It’s my own damn fault, but I’ve found the blog fairly demoralizing this week, so I think I’ll wrap up this theme with one more thought. To wit: capitalism isn’t good at everything. In fact, it’s absolutely terrible at three things: health care, news media and art. Show me someone who says the “free market” is the best solution for those three ideas, and I’ll show you a misinformed rube with terrible taste who’s about to get sick.
Except for craighill, who is none of these things and whose taste runs Carolina blue. But I digress.
After the Civil War, we drafted the 14th Amendment for freed slaves, which was later warped by businesses to create the concept of corporate personhood. This meant an American company could have many of the same rights as a person. Lots of progressives believe it to be one of the worst things to happen to modern society (see The Corporation if your stomach can take it) and claim the “person” in the form of an American company is – by definition – a sociopath.
However, I look at it anthropomorphically: if a corporation is like the many sociopaths I’ve known, you can’t be surprised by its behavior. Nothing personal, but you have to assume that they’ll eat you alive with no regrets. Like Neva says, think of the scorpion and the frog; getting your feelings hurt is your fault, not theirs. The individuals in the corporation are fine; they love their mommas just like you do, but the beast of the company itself is altogether different. As such, you have to expect war – the beast would consider anything else to be, well, confusing.
The beast feeds itself on one thing: profit. Not just profit, but also expectation of growing profit. That’s it. Everything else is towed along by a dry rope, the easier to set adrift when times get tough. Yes, I know I’m stating the obvious, but the bigger point is this: there is a moral incumbency on all of us not to let the beast take charge of everything. Almost everything? Sure. But not, for sake of argument, things like health care, news media and art.
We’ve seen what happens when the news, once content to break a little more than even, is forced to deliver ad revenue 24 hours a day. Americans are being ripped apart by the red/blue definitions being forced down their gullet by cable news, and we’ve never been so wildly misinformed about our choices. Every channel echoes the War on Terror bullshitfest not because they’re in cahoots with the Bush Administration, but because an angry, terrified audience keeps watching through the commercials.
As for art, writers simply have to believe that the beast will try to take everything away because it thinks it can. Again, it’s nothing personal. It doesn’t know any better. But every dollar a writer doesn’t get, it gets, and it knows that is good. The beast will demand things that are beyond humiliating, because it doesn’t understand guilt or compunction. It just wants the money, and you have to be okay with that.
And in your own way, you fight it. Our free market – it’s fine for roof shingles, shoe insoles, fiber optic pipelines and beets. But there are places where capitalism is far too cruel and the stakes are too high to entrust your livelihood to a sociopath.