How capitalism is an atractor for conglomeration
Several years ago I was living in a town called Cehegin in Murcia, in Spain, about an hours drive inland from the south coast.
My neighbours son was the local vet and over a few beers one day he explained to me that he didn't just work in town, but he had a very wide network of farms that he visited.
The farmers paid into a sort of insurance fund and he would vaccinate herd and inspect sick animals etc. He catchment area extended to the mountains of Albacete. I'd probably had too much beer, because when he asked me if I wanted to go with him on his rounds one day, I accepted. A few days later on one freezing cold morning I was getting into his car a 6am.
Well we drove and drove. As the altitude increased, so the temperature decreased. People think of Spain as a warm country. Don't believe a word of it. Winters here have been know to go down to minus 36 centigrade!
We passed a frozen waterfall and I noticed my companion was sporting a colourful woollen hat whereas I was stupidly bareheaded.
Eventually we arrived at the first farm. Antonio the vet greeted the farmer and was soon in an enclosure doing unmentionable things so yelping goats.
The farmer took me to oneside and, with my limited Spanish, seemed to be offering me his farm for sale. The buildings including the sheds and animal enclosures must have totalled about five hundred square meters. Goodness knows how much land would have been included because he gestured as far as the eye could see. His asking price was 6000 euros.
I was quite taken aback. It was a beautiful spot. The farmhouse was old but liveable.
When Antonio and I were back in the car I mentioned the farmer's offer. He chuckled and explained, that the farmer is one of the last people left in what was previously a huge goat herding region. None of the children wanted to herd goats as there was no money in it so over the years they drifted off to Madrid, Barcelona or maybe abroad to find work.
Soon the town has so few people, there is no money to pay for services and everything collapses. We drove past the town, which was on the other side of the river so we couldn't enter, but all was still. It had long since been abandoned. The farmer had to drive twenty miles to the next town for everything he needed, which was crippling any profit he had from the goat farm. He just wanted out.
Today we're looking at a similar situation in Detroit, the largest American city ever to file for bankruptcy. Detroit's population has declined from 1.85 million in the 1950's to just 700k today. Deeply underfunded schools are being shutdown. People are leaving in droves.
The cause is the same in both cases. An economic activity becomes uneconomic. Goat herding in Albacete, building cars in Detroit.
The thing about capitalism is that it takes care of money but not the people who generate it. As long as we leave the care of people to market forces, we're really saying that people are an expendable resource that can be disposed of when no longer needed.
My take on this is that profit is the expendable resource that should be used to take care of people. Today there is more profit than ever before in human history thanks to the automation afford by machines, computers and robotics. Instead of the fruits of those developments going to the benefit of mankind they are sequested by a tiny minority - the rich 1% whose only purpose in life seems to be to make more money and make the rest of us continually poorer.
Unless we start to reorganise the worlds wealth, I do fear towns and cities across the globe will gradually disappear and be replaced by one big city - the only place left to work.
Thursday, July 25, 2013 9:03:00 PM