Capitalism, A Deeper Look

In What is Capitalism? I wrote:

“Capital is wealth. Using capital to generate more wealth is capitalism. … in a nutshell capitalism is using money to make more money.”

And:

“Capitalism is an economic system, not a philosophical or moral system …”

In Capitalism and Marx I wrote:

“In reality I think a lot of the problems [of capitalism] are more problems of human nature than of capitalism per se.”

Gustave Boulanger, “The Slave Market” (1882)

Through all of human history capitalists have sold human beings for profit. In the United States Lehman Brothers got its initial kick start from the Atlantic slave trade. Aetna made money in the 1850s insuring Southern planters against losses when slaves died. Banks took slaves as collateral for loans. In other words a lot of capitalists made money from slavery in the United States other than the plantation owners. That is also true of a lot of capitalists in the Caribbean and South America who actually got about 96% of the slaves that survived the Atlantic voyage.

Western civilization put an end to chattel slavery …

Slavery has existed as long as human beings have existed. It is the glory of western civilization that it finally put an end to chattel slavery, at least in the civilized world. Capitalists had to be told to take their money and invest it somewhere else.

Today we have Mexican drug cartels. They are capitalists too. They invest money, manage large enterprises, and reportedly enjoy large profit margins. They also tend to kill competitors and anyone who gets in their way.

If there is a profit to be made doing something, someone will do it.

Pimps are capitalists. Child pornographers are capitalists. If there is a profit to be made doing something, no matter how vile or evil, someone will be willing to do it. The fault is not in capitalism. The fault is in human nature.

IBM technology helped the Nazis find and identify Jews destined for the death camps. The same IBM technology helped the Nazis track the trains to the death camps, and then manage the populations of the camps, and finally their extermination. The numerical tattoo on the arms of concentration camp prisoners was an IBM identification number to track prisoners in an IBM punch card system.

IBM punch card for SS Race office

From an article at Haaretz.com on the research of Nadan Feldman into American and German involvement with Nazi Germany:

“The alliance between American capitalism and Nazi Germany helped Hitler implement an armaments program that was unprecedented at the time, and to begin the world war in which the Holocaust took place.”

“without the mobilization of corporate America for Nazi Germany, it is very doubtful whether Hitler could have started the war, doubtful whether he would have succeeded in rehabilitating the German economy” — certainly not at the speed and strength he achieved in the ‘30s.”

U.S. Chemical Corporation DuPont Helped Nazi Germany Because of Ideology, Israeli Researcher Says

American chemical giant DuPont had strong ties with the German company IG Farben and had an interest in the manufacture of Zyklon B gas, originally a pesticide, that was used to murder millions of Jews in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Dachau, and the other death camps.

Many other American companies profited in the building of the Third Reich. I don’t think that many of them were completely deluded as to the nature of the Nazi regime, although I doubt they imagined the full horror of the Holocaust to come.

Walmart strong-armed suppliers to go to China.

Today we have huge corporations like Walmart strong-arming suppliers to do business in Communist China, a regime in the same league of evil as Nazi Germany. China, like Nazi Germany, has concentration camps. Instead of Jews they imprison ethnic minorities like the Uighurs. China, like Nazi Germany, is credibly accused of using slave labor. Unlike Nazi Germany – the technology hadn’t been invented yet – China has been also credibly accused of forcefully harvesting human organs for sale:

The organs of members of marginalized groups detained in Chinese prison camps are being forcefully harvested — sometimes when patients are still alive, an international tribunal sitting in London has concluded.

Some of the more than 1.5 million detainees in Chinese prison camps are being killed for their organs to serve a booming transplant trade that is worth some $1 billion a year, concluded the China Tribunal, an independent body tasked with investigating organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in the authoritarian state.

China forcefully harvests organs from detainees, tribunal concludes
Chinese doctors performing a transplant operation

IBM provided Nazi Germany with the technology to make the death camps possible. Now it is helping, along with others, to build massive surveillance systems for the Chinese Communists:

The OpenPower Foundation — a nonprofit led by Google and IBM executives with the aim of trying to “drive innovation” — has set up a collaboration between IBM, Chinese company Semptian, and U.S. chip manufacturer Xilinx. Together, they have worked to advance a breed of microprocessors that enable computers to analyze vast amounts of data more efficiently.

Shenzhen-based Semptian is using the devices to enhance the capabilities of internet surveillance and censorship technology it provides to human rights-abusing security agencies in China

HOW U.S. TECH GIANTS ARE HELPING TO BUILD CHINA’S SURVEILLANCE STATE

Artificial intelligence and face recognition technology that American companies are working on for the Chinese government:

When a Dutch cybersecurity researcher disclosed last month that Chinese security contractor SenseNets left a massive facial recognition database tracking the movements of over 2.5 million people in China’s Xinjiang province unsecured on the internet, it briefly shone a spotlight on the alarming scope of the Chinese surveillance state.

The SenseNets database logged exact GPS coordinates on a 24-hour basis and, using facial recognition, associated that data with sensitive personal information, including national ID numbers, home addresses, personal photographs, and places of employment. Nearly one-third of the individuals tracked were from the Uighur minority ethnic group.

U.S. Firms Are Helping Build China’s Orwellian State

American companies are helping build a totalitarian police state that George Orwell imagined in his novel 1984.


Capitalism is very capable of enriching our lives – the modern world is irrefutable evidence of that. But capitalists are also quite capable of enriching some of the most evil regimes on earth if their is sufficient profit in it. We have seen that with Nazi Germany, and now Communist China.

The problem really isn’t capitalism per se. It is simply human nature and the fact some people will do anything to make a buck. Capitalism constrained by strong protections on human rights is a boon to humanity. Capitalism unrestrained by those protections is quite capable of fueling unspeakable evil.

In the past we told capitalists that investing in slaves was not allowed any longer. Is it time to stop capitalists from trading with evil regimes like Communist China?

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