The panel debated long and loud. Much argument both for and against. Civil society groups protested outside, each outdoing the next in plaintive cries and outlandish dress. Eventually the chairman spoke:
“Ladies and gentlemen, a decision has been reached. The system is beyond reform. We need something new that represents all. We have decided. Air will be replaced.”
Outlandish? Perhaps. But so is the argument against Capitalism.
Air may be dirty, or clean. It may carry the scent of long-forgotten memories, ancient tombs, mountain streams or religious catechism. But it is still all air.
Capitalism is the same. It may be focused towards redistribution and a political notion of equality and egalitarianism; then it is just Socialism or Communism. It may be focused on the needs of corporations or of sophisticated elites; then it is just Mercantilism or Corporatism.
Capitalism is no more an ideology than is Air. “Clean” air is certainly ideological for any given definition of “clean”. And so too for Capitalism.
We may debate the flavour of Capitalism much as we debate the nature of an acceptable quality of air, but we cannot choose to cast it aside any more than we can cast that which we breathe.
Unless you choose to become entirely self-sufficient (and that does mean entirely); unless you choose to cut your own hair, grow all your own food, make your own clothes, build your own house and find your own cures for any medical problems you may have there is going to be some form of division of labour. Once you have division of labour you automatically introduce trade as you bargain for things you want for the things that you have.
If all you have is yourself you may bargain for future things that you can give in return, like “help in time of need”. You’ve just introduced credit, which requires trust relationships.
With the complexity of modern living and the astonishing size of our societies we need a flavour of capitalism to allow those who don’t know each other to trust and interact.
The violence and vociferousness of anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist protestors gathered in the German city of Rostock, in the run-up to the G8 summit at Heiligendamm, belies an astonishing paucity of suggestions other than “scrap capitalism”.
It cannot be an all or nothing debate. There is no way that business and political leaders can even consider such a ludicrous suggestion.
Imagine the argument forced upon the politicians: “Air is dirty and unclean. It makes us ill. We demand that you get rid of it.”
You can ask them to clean it and then we can discuss what constitutes “clean” but asking politicians to get rid of air is nonsensical. It isn’t even something they can do.
As long as there are people and as long as we are delighted by different things there will always be Capitalism. What flavour we have will change with our own needs and aspirations.
Capitalism is a natural process. And will evolve to suit our needs. If we let it.