Sunday, July 20, 2008
Sure, businesses often make big profits, but they deserve to, since they put up the money, they took all the risks...
2008, what a happy year.
With families and communities in misery (see recent journalism on this such as Moyer's pod-casts) following the subprime meltdown, the silver lining to devastated lives is that the American people may wake up to the truth of the business world.
The truth: A large section of the business world is less about deserved gains to those who take risks, than about ruthless greed combined with cleverness: how to secure risk-free methods for accruing wealth through manipulating the legislature and courts to enact regulations such that profits are kept and debs are paid by taxpayers.
Last year, and the year before, political progressives and anti-capitalists like William Greider or dozens, hundreds of other journalists and public commentators have made statements like the above. And they preached hard to the choir. But there's nothing like seeing and living it for believing it.
What is heartening to me, and why I call this a happy year, is the amount of media attention focused on this problem. For example, in his LA Times article, Peter G. Gosselin actually mentions in print the phrase "government-directed economy" as an alternative to markets run by crooks and profiteers:
"For a generation, most people accepted the idea that the core of what makes America tick was an economy governed by free markets. And whatever combination of goods, services and jobs the market cooked up was presumed to be fine for the nation and for its citizens -- certainly better than government meddling. No longer."
Another great article is Harper's cover story (pictured), The Wrecking Crew: How a Gang of Right-wing Con men Destroyed Washington and Made a Killing.
Profit is not essential to innovation, efficiency and growth. Many non-profits thrive around the world. Several government bureaucracies, the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, do a reasonable job at using committees of expert peers to decide what scientific projects to fund. (Ha ha, they seldom fund mine, so I'm not sayings its a perfect system -- smile -- but I still admire these institutions). Indeed, American science has been the international leader in scientific innovator for decades because of the system of public funding and peer review. This format could be extended to chartering business. Community members, with experts, would decide whether a business would serve the public good.
Alternatives to free markets exist which are humane and fair. Let's open our eyes.
Post a comment if you have links to good articles or podcasts