Privatize profits, socialize losses – thanks capitalism!

As Trump and his cronies are busy rolling back environmental regulations, many are appalled and up in arms, shocked by the audacity! But I’m a socialist, so I’m one of the few Americans who are not really surprised. We’re just watching capitalism at work. And in truth, it’s always been that way, it’s just that now Trump & Co. are too brazen and/or too stupid to hide it. In a sense, I suppose, they are doing us all a favor by making it all very obvious.

One recent example of all of this is that mining companies no longer have to promise to clean up their messes. #thankscapitalism

Under capitalism, individuals and corporations can amass great wealth such that they can both control government regulations and manipulate public opinion

Here’s the skinny:

Capitalism just doin its thang

When I run into armchair apologists defending capitalism, they’ll piously proclaim that “real capitalism” would make companies pay for cleaning up their messes, which sounds nice and all, but it misses a fundamental point about how power works in a capitalist system. Under capitalism, individuals and corporations can amass great wealth such that they can both control government regulations and manipulate public opinion. Once they do that, they can deregulate or just ignore their messes and pay off the politicians.

Hence, the end result: privatizing the profits and socializing the losses. They make the money and leave the public to foot the bill.

Socialism, by contrast, is not naive about the workings of power. The best way to handle extracting coal or oil or any other major resource is to make it public, socialize it all the way down, and give the people control. The basic tenant of democratic socialism is this: people get a say in the decisions that impact them. And when it comes to our resources, this impacts us all, and as such it shouldn’t be turned over to a few profit monsters.

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

19 thoughts on “Privatize profits, socialize losses – thanks capitalism!”

  1. “they are doing us all a favor by making it all very obvious”

    This is a left-wing accelerationist position, isn’t it, thumbnailed in Wikipedia as “support for the deepening of capitalism in the belief that this will hasten its self-destructive tendencies and ultimately lead to its collapse.” There’s been a whole flurry of left and right accelerationist theorizing among some of the blog edgelords I still follow — is the term bandied about in the socialist circles you frequent?


    1. No. I haven’t heard anything to that effect. I should clarify that I am not necessarily advocating that we aid and abet the acceleration of capitalism. I’m simply observing that the system has become so top heavy that it seems likely that it will buckle under its own weight. But I don’t “support” such acceleration, I merely observe it and view it as an opportunity for education and discussion.


    2. Hey… One more thing…

      Going thru old keepsakes today in a box I havent opened in a few years.

      Back in 1999 (or was it 2000?) when they held the WTO convention in Seattle, my dad was a passport agent at the fed building down town. He was asked to volunteer for event staff and did. They gave him a uniform to wear, and I have it still.

      As you know the event was heavily protested. A landmark event, and dad was not exactly in the center, but very close and saw much of the action. He told me to hang on to the souvenirs. Always said it might prove meaningful since he had a front row seat at world history making.


  2. There’s a version of left accelerationism in which the outrages perpetrated by capitalism become sufficient to push resistance over the top into revolt. That’s not the left accelerationism that’s been discussed in the blogs and associated publications. It’s more that the engines driving human progress — technology, innovation, automation — are being hindered by capitalism; those forces need to be unleashed from investor control, pushed to the limits in order to bring about a postcapitalist socialism or communism. Maybe the most coherent summary of the position is Srnicek and Williams’s #Accelerationist Manifesto. They reference Nick Land, who is probably the most significant advocate of right accelerationism — here’s a pretty good summary article from the Guardian. These three guys were blogging when you and I started out; their left/right dialectic has framed the edgelord debates on accelerationism in various blogs over the past few years.

    On an earlier topic, the hot fan fiction platform site is Archive of Our Own, touted on the site as “fan-created, fan-run, non-profit, non-commercial archive,” with 1.3 million users and 3.5 million works. Again, I think it’s mostly a younger crowd, and as fanfic the stories expand on books and movies that are already well known, Harry Potter being the paradigmatic exemplar.


      1. It’s telling that one of the reasons Srnicek and Williams dropped the accelerationist lingo is that they think it’s become too popularized. No question Land was/is a charismatic figure, mingling high tech and the occult, racism and Bitcoin, regarding capital as the movement of intelligence through the universe, essentially calling for acceleration into the posthuman via AI and space travel and probably widespread extinction of most humans who get left behind. There’s a pretty significant right-wing accelerationist intelligentsia on the Internet, with a lot of the adherents being Silicon Valley techies. Plus the Ccru sounds like it must have been an exhilarating intellectual and social milieu, one that the edgelords on both the left and right wings of political radicalism would like to recapture.

        I’m not an enthusiast for accelerationist ideology, but as you know I do believe that tech has made it possible for writers to accelerate the movement from manuscript to publication, as well as accelerating the obsolescence of commodity capitalism for products that can be replicated and distributed at virtually no cost.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. But for your vision to be realized, wouldn’t we need to be taking care of our basic needs? In order for artists to distribute their work free, as cultural artifacts, don’t we need to have a basic income? A writer’s gotta eat, right?


    1. The Guardian article was good, very thorough, though the conclusion implied that there aren’t any credible accelerationists left. Nick Srnicek is the last active voice, and he’s dropped the #accelerationist hashtag in favor of an appropriation of technology that’s more leftist and socialist than anything else.


      1. Somehow my last comment got out of order — it should have followed yours on the Guardian.

        I think that the more principled version of right-wing politics is accelerationist. Capitalism is the engine of progress, while so-called progressive government just slows things down. Get government out of the way and let capitalism accelerate into the future of innovation, productivity, and plenty. I think even Marx thought that the capitalist means of production would through automation make most work unnecessary. It seems pretty certain that obsolescence of labor is accelerating with advances in AI and robotics; the question is whether laborers too become obsolete. Left-wing types like Srnicek want shorter work weeks and universal basic income, letting everyone benefit from greater leisure afforded by automation. The right-wingers would just leave the redundant workers behind, fighting over the scraps and killing each other off.


      2. Again out of comment sequence. I’ve not proposed that writers distribute their books for free; I’m saying that libraries distribute their copies of the books for free. But the libraries would be buying the copies they duplicate and distribute. A public utility, not a public giveaway. Revenues for writers might actually go up, inasmuch as all of the capitalist middlemen who now siphon off most of the proceeds would be jettisoned, with most of the revenues going to the writers instead.


      3. Also, even in today’s capitalist book economy at least 95% of writers would starve if they had to pay for groceries with their writing income. If you wanna eat, getta job — or a sugar daddy.


      4. Don’t get me wrong: I’m on the left side of the divide, supporting universal basic income. But the right accelerationists hold all the cards and the capitalists hold all the money, so just issuing demands to the rich who own the means of production isn’t going to get it done. Can the workers seize the means of production — take over Google and Facebook and Tesla? Can the workers vote in a socialist government, and if so could the socialists actually enforce legislation nationalizing businesses and turning them into public utilities? Could worker-run syndicates and consumer-run cooperatives actually outcompete the capitalists, altering the economy without armed revolt and with minimal governmental support?


  3. When I was a kid, I remember a group of us youngsters “inventing a game” with a can and a stick. I dont remember how it worked now, but I think it was loosely based on baseball. But we were “inventing” it as we went. And of course, there were some kinks in it that we found cropping up along the way. So, we were always tweeking the rules. But eventually, it became clear that the kids with the social power/status kept tweeking the rules to benefit themselves at the expense of the others. Eventually the game just pretty much sucked.

    I remember thinking we were a bunch of dumb kids for trying to do this. I figured when I grew up, I would understand the world differently and would be treated differently by it.

    Still waiting for that.

    Hey, changing the topic, but still related in some round about ways…

    I got invited to a Bible study with guys I mostly dont know the other night down at a fitness gym where one of my kids works. This being Lubbock, TX, you surely can guess how we feel about politics in general in this town.

    Now… of course there is a strong American impulse to try and separate religion and politics, but like all the other rules we live by, we tend to stress that kind of thing when it suits us. And so when the guy who fancied himself our leader in the group asked me what I thought about a verse in the Sermon on the Mount, I said I think Jesus is talking about revolution to people who want a revolution. (I stipulated that it was a “love” revolution of sorts, and not the kill your enemy kind we typically associate with that word (oh, and btw, I use the word revolution liberally, but I dont really think it actually is that at all… but using it in almost the opposite way somehow communicates… so I use it…)

    Anyway, the guy seemed pretty stumped by my remark. He tried to go back to separating religion from politics, but he had opened the study talking about humility, so I wound up asking the group if Donald Trump is humble or proud. (Now the word I would normally use is Narcissist, but pride words too.) This is when I got stunned. Every guy at that table choked. I mean, this is the easiest question to answer in American politics today. But these guys desperately wanted to change the subject. Every last guy was caught like a deer in the headlights with this notion. Even a guy working out nearby came over to jump in to the discussion, but they all wanted to defend Trump while changing the subject.

    Keep in mind, this is a Christian Bible study circle. I am picking on a precious idol and we are discovering where everyone’s heart REALLY is, and the whole bunch is full of anxiety. Once I realized how this was going, I jammed on it all the more. I said, “This president is an unrepentant ‘Two Corinthians’ quotin self-professed ‘pussy-grabber'”!

    Oh, man. I really tore it then.

    One guy wants to say, “How do you know he didn’t repent? You can’t judge a man like that. He is a Christian.”

    Well, to be fair, I will not question his faith at that level. I am a sinner, but that is not in and of itself a negation of my profession of faith. But I am clear that this man has excused his bad behavior as “locker room talk” and suggested (though has not followed through so far) that he will sue his women accusers for lying about him. And anyway, we can judge a tree by it’s fruit.

    I did not let it go. Our little study pretty well broke down. I was not impressed with it. I did not LEARN anything. There was a real lack of any insight for faith or for daily life. But I uncovered a deep anxiety and inconsistency in my fellow disciples that they did not want to accept at all.

    I kinda think that by the time we dove into Philippians, one guy seemed to begin making the connections with me, that faith and politics are not all that separate after all.

    Anyway, I have been thinking of you since the exchange. Thought of you and figured I would mention it for kicks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agent X,

      Wow. Quite the story! That’s pretty fascinating.

      I too have heard many Trump-supporting Christians now wanting to keep faith and politics separate. I get the sense there are plenty who don’t, but it seems like there are some conservative Christians who kind of still have a faint little voice inside of them chiding their political support of Trump. So, to justify their political compromise, they want to now separate faith and politics.

      Obviously Falwell and Franklin Graham are not of the mind to separate faith and politics, however, but I have heard of Republican ministers wanting their church to be politically “neutral.” I find this to be more than a little disingenous: having unleashed the reprobate Trump, they now don’t want to have to deal with the divisions that Trump represents. Deeper still, they don’t seem to have the courage to deal with the consequences of decades of us-versus-them conservative politics that the conservative church has now committed herself to.

      How did this all end? Shouting? Did anyone storm out?

      Was there any tension with the guy (or guys) that you did know? Did you know the leader of the Bible study?

      I’ve heard it circulated among evangelicals that Trump is a Christian. Do you get the sense that many people actually believe that?


      1. I am under constraint of many obligations, so commenting is a challenge. Wish I had presented my thoughts better to begin with actually. Anyway… will try to answer your questions.

        No one stormed out. There was waaaaaaay too much of that phony politeness for that. No. The leader lamented that he would pray for me since the issue was ruining me. Ha! The denial is intense.

        No shouting, exactly, but lots of trying to talk over one another, and this when I am sick and losing my voice! I know that one person was put off by the leader…. so I hear since the event. But that may have been about other aspects. I sense the guy is an ex-con. His version of biblical presentation was to string together a number of prooftexts, insist on biblical humility, and present himself as a leader worthy for the rest of us to submit to as he put out a subterfuge about how he is only speaking Bible to us and not his own authority. Thus, it all seemed a bit manipulative. And I called his bluff, but took it to a Trump thing too.

        Sometimes a Bible study is a knife fight instead of a Bible study. I always hate that, but sometimes it is. And well, I bring guns instead of knives, so if it’s gotta go that way, I might just blow up your “study”. I am not cool with being manipulated spiritually, so when I sense the bit going in my mouth, I spit it out.

        As for separating religion and politics, I find that a fascinating subject to consider. I think they belong together, actually, but nothing like the way conservative politicians and churches present it. Not that I have it all worked out, but I am sure that power-plays by Christians cuts our own limb out from under us. And conservative politics is full of that. Also, I find using it when it suits you, and then withdrawing from it when it doesnt to be disingenuous to say the least. However, I reckon even I might struggle with that too from time to time.


  4. Agent X, yeah, I hear you. Politics is inseparable from faith. Faith informs our politics, no question. Any worldview informs and shapes ones politic perspective. Yet no particular worldview (or faith) should be codified as law, hence the idea of the separation of church and state is a good one. Conservative evangelicals seem to be engaged in a futile fight to make America into a “Christian nation.” That’s a quixotic task, to say yhe least, within a multicultural democracy and within the “melting pot” that is the U.S. of A.

    Also….I’m with you on getting irritated by subterfuge and spiritual manipulation. Makes my skin crawl.


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