Capitalism Has No Endpoint

Jun 21 2012 @ 2:25pm

Robert and Edward Skidelsky's new book, How Much Is Enough?, explores the diminishing returns on greater and greater wealth. Robert Skidelsky examines capitalism's limits:

Intelligent defenders of capitalism always recognize that it's a system with moral flaws, but they have regarded such flaws as the price of progress. Keynes was typical in this respect. In that essay, "Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren," he writes: "For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone else that fair is foul and foul is fair"—he knew his Shakespeare—"for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer, for only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into the sunlight." How innocent those words sound today.

Capitalism, it is now clear, has no tendency to evolve into something else. I'm not saying something higher, but just to evolve into some other system, a system fit for abundance. It has no tendency to do that. Left to itself, the machinery of one generation will carry on churning endlessly and pointlessly, pointlessly because it never asks the question, "What is this for, what's it all about?" To bring it to a standstill requires an act of collective imagination and will.

And this is in part what Christianity is for, the religion of unachievement, the West's check on the necessary amoralism of the market. And yet it is now reduced to Paul Ryan's love of Ayn Rand or the "Prosperity Gospel" and Christianism has all but internalized capitalism as the end rather than the means of human flourishing. Meanwhile, we are destroying the planet in search for "more" and "more". Are we happier now? Will we ever be if this materialism is our primary source of values?