without the rich and their capital we'd all have a much lower standard of living
"Their" capital? Where'd they get it, I wonder? I hope it wasn't from my planet as no one ever asked my permission to come take it.
I've always suspected that that sentiment right there is a tacit acceptance of the legitimacy of capital/labor polarity, and that opens the door to almost all the large-scale fuckery common in our society. And in this context "we" can't possibly mean all human beings because the 0.1% and their capital devastate and impoverish at least at much as they empower and enrich. It all depends on who you ask and if you live upwind or downwind from the smokestacks of progress.
Capital/labor is a false (manufactured) dichotomy, and a "high" or "low" standard of living is relative and far trickier to define than most people seem to assume. Exploiting a region until it's a scorched-Earth, toxic dumpscape to support an unsustainable/cancerous consumer paradigm might increase the standard of living for a few people living far from the depleted and polluted regions but those living in the exploited areas and who lack the means to get out become literal examples of one man's meat being 100 other men's poison, cancer and starvation.
In a few years this party will end and lead to everyone's starvation as the paradigm collapses due to ecological inevitabilities; if the rich think they're under attack now, they're really gonna freak when the starving hordes show up at their houses to go through their pantries and there won't be nearly enough private mercenary security thugs available to stop them. And the mercenary defenders of the de facto aristocracy will be treated like such tools have always been treated by the masses when the people have had enough (it ain't that pretty at all and often involves rather violent atrocities, but that's a natural consequence of the game they decided to play so no tears will be shed as what's left of them swings from high places for all to see).
Thousands of vehicles were left on the roads when they became impassable during this past week's Southeastern ice and snow clusterfuck, and the greedy bottom-feeding parasites showed up right on cue to exploit the situation, towing cars away unnecessarily and holding them ransom in impound lots for exorbitant -and illegal- fees. In comments under newspaper articles about these predatory towing companies that were charging people up to $300 to get their cars back a lot of people were calling for the heads of the local mayor, police chief, and owners of the towing companies involved. And I mean literally, as in calls for the guillotine, public flogging, marching to the impound lot with pitchforks and torches, etc. That tells me people are getting REAL pissed off and fuses are growing short. So much for that high quality of life; we all better make sure we're not employed as or even so much as mistaken for cops or security guards when the public finally snaps.
I think part of the problem is too much faith in technology to solve or alleviate emotional or existential concerns. Or in SubGenius terms, Science does not remove the terror of the gods!
The great failure of all the major economic theories is that they seem to be developed for addressing a population of unfeeling robots and assume that the robo-population can be manipulated (by carefully dictating our tastes and desires to us) into being more compatible with efficient industrial manufacturing practices rather than adapting industrial manufacturing practices and economic theories to maximize human health and happiness. If we don't fit in well enough to tolerate it quietly and do what we're told then there's always medication or if that fails, incarceration. This rigged game is mandatory no matter what our definition of a high standard of living happens to be.
For example, nothing else can explain Twinkies; almost all of the ingredients are mined, not grown, and are included either to help the pre-Twinkie mass flow more smoothly through the pipes at the manufacturing facility or to ensure the resulting product needs no refrigeration. But since I don't get Twinkie stock dividends this approach doesn't do me any good at all, and in fact results in my consuming a lot of non-food and empty calories so is actually worse than eating nothing at all (it's negative nutrition). So is a snack that doesn't need refrigeration an improvement in my quality of life if I have to exchange quality and nutrition for the extended shelf-life? This is the trend across the board in modern society and while things like Twinkies can be avoided, many other things can't be (like exchanging real, nutritious freedom for artificial, empty-calorie security).
The only way that something like Twinkies can exist is if we allow ourselves to be shoe-horned into the confines and limitations of efficient industrial manufacturing that's geared towards maximizing profit (which we have dutifully done). In a world geared toward maximizing human health and happiness and sustainability Twinkies would not exist and trying to sell them would be considered a crime against humanity.
In a world made for people there would only be delectable pastries made from natural, high-quality and nutritious ingredients that are good for people, not for plumbing (in other words we would only ever eat actual food). But that's expensive and not very profitable and shareholders don't like lackluster profits! Well, so what? Are we here to sacrifice our own needs and desires so as to create impressive profit/loss statements for a company someone else owns and benefits from or are we here to live a life? I suspect we're really here for the latter but have been somehow swindled into believing the former and after spinning 'round and 'round in a little hamster wheel for a few years it seems inconceivable that life could be any different or that we can step off that wheel and walk right out of our little cage. It's not easy to opt-out, but the alternative is utterly intolerable (to me anyway).
Is my standard of living higher if I have an internet-enabled refrigerator and have to keep my go-nowhere hamster wheel spinning non-stop year after year to pay for it and the house that it sits in and the car I commute to my hamster-wheel with even as my car and my house and all the neat gee-whiz techno-gadgets in it offgas carcinogenic fumes from the new, more 'advanced' materials everything is made from nowadays because they're cheaper to manufacture that way? Or is it all a bunch of bullshit? "Capital" just refers to those who own the wheels we keep spinning. I don't feel particularly thankful for the opportunity to waste my life going nowhere as I keep one spinning. There's another way to do things, but only if we can manage to be a little more egalitarian and creative (so I guess that means we're pretty much fucked).
Living with no electricity, no internet, no indoor plumbing, and using a real small 35 year-old propane fridge from an old RV for years (as I've done) might on the surface seem like a lower standard of living than the luxurious mansion with 6-car garage, 9 bathrooms, two full kitchens, a pool, tennis court, citrus orchards, etc. that I grew up in but I only wanted to eat bullets in the mansion (the neighbor kids mostly went to rehab or prison) yet I found adventure and purpose and fun living essentially naked in the woods in a tent being eaten by chiggers and stung/bit by a diverse array of insects or freezing my ass off in Winter (the 12'X12' strawbale cabin seemed palatial when we finally built and moved into it).
The woods brought their own ordeals and challenges but "out there" the rewards FAR outshined the crappy parts whereas buying another sports car or adding another room on to the house never seemed to alleviate the existential malaise of trying to "enjoy" excessive material comfort for its own sake. When asked (and I have), most people who profess that they want a 10,000 sq. ft. or larger mansion can't really give a good -or at least rational- explanation as to why and then in nearly every case when they do get their dream castle it turns into an anchor around their neck that holds them down and steals their slack (I've seen that play out a few times). Cheers for the abstract illusion we call "progress!"
There's more to life than increasing its speed. (Gandhi)
Edited by TVCasualty, 01 February 2014 - 12:27 PM.