Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The truth about capitalism

Ok, it's time we all acknowledge this fundamental truth: capitalism kinda sucks. Not all the time, not even most of the time. In the small scale, it's great that anyone with an idea, an investor, and lots of hard work can own his/her own business. It's great for encouraging innovation, rewarding hard work and initiative, etc. But pure capitalism, left unchecked, pretty much just screws people.

As James Madison wisely wrote, men are not angels. We have anti-trust laws and banking laws and the SEC for a reason. We outlaw usury. We regulate credit cards. We don't enforce contracts of adhesion. Because, when left unchecked, money and power in a capitalist system tends to congregate among an ever smaller group of people. And then those few with money and power can pretty much run roughshod over the rest of us if they want to, unless we get together as a big collective to stop them. (Well, they could just be nice out of the goodness of their hearts, but I'm not gonna hold my breath on that one.) To prevent people's baser, worst human instincts from running unchecked, we intervene here and there. So that we can protect all of us from getting suckered into padding a capitalist's profit motive.

So maybe just a little socialism here and there, like in how we manage some basic things like education, public safety, and some other general needs, isn't such a bad thing. In fact, maybe it's a good thing to protect us all. And maybe, just maybe, health care is one of those basic, vital, fundamentally important things for the public good that should be protected from the corruption of capitalist profit motives. Is that really such a radical idea?
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