Contra: Capitalism Always Improves Our Lives

Let us examine for a moment the unexamined notion prevalent in the US that capitalism automatically improves our lives.
We examined earlier how US capitalism seems to be predicating its growth on forced and unnecessary upgrades of technology. If you don’t want to upgrade to the latest TV, you won’t be able to watch TV at all.
In a later post, we suggested that US capitalism, increasingly desperate to sell to increasingly savvy consumers, is resorting to the only way to fool an educated, savvy consumer – outright lying, fraud, trickery, scamming and frankly theft, exemplified by the subprime crisis.
Hence, US capitalism is becoming increasingly parasitical on the consumers it relies on. The “coercion principle” so beloved by libertarians seems to be inoperative in US capitalism anymore. If I can’t watch TV without being forced to buy the latest and greatest, that’s coercion. A thieving, fraudulent con is always coercive, as coercive as a pickpocket.
Libertarians talk a great game when they are pining away on their blogs, but I haven’t yet heard any libertarians, except maybe Left Libertarians, attack the parasitical, coercive and nearly thieving aspect of present day US capitalism. When it comes time to apply arid theory to meatspace, libertarians are no-shows, which implies to me that their moralistic theorizing is a bunch of hot air.
Some capitalist inventions are definitely improvements. Take for example stain-free and shrink-free garments. This is actually a good product. Capitalists are manufacturing something that humans actually want to buy and use, not only that but a useful product that will improve our lives.
But look at how capitalism deals with this improvements. Let’s get real. A whole lot of capitalists are going to get hurt by the new garments described above. The dry cleaners industry will go out. Not only that, but staining and shrinking is one of the annoying methods of planned obsolescence built into the garments we buy. It’s these destructive processes that force us into continual and usually unnecessary upgrades of our garments.
If people are buying fewer garments because they last longer, that’s bad for the garment industry. So a lot of capitalists are going to hate these new developments. Fortunately for us, capitalists are greedy and lack solidarity, so there will always be renegade capitalists who would go ahead with shrink-free and stain-free clothing even though it’s going to be bad for a lot of other capitalists.
But capitalism has a very creepy tendency at least here in the US. Huge corporations watch the patent offices like hawks. Whenever a new product is patented that could improve things for consumers and possibly compete negatively with their products, in particular something that might cut into the planned obsolescence of their products, and typically if the inventor is a small fry, the corporation will try to buy out the improved technology. Then they will shove into a drawer and try to bury it forever!
This happens all the time in US capitalism, but we don’t talk about it all that much. There is a clause in US patent law that says you cannot sit on a highly useful patent and refuse to market it to the public. This is sometimes applied to small inventors. The courts have forced small inventors to make their highly useful patents available to the consuming public in cases where silly inventors chose instead to stick the patent in the drawer and forget about it.
If the guy refuses to sell the patent, the court decides what it is worth and demands a sale of the patent for that price. Hardline freemarketeers decry this Commie-style intervention in the market, but I think it’s a great thing. Use it or lose it.
I feel the same way about copyrights. You can’t just let your songs, movies and books go out of print. If you do and someone wants to republish them, the courts can and do force you to license out your artistic creation to someone who wants to publish it.
The courts have fallen down on the law in terms of software though. There are all sorts of idiot software patents, and the whole concept is highly abusive. IBM has been one of the worst at this. You see those little windows that fly up in so many of your software programs? I believe that IBM has a license on that tech and anyone who makes a program with a window in it, has to pay off IBM. This is ridiculous.
You can’t patent intellectual property – forget it. That’s like patenting intellectual ideas. Can I patent the intellectual notions that I come up with here on Robert Lindsay. Great idea! Let me patent all these ideas I come up with on this blog and sue everyone who tries to say anything even remotely similar for patent infringement. You can see right now how stupid patenting intellectual property is.
There are also cases where corporations have written some really great programs that were offered for sale. Then they took the product off the market. Not only that, but they refuse to sell it. Sad thing is that there are computer users who really want to use those programs. Forget that.
Sell it or give it away! If you won’t sell your product, then you need to give it away. If you won’t sell it or give it away and it’s useful, I figure we have a right to steal your product. I’m talking software programs here. The whole idea that you can write a killer app and shove it in your drawer forever is nuts.
So what you have here in the US is that US capitalism buries great products all the time, and I think that when corporations do it, the courts don’t seem to do much. Does this benefit our lives? Of course not. It hampers our lives and deprives us of much-needed technology to improve our lives, while saddling us with inferior junk that wears out or breaks or doesn’t even work. Why? So the capitalist can continue to rake it by selling us crap.
So let’s bury once and for all the all the notion that capitalist products automatically improve our lives.
Suppose someone invents a car that runs for 500,000 miles, rarely breaks down and gets 100 miles to the gallon. My understanding is that prototypes are already available that get anywhere from 50-300 miles to the gallon. There is solar car technology with a solar roof that gets all its energy from the sun and goes up to 55 mph!
Clearly, all these cars are really bad news for lots of capitalists, from car repair shops, to auto parts stores and plants, to gas stations and oil companies. There are all sorts of huge industries that want to kill these ideas before the even see the light of day. And it would be interesting to see why cars that get 50-300 mpg are not on the market. There have been issues with making these hypercars safe in crashes (they are often quite light) but one would think that at least a few prototypes could be made.
Speaking of forced upgrades, you know that US capitalists must truly hate radio. I can go find a radio from the 1920’s and maybe with a few repairs here and there, it will pick up every local station around. The tech still works. Not only that, but horror of horrors, it’s actually free. It really isn’t free because it’s supported by advertisers and we “pay for it” by having to suffer through commercials,  but we definitely don’t have to pay $50/month to turn on the radio like we do with the damned TV.
This sends capitalists up the wall. They hate free anything. If capitalists could figure out a way to charge us for breathing air, they would buy up oxygen and start charging us right away. They are already trying to buy up the water and charge us for choosing to inject H2O in order to stay alive. They haven’t figured out a way to charge us every time we pee or crap, but I’m sure that capitalists would love to charge me 2 cents a leak and a nickel a dump if they could get away with it.
The fact that capitalists pine for a world where virtually nothing is free anymore shows that capitalists have a strong parasitical streak that is not related to producing quality useful products that improve our lives. In some ways, capitalists are just like blood-sucking vampires.
Capitalists already tried the cable TV scam with radio. The scam was to set up an alternative radio called digital radio (radio is now analog), put all the good programs over on digital and leave analog with almost no programs and a crappy signal, and soon everyone who wanted to listen to anything decent on the radio would have to shell out $30/month to Vultureco or whoever.
Digital radio, exemplified by Sirius Radio, has been a total failure. The industry has a mountain of debt has yet to make a nickel.
In other ways, new capitalist tech takes old older tech that is still quite useful. Though I love the Internet, I must say that I am sad about newspapers and magazines being taken out. Net nerds say what the heck, let the newspapers and magazines all go on the web. There are problems with this.
First of all, we need to know what is taking the print media out. It’s advertising. No way can a paper or magazine make it on subs alone. Even with a steep sub price, they need to fill it up with ads or run it at a loss. Rolling Stone is pretty nice, but probably a good 50% of the mag or more is ads, often in your face and rude, and seemingly all for super-expensive crap that no one really needs. It’s annoying to wade through that Colorado River of ad-mud to get at a few meaty articles here and there.
I think the reason that the Net ads are taking out the print ads is that print ad sellers actually sell their ad space (their product) for a fair price. Ads in newspapers and magazines are not exactly cheap. As someone who has delved into the world of Internet ads for a while (we used to carry them on Robert Lindsay), I must say that I have hardly met a tighter bunch of bastards. Compared to what you pay for print ads, advertisers or ripping off online publishers something awful. It’s a buyers market, and the sellers are being taken to the cleaners. Not only can online publishers barely survive, but the advertiser tightwads are cleaning out the print media too.
Keep in mind that there are advantages to print tech and that if we lose newspapers and magazines, we lose a valuable consumer reading experience. Can I take my computer with me to the bathroom, the next room, across the street, or in my car to the next city? In general, no. I can thumb through Time Magazine quickly and get a feel for about every article and decide if it’s worth reading or not. Can I digitally thumb through the online Time edition? Forget it. It takes so long it’s not even worth it.

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3 thoughts on “Contra: Capitalism Always Improves Our Lives”

  1. Robert, as far as I can tell, this is your platform:
    – Socialism
    – Maoism
    – Pro-miscegenation
    – Race realism
    – Protectionist trade
    – Pro-union
    – Anti-immigration
    – Anti-freedom of association
    – Paleoconservative on issues of war
    – Pro gay & women’s rights
    – Strong dislike of the White power structure
    – Pro Palestinian/anti-Israel
    – Skeptical of Jews and their plots
    What am I missing?

  2. Not bad Scott, but I don’t support Maoism in the US.
    I support any kind of socialism, and I don’t really mind the Chinese type of Communism they are practicing now.
    My philosophy is that any movement towards socialism is a good thing. Here in the US, I’m mostly interested in supporting social programs, increased regulation of business, govt environmental regulations, govt purchase of land for the people, govt setting up free wi-fi for the people, govt nationalizing the banks etc for the time being, govt stimulating the economy, govt putting a lot of these corporate crooks in jail, etc.
    European social democracy is just fine by me. It’s all socialism to me.
    Otherwise you did a bang-up job of describing me. Pretty weird resume huh?

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