Why our Capitalist Gene is pushing us to destruction
Paul B. Farrell. Feb 12, 2014. Marketwatch.
Yes, we’re all capitalists. Today 7.2 billion. Soon 10 billion humans, all with a Capitalist Gene that says “me first, climate later.” Human nature. Basic psychology, evolutionary biology, brain science. When the chips are down, our instinctual, fight-or-flight gut reaction for self-preservation wins. Protect yourself, your family.
Yes, you may want a sustainable planet for future generations. Maybe you drive a hybrid. Recycle. Eat organic. May you’re even on a crusade to save the planet or save civilization from eventual collapse. Save the environment from global-warming disasters: melting arctic glaciers, rain forests disappearing, urban smog, toxic pesticides, dying species, deserts killing farm lands, ozone burning, lost energy reserves, diseases, pandemics.
That’s capitalism at work. And we’re all capitalists. Soon we’ll pass a point of no return, with 10 billion on Planet Earth, unprepared, still demanding, burning energy, exhausting scarce resources, driven by our inner instinctual, me-first Capitalist Gene. Why? All warnings about climate change, global warming and environmental threats will never be as immediate and strong as our “daily bread” need, thirst and hunger pains, kids crying for a meal, a drink today.
Capitalist Gene drives us, whispering ‘me first, climate later’
The Capitalist Gene parallels what evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins saw in his classic work, “The Selfish Gene,” the natural evolutionary process passing genes along. Personality traits from parent to child, to species, to future generations. The Capitalist Gene is in all humans, there before Adam Smith’s theories, before Keynes, before Alan Greenspan and Paul Ryan embraced Ayn Rand’s extreme capitalism, before Jack Bogle warned of “mutant capitalism” in his classic, “The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism.” The Capitalist Gene is in all humans, has been since the dawn of civilization.
When making economic decisions … when the capitalist brain chooses between saving and getting personally richer … between saving the environment or paying a new tax or losing a benefit or right, paying an extra fee … then the Capitalist Gene kicks in, and for most humans we’re biased toward short-term self-interest. Self-preservation today is our first priority.
The Capitalist Gene is our instinct for survival and instant gratification. It’s in our brains, our blood, our DNA structure, motivating our rational thinking process, while still hoping someone, somehow, somewhere will eventually solve all the world’s problems we created, will heal the world, someday, in the future, for future generations. While we take care of ourselves first. That’s capitalism.
Don’t believe me? That’s natural. You’re a capitalist, not some hard-core ideological climate-science denier. Skepticism is inherent in the capitalist mind-set, our brains, the collective conscience of all capitalists. Trust yourself.
Ready? So take a close look at the following profiles identifying the classic human Capitalist Gene in billions of capitalists across the world. See how many profiles fit America, the world’s 7.2 billion humans. How many are driven by our universal Capitalist Gene?
Now ask yourself: Who’s going to cut back. First? Voluntarily? Which nation, farmer, entrepreneur, logger in the Amazon? Who? Who will chose without being forced by some climate catastrophe, global war, pandemic, hunger, suffering in our competitive global capitalism arena? Read about a world of capitalists:
Big Oil Capitalists and Automobile Capitalists: An eternal love fest!
Not only do all humans need transportation, the automobile is a psychological status symbol. We have a deep love affair with our Mustang, Jaguar, Bentley. Want a better one next. There are more than 1 billion autos in the world, used by billions. America has 240 million. China 80 million. And Big Oil just keeps riding auto demand. A trillion dollars in annual revenues. Cutbacks? No way.
Consumer Capitalists: More is never enough
Rich, middle-class, poor, we all have a Capitalist Gene. 310 million Americans buy food, electronics, pay local taxes, drive the economy, make sure their kids get an education. Consumers want more money, goods, progress, a better future. Think about it, the American Dream is built on the Capitalist Gene, was deep in our collective conscience before the American Revolution. We want it all.
Retiree Capitalists: Save our Social Security first
Capitalism is fiercely competitive. AARP lobbyists fight for the best tax deals for 72 million boomers. Older folks are the fastest growing segment of global population, in America, China, throughout the world. All want security, earned entitlements, retirement nest eggs.
Worker Capitalists: Labor wants a bigger piece of the action
Wall Street, CEOs, shareholders and the Super Rich want to cut corporate taxes and workers benefits. While our capitalist economy favors the moneyed class, the inequality gap is widening, and like the Crash of 1929 will trigger a revolution and a new depression, with our working class demanding a broader share of capitalism’s rewards.
Food-stamp Capitalists: Below the poverty line, but upwardly mobile
“For the poor, ‘recovery’ is a mirage … Record 46M get food stamps,” headlined a USA Today special report. It’s worse today after a couple years: Capitalism is failing them, thanks to conservative obstructionists. Americans need jobs, income, new leaders creating policies so the 46 million get off food stamps, become consumer-capitalists driving a stronger economy.
Government Capitalists: Lobbyists, bureaucrats, politicians
Who really runs America? The 537 politicians elected to the White House, Senate and Congress? No. A bizarre network of 261,000 lobbyists, over 5,000 appointed bureaucrats, plus millions of civil servants, military, postal workers, state-government employees, teachers, police, firefighters, and private contractors. About 40 million labor-capitalists with personal interests in a continuing government payroll.
Hybrid Socialist-Capitalists Governments: China and developing nations
In “Every Nation for Itself: What Happens When No One Leads the World,” foreign policy expert Ian Bremmer illustrates how the Capitalist Gene drives sovereign nations into competition worldwide. The U.S. competes with China’s hybrid mix of capitalism, communism, socialist planning, state-owned banks, stock exchanges. Plus there’s fierce competition for global resources, like capital-rich/food-poor nations buying and hoarding worldwide agricultural lands for future domestic demands, depriving poor nations, setting up rebellions, wars, revolutions.
Philanthropic Capitalists: Balancing microcapitalists worldwide
Some philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates are actually encouraging capitalism among farmers in poor nations, where farming is the primary employment. New microcapitalists. Family planning and contraceptives are also freeing African farmers to increase incomes, tapping into the universal Capitalist Gene spirit of all farmers.
Silicon Valley Capitalists: Technology, entrepreneurs, private equity
A couple years ago MIT Technology Review asked “Why Can’t We Solve Big Problems?” The article made a strong point that leading technology minds are not only willing but also nurturing a new generation of entrepreneurs who will solve the tough challenges of the 21st century.
All the warnings about melting glaciers, rain forests vanishing, toxic urban smog, pesticides, dying species, farm lands becoming deserts, ozone burning, lost energy reserves, diseases, pandemics and so much more won’t matter much for capitalists in denial, when a crash, collapse, a massive wake-up call will be needed to knock some sense into our capitalist brains, maybe even jolt our Capitalist Gene into an evolutionary jump into a new dimension, collective rather than competitive … before it’s too late.
Paul B. Farrell is a MarketWatch columnist based in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Follow him on Twitter @MKTWFarrell.