The Guardian’s G2 supplement today asked the question: is capitalism dead?

No doubt sparked by the global banking crisis, the US administration’s buoying up of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the ultimate demise of Lehman Brothers – all incidentally corporations that I had never heard just this time last week – the piece raises a number of interesting questions. This I will come back to.

But it was in The Times leader column this morning – I stole it from Pret by the way, viva le proletariat…!!! – that my distaste for capitalism and its ‘survival of the fittest’ ethos was once again invigorated. Under the heading, ‘Crisis and Capitalism’, the piece suggested that:

it may sound an inopportune moment to say that bankers might be the solution, rather than the cause of the current turbulence…there is no shortage of gravediggers happy to declare the market has failed us. In fact, the opposite is true: it is working

Of course it is, people are still making money, the rich are getting richer, and the wealth is being reigned in by those with the capability to profit on the back of other people’s losses. As the Times went on:

…predators will happily take over any assets with residual value. Profitable parts of [Lehman Brothers] will find a new home and the weaker parts closed down

Before concluding:

this is painful and worrying but the opposite of a disaster. It might be brutal and unforgiving but this is how capitalism works

What better example of this than the story ran by the Times merely eight pages later about how the ‘predators’ were already swooping into action. Beneath a headline declaring, “Headhunters train their sights on willing targets as shockwaves spread around City”, the Times reported:

Like nature’s most efficient hunters, they are a secretive breed, disguised in pin-stripe anonymity, going in for the kill only in the darkened corners of the City’s concrete jungle. But the scent of financial turmoil was so great yesterday that they broke cover and in broad daylight openly sought their prey in London’s new financial centre, Canary Wharf.

In the current climate, no one in the banking business feels safe – and with huge mortgages to service, school fees to pay and exotic holidays already booked, there was no shortage of big beasts seeking pastures new. Enter the headhunters, their sights trained on a growing number of willing targets.

Could the Times have found a more inappropriate metaphor (or is it a simile)? I doubt it.

Could the Times have used any less hideous, aggressive and carnivorous imagery and language? I doubt it.

Could the Times have voiced my belief that capitalism is little more than ‘economic Darwinism’? I doubt it again.

Could the Times have voiced my distaste for capitalism and the complete disregard it has for all but the wealthiest and most powerful? Definitely not.

Could the Times have even acknowledged that the banking industry is held together by people that don’t have “huge mortgages to service, school fees to pay and exotic holidays already booked”? No. Never.

And that’s what capitalism is all about. To try and use similar language as the Times, it’s all about the magnificent beasts excreting on the weak and impoverished lowly fodder from a far greater and somewhat superior position. In other words, it’s about the haves shitting on the have-nots from a very great height. So when we see banking employees leaving their offices with their desks cleared into cardboard boxes, we shouldn’t gloat or feel that they have ‘got what they deserve’ because behind every one of them, there are many, many more ordinary people in far more serious financial straits.

Despite this, I do feel sorry for the Barclays employee bemoaning the current crisis in the Times:

“We had planned to put [our son] in a private school. We had planned to go on holiday at Christmas. We may have to change our plans”

My heart bleeds for you (said with tongue planted firmly in cheek).

So in the words of G2, is capitalism dead?

Of course not. And if you want proof, you just have to look at Damien Hirst who last night made around £70 million for selling some more of his commodified art to a more than willing audience. Yesterday, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The rich then went out and spent some of their winnings at an art sale to celebrate.

This is what capitalism is all about and what we are witnessing is capitalism doing exactly what it does best.

Creative Commons License

This work by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Based on a work at www.chris-allen.co.uk.

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2 thoughts on “Excreting on the weak: it’s just what capitalism does

  1. Hi Chris,

    I was googling “Economic Darwinism” for obvious reasons and came across your post. I’m a supporter of the concept of economic Darwinism and you seem to be opposed, but after reading your article, I think the differences are probably semantic, i.e. we’re probably not using the words “Economic Darwinism” in the same way, because I pretty much agree with your sentiments.

    Seeing the rich get richer is frustrating, but I would actually suggest that is a result of “unnatural selection” or “anti-economic Darwinism”. In a truly competitive system, I’m not sure the rich would get richer.

    Anyway, since you wrote this article, a lot of the “rich” are finding out they are not so rich anymore, which is healthy. There was an unhealthy sense of entitlement infecting developed countries in recent years. I hope that is changing. The sooner people realize they need to work hard and contribute value in order to warrant their livelihood, the better.

    I think ending “unnatural selection” by stopping government bailouts is what we need.

    Cheers

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