Since the time of Adam Smith we have been living the dreams of our founding fathers. One of these dreams was an often coined phrase- "The Pursuit of Happiness". 230 years later we can see the end results of this phrase- Greed and inequality. With the pursuit of money comes the reality of class wars to provide this money for in a competitive open market system, there must be winners and losers. So this makes one wonder if poverty isn't an inherent necessity in the foundation of freedom and democracy.
This article is rather lengthy but well worth the read. I guarantee it will change your way of viewing the way America does its business. Here are some excerpts from it.
Robert Reich points out that the superrich live in a parallel universe to the rest of the country: much of the time we don’t see them because they live in walled estates, travel in private limousines and use different airports from the rest of us (4). There’s lots of them. There are now more than 200 billionaires. Some five percent of American households have assets over $1 million. And we’re back to levels of extravagant consumption not seen for 100 years (5).
By historical accounts this is a nation of persistent and resilient people with an unshakable mission: the pursuit of happiness. This idea of happiness is largely connected with wealth (and this connection has long philosophic roots). It is a nation of ambitious people with notions of unfettered future growth, a nation that celebrates abundance. There seems to be no reason anyone should be deprived of luxury, if he works hard. Indeed with this country’s aggregate wealth, there should be no reason anyone should ever go hungry or suffer.
People are going hungry in America. A Los Angeles survey found more than a quarter of low income residents, many working, are not getting enough food to meet basic nutritional needs. And 10% are experiencing hunger(6).
Estimates are that 3 out of 10 Americans will face poverty sometime in their lives (7).
30% of Americans. Well that ratio seems to cover those of different color pretty well so there is a cultural war going on as well. This doesn't mean that there aren't whites living in poverty, but -case in point. The fema trailers are still sitting in their parking lot in Arkansas and still not being sent to Louisiana. The people who were mostly colored were shipped out through the states and now have been abandoned with no places to call home. No mattrer what the excuses are, these people were deported and left to survive in an unfamiliar territory. The Governor of South Dakota asked that these trailers be used to provide housing for the natives at Pine Ridge as their housing problems are 3rd world conditions at best, but was told these trailers are needed for national disasters ONLY.
AS IF THE TREATMENT OF NATIVES BY THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT ISN'T A NATIONAL DISASTER, NOW THEY HAVE TO PRAY FOR A TORNADO TO COME THROUGH THEIR LAND TO GET HELP? MEANWHILE THEY ARE BEING SHIPPED TO SUCH PLACES AS NEW JERSEY IN CASE A HURRICANE HITS! What a laugh. FEMA spent $441 million on the 10,777 trailers and is preparing to spend another $6 million for gravel to keep them from sinking, and some 25 thousand dollars a month to keep them stored in Arkansas.
... the rich getting richer benefits all, and that in an economy that is an unlimited, growing, open system, all can rise, that (once we get through temporary difficulties) we will find a full and abundant world.
In fact these are not so much arguments as swollen cliches.
There is indeed a problem, and it has a history. I will sift the philosophy of utilitarianism and Adam Smith’s founding economics theory for origins. Smith's 1776 treatise, we recall, tied the growth of wealth to the work of common entrepreneurs. It refused the inherited inequalities of aristocracy and with the Enlightenment's notion of reason, a quality accessible to Everyman, it promptly democratized the economy. This philosophy was exported whole cloth to the new America, and it has since grown to dominate our economic policies, its influence is now worldwide. But despite its original claims, we will find it woven with mystical filaments and contradictions. I will show that as the theory is commonly related, it is hard to separate rationality from dogma.
Competition is a fundamental good in utilitarian economics. Competition is a process which results in inequalities – winners and losers. It cannot be, in a society of free competitive units, that competition among all is good for all. Modern analysts Cook and Frank show free market competition has become so stark that we are becoming a winner-takes-all society (17). In a giant economy, aggressive acquisition, greed, where so widespread and popular as to be celebrated, has resulted in colossal differences, so that, as much as we are accustomed to reproaching the Europeans for their inequalities, we are now caught in a lie. We have become more unequal. The United States is the wealthiest nation. But its 20.3 percent child poverty rate ranks worse than all European nations (18).
The whispered truth is that this nation bent on the pursuit of happiness is not so happy. Suicide afflicts all classes, and suicide rates are now so high as to eclipse homicide rates with three suicides for every two murders. Surgeon General Satcher partially blamed the media (20). Clinical depression is at its highest rate in decades (21). There are unprecedented rates of anxiety, companionship itself is receding, trust is fading (22). Tens of millions are using prescription mood elevators.
Scarcity oppresses. And the worst signs of unhappiness cluster in the lowest cuts: we have among the highest national rates of imprisonment, and the Administration concedes there are 5 million hard-core drug users in America (23) and millions of alcoholics, all disproportionately among the poor.
Resonating with the battle cry of the French Revolution, Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, the American Constitution was written with promises of human liberty and equality. Freedom and equality qualify as the fundamental political virtues. They are the two legs upon which democracy walks.
The second of the promises is broken.
Greed and democratic equality cannot live together. There is always a conclusion for it. Cases in point The French and Russian revolutions. Could it happen here? There are reasons for our war on drugs and increased prisons and talk of concentration camps.
Great social inequality creates an unstable equilibrium. The swelling numbers of the poor and resentful come to rival the power of the rich. As grievances and restlessness grow, government worsens, becoming tyrannical. Eventually a critical point arrives. Wealth will be redistributed, either by politics, or by revolution.
....Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation attributes our enduring levels of violence to "vast and shameful inequality in income, wealth and opportunity among urban poor" who are often "trapped in places of terror" (26) - inequalities which are simply un-American, opines C. Murphy (27). Troubling studies exist, but we surround this research with technicians questioning methodology and politicians arguing the study represents no reality. There is denial: "Forget the data," asserts one newspaper columnist on poverty issues, "…things have gotten better." (28)
We are forming an Apartheid economy where the poor cannot ascend. Now the union paid worker is under attack and is losing his lower middle class status to the free market economy, creating a new class of working poor.
Greed is the acquisition of a desirable good by one person or a group beyond need, resulting in unequal distribution to the point others are deprived. Competitive greed is the same type of acquisition deliberately to create that inequality. Punitive greed is the same type of acquisition deliberately to leave the deprived suffering, powerless or disabled. Sometimes it takes fine grained analysis of circumstance and motive to distinguish these, but all the preceding involve overt behaviors, and the measure is the resulting inequities.
Like any drug, it is an addiction that leaves one craving for more- the s'mores- as in -"gimme s'more of that stuff."
The origins of greed are not mysterious. Like the origins of the drive for power the seeds are everywhere, and if a little bit feels good, more must be better. Previous lack is not necessary to start greed any more than fire is started by lack of fire, but like fire greed expands where it can, it has no internal homeostatic mechanism and the bigger it gets, the faster it grows. Its spread is also quickened by social imitation, akin to panic spreading through a crowd.
Greed is not a rational force.
Greed has dimensions of immorality and sociopathic tendancies. It is the Leviathan that Hobbes wrote of as he lived in an age where life was solitary, nasty, poor, brutish and short- an apt description of the middle ages. Then came the philosophy of utilitanarianism, which explained life differently than the religious yoke of oppression. It advised freedom and liberty to the people to let them develop the wealth of the land. By developing the pleasure principle and passing it on to everyone, it could develop into a wider view of what the nobility and clergy held onto as morals and values for the people. In the pursuit of individuality we were able to grasp the logic of the free nobility and become our own greedy egoistic selves and shun our neighbours needs by sheltering in our own castles and living a better hidden life. Personal gain became our grail and we developed better and more efficient means to beat out our neighbours livelihood, to take his profit from him. Rising and falling we shift with the waves, each person taking a chance at their moment for success or failure. The game was on and it became a casino based economy of winners and losers, more losers than winners though. Of course the real winners in all this is the house, the casino owners who aren't affected by the gambling , merely with the skimming of the profits. There is no risk at their end of the equation. Such is utilitarianism- someone is the shaper and user of the tools and so must profit. This consciousness can be defined as freedom.
I'm sure you've read enough of this. Go to the site and find out the rest of the story. It takes time to read but it is worth your indulgence.