Sophomore, Seaside High School
This essay is one of four winners of the 2020 High School Essay Contest of the World Affairs Council of the Monterey Bay Area
The Problem of Capitalism
The question I am asked to write on is this: what global problem most requires resolution, with most urgency, most necessity? This question’s answer is simple, for there is by many measures one problem which unifies all quantifiable problems and contradictions of social existence as it stands: the capitalist political-economic paradigm and mode of production. This assertion is bold, but provable and correct. To demonstrate this, let us examine some of the severest problems of contemporary society, then elucidate their origin in capitalism. Firstly, the prevalence of war. The US has been at war my entire life. These wars are useless for the majority: The Iraq war’s pointlessness is such common knowledge it’s become humour, and quite recently the Afghanistan Papers revealed the reasons for that war were lies. So we ask the age old question, cui bono? Who profits from wars that don’t serve the workers who die fighting them? The answer: the holders of capital. The Iraq war didn’t “free” Iraq or stabilize the region. But what did it do? Open oil reserves to US capitalists, where they could invest capital to grow in wealth and influence. War is detestable to the majority, but a valuable asset to invested capital. Meaningless war arises from contradiction between the interests of the people and of capital.
Another example, impending climate-crisis. It is fact, given the immense amount of resources allocated meaninglessly (e.g. to war), the resources exist to solve climate change. But it remains. Why? It is certainly not true, as some misguided, or worse Malthusian, environmentalists say, that the majority are destroying the Earth because we do not care. Of course we care, we have a stake in the continued health of the world we live on. But capital doesn’t care, for it cannot. Capital has no mind, no future to think of; it is a brainless emotionless thing whose only drive is to invest itself everywhere that it may grow, in order to invest further that it may grow further. It is no surprise, then, that it is plastic production, waste dumping, and deforestation for the profit of capital that is the primary culprit in climate change. There are two of many problems of the capitalist economy’s arrangement of production solely to serve capital. To solve them (and others), we need an economy not for growing capital but for the common good!