One of the most striking socio-economic features of the past two decades is the reversal of the previous half-century of welfare legislation in Europe and North America . Unprecedented cuts in social services, severance pay, public employment, pensions, health programs, educational stipends, vacation time, and job security are matched by increases in tuition, regressive taxation, and the age of retirement as well as increased inequalities, job insecurity and workplace speed-up.When I was in Grad School, I discovered Karl Marx. The more I studied, the more I came to agree with his overall analysis of capitalism (though I think he was wrong in a few areas). As I began to venture out into the world again, I encountered the apologists of capitalism. The big argument they made centers on the part of Petras's column that I put in bold. Capitalism, it has been said, will spur the whole of society to dizzying heights. The welfare of even the poorest among us is so far better than under any economic system.
The demise of the ‘welfare state’ demolishes the idea put forth by orthodox economists, who argued that the ‘maturation’ of capitalism, its ‘advanced state’, high technology and sophisticated services, would be accompanied by greater welfare and higher income/standard of living. While it is true that ‘services and technology’ have multiplied, the economic sector has become even more polarized, between low paid retail clerks and super rich stock brokers and financiers. The computerization of the economy has led to electronic bookkeeping, cost controls and the rapid movements of speculative funds in search of maximum profit while at the same time ushering in brutal budgetary reductions for social programs. (emphasis mine)
~ from The Western Welfare State: Its Rise and Demise and the Soviet Bloc by Prof. James Petras ~
And yet, this very selling point is turning out to be untrue! The world's elite actively are trying to undermine the welfare of all and, in doing so, are repudiating their own central thesis.
In many ways, capitalism has turned out to be a Trojan Horse. Generally accepted by the unwashed masses -- often times by force -- capitalism looked like a gift from the gods that would usher in a degree of prosperity for all. While the poor would remain poor, their standard of living would increase to the point in which they wouldn't mind being poor. Their boats would be lifted out of the water enough that they wouldn't be in constant fear of drowning.
But the captains of finance who were hid in the horse had other ideas altogether. When no one was looking, they poured out of the horse and swung open the gates of the world. Now that we are left defenseless, their armies are swooping in to take away what little we have and to return most of the world's population to serfdom.
As it turns out, capitalism is a great system IF you happen to be part of Orwell's Big Brother or Huxley's World State. Unfortunately, if you do not happen to be a part of the ruling clique, it is anything but. Just like the American political system, capitalism is built on flowery rhetoric that seeks to convince people to accept policies and laws that go against the interests and needs of the vast majority. It is to dupe the masses into allowing the financiers to do them in.
As I think we can easily see as austerity sweeps the world, it was a clever ploy, one that is reaping tremendous benefits for the elite few.