Capital and Self-Interest
October 12, 2017
It is true that private property ownership does have a ‘spin-off’ being that such properties are generally ‘looked after’ maintained and so what they do and achieve works and continues working. That this continuance transforms into goods and services for others who need them and who are without them. In short, the private property bastion of Capitalism works in an important way: it provides for the peoples of the world’s needs.
Sadly, for many Capitalists this provision of the worlds needs by them is seen as being only incidental and is not seen by them as being the chief end of them being property owners and/or being in business. For the world of Capitalism the bottom line in general is money; in short, if the making and marketing of an item will make the owner of it money, it will be produced (given that the law and local custom allow it).
This profitability test is the prime guiding factor as to whether a goods or service is provided for Capitalists.
(It remains true that in many Capitalist nations The State provides funded by public taxation many of the goods and services Capitalists will not provide and which are important, although not profitable. In this way The State becomes ‘the poor relation’ of the economy in general; is seen, by many persons and by most Capitalists as being a ‘clog’ a ‘drain’ and ‘a liability’ on ‘free’ and further economic activity, by which is meant ‘profitable’ activity.
Thus public services and administration of them by government and The State is coloured as being ‘uneconomical’ ‘inefficient’ and ‘wasteful’; and the claim is often made that private Capital is able to do it better. Which of course it can, under its own terms and conditions, which are in the first place to make profits from doing them; and this we see is often not possible. Without Capitalists imposing great hardships and selective care and services only for the privileged in any nation concerned.
In short The State is always ‘on a hiding to nothing’ in regard to the charges levelled at it by Capitalists that it is a ‘sluggard and ineffective’ in its services administration for its peoples.)
As for the need foremost for making profits -
The floating seas of plastic waste found congregated in oceans here and there around the globe are an excellent case in point. They could be cleared up. The science is there and says that these seas of plastics are not just an eyesore but represent serious ecological and sustainability threats to the globe as a whole and to us and all life forms as its inhabitants. For the smart and slick marketing departments of Capitalism to devise means to have this mess cleared up and disposed of thoughtfully, sensibly, is well within their technical capacities; but since there is ‘no money in it’ there is no thought or care spent on the idea or the work.
Governments likewise do not take any initiative and send out dredgers to haul it up and load it and then dispose of it properly. Firstly, it is Not in Their Back Yard; secondly, they resent bearing the cost alone or when other nations baulk at contributing – a truly Capitalist offence that someone should get the benefit of your work for no contribution to it – no lack of charity here!!??? Thirdly, individual nations plead poverty; even the richest say ‘there is no money for it’ when there is money to provide untold luxury as an everyday norm to many of its peoples; fourthly there is the hypocrisy which, in Capitalist and in State government circles alike, makes noises and takes offence and deprecates such plastics seas and their existence, but there is zero, zilch, effort other than in thin wimpy words made to do something about it.
Of course the oceans and their seas of plastics are everyone’s problem and so in effect have become no-one’s task. We are all happy to bear a shared responsibility for the damage these seas of waste do; the richer nations to disown the territories they are floating in; the poorer nations to castigate the richer for their (continued, continuous) productions of so much waste and their reluctance to take ownership of the problem. And life goes on, everyone in fact pretty blasé about the plastics, as our Lord said;
“As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking,marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark. And they were oblivious, until the flood came and swept them all away. So will be the coming of the Son of Man.…”
We likewise are oblivious, and if it were that such man-made problems as the seas of plastics were to suddenly reach a critical mass for the planet and for our survival, and come upon us like Noah’s Flood is said to have come upon the antediluvians, would it be any different to the gist of the words of Jesus in effect? He had us right to a tee; ‘he knew men, and knew what was in men’ and so he was ‘no respecter of persons’ (look this phrase up – it is not self-evident what it means in fact to modern sensibilities).
Here in this single example of the world’s seas of plastic wastes do we have on display everything almost which is wrong with Capitalism and the way we live to earn and spend right now.
This splitting of hairs about whose responsibility the good continuance of earth’s ecosystems and of healthy life is, is a haggle which nation states engage in and which Capitalists just shun as their own mess in someone else’s back yards, even often messes made directly in their own yards, yet even so Capital refuses to spend money to make good the disasters it creates systematically and intentionally in order for it to continue to do business and so ‘win’ profits.
Their default bargaining position, when they are confronted, is ever that:
a. No-one, no nation or people, should benefit ‘scot-free’ from any ‘communal’ work done by another State
b. Everyone, all States, must pay their ways and contribute a share
c. The problem is a shared global problem to be tackled
In this way a recipe for ‘doing nothing’ is effectually created. There is always too much to disagree on embedded in the haggles raised by this default position; and one suspects things are disagreed upon in bad faith very often, with every intent to shun the responsibility of consequences of this Capitalist economic system and of the peoples running them; consequences which have led to our messes pervading almost everywhere. And in further bad faith hagglers blame one another for there having been ‘no progress’ and everyone haggling then goes home happy, because the problems having been aired in this deliberately ineffectual manner means that the peoples of the world will be palliated a little and tell themselves ‘well we tried’. And the issue is put back another few years to be broached again; meanwhile the seas of plastics are blooming into oceans of plastics etc etc.
Notice that all these arguments being used as to WHY a party ought NOT to go it alone and clean up the act of Capital, all are founded utterly on a sense of property right. Not all ours the plastic – not in our territories the plastic – not enough money to do it – not going to pay more than I should – and so on.
At bottom it boils down to peoples and their governments and the Capitalists not being willing to pay the full costs for the sourcing of resources, their manufacture into goods and services, and then their marketing and consumption and any waste disposal thereafter. Instead the earth and its ecosystems and life forms, its aesthetic beauty and its sacrosanct Divine bounty, bear this disacknowledged unpalatable but just and right cost which we as its perpetrators are obliged by every argument to bear upon ourselves.
Thus we are all delinquent. Each one of us is that guy who climbs a scaffold at night on a newly erected and beautiful building and daubs it with ugly self-adulational graffiti “because he can do as he likes, regardless” and because ‘he won’t be found out anyway’. We are all that guy who pours the can of surplus paint down a public drain once he's painted his house; instead of him taking it to be properly sorted - and usually for a fee. We are all that guy who draws up his tipper truck behind a building site at night and fly-tips his rubbish there to avoid a fee at the Corporation tip.
We are little different. We continue to consume and to accept the ubiquitous use of plastics in packagings for instance; when we know what is going on and we are free to object. We acquiesce, even condone sometimes. There is a breed of person, ultra-modern post-modernist intellectuals normally, who have not drunk deeply enough at the Peieran Spring, and who have decided to just 'enjoy the earth while it lasts' and to cock a snook to future generations. Sort of joy in dismay and failure people.
Are we able to say, then, were a catastrophe to happen in recent future time and related directly to the derelictions we have gladly embraced in our pursuit of wealth and greater personal property; all the seas of plastics; all the melting tundras; all the soaring temperatures and the vicious storms; all the loss of species; all the running out of basic resources; all the rivers and air pollutions; haze clouds; the poisons in them; and much much more; are we able to say that we had been badly done by and received what we had not sown to seeds of, and that life is unfair and nature cruel etc etc?
Would it not be a case of:
“with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”?
But let’s have the whole passage this word is taken from; the whole context of it gives us a better and a proper perspective upon which to live:
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you……
Jesus also adds that:
if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.
Is this not the right spirit; the only spirit, The Holy Spirit, in which we ourselves, and our would-be leaders; their governments; our Nation States; all without exception; ought to dwell on and so dwell in; one which in every practical and well as in every loving way is The Solution: The Solution to oceans of plastics and to the host of other dreadful messes and wastes men and women have foisted on their own back yards for the sake of what they think is good to have come out of it; The Solution to property and locational arguments and haggles preventing a shared common and generous to others full blooded remedial response; The Solution to our utter alienation from proper and real empathy with the natural world, from The Lord God, and from a sense of his bounty and graciousness, from his Son; from ourselves and from our own best interests; and this primarily is alienation from us putting The Lord God first and our neighbour right up there next to Him?