We Live in a Society, Not an Economy 2

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this:  most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.  Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. 

–Douglas Adams


We have a problem, and calling Houston won’t help.

Everywhere today we hear all manner of talk about what we must do for the sake of the economy.

With fingers left over to make change, I can count how many times I hear what we must do for the sake of our society.

Now, in the bloggular equivalent of a TV series “clip show”, let’s look at something I wrote a while ago…

We live in a society.  An economy is just a component of that society, and those who confuse the two shortchange not only this society, they also shortchange themselves.

Our fundamental mistake is that we confuse the part with the whole.

Not even close.

How can we justify starving children?  How can we rationalize someone, even Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign adviser, dying of a lack of health care?  How can we excuse, even briefly, the notion that in a country that is so wealthy, we must maltreat and marginalize some people so that the most well-off can have even more?

In that same essay, I put it thus:

Or we can set about reclaiming the concept of a public good, redefining ourselves in terms of a society rather than simply an economy, and relegating all religious discussion to its rightful place in the private sphere. 

Something to work for, don’t you think? 

What if that goal was even such a simple notion as that there is no good reason for anyone to have to go to bed hungry, or to not have a bed to go hungry to, or even a roof overhead?  That there is no good reason for a child to grow to adulthood unschooled?  That everyone having basic health care is a huge social positive in many more ways than there are room to list here? 

Note here, and note well, readers, that I am not for one moment claiming that everyone has the same innate abilities and that there is some moral failing at the root of the shortfalls in the lives of the less fortunate.  I do claim that wisdom and true self-interest (as opposed to the Ayn Rand counterfeit so many “Libertarians” claim) brings with it the realization that we all benefit when no one among us is hungry, or uneducated, or ill, or unhoused.

Anything else is immoral.

So, what are we to do about this?

I’ll explore these questions at my usual slow-writing pace.  For now, it’s time to leave you with one more quote from that earlier piece:

There are two main possible directions for the future.  One is to continue along the increasing corporatization of America, until we begin to resemble something akin to an electronicized feudal state, where ownership of most of the economy is concentrated in the hands of a very few, with the great numbers of people having almost no say or stake in anything.  This is the Libertarians’ ideal, of course, though many of their adherents are foolish enough to believe that they’ll be on the ownership side of the fence.

That won’t happen, of course.  Cannon fodder remains outside.  Always has, always will.


  1. Very Good!

    This line in particular should be put on large billboards in public places:

    How can we excuse, even briefly, the notion that in a country that is so wealthy, we must maltreat and marginalize some people so that the most well-off can have even more?

    I encourage you to keep writing!



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