It's eat or be Eaten, buddy. You gotta GET YOURS!
Lifeboat Theory 101. I'm alright Jack, Screw YOU!

Capitalism, according to the Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, is "An
economic system in which the means of production and distribution are
privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the
accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market."

Isn't that quaint? It sounds penned by the uptight Economics prof Phillip
Barbay in Back to School, factually accurate but naively incomplete. To
capture the genuine splendor of Capitalism at work, we'd do better to have
it defined by Thornton Mellon from the same film, whose estimate for
building a factory displays an appreciation for the "realities" of the free
market system:

"First of all you're going to have to grease the local politicians for
the sudden zoning problems that always come up. Then there's the kickbacks
to the carpenters, and if you plan on using any cement in this building I'm
sure the teamsters would like to have a little chat with ya, and that'll
cost ya."

Capitalism is Darwinian economics, the strong survive and the weak sit out,
and it's the strong that define the system: Predatory lenders traded
short-term revenue for long-term economic collapse by arranging mortgages
for people who couldn't afford to pay for them; Exxon Mobil earned $40.7
billion in profits in 2007 as the U.S. economy began treading the slippery
slope of recession; Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O'Neal steered the company into
an $8 billion dollar loss and arranged a $161 million severance package for
himself before his departure. That sounds more like Thorton Mellon's
Capitalism, the ka-ching-like sound of ambition colliding with opportunism.
To quote another silver screen Capitalist, Wall Street's Gordon Gekko,
"greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works."

Capitalism is synonymous with the United States, closer to a religion than
an economic policy, and membership in "the church" is activated when you're
issued your social security number. U.S. paper currency is ugly and
monochromatic not because green ink is cheaper, but to keep people from
being distracted: Money isn't fashion, it's function, and it's meant to be
spent. Other nations can make their scrip multi-colored and gorgeous, but
in America, it shouldn't be in your wallet long enough that you would take
it out and admire it like a photograph.

This contemplation of capitalism began when my daughter became
co-proprietor of her first lemonade stand last week. She and her friend
began peddling tiny paper cups of instant Country Time lemonade for 25
cents a glass. As I watched them charm 20-odd patrons out of $14.00 ("keep
the change" were oft-heard parting words from kind neighbors and
passersby), I remarked to my wife that this was our five-year-old's
introduction to American capitalism. Forget the lessons of Thornton Mellon
and Gordon Gekko, the glow of greed in the eyes of those girls as they
counted and recounted the money accumulating in their
lunch-box-turned-cash-box indicated that the seeds of capitalism are
planted long before movie characters get to define the concept in
passionate soliloquies. (Naturally, the girls wanted to repeat the process
the next day, and the next, as if, forgive the mixed metaphor, a lemonade
stand was a cash cow that could be milked at will.)

I remember my own first lemonade stand decades ago, but it wasn't a primer
on Capitalism so much as an introduction to predatory marketing strategies.
A friend and I opened shop on the north corner of Pike Avenue simply to
spite the boy who had set up his own stand on the south corner of the same
intersection. I don't recall the catalyst for this competition (some
questionable ruling in a hide-and-seek game perhaps), but our dueling
soft-drink ventures taught us nothing about Capitalism because we were
preoccupied learning the value of that famous adage about "location,
location, location": Traffic on Pike Avenue wasn't sufficient to support
one drink merchant, let alone two. I learned about Capitalism at school,
with a game called "Kill the One with the Ball".

Children born in the 1960s grew up in an American epoch that defined
adolescent "play" with significantly fewer restrictions than children
encounter today. In those days, child safety wasn't a cottage industry so
much as an under-developed branch of Common Sense: Jungle Gyms assembled
with exposed nuts and bolts allowed us to dangle precariously over an
asphalt cushion; fully-exposed eight-year-old craniums reenacted improbable
Evel Knievel stunts on banana-seat bicycles; Car-seat safety meant being
held in your lap-seat-buckled mom's arms rather than being left to crawl
freely about the cabin. As such, recess monitors at my elementary school
permitted any game that didn't involve swords, crossbows or explosives,
including the barbaric search-and-destroy game "Kill the One with the

The name exaggerates the actual methodology, but the name's six words tell
you everything you need to know about the game: One player started with a
ball, while every other player taunted, tormented and tackled that person
until they released possession of the ball (often with a panicked toss into
the air as the thunder of sneakered feet encroached); whoever got the ball
next became the new object of the mob's harassment, and the former ball
holder resumed their place in the swarm of kids clamoring after the ball.

That's it. No strategy (excepting a hastily improvised escape route), no
skill, just survival, like football played by a dozen one-person teams,
like Rugby sans scoreboard or pro wrestling with an inflatable prop. The
game was exhilarating like running with the bulls at Pamplona would be
exhilarating, and despite the known pointlessness of the game, I played
with unbridled enthusiasm, ripped-up pants-knees be damned.

There are a variety of civilizations whose economic limitations required
their youth to be creative with the barest of essentials, resulting in the
global popularity of soccer/football (which requires nothing more than a
ball and a competitive desire) and hacky sack/footbag (which has roots in
ancient China, Thailand, and Native America and requires only a beanbag and
a cooperative spirit), but it seems comically appropriate that American
youth took those same elements -- a ball and free time -- and created a
game that celebrates the value of force used to acquire valueless
possessions, one that applauds being in the lead of a race that will have
no winner.

The game was essentially a variation of "King of the Hill", its evolution
likely spawned by the dearth of hills in the average elementary school's
paved play area. But it improves upon "King of the Hill" because that game
shares a flaw with all combined-force revolutions: The most effective way
to dethrone the king is to combine forces and rush the hill from more than
one angle, which requires that the ambitions of each attacker to play a
secondary role to the cooperative spirit. However, once the tyrant has been
toppled, the throne has room for only one king (the game's name contains no
plurals), so cooperation disintegrates into a frantic scramble for control
of the high ground, with the former King immediately assembling an alliance
to dethrone the mastermind of his coup. "King of the Hill" is thoroughly
Orwellian, a constant realignment of axises and alliances to create a new
status quo that is essentially identical to the old status quo. Meet the
new king, same as the old king.

"Kill the One with the Ball" defies such alliances and offers little reward
for cooperation, the army of one supplanting a coalition of the willing. It
is not like the board game Risk, where negotiation and diplomacy are
integral to success; it's more like Hungry Hungry Hippos, where the object
of the game is unadulterated greed. There is no value to the ball, no
points to be accrued or time of possession to extend, there was simply the
blind pursuit and possession of the object. The reason to want the ball is
because everyone wants the ball. That's the whole point of the game.

Doesn't that sound like Capitalism to you?

I suspect that "Kill the One with the Ball" fell out of favor in America's
schoolyards as the constraints of student safety were drawn tighter,
teachers began recognizing that the game is impossible to monitor since
even the enthusiasts can appear to be participating involuntarily. But just
as a music class causes ripples of understanding to expand into seemingly
unrelated areas of a student's intellectual curiosity, Kill the One with
the Ball taught lessons beyond the tensile strength of corduroy when it
comes into contact with blacktop, from encouraging a Whitman-esque
self-reliance on our own efforts to be a success to demonstrating how
supply-and-demand economics defines product value. (One ball, 20 players?
Ball is valuable; 20 balls, one player? Ball has no value.)

With the demise of that game, where will today's kids learn about
Capitalism? Perhaps 25 cents a shot at an impromptu sidewalk lemonade
stand, or perhaps in a classroom with some uptight Economics professor like
Phillip Barbay. Whatever the case, it's probably not going to be learned at
the bottom of a pig-pile on the elementary school playground pavement. Too
bad, because I know from experience that that's exactly where the answer to
"How do you play Capitalism?" can be found. By Bill Reagan, PopMatters.  December 4, 2008.

The apes that were less successful at killing each
other died out. Those who were good at that game
Survived. It's an APE eat APE WORLD out there!

POSTER, ANITA SANDS wants to remind you that this is NOT TRUE at all!
Scientists recently have proven that the most successful species are those where
families, tribes, nations HELP one another. ALTRUSIM RULES! Bond together
in groups that share work, share crafting, share play, share tax pickets, demonstrations, and
enjoy that strong affection that is born out of that sharing. Do art work, picket
posters, playbills, comic cartoon art, flybills and MIDNIGHT POSTING.

See more stories on net with search terms combining: capitalism, economics, corporate greed

Bill Reagan is a freelance advertising copywriter specializing in
compressing large concepts into short sentences. He enjoys observing the
American political system in the same way voyeurs stare at car wrecks on
the side of the highway, less concerned with who was involved than with the
particulars of how it happened. (It's best not to drive behind him during
an election year.) He squirrels away his literary acorns at PopMatters, the #1 independent online arts and culture magazine, is
international in scope and dedicated to documenting our times and promoting
cultural understanding. Find more PopMatters content at