The Elephant in our Living Room, the BP Oil Spill, and Albert Einstein

By Madronna Holden

Shortly after the end of World War II, Albert Einstein wrote an essay in which he predicted the unhappy future of “pure capitalism” or “economic anarchy”. as he called it.[1] He observed that the system based on individual competition for profit derives from a history of conquest.  As such, it expresses the “predatory stage” of human development which we must transcend if we are to survive.

A worldview which teaches us to value individual profit-taking at the expense of our fellows causes us to resent the society we inevitably also rely on—and anyone’s telling us what to do with our money is considered a major affront.  This is the logic of those who opposed a national health plan on the grounds that they might have to join it—even if it meant their families would have security from health catastrophes that can easily become economies catastrophes.

In this perspective, government is perceived as bad, since it is social. There is no sense that it might actually do something good for us. This worldview also leads us to declare hands off the money makers, who are supposed to be doing something good and essential for society.

It is this worldview that underlies the declaration of corporations as legal “persons”. The Supreme Court recently asserted such corporate “persons” had the protections of the first amendment to free speech—and could thus spend as much as they wished on advertising in political campaigns.

This decision brings us closer to Einstein’s prediction that “private capitalists” would inevitably “come to control… the main sources of information (press, radio, education).”  Corporate “freedom of speech” also extends to advertising pharmaceuticals on television in the US—and a growing push to allow this in other countries such as Britain.  Today US television networks, news media, newspapers, book publishers and even phone and internet delivery systems are owned by a handful of corporate entities, which increasingly control not only advertising, but news and other program content.

However, these corporate “persons” don’t follow the rules that human persons have to. In their application for offshore drilling permits, BP was excused from submitting an emergency plan to deal with an accident like the one currently fouling the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  The oil gushing into the Gulf is every bit as visible as the proverbial elephant in the living room as a wake up call that we need to change course. Yet in the month since the oil began gushing out of BP’s deep wells, regulators have approved 27 more offshore drilling projects, including 2 for BP. 26 of these received environmental exemptions.

Further, this comes in the wake of revelations of sex, drug use, and graft among Interior Department regulators.

If an individual human paid officials for the privilege of ignoring traffic signals on a busy street, we would be rightly outraged. We would be even more outraged if their exemption from the law resulted in the deaths of eleven individuals and uncounted members of other species.

So why do we excuse corporate “persons” from culpability here?  The answer can only be Einstein’s:  when we live in a capitalist society in which profit-making rules the day, we give unthinking leeway to those making the profits.

For instance, we have a “revolving door” through which corporate executives go to and from the agencies that are supposed to be regulating them. This was the subject of an exposé in the Ecologist—though the issue in which this exposé was to appear was quashed in press after legal threats from Monsanto.

The “revolving door” is exemplified by George Bush’s appointment of Linda Fisher, a former executive vice president at Monsanto, as deputy administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. The documentary, The Future of Food, notes that Fisher has been back and forth between Monsanto and the EPA three times.

It is no surprise that under such leadership The Union of Concerned Scientists found that researchers in federal regulatory agencies are consistently pressured by their superiors to hide their research findings if they are unfavorable to industry.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the Union as well as “Integrity in Science” for revealing the funding sources of contemporary researchers– facing head on the question of just how independent scientific research can be when it is funded by pharmaceuticals or agribusiness.

In his article, Einstein laments the way our educational system stokes the “exaggerated competitive attitude” in its students, who are  “trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for future careers”.  In a follow up comment to the post in which former gmo researcher speaks out about the shaky scientific standards of that research, he observes this process firsthand: “They may think the company is totally evil and a threat to the planet, but when their bank account starts filling up, the next thing you know, they’re in a suit at a board meeting discussing profit objectives for the next quarter.”

The biotech, pharmaceutical and chemical industries (many of which share board members) not only hire researchers but bribe them outright.  They have blatantly tampered with the scientific peer review process, paying researchers to write articles and even draw up experiments in support of their products whose resulted are fudged.  In one case, Merck published an entire fake academic journal.

There are still the independent scientists worthy of the name.  The data they developed has led particular chemicals to be listed by the EPA as known, probable or suspected carcinogens. However, these chemicals are still marketed in the US—if not in the EU, where their regulatory system prioritizes human health over profit.

Our own lack of regulation here illustrates what happens when an economy is at odds with the well being of its people. Put through the wringer of the competitive profit motive, the laudable idea of freedom for all ends up as privilege for the few.

Take, for instance, the case of one of the hundreds of farmers sued by Monsanto for having genetically engineered seeds in their field as a result of wind drift.  In the Future of Food one of these farmers observes that once upon a time  if your cow trampled your neighbor’s field, you were responsible for the damage since you were responsible for the fence to keep your cow  confined. But in the context of current corporate privilege, the farmer is responsible not only for keeping genetically engineered seed out of his field, but sued for the privilege of having it trample his crop.

In a society in which competitive profit-making rules, the profits of a few inevitably wind up trumping the costs to the many. The President’s Cancer Panel notes the health care expenses for those who contract cancer from environmental causes, for instance.

No less than the father of capitalist theory, Adam Smith, chronicled his worry that capitalism would set societies adrift in the valueless “economic anarchy” that Einstein predicted.  Smith resolved this dilemma with the idea that free markets would express social “preferences” and thus exert ethical constraints on doing business.

Frances Moore Lappé’s response to the idea that free markets enforce social ethics is like Gandhi’s response to Western civilization, “I think it would be a good idea”.

She notes that the free markets are a fiction:  they don’t respond to social preferences– they respond to money.  At a talk at Linfield College, she noted that “eating is right up there in terms of human preferences”, but when the numbers of hungry people are growing worldwide, it is obvious the current market system is not responding to human preferences.

Neither is the market for employment. The market in which we sell our labor is not determined by the usefulness of our work to society or its satisfaction to ourselves— but by the ability of our employers to make money.  The handful of US corporations currently controlling the production, transportation, processing, and marketing of food argue that they are doing something useful to society. They are feeding us. But they are feeding us junk food that is unsustainably raised using inhumane practices for farm workers as well as for farm animals.

The argument that large corporations are doing something essential because they are making a profit ignores the elephants they themselves are riding on:  their workers and the natural world.  If we don’t care for these, we will have no economy, growth or no growth, innovation or no innovation.

To do otherwise is following the logic of a bank robber who tells us if we don’t hand over the money, the system will collapse.  If we don’t turn over the money, it will certainly collapse for the bank robber.  But there is economic blackmail that makes it harder for us to respond to this as we should. The weapon large corporations are holding on us is our ability to hold down a job and to feed ourselves and our families.

But the idea that these corporations are “too big to fail” only holds if there is no alternative. It only hold, that is, if we assume they have a  monopoly on  providing for our needs–if there is no other way to get jobs or food but through them.

But this doesn’t jive with the facts. The folks at Good Jobs First have researched the ways in which subsidies for corporations result in economic losses for communities that hand them over. Notably, communities that have the most stringent environmental and labor regulations also have the best family wage jobs.  In “Regulate Me, Please”, on CSwire’s responsible business forum, CEO Jeffrey Hollender argues the case that “regulation is good for business”.

Political democracy entails economic democracy, in which we have regulations that level the playing field so that the power of one person/one vote is not subverted by the money behind a corporate “person’s” vote.

Regulation is not a dirty word. But blackmail—economic or political—is.  So are poverty, pollution, addiction, obesity, and cancer.

Einstein made some dire predictions for the future of “pure” capitalism.  But he also had a vision, based on the cross-cultural history of humankind which tells us how adaptable and creative we are.

Once we acknowledge the elephant in our living room, we can send it back to the jungle and busy ourselves creating a society based on care,  justice and sustainability–  in which we celebrate both our individual potential and our connections to one another.


Here are some suggestions as to what can individuals do to change the corporate power that is currently undermining our democracy.

  1. We can follow our political process carefully and support efforts to place limits on campaign spending –or publicly fund elections—and to reveal sources of funding for candidates or initiatives.
  2. We can support community job creation, “microenterprises” on the model of the Grameen Bank, which won the 2006 Nobel Prize for fostering development from the ground up.
  3. We can support small farmers and organics and community co-ops that do labor exchanges, seed saving, sustainable farming and urban gardening.
  4. We can buy products –and only those products– that are good for us, the environment, and our children.
  5. We can lend our support to alternatives that undermine the idea of profit first not only with the dollars we spend, but with our interest and personal presence, our intelligence and creativity.
  6. We can do whatever possible to change our society from an egoistical one to a caring one in our daily choices.

In short, we can design as many ways as possible in which we refuse to be bought.


For an update of the millions-strong movements all over the US to “turn anger into action” in response to the oil spill, check out this essay in Sarah van Gelder’s blog for YES magazine.


[1] I want to acknowledge Molly Saranpaa, who sent me a copy of Einstein’s article just as I was developing this essay on the same topic.

74 Responses

  1. Another masterpiece! I love the way this article weaves environmental, social, economic and political factors and motivations together in a way that makes not only the problems we are facing crystal clear, but also offers hope by providing a list of ways to change the broken system. While I was thinking about this article, FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights” came to mind. If we, as American’s were afforded these rights when FDR proposed them back in 1944, I seriously doubt that the mess created by BP’s lack of concern for anything but profit could have ever happened. I think this because it seems that if all Americans would have been afforded these “rights to security”, perhaps we would have moved farther away from our “predatory stage” by now. It is easier not to be predatory when we feel safe and are taken care of, instead of feeling engaged in a dog eat dog race to the top.

    FDR’s Second Bill of Rights:

    The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

    The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

    The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

    The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

    The right of every family to a decent home;

    The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

    The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

    The right to a good education.

    All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

    For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

    Source:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Bill_of_Rights

    • Great point about having the security to move us out of our predatory state, Molly. I know that Eleanor Roosevelt was instrumental in the passage of the UN’s Universal Bill of Human Rights right after World War II but I had not known that FDR had proposed these. I think you are absolutely right that assuring this type of security with one another would lead the way to a sense of community and caring. A great place to start!
      Thanks for sharing Einstein’s article and this list: if only we can get back to the sense of generosity of our nation in the post-WWII era.

  2. This article is pretty spot on. Its rather unfortunate that the dollar is the main motivating factor. I definetly resent this world view and i feel like what you said about not trusting the government and corporations is pretty spot on. It does seem like Einstein’s prediction that private capitalist will come to power, after all they are the ones with the money and money is power. I feel like even for the last couple years they have been in charge just working through the politicians whose campaigns were financed by the the capitalist interests. I hadn’t heard about the plans for 27 more off shore drilling operations. I don’t know how they could even seriously consider that after the gulf shore disaster. I feel like the gulf shore disaster is a wake up call that we need to get off oil!
    I’d also like to point out to the part that you brought up the educational system causing exaggerated competition and “trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for future careers”. I find that this is a true example. However, I would like to bring up the phenomena that most inner city schools resemble prisons and thus treat students like prisoners.
    I definitely believe that corporations want to keep us with our hands tied behind our backs, with no choice but to behave and maintain a job and keep consuming. “Creating a society based on care, justice and sustainability– in which we celebrate both our individual potential and our connections to one another,” seems like a great alternative to me!

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Benjamin. I think there has been quit an uproar about the new drilling permits– which is why there is some investigation into graft in the Department of the Interior. I would like us to be able to trust our government– I think Molly’s list of the security it might provide for all of us would be a powerful move in the right direction.
      I’m glad you are looking at a larger vision than profit for profit’s sake–and it is a sad postscript with regard to inner city schools–and ways in which the poor are treated in our society in general.

  3. Awhile ago I took a social psychology class. The first thing I learned was that everything we see on TV is controlled by other companies with their own motives. For instance, some news channels aren’t allowed to show too many dead bodies from the war, because then the public opinion of the war would go down, and the company that owns said news channel would lose money because they have ties with another company that makes weapons. It’s pretty disturbing that we don’t even get a clear picture of what is going on outside of our country. We don’t truly know what’s happening to our friends and family that are over seas fighting a pointless war. We only get the watered down propaganda version.

    • And if we can’t get information, we can’t make rational decisions as members of a democracy, Jennifer. Thoughtful points that indicate why it is so important to keep ourselves informed.

  4. Thank you Madronna. What a wonderful and illuminating article. So much was said here that I feel people need to hear. what I think about sometimes, though, is all the people who don’t get it and/or don’t want to hear it. Some of these people belong to major corporations, but some of them are average citizens who are afraid that what we are talking about here is going to cause big changes and things they can’t control. For me, the answer to these fears is simple, but it is not so simple for them. Still, they are not bad people. How do we make them see? How do we help them come around?

    • You are quite welcome, Michele. You have a very important question in the issue of how we communicate with others who share our community–and may have values very much like ours that lie dormant. Communication with them begins with the compassion you express here for those who are not at all “bad people”– but who have perhaps become cornered by their life situations. Such communication comes from each of us in our daily lives, with what we model as well as the information we share–and with just such thoughtfulness as you share here.
      In my years of teaching, I have often found that those with such dormant values give them prominence in a social situation which supports those values once again. I appreciate your comment.
      Sometimes it seems that we are getting nowhere, but don’t give up– you are planting seeds. I have had someone come up to me years later to express to me how something I have done influenced them that I thought unimportant at the time.

  5. Though I love the proactive manner with which you approach everything Madronna, this still worries me. Sending the elephant from the house back to the jungle is certainly the correct course of action, but it is much more difficult than that makes it sound. I do not intend to disagree with anything you said, as you are more knowledgeable on this than I will probably ever be, and giving up is never an option, but I feel the need to express some fear.
    The fact that inhuman corporations are getting the rights of humans, without the responsibilities, is terrifying to me. I’m also shocked that 26 more environmentally exempted offshore drilling contracts have been given in the time since this most recent oil spill. That right there is proof that something is wrong. I constantly hear vague stories and claims about corporate America and all of the unethical actions that take place in the alleyway, and this article did a fantastic job of clarifying how this works. I love the label of us going through a “predatory stage” because it really emphasizes the uncaring nature of our system.
    And having expressed the fear as I have, I feel that I, as well as the entire population of our nation is entitled to some outrage. This article points out a good deal in terms of lies we are told and wrongs that are being committed. I don’t want any of the responsibility for what is happening in our democracy because that implies that I had something to do with it. That would say I am guilty by association for the current state of things. And as much as it pains me to say it, I do have a hand in it. As long as I do not follow the steps you listed above I am as guilty as anyone else. And I don’t want anyone thinking that I let the elephant into the living room.
    So my hope is that Smith’s “preferences” truly do begin to take precedence over the almighty dollar. Awareness needs to be spread from a credible source of the very real power that individual people still do control. As stated in number four above, we can “vote” through our purchases for what we wish to be produced.

    • Thanks for a well-considered response, Spencer. Sometimes analysis can make things look easier than they are… it takes a good deal of personal commitment to change our habits–and fear over the things that should terrify us can incite us to actions. I think fear in the face of the latest Supreme Court decision is an appropriate response. We have some work to do in order to change things–and the outcome is not guaranteed. But I think knowing just a bit of what we are dealing with is the first step in the right direction away from this “predatory stage” and all its consequences.
      I appreciate your obvious personal care about these issues– and I hope you never make a choice based on the idea that someone is more knowledgeable than you are, rather than on your assessment of what they are expressing! I learn something from each of my students daily.

  6. The situation in the Gulf is absolutely heartbreaking. My inlaws all live in Southwest Louisiana and the local stories of the effects on individuals is enormous and devastating. In my opinion, what is going on is an ethically and morally criminal situation. Einstein was a really smart guy. Our natural world is being exploited and destroyed by powerful organizations that are acting in disregard for the well-being of the ecosystem and humanity…whom they claim to serve. It is time for passionate, courageous action towards the cause of stopping these ecologically destructive criminals. We must stop the complacency, and regain a collective worldview of balance, reverence, and respect for Mother Earth. Hopefully this disaster can become a huge wakeup call to change the status quo, and will bring about an increased demand by the public for sustainability and clean alternative energy options. We can change, and ‘adapt and create’ a better world for all- the way Einstein envisioned

    • This situation is heartbreaking, Kim– and change is seriously needed. Thanks for your comment–and a thoughtful approach that entails the care we need for change in the right direction.

  7. Thank you for the wisdom and thoughtful insights you provide in this article. Though I must admit, the task of shifting our country’s worldview seems difficult, if not impossible. I can barely fathom living in a society that bases their decisions on social/moral responsibility rather than on economic gain. As an employee of one of the largest banks in the nation (not by choice, but by numerous acquisitions), I constantly see the pressure to make the company money, sometimes at the expense of the customer. And, when this company provides my means to provide for my family, it can become challenging to make decisions that go against their ideas. However, every small change made is a victory in shifting the culture of the company. Though I hardly think they will ever be motivated by anything other than executive bonuses.
    I felt that the best part of the article were the suggestions for change at the end. I may not be able to do all of them immediately, but each time I can expand my knowledge, share ideas, or implement positive change I am supporting this cultural shift. To continue the elephant analogy, I was reminded of the saying “how do you eat an elephant?…..one bite at a time”. A total societal change won’t happen overnight, but everyday we can make a small dent.

    • Thanks for sharing your great perspective here, Clayton. You have an important point about “every small change” as a “victory in shifting the culture of the company.” One bite at a time (!) or one step at a time, is the only way we move into the world we want.

  8. I have to agree with Spencer when he writes that these things sound easy in theory, but are much more difficult in practice. This is only exacerbated by the fact that there are people out there who cannot and will not see reason when it comes to these issues. For example, I was talking with one of my future in-laws about places that I do not like to shop. I explained to him why I don’t care to shop there and where I would go as an alternative to this. I explained to him about these companies’ human rights violations, their squashing of local economies, their blatant disregard of everything but the almighty dollar (or should I capitalize Dollar, since its basically like God to some companies?) All of this was presented in a non-accusatory fashion, but with courage of conviction. He looked me back square in the eye and said “But can those other places (the alternatives I mentioned) give me the best price?” In the face of all of this, he only cared about saving money. I still cannot understand this at ALL. And the truth is, the majority of our society is this way. We are so hung up on saving money that the smaller organic brands/the companies who are out to do some good in the world, they’re the minority. Shouldn’t they be the majority?
    It seems dismal sometimes, but I am heartened by the recent surge in organic/natural products and companies. I believe that the younger generations especially are becoming more aware of our ecological footprint, especially as the day that we can no longer live on this planet is fast approaching. I am only hoping that consumers are not fooled by the greenwashing attempts of corporations who are not really “green” and choose to support companies who are truly making a difference.

    • It sounds like your in-law was the perfect (and certainly sad) example of the worldview that equates all value with dollars, Amanda. You are planting seeds, whether or not you seem them come to life immediately. Your in law has the weight of the culture and our economic system behind him– but there are more and more who think (and feel) like you do– I see it every day. The same CSWire linked in this article today has an essay on true “green” business as opposed to “greenwashing”. I wonder if your in law believes in democracy and want to undermine his nation by giving away his dollar “votes” in this way? We absolutely need to change our system of subsidies and banking (and the WTO) to support “profit” that entails true social values rather than supporting money as a god– capital D-dollar as you point out.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment that indicates both how hard the change we need is–and how there are some like yourself who care and therefore are making a difference.

  9. I really followed and enjoyed this article because I have, throughout this course, wanted to compare politics to modern worldviews and relate their relationship back to ecology as you have here in this article. The idea of corporations as ‘persons’ yet being exempt from certain responsibilities is truly confusing. The oil spill is so hard to think about yet it is reality and we should face it more than we change the channel when reports appear on the news. I wish people involved and responsible would see the injustices committed as breaking environmental and moral law, as they are not bound to legal, governmental law. I once watched a documentary about oil drilling in Southern America and the terrible and similar they are getting away with. The people they are hurting and the non-human others they are sacrificing. The fact is many people want to change the unfair corporate power, yet we feel too small to actually make an impact. Sometimes it is hard to focus on the positive with the elephant in the room.

    • Sometimes it is difficult, Cheyanne. However, that focus is, I think, our own hope for finding a way out. I am glad you want to connect worldview to a sense of current political choices. That seems to me one of the most powerful aspects of comparative worldviews. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Regulation truly is the way to stop the corporate greed and monopoly over our communities. Without these giants acting like individuals, so many things would be different today. Capitalism, like Lappe’s said, is a great idea, and one that in theory could bring prosperity to communities, yet we do not live in a perfect society and people do not do the right thing for the sake of the future and others.

    By living a life of detachment from these companies, we really can make a difference. Buying locally and organic is a great way and one I have already incorporated and recently I began really taking my vote seriously. All elections, from the city to federal are important for our individual rights, and I think as citizens we have the obligation to be informed and make choices for our future. Putting these decisions in writing must be done for the sake of generations to come and informing people around me to vote is one way I can do a little bit to create a change for the better.

    • Great points, Aimee, both in the larger sense of perspective we need to change the political context of our culture–and the importance of individual actions. We cannot have a democracy unless we act as such responsible citizens.

  11. I think that many interesting points were discussed in this article especially in regards to “pure capitalism” and individualism. I few months ago I listened to a speech of Howard Zinn’s (author of A People’s History of the United States) and he was saying that the term socialism has become a bad word in the United States and anyone that is critical of capitalism is deemed unpatriotic. I think it is interesting how within society many individuals defend capitalism as vehemently as religious beliefs, especially in light of the points mentioned in the essay specifically that “pure capitalism” creates a value system that encourages “individual profit-taking at the expense of our fellows.”
    I definitely think that there are steps that every individual can take to combat corporate influence and power within our daily lives, and I liked the suggestions at the end of the article. Even though it seems difficult and at times even impossible, especially in light of federal funds recently used to bailout massive corporations in the economic recession and the Supreme Court’s decision guaranteeing the corporations unlimited spending on political campaigns, I really do think that change is possible, but that it will take a cooperative effort from all levels of society from the individual and local to the national level.

    • I very much like your sense of balance here, Natalie– and Howard Zinn’s work as well. It shows a sense of history very different from what I call the “great man” theory of history we tend to learn in high school texts- in which only a handful of “great men” made any real difference. We do have some serious challenges, as you point out– but the more difficult our situation becomes, the more important it is to act with purpose, creativity and integrity.
      I also think you have a great point about nomenclature: just because we call something a democracy doesn’t make it so. And calling something socialism does not make it evil– especially if we measure it by the “socialist” standards of the government of, say, Sweden or Finland.
      Thanks for your comment.

  12. It is a true shame that this issue is all tangled up in partisan bickering because I think that the environment could and should be something that brings republicans and democrats, conservatives and liberals alike together. It seems to me that instead of really facing this issue socially and politically, responsible environmentalism has been dubbed a “liberal” cause and therefore receives no support from the other side and very little support from the moderate/independent parties (most Americans belong in this category).

    Its not just that political divide that is the problem – the problem is the entire system. As much as I love this country, I think that we have gotten “too big for our britches.” Albert Einstein brilliantly observed how the system (which was much smaller scale back then) and society valued individual profit-making at the expense of each other drives us to begrudging the system that our lives depend on. I think that he was absolutely right – I certainly “begrudge” (and I could think of other chioce words) the whole entire system when things such as the most recent BP disasters occur.

    The media is certainly controlled by government and payed for by politicians. If you can’t see that Fox News is bursting with republican rhetoric and MSNBC is totally in the bag for Obama, then you’re not really listening.

    Research the reaches the mainstream is skewed and edited by the government, then by the media, and by the time the “average” american learns of the research its colored whatever color they want you to see.

    Luckily our government is a wonderful place that we have the power to control as our society wishes it too (at least in theory). Things will change when society wants that change and they will demonstrate this desire by voting the right people into office. People as a whole, corporations, and the economy will change when the law changes. As long as we let money rule our lives, it will. On a more philosophical level, not of that matters in the end anyway. Money is nothing – its meaningless. The world is everything – that’s what matters in the end.

    • Some great reasoning here, Heather. I very much like your last statement: “money is nothing– it is meaningless. The world is everything– that is what matters in the end.” To act with purpose is to give ourselves, our communities, and those other lives that share human ones– the sense of value they deserve.

  13. Nice post.
    I learned a lot of information from this post. Thanks for the effort you took to expand upon this topic so thoroughly. I look forward to future post.
    The Natural Health field is growing at a phenomenal rate throughout the world. And millions of Americans — aware of the detrimental effects of drug-based western medicine — are joining health oriented people around the globe in embracing an alternative natural approach. Encompassing the core building blocks of all living organisms, an holistic lifestyle promotes the building, repair, and maintenance of health.
    Read More…

  14. “A culture of ethical failure” as Mr. Devaney said, sums up my feelings after reading this essay. Our society and economy is being controlled by corporate greed. It would be refreshing if all “sides” of our government had the desire to work together to make our country better all-around for everybody, rather than working to individually benefit themselves at the expense of others.

  15. While I could write for hours about my feelings towards the oil spill, I will simply say, it’s wrong on more levels than most people realize. Democracies have a long history of failing because of the system becoming skewed. Our country is slowly falling apart at the seams and I believe it is from big corporations and government failings. Economic gain has always been one of our most valued concerns. Even if we divert back to days of the settlers, our views are still not sustainable. We must understand that small business, sustainable practices, and community companionship need to be supported to save our country. Indigenous people will hopefully be given a voice soon and guide our country back to its roots.

    • Thanks for sharing your response, Megan. I would add that I don’t think that democracies have a history of failing–but capitalist economics do if they are not appropriately regulated to protect the commons. The problem is not with democracy– when certain persons usurp power over others in certain ways the democracy does indeed fail– since it is no longer a democracy. In fact, most indigenous societies were highly democratic, since they had a direct rather than representative democracy–which is harder to make work. Thanks again for your comment.

  16. It made me so angry to read that so many of the companies drilling for oil in vulnerable areas were granted environmental exemptions, even after the Gulf disaster. Call me cynical, but its as if the regulators and politicians call for the regulation process to include environmental impact statements just to appease the public, then rubber-stamp the applications and figure that the public will never know.

    This researcher makes a good point about how, in a culture and economy dominated by business conglomerates and international investment, individuals may feel stripped of agency. They feel as if they have no other option than to acquiese to the current exploitative capitalist system; who wouldn’t rather be exploiting another than exploited themselves? But if everyone recognized the power they actually had, a lot of things could change. It’s a catch-22 though, because to change things through the political system, you need lots and lots of money to get the word out on a large scale.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful points, Tivey. It is certainly true that money has worked–and continues to work– to buy political favors. That is a sad reason for the lack of regulation of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, for instance. On the other hand, we DO elect our officials and I believe that enough of us were truly informed, we could change things (as many are working on doing with grassroots organizing.) It is not easy to fight such money, especially since the recent Supreme Court decision has given corporations full rein to spend as much on political campaigns as they wish, and Congress just voted down (thanks to eleven Republican hold outs) a Disclosure Act that would tell us who spend what. But we have no choice but to do it: it is my hope that such outrageous violations of democratic processes as the two above will make activists out of enough of us to make the difference.

  17. Thank you for another great read! I couldn’t help but relate (which is very sad) as a college student who is just trying to get by I have to agree that these things sound much easier easy than actually being put into action. I try to do my best to make a difference, and be more “environmentally friendly” and choose more greener friendly products, but I feel as a younger generation we see this more as a problem, but it is also harder for us to do something about it even if we wanted to, especially as a college student.

    • I appreciate your response, Tayler–and I also appreciate the energy you put into making choices that follow your values. I know that money is a difficult issue for many at all walks of life in this society currently. I can only hope that if enough of us make the right choices, we can influence what is produced in this society.

  18. After reading this article all I could think about were the mixed conversations that I have had with co-workers about national health care. The words Socialist, Marxist and Stalin (along with a few other choice words) came up more times than I would like to admit. They were convinced that socializing health care would eventually lead to the rescinding of our personal liberties and end up depriving us of quality care. However, the article pointed out some interesting tidbits in this regard by stating that we are already controlled by the government as it is. How is a nation that has placed its broadcasting, laws, food, health and environment in the hands of private corporations acting in regards to the benefit of the masses instead of the few? We are supposed to live in the land of the free, however, we don’t own or control anything. Take our property for instance. You buy a piece of land that you feel will house you and your future generations; However, you have to continuously pay taxes on it year after year or that land is taken away by the government—do you own it?
    In addition, as a society, we tend to place our judgment and voices with politicians and leaders that we trust will make decisions regarding our best interests. However, our dedication and commitment towards a better country shouldn’t end with voting in who we think will do a good job. I think there is such a stigma in this country about protesting and raising your voice against what corporations have lead us to believe is the norm. We need to rally together and when we see unjust and dishonest practices affecting our country and each others’ lives, we need to not be afraid to shout it from the roof tops and tell them who really runs the country—the people!

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Jennifer.
      The dollars put into a health plan that would eventually save money for all but the very rich (and perhaps Congress– whose members have a full blown health plan)– and they are less than we put into things like oil drilling subsides for wells that never even get drilled (thanks to a glitch in a support for oil law several years back that we have never changed), or “perverse” subsidies that make it cheaper for consumers to buy grapes from Chile than organic ones grown locally. The WTO supports corporate profits over human rights worldwide– I think we need to assess whether this consolidation of power is acceptable, if we are concerned about consolidation in our health care.
      As for property tax, I would love to see a “homestead” exemption that would exempt the first part of the property’s value from taxes and thus shift the tax burden upward toward large property owners. Those who can’t have a conversation about these issues because of undefined labels might remember that in the 1960’s large taxpayers paid a much larger percentage of our federal tax bill and the economy was thriving.
      Time to define words like “socialist” (as they are applied in France or Canada or Finland) in terms of what they really mean in concrete terms and look at the data in terms of the current legal acceptance of corporations as people.
      I understand the fear on the part of economically insecure individuals that our rights might be usurped (I also understand though am less accepting of the greed of some who don’t want their wealth touched). But if we really care about these issues as a country, we should look at what is really going on.

  19. A corporation being treated as an individual is asinine. I was so angry at the whole BP disaster and I felt completely helpless. I have pretty much given up hope on electing a president that is not controlled by the strings of corporate entities. Speaking of politics, in the last state election held Californians voted on whether or not the public should pay for environmental catastrophes caused by businesses with tax revenue- luckily it didn’t pass. It makes me wonder how this proposal got into the vote in the first place.

    I rarely watch the news on television anymore, and probably get 75% of my news online and 25% from NPR. Seriously, sometimes I think that the mainstream media is spoon-feeding the public a bunch of hate jargon or celebrity gossip. While I followed the revolution in Egypt closely online the mainstream media’s headliners included Lindsay Lohan stealing stuff, Charlie Sheen’s drug addiction, and other fluff news.

    Oh and I must say, just watching the middle east right now is amazing. Websites like Facebook and twitter are acting as the catalyst for the Arab world to overthrow their governments in the face of oppression. In this sense I think that there is a strong enough “hive mind” presence online for individuals to really become informed and actually change things.

    • You bring up two important and related points here, Tiffany: the control that corporations have over both our economic (and political) system and our information. Thus we need to be critical as to how we gather and assess information, as you note. One way to do this is to get a sense of who profits from certain news slants. We need to know the motives behind the news presentations we see–which is why I think it is essential that we insist that campaign ads disclose who funds them.
      Thoughtful point on paying for disasters caused by corporations; in fact, we are already doing this– in health costs caused by pesticide use, for instance.
      Your thoughtful personal choices are essential–it is our collected choices that make the difference as to whether we have a working democracy or not.
      Thanks for your comment.

      • Nicely put, I agree. I think that corporations tend to keep more quiet and we just assume. We need to know what corporations are up to. We need to know where the money is going. We need to know who benefits and who doesn´t. We need to be able to have a say in what goes and what doesn´t. The question is, how do we do this? Is it the government that gets a say? We never hear about the deep secrets behind the walls of a corporation.

        • Transparency is very important: the points you bring up is one reason why I think laws protecting whistle blowers are so important. There are some doings within corporations we will never learn of any other way.
          At the very least, I think there should be transparency in revealing sponsors of campaign ads.

  20. Reading through this makes me think of a comedian I once heard explaining how calling someone “Einstein”, sarcastically, somehow became an insult. I’d prefer not to get into politics and capitalism this early in the morning, so I think I will just stick with this idea: Is it any wonder that money is power in a capitalistic society? I mean, I slept through most of economics class in high school, but I’m pretty sure everyone caught onto that. So what happened? Oh that’s right, most people think they are the ones who are gonna get rich.

    • Good points, John– when they are clearly stated, who can argue? There is a systemic reason why our commons is in such jeopardy at present. We can’t auction it off to the highest bidder and assume they will take care of it– even if it entails what we all need to survive.
      And I think you are right on in terms of folks thinking they are the ones who are going to get rich.
      I appreciate your pointed irony here.

  21. I really enjoyed this article, and I think that it is time capitalism saw some morality-driven regulation. It should not be legal for a farmer to be sued for a natural process that he cannot control and that we don’t even fully understand! Instead–given their power to significantly modify genes–large farms need to be held accountable to not genetically alter food, and place safety before profits. I think this would also go a long way to solving social problems in the US as well, by lowering corporate profits and decreasing adverse health effects of GMO’s and oil spills. We all take ethics and morality classes in college, but it seems like as soon as we enter “the real world” we will be gobbled up by corporate greed and capitalism and lose our moral compass. Corporations are not people, and they need to be treated as the destructive monsters that Einstein predicted them to be.

    • Well said, Mark. I absolutely agree with you! Corporations are not people–and the more powerful a human or a human organization is, the more subject it should be to ethical standards that we exact, say, of our own children. I like your outline of the potential social benefits of placing such moral strictures on modern corporations. i don’t think it is terribly successful socially to reward greed and ecological destruction–and hey, if the corporations did not get some of their subsidies, we might have some money to pay the debt. Why all the talk about slicing social security and none about cutting back on huge oil subsidies?

  22. I have never rightly understood how a corporation can be considered a ‘person’, and I understand even less so how we can tolerate legislation that allows them to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, through unlimited political campaign support. Not being a mega-corporation personally, how can I expect my tiny voice to be heard amid the clanging of the virtual cash register? Money equals power; if you have a lot of it, you get to make the decisions of the world. If you don’t, well, it is expected that you go out and try to get some, fast. If you aren’t busy trying to earn a fortune, something must be wrong with you. It’s a sad state of affairs, really, when everyone is so focused on earning a buck for themselves that they trip over the person who has fallen and needs help. Do they stop and offer a hand, or do they pretend not to notice and trudge on? The ones who stop are the people I’d like to run the world, please.

    • You have presented some serious points to ponder here, Kim. How can we indeed have democracy when the “vote” of the ordinary citizen counts for so much less than the corporate “person” with large amounts of money behind them. Certainly this disparity goes hand in hand with the erosion of the fellow felling in “stopping to lend a hand” as you point out.
      I am heartened by the fact that as I teach I come in contact with so many with the ethics of care like yourself.

  23. I think part of the reason big money gets away with so much is because I think that if people can’t have the big money, they still want the dream. The freedom that money buys and all that comfort. I think living in sustainable communities, making your living close to the land, not in terms of money, so much as necessities, is a very satisfying way of being. I have never had big money with which to compare, but I certainly understand the stress of financial uncertainty…and while I have more than my fair share of lotto jackpot fantasies, they all begin and end with land and self-sustainable living. I always include a lot of social programs, scholarships, grants, giving to environmental causes/research…but who knows what would happen if, suddenly, I had all that power and freedom money buys. I am sure a lot of those organic majors turn GMOs just want to provide comfortable lives for their families and be able to afford to give their children every advantage to succeed and retire comfortably. I don’t think the human race is predominately greedy, selfish or predatory, as individuals, but I know that there are quite a few up on top who genuinely are and they have a lot of power and not a lot of love. I also think that human beings seem to have a lot betas and not so many alphas. We are pack animals, with complicated (or not so complicated) psyches that make us susceptible to the pressures of our desires, insecurities, weaknesses. The world moves so fast, with so many distractions, it’s hard to see what is in front of you and keep up and stay afloat. The capitalistic societies preys upon all those things, maintaining and widening the chasm between extreme wealth with the security and comfort it buys and extreme poverty with great suffering. The fear of poverty and the hope of privileged wealth helps keep capitalism alive. Yet, if we were willing to let go of the dream of extreme wealth, along with the reality, I believe we could eliminate extreme poverty and, thus, have nothing to fear…well, at least not economically. But then our goal would need to be modest, sustainable living.

    • Hello Amy, thanks for your thoughts here. On the point of fear of poverty/motivation to protect big money with the hope that we ourselves will someday strike it rich– as fewer and fewer have more and more (and more have less), individualism also comes into play. Each of us thinks he or she will be that exceptional one that makes it. The same dynamic works with big league sports as the dream of a way out of poverty. And then there is the lottery.
      In point of fact, as Jared Diamond points out in his book, Collapse, concentration of wealth in the hands of a few sets up a society for collapse, since those at the top suffer few consequences and many benefits and since the “pay” (as in “perverse subsidies” given to oil companies) is spread out among so many, few are motivated to change things. Hopefully, that will begin to change as poverty becomes more widespread and painful to so many– let us hope that those who believe they need to protect the rich so they can step into their shoes will notice how things are for both society and the environment before the consequences of this system get any worse.
      And just in terms of taxing the rich (which the vast majority of US citizens approve) in the 1960s, we had a stable economy AND the rich were paying their fair share of taxes.

  24. I feel the reason all these companies are getting away with so much is because they have money to pay lobbyists, which then funds the politicians that control the government. The whole capitalistic monetary system blinds people and makes them forget where we came from. The companies that are polluting the people and nature need to be held accountable for their actions. This article talks about modern food production companies and how they feel there doing something good and useful for people by feeding us. These company’s may be producing food that feeds people, but that food is made with so many preservatives like partially hydrogenated oils it holds very minimal nutritional value. When comparing the nutritional value of food produced by natives to food that is produced by modern companies it is insane how less nutritious and harmful our food is. It doesn’t make money for modern companies to produce extremely nutritious foods because then people wouldn’t consume as much. I find it very sad that the concept of money can cause people and organizations alike to cut corners in order to attain more money.

  25. Regulation is indeed what major corporations need. These huge corporations are not people, and need to be treated as such. Many, if not all, of large companies are more powerful than any one individual. They have the money needed to influence the government and the media. Suddenly, they are beginning to control things they should not have control within the US.

    Regulation of these companies would take away some of the power and influence they currently have. Hopefully we would then be able to run this country for the wellness of the environment and the people instead of corporation’s pocketbooks.

    • Good points, Alicia. WE are the people, not the corporations–and our government needs to reflect this. There is a great issue of YES Magazine that just came out that indicates how the movement to take back our democracy is being enacted–and what we might do to join this in our own lives.
      And I agree with you that we have to stop thinking of “regulation” as a dirty word!

  26. I am in the midst of a moral struggle due to a class that I am taking. In the class we are learning about GMO’s. Myself, and one other person, were upset because one of the main articles we were given that were in support of GMO’s was funded by Monsanto. I expressed my concern with this, and with science funded by big business in general, but was met with disdain from my professor. I know that there is faulty science published, I wish that there was not, for it is not what science and the peer review process was built upon. My point that I was attempting to make to my teacher and the students in the class was that until corporations and profit is taken out of science I refuse to believe it all. I choose to support organic over GMO and the local farmer over chain stores. I want to feed the hungry but I know feeding corporations is not the way to do this. Thank you for this article, I was a bit frustrated and you helped to remind me to keep fighting for what I believe in. Which is nutritious food, health care, clean water, and equality, for all. I guess it would not be a fair fight if I did not get a little backlash here and there. The words written in this article were exactly what I needed to keep my revolution moving forward! 🙂

    • Thank you, Kelly. I am touched by your response. I think it is unconscionable that you are given an article authored by Monsanto to read as if this were juried scientific data. It reminds me of the journal that was published as a (fake) peer-reviewed scientific journal for a whole year before it was recently found out to be the work of Merck pharmaceuticals. I think the Union of Concerned Scientists (who have no funding from the biotech industry) are a better source of info than Monsanto, who, in response to a report from the University of Iowa that bt corn was falling over in the fields after three generations (since corn root worms were becoming resistant to the bt) was that it just didn’t happen. Since when is denying reality a scientific approach? Though you ARE facing the fact that invested paradigms tend to throw out data rather than change their paradigms to accommodate it in the history of Western science (see Kuhn’s History of Scientific Revolutions).
      Keep up the good fight, Kelly. As a student your most important task is to think critically and authentically.
      We need your clear thinking and courage.

      • Good for you Kelly. You have a right to state your opinion even thought it’s not the opinion of the professor. And that’s really hard to do because we all want to get that “A”. We are all here at school in hopes of being shaped with an education to direct us to a career path; really in hopes to make a different, for ourselves and/or for society. If corporations change science than what can you trust? Isn’t science suppose to be facts backed up by proof and what is fact, the truth. The truth really comes down to who’s giving you a paycheck.

    • Good for you. Standing up for the truth, even when it is unpopular. It takes courage to do that and it is a rare quality. Keep it up, it makes a difference.

  27. It is so unsetting to watch our democracy unravel. I talk to older people, above 60, who remember the United States as a totally different country. The fact that it is unravelling at so many different levels makes it even worse. The economy, the food, the corporations, the media, our civil liberties, the justice system. I literally loose sleep over this ginormous problem. I am afraid for my country and our future. I am afraid for my future.

    In your suggestions you mention that we can do whatever possible by doing the right thing in our daily choices. For some people this is equivalent to a huge sacrifice. Which is why no one does it consistently, and those that do feel as though they are largely alone and question the impact. I don’t think the solutions are enough. Quite frankly, I demand much more from every citizen of this country. It is our responsiblity. We should all be heavily involved in achieving social change, grouping together to work for that change, investing the time it takes and working harder and wasting less time playing and recreating. It is our country at stake, our home. If you love it, you will work to protect it and to better it.

    • This is a sad thing, Summer– I know my dad, who is now 90 and who fought in World War II, wonders how long US citizens will put up with the current corporate manipulation of our country for profit.
      I am truly sorry that anyone of the younger generation like yourself (I am one of those over-60’s) lives in fear for our future. And you are not alone in your fear or your commitment to change: the new president of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) stated she is “scared to death” of the manipulation of science by politics: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/feb/19/science-scepticism-usdomesticpolicy.
      There is some definite thoughtfulness entailed in turning things around– though I am hoping that regular citizens will find this a matter of sharing and community and creative expression rather than “great sacrifice”. I say this, for instance, because in addressing the gap between the rich and poor in this country, I don’t think our tactics should ever make the poor suffer more. And as for those who are earning billions without paying a penny in taxes (as GE is), I don’t think paying a few taxes for them is a “great sacrifice”– indeed, I would be happy if they paid in taxes what they now spend on tax accountants to get out of paying taxes!
      It is our country and our home, as you state, Summer. A powerful point. Thanks for sharing your own high standards here. You may very well see much to connect with in the latest issue of YES magazine on turning these things around: http://www.yesmagazine.org/
      Thank you for your comment–and most of all, for your care!

    • I can relate to what you’ve mentioned in regards to the difference between today’s elder generation’s sentiments and views of America being much different than those of the younger generation’s. I remember my grandfather opening a Christmas gift one year; it was a shirt. He immediately looked closely at the tag, and when he realized that it wasn’t made in America, he was very disheartened. I didn’t realize what bothered him so, until my father explained. Today, I’m sure that very few (of the younger generations) care where their clothes are made, but rather just buy what they like the most or what they can afford. This wasn’t the case for my grandfather. He used to spend a long time searching for clothes made in the USA, instead of just buying the least expensive or the most appealing one. This meant a lot to him. He had a lot of pride in his country.
      However, when he and my grandmother were planning on having a baby they had contemplated if this would be best, because they already realized America was changing and they were apprehensive as to what the future would bring.

      • I am so sorry that current generations feel so unsteady about the future (and about this country): it is up to all of us to work together to change this! The good news that I see flowing from your comment, is the shared experience between the generations in your family, Rose.
        Perhaps if more of us did such sharing, we would both learn more from history and feel more responsibility for future generations.

  28. Summer really expressed the fear that is epidemic in the US. What is odd is they manipulate us to fear the wrong things, seeking to divide us and cause us to bicker amongst each other instead of aiming our wrath at them – the corporations and people running them.But it is not just our country anymore that we need ot worry about. It is earth that is the home we all share and we are all dependent on, and climate change threatens us all in very short order. The goo dnews is there are a lot more of “us” than “them”. The bad news is how much time do we have left?

  29. Corporations may have bought the American government, but I’m sure they’re quite a few American citizens that don’t agree with this. The ironic part is that the USA is supposed to be a democracy–where the citizens have a direct impact on the legislation that rules their country. However, with the way corporations are re-writing the rules and buying governmental officials and scientists–America seems to be more of a “coropracy” than a democracy. The big question is: what can Americans do to efficiently overrule the corporate sway in politics and economics?

    I realize that corporations have snuck their claws deep into our governmental systems, on all levels, and won’t willingly relinquish their control. It is up to all of us to take back our control. We must boycott corporations, as much as possible, and by doing so we will gradually give back the power to the people. Also, by buying less in general, we will discourage our current high-throughput-economy. It seems to me that corporations only care about one thing, profits. So, to me, the answer is obvious; we should stop paying them to rule us.

    • Actually, I understand over 80 per cent of the US public believes that corporations have too much power, Rose– so you are right on that one. Check out the latest issue of YES magazine for all the strategies citizens are undertaking to challenge and modify corporate power.

  30. As I was reading this article my son was watching TV and a commercial came on saying how things are so wonderful in the Gulf and how there are so many things going on, etc., etc. and it caught my attention, since I was in the middle of this article. I thought it was interesting to see at the end of the commercial that it was BP who made it and I thought to myself that they are still trying to buy back their image and make it seem like the “little” spill is in the past and all is well now. I think this article brings forth the awareness that we really do need to know where our information is coming from so that we can make choices in what we choose to support.

  31. What an amazing article and you articulated the issues so well. I know many people realize that corporations are persons and exempt from rules which the rest of us must play by, but then there are some people who would think you were crazy and a heretic if you voiced this to them. Why is it that so many of us are passive and prefer to believe lies? Is it because we feel we cannot change the course. What will it take for the masses to get up in arms and demand change? It reminds me of WW2 and the holocaust. Ten Nazis holding guns could make hundreds, if not thousands, walk into gas chambers. Is this any different? Now, its 10 corporations making the masses reliant upon them, yet making them believe they are not. These 10 corporations keep the masses sick, obese, needing pills, poor and brainwashed. These corporations own the world resources, yet it isn’t theirs to own, but still they have it and they have the masses following for a pittance. Water and food …. Nearly all of it is controlled, while we do nothing but laugh at sound-tracks in the evening.
    It is good to finally see legitimate scientist finding tightening the screws and standing in defense of the environment. I was mortified when you wrote that some peer reviewed journals and articles are lies. I guess though I should not be surprised.

    • Thank you for the kind feedback, Debora. Thoughtful point about the Nazis– though the large portion of the society did come to be behind, that did not happen immediately.
      The buy up of fresh water resources by international corporations is a an issue that needs addressing.
      Good science is very important in our struggle to make the right decisions with respect to our choices. But when the dollar reigns, there is too much bad science. Currently, there is a legal suit in court against Harvard Medical School for making up data in a large government-sponsored study on Alzheimer’s. We need to change the motives for our work in every field.

  32. This is such a poignant piece about what is happening today. It was very perceptive of Albert Einstein to predict our current “economic anarchy” as the outcome of pure capitalism we have today. We see this from the collapse of Greece, to the need of bailouts, to the astronomical and completly disgusting sum of money spent on our upcoming presidential election by the candidates and their supporters to buy the White House. The elephant in our room seems to have become a small herd of Pachyderms and I think it may grow a bit more before it is dispersed back to the jungles. Until we tire of conquest, and an unending thirst for excessive profit, we will continue down this path.

  33. I found it highly ironic that Adam Smith, who is considered the father of capitalist theory, was not always complementary towards capitalism. I wish that supporters of capitalism would actually read all of his writings. For example, in “Freedom to be Heard,” Norman Solomon quoted Adam Smith as saying that “It was not by gold or by silver, but by labor, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased. Doesn’t this sound Marxist? I also certainly do not believe that Adam’s “idea that free markets would express social ‘preferences’ and thus exert ethical constraints on doing business” came true. If this was factual, would BP, Monsanto, and other corporations do the things that they do?

    I have had to read Marx for various college courses. Even though I am a socialist, I hated reading Marx. I especially did not like The Communist Manifesto as I thought that it was difficult to understand because I was not familiar with all of the references that Marx made to history. I also have to admit that I think that Marx is boring to read. That is not to say that I think that Marx was necessarily wrong. For example, I certainly think that there is evidence that under capitalism the rich has become richer.

    I believe that Einstein was a much more understandable advocate of socialism. I had previously learned that Einstein was a socialist but it was nice to read “Why Socialism” which was originally published in 1949. By the way, did you know that Helen Keller was a socialist?
    The man who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance was a socialist at the time that he wrote it.

    The things that Einstein said were so relevant today. For example, he said that “private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education).” He even said something which is particularly germane for ecofeminists. He said that “we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.” It is too bad that the users of Monsanto products were not aware that the Monsanto’s experts should not have the only input regarding the potential use of their products.

    I also learned about president Franklin Roosevelt’s proposed Economic Bill of Rights. Roosevelt stated that “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” I especially appreciated his conviction that the following were rights: everyone should be able to earn enough to provide adequate food, clothing and recreation, every family should be able to live in a decent home, everyone should receive adequate medical health, adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment, and a good education.

    • Hi Leonore, I appreciate your detailed personal response here. The “economic bill of rights” would be an important one to institute today. Einstein had a key point in his prediction that if “socialism” became a bad word, it would turn into a political label to attack any program to help other citizens– to ensure that “economic bill of rights” to them, for instance.
      It is something to consider that Adam Smith understood that the market needed extra ethical rules in order to operate democratically — your examples of the market’s failing to give ethical direction to certain modern corporations out to maintain their profits are pointed ones.
      We might also note that other societies in Northern Europe do not hesitate to call themselves democratic socialists…
      There is much to consider here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s