As many people far more expert than I have noted, the fundamental flaw in the capitalist economic system is its absolute reliance on growth. And, in case you haven’t yet gotten the memo, the era of unbridled growth is over. It is no longer sustainable, which means it never was. We do reach places where people have enough stuff, enough of given commodities. We also reach the point where the finite natural resources are at or near exhaustion, where any product or process that requires more non-renewable resources is simply too expensive. We reached that point with fossil fuels some time ago, as some early prognosticators suggested.
Yesterday, Proctor & Gamble, the world’s largest brand, announced it would sell off half of its product lines in an effort to induce growth in those that remain. I don’t pretend to understand the underlying economic principles at work here. I presume that, using classic capitalist analysis, their decision makes sense. But it fails to take into account the fact that capitalism as we know it is dead. In many ways, PG’s decision — which is certain to exacerbate the unemployment rate and thus increase the number of people who can’t buy any of PG’s brands — resembles the dying gasps of species of animals going rapidly extinct.
This cannibalistic behavior on the part of megacorporations is one of the symptoms of the death of capitalism. The greed that is built into the system causes companies to become numb to the reality that as they contribute to the overall poverty of the nation, they eat their market. Only companies that provide necessities will survive and they will have to find new efficiencies and market approaches that will be able to sustain themselves in increasingly competitive and difficult times.
We are in for economic transformation. This transformation will result in our finding a new level of economy in which the key word is not “abundance” but “enough”, in which the rewarded driving force is not greed but sharing, in which the true Unity of all of humanity — indeed all of Life — is a core value. Like all transformation, those who resist will experience pain and suffering. But at the other end of the process, when the transformation is complete, we will have adapted once again to changing environmental conditions to ensure the survival of the human race, albeit in a new form. (For a thoughtful insight into what this is going to look like, I highly recommend Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition.)