The capitalist death cult

See updates through January 11, 2022, at end of post.


I have long felt that capitalism is, in U.S. society, even more of an ideology than it is an economic system. Now, with talk of human sacrifice, I think I would have to call it a religion, or, because no major religion any longer demands human sacrifice, perhaps a cult.

Both the medical and economic aspects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are catastrophic[1] and we don’t even know how catastrophic.[2] Worse, we really aren’t stepping up to adequately address either aspect,[3] and we seem to be rushing to lift restrictions to “save the economy.”[4]

Meanwhile, some, who have obviously never experienced the sheer panic, terror, and desperation of respiratory distress, talk about letting grandparents die that very death “to prevent the U.S. economy from tanking under the weight of social distancing measures that [Dan Patrick] fears will impact his grandchildren and lead to the ‘loss’ of America.”[5] All to save capitalism, conflated with Amerikkka.

On the one hand, the suffering that the economic shutdown imposes is real, particularly for those who can least afford it.[6] But rather than question the paradigm that imposes this terrible dilemma, rather than take care of humans,[7] we would hastily reimpose a system of economic exchange that inherently privileges whomever has the greater power to say no,[8] at the expense of the very same vulnerable folks who can’t afford the shutdown.[9]

Our high priests decree that we must do this even at the cost of millions of lives.[10] They demand mass human sacrifice[11] to appease a capitalist god angered by, I guess, Bernie Sanders.

I am the Lord thy God. . . . Thou shalt have no other gods before me . . . for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.[12]


Update, December 24, 2020: Political and economic elite disdain for the poor and working class appears in 1) the paucity of and long delays in economic relief packages,[13] 2) a mishandling of the economy and of the pandemic that appears more malicious than incompetent,[14] and 3) the miserable pay offered front-line workers who have too often worked without adequate protection even as retail corporate profits have soared,[15] and while millions of others face homelessness[16] and poverty[17] due to job loss. It was all entirely foreseeable, indeed foreseen, but the capitalist god indeed demands human sacrifice[18] and our elites seem determined to offer it.[19]

In the latest development, the House of Representatives failed to pass by unanimous consent[20] an increase in direct payments to $2,000 that Donald Trump, of all people, demanded,[21] from the $600 that Congress had agreed[22] after months of delay.[23] It is, at the very least, more of the same.[24]


Update, March 22, 2021: Congress did eventually pass and Joe Biden signed an economic stimulus package sending $1,400 checks to many Amerikkkans.[25] Given the duration of suffering, it’s a pittance, but apparently not enough to persuade ride share drivers to risk exposure to COVID-19, causing gig companies some worry, but not enough for them to raise pay beyond one-time incentives.[26] This is a situation I took up in a blog post entitled, “The necessary desperation.”

The killing hasn’t ended. Biden supports pharmaceutical companies in their insistence on preserving intellectual property rights over COVID-19 vaccines, limiting production, killing people mostly in less developed countries who don’t have access to vaccines, enabling more variants of the novel coronavirus to appear, and thus killing even more people.[27] I take the latter story up in a blog post entitled, “The lethal dishonesty of ‘intellectual property’ in a pandemic.”


Update, May 17, 2021: Yes, I work well over 55 hours per week, the length of time the World Health Organization now says increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.[28] I have no choice. Lots of other people do and they, likewise, have no choice. But you know, to advocate a living wage is to blaspheme against the great god capitalism.[29]


Update, December 29, 2021: The story of the revised COVID-19 quarantine guidance for asymptomatic folks, in which, despite skyrocketing case and hospitalization rates,[30] and despite increased concerns about medical worker burnout,[31] the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “shortened the recommended time Americans infected with the coronavirus should isolate from 10 days to five,”[32] is that 1) the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not believe people will comply with stricter rules;[33] and 2) so-called “essential” workers are, in fact, expendable.[34]

“We have seen relatively low rates of isolation for all of this pandemic. Some science has demonstrated less than a third of people are isolating when they need to,” [Rochelle] Walensky told CNN.[35]

The [Biden] administration’s top health officials met over Christmas weekend to discuss the trajectory of the U.S. outbreak, with several expressing fear about how high case levels might climb in the coming weeks, according to four senior officials briefed on the discussion. They worried the sheer volume of infections could mean that tens of thousands of police, firefighters, grocery workers and other essential employees would be out of work, making it challenging to keep society functioning, even though many of the infections would be mild or produce no symptoms, the officials said.[36]

If you are worried about spreading a highly contagious and deadly disease, you at least require workers to be tested before returning to work, which the new guidance doesn’t do.[37] If you are worried about the workers themselves, you pay them to stay home, whether through sick leave or unemployment benefits. If you aren’t worried about the workers themselves, but rather you are really worried about the economy, you make them go to work even if they’re infected, even if they might infect their co-workers, even if they might infect anyone else they may come into contact with.

“I absolutely don’t want to sit next to someone who turned Positive 5 days ago and hasn’t tested [negative],” tweeted epidemiologist Michael Mina, an assistant professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, calling the guidance “reckless.”[38]

A lot of what I’ve seen on my Twitter feed in opposition to the new advice amounted to name-calling. That’s not the way to persuade me. But it’s clear now my tweeps were right, that this latest guidance confirms that indeed, capitalism is a death cult.[39]


Update, January 11, 2022:


The simple truth is that services are breaking down[40] not because we’re being insufficiently aggressive in returning to ‘normal,’[41] but because we’re pushing it much too fast[42] and refusing to take care of people who, for whatever reason, need to stay home.[43]

I don’t care how you excuse this. Whatever social, political, and economic systems we have are all social constructions. They should serve humans, not the other way around. For ideological or, more correctly, religious, or even more correctly, cultish reasons, we’ve forgotten this.[44]

  1. [1]Talal Ansari, Jennifer Calfas, and Chun Han Wong, “U.S. Coronavirus Cases Surpass Those of China, Italy,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/governments-clamp-down-as-coronavirus-infections-surge-11585218656; David Blanchflower, “Pandemic Economics: ‘Much Worse, Very Quickly,” New York Review of Books, March 26, 2020, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/03/26/pandemic-economics-much-worse-very-quickly/; Heather Long and Alyssa Fowers, “A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slams economy,” Washington Post, March 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/26/unemployment-claims-coronavirus-3-million/; Yascha Mounk, “This Is Just the Beginning,” Atlantic, March 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/national-shutdown-least-bad-option/608683/
  2. [2]Derek Thompson, “All the Coronavirus Statistics Are Flawed,” Atlantic, March 26, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/fog-pandemic/608764/
  3. [3]Adam Cancryn and Nancy Cook, “Health officials want Trump to ‘double down, not lighten up’ restrictions,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/coronavirus-economy-trump-restart-145222; John Cassidy, “What Would a Proper Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Look Like?” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/what-would-a-proper-coronavirus-stimulus-plan-look-like; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/; Michael Hirsh, “Is $2 Trillion Too Little, Too Late?” Foreign Policy, March 25, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/24/us-congress-2-trillion-rescue-package-too-little-too-late/; Michael Hudson, “A debt jubilee is the only way to avoid a depression,” Washington Post, March 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/21/debt-jubilee-is-only-way-avoid-depression/; Justin Lahart, “Washington’s Trillions Alone Can’t Stop the Jobpocalypse,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/washingtons-trillions-alone-cant-stop-the-jobpocalypse-11585235110; Yascha Mounk, “This Is Just the Beginning,” Atlantic, March 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/national-shutdown-least-bad-option/608683/; Isabel V. Sawhill, “The middle class faces its greatest threat since the 1930s,” Brookings, March 20, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-middle-class-faces-its-greatest-threat-since-the-1930s/
  4. [4]Adam Cancryn and Nancy Cook, “Health officials want Trump to ‘double down, not lighten up’ restrictions,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/coronavirus-economy-trump-restart-145222; Isabel Togoh, “Texas Official Suggests ‘Lots’ Of Grandparents Would Be Willing Risk Coronavirus Death To Keep Economy Going,” Forbes, March 24, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2020/03/24/texas-official-suggests-lots-of-grandparents-would-be-willing-risk-coronavirus-death-to-keep-economy-going/; William Wan and Aaron Blake, “Coronavirus modelers factor in new public health risk: Accusations their work is a hoax,” Washington Post, March 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/27/coronavirus-models-politized-trump/
  5. [5]Isabel Togoh, “Texas Official Suggests ‘Lots’ Of Grandparents Would Be Willing Risk Coronavirus Death To Keep Economy Going,” Forbes, March 24, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2020/03/24/texas-official-suggests-lots-of-grandparents-would-be-willing-risk-coronavirus-death-to-keep-economy-going/
  6. [6]Adam Cancryn and Nancy Cook, “Health officials want Trump to ‘double down, not lighten up’ restrictions,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/coronavirus-economy-trump-restart-145222; Kim Hart, “The coronavirus economy will devastate those who can least afford it,” Axios, March 23, 2020, https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-economy-layoffs-children-families-bad-d588cc93-ff26-4031-8be8-5654cce05a15.html; Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020, https://newint.org/features/2020/03/18/untenable-luxury-self-isolation; Ben White, “Great Depression 2? Worries about a coronavirus-induced calamity pile up,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/great-depression-coronavirus-induced-calamity-145304
  7. [7]John Cassidy, “What Would a Proper Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Look Like?” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/what-would-a-proper-coronavirus-stimulus-plan-look-like; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/; Michael Hirsh, “Is $2 Trillion Too Little, Too Late?” Foreign Policy, March 25, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/24/us-congress-2-trillion-rescue-package-too-little-too-late/; Michael Hudson, “A debt jubilee is the only way to avoid a depression,” Washington Post, March 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/21/debt-jubilee-is-only-way-avoid-depression/
  8. [8]Max Weber, “Class, Status, Party,” in Social Theory, ed. Charles Lemert, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2017), 94-101.
  9. [9]Adam Cancryn and Nancy Cook, “Health officials want Trump to ‘double down, not lighten up’ restrictions,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/coronavirus-economy-trump-restart-145222; Kim Hart, “The coronavirus economy will devastate those who can least afford it,” Axios, March 23, 2020, https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-economy-layoffs-children-families-bad-d588cc93-ff26-4031-8be8-5654cce05a15.html; Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020, https://newint.org/features/2020/03/18/untenable-luxury-self-isolation; Ben White, “Great Depression 2? Worries about a coronavirus-induced calamity pile up,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/great-depression-coronavirus-induced-calamity-145304
  10. [10]Adam Cancryn and Nancy Cook, “Health officials want Trump to ‘double down, not lighten up’ restrictions,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/coronavirus-economy-trump-restart-145222; Yascha Mounk, “This Is Just the Beginning,” Atlantic, March 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/national-shutdown-least-bad-option/608683/
  11. [11]Isabel Togoh, “Texas Official Suggests ‘Lots’ Of Grandparents Would Be Willing Risk Coronavirus Death To Keep Economy Going,” Forbes, March 24, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2020/03/24/texas-official-suggests-lots-of-grandparents-would-be-willing-risk-coronavirus-death-to-keep-economy-going/
  12. [12]Ex. 20:2-5 (King James Version).
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  17. [17]Abha Bhattarai and Hannah Denham, “Stealing to survive: More Americans are shoplifting food as aid runs out during the pandemic,” Washington Post, December 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/10/pandemic-shoplifting-hunger/; Heather Long, “Nearly 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since the summer,” Washington Post, December 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/16/poverty-rising/; Kyle Swenson, “Ten bucks left, no place to go: How the pandemic and a broken unemployment system are upending people’s lives,” Washington Post, August 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/coronavirus-unemployment-delays-dc/2020/08/01/50016264-c522-11ea-8ffe-372be8d82298_story.html
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