Tuesday May 21, 2013
The Genesis of America's Savage Winner-Take-All Societyby Daniel Johnson, Deputy Executive Editor
Even if you're comfortable, you're not one of the "winners". You've just been lucky enough to find a perch in the expanding monarchical/serf society. Economic security? You could be decimated in a nanosecond! Think of those "rich people" who had millions invested with Bernie Madoff and who were suddenly impoverished. It can happen to you without warning.
(CALGARY, Alberta) - “Capitalism is the best system ever devised,” said former President George W. Bush, speaking to the right-wing Manhattan Institute. But, capitalism is a winner-take-all system and how it was “devised” is a heretofore uncolligated horror story.
Charles Darwin saw that at all levels of animal existence there were predators and prey. But he also saw contradictions: horses forming protective rings to guard against predators, wolves cooperating in packs, birds helping each other at the nest, fallow deer marching in unison to cross a river and vampire bats. Vampire bats share blood, mouth to mouth, with less successful members of the colony after a night’s hunt so that at sunrise, no one hangs himself up hungry.
A dramatic recent example was of a pod of 12 dolphins who worked together to aid and support a dying companion. They swam together and went beneath her to form what looked like a “life raft” to keep her above the surface. Karen McComb at the University of Sussex in Brighton said: “It does look like quite a sophisticated way of keeping the companion up in the water. It makes a lot of sense in a highly intelligent and social animal for there to be support of an injured animal.”(See the story and video here)
Looked at from this point of view mutual aid and cooperation are everywhere in the animal kingdom:
...except among humans in an American capitalist culture!
I present North Carolina as a prime exhibit. Republican lawmakers, in an effort to reduce state debt, have cut unemployment benefits by 35%, from $535 to $350/week, cut the period to collect from 26 weeks to between 12 and twenty weeks, and tightened requirements to qualify. The state has the nation’s fifth-highest unemployment rate, at 9.2 percent, compared with the national average of 7.9 percent. There is a jobs crisis--about three unemployed workers for every job. The law also disqualifies 170,000 unemployed people--39 percent of the 438,000 jobless--from federal emergency extended benefits because it reduces the number of weeks people can receive benefits to below 26—the federal minimum. Governor Pat McCrory is expected to sign the bill.
North Carolina is following the lead of seven other states, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina. But, according to the National Employment Law Project, an employment-rights advocacy group, North Carolina’s cuts would be the “harshest yet,”, since the reduction in benefits is greater than in the other states.
The point here is that millions of people are destined to increased suffering—and their children to reduced life chances— through no fault of their own, but instead as an edict of capitalism. North Carolina is obviously not a state influenced by vampire bats or dolphins.
Capitalism is not a natural human phenomenon—or even animal phenomenon. It has been imposed on society by the rich industrialists of the 19th century to promote and augment their pathological need for power and accumulation. Here’s how it happened.
That mankind was part of the animal kingdom was not in dispute. But it was the rich and powerful men in society and their sycophantic minions who co-opted Darwin’s ideas to justify their greed and domination of society through a philosophy that came to be called Social Darwinism.
The poor were the “unfit” and must not be helped because aiding them goes against nature and natural law. In the human struggle for existence, wealth signified success.
If Charles Darwin were appear in today’s society he would vigorously appose what is being done in his name. He said:
I do not believe that human nature is fundamentally selfish, such that genuine altruism and morality become illusions. I do not believe that human nature can be explained entirely in terms of genetic evolution, such that it was set in stone during the Stone Age. I regard human evolution as a rapid and ongoing process, made possible by mechanisms loosely described as cultural, which means that human nature will never be set in stone, for better or for worse.
Herbert Spencer, the19th century “father” of sociology, opposed public aid to the poor:
If they are sufficiently complete to live, they do live, and it is well they should live. If they are not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best they should die.
Following Spencer, John D. Rockefeller said to an adult Sunday School class:
The growth of a large business is merely survival of the fittest. The American Beauty rose can be produced in the splendour and fragrance which cheer its beholder only by sacrificing the early buds which grow up around it. This is not an evil tendency in business. It is merely the working out of a law of nature and a law of God.
The most influential social Darwinist was the late 19th century Yale professor William Graham Sumner who defended great wealth, saying that
Millionaires are a product of natural selection, acting on the whole body of men to pick out those who can meet the requirement of certain work to be done. It is because they are thus selected that wealth-—both their own and that entrusted to them-—aggregates under their hands….They may fairly be regarded as the naturally selected agents of society for certain work. They get high wages and live in luxury, but the bargain is a good one for society. There is the intensest competition for their place and occupation. This assures that all who are competent for this function will be employed in it, so that the cost of it will be reduced to the lowest terms.
Thus today’s billionaires must be an even greater good for society. Hedge fund manager John Paulson made billions betting against the U. S. housing market. Wrote Linda McQuaig in The Trouble With Billionaires, Paulson
figured out how to make money betting that the millions of people signing up for mortgages they could only dream of actually affording would soon start defaulting. When they did, Paulson was there, watching money flood into his hedge fund….In 2007 he personally pocketed $3.7 billion, giving him the record—perhaps of all time—for financially profiting from the misery of others.
Not only should the poor be denied aid, but fiddling with the economy was also verboten. Joseph Schumpeter, one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, commenting on the Great Depression wrote:
our analysis leads us to believe that recovery is sound only if it comes of itself. For any revival which is merely due to artificial stimulus leaves part of the work of depressions undone and adds, to an undigested remnant of maladjustment, new maladjustments of its own.
Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon advised President Hoover to
liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate [which] will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people.
Lester Ward, the first president of the American Sociological Society, was not fooled by the veneer of pseudoscience supporting the Social Darwinist sham:
The fundamental principle of biology is natural selection, that of sociology is artificial selection. The survival of the fittest is simply survival of the strong, which implies and would be better called the destruction of the weak. If nature progresses through the destruction of the weak, man progresses through protection of the weak.
Sumner had published a book in 1883, What Social Classes Owe Each Other, and Ward, in reviewing it, understood exactly how humanity’s misframing of the social world had occurred.
The whole book is based on the fundamental error that the favours of this world are distributed entirely according to merit. Poverty is only a proof of indolence and vice. Wealth simply shows the industry and virtue of the possessors. The very most is made of Malthusianism, and human activities are degraded to a complete level with those of animals.
It is normal for human beings to be competitive. The usual outcome is that, because of natural differences, some people will do better than others—whether it be academic or scientific standing, musical accomplishment, novel or poetry writing, sports or business success. All these strivings can make valuable contributions to the betterment of society.
I am no longer going to use the term “Darwinian capitalism” because it is an insult to Darwin’s name and beliefs. In fact, we can’t really use “animal capitalism” because animals in nature don’t even act like most capitalists. But, under predatory capitalism, which defines our society. everyone is subjected to rapacious competition which results in a savage society and a race to the bottom.
Capitalism is also a divide and conquer system. For you to win, others must lose. This worked in the 18th century. If you arrived at a valley and someone else was already there, you just moved on. Now all the land and resources are claimed by those living and being born in our society can be a handicap if the family you’re born into are not already owners.
A lay definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. By this definition, we live in an insane society—insane world, in fact—which is clearly, by any interpretation, destroying the very environment on which we rely for life itself and the future lives of our children, grandchildren, on into the future.
American culture is clearly insane as we continue to use and reuse the same techniques and processes of predatory capitalism, naively expecting the world to somehow get better.
Human beings are more than animals. As Darwin saw evolution: “I see no possible means of drawing the line and saying, here you must stop.” A more appropriate philosophy was from Goethe in the 18th century: “Man is an animal, an animal with a difference, singled out for higher things”.
Animals do not walk on the moon; live in earth orbiting space stations; live extended lives because of heart and other organ transplants, miracle drugs and on and on… Human beings are animals plus!—cosmic beings of intellect, vision and spirit.
What’s holding humanity back from transcendental progress is a lack of a greater awareness of the anti-human paradigm under which we live today . That lack of awareness is why, under so-called democracy, people can generally be counted on to vote against their own best interests. Look to the Red States.
To understand how capitalism works and why so few people actively doubt or question it, I paraphrase Abe Lincoln:
Enough of the people are fooled all of the time.
Reversing this status quo is where the rejuvenation of public education and democracy are essential. But don’t look to Texas, the largest school district in the country for hope. The Texas Republican Party put this in its platform last summer:
Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
The future of America has never looked dimmer.
This is your challenge. The world cannot get better for your children as long as you remain gulled. Now you know the story. It’s up to you.
Good luck to us all.
Daniel Johnson is a born and raised Calgarian. He is currently working on a book The Occupy Wall Street User Manual which is scheduled for publication in spring 2013 by Polymath Press In 1990 he published his first (and so far, only) book: Practical History: A guide to Will and Ariel Durant’s “The Story of Civilization” (Polymath Press, Calgary) Newly appointed as the Deputy Executive Editor in August 2011, he has been writing exclusively for Salem-News.com since March 2009 and, as of summer 2012, has published more than 210 stories. View articles written by Daniel Johnson
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