A People’s History of Capitalism

I understand and appreciate that modern society is organized in such a way that the use of money is still essential to the ability to have one’s basic needs met. I also believe that over the next several generations we may be able to come to our senses and realize how unevolved the idea of money is.

The idea for this essay comes from my recent foray into reading Napoleon Hill’s classic business and self-empowerment book, “Think and Grow Rich.”

It’s a book, certainly, with no lack of out-dated ideas about how “growing rich” an intrinsic part of the ego-driven American Dream, is good.

But what I was surprised to learn is that the book also has a fair amount of vision about how to align one’s thoughts behind one’s desires to create the life you want. And that sounds quite like Abraha Hicks and The Secret. Fascinating. For more on that topic, read my previous post, “Think and Grow Happy.”

This essay will cover some of my basic ideas about how capitalism is run amok in the world today, but at its core, not inherently evil. Though, we can certainly survive without it.

“A People’s History of Capitalism” by Tom Tortorich

These ideas have been rattling around in my head for a while. Back in 2008, right around the “Great Recession,” I was, ironically, working as a web designer for the financial services industry. And I was so staunchly against capitalism at the time that I wrote and published a book called “The People’s History of Capitalism.” You can get a free copy as an incentive by contributing to my Patreon account to help me support myself as I rant about the evils of a corrupt capitalist system.

I don’t believe that money is an inherently bad idea. It’s a medium of exchange, and that seems to work well enough. Capitalism is a vastly misunderstood, misinterpreted and corrupt idea in the modern world. In its pure form, capitalism is a fine enough concept. It simply supposes that the accumulation of capital is admirable.

Capital:: any amount of money accumulated by an individual surplus to the amount necessary to meet one’s needs. At its core, Capital-ism creates a class of Capitalists, who, when not corrupt, accumulate capital to finance larger projects. A fine idea, but a slippery slope. Corrupt members of the capitalist class start thinking it’s their right (or morally right at all) to earn their living off the interest of lending capital out to others who want to use it for projects of often specious intent, so long as the money (and interest) gets repaid.

That slippery slope there leads to Finance Capitalism, where the money supply is controlled by those who make money by lending it.

If money isn’t inherently fake, it becomes quickly fictitious when the lenders give themselves the power to make more by lending it.

Yikes. What a mess capitalism turns into!

The great philosopher Alan Watts explains quite clearly the core corruption of capitalism. We confuse the measure of wealth (money) with wealth itself. The supreme system we use to measure the amount of money (the stock market) is so corrupt that extreme fluctuations occur from one day to the next, although wealth itself hardly changes at all. To explain further, by means of Alan Watts analogy: The Great Depression happened in a similar way as if we’d suddenly believed that we’d run out of inches. There was plenty of wood, plenty of homes to be built, but no inches, so there was no work for the masses of unemployed carpenters. To use a more up-dated analogy: we’ve run out of 1s and 0s. There are plenty of computer programmers, plenty of programs that need to be written, plenty of silicon and gold left to make more computers, but we’ve run out of 1s and 0s, so there’s no work anymore for all you computer programmers. Go home.

All of these issues! But money isn’t inherently bad. But the idea of “growing rich” for the sake of growing rich. Definitely suspect.

And even more suspect that I would have the veritable American Classic that promotes and codifies the American mindset of growing rich as a good thing on my bookshelf. So, what’s the deal?

Maybe it’s just the old adage that curiosity killed the cat that led me to pick up this book, after many years of being resistant to even giving it the time of day. (Which is fine, I guess, because I vowed to the moon and stars to only read it at night when the vampires roam.)

But I’ve noticed that, as the spiritual folks say, what you resist persists. So if I was so resistant to thinking and growing rich, isn’t that just as bad as being infatuated with thinking and growing rich? Surely, somewhere in the middle is where a healthy emotional balance can be struck.

Besides, like all addictions (and yes, money is most definitely an addiction for those who devote their lives to its accumulation), it’s not the substance itself that’s a problem, but the uncontrolled habit of feeling the need to give anything and everything in service of getting your next fix.

I’ve worked hard for money in the past and earned a fair amount of it. But I found that the accumulation of it was always inherently unfulfilling. Been there, done that. Quit cold turkey. I don’t have an addictive personality.

On the flip side of that, I’ve noticed so many people who have an aversion to money and a deep resentment of capitalism find themselves constantly living in a scarcity world, where they never have enough money to ensure their basic needs are consistently met. Acceptance is part of the serenity prayer, and accept it or not, like I said in the opening of this essay, modern society is structured in such a way where money is necessary to live a quality of life we all deserve. Calling ourselves privileged for having our basic needs met would be ridiculous. That level of “privilege” is a baseline human need. So I refuse to live in a scarcity mindset in a world where money is required, just as much as I refuse to become addicted to money itself.



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