When it’s taken too far, capitalism becomes a mockery of itself, encouraging greed instead of rewarding effort and innovation. If you take a moment to really look at the state of the world right now, you might come to the conclusion that we’re living in a bizarre dystopia of sorts where consumerism is king, employees are burned out, and corporations (arguably) run rampant despite all the distrust that’s growing.
The ‘Humans of Capitalism’ Instagram page collects and shows off examples of what capitalism is actually like in our day-to-day lives, from the hilarious to the haunting. Scroll down to dive into the dark (not to mention weird) side of living in a capitalist society. And if you enjoy the content, be sure to join the ranks of the 286k Instagram users who follow the page or consider supporting them by purchasing their NFT art.
I reached out to Paul Timothy, the founder and moderator of the ‘Humans of Capitalism’ page to learn more about the account’s history, about his views on capitalism and corporatism, and the possible alternatives to the system we have in place now. “I was inspired by a lot of things, like the absurdism of the current capitalistic system and its flaws, the injustice that 99% of the people experience every day while they are at work, shopping, and home,” he told Bored Panda in an interview via email.
He says that people are bombarded with non-stop information to “build up their consumerist spirit so they can keep capitalism alive.” Unfortunately, for Paul, the future doesn’t hold much optimism. He thinks that with the improving technologies, the situation for the everyday man and woman gets even worse. “A not so famous movie from the late ’80s, ‘They Live’ (1988), explains this concept perfectly. I believe everyone should watch it if they want to combat the urge of consumerism and mind control,” he suggested. Scroll down for Paul’s full interview with Bored Panda.
In the mood for some more quality reading about the pros and cons of capitalism? You should check out Bored Panda’s articles here, here, and here once you’re done with this one.
Paul, the founder of ‘Humans of Capitalism,’ believes that capitalism evolves into corporatism after some time “because human greed cannot be measured.” In fact, he is of the opinion that the system currently in place is one of corporatism, not capitalism.
“We often see many small businesses collapsing because they are not able to fight with the current trend or to combat with the giant competitors. So they have two options, close the business or sell it,” he explained to Bored Panda how smaller businesses have their work cut out for them because they constantly have to compete against better-established, more powerful companies that have more clout.
“We have many companies that have been bought by enormous giants that I do not want to mention and they won’t stop there, they are trying to get their hands on any business category. Is there a solution for it? I believe that there can be some solutions, but capitalists will work and find a way to bypass those solutions and continue with the destruction of the system while being totally ignorant about it,” he said that capitalism aims to protect itself as a system, so changing it isn’t as straightforward as some people think.
According to Paul, the founder of ‘Humans of Capitalism,’ each and every system, from capitalism to socialism, has a chance of becoming corrupt if bad behavior isn’t punished. “If we go back in time where socialism or communism were at their prime, we can see that the top of the head of the system was corrupted and that resulted with the fall of the system,” he said that people should look at communism realistically and historically, not romantically.
As for what the future might bring, Paul thinks that we might be moving toward a “utopia” of “automated communism where machines will produce, deliver, and take care of food supply, clothing, health.” However, the issue would still be who controls the distribution system and how exactly it operates. What’s more, this inevitably means that some people will be left without a job.
“The idea of getting free food, water, health, clothing, is nice and, in reality, if we take a closer look at the current system we can see that more people are let off and replaced by machines. For example, we can see that McDonald’s workers are fired and they have been replaced with machines that work on touch or by sound and they take orders, forward orders to the employees, etc.”
In Paul’s view, as technology improves, more and more people will lose their jobs. However, he thinks that there will always be people who disagree with this point of view. According to him, these people argue that capitalism creates new jobs and someone will have to create the machines that replace workers, install them, maintain them, and do a myriad of other jobs related to automatization.
Unfortunately, the founder of ‘Humans of Capitalism’ thinks that, eventually, we’ll end up with machines creating more machines, without the need of (barely) any human input. This would be done for the sake of maximizing profits by reducing employee costs.
“I believe that 50 years from now machines will provide food, clothing, healthcare services, and much more, by themselves, with little to no employees monitoring them. But there is an issue with that. You will leave millions of people jobless and cause huge riots as the famous quote from Jean-Jacques Rousseau goes: ‘When the people shall have no more to eat, they will eat the rich.'”
Life isn’t always a black or white, a good versus evil affair. And the same can be said about capitalism, like about most things. However, problems start to appear when capitalism is taken to the extreme. Earlier, finance writer and financial independence expert Rick Orford went in-depth with me about the positives and negatives of capitalism, why social democracy works, and what role greed plays in financial crises and inequality.
In the expert’s view, when a large enough part of the population is willing to take risks, that’s when extreme capitalism and excessive greed thrive.
“Greed is widely accepted to be the reason for the two largest financial crises in the last century; namely 1929 and 2008. It also creates the income inequality that’s largely seen in the United States. Indeed, while everyone, in theory, has an equal opportunity to flourish, the scales seem to tip to those with the most money,” the financial expert explained to Bored Panda.
According to Rick, capitalism isn’t dangerous to society, but an excess of it can be. “[Capitalism] allows folks like you and me to succeed by creating or investing in businesses. Indeed, one looking to borrow money from the banks today won’t have to pay much for the loan. As such, it encourages growth. However, extreme capitalism creates a scenario where greed overtakes reason, and it risks the financial system,” he explained to me.
The expert noted that at the other end of the scale, opposite extreme capitalism, we’ll find social democracy, aka modern socialism. The way that this system works is by taxing citizens much more than capitalistic countries. In return, the citizens of those countries have access to vital services.
“Citizens are given services such as free and (easily) accessible healthcare, child care, social welfare, etc. Conversely, highly capitalistic societies charge for these services, making it incredibly challenging for the poor,” Rick said.
In the expert’s opinion, capitalism can—theoretically—give absolutely anyone the ability to flourish. What’s more, he noted that we shouldn’t have the illusion that well-known businesspeople are always making a profit. They undertake big risks and suffer heavy losses as well. It’s not always a marathon of wins for them.
However, Rick warned that major companies and social media have the power to influence elections and change how people think. “Today, the news is largely distributed by some of the largest American corporations: Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Think Brexit or the 2016 American Presidential election,” he said.
According to the financial expert, capitalism can help ordinary people flourish, open up businesses, and sell their products. But when we compare their potential with that of industry giants, we realize that competition in the marketplace isn’t as straightforward as it seems.
“Those [products] with the best quality, price, customer service, or combination (of at least two) often do well. Increasingly, however, those who are willing to spend more at the beginning are seeing both extreme gains and losses. Famously, Amazon and Tesla, for example, have spent hundreds of millions of investors’ dollars before ever making a cent,” he said.
Meanwhile, an expert working in the banking industry who asked Bored Panda to remain anonymous because of how sensitive his work is, said that capitalism disproportionately rewards individual incentives and punishes the lack of it.
“As someone acquires more capital, it—on average—becomes exponentially easier to acquire even more of it, which adds to extreme wealth inequality. It really bothers me when trillions in pension funds are wiped out only for a couple of bankers to get slapped on the wrist. Making sure that the costs of financial crises are borne by financial institutions that manufactured them (even if unintentionally), as opposed to transferring the burden to other members of society, would increase accountability,” he said.
According to the expert, capitalism cannot exist as “pure capitalism” and has to focus on “effective social programs” if we care about our fellow citizens.