I’m a sucker for catchy names (do say it out loud, at least once), but the premise might need some explanation for people who aren’t me. It’s worth noting at the outset that I’m primarily writing this for, and to, myself; but there’s no point in being unreasonably obtuse about it.
“Capitalist pig-dog” is a wonderful insult I’ve heard in the past, usually issued by comical Communist caricatures at heroic Capitalist caricatures in pursuit of a cheap laugh or two. I can’t track it down to a particular source, although the Pythons are partially to blame for popularising “pig-dog” in general. The term really caught my imagination about a year ago, and I’ve spent the intervening time trying to work out what it means. Or could mean.
Any analysis of my political/socioeconomic views puts me somewhere generally identified as leftwing. Although I can’t call myself a communist in good faith, people I discuss these things with will happily label me a communist or socialist after a few rounds of discussion. Hopefully, it goes without saying that I should try to stand by my beliefs, and live according to them. Even if said beliefs are dead wrong (of course, I don’t believe they are), doing nothing about them would be a little odd.
The most obvious thing I can do is to vote in elections according to said beliefs; being a UK citizen, I get a wonderful range of choices.
The Green Party are probably closest to me at the moment, although I wouldn’t consider myself to be a natural Green voter. Living in York adds Yorkshire First and the TUSC to my ballot paper, but removes the SDLP, Plaid Cymru, the SNP, SSP, Sinn Féin and Respect. A choice of three vaguely representative candidates to vote for isn’t terrible (assuming the TUSC and Yorkshire First are in my ballpark), so I can express my beliefs in this way.
However, since York Central is a pretty safe Labour seat, and the election is run according to the frankly pathological FPTP system, that vote doesn’t then result in my beliefs being advanced through the political system. By itself, this form of political expression is a non-starter. At best, I can help one of these parties to start establishing a support base to get an MP into parliament to… well, do very little. Westminster is not kind to small parties.
Voting, then, is not doing much for me, or my beliefs. Even if it were, it’s a couple of minutes of action every five years or so - and my beliefs are important to me. Since the parties in power are busily advancing beliefs that are, in my view, fairly diametrically opposed, surely there is more that I can do? Activism for parties I do support, and reform of the associated electoral systems, is a long game, and I do put some resources into that - although I could do more, I’m sure. In my personal life, I can resist the prevailing (or Westminster-prevailing, perhaps) social currents and act according to my conscience instead. Economically, though, I’m a bit stuffed. The UK is, at least in theory, a capitalist state - and by living here, drawing a wage here, paying taxes and spending money here, I am engaging in that system. These actions mark me as a capitalist pig-dog by deed, even if my words are quite different.
Help, I’m stuck in a capitalist country
I’m not actually stuck, of course. I could move to a different country - one matching my ideological leanings more closely. Some thought and research has gone into this possibility - I recently visited Finland, and I’m keeping an eye on Scottish independence - but it’s on ice at the moment.
What else is there to do? Here’s the not-very-revelatory revelation: in capitalist economic systems, spending money is a bit like voting. People engage in consensual exchanges - labour for money, money for (other) commodities. Competition drives down prices, price discovery guides production, and consumer choice determines which competitors win out, in the end. Consumer choice is generally assumed to be “rational”, which can be interpreted in a number of ways, and may not be true in general anyway.
In reality - in my judgement, anyway - the system I’m in doesn’t work like that at all. But if it works a bit like that, I can advance my beliefs by earning and spending according to them. I think I already do that to some extent, but I’ve never tried to analyse or quantify it; I just act in fairly knee-jerk ways to the new story _dujour . What if I look at everything I earn, and everything I spend? What if I analyse it and try to maximise the effect that my money has, in creating the sort of world I want to live in? And what if I blog about it, and others join in? Will I still be a capitalist pig-dog? Will they?
Let’s find out.