Sorry, Republicans, Randians and Booth School MBAs: Your beloved laissez-faire free market capitalism is a fax machine with a Motorola pager clipped to its JNCOs. If you’re still clinging to mid-20th century economic models, you might as well be roller blading to Record Town to pick up the Spin Doctors’ latest cassingle.
However, before all you Bernie Bros get your neckbeards sweaty exchanging celebratory Cheeto-stained high-fives, this is not your “toldja” moment. Because despite what you’ve posted on Jacobin’s Facebook page every day since you found that Noam Chomsky book in the U of M quad, Capitalism did not fail. On the contrary, it was a wild success! The iPhone you’re reading this on, the Starbucks your reading this in, both came about because someone took their idea to market. Unfortunately, so did the robot currently doing your old job while you’re sitting in a Starbucks browsing the internet, hoping your Uber background check clears before your unemployment money dries up.
Capitalism, like The Golden Girls after seven seasons, has reached its natural conclusion. We have moved past it. It’s done. It’s gone. Let it go. It’s shoulder pads on an aqua blue blazer. It’s a rat tail. A neon license plate frame on your Pontiac Fiero.
A better quality of life for EVERYONE is the goal. I hope we can agree to that. Because this red pill redux of every-man-for-himself “social Darwinism” runs counter to actual Darwinism, as Darwin himself pointed out, correctly mind you. We’re a communal species. Like ants. If you think you’re a Lone Wolf you probably just don’t have any friends to tell you different. Our continued survival, as a species, has always hinged on our ability to work TOGETHER.
And while Chicago School economics succeeded for a brief spell to build a better quality of life for some, it was never anything but ephemeral. It worked like an hour glass. And now the sand has shifted back down to the bottom. Wealth has amassed into the hands of a few while the rest of us are fighting for scraps. Even among the “safe” middle class, it’s subsistence. We’ve traded leisure for work, equity for debt, and a meaningful existence for shitty, token distractions.
To what end? So that a handful of multi-billionaires can continue to billionaire? Perhaps you even admire your slave-masters. Perhaps you aspire to be like them. You shouldn’t. They are scum, hollow vessels, and more importantly, living within the shadow of the past. They, like the 1940s economic models that made them wealthy beyond measure, are Jurassic.
Great, so Capitalism is done. But what else is there? I mean Communism was a massive failure. Post-soviet Russia — with its oligarchs and track suit mafia hoarding lucre like it’s the cure for vodka-induced liver spots — reads like one of Ayn Rand’s meth-fueled fever-dreams. Even the People’s Republic of China had to move to a market-driven economy to stave off going completely feral. In other words… Marx was a chump, right?
Pump the brakes, there, Sparky. Marx wasn’t a chump. He was just a shade early to the party. His predictions about capitalism and class struggle are better applied to our current post-industrial age than the industrial age that preceded it. Granted, the workers controlling the means of production doesn’t mean much when the workers are all robots… I mean, unless you’re a robot. Then it’s cool. But the crux of his position – i.e. that the alienation of the working class would eventually lead to social ownership – that’s the here and now, baby.
How it comes to pass is anyone’s guess. Hopefully in a manner that is more Summer of Love than Night of the Long Knives. But it’s coming. The current model is not sustainable. And to the young folks shaping our future – i.e. those annoying millennials with their Snapchats and top-knots and participation trophies – it’s the only version of reality that they understand. Property ownership? No thanks. I’ll just couch surf. Desk job for the man until I get laid off or suffer a stroke? No, thanks, I’ll just make cool shit and sell it on Etsy. And NO this is not because they are lazy, or coddled, or unrealistic. It’s because this is the world that was handed to them. After amassing mountains of debt to pay for college, the job opportunities they look forward to are unpaid internships, perma-temping and part-time barista gigs. Rent prices in even third-tier cities are sky-high and just the thought of getting a mortgage on an actual house is heee-larious. Why should they participate in a system that offers them nothing? Hipster-ironic nostalgia? Fuck that. Besides, this is the generation that has spent its entire existence on social networks. You think they don’t understand the power of connectivity? They crowdsourced Amanda Palmer’s last three albums!
But don’t worry, Oldy Olderson. The sky is not falling. In fact, the world will soon be a MUCH BETTER PLACE. Here is just some of the cool shit you can look forward to in the coming post-capitalist age:
LESS WORK – Robots can already do 90% of the work our grandparents did. The only difference is we’ll no longer be forced to suffer the consequences of technological advancement by living below the poverty level while Jeff Bezos is having his 32nd home gold-plated. Don’t get me wrong, there will still be work for us actual humans to do. But it won’t be shitty, repetitive, meaningless or dangerous. And we won’t have to do it for 40-100 hours a week.
LESS TRAFFIC – Cars are bullshit. Nothing has damaged our planet more than these stupid carbon-spewing death machines yet Americans still fetishize them as part and parcel of our Freedom Sandwich. Ever spent 90 minutes in gridlock on the 405 Freeway? Did you feel particularly free? Freedom is not owning some half-ton hunk of aluminum and plastic that becomes more dangerous than a loaded gun after its driver has three drinks. Freedom is not having to drive at all. Soon high-speed rail and self-driving vehicles — owned by THE PEOPLE not a person — will be how you get from point A to point B. And you can have as many Moscow Mules as you like.
LESS ANXIETY – Raise your sweaty hand if you have an RX for Lexapro, Klonapin, Zoloft, or Xanax. If the National Institute of Mental Health’s statistics are to be believed, at least two of the ten people reading this article are currently holding a wet paw aloft. The amount of people affected by anxiety disorders rises every year. We’re getting close to Black Plague levels and the reason why is no mystery. We humans simply weren’t wired to handle the constant, sustained stress of the modern age. Freed from the weight of lowering wages, rising health care costs and crippling debt – never mind that damned two-hour commute – expect anxiety to drop to hunter-gatherer society levels (where it is practically non-existent).
MORE TIME FOR FAMILY – Hey, parents! Did you really have those kids just to prop an iPad in front of them for the 90 minutes a day that you actually see them? Wouldn’t you like to be involved in their lives? Because they certainly want you to be. And in the post-capitalist epoch, family will feel like family again.
MORE TIME FOR FUN – Post-cap does not mean we all become slothy blobfish binge-watching Netflix all day. That’s us now, when we’re not working our asses off for some CEO who earns 97,000 times more than we do for the same effort. What it does mean is that we’ll be free to “follow our follies” (to borrow a phrase from the label of the New Belgium black lager I’m currently drinking). Want to make cheese? Brew mead? Bake bread? Artisan it up, commie! Your extra free time will be a boon to the entire society. And not being exhausted every day means you no longer have any excuse to put off that bike ride with your kids.
BETTER HEALTH – So you’re less stressed, have more time to ride your bike, and are eating your neighbor’s delicious artisan kale salad instead of Doritos from the break room snack machine. However, you’re still going to get sick on occasion. Disease happens. But no longer having to make the choice between paying your mortgage and getting gall bladder surgery means that when inevitable illness does strike, you’ll be able to take care of it while keeping a roof over your family’s heads.
LONGER LIFE – Ibid.
HAPPINESS – See all of the above.
Do these things sound shitty to you? If so, you’re beyond help. Find a good ice floe to jump on and drift out to sea with the other bitter Baby Boomers and “I never really got into Nirvana” Gen-Xers. But for the rest of us, rest assured that better days are on the horizon. Don’t get me wrong, this is not some utopian pipe-dream. There will still be wars, disasters, heartbreak and halitosis in the coming post-capitalist age. There will still be stretches of shitty. But hopefully less shitty. Because we’ll finally be working together – not just as disparate tribes, but as humankind in toto. Humans innovate. It’s what we do. Despite what your grumpy grandpa’s MAGA hat implies, every new era is a marked improvement on the one that preceded it. It just means shaking off the old ideas of how things are “supposed to be.”