The Endgame of Capitalism
By Norbert Haring
[This new book by Norbert Haring was published in October 2021.]
A giant Ponzi scheme runs its course as elites prepare for the day after
How can this be? The world’s major stock markets recorded very strong gains between spring 2020 and summer 2021. In a year in which global economic output suffered a severe slump, in which many millions of people were forced into short-time work zero or out of work altogether, self-employed people lost their livelihoods en masse, and entire industries such as retail, hotels, restaurants and tourism went into existential distress, shareholders had all reason to be happy.. How does this fit together?
That is the guiding question of this book. By the end, it should have become clear why economic decline and stock market booms are not contradictions in capitalism, and also what needs to happen for this anti-social system to be replaced by one that serves the mass of people, not a small elite who owns most of the capital.
The juxtaposition of the Corona crisis and the boom of the stock market provides only the catchiest illustration of the fact that the well-being of the producing economy, which is vital for people and can be experienced on a daily basis, has very little significance for the financial sphere, which revolves around stock market and bond prices, manager bonuses and dividends, and in which companies are traded like potatoes. This was already recognizable before, just not as clearly. The plan for this book predates the Corona crisis.
In researching my 2016 and 2018 books on the global campaign to abolish cash, I came across a web of foundations, corporations and associations, working with governments to advance this project. It became increasingly clear to me that the digitization of payments is just one component of a much broader agenda.
I came across projects and groups with names like ID2020, Lockstep, Known Traveller, and Great Reset – and the same institutions in different configurations over and over again: World Economic Forum, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Accenture, Microsoft, Visa and Mastercard, regularly in association with the United States Government, and the institutions it dominates, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, but also with the German government and other governments.
The common denominator of their projects is the goal of comprehensive, computerized collection and storage of reliable data on the doings of the world’s population. After all, whoever has the data has the power, both commercially and politically.
Observing what power corporations wield and what goals they apparently pursue with the help of this power was one reason for writing this book, though not yet a sufficient one. For I can present evidence and examples of the actions and intentions of corporations with less work and with similar reach on my weblog “Money and More.” However, asking and answering the question took the scope beyond blogging.
The realization came on top that this economic system is permanently out of joint. Interest rates have been virtually zero for over a decade, despite the fact that interest may be considered a cornerstone of the capitalist system. The central banks are pumping money into the system on an unprecedented scale, but this is not resulting in inflation. Economic momentum is much weaker than in previous decades, but stock prices and land prices are going through the roof.
All of this called for a synopsis that analyzes the sources of corporate power and the motivations behind the plans of the elites. The aim of this book is to connect the dots and then to derive a positive vision for a better system.
An (intellectual) journey is more pleasant if you recognize waymarks and know where you are going. Therefore, I want to provide you with a roadmap.
In the first part, I show how the Corona crisis has exposed a system in which everything is designed to protect the owners of capital from losses and to continue to increase their wealth, while the already disadvantaged lose out. The large corporations become richer and more powerful, while the smaller companies lose market share or go bankrupt.
The history of the World Economic Forum, the powerful lobby of the large international corporations, illustrates the methods used by the corporations to convert their economic power into structural political power. The Forum has been officially and firmly integrated into so-called global governance. This is the euphemistic name given to the bodies and institutions for steering world events by unelected technocrats and the rules they have agreed upon far from parliaments. The various semi-official international bodies in which this global technocratic elite formulates its laws are presented as very important actors in global governance.
In the second part, we embark on a search for the source of corporate power. To do this, it is necessary to understand how capitalism works, because it feeds on it. Without this analysis, it is impossible to understand the current atypical situation, which I call the “end game of capitalism,” or to develop reform proposals that do more than just address symptoms.
I will make a clear distinction between what is commonly called “the economy” and capital. The economy is the sphere of production and consumption in which people earn income and satisfy their needs, in which businesses invest, produce, and seek to sell their goods or services at a profit. Capital consists of rights to the proceeds of this economic activity. In the financial sphere, these rights are traded, including entire companies. Since capital controls companies through top management, the latter is incentivized to maximize the returns of capital rather than producing as many good products as possible as cheaply as possible.
There is a clash of interests between small and medium-sized enterprises and the large corporations. The latter are becoming bigger, richer and more powerful by using the financial sector to displace, subordinate or swallow their smaller competitors.
I do not subsume owner-managed companies under capital, just as I do not regard owners of owner-occupied homes and apartments as capitalists. In both cases, the companies and houses are not instruments for earning money from other peoples’ work, which I regard as a defining characteristic of capital.
In the third part, which gave the book its name, I will examine why our current capitalism looks so different from what we know or imagine from earlier times, and what conclusions we should draw for the future. In particular, why has there been almost no interest for many years and likely for many years to come? Why is the economy limping along while the stock markets are booming?
The short answer to these questions is that capital gains in recent decades have been increasingly been fueled by falling interest rates and by redistribution at the expense of workers, consumers and small companies. This cannot be reversed without destroying the system.
I develop a positive vision for a system change in part four. Before that, however, the question is raised how the corporations envision the system change: Their way of wanting to preserve their power after the inevitable collapse of the Ponzi-scheme of financial capitalism is a transition from free-market capitalism to a new version of feudalism.
The fourth part answers the question of how the economic system can be fundamentally changed to give power back to the people. To ensure that reforms are not just curing symptoms, I draw on the insights into the nature of capitalism and the basis of corporate power from the second part. The aim will be to eliminate capitalism, the essence of which is the absence of competition, and to replace it with a competitive market economy embedded in a state that takes care of all people’s basic needs.
I conclude by addressing the question of what needs to change in the political system for such a reform to have a chance and what we can do individually to get there.