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• The deteriorating state of the natural and sociocultural environment

posted Nov 1, 2014, 8:34 AM by Sven Schiepers   [ updated Jan 26, 2015, 4:34 AM ]


In the last decades it has become increasingly noticeable that the eccentric drive for high corporate return on capital may very well lead to an overall diminishing quality in consumer end-products. This phenomenon has been most obviously displayed in the foodstuffs market. Here, the heedless drive for corporate percentiles has systematically and blatantly corroded the nutritional value of most commonly bought food products. The result is a civilization of individuals who are growing increasingly weak and ill. For combating this overall weakness and illness they heavily rely on another market. Also infamously known for its monstrous returns, the medicine and health market. This drive for return however has got a hold of virtually every market, concerning consumer products or other. A dishwasher will maybe last half a decade before it turns to trash and most clothes are made and marketed to only last one season. To speak about the wages that are paid producing these products is unnecessary here, as most people know exploitation of (child)labour is still highly abundant in our world. This trend of an overall decrease in consumer surplus or an increase in serf-like labour conditions is a painful reality for most households throughout the world. Also, examples of horrendous and total devastation of extremely complex natural ecosystems are abundant among the players in the highly competitive international resource markets. The contemporary world economy has come to serve one and one goal only; rapid return on capital, or using a more positive connotation, rapid growth.

With the 2008 US real estate collapse and the aftershocks that plagued the international financial sector, the fragility of the heavily indebted growth driven economies of the western hemisphere suddenly became painfully apparent. The subsequent publicly financed bail-outs of numerous insolvent financiers have confirmed what socialist and neo-Marxist scholars have argued for decades; the capitalist financing system, through the nature of western property laws, exhibits prodigious opportunities for monopolistic exploitation and accumulation. The power of an oligarchy could over time grow to proportions that rival whole nation states or heavily intertwine with them. Since owning capital resources generates more capital resources, a situation of ever growing socioeconomic inequality can arise between wealthy and destitute individuals, between proprietors and the property-less. Although this phenomenon is well known in the practical world, it was not until half a year ago that French economist Thomas Piketty published compelling historical empirical evidence that there indeed has been a vast wealth accumulation mechanism at work. He predicts an increasingly oligarchic and socio-economic unequal future for mankind. He proposes a political solution consisting of property taxes of up to 2% and income taxes of up to 80%.

Initially, political development throughout the world has been a series of power struggles between kinship groups. From these toils some groups arose with an expedient position. Other, less fortunate groups however could decide and agree on mutual partnerships if the burden laid on them by exploitation of other groups rose too greatly. For thousands of years these kinship politics evolved, matured and vanished time and again. In some parts of the world politics grew increasingly individualistic as modern states sought to ever further increase their power. Historically the first state to acquire central authoritarian power over a vast and populated area was the very short lived Chinese Qin dynasty in 221BC. The empire lasted only for 15 years but the system of impersonal administration and undermining of local kinship based authority proved to be unequalled in its ability to efficiently mobilize resources on an enormous scale. The Qin empire fell fast due to internal factors, since externally it was entirely unmatched.

These internal political struggles can be dissected into struggles of individuals dissatisfied with their relative position in their social environment. These individuals will organize themselves under the most suitable religion, ideology or charismatic leader of their time. These struggles have historically always involved violence, since the most natural means for redistributing wealth is simply by seizing it. In the modern western nation state however the redistributing-violence within society has been abolished on a ethicultural level, which could readily be considered a step forward in the human social evolution. Though, what other mechanisms remain for achieving an internal power-equilibrium? Theoretically this should be the popular vote, but since none of the modern democracies come even close to the ideal theoretical democracy, the popular vote seems to function more as a superficially satisfying illusion than a real tool for policy development.

The power that is generated by capitalizing the monopolistic opportunity, over time can grow to vast proportions. There are indications of different large, intermarrying families who have skilfully and in some cases quite successfully retained and expanded their power over centuries. Today however, the wealthy are allied by sheer common interest rather than family ties. They are bound by the interest of generating an average return on capital of at least 12% or so a year, making absolutely sure their power can only ever grow. Every year the return on capital is higher than the growth of the economy, wages will proportionally fall further behind, ever enlarging the gap between these occupants and their minions.

Through ownership of mainstream media outlets public opinion is homogenized and possibly deliberately deprived of intellectual and reflective aspects. Manifestations like the American truth movement, who seek to identify an objective truth about geopolitical events like 9/11, are systematically portrayed as fringe phenomena. This despite the fact that hundreds of MScs and PhDs and tens of thousands of other Americans are genuinely involved in the movement. That we all live in and contribute to a global economy that is highly suboptimal, especially in the longer run, is an obvious truth to an increasing number of people. Aside from the recognizable decrease in the quality/price of nearly all products necessary to life, the demeanour of the human collective(the ecopolitical reality) toward highly valued, indispensable and continuous elements, like nature or ethical and aesthetic values, causes most anguish and apprehension.

At first, state-interventionism seems the most obvious and qualified tool for keeping oligarchic power in check. However, there do arise some serious problems regarding this solution since there is absolutely no guarantee that a government will genuinely defend the interests of its democratic peripherals. Perfect competition implicates a total absence of monopoly opportunity and would therefore serve as another theoretical solution. It implicates an absence of government too however. These two solutions appear to be mutually exclusive. These opposite characters are explained by their different ideological background. It is however debatable whether socialist and libertarian ideologies are essentially that different.

Please read more next time:

 “An attempt to fundamentally and ideologically unite socialist and libertarian economics”


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