Column: Alchemical Capitalism

There is a dark magic within Capitalism, rarely spoken of and often missed, by both Pagans and materialists alike. This is not mere fairy tale nor conspiracy, and I suspect we miss it because we’ve set up boundaries between the spiritual and the physical; between the observations of theorists and the wisdom of occultists. And I do not mean the pablum published as “wealth magic,” which is too often re-marketed prosperity magic.

Usury and Wyrd


“Die Nornen Urd, Werdanda, Skuld, unter der Welteiche Yggdrasil” by Ludwig Burger [Public Domain]

Most know the history of banking in Europe to some degree, that the Catholic Church forbade the taking of interest between Christians. However prohibitions against taking interest started earlier with the Greeks–both Plato and Aristotle were opposed to it, and it was likewise forbidden in the Torah. All three of the monotheisms have, at some point or another, forbidden charging interest on loans.

Several reasons existed for this prohibition. But one of the most intriguing for a Pagan who is familiar with magical theory is that of the Catholic Church because it mimicked an aspect of God. The God of the Christians was said to have created everything out of nothing (ex nihilo), rather than reformulating creation from stuff which already existed. That is, he was the founding principle of creation, existent before all things were created and therefore the creator of everything which exists.

The Council of Nicaea banned usury among clergy, and it did not take long for this to extend to all Christians. Those who lent money at interest were forbidden the sacraments (transubstantiated bread and wine, likewise, a power only belonging to God through his priests.)

Money was still lent at interest, mostly by the Jews. Several historians have convincingly shown that Jews did not become money-lenders out of pleasure or greed, but because it was one of the few roles allowed to them within Catholic kingdoms.(Jews in the Caliphates and other Muslim states had more economic freedom and thus didn’t follow the same paths as European Jewish communities). That is, it was all that was left them, a dark role too horrible to make one a good Christian.

Interest on debt does not just create an excess for the lender, it invokes a shadow upon the borrower, a vampiric drain upon her or his life. The lender now has power over the person, who must come up with more than what they had. Neither in alchemical theory nor in physics is such a thing actually possible: nothing is created from nothing, only transmuted from one thing or form into another.

This shadow, this debt, should be familiar to Heathens particularly. It is a manipulation of the borrower’s Wyrd, the shadow of Skuld. Fate is respun; the future diminished. But it is the same bargain of Faust, borrowing against a future that now cannot manifest, offering soul to the darkness in return for a little more life.

The borrower knows she will never have enough. After juggled debt and more borrowing, the time is due; the rent unpaid; the car repossessed.To survive debt, she must take from others, profit from others needs. Usury is a rip in the social fabric, breeding the darkness of desperation, a spiral of displaced misfortune.

Enchantment and Money

Magicians, witches, priests and alchemists imbue physical items with esoteric qualities. Candles, stones, wands, potions—we combine some degree of material (wax, stones, herbs) and measurable aspects (candles burn, potions contain herbal or other tinctures) with the immaterial (protection, healing, curses.)

But where does the magic in a talisman reside? For some, and for some things, perhaps the etheric quality is only in the mind, a soul-resonance between the enchanted item and the enchanter. For others, and for other things, the magic is within the item itself, overlaid, woven, sealed within stone, wax, or wood. Some dare only suspect intent and the symbolic, others think only of the external. Most, I suspect, think on both.

I craft a magic candle to warm the hearth. Wax, awakened Damiana and Vetiver. Blessing of Brighid, light of moon, focus of will. I imbue and invest, coax and request, and then gift it to the hands of another. The candle is enchanted. It is a pillar of forged wax and herbs and also something else. Magic inhabits the physical, woven from meaning.

The candle is a symbol of a warmed hearth, but is nothing until it is burned. The candle is also a physical thing imbued with meaning. Either way, and both ways, it burns the same, to the same effect. The enchantment may derive from the alignment of ambient celestial or earthly energies, sometimes from spiritual co-habitation or blessings, and sometimes from mere intent of the enchanter.

But in all cases, one might say that the enchanter is imbuing the item with some added or distilled quality. We can state that the item itself, at least on some level of understanding, has become something else, or is “also” something else. That is, the candle is not “just” a candle, but is an “enchanted” candle. It functions no longer just as a candle, but as a candle with added meaning. Or, to borrow from the Marxists, there is some added quality or value in the candle.

This foray into magical theory is necessary to understand something so profound and also yet apparently invisible about the most everyday sort of magic in which we engage; indeed, perhaps, the only magic most people ever encounter: money.

Money is a kind of magic. Faces printed on round pieces of metal and thick fabric paper are mere material. The metal composing them is hardly rare, the paper not particularly beautiful. But it’s enchanted, and it operates both on the symbolic and the physical. In both ways, it is said to have value. We can call a hundred-dollar bill mere paper, but we certainly still don’t throw it away. It is imbued with meaning and value, and not just to ourselves, but to others as well. That is, its value is not just in our head, it’s in all of our heads.

To some degree, this aspect of money mirrors what the Naturalists and Archetypalists believe. Magic is an aspect of psychological, unconscious processes. Money is imbued with value and apparent spirit but is mere matter overlayed with meaning.

We should remember, though, what money can do physically. It is no mere thought-form. I hand you five dollars; you give me something, an expensive coffee perhaps or two city-bus tickets. The money compels the actions—without it, you will not give me a coffee, unless you like me.

Commodity Fetishism and Symbolic Enchantment

Karl Marx described the process by which we imbue meaning into money as “commodity fetishism.” Noting the similarities between how Capitalists in Europe appeared to do the same thing with money as non-Capitalist peoples did with religious items, Marx suspected that we treat physical objects as more-than-physical, endowed with qualities, meaning, and “value” that are not intrinsic to the item itself.

I shall restate this. We treat money as if it were enchanted. Like Animists recognizing the spirit-in-nature, money functions for us on an unseen realm, embodied with a quality invisible but nonetheless quite powerful.

We sense this invisible quality, this enchanted value, both in its potential and its resolution. To accumulate a lot of money is to accumulate a corresponding amount of “wealth.” I am quite wealthy if I have a million dollars, though I cannot eat them and be nourished. Still, within that one million is the promise of more than I’d dare eat.

Money is a matter of faith. I believe that others will want my money, I trust that my money will compel them to give me what I want. Above us all are the governments who print the money, sustaining this faith, though they do not “create” it, nor enchant it. We enchant it. We collect and imbue the paper upon which money is printed with “value,” as also abstract ciphers which represent amounts of that money deposited in banks.

That value is not only intrinsic. We imbue the paper with meaning and value, and as long as we use it and respond to it, the enchantment holds. But it isn’t just our enchantment. We cannot imbue it with more value than the paper allows, and that value diminishes always, manipulated by the priesthoods of finance. Each year, the enchantment fades a bit, and we must have more. What sufficed before is now no longer enough. Each year we toil harder as its magic slips through our hands.

The Alchemy of Labor


“The Alchemist” by Pieter Bruegel (Brueghel) the Elder [Public Domain]

Wheat is a sort of grass. It grows tall stalks with coarse and difficult-to-digest seedheads which are quite uncomfortable to eat raw. Unworked, without human intervention, wheat is just wheat and quite useless to us.

But separated from the rest of the plant and then ground, it becomes something. Flour, combined with water, salt, and yeast makes bread, something which is both edible and often times delicious. Each time the wheat is changed, transformed and combined, it becomes something else, something with more value. And it is by our hands that this happens, the alchemy of work.

A bag of flour requires work to be eaten, but a loaf of bread requires less work. That is, wheat flour contains less labor than a loaf of bread. Moreover, a sandwich made with bread and other things contains even more work and is thus “worth” more (that is, it costs more) than its component parts.

Why? Because a human worked it on your behalf.

Each time a human works an item, they imbue the item with their labor; they’ve transmuted the item, or enchanted it. It still bears the original ingredients (just as a potion contains all the original herbs and extracts), but it is no longer just those things. It is something altogether different, and rarely can be returned to its original state. Some items are more enchanted than others. Artisan bread contains more human labor than factory-produced white bread.

Human labor is an alchemical transformation of something into another thing. It imbues each transformation with its own qualities. Unlike money, the enchantment is intrinsic to the item itself, not merely on the symbolic realm. Wheat is barely edible off the stalk; it must be imbued with human labor to function as food.

The Enchainment of Work

Capitalism is this: a person with money compels others to transmute things on his behalf, always (if he is a good Capitalist) for less than the transmutation cost the worker. That is, the goal of a Capitalist is to accumulate as much money as possible through the use of other people’s labor, selling their magic for more than he pays them.

A Capitalist starts with money, builds a factory, a shop, or a restaurant, and employs people to work raw materials into more complicated things. We always get less than what others are willing to pay for the product of our work. We enchant things for him by changing one thing into another. We give not just our physical labor, but our very creative force to him (at a computer, at a cash register, in a kitchen, or on a factory floor), while he does not need to expend his own. He harnesses our will and intention and innate, human magic. And, we always get less in return, while he gets more from this magical system into which he never contributes.

Why do we settle for this?

We are always in debt. The shadow of usury plagues us. We have no land, no wealth. We sustain the enchantment of money, but it is not we who control the enchantment. Without us the Capitalist can only transmute as much as any other person. He needs us so that he can have more to avoid the shadow.

He and the usurer are in agreement. Together they hoard and own all the land, all the factories and shops, the restaurants and work-sites, and all the enchantment of our work.

He accumulates potential in the form of money with which he purchases the results of human labor. We are always in debt, always with less than we started, with less potential each day as we grow older, more tired, less attractive, and frail. What we can purchase in return for all our lifeblood will never equal how much of it we spilled out upon the altars of Work, frightened servants of dark would-be gods who cannot, nor would not, restore to us our shortening days.


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116 thoughts on “Column: Alchemical Capitalism

  1. This has given me a lot to think about. I keep reminding myself: A New World Is Possible.

    • There was a phrase used quite often in the Altermondialist protests in Europe, particularly in Germany, that I’m quite fond of:

      “Remember–there was a world before Capitalism. There will be a world after Capitalism.”

      • I hope the second part is true. One of my major concerns about capitalism is what it is doing to the natural world.

  2. There are a lot of fanciful statements in this article. The idea that a human working on something automatically ‘enchants’ it ignores the role of intention and also ignores the reality that the majority of workers rarely give much attention to their tasks. The food preparation lines in cafeteria’s or McDonalds’ being obvious examples.

    The stereotyping of ‘the Capitalist’ as not doing any work while his poor, disenfranchised workers toil at their labors is absurd as well and sounds like propaganda written for a Communist workers paper. The reality is that business owners often bust their butts to earn money that becomes the capital foundation for starting a business. They then work on ensuring that their employees get paid and that marketing is done to sell the products they’re creating. Overlooked by the uninformed is that the business owners also take on ALL OF THE RISK of starting the business in the first place.

    I’m not sure who you’re addressing when you state that ‘we have no land and no wealth’… there are plenty of people who own their own homes and have savings for retirement. But these are people who also spend their time working for it rather than griping about what they think the world owes them.

    • Are you implying that most business owners earn their starting capital through wage labor and savings? Here, in America, at least, most business owners “earn” their starting capital either through inheritance, or by taking out a loan from other, richer Capitalists.

      Does it sometimes not work out, causing the borrower to “lose his shirt”? Yeah, sure, but whether the business it successful or not, the borrower is still indebted to the Capitalists. Read the part about usury again

      • It depends on the business, now doesn’t it. I know many foreigners who have come to this country, worked shit jobs to build capital of their own (and do it without a sense of entitlement!), then use that money to start businesses.
        Sure, companies like Apple started expansions using venture capital, but in that case the venture capitalists assume a lot of risk. No business plan is perfect… and there are plenty of bogus ‘tech entrepreneurs’ that have been eager to blow their capital investments on stupid visions. Thankfully (or hopefully) the last tech bubble put an end to that kind of speculative investment.

        I think a big part of the problem is that most leftists in the U.S. haven’t actually taken the trouble to learn about the capitalist system. Might I recommend a non-Llewellyn book such as Thomas Sowell’s ‘Economics’?

        • I think that the leftists understand capitalism much better than what you’ve demonstrated here…

        • A “shit job” doesn’t even provide enough capital to live on in most parts of the country. Either you take two of them, or you go in debt to survive. Your scenario of immigrants scrimping and scraping to start their own debt-free businesses is totally divorced from reality

        • It’s a mistake to think that others who have come to different conclusions simply aren’t as intelligent or educated as you are. I’ve read Sowell, as well as quite a few others. I took Property in law school and my clients are Fortune 500 Companies. I have taken the trouble to learn about the capitalist system and have come to the conclusion that it may not be the best way for us to organize our affairs.

        • And who has this “sense of entitlement” that you so scornfully speak of? I find that it’s usually those who themselves have benefited from an untold number of entitlements who tend to use such as phrase in the pejorative most often…

        • I’ve invested in a lot of small time projects through Kickstarter and Prosper, so it’s not all big corporations and a lot of people do it. I recommend Mankiw’s economics since it doesn’t really have a political skew.

        • I also know foreigners who came to this country, worked shit jobs, got GEDs and college degrees, and started businesses. I think the real issue is that it’s easy to blame money and banking.

          But in fact that’s not the issue. The issue is more like: they’re cutting a lot of the scholarships in colleges, and also stuff relating to libraries. IMO, public Wifi would be a good idea similar to a modern version of public libraries.

          They’re not actually cutting spending and taxes, though, and that’s the issue. They’re redirecting it toward the criminal justice system and criminalizing behaviors viewed as poor such as sleeping in your car, as well as persecuting immigrants and kids in the city.

          Part of the “black magic”, I think, is that the powers that be are setting up money and banking as this kind of scapegoat – when in fact those of us in finance are stopped and frisked with a fine-tooth comb by the SEC and other types of auditors all the time.

    • Everything that folks thing they “own” was stolen without just compensation, and others were denied the right to steal that current landowners were given.

      I come from a family of property owners. They live on land that is properly “owned” by the Lenni Lenape, and they own property due to benefits and entitlements (in the form of FHA loans) that were only granted to those with white privilege. It had very little to do with working hard. Most middle-class wealth is built on the same theft and entitlements.

      As for your comment about those who work versus those who gripe about what’s owed to them, such comments show your skewed understanding of how capitalism traps the poor. Those at the bottom work harder than those at the top ever will.

      • I recently saw a quote that said that if hard work led to wealth, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.

          • Certainly. And the lady who cleans my office at night after she works at the sandwich shop all day. I worked a lot harder when I was poor than I do now that I’m very comfortable.

      • I have no doubt that those at the bottom work harder than those at the top. I was one of those at the bottom. But then I was taught that ‘working hard’ is easily replaceable by robots and decided to work smart instead.

        Your family owns their land. Don’t diminish what they’ve worked for by saying it was ‘owned’ by Native Americans. I don’t excuse how the land was stolen from native peoples, but there’s jack I can do to change that. The world has moved on… just as it did when the Germanic tribes pushed out the Celts, just as it did when the Turks pushed through the Slavic tribes of Europe. History is filled with one group of people taking another’s lands. And not just European history.

        We live in the world we live in. And frankly, there is no better economic system in which to better ones place in the world. Most of the arguments here gripe about the evils of capitalism… yet neglect, over and over, to come up with a suggestion for a better system. (and no, communism, socialism and anarchism are real suggestions).

        You repeatedly ignore the fact that ANY system has winners and losers… because they’re created by human beings.

        • Im not diminishing what my family worked for by being honest about it. The land was stolen and they have no legal right. And the only reason I was raised middle-class instead of poor is because of the whiteness of my ancestors. Plenty of people have worked much harder than my family did, and they have much less to show for it.

          Comparing the colonization and genocide that occurred on this land with European tribal warfare is incredibly disingenuous. Maybe you have moved on, but you don’t get to speak for the “world”. Those whose land was stolen are still here, and their lives are not nearly as privileged as yours or mine.

          And if you think capitalism is the best we can do, you weren’t at the bottom for very long, trust me. There is no WORST system for trying to “better ones place in the world”. Capitalism is exploitative and unethical, and those at the top get there on the backs of those at the bottom. Is disgusting.

        • As for your “decision” to work smarter instead of harder, that’s a choice that the underprivileged don’t get to just make. Thats what you don’t seem to get. Climbing your way to the top has nothing to do with intelligence or work ethic.

          • Yes actually they do. Financial Aid is one example. Many states help pay for college if you do a major that they find to be a benefit.

          • With all due respect, the idea that education, especially in the form of financial aid, is the ticket out of poverty is liberal BS. For the truly poor, financial aid is NOT a viable option, not at all.

            I can’t tell you how many college graduates I know who are working for minimum wage and living with their parents because they were sold the lie that a college degree will get you somewhere. They’re screwed. My entire generation is in that hole. My opportunity for higher education was taken from me, and while at the age of 18 I though that was the most horrible thing in the world, now that im in my thirties I couldn’t be more grateful. My partner has $40K worth of student debt that he will have to deal with, and him and I are equally employable in this world of nothing but shitty jobs.

          • There is more than just financial aid as a way out. A college degree WILL get you somewhere. It just has to be a usable degree. Every state now has programs that help people to put them in jobs that the state finds in demand. Mostly health care. You go to your work force center and talk to those people.

            Hell the guy of Dirty jobs has a foundation for a reason. Whether or not you have those skills or talent to take on that education is another matter, I for one do not.

          • No, for many, a college degree gets you nowhere. Please look at the current stats in this country if you don’t think that’s true. You’re asserting opinions as though they are fact. I know people with PhDs in VERY useful subjects who are working minimum wage and paying off 200K worth of debt. If anything, its the BS lie about education that’s making the poor even poorer right now. Read up on for-profit colleges and the way they’ve screwed the poor out of MILLIONS.

            Telling me to go to my work force center and talk to people is just insulting. I’ve been working with the poor for a decade, and I’ve been poor that long myself. I know both the advocacy end and the reality end. Jobs programs are not the ticket out of poverty.

            You’re also overlooking the fact that even if college was free, taking the time to do it is not something that most poor people can do. If someone offered me a free education tomorrow, even if I thought it was useful I wouldn’t able to accept it, because I can’t afford to take off the next four years of my life from working in order to take advantage of it.

          • YOu aren’t listening.

            Work force centers show what the state is willing to pay people to go to school for. Most of that is in health care. Just because you find the PHD that people you know have useful, doesn’t mean those that hire do. Mike Rowe, check into his foundation.

            I’m telling you to talk to work force centers, because once you ask the person there, they show you the person you talk to, who does the paying for schooling bit, which is given to them by grants from the state. I’m bringing that up, because you said financial aid debt, and I”m showing you that no, that is not necessarily true.

            Yes there are jobs out there, there are ways out, and you don’t need to be in debt to financial aid. It requires research.

            You can do college part time or even full time, many online schools offer it. It is stressful as hell at times. I know I’ve done it, I know more then a few people who work and are parents that do it. Many offer night courses. That taking off 4 years is only applicable if you are doing it the traditional student way, vs the non traditional student. That’s if you do college vs trade schools, which offer more hiring, then college, or community college in say a health care related field. (nursing, lab tech, etc are all hiring and you can do that in 2 years)

          • Really, just stop. This is getting ridiculous. You’re not listening to a thing I’m saying, you’re completely missing the big picture of all of this, and you seem insistent on arguing for the sake of arguing.

            Myself, I don’t talk for my health. So I’m bowing out of this now, and the same goes for your other responses to me here. You only want to fight, and you’re fighting against both the truth and your own best interests, and I don’t want to engage in such destructive behavior. Have fun with it.

        • pretty sure none of those other systems managed to threaten the survival of human civilization by creating an out-of-control feedback loop of extraction and consumption.

          • So you never paid attn to history? Ahem industrial revolution. America didn’t invent colonialism. Tea Plantations.

        • I’ve lived in Europe, and I’ll take European-style socialism over American capitalism any day of the week

          • Apparently much of the Third World agrees with you… which is why Europe is now facing existential threats to its traditions.

          • Third World? Traditions? What kind of xenophobic crap is that? Man, you cant even hide your bias, and it sure doesnt end at the poor. You know nothing about Europe, other than secondhand knowledge that filters through your prejudiced mind.

          • Heh… I do hear the phrase once in a while, but its usually in reference to what America is quickly becoming under Capitalism in terms of income inequality and the living conditions of the poorest…

          • I believe the preferred term is “Less Economically Developed Countries”.

            As to existential threats to our traditions, I’d blame America for that one, first.

        • I’m not an economic scholar so have no better system to put forward, but this one we’ve got in America now sure isn’t a good one. When the bottom 70-odd per cent of people find their standard of living slipping away while the top few percent have more and more money to stash under the mattress, what we’ve got is not sustainable.

          Some checks on the system are in order, for example a meaningful raise in the minimum wage. Or maybe some jail sentences meted out for the usurious behavior that we’ve seen lately. As a beginning at least, these things might restore some confidence in the system we’re presently stuck with.

          • Instead of raising the minimum wage (which is surely a case of chasing one’s own tail), how about capping maximum wages?

            When a minimum wage is raised, the owner will have increased overheads to cover. This means prices are increased, to protect profits.

            Capping maximum wages/profits, and you stop that cycle.

          • haha. Are you a communist? 🙂

            Capping wages and profits would fix a lot, yes. And that’s what the socialists argue for, and also why European countries have scaled tax structures. Really, who needs 250 million dollars a year? You could get by just as fine on 50 million. Or, well, 1 million.

            I get by pretty well on 20k…

          • I’m really not.

            I am a neo-tribal feudalist who thinks that the ecosystem is more important than the economy.

            Suffice to say, I don’t really fit on the political compass that well. Left and right only matter if you are in the house.

            What I do think is insane is that the national minimum wage (21s and over) will be £6.50 an hour, from the 1st of October, whilst the UK living wage is £7.65 an hour (£8.80 in London).

            Resolving that discrepancy, in our current economic system will just see business putting their costs up, thus raising the minimum wage – hence the “chasing your tail” line.

            Putting in place a measure to prevent that is not communist, it is logical, if you want a sustainable society (which I do).

            Inflation is the cancerous tumour at the heart of economic society. There really is no valid reason for it. There must come a time when growth has to stop – it cannot be infinite. Nothing is. (Apart from human stupidity, if we are to trust Einstein.)

          • I like the “qaudrant” system. Still inadequate to describe all political systems, but it’s closer on account of the two axes (views on authority and views on economics). Maps someone being anti-government and anti-capitalism (anarchists) being in an different quadrant from someone anti-government and pro-Capitalist (in america, “libertarians,”).

            Inflation is part of “growth.” Which, of course, compels people to make more, because each year what they earned is worth less than the last year. Ellen Meiksins Wood wrote a compelling argument that Capitalism creates an imperative to grow (earn more, “improve”) which is fundamental to the engine of Capitalism.

            Zero growth would fix this, and would reflect the finite nature of resources (the earth’s only so big…). And that’s what we should be talking about with sustainability, but at least in America, sustainable just means replacing one damaging consumption habit with a slightly less damaging consumption habit and charging a lot more money for it. The move from incandescent to florescent light bulbs in the states, for instance, does reduce initial energy consumption (which was necessary for our infrastructure, because we were running out of energy for all our new HD televisions…) but that energy just gets used for other things, and those lights add mercury to our groundwater. That’s American sustainability!

          • Why should the maximum wages be capped? What incentive do people have, if you can’t get more, for the hard work you put in

          • There is more and then then is ludicrous.

            Do people really need to earn tens of millions of pounds a year?

            Does that figure *really* represent the hardness of the work?

          • It’s an incentive. Why should they continue to grow the company, and make things better if people who didn’t put in the education, want to stop them from earning profit for themselves? I sure as heck wouldn’t.

          • It really hasn’t.

            That’d be like saying a mountain has no peak because I’ve been climbing an hour and not reached the top.

          • but they’re not putting in “hard work”,that’s the point you’re missing. The CEO doesn’t work one-tenth as hats as the janitor who makes in a year what the CEO makes in a day.

          • It is NOT more stressful. Again, I can’t believe that you claim to be a member of the working poor but then you defend CEOS. You’re arguing against your best interests and supporting your own oppression.

            “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” – John Steinbeck

          • Yes as a matter of fact is is just as if not more stressful. Herding cats sucks. If you fail at the cat herding, things go belly up and you end up responsible. Herding cats is only ONE of the job descriptions.

            Why do I know it sucks, because I’ve been friends with people who have been upper management. It’s not a physical stress, it’s an emotional stress and that is just AS IMP as physical.

            Why are you demeaning others jobs or stress, because they happen to get paid more? I gave you links that pointed out the work week and work days and how much those CEOs put in.

          • I suggest you do some research on the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain. Wages are capped so that the those at the top make I believe no more than nine times what those at the bottom do, and everyone at the top seems quite willing and incentivized to work hard. Your theory has already been disproven in Europe.

          • Spain and a lot of europe has issues on employment as well. Not really interested in doing things the European way. I’m an American.

          • Do you have any idea how simplistic and uninformed that sounds? I’m an American? What does that mean? I’m all for the most brutal, exploitative form of capitalism possible? Nationalism is useless. You’re a citizen of the Earth – look to others for the way when your own may not be working so well.

            Europe may have more unemployment, but their citizens live with basic dignities and do not suffer as the American poor do.

          • She just solidly refuted your argument, and you replied with a straw man. Why don’t you try actually arguing her point? She’s correct. Mondragon is an incredibly successful corporation that employs thousands, and those at the top seem to work just as hard as American CEOs that make twenty times what they do.

            Alley’s point has nothing to do with the unemployment issue in Europe. That’s a dishonest argument you’re making, plain and simple. If yt argue the facts, it’s best to be quiet. To paraphrase Mark Twain, it’s best to be quiet and be assumed a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

          • Raise minimum wage, only helps for 6 months. Then the price of food and other necessary items goes up. Inflation goes up. It reduces the salary of those who aren’t entry level wage slaves, ie the upper lower class, the bottom middle class, and the middle class, and the upper middle class. It doesn’t hurt the rich at all.

          • It shouldn’t reduce the salary of anyone but the owner. As for it only helping for six months, I disagree. Yes, inflation, but then that person has slightly more money than they did before to buy necessities at those inflated prices.

            The fact that someone can work 40 hours a week and not make enough to cover basic needs is immoral, period.

        • “You repeatedly ignore the fact that ANY system has winners and losers… because they’re created by human beings.”

          Just because we tend to create systems that entail a zero-sum game doesn’t mean that we can’t do otherwise.

      • Alley, to the victor the spoils. Even the Native Americans did that. They raided, they took others resources, they killed, they maimed, they enslaved. They were and are not any better than the white people. So can we stop the noble savage meme?

        • I’m not promoting any noble savage meme, actually the opposite. The ideas that you’re putting forth support that notion more than the ones I am. I stand by what I said: there’s a world of difference between tribal warfare and manifest destiny. “To the victor the spoils” ignores the fact that it wasn’t a fair fight.

          • War is never a fair fight. To expect it is asinine. They lost for more reasons than technology. They lost, because they didn’t organize and continued to do tribal war fare.

            The people the Aztecs conquered and gave to the Gods didn’t fight fair, and neither did the Aztecs. Same for the Inca. There is a place up in Ct, where a tribe would watch out for the mohawks, do you think they fought fair, or the mohawks? War isn’t about fairness.

            Also, you are making a moral judgement on people who don’t share your values, and who are long dead. This happened over a hundred years ago. What’s done is done.

          • I will repeat what I said before and then end it: there is a HUGE difference between the colonization/genocide that settled America and warfare of the past. What we did was not “war”. Manifest destiny, the Homestead Act, etc, was not WAR. NOTHING compares, sorry.

            As for a moral judgment on people who are long dead, the values and atrocities continue to this day. If you don’t think that the Native Americans still aren’t suffering and dying on American soil, please take a look at the mortality rates and related statistics on the Pine Ridge reservation. And there’s a huge difference because here in America, we can trace ancestry and generations not too far back to make contact with those aggressors. We still CELEBRATE them today here, from Columbus Day to groups like DAR.

            What’s done is not done. That’s where Wyrd comes in.

          • You can’t lay the blame solely on the White man. There are a huge variety of issues that crop up and the blame can be laid at many a persons door.

            What’s done is done. We won, they lost. America as a nation typically treats those who lose much better, especially currently, then other nations in the past have. You can’t undo what happened back then, especially within a modern ethical framework. You can only do stuff now. That is all I’m responsible, or my children are responsible for. Nor should I have to take more off my kids table, because America’s forefathers were mean way back when. Sorry strongly republican here as well. Everyone has crap to deal with, no matter your heritage or your economic status. I strive to treat everyone decently and try to not be a dick.

            Columbus, while an old spanish ahole, was an explorer. There is much to celebrate as an American. We not only celebrate him but Leif Erickson, and others, that dared to do the impossible.

          • “America as a nation typically treats those who lose much better, especially currently, then other nations in the past have”

            I’d LOVE to see you back that one up.

            And yes, I lay the blame solely on the “White man”. Trying to put the blame anywhere else is victim-blaming and making excuses for colonialism.

            I find nothing to celebrate as an American. I find nationalism to be nothing but toxic, dangerous, and destructive. And making light of genocide and brushing away the deeds of Columbus is rather unforgivable from where I stand.

    • Sindarintech, I’d like to add that the “usurer” is not getting something for nothing. What the lender puts in is risk, the risk that the loan will not be repaid. What the borrower gets is the chance to go to college, start a business, buy a house, etc. (I’m not trying to excuse the excesses in mortgages and student debt that have wiped out the hopes of so many in recent years.) The alternative to interest is that everyone starts out from scratch with only what’s at hand.

      • Well, that’s one alternative to interest. I’m interested in at least exploring and discussing whether there are, perhaps, other ways to fund people going to college, starting or expanding a business, or buying a house. We’ve been doing things the same way for so long that we start to assume they’re the only way to do things.

        • In Sweden anyone even an foreigner go to college for free. the government even provides a stiplim to live on. Why because they figure that an ore educated society s worth ore and the best way to guarantee a democratic country. This has been gong years. No ne goes into debt to get an education much as it used to be when I wet to college back in the 1960s. Student debt came much later.

        • I see the alternative springing up all around us every day in the form of social production. (Details here: )

          At the root of rhyds argument is the assumption that there is centralized control / ownership of the means of production and raw materials. Access to capital in that scenario is then required to overcome the high barriers to entry into the market. These high barriers are typically the result of rent seeking by established market actors.

          Social production removes centralized ownership of raw materials and the means of production, thereby lowering the barriers to entry.

          In both approaches (rhyds description of usury and social production) money loses its value. Usury decreases value through the inflation required to prop up interest bearing economies. Social production decreases the need for money and therefore reduces it’s value.

          Social production is disrupting markets across the board. Not every problem has been solved of course. Currently non-disrupted markets are new opportunities for market actors.

          It seems to me that we are undergoing a truly radical economic shift of geological proportions. We are still early on the power curve, and certainly moving in a good direction.

          This is not to say that we should be content to ride the tide and ignore the inequities and injustices wrought by capitalism and rent seeking. Rather we should redouble our efforts to bring a social production approach to those problems.

          For example, can we build on the efforts of the open source seed initiative ( ) to bring food security to everyone?

          Can we build on open source housing plans to provide shelter for all ( )?

          What other challenges can we meet with social production?

      • Oh, Baruch…you can’t have missed the last decade! There is no risk to the lender at all, because governments are quite aware what might happen if the banking system collapses. Capitalism would collapse, and we’d all be demanding another system.

        • I admit I was talking theory more than practice.It’s the banks who have demanded and gotten another system: corporate capitalism for them, social darwinism for the rest of us.

          • …sorta. Of course banks demanded this, but remember the other option that existed for the government: debt forgiveness. If those banks collapsed and all of their assets became null, so many people would suddenly have found themselves free of debt that the rest of us would have been demanding the same.

            The government, seeing what would happen if people got used to the idea that debt could be forgiven, needed to bail out the banks in order to preserve the cycle of debt. That debt is important to maintaining worker productivity.

            Also, I’d bring up another thing that should help you understand this. In arguments against raising the minimum wage, one of the biggest things you hear from the financial sector as to why it’s a “bad idea” is that workers will just use the extra income to pay down their debt. This was also the argument against reducing payroll taxes for those two years that President Obama pushed that threw. Financial experts complained that people weren’t using that money to buy stuff, they were using it to pay down credit cards and their medical bills. Or, worse, they’d just save the money.

            Why would they complain about that? You would think that’s a good thing, right?

            It isn’t, because keeping people in debt is essential to American-style Capitalism. Our economy is based entirely on consumption, fueled by credit. If people don’t buy more than they can afford, the system collapses.

            That’s a shitty system.

    • And actually, fast food workers pay a great deal of attention to their tasks. Not doing so will get them fired pretty quickly. It’s a demanding job, as most low-wage jobs are.

      I must say, your attitude and comments reflect both prejudice and misunderstanding around what it means to be a member of the working poor.

      • Having worked fast food, no, they really don’t. Mistakes are part of the loss leader of fast food. To growl back in my day, the mistakes happened less.

        His comments are full of pragmatism. This is coming from someone who is working poor. Small business owners, invested, usually, their own capital into the business. A lot of those capitalist pigs, work 90 plus hours into work.

        • We will have to agree to disagree. When I worked fast food, which was in the late nineties, there was no room for mistakes.

          I agree with you about small business owners, at least about actual small business owners. The SBA defines small business as 500 employees or less, and once you’re at that size, the owner is not working 90 hours a week.

          • Why do you think that someone who has a business of 500 or less, is not still working 90 hours? There is more to running a business than doing the work of many people. There is always networking to do, in order to get ahead and continue to make profit. There is always something managerial you have to do, or some fire or other you have to put out.

          • Because I’ve worked for many businesses. I’ve seen the owners and how they work, and 9 times out of 10 the employees are working much harder. I’ve worked for a few family-run businesses where the owner put every bit as much into it as the employees, but that’s the exception to the rule.

            If you’re as poor as you claim, why do you insist on giving capitalists the benefit of the doubt and/or sticking up for them? Makes no sense to me.

          • Because Republicanism makes sense to me, when it comes to creating jobs. Just because I’m poor doesn’t mean I have to be a pawn for those who think I should agree.

            I hope that made sense.

            Foreign policy(republican)
            creating jobs(republican)
            Prison reform(Progressive Liberal)
            Welfare and social stuff(for the most part Progressive liberal)
            Legalization of pot(libertarian, aka enough of the war on drugs)
            1st amendment(Liberal journalist aka no touchy touchy)
            2nd amendment(NRA supporter)
            4th amendment(Pro Choice yahoo and Warren court supporter)

            Does any of that make sense. I’m a Red purple person.

          • And I guess that’s where we hit our fundamental disagreement. I’m an anti-capitalist, and to me, the idea that the solution is in “creating jobs” is a fantasy that ignores the fundamental rules of capitalism. I think both the Left and Right are equally wrong on how to deal with “jobs”.

            Aside from the whole capitalism issue, the problem with the Republican view on creating jobs, and everything that goes with it (like the idea that poor folks can just go to college) is that its built on both a fundamental lie about the nature of success (work hard, and you’ll succeed) and that it does not in the least bit take into account the situations and realities of those who are working at the bottom.

            Our system rewards few at the expense of many. No amount of job creation in the world will change that.

          • Yes. this does make sense. You are the NRA+hawk flavor of people who get talked about a lot every few years but never get any rhythm out of our political system: Social liberal, fiscal conservative. This is a cohort with no natural home in either party, but any effort by either to reach out gets stomped by the keepers of the party’s flame. They’re talking about you again recently, fwiw.

    • I come from a long line of landlords, and they didn’t do anything to “earn” that property. It was stolen many generations back, and then passed down to me. Unlike you, I can see my privilege in this matter, and the way you talk about those who “work” and those who “gripe” really shows your ignorance. Theres only one thing that separates me from those at the bottom, and that thing is LUCK.

      Folks like Rhyd and Alley understand capitalism a lot better than you ever will, buddy.

  3. The sort of nonsense that one expects from this author but the idea of captitalism as a magickal practice has much merit. If we can look at the prole as a sort of soul-less machine, which exists only to serve the magician, sort of like an inferior type of bio-thoughtform…

    I’m going to have fun with this.

    • There’s a lot of value in the idea that if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, personal digs aimed at others only make you look like the one spouting “nonsense”…

    • “I’ll respond to this article about how capitalism dehumanizes people by celebrating the dehumanization of workers.”

    • Why do you seem so determined to constantly come off as such an ass? Seriously, do you ever have moments where you are not just completely intolerable?

  4. Saying that the credit industry is a reworking of someone’s Ƿyrd is a bit of a stretch.

    What if it is part of their Ƿyrd?

    • That smells more right to me, to be honest. It seems more of an acceptance as part of one’s Wyrd. No one put a gun to my head, but then again, without signing on to student loans I wouldn’t have even a shadow of hope at a better career. Unfortunately, with everyone’s Wyrd tied together, shackled to debt as it is to get a good job then good employment, it makes it that much harder to get a good job or to get ahead. I’ve worked with people who have MA degrees at McDonald’s.

      • I’ve met plenty of minimum wage graduates.

        You want to know why that has happened? Too many graduates.

        Think of education as intellectual currency. When an academic degree really was a sign of being part of the intellectually elite, it was a passport to a job that converted academic currency into fiscal currency.

        Suddenly everyone wanted in on this fantastic scheme. Next thing you know, the market became flooded with academic achievement and supply outstripped demand.

        Combine that with the globalisation of production and we see the “unskilled” jobs being shipped out to locations where cost of living is so much less than in the economically developed world that, even with transit fees, fiscal profits could skyrocket. And that doesn’t even factor in automation and efficiency studies.

        Ƿyrd transcends generations. We are reaping the fruits of the Ƿyrd our ancestors laid out. Notably, I would suggest, the inevitable consequence of the industrial revolution.

        Couple this with a strange sense of entitlement, and we see the mess the world is currently in.

        • I’m more or less living this, so I get everything you’ve said here.

          My State was known for automotive jobs, then it shipped a large bulk of its jobs overseas. So what is left to us are service-oriented jobs, whether one is talking about fast food, healthcare, or the like. Our CEOs earn anywhere from 50-500 times (usually towards the latter) what the lowest wage-earner makes, and that is not even counting the bonuses and such they can make through a Board of Directors’ decision. Capitalism enables this rampant greed; I don’t see much of a future for an economic system that eats the foundation of the its economy, namely the poor and increasingly, the middle class.

          The notion that this was an inevitable outcome of the Industrial Revolution is looking too much to me like post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning. At any point people could have made a different choice; revolution to economic policy choices, all could have changed how the Industrial Revolution, then Tech Revolution unfolded. Was it more likely to happen this way, given the economic and political climes? Sure, but this could have unfolded in a great many other ways.

          I agree with your point that “Wyrd transcends generations”; part of the point I was making with peoples’ debt being shackled together and being used against them as it is, is that for a great many folks that is part of the Wyrd being passed on from generation to generation at this point. My grandparents or great-grandparents let go of the farmland ‘for something better’ only for a lot of the benefits of doing that disappearing within a generation or so. Now, in order to have a shot at making ends meet I can work 2-4 jobs at minimum wage to provide a living for myself and my family, or throw in with debt, put a few years in, and hope I find a good job once I come out of college.

          • I wouldn’t describe my notion as “post hoc”.

            The way I see it, prior to industrialisation of production and the resulting centralising of work (the shift from cottage to factory), the average person was rural dwelling, raising a significant amount of their own food from the land they worked. After the Industrial Revolution got rolling, people stated having less time to work their land, so had to work in the factories longer to earn money to buy the food they were no longer self-producing.

            As fewer people were producing food, demand rose (which, in turn, led to an industrialising of the farming industries) and that caused prices to increase, which meant people had to work longer to gain enough money to pay for the same thing. One messy snowball later, and we get to the modern day.

            Our ancestors were trying to improve their lot but, In order for someone to be rich, a bunch of other people have to be poor.

          • What I was responding to, more so than the history, is the notion of inevitability. I don’t have any disagreements, I agree with your understanding/reading of history.

            My problem with capitalism, and the idea of it and the Industrial Revolution’s inevitability, is the very idea idea of being poor means one must go without basic necessities so someone else can prosper at the poor’s labor. That such a displacement of resources must be the norm for a society to thrive. Capitalism encourages people to build monuments on the backs of those unable to do more than scrape by while patting itself on the back for how productive it is while the corpses aren’t even given proper graves to molder in.

            I worry that an acceptance of inevitability leads to an acceptance of the way things are, even when the way things are is truly vile. It is part of narratives like Manifest Destiny, and the horrid results of that being carried out.

            What I hope we see is a reversal of the trend that brought my folks out of the farmland and into factories for many of the things, i.e. self-sustainability, better self-determination, that comes of producing one’s own food and goods.

            I just hope you understand I’m not attacking you, or really most of your ideas here, it is just the notion of Wyrd being inevitable when I see it as being part of the outcome of a lot of choices, personally, communally, regionally, nationally, etc., doesn’t…quite wash. Then again, I may have misunderstood you, in which case I apologize.

          • I think you read a little too much into what I was saying. I said that the modern situation is an inevitable result of the industrial revolution, not that the industrial revolution was inevitable, itself.

            Ƿyrd bið ful aræd, as the saying goes.

  5. Rhys, I’d like to thank you for your short discourse on the history of Jews and banking. I’ve met Pagans with distressingly “christian” assumptions on this topic.

    • You’re welcome. Hannah Arendt is the most useful source for this, and also the relationship between Race-theory, Anti-Semitism, and Capitalist governance (summary–governments rely on racial conflict to keep the poor from becoming one united class).

      But…could you maybe please, please spell my name correctly? Just once? 🙂

  6. This was a pretty interesting read and reminds me a lot of the rationale behind Islamic finance (where interest qua interest is not used)

    But here’s another perspective. It takes work to maintain a bank. Banks provide the service of lending money to people, so that they can enjoy things for a longer time than it would take for them to save up all the money. But banks have to charge for this service, to pay the bank guard and build the vaults.

    For example, you want an environmentally friendly Tesla car. But you don’t have enough money yet. Life and time are finite, and you feel that every day you drive the Buick is another day of pollution. So you take out a loan to buy the Tesla. Since you don’t have the money yet, you pay every month, including interest.

    Interest is really misunderstood, but it’s not just usury. It’s the fee that you pay for the bank’s service of lending you money pre-emptively. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to be able to pay it back, because they made sure through your credit rating that you are very likely to pay it back.

    The main problem comes when banks lend money to people with poor credit, who cannot pay it back. To keep the bills paid, the bank has to charge them a higher interest rate. Therefore, there is a bit of a distortion of the wyrd and I guess magical energies of the bank, and the imbalance in the Force is what pushes people into even worse credit.

    • This is the general perception of banks, yes.

      But banks already charge “finance fees,” as well as early repayment penalties. Interest is not a fee, it’s profit-taking.

      The ready availability of credit is also what enables the profit-taking of others. If Tesla could not rely on banks to buy their cars on behalf of people, they would have to charge less in order to sell more. Likewise, student loans enable colleges and universities to charge exorbitant rates; if there were not the mediation of credit/loans, price pressures would reduce the cost significantly, or the people would revolt.

      Furthermore, financing creates a compliance within the borrower. Several historians have pointed to the discussions in government and finance during the 30’s-50’s regarding home ownership. The push for one-family, one-house was at least partially influenced by a peculiar fact noticed by economists: people in debt on their homes don’t go on strike. When your housing is tied to debt, fears about housing-security make workers more productive and less demanding.

      • Hi Rhyd, I agree with you on the cost of college and stuff like that.

        But not everybody needs to or uses financing, just because it’s available. One-family one-house has been traditionally part of many cultures for a very long time outside of very busy urban areas.

        If you don’t like banks then where do you store money, may I ask? Would you rather that banks and loans not be available, or do you feel that there should be a change in thinking about banks?

        I’m a big fan of supporting banking and finance startups, and feel that entrepreneurship and competition can really help the banking sector, but getting these little banks FDIC insured could be a challenge.

        For example, is a peer to peer lending site, it’s like a social network where you lend money, borrow, and collect interest.

        • I currently use a credit union. I pulled my money out of Bank of America during Occupy, and, fascinatingly, Occupy (at least in Seattle) pretty much made the credit union I use have to triple their ATMs and branch offices, so many people opened accounts. And by the time I closed my account, the BofA teller had already handled 20 other people doing the same thing that day.

          One-family one-house has always existed, yes, but not like this. And several families, one house is very prevalent elsewhere, but not here, except in the cities (not just biological families–I’ve never been able to afford to live on my own, nor have most of my friends, so lots of people share apartments and houses).

          Also, in Europe, if you look at the rental rates versus ownership, you’ll see that in most cities, rental is extraordinarily high versus the US, but there’s also rent control and other checks on prices, making it cheaper to rent than to own.

          Loans are certainly not bad. I’ve loaned money and borrowed money from plenty of people. But I’ve never charged interest, nor have they–that would be a huge violation of all social relations–I refuse to profit off of someone else’s misfortune OR ambition. Most people are like that, I think, except with strangers whom they don’t care about. Usury can be said to increase social distance, class conflict, and strife.

    • Bank vaults? Guards? What century are you visiting from?

      Very little of the money that banks lend has any physical existence. Laws specify what percentage of the loaned out money has to be backed by actual assets that the bank owns. It’s a very small percentage. When you deposit money in a savings account, you are loaning it to the bank. Before the federal government started insuring people’s deposits, a run on a bank meant that the first people in line requesting their deposits back received their savings, the rest of the depositors lost everything, and the bank collapsed because it did not have enough money on hand. Banks still don’t have the money, and neither does the federal government, but the fed can fix that by printing more money at will.

      • I always liked the concept of having a run on a bank.

        Think that banks can refuse to give you your money now, which means they can stop it happening. Which sucks.

        We have a society based on fiscal economy, and that is not good.

        • Did you follow what happened in Argentina during those runs? Fascinating.

          It’s incredible that a bank can forbid you from taking your money. But this should lead us to suspect what’s really going on–it’s not really “ours” anymore….

          • Only reason I use a bank is necessity. Pretty much have to have a bank account to exist within society, these days.

      • FDIC isn’t an open market operation. It’s not about printing more money. That’s QE and it’s a Keynesian thing, widely disliked by most.

  7. This was simply beautiful. I have been thinking about this for some time but this is so beautifully worded and seemed to speak what I have felt. Thank you Rhyd.

  8. A really powerful essay, Rhyd. Much to ponder here. I would love to see this become a series of discussions. In this essay you identify what’s going on under the cover of “our economy.” Now what? Now where? Now how? Many questions to explore.

  9. Well, I’m going to wax pompous in my old age. Let’s see how many grains of salt get used.

    The mechanics of capitalism are an evolutionary response to the inefficiencies of barter within expanding populations and across increasing distances. The simple image is that of the banker carrying bags of coin that would take many sailing ships full of cargo to be of equivalent value.

    I draw your attention to the forms of capitalism that actually work, still work and are in some places expanding into vacuums caused by the pillage and plunder forms. The co-op is a locally collective form that partakes of the mechanics of capitalism, including borrowing when a necessity arises that requires more capital than is available. The mutual company — most prominent in life insurance — has no owners or stockholders, that position being taken by the customers. I work for one. The ultimate success is the credit union, which uses only the money of its members to generate the revenue needed to fulfill its obligations to them.

    The failures of capitalism at the most abstract level come down, in my obviously not humble opinion, to a possibility of the system, not a requirement: the hoarding of wealth. The co-op “reinvests” any possible profit into the day-to-day operation of its business. The mutual company “reinvests” possible profit into actual refunds to its customers, in insurance terms a dividend that can be pocketed or used to help pay for next year’s premium. The credit union’s purpose is to loan money and use the interest to cover its operating costs and pay its customers for the use of their money.

    Personal note: I’ve been commenting on what I’ve called the “cult of entitlement” for several years now. It is embedded in our culture, not limited to the targets of pundits and politicians looking for attention. It manifests in many ways other than economically, and anyone living in an urban setting sees it daily: parking in no-parking zones (the egregious example being using a handicapped space when not qualified for it), tossing trash on the street (five feet from a receptacle!), standing in a group and blocking others from passing through, I could go on and on. The triviality of the individual examples disappears as one observes the ubiquity of them. The inheritors of privilege are the easiest targets of charges of entitlement, but to ignore the rest, for me, serves to mask the disease with the symptoms.

    • “The mechanics of capitalism are an evolutionary response to the
      inefficiencies of barter within expanding populations and across
      increasing distances.”

      This is actually the argument for the birth of currency, or the “money commodity,” rather than for Capitalism. Capitalism came much later than currency. David Graeber’s ‘Debt: the first 5000 years’ quite convincingly shows that currency didn’t develop to replace barter, and that barter was much less common than we suspect.

      Credit Unions, Mutual Insurance, and Co-operatives are much better, yes. They function less well when they attempt to act like corporations. A local food co-op in Seattle is notoriously antagonistic towards their unionized employees, and when the workers want a share of the co-operative’s surplus income, it sets the customers (who are “owners”) against the workers. Direct worker control is the most preferable model, since in all cases (credit unions, insurance, co-ops) it is still the workers (be they office folk, agents, or clerks) who are actually creating the “production.”

      The urban strife and lack of social grace you bring up is of great interest to me. I only live in cities, since I refuse to contribute to the destruction of the earth by driving a car. So I’m on foot, bike, and bus quite often and watch such things frequently. Getting on a full bus and trying to find room while people don’t move to the back to make space is frustrating to say the least–that being said, I don’t ascribe that to entitlement. Rather, such things are social-cohesion problems.

      The trash issue, particularly, drives me nuts–I’ve been cleaning out a local park full of trash, but, again, I don’t think its entitlement. In that case, I think it comes down to dispossession. My theory is that, because there is no shared connection to the places (due to the fact it’s all “owned” by others and often times hostile to group claims), and because the poor particularly are kept out of relation to land, those places (city streets, parks, etc.) are symbolic of their dispossession, rather than of their entitlement.

      • I hate cities and refuse to live in one. Never had to have a car, though.

      • Re: mechanics of capitalism. I certainly agree with your further description. My simple purpose above was to support my point. Economic systems, even in the first 1,500 years C.E., are complex and not subject to simple assertions.

        I’ve been observing my fellows with a jaundiced eye since early adulthood, about 40 years or so. I believe we can argue this from both perspectives, and come to a common ground: social cohesion is a dynamic to which everyone must contribute, or it breaks down. I’m focused on entitlement as a nemesis of courtesy. I’ll admit that we are likely to engage in dueling anecdotes from there, but I’m also very willing to admit the validity of your perspective.

        One thing about my anecdotal perspective: Philadelphia has a deep foundation in neighborhoods and that shared connection. It is not a city-wide phenomenon, probably never was, but there are numerous examples of it in which I’ve lived for over 30 years. I offer the position that shared connection is possible, only requiring the investment in it from newcomers and next generations.