Sunday, October 9, 2011

VOR’s Turn: Greed And Inaction Have Consequences. And More And More Americans Are Not Just Frightened: They Are Angry.

The Radical's Arms

Image via Wikipedia

For a considerable length of time – decades rather than years – I have been of the belief that U.S. style capitalism must be reformed. Such views tend to be dismissed as socialist or communist; or worse.

In truth, I’m not an ideolog. Politically, I’m a pragmatist. I like prosperous countries which look after their people and the assets of the nation. Infrastructure is useful stuff. A poisoned environment is unhelpful. Switzerland and Singapore come to mind, but there are numerous other examples.

Where we are concerned, I merely looked around this extraordinary country of ours and thought: We can do better than this. We must do better than this. If we don’t, we are going to be living in a world of hurt.

Many, who have traveled, or have studied other economic systems, have come to exactly the same conclusion. In the U.S., the Middle Class and the poor are being treated badly; and the competition is eating our lunch. And the less said about our infrastructure and the environment the better. We are poor stewards. Current U.S. style capitalism – apart from being grossly unfair – isn’t working too well. It is greedy, oriented towards the short term, and can be exceedingly cruel. It is dumb capitalism. Capitalism, as such, does not have to be this way. There are other varieties, and most – as far as the average citizen is concerned – work better than ours.

History demonstrates again and again that any society where the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer (and are treated as an underclass) is inherently unstable. And given that such a situation inevitably means that there are relatively few rich, and vast numbers of less well-off, the probability is that a combination of the less well off (the Middle Class) and the poor will eventually rise up and take action. Sometimes that action is confined to civil disobedience. Since governments have a consistent tendency to over-react, often it escalates into violence. From there it can spiral into something much worse which can last for decades. (The IRA’s last campaign spanned nearly 30 years). The fabric of a socially unjust society is innately fragile. 

The fig-leaf of democracy, in a country where the rich own the very system which is supposed to represent ALL Americans – but doesn’t - can be maintained for just so long.

Remarkably similar conditions set in motion the original American Revolution. Today, one can make a good case that they are worse. Today, the poison of near-unchecked corporate power has entered the equation. And it seems to be backed up by a Supreme Court which allows it free rein.

This raises the obvious question: If betrayed by the political system and the legal system, what is the average American to do? The whole history and culture of this Great Nation screams: “Rebel!” And that is as it should be. The Founding Fathers held just such a view.

Quite why those in power – and here I include President Obama – don’t understand this, escapes me. It is scarcely news that “All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely (to quote Lord Action) but is it blind and stupid as well?”

The evidence would indicate the affirmative.

For the record, let me note that some of my ancestors were French aristocrats and incurred the wrath of an enraged citizenry. They, my ancestors, were guillotined. Up to 40,000 of their peers were executed in such a fashion during the French revolution. Think them as the bankers, over-paid corporate CEOs, and corrupted politicians of their time; or the 1%.

Fortunately, one escaped to Ireland in 1792; or I would not be writing this. His full name was Benjamin Lentaigne de Logivieres. He studied medicine and became Dr. Benjamin Lentaigne M.D. F.R.C.P. 5th Dragoon Guards. He tended Irish patriot, Wolfe Tone, before he was hanged. You can Google him if so inclined. The family did rather well. His son was knighted.

The lessons of the French Revolution (and there were others, not to mention two World Wars) are well understood by Europeans (and more than a few other thriving economies), which is one of the reasons why they have put such effort into modifying the excesses of (American-style) unfettered capitalism. They are painfully aware of the consequences of sustained social injustice. The results, particularly in Northern Europe – debt crisis notwithstanding - have been a dramatic success.

No one, apart from extremists, wants yet another American Revolution, but an ever increasing number of U.S. citizens is of the view that the current U.S. economic system needs drastic reform. They are right. And they are right to be enraged.

So far, my sense is that relatively few understand the full extent of the greed and corruption that currently hold this country in its grip. Such vicious forces pervade virtually every aspect of the American way of life from the Food Chain to our National Security, from employment to our life spans. Quite what will happen when more Americans wake up is a chilling to contemplate.

One would hope that the guillotine will not make an appearance in the U.S. But, if it does, it is depressing to note that it will probably be made in China.

Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment