The Value of Nothing
There is an old saying about economists, about how they know the price of everything and the value of nothing. That has a lot of truth in it. Many economists focus on price mechanisms, the behavior of the market, and many related topics. Understanding how economics works is important, to be sure. There are, however, more important things in life. Let’s have a brief discussion about what is important in life, and why capitalism doesn’t satisfy the emotional, economic, or psychological needs of human beings.
Our current economic system is one that alienates people. It alienates on basis of nationality, race, religion, language and other categories. We are taught to hate other people who are not like us. We are taught to distrust Muslims, we are taught to attack foreigners. It is us vs them. We verses they. The nation vs the other. This alienation divides society, but not like the alienation of the worker from his labor. He is separated from the work of his hands (or her hands as may be the case of course) because he doesn’t own the means of production. The proletariat sells their labor, the only thing they have to sell. They sell away their lives, making others rich by their work, produced wealth they will never get to enjoy. We are alienated from our dreams, our hopes, and our creativity. Young people who would like to attend school, gain an education and change the world are imprisoned in bad neighborhoods with violence, crime, poverty and an early death more likely than their success. Artists who would show the world great beauty, are forced instead to sell their labor for a pittance, to pay outrageous rents, utility payments and for food. We are held back by the “invisible hand” that is really the tentacles of international capitalism.
The Value of Life
For those who think that life is about making money are many in our society. This system has taught us to be cold, ruthless and unflappable. No crying, no hesitating, no compassion. You step over others to get to the top, and when you’re there you sit on your rightful throne as the king of a dog eat dog world. Except, you just may be all alone. What good is money without love? What good is money without happiness, and fulfillment? What if you’re rich, but you live in a poor society? You pass the homeless on the streets, the boarded up houses and the refuse littered walkways. People searching for drugs to escape their empty desolate lives, trying to get away from the pain of a society alienated from itself. They search for an escape, but there is not one to be found. The capitalist wasteland is all encompassing, it touches everyone, and ruins everything. Can you be happy in such a world? If you are financially secure, can you assuage your conscience? Can you stand to see the poverty of the world, see the people in Greece light themselves on fire in one final gasp of desperation? Perhaps those that have committed suicide to escape this heartless world performed one last act of individual autonomy, of freedom, of stubborn resolve.
What good is money if you are all alone? Isolated, unloved and unaccompanied? What good is it to be as rich as King Midas, yet lack any human warmth? Money isn’t everything. The pursuit of profit is a poor substitute for the pursuit of happiness, and no the two are not the same. Would you rather have a rich daughter, or a healthy and happy daughter? Would you rather be poor and happy, in love and content, or would you rather be rich, sick, miserable and depressed? Do you want a society that rewards greed, avarice and malice, or do you want a society that rewards cooperation, innovation and equality? Do you want riches, or do you want social justice? We can have a better world. This world of contradictions, alienation, exploitation and despair is not a good place to live in. So what do we do? We learn that humans are the most valuable things in the world. More valuable than diamonds, more valuable than all the gold in Fort Knox. We are the universe aware of itself. That’s pretty awesome. A better world is possible, and it’s called socialism. I want a happy, egalitarian world. What kind of world do you want?