The Fruits of Civilization (63) Economics Synopsis


We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. ~ George Orwell


▫ Since the earliest civilizations, economic and political power have been entwined, shaping societal dynamics. From the late Middle Ages, commerce began to drive governmental policy, rather than the government dictating economic activity. This trend accelerated in the industrial age. Now economics impels politics as a platform for plutocracy.

▫ The modus operandi of capitalism has been consistent: avid avarice, wasteful exploitation, and the casual disregard for the well-being of other humans and Nature.

The brutality of a man purely motivated by monetary considerations often does not appear to him at all as a moral delinquency, since he is aware only of a rigorously logical behavior. ~ German sociologist Georg Simmel

▫ In valuing capital over labor, market economies invariably concentrate wealth. Capitalism has produced breathtaking inequity: a tiny clique hoards enormous riches and controls the economic levers, while the vast majority struggle to make ends meet, living at the sufferance of paymasters, if they are even allowed to work. Even in the most prosperous capitalist economies, an extensive underclass abides in poverty, subjugated by discrimination and lack of opportunity.

A capitalism shaped by the few and unaccountable to the many is a threat to all. ~ Barack Obama

▫ The United States and other mature economies increasingly rely upon financial speculation for wealth generation, which is illusory in not being based upon productive capacity.

The lure of easy money has a very strong appeal. ~ American musician Glenn Frey in the song “Smuggler’s Blues” (1984)

▫ Deception and fraud are common, especially in the financial sector, where it is most easily accomplished and concealed. Spawned by greed, corruption is integral to the moral character of capitalism.

Barbarism is a strategic quality of the economic system: it is what reigns beyond the limits of coordinated civilization. Not having any limits or government any more, the universal empire of the market, a reflection of global speculative private interests, turns into barbarism due to its not being a republic. ~ Italian anthropologists Alessandro Dal Lago & Salvatore Palidda


The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking. ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

▫ Rather than treat economics as the realistic, prescriptive discipline it could be, capitalist economists built paracosms and treated economics as faith based.

Economics emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries as an attempt to explain and to justify a market system. ~ Alfred E. Kahn

▫ Despite centuries of evidence, the attendant consequences of the covetous cunning of men just hasn’t sunk in. Instead, a vague, unjustified optimism prevails.

▫ Orthodox economists have consistently overlooked 2 persistent and intractable trends inherent in market economies: 1) wealth concentration which leads to socially divisive inequity, and 2) extensive environmental damage which is unsustainable. Instead of apprehending actuality, market enthusiasts view capitalism’s intrinsic afflictions like stains on a fine fabric: recommending only the spot treatment of limited government intervention, leaving the basic corrosive mechanics untouched.

Market fundamentalists never really appreciated the institutions required to make an economy function well, let alone the broader social fabric that civilizations require to prosper and flourish. ~ Joseph Stiglitz


▫ The conceptual key that supposedly justifies market economies is the price mechanism, which supposedly efficiently allocates resources. This is a sham: all a price does is establish a momentary transaction point between a seller and a buyer. Further, oppressive lasting externalities are not captured in the pricing mechanism.

▫ Oligopoly is the norm for mature industries in most sectors of market economies. By this, capitalism advantages corporations at the expense of workers and consumers, thereby degrading societies.

Globalization has led to an escalation of risks. Economic growth has come at the expense of ecosystems. What is rational for individuals is increasingly irrational for society. ~ English public policy maven Ian Goldin

▫ The financial sector ostensibly functions to allocate capital to productive resources. But the overriding objective of investors is to make money with money, and so investment is skewed to maximize returns. Beyond the propellent of greed, investors’ herd instinct generates boom/bust cycles: amplifying investment effects and accelerating downward spirals.

▫ Capitalism boils down to opportunistic profiteering. Only ignoramuses speak of a market economy as efficient in any worthy sense. (Bureaucratic rationalization – setting aside humane concerns for stark operational efficiency – is not the same as efficient in terms of resource use.) Capitalism is a system for wasting natural resources, generating pollution, and dispensing inequity, as history has amply shown.

American capitalism is really socialism for the rich. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Any system that values profit over human life is a very dangerous one indeed. ~ American philosopher Suzy Kassem