This is an evolving EBook, updated regularly to reflect recent developments in our understanding of capitalism and its exponentially growing impact on the social and natural environments which have sustained humanity through the past 10,000 years.
Minor revisions/additions occur regularly as new relevant studies appear and are integrated into the text - often as footnotes.
All versions are regularly updated to reflect these changes.
It is said that the aphorism 'Know Yourself' was inscribed in
the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Finding out who we are can be
an unsettling experience.
Not only do human beings gild memories of experiences in their
own lifetimes, they are extremely adept at reinventing those of their historical
past. It can be an educative experience to strip away what the French
philosopher Voltaire called the 'fable upon which we are all agreed'.
It's time we, living in capitalist countries, got ourselves into
Over the past three centuries, people living in Western
(capitalist) countries have increasingly imposed their understanding of reality
on others. Now, they are becoming aware of a growing antipathy toward 'The West'
around the world. Henry Hyde's view of the problems facing Western countries is
Let us begin by accepting there is no single enemy to be
defeated, no one network to be eliminated. Al-Qa'eda is but our most prominent
opponent, but its outlook is shared by many others who are equally committed to
our destruction… we know now that we have permanent, mortal enemies who will
seize upon our vulnerabilities to bloody us, to murder our citizens, to commit
horror for the purpose of forcing horror upon us… (US House of
Representatives Committee on International Relations October 3 2001)
For the past decade the West has confronted what it perceives as
a growing 'climate of terror' around the world. While estimates vary, it is
reasonable to say that thousands of lives have been lost and billions of dollars
have been spent in pursuing, capturing and killing those deemed a threat to the
security of Western nations.
It is time to take stock. Before continuing to pursue phantoms
and shoot at shadows (and, in the process, alienate thousands caught in the
crossfire) we need to understand what is producing this apparently burgeoning
antipathy toward Western capitalist countries.
Junk Drawer fillers, Trinkets, Collectibles,
Fantasy, Resignation, Betrayal and Déjà Vu
Once again, it’s the week before Christmas. This is the time
when we, in the West, get ourselves into a festive mood; it's "Ho, Ho, Ho, and
Merry Christmas to you all!".
But we won't look too closely, or our tinsel brightened
surroundings will lose their glitter; the despair of those who have found it all
too much to bear will seep through and ruin our celebrations; we will see the
reality, rather than the fantasy which we all so desperately want to be real.
So, what is that reality which we want to conjure up this
Is it the reality of the apostle Paul?
… the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but
of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
… We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak
and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their
good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is
written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Romans
Chapters 14, 15)
Or is it a superficial time-out when we can be jolly without the
ongoing commitment which Paul's vision would require?
We all know which reality this festive season is about!
I couldn’t possibly enjoy my lifestyle without modern equipment.
I live in a very privileged time. I’m not anti-capitalist, how could I be? I
live in a capitalist world and I depend on the products of capitalist
But, I know that we, as relatively intelligent beings, have a
responsibility not only to enjoy life, but also to tailor our institutions and
activities to ensure the greatest good for all; to enhance human welfare
How appropriate for our times is the observation, made more than
2500 years ago and reiterated by humanity’s sages throughout history:
How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather
Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to
share plunder with the proud. (The Proverbs (16: 16, 19))
It would be truly delinquent to abdicate responsibility for our
futures to those who have hijacked them; who have placed self-interested greed
before human welfare and loudly insist that we are all better off for this.
We have a responsibility to mitigate the social and
environmental consequences of the often antisocially driven predilections of a
few real-world Scrooge McDucks who have plundered our communities and our
environments for their private benefit.
It is not anti-capitalist to question the status quo. It is not
‘socialist’ to suggest that obscene accumulations of ‘wealth’ should be recycled
back into the real-world economy of productive enterprise and social wellbeing;
whatever might be claimed by those intent on protecting and ‘growing’ their
But, I know that they already hold the high ground. They already
control the opinion-shaping apparatuses of capitalism.
There is little or no scientifically valid data to support the
claim that the wellbeing of the real economy and the social welfare of people
requires that those who accumulate wealth should be able to keep it – as much as
both the ideologically driven and wealth accumulators of the world might want us
to accept this. Most of that accumulated wealth becomes trapped in vortex
On the contrary, there is a great deal of scientifically
validated evidence that, as Iglesias and de Almeida (2012, p. 85) put it, normal
market exchange activity results in a concentration of wealth in very few
…the system converges to a very unequal condensed state, where
one or a few agents concentrate all the wealth of the society while the wide
majority of agents shares zero or almost zero fraction of the wealth.
… in the low and middle income classes the process of wealth
accumulation is additive (and mainly due to wages), causing a Gaussian-like
distribution, while in the high income range, wealth grows in a multiplicative
way, generating the observed power law tail.
… a frequent outcome in these models is condensation, i.e.
concentration of all available wealth in just one or a few agents. This final
state corresponds to a kind of equipartition of poverty: all agents (except for
a set of zero measure) possess zero wealth while one, or a few ones, concentrate
all available resources.
The system on which we rely for our well-being can only deliver
a better quality of life for all if it is tailored to that end. Clearly, we need
capitalism; but we need it shaped to the long-term benefit of all.
Let’s Stop Blaming Our Victims!
It really is time to ensure the well-being of all, not merely
the absurd wealth of a few at the expense of the rest. As the US President
Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a Message To Congress Reviewing The Broad Objectives
And Accomplishments Of The Administration. June 8, 1934 explained during the
1930s ‘Great Depression’:
These three great objectives: the security of the home, the
security of livelihood, and the security of social insurance–are, it seems to
me, a minimum of the promise that we can offer to the American people.
Capitalism: Sovereign Debt, Quantitative Easing (QE) and the
Where Has All the Money Gone?
Winter has come; the last leaves have blown from the
deciduous trees; their bare branches are silhouetted against a threatening,
grey sky. There is a chill wind blowing squalls across the property. The chores
are done, it’s time to go inside, stoke up the fire and… ?
So here I am, sitting at my desk, trying to find a reason not to
succumb to the common early winter depression to which human beings so easily
fall prey. And this year that is not as easy as usual.
In the simplistic models to which too many politicians and
economists are addicted, pumping money into the economy through financial
institutions should result in increased lending at cheaper interest rates. This
should stimulate both consumption and productive enterprise. That increased
activity should result in:
consequent reductions in unemployment rates,
generation of new wealth, itself recycling into the
resulting in ‘a take-off into self-sustained economic
and consequent communal and individual
It sounds so logical – inevitable even! Yet, it hasn’t happened!
Here we are, half way through 2012, and unemployment levels
in Western countries have grown, not shrunk. Investment has stalled. There
are increasing numbers of destitute people thronging the highways and byways of
our cities – and even our country towns.
Nations are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and banks are
still under threat! And all this was supposed to have been prevented by the wide
range of ‘stimulus packages’ devised by our brightest economists and implemented
by compliant governments. What on earth has gone wrong?
Capitalism: global restructuring, sovereign debt, benign
bloc politics, safety nets
and New Year’s resolutions
Let’s face it, we’ve lost control. Unregulated internationalized
capitalism is in the driving seat, and it is demanding that countries,
communities and individuals subordinate themselves to its needs and
As countries find themselves with unmanageable sovereign debt,
they are being subjected to ‘structural adjustment’ to make them more
accountable – and vulnerable – to an internationalized capitalism which has
gained the whip hand.
It now demands that we accept our lot; that we reduce our lives
and our vision to its horizons; that we accept that we are nothing more than a
malleable, expendable ‘workforce’ for its activities and a ‘consumer base’ for
As this happens, you and I are similarly being ‘adjusted’ to the
requirements of an unregulated capitalist world.
It’s time to take back control of our communities and our
individual lives. It’s time to make capitalism the servant and not the master of
countries, communities and individuals.
Capitalism, Renewable Energy, Ennui and the Fabled Ostrich:
This is as good as it gets!
Bill Geddes 12th November 2011
We have reached the high water mark in our responses to climate
change in Western countries.
Bold initiatives, contemplated over the past several years, such
subsidies to encourage the deployment of solar panels
on house roof tops;
schemes aimed at making green house gas emissions
costly, or at least of building the cost of emissions into production costings;
a range of re-forestation, biochar and similar
programs to sequester carbon;
A range of CO2 ‘Capture and Storage’
are now in retreat.
In Western countries, politicians who clearly disbelieve and
dismiss the reality of climate change; who assume that claims of environmental
damage resulting from capitalist activity are ‘socialist’ conspiracies, are
winning political office. As they do, the first tentative advances made by their
predecessors are being dismantled.
9/11 and the nature of capitalism: “The once-distant
prospect of terrorism has become an inescapable reality”
Bill Geddes 18th September 2011
It is now 10 years since the events of 9/11, but the date and
the events remain fresh in the minds of Western people everywhere.
Another year has passed and, once again, we have remembered the
tragedy of September 11th 2001. But, this should not just be a time
to remember the dead, it should also be a time of serious reflection
The late Henry Hyde, then chairman of the U. S. Committee on
International Relations, explained its consequences clearly:
With the September 11 attacks on the United States, the
once-distant prospect of terrorism has become an inescapable reality for all
Americans. The impact of this assault is greater than the tally of physical
destruction, greater even than the tragic loss of life. The images forced into
our lives are permanent ones.
The realization that human beings are capable of performing such
deeds forces us to accept that evil still exists among us, especially in our
modern era when many had hoped it might be abolished altogether…
But what does this mean?
Are we now to live in permanent fear in our own country
and adopt a defensive crouch as part of our national character?
Do we remake our country and communities into
Must we sacrifice our entire foreign policy agenda in
order to address this suddenly urgent problem?
Events, since that day, demonstrate the truth of Henry Hyde’s
The realization that human beings are capable of performing such
deeds forces us to accept that evil still exists among us…
Our response to the tragedy compels us to ask those questions
Do we now live in permanent fear in our own countries?
Have we adopted a defensive crouch as part of our
Have we remade our countries and communities into
Have we sacrificed our foreign policy agenda in order
to address what has become a perennially urgent problem?
Have we, in responding to the perceived terrorist
threats of the past ten years,
forfeited our freedoms,
and created hidden, poorly regulated institutions to root out
both real and imagined threats in our own countries and communities?
Have we trampled on the rights and freedoms of other
countries and communities in our determination to protect ourselves from new
assaults (whether real or imagined), not only to intercept and frustrate them,
but to eliminate new threats at their source?
If the answer to any or all of these is ‘Yes’ then we have
headed down a dangerous path.
Henry Hyde’s vision of the future might well be mild compared to
that which we will bequeath our children and their descendants.
Capitalism and parables: It's all about gardening!
Bill Geddes 17th July 2011
Look around you - wherever you live - and you will see the
result of uncontrolled capitalism. It is rampant. It has out-competed all other
forms of material need and want provision and, in the process, has choked
communities and fouled environments.
Thoroughly regulated and subordinated to the requirements of
communities, it can be a positive, very effective means of material need and
want provision. Unregulated and internationalized, it rapidly grows into a
rampant ecological and social disaster.
There are thousands of web sites focussing on the issues dealt
with in these blog entries. Many of them present very well reasoned,
informative, insightful and interesting material.
The overwhelming consensus from these sites is that unregulated
capitalism, driven by snowballing consumerism, is propelling humanity toward a
precipice. The ravine is deep and the species may barely survive the plunge.
Yet, those involved in capitalist enterprise and in consuming its products and
services are accelerating down that dead-end road as though it was an unlimited
expressway to utopia.
Are we blind? Do we believe ourselves indestructible? Do we
believe that before we get there something or someone will provide us with a
bridge over the ravine?
It seems that our ideologies, beliefs and prejudices lead many
of us to disbelieve and dismiss the thousands of clearly reasoned, well
researched and documented explanations.
Perhaps we are suicidal.
Many of those who have arrogated the right to filter and
interpret what is presented to us as 'news' and 'informed commentary' urge us to
ignore the warning signs – "No Through Road" and "Ravine Ahead".
Whatever the cause, the consequence is clear. We now live on a
grossly over-exploited planet, with a rapidly deteriorating biosphere. We are,
to change the metaphor and put it bluntly, defecating in both our own and other
communities' and species' nests.
Globalized, deregulated capitalist organizations continue to
exploit the planet's resources at an accelerating pace. Well-meaning,
often-concerned, Western people (and those who emulate their lifestyles)
continue to expand their needs and wants, accumulating increasing quantities of
marginally useful goods and consuming ever-more unnecessary goods and services.