Greed is not Good (or God)

Graphic of socialism's "takeover" of the market by The Atlantic.

In America, the cheerleaders of capitalism are happy with the socialist measures and regulations that protect them – like the police that protects their property, the legal system that supports their contracts, the infrastructure that educates their employees, the roads that allow their products to be shipped, the water quality they process with, the airwaves that deliver their commercials, the subsidization of business, the inspections that protect their goods from tainted goods, the military that (literally) fights for them, the public clean up of their pollution, the people dealing with health complications from their poisons, the fire departments that will assist them – then any measures that smack of socialism that do not further their money making or power status are demonized. “Socialist!”, is the current red scare tactic.

Mortgage companies, banks, retailers, service businesses, Wall Street, Ayn Rand, Republicans and conservatives all line up behind the same idea – the idea that the consumer will protect their own interest in financial matters. This principle is pretty much the only imposed moral in the capitalist system – that everyone looks out for themselves and it is a dog eat dog world. It follows a supposed economic law that matches the natural law “of the jungle” – which is kill or be killed (for a visual illustration you can see a video here in a post). If everyone started with the same opportunities, this principle would work better – and everyone will never have the same opportunities – but there is a more serious failure of logic in this basic principle. Gaining money is not the same as surviving, humanity does not figure into the capitalist equation.

In true natural law, some very basic animalistic impulses are in operation – fight or flight insticts, the need for food and water, the need to rear and protect our young, the need for shelter, and conserving energy to insure completion of all of the above before any other activities. Every mammal on the planet acts on these survival principles, humans included. While money may be one method to secure basic survival, it is not always the most efficient means. All of the above survival needs can be met in ways that do not involve money. As we are seeing in the recent upsurge of homesteading and wilderness survival skills popularity, food, shelter and water can be gained without monetary transactions taking place. Bartering can figure in to many goods and services. Co-operatives can be formed that may be comprised of many resources in which money is only one of them. Capitalists cheerleaders operate on the principle that our desire to accumulate money will provide all the regulation needed to keep our capitalist system honest. Obviously they are wrong.

The disasters that capitalism create, especially as legalese and complexities of format escalate, are massive. The mortgage crisis, the banking bailouts, the World Bank, the IMF, oil speculation, Wall Street bonuses rewarding failure, massive layoffs – these are all examples of how capitalism fails humanity (and the list could go on).

Exercise is needed for all of us to survive, if we don’t move around, we atropy and get sick (not to mention that we would then need help getting sustenance). Some of us humans are excellent at exercising: we may be natural athletes, choose to train, have an active lifestyle, or become fit as a by product of a life of survival. Some of us humans are very bad at getting exercise: we may have a sedentary lifestyle, have a poor diet which hinders energy/movement, hate exercise, or be injured/ill. Imagine for a moment if physical fitness was substituted for economic fitness, and Wall Street bonuses were distributed according to physical fitness tests, how unfair that might seem to those with extra poundage, or asthma, or disabilities. Ironically physical fitness is actually much more tied to our literal survival than accumulating numbers in an account.

Very few of us have trained to be elite economists or have the natural ability to be masterful with our finances. Most of us have only taken high school level consumer education (if that) and almost none of us are educated in the legal acrobatics involved in “creative” mortgages or finances. Like the exercise metaphor, most of us do the minimum amount of effort required to keep things running smoothly – that actually applies to pretty much everything that isn’t a personal passion. Only those with a passion for capitalism do well in a capitalist system.

Lots of folks would apparently rather gaze lovingly at a pile of cash than go to a little league game, they’d rather count their coins than help a friend in need, they don’t see the point of having a rich life when they could simply be rich – they’re the Hoarding Horde. For them, greed is good, greed is God. There is no calling in life above making money and they have no sympathy for those of us that have to prioritize things – like the survival of our family – to be more important than figuring out the latest tricks of the marketplace. They have convinced themselves and been supported with the likes of Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan, and the Republican leadership that holds up economic Darwinism as a model. If they can’t see or accept that a purely capitalist system is extremely cold hearted (foolish babies would rather eat a quarter than spend it), they might need to join the ranks of the other sociopaths that are screwing the world up for the rest of us (which I wrote about here).

America is already a mix of socialism and capitalism. It is American to regulate, it is American to tax, it is American to care about those around us, it is American to succeed through your own work – all of these ideas can live together in harmony. We can tolerate those bits that aren’t our favorites – like paying taxes or keeping social programs we don’t use – because they come in the parcel that is America and it means we have the freedom and liberty to do some other things we really like. When one idea gains too much power and acts as an authoritarian force, we stop acting like America. Right now the capitalist forces are in power – Republicans are proud of it, Dems try to hide their ties, but the capitalists are winning. Because capitalists are on top, they use their position to cry “socialist!” at the slightest suggestion of collective negotiating power.

It’s time to stop. Socialism is not a bad word, democratic socialism means putting policies in place due to the wishes of the people, not a dictator. As George W. Bush lamented several times, the Presidency is not a dictatorship, and even if the President wanted to command us to implement socialism, our political system does not work that way. Governing policies must make their way through Congress which implies a tacit approval from the people.

Some of us have better things to do than fuss over money; we just need to make sure the bills are paid so that we may continue with what really counts for us. A different economic class of people choose to manipulate other people’s money and the rules surrounding them so that they can rake in more for themselves. The people in group A don’t want to be like the people of group B and it is pretty callous to insist that they should rearrange their priorities in order to “make it”, that is in order to have a decent job, shelter, and a nurturant environment for our families.  That is why the concept of the living wage was developed, so we could have an understanding of what is decent in our capitalist society, because “the market” doesn’t care about hunger, shelter, sickness, or families. Money in the bank is not the same as a full, rich and virtuous life; choosing a life that does not focus on money does not make you unAmerican or immoral; it makes you human.

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