A Response to Comment on Capitalism

Kompiled, thank you for your thoughtful comment on my recent post about “The Dark Side of Capitalism.” However, to clarify, I don’t think I stated or even implied that “community means ‘demanding things from each other'” or that “people have an obligation to ‘blindly’ sacrifice for others” or that “the government should steal the fruits of one man’s production to give to another.”

My post was so general, in fact, that your specific interpretation may say more about how you see things than how I do. I wholeheartedly agree with your assertion that “businesses [should] not lobby Congress to enact laws to protect themselves.” However, without regulation, it is proven throughout history that old-timey robber barons and modern-day executives alike are guaranteed to break the law and cause suffering to others in order to amass great fortunes. Proven.

Thom Hartmann on C-SPAN recently likened regulation of business affairs (i.e. capitalism) to the rules in a baseball game: without rules and penalties for breaking them, there is NO GAME. Why don’t ‘free-market capitalists’ whine about getting rid of all rules in sports? To me, it seems to be the exact same thing as wanting to ‘deregulate’ business. Don’t make me pull out the list of cases that prove my point: Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, etc. These executives are going to jail for a reason… a very good reason… not just because “they got caught.” They caused great suffering to others in their greedy, blind pursuit of ridiculous wealth.

As for your take on what I meant about ‘community’ as people “demanding things from one another,” I certainly did not mean to imply that. That sounds like one fucked up so-called ‘community’ – dysfunctional to say the least. In fact, that may very well describe what our sense of ‘community’ in this country has deteriorated into unfortunately.  Sara Robinson recently iterated this idea:”We have lost belief in the very idea of “the common good,” let alone our grandparents’ sunny confidence that such a good could be readily planned for and achieved. This is a tragic loss.”

I think of the idea of ‘community’ as a group of people living in a manner that respects and honors one another through kind and thoughtful interaction — NOT CHARITY. One neighbor saying “hello” to another, or helping out when s/he needs her/his car jump-started… that’s the kind of thing I am talking about. Not ‘blindly’ doing anything – neither demanding nor giving – just respecting one another plain and simple. I don’t know what kind of community you live in, but here in Oakland and in many other urban areas, this kind of neighborly respect has all but disappeared, sadly.

As for “charity” and your take on altruism, I think that I should not have even included the word/concept of “charity” in my original post. It seems to only detract from the main point. Americans can be quite charitable it is true. And those that give to charity often do so to make themselves feel better or gain some form of notoriety. That is a philosophical question that I would prefer to tackle another day. Charity is not even necessary if a robust sense of “community” exists – local and global. In a healthy community, those that are unduly suffering should be taken care of by the community. They should have their basic needs met so that they are not starving, freezing, homeless, illiterate and sick – especially the children who cannot determine their own fates. This concept is not one of “charity” to me; it is simply humane and considerate of all those in the community who should not have to witness such suffering. It is for the benefit of all to take care of the worst-off in any community.

If that means instituting a progressive income tax in order to do so, so be it. Those with wealth throughout history have shown that they don’t always have it in their hearts to share their good fortune to benefit the rest of their community. Without the rest of society supporting them in many different ways, the wealthy could not possibly amass their fortunes in the first place. If those that amass such wealth, cannot find it in their hearts to share some crumbs with those that are most in need of such crumbs of kindness, then the community has a right to force the wealthy to part with their crumbs, leaving them with the vast majority of their cakes of fortune.

By the way, I am sorry to hear about your study lounge being turned into a coffee lounge. I think I would agree with your take on that. There should be some quite, non-revenue-generating places on campus to simply “study.” Universities exist in my opinion for the advancement of knowledge — not to generate revenue. This is where the government should step in and subsidize all institutes of learning like they subsidize corn farmers by taking the money they get from their progressive income tax and ensuring that there will be a place for students to quietly study and pursue knowledge for a better future for all.

Finally, although I am not a fan of Starbucks coffee, I don’t think I would classify their customers as ‘evil.’ Misguided sheeple maybe, but not evil.

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One Response to A Response to Comment on Capitalism

  1. A.Citizen says:

    Nice! I was pleased to see you used Sara’s great post.

    The ‘Starbucks’ thing….

    Well, you know me, always affable in my disagreement.

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