Socialism: Utopian or Scientific?
Four recent news stories leave no doubt that capitalism’s criminal profit motive trumps basic human needs. From the obscene paychecks of hedge fund managers; to the huge profits of massive food corporations; the healthcare industry and, even clothing manufacturers, capitalists can’t continue to earn huge profits without risking the lives of millions of workers and consumers.
Hedge Fund managers
In an April 22, 2013 article titled, “Hedge Fund Manager ‘Earns’ $1 Million an Hour,” by Matt Bewig, that appeared at AllGov.com,
“Last year, even as 15 million Americans continued to look for work and the average wage barely kept up with the cost of living, the 25 best paid hedge fund managers raked in a total of $14.14 billion, an average of $565.6 million-per-year, according to an analysis published last week by Institutional Investor Alpha. The top ten took home $10.1 billion, and top manager David Tepper—who did not even make the top 25 last year—made off with $2.2 billion, equivalent to $1,057,692 an hour, as much as the average American family makes in 21 years.” 1
Clearly, there can be no justification for one individual to “earn” over a million dollars an hour. Especially when the overwhelming majority of working people are being forced to accept drastic austerity cutbacks across the board. And especially since hedge fund managers do no work. They neither manufacture nor produce anything. Their massive wealth is the result of simple computer-generated, mathematical manipulation of the stock market!
The Food Industry
A February 20, 2013 article by Michael Moss titled, “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” 2 read like a futuristic science fiction story where fiendish businessmen spend billions of dollars to hire Harvard graduates to devise the most addictive, cheaply produced, least nutritious foods designed to cause people to eat more and more and still not be satiated. The only problem is, it’s not fiction, nor futuristic. It’s real and it’s happening right now!
The article exposes how major American food producers such as Pillsbury, Nestlé, Kraft, Nabisco, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Mars and many others routinely fight for what they call “‘stomach share’—the amount of digestive space that any one company’s brand can grab from the competition” by producing foods high in sugar, salt and a myriad of food additives that are known to be addictive and dangerous to our health. And that, in fact, there is “a conscious effort—taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles—to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive.”
For example, according to the article, “General Mills had overtaken not just the cereal aisle but other sections of the grocery store. The company’s Yoplait brand had transformed traditional unsweetened breakfast yogurt into a veritable dessert. It now had twice as much sugar per serving as General Mills’ marshmallow cereal Lucky Charms. And yet, because of yogurt’s well-tended image as a wholesome snack, sales of Yoplait were soaring, with annual revenue topping $500 million. Emboldened by the success, the company’s development wing pushed even harder, inventing a Yoplait variation that came in a squeezable tube—perfect for kids. They called it Go-Gurt…” and that, “By year’s end, it would hit $100 million in sales.”
Furthermore, as a result of these practices, “More than half of American adults were now considered overweight, with nearly one-quarter of the adult population—40 million people—clinically defined as obese. Among children, the rates had more than doubled since 1980, and the number of kids considered obese had shot past 12 million. (This was still only 1999; the nation’s obesity rates would climb much higher.)”
Again, the primary concern of these corporations is to increase their rate of profit by any means necessary—the health of consumers, both adult and children, be damned.
The “healthcare” industry
In an April 16, 2013 New York Times article by Denise Grady titled, “Hospitals Profit From Surgical Errors, Study Finds,”3 “Hospitals make money from their own mistakes because insurers pay them for the longer stays and extra care that patients need to treat surgical complications that could have been prevented. …If the system does not change, hospitals have little incentive to improve: in fact, some will wind up losing money if they take better care of patients.”
The article was based upon a study and editorial published April 9, 2013 in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The study authors are from the Boston Consulting Group, Harvard’s schools of medicine and public health, and Texas Health Resources, a large nonprofit hospital system. According to the article, “The study is based on a detailed analysis of the records of 34,256 people who had surgery in 2010 at one of 12 hospitals run by Texas Health Resources. Of those patients, 1,820 had one or more complications that could have been prevented, like blood clots, pneumonia or infected incisions. The median length of stay for those patients quadrupled to 14 days, and hospital revenue averaged $30,500 more than for patients without complications ($49,400 versus $18,900). Private insurers paid far more for complications than did Medicare or Medicaid, or patients who paid out of pocket.” Further, David Sadoff, a managing director of the Boston Consulting Group said, “the current payment system makes it difficult for hospitals to perform better because improvements can wind up costing them money.”
The irrationality of our capitalist healthcare system boggles the mind! Only under a profit-driven healthcare system could hospital mistakes—mistakes that injure or even kill patients—result in more profits for hospitals than from well-cared-for patients.
On April 24, 2013, Rana Plaza, a building in Savar, an industrial suburb of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh collapsed with thousands of garment workers inside. The factories catered to Western clothing retailers. According to an April 28, 2013 New York Times article by Jim Yardley titled, “Tears and Rage as Hope Fades in Bangladesh,” 4 “The collapse of the building, the Rana Plaza, is considered the deadliest accident in the history of the garment industry.” The death toll goes up every day. So far it has claimed over 600 lives, and hundreds—perhaps as many as a thousand more workers are thought to be missing—buried in the rubble.
And, according to an article dated April 26, 2013, by Julfikar Ali Manik, Jim Yardley and Steven Greenhouse titled, “Bangladeshis Burn Factories to Protest Unsafe Conditions,”5 also from the Times, “Cracks had been discovered in the structure a day earlier (before the collapse), and police officials and industry leaders say they had asked the factory bosses to stop work until the building had been inspected.” They didn’t. They forced workers to keep working in spite of the warning placing their profits before the very lives of their workers.
The terrorism and irrationality of capitalism
As these stories expose, such obscene greed is tantamount to economic terrorism and results in life-threatening poverty and strife—and often death—for masses of working people the world over. Capitalism can’t put human needs before profits. Its entire mechanism is driven by the quest for profits above all else.
The capitalists rationalize that the competition for profits is endemic to human nature and that a socialist society based upon production to satisfy human needs instead of profits is a utopian notion—an unattainable fantasy.
Human nature, they claim, is based upon the struggle for the survival of the fittest—the competition between all living beings for the means of survival. Capitalism, they argue, is the natural extension of this basic struggle, i.e., that the private accumulation of vast amounts of capital and the military might to guard that wealth in the hands of a tiny few of the “fittest” humans is just basic human nature and, therefore, capitalism is the “natural” social and economic structure. This argument is sophism and is carefully promoted in every aspect of social interaction, education and mass media propaganda throughout the capitalist world, whether ruled by kings, parliaments or congresses.
In nature, survival of the fittest refers to the successful survival of entire species—not the few “best of the best” from each species. In nature, endangered species are those whose population has been decimated, and there are only a few survivors left—and, most importantly—their numbers could be too few for the species to survive! In other words, it is necessary for massive numbers of a species to be able to thrive—to live healthy enough lives to reproduce healthy offspring—for the species as a whole to survive! Life depends upon the success of the entire specie’s ability to survive and thrive. Not on the survival of a few of the “most fit!”
The fact is, it’s utopian to think that capitalism can do anything but continue on the destructive path of survival of the most wealthy at the expense of all life on Earth.
Socialism is the only alternative to the destruction inherent in capitalist production-for-profit and it’s our only hope for all of life’s species and the Earth itself to survive and thrive.