One of the frequent threads that run through emails found in my inbox, is the expressed desire to “change the system”. Capitalism isn’t working, so why can’t we find something better?
For many years this was my own view. The idea of a relative few, privileged, people holding all the wealth and power is anathema to any sane individual, and a system that allows it to happen is surely one to be turfed out with alacrity?
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to devise an alternative that would work. Communism, the great theory of equality of the masses, has been introduced in various guises, all of which have either eventually failed, or gradually metamorphosed into some form of dictatorial powerbase, with the most ruthless holding all the cards, and the money.
The reason no fair financial system can be devised is actually quite simple once one realizes the fault is not with the system, any system, but with those who use it, namely ourselves.
The species, Homo sapiens, for whom all financial systems on the planet are devised, have an inherent defect that prevents any system designed to provide equality for all, from functioning efficiently.
It’s called greed.
We tend to regard greed as a vice – indeed, it’s religiously immortalized as one of those seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride, that the early Christian fathers were so keen to remind us of while themselves indulging the vices to excess – but that doesn’t stop us from acquiring material wealth at every opportunity. The problem for Homo sapiens is that we can’t all acquire it uniformly.
Competition rears its ugly – or, perhaps, reptilian – head almost from the moment we’re born. Nowhere is this more patently obvious, of course, than in the land that lauds competitive capitalism as its greatest triumph – if you ignore the atomic bomb.
Americans prize winning more than anything else. One only has to watch TV during the Olympic Games to understand this, or feel the gut-wrenching misery of the sports commentator when a famous baseball, or football, player is discovered using steroids. The competitive edge is the engine that drives the American Dream, opening up the road that eventually will allow a tiny minority to reach the very tip of the wealth pyramid that is modern day American capitalism.
In fact, to call it ‘American capitalism’ is misleading. Like a disease, it has spread unchecked around the world, and is now more accurately described as ‘International capitalism’.
Even if a new system could be devised that was foolproof and would ensure a fairer, and more efficient, means of distributing wealth, Homo sapiens would be incapable of making it work.
We might stand a chance if we had God on our side. Creationism and intelligent design, were they true, would simply allow us to ask God to revoke the damnation placed upon us by the harlot, Eve, for daring to eat a forbidden apple, and lo, our vices would be removed, allowing us all to live in financial fraternity for evermore.
Unfortunately, Darwin has the edge when it comes to evidence of our origins, and anyone foolish enough to try and argue that point here will find themselves on dodgy ground.
Our reptilian brains evolved with one primary function – to assist survival, not just against other species, but in competition with our own. Natural selection may have been a theory of Darwin’s, but science – that’s the discipline that doesn’t rely solely on one not-so-very-old and rather dubious book for all its facts – has now determined it to be far more than just a concept.
We are the product of millions of years of evolution, whatever William Jennings Bryan may have believed back in 1926 (Scopes trial), or Ted Haggard preached (until recently) at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs.
We are hard-wired to individually survive. It’s those primitive and deeply-entrenched instincts that drive the greed and avarice responsible for corrupting the systems we set in place to run our societies efficiently, whether they be capitalism, communism, or any point in between.
At this stage in our civilization, attempting to ‘change the system’ appears a hideously complex challenge, and it would seem there’s little point until we change ourselves.
And that is much, much, more difficult.
Filed under: Blame the dinosaurs