It's easy to say what I'm not. I'm not a capitalist. I'm not a libertarian. I'm not a Ron Paul supporter. I'm not a Democrat. Most importantly, I am not a liberal.
For a long time I used to consider myself a liberal, and why not? I'm in favor of environmental protection, gay rights, a progressive tax system, and lots of other issues that would make me a liberal. I think it was sometime around Jon Stewart's awful-waste-of-time Rally to Restore Sanity that I really started to better identify my beliefs and ideology, and to disassociate myself as a "liberal".
|Ugh, way to waste my time. If you're going to have Cat Stevens at least let him play one whole song. Jerks.|
Liberalism is nothing but the idea that we should be nice to each other. That seems like a very agreeable stance, but it leads to a lot of ineffectual attempts at improving the world. Liberals, at best, try to lessen the consequences of capitalism.
|Liberals helped stop child labor. Then they exported it.|
SOPA was an obvious overreach that could have affected many bourgeois liberals in America. It was strange to see liberals oppose SOPA by wildly overstating the importance of social media in the Arab Spring. Even still, liberals were on the right side of this very specific issue. Yes, SOPA was bad legislation.
My major problem with liberals here is that they were too busy trying to stop this single piece of legislation that they seldom addressed the causes that allowed SOPA to exist. Libertarians were able to masterfully frame the argument against SOPA by asserting that it was government overreach. This argument gained some traction with many squishy liberals. While Libertarians were able to give their very false spin on this issue, we never once were able to address some deeper issues related to SOPA.
SOPA was promoted by many corporate interests that bought the votes of various members of Congress. While Libertarians are ridiculous to assert a legislature enthralled to corporate interest can somehow represent "government overreach", liberals were too busy arguing against SOPA (for largely selfish reasons) that they were unable to actually push for fundamental change that would stop something like SOPA from happening again. SOPA, at its core, is merely an example of corporate influence in our increasingly un-democratic process. Sometime in the future, I'll address the false dichotomy of capitalism and crony-capitalism, but for now it's important to just realize that capitalism will use any lever of power it can influence to help it maximize profit.
Apple's outsourcing of manufacturing to FoxConn is one of the greatest examples of capital excess in recent history. Apple is not alone in this, but they are a tech icon and it is right to single them out, especially in a year where Steve Jobs was all but deified by the bourgeois-liberal class in America.
Capitalism, as I talked about in a recent post, is a monster of perpetual hunger and constantly seeks profit. Outsourcing manufacturing to parts of the world that will gladly enslave its people and pollute its land has become an increasingly popular form of maximizing profits. Apple, like almost all tech firms, has done just that, and as long as they were able to squeeze every cent from the sale of their various iGadgets, they were happy to export misery in return for importing profit.
Liberals were outraged when they heard that FoxConn's working conditions were awful and that many workers were driven to suicide. Again, upon hearing this, liberals wanted to fix this particular excess of capitalism instead of addressing any of the core issues. Very rarely has this discussion turned to whether or not there should be free trade with China or other parts of the world that are content to exploit its people for American profit.
The problem isn't with FoxConn. The problem is that capitalism looks to squeeze every ounce of profit and will do anything it can to do so. Americans who buy consumer electronics do not care if the work that went into creating it destroyed someone's life. All they care about is how much the device costs. It is shamefully stupid to expect individuals to somehow change the very nature of capitalism and to make it somehow humane. Individual action means nothing in the face of capitalism. Collective and democratic action is the only force that can stop the excesses of capitalism, and until we all understand this, we will forever be plagued by the ruin it delivers.
In both of these cases, liberals have tried to put out fires. Never are the core issues address nor have steps been taken to prevent future problems. Liberals may be useful allies in trying to incrementally fight capitalism, but they will only do so when each and every instance of capital excess is brought to light. Liberals are capitalists and endorse the capitalist system. Being a liberal means that you are a gardener that tries to cut weeds without attempting to truly root them out. FDR and President Obama have been, at best, liberals who have tried to save capitalism by lessening the horrors it inflicts.
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio, and it always humors me to hear these people talk about liberals as though they were Marxists or leftists. As an actual Marxist, it really strikes me as stupid that someone would accuse President Obama of being a Marxist when he has done nothing to reign in free trade, has yet to nationalize any banks, and has otherwise continued the pro-capitalist platform of the Democratic Party.
Once you realize that liberalism means little more than moving from putting out one fire before going to the next, you have to start thinking about the core cause of these outrages. It becomes impossible for most people to remain a capitalist once they understand that most plights in the world are caused by capital's inexorable hunger for profit.
I encourage everyone that identifies as a liberal to think about what that means, and please let me know if I am missing something.
At the end of the day I self-identify as an anti-capitalist. I believe Karl Marx has the most incisive analysis of capitalism and its affects on society. I also believe that we are so far from being able to imagine a post-capitalist society that there's no sense in trying to identify yourself on what you think should come after. All that matters now is trying to stop the excesses of capitalism and rolling back its influence.