I will start by couching this in the caveat that American Capitalism no longer provides freedom. And it is one hundred percent true. If you examine the history of the United States and it’s trajectory since, you will be forced to admit to many uncomfortable truths. Quite frankly, I’m not here to coddle feelings or protect nationalism. My nation is danger of collapsing, and the hard truths have got to be faced.
When the nation was founded, as Theodore Roosevelt pointed out (Ken Burns, The Roosevelts), The United States did not established instructions on handling corporations. They did not exist yet. They were never amended into the constitution, either. Anti-trust laws were the first laws to face the tyranny of large corporations, a very left wing liberal move by TR, et al.
Well after the establishment of the States, probably during that time, because look at the concern of southern states for their plantations, the wealthy were seeking anyway to take advantage of the new world and new order to line their pockets. To this day, it’s become a time-honored tradition of the 1% to increase their wealth, almost by any means necessary. The more creative the better to avoid incarceration. It’s a game to them, as they have little to lose (often lining up other people’s money to take the fall instead of their own).
That wealth provides a great deal of freedom. You can go wherever, whenever, and however. Purchasing things you need or want is not a problem. It’s the last thought, in fact.
On the reverse, people without such means do not have such freedom. Money is usually the first consideration—even when it’s a serious issue like an emergency health problem. Needs go unmet, businesses don’t earn your dime. The cycle continues into depressions.
The Great Depression should have been a lesson in wealth disparity. However, time has erased the impact of those devastating losses and years of suffering. Many no longer have family who can pass on the wisdom gained in those times. Society has become throw-away (increases in trash, and divorce rates). Younger generations have simply not heeded the ethic of making and buying things that last, preferring things that are convenient and disposable. Think of the huge pop up of dollar stores. That last statement wasn’t about millennials, either. They, in fact, are showing a great deal of interest in changing the throw-away culture, because they’ve experienced want (want of capital or lasting human relationships). We will see a swing in another direction, it is my hope, because of this. And, polls support that idea. Millennials support democratic socialism, in a break with previous ideology. They’ve seen the proof of it, compared to a system that has hobbled them.
Capitalism in its current incarnation has succeeded in redistributing wealth to the top few. This is something that people against socialism constantly talk about: redistribution of wealth. But, they get it wrong. Socialism puts utility and necessary services in the hands of regulatory systems established by government, in order to prevent privateering. By that, I mean price gauging and other predatory behaviors by corporations. A fine example is the pharmaceutical and medical industries that use for profit medicine to become wealthy from the illnesses of their customers. They hinder research into cures, and charge high prices for medicine and medical procedures, taking advantage of people with little choice. Simultaneously, they basically commit insurance fraud to extend profits. Look at the diabetes prices or Martin Shkrelli.
That kind of system milks funds out of the majority of citizens, nesting them in a few at the top. Wealthy people invest, they don’t spend. What they do spend isn’t enough to sustain commerce. Not in such a vast market/populace. That’s why retail is closing or going online. Brick and mortar is too much to sustain a business in a climate of too few pockets of cash. Henry Ford understood it. He met the issue with better wages, and from his model and newer regulations to prevent a redistribution from the many to the few, unfair wages and company store tactics, the middle class rose.
The mid-20th century is the model of American society still admired today. In this time the nuclear family was coined, along with the middle class coming into their own. This vision created a vision in corporations: cash cows. Now families had spending money, and companies wanted it. At the turn of the 21-st century, that image had become vampiric, it vulturous. I’ve come to call our current economy Vulture Capitalism. It’s hallmarks are low wages and high prices. Anyone selling anything (goods or services) charges a premium as they try to pinch off their piece of the pie, without any concern for long term strategy. It’s all short term big gains. The company makes a huge profit quickly, then closes up. Investors and the public pay the price. The top wage earners at the company have turned a big profit and moved on to the next scam.
Low wages prevents the middle class from exercising their freedom our power. It keeps them in debt, with no access to assistance, because those services are reserved for much lower wage earners. And the poor are kept in a debt cycle, much like slavery. There’s no coincidence that education and service desserts affect more people of color, in that analogy.
In such a situation, one’s freedoms are greatly limited or at least challenged. Mobility is unaffordable, as people hold down several jobs just to meet the basics. That’s not something to admire, but something for which we should be concerned. It’s a sign that the economy is not doing well. High prices are unsustainable. Vulture capitalism is unsustainable.
Related issues are the use of military services to make or break markets in other nations. The wars since Korea have all been in the interest of suppressing non-American interests. Even the war on terror and the war on drugs. Thus creates hostility toward Americans throughout the world and makes it dangerous for Americans to work or travel abroad. That’s less freedom.
So the next time you read bumper stickers that say “Don’t tread on me” or “Freedom isn’t Free,” laugh, but then get mad as hell. Capitalism and it’s auspices no longer provide freedom. Irony.