Moral Capitalism And Sacrifice Zones.

Arthur Brooks in his book “The Road to Freedom,” argues that “free enterprise advocates need to build the moral case [for capitalism] to remind Americans why the future of this nation is worth more to each of us than a few short-term government benefits.” Brooks takes us down the road of moral freedom while associating it with capitalism. I think the connection between a free enterprise system and freedom of choice is strong, but I would hesitate to equate any type of morality with an economic system.

The Socialist left tries to equate a fair economic distribution of wealth as a moral necessity, however history tells us the unmoral capability of a Socialist system many times over. However, it is futile to say that capitalism is a moral system unto itself. In either case, it is the people that make an economic system moral or not.

Therefor I disagree with Brooks concerning his moral argument for capitalism, but I would agree that capitalism allows us a greater opportunity to create profit and then use that profit for good, which is what business as mission is all about.

My son just sent me a clip of Bill Moyers discussing capitalism’s zones of sacrifice. These are those areas within our nation that have no hope. The economic, political, and legal systems based in our utilitarian society have written these areas off, and the people are left to struggle within themselves. We have placed walls around these areas and have let them go. It is quite sad. Whether we are talking about the coal mining areas of West Virginia or PineRidge, South Dakota these individuals are viewed as hopeless.

It is interesting that the August National Geographic magazine’s title is “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: Rebirth of a Sioux Nation.” It has several articles dealing with the PineRidge Reservation. There are several pictures of young people on the Rez dealing with the suicide of their friends. It discusses the closeness of the people, while they struggle with constant unemployment. And it talks about the exploitation of the people of PineRidge by the alcohol establishments in White Clay, Nebraska. It is a “zone of sacrifice.”

Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco have written a book entitled, “Days of Destruction – Days of Revolt.” Below is the description of the book from Amazon.com.

“Two years ago, Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges and award-winning cartoonist and journalist Joe Sacco set out to take a look at the sacrifice zones, those areas in America that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress, and technological advancement. They wanted to show in words and drawings what life looks like in places where the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profit. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is the searing account of their travels.”

This fascinates me, and I will be buying this book. Free Enterprise is an economic system, we will make it a moral event if we decide that business involves mission. In other words, act efficiently, and use profit for good. This is better than having the government take it from us to do the same thing.

And that is my thought for the day!

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2 thoughts on “Moral Capitalism And Sacrifice Zones.

  1. You do realize, don’t you, that it would be ILLEGAL for a publicly traded corporation to prioritize moral-good, or public mission, over proifts?
    They are required, by law, to make decisions that maximize profits, even where it will bring public harm, so long as that harm is itself not a liability to the company (i.e. no lawsuits will hurt their profits).

    So, the idea that businesses are supposed to operate ‘morally’, with public missions, is an idea that is only applicable to private (i.e. small) businesses. And how much ‘good’ can they do, when confronted by the massive influence of corporate profit seeking?

    This seems like a libertarian’s version of “a thousand points of light” — in other words, an excuse to keep government impotent in favor of a feel good slogan which cannot possibly inhibit the harm that corporations do by exploiting communities across America.

    The alternative, of course, would be (1) to dismantle the law that requires stakeholder profits over all else, and (2) to put in place regulations, laws, that mitigate the ability of corporations to parasitize the commons.
    Teddy Roosevelt, no socialist, would give that solution a wholehearted “bully”. But libertarians, and other market fundamentalists, are more likely to cling to a naive vision of markets inevitably bringing out the best in everything and everyone — a sort of ideological puritanism, ignoring all evidence to the contrary.
    And why? Does it permit them a world view in which the needs of others can be rationalized as “not their problem”? Or, is it simply that they like to hold on to a pure vision of economics where all problems are easily solved by appealing to a mechanism that requires no difficult choices be made? Not sure really. I’m sure the motives vary. But what is consistent, is the repetitive mantra that selfish profit taking will solve all social ills, if only permitted to run every facet of our lives.
    Look around. The highest standard of living, best health and longevity, most social trust, lowest crime and poverty, least corruption in government…. Every single one of these measures puts northern European, MARKET-SOCIALIST nations at the top, while America slides further and further down on every measure. And yes, America actually has a higher debt to GDP ratio than all of Europe taken together, even including the ‘failed states’ of Greece and Italy. Look it up.
    So, which will you believe. The failed mantra of selfish markets uber alles, or the historical, statistical facts staring you in the face?

    • LaurenD thank you for your comments. I find your comments both interesting and troubling. The market has responded to the need for a moral expression of business by creating B-corporations that are less controlled by the legal requirement to provide returns to shareholders.

      I am not naive enough to think that everyone that participates within the market will do good. Although I, who have been around for awhile, have seen many companies and corporations do good in the community with some of their profits. I would like to see more, but I am positive that will not happen. I am also convinced that corporations only do good for what they get out of it.

      I don’t agree with your comment that Market-Socialist economies are stronger than America’s, as we can see with the European slide that is not the case. However, I do agree with you that we need to change our operation.

      LaurenD, my beef is with the individual. Large and small businesses are run by individuals. To say that their individual responsibility because one is a part of a large organization is flat out wrong. Regardless of whether larger organizations do good or not, does not remove individual responsibility to do good.

      If we as people choose to not help the marginalized we will become Panem, the mythical outcome of a rebellion in this country.

      I do appreciate your comments and look forward to a continued dialog.

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