Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Personal Manifesto

If our future is to be anything but a nightmare of war and despotism, we must put the genie of unregulated capitalism back in its bottle. And we must clamp the lid down tight.

The neoliberal capitalism which now holds sway is rapidly eroding our environment, and without a moderately stable natural environment, civilization is impossible. These facts are irrefutable; they are backed up by the community of scientists and by political thinkers alike. Given the grim facts on the ground, appeals to neoliberal theory (that the “free market” will somehow ultimately provide solutions) are not only misguided but suicidal.

The future to be hoped for is one in which certain liberties are upheld (cultural, religious, political) but others are seriously curtailed: 1) economic liberty, 2) the “liberty” of global free trade.

Regarding the first, the individual’s right to own and manage property and capital is essential; even so, a responsible order will establish clear and enforced limits to the amounts of capital individuals may accumulate and control. For instance, in a sane and just social order it would be unthinkable that any individual could have a net worth thousands of times that of the average citizen. Rather than thousands of times, the number should be perhaps 50 times, or 27 times (the optimal ratio needed to maintain healthy competition while also maintaining a healthy democratic order would of course be subject to debate).

Regarding global trade, it must be more rigorously regulated, if only because global business has no government to watch over it and thus is never answerable to citizens’ needs. “Free trade” is now just a euphemism for corporate predation in both developed and developing countries.

If we are to avert the oligarchic dystopia we’re now sliding into, my generation and those younger will need to force the current capitalism off the throne. The markets must be wrested into form in which they can serve the people, rather than people existing as raw material to be ground up in unchecked markets. I envision a social order strict in certain economic and environmental regulations, but promoting liberty in other areas. It is obviously possible; there is no inherent reason free speech and freedom of religion need coincide with unregulated capitalism--in fact capitalism may come to undermine both.

I personally would support nonviolent political action as the most effective way to bring about the saner order needed. Much can be learned from Marx and the rich tradition of interpretation of capitalism he gave rise to, much can be learned from Gandhi; personally I learn the most from the Christian tradition--still, as a Christian, I see no reason not to struggle along with those who are non-Christian or of a more secular mindset. We’ve a job to do here, and can respect our differences while working together.

In any case, either the current order will fall, or our civilization will. The regnant neoliberalism is unsustainable; we will have no future as a civil society if we continue with it.

A rough pathway forward is clear and has been for some time. If this is my “personal manifesto”, it is such in the sense that I commit to supporting and engaging in efforts toward the goals laid out. Without being a full-time activist, I nonetheless must strategically decide where my efforts toward these ends will be made, and make some commitment of time, energy and resources.

The problem for many of us is that we see the problems, we "weigh in" on the Internet in one form or another, we vote (for what that's worth) but we don't finally come around to much in the way of concrete action toward social change, or even in the way of concrete support for activists who are fighting directly. This personal manifesto is, then, a statement of a basic position, and a statement of commitment. I commit to the task of finding more concrete ways to engage.

Eric Mader

David Graeber speaks in a recent debate “Is Capitalism Part of the Answer?” (next to Graeber is debate facilitator, Amiri Bhohi):

1 comment:

Adam said...

Agreed. Nothing will change without the death of coporations. Let's kill a corporation.