Three quotes from Dune that dismantle capitalism
This is so beautiful, and so powerful!!!!! One of the best things I’ve read in a long time, truly!!!!!
There is one thought throughout all of this that continues to haunt me, and it’s why I cannot put pen to paper to solve it.
The Greeks and Celts may have believed that no one should own the earth. But another culture did so they claimed it.
The Tibetans were pacifists so they didn’t have a military. But China did so they took over.
There are many who don’t believe in Nukes, but the countries that have them will have all the power.
These ideals are good. We shouldn’t own the earth. We shouldn’t go to war. We shouldn’t have nukes. But how do we protect them? How do we make them a reality when there will always be bad actors who don’t care???
I guess what I’m asking is how do we stop the overreach?
But isn’t the philanthropist’s ultimate goal to evade taxes? 🤔 Few would give away so much if not for the massive US tax benefits. It’s like laundering your own money.
Great article Claudia! Capitalism is definitely an excellent example of overreach. While it is also definitely an improvement over imperialism, it still has its problems. One of those problems is resource extraction. It is evident that resource extraction cannot be done without any harm, (It's kind of in the name), It is not always done with the least harm. As resources become more difficult to locate, and extract, and the drive for profit, as well as the vagaries of the market, causes some companies to disregard the rights and prior claims of both the environment and local people. Lithium is an excellent example. Up until about 5 years ago, we had more lithium than we could use. The rapid rise of batteries for both power generation, and electrical transportation, and the electrification of everything caused the demand to rise exponentially. Since the only method that was practiced at the time was evaporation similar to making salt, many companies rushed in and started pumping water from where it needed to be to where they wanted it causing all sorts of problems.
The main problem with capitalism at this time is still the concept that people and companies can own resources. Land and all the natural resources are Public Goods, and should be shared equally among the people of the world. The people and companies who currently occupy land and/or extract resources from it, should be charged with developing it with the least impact to the surrounding land and peoples. Part of the problem is the concept of, “I own it, therefore I can do what I want with it”. Instead it should be, “I have been entrusted with this resource, how can I use it best, with the least impact?”.
Getting rich never saved the world. The problem with getting rich is that it is a “positive” feedback cycle. The more successful you get the more power you hold. Also the more successful you get, the more you are likely to see yourself as being right. Since you are right more than other people (obviously) then you should use your power to direct other people to your will so they will be “right” to. Since there are always people who are willing to tell power it is right, even when it isn't this rarely goes well. Elon Musk and the current crop of billionaires are the best example. They are all doing great things, also very stupid things.
I am not against the rich, and I am not anti capitalism, as paraphrasing Winston Churchill, “it is the worst economic system except for all the others we have occasionally tried.” But I would like to figure out ways to limit the ownership of patents, intellectual property, land and natural resources, so they are shared more equally with all the people of the world. I would like to reverse the trend that is currently concentrating the power to the rich and corporations.
Is there much difference between the Celts expanding and bringing their trees with them (with the elimination of non Celtic populations as they did so looking suspiciously genocidal) and the overreach of European colonialism? Is the urge to spread pine trees really that different from the urge to spread rubber trees? I'm sure there are lovely quotes about nature and sustainability written by employees of Kew in the 19th century.
The ancient Greeks were perfectly happy with individual wealth. Even if every Greek city state held all land communally between the male slave owning citizenry, which seems unlikely (there was really no tyrant who claimed ownership of the land of the polis?), is this better than the ownership of land by a voluntary association of individuals - a company?
Thank you for the essay, it's well written and thought provoking, but I'm not entirely convinced by some of your points.
It's a good essay, but historically inaccurate. Modern capitalism was created out of the corpse of slavery, it wasn't founded upon it. How do we know this? Because long before the American Civil War, the Northern States, with their abolitionist zeal, had begun to copy the British, with their industrial revolution, and the incomes of their average citizens had begun to soar by comparison to the incredible poverty of the average White Southerner.
Few people realise the resistance William Wilberforce and his slavery reformers faced. Most in Britain believed that an end to slavery would impoverish Britain and leave it open to invasion and conquest by France. It took an enormous leap of faith to overcome this visceral fear, and the end of slavery brought about within the British Empire is an achievement only surpassed by the movement to end slavery globally, which again, the British pioneered.
Don't get me wrong. Climate change desperately needs to be tackled, but the only way to do it is through technological innovation and a more iterative approach. And we have to remember that, although capitalism has its downsides, but it also raised roughly 90% of the world's population out of the worst poverty imaginable.
Sure, modern medical advances played their role in this Our World in Data source showing life expectancy since 1770, but, as a factor, advances in medical science, don't account for the fact that, prior to agricultural innovations and industrialisation, most babies were born malnourished and emaciated, like their mothers.
And sure, capitalism causes a problem from the point of view of consumption- it's absolutely disgraceful that most Western consumers don't check their weekly shopping list for palm oil content, but the other side of the equation to the fact that there are now more trees in the Northern hemisphere than there were 100 years ago, whilst the Global South continues to be despoiled at pace, comes from the realisation that the world's global poor will do anything to escape the sheer desperation of gut-wrenching poverty. Put simply, wealth affords the North the luxury of being good custodians of their own lands, whilst turning a blind eye to the machinery that despoils the lands of others.
What a Fascinating Essay, Claudia! I learned so much.
Indeed, Large Scale Corporate Capitalism, the Kraken🦑, is an All Devouring Force that is Consuming Everything in its Path. It has become an almost Demonic Entity.
Re "American capitalism was built on slavery," have you read The Empire of Cotton?
Excellent write-up and thoughts, Claudia. Appreciated the framing around the Dune quotes.
Lots of facts in here I didn't know about. Sounds like Treeline is well worth a read.
"It’s beautiful to learn that, once, humans were the stewards of the forests, re-greening the planet after an ice age."
I've always felt crushed by the beauty of this notion and the fact that in so many places it has been lost.
I haven't followed the mess and fallout of SBF's bankruptcy since it happened. It was somewhat ironic to have only just listened to his interview with Sam Harris (on effective altruism) in the days before his world collapsed.
A very interesting and thought-provoking read. I appreciate how you centred your piece around the three quotes. Very well done.
Fascinating. Thanks for writing and sharing, Claudia.
I've been wanting to read Seeds of Resistance for a while now. And also Dune! I've seen the film but haven't ventured into the text yet. I shall add The Treeline to my list as well.
thank god i rescued this from spam folder...read that book years ago and like Tolkien the author was full of allegory...whether it helps us or not depends on how many open themselves to newsletters like your own and how influential they are....so good!
This is a wonderful and intriguing read. You touch on a lot of great ideas and have inspired me to do some more reading of my own!
Excellent article Claudia!! Capitalism is definitely an excellent example of overreach. While it is also definitely an improvement over imperialism, it still has its problems. One of those problems is resource extraction. It is evident that resource extraction cannot be done without any harm, (It's kind of in the name), It is not always done with the least harm. As resources become more difficult to locate, and extract, and the drive for profit, as well as the vagaries of the market, causes some companies to disregard the rights and prior claims of both the environment and local people. Lithium is an excellent example. Up until about 5 years ago, we had more lithium than we could use. The rapid rise of batteries for both power generation, and electrical transportation, and the electrification of everything caused the demand to rise exponentially. Since the only method that was practiced at the time was evaporation similar to making salt, many companies rushed in and started pumping water from where it needed to be to where they wanted it causing all sorts of problems.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article! It delves into some profound philosophical angles that have been on my mind lately. You raise two crucial questions that have piqued my interest: First, are individuals who amass immense wealth truly capable of leading our society and determining the future of our planet? And second, does the charitable work, resource allocation, job creation, and health improvements done by these wealthy individuals offset the damages they have caused?
Michael Porter, a prominent Harvard business professor, puts forth an intriguing concept called Creating Shared Value (CSV) that aims to transform business practices by addressing genuine social and environmental issues. While CSV offers a legitimate framework for fostering responsible business behavior, it is not without its flaws. For instance, in certain African countries, mining companies have engaged in malpractices that have polluted the environment and caused widespread health issues due to toxic waste exposure. In an attempt to mitigate the consequences, these companies have built hospitals, schools, and infrastructure. While this may appear as a positive step towards improving the community, it raises uncertainties regarding the long-term effects and whether these communities will truly thrive and achieve a decent quality of life. This prompts us to question whether it would have been better to leave these communities untouched and unexploited in the first place.
I want to clarify that I am not here to denounce capitalism, as it undeniably has played a significant role in shaping our lives. However, I remain skeptical of self-proclaimed saviors who exploit our planet without restraint and then attempt to rectify their actions through grand gestures.
Overall, your article has prompted me to engage in critical reflection regarding the complexities surrounding wealth accumulation, responsible business practices, and the well-being of communities affected by corporate activities. It underscores the importance of considering multiple perspectives and conducting thorough evaluations of the societal and environmental impacts of business actions. Thank you for providing such thought-provoking article.
So glad to have discovered your Substack and thank you for this excellent essay. I love how you put ideas together here. So succinct and clear. Glad to learn about “Treeline” as well. Your point about indigenous people maintaining forests made me think of how the whole Atlantic coast of North America (Turtle Island) was cultivated, but the colonists, in their ignorance, thought it was a wilderness. 😳
Great Article, but ... I'm going to present another side of this man.
Bill Gates, one of the most active philanthropists, is not only busy spending his Microsoft fortune on noble causes, but he also became America’s leading farmland owner because he wants to teach everyone sustainable farming while owning the food supply.
Bill Gates is a thief who stole programs and peripherals from other creators and applied them solely to his Windows computers. Then, when he had gotten rich off of selling people Windows every year, he started this stupid subscription model and forces updates that can wreck computers. He doesn't care about anyone but himself.
From computers, he moved to pharmaceuticals, and through his eugenicist stupidity, has robbed about a million African women of the joys of motherhood by sterilizing them with his drugs.
After doing that, he got involved in the CoVid Clot shots and bought the governments of the world.
Now, he, a man who knows nothing about farming, will buy up good land and turn it into dross by over farming it and poisoning the environment around the farms.
He's not a nice man, he's a Ferengi who would make Quark blush.