|What youth associate with Capitalism, c. 2023|
Back in the 1990s, when I was still in seminary, our oldest son was born. At that time insurance companies were making news by cutting back on the days they would cover for new mothers. By the time our oldest came along, it was dropping to a single day - 24 hours from the moment of birth - and then out you go.
Now, if you've had a kiddo, you know that it takes more than a couple days in some cases for new moms to be ready to move out, or to make sure kids are altogether healthy. In our case, he was born around 11 AM. By the next day, he was supposed to be discharged. The nurses knew neither he nor my wife were ready, though there was no 'smoking gun' problem to cite. They fudged things so she didn't have to leave until noon (and then dragged their feet about another hour getting things ready), so we didn't actually leave until about 1 PM.
That night, fluid developed in our son's throat that caused him to choke and stop breathing. Fortunately my mother-in-law was staying with us. As grandmothers are what I call 'pro-parents', she swung into action and was able to get him to cough it out and breath again. Had she not been there, these two young and stupid parents likely would have been burying a first child.
By the pediatrician's admission, this would have been avoided with an extra day or two of observation at the hospital. Because of that, I became a staunch supporter of making insurance companies stop the madness. I openly supported then President Clinton when he signed in the New Borns and Mothers' Health Protection Act of 1996. That act required insurance companies and hospitals to keep new mothers and newborns in the hospital for at least two days (48 hours). Though I had several colleagues disagree with me and his legislation because free market and corporate liberty, I maintained something had to be done. After all, it was obvious that insurance companies were happy to let come what may where kids' survival was concerned.
In subsequent years I had more than one colleague or acquaintance debate me on this (and other similar stances). In almost every case the argument centered on some 'it's the government's fault, or this or that historical development's fault', but free market! To which I would say it matters not, fix the cause eventually, but right now things have to be done to keep people from dying. I especially enjoyed it when colleagues would explain to me that women were having babies for ages before our modern hospitals (so obviously you don't have to have a hospital) - while deftly ignoring the cataclysmic infant mortality rate accompanying that fact.
The problem was that by the 90s, many conservatives decided that a company doing stuff and things for the bottom line, no matter what, was the deal breaker; the debate stopper. That was it. There is no moral compulsion for insurance companies, like any companies, to do anything other than what it takes to make gobs of money. Never turn to the Government. Perhaps consumer pressure in a better world. But first and foremost it was that precious bottom line that was the Holy Grail. No matter what insurance, or other companies, did, it was that bottom line that mattered. The fault of anyone and anything might be true, but it always came down to defending corporate interests at all costs.
That also included the clear and obvious development in the market we've seen in recent years of 'how to give less for more.' Whether less includes shafting employees, bilking consumers, providing slipshod quality or diminishing quantity for ever higher prices - it was always defended under the principle that a corporation has got to corporation, and that's the important thing.
If pressed, I would be assured that market forces would save the day. Eventually those market froces will rise up and smack the corporate interests around and force them into a world where providing the most for the least and encouraging competition and quality would once again rule the day. As if the global economic context of the market in the age of Lady GaGa was no different than the global context of Tommy Dorsey.
Of course that didn't happen. I see more and more conservatives starting to wake up to the realization that corporations have finally learned that countries based on democracy, freedom and equality, as well as civilizations based on loving God and your neighbor as yourself, are no longer needed for that magical bottom line. Those conservatives may still try some 'it must be the government's fault' appeal. Others might hyphenate the situation. That is, add something like 'crony' to 'capitalism' to explain what happened. But more are starting to wake up and smell the frozen coffee.
What happened is pretty simple, and pretty historical, IMHO. Capitalism arose at a time when multiple other developments kept it in check. For the longest time, those with the money and power decided it was in their best interests to support and defend and advance such freedom and Golden Rule thinking, along with a robust free market, since that was where the money was.
Today that's no longer the case. With China, you have 1.4 billion customers. And a brutal Communist totalitarian regime that has learned it can set its lofty communist principles aside in order to court vast corporate interests, and ensure those interests they have little to fear but an increased bank account when doing business in China. Likewise, in more than one part of the Islamic world, traditionally conservative states are learning to loosen up a bit - at least for those wealthy and powerful. We're talking billions of potential costumers here. What is America, with its paltry 330 million population, next to that?
In fact, not only are those lofty old Western principles no longer that big of a deal, but increasingly they could be seen as an obstacle. After all, if you're making bank on countries that routinely oppress, discriminate, marginalize and outright persecute swaths of their population, it's tough to do if you're singing the praises of good old Western democracy and values. But let people believe that the West is as bad, if not worse, than any other place in the galaxy, and you're free to do as you please. After all, what right does a slave owning, genocidal racist nation have to complain about doing business in China, huh? Huh?
Despite all this, I still see conservatives beholden to the unchecked support of any corporate decision because of course they do. Last year I caught a radio program interviewing some fellow who wrote a book about the harm being done in the name of transgender ideology. Apparently his book was banned by Amazon. His conclusion? He wasn't happy, but he would gladly defend Amazon's right to ban his own book. A book that could, by his own admission, help save young people from suffering under the crazy. He did this because free market and corporate interests you know. There's saving youth from suffering, but then there is the bottom line.
There's a time when an unwillingness to see the writing on the wall ceases to be conservatism and becomes foolishness. I'd say those conservatives continuing to support the goals and agendas of the marketplace today without hesitation, given the marketplace's growing war against that which conservatives are supposed to value, might just be getting close to the second observation. Or, what they meant by conservative was a world of difference than my understanding of the term in the first place.
|Yes, I've actually seen these fictional characters defended over the years in the name of Capitalism|
Long and short summary: Capitalism should ever have been the means to an end, and not the end itself. Having forgotten that, and having allowed the market to become the antithesis of the market, has allowed young people to see Capitalism not as conservatives insist it once was, but to see it for what it has become. And that's something conservatives had best see soon, or they'll loose both bathwater and baby where the economy and society are concerned.