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AdLib On September - 24 - 2009

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As Michael Moore’s new film, “Capitalism, A Love Story” is coming out its seems an appropriate time to reflect on the character of American capitalism and how it has usurped social responsibility and democracy in this country.

In the remarkable documentary, “The Corporation”, a segment of the film is dedicated to applying human psychologically to the actions and behavior of a corporation and analyzing it’s character as if it was a person…which legally, it is recognized to be. Not surprisingly, the personality of an American person known as a corporation amounts to that of a sociopath.

So, using that and the title of Moore’s film as inspiration, why don’t we look at capitalism as someone with whom we have a relationship…because we do.

How does capitalism treat us in a personal relationship and will it leave after it gets what it wants claiming it has an important business meeting in the morning?

HOW CAPITALISM TREATS US IN OUR RELATIONSHIP:

1. Puts itself and getting what it wants first over our health, safety and lives.

2. Is very controlling, won’t let us have the remote control to our democracy.

3. Leaves the seat up on health care so many of us fall in due to no coverage.

4. Is selfish in not paying its share of the bill, making us pay its way by not paying taxes itself through loopholes, setting up offshore, etc.

5. Stuffs its mouth with what’s on our plate by using campaign contributions to receive subsidies, being war profiteers, colluding on price fixing.

6. Has its way with us to get profits, begs us for money when it’s broke then once we give it our money, it runs off and spends it only on itself.

7. Lies to us about being faithful and always being good to us while cheating on us with Wall Street insiders.

8. Gets drunk on “boom”s, getting loud and obnoxious about how everyone can make free money on dot coms, home equity, tulips, etc. then hits us in the gut and
steals our retirement money.

9. Always thinks its right, whatever it does. It can never be wrong, it’s always our fault.

10. Has become obese and gluttonous, enough is never enough. And its obesity has led to its impotence, it can no longer satisfy the public’s needs, including jobs, decent wages, health care and a stable economy.

It’s not healthy to stay in abusive relationships and considering that capitalism refuses to go in for counseling with us, we need to change our relationship so it works better for us. My suggestion is that we need an alternative lifestyle, we should have an open relationship with capitalism, free to spend time with socialism too when we want to since capitalism can’t satisfy us all the time.

We need to set strict ground rules with capitalism too, there need to be boundaries that can’t be crossed and the abuse has to stop. And as much as socialism may want to spend all of it’s time with us, we have to make clear that we need our space and don’t want to be smothered by it or capitalism.

Others may talk about us behind our backs but if it makes us happy, that’s all that matters.

Written by AdLib

My motto is, "It is better to have blogged and lost hours of your day, than never to have blogged at all."

61 Responses so far.

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  1. Questinia says:

    “Off topic comments may be moved to an open thread called ‘Speaker’s Corner'”.

    Speaker’s Corner?
    Does it come with a dunce cap and a dais?

    Never mind. I’ll willingly go to “Speaker’s Corner”. Is it near the ladies room?

    • AdLib says:

      Speaker’s Corner is located in a lovely park with a platform and podium and all the peanuts you can eat.

      Seriously, it is the section of this site where any member can post articles and if they’re strong enough, we’ll promote them to the front page. The front page is otherwise for proven Authors but members with a good track record of writing solid articles can be promoted to being Authors.

      And still have all the peanuts they can eat.

  2. nellie says:

    I have no problems with capitalism. My problems are with oligopoly, collusion, price fixing, monopoly, vertical integration, and horizontal integration. I like a good antitrust paradigm that makes the words “free market” close to a reality.

    Right now our corporations are thieves and fiefdoms. They are not businesses. They shut out competition, gobble up rivals, underprice, gouge, and refuse to provide the products and services they get paid to produce. Our business world has run amok.

    Worst of all, it has purchased the very people responsible for keeping it in line.

    And make no mistake, these corporations are run by human beings. It isn’t the corporation that is the sociopath, it is the CEO, the Chairman of the Board, the CFO, the COO — any person in the configuration that devises and approves a policy that puts money above the health and welfare of the human community. Calling the corporation a sociopath, IMHO, is going soft on the real culprits.

    • KQuark says:

      Wait tomorrow we may see the people that are bought and paid for if the Senate Finance Committee votes on the public option.

    • AdLib says:

      Hey nellie!

      As I mentioned below, capitalism in theory is just peachy with me but I can’t recall a period in American history when America’s version of capitalism ever resembled the definition in the encyclopedia.

      So, in practice, capitalism as conceived is not what capitalism is in practice. This fascism/oligarchy aspect of capitalism is inseparable, at least it has been through history.

      What we need is a new structure that accepts the reality of capitalism as impossible to apply as described in reality, takes the best aspects of that and melds it with the social/democratic necessities and programs that need to keep the dangerous aspects of capitalism in check.

      People relate to corporations. They see what McDonalds and Coke and Halliburton do as reflective of their “personalities”. They believe they have relationships with corporations, they love Apple and Disney…even though they are corporations. It’s kind of bizarre.

      As for the personification of corporations, my point and the point in The Corporation is that they ARE legally regarded as people and thus act as sanctuaries for criminally greedy and negligent CEOs.

      To get to these execs, and we should, we have to get past the personhood of corporations or they can safely hide behind them.

      • nellie says:

        I think we have some fairly good examples of functioning capitalism in Europe right now. And in Japan. The problem in the U.S. is that we make everything else subservient to maximizing profits, including fair market practices.

        To me, capitalism is a pretty simple concept. People fulfill some demand and sell some product or service, where they own the means of production independently. And as long as there’s adequate demand, more people can enter the market and do the same thing. As long as labor can bargain, the system works pretty well.

        We’ve had such a perverse form of the system for so long — one that Adam Smith never would have sanctioned. But I still don’t have a problem with the theory. Even the Native Americans were capitalists. I do believe there’s such a thing as the commons, which is ill served by capitalism, and which is the sphere of government.

        And I believe in policing the system. There is no such thing a pure capitalism. That’s a myth. Just as pure democracy is a myth. But local business, living wages, keep communities thriving.

        And I know corporations have legal standing as persons. But I still think the focus should be on the people making the corporate decisions. It puts a human face on the inhumanity. This is why CNN freaked out at the ad about the insurance CEO. They want to be invisible. As long as people focus on the corporation as the bad actor, there’s no motivation for the people running the company to do what’s right. Or to hire people with a sense of responsibility.

        • AdLib says:

          I don’t know all the details but I believe the financial hole Japan found itself in over the Lost Decade that’s finally ending was due to problems with the way they practiced capitalism.

          I agree, the corporations that own the MSM are afraid of a slippery slope if the Execs of other corporations are held responsible. That is a collaboration that will be hard to fight.

          Don’t get me wrong, I too think that the basics of capitalism are the most natural and productive principles on which to base an economy and society.

          But what we’ve discovered is that it may be an all or nothing proposition in America. Meaning, the reality may be that if we have capitalism, it is also unavoidable that corporations will accrue enormous amounts of wealth and political power that affords them the position of making America an oligarchy.

          So, my thought is similar to yours but couched differently. We need to take what’s best about capitalism, fold in more socialism where the public interest is most involved and a touch of Dog Whisperer to attach leashes to corporations so we can hold them back from attacking the economy, wolfing down resources that belong to us and held to heal for what they do that’s wrong (meaning holding the execs responsible).

          And if we choose to spay or neuter the execs behind the next financial crisis, so be it.

  3. whatsthatsound says:

    This is a very astute analogy, AdLib. Movies like “The Corporation”, the new Michael Moore film, “Food, Inc.” etc., are all pointing to, to borrow another movie’s title, an inconvenient truth. Greedy people have an appalling amount of control over our lives, and they no longer value or even validate our humanity. We are, to them, no longer people. We are consumers. In their boardrooms, they are trained to think of us that way. They need us to need them. From the moment we wake up, we are switching on the machines that they built for us, running on the energy that they supply us with, fueling ourselves with the food that they stuff into cardboard boxes and sell to us, and chill out with the entertainment that they create for us. John Lennon said it as succintly and stridently as anyone
    Keep you doped with religion, sex and TV
    and you think you’re so clever and classless and free
    but you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see.

    But we aren’t even peasants. At least peasants knew how to work the land. They had sunshine, encounters with dirt, with other animals. They had fresh air. They were human. Are we?

    • AdLib says:

      I don’t usually like to use films to represent complex sociological structures but the allegory of the movie The Matrix comes to mind.

      People are deluded into a fairy tale of America…you can do anything, you can have it all, one day you’ll be a millionaire and as they skip through their lives believing all of this, they are mortgaged and indebted into a modern form of serfdom.

      Buying all kinds of things they don’t need, spending more money than they have, borrowing it and spending the rest of their lives paying back what they owe…and many times that in interest.

      And the fact that 97% of Americans will never be millionaires is not Twittered to any of them.

      Americans in particular are over-entertained, over-fed and over-marketed to. When Bush asked all Americans to respond to 9/11 by going shopping, it was a call for Americans to go back to sleep and rejoin the Matrix already in progress.

      Bush made very clear what the purpose of Americans are and all that the elite running this country want from them. To be good little piggies and keep consuming.

      And talking about pigs, to quote from one other movie, Babe:

      Cat: Ah, the fact is, pigs don’t have a purpose. The fact is that animals that don’t seem to have a purpose really do have a purpose. The Bosses have to eat. It’s probably the most noble purpose of all, when you come to think about it.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Wow, a chilling line, and from a kid’s movie! Orwell couldn’t have said it better.
        The problem, as with all abusive relationships, is that the victim allows the victimizer to define them. We do our “hunting and gathering” in supermarkets. A real tribesman would walk into a supermarket, look around, and be totally mystified. There was FOOD in there? Just as the vast majority of us would be hopelessly lost in a forest, while the tribesman could saunter around, looking at all the luscious edibles. We have to change this somehow, but we are lost in the matrix, and our Bosses want us to stay that way.

        • AdLib says:

          I think a real tribesman welcomes civilization and would be comfortable walking into a supermarket BUT would make choices that are pragmatic, prudent and not influenced by marketing when they decide what to buy.

          Fruit and veggies and no corn syrup and chemically loaded foods, for a start.

          In Europe, people buy their bread daily. They buy what they need for the day, not the Costco 12 pack of 12 count frozen waffles.

          Like the last generation learned to be frugal, Americans need to learn to stop with excess and I think that alone will make a big difference.

          • whatsthatsound says:

            I disagree. If a tribesperson, someone who lives close to the land and eats food soon after it has been killed, or, in the case of plants, while still alive and radiating life energy, had it explained to them the amount of time that lapses in our current situation between harvest and dinner plate, the amount of channels the food went through, the amount of nutrients it had to b “fortified” with because the nutrients had been leeched out of the soil it grew in, the small number of companies controlling the whole process, etc., I simply don’t see how they could “welcome” or “feel comfortable” with that. Nor should we.

            • whatsthatsound says:

              Eventually, probably.
              They cut down all the trees, put ’em in a tree museum. They charged everybody a buck and a half just to see ’em.

            • Questinia says:

              Paving paradise takes a s***load of asphalt. But they still manage anyway. :(

            • Questinia says:

              They’d be like “Yeah, bring on the Swanson’s”.

              I think you may be romanticizing the noble tribesman, wts. Besides, who would be explaining anything to him in a supermarket.
              The basic drive of hunger would overrule anything related to taking on a purist position of unprocessed vs processed.
              Do you think our tribesman would pass up pizza because of the saturated fats in mozzarella cheese? No, didn’t think so :)

            • Questinia says:

              It’s already being played out with water.

              Say, can corporations own water?

            • whatsthatsound says:

              It won’t always be so easy to come by, or even much longer if we keep at our current practices. This quote came from the first article I googled under “topsoil erosion”:
              “We’re losing more and more of it every day,” said David Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington. “The estimate is that we are now losing about 1 percent of our topsoil every year to erosion, most of this caused by agriculture.”

            • Questinia says:

              I think pizza trumps the perils of agribusiness. That’s the problem. Food is so easy to come by, people don’t NEED to take care of the land. If they had to use it for themselves, they would not allow for land rape.

              The tribesman would fall into what’s easy just like the rest of us are. It’s not right. People are lazy for the most part.

            • whatsthatsound says:

              Am I really talking about a tribesman here? My points are about the nature of our food system. It is freakish, and a perhaps real, perhaps idealized or “romanticized” tribesman would clearly see that. Many of us see that. It’s not that hard to see. And as our topsoil wears down because modern agribusiness refuses to let soil go through its natural rejuvenation cycles, even more of us will see it.

          • nellie says:

            Don’t be so sure that a tribesman would welcome the neighborhood supermarket. There is a real effort among native peoples to preserve their connection with the earth and the spirituality of living in harmony with nature. They do not let go of that paradigm easily. You only need to look to the Inuits and the fishermen in Washington state to see this rejection of “civilization.”

            • AdLib says:

              The rising cancer rates in civilized society certainly make a great argument against non-organic foods.

              I thought wts was speaking metaphorically.

              Certainly, actual people living in tribal communities have been horribly impacted by the encroachment of civilization. They lose their land, their way of life, their friends and families.

              Many do want to retain the tribal lifestyle they and their ancestors enjoyed. Others do suffer from starvation, lack of potable water, lack of medical care, etc. and welcome another path.

              To each their own.

            • Questinia says:

              It would be an interesting thing to study. I suppose there would be gradations. Some tribes may be more suspicious of supermarkets, others would like them at least initially.

              But we’re really talking about the malevolence of the corporatization of things like food and I suppose the point is, their influence is insidious and emprisoning. We can’t escape. Unless we become incorruptible tribesmen ourselves. A good idea.

          • Questinia says:

            I could not agree with you more.
            Here’s to a frugal future of fundamental fortune.

            Like conversing with you guys. It’s a fundamental fortune.

            • AdLib says:

              Food, forestation and foreclosures would be fully focused on if frugality was forged.

              Feh!

        • Questinia says:

          You mean to tell me a tribesman would walk into a supermarket and NOT say “YO! Look at all the low hanging fruit we got here!”?

          I think they’d really go for the prepared gourmet foods. Anything with capers. And Drake’s coffee cakes and Fresca. In fact, I could imagine them coming up with brilliant new recipes. Coffee cakes with capers, drenched in Fresca, for instance.

    • Questinia says:

      Why, don’t you love being a widget buying widgets until you need to be on a budget?

      And don’t forget, peasants worked with a limited color palette :)

      I think corporations are the REAL peasants.
      Can someone tell me how I think that? I’m going into the whole blow-blame kaleidoscope again.

      • AdLib says:

        Blame blows!

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Not widgets, Peeples. I’m thinking of doing a “visual essay” that has us coming out of tubes like Pringles “potato” chips, suggesting that modern people are as highly processed and far away from nature as the potato mash that gets zapped into Pringles thingies.

        • Questinia says:

          I just saw Pringles today! I had forgotten about them. But there they were. They’ve endured and now they will be the metaphor for the modern plight of humanity, grace to wts.

          Pringle Peeple!!

          Are people too.

          • AdLib says:

            That’s odd…I was just talking about Pringles this week, noting my amazement that they’re still in business.

            That whole processed food thing was big in the 60’s and 70’s and I still don’t understand why people would buy processed potato type chips instead of actual potato chips.

            After all, I’ve stopped buying Space Food Sticks.

            • AdLib says:

              That does apply to blondes on diets. And those that follow that diet faithfully can actually fit in a Pringles can.

            • AdLib says:

              Actually, if the type of blondes we’re talking about were potato chips, I have a feeling they might be Lays.

            • Questinia says:

              Maybe Pringles actually are freeze-dried blonds who took their dieting a bit too far.

              Well, do they taste like potatoes? 😉

            • Questinia says:

              (Pssst, it’s because they’re closet junk food eugenecists. Ever see an inferior Pringle? Now look at a Lay’s)

              See what I mean?

              Wasn’t it all about space anyway? Pringles could both take up less and be perfectly serviceable in space. Plus Pringles and Tang? Who could argue?

            • Questinia says:
            • AdLib says:

              Yep, my first requirement when I buy food is, “Does it take up less space or is it more practical to eat in outer space than real food?”

              For that reason I have never been in a Whole Foods store…I prefer Partial Foods.

  4. KQuark says:

    You should not confuse Capitalism to Corporatism. We don’t have Capitalism in this country which means a free market economy for some industrial segments with trust laws enforced. We have a series of oligarchies controlled by very large global corporations.

    I prefer multiple systems for different segments of the economy. For some segments which are less capital intensive like retailers full free market competition works well. That’s why retailers profit margins are relatively low. For capital intensive industries like huge manufactures and the financial sector many regulations need to be enforced including anti-trust laws to keep them from usurping the markets. For some industries like healthcare you even need government competition to keep them honest.

    The problem with any Utopian ideal as a system is that one size does not fit all. The world is far too complex and human behaviors are too insidious to trust one system.

    • nellie says:

      I agree with your outlook. Multiple systems for multiple purposes. There are some functions that require a monopoly to have any efficiencies at all. There are some functions that rightly belong to all of us, the commons, and should be overseen by all of us — the government. And there is room for business and enterprise, research and innovation. We need a mixed system. And we need regulation to keep it efficient and high functioning. What we have now is very inefficient and very low functioning. It confers disproportionate benefits on a very small segment of society — benefits that have nothing to do with effort or merit. We need regulation to keep corruption from displacing honest actors with bad ones. And we need a complex mix of systems to fit the complexities of society.

      Well said, KQuark.

    • AdLib says:

      Let’s agree that as with communism and socialism, there is no country which practices capitalism faithfully as it is described in textbooks.

      So, capitalism is de facto the system we have, even if it is corrupted from it’s original tenets…just as calling a McDonalds milkshake “a milkshake” is appropriate even though it substitutes corn syrup for milk.

      Trying to apply a theoretical and idealistic theory to reality is difficult and prone to corruption by other forces. This is American capitalism and it is a cancer that has and continues to eat away the fabric and foundation of our society.

      I agree with you, that like tools in a toolbox, a society should feel free to use whatever principles are the right tool for the job.

      Capitalism is the wrong tool for providing health care to a society. Just as it would be for a fire department, police, etc.. There are basic aspects of a society that are necessary for it to function and prosper and allowing capitalism to be a leech in our core system, draining it of what is necessary for the system to survive in the short and long term is self-destructive.

      And unbridled capitalism with socialism for their losses, as we have here, is a ravenous beast that devours the key dynamics of a fair and just society.

      Capitalism needs to be kept on a leash, no company should be allowed to consolidate or monopolize an industry so that it becomes too big to fail. Once reaching that status, there is never a price to be paid for stupid, risky and destructive choices, they always get the reset button pushed by the U.S. government no matter what terrible things they do.

      And we need a Supreme Court that does not equate money with free speech. Would be nice too if personhood for corporations was revoked, it is absurd that they have been allowed all the rights of being a citizen with none of the responsibilities.

      • Questinia says:

        I just saw “substitutes corn syrup for milk” and I went blank.
        I’m just waiting till they gastronomically corporatize terrorism. So we can all go to a McQaeda and get a Qaeda cola.

        • AdLib says:

          What’s odd is that when I reread it, my stomach became upset.

          Actually, I heard McDonalds is introducing a line of Mexican items that will wreak havoc and terror on the intestines of children.

          There are the McQaedadillias and McChili Con Qaedas.

    • Questinia says:

      All great points, KQ. Corporatism seems to have made Capitalism its battered spouse.

      The film “The Corporation” was so eye-openingly scary, that I decided I would close my eyes and hold my ears so I could remain in LaLa Land. What I did hear is what Adlib says. Corporations are sanctioned sociopaths that are beyond the law because they are legally unable to be held accountable.

      But,paraphrasing Gore Vidal, America was built on the mutual agreement of people that said “I won’t blow your scam, if you don’t blame mine”. It’s all about and has always been about the scam, the hood-wink, getting the suckers money. So is it in the genetic makeup of this country to remain as it has been since its inception? Do we want to take things back to what we imagine was a less corporate minded America? For if we truly did that, then that may be the most revolutionary thing this country will have done ever.

      • KQuark says:

        You have to deal with them like sociopaths realizing most sociopaths function in society at some level. You may need to police them, restrain them or even ban them depending on their offenses and the industries propensity to induce re-offenders. Just like you don’t let a sociopaths pedophile around children you don’t let sociopaths around essential societal functions like healthcare without a hell of a lot supervision at least.

      • Questinia says:

        How on earth did I come up with “blame”? I meant “blow”.
        Although what I actually wrote could be interesting.

        Can someone tell me why it could be interesting? Cause I really don’t know why. I think I made that up.

        Darn! I always blame myself. That’s how I blow it. I should learn how to blame others like everybody else does. That’s how you remain blameless, like the psychopath, like the abuser.

        (The inner psyqosis of Q, please donate)

        • AdLib says:

          I know the quote and just figured you were thinking of blaming Gore Vidal for something while you were writing that. So? What happened between you and Gore? Did you have to beat him up?

          Don’t be concerned, sometimes I blow myself for mistakes but I then realize I shouldn’t blame my top.

          • Questinia says:

            Gore forgot to get me French perfume from Cannes when he got back to Ravello.

            What do I look like? An Avon girl?

            • AdLib says:

              *in a Charles Nelson Reilly voice* “Gnaah!”

              Actually, I was hoping to order a box of Thin Mint cookies from you.

      • AdLib says:

        The conundrum here is that the only way for the public to take back control of the country from corporations is through elections…in which corporations contribute millions to have influence over whoever wins so they can retain control.

        Is it possible to elect a trust busting president in this era of corporate domination? One who shoves corporations back into their appropriate place and applies the requisite responsibility and regulation that is needed to protect the people?

        Maybe…maybe in his second term, when corporate contributions to him or an opponent would be moot, Obama could take the bold steps that are needed but as long as he keeps trying not to rock the boat too hard, clearly with an eye towards upcoming elections, I don’t know.


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