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« Religious Freedom | Main | $2,500,000 Public Servants and the Upside-Down Value System »


The Crack in Free Market Capitalism

By Bob Hooper
December 6, 2011

A man said to the Universe, "Sir, I exist!" "However," replied the Universe, "the fact has not created in me a sense of obligation." -- Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

A reader asked me to write about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, now postponed until 2013.

The 36-inch diameter pipe would cover 329 miles in Canada, cross the border at Montana, angle through South Dakota and Nebraska (with a branch to Illinois). Photo shows truck hauling 36-Inch pipe to build Keystone-Cushing Pipeline south-east of Peabody, Kansas, 2010 (from WIkipedia).

Then it would slice across the eastern third of Kansas through Oklahoma to Texas -- over 2,100 miles in all. The estimated 1.1 million barrels daily of synthetic crude oil from Alberta tar sands would equate to 5 pct. of present U.S. oil consumption, and 9 pct. of our present imports.

Estimates of new jobs vary wildly. Promoters say 250,000. Skeptics say as few as 4,000--most temporary. The environmental degradation to Canada would be (and already is) dramatic. Leaks are a constant worry. If 97 percent of climate scientists have it right, continued fossil fuel burning is a bigger threat. Those who've read my columns know I'm convinced scientists are correct.

But there's an underlying and larger issue: the deception of free market capitalism. It isn't free. It's cracked, and the crack is growing.

The basic premise of free market capitalism is two-fold: First, that selfishness is a virtue. Second, that the material resources of our planet are infinite, and withdrawals or pollution do not require a red ink entry in the ledger. It's not just global warming. The over-fishing of our oceans, the destruction of rain forests, and mining of groundwater in my own region of Kansas are three more examples of many.

Our planet is finite. It cannot supply material appetites infinitely. Yet too many of us in what is called the "developed world" have accepted and internalized the preachment that it can do just that. That is folly.

One hundred years ago, the earth held just 1.7 billion humans. One hundred years before that there were barely l billion. This year our global population reached 7 billion. Today over 5 billion live and are almost sure to remain in undeveloped countries. Most want, and feel entitled, to live as high on the hog as we privileged few. In 40 years another 2 billion will arrive. In the meantime ...

"Quiverfull," a religious movement based on Psalm 127, advocates that women bear as many children as possible: 8, 10, 12 or more. A noted Quiverfull couple (the wife having now borne 20 babies) argued that "if more Christians began producing 'full quivers' of 'arrows for the war' [we could] win control of both houses of Congress, [reclaim] sinful cities like San Francisco and [do] massive boycotts of companies that do not comply with conservative Christian mores. If the body of Christ had been reproducing as we were designed to do ... we would not be in the mess we are today." (Newsweek, Mar. 16, '09) In other words, the goal is to out-breed and win.

Our present paranoia about money, paper or gold or silver -- a "master" the Carpenter warned against serving -- is disconnected from reality. Most of our species, at least in the so-called developed world, are calloused to the disappearance and pollution of our true wealth; that being our natural resources, including our air and water.

The threat corporate plutocrats face explains their hatred of environmentalism. It fuels their campaign against advocates of economic and social justice. The threat is this: environmental solutions will cost the plutocrats power and privilege; they know it and they are scared. It will require serious regulation by a government working for the public interest, not one bought by money. In short, it will require rejecting capitalist greed as an economic, social, and political model.

Ironically, global warming does have the benefit (if you can call it that) of being, not a national nor a regional, but a truly global problem. It is a shot over our common bow, but only one of more coming, created by a "free" market mentality which promotes selfishness as a virtue. It is made worse by an exploding population craving our material consumption and carefree waste. We few whose present economy depends almost exclusively on material consumerism have championed that model to the world.

As the reality becomes ever clearer, so does the choice. If exploitation of natural resources continues without regard for consequences, the rich will keep getting richer -- at least for a while -- and the rest of us still poorer. Government will become more militant and repressive to protect the few, and life will get uglier. There are omens in the streets today.

Our alternate path is to become honest stewards of the planet and realize that becoming our brother's keeper is to the advantage of our species. Otherwise, Ralph Waldo Emerson may have the last word: "The end of the human race will be that it will die of civilization."


Comments (4)

Angelo Lopez Author Profile Page:

A powerful blog, Bob. Thank you for constantly warning us of the dangers of a degrading environment due to the exploitation of our natural resources. You put the danger in stark terms. Which is important, to try to shake us out of our indifference.

I've never heard of this Quiverfull movement until your blog, but it sounds like a dangerous philosophy that would send women's rights backwards. With the assaults on a woman's right to control her body in several states, it's more important to speak out and defend those rights.

Ken Poland Author Profile Page:

I guess I had not known about the 'Quiverfull movement either. But it has been suggested that if the good 'white folks' would just increase production, we could outnumber the blacks, hispanics, asians, and muslims. By doing that we can remain in control of not only our destiney but the destiney of the rest of the world too.

It's even been suggested that abortion is the cause of our Social Security funding dillema. All those aborted embryos and fetuses could be in the work force and their contributions would keep the 'ponsi' scheme going.

Neither one of these scenarios is realistic.

Diane Author Profile Page:

I shuddered when I first heard of the Quiverful Movement a few years ago. I thought of all those women giving their bodies just for the sake of birthing the "correct" race of children to keep "incorrect" races from taking over.

Sam Brownback is the first person I heard make the claim that women having abortions is the cause of our Social Security shortfall--a shortfall that exists only in Republican myth, by the way. He said this at a speech several years at Butler Community College. I was there and I challenged that contention. He didn't repeat that claim in subsequent speeches on his tour. Here's my answer to that: Those aborted fetuses could have been taking up space in our jails, being drug addicted, or collecting unemployment benefits. No one knows how a child is going to turn out, but it's a pretty sure bet if a woman doesn't want a child or can't afford, nothing good can come of forcing her to give birth.

Ken Poland Author Profile Page:

Governor Sam Brownback lets his ideology interfere with intelligent reasoning. A few years ago he claimed the most pressing issue we faced in America was same sex marriage. That was at the beginning of the short, but disasterous, slide in our economy. It was also when we were seriously debating our involvement in Iraq. Sam might have been more influencial in our real problems of the day, if he hadn't been quite so concerned about personal sexual preferences and orientation. But, his base political support is grounded by the religious right.

Recently he refused federal grants for health care programs and requested federal grant money to support his State Sponsored (religeous in reality) marriage counseling and free marriage licenses. He is all mouth about job creation. Nothing in his program points toward making money available to the lower income levels to increase their purchasing power. Does he think praying for spending money will solve the poor folks problem? Does he think the poor folks will run out and spend money if the rich folks start producing more goods?

I, personally, agree that we need a spiritual revival in America. Does my 'spiritual' concept over rule all others? The State or Federal government is not going to revive the nation spiritually. The majority believe in spiritual emotions, but the Christians are not the only religious members of our society. Even those who claim no religious conscience will admit to some kind of driving force outside of themselves, Spiritual?

Even the main topic of Bob's blog has some who rely on their 'spiritual' connections to guide their decisions and opinions on fossil fuels, environment, and economics. Does the religious right, Brownback, et al have the inroad to God's plan? Does their concept of God's plan mean that no one else has any valid concern that needs addressed?

Sad to say, most of us are first and foremost concerned about ourselves. And, righfully so. But does that relieve us of being considerate of others with different needs and priorities from ours? Can we not cooperate and negotiate to meet the greatest needs of all segments of our society? The rich and poor all have the basic requirement of Food, Shelter, and Health. Let's do our best to meet those needs for everyone, rich and poor alike, and then look to satisfy, if possible, the wants of everybody.

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The blog post previous to it is titled "Religious Freedom"

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