It should be clear by now that following the precepts of free market capitalism is a recipe for disaster. Free market capitalism rests on three fatal flaws: (1) the premise that greed is good; (2) the legal concept of corporate personhood; and (3) the necessity of infinite growth. All three of these principles are not only breathtakingly silly, they are catastrophically destructive.
This week I'll deal with the first flaw.
A century ago, when apologists for free-market capitalism first began to parrot their mantra "greed is good", it sounded oh-so cute and clever. Daring. Sophisticated. Worldly. Today it just sounds tired and stupid, like Bush telling the nation to go shopping after 9/11.
"But," its apologists will say, "isn't it good for people to try to better themselves"? By 'bettering', of course, they mean acquiring a lot of future landfill. This is certainly 'bettering' the financial status of the junk producers, but it's arguable whether it does much for the rest of us. The more junk people get, the unhappier they seem to be, and the more they want. This is, after all, the stated mission of the advertising industry: to make people feel unhappy, inferior, deprived--to make people want things they don't need and never cared about before. 'Bettering yourself', in other words, means becoming discontented. The entire free-market system depends for its existence on its ability to make people feel unhappy, inferior, and discontented.
Having greed as our prime motivator simply means that the most useless, greed-obsessed members of society get rich, while the most useful, most needed members don't even get paid enough to do their job properly. Today, for example, those same greedy individuals, whose blind avarice and overweening stupidity plunged the world into a global depression, are receiving billions of dollars in bonuses, paid with taxpayers' money. Money that was supposed to be used to 'jump-start' the economy is being used to reward stupidity, incompetence, and greed.
The "greed is good" ideology means that everything anyone undertakes that might be beneficial to humanity is skewed, diverted, distorted, or co-opted to serve the greedy. For example:
What's so 'good' about business students flocking to finance because 'that's where the money is'? What's so good about them putting all their energy and ingenuity into concocting new ways to gamble with other people's money, instead of creating something beneficial to society?
What's so 'good' about law students flocking to corporate law because 'that's where the money is'? What's so good about them putting all their energy and creativity into helping major corporations cheat the government, their workers, their consumers, and the general public out of what is rightfully theirs?
What's so 'good' about biochemical students flocking to food processing corporations because 'that's where the money is'? What's so good about them putting their energy and creativity into addicting Americans to junk food, and afflicting them with obesity and diabetes?
What's so 'good' about medical students flocking to specialties like dermatology because 'that's where the money is'? What's so good about them putting all their energy and creativity into peddling pills to treat tinier and tinier segments of the human organism, while the human being--as little understood as the elephant by the blind men--remains untreated. A patient in our present system is often forced to patronize half a dozen specialists, none of whom know the first thing about him except his ability to pay.
American medicine is an international joke. Those who live in civilized countries, with free health care for everyone, shake their heads in amazement that we live in a nation so backward that millions of people can't afford to get sick for fear of losing their homes. A nation where accident victims will crawl on their hands and knees to the emergency room rather than pay $3000 for an ambulance. Where cancellation of your insurance is virtually guaranteed if you have the slightest chance of using it. Where premiums rise every year, along with the deductible. Where one-size-fits-all prescription drugs--one of the major causes of illness in the U.S.--are tested in large part on the public, and prescribed promiscuously and thoughtlessly by doctors who often don't even bother to read the side effects and contraindications.
A physical exam in the United States has become a sales promotion. A test will come up with a number--indicating some ailment, or 'risk factor' that hasn't in fact bothered you--which invariably requires further, more expensive tests, often using new high-tech machines that doctors are often unable to interpret (requiring still further tests). And after spending twenty or thirty thousand dollars you're given a clean bill of health as long as you take certain high-priced medications with nasty side effects that require further high-priced medications. The doctor makes money, the labs make money, the drug companies make lots of money. A successful sales promotion all around.
What's so 'good' about a system that makes huge profits for drug companies and insurance companies while Americans have the poorest health care in the civilized world? But all you need to do is shout "Socialized Medicine!" and the common American Sap/Sucker (see previous blog) will cringe and say: "Please charge me two arms and two legs, anything but that!"
The greed-worshippers have so distorted American values that selfishness is considered a virtue, while any sort of generosity, altruism, or concern for the welfare of the many is considered 'communism'! Even rich anti-tax 'crusaders' try to drape themselves in heroic garments, as if they were anything but Ebenezer Scrooge unredeemed.
A greed-worshipping system tends to warp every profession, every service, every activity--transforming it from an enterprise that benefits society and its people into one that merely feeds the addictions of the pathologically greedy. No society can long survive under such a system.
Gandhi once pointed out that our planet provides enough to satisfy everyone's need but not enough to satisfy everyone's greed. The United States alone consumes one-fourth of the world's resources. The Land of the Free has turned into the Land of the Greedy.
(In his inauguration speech, Obama talked of a whole new way of doing things. To understand the cultural paradigm shift that engendered this change--the shift that both Bush and the Taliban have resisted so fiercely, see my website for information on THE CHRYSALIS EFFECT: THE METAMORPHOSIS OF GLOBAL CULTURE).