Sunday, March 24, 1996

Naked Capitalism: the Dream Team

Mothers avert your eyes -- for this is an essay on Naked Capitalism!
OK, OK. Laissez faire. Libertarian. Whatever you want to call it. A society with next to no business regulation, worker rights, minimum wage, FDA or EPA standards or government safety inspection, etc, etc. Ayn Rand's wet dream, basically.
So why is this a good idea?
The Right Wing’s rationale for laissez faire Capitalism is usually presented in utilitarian terms. Capitalism is a lousy economic system, but it’s the best one we’ve got. Despite all its inequalities, it makes people work smarter and better, thanks to Darwinian competition. Communism (which is supposed to make people equal) leads to a desperately poor society with a few party elite at the top. Capitalism (which doesn’t believe in equality) generates the most wealth possible for everybody. Thanks to Capitalism, the slices of the pie aren't equal -- but it's an insanely huge pie and there's more slices for everybody! “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” is just the price we pay for all that pie. And if Capitalism is good -- Naked Capitalism is even better.
This may be. But it’s a window dressing argument. If you dig deep, the elite has a different logic -- the logic of a lion with his teeth in an antelope’s haunch. I think a lot of the people at the top think they deserve to be there, and see life in terms of winners and losers. They’re the winners, of course. They don’t want a fair society. They want it all. They’re not utilitarians. The greatest good for the greatest number? Fuck that shit. A broad middle class? Fuck that, too. They could live with a nation of beaten-down lackeys with no rights, voice or power.
They don’t believe in Naked Capitalism because it’s the best system for everybody. They believe in Naked Capitalism because it’s their right. The lion’s share is their right. Because they work harder; they’re smarter; they made better decisions in life; they’re more religious and ethical and have higher values and standards than the great unwashed. The poor deserve to be poor. The rich deserve to be rich. They’re the Dream Team.
Speaking of which, in my miserable experience as a Jr. High football coach, the badass players were constantly begging me to let them get together and form a “Dream Team” so they could stomp all the runts. I told them this was a bad idea because, well, they’d stomp all the runts. Number one, that’s bad sportsmanship. Number two, the runts would lose motivation and not want to participate in sports. Come on, coach! No. I wanted the teams to be fair. I always divided them up by ability and the better players hated it – and hated me. Please coach, please. We wanna have a dream team. I sketched out my idea for a Dream Team. Just once. Please coach, please. They hammered me day after day and – in one disgusting moment of weakness in my character, I let them have their Dream Team. They stomped the runts. It was ugly.
Communism is a lousy idea. Socialism is a lousy idea. But so is Naked Capitalism. Basically, the rich form a Dream Team and stomp all the rest of us into the dirt.
Call me a radical, but I think FDR had the right idea.

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