The Dark Side of Capitalism. Royal Bank of England, London, UK. Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

A transcript of the CBC Ideas episode, The Politics of Belonging, featuring George Monbiot, author and columnist for The Guardian newspaper.

Well, let’s begin by asking what capitalism is. Because what capitalism is, is not at all what it purports to be. You know, if you ask most people, if you stopped someone in the street, “So, what’s capitalism?” Most people would quickly talk about trade. They would say, “Well, it’s about buying and selling, and the person who makes money by selling something, then invests that money, so they can sell more stuff, and then they can make more money, and on it goes. That’s capitalism.”

But that’s not at all how this thing we call capitalism has really worked. Quite the opposite. Really, it’s not been about trade. It’s really been about theft on a grand scale. Look at how the United Kingdom became rich, or England and then Britain as it was, at the time. It was through bleeding India dry, we bled $45 trillion out of India. We taxed the subcontinent until there was virtually nothing left, then used a small amount of that tax money to buy its goods. So we were buying goods with their own money. And then we used the phenomenal profits — 100% profits — from that enterprise to finance the capture of other nations, and the colonization of those nations and the citizens, the railways and the other things we built in order to drain wealth out of them.

Author George Monbiot points toward a new way of conceptualizing the common good and forging a politics of belonging in his book, Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. (Dave Stelfox/Verso Books)

And there are similar processes continuing today, if you are sticking with the UK. If we look at a major source of our wealth, which is the City of London, much of that is based on laundering the money stolen from nations around the world. This is a global entrepôt for processing corruption, and this thing we call capitalism is actually looting. It’s theft on a global scale. And it simply doesn’t operate as the textbooks say. So, if the question is, “Why would that system be harmful to human beings?” You can only answer it by saying the system begins with gross harm to human beings. That’s how it operates.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Stephen Bau

Stephen Bau


Designer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective. We are exploring how we imagine, design, and build the future together.