Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Maybe Marx was right about a few things

I grew up in a family that was totally capitalist, without reservation, and we benefited from that very well. But I'm seeing more and more, that materialism is starting to show its flaws. I just finished reading this article from the Guardian which shows, through a series of studies and examples, that materialism leads to isolation and depression.

I've known about this for quite some time now. I know and have known some very wealthy people, but they don't seem at all happy about their possessions or their wealth. They are very isolated, too. Few friends, a voicemail box that is full and endless pursuits of more money.

Some would like to say that capitalism is a natural phenomenon, that we can observe it in nature. It is said to be one of the most successful methods of creating and distributing goods in society. Well, that might be true. But how do we find it in nature?

Marx said, from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs, right? We don't see any animals carrying more than they need now, do we? I don't. Even monkeys, our closest relatives, do not hoard and accumulate more food than they need. They don't claim vast expanses of territory without having to share it with other animals, either.

Animals forage for food and hunt. They don't gather it all up at the expense of others, they often share what they have in the environment with others. Lions and other predators will hunt in teams and share the kill with each other. They don't pack their meat in a freezer and keep more than they need for one meal.

Ants, one of the most successful insects around, are almost communist. They take what they need and leave the rest. They're not hoarders and seem to be pretty good planners, too. There is a colony with a single queen that stretches from North America to South America. Saving for the queen, there is no one in the ant colony that we can call "rich".

The animals seem to be doing quite well without capitalism, and are suffering great damage as a result of the endless human quest for more of whatever is the fancy of the day. They are the perfect expression of "from each to his abilities, to each according to their needs".

We have a pretty good thing going here, with something we like to call "civilization". But we could do better. We could acknowledge that materialism can lead to mental illness. We could show the next generation that we are all in this together, and that if we need something, we can create it, together. We can also show the next generation that if we don't take care of the environment, it will take care of us, but not in the way we might have hoped.

There is a lot of good things to be said for capitalism and in many ways, I like it. But other economies like socialism found in Europe have proven more than viable. They are successful, too. They produce billionaires, they produce some of the fastest, most expensive cars in the world. They produce high quality products with great precision. Many of these socialist countries produce products that are not produced here, and sometimes, cannot be purchased here.

I am not even advocating communism, or socialism here. However, they each have some features we might like to have in our economy. Like universal health care and education. Less concern for money and more concern for our brothers and sisters. I am advocating a middle ground, the middle way, because pure capitalism is like pure water, it's corrosive.

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