The End of Capitalism! the Left exhorts. Big Government links to a speech by Wade Rathke, outlining a procedure Rathke thinks will work to that end.

It won’t work, because it’s impossible.

Note: I did not say “undesirable”. I did not say “the cure would be worse than the disease.” I think both those things are true for many reasons, not least being the fact that the attempt — which will fail, because the objective cannot be reached — will have horrific side effects; but that doesn’t matter. It simply cannot be done.

We live in an industrial economy. Everything we have, everything we eat or need to live, every house, every car, every light bulb, every potato comes from one or another sort of factory. (Yes, modern agriculture is a food factory, using mass-production techniques and economies of scale to make food abundant and cheap.)

Factories have to be built, and once built they have to be maintained. The resources — labor and materials — necessary to build the factory cost money, which is shorthand for “have to be taken out of the economy”. That is the basic point: Every brick, every nail, every minute of worker time that went into the building of the factory could not be used to build housing or otherwise provide for the lives of the people, poor or otherwise. They are no longer available to the rest of the economy.

The resources to build a factory or other productive facility have a special name: they are called capital. If you have no capital, you have no industry; if you have no industry you have no wealth, most especially including food. There are almost seven billion hungry mouths on this planet, they all need to be (and should be) filled, and there is no, repeat no, chance of doing so without factories, and without capital there are no factories.

It works the other way, too. The reason we use the special name “capital” is that the resources so named don’t go anywhere — they just sit around, forming the basic equipment of the factory. So the relationship goes both ways: if you have capital, you have factories. If you have factories, you have capital — the factory itself is the capital.

So you can’t do away with capital (well, I suppose you could, if everybody was going back to a pre-agrarian lifestyle — not agrarian; a farm is capital — but that would support maybe a couple of million people, max. The other 6,998,000,000 will go where, exactly?) and that means that you can’t do away with the process of gathering capital, which is what “capitalism” means down at the root.

What you maybe can do is establish monopoly capitalism, in which all the capital comes from, and is credited to, a single entity. That entity is generally “the Government”, and it is presupposed by the supporters of ending capitalism that “the Government” is synonymous with “the Public”. Whether it is or not doesn’t matter, really — in either case you’ve got One Big Central Organization doing all the heavy lifting. That’s a recipe for disaster, as I’ve pointed out before.

Supporters of “Ending Capitalism” fall into two broad groups, with fuzzy boundaries and a lot of overlap: the deluded, who cannot imagine their easy comfortable lives coming to an end and are anxious to share the wealth with the less fortunate, and the opportunists, who know perfectly well that capitalism is a permanent fixture and has been since the first farm was established. The opportunists are angling for nice, cushy, high-status jobs as the ones anointed to decide where the capital goes, and not one of them that I’ve seen has shown one iota of ability for the job. That’s a real recipe for disaster.

We are all capitalists, and will continue to be. The choice is between decentralized capitalism and monopoly capitalism, and all the verbiage in the world won’t change that.

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