Reforms Are Not Enough

Reformists think our way of life is based on sound principles, and the system just needs a few tweaks, a little cleaning up. They’re wrong. We need an entirely different system.

Reformists are good people. They fight against poverty, injustice, war, ecocide, all sorts of evils. But their efforts fail: The evils reappear in new forms faster than any whack-a-mole reforms can remove them.

That’s because reformists see poverty, injustice, war, etc., as unrelated problems springing from nowhere. But those problems — too numerous to overcome separately — really are symptoms of a single underlying root problem: the concentration of power. That problem takes many forms which go unnoticed; they’ve been accepted as part of normal life for thousands of years.

(Thousands of years?? Do I sound like a crackpot, offering the “secret wisdom of the ages” like tiny ads at the back of magazines? But don’t stop yet. Unlike those ads, I’ll present my entire message for free.)

People are too often corrupted by having power over other people. We can see that in domestic violence, workplace bullying, police brutality, prison torture, army atrocities, and political lies.

Obviously, hierarchy concentrates power. Our government and other workplaces are organized in authoritarian hierarchy. We need to replace that with horizontal networking, also known as cooperation and friendship.

A high position in the hierarchy is largely interchangeable with property: Each can be used to obtain the other. Money is influence, so rule by the wealthy class will only be ended when we no longer have a wealthy class; that requires a very different economic system.

Our present system concentrates property. Indeed, economic inequality in our society has become enormous, and that didn’t happen by random chance. How did it happen? Well, if we don’t share, then we must trade — for labor, food, rent, everything.  (In particular, debts with interest are a trade of money now for more money later.) Trade favors the trader in the stronger bargaining position, making him stronger still, thus increasing inequality, creating poverty and plutocracy. Our society has enough resources to feed the hungry and house the homeless, but that’s not happening because it wouldn’t make the rich richer.

The market is often praised for its “efficiency,” but that’s a lie. The market is, at best, efficient only regarding measured costs and benefits. It has large unmeasured side effects that are borne by community and environment, not by buyer and seller. These externalities include all the evil symptoms — poverty, war, ecocide, etc. In particular, capitalism is inherently ecocidal, and so “green capitalism” is impossible. Indeed, the fundamental principle of capitalism really is every man for himself, and to hell with the commons.

Protests against wars have diminished in recent years, as the government has improved at lying. But the Department of so-called “Defense” is no such thing. The wars are all for profit, and so most of our “honored and distinguished statesmen” of both major parties are actually liars, thieves, and mass murderers. Weapon makers get a huge markup. US oil companies get oil for low prices, or else see their competitors reduced to rubble. Members of congress get big donations from all the companies involved. The wars are aimed primarily at destroying countries whose leaders have challenged the “petrodollar,” an arrangement that says oil can only be traded for US dollars (thus generating interest for the Federal Reserve). The USA has been an imperialist plutocracy thinly disguised as democracy ever since its founding in land theft, genocide, and slavery.

Poverty is useful to capitalists. The employer can say to his workers, “if you don’t like your low wages and bad working conditions, there are a hundred poor people waiting outside to apply for your job.” Privately owned workplaces are little dictatorships; that’s why we all hate Mondays.

If we jail the plutocrats without changing the system that spawned them, it will quickly spawn a new batch. Plutocrats may be willing agents of evil, but the source of evil is the economic system itself. The system compels plutocrats to compete against each other for short-term profits and to think of nothing else; that’s why they are destroying the ecosystem on which even they are dependent. We’re all prisoners on this crazy train, all needing a revolution to free us, though some have more comfortable cells.

The alienation is in all of us, not just our rulers. Property separates us, and sets us in competition against others. They become commodities, to be exploited or discarded. Empathy is replaced by fear, giving rise to racism, sexism, xenophobia, imperialism, authoritarianism, etc. The homeless beggars on street corners are constant visible reminders of society’s callous unconcern. And every day some lonely man goes berserk and starts shooting.

In summary, private gain is an incentive for all kinds of evil. That incentive would be removed if we ended hierarchy and property; then one could only “get ahead” in ways that advance the entire community. We need revolution, awakening, metamorphosis to a culture of caring and sharing that leaves no one behind. That’s the only way we’ll end war, poverty, ecocide, and all the other cruelties that reformists have been ineffectively protesting against. Tell everyone. And hurry, because the climate apocalypse has already begun.


2019 Oct 10, version 5.05. The leaflet fits on two sides of one page.