Economics Can Destroy Entire Communities
I was listening to National Public Radio Super Bowl Sunday morning. The topic of discussion was how economics actually destroy community. The speaker, I forgot his name, gave the analogy of the Quaker family who lost their barn. The Quaker community would get together and have a barn raising where everyone in the community would come together for the aid of the neighbor. No muss and no fuss. Everyone has the common goal of helping a neighbor raise a barn. There is a socially common goal.
Now, compare that to the modern farmer family who loses their barn. They call their insurance company. The insurance company sends out an adjuster who makes sure to minimize the insurance company’s financial exposure in a mutually fair deal. The farmer family then takes the check and finds a contractor. The contractor and the farmer family have to negotiate price to assure a fair deal. The contractor then hires subcontractors or employees and negotiates fair deals for all. Everyone is negotiating a fair deal in an attempt to make sure they maximize their profits at the expense of their neighbor. There is no real socially common goal. The welfare of the community is lost to the welfare of the individual.
Indeed, so much of the community’s welfare simply doesn’t measure up to the welfare of individuals. Even when there is a clear individual benefit to complement the community benefit, we have been programmed to think social consciousness is some nefarious plan to undermine our capitalistic system. The moment someone mentions something like universal healthcare or a education financing system that is truly equitable and suddenly the fabric of America’s social system is under threat of unraveling. But the only thing that is really unraveling is somebody’s opportunity to make profit and capitalize on economics.
Corporate America is notorious for putting the welfare of their profits ahead of the welfare of the community. Bank of America gets part of the stimulus payout to help put America’s economy back on its feet and what does management do? Management decides to make accelerated bonus payments to their executive officers to the tune of four billion dollars in order to keep talent. Spending good money to retain the talent that drove the company into the ground seems awfully self defeating. I know if I cost my company billions of dollars in value I would expect to be fired. But these people will actually use money intended for the benefit of the community to enrich the personal economics of a relatively few.
This is just the latest malfeasance from corporate America. The tobacco industry knew their products were responsible for the monster share of lung cancers. Members of the pharmaceutical industry knew their products were causing more damage to people’s health than benefit. King Nut Peanut Butter Company has a history of shipping peanut butter containers tainted with salmonella. The cattle industry knew they were sending animals infected with mad cow disease to slaughter without a care in the world for the health of the public. Ford would rather market the Pinto to the public knowing it had the potential to burst into flames killing and maiming people rather than spend the money to remove the design flaw. Insurance companies can make far more money if they look for loopholes to deny coverage to clients. In these instances and in many more, the opportunity to improve economics far outweighs any hint of social consciousness.
The love of money has become our sole driving purpose. And perish the thought of distributing wealth in a way that makes more people able to do for themselves. Economics for the sake of nothing more than to increase somebody’s bank account is not socially conscious. Exxon/Mobile earning record breaking profits while people are unable to afford gasoline does not make for good communities.
Economics forces people into a system of haves and have nots. It does not create unity. It creates divisiveness and individuality. It puts neighbor against neighbor. Economics can drive a wedge between family members. Economics can easily lead to a love of money and the love of money is the root of all evil, especially the types of evils that can create a rift between people who should have a common interest.
Getting back to the Quaker analogy, these people don’t even entertain the thought of insurance. Quakers are careful not to introduce anything into their culture that might impact their communal environment. And Quakers rarely exchange money amongst themselves and use it primarily as a way of dealing with people outside their circle. More people can learn from this example. Instead, we work feverishly to keep the status quo so we can advance our own economics at the expense of our community.
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