It is a commonly held belief, and one repeated often, sometimes in ignorance and sometimes with malevolence, that there is no alternative to capitalism. But something strange is occurring. Like the boy who cried wolf this message has been repeated so often that people are beginning to doubt its truth. Still when one seeks for an alternative there wouldn’t appear to be a viable one.
Short of global catastrophe, how would a structure like capitalism come to be replaced, if the charges of inequity, inequality, general inadequacy and inappropriateness are accepted? The answer is: From within.
We have goods and we have services. In order for any human society to flourish these things need to be organised. Modern societies have mostly chosen a capitalist organisation of production. In capitalism, private owners establish enterprises and select their directors who decide what, how and where to produce and what to do with the net revenues from selling the output. This small handful of people makes all those economic decisions for the majority of people – who do most of the actual productive work. The majority must accept and live with the results of all the directorial decisions made by the major shareholders and the boards of directors they select. This latter also select their own replacements.
Far from being defenders of liberty and freedom such enterprises would seem to be enemies of former and latter. The element of democracy is far removed from capitalist enterprise, despite claims to the contrary. The legacy of the Thatcher and Reagan years was the massive sales trick of replacing liberalism with neo-liberalism, an ideal more akin to satisfying individual desires than it is to accommodating the needs of a society,
If the drive existed within enterprises to move to a democratic way of being then outputs would begin to change, particularly in the redistribution of capital. Inequity would be eroded because democracy would be involved and, believe it or not, most people believe in fairness. When the Welfare State was introduced in the UK the middle classes, who would not benefit at all, were its biggest supporters.
When Margaret Thatcher famously stated ‘There is no alternative’ she was deliberately suggesting that capitalism was the be all and end all. And because anyone with an ounce of good sense recognises capital as a necessary progression over ‘barter and exchange” it was an assumption easy to accept. But it remains an assumption. The two biggest cons in history were the claim that there was no alternative to capitalism and the suggestion that capitalism protected freedoms and liberty. When analysed the idea that an individual has the freedom to possess a piece of land is atrocious and not very wise. We have attached ourselves to this belief. In doing so we have damned much which makes us human.
The boy is crying wolf. Many folk listen and accept his claims. But some don’t and that’s a start.