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LeRoy: The price of profit

From the Left
By Brendan LeRoy

Born into a society of endless freedom and opportunity should demand our unwavering respect and gratitude. The founders protected these steadfast and inalienable rights which make us masters of our own lives. Our right to the democratic process gives the common man the ability to maintain these liberties through a government accountable to the people. Contrary to the hopes of our nation’s founding, American perception of their​​ personal freedom has waned to 36th in the world. Seventy-nine percent claim the government is widely corrupt, and less than one in 10 have faith in Congress. The United States now has the highest income inequality of any industrialized nation, where the richest Americans in 1774 had seven percent of all wealth now have twenty-four percent. The once benevolent and liberating free market economy has reinstated class barriers and captured the nation’s wealth at the top. The hailed system of capitalism, claimed as obligatory to any free nation, has turned to a corrupted disappointment with little hope of reformation.

The origin of capitalism dates to the Protestant reformation during the 16th century. Protestantism broke from the Catholic teaching that charitable works are paramount and amassing wealth was a sign of greed. Protestants originally believed achieving high social status and wealth indicated the blessing of eternal salvation. The evidence of the reformation persists today where predominantly Protestant nations work longer hours, have higher salaries, and wealth inequality is more rampant. Catholic nations are poorer, value leisure over work and are more apt to demand government intervention to redistribute wealth.

Catholic doctrine remains quite critical of the results of capitalism. Church doctrine states that any economic system which reduces “the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production is contrary to human dignity” and that “[reducing] persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man, [leading] to the idolization of money.” Doctrine proceeds to condemn the overuse of earth’s natural resources, condemns unemployment as unnecessary, declares that needs of people always come before profits, and that people have an intrinsic right to achieve economic success based on individual talents.

Free market economies had great success in eroding class barriers and bringing new prosperity to many people. Now, fewer can climb to the top while the expanding working class has been reduced to the label of human capital. The profit goal of capitalism leads to a system of extracting as much productivity out of laborers who in turn are paid as little as the market will allow.

Capitalism’s competition-based system reduces successes and maximizes failures. Capitalism inhibits the ability for the human and his talents to flourish. Rather, people are treated as economic investments whose talents are only helpful inasmuch as it benefits their employers. The drive of competition motivates the belief of individualism, which has destroyed the communal component of humanity. We assess what can be gained from helping a neighbor in need instead of feeling the obligation to help essential to the good of a community.

From the moment we wake to the time we sleep, from our births to our deaths, we are surrounded by an endless barrage of needless capitalist propaganda. There is no incentive to promote necessary goods as they are consumed regardless of advertisement. Life isn’t worth living without the iPhone, all good moms clean the house with a Swiffer, drinking Bud Light will earn you many attractive women. Western propaganda is utilized to brainwash us into believing ever-expanding consumerism is undeniably beneficial. Every billboard, advertisement on TV and in the paper, on our computers and phones ensure we never forget that we are in desperate need of items and services that raise profits but fail to contribute to our overall well-being.

Western society fervently protects the capitalist economic structure. The United States stops at nothing to protect American interests, businesses and exploitation potential abroad. We overthrew the democratically elected government in Iran for threatening to nationalize British oil. The threat to nationalize a fruit company resulted in the overthrow of the Guatemalan government which sparked a civil war and killed 200,000 people. Democratic elections in Brazil and Chile that elected left-leaning governments were secretly dismantled. Iraqi and Afghani governments were toppled by arming rebels who eventually grew to be Islamic militant groups like al-Qaeda. Since WWII, the CIA has admitted to intervening in at least seventeen other countries to protect American capitalist interests.

These campaigns to force capitalism on the world are supported by an American public that is unwaveringly supportive of the supremacy of the free-market system. When the Soviet Union dissolved, Americans perceived it to be a great victory where the inseparable pair of freedom and capitalism won. However, a democratic vote eight months prior rejected the dissolution by a 3-to-1 margin. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the life expectancy has dropped from 67 to 59 in Russia and its satellite countries, infant mortality rates have increased and access to basic goods is reduced. Four-in-five have called democracy a fraud that only works to benefit the wealthy and powerful. Three-fourths of Russians say private economic initiative hurts Russia and an equal amount say they would accept a communist take-over of government. Undoubtedly capitalism has beneficial qualities, but the deep flaws fail to make it the universal good that liberates all people among all cultures.

In order to achieve a free society where people prosper, the society should ensure a person’s right to follow their talents and discover and exercise creative potential. It is through these values that human life is given meaning. Wealth and materialism have little value to a human being; they shackle the lives of people to a culture enslaved by an obsession of money. Economic activity should be limited to the assurance of the caretaking for the human community, not to multiply goods produced or increase profit. A just society should protect the right to unlock the gifts of humanity, which do not include the falsely valued achievement of economic success.

Brendan LeRoy is a junior majoring in linguistics.

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