Monday, March 1, 2010

Richard W. Posner: Cancer, Capitalism and Annihilation

Cancer, Capitalism and Annihilation
by Richard W. Posner blog link

Headed for Self Destruction

Cancer is a fascinating, if tragic, result of human arrogance and ignorance. It is, after all, only what should be expected in a highly complex organism that is attempting to evolve in an environment that is changing more rapidly than its reproductive cycle can keep up with. What is particularly ironic about this situation is that the damage is self-inflicted.

The chaotically changing environment is the creation of the creature being destroyed by it. How appropriate. How elegant. As organisms become larger and more complex it takes them longer to chance upon a mutation with positive attributes; changes that will improve the chances of survival. It may take hundreds, even thousands of generations for natural selection to work its random mutational magic in the larger more complicated animals. Simpler life forms such as bacteria, viruses and even many insects, because of their short life cycle and rapid, high volume reproductive capabilities, are able to mutate and adapt more quickly to an extremely dynamic environment. Within one or two generations, bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. Insects become immune to insecticides. Since the average life span of an ant or a worker bee is around ninety days, these changes can and do happen very quickly. Large creatures like homo sapiens need much longer to adapt to changes. The human race causes dangerous changes faster than it can adapt to them. Hence cancer.

The Cancer of Capitalism

I tend to think of capitalism, particularly the virulent free market variety, as a cancer in the body of the human race. In nature, the typical predator kills simply to survive. Cancers on the other hand are not motivated by survival. They are mindless mutations that destroy their environment in a frenzied orgy of consumption, incapable of realizing that they are destroying themselves in the process. Sounds like capitalism to me.

If you’ve ever tried to explain to a capitalist that they may be committing slow suicide or are, very probably, murdering their children or grandchildren through their mindless exploitation of everything imaginable, you know you may as well be speaking to a lump of coal. The state of denial they live in is so complete that no amount of factual, statistical data, however voluminous it may be, will have even the slightest impact. The best you can hope for is to be dismissed as a “conspiracy nut” or “tree hugger”. They live within an impervious bubble of greed and short term self-interest that can not be penetrated by anything short of that which is capable of depriving them of their wealth or causing physical harm to their person.

Such laissez-faire, libertarian types claim that human rights do not exist, only those of the individual. Individual rights have come to mean, in a world where greed is overwhelmingly the prime motivator, to serve your own interests exclusively without regard for the consequences to anyone else. That is the simple picture of modern libertarianism as I see it. Short-term gain, self-interest and instant gratification are given greater priority than even the survival of our species. The libertarian of today has conflated “corporate persons” with “individual rights” and taken the concept to; the last one standing is the winner. They believe it is their individual right to own any and everything of vital importance to survival and then charge everyone else an exorbitant fee for the privilege of staying alive. In modernity, as far as I am concerned, the libertarian, capitalist, corporatist, feudalist, monarchist, plutocrat, and flat out military dictator are all roses by another name. They all want a two-class world of masters and slaves. The term “enlightened self-interest” is an oxymoron. It presupposes that the self serving individual is also benevolent. These are, in fact, mutually exclusive characteristics.

How silly of me. Remorseless, ruthless self-interest with utter disregard for the consequences to anyone else is, of course, the most admirable and noble of aspirations. To be a libertarian, a free market capitalist, a corporate fascist or even just a good old fashioned military dictator, ah, how exhilarating! Who, in their far right mind, would ever desire the life of an honest, hard working, productive member of society? Who even wants a society? Good lord, how could one tolerate all that useless interaction with inferior workers and skulking merchants? The natural order is a very simple one. There are two races. There is the Master Race, those of us who are the true humans, who enjoy life unencumbered by conscience or compassion. Then there are the sub-human workers who simply are not intelligent, ambitious or aggressive enough to think of as real people. The Morlocks and the Eloi. I mean really, do you extend “human” rights to beasts of burden? I would certainly think not! So, what could possibly be wrong with that? Why, it is, quite simply, the laws of nature at work! I say bollocks to all this nonsense about treating each other with respect and dignity. It is, always has been and always will be every man for himself and always will be! Never forget the great libertarian Alistair Crowley, master of High Magick who said, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”. Long live “individual rights” and “free will”. Down with “society”.

Presupposition is another word for assumption. I think it is safe to say that presuppositions are what have brought us the very deep shit we are presently up to our collective necks in. Most Americans supposed their government was acting in their best interests all these years. They assumed the “free” market was. They supposed they were living in a democracy, more or less. They assumed the corporations they supported all this time were here for the benefit of everyone and not just the CEO’s and investors. Americans supposed theirs was the greatest and most wholesome nation on Earth while, in fact, it has been the most ravenous, deceitful and murderous empire in history. I have said and written, repeatedly, that capitalism is a system that can not succeed, that it inevitably can not result in anything other than terrible suffering for massive numbers of people and that it has a built in self-destruct mechanism. For decades we have seen the oppression, poverty, suffering and death it has caused. What we are witnessing today is the result of the self-destruct mechanism finally being fully engaged. The capitalist machine has finally gone into critical overload; its engine has been blown. The mythical ocean of endless consumerism has finally gone dry leaving the capitalist leviathan gasping for life on the dry land of reality. The flopping and thrashing of its death throes will take many more innocents with it into oblivion.

The high priests of Mammon are frantically casting useless economic spells, performing meaningless financial liturgies and chanting impotent free market mantras, all to no avail. The machinations of Paulson and his ilk, the great TARP bailout and its like, are not solutions. They only compound the problem, add to the destruction and ensure the complete collapse of the mythical capitalist empire. The chain of events that has been set in motion has become self-sustaining like the detonation of a nuclear weapon. Once the reaction has begun it can’t be stopped. The only result can be complete annihilation.

The unbridled greed of a relatively small number of psychopathic power mongers has initiated a wide array of negative feedback loops. It isn’t the first time in history this has happened. It is the first time it has happened on a global scale. The redistribution of nearly all wealth to a tiny fraction of the population has all but eliminated consumerism. The resultant surpluses pile up and can’t be sold. This means more business failures which mean more unemployment which means more over supply which means more bankruptcies which mean more business failures which mean... Just one part of the cascade of disasters which are finally bringing us to the end of a disastrous era.

And so ends the Age of Pisces. According to those who follow such things the coming age is Aquarius. One can only hope.

Richard W. Posner
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