2011

5 October 2011: Unfettered capitalism is a bust

Unfettered capitalism is a bust

Christians list pride as one of their seven deadly sins as if there is something debilitating about feeling good about one’s self. Taking pride in one’s self and positive ventures is the polar opposite of greed, gluttony or envy that results only in negative outcomes.

There’s a difference, however, between that and of being a boastful, swaggering braggart.

For example, four years after swearing off long-distance running, I’ve set personal best times in my last two races. Those achievements came only after arduous, disciplined, physical and mental training. It’s something I’m proud of and willing to talk about, not to say, “See what I’ve done,” but more, “See what one can accomplish when he/she sets his/her mind to it.”

Our language, choice of words, disguises a priori, underlying assumptions that cloud true understanding of a concept. For example, one might state that he/she has too much pride to accept charity from others or assistance from the state. In fact, what is driving him/her is not pride but fear of being seen as weak.

It’s the fear of being stigmatized, which results in feeling shamed. It’s the reason macho men resist doctor visits, especially to seek counseling. Like John Wayne, they cannot admit to being weak, ever.

Yet ironically, many who refuse to accept help are among the first to offer it. What they fail to realize though, as it is with saints requiring sinners to be employed, if there aren’t receivers, givers have no purpose; and it’s guaranteed in every man’s life, he’ll need a helping hand at some time, for the myth of John Wayne is just that: a myth.

What induces altruism can vary. Ayn Rand sees the act of giving as self-centered, a form of narcissism in that it makes the giver feel better, more proud—therefore, a perverse form of pride—of what he/she has done. Perhaps that’s true for those with obscene amounts of disposable income from which they’re willing to part, perhaps not so much to be charitable, but to use as a tax write-off.

In The Virtue of Selfishness, Rand promotes the idea that when individuals are left to fulfill selfish goals, others will benefit. Of course, that’s assuming the rich and powerful behave ethically, in a dignified rather than an ego-fulfilling manner; and other than Warren Buffet, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and a few other kindred spirits, I see little evidence of that.

That, in turn, denies an essential aspect of our species that needs to be reiterated regularly: Despite the individualist Greek philosophy foundation of our Western heritage, we are intrinsically communitarians. It’s the reason we collectively survived the descent from the trees, or, if fundamentalist Christian or Jew, from the Garden of Eden.

In 21st century Tea Party America, greed has surpassed patriotism on the hierarchal values’ scale. Pitch-forkers ignore or defend Corporate America’s opulence while they storm the battlements of the public commonweal: government, the “We the People” thing.

The ones not hurting though these troubled economic times are those with obscene amounts of hoarded wealth or income. Given episodes that took place during the Great Depression when tycoons jumped from their skyscraper lofts and penthouses, we’ve created an economic welfare system, either out of compassion or to avoid cleaning up bloody messes on the sidewalks of Wall St. and Madison Ave., which ensures their longevity.

That has not, interestingly enough, prevented us from frying on death row arguably innocent people, disproportional of the same skin color as the president.

American taxpayers, have rescued AIG, Bank of America, and the auto industry, the only one of which that is returning benefits to the common people in terms of jobs, which have far-reaching benefits than to the job-holder and his/her family.

Something, though, is amiss: Unfettered capitalism, laissez-faire is a bust. It hasn’t, doesn’t, and won’t work. Putting more money into the hands of the uber-wealthy hasn’t, doesn’t and won’t result in increased employment among the working class. The tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush prove that.

There is no “trickle-down” effect in unfettered capitalism.

In the meantime, millions of Americans are being marginalized, stigmatized by being dubbed “chronically unemployed” by employers free to label and discriminate against them, which only results in exacerbation of a situation beyond the job seeker’s control.

Being unemployed involves far more than financial peril for the individual: It’s about self-worth and dignity—pride in one’s self.

The 14 million unemployed Americans are not numbers; they’re people, members of the community of Americans to whom every patriotic American has an obligation to help return to wholeness.

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