Thursday, October 25, 2012

American Meta

American capitalism is genius because it solved the eternal paradox that almost all societies endured: how do the few individuals at the top get away with holding all the power and wealth while inequality stares at everyone in the face? Many societies turned to religion: American slaves were told to listen to their white slaveowners as the slaves would obey Jesus.  Children chimney sweepers during the Industrial Revolution were told stories of their ascendancy into heaven if they just be good little boys and listen to their boss.  Manifest destiny.  Heavenly mandate.  The list goes on.  But these solutions proved temporary: eventually people started asking questions and demanded proof.  Religion just could not stand up to scrutiny.

In comes capitalism to sidestep the problem completely--the answer is within the name.  What is the goal of individuals living in capitalist societies?  It is to achieve the status of a capitalist: someone who no longer has to work (sell his labor) because he has capital to lend or invest, gaining income from coupons, dividends, and capital gains.  To be sure, this is not an absolute as many people are motivated by other things than money, but it is irrefutable that 1. Capitalists require capital and 2. The vast majority would love to live the life of a capitalist.

So now we don't need justification to keep one group of people on top of everyone else.  Anybody can get up there with some hard work, lots of education, and positive attitude.  We even bundled it up, marketed it, and sold it like true capitalists, calling it the American Dream.  Immigrants are thrilled to be maids cleaning toilets because if they can save enough money to put their children through school, they can one day become capitalists who have their own maids.  Why get mad at the people at the top if you can join them one day?  Voila, problem solved.  You mad Karl Marx?