By Jay Dearien
I was excited to read about the direction of Ending Capitalism. It's frustrating to try to take any sort of first step, however. If one is a manager or company owner, or works in an office, one can have sessions about it, and try to bring RC principles into one's place of work. This may make things a bit better, but Capitalism continues to operate as before, and one continues to participate actively in it.
We face much irrationality in trying to end Capitalism. People fear Communism, revolution, offending others, losing their jobs, losing what they have. People hold to irrational beliefs such as, "it's the best possible system," or "everybody has to work to make things nobody needs so everybody can have jobs and money to buy things they don't need -- it has to be this way," and so on. Economists are not seriously working on alternatives. These are some of the ways in which the Capitalist System works to protect itself from being replaced.
What is Capitalism? How can it "protect itself?" Why is Capitalism a Bad Thing? How can it be replaced, what would that look like, and how can we as individual humans work to bring it about?
First off, it seems that late 20th Century Capitalism has become more complex and perhaps in some ways fundamentally different from that which Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and others discussed. The "Capitalist system" has grown, spread out, and invaded our lives to a degree previously unknown, and has become like a religion, its various and sundry tenets held as sacred, ridiculous though they be when held up to rational scrutiny.
I see this quasi-religious progression as yet a further ill added on top of the classism produced by the unequal distribution of the Means of Production, and something which could be termed "Consumerism," or what I like to call the Sales-Driven Economy.
The sales-driven economy is the outward expression of late 20th Century Capitalism, and this may represent a break from the style of pre-20th Century Capitalism. We live in a world dominated by "the market", in which everything (we believe) has its price. The sales-driven economy confuses us all about what is really going on (e.g., classist oppression inherent in the Capitalist system), sells us the illusion that we can somehow get ahead by participation or will perish if we do not, lulls us into a false sense of security and irresponsibility by telling us that the "invisible hand" is silently taking care of everything, and so forth.
The reality that we must recognize is that the sales-driven economy is a Darwinian system. The unit of natural selection is not genes, however, but something which could be described as salable product ideas. If something, anything, sells, it continues to sell, spins off copies of itself, and florishes, and if something, anything, does not sell, regardless of its merit or benefit to humanity or what-have-you, it dies out. The microcosm in which this Darwinian system operates, what it uses for "fuel," are the Means of Production, our time, and our minds.
The sales-driven economy has become the decision mechanism for how all of our lives and resources are spent, but the mechanism is at best only indirectly linked to the welfare of human beings. Moreover, the system actively works to ensure its own survival by refining its "immune system" of collected irrational concepts to confuse humans into participation, and to attack other humans who try to do otherwise.
However, there may be ways for each of us in our daily lives to decide not to participate in the sales-driven economy, and thereby sap some of its strength, contributing incrementally and directly to the Fall of Capitalism.
A major feature of the sales-driven economy is the role of "stable currencies" and the attempt to put a price in terms of these currencies on every imaginable item, i.e., to cast everything from a loaf of bread, to a toaster, to love, to a child's smile, to education, to knowledge, to freedom, to happiness in terms of a "good" or "service". I view Time as the only true currency of spirituality, but it is not so with the sales-driven economy, and here is where some of the oppression starts to manifest itself.
The reality (upheld by Einstein) is that the clock ticks by at the same speed for all of us here on Earth, but in the sales-driven economy some people's time fetches a higher price than others'. If one is a so-called "professional" or if one is title to a chunk of the legally-sanctioned unequal division of the Means of Production, for example, the result is that one's time is valued more highly than another who lacks these things.
This hurts everyone: in the latter case one is disempowered within the sales-driven economic universe, while in the former one either becomes enslaved to a faceless master through the selling of one's "valuable" time to the highest bidder or is forced to watch its value diminish.
Re-evaluation Counseling is an excellent example, by the way, of transcendence of the sales-driven economy. By transcendence, I mean an exchange, or transaction, between people which is external to the sales-driven economy.
Rather than going to a professional counselor, whose time may be valued at several times my own, forcing me to actively participate in the sales-driven economy for the better part of a day in order to pay for one session, I trade only one hour of my time for one hour of my co-counselor's time. The result in this case is not only that less total time is spent, but that none of it is spent participating in the sales-driven economy or contributing to the oppression which it inevitably produces, whereas in the other case I would have had to have served as a "little soldier of Capitalism" for a whole day just to pay for my session, as well as during the session itself.
Herein lies the seed of the idea for how to end Capitalism. Like any collective evil, Capitalism requires the participation of groups of humans for its continued existence. Each time we participate in a transaction involving exchangable currencies, we are contributing to the strength of the sales-driven economy and validating its hegemony in our lives. Each time we make the choice to abstain from such transactions, we sap its strength.
As I said, the three "fuel sources" for the sales-driven economy are our minds, our time, and the Means of Production. Each of us has some control over all three of these, and we can choose to direct them away from the sales-driven economy, rather than into it. We can each use RC to free our minds from patterns and distress around money, work, our jobs, etc. We can strive to spend less time being "consumers" and more time just "being." And we can save our money, rather than spend it.
It's at this point I make the connection between the RC direction of ending Capitalism and the philosophy of Financial Independence, or FI. FI is a discipline of learning to appropriately value money and the life energy it takes to acquire it. As one progresses to higher and higher levels of Financial Integrity (also FI), things like bartering and direct exchange of services play a larger and larger role, as these turn out to be a better, more effective use of one's life energy. Contrary to the runaway consumerism of the sales-driven economy, the focus is on having "enough" rather than "more".
FI recognizes that much of the output of the sales-driven economy is bad for humans and for the planet. An FIer (ef-eye-er) cuts participation in the sales-driven economy to a minimum, thereby freeing up time for more humane pursuits. The summit of FI is when expenses decrease and savings increase to the point that one can live off the interest and thereby permanently leave paid employment.
FI and RC both hold to the belief that the headlong struggle to develop a matured infrastructure is already complete, so we really don't all have to work so hard anymore, and the fact that we still do is based purely on pattern, needing to be discharged. Both also favor trading and bartering between people.
FI is already actively practiced by thousands of people, and may give us an inkling of what the next step may look like in the process of ending Capitalism. For instance, questions of public policy, government, taxation, etc., will start to arise as greater numbers of people "opt out" of the sales-driven economy, spending less and less or none of their time working for money, saving their money rather than spending it, volunteering, being economically self-reliant, and engaging in non-taxable, non-exchangable-currency-oriented transactions with one other.
Groups of people following these practices can become a laboratory for post-Capitalist society. For instance, will more or fewer of us be engaged in agriculture? How will young people be brought up and educated? What transportation and communication systems will we need? Which existing goods and services will we no longer need and which new ones will we have to have? We may find that we all only need to work a couple of hours per day, or that young adults need only work a few years to earn their nest eggs before turning the few "necessary" jobs over to the next group, or something else altogether.
Governments and the economy will have to gradually learn to deal with the transition. A major disadvantage of the Bolshevik revolution was that, all else being equal, a new and untested economic system was implemented overnight on a national scale. Through FI, individuals can move at their own pace, one by one, to a new way of life. Capitalism will be eroded gradually due to a decrease in active participants and funding, and replaced bit by bit by a new system that will grow and take shape through peaceful evolution. Governments and institutions will have time to react to the transition.
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"Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence" by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin
"Walden" by Henry David Thoreau
New Road Map Foundation, PO Box 15981, Seattle, WA 98115
phone: 206-527-0437 fax: 528-1120