Slow burn

My Introduction to Economic Darwinism

I made the mistake of going to the League of Women Voters meeting yesterday. The speaker was an economics professor from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; her topic was “Virtues and Limits of Free Markets”. She started by telling how she got “stuck” with developing and teaching a class on business ethics and she hadn’t known any more about ethics than we do. My hackles started to go up; neither a PhD nor a Phi Beta Kappa key qualifies her to talk down to her audience.
Then she blithely oversimplified a capitalistic cycle, which was OK … until she said, more than once, [paraphrase] “we give” resources to corporations and they turn out goods. I asked her WHO gives and she said, essentially, the government, which she equated with “society”. She clearly demonstrated that she had no concept of PUBLIC land or PUBLIC goods. “Unowned” land and resources are there for the taking. I suggested that in many cases, specifically fracking on public land, the government usurps the peoples’ right to that land by, essentially, giving it to private concerns for their personal profit. I didn’t go so far as to call it theft, but theft it is.
She then sided with Walmart – it’s OK to pay poverty wages and it’s the society’s obligation to decide what floor to put under people so they don’t, well, die. But it is NOT the employers job to take care of workers; their sole job is to maximize profits for shareholders. If workers can’t make a living at Walmart and fast food type jobs, they should retool, get an education, and find something to do that will pay. Like her. She as much as told me later that money is her prime motivation.She thinks her mother’s a fool to buy American. She thinks labor unions are bad — the model is outdated (though the older corporate model she espouses is not outdated?). I went up to her afterwards and mentioned John Kenneth Galbraith’s idea of countervailing forces, which he deemed necessary for the health of any economy. I said that workers need to be able to come to the negotiating table as equals or there is no hope for fair exchange of time and skills for money. She sort of frowned a little at Galbraith’s name and seemed to have trouble understanding the words “countervailing forces”. So much for her PhD and her Phi Beta Kappa key.

I’m afraid at this point, I  rather lost it. I looked her up and down, turned and left. I’m very much afraid I’ve written off this credentialed scholar as a perky, dumb blonde, on whom thousands of dollars were spent to gussy her up as an academic. Then I went home and looked up her vita; her first job was with Bain Capital. Explains a lot.
And I got to thinking … she’s young. She has no knowledge of life before Reaganomics. Did she learn ANY history in her economics studies, or was it all math and finance? Has she read John Kenneth Galbraith, or his son, James? Or anyone else who’s not in Alan Greenspan’s Cannon? Clearly, she’s been blessed to live a safe, cocooned life in pre-trickle-down middle class comfort.
I was harsh. I should pity her and pray she never has to live in the real world; that she may stay in her economic bubble, where tenure, and employer-paid medical insurance, and paid vacation, and paid sick leave, and regular raises and promotions, and generous retirement matching contributions are handed down from on high, without end.
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One Response to Slow burn

  1. Marcia GB says:

    And she probably will stay in that ivory tower. Not to be crude (well maybe) But somebody oughta put that Phi Beta Kappa key where the sun don’t shine.

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