For those of you that may have listened to the http://philosophynow.org/podcasts#Global_Capitalism_-_Good_or_Bad
podcast and felt like you took nothing away this post is for you. That program devolved into just another discussion on saving the banks and a complaint about the system, but it failed to explain why our society is so wed to capitalism.
Economics is the study of how we as a society, individuals, groups, etc. allocate our limited resources for productive purposes. Our limited resources include everything from our time, our knowledge, our blood, our natural resources and nearly everything a human can bring to bear on the world around them. Production is the means by which we produce things that we want. For example, I am using my time, though, and computer to create this post right now. Hopefully, when I have finished this production I will have satisfied a human need (self expression) and I will consider myself better off then I was before. Capitalism is a economic system (a description of our allocation of productive resources) which is characterized by individual (private) ownership of productive resources and decisions about how to use those resources. Global Capitalism just means that this is happening on a global scale.
So far, so good, but how does a nation of shopkeepers (individual producers) fall into the pocket multinational corporations? The key lies with how society expects government to provide for the nation's citizens. Multi national organizations are the world's most productive organizations. Most agree that a government is in part responsible for providing for the material well being of its citizens. However, large corporations rather than the government create and distribute (sell) the fruits of production. Additionally, those corporations also employ large numbers of people. When people demand higher living standards and jobs (a profitable use of their time) the government by the nature of the system relies on corporations to provide those things. This is not the same as providing people directly with jobs, money, and food! A corporation can grow rich in a system which relies on them.
The banking crisis provides a glaring example of how reliant modern states are to their corporations. When banks, roughly the plumbing in the house of capitalism, went bust they all of society at risk. Government's had to bail them out to save the system. In America it is clear that this was done at the expense of ordinary citizens many of whom had huge financial woes like banks. The taxpayer was stuck with the bill and banks got a second chance.
The relationship between a nation and its corporations is so distorted that here in America, we speak of businesses as if they provided a type of social service. They are "the job creators and the engines of the country." State governments fall over themselves offering subsidies to lure businesses to their state. However, businesses only do what they do this in order to create wealth for themselves. The conflation of public and private good means causes a lot of confusion. Creating jobs does not mean creating dignity and purpose for individuals. While businesses are an essential part of our economic system, its goals should not be the same the governments which oversee them.