One of the things I enjoy, now that I am a totally “streaming” beast with my Apple TV, is the screen saver that gives me a bird’s-eye view of the world. It was just showing the United Arab Emirates. The massive skyscrapers are spectacular to look at. Then, the thought came to me that all that opulence was made from one source, oil.
That is what capitalism is all about. If you have a product that is in demand, you sell it to the highest bidder. If your product is successful, you reap the rewards.
But what happens when your product is no longer in demand? How do you maintain your elevated standard of living when there is no future income? How can you even maintain what you have?
Getting back to the UAE, what will happen to all that opulence in twenty years when oil no longer fuels the world’s vehicles? I can foresee massive turbulence in the Middle East when their primary means of wealth evaporates.
Of course, oil is not the first disruptor of capitalism. When Henry Ford invented the assembly line, it gave a level of immediate wealth to unskilled workers. It brought them quickly into the middle class. That lasted until those mindless jobs were taken over by robotics. That takeover, which seriously started in the 1980s, caused middle-class status to be taken away from many. Here we are in the 2020s with a very disgruntled mass of people who are bitter that their perceived middle-class status is no longer there. How many of those are among the Trump supporters who want to see our current society crumble?
Capitalism does create quick wealth, but it seems it can’t guarantee long-term wealth to the masses. How to make that happen is way above my pay-scale. 🥸 So, the basic question is, can capitalism sustain a democracy in the long term? Not all of us can be brilliant inventors who will accumulate great wealth. What happens to those others?