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Carl Gibson
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Monday 4 February 2013
We’re witnessing the endgame of capitalism, where a few wealthy individuals and corporations have accumulated most of the wealth while the rest of us are left to fight for the scraps.

The Endgame of Capitalism

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The board game Monopoly was originally invented in the early 20th century to warn players of the dangers of free market capitalism. The original title was The Landlord Game, made to show how property owners exploit their tenants with exorbitant rent. The game eventually evolved to include rules that let players charge higher rent if they owned all the railroads or the utility companies.

But the endgame scenario of Monopoly is a lot like the endgame of capitalism that we’re witnessing today—no matter how the game starts, the wealth will eventually accumulate into the hands of one player while the other players have to sell off their property to pay their debt to the owner and eventually lose everything they have. 

The Dow recently closed above 14,000, the highest its ever been since October 2007. While the financial pundits on CNBC would use this figure to have us believe the economy is bouncing back better than ever, the only ones sharing in the benefit of a healthy market are the wealthy investor class and corporations that have been insulated from the effects of the recession that still continues for the rest of us. The influx of high-frequency trading that now makes up half of all trading signifies the change of using the market as a vehicle for making long-term investments to manipulating it for short-term profit. 

The market’s latest high numbers are due to corporations turning out record profits quarter after quarter, having grown profits by 171 percent under Obama's watch. Most of those profits have come about by companies cutting costs by shifting jobs overseas, where they can pay a Chinese worker a fraction of what they would pay an American worker to do the same job. News has also broken about Fortune 500 companies like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T and IBM using inmate labor at private prisons, meaning they can slap a “Made in the USA” sticker on a product made by someone working for slave wages.

The influx of immigrants looking for work thanks to free trade agreements like NAFTA has led to the inevitable exploitation of immigrant labor, which will continue as long as U.S. immigration policy punishes the exploited rather than the companies exploiting them. And, these record corporate profits also have right-wing governors and state legislatures to thank for union-busting right-to-work laws—that really only exist as a vehicle for businesses to pay workers less money for the same work and for Republicans to erode a major fundraising base for their opposition.

The rest of the uptick in corporate profits can be attributed to a lax tax code that allows for companies to book profits made in the U.S. in overseas tax havens. There’s an estimated $2.3 trillion in U.S. corporate profits booked in overseas accounts. Apple alone stashes $1 billion a week in overseas accounts to dodge corporate taxes. That’s equivalent to over 4 million full-time minimum-wage jobs, every week. The share of US tax revenue from corporations has gone from 6 percent of GDP in the 1950s to just 1 percent today.

The executives of these companies make out like bandits, as they use their increased profits to buy their own company’s stock, which makes the stock price go up, making the stock options owned by the executives more valuable. And with dividends taxed at a much lower rate than actual work (20 percent vs. 35 percent), the tax revenue needed to keep society functioning continues to dwindle as the investor class accumulates greater wealth than ever before. The 6 Waltons who own WalMart own as much wealth 40 percent of Americans.

 Some financial analysts say this market surge is just a rally, destined to drop as Congress expects to wrangle with the deficit in May, including a possible downgrade of our credit rating. But the fact is, our deficit would disappear if we had a small sales tax on all Wall Street financial transactions, taxed capital gains at the same rate as by-God hard work and overhauled our tax code in favor of one that would do away with the loopholes that allow big corporations to offshore their billions in American profits. However, even that could get worse, as Obama has shown willingness to talk about a territorial tax code that would effectively allow corporations to pay a zero-percent tax rate on their profits all over the world, including the U.S. 

In a recent Daily Show appearance, Al Gore made a half-hearted attempt at explaining the idea of “sustainable capitalism” to Jon Stewart. But, even Gore’s description of capitalism as the only economic system that works, sounded incredibly outdated to those of us who weren’t millionaire media moguls or TV personalities. We’re witnessing the endgame of capitalism, where a few wealthy individuals and corporations have accumulated most of the wealth while the rest of us are left to fight for the scraps.

And it looks a lot like the endgame of Monopoly, where every player is selling off their house and foreclosing their property to pay the one player who already has everything. And when the Monopoly game has gone that far, the only thing left to do is flip the board over, scatter all of the winner’s winnings and try playing something else that everyone can enjoy.

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ABOUT Carl Gibson

Carl Gibson, 27, is co-founder of US Uncut, a grassroots direct action group that mobilized thousands against corporate tax dodging and budget cuts in the months leading up to Occupy Wall Street. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the Sundance-selected documentary We're Not Broke, available on Netflix. He is a contributing editor for Reader Supported News, and the lead investigative reporter for Follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

I am wondering if by

I am wondering if by definition capitalism, in its unregulated variety, requires an under-class on which to build, a virtual slave class to use up as raw material. Is it possible to have a healthy, productive, prosperous working class while practicing unregulated capitalism?

Boris Badenov's picture

Are you implying that the

Are you implying that the GODS of this world are playing monopoly with our lives?

It's like sharks in a pool.

It's like sharks in a pool. Once they've eaten all the fish, they all starve. They are slowly destroying their own markets. Once the Middle class is destroyed, and everyone out side the elite is impoverished, homeless, sick, unemployed and staggering under crushing debt, the system will implode. A populace in this state will neither buy much of anything or pay much in the way of taxes. That's why some red states are trying to do away with their income taxes, and impose high state sales taxes. Even unemployed people with NO income have to pay those.

A story as old as ancient

A story as old as ancient Egypt. The last chapters of Genesis tell how famines left the farmers of Egypt in desperation. Enter Joseph, son of Jacob/Israel, chief minister to the Pharaoh. He goes throughout Egypt buying up the land of the farmers with food he had stored up, and finally the people became, as the Bible puts it, Pharaoh's slaves. BUT Joseph has a conscience. He distributes seeds to the farmers who are now tenants, and requires only 20% of their crops as rent. Hence they hail Joseph as their savior.

Today's capitalists, trained in amorality at leading MBA programs, have no conscience (with a few exceptions).

We need a Tobin tax for sure.

We need a Tobin tax for sure.

Most people that play

Most people that play Monopoly don't realize the reality of the 'game' until it's too late. I recommend the following 2 books to give a clearer perspective also. 'Capitalism As If The World Matters' by Jonathon Porritt and '23 Things The Don't Tell You About Capitalism' by Ha-Joon Chang.

The 'Endgame' of Capitalism

The 'Endgame' of Capitalism is:
Every human being,
every family,
every community,
every town,
every city,
every state,
every country,
IN DEBT to the WTO, IMF, World Bank, "Federal" Reserve.

Thank you commenter Clark for

Thank you commenter Clark for distilling a good article.

To further distill, it ends with the purging of billions of worldwide slaves and peasants in this century, by conventional and WMD and civil war, epidemics, famine born of resource depletions (fisheries, oil, aquifers, etc), and climate change. In the USA, wealthy global capitalists will eventually replace the current elite Repub-Dem duopoly with a single fascist party.

It is maddening, surreal and horrifying to see it unfolding, and now even accelerating. The evidence and proof is accumulating and compounding everywhere you look, and most readers know exactly what I mean. Not just Obama and Congressional Dems, but other elites throughout the entire oligarchical capitalist sub-system. They know what's happening, where it's going, and where it ends, even if the sheep they manipulate, dupe and predate do not.

Greg, I couldn't agree with

Greg, I couldn't agree with you more. Unfortunately, the folks that refuse to believe it are being sucked further and further into the mire and the few that are aware of the truth don't seem to have alternatives to escape the mire.

Barmoret1, yes, that is the

Barmoret1, yes, that is the catastrophic reality of the situation. I think of those of us aware of the reality as shouting and waving arms in an attempt to stop and reverse a tidal wave. We are bound to try, but a tidal wave is a tidal wave.

As to what we try, I observe that few among those of us "shouting and waving arms" are radicals openly calling for a revolution. (Most direct their efforts to impact the establishment via voting, political action, petitions, rallies, etc, but very few advocate overthrow of the establishment or the government [though right-wingers are allowed to do so with impunity] or class war against the wealthy elite or the capitalist system.) I think there is fear of being labeled radical, fear of persecution by "homeland security" and also, among many, an objection to the implied fostering of violence. I think that helps explain the popularity of Chris Hedges, who champions peaceful resistance and reconciliation to the tidal wave. As to my own views, I once described them as liberal. More recently as progressive. Of late radical. I favor a revolution I don't see developing and so think the tidal wave unstoppable.

The scene is of a park like

The scene is of a park like slightly rolling grassy green lawn with scattered maple, oak, cherry and pine trees in the not to distant background. The sky a spring time blue with sparsely scattered fluffy cotton ball white clouds. In the center of the scene moving up a slight rise from the viewer’s right to left at a slight oncoming angle is an old veteran in his nineties with his walker upright and tall as he can be.

No ordinary walker. It’s a modern one with the four wheels and handbrakes, but with a few improvements. This one is completely WW II olive drab green with smaller versions of the military truck/jeep rims and tires of the era on it. On the front and side it has armor plates. On the front armor is painted the American white star, the stylized numbers 99th, a spare tire and written in white chalk in the upper left corner, “Up Wallst’s!”. Below that, a “1” X ’d out. On the side armor are painted our vet’s favorite long legged Bomber Babes. Blonde “Betty” on the visible side nearest along with a attached knife scabbard and foxhole shovel. Redhead “Mary” on the other along with a jerry can. On either side just below the walker’s handgrips are mounted Thompson submachine guns each with fire blazing truth from their barrels and shell casings flying as the brake levers turned now to triggers are squeezed.

Our hero is wearing an olive drab hospital gown stenciled USA at the hem that stops at his boney knees beneath a fuzzy olive drab dirt smudged bath robe open in the front with its fuzzy tie belt dangling to the sides, with sleeves that barely make it past his elbows. On his sleeves are sergeant stripes. On his left forearm a faded wrinkled tattoo with “Mom” in written in the heart. The robe is kept drawn at the waist by an era pistol/ammo belt complete with a 45 caliber gun in holster. His footwear are the fuzzy olive drab bathroom slippers that only cover the front of his sockless feet, and G.I. spats. An ammo belt is draped over his right shoulder crossing over his chest to his left hip. On his head he wears a war weary WW II G.I. helmet covered in battered camo meshing. The helmet’s aged leather straps hang to the sides of his grizzled life etched face. He wears pop bottle thick glasses and grits with his dentures in the corner of his mouth a half chewed scraggly cigar stub. The look on our hero’s face is that of dogged determination to take the beach.

In the distance behind him just entering the grass from the parking lot of the SunnyBroke Old Folks Home runs a nurse wearing the classic red cross on white nurse cap holding her light blue sweater closed with her right hand trying to catch him.

Below the scene the caption:
“Old soldiers never die! They just forget where they left their hand grenades.”
Fight On 99!!

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