Capital is just a lot of the problem

In the month since I posted this big-picture political assessment—pointing to Republicans’ intentional exploitation of nonrepresentative features of our constitution—I have mused on some kind of deeper dive.

Can I identify even further explanations for our peril, more fundamental than a 50-year-long project by capital to (struggling for a better word) trump a system of democratic governance rejected as an unacceptable constraint on the accumulation of private fortunes?

I’m still working on that. But it is difficult to feel like the fundamental conflict at hand is meaningfully unlike that explanation.

The above is not really a story of the Trump administration. It’s the story of a value system that prioritizes private wealth with no real, firm limit or point of satiety. A value system for which there is no “enough,” no point at which consideration for others outweighs the desire for increased private status and privilege.

This is a value system which seems more and more, to me, ultimately incompatible with being “channeled” within any system of rules which would enforce consideration for others. The regulations are always “too burdensome.” The taxes are always “too high.”

(This was the same week in which Rutger Bergman created a minor international sensation by telling the superrich, during their own Davos confab, that they cannot indulge both a desire for unlimited private accumulation and for a better world for the other 99% of us.)

This is a value system which seems, again and again throughout history, to unite eventually with fascism against meaningful redistribution.

Within the past two weeks, a large embassy of Davos-types paid a cheery visit to Brazil’s appallingly reactionary new President Bolsonaro. It feels safe to assume that if and when e.g. the LePen dynasty ever takes power in France, the superrich will be gushing about the “breath of fresh air” within about five days, tops.

Meanwhile, the absurd spectacle of Howard Schultz’s more or less open campaign to be a divisive spoiler in the 2020 election demonstrates that this is also a value system which refuses to be deterred by evidence its self-destructiveness.

Yes, starving the public treasury to the point where basic infrastructure is underfunded is likely to involve risk, no matter how much personal wealth one extracts. Yes, allying with fascists because they will oppress, jail and murder redistributionists has not had a lot of good endings, historically. Yes, sounding sincere about climate change while continually opposing the degree of collective action necessary to prevent massive disruption of the only livable world within light years is basically the ne plus ultra of this self-destructiveness.

Capital behaves this way, anyway, again and again and again and again. Capital doggedly, even fanatically, resists proposals to curb such behavior.

I still suspect that there are other important factors to consider, alongside this.

But it feels awfully difficult to imagine a credible alternative story about our peril, which does not frame capital as an inherent threat to a fair, respectful society.

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