Capitalism isn’t sustainable. It’s going to collapse.
I might even go so far as to say capitalism itself verges on immorality, in that the system is predicated on forcing people to buy more than they need.
Let’s start small. Joe is a shoemaker and lives in a village of 100 people. He’s able to provide shoes for everyone, and he earns a comfortable living selling and repairing shoes.
Bob sees that Joe is making a good living making shoes, and he decides to make shoes too. Now, a village of 100 people only requires a certain number of shoes, and with twice the number of shoemakers, each one is now making half the amount of shoes (and money) he was before.
Since both men want a living wage, they need to take steps (pun intended) to increase sales of shoes. They could try charging more, but then shoeless people would go to the other shoemaker, so that isn’t any good. So instead, they’ll try to sell extra shoes.
Most people in the village only need a certain number of shoes, and they own them already. Replacing the worn-out shoes can’t sustain the two shoemakers, so instead they begin making different kinds of shoes. “These are going-to-church shoes.” “These are going-to-dinner shoes.”
In other words, in order to make a living, they need to create a need that isn’t there in the first place.
Over time, as you get more and more shoemakers, they’ll have to inflate more and more artificial need for every one of them to sell enough shoes to live comfortably.
Add in the inevitable advances in production, and you see the necessity of creating more inflated artificial need.
(Witness the laughable phenomenon of magazines with the object of teaching people how to buy less. You can get subscriptions to these things! It’s as if they’re saying, “Buy less! If you buy this magazine, we’ll tell you how!”)
In the autobiography of Teresa of Avila, she writes about a noblewoman who, trying to cheer her up, showed her a small collection of jewels. Teresa of Avila laughed and said to herself, it helped to put into perspective that those jewels meant nothing in light of the kingdom of Heaven. But to me, it was even more ludicrous because if I go over to the closest mall (ten miles away) there are seven jewelry stores! How much jewelry can Angelborough possibly require?
As our artificial, inflated needs increase, so do our unmet “needs.” Because we can’t possibly fulfill every “need” that every producer wants us to have. And the more our unmet needs, the greater our unhappiness.
Which we then seek to fulfill by meeting our “needs.”
It’s insupportable. In the long run, capitalism survives only by keeping its little capitalists unhappy.
I’m caught between wondering whether the current economic crisis is an evil we ought to avoid, or simply the justified swing-back as we balance the scales and God helps us root out the immorality in the system.