08 June 2010

Can Capitalism Be Altruistic?

Ralph Nader's New Book
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This book, "Only the super-rich can save us," by Ralph Nader, came out last year.

I think Ralph Nader is a brilliant thinker. I credit Ralph with initiating my own political awakening, to the harmfulness that is intrinsic to this corporate power dominated political system. These corporations compete for market domination. They can do no less - or else they would not be wise investments. Dominate to succeed. It's an unnatural and inharmonious system. Human beings have too much control over the environment to have a system that promotes and encourages the dominator paradigm. Another way is possible. A better way. A way of altruism, respect, kindness, compassion, reciprocity, truth, and peace....

Here are some of my initial thoughts about this book, I posted these on the facebook website earlier today:

I'm reading this new book by Ralph Nader. I'm about a chapter into it, "Only the super-rich can save us."

I think Ralph is brilliant, and I enjoy what seems, so far, to be the sense of humor in this book. However, there are some questions I have about the vision Ralph presents in this book, and although I am curious ab...out whether my questions will be addressed in this nearly 800 page epic, I am also skeptical.

The book presents Ralph's fictional (though he thinks plausible) scenario in which some of the world's richest philanthropists suddenly wake-up and realize how fucked-up the world is. Because of this realization, and the realization of their potential ability to make change, they therefore dedicate themselves, under the leadership of one mega-billionaire Warren Buffet, to use their capital, and other influence, toward the creation of an "open society" -a society that is altruistic and benevolent.

My question relating to the plausibility of this scenario revolves mostly around the realism of an expectation for reform within the capitalist (corporate socialism/ fascist) economy that we have.

It seems to me that capitalism has always been abusive. It seems to me that capitalism has always been exploitative and violent (slavery, extinction of species, et al.). It seems to me that on at least some level capitalism has always involved the mentality of divide and conquer. It seems to me that capitalism has always been oppressive.

So, so far the book is interesting, and I really appreciate what I think is Nader's sense of humor. About 40 pages into it, and I think it's an entertaining and interesting, crafty literary work of prose, albeit with a narrative that is sometimes somewhat silly, (an aspect which I personally find to be charming.)

But the question remains... is capitalism reformable? Is it possible to practice an altruistic capitalism? Or is the tendency to pit people against each other a radical and undeniable basic feature of the capitalistic economic system?

Is the concept of altruism anathema to capitalism (especially one that thrives on materialism/commercialism/consumerism)?

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