People today claim that we are now a nation without morals. A nation not only without morals but utterly lacking in ethics, principles, pride, shame, or standards. That is not true. We are not lacking in any of those, we have merely replaced the ones we once had with new ones. In place of communal values, in place of religious values, those sort of values passed down to us from generation to generation, we now have capitalist values. They are what Jack London referred to as pig-ethics, an ethical code that dictates that whatever pig can eat the most from the trough is the winner.
Let’s strip it of all makeup and finery, let’s remove the lipstick from the pig. Pure and simple, they are the ethics of the capitalists. It is the ethics of profit über alles. It justifies everything in the name of making money, opposes all values that stand in the way of profit. There is no human interaction they do not wish to make a financial transaction where someone can profit. Letting you hold your child after he or she is delivered? There’s a charge for that.
That’s why the common well has been replaced with bottled water. It is why women fifty years ago were urged to use formula rather than breast-feed. It is why marijuana is illegal while pharmaceutical companies rush to make synthetic equivalents.
The idolatry of capitalism—idolatry, it is the most accurate word I can think of to describe our relationship to capitalism—states that anything is justifiable if it was done in the pursuit of profit. Evict an old woman from her home? Hey, she was standing in the way of a business deal. Deprive health care to a child? Look, if we didn’t, the whole system would break down.
We believe that it is only under this ideology that industry can prosper. It is only by this ideology that spirituality can remain unpolluted by do-gooders and well-wishers. Not only do we need to believe in capitalism, we need to believe in it unconditionally. We need to strip from it any other consideration in the same way Hitler wished to strip from the German bloodline any traces of impurity. This will be the surest way of preserving our environment and our natural resources. It is the answer for everything.
Why do we think this way? Because capitalism is not merely an economic system, it is a values system. We cannot be capitalists without accepting the values of capitalism. They seep into our religious ideals, they affect our art, they even affect family life. We live in a society where both parents work away from their children and expect people to raise them for money. We expect commercial television to amuse them but instead it indoctrinates them into being good consumers. We are unable to give them the time and attention we know they need and so instead we buy for them the things television is telling them they need.
Take a look at look at Donald Trump as the perfect example of capitalist principles in their purest form. He is a success because he has money. There is no other reason for calling him a success. Absent money or the ability to create money from business transactions, what does he add to humanity? Does he expand human understanding? Does he do good for the environment or contribute to the arts? There is no other reason why people would invite him to party let alone consider him worthy of the presidency. In every way he personifies the crude values corporate television displays for us. People, especially females, are commoditized, their value measured in the same manner of a cut of meat in the butcher’s window.
Not only does capitalism not factor in human values, it doesn’t even factor in human beings. So long as a person does not have money, he does not exist. Democracy is based on the idea of one vote per person but capitalism states that we vote with our money. And if we have none, well I guess we’re not allowed into the voting booth.
Capital doesn’t mind if a person is replaced by a machine. If the job can be done more cheaply, so much the better. Capital doesn’t care if all people are replaced by machines while billions starve outside the artificial environment of supply and demand. Machines, after all, are much more reliable than people, much more suited to the system capitalism demands. Capital doesn’t care if it is funneled into the hands of a few wealthy individuals, doesn’t care if machines are used or if people are turned into machines. Humans have no more implicit value than animals do in a capitalist system, and a quick glance of a slaughterhouse video on YouTube will give you some indication of how much animals are valued. In fact, people are worth less than animals in a capitalist system because nobody is willing to pay money for chopped up people the way they do ground beef. Only the unborn have value, and that for their stem cells.
The mineral worth of the human body is approximately $1. That, to capitalism, is the value inherent in a human life. Beyond that a person must either have capital or be capable of producing capital for someone else. If one has capital, he is therefore a part of the system even if he does nothing good for anyone else. If one has capital, he is admired, even if his insatiable need for more disproportionately uses and poisons the limited resources of our planet.
Will capitalism and the free market have a part to play in the world to come? That is not the question we should be asking. The question is, if only the values and interests of the free market are given voice and power—and that is increasingly becoming the case—will we even have a future at all? If the health of our economy is measured by how much fuel we burn up and by how much we are able to consume, what kind of future are we headed toward?