I will never cease to be amazed by the seemingly bizarre assertions of American Political Culture. In particular I find so-called conservative ideas (keeping in mind real conservatives are pro tax, but whatevs) perplexing. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the number of people affected by an action or system and how much they want it regulated. That is utterly counter-intuitive to me. You would think the more people who could potentially be harmed by an institution, the more we would want rules to keep it in check. It seems an idea so simple your average grade school kid cold get it, but apparently these people went to a different school than I did.
Case in point: Capitalism. As a system, and not just an explanation for economic interaction that it started out as, it is huge. It influences billions of lives. It holds the ecological viability of our planet in a choke hold. It shapes the minds and hearts of every person it touches for good and for ill, and that is a lot of people. Yet the party line, certainly for Republicans and even for a disturbingly large number of Democrats, is keep your hands off it. The market will correct itself and all will be well.
The thing is, all is not well. It has failed, as a system, to feed the poor. It has left too many homeless, without health care, and without hope. It has devastated our planet, leaving us on the brink of a disaster that threatens to kill billions in short order if not lead us into actual extinction. It has been the motivating factor for brutal wars. It has created a media system that desensitizes people I know are caring people to the suffering our largesse creates around the world.
Now I know some of you may cry out: “but we can reform it.” You know what? I absolutely agree with you. We can reform it, but all of our mainstream political efforts have been like putting a band-aid on cancer. We attack, and not terribly aggressively, the symptoms and not the underlying cause. We need to reign in and severely limit the power of markets to negatively impact the lives of the vast majority that are harmed by them. We need to remind people that these institutions are just tools, and it is up to us, all of us, how they are going to be used.
Others of you will complain: “but the invisible hand of the free market…” and insist that somehow everything will level out. Well it does not. It has been shown, over and again, without limits on the power of the economic elite things only get worse. We have seen multiple economic and ecological disasters caused by this class over the course of the Industrial and Information ages and we have seen real growth and advancement for all humanity in those times that we force them to give up power. The evidence is all there, and caterwauling about property rights and individual freedoms (a hollow complaint given how willing they are willing to trample the individual freedoms of hundreds of millions) does not change that.
I am not saying ditch capitalism all together, though I am not saying don’t do that either. I am saying it is maybe just a little better to be open to seeing the world, and your fellow man, as more than commodities. I am saying realize that this system, because of its vast scope, needs massive regulation. I think of it a little like nuclear power. I am not reflexively against that either, but there needs to be all sorts of oversight and rules because if we do not have that it will blow up in our face. Well capitalism can, and has, blown up in our faces multiple times. It may be time to give it up. It is certainly way past time to put a chain or fifty on that invisible hand. Otherwise, it is going to wipe us all away. If you absolutely refuse to consider that, than you own what comes next. Which I suppose is fine by you, since you are all about owning things.
- Invisible Hands and Fences (socialcapita.wordpress.com)
- Day 308: Foolishly Trusting ‘The Invisible Hand’s’ Benevolence (adirectorjourneystolife.blogspot.com)
- The Law of Unintended Consequences (justinegraykin.wordpress.com)
- What In-Vogue Libertarians Are Missing (huffingtonpost.com)