www.RogerWendell.com
Roger J. Wendell
Defending 3.8 Billion Years of Organic EvolutionSM
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Capitalism Logo Capitalism
and its failures

I started this page many years before the '08 economic meltdown and the 2011 "Occupy" campaigns that caused others to start questioning capitalism. However, these events didn't changed my own view: capitalism remains a grossly flawed "system" that concentrates wealth, ignores health and safety issues, and ravages the natural world. That being said, capitalism is still the most productive and fair system we've come up with so it has my support as long as we remain vigilant. Things like busting monopolies, discouraging extreme concentrations of wealth, legislating minimum health and safety standards, and protecting the environment are absolutely necessary if we want to ensure capitalism provides benefit for society and our world in general. - Roger J. Wendell
Yellow Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for more information on the concentration of wealth and power...
Yellow Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for some information about economics in general...

 

"It's in the nature of this Capitalist beast that you have to extract more and more to make profit."
- Arundhati Roy

 

Miss Another Payment and We Take the Blanket
"Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief."
- Allen Greenspan
Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve
(to Congress during the October '08 financial meltdown)
 
 
 
"Adam Smith had it basically right when he described the essential pre-conditions for widespread economic prosperity. But if the current financial upheaval teaches us anything, it should be how much market capitalism depends upon most people developing and adhering to some rather uncontroversial moral virtues."
- Samuel Gregg
Acton Institute website, October 1, 2008

 

Capitalism is just another Ponzi scheme
Denver Post TheOpenForum, 03-17-2009
re: "Madoff pleads guilty, implicates only himself"
      (March 13 news story)

"The imprisonment of Bernard Madoff for orchestrating a Ponzi scheme seems hypocritical to me. A Ponzi scheme is just an investment scheme that uses investments from new investors to pay returns to existing investors, but when there aren't enough new investors, it collapses."

"Isn't that exactly how the stock markets operate? The reason that sock prices of some of the biggest companies in the world can plummet to zero in a matter of hours is because the markets are not based on productivity or actual value. It is all based on supply and demand of the shares themselves. If you think about it, capitalism itself is just an institutionalized Ponzi scheme."

- Brian Quade, Boulder

 

Michael Moore - 2009 Michael Moore: "Capitalism is anti-Jesus"
In a Fortune interview by Scott Cendrowksi
CNNMoney.com - September 23, 2009

 

"You've said you started filming 'Capitalism: A Love story' a year and a half ago. Did the film change after Lehman went bankrupt and the stock market crashed?"

"I've thought about this for 20 years. Ever since "Roger and Me," I've felt the problem here is an economic system that is unjust and unfair. It's not democratic. And I keep making these films but I dance around the subject: it's General Motors here, the health-care industry there, and I started thinking, 'Why don't I just name it?'

"I started out wanting to explore the premise of capitalism being anti-American, and anti-Jesus, meaning it's not a Democratic economy. And it's not run with a moral or ethical code. But when the crash happened, it added a third plot line: not only is capitalism anti-American and anti-Jesus, it doesn't work.

"[The wealthiest Americans] proved that the free market is something they really don't believe in, they don't believe in competition, they actually do believe in socialism, that we the people should use our tax dollars to keep them in their mansions and their yachts."

 

"Unfortunately, profit motive always follows the path of least resistance. It is usually more profitable in the short term to cut down old growth forests than it is to make lumber out of recycled plastics. The pressure to exploit nature reserves will never end. Analogously, slavery was also the result of people attempting to make a profit at the expense of other entities. Laws against slavery finally forced profiteers to find alternatives."

"Similarly, labor laws have stopped manufacturers from forcing people to work more than eight hours a day, 40 hours a week without additional compensation. But the pressure to work employees harder never ends, as witnessed by the growing number of hours the average American now works. Laws are all that prevent a free market system from evolving back into virtual slavery. If laws preventing slavery successfully blunted the profit motive, then laws preventing the exploitation of preserves could be similarly successful. Slavery could not end until enough people were convinced that it was wrong. It is time to move to another plane of morality and realize that destroying the biodiversity of a planet is not only wrong but dangerous."

- Russ Finely in his book,
Poison Darts (Protecting the
biodiversity of our world), p. XIII

 

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor:
recession may be jolt that selfish Britain needs

www.timesonline.co.uk - February 14, 2009
by Alice Thomson and Rachel Sylvester

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor "Pride, avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth: sometimes it feels as if Britain is in the grip of the seven deadly sins. There are arrogant politicians, greedy bankers, lecherous television presenters, furious trade unionists, obese children, competitive shoppers and an underclass of people who do not work. To the doom-mongers, British society is not broken, it is shattered."

"According to the Archbishop of Westminster, the economic downturn could be the very thing that brings us to our senses. 'It's the end of a certain kind of selfish capitalism,' Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said. 'This particular recession is a moment - a kairos - when we have to reflect as a country on what are the things that nourish the values, the virtues, we want to have ... Capitalism needs to be underpinned with regulation and a moral purpose.'"

 

Epic Selloff: Dow Plummets 504 Points
FoxBusinessNews.com, Monday, September 15, 2008

"The Dow suffered its worst percentage loss in more than six years Monday as the markets were slammed by an historic weekend that left Wall Street without financial giants Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch."

"The momentous selloff came as insurance giant AIG lost more than half its value and crude oil futures plunged more than $5, closing below $100 a barrel for the first time since March."

"The losses brought the Dow below the psychologically-important 11,000 threshold for the first time since July 16. It was the index's sixth-largest point decline ever and the biggest since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks."

"'This is a very bad situation and people are justifiably concerned,' said Michael James, senior equity trader at Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles. 'Right now it's sell first and ask question later.'"

 

'Biggest Theft in History'
Fortunes instantly vanish in Bear Stearns failure
Many of firm's 14,000 employees, owners of a third of failed firm, and shareholders can only watch as holdings disappear
FoxNews.com main page, Monday, March 17, 2008

"One of the more stunning developments of the Bear Stearns fire sale is that many of the firm's 14,000 employees, as well as the firms many thousands of shareholders, have just watched their stakes in the company go up in smoke."

"What's more, Sunday's news that JPMorgan Chase would purchase Bear for $236 million, or $2 a share -- a fraction of its value even from the close of trading Friday -- sent fears that there might not be much of Bear Stearns left when the merger is set to be completed later this year."

"'This is gonna go down as the biggest theft in all of financial history,' said William Smith, portfolio manager of Smith Asset Management and a former Bear employee. 'The $2 a share stock price is more symbolic than anything because the alternative is nothing.'"

"'This is one of the unfortunate stories on Wall Street. I'm a former Bear guy. I have friends over there. My friends just watched their fortunes vaporize,' Smith added."

"The deal between JPMorgan and Bear was whipped together over the weekend to save Bear from both bankruptcy and possible liquidation. If approved by Bear shareholders, it will bring an end to the company's 85-year-old history."

"Bear's employees currently own about one-third of the firm's stock. It was considered a point of pride among Bear employees to own stock in the firm, and selling that stock was considered bad form. Indeed, employees often received their annual bonuses in the form of stock. Bonuses received recently are now basically worthless."

"Even the company's top management was required to own significant stakes. Former Bear Chief Executive Jimmy Cayne's was worth nearly $1 billion as recent as last year when the firm's stock was at $170. That paper wealth has now evaporated."

"It doesn't have to be just paper wealth that are going up in smoke. According to CNBC's Charlie Gasparino, JPMorgan is expected to lay off more than half of the company's 14,000 employees."

"Bear's shares traded at more than $150 less than a year ago. The deal places Bear's stock at a 93% discount to Friday's close." "To finance the deal, the Federal Reserve approved up to $30 billion in special financing to help JPMorgan work through Bears illiquid assets, mostly complicated investments backed by subprime mortgages."

"Bear's massive holdings in securities backed by subprime mortgages and other risky investments enabled JPMorgan to purchase the company at such a discount. These securities have been basically frozen since August, and Bear and others banks like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch have had to sit back and watch as the value of these assets has collapsed."

"It was widely expected Bear would not survive the weekend based on the torment the company went through beginning last summer. The final decline began early last week when speculation hit the markets that Bear was having a tough time building its liquidity position."

"According to the firm, those rumors escalated on Thursday, which caused some of the company's clients to pull their money out of the firm. In other words, Bear suffered from a classic example of a run on the bank."

"The deal between Bear and the Federal Reserve and JPMorgan was to keep Bear functioning "normally" for 28 days."

 

"That's the way it goes all over the rich world. Since 2001 the pay of the typical worker in the United States has been stuck, with real wages growing less than half as fast as productivity. By contrast, the executive types gathering for the World Economic Forum in Davos in Switzerland next week have enjoyed a Beckhamesque bonanza. If you look back 20 years, the total pay of the typical top American manager has increased from roughly 40 times the average - the level for four decades - to 110 times average now."
- The Economist
Leaders: Rich man, poor man
January 20th-26th 2007, p. 15

 

Can't Compete April 23, 2007
Clusterfuck Nation by Jim Kunstler:

"Doug Noland over at Prudent Bear.com is right: we've entered a euphoric phase of financial arbitrage capitalism with extreme Ponzi overtones, a pyramid scheme of revolving credit rackets and percentage spread plays completely abstracted from any reality of fruitful activity. The reason we don't even call 'money' by its former name anymore is precisely because we realize at some semi-conscious level that 'liquidity' is not really money. Liquidity is a flow of hallucinated surplus wealth. As long as it flows in one direction, into financial markets, valve-keepers along the pipeline, like Goldman Sachs, Citibank, or the hedge funds, can siphon off billions of buckets of liquidity. The trouble will come when the flow stops -- or reverses! That will be the point where we will rediscover that liquidity really is different from money, and if we are really unlucky we'll discover that our money (the US dollar) is actually different from real wealth."

 

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The List:

I'll have to admit that Capitalism seems to have worked for me - after a lot of hard work (and some lucky investments that later lost most of their value in the 2008/2009 meltdown...) I was able to make enough money to raise a family, pay for some education, and occasionally donate to my favorite charities. That being said, it's still obvious that Capitalism has been a dismal failure in some very critical areas:

  1. Capitalism has had absolutely no respect or regard for the natural world. In my short lifetime (I was born in 1955) I've watched wonderfully wild and beautiful open space and wilderness decimated for the creation of strip malls, parking lots, junk yards, airports, race tracks and other nonsense. Granted, Communism (and a bunch of other "isms") didn't do much better in this regard except they're much less efficient and I'm not part of their system anyway - I'm an American who can make the most impact here, at home, first.
  2. It's also sad to report that capitalism has almost no respect for human health. For decades air travelers, restaurant goers, and even students (I studied at the FAA's Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center where they allowed instructors and students to smoke in class!) were forced to endure smoking in every type of enclosed building space imaginable. It wasn't until the mid 2000s that local governments finally stepped-in to force businesses and institutions to ban smoking for the protection of everyone. With only some very tiny exceptions did capitalism, ever, step in to save the non smoker - During my youth it was almost unheard of for any business establishment to protect nonsmokers. And, the general health care system is another huge capitalistic failure. It's no secret that the only true, reliable health-care is available for a price unless governments (Canada and Australia come to mind) step up to the plate to assist their people. The capitalistic "model" simply can't accommodate the countless millions in need of basic health care.
  3. The huge concentration of wealth, here in my own country, is appalling and immoral. Does it really make sense to allow such a small percentage of our population to control so much of our government, industry, and life in general? Do Billionaires really know that much more, than the rest of us, about protecting the natural world, fostering peace, protecting civil liberties, or being decent?
  4. Capitalism, and the resulting lack of government intervention and assistance, has created a huge sense of helplessness and lack of security throughout our society. It's "every man for himself" and every man, woman and child in America knows it! There's no sense of community and certainly no sense of cooperation or working together for the future or our common good. Although Capitalism's economic free-for-all has provided power and security for a few the rest of us can only wonder if we'll have a job, health care, or even a retirement.
  5. Equity markets (the stock market) is another example of capitalism's failure and the need for government intervention. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) website invites investors to contact them about any impropriety, stating, "...your information may alert us to a bad broker or firm, an unfair practice in the securities industry that needs to be changed, or the latest fraud." Or the "latest fraud" - that's how bad the markets are! Of course the exchanges, themselves, try to provide a small semblance of concern with their own laundry-list of rules and regulations. But, when things get really bad the exchanges simply shut down and institute SEC sanctioned "trading halts" - hardly a feature of free trade, now is it?
  6. The lack of security, created by this Capitalistic free-for-all, has spawned a disproportionate amount of criminals throughout our society. Stealing from the elderly, employee pension funds, and even the young are such common events we barely hear about them in the news anymore. And, as suggested in the previous entry, the financial markets are so full of fraud and corruption the American government devotes entire departments to monitor and enforce laws and ethics.
  7. Capitalism destroys our quality of life because it's very survival depends on growth. Without a growing population, growing markets, or growing demand the flawed underbelly of Capitalism would be exposed for what it is - a cancerous philosophy fueled by greed and growth - the very mentality of a cancer cell! The result, sadly, is that our quality of life has been destroyed through the natural world losses I mentioned earlier - not to mention the overcrowding and congestion we're all suffering from as well.
  8. Capitalism has made us all available for a price. It's no secret that the American government is heavily influenced by money. Even the lobbyists, themselves, are paid handsomely to coerce our lawmakers into making decisions that are not only detrimental to the vast majority of us, but to the lobbyists and lawmakers themselves!
  9. Capitalism has made us dangerously aggressive. Because of the "need" to continually expand markets we believe that the labor, land and resources of others belong to us. In our own country this philosophy of taking what's not ours started very early with the institution of slavery and was later followed by the occupation of foreign lands for the extraction of everything from oil and bananas to copper and coconuts. We've even annexed the lands of others for the creation of commercial roads (southern Arizona's Gadsden "Purchase") and shipping lanes (the Panama Canal)! And, although our aggressiveness benefits Israel's land-grab and big oil profits, our most recent military actions [ed. note; this was written after the 2003 invasion of Iraq] are creating enemies faster than we can kill them!
  10. - Roger J. Wendell
    Golden, CO - 2003
    (the piece on smoking updated in '07, and the "meltdown" reference in '09...)

 

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Possible Solutions:

First, we need to recognize that the destruction of the natural world, at the hands of Capitalism (or any other economic system) is wrong and immoral. Further, we must also realize that Capitalism has greatly damaged not only our quality of life, but the very societal fabric that makes us a community. Once we realize the damage that's been done we can take appropriate action to curb Capitalism's destructive appetite and mean-spirited monopolistic tendencies. And, this isn't some wild, radical idea I invented - the United States government, as early as the 19th century, came to these same conclusions when it abolished slavery, started "Trust Busting" (the Sherman Anti-trust Act and similar measures), and created the beginnings for various social programs.

Solutions include some of the following:

Okay, maybe this hasn't been the most elegant of presentations but these are desperate times and we need to take action. I hope you have even better ideas about curbing Capitalism's destructive tendencies so that both the natural world, and our quality of life, can be protected for all future generations. The main thing is that we break away from our televisions, computers, and golf game to take some real action to bring back the beauty and meaning to our lives - a clean, beautiful planet with security and opportunity for ALL is our birthright!

- Roger J. Wendell
Golden, Colorado - March '05

* "I have all these resources, that in a sense, are society's resources." (Microsoft Billionaire Bill Gates, commenting on his personal wealth during an 60 Minutes II interview, June 2000)

(Check out my Solutions page for other ideas!)

 

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America Open For Business - San Francisco, September 2005 The American Dream
(a parable)
A boat docked in a tiny Greek village. An American tourist complimented the Greek fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Greek.

"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Greek explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings I go into the village to see my friends, dance a little, play the bouzouki, and sing a few songs. I have a full life."

The American interrupted, "I have a MBA from Harvard and I can help you.
You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Athens, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Greek.

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

"And after that?" "Afterwards?

That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing.
When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?"

"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your grandchildren, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings singing, dancing and playing the bouzouki with your friends."

 

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Links:

  1. 4th of July
  2. America!
  3. Bad Guys
  4. Big Box Toolkit - Countering Mega-Retailers
  5. Buy Nothing Day
  6. Buy Nothing Day United Kingdom
  7. Economics
  8. Global Issues that affect everyone
  9. Government employee unions
  10. Inequality ORG
  11. Inflation Data
  1. Military Expenditure totals for the entire planet!
  2. New Rules Project - Designing Rules as if Community Matters
  3. Oxfam - Finding lasting solutions to poverty and suffering around the world
  4. Politics
  5. Poverty Net - The World Bank Group
  6. Solutions
  7. Soviet Economic Collapse - a comparison
  8. UFE - United for a Fair Economy
  9. Voluntary Simplicity
  10. War
  11. Wealth and Power

 

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