I had been hoping to maintain some lingering faith in capitalism, given my hobbies. Magic, after all, is a rather capitalist vice. But as I watch as our society craters into kleptocracy, I have lost my faith in the potential redemption of capitalism. No longer do I think there’s any truth to the dream of a mythical capitalism in which people’s greed is tempered by long-term thinking. Capitalism, in practice at least, sows the seeds of its own destruction. And we are going to have to come to terms with this.

The biggest issue with capitalism stems from the tragedy of the commons. In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s how Wikipedia sums it up: “the tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource through their collective action.” It stems from shared grazing fields (commons), where there was enough grass to allow everyone a modest herd, but since the price of entry was the same whether you had five sheep or fifty, there is an incentive for people to overconsume. In the long run this is madness; you create a situation where different parties race to deplete the resource, both knowing that the good times will come to an end and trying to maximize the amount they can drain from it before it collapses.

We’re about to see what it looks like when our president is the one doing the draining, for what it’s worth. Expect turbulence.

Basically, the tragedy of the commons is that communal self-interest and long-term planning cannot overcome individuals’ short term greed. Irrational behavior, when viewed in the scale of decades, can seem rational when you only look at it in the scale of days. This is what has killed my faith, this election. Trump won because of the complicity of the media, full stop. Had they given the level of attention to his tax returns (still missing in action) that they gave to Clinton’s emails (which were less insecure than conducting diplomacy over an open phone line, for what it’s worth), we likely would not be facing the ruination of our country.

(If you don’t like this example, choose another. I like it, because Comey’s violation of the Hatch Act only worked as an October surprise due to the media’s obsession with emails, but it’s hardly the only one. Another favorite was the media complaining about Clinton’s lack of transparency, when it’s been the better part of a year since Trump had an open press conference. But, you know, the Clintons are the ones who are opaque.)

If there was a way to pull American capitalism out of its tailspin, Clinton would have been exactly the type of person to find it. She was qualified, friendly to bankers and the struggles of the common folk alike. She would have put forward the project I had hoped would save capitalism: state-sponsored childcare, which frees up a significant portion of the resources for parents at the bottom of the economy (who will spend those savings, stimulating economic action), while expanding the job opportunities in a section of the economy primarily staffed by poor women. Capitalism would have loved that; there would be more money sloshing through its consumption economy, fewer people out of work, and having a child would be less of a burden (which would have driven abortion down, in case you thought the right actually gave a shit about minimizing abortions). And that was just one of her many policies; Clinton was the most policy-heavy presidential candidate I’ve seen in my lifetime.

But the media paid attention to none of this. Had they kept to the issues, done their due diligence in investigating Trump’s finances, Russian handlers, predilection towards sexual assault, the election would have been over in March. Instead, they played right into the hands of the man threatening to gut the first amendment, the man who used them as campaign props, the man who singled out for attack those reporters who he felt were unfair to him. He is a walking, talking, promise to end the media in this country as we know it, and the short term incentives to drive up ratings and prolong the election has ended with a grossly incapable man being given the world’s largest nuclear stockpile.

Imagine how World War Two would have ended had Hitler that type of military advantage.

Side note: as much as Trump’s rivalry with CNN has been something he’s heavily promoted, it’s quite false. The man in charge of their programming is the same one who vaulted Trump into national prominence with that dumbass “how to sate a dictator” show. To use a Commander metaphor, they might count as enemies by the rules of the game, but they’re teaming up to take the rest of us down… and when they do, CNN’s going to be the one starting the endgame on the back foot. But I digress.

It wasn’t just CNN and friends who utterly self-sabotaged here. Our online platforms did the same exact thing. Facebook let itself be bullied by brief conservative outrage into disbanding the team of humans that caught fake news, and subsequently fake news got greater traction on their network than reality did. It was following a short term fear of conservative boycott, not even threatened, with an action that has ensured a government hostile to the idea that companies like Facebook shouldn’t share all their data with the government, something which will destroy Facebook in the end. Good decision. Twitter let its platform be used for white supremacist organizing, before banning them in the wake of the election; the horse is out of the stable, but now they’re taking a stand. Good decision. Reddit took a stand for free speech, but managed only to give the neonazis using their platform free license to attack outside of their quarantine, driving off moderate users with threats and harassment. Only now that the bile was targeted at their CEO did reddit start to strike back against this abuse. Good decision.

Each one of these institutions prioritized their short term economic gain over their long-term survival. And while, in effect, every Trump voter has done this, given the increased danger of nuclear war and catastrophic climate change, these organizations were all supposed to be smarter than individual people. And yet plenty of us Cassandras managed to see the impending crisis, and each one of those businesses failed because of their focus on short-term profits. Because of capitalism.

And that’s when I knew capitalism was doomed. Sure, it may take a while for the final blow to land, but it’s coming; Trump has quickly shown he’s exactly the same sort of short-term thinker with his pro-privatization staff and cabinet picks. They will strip this country bare of its government institutions, and it will cost more for the private sector to deliver less to us, since there will be middlemen sapping off “profits” at every stage of this collapse.

If our information dissemination systems, controlled as they are by capitalist ventures, are unable to stave off the election of a clear and present threat to their continued existence, then there’s no way for capitalism to get us out of this hole. It will take nationalization to undo the damage that this wave of privatization and entitlement-slashing will cause, and capitalism no longer allows for that. To rebuild our educational, healthcare, transportation, social security, and manifold other systems will require a disruption of the economic schema that allowed it all to get this bad in the first place.

There are plenty of people who came to this realization before me, and I’m sure that many of you will meet me here yourselves in a few years, no matter how outside the political norms it sounds for a heavy consumer to criticize capitalism. But eventually you’ll come around. Eventually enough young(er) people will realize how badly the Saturn generation has sold out our futures, and we will band together and create a system in which that is no longer possible.

It won’t be capitalism. Sad. I really was hoping that we wouldn’t have to do this the disruptive way.

But then again, Jess Stirba has always been a bit of a pollyanna when it comes to making change.

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