Our Biggest Mistake

Serious groups and individuals are trying to find a way forward during this crisis, but many of us come up with different answers. The reason is that we don’t really understand the problem. That’s our biggest mistake.

It’s popular now to blame President Trump for everything. Since Bernie Sanders cancelled his campaign, some of my friends are blaming Joe Biden. In a more general sense, some blame the Republicans. Some still blame the Democrats. Some blame the people who vote wrong, some blame the people who don’t vote at all. Some blame the Chinese and others say we should be more like the Chinese.

All of them are only partially right.

The economic/ecological/financial/medical/political crisis is not the fault of the Chinese, not the fault of the pandemic, not Trump’s fault, not Obama’s, and not Adam Smith’s. If we were going to blame one of them, we should probably single out Adam Smith. He’s the one who promoted our big mistake by spreading the horse-hockey theory that capitalism was a rational system.

Keynes explains capitalism
Keynes explains capitalism

Capitalism is not a rational system. Never was, still isn’t, never will be. Capitalism really isn’t even a system. The best way to define capitalism is to say that capitalists are running things. The capitalists replaced the aristocrats mostly in the 17th and 18th centuries. The aristocrats had replaced the slave owners in a long process before that. Aristocrats were more productive than the slave owners. Capitalists were more productive than aristocrats, but they still hadn’t evolved up to a rational system.

Even Adam Smith didn’t actually claim that capitalism was guided by rational thinking. He said it was guided by an “invisible hand” that made it good for everyone. He didn’t say that the invisible hand was rational, so that’s to his credit. He should have said, though, that it’s a crazy hand. A psychopathic hand. That would have been more honest.

Capitalists work from a national framework. They take over other, less efficient, economies. They don’t prefer to use their national armies, but they will. When there are no more territories or peoples to take over, they have to face off against one another. That was the situation in 1914 when the big capitalists made us go to war.

If the capitalists were in control of a rational system, they might have found some other kind of solution. I don’t think that individual capitalists, for the most part, really wanted to go to war. Well, maybe Winston Churchill, but not a lot of the capitalists.

After the War to End All Wars and a brief period of prosperity to replace everything they had broken and to grow some new cannon fodder, the capitalists extended their crisis into the Great Depression. Another World War and another prosperous period of replacing broken things brought them into their present crisis.

During and since the Great Depression, the capitalists have been using their power over the government to bail out their failed businesses. In 2007, armored trucks full of money scurried from government agencies to banks and big business. They are doing it again now, and they will have to do it again in future if they are going to stay in power.

What If We Had a Rational System?

Let me change the direction of the argument slightly. Let us suppose for a moment that we actually were living under a rational system. One aspect of a rational system would be to avoid overpopulating our planet. The basic reason for overpopulation is government policies to encourage high birth rates. Presently, nations need high birthrates in order to compete with one another in an irrational world. In a rational world, they wouldn’t.

Pandemics would be less of a threat. Famine would be less of a problem. If an epidemic threatened in some part of the world, the rest of the world could mobilize to isolate and stop it. In a rational world.

Our biggest mistake is blaming individuals, nations, ideologies, or circumstances for our problems. We should blame the capitalists who run our irrational system, and we should democratically replace them with rational leaders. That simple!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9AM central time. They podcast the weekly program and “Workers Beat Extra” on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

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