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Monday, 27 March 2017

The Death Of Capitalism

The Death Of Capitalism

A Future Historical
Alexander Gordon Jahans

Capitalism’s cause of death, and thus the time it started to die, is a matter of some controversy. Some argue that it was dead on arrival and all the events were inevitable given time. This is the Marxist view. Some argue that there are in fact five distinct forms of capitalism and so it was already dead several times over by the time anyone noticed. Others persist that it didn’t die, merely underwent a such a profound change noone has noticed that capitalism still serves us, or exploits us.

I do not intend to pick fights with any academics though obviously I have my own biases. I will therefore disclose that I am very much an adherent of the Paul Mason view of Capitalism’s demise. You may therefore conclude that I think Capitalism’s demise begin with the setting up of neoliberalism in the late 80s/early 90s and was then quickened by the housing crash of 2008. The poor handling of which saw that it was doomed to repeat the same mistakes until a further more devastating crash came to kill it.

However I believe there is one moment that few historians bother to note in the downfall of capitalism. After all what is one act of terrorism in the decline of a centuries old sociopolitical system of power and control? By that logic though, what importance does the bungled assassination of an individual in a small country’s royalty have on two world wars and one cold war?

I suppose we should have guessed the eventual outcome at the time. I mean really a group of individuals groomed online to use technology developed by capitalism for exploitation of leisure time destroying the center for world trade in the heart of a country that could not be more closely associated with capitalism unless its rulers were sworn in on a briefcase of banknotes? Add to that the fact that the grand master mind was a man trained by the CIA to be their asset in a proxy war against communism and was eventually killed on orders of the first black President and the symbolism could not be more thunkingly obvious.

When the terrorists coordinated by the CIA trained Osama Bin Laden hijacked planes and flew them into the twin towers of the world trade center I would argue that it was as if Archduke Franz Ferdinand got shot. What was significant in both cases was not specifically the scale of the atrocity but the importance to the political landscape. 9/11 was the first tragedy where mobile phones were ubiquitous enough to cover the devastation. How often have films and TV given us shakey cam footage of the villain destroying a building? That started here but of course its significance to the story of capitalism’s demise lies not just in being the first major instance of large scale mass connected instantaneous disaster porn.

I am English. I grew up in the 90s writing letters complaining about being bullied to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Even now I’m parochial enough to find myself prefering British comedy over American stuff. Even the American podcasters and youtubers I like tend to be either sufficiently ‘naturalised’ or cynical enough to be honourary Brits like David Wong Aka Jason Pargin or Dan Carlin. So forgive me if I seem insensitive or arrogant when I suggest that 9/11’s significance in the story of Capitalism’s demise lies more in the British realm than it does in the American political sphere.

It is true that when 9/11 happened George Bush and Tony Blair exploiting the tragedy led to the war in Iraq, the election of Barrack Obama on a wave of hope and outrage at Republican failure in Iraq and with the 2008 crisis. Then in reaction to the first black president, his social justice reforms and the war on terror’s daily exploitation of Islamophobia for viewing figures, to the election of Donald Trump and the re-awakening of political outrage and desire to change in popular culture.

I mean when General Leia is leading a war against a bunch of brainwashed fascist lost boys led by an emotionally unstable racist as Hilary Clinton is in the news trying to inspire hope of defeating Donald Trump and his army of 4chan trolls even the the slowest of slow people and the most uncaring of politics are liable to find themselves waking from their slumber to realise just how fucking high the stakes are. And of course the villain always wins in act 2 so to a nation raised on media a training montage of sorts for a new generation of political activists, given an awesome nickname by the enemies, rolled out. The Social Justice Warriors would play a very important part in the death of capitalism as would the militarisation of the police force in the wake of 9/11.

For Britain however the effects of 9/11 were much more severe politically. Tony Blair’s New Labour may well have been Margaret Thatcher’s greatest legacy but they were also the last semi competent government Britain would have for a long time. Lets be clear without 9/11, without Iraq, New Labour and Britain’s future as a result could have continued reasonably fine. Even given the 2008 crash. New Labour had preparations for succession built in. Gordon Brown was the Marcus Agrippa to Tony Blair’s Augustus. The successor in waiting and Blair’s right hand man. If Blair’s reputation and legacy had not been tarnished by Iraq Brown had the opportunity to pick another successor and steer the country further leftward while properly managing the crisis of 2008.

Instead Britain lost faith in New Labour and suffered first a hung parliament which put a conservative party in power with the Liberal Democrats. Then gave them such a slim majority that their leader was weak and desperate to control his euroskeptic and frankly racist as fuck back benchers so a European Referendum was called that result in Britain leaving the European Union, Scotland leaving the United Kingdom and a cascade of independence movements that destroyed not only the United Kingdom but the European Union and globalisation as a whole.

It would however take years before the malaise have described reached its final stage and that is what I intend to describe. However you define the start of capitalism’s demise, one thing noone denies is that it lingered until the forces that would destroy it reached maturity and combined to bring about its final end.

For many people for many years nothing really seemed to change. Governments would seem to change then do basically the same shit. Austerity was applied, welfare programmes were chipped away at, jobs became harder to find as automation improved. Successive governments would either champion the plight or complain about the blight of immigrants and refugees but globalisation mandated more and more immigrants as they would work for lower wages and social liberalism was a cheap way to seem better than the alternative. Crisis would come and governments would bail out the rich then shit on the poor.

All the while the seeds of capitalism’s downfall grew almost unnoticed. 4chan’s attempts at politics from gamers gate to Trump’s presidency and Brexit. The twitter hashtag protests of #BlackLivesMatter #HateBreedsHate and #Pussy Grabs Back. People dismissed the rise of political awareness as Bernie Bros, Corbynistas, White Feminism, the Liberal Elite in their Filter Bubbles or to a certain horrible creed on the message boards “Chimp Outs”.

The tone was always the same. Move along, nothing to see here. Except there was something to see and more and more people were starting to notice it. Genetic Modification created a protein plant that could be grown at home in a pot with a relatively cheap patented “fertiliser” to prevent GM plants destroying the already devastated planetary ecosystem. Scientists were able to use stem cells to create emergency transplant organs in the lab. 3D printers and VR headsets became as common as iphones, even homeless people could frequently be seen in VR mansions. Digital piracy of physical goods started happenning.

The starting pistol for the terminal phase began when one female games journalist who happened to be trans had a very very bad day and broke down on a livestream. The internet being the internet the rant snippet was freebooted and went viral. The reasons for this were obvious. Firstly the section of the internet dominated by sex obsessed virgin shut ins reacts to a female in a nerdy profession with feverish obsession born of rage, desire and a game trained instinct to attack the obvious weak spot.  Secondly the section of the internet that hates sexists immediately reblogs and champions anything that seems to promote women. Thirdly this was one of the most intelligent and eloquent minds of a generation letting rip on all the problems people tended to sweep under the carpet for the sake of their own sanity.

I cannot summarise nor repeat what was said for it would only devalue the experience of watching it for yourself. For five days she may as well have been Queen as everyone seemed to see her video blink, rub their eyes, wake up to reality then nod in agreement. Then the world moved on. There is always another disaster, another social injustice, another viral meme.

Except for the mother’s basement crowd. That rant was like the lightening awakening Frankenstein’s monster as gradually all these disparate decayed and foul things began to work together. Only the monster wasn’t driven by lust or envy. This wasn’t Gamersgate or Pizzagate, Brexit or Trump. There was no hatred of women, democrats or immigrants here. The monster that started to come to life took a tenet of an older movement and refined it to suit the new reality. This was about ethics in politics.

Then disaster struck. The climate had long since breached the 2 degree barrier and storms were common place, health problems related to breathing difficulties were common. Atmosphere scrubbers and renewable energy had quietly made staggering innovations but capitalism lay at the heart of politics and that corruption meant that pollution continued and climate change not only wasn’t fought, it was exacerbated. Until one day the inevitable happened and a storm destroyed the New York stock exchange.

The global economy tanked. Overnight disaster. Economists were woken from their reverie, as were the politicians. The world was locked in a system of massive debt. Debt that only kept getting worse as crash after crash necessitated more and more borrowing. If money worked because people trusted it meant something, that the state would protect its value what did it mean when the state kept devaluing money and was no longer trusted to protect it? Already cryptocurrencies like the ancient bitcoin were being widely used for online payments between artisans and their customers.

Global politics was devastated and the economic fixers were bought in. The Daddies of global politics turned up to tighten their countries belts. For most countries this meant a return to the status quo. More austerity, more cut backs, more deregulation, more automation and fewer jobs. Except in America.

You see America had seen Republicans and Neo Fascists come and go and thought them all failures. The president they elected was radical. He wanted to save a capitalism, to return to the gold standard. He built Trump’s wall and he built it high. It was a public works project designed to send a message, deter the inevitable immigration timebomb that was soon to explode and give the left something to focus on that would make him sound nice and safely incompetant.

Except this wasn’t Trump. This guy knew what he was doing. He obliterated all health and social care programmes overnight replaced them with a flat Universal Basic Income that included enough for a basic health insurance package. He passed right to die legislation, cracked down on Pro-life extremists and ensured states had to make birth control and abortion readily available. He didn’t care how exploitative or dangerous a drug was, he legalised and taxxed the crap out of it. Then just to finish off he slashed the government defence budget. There would be enough to take a punch if they were invaded then buy time to spin up production and launch a response.

It was this last act that perhaps changed everything. At every major turning point of european and global history America had come to the rescue. Now just as the daddies of the politics were facing the largest backlash since the 80s America abandoned them. Black Lives Matter marches started being joined by cheerleaders and nanas with their knitting. The general populace may accept that a black guy needs to be shot dead because he might have stolen a chocolate bar and things got heated but unless you’re a vampire, you don’t need to fear Buffy. Everyone is rightly terrified of grandmas but everyone is also rightly protective of them. Videos of police officers pointing guns at little old ladies and petite blondes go viral.

Then Frankenstein’s Monster enters the scene. When politicians are complain about their low pay thousands of pizzas are bought for him. They are delivered with such frequency that politicians are trapped inside buildings until security clears the boxes away. When Islamophobic political parties start milking terrorist attacks the new right can be found punching them on live tv, organising rings of protection around mosques and women’s marches. They may be highly problematic individuals but en masse they know who the victims are and they know who deserves a right good kicking. white men around the world are found beating the ever loving shit out of racist and corrupt politicians then facing the consequences with relative dignity because Bro, if you’re going to chat shit, you’re going to get banged.

At this point the political establishments of the world are freaking right the fuck out. They remember Russia and Lenin. They remember France and Napoleon. They remember Germany and Hitler. They know that powerful regimes can fall and tyrants be installed in their stead. They have seen fascism on the rise for decades but the general populace was always calm. Where Fascism seemed to win a majority most hadn’t bothered to vote but people weren’t just voting now, they were in the streets punching politicians in the face. Middle class white men at that. If the privileged were mobilising to take down the establishment then you could be damned sure the desperate would too. And America is busily not giving a fuck.

America is a country riddled with corruption and prejudice. The left have always marched there but comparatively America is prospering. The debt is being paid down, the economy is booming thanks to so many new consumers. Indeed the tax is being slowly hiked up on the richest year on year, granting more and more money to pay down the deficit while the rich hardly notice. The right to die is easing the demographic time bomb as is the legalisation of drugs since so many of the poorest are killing themselves off by overdose. This is cold hearted capitalism at its finest.

Then Google decides to announce its breakthrough in AI that can add subtitles to videos or indeed any audio on the fly by releasing a video showing off a live transcription of the livestream rant that went viral so many years ago. It was meant to be a cute little display of their new power. Hey remember that meme where someone ranted about politics live? We can transcribe that now. It was just supposed to be cutesy and pseudo topical. Like announcing a new music streaming service by playing Rick Astley’s Never Going To Give You Up during an independence referendum.

At least that’s what they claim and what most people thought was intended. The effect was to strike a match and drop it into a pool of oil. It reminded the world of all the very real problems, associated them with the brand Google and AI development then seemed to convey the message that anything said anywhere could be transcribed and searched. Something that governments could obviously exploit. Oh don’t worry we’re only going to use this power to target Islamic Extremists. We totally aren’t about to fire all Nickleback fans into the sun or anything.

Google rushed to move past the controversy and repair its brand image by highlighting its fully automated fleet of self driving Uber cars and its fully automated factory for farming GM crops and turning them into 3d printed meals for its cafeterias. Debate still rages as to whether this was conspiracy or cock up. I’ll let you be the judge.

Whatever Google intended it had now ignited the global debate on the role of politics and the effect of automation. If Google could transcribe videos automatically it would revolutionise the world as petabytes of data stored in audio could be newly crunched and factored into calculations and AI development. And if Google could already factory produce food without necessary oversight by people and already facilitate transport without oversight by people, just how much longer could capitalism last?

It was true that Google was a company that operated capitalistically by selling its users as data to advertisers. It was true that money drove them but a tool once created does not cease to exist simply because the circumstances that necessitated its creation are no long extant. This was a fundamental rule of politics. You might implement that tax hike, service cutback or supply redistribution because of one very particular set of circumstances but it would stick around when those circumstances were dealt with.

The people were smarter than they had ever been, they had access to more power than ever before and they were increasingly angry at the political establishment. It wasn’t long before hackers and coders replicated the AI for free in Open Source Code. Those with the time and ingenuity or maybe just the money and the will would try to replicate the automated factory. Open Source versions of the GM crops were developed and given out freely.

It took a few years but enough people were able to make automated zero cost farms, powered via renewable energy from solar panels, wind turbines or geothermal energy that the poor of the world started to be fed for free. As the technology became uniquitous foodbanks overflowed and soup kitchens were swamped with donations. Variations on the factory were developed. Small communes got together, supported by the first factories and renewable energy plants they built, then worked on designing systems for mass producing bandages, blankets and other supplies.

Capitalism had worked one last miracle. It had eliminated poverty. The welfare state was in tatters, the trust in the establishments was at an all time low but the poor had free food and warm beds to sleep in at night. Fantastic right. Look what great good capitalism had done? Through deregulation and atomizing the worker the entrepreneur had eliminated poverty through charity and innovation. The corpse of Ayn Rand had the world’s most powerful orgasm.

Except if the caring individual and the massing corporation had eliminated poverty why were people still working such long hours and paying so much in taxes? Why did the government think it could get away with taxing the purchase of menstrual aids when they were being mass produced for nothing? Which is about the time people started to realise you could produce guns with this stuff.

The states in Europe had seen this particular time bomb coming and they were ready for it. They embraced Neo Marxist ideas, instituted proportional representation to prevent the cult of personality endangering the public then started nationalising the companies and services that couldn’t be broken up while breaking up the monopolies that could be and setting up their own factories for food, clothing, blankets, bandages and other resources. Their message was simple. Let us be your infrastructure. Let us regulate and standardise what you could make for yourself. We won’t get in your way, we’ll do as you say and we’ll keep you safe.

The finance system continued its growth in complexity but it ceased to be an engine of boom and bust. Quietly a new kind of currency was created. The government credit. It could only be exchanged for goods at government services but because it could only be redeemed for services that could be replicated with a relative lack of scarcity it had an innate value that could not be challenged. More democracy at a local level allowed the government credit to facilitate the innovation and problem solving nature of market forces in an gage of increasing post scarcity in parallel with a dying capitalist system. Government credits could be given out as a Universal Basic Income without danger of overspend and they could be used to keep people working for the state. You wanted to work for the police shutting down AK47 producing communes because then you got to be rich in a utopia of plenty.

America was not doing so hot. It had tried to save capitalism but it was increasingly looking desperate and ridiculous. While countries in Europe had seen the danger of the gun and revolution then managed to head them off at the pass America had no such luck. Its strength always lay in its overwhelming force of arms and the fact it was financially solvent while others wasted their money on silly socialism.

Except now Europeans were undercutting America via charity and socialism. The Europeans were giving the technology to make automated food factories to the third world. Suddenly all these companies based in America that produced their goods abroad were finding their workforce striking and demanding better pay because capitalism’s atomisation of the worker doesn’t work when the worker doesn’t have to work. So now America, last bastion of pure capitalism experienced another austerity drive as its economy tanked and the last few companies raced to atomise what was left of its work force through innovation.

So now Americans are waking up to the fact that Europeans are living in a utopia while the countries they tell each other horror stories about are swiftly entering utopias as well. It turns out the answer to the demographic time bomb is raising the standard of living in the countries you are worried might come to yours. Mexico is swift to institute European Post Scarcity as well. Soon the wall comes to symbolise how trapped Americans feel within their own country.

Europeans on holiday (via solar powered electric planes) are keen to share stories of their socialist utopia and share the seeds that make their foods and bio-materials. The well off unemployed relatives of over worked Americans start setting up Open Source food factories for fun. The poor stop dying to drugs and the right to die. They start to multiply.

Noone is quite sure how but someone somewhere smuggles the schematic for a 3d printed assault rifle to America. Poor black people start carrying out marches against racism while armed to the teeth. They have had decades of playing nice, they’re done now. Trans people walk to the toilet armed because fuck it y’all fuckers had time to adjust. Suddenly the American government realises maybe this right to bare arms thing is a damned silly idea.

So the government bans guns. Or at least it tries to. It argues that in an age of relative post scarcity you don’t need a gun to live anymore. There is no need to hunt for food. There is no need to fear the home invader when the poverty that drives home invasions is no longer apparrent. When the risk of harm from a bad guy with a gun is mitigated by the ability to replace almost any organ in the body.

The problem the government has is that it picks upon a very contentious topic and then uses it to highlight how fucking crap capitalism and their government is. So AK47s are mass produced and handed out to every individual at the largest protest in the history of America since it was founded. Sure, the state is trained, the state is powerful but millions of Americans from so many different backgrounds don’t care anymore. This is an armed protest and nobody cares if they die at it. A lot will and maybe some of the government will get away unharmed but maybe they won’t and good luck explaining that you ran from a battle where cheerleaders and grannies asked you to do better and you decided to open fire.

The American Military is brought in to relieve the government. Maybe if they surround the protestors bloodshed can be avoided. Except these are soldiers who haven’t had to fight against anyone in the field and they have spent the entire time in America training to defend its citizens. Now you want them to mow down cheerleaders and grannies? No good. The American Military serves the American People not the American Government. If the American Government has a problem with the American People, the American Military is not going to side with the government. At least not this time.

And that’s how capitalism dies. The American Government negotiates a new Post-Scarcity society, pledging to open tons of factories to feed and care for the people. In return the American People turn in their guns and let the gun factories be destroyed. It is a transition orchestrated on negotiation of promises with peace only being possible when they are met. The American Government works with the people peacefully to achieve a better future where money isn’t necessary to live a good life and a gun isn’t necessary to keep you safe because trust in the state’s weapons is restored.

Oh there are still problems in the world. Desperate, ill and evil people still exist to cause problems but in an age where the data can be tracked and flagged the incidents are steadily decreasing. People planning terrorism or murder are apprehended. The unstable are given help before they can hurt anyone. People are still fallible and prejudiced but it’s a harmless prejudice. Nothing you can do will be able to take the ability to live away from that other person so you’re allowed to be wrong. Not that a lot of people are with so much information around. Anti-radicalisation sub-routines distrupt the filter bubble effect to passively prevent ignorance becoming deep seated prejudice.

At the same time technology is helping people meet like minded people. Recommending based on interests and personality, organising transport to ensure face to face socialisation occurs. The age of the shut-in who can’t afford to leave his house and stays in playing videogames and masturbating until his loneliness has become contempt is over. The nerds are happy.

Anyway I hope you have enjoyed my take on the events surrounding the death of capitalism. I always liked capitalism myself and so I can’t help lamenting a little at its passing even if what we have now is just quantifiably better. Goodbye for now. I’m going to go play that new Firefly video game. I’m so glad they rebooted the series. 

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