Would you want your child to grow up to be a capitalist? “Fast foods, fast cars, fast life”, as Eduardo Galeano said. “From birth rich kids are trained for consumption and speed.”
Not surprisingly, psychologists have found that psychopathic behaviour is more prevalent in the ranks of the captains of industry; the hallmarks include egocentric, grandiose behaviour and a complete lack of empathy and conscience. Capitalism treats rich kids like money and trains them to act likewise.
As for the half of the world’s kids who live in abject poverty, they’re more akin to garbage. Somewhere in a city centre, these kids are starting their day polishing someone’s shoes.
Those kids in the middle have to surrender the magic of childhood: glued to their textbooks by day and their playstations by night; trained to perform the management functions of capitalism and live their lives through consumption. As Marx wrote, all their “physical and intellectual senses [are] replaced by the simple alienation of all these senses: the sense of having”.
All this takes some work immunising kids against curiosity and shielding them from facts. What would kids grow up to think and do if they knew that every day somewhere outside their line of vision thousands of children were dying of poverty, or that their own career choices were reduced to selling their capacity to labour or exploiting someone else’s.
If none of this is what you had in mind for your children, best start schooling them in anti-capitalism.
This is the world we live in: vast and growing inequalities, systematic oppression, fake democracies and human aspirations reduced to consumption.
Capitalism takes the products of our labour from us. We have barely anything we can really call our own. Almost everything we make with our own hands and minds is expropriated. Our possessions are things someone else made, probably in a factory with no lunch breaks. Capitalism separates us as producers from the “means of production”; from the tools, factories, offices and raw materials that produce what we eat, wear and play with.
Capitalism concentrates these means of production in the hands of a small minority class: the capitalists. According to Forbes magazine’s latest list of super rich capitalists, in 2013 the 400 wealthiest people in the US owned a record $2 trillion. As one of the early intellectuals of capitalism, Adam Smith, once said, “Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor.” Today the richest 1,000 capitalists in the world have twice as much wealth as the poorest 2.5 billion people.
Capitalism is driven by competition. This is the nature of every market economy: sellers competing with sellers, buyers competing with buyers, sellers and buyers competing with each other. Capitalism has created the unlimited market. This is not about invention, often disingenuously associated with the capitalist market; it is about what is usually called innovation, the articulation of new “needs”, new products and methods that can be sold in the market.
Capitalism creates potentially endless new “needs”. A new parent, for example, “needs” disposable nappies, baby formula, body wash, baby lotions, baby toys, baby towels etc. It’s a wonder babies ever survived before capitalism came along.
Competition is the lifeblood of capitalism and the capitalist entrepreneur its agent. To stay on top, capitalists need to reduce the costs of production and expand sales. Some of this is achieved by the age-old methods of the powerful: slashing workers’ remuneration and increasing prices by deceit.
More fundamentally, however, competition forces capitalist firms to increase the productivity of labour, expanding mechanisation and constantly reinforcing work regimes.
Not all the capitalists win out. Last year in Australia, for example, 9,178 companies went broke. On average, one in four small businesses fail in their first year. Capitalism tends to monopoly. The larger firms progressively eat up the smaller ones, using their capital to expand and take over more and more of the market. This in turn leads to monopoly pricing, as in groceries in Australia, where a duopoly has increased prices by over 40 percent in the last decade.
The logic of competition necessitates centralised management and growing authoritarian and anti-democratic measures. The big firm needs the big state. Authoritarianism grows into and through all aspects of life: at work, at school and even in our leisure, where a growing culture of fear is promoted to support laws that limit public space and expression. Surveillance replaces community ties and shared responsibility; control replaces questioning.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Capitalism feeds off our labour; it relies on the vast majority of the world’s population to keep working. The workers of the world have the collective power to change things.
We have the cooperative capacity to organise against the system and the creative potential to build another type of world. Daily we are engaged in the running and organisation of all production and services but denied any decision making about the fruits of our labour.
It’s not just about teaching our kids to dream of a better world. That’s important but insufficient. As Anne Frank once said: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
A life of constructive, collective and organised rebellion is the best career choice you could encourage for your kids.