capitalism is theft02 Jun 2017
Externality is a term that is used in economics to designate unintended side effects on third parties or costs that are not accounted for in prices. Externalities can be positive (benefits) or negative (costs). For example, I may enjoy driving my car, but, unlike the cyclist behind me, I rarely notice the negative externality—air pollution—that I cause.
In today’s society, positive externalities tend to ow to the top, while negative externalities tend to ow to the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid. We see this both in organizations and in societies. Globally, for centuries, raw materials have owed from the global South to the global North, from developing to developed countries, while toxic waste and toxic products have owed the other way. All these flows are rationalized by economic theories such as comparative cost advantage. But these theories don’t include the impact of externalities.
— An Excerpt From Leading From the Emerging Future From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies by Otto Scharmer & Katrin Kaufer
here comes a small, disorganized rant. it’s nothing new. not to me. not to many other people. but the truth of the statement has continued to deepen for me.
capitalism is essentially theft before it’s regulated. and once a previously accessible form of theft is no longer accessible, those who benefitted from previous thefts use their gains to explore new forms of theft. well, maybe it’s more like they (we) are constantly figuring out new ways to steal so that as old ways become less possible, there is a continuous pipeline of new ones.
(this is extreme, for sure. but i’ll backfill the nuance.)
capitalism is theft many reasons. one of these? capitalism has never existed without wage theft, oppression, slavery. the people who created the ideological underpinings of capitalism were white dudes who devalued or invisibilized the work of women and all non-white people. the externalities, carried by marginalized folks, when accounted for, make it obvious that capitalism as an economic structure is unbearable. profit is extraction. any difference between revenue and cost is being taken from someone and/or some place.
i’m not ready to fully throw out the possibility of capitalism having some role in some arenas of human behavior, but it’s just increasingly less clear to me how it can exist without destructive extraction.
ps - i’ve just learned about an economist from my friend maureen, leopold kohr, who actually thinks it’s not about the type of the economic system one has, but about the scale. tl;dr: no system works when the scale is too large for human relationships to control for externalities. more on that here.
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