The end of wealth

And the beginning of abundance

I recently saw a headline The Curse of the Millennials: Communism is Making a Comeback with the subheading With this generation's keenness for socialism, the countdown towards the end of wealth and abundance may have begun.

You can find the article yourself if you google for it. I don’t want to link to it here, mainly because it reprises the usual tired old tropes about the Soviet Union and Che Guevara, along with praising Ronald Reagan and Bush. Plus the usual blind silliness about free trade, which means the freedom of the strong to pillage the weak, as the UK’s incompetent trade secretary is discovering.

The reality of thousands starving every day and the fabulous wealth of a very small number of people being built on the dire poverty of millions, if not billions, of others escaped this correspondent. They seem unable to grasp that the abundance of capitalism we see all around us is held in the hands of a few. I’ve used this example before, but humans make enough food to feed a couple of billion more of them than exist, capitalist logic dictates that destroying that food to preserve profits is not insane behaviour, and by capitalist lights it is not. Natural resources are torn out of the ground to make gimcrack rubbish as long as our owners can turn a profit.

We also live in a world where the ecocide is coming, and in some parts of the world it is already here. Limitless growth could well give over to limitless suffering, mostly for the people on the wrong end of the wealth gap, within the next ten years or so.

But it did get me thinking.

The problem, if you look at it clearly, is wealth. We live in times of enormous abundance, but vast swathes of the population live precarious lives on the edge, and don’t have a pot to piss in. If you define wealth as the untrammelled access to resources, and an ownership model that lets you do what the hell you like with no consequences. The corporation itself is one of the most dangerous pieces of technology human beings have ever invented. Conscience free rapine, environmental damage, theft, and murder, but held invisible and unquestioned on the other side of a form of ownership that has been unquestioned for nearly two centuries.

You can’t have obscene wealth without disgusting poverty. Historically people were poor, but now there is more than enough for everybody on the planet several times over and there has been for hundreds of years. It’s just in the hands of a few.

Imagine you could push a button and someone you don’t know would die, but you would be a thousand dollars richer. Most people wouldn’t press the button. The billionaire class, and their millionaire apologists, press this button constantly. They don’t have and cannot see a human connection with the rest of us. Well, maybe it’s time the button was moved elsewhere.

The making of things was socialised and the streamlining of processes and tools eventually unleashed the increases in productive power we now see the benefits of. The side effects of driving people off the land to create a class of people who needed wages to live and ultimately turning women into chattel, walking wombs working for free, notwithstanding.

But they kept the old feudal forms of ownership. So the owner rents the labour from the worker and keeps the difference between the value of what it creates and the rent. The owner is the vestige of the old feudal power, in a lot of places the old aristocratic class and the new capitalist class are now the same thing. If you look at the government of the UK, and places like the USA it’s very easy to see how the already wealthy got together with the marginally lucky to keep the rest of us on the wrong end of the relationship. We are governed by a so-called master race of privately educated drunks and fools, who have nothing to recommend them other than their ancestors were a little luckier than ours.

Companies like Amazon and Walmart have built systems that can source and distribute everything people need to live. They have created the planned economy that the old Marxists said was needed to feed and clothe us all. The only problem is the benefits of ownership go to a tiny number of people, and the companies themselves treat their workers and the environment as disposable. The future is already here, and it isn’t that hard to create the better world we all need, we just need to take back what was stolen from us, we need to understand who we are.

Imagine carrying through the promise of the nineteenth century revolutions, taking the formal equality we hear so much of but don’t actually experience in reality. We no longer have ownership by the few, but control and structures that work for everybody. No more food waste, no more useless gadgets that break after a few months and can’t be repaired, no more empty jobs siphoning the resources flowing around the economy into offshore accounts, no more owners. No more privileged thugs in top hats acting like vampires.

Then the abundance would be everybody’s. The author of that article has it wrong. The abundance is held back by the few who already have far more than enough. Replacing wealth with common ownership will release the abundance that is already there.