A tale of two capitalisms


It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

I lived part of my life in a deeply communist country. I spent my youth in a country trying to raise itself from this darkness. So I know the dangers of socialism better than many people, certainly better than most people posting on the internet in English.

But over the recent years, since moving to UK, I have also seen some of the worst excesses of unbridled capitalism. It’s not quite Dickensian levels yet, thankfully, but we’re getting there. Things are not going in the right direction at all.

So you could say life put me in a good position to discuss the merits of the two. And, to be sure, I come out in favour of capitalism. But not the capitalism we know and loath today in the UK and the US.

Because there are two versions of this economic system, and I would like to believe one can exist without another.

First, a bit of a context:

This is the first kind of capitalism. The capitalism of corporations, of people treating life as a video game, and money as points confirming their personal value. The system made for, and by, people who have long ago lost the meaning of what life is all about; the only thing that matters are abstract numbers that would satisfy the shareholders. The system based on, and fueled by, nothing else but unadulterated greed.

Nobody needs that kind of capitalism. Neither we, the average Joes, neither them, the super-rich. They don’t need that kind of money for anything. We don’t need the income inequality it generates, ridding us of ability to live happy lives.

This is the other kind of capitalism:

The capitalism of a local market, of a small producer, of enthusiasm, of passion, of desire to do good things and serve your customers. This is where capitalism shines: it provides the means and the motivation to strive for the best. You couldn’t find this kind of thing in a socialist economy; not on a large scale. Sure, there were individuals who fought against the tide, but they were few and far between. Only under capitalism can such projects really grow.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to say global economy is supposed to get by on local farmers markets alone. Big companies are necessary. Corporations are necessary. Hell, I work for one, rather than planting biodynamic veg with my own hands. I use products made by corporations. It would be the height of hypocrisy to rail against all corporations, everywhere.

What I mean to show with these examples are two mindsets; a mindset that should be rewarded, and a mindset which should be scorned and shunned. In the world today, these seem to be reversed. Can we afford to have one capitalism without the other? Are the two forever intertwined?

I have no easy answers. This is just whimsy, wishful-thinking. I haven’t studied economy, and I’m not a politician. But I’d like to think something can be done about it. Like many people with similar world view, I look with hope towards the Nordic countries, with their Scandinavian model. Would it work everywhere? How to deal with its inherent flaws (because every model has flaws)? I don’t know. But something needs to be done.

Soviet-style Socialism was based on (massive generalization alert) accumulation of power, but it had no in-built defenses against the power-hungry; and it was hunger for power that ultimately brought it down. Capitalism, based as it is on accumulation of capital, has no in-built defenses against the greed. For the sake of the masses of good, hard-working capitalists, I would hate to see it brought down by the greedy few.

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