…these are days of lasers in the jungle,
lasers in the jungle somewhere,
staccato signals of constant information,
a loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires and
—Paul Simon, The Boy in the Bubble
Capitalism sucks. It purports to be a system for organizing economic activity that requires the collaboration of capital and labor, promising to be the petri dish for innovation and creativity, and the birthplace of wealth creation. It functions best in a political environment that fosters individual initiative.
Ultimately, it’s a giant monopoly game where a few clever players end up with all the property and use their extraordinary wealth to buy politicians who skew governance to favor the few.
The good times last long enough for greed to get out of hand, resulting in an economy bloated with debt and a growing population of economically marginalized citizens. The end game is collapse, wealth destruction, and poverty all around.
The cycle has a long history, as is evident in this excerpt from Reza Asian’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth:
…Capernaum was the ideal place for Jesus to launch his ministry, as it perfectly reflected the calamitous changes wrought by the new Galilean economy under Antipas’s rule. The seaside village of some fifteen hundred mostly farmers and fishermen, known for its temperate climate and its fertile soil, would become Jesus’ base of operations throughout the first year of his mission in Galilee. The entire village stretched along a wide expanse of the seacoast, allowing the cool air to nurture all manner of plants and trees. Clumps of lush littoral vegetation thrived along the vast coastline throughout the year, while thickets of walnut and pine, fig and olive trees dotted the low-lying hills inland. The true gift of Capernaum was the magnificent sea itself, which teemed with an array of fish that had nourished and sustained the population for centuries.
By the time Jesus set up his ministry there, however, Capernaum’s economy had become almost wholly centered on serving the needs of the new cities that had cropped up around it, especially the new capital, Tiberius, which lay just a few kilometers to the south. Food production had increased exponentially, and with it the standard of living for those farmers and fishermen who had the capacity to purchase more cultivatable land or to buy more boats and nets. But, as in the rest of Galilee, the profits of this increase in the means of production disproportionately benefitted the large landowners and moneylenders (bankers) who resided outside of Capernaum: the wealthy priests in Judea and the new urban elite in Sepphoris and Tiberias. The majority of Capernaum’s residents had been left behind by the new Galilean economy. It would be these people whom Jesus would specifically target–those who found themselves cast to the fringes of society, whose lives had been disrupted by the rapid social and economic shifts taking place throughout Galilee…
Economic crashes vary in severity. The greater the debt in the system, the greater the inequality of the wealth and income distribution, the worse the breakdown. There is the real question of survival in the big ones.
The crash dead ahead looks to be the worst yet. I hope we make it through OK, because capitalism sucks, but it beats any other kind of economy dreamed up by man.