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Why People Hate Capitalism

By Bruce of Stone Marmot

June 27, 2008

Capitalism is the most democratic economic system there is, for every time you spend a dollar, or refrain from spending a dollar, you are casting a vote. That is why so many people hate capitalism, because, with capitalism, the world people live in is the sum total result of each of their individual actions. In other words, capitalism makes people responsible for their own actions, whether they like it or not.

Most people subscribe to a different philosophy, a philosophy that is common to Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites, Christians and Moslems and Jews, environmentalists and industrialists, virtually every social-political group you can think of. That common philosophy is scapegoatism, which basically states that all the world's problems are someone else's fault. People refuse to see how they are contributing to the very problems they are condemning. If each of us would clean up our own acts, many of the problems in this world would be significantly reduced, if not eliminated.

For example, the reason we have nuclear power plants is because people voted for them. "What?!" you respond, "I never voted for nuclear power plants!" Oh, yes you did! Not on a public ballot, but every time you turned on an electric appliance and every time you paid your electric bill. You cannot demand absolutely unlimited electricity with absolute 100 % reliability at dirt cheap cost and at the same time deny every possible means of generating and transmitting that electricity. And for every possible means of generating electricity that you can think of, there are a number of people out there who can find a number of reasons for opposing that generation means. The electric power industry is simply trying to use the most cost effective power generation means that will meet the demanded supply and reliability requirements. But, unfortunately, they are aiming at a moving target. Nuclear power was once proclaimed as the ultimate power source, but, after significant government and industry investment, public dissent finally made it uneconomic to continue pursuing. Hydroelectric power was once touted as a plentiful, nonpolluting, renewable source of electricity, but few hydroelectric plants have been built in the US in the past 20 years and many people are demanding that many of the ones that do exist be torn down. Wind power is the latest attempt to satisfy these public demands and concerns and already there is a ground swell of opposition is rising against it (The main environmental concern is that windmills kill birds, even though the number of birds killed by windmills is less than one per tower per year whereas the number of birds killed by domestic cats in Wisconsin alone is about 39 million per year). If you really don't like these means of generating electricity, then quit using electricity, or at least dramatically reduce your consumption (which is easy for most Americans, if they really cared, with methods to be discussed in future articles). After all, these facilities can't operate without your money.

"Yeah, but what about solar power?" you respond. And my response is, "How many solar panels do you have on your roof?" If the answer is none, then you voted against solar power. Because of certain peculiarities in the physical properties and economics of solar power, solar power as we presently know it will never be practical for the major power companies but is still very practical for the individual home owner. (Bandmate Sid discusses the reasons for this in the "Why Electric Utilities Avoid Solar Power" "Rants and Raves" article.) Consequently, the only way you will ever see solar power generating most of your electricity is if you install it on your own home.

Another example: Many people complain about modern music radio since most stations now only play about 30 different songs a week, which is a considerable drop when compared with the variety of songs that was played by a typical radio station about 20 or 30 years ago. But the reason the radio stations have reduced the number of different songs they play in a given week is because their research indicates that that is the way to maximize the number of people listening to their station. Commercial radio stations make most of their money off selling advertising. Generally, the more listeners they have, the more advertising they can sell and the more they can charge for that advertising. They also realize that a typical person will keep his radio tuned to whatever station it is presently on until he hears some song that really annoys him. He will then tune to the first station he finds that has something acceptable on and stay on that station until another annoying song is played. Consequently, radio stations today are not as concerned anymore with keeping their listeners interested but are more concerned with avoiding driving their listeners away. This is referred to as "negative programming." And the less songs you play, the less likely you are to accidentally play one which drives people away. So radio stations play the minimum number of songs necessary to keep people from being bored. If all these people who complain about radio today would simply quit tolerating these stations and either switch to stations that they truly enjoy or turn their radios off if they can't find a station they enjoy, the radio stations would soon get the message and change their programming so that it is really enjoyable instead of barely tolerable.

Another example: The reason there are so many telephone solicitors is because you voted for them. How? By patronizing them. "But I never patronize telephone solicitors!" you indignantly respond. Never? What about your college alma mater calling for donations? Or your favorite charity? Or that satellite TV service that gave you free equipment and installation? "But it was such a good deal," you counter. Or the house painting service you used? "But I was going to get my house painted anyway and this just saved me the trouble," you respond. Anytime you make ANY exception and patronize ANY telephone solicitor, you have cast a vote for telephone solicitors.

You see, unlike the ballot box, capitalism is not a majority rules sort of democracy. And in many ways, that is good, for this feature of capitalism is what has allowed such a wide diversity of goods and services and activities to proliferate in our society. That is why we have stamp collecting, bungee jumping, rock climbing, klezmer music, and even solar power present and available in our society. That is also why we have such technological innovation in our society. With capitalism, we do not need a majority of the population to be interested to allow a good, service, or activity to exist and be available. All we need is enough people who contribute enough money and effort to support any associated expenses for that good, service, or activity to exist. But that is also bad since it allows many of the things the majority may consider undesirable to continue to exist. For example, it only takes about one positive response in 50 to justify a telephone solicitor's efforts. It only takes one positive response in 10,000 to email spam to justify its existence.

This feature of capitalism is also one reason why so many politicians and special interest groups hate capitalism. As long as people have the desire and the money, they can do whatever they want, irrespective of what these politicians or special interest groups desire. Consequently, these politicians and special interest groups try to impose laws which restrict the freedom given to these people by capitalism.

Capitalism gives the general population an incredible amount of power, for how they spend their money determines what companies should stay in business, what services should exist, what features products should have. But most people are too lazy and/or selfish to properly exercise this incredible power. Most people feel that they can and should be able to do whatever they want and that it is up to others to make sure that all is possible and no harm is done. This attitude is continually reinforced by our media, educational systems, and our legal system, particularly the US tort judgments. But government and industry uses our actions and spending to determine what we really want, for what we say we want is frequently said only to win the approval of others and to make ourselves feel good, whereas our actions and lifestyles, as indicated by how we spend our money, are usually more indicative of what we truly desire. (This is the main point of our songs "Environmental Poser" and "I Must Be The Change.")

So, if you are against what you perceive are wars fought for oil, then quit using oil, or at least dramatically reduce your consumption of oil products. There are alternatives if you really look, don't mind paying more, and can adapt your lifestyle, which you'll do if you REALLY care.

If you don't like Microsoft or think Mr. Gates is too rich, then quit using Microsoft products. Again, there are alternatives.

If you think professional athletes (or movie stars, or rock stars, or whoever you're presently jealous of) make too much money, then quit supporting them by attending their events, watching their shows on television, and buying their products and those they endorse.

Whatever there is in this world that you think needs to be changed, first honestly examine your own life to see if and how you are contributing to the very problem you are condemning. Once you clean up your life to minimize your contribution to the problem, then you can ask others to make a similar change in their lives. It is much easier to change your own life than to make others change their lives.

By the same token, if you see someone, particularly a celebrity, demanding a change in this world, examine that person's life to see if it is consistent with the change they are demanding. In many cases, these celebrity "causes" are just publicity stunts and these people don't and aren't willing to make the same sacrifices and commitments that they demand of others.

Until individuals realize the power of their pocketbook vote, any change for the better will be very slow. So, don't be a hypocrite, align your lifestyle and spending habits with those beliefs you profess. Any real, permanent change has to start with the individual.

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