The Failure of Capitalism

Sometimes do you feel you’re the only adult in the room?  Now I do have the misfortune of living in a red state but … when are we going to grow up and take responsibility in this country?

We are heating this planet to extinction, at least for us humans who like dry land and moderate temps. We had a mortgage disaster  that precipitated the worst economic collapse in almost a century.  Think about it, that’s four (!) generations ago, long before computers, Xboxes, and even TV and The Real Housewives of New Jersey.   Now we have an oil spill that’s turned our nation’s backyard pool into a toilet.

Our vaunted capitalism has done little to address critical world issues.  Indeed it’s the cause for both escalating calamities and feeble attempts of response.   BP is (or was) worth one quarter of a trillion US dollars.  It’s is the world’s fourth largest company in terms of sales.  Have you seen the CEO of this colossus?  It reminds me of Bush. And we’re counting on him?

The myth of a market economy is that it exists in isolation.  In our shrinking world, virtually everything we do – or don’t do – has consequences.  Oil consumption contributes to global warming.  Financial securitization masks risk.  Deep sea drilling increases the magnitude of damage from accidents.

The real cost of a product or service is not just the price of labor and  parts. It also has to encompass the entire spectrum of externalities that encompass the individual, the community, the nation and world, and the planet.  These externalities cannot be priced or managed in a laissez-faire economy where the market rules.

Responsibility as an adult means taking control of not just your own actions and life, but that of your family and your community.  Companies can hardly be counted on for self-regulation, must less looking out for consumer welfare or public good. The political establishment, virtually run by the corporations, has done little.  The current Administration’s idea of change is reusing a leaky bandage, the proverbial finger in the dike.

Whether you despise or support the tea partiers, they have one thing right.  They feel and articulate the visceral impact of a world spinning out of control.  Sadly their isolationist me-first solution gives even more control, not less, to corporations.  This  notion of retreating to the past is the coward’s approach of avoiding the hard work the needs to be today … and tomorrow.

Capitalism is not bad.  It’s a powerful theory and effective practice as a means for organizing production.  It has a critical role in today’s world.  Just like the government, it is prone to abuse when the institution is too powerful.  It’s only one tool in the civilization toolkit.

When will we get past cleaning messes and leaky bandages and discuss a future that works, for us and our children?


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