"We are taught a few things about Capitalism. We are taught that it is a system that works. And we are taught that it has brought us prosperity. That Capitalism creates prosperity.

I am going to argue against that hypothesis. And I'm going to convince you that that hypothesis is wrong. And I'm going to do that in the next five or ten seconds.

Almost the entire world is Capitalist and almost the entire world is poor. I'm using this thing that the media usually doesn't use, it's called: evidence. Look at the world. Most of the world is Capitalist.

There's Capitalist Indonesia; it's miserably poor and getting poorer. There's Capitalist India. There's Capitalist Thailand. Capitalist Nigeria, El Salvador, Haiti, Mexico, Brazil. Capitalist Argentina which is falling apart, and unraveling. Capitalist Russia, Poland, Bulgaria. Privatization, third-world-ization. Poor, poor. The number of people living in poverty today is growing at a faster rate than the world's population.

That's Capitalism's expansion, that's Capitalism's prosperity that it's bringing.

Capitalism does not work quite well for the people in those countries. Now that is also Capitalism at its most successful, because Capitalism in Indonesia works quite well for the Capitalists. It's just the people who aren't doing too well.

Well, gee, okay, we hadn't thought of those countries as being Capitalist, too. Okay, yeah, it doesn't work so well for the people in those 'third world' countries, but it has given us a good standard of living! Well, that, too, I am going to refute. That's going to take a bit longer than 5 seconds, maybe 20... 25 seconds.

In the USA, let's put aside the mass inequalities. Let's put aside the 10's of millions of people who struggle from hand to mouth. Let's put aside the many who live without real economic security, which might include many of us. Let's put aside the desperate ones at the very bottom. Let's even put aside the middle class people who are getting ripped off left and right with their taxes, and overwork, and loss of benefits. Let's put aside the impoverishment of the public sector and the destruction of a livable environment. Let's accept the idea that we live in great material abundance, which, in fact, compared to much of the world we do. Many in this country do live well.

But it wasn't Capitalism that gave us this standard of living. It was the democratic struggle AGAINST Capitalism that did so. Capitalism didn't give us all these good things. I mean, why don't we Americans work for 15 cents an hour, as they do in Haiti, and Indonesia? Is it because we are just so much more self respecting? No. It's because the democratic class struggle has advanced to a more favorable level. And that has happened only in the last few generations.

In 1900, America was a 'third world' country, half a century before the term was invented. We were a 'third world' nation: child labor was widespread, poverty was widespread, 14 hour workdays, 10-year-olds working in factories for 14 hours seven days a week, no social services to speak of. A few church soup kitchens and charities, maybe. No social benefits. Typhoid epidemics in our major cities. Tuberculosis and other diseases of poverty. No public housing or public health programs. Very little public education. No public libraries, really. That's what Capitalism gave us! That's what the country was: a pure free-market, unregulated, undiluted Capitalism in 1900. But MASSIVE margins of profit, massive massive MASSIVE wealth for the Mellons and the Morgans and the Huntingtons and the Hartfords and the Rockefellers and the Carnegies and the Vanderbilts. More money than they knew what to do with.

And you know what they wanted after they got that money? They wanted MORE. And they would destroy whole communities to get more, and more, and MORE. Wealth is the most damaging and the most dangerous addiction that this society faces.

Advances came not with Capitalism. It was THE PEOPLE, the American people, the working people in this country who fought and fought for the 8-hour workday, who fought for public education, who fought for public health services, who gave us those advances. It was THE PEOPLE who fought for decent housing, a decent standard of living, who fought for a minimum wage, who fought against discrimination.

Name one great leader, name one great political leader, name one great intellectual, who fought and did those things. Those people they jumped on the bandwagon after THE PEOPLE fought.

It was the Capitalists, the economic royalists, who fought against every one of those things. They fought against giving you a decent wage. They're still fighting against that. They're still fighting for wage cuts. They fought against Social Security. They fought against occupational safety. They're still fighting against it. They fought against environmental protections and they are still fighting against them, undermining them any way they can because they are afraid they are going to lose out on a dollar. Because every dollar they gotta give to you, every dollar they got to spend on stupid things like public safety, and wages, and occupational safety, and consumer product safety... every dollar wasted on stupid things like that is one less dollar for their insatiable greed.

So don't credit the Capitalists for giving you whatever modicum of prosperity you have. We got it despite their efforts, we tore it out of their teeth and out of their greedy claws. And we're still trying to hold onto it as they are trying to get it back from us."

Michael Parenti