Fundamentalists scare me.
Not because I believe what they have to say, but because they believe what they have to say. Usually, their claims are made as though they are absolute truths about the world. And when you think of fundamentalists, the images of evangelical Christians or Muslim extremists probably come to mind. However, I have something a little different in mind: free-market fundamentalists.
Alec Mouhibian insults our intelligence when he refers to Enron as, “bankrupted by free-market forces” (“Private Dancer: A System With A Soul,” Daily Nexus, Jan. 10). While Enron was not bankrupt on paper, in reality, it was running a deficient balance sheet before its stock price began to tank in the first place because it was actually counting debts as income. But this is not even the whole picture. Remember that Enron was a publicly traded company, so referring to its bankruptcy as the “righteous wrath” of the market is rejoicing in the monetary loss of the working class men and women who were the majority of Enron’s shareholders.
There are many problems associated with capitalism, and I think any person who doesn’t live in a cave with a thumb up their ass all day reading The Wall Street Journal can see this. Yes, there are opportunities out there for people like Bill O’Reilly to make something of themselves – but these opportunities are largely determined by the environment in which one grows up. It is absurd to claim that someone growing up in Compton, Calif., has the same opportunities as someone growing up in Kennebunkport, Maine – a result of, yes, capitalism.
One should not give complete devotion to any one idea while ignoring basic problems within it. The fact that my reason for waking up every morning is to smoke crack with my feet soaking in cold clam chowder does not mean there are no drawbacks to my addiction. The same could be said for capitalism, i.e., its benefits do not necessarily outweigh its costs.
Putting faith in a system that does not take into consideration the human costs incurred for the benefit of only a few is an extreme ideology. And just as extreme is putting faith into a system that which imposes regulation on everything. Clearly, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. A simple way of making this happen is by regulating the prices of necessities while leaving the prices of luxuries to the free-market.
Health care, wages, basic housing and other necessities of life should be regulated, so as to prevent profit motives from causing the suffering of the masses. Free-market fundamentalists like Mouhibian would reply, particularly in the case of health care, that regulation will stifle innovation because of the way that self-interest motivates people. This would be true only if there were not people who cared about the well-being of others. Perhaps there are would-be scientists who would not enter the field of medicine because it is not as profitable as other sectors, but many would continue to enter the field of medicine for the incentive that helping others brings them – and not just for the selfish pursuit of profit.
In terms of luxuries, let the market go unfettered. Let the bourgeoisie of society relish in their H2s, plasma televisions, front-row Staples Center tickets, Botox injections, four-story Montecito mansions and whatever other toys the superrich of society enjoy. There is no need for regulation here and, as long as their money doesn’t come off of my back, I’ll refrain from organizing a revolution.
The wealthy have accused people like me of engaging in class warfare, but they were at it long before I came around.
Ash Roughani is a senior philosophy major.