As a lefty, I've always been anti-capitalist--but in an un-examined way. Thinking of doing 'a capitalism cleanse' here by first confessing all the things I *love* about capitalism and then getting under them to see how they make me complicit in the things I claim to abhor. (1/n)
Love: "the customer is always right." Feel so secure that I'll generally get my way in a shop--especially with returns--and feel righteous anger when I don't. (This wasn't true in India when I was growing up.)
Dislike: excessive choice. Would rather shop in a single-brand store like Trader Joe's, where I don't have a choice of 70 brands of cereal. Want to be told what to do and eat.
Love: instant gratification online, particularly the teleporting delights of Amazon Prime (even as I've sworn off using Amazon as much as possible).
Dislike: the politics of tipping -- b/c it forces me to see I'm being served by a human and that that human's income is, in some ways, in my hands. Capitalism is meant to protect me from thinking about other humans.
Love: quick availability of "services" (example, internet installation) in the US. Compare to (slightly) more "socialist" places like Switzerland, where you might wait a month for service.
In truth--as long as there isn't govt healthcare--my beef with health insurance is that it isn't capitalist *enough*...there isn't the exciting race to the bottom re: pricing you get with other "products" and "services"
Confession: generally, as a middle-class male with a job, perfect competition (for products and services) works very well for me. Except when the competition is so intense it leads to confusing, excessive, misleading choices (e.g. cereal aisle).
So far it seems like what I'm saying is that I like capitalism mediated by Wirecutter? WTF?
I like that I do not owe any of my labor or time to the government -- no national social service of any kind -- but it also depresses me, and leaves a void of meaning.
Writers never made money--they were in direct conflict with the way value was measured in a capitalist society. But now Twitter followers and Amazon reviews have created an alternative to currency, for writers. Writers live in this online marketplace of likes & reviews.
I have benefited immensely, as a customer, from Uber, Lyft, Google, Grubhub and a host of other exploitative services. I have benefited not at all from Twitter and Facebook--except that I have been brainwashed into believing that their currency (likes/follows) has value.
Most damaging in online capitalism are things that appear to be free (all online content: tweets, facebook posts, porn) but are actually paid for in time (my time). Where I once spent money, I spend time.
But the value of my time is much lower than the value of my money, and so the workers producing the content to fill my time get paid less.
My earliest memories are of growing up in semi-socialist India in the 1980s. The thing that I hated about socialism was not the surfeit of products--only 3-4 types of cars, etc--but the inefficiency of services of any kind. I value capitalism not for its products but its services
But what is fundamentally fascinating about American capitalism is how badly it needs smooth government-provided infrastructure to run. If you grow up in the US, you take the (generally) good roads + clean air for granted & then you resent paying taxes.
What makes Americans successful is not capitalism but a spirit of unconscious cooperation. Think about how people obey traffic rules. Or how much easier it is in the US to, say, reach a powerful person over email vs in India, where you'd pass thru 30 secretaries. Just examples.
The destruction of these norms of cooperation under Trump was one of the scarier things for me as an immigrant from the third world. Without American generosity and cooperation, America falls apart.
Pre-Trump, it was this weird admixture of exploitative capitalism + social cooperation + (relative) freedom of information that produced a semi-functioning society.
I am reminded, as I write this thread, that what I *liked* about the US was NOT capitalism--though the efficiency of services was a huge plus--but what I perceived to be an unspoken national project (though of course it never applied to black people.)
Love: knowing that a shop or a bar or a restaurant--somewhere--will always be open for my gratification. (unlike weekends off in Europe...)
Because I live in a capitalist society, whether I care to admit it or not, my self-esteem is tied to my income.