Loon on the Loose at Left Foot Forward

Firstly what do we mean when we say ‘capitalism’? Well there are many perspectives on this but most cohere around certain key constructs which themselves drive capitalism’s core growth requirement.

It is an economic system in which specialised producers produce commodities for markets but not for their own subsistence. Capitalists have a monopoly of ownership of the means to production and must sell this production onto the market to receive their own means to subsistence and to purchase new means for production.

No, it ain\’t.

Capitalism is a method of ownership of productive assets. There is no requirement for specialisation, for production for markets, nothing about monopoly either. For example, we have at present a niminally capitalist society but we\’ve an awfully large number of not capitalist producers within that supposedly capitalist economy.

There\’s also nothing inherent in capitalism that leads to the necessity of growth either. Indeed, the growth we do get tends to come not from capitalism but from markets and specialisation: as already noted, not requirements of capitalism.

And then we get true lunacy:

This new economics could have as its new objective not growth for growth’s sake, not money or making markets our gods. Its aim could be to maximise the ecological efficiency of delivering to the wellbeing needs of today’s and future people.

It could seek not to rely on growth of the macro-economy. It could recognise the intrinsic value of the natural world with which we are so spiritually linked. It could once again make us stewards not dominators of nature.

It could be framed not by a drive towards efficiency but one of sufficiency and will require a values shift from extrinsic individualist vales to intrinsic ones which champion collective, greater-than-self solutions to sustainability challenges.

Excellent, so our new economics is going to maximise efficiency by ignoring efficiency.

I think we can let this tosser get back to his tube sock and Whole Earth Catalogue while the rest of us get on with life, eh?


16 thoughts on “Loon on the Loose at Left Foot Forward”

  1. I don’t know how you read this stuff well and closely enough to dissect it. I try the first few words then find myself overcome by an inability to pay attention to it. I’m trying to put my finger on what makes it so unreadable, without either being gratuitously offensive or blowing a fuse. The best I can come up with is that it is so sixth formish.

  2. “….markets and specialisation: as already noted, not requirements of capitalism.”

    Err, no. What distinguishes capitalism is markets in capital goods. These lead to huge benefits, since capital goods gravitate into the hands of those best abl to use them, and the workings of the consumer markets in turn lead consumers to take an increasing share in the value created by capitalists through specialisation, division of labour and innovation.

  3. Philip Scott Thomas

    @Edward Lud

    You and me both. It’s just sludge to me too.

    But I can tell you why it’s sludge. It’s a trait common to much left-wing writing: in the five paragraphs Tim quoted, try to find a single concrete noun.

  4. We’re Doomed!

    “Jules Peck is Chairman of the Edelman Sustainability and Citizenship Group. Jules is also a Founding Partner at strategy and innovation consultancy Abundancy Partners as well as a Trustee of nef (the New Economics Foundations), an adviser to The Green Thing, outgoing Chair of the Bulmer Foundation and a Fellow of the think tank ResPublica. Jules’ special interest is the updating of capitalism and the business implications of wellbeing economics. He has worked in sustainability and wellbeing for 23 years, one third in and around politics, one third in business and consulting and one third in NGOs like WWF where he was Global Policy Adviser for five years.

    Jules was for two years Director of David Cameron’s Quality of Life Policy Group, advising the Conservative Party on wellbeing and environment issues. A committed Citizen, he has spent the past 20 years advising business, NGOs and government institutions on sustainability issues and Wellbeing. In a varied career Jules has worked on sustainability and wellbeing issues in Brussels at the EC, in the US and EU in marketing and public affairs roles with a number of companies and internationally for WWF as a Global Policy Adviser.”

  5. So basically “capitalism” is any system where people provide goods to other people rather than producing everything themself. By his definition, a mutualised community bakery is capitalist.

  6. I’ve long wondered why Guardian anti-capitalists are so in favour of little local corner shops over, say Tesco? Corner shops are the very exemplars of international capitalism and globalisation. Worst of all they make a profit as middle men on the labours of others. Smash them all!!!

  7. I’ve long wondered why Guardian anti-capitalists are so in favour of little local corner shops over, say Tesco?

    It’s the Americanisation of the Left, again. Socialists in the USA had a marketing problem; whreeas in Europe it was relatively easy to sell a two class analysis (“bourgeois” versus “proletariat”) due to our ancient class systems, Americans had a different social understanding; that theirs was a meritocracy without “classes”. In particular, the idea that anyone could haul themselves up by their own boot straps and start a business.

    This meant that the Euro-socialist idea that every “boss” was the enemy, and the small boss- the petit-bourgeois- was a tool of the upper class, couldn’t be sold to most Americans, who generally admired small businessmen as self-helpers. So the American left developed a narrative of small versus big business with “small” business being on the side of the angels, effectively distinguishing itself from Euro-socialism by putting the small businessman among the proletariat, instead of among the bourgeois.

    Once we all adopted American socialism as the default model, around about the time of Sgt Peppers, we all adopted this preference for “Main Street” over “Wall Street”. Hence, corner shop versus Tesco- or, done properly, that most hated “big” business, Wal-Mart.

  8. Ian B. Fascinating. Thank you.

    Still don’t understand why anticapitalist campaigners don’t hate the local corner shop, though. I can understand why they hate Tesco and Walmart more, just not why they don’t get the point.

    My sister-in-law regularly spouts invective against global capitalism. Her most recent outbursts were interspersed by showing me her new SLR camera (Sony), her new iPhone, and her new Audi.

    She is, of course, a media studies lecturer. No kidding.

  9. #10

    It’s worth bearing in mind that in Utopia, local shops won’t sell global brands, or brands at all. They will be truly a local shop for local people, with bins marked “potatoes” and “carrots”. At the moment they are forced into peddling globalist big business brands, but as such they are victims of capitalism waiting for the Vanguard to free them from the oppression of “capitalism”. It’s interesting for instance how they are routinely portrayed as not profit-motivated, and merely interested in serving their local community, compared to Wal*Mart who are only interested in profits.

    A small number of mighty corporations can get away with it by presenting themselves as leftie and progressive; Apple is a prime example. THat may change though, now that Steve Jobs’s reality distortion field is moulderin’ in the grave.

  10. Ian B

    I’ve read “Utopia”. I don’t recall Sir Thomas More talking about local shops at all, let alone bins marked “potatoes” and “carrots”. In fact as “Utopia” precedes the bringing of the potato from the New World, presumably any bin he mentioned would have been marked “turnip”?

  11. Philip Scott Thomas


    It’s the Americanisation of the Left, again.

    Another useful theory, one to add your Anglo-Socialism Hypothesis. Thank you.

    I wonder, though, when you talk about the two-state analysis, that sounds more redolent of the Continent, especially France and Germany. Does the same hold true in England, do you think?

  12. Ian,

    the Left Foot Forward guy would do well to read the original if he wants an expose of capitalism….although I suspect More was being satirical

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