Answer to the question: I hope not.
Or, it’s better to say: I’m sure I will not.
Unlike my pals from the West, Roger and Dean, I come from the Soviet Union. Born and bred in the USSR. Yep, a unique experience. By the way, there was no capitalism back then in Russia. And many things to be proud of, really.
Lack of food and cloth wasn’t one of them.
Right, we all had a feeling of living in a great country, strong and influential. Still, it didn’t matter compared to the West. All of us – schoolboys of the 80s – knew that all the trends and various cool things, from music to street fashion – were coming from the West. The land of capitalism. I mean I would have traded intangible greatness for some very tangible things like jeans or good music on vinyl discs.
The introduction of capitalism saved Russia after the break-up of the USSR. Actually, the lack of capitalism was to blame for the break-up itself. I remember those hopelessly empty shelves and food stamps of the early 90s: you could buy sugar and tobacco only if you had ‘em in your pocket. It was not a time of war, it was peaceful time, very favorable for the Soviet Union in the early 90s geopolitically. Still, the system completely went out of control with hunger riots looming just around the corner. Literally, just yesterday all TV, radio and newspapers were telling us about our system’s historical superiority and the ‘unavoidable end of the capitalism system’. Bingo! What a U-turn!
The introduction of free prices and free trade in January 1992 brought back the food to the stores almost overnight in numbers and varieties never seen before. And it was arriving more and more. Yes, now you needed money to buy it but you could buy it, technically! No more food stamps, just cash. No cash? Go to work!
So when some smart guys from the Western academia discuss the future with no capitalism or something like that, some very intellectual talk, I’m just saying: people, wake up! You’re lucky bastards not to live under the socialist system breaking down: it is not just lack of food or cloth, it is lack of the law and order, too. Wake up! The material motivation is the strongest one, it’s the human nature. People mostly work for money and profit and this is good. All other means don’t work. Yes, when you’ve got food on your table, you drive your car and can travel overseas then yes, you might think about doing charity and working for some nice ideas, like fighting global warming or preserving the rainforests. I like it, too. But such things work only in this order: wealth first, charity second. This is why it is the West doing charity, not the Third World.
To make a long story short: some may not like it but money makes the world go round. Since time immemorial and till the end of the world. So I say: vaya con Dios!
As human nature doesn’t really change, capitalism will be with us as long as we exist. Period.
Wanna’ pike em’?
Will we live to see the death of capitalism? That depends on your definition of the word. People were trading beads and pelts in caves; that’s capitalism and it’s not going anywhere. I will argue the most capitalistic nation on the planet calls itself Communist: China. The Americans have a saying: If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck; it’s a duck. You can call it anything you want.
On the other hand, if we are talking about the Adam Smith style of capitalism, with stock markets and the proletariat, the collapse has already started. It started slowly in the 1970s, when profits and productivity were decoupled from worker pay. It took thirty years of flat wages and rising cost of living to really bite, but it is being felt now.
Enter the computer: in the 1990s we saw the collapse of the information industry. Almost nobody reads the paper anymore and we don’t want to pay for news. The music industry? Gone… killed by digital downloads.
The auto industry… MIA. Big factories still crank out cars but the workers are mostly robots. Sector after sector quickly followed.
Surprise, surprise, one quarter of all Americans now work in finance. Major companies make nothing (Apple) but most finance products that have their names pasted on. We sell crap to each other.
The next event is upon us: self-driving cars. The single most common job title in the USA is driver. Not just busses and taxis but trains, ships, planes, and UPS trucks. Millions of people.
The blow after that: 3D printing. These printers can now mould metal, plastic, even pizza. Yes, you can pop the pizza in the oven and I read it’s great. Shortly, Mexico and China will feel the pain the rest of us have known for twenty years. Why drive to the store & buy a blouse when you can just print a new one.
Imagine one of these things in your kitchen: This is fairly close to the Star Trek replicator. And it’s maybe ten years away. If the engineers play around with self-driving cars much more, 3D printers will come first!
Think Trump just fell from the sky? The anger is real and it is quickly spreading. Most industrialized nations now have these movements of pissed-off white men misidentifying the source of their anger. Keeping the brown people out will not improve your standard of living.
These things are all connected.
I have read many saying that we will simply go from working in factories to fixing robots. Dream on. Humans work eight hours, robots twenty-four. Each of these things replaces three of us. How many robots can one person maintain? Forty? Sixty?
Unlike the first industrial revolution, we are not leaving farms and going to new jobs in factories. When you leave the factory, you’re finished. Much of this has been papered over by the WalMarts of the world hiring people at poverty wages. But the supply of workers is about to far outstrip anything required in low-brow retail or the financial sector.
Back to our question: do I think capitalism is about to collapse? You betch’a. It will not survive in its current form. The one percent so completely control governments I doubt politicians take any interest at all in the coming storm. Like the music executives before you, I don’t feel sorry for you in the least.
The best suggestion I have seen is to tax robots and computers that replace humans like any other worker. These funds could be used to help the displaced. We would become a society of artist and craftsmen.
Do I believe this will happen? Hell No! We will elect liars like Trump who will pass tax cuts for the rich while blaming the “others”. Capitalism will have to collapse before these idiots will admit there is a problem. After all, they have a personal, vested interest in this party not ending.
I really do hope for a soft landing. While they have it coming, I do not wish the one-percent to be piked. Will we live in Star Trek or Thunder Dome?
Will I live to see the end of capitalism?
Maybe not. I don’t know how long I have left for this world, but I’m steadily creeping up to the “average lifespan of a male”. Maybe 10 years, if I stay healthy even 20 is not out of the question. Will capitalism still be around then? Probably, because there is now so much power in so few hands, that I can’t see the greedy bastards giving up their obscene wealth any time soon.
Yes, many of you will argue that Capitalism leaves power and influence to a minority class that only gets by because it continues to exploit most of you, me as well, and indeed the majority of those who labour every day just to scrape a living. You may also argue that the priorities are all askew – by that I mean profit overrides things like the social good, and our diminishing resources – don’t even get me going by discussing what profit is doing to our precious environment.
However, you may also make the argument that it actually gives us better products and better innovation caused by competition. You could add that for hundreds of years, it has created strong economic growth, and provided prosperity of which our fore-fathers could barely have dreamed.
If you are in the latter group, the trouble is that I see another economic crash come tumbling down upon us, just as it did a decade ago – the conditions that caused the financial crisis then are still with us. The vagaries of finance still manage to control profits of corporations, pensions, personal wealth and indeed food prices. The bloody banks have not changed their disgraceful behaviours one iota.
In my country of birth, personal debt is spiralling totally out of control, into the hundreds of billions. We have already blogged about the death of the middle classes – but it’s now affecting all of us, (except the privileged few), and many people find themselves unable to satisfy even their most basic needs. Feed into that situation the complete shambles that is Brexit, and the UK could be in for the toughest economic crisis in generations.
Will Hutton, author of “The State we’re in”, wrote in The Guardian: “Britain could and should become an exemplar of the good economy and society. The best in British business and finance, officialdom, unions, media and academia know that the old model is bust and Britain has to strike out anew.” He added: “The task is to move the financial system away from its fixation with property lending and onto supporting innovation.”
Will it happen? Not in my lifetime methinks – Capitalism will continue to stumble along, dragging millions and millions of unfortunate people into the gutter.
But things really need to change, and change now. Time is running out for us, particularly for our children, and most definitely for those yet to be born.