by Mimi Wuest
Capitalism is not an inherently greedy and exploitative system. I imagine that at some time in the future, capitalism will have evolved into a system that combines profit-making with sustainability. But in its present form, capitalism closely resembles the Spanish Conquistadors with their philosophy of plundering and pillaging.
Any system with concentrated power and wealth requires checks and balances to avoid excesses. That is where regulations come in, regulations that require extraction companies to clean up toxic spills and to reclaim the land when they abandon operations. Safety regulations that protect workers and the surrounding communities. Environmental regulations that insure both national parks and natural resources will be preserved for the future. Regulations to protect clean air and water.
Under our current Capitalism-on-Steroids system, regulations are being removed and corporate growth will be basically unchecked. And after a few years of life without regulations, we may have compromised the environment beyond what we can reclaim. Sadly, the same can be said of our educational system and our health care.
As we all remember from high school civics class, our government is designed to function with each branch providing a check or balance for the other branches. Alas, this protection, too, is being eroded. The executive branch (the Presidency) and the legislative branch (the Congress) are in lock step and together they are creating a Supreme Court in their own image. We may soon have a government that is out of control, serving only a select segment of our population and basically ignoring the needs of average Americans.
It is like a slow motion coupe, taking place in such a tedious way that most Americans won’t even notice. Behind a screen of sensational tweets, the underpinnings of Democracy are being whittled away. While we gawk and marvel at the battles of small minds in the administration, something much more sinister is going on. It is becoming more difficult to vote. It is more difficult to afford a college education. Wages stay low, preventing people from rising out of poverty and keeping the middle class stressed and over-worked.
Together, these underhanded dealings will make it easier for a powerful few to make our decisions for us. While we are distracted by tweets about dangerous aliens or dangerous Arabs or dangerous Russians, Democracy is under attack. Just as there may be no repairing damage to our environment if regulations are abandoned, we may find that Democracy has been replaced by an Aristocracy, a government of the wealthy and powerful, and there may be no going back.
If we don’t find a way to slap some regulations and some checks on this greedy stampede, it may leave us in the dust.