A friend of mine had an aquarium with a snail problem. In case you didn’t know (I didn’t), snails in an aquarium can cause nitrogen build-up that can kill the fish. She dealt with the snail problem and the nitrogen build-up. A year later, she carelessly permitted the filters to become clogged with the waste products of the fish (yeah, fish poo). This caused a nitrogen build-up that can kill fish.
As she was explaining this to me, you know what I didn’t say? I didn’t say, “fish poo can’t be the cause of nitrogen build-up, and the proof is, there was nitrogen build up last year before there was a fish-poo problem.” Because, you know, that would have been a very stupid thing to say.
Here’s another stupid thing to say: “Capitalism can’t be responsible for war, and the proof is, there was war before there was capitalism.”
Um, hello? No one said capitalism invented war. War, in the most general sense, is a product of scarcity. (No, it is not because “people are evil,” and it isn’t the product of religious differences, though certainly religious differences can be and often are used to incite a population into doing what it would druther not.) But you know those other economic arrangements we monkeys came up with in order deal with the problem of scarcity? They don’t exist any more. Today, we have capitalism. And, you know what? Capitalism, among many other benefits (as well, to be sure, as countless crimes), has improved the productivity of labor so much, there is no longer any need for scarcity. And thus, there is no longer any need for war.
So why is there war? Because capitalism is organized on the basis of nation-states, and because of the nature of the profit system, in which production is inextricably tied to amassing personal wealth. Thus, production, through the medium of accumulation of personal wealth, is tied to control of markets, resources, labor, all of which are divided among nation-states. The US is bombing civilians in Yemen so the Koch brothers and Jeff Bezos can add more zeroes to their bank accounts, and they are in the position where they can (and in some ways must) do that because of the capitalist mode of production. The irony is not lost on me that it is as a result of scarcity that millions of people have had to die to keep a few bastards living in luxury.
The point is, the fact that we can eliminate scarcity doesn’t mean we have eliminated scarcity. And we cannot eliminate scarcity until we break once and for all the relationship between production and the amassing of personal wealth. Once we’ve done that, there will no longer be scarcity, and thus, no longer war. In the meantime, the reason we still have war, is because we still have capitalism. Kapeesh?
(Just in passing, this provides the answer to those smug idiots who like to say, “Neener neener under socialism who gets to decide who gets the rare things like vintage wine and caviar?” Just ask yourself: would you go to war for it? If not, shut up. If so, you’re a bloody sociopath, and kindly go shoot yourself. I’m not feeling patient right now.)
Anyway, the next time some guy tells me that capitalism can’t be responsible for war because there was war before there was capitalism, I’m going to look him dead in the eye and say, “Fish poo.”