Wild-growing capital breeds chaos in Western countries amid pandemic

By Tian Wenlin Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/16 22:38:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

The novel coronavirus pandemic has drawn the world into an unprecedented disaster which is also a test for countries' survival and management abilities. The chaos that keeps emerging in Western countries amid the outbreak is mostly because of the wild-growing capital force.

People are wondering why medical supplies have lagged off in the US, especially as a country which possesses an advanced level of manufacturing. The world's largest economic entity, in fact, is advanced in design and management with regard to its manufacturing industries, meanwhile it has been outsourcing low-profit production segments overseas.

For instance, the US has two world-leading mask brands - 3M and Honeywell, but still the country has no sufficient mask supply for epidemic prevention.

With an essence of pursuing profit, capital is not only an indispensable component of economic development, but also an alien force that may attack human society at any time. The basic tenet of the capitalist system is "capital first" with a main task of freeing capital which would, in turn, lead the capital to grow into an alien force for self-improvement.

As the largest capitalist country, the US has experienced the whole process of capital alienation. It was the largest industrial nation before 1970s with a tight coupling of industrial capital and socialized mass production which had accumulated social wealth and created massive employment along with pursuit of the capital's own profit. However, under the effect of the continuous decline of the average profit rate, industrial capital later gradually flew into the financial sector which had a higher profit margin. Industrial capitalism then evolved into financial capitalism with a landmark event of the initiation of Reagan Administration since 1980.

With comprehensive policy support, the financial industry had been expanding in the US while leading to a hollowing-out of its economy. The financialization of the economy has disconnected capital from society and the real economy, losing a country's advantage of socialized mass production.

As capital itself does not participate in wealth creation but only wealth distribution, therefore, financial capital can neither bring in great productivity development, nor solve public employment.

During the cold war between the two systems of the US and the Soviet Union, Western capitalist countries intended to raise public wealth due to crisis awareness, which objectively eased its intrinsic contradiction. However, the essence of pursuing profit then got supremacy again after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Under the guidance of the supremacy of capital, a society is full of sharp contradictions and antagonisms between individual and collective interests. 

The current pandemic is a test of a country's survival ability which needs combined and all-out efforts of a whole country. However, under the logic of capital supremacy, the Western world's epidemic prevention approach showed its ruthless and incompetent side, such as prioritizing the treatment of the young over the elderly, and rich over poor, or even the idea of "herd immunity".

The seemingly interest-maximized epidemic prevention approach does not help Western countries to avoid from being hard hit by the virus, which clearly indicates that capital supremacy could only accelerate a nation's decline and reduce its ability to respond to major disasters and crises.

What can be learned from the Western world's epidemic prevention procedures is that a country needs to learn to manage capital, not only to play an active role of capital in economic construction, but also to limit the spread of its negative impacts.

The author is a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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