Why Capitalists Love Cars

As I argue in the book I’m writing, contrary to long-prevailing indoctrination, it is capitalists, not commoners who are hopelessly in love with automobiles.

If you click either here or on the tentacled graphic at left, you will open a pdf file that shows you the material basis for corporate capitalists’ car addiction.

What a great racket!  Two of these commodity super-heaps for each household, sitting unused 90 percent of the time, and needing replacement (what machine of such Byzantine complexity wouldn’t?) every 7-to-10 years!  Cha-ching!

This diagram also shows why it’s the height of naiveté to entertain pipe-dreams about “green cars.”  That sponsored hope is an oxymoron if ever there was one.

[Source: Graeme P. Maxton and John Wormald, Time for a Model Change: Re-engineering the Global Automotive Industry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p.138.]

Too Much Quality: A Profit Killer

Thorstein Veblen saw capitalists as saboteurs of modern science and industry.  Their pursuit of profit obliges them to select wasteful product varieties, and then to refrain from maximizing the unit-quality of what they choose to produce.  That’s because too much product efficiency and longevity hurts business.

And so it goes.  Consider this July 14 item from Advertising Age:

The shaving business is slowing down in the U.S., even shrinking by some measures.

The economy isn’t helping, but the real factors behind the slowing of the $3 billion-plus shaving business are an aging population, a decline in men shaving and better products that last longer, according to a recently released report by market-research firm Mintel.

The fact is that “better products that last longer” are, contrary to the public professions* of the system’s executives and apologists, nothing like a top priority in corporate capitalism. Instead, they are a last resort in the ordinary course of big business.

Multiply this reality by the number of industries being allowed to organize production on behalf of private saboteurs, and you begin to see yet another dimension of why this social order will not make it through this century. The Earth and its people can’t stand it.

*”The chairman of the board will always tell you that he spends his every waking hour laboring so that people will get the best possible products at the cheapest possible price and work in the best possible conditions. But it’s an institutional fact, independent of who the chairman of the board is, that he’d better be trying to maximize profit and market share, and if he doesn’t do that, he’s not going to be chairman of the board any more. If he were ever to succumb to the delusions he expresses, he’d be out.” — Noam Chomsky

MPG Disinformation

Capitalists know only one solution to any problem: redoubled doses of the same old medicines.  The reign of the automobile and the auto-industrial complex is clearly doomed.  There is simply not enough energy in the world to make it last past roughly the middle of this century.

So, what do corporate car-marketers do? They heighten their efforts to misinform their “targets.”

The latest form of this trend is the change in the way car-capitalists state their miles-per-gallon claims in advertising. The old practice was to state two MPG ratings, one for city driving, the other for highway. So, my 1998 Toyota Corolla was advertised as having 32/41 MPG.

Now, in these increasingly dangerous end times for the automobile, the marketers have taken to simply shifting the city part of the MPG rating into the footnotes. Virtually all new ads that bother to mention MPG now only state the highway rating.

GM's Version

This is neither more nor less than planned disinformation, an intentional attempt to alter people’s access to and perceptions of vital information about products. Though you will never see this fact admitted in public, it is a standard method of big business marketing.

Capitalism, you see, is a just a well-disguised form of humanity’s 6,000-year run of pre-historic barbarism. A a social system, it is entirely of a piece with the older forms of class coercion that its apologists have long tried to distinguish it from.

An Institutional Problem

Capitalism’s apologists have always portrayed their system as “the end of history,” the best of all possible ways of setting social priorities.

The classic statement of this claim came, of course,

Read moreAn Institutional Problem