I take my title today from the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns that put Clint Eastwood on the map. After making A Fistful of Dollars, he made A Few Dollars More [and then The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly]. Well, the discussion we have been having about capitalism has triggered some interesting replies and rejoinders, so I want to say just a few more things before we move on to other topics.
The central question under debate seems to be whether it is possible somehow adequately to ameliorate the oppressions, exploitations, and gross inequalities of capitalism without altering the fundamental structure of a capitalist economy and society, which is to say private ownership and control of the means of production, wage labor, and production of commodities for profit rather than production of goods for human consumption and use.
The very first question one must answer is, Who is doing the ameliorating? It is dangerously deceptive and self-deluding to talk about capital grants and redistributions and so on without asking who it is that is doing all of this. Who, in a capitalist economy and society, has the power to fundamentally alter the structure of ownership so that ownership of the capital of the society is equally shared among all of the members of the society? The answer, of course, is Those who now own the capital or control it. And what will motivate them to carry out such a redistribution of ownership and control? Nothing, so far as I can see.
But this question actually is a good deal less interesting than a more fundamental one. Our modern economy is built on large-scale integrated production processes. You may think [though I have my doubts about it] that industrial agriculture can be replaced by a vast number of small-scale farms and ranches without a loss of efficiency in food production, but surely no one imagines that automobile production can be efficiently managed by means of boutique automobile production, nor can modern hi-tech health care delivery be carried out without large expensive hospitals stocked with MRI machines et al. Even if you somehow persuade the owners of capital to pass out shares of stock in such a manner that each person in the America owns one three-hundred millionth of the total capital of all the enterprises in our economy [a fantasy truly heroic in its detachment from reality], the enterprises themselves will continue to be organized as they are now. If the owners -- which is to say the entire population -- now mandate that that capital be managed and used for the good of all the owners, i.e., the entire population, then what you have is socialism, and the revolution has been completed. Capitalism ceases to exist. [As one commenter pointed out].
Am I in favor of that? Hell, yes. But I have no illusions that it is going to occur, at least without a revolutionary transformation in the beliefs and the behaviors of the entire population.
Short of socialism, there are of course many, many ways in which the worst of capitalism can be ameliorated. Again, one of the comments pointed out that this would require the rebirth of the union movement. All one need do is carry out a cross-national comparison of the various mature capitalist economies in the world to see that what we have in the United States is on the very worst end of the spectrum. Other countries provide a more equal income distribution and a stronger social safety net, all within the structure of a capitalist economy.
So what is the advantage of capitalism, that would lead us to make any possible adjustment in it rather than get rid of it? Well, that is a long story, and I have written about that too at length. I am really not going to repeat here everything I have said elsewhere.
Let me conclude by saying that we are still in coconut territory. Postulating the passing out of "capital shares" without asking who is going to do the passing out and why, is as feckless as supposing that two people on a desert island passing coconuts back and forth are somehow going to tell us anything about capitalism.