Choosing between Profits or People

In the speech Bill Moyers gave recently entitled Life on the Plantation, he quoted Teddy Roosevelt from 100 years ago. Roosevelt was talking then about the collision between those who think our societies should be about maximizing profit for their personal gain and those who think that they should be about the people who comprise them. Roosevelt said, “Our democracy is now put to a vital test, for the conflict is between human rights on the one side and on the other special privilege asserted as a property right. The parting of the ways has come“.

Now, in Moyers’ speech he was decrying the increasing subjugation of the news media to big business and the damage this does to democratic institutions. But, this is not a new phenomenon. Here as quote from 1880 in which a journalist of that day was complaining about the interference of big money in how the news is reported, “The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth… We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes“, by John Swinton from speech given while working for the New York Sun. (Thx for this quote goes to Kevin at

In the February 11th, 2007 edition of the New York Times appeared an article entitled, “Troubles Grow for a University Built on Profits“. The article discusses how the University of Phoenix has been great at generating profits but its reputation for academic excellence is fading. Consider also how not too many years ago, corporate America swept up the medical world and now most of the doctors and hospitals around are part and parcel of corporate entities which we refer to as the Healthcare Industry. Most people, and physicians as well, would tell you today that the quality of medical care has suffered as a result.

All of these themes; the subversion of the news, the dumbing down of education and the profitization of medicine are all aspects of the same thing. And that single thing is the dividing of the ways Roosevelt mentioned; the battle between those who think the rest of us were born to be pawns in their games of profit and those of us who think that this world should be about maximizing the quality of life for all of us. And these are just three examples. Look around – examples abound.

Corporations are, in many cases, becoming stronger than national governments. It is important to realize that a corporation is a for profit entity without a heart. Regardless of what its PR may say, when push comes to shove, profit is what really matters. Corporations and industries cannot help but see countries, their resources and their peoples as pieces on the chessboard. And they will move and manipulate them in which ever way maximizes their profits.

Some national governments have implemented a mix of Socialism and Capitalism in which Socialism has the upper hand but it only uses its ability to trump and limit Capitalism when Capitalism’s drive for profit begins to degrade and imbalance the society.

Other countries, and the US is a good example, let Capitalism run largely uncontrolled. Yes, at some points in the past when the imbalance got badly out of control and corporations were threatening to gain control of everything through monopolies, the federal government broke industries up. Think about the railroad barons of the 19th century and of Standard Oil and AT&T. But in the US, the trump card is rarely played other than to guarantee that the government retains dominance over the corporations. It is not generally played to improve the lot of the people.

Now, the sad part is that Capitalism, as the US practices it, puts a Capitalistic entity on the world stage that is extremely competitive and very much like a junkyard dog. Whereas, the Capitalistic dogs loosed by those countries who keep their Capitalism subservient to their Socialistic goals, are less competitive and less vicious – more like pets.

What is sad is that nine times out of 10, when the junkyard Capitalistic dog meets the mellower pets of the more Socialistic countries, it dominates them and wealth and power flow from their systems to its system and raw Capitalism thereby advances in its subversion of the idea that societies should be for their peoples. And it advances its philosophy that societies should be considered as sandboxes in which corporations get to play for profits.

It is a classic weakest-link-in-the-chain problem. So long as one country allows its corporate dogs to run loose unmuzzeled, they will terrorize and weaken those other countries who’ve chosen to spend their resources on improving the lot of their people rather than trying to dominate the world. Unless all the countries get together and agree to limit the power of corporations for the good of humanity together, those societies dedicated to the quality of life of their people will always potentially be at the mercy of those who’ve already been captured by the siren songs of wealth promised by unfettered Capitalism.

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