Part 1. Why People Fear Equality
I have just participated in an Internet dialogue on the PolicyMic site, where I occasionally leave comments that support ideas of equality and bullshit removal.
I had quite an interesting exchange with a defender of Capitalism that was fascinating. This person was adamant in his characterization and defense of Capitalism as a promoter of “freedom” and “liberty.” Through our exchange it became clear that he experienced a very strong reaction to the notion of Equality.
What kickstarted this whole shebang were three points made by Whole Food’s CEO, John Mackey that needed to be challenged:
“The problem is not that there is an unequal distribution of wealth in the world. The problem is that there is an unequal distribution of capitalism.”
“Business has been hated by the intellectuals and elites for all time.”
“Profits ultimately create all growth, capital, and prosperity … Profits are created through voluntary exchange, not through the exploitation of people.”
These are three curious statements that could only be made in complete ignorance of the historical record, or within an air – tight fantasy land where the dreams of Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises reside.
If we look closely at Point 1, the assertion that the problems facing the world stem from “unequal distribution of capitalism, ” what we see here is an exercise of dissembling, although we have no evidence that Mackey actually believes this. It’s more a slogan or a sound – bite and not a guiding principle, and it certainly does not reflect the reality of the economically oppressed and exploited. I’m sure that CEOs are more concerned looking at the world through broad and “big picture” lenses, but that only makes these guys incapable of describing reality as it exists. Their words should thus be considered with suspicion.
In Point 2, Mackey offers more of the same impulse for historical fantasilization. The statement that, “business has been hated by the intellectuals and elites,” is not based on any facts, and betrays the anti-intellectualism held by defenders of capitalism. This reflexive backlash comes from the fact that Capitalism, as Karl Marx in the 19th Century and the Critical Theorists in the 20th Century proved, cannot stand for long against any sustained intellectual analysis. “Business has been hated by intellectual and elites,” is a statement so monstrously at odds with common sense, that it seems the most silly and childish of charges anyone can make. One only has to take a brief inventory on the “intellectuals” and “elites” who thought Capitalism was a fantastic idea. But because Mackey leads a health food empire, people will be influenced by this kind of empty economic jingoism.
Point 3: “…Profits are created through voluntary exchange, not through the exploitation of people.”
Wow, what a whopper. Somebody get me Tim Cook or the sweatshop responsible for my Nike’s. “Voluntary exchange,” eh? Anybody who works for a living knows that they are a few paychecks away from having to beg on the streets. One either sells their labor to another in exchange for money, or one doesn’t eat. This notion that Capitalism is based on voluntary participation is a sweet – sounding mythology that’s been built up in layers of philosophical sediment over the past 400 years. This process is too deep to cover here, but it’s instructive to note that proponents for speak glowingly about Capitalism’s “voluntary exchange” are going to distort and mangle the definition out of context to support their perspective.
For those not interested in reading the (sometimes tedious and pedantic) thread in its entirety, this is what my comment said:
“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”
– Bertrand Russell
“Sweatshop workers “hoping for the best” isn’t part of the moral equation that Mackey is talking about, or is it? Mackey’s breezy, breathless oversimplifications for compassionate capitalism really is a paean for “compassionate consumptionism” without considering the anti-democratic forces that is the muscle behind unrestrained self-interest.”
This comment drew a response from Joshua Green, who said:
“The hatred implicit in your nihilistic statement is destructive Darryl, please turn from it and embrace that life can be beautiful. What Mackey and the rest of us are trying to explain is that capitalism provides creation of products of new services to build and enhance life for everyone. This means we reward builders and innovators for improving our way of life. Now not everyone can afford say the nicest I-Pad but the technology behind it and the service it provides improves our lives. For an example a restaurant nearby uses an I-Pad for its register saving them money/space on counter and allowing the customer to sign for purchases which offers security to the buyer and assurance to the company.” (Emphasis mine.)
My comment that sweatshop workers (those who are victimized and exploited by the Captains of Industry) are never considered when talk turns to how wonderful Capitalism is, was seen as “hatred” and “nihilistic” (a principle that life is meaningless). Where is the fucking compassion this guy was praising Mackey for having the vision to entertain? And isn’t it interesting that Green’s rambling response was punctuated by three specific words, “hatred,” “nihilistic” and “destructive” – used to describe my defense for those who are the ones obviously catching hell from the stateless corporations which see no obligation to improve the lives of the slaves they work so slavishly. Mr. Green obviously does not see the projections and distorted definitions that he’s engaged with – his words are loaded with fear. This realization was very instructive to see, especially the further the discussion evolved. The Big Fear would soon present itself, and when it did, it was not a coincidence that the discussion ended.