Modern Theory and Historical Origins

    What is Anti-capitalism? To answer this begs the question - What is Capitalism? For all intents and purposes, capitalism is a system that allows an oligarchy (government by the few) or a plutocracy (government by the wealthy) to accumulate capital and thereby restrict the natural circulation of wealth through the economy. Invariably such a system allows for the diversion of wealth to non-productive purposes like decadent dissipation and conspicuous consumption or to counter-productive purposes like politics and war. 


    Anti-capitalism isn't Communism or Marxism -- the last communist nations on earth practice capitalism today. It isn't anarchism -- it says nothing about government or freedom. It isn't nihilism -- it's about improvement and change, not total destruction.  

    Anti-capitalism isn't Socialism either -- it involves the elimination of capitalized wealth not wealth redistribution. More specifically, Anti-capitalism is about eliminating the profit motive as the icon of the world economic order. It could just as well be called Anti-profitism. 

    Capitalism has been defined as many things. Some claim it to be "natural" economics, as if anything natural could be invented by humans. This point of view ignores the fact that the laws favor those who have wealth. Others consider capitalism to be the economics of democracy, as if we could not vote for any other economic system. 

    Money, considered by many to be the root of all evil, is the foundation of capitalism. But, is capitalism inherently evil? How else could we describe a system that puts phenomenal wealth in the hands of a few while a significant number of earth's inhabitants are left to freeze in the coldest element known to man -- human indifference. 

    Capitalism, by its' unnatural constraint on the free flow of wealth, decreases the quality of life for most, while only increasing it for the few. Consider all the aspects of life which can be regarded as contributing to the quality of life -- housing, food, education, health, the arts, and social activities. Does capitalism actually improve any of these things? Or is the reality just the opposite -- capitalism invariably decreases the quality of housing, food, education, health, the arts, and social activities? Every human necessity from food to health care is taxed to the limit by profit-mongers, a process that taints and corrupts even the best of intentions. The constant pressure for profits grinds away at every level and impacts every human being, making chaos out of an economic system that would otherwise be stable and successful in meeting the universal demand for necessities. Around the world today poor people sit idle and hungry, waiting for the promised miracle of industrialization to deliver them jobs manufacturing useless consumer goods for export, while their farms and fields go to waste. Is there no one driving? Poverty, disease, and crime spread continuously until punctuated by war while Nobel prizes are given to economists who find clever new ways to help make the rich richer. Is there no economist on earth today who will dare to question the insanity and inhumanity of the status quo? 


    Historical Precedents for Anti-capitalism 

    The ancient Spartans were anti-capitalists. They banned all forms of money, precious metals, and gemstones. Overnight, crime disappeared. The quality of life and all things in Sparta became the highest in all of Greece. Instead of focusing on the accumulation of wealth the people developed other ideals for living. Health, athletics, dance, music, social activities, artisanship, and of course, dominating other countries.  

    Without having to scramble for money every day, the craftsmen of Sparta focused on producing items of the highest quality. The furniture of Sparta was famous, both for its simplicity and durability. There was no ornamentation on Spartan furniture, yet the workmanship was exquisite. Joints were fitted perfectly, materials selected were flawless, all surfaces, visible or otherwise were carefully prepared and polished. Furniture from Sparta could often outlast almost any Athenian house it was placed in. 

    Since no-one in Sparta worked like the devil to sell shoddy, decadent consumer goods for quick cash, they found themselves awash in free time. They spent many hours a day participating in athletics, watching ahtletics, playing music and dancing. Teens were allowed one hour of privacy each evening with their lovers.  

    So abundant was the free time of the Spartans that they were virtually all musicians, with free communally owned instruments. Decadence and extravagance were eliminated as ideals while health and happiness became paramount. Without the icon of profit driving society today we'd approach the same ideal. Of course, history repeats itself in many ways: We are the helots of America. We work for the elite, except that our hours are longer, our taxes are higher, and instead of making essentials we waste our careers making useless consumer products for somebody else's profit or luxury items for the self-indulgence of those who don't work at all. Of course, there is no more moral justification for the acknowledged indentured servitude of the ancient helots than there is for the unacknowledged indentured servitude of modern salary slaves.  

    The ancient lawgiver Solon recognized the problem with the constant accumulation of wealth in the hands of those who were already wealthy, at the expense of those who had little or no wealth. Not only did this artifact of capitalism precipitate workers into indentured servitude, but their servitude was passed from generation to generation by inheritance. Solon's first great achievement was the Law of Release, which he introduced at Athens. This law banned the rich from passing their legal right to the labor of indentured servants on to their children. After all, by what industry had children earned the right to slaves when they themselves had done no work. In effect, this law gave eventual freedom to some, but not all, from perpetual servitude when their wealthy owners died. It was a way out, and gave hope where there had been none, but unfortunately the custom did not survive the Romans. In the modern world the inherited wealth of the leisure class represents an unearned right to the labor of the working class. The inherited economic leverage of the wealthy gives them an all-powerful advantage over the unborn children of the working classes. These children are essentially born into debt, with no right to any property or employment other than what those with accumulated wealth decide they can have. In a modern version of the Law of Release, no wealth above and beyond what would support a wealthy person's children for a life of leisure should be allowed, and the excess wealth would be returned to society through tax or donation, or simply as a debt erased. That way they have no undue and unearned control of other people's lives and labors. Furthermore, in a fair and just world, all children would be born with a right to at least some little property, some small corner of the planet, an acre or two of farmland or desert even, by which they might live or prosper by their own diligence and honest effort, or fail by the lack thereof, and not be born subject to the whims and fancies of non-working oligarchial inheritors.


    Architecture and Morality 

    Our houses and apartments are built as compromises for profit, not for perfection or quality. They stand as pale imitations of what they could be. We spend our lives living in plasterboard boxes made of cheap materials fashioned to look like little suburban mansions. Their cheapness of construction is covered up with every manner of superficial adornment -- wallpaper, paint, face brick, plaster stucco, hollow cornices, fake ionic columns, fake fireplaces, cheap noisy ventilation systems or uncomfortable, inefficient, heating systems.  

    We build these live-in lies in the name of profit. Those on the low end have the worst of it. Small, noisy, apartments and houses in neighborhoods made unsafe by the prevailing social misery. Roaches, drafts, flimsy appurtenances and furnishings that fall apart before the interest is paid all stand in mockery of a failed ideal for living. With each new storm or tornado these cheap excuses for human habitation fly apart or collapse, leaving families displaced or dead. Houses built in a day from low-cost non-renewable wood products are made for first sales only, ignoring the long-term benefits of building houses that last, that are fireproof, tornado proof, and beautiful by virtue of stone, steel, structure, and spaciousness instead of cheap superficial adornment. The shallow, deteriorating quality of our residential architecture seems to reflect the direction our profit-based society is headed -- to obsolescence.   

    If, instead of sacrificing the quality of human life for the profit fantasies of a few, we built a world of lasting quality in all things, wouldn't everyone end up rich? Buckminster Fuller once said that the world could have one billion billionaires, in terms of the quality of our lives, if we worked together. This is an achievable goal if we work for the good of everyone, instead of the good of the few.   

    All consumer goods are driven to converge on cheapness and imitation by the profit motive, as Karl Marx the mathematician astutely observed a century ago. Except for the occasional scientific advance that produces useful new materials, most products deteriorate in quality. The scientists who develop improvements, it should be noted, are almost always focused on achievement, not money. Many artists and musicians are likewise driven by the desire to achieve excellence much more so than money. As Theognis advised thousands of years ago, "Spend time on excellence, and love the right, and don't let shameful profit master you."   


    Poverty in the Richest Nation 

    When Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty following Kennedy's assasination, there seemed little doubt that the invincible United States could achieve this goal. This was as certain as the fact that we would win the war in Vietnam. Almost half the nation's wealth today is held by 1% of the population. Twenty five years after the war on poverty began, the richest 1% hold twice as much of the nation's wealth, but the poor are no better off. In this system, the wealth flows from the poor to the rich and the laws guarantee their right to possess it in excess of what would be proper in a humane society.  

    The U.S. maintains nearly 15% of its people, and 20% of its children, in a state of perpetual poverty. The middle class works longer hours than the ancient Romans or Egyptians, yet supposedly we have advanced.  Where are the promised benefits of industrialization if we work harder than anyone in human history? And, unlike the ancients, our houses don't last a lifetime, hunger, poverty, and homelessness have increased, and crime is far beyond natural levels.   

    The Great Teacher once said, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." If you want to see a rich Christian spout heresy, ask him to explain these words.

    Consider again the wealth distribution in America as compared to the natural wealth distribution that is found in nature, as manifested by every manner of food source distribution from bacteria to honeybees to birds. The natural form in which wealth, in terms of food and territory, ar distributed among natural creatures is the normal curve, or what is called the bell curve because of its' shape. The figure below shows one example of how a natural wealth curve could be implemented such that no human being falls below the poverty line. And, there is still plenty of room for people to make themselves filthy rich, if that should remain their paradigm. 


    Conditioning Consumers 

    Consider the structure of our capitalist society. People are conditioned to be consumers from the earliest. They are given a minimal education -- learning just enough Math to work for someone else, and just enough English to know what consumer items to spend their paychecks on. All of the things that are most important to human enjoyment and happiness are suppressed or minimized, while all the things they don't need are advertised heavily to give them mock importance. 

    What things do people naturally enjoy the most? In roughly this order they enjoy conversation, reading, romance, exercise, sex, dancing, enjoying music, watching athletics, playing music, creating arts and crafts, cooking, travelling on foot, experiencing nature, and numerous other activities that don't necessarily cost anything at all. 

    What do people spend most of their time and money on? Movies, consumer goods, cars, clothes, vacations, alcohol, dining out, junk food, drugs, gambling, professional entertainment, and a host of other activities that merely distract them from more beneficial and healthier aspirations. Consumer pleasures amount to nothing more than daily rewards for manifest career disappointment, and the habits of social and personal stagnation are inherited by each succeeding generation.  

    Consumerism does not represent the highest ideals of mankind, but the lowest common denominator of man's most base desires and outlets of personal despair, disappointment, or frustration. The economics of consumer-based corporations are unbalanced equations that ignore the most vital aspects of both mathematics and human existence. The gun industry pours weapons into our cities in the name of profit and freedom while the dead and wounded are carried out at the taxpayers expense. Where is the damage to people accounted for in the gun industry's economic equations? The tobacco industry likewise kills millions but denies their product is responsible and spends a fortune feigning innocence and garnering political influence to protect them from their disparate and disorganized victims. The alcohol industry kills as many or more and does untold damage to families, but none of their balance sheets mention or account for the cost their products incur to society. If the true costs of the products sold to society are properly accounted for, many of them would be unprofitable to manufacture or so expensive as to temper consumption. It is only deceit and irresponsibility that keeps many of them in the markets.   

    Economy Without Capital 

    Can a barter economy work, that is, one that ran on pure credit? Proudhon's Bank of the People was a farsighted experiment that would have demonstrated the superiority of a barter economy. The idea was to assemble working people of diverse skills such that anything anyone needed could be provided by someone else. Credits would be defined for the value of work or goods, whether carpentry, milk, health care, tailored goods, or whatever. Defining the values would not be diffficult, after all, we do this with dollars already, except that instead of receiving flat rates they would receive true value. In Proudhon's Bank there would be no money, no interest or profits, and no absentee owners of the same -- it would simply facilitate the flow of goods in a near frictionless manner. 

    In such a system taxes could not be collected in terms of money, but only in terms of credit dollars towards human labor. Nor could interest be collected, since this also represents profit. The capitalisation of wealth, which holds human labor in suspension and diverts it to the whims of a few, rather than the needs of the many, would not be facilitated. Napoleon, who had considerable capitalized wealth, had Proudhon imprisoned for a trumped-up charge of slander just prior to the opening of the Bank -- and the grand experiment collapsed before it began. 

    Those who, by fate or artifice, end up in key positions, squander the resources of the planet in their pursuit of personal, political, or nationalistic fantasies while the greater mass of men lead lives of perpetual irrelevance. Is this an admirable way for the human race to conduct its business? 

     The tensions of life today lead to historical record high rates of divorce, suicide, and crime. The frustration of the people turns to the only outlets they are legally permitted -- voting and religion, but to no avail. Their collective anger is channeled for political gain by candidates with no better ideas than the symptomatic band-aids of bigger prisons, more police, and accelerated use of the death penalty. The sad reality of the American legal system today is that it consists primarily of rich white people putting poor Blacks and Latinos in prison. There is no hope if there is no attempt to solve the root cause of the problem.  

    Production Before Profit 

      Thorstein Veblen, author of Absentee Ownership, studied the American and European economies in detail. He noted that, wittingly or unwittingly, the goal of maximizing profit leads companies to limit production through various means including managing supply and demand. He referred to these manipulations as economic sabotage, since they required reducing both production of goods and employment. It is worth noting here that contrary to modern economic theory, the demand for essential goods and services is universal -- everyone needs a house, medical care, food, etc. The classic law of supply and demand only holds true for manipulated prices beyond the means of most people, and in an economy where people are kept unemployed.

      The figure below illustrates the concept generically for any company that produces goods that are affected by supply and demand, and economies of scale. In theory, a company could boost production to the maximum by allowing profits to approach zero. This necessitates increasing employment and increasing sales by improving quality.

      Obviously, if every company that manufactured essential goods (i.e. food, housing, health care, etc) increased production to either the maximum or the limit of consumer need, the benefits would be synergistic and possibility of eliminating poverty comes into focus. Without poverty, crime drops to natural levels, whatever those may be. Note that since the limits of consumer need would likely occur before production hit a maximum, there would still be profits, but they would exist in terms of the salaries paid and the goods produced for the people. The most enterprising managers, those who maximized production of high quality goods, would receive the highest salaries.

    Profitless Capitalism 

      Most companies use resources and human labor to generate profits for absentee owners, whether corporations, sole proprietors, or stockholders. The figure below illustrates the flow of wealth. The company will maintain the highest prices for consumer goods that the market will bear, while simultaneously paying the lowest wages that the workers will tolerate. The company employees receive a fraction of what their true labor is worth while the quality of the overpriced goods is kept at a minimum. The owners, non-working profiteers, will sacrifice even human health and the environment in their greed for excessive profits. In general, owners who do not actively participate in the operations perform no function other than parasitism and the existence of such a practice highlights a fundamental flaw of capitalism -- corporate non-entities are guaranteed the right to profit while human beings do not even have a guaranteed right to subsistence.

      The pie charts below show the effect of eliminating profits from the average Housing sole proprietorship (see these business statistics for the data on this and other industries). Maximum production requires foregoing profits and, therefore, the elimination of payments to any parties who are not working. Only salaries and expenses can be paid out. In a such a profitless company there is no drain on resources, as illustrated in the figure below, and all resources can be efficiently devoted to increasing production and improving quality.

      The profitless company is a self-owned entity in which the employees are the stewards. The company becomes an engine for generating essential goods and services and increasing employment. In a profitless system all prices drop to their natural levels and all workers are paid the true value of their labor.

      The synergy of profitless capitalism is illustrated in the figure below. When a complete range of companies goes profitless and single-source to each other, all of their costs begin dropping. The result is a synergy that could double or quadruple the GDP. The continuous construction of homes and other goods at cost would accelerate the standard of living and provide continuous employment. The reduced consumer costs would make everyone wealthy in the sense that they could live comfortably. Business taxes would also transfer to income taxes from increased employment, and so would not be negatively affected. By putting production before profit on a national scale we would effectively be prioritizing poverty, which is the only cause worth pursuing in the modern world, and implicitly includes the control of all diseases, social and otherwise.

      In profitless capitalism only those who work are paid although everyone would be guaranteed subsistence. The entire nation would ratchet itself up to a high standard of living without the drain on the economy produced by profiteering. The rich could keep what they have, but they would no longer be paid for doing nothing. Without interest paid on loans or capitalized funds being held in suspension, all available credit dollars would end up financing growth and production and thereby keep employment universal.

      The beauty of profitless capitalism is that it puts all the people to work directly for their own benefit. Instead of the fruits of their labors being drained off as profits and diverted to useless enterprise, their efforts are immediately and directly used for improving the quality of life. The people would be actively solving all of their most pressing problems instead of sitting in stagnation. All of this from a simple shift of paradigm.


    Implementation of Anticapitalism
    Anticapitalism can be implemented in at least three ways and to varying degrees. It can be implemented at a personal level, at a business level, and community-wide. Practicing anticapitalism at a personal level means abandoning the paradigm of profit, eliminating expenses on nonessentials, and minimizing expenses on purchased essentials. It can mean accepting poverty but it maximizes free time. The time is spent bettering one's living environment, health, and education. It is necessary for one to become educated regarding economic matters so as to understand the difference between nonessentials and essentials, and the difference between being paid for honest labor on essentials and wasted labor on nonessentials funded by profit motives alone. Personal anticapitalism can be the most difficult to implement due to the lack of economic synergy and the existing system.

    Anticapitalism can be implemented in a business environment. Thee are many precedents for profitless businesses and many examples of successes and failures. Although such businesses may be non-profit, they rarely, if ever, implement true anticapitalist economics. Many are dependent on donations or outside funding sources, and those that are economically self-sustaining are often interwoven into an fabric of economic exploitation by other corporations. A business intent on going nonprofit can accomplish this within the existing corporate environment easily, especially if it already operates at or near break-even and maintains some nominal profit. Prices are cut to increase sales volume. Advertising is eliminated, as is wasteful packaging. Any continuing profits are reallocated towards expansion. Increasing quality is essential to expanding sales and this becomes the focus of worker's continuing efforts. The pay scales must be adjusted such that the distribution of salaries forms a normal bell curve with about three standard deviations. This may mean the chairman and top executives must reduce their salaries to bring them into line with employees, but it may also mean a pay raise for employees. In the long run, as volume increases, the executives salaries may even surpass their original levels. Obviously, a company needs to own itself so that all involved are actualy working. A company that is not self-owned needs to buy out absentee owners and investors, and this may reqire a period of operation during which the stock is bought back using company profits. Financing may also come from an employee ownership program, and these kinds of programs have worked in the past.

    Community-wide implementation is a self-accelerating process due to the great advantage that synergy offers. The construction workers build housing and facilities in return for ownership of houses and provisions. Everyone else does likewise and no cash changes hands. A community can incorporate itself as a noonprofit corporation and from then on the community's expenses are deducted from the community's income. Ideally a community would be large enough to be self-sustaining in terms of everything from materials, food, health care, etc. which might theoretically require 100,000 residents or more, but limited implementations will still provide continuous growth and steady improvement in the quality of life for all members. Obviously some things must be purchased outside the anticapitalist economic web, especially in a limited implementation of anticapitalism. Single-sourcing for essentials that cannot be manufactured within the community is one option, just as it would be with a nonprofit business. For such products cash is required (while everything else is arranged in terms of an exchange of labor hours without the need for cash).

    Rebuilding an existing community and converting it to a profitless system is possible but there are a number of obstacles and organizational deficiencies in our present communities that limit the full implementation. Chief among these is the cars and roads, and the very culture of cars. About half the driving done today is unnecessary, and much of the rest is done purely in attempts to make profits. In a community designed for humans, rather than for traffic, thigs could be arranged in a far more optimal way than at present. Energy-efficient mass transportation, including light rail systems, covered roads, all-weather bicycle paths, etc. can be designed into a city plan and completely eliminate the need for cars. If everyone could get wherever they needed to go in a flash, and in comfort, their dependency on the car culture would fade and disappear. Cars could be public property and used in a limited fashion on closed road systems, including for auto races, as will be explained later. To build a city from the ground up is by far the best approach to a full and complete implementation of anticapitalism, and a city planning concept is introduced here to explain the dynamics and economics. This concept is called Circle City. More information on implementation of anticapitalism is available in the addendums on Implementation of Anticapitalism and The Circle City Concept.


      Profit is the icon of the modern economic world, leaving the quality of life a casualty of mindless competition. It's time for the US, as de facto leader of the modern world, to consider abandoning capitalism and taking the first step towards a future where the entire human race, not just the privileged minority, could be wealthy enough to solve our more important problems. Perhaps until all diseases, social and otherwise, are cured, this should remain a non-profit world. Since most of us are bonded into non-profit employment anyway, the only differences we'd notice would be of the profound kind. 


Questions? Comments? Send email to W. J. Kowalski at drkowalski"at"  
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