“In capitalism economic activity, success, material gains, become ends in themselves… Man became a cog in the vast economic machine – an important one if he had much capital, an insignificant one if he had none – but always a cog to serve a purpose outside of himself.” ~Erich Fromm; Escape from Freedom (1941)
“Capitalism is a development by refinement from feudalism, just as feudalism is development by refinement from slavery. Capitalism is but the gentlemen’s method of slavery.” ~Kwame Nkrumah
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” ~Naomi Klein
“I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism, therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy… The Nordic model is an expanded welfare state which provides a high level of security to its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish.” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen
Similar to the end of feudalism hundreds of years ago, is capitalism to be replaced by a new type of social infrastructure and an emergence of a new kind of human being? Many believe that the much-needed shift has already started, as the message that capitalism is not working becomes louder and clearer. The system of monopolies, industrial giants, banks and governments has been so focused on privatization and commercialism that it has resulted in scarcity and inequality, lacking the vision of true freedom and abundance for all.
As the era of capitalism forges on, people are starting to realize the extent of its failures. Capitalism has been deficient in ensuring that basic human necessities are available to all, and has driven many people and even nations into financial ruin, enslaved by their jobs or by their creditors.
Feudalism was an economic system structured by customs and laws about “obligation”. Capitalism was structured by something purely economic: the market. We can predict, from this, that postcapitalism – whose precondition is abundance – will not simply be a modified form of a complex market society. But we can only begin to grasp at a positive vision of what it will be like. ~ Paul Mason, The Guardian
The shift into a new post-capitalism era is not likely to happen on a mass scale, but in a modular manner as different people, in different places, and at different speeds transform society, as in the example of Open Source Ecology, an organization that is helping to usher in a new type of collaborative global ‘maker’ culture.
Some would argue that the pre-era of post-capitalistic society already exists in some places, that it is already sculpting what will come next, while also diminishing the struggles of the “have-nots” and the artifice of the “haves”. Take Denmark for example. It is rated as one of the top 3 happiest countries in the world. When one starts to compare it to other countries, it appears that maybe they actually have society figured out. Here are some quick comparisons of Denmark to the United States (the US) and other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as compiled by We Are Anonymous:
Denmark’s per capita income is $6000 higher than in the US.
Denmark has the second lowest poverty rate out of the 34 countries in the OECD.
Denmark ranks seventh among OECD countries in terms of employment rate. And their unemployment benefits are admirable: if you’ve worked at least 52 weeks over a three-year period, you are entitled to 90% pay of your original salary for up to two years.
The work force enjoys an average work week of 33 hours per week and five weeks of paid vacation each year. To put things in perspective, the US average is 47 hours per week and you’d be lucky if you had more than 16 paid vacation days/holidays.
Healthcare spending is around $4400 per capita, above the OECD average of $3300, but dwarfed by the excessive $10000 per person in the US.
Tuition costs don’t exist! College is free and students are given a $900 per month stipend if they live on their own. Tuition costs from in-state public to private college in the US range from $9000 to $31000 per year.
Denmark was ranked by Forbes as the best country for business in 2014, and was ranked #3 by the World Bank for ease of doing business.
Parental leave after a birth of a child is an average of 52 weeks paid time off. In the US, an employer is required to give you no paid time off.
Although taxes are high in Denmark, Danes are still able to save. Total gross national saving is estimated at 24.1% of GDP in 2013 (in the US, it’s about 13%). This may have something to do with lower household consumption, which averages at 49% of GDP versus 69% in the US.
Denmark uses taxes and social spending aggressively to narrow the income gap between the rich and the rest.
“I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism, therefore I would like to make one thing clear.Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy… The Nordic model is an expanded welfare state which provides a high level of security to its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish.” ~ Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen
Are you pursing your dreams and living your life as you wish? Could capitalism still get all of us there? Or is a new societal infrastructure imminent, just waiting for enough of us to wake up?
Bankers, pharmaceutical giants, Google, Facebook … a new breed of rentiers are at the very top of the pyramid and they’re sucking the rest of us dry
This piece is about one of the biggest taboos of our times. About a truth that is seldom acknowledged, and yet – on reflection – cannot be denied. The truth that we are living in an inverse welfare state.
These days, politicians from the left to the right assume that most wealth is created at the top. By the visionaries, by the job creators, and by the people who have “made it”. By the go-getters oozing talent and entrepreneurialism that are helping to advance the whole world.
Now, we may disagree about the extent to which success deserves to be rewarded – the philosophy of the left is that the strongest shoulders should bear the heaviest burden, while the right fears high taxes will blunt enterprise – but across the spectrum virtually all agree that wealth is created primarily at the top.
So entrenched is this assumption that it’s even embedded in our language. When economists talk about “productivity”, what they really mean is the size of your paycheck. And when we use terms like “welfare state”, “redistribution” and “solidarity”, we’re implicitly subscribing to the view that there are two strata: the makers and the takers, the producers and the couch potatoes, the hardworking citizens – and everybody else.
In reality, it is precisely the other way around. In reality, it is the waste collectors, the nurses, and the cleaners whose shoulders are supporting the apex of the pyramid. They are the true mechanism of social solidarity. Meanwhile, a growing share of those we hail as “successful” and “innovative” are earning their wealth at the expense of others. The people getting the biggest handouts are not down around the bottom, but at the very top. Yet their perilous dependence on others goes unseen. Almost no one talks about it. Even for politicians on the left, it’s a non-issue.
To understand why, we need to recognise that there are two ways of making money. The first is what most of us do: work. That means tapping into our knowledge and know-how (our “human capital” in economic terms) to create something new, whether that’s a takeout app, a wedding cake, a stylish updo, or a perfectly poured pint. To work is to create. Ergo, to work is to create new wealth.
But there is also a second way to make money. That’s the rentier way: by leveraging control over something that already exists, such as land, knowledge, or money, to increase your wealth. You produce nothing, yet profit nonetheless. By definition, the rentier makes his living at others’ expense, using his power to claim economic benefit.
For those who know their history, the term “rentier” conjures associations with heirs to estates, such as the 19th century’s large class of useless rentiers, well-described by the French economist Thomas Piketty. These days, that class is making a comeback. (Ironically, however, conservative politicians adamantly defend the rentier’s right to lounge around, deeming inheritance tax to be the height of unfairness.) But there are also other ways of rent-seeking. From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, from big pharma to the lobby machines in Washington and Westminster, zoom in and you’ll see rentiers everywhere.
There is no longer a sharp dividing line between working and rentiering. In fact, the modern-day rentier often works damn hard. Countless people in the financial sector, for example, apply great ingenuity and effort to amass “rent” on their wealth. Even the big innovations of our age – businesses like Facebook and Uber – are interested mainly in expanding the rentier economy. The problem with most rich people therefore is not that they are coach potatoes. Many a CEO toils 80 hours a week to multiply his allowance. It’s hardly surprising, then, that they feel wholly entitled to their wealth.
It may take quite a mental leap to see our economy as a system that shows solidarity with the rich rather than the poor. So I’ll start with the clearest illustration of modern freeloaders at the top: bankers. Studies conducted by the International Monetary Fund and the Bank for International Settlements – not exactly leftist thinktanks – have revealed that much of the financial sector has become downright parasitic. How instead of creating wealth, they gobble it up whole.
In other words, a big part of the modern banking sector is essentially a giant tapeworm gorging on a sick body. It’s not creating anything new, merely sucking others dry. Bankers have found a hundred and one ways to accomplish this. The basic mechanism, however, is always the same: offer loans like it’s going out of style, which in turn inflates the price of things like houses and shares, then earn a tidy percentage off those overblown prices (in the form of interest, commissions, brokerage fees, or what have you), and if the shit hits the fan, let Uncle Sam mop it up.
The financial innovation concocted by all the math whizzes working in modern banking (instead of at universities or companies that contribute to real prosperity) basically boils down to maximising the total amount of debt. And debt, of course, is a means of earning rent. So for those who believe that pay ought to be proportionate to the value of work, the conclusion we have to draw is that many bankers should be earning a negative salary; a fine, if you will, for destroying more wealth than they create.
Bankers are the most obvious class of closet freeloaders, but they are certainly not alone. Many a lawyer and an accountant wields a similar revenue model. Take tax evasion. Untold hardworking, academically degreed professionals make a good living at the expense of the populations of other countries. Or take the tide of privatisations over the past three decades, which have been all but a carte blanche for rentiers. One of the richest people in the world, Carlos Slim, earned his millions by obtaining a monopoly of the Mexican telecom market and then hiking prices sky high. The same goes for the Russian oligarchs who rose after the Berlin Wall fell, who bought up valuable state-owned assets for song to live off the rent.
But here comes the rub. Most rentiers are not as easily identified as the greedy banker or manager. Many are disguised. On the face of it, they look like industrious folks, because for part of the time they really are doing something worthwhile. Precisely that makes us overlook their massive rent-seeking.
Take the pharmaceutical industry. Companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer regularly unveil new drugs, yet most real medical breakthroughs are made quietly at government-subsidised labs. Private companies mostly manufacture medications that resemble what we’ve already got. They get it patented and, with a hefty dose of marketing, a legion of lawyers, and a strong lobby, can live off the profits for years. In other words, the vast revenues of the pharmaceutical industry are the result of a tiny pinch of innovation and fistfuls of rent.
Even paragons of modern progress like Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Uber and Airbnb are woven from the fabric of rentierism. Firstly, because they owe their existence to government discoveries and inventions (every sliver of fundamental technology in the iPhone, from the internet to batteries and from touchscreens to voice recognition, was invented by researchers on the government payroll). And second, because they tie themselves into knots to avoid paying taxes, retaining countless bankers, lawyers, and lobbyists for this very purpose.
Even more important, many of these companies function as “natural monopolies”, operating in a positive feedback loop of increasing growth and value as more and more people contribute free content to their platforms. Companies like this are incredibly difficult to compete with, because as they grow bigger, they only get stronger.
Aptly characterising this “platform capitalism” in an article, Tom Goodwin writes: “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”
When the African American sharecroppers attempted to form a union, simply asking for fair compensation for their labor unspeakable violence ensued when savages pillaged a community of hard working men. Asking for fair treatment, fair compensation triggered white vigilantism which left 237 Black sharecroppers dead. In 1918, Attorney Ulysses S. Bratton of Little Rock, Arkansas was moved when Black sharecroppers shared stories of debt, exploitation, and theft. Two farmers narrated how plantation managers and landlords confiscate their entire crop, possession, as well as not giving them an itemized record of their harvest. After the meeting took off within a year, no one knew that the said meeting with Attorney Bratton would turn out to be one of the worst incidents of racial violence in the United States of America. According to a report from Equal Justice Initiative, 237 Black American people were dead in a massacre started by white people in the Southern Delta Region. This massacre was lead by a police officer. The local sheriff, Frank Kitchens, gathered a white mob, terrorists, for what was referred to as a peaceful technique to reign terror upon the black sharecroppers. After almost a hundred years, the said event is still considered as one of the most violent years in the US history.
Know your history, this is American history not black history. The history of this country is brutal and unsavory. We know must our history to ensure it doesn’t repeat itself.
On Monday, Trump took a break from yelling on Twitter about how the “fake media” is against him and found another way to stroke his pathological need for affection. During a televised cabinet meeting, he said he had done as much as any president from FDR, then asked the assembled crew of billionaires, retired generals, and arch-conservative politicians what they thought the administration’s accomplishments thus far had been. It was an exercise in attempting to satiate Trump’s insatiable ego, and all the officials took the opportunity to kiss as much presidential ass as possible.
“It’s the greatest privilege of my life to serve as vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people, and assembling a team that’s bringing real change, real prosperity, real strength back to our nation,” Vice President Mike Pence frothed.
“While we are bragging about international travel I just got back from Mississippi and they like you there,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue loyally gushed.
When CIA director Mike Pompeo’s turn came, he indulged the president’s love of both cussing and insulting the press: “In the finest tradition of the CIA, I’m not gonna say a damn thing in front of the media.”
But the most intense moment of this bizarre roundtable was when Chief of Staff Reince Preibus stepped up to the plate. Like many of his colleagues, Preibus is reportedly on thin ice with Trump, so he prostrated himself before the president like a medieval courier who can hear the executioner polishing his axe: “On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people. And we’re continuing to work very hard every day to accomplish these goals.”
Trump seemed very pleased by all of this, so good job everyone!
“These are not hardened criminals being sentenced to indentured servitude. Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes and it is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. This is not by accident but by design.”
I could write about the newest murder committed by the police, could write about the newest life lost behind bars, but what would be the point? Like cancer and massive debt these things hold no shock value for us anymore. We’ve come to expect them in our everyday life, stare blankly as body after body goes into a cell or into the ground. We argue about “prison reform” and “better training” yet still the blood flows. Above all, all maintain that while it’s not pretty police and prisons are necessary for any society.
These people are, in the parlance of our times, spineless and servile little worms who are hideously, grotesquely wrong.
The bootlickers among us, those disgusting and shriveled souls who can idly watch execution after execution, might differ from my opinion. To them there is no problem, and if there was it could never, ever be the institutions themselves. It’s a given that rough men breaking skulls are needed to keep dangerous people away from the good; that large amounts of humans are required to be kept in cages where they will be raped, beaten, and humiliated on a daily basis to preserve society’s serenity.
Some of these people even dare call us “comrade.”
The radical breed of these poor deluded souls, clouded from years of competing with liberals, attempt to dress the same institutions in new language. They assure converts the people’s prisons will be filled not with criminals but “class enemies,” promise that the difference between a cop and a comrade is a matter of pages read by Murray Bookchin or a degree in intersectional theory. The most despicable of these repugnant creatures will even bubble the wretched idea that “cops are workers too.”
Nothing can be further from the truth and nothing can transform these institutions. Prison and Police reform are impossible because they are the epitome of exploitation, the crowning jewel of a modern-day slave empire. We do not need cops and we do not need prisons. We cling to these institutions not because they are necessary but because we can’t imagine a world without them, even if such a world has existed and continues to today.
But before we can see that world we must first cleanse our vision, douse our selves in hyssop and break free from the unclean spirits that litter our mind. We must first come to terms with what the police and prisons really are instead of what the police and prisons say they are.
This wasn’t some noble decision to get back to “protecting and serving,” but a calculated economic attack, and shows arrests mostly function as a way to generate revenue. Cops are nothing more than engines of profit, profit taken by force from the workers and deposited into the hands of the bourgeoisie. Court, criminal, and administrative fines contribute some $800 million to the New York City’s annual budget, according to its Office of Management and Budget’s projections, and that’s money mostly taken from the working poor.
To put that in perspective, the cigarette tax will bring in about $52 million a year, hotel taxes generate roughly $547 million, and commercial rent tax will supply $720 million. Don’t think this is some kind of New York oddity either, like mole people living in subways or a disproportionate pride in the fact you were born in a shithole. According to The Washington Post, some communities in Missouri draw as much as 30 percent of their revenue from these sources, and across the board they always seem to fall disproportionately on poor, non-white people.
You can only make so much money off a worker, but you can make a hell of a lot more off a slave.
Prison: The Modern Day Plantation
When we think of police we often think of half-evolved werewolves that “patrol” our neighborhoods, noses sniffing for easy prey as they roll by in race cars, but there’s much more to policing then that. A cop implies law, laws imply courts, and courts imply cages where those deemed troublesome can be left to rot. A cop’s job is to enforce the law, whether it is wrong or right, and especially if it means keeping prison beds full.
Prison and jail aren’t about rehabilitation, and they aren’t about justice. They are about money through slavery, and the significant 1871 court ruling from Ruffin v. Commonwealth puts it all in black and white. This landmark Virginia case set the precedent for state control of inmate bodies and labor, one still used today, and cuts no corners in laying out what the State hopes to gain from an individual’s imprisonment:
“For the time, during his term of service in the penitentiary, he is in a state of penal servitude to the State. He has, as a consequence of his crime, not only forfeited his liberty, but all his personal rights except those which the law in its humanity accords to him. He is for the time being a slave of the State. He is civiliter mortus; and his estate, if he has any, is administered like that of a dead man.”
Slavery never ended. It just became legal. In privately run prisons inmates will receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they deem “highly skilled positions.” Federal prisons are a little better, offering $1.25 an hour. Both will make everything from blue jeans to body armor and hire their captive labor out to the highest bidder.
These are not hardened criminals being sentenced to indentured servitude. Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes and it is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. This is not by accident but by design.
Dr. Bones is a conjurer, card-reader and egoist-communist who believes “true individuality can only flourish when the means of existence are shared by all.” A Florida native and Hoodoo practitioner, he summons pure vitriol, straight narrative, and sorcerous wisdom into a potent blend of poltergasmic politics and gonzo journalism. He lives with his loving wife, a herd of cats, and a house full of spirits. His writing can be found at Gods & Radicals, Disinfo, and Greed Media. He can be reached at The Conjure House and through Facebook.
About the author: I realized what was really going on in the world in 2013. Since then I have been trying to make sense of it all and help others along the way. I am still learning more each day. You can visit my Facebook here and my website here.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone