#103 – Bob Barkley: The Evils of Commerce

Everything that is discovered – whether an idea or a scene – that can earn a buck will be exploited and then ruined.  That is the way of commerce in the unregulated capitalistic scheme of things.  Only the people, through their government, can control this.  And when the commercial interests themselves control the government, hope is lost. We are getting very close to that point.
Ambrose Bierce in his Devil’s Dictionary defines commerce thusly: “A kind of transaction in which A plunders from B the goods of C, and for compensation B picks the pocket of D of money belonging to E.” I suspect the “E” in this formula is we the people.
It is extremely hard to be objective about a system that for the most part has served many of us quite well – and still does in many instances.  It is hard to have significant investments that are doing well and at the same time criticize that which seems to be working in one’s self-interest.
But failure to do so means being blind to the inevitable collapse of a system of greed and collusion amongst commercial interests.  As 18th century’s Scotsman Adam Smith observed, in reflecting upon the evils of monopolies, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the publick, or some contrivance to raise prices.” Then he added, “The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce (that arises from the merchant class) ought always to be listened to with great precaution.” Amen! As in health care maybe?
It is not that profit is wrong or that hard work and innovation should go un-rewarded.  It is that the “general welfare” (Check our Constitution’s Preamble.) and the nation’s founders all too familiar term, ‘the common good,’ are being ignored in such an unconstrained system.
As Scotsman Adam Smith apparently felt from his study of the Greeks, wisdom was the avoidance of excess in all things. Thus, it can be concluded that wise government does indeed guard against excesses – whether it be in poverty or profit.
All of the above paints many of us with a broad brush.  It implies that those who have invested their lives in the financial system, the insurance system, the health care system (At least in the US.), and in many well-intentioned (at least initially) endeavors are somehow evil.  That is not the case, but it speaks to the blinders our current system places on most of us.  We seek employment and well-being and for the most part no one chastises those in such businesses. But it’s the system stupid, as they say, and it is a system that must be roped in – soon and strongly – for I am convinced that it cannot prevail much longer and shouldn’t.
Most of us are in denial on this topic.  In Reality Isn’t What It Used To Be, author Walter Truett Anderson tells us, “Faced with information, the believer becomes either a constructivist or a fundamentalist; the former takes stories lightly, changes them, or abandons them entirely when it becomes necessary; the latter deals with troublesome information through psychological denial and/or political repression.” I believe we’re seeing both at play all the time regarding today’s commercial capitalist system. Anderson goes on to point out that all explanations of reality are tainted by this psychology.  In my words, we see what we wish to see and hear what we wish to hear based largely upon how it makes us feel about ourselves.
In that context, our ability to be rational requires that we step outside our context and look down on the picture.  It requires that we go to 20,000 feet and ponder what is beneath us – absent our direct relationship to it.  That is when the truth is both easier to see and to bear. And when I attempt to do that, the picture relative to our commercial system is not pretty – and yet it controls us ever more in our unrestrained ‘crapitalistic’ society.