Francis Fish
17 min readMar 20, 2023

What’s wrong with it and why it must go.

The comforting fairy tale

In the book Candide there is a character called Doctor Pangloss. No matter what happens to the characters in the book, and some pretty bad things happen to them, he always says that they live in the best of all possible worlds. There is a word panglossian that is based on this character. Capitalism is the most panglossian of systems, but it is far from the best. We have been sold a number of comforting ideas, which seem convincing and comforting enough, but the reality is far darker and more disturbing.

The system has its origins about 400 years ago. On a technical level some people realised that they could organise the creation of commodities in such a way that far more could be produced in a given amount of time if the tasks to create them were broken up so that the steps could be performed quickly and simply by workers who weren’t particularly skilled (and therefore cheaper to employ). So we had paying less for labour combined with creating more things.

In and of itself, so what? But this of course ignores the relationships between people. The society at the time was ruled by royalty and the idea of the group somehow owing things to a leader was still the only way people thought. Also the leaders were the ones with weapons and armies to use them, so it wasn’t odd to at least pretend to let them have their way. So the new factories had owners, and the owners kept the profit made from this reorganisation of the way things are done. The revolution only went halfway, production was simplified and turned into a socialised thing, but the profit from the socialisation was held by the capitalist.

We then sell these products on the market, where we get a fair price, and everyone is happy. The best of all possible worlds, indeed.

The new class of capitalists came to an accommodation with the royalty eventually, and people were no longer subject to the imperial whim, but were free to sell their labour power and we have the wonderful system we live under today.

This story misses out a lot of things, including several kings losing their heads, but it gives a flavour of what happened.

The Reality

In general, in medieval times, the people who lived in the countryside in places like England had a bit of land they could use to feed themselves. They had obligations to…