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Saturday, August 08, 2009


"Cash for Clunkers": the unsustainable insanity that is capitalism

There are a variety of details I could object to about "Cash for Clunkers." The fact that you can get $3500 for trading in a car that gets a measly 4 mpg less than the new car is, in a word, crazy. If you didn't see that a priori, the overwhelming and instantaneous "success" of the program demonstrates that the reward was far too great for such a marginal improvement.

But the real insanity was made clear to me when I saw a TV news segment showing a lot full of the "clunkers." The vast majority were perfectly nice cars, in better shape than probably the majority of cars being driven in many third-world countries, and, in fact, in better shape than many cars being driven by poor people in this country who can't afford to buy a new car, $3500/$4500 discount or no. But in order to stimulate the economy and generate jobs, with the side benefit of decreasing gasoline usage, those cars had to be destroyed.

And this, of course, is the ultimate insanity of capitalism, the system that demands we produce for profit and not for use, the system in which companies and economies are judged as failures if they are not constantly expanding. Disposing of perfectly useful items becomes a good thing, rather than the crime against the environment and the planet that it is. Even the alleged "savings" from having higher mileage cars on the road is questionable - after all, how much energy is being used to produce their replacements?

As I wrote in my recent post "Capitalism ad absurdam", in a sane (socialist) world, there is no need to overproduce commodities. If we can design and produce cars which last 20 years (which we can now, of course), or 50, that's a good thing. Not only do we need to consume fewer resources, but the world's workforce (taken as a whole, across all industries, all countries) needs to work for fewer hours, and can enjoy more leisure, all while necessary products are being produced. Under capitalism, we get "cash for clunkers" instead, and perfectly good cars deliberately destroyed in order to stimulate the economy (not to mention perfectly good houses going unoccupied while people live in the streets and a thousand other similar things).

Capitalism - the biggest "clunker" of them all. It's time to send it to the scrap heap.

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