Capitalism Revisited

“The world has changed since 2009”. “Greece is bankrupt”. “The economy is in recession for the second time this year”. “Many European countries lost their top ratings last night …”.

Headlines such as the above have been in the newspapers for the past two years and one report after another talks about our looming doom and how horrible the world has become.

When I read news such as that our economic output only grows by 1.5 % instead of 2.0 %, I seriously think that things have gone wrong. Not because of such insignificant figures, but because we put so much emphasis on such insignificant figures. Why do we put such stress on the importance of growth and why does our economy have to grow by 2.0% so that we can pay for the increase of interest in our debts and make more debt? We do this with the excuse to create more growth and make people satisfied, create employment and with the naïve impression that this is aimed to make everyone “happy”.

It is evident that something in this whole logic seems flawed and wherever growth and happiness is put onto the same basket, the intelligent mind has to wonder whether there is a fundamental flaw in all of this. This article is not about supporting or opposing a political agenda or system, but I would like to evoke some thinking in you as to what is going on in this world and how we can make it a better place by thinking and acting accordingly.

There is plenty of literature on economic and political systems, ranging from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations to the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels. But one fundamental thought is always the same, growth and more growth will create more wealth. However, is that really so?

The same thinking transcends into everyday life. We need to have more, we need better things, we need better technology, we need better cars, we need, we need, we need … But is what we want really what we need?

Why do televisions and computers only last a few years these days whereas my parents still use the same sound system they had twenty years ago, which by the way is still working perfectly fine? Why do most appliances have an explicit “built-in” life span so that we need to replace them in a few years and buy the latest products? Such practice stimulates growth, technological advancement and secures jobs. It is a legal accepted practice but looking at it closer it seems absolutely absurd and considering what we do to the environment of this planet, hypocritical and irresponsible.

In order to really transform our society we need to start thinking about the real moral aspects of our own actions, ambitions and what we support in life and what we don’t. Do we really need all the things we have? Does our economy really need to grow all the time and is a three month recession the end of the world? Are jobs lost because of some number crunching or is it the self regulation of the markets spiced with a little bit of greed of each single one of us?

A well-known bank recently introduced new hedge funds allowing the betting on the duration of people’s lives, creating more profit if the individual dies sooner. When I read this I though it was a joke at first, but no, it is a legal and accepted practice.

Society is a representation of man and has been build by man.

Billions of years ago life beat death. Millions of years ago man beat nature. Thousand of years ago society beat man and now the battle of intellect over society begins. Instead of shuffling money around, our society needs the people who think about and tackle the real problems we are facing. As educated and gifted as politicians may seem, they have been put in place by the society to keep it in its current form. Whatever reforms and changes political institutions decide on may have profound effects, but their aim is by definition to keep society in its current form. If we can start thinking differently, “problems” such as recession and environmental protection will stop being problems but maybe become great opportunities …

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About Sebastian Müller

Sebastian Müller was born and raised in Leipzig/Germany and moved to England as an adolescent. He is a trained research chemist and geneticist and is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institut Curie in Paris/ France working in cancer research. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and is still actively involved at the university today. He is fluent in English, German and French and has many fortés and interests including science, philosophy, linguistics, history, competitive sports such as rowing, fitness and nutrition. He is a freelance writer also drawing from his experience as an author in peer-reviewed scientific journals. "I love writing and putting my thoughts down on paper. The written word to me is one of the most powerful ways of conveying thoughts and initiating discussions."
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