; that it is an inevitable feature of any 'civilized' humane society, and that it is both the foundation and guarantor of human freedom.

Of course, none of this is true. In fact, what has become increasingly evident is that capitalism is less a guarantor of human freedom than a deadly parasite that not only undermines human freedom and ravages democracy, but sucks the life out everything that lives and breathes. This 'best of the worst' economic systems invariably puts profit before human beings, animals, the environment and indeed life itself. It has become the primary reason and proximate cause of massive wealth disparity, of escalating climate disruption, of depletion of the ozone, of the release of toxic chemicals, of the loss of biodiversity and of mass species extinction.

This makes capitalism, most especially in its present corporate manifestation, an economics of unfreedom and enslavement, of destruction and death. By its very nature it can only benefit the ‘few’ and like a deadly parasite survives only so long as it can feed off its 'host' (the rest of us). The always prescient Matt Taibbi described Goldman Sachs, the worlds most powerful investment bank, as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money". It is an apt metaphor. I would go a step further and say that the economic system through which corporate firms like Goldman Sachs are enabled is itself a giant parasite wrapped around the entire planet draining life from the land, the air, the waters and everything that lives and breathes.

We need to destroy this parasite before it finally does us all in. How? We can begin by making a very reasonable assumption: We do not need profit-driven corporate capitalism to be creative entrepreneurs and innovators; we don't need it to start community banks, to ensure food security, to build community farms and public schools and infrastructure, to build green energy systems, to provide and institute excellent healthcare, environmental protections, decent housing and financial security for young and old. All of the latter can be accomplished without feeding the parasitic capitalist elite.

There are many who will undoubtedly say that it is not possible to live without capitalism. They will claim that it is naive utopian thinking to believe we can construct a more collaborative, empathetic world where there is social and economic justice, where people care for and cultivate a healthy environment for themselves and future generations.

Well, clearly, it is far less utopian to believe in the above than to continue perpetrating the destructive and delusional notion that capitalism=human freedom and human progress, that competition is more productive than cooperation, or that the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands is 'good for all of us'.

A less individualistic, economic democracy realized through a more participatory economics would encourage a world of worker self-management, collaborative production, social and public investment, reasonable income, fair taxation and the distribution of wealth based on fundamental human needs such as nutritious food, clean water, decent housing, healthcare and public transportation. It would not encourage endless economic growth, but emphasize sustainability and living within the limits of what the planet can provide. Such an economic system would subsidize and encourage investment in cooperative housing, community farms and green forms of energy--not for individual profit, but for the sake of community well-being.

Impossible, you say? Well, look again because it is beginning to happen: there are more and more food co-ops, alternative producers, parallel currencies, local exchange systems, community banks popping up all around the world. The latter exist and thrive not because but in spite of corporate capitalism. We need to cultivate these projects and initiatives in our own communities--more than this, we need to create social movements that press governments to encourage and support them. It will require a fundamental rethinking about environmental planetary limits, about the uses of technology, and about the meaning of ownership and work.

It will not happen overnight, but breaking the current system of institutionalized monopolies, banks and governments that insist that capitalism is our only option is absolutely necessary. Killing this parasite is not just something we can do, but something we must do, and not next year or the year after but starting RIGHT NOW!

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