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We need to flatten the wealth curve for our society to continue to move forward and prosper.  The out of balance economic shakedown that has been the status quo for so long needs to change.  Paul Street writing for Counterpunch lays out the grim details:

 

“+ 23. Capitalist Inequality Puts Anti-Science Fascist Lunatics in Power. The savage economic inequalities that are written into the inner logic of capitalism put a pandemic-spreading anti-science lunatic, the demented fascistic oligarch named Donald Trump, atop the world’s most powerful nation. In his useful book How Fascism Works, Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley notes that one of contemporary right-wing nationalist authoritarianism’s key taproots is harsh socioeconomic disparity:

“Ever since Plato and Aristotle wrote on the topic, political theorists have known that democracy cannot flourish on soil poisoned by inequality…the resentments bred by such divisions are tempting targets for demagogues…Dramatic inequality poses a mortal danger to the shared reality required for a healthy liberal democracy…[such] inequality breeds delusions that mask reality, undermining the possibility of joint deliberation to sole society’s divisions (pp.76-77, emphasis added)…Under conditions of stark economic inequality, when the benefits of liberal education, and the exposure to diverse cultures and norms are available only to the wealthy few, liberal tolerance can be smoothly represented as elite privilege.  Stark economic inequality creates conditions richly conducive to fascist demagoguery. It is a fantasy to think that liberal democratic norms can flourish under such conditions” (p. 185, emphasis added).

The political culture of pseudo-democratic duplicity and disingenuousness generated by modern capitalist inequality and plutocracy creates space for fascist-style politicians who “appear to be sincere” and “signal authenticity” by “standing for division and conflict without apology.  Such a candidate,” Stanley writes, “might openly side with Christians or Muslims and atheists, or native-born [white] Americans over immigrants, or whites over blacks…They might openly and brazenly lie…[and] signal authenticity by openly and explicitly rejecting what are presumed to be sacrosanct political values….Such politicians,” Stanley argues, come off to many jaded voters as “a breath of fresh air in a political culture that seems dominated by real and imagined hypocrisy.”  Fascist politicos’ “open rejection of democratic values” is “taken as political bravery, as a signal of authenticity.”

That is no small part of how malevolent far-right politicos – many of them dedicated enemies of science in service to the common good (e.g. the malevolent right-wing narcissist and instinctual fascist Trump and Brazil’s monumentally despicable and ecocidal racist Jair Bolsonaro) – have risen to power at home and abroad. The opening is provided by fake-progressive capitalist neo-“liberals” (in the U.S) and neoliberal social democrats and fake “socialists” (in Europe and elsewhere), whose claims to speak on behalf of the popular majority and democracy are repeatedly discredited by their underlying commitment to dominant capitalist social hierarchies. The demented fascist uber-assholes Trump and Bolsonaro, both of whom have acted to increase COVID-19 deaths in their own nations and thus in the world, are outcomes of capitalism in this and other ways.”

The Pandemic is debunking cherished capitalism mythos one weary chestnut at time.

One of the many calculations going on in the background within varied historical contexts is the relationship between efficiency and resilience.  Consider arch construction from Roman times and now.

The Roman arch has a distinct set of design principles that focus on the utilitarian principles of usefulness and longevity in public infrastructure.

 

The modern arch.

 

Same concept, but now a different formula has been employed, as different ends are in mind. Aversion to overbuilding, a focus on form rather than utilitarian concerns.  Public architecture most certainly, but will these arches last centuries?  Doubtful.

 

So, from here we can extrapolate the notion of the interplay between efficiency and resiliency, the Roman arch being the model of resiliency and the modern arch being the exemplar of efficiency.  Neither is wrong per say but rather, each work displays what qualities are needed at a particular point in societal history.

Fast forward to the present.  And yes, the present we speak of is the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020.  Like the Spanish Flu before it, the Coronavirus is rapidly burning through the various world populations.

The societal systems we have built are mostly modelled on the basis of maximizing efficiency, as efficient systems with capitalist societies are usually quite profitable.  Jill Richardson writing in Counterpunch describes the model we are using for much of our economy.

“I went to business school 20 years ago. We learned about the efficiency of “just-in-time” supply management.

The goal was to cut costs by ordering inventory “just in time.” That way you don’t pay for all the extra, costly warehouses to store weeks or months of supplies. The example we were given was that if a certain large corporation’s supply chain shut down, they’d only have enough materials on hand to keep up production for four days.

Efficient? Yes. Resilient? No.”

Economic design decisions, like societal design decisions reflect the social priorities and needs of a people at a particular time.  When paradigm shifting events happen, like a pandemic, the shortfalls of the system are revealed.

“My business school taught social Darwinism: survival of the fittest. The beauty of capitalism, we were taught, is that everyone competes for business and the competition drives innovation, while the least efficient companies go out of business.

It was an outlook that Ayn Rand would endorse: the most generous way to behave is to be selfish, because by doing your part to compete, you are doing your part to drive innovation and efficiency for everyone.

This crisis is pulling back the curtain on unfettered laissez-faire capitalism, showing that we are actually interconnected. And it’s far more serious than toilet paper.

A stark shortage of personal protective equipment has left health care workers without enough to go around. In my town, hospitals are organizing to receive donations from anyone who has a box of face masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves at home.

In short, they’re relying on community resilience where for-profit efficiency failed.”

Our capitalism system is a marvelous at maximizing efficiency, but when the base rules and global situation changes, the once successful model (should) quickly lose its lustre.

“In normal times, we justify a form of capitalism in which competition means accepting inequality and suffering in the name of improving efficiency for all. We accept that some face poverty, hunger, and homelessness, and we’re okay with it because of a myth that it’s natural, or better for everyone (or else caused by the moral failings of those who suffer).

Continuing to believe that myth now will cause millions of deaths worldwide. Instead, our only hope is pulling together to help others through shared sacrifice and collective action.

Resilience isn’t always profitable. But we need it now more than ever.”

We will need to adapt our models and societies for this new base set of conditions.  A foundational requirement in the new normal will be building a higher level of cooperation in society and the fostering the willingness to critically evaluate the old paradigm and correct the models that do not jive with the new social reality.  Building resilience into our societies must become a priority otherwise the pandemic lessons of 1918, and 2020 will need to be relearned at a great cost to human life and progress.

 

 

” Whenever we try to rearrange natural systems along the lines of a machine or a factory, whether by raising too many pigs in one place or too many almond trees, whatever we may gain in industrial efficiency, we sacrifice in biological resilience. The question is not whether systems this brittle will break down, but when and how, and whether when they do, we’ll be prepared to treat the whole idea of sustainability as something more than a nice word.”

A new model is necessary to mitigate future crisis, it must revolve around the idea that a formula weighted more toward resilience is necessary for a sustainable future.

 

 

 

 

 

When people talk about how capitalism raises the tide for all boats my skepticism level begins to slowly creep upward.  One must be careful when it comes to describing capitalism as panacea for the world and the world’s poor.   from Counterpunch takes aim at a few of the more atrocious lies that the ardent defender of Capital put forth.

“Neoliberals love to quote the World Bank’s rosy statistics about capitalism lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. Unfortunately, those statistics are skewed and manipulated to the point of outright prevarication, as Seth Donnelly demonstrates in his new book, “The Lie of Global Prosperity.” He quotes a breathless World Bank press release, “soon 90 percent of the world’s population will live on $1.90 a day or more.” No matter that translated into local currency at local prices, in many places that $1.90 per day purchases the equivalent of 30 cents a day or that $1.90 per day means the pauperization of billions – for as Donnelly shows, a truer metric of avoiding desperate poverty is over $5 per day. If that far more honest measure is applied, 80 percent of South Asians and sub-Saharan Africans are, Donnelly explains, horribly impoverished. Even more disturbing, achieving a 70-year life expectancy requires $7.40 a day, something the world’s cold and pampered capitalists will certainly not shell out or even allow for the billions of wretchedly poor.

Best exemplifying the World Bank’s ideologically biased poverty measures – biased to glorify capitalism – is how it uses statistics about China. “The free health care, education and food that people received in Mao’s China do not enter into the calculation. As a result, Chinese people, who achieved new levels of food security and saw their life expectancy double in this [Mao’s] period were found to be on the whole ‘extremely poor’…the Chinese only ceased to be ‘extremely poor’ once they lost their collective lands, food rations and medical care and began making iphones and other export goods under atrocious conditions.”

I do like me some socialism, as I do believe it is the tonic that will address some of the societal problems we are currently experiencing.  I think tackling the inherent problems socialism bring with it might be good for a change.  It’s like changing the government every so often, clear out the old graft and corruption and make way for a fresher, newer array of graft and corruption, perhaps even doing some positive governance things before bought off by the powers that be.  Chris Wright makes some good points by focusing on the alienation that people can experience in a capitalist society.

 

“The case for socialism is usually made, rightly, from the perspective of its justice. It would be just to have economic and social democracy, for one thing because it is intrinsically right that people not be forced to rent themselves to a business owner who exploits them for profit but instead that they collectively control economic activities and distribute rewards as they see fit. Moreover, economic democracy, whether in the form of worker cooperatives or democratic government control, would essentially make impossible the extreme income inequality that corrodes political democracy and ultimately unravels the social fabric.

But it’s also worth broadcasting the message that even from an existentialist point of view, our only hope is socialism. Certain types of conservatives (usually religious) like to complain about the demise of the family, the community, non-hedonistic interpersonal ties, and the sense of meaning in our lives, a demise for which they blame such nebulous phenomena as secularism, “humanism,” communism, and liberalism. That is, everything except what really matters: capitalism, the reduction of multifaceted life to the monomaniacal pursuit of profit, property, and power. So these conservatives end up in the realm of fascism or neofascism, which promises only to complete the destruction of family and community.

The truth is that only socialism, or an economically democratic society in which there is no capitalist class, could possibly usher in a world in which the existentialist howl of Camus and Sartre didn’t have universal resonance. Mass loneliness, “homelessness,” and the gnawing sense of meaninglessness are not timeless conditions; they’re predictable expressions of a commoditized, privatized, bureaucratized civilization. Do away with the agent of enforced commoditization, privatization, and hyper-bureaucratization-for-the-sake-of-social-control—i.e., the capitalist class—and you’ll do away with the despair that arises from these things.”

 

It is a wonderful time to be alive.  Our social sphere is a dividedly partisan uncharitable hot mess.  Nothing gets done because the status quo recognizes that people working together have the capacity to radically alter society.  Internecine conflict and partisan yelling matches are not an accident.  They conveniently combust all the oxygen in the public sphere, keeping threatening systemic change far at bay.

Consider, we fecklessly embrace capitalism and the ruthless exploitation and environmental destruction that goes along with it.  Yet, at the same time we have our scientific classes raising the alarm that we are rapidly making our planet uninhabitable.  A few eyebrows are raised, but in general, the system continues to chug along.  Here is one foundational parts of our capitalism system, the ever present race for the bottom and thus maximum profitability (at all costs).

It’s gonna suck when the earth strikes back and decides our defining passion for hoarding slips of paper is not a desirable evolutionary trait.  Pete Dolack writes for CounterPunch:

 

“And as the race to the bottom continues —  as relentless competition induces a never-ending search to find locations with ever lower wages and ever lower health, safety, labor and environmental standards — what regulations remain are targets to be eliminated. Thus we have the specter of “free trade” agreements that have little to do with trade and much to do with eliminating the ability of governments to regulate. And as the whip of financial markets demand ever bigger profits at any cost, no corporation, not even Wal-Mart, can go far enough.

Despite being a leader in cutting wages, ruthless behavior toward its employees and massive profitability, when Wal-Mart bowed to public pressure in 2015 and announced it would raise its minimum pay to $9 an hour, Wall Street financiers angrily drove down the stock price by a third. Wal-Mart reported net income of $61 billion over the past five years, so it does appear the retailer will remain a going concern. Apple reported net income of $246 billion over the past five years, so outsourcing production to China seems to have worked out for it as well.

The Trump administration’s trade wars are so much huffing and puffing. Empty public rhetoric aside, Trump administration policy on trade, consistent with its all-out war on working people, is to elevate corporate power. Nationalism is a convenient cover to obscure the most extreme anti-worker U.S. administration yet seen. Class war rages on, in the usual one-sided manner.”

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