Capitalism is so much held in reverence that for some it is like a religion. In fact people proudly proclaim I’m a capitalist! Seemingly it provides the guiding principle for behavior and thus the basis for how to structure life. In effect (putting their faith in capitalism) people have allowed the pursuit of (personal) wealth to define the measure and means of how one should live his/her life. Their faith in the capitalistic dictum of maximizing material self-interest has become so powerful that they believe it to be the answer to all societal problems.
Accordingly a free (unregulated) market is the answer to everything, since it is the mechanism affording unfettered self-interested action that makes for the invisible hands to do their work. What’s the solution to our economic crisis? Allow the self-interest of those with the most—the winners—to be enacted without constraint and in so doing it will help the rest of us be winners—ah the wonders of the invisible hand doing their trickle-down thing. What’s the solution to our educational problems? Enable profit-seeking organizations to provide an educational experience to society’s children. What’s the solution to our healthcare system problem? Put healthcare in the hands of profit maximizing insurance and pharmaceutical companies. In general what’s the answer to how to provide society’s services (apart from national defense) to its citizens? Privatize, because the business minded can solve it all! That is except for the many recurring problems in business they themselves create and can’t quite resolve.
Only the foolish seriously expect to realize improvement by intensifying commitment and effort toward the very same thing that created or caused the current situation. Doubling down on a losing hand is losing strategy—it is sure way to accelerate loss. Or as the tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians asserts, “when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.” For example (staying with the Dakota Indian analogy) in business we get a stronger whip by raising standards, holding people accountable and exhorting others to get better results. Since we are seeking to turn educating children into a business we employ the same but stronger whip—we double down. We even go further and hire outside firms to ride the horse (we put education in the hands of profit-maximizing organizations). Not surprisingly, with our market-based solutions to education we see no real lasting improved system of education.
Those who question capitalism—those who think critically about it and want to improve it—are heretics, heathens and worse socialists. Unless you fall in line, you fall out of favor! If you can’t credibly argue the veracity of your belief—if you haven’t facts to support your argument—then the only recourse is to disparage those who bring it into question. Thus name-calling is clearly a reactive response in defense of an unsupportable position.
Who are the ones disparaging those who seek a better way? Usually it is those who benefit (most) from the way things are. So it is a good idea to challenge the real motive of those calling people who ask ‘what if questions’ heretics.
Be a Heretic
Yet because of the power of and propaganda from those benefiting from the way things are and not critically thinking about the why of things, our past continues to overtake our future. The habits of thought we’ve been following are no longer serving our collective interest—they are not serving society as a whole. We must acknowledge that the fundamental set of beliefs and practices that we have embraced are no longer helpful toward guiding behavior and structuring life in society. If we wish a better reality, then we need to enact a better belief system.
Where is it proven as an immutable fact that people are at base selfish? If this was so, how do you explain people risking their life to save others—doesn’t this smack right up against self-interest? Where is it proven to be an immutable fact that markets require short-term profit maximization as the dominant motive? We can only change what is by changing how we think about ourselves. If we wish to experience a better reality, then we need to enact a better belief system. Its time we change our errant ways.