Capitalism has empowered the United States economy to yield the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of any other nation and has provided jobs for hundreds of millions of people while serving as a symbol of a free-market economy and democracy. This mode of production is the reason why America is the powerful nation it is today and why America has accumulated the largest immigrant population in the world, with the infamous saying, “The American Dream” existing as a beacon of hope, possibility, and achievement for each and every citizen for the past century. However, that prosperous time is nearing an end, with an overpopulated society of 328 million people, new media affecting public discourse and perception of issues, and a nation-wide pandemic emphasizing our systems weaknesses and flaws, America is as polarized as ever while it’s system has failed to adapt to imminent and present issues that the people have to deal with everyday. It is not just me who thinks this, as 75% of the 24 participants I surveyed disagreed with the statement “America’s capitalistic society is the most effective and fair mode of production, benefitting the lives of each citizen.” And additionally, of the 24 participants, 15 said yes to the following statement while 8 said they can’t speak for everyone who came to protest, the statement is as follows: During the BLM protests and recent riots/looting’s/civil unrest in June and July across our nation, while of course symbolizing the importance of equity among races, the demand for justice, the fight against white supremacy and privilege, and the solidarity behind the Black Lives Matter movement, do you think there are additional underlying factors such as the government’s response to issues like COVID-19, unemployment, rent, mass shootings, education, healthcare, and or climate change?
Issues such as overpopulation, pollution and our dependence on fossil fuels, cybersecurity, healthcare, education, gun violence, homelessness and mental health, rent and evictions, racism, conglomerations and lobbyists affecting our elections and what we perceive in the media, and extreme technological advances by companies that outpace legislation and in turn, hurt and manipulate the public, just to remain brief, are all present in our contemporary society. All of these problems, with a lack of assistance and leadership from our current administration, with an overwhelming saturated media that has resulted from postmodernity which utilizes forms of “yellow journalism,” including techniques like misleading headlines and sensationalism to influence the public and further their main goal of viewership, are all direct causes for our nation’s history and current state of severe polarization between the people and symptoms from an impotent mode of production.
My goal for this article is not to list and complain about every single symptom caused by capitalism but to focus my argument on two main reasons of why change is necessary, to show how flawed our capitalistic structure is, and to advocate for solutions such as the theory of Universal Basic Income and a system similar to human-centralized capitalism where the incentive is concentrated on the well-being of every citizen no matter race, gender, or sexuality in hopes to tackle, acknowledge, and fix these symptoms. I am aware that this idea is progressive and some may be thinking that this system is unrealistic, hopeful, or even resembles a socialist agenda, a system the US government has made sure to criticize. However I argue that some of us live in a false consciousness, that we are born in a reality we believe can not change and or is fixed. I see everyday my fellow citizens asking, yelling, begging for change, a more equal and equitable future, a safer and cleaner environment, when all of these issues directly oppose our current system of profit maximization and powerful owners and lobbyists, all while disrupting our major democratic principle of representing the majority of the people while our system instead represents the agendas of the minority of the rich, investment class, dare I say the bourgeoisie.
A major reason for why change is necessary results from the rapid growth of technological advancement in the 21st century. AI and the automation of jobs existing in our economy is a result of a capitalistic system that optimizes efficiency over human well-being and I discovered through my original data that out of 24 participants, 33.3333% were unaware of this. The automation of self-driving trucks, public transportation, factory and retail jobs are steadily increasing and remaining the incentive for many major companies as this switch not only minimizes the danger of road accidents and death but more importantly, can save companies a cumulative $168 billion dollars per year. Additionally, 25% of malls are closing by 2022 and with that hundreds of thousands of retail jobs that Americans depend on. These are issues that are not being discussed politically because of the influx of other major problems within our country, but will cause mass layoffs. On top of this, already 40.8 million American citizens in the last 10 weeks have claimed unemployment. That is even discounting that the US consumer debt has piled up to an unfathomable number of $14 trillion dollars in debt due to home, auto, student loans, and credit cards. One might ask, how is a country leading the world in the yield of GDP while 61% of the nations citizens could not afford a $1,000 blow to their savings if, hypothetically speaking of course, an emergency like a world-wide pandemic was to occur? I would say that the main, rooted cause for this alarming data is the incentive that our capitalistic system employs;maximum efficiency and the endless expansion of growth no matter how many citizens suffer in its wake.
An idea to combat the grim looking future and ease our country into a future of automation is Universal Basic Income. This is a potential policy that would treat each citizen like a shareholder of a company and would fulfill the basic means of survival. The government would pay for this through current welfare and disability programs, as you would either choose one or the other. There would be a tax on top-earners and polluters and additionally would be funded by the projected $800 dollars in revenue from the intended economic growth. Some people may say this program would mitigate the desire to work and damage the economy but Yang would say “many current welfare programs take away benefits when recipients find work, sometimes leaving them financially worse off than before they were employed. UBI is for all adults, regardless of employment status, so recipients are free to seek additional income, which most everyone does.” His quote is evidence-based because he modeled it on Alaska’s current UBI program which “had no effect on employment, and increased part-time work by 1.8 percentage points.”
I previously mentioned that it is capitalism’s incentives that need to change in order for prior discussed symptoms to be relieved, as the current market ignores valued activities and experiences essential to human nature. Examples would include parenting children and caring for loved ones, community service, nurturing the environment, arts and creativity, and much more! A market that exists and combines innovation and human livelihood. Where a nation’s collective goals, values, and issues are directed as potential investments and capital. A system where our brightest students at top-ranked universities don’t settle for a high-income finance and banking job. Instead, they are incentivised to, for example, find solutions for climate change or figure out how cities can minimize waste, something positive for the betterment of our society. A book that I read, “The War on Normal People” by Andrew Yang presents interesting innovations that illustrate what exactly I mean and what exactly our society is capable of with our current technology.
“Imagine an AI life coach with the voice of Oprah or Tom Hanks trying to help parents stay together or raise kids. Or a new Legionof Builders and Demolishers that install millions of solar panels across the country, upgrade our infrastructure and remove derelict buildings while also employing tens of thousands of workers. Or a digital personalized education subscriptionthat is constantly giving you new material and grouping you with a few other people who are studying the same thing. Or a wearable device that monitors your vital signs and sends data to your doctor while recommending occasional behavior changes. Or voting securely in your local elections via your smartphone without any worry of fraud.”
If not evident yet, our country has many systematic flaws in our government and our mode of production with the outcome resulting in inequality, unnecessary death, homelessness, unemployment, poverty, and the financial gain and enormous accumulation of wealth from individuals that, in my eyes, don’t need that much. What is one to do with $100 billion dollars? Provide enough wealth for your ancestors for the next one thousand years? It won’t help if society is crumbling and our environment is destroyed. Moving forward, I am not saying we should burn it all to the ground and rebuild. But in order to deal with issues like [insert literally any issue or policy you are passionate about] we must restructure our current system to benefit and optimize our well-being and to fix our most relevant and pressing problems. Because right now, none of these issues will resolve under this administration or structure as change comes from power. We must remain competitive regarding fundamental human obstacles not with other powerful nations. We must act first and lead the world down the right path and incentivise ways to improve our communities and health while dealing with overpopulation and the imminent carrying capacity issue the human race will face most likely in this century. Cooperation will be key as Yorick Blumefeld once stated, “the struggle for human survival will most likely be determined not by the fittest but by those most capable of cooperation.”
I will leave the reader with this. History has provided us numerous examples of our ancestors fighting for what is right and demanding social change while creating a ginormous cultural shift. The American civil war was a prime example and embodiment of this. I bet a lot of individuals could not imagine life without slaves, as it was the largest aspect of the economy back then. I found that out of the 24 individuals who partook in my survey, 54% stated that they believe in our lifetime a transition could occur from America’s current capitalistic system towards a different mode of production. Cultural change takes gradual time and I can see that some of us are ready for the next stage of human evolution and society. But sometimes you have to fight for it.