The Rise of Capitalism and Why It is Time For it to Fall
Ever heard of fast fashion? Styles going in and out of fashion like clockwork, never to be worn again. This isn’t solely the fault of popular influencers and fashion designers-- this is merely a byproduct of the overarching consumerist culture. But what is the root of consumer-based culture? Capitalism, the economic system of which the U.S. is currently part of, is the culprit of world-threatening issues such as climate change and overconsumption. These, and other reasons, are why capitalism is an outdated, classist system--it must be dismantled before these issues become irreversible.
Of course, capitalism is not a term everyone has heard. On the surface, it is associated by Americans with wealth and a blossoming economy, but the reality of it isn’t as “Wolf of Wall Street” as it seems. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the government offered vast swathes of land to citizens to commence business and the American dream. This is widely regarded as one of the first instances of capitalism being widely used in America. Generally, this land was taken by force from Native Americans, so already not as pretty as previously thought. Over time, capitalism has become a system where private companies hold the power of the industry rather than the people or government. A modern example of this is Amazon, a company that underpays its workers, and the former CEO is one of the richest men in recorded history. In fact, workers are paid only minimum wage, and during 2020 Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s previous CEO, increased his net worth by 75 billion dollars. During the earlier days of COVID-19, “Amazon’s relentless drive for efficiency in its fulfillment centers has led to injury and even death”. While workers were struggling in the dire atmosphere the Covid-19 pandemic created, Jeff Bezos flourished as a direct result of capitalism. This, among other reasons, is why dismantling capitalism would be in nearly everyone in America’s favor, specifically the working class, as well as the rest of the world.
As of 2021, climate change is most likely a phrase everyone has heard, regardless of whether they choose to believe in it or not. But truly, climate change is a remarkably dangerous phenomenon that has been caused by none other than modern capitalism and the companies it enables. In fact, in 2017, it was revealed that only 100 major companies were guilty of producing 71% of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions--a significant proponent of climate change--since only 1988. As capitalism favors major corporations holding the power, it isn’t too difficult to connect the dots. Another issue is the performative activism demonstrated by certain companies, such as saying they care for the planet and then drilling for oil where ice caps previously were. This has been coined as “greenwashing”-- a marketing strategy that targets environmentally-conscious customers in the form of money-grabbing. Unfortunately, it will be extremely difficult to undo what has already been done, especially under capitalism, which is “simply incompatible with social justice and living in harmony with the Earth” and will only get worse until it is dismantled.
However, climate change is not the only issue caused by capitalism that is hurting the planet. A worker-consumer-based culture has caused the overconsumption of natural resources. Contrary to popular belief, the issue is not overpopulation. Although the argument that the more people there are on Earth, the fewer resources we’ll have, is a logical conclusion; in reality, people in higher-income countries have a significantly larger carbon footprint than those in lower-income countries. In simpler terms, when it comes to the planet’s resources, “a few privileged people are hoarding them at everyone’s expense — themselves, their less privileged fellow human beings, and the planet.” (Schlein, 2020) On a lighter note, this can be fixed. In the U.S., about 70% of economic activity is piloted by consumers, thus supporting the same companies that cause global warming. The economy determines how companies thrive or disappear into insignificance. If consumers were to stop supporting companies that devour Earth’s natural resources, eventually overconsumption could become less of an issue. Nevertheless, while capitalism succeeds, the planet will not.
But how can the average person dismantle capitalism? After all, the major companies hold the power to influence the system, yet they choose not to because it benefits them. However, the government is not powerless. If officials that understand global warming and care about the planet’s resources and life are elected, eventually corporations will be held accountable. Specifically, Democratic officials would be best for tearing down the system and replacing it with one that services the working class, namely socialism. Nevertheless, that still does not take into account those who cannot vote or those who are non-political. Capitalism is essentially funded by consumerism, buying and buying constantly. Just donating, thrifting, and avoiding buying from unethical companies can be enough. Once corporations and the government have incentive to change, there is only hope it will be for good.
In brief, in order to dismantle a system that hurts our planet, it has to start with its citizens, but end with those who have the capability. The problems caused by an inherently discriminatory system bring it to a point beyond reconciliation. If capitalism continues to be the main economic system in the U.S., the issues of overconsumption and climate change will continue to expand on the world stage. Future generations may not even have a future; the 21st century is a transitionary period that will determine the outcome of planet Earth and its inhabitants.