The ever widening gap between the wealthiest and poorest in our society, the impending global catastrophe that is human induced climate change, and growing social and economic inequality are products of the current system; that being, capitalism and neoliberalism. That is why it simply isn't just enough to reform the system as most social democrats within both Labor and the Greens advocate to a certain degree; the system needs to be replaced.
Reform assumes that something doesn't work as intended; so that it should be tinkered around the edges to ensure that it does work as intended. However, the trouble is that when it comes to capitalism, it works exactly as it is intended: that is, to place a monitory value on everything, no matter what it is, and to generate capital and generate profits for the privileged few within the oligarchy via the exploitation of the working class majority; it's skills and labour, which are effectively used as a commodity, with a value on it based on supply and demand.
As with anything in a market based economy, the less demand there is for something; but the more of it there is, the lower the price for that specific thing goes. If there's less of something, and a big demand for it, the higher the price goes. This is reflected in private enterprise by wages paid by the employer to the employee for their skills and labour. The higher demand for a specific skillset, but the less people there are available with that skillset, the higher the wages on offer will be for people with that skillset. It's why, for example, domestic cleaners and kitchen hands are paid a pittance (because any physically capable person can perform those roles) compared to engineers (a field which requires years of specialist education and training).
Capitalism is a system driven by the constant need to generate profit above all else. It is designed to subdue and keep the working class masses thinking short-term as opposed to thinking about the bigger picture, all the while the oligarchs earn bigger and bigger profits at their expense. This all happens under the guise of a representative liberal democracy whereby the masses elect politicians to represent them on their behalf. In reality, though, most elected politicians go on to be one with the ruling class as it is they who line their pockets. The working class have no real direct say as to how their country and community is run. It is effectively a dictatorship of capital.
This is also why our legislators approve environmentally destructive projects such as the Adani coal mine in Queensland; instead of promoting and encouraging development in renewable energies. Proponents will tell you it's about job creation (even though there are more jobs to be had in tourism and in renewable energy development), but the reality is that it's because the development of renewable energies would promote energy independence within the working class, thus resulting in less profit being funneled to the ruling class - which not in the interests of the oligarchs.
Therefore, simply reforming capitalism by tinkering around the edges is not enough to bring about the change necessary to halt climate change or to reverse growing inequality of which capitalism is fundamentally tied. The only way to bring these things to a heed is to completely replace capitalism with a socialised and democratised economy that is controlled by working people, and to replace representative liberal democracy with a form of direct democracy whereby representatives are directly accountable to, and subject to recall by, the people who elect them.
By socialising and democratising our economy; bosses would be directly accountable to the people who work for them, not themselves; and no longer would the ruling class be able to operate shonky ventures under the protection of the state that don't have a social license or community support to operate. No longer would large corporations be driven by profit by exploiting the most marginalised and disadvantaged in our society. No longer would our natural world be looked at as merely a tool for profit, but instead looked at wholly as a necessity for survival. We could actually start thinking about our future in the long term for the majority when it comes to legislation and decision making, instead of a handful of people making decisions based on short term thinking for the few. It would be the people, collectively, in control of their own destiny.
Only with changing the system, whereby decisions aren't made on the basis of being profitable, can everyday working people be adequately provided for, can inequality be eliminated, and can environmental degradation and climate change be averted. If we are serious about addressing these problems, then it is time to stop talking about mere reform, and start talking about alternatives.
About the author:
Matt Hrkac is a writer and activist based in Geelong who regularly contributes to Green Left Weekly. He has particular interests in politics, elections and the trade union movement and has had extensive involvement in a number of local campaigns. He is a former member of the Greens.