It is the present world system, but are we right?
Capitalism means: The use of wealth to create more wealth.
From the moment we started creating farming communities, perhaps earlier people traded with each other to acquire resources that would keep them alive. Farming land meant that individuals were tied to a piece of land because of the need to grow crops for human consumption. Animals such as cattle and horses became domesticated and a complicated societal structure came into being because of the needs of the living environment. Each adult individual within a community had his or her work which was available both for themselves and to trade with other individuals. At the same time living in bigger communities meant that there was greater chance for survival of everyone (strength in numbers). The strongest in each community or those with the keenest leadership skills would become head man or head woman of a village directing the management of the village for the rest of the community. These individuals would win their position by their prowess and were either elected or took their position by force, just as now. The importance of keeping leaders healthy, able to lead, the acknowledgement of the difficulty of the job and reverence for the leader meant that a greater share of what was produced would be given to the leader of a village or community.
In times of hardship, (lack of resources), through jealousy or other argument one community would go to war with another community, vanquish their leaders, take their resources including human resources and become a bigger integrated community and so it continued…
If leadership of a community was lost then individuals would continue on at a level of subsistence until a new leader came along.
All the empires ever created have been created round taking resources including human resources from someone else, giving the winner greater wealth, power and a bigger community to lead.
Eventually empires got so big that they collapsed. Their boundaries were too far extended from the centre to maintain control, to be there to protect people and resources and to meet the different needs of populations within the Empire’s control. Added to this, there was greater competition at the centre to gain control and power over the empire resulting in in-fighting and destruction.
Until the 12th Century only 5% of the population of Europe lived in towns or cities. Skilled workers lived in the cities, getting their subsistence from Feudal landlords, in the form of food, clothes and shelter. In the same way, farm workers worked on the land for their keep. The Black Death, one of the most devastating pandemics in history was instrumental in changing the system substantially. So many people were killed by the plague that there was a shortage of labour creating competition between landlords needing workers to keep their estates going and between trades needing people to keep their trades going having to train outsiders because whole guild families were wiped out.
The advent of true wages being paid by traders encouraged the movement of people from the land into towns and cities, rather than subsistence in exchange for labour. As a result of this change birth rates exploded families having more children who, without land to look after, had to have work. Child labour was as much a part of a town’s economic development as slavery was part of rural life.
Mercantilism is now used as a word to describe an attempt to create trade imbalances between nations, as well as between colonies and their imperial rulers, so that one nation prospers at the cost of others. The word mercantilism originally meant the principles and method of commerce. Originally each town had vastly different products that became homogenized by demand over time. After the homogenization of products; trade was carried out in wider and wider circles town to town, county to county, province to province, and finally nation to nation. When too many nations were offering similar products for trade the trade took on a competitive edge that was sharpened by strong feelings of nationalism in a continent that was always at war.
During the age of colonialism and mercantilism the nations seeding the world with colonies were not trying to increase their trade. Most colonies were set up with a feudal economic system that meant that raw products were sent back to the country that had created the colony and (for example the case of the American colonies), the colonists being forced to buy back the finished product with a pseudo currency that prevented them trading with other nations.
It was Adam Smith (the father of Economics), who came to the conclusion that Mercantilism was not a force of development and change, but a regressive system that was keeping the world from advancing. His ideas for a free market opened the world to capitalism.
At the beginning capitalism, and the free market economy, arrived just in time for the Industrial Revolution. As investment was more concentrated in the developments in industrial production at home. Industrial tycoons were the first people in history to amass great financial wealth in their life-times. For the first time in history ordinary people could aspire to be wealthy without being born into it. The new money crowd was as rich as the old money crowd, they had no interest in the status quo. They built more and more factories that employed more and more people, while producing more goods for sale.
The Bottom Line
Industrial Capitalism was the first system to benefit a wider circle of people. The formation of the unions and the glut of affordable products being mass-produced helped wages increase and the standard of life get better. A middle class was formed that the working class could aspire more easily to be part of.
All over the world capitalism has grown beyond pure industrial capitalism. The free market has been held up as being the best commercial system to follow, however?
The gap between rich and poor is getting greater – wealth is still held in the top 1% of the world’s population.
The constant hunt for more resources and to sell products is creating more war, control, paranoia, fear, suffering than ever before in the history of mankind.
There may be a free market in most of the world, however, there is no such thing as a totally open border any more. People are controlled from birth to death.
Capitalism creates slavery. Nothing truly increases in value except the value of capital.
We are killing life on this planet by industrial over-use, bad extraction methods, of resources without replacement. We are living in a consumer driven society that is over the top. The world’s natural resources are not as wealthy as they once were.
Natural Diversity of goods and life-styles is disappearing. The demands of fashion and homogenous goods is impoverishing the natural and human world.
The individual aspiration to financial wealth has impoverished their own and community health, wellbeing, life. We live in disoriented, confused, unhealthy isolation and it is getting worse.
In the UK at least, we appear to have regressed to a point of using mercantilism and other restrictive practices. Perhaps we never truly moved forward?