Egalitarianism and Capitalism

The following are from three separate posts which I entered on local journalists’ blogs from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on December 23, 2011, and December 8, 2011. I decided to share my thoughts regarding some failings of capitalism and the need for government to modulate capitalism wth readers of “Mary Elizabeth Sings.” I have hope that the future will bring a raised consciousness of egalitarianism, and as a result, capitalism, itself, will become more humanitarian in its reach and destiny.

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My post on a local journalist’s blog, December 23, 2011 (slightly edited):

“From my post about Thomas Jefferson by Pultizer Prize winning author Gordon S. Wood from his book ‘Revolutionary Characters,’ pages 106 – 107:
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“Man,” he (Jefferson) said, “was destined for society.” His morality, therefore, was to be formed to this object. . .All human beings had “implanted in our breasts” this “love of others,” this “moral instinct”; these “social dispositions” were what made democracy possible. . .The importance of this domesticated modern virtue to Jefferson’s and other Americans’ thinking can scarely be exaggerated. Unlike Classical virtue, it was not nostalgic or backward-looking but progressive and indeed radical. It laid the basis for all reform movements of the nineteenth century as well as for all subsequent modern liberal thinking. We still yearn for a world in which we all will love one another.”

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Jefferson’s spiritual instincts overlapped with his egalitarian consciousness, i.e. ‘all men are created equal.’ He believed that if mankind were good enough, we would not need government. I believe that, too. However, since mankind has not yet evolved to the point that we do not need government, it is government that can help to keep in check capitalism’s inherent tendency toward power and greed. Government needs to be watched, also, and that is why our founders established a check and balance form of government. However, by its very creation, it is evident that our founders believed in ‘government.’
Furthermore, I believe that not only is America evolving, but that this world is evolving into a more spiritual and egalitarian domain. Perhaps one day, in the distant future, when mankind becomes more humane and loving, we will not need government, but until that time, we do. The private sector and the free market, alone, cannot foster the spiritual and egalitarian development of humankind. In fact, capitalism can create inordinate, self-oriented greed, as has been demonstrated especially within the past 30 years. This is not to deny that capitalism can lift many financially, and that it can be an effective economic engine for Americans, if those at the top, who enjoy great capitalistic wealth, are not given overwhelming power to control government through their political contributions. The government must belong to all of the people and not simply to an elite few. Stricter laws must be created to control political contributions much more than is presently happening.
As our nation continues to evolve, I support the views of Franklin Roosevelt and his 2nd Bill of Rights for Americans (and as a model of human rights throughout the world, as advocated by Eleanor Roosevelt). To this end, government can serve the purpose of fostering the evolution of human rights, more than can the ‘free market.’ Thus, some of my views overlap with Jefferson’s, and some do not. In terms of his core beliefs – his spiritual understanding and his egalitarian view of humankind – I totally support the mind and vision of Thomas Jefferson.
Until the soul of mankind reaches the vision of Jefferson’s dreams, I believe our government - which Jefferson helped to construct  even from France when he insisted that a Bill of Rights become a part of the emerging Constitution - serves to fulfill that vision. I saw ‘the government’ do just that during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.”
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One example of how the free market failed to promote an egalitarian spirit among all people occurred during the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s in Atlanta.  Businessman Lester Maddox, who later became Georgia’s governor, refused to allow African-Americans to enter his privately-owned restaurant for a meal. Maddox even brandished a handgun at the door of his restaurant to make certain that all understood his position. The U. S. government, through a three-judge circuit court in Atlanta, had to intervene and declare that Maddox was wrong because all citizens, being equal under the U. S. Constitution and the laws of our government, had equal right of access to his restaurant, (as well as to all businesses which were patroned by the general public, which the U. S. Supreme Court later reconfirmed).
In my opinion, a more spiritually-evolved business owner would not have taken Maddox’s position, whatever current norms were being lived out in his time and place.  The U. S. Constitution - stretching its power and wisdom from the minds and spirits of our founders over the centuries - was the only force through which Lester Maddox was made to practice egalitarian principles toward African-Americans in his business operations. America’s Founding Fathers had insured that that justice would happen when those in the private market place, such as Maddox, refused to practice simple humanity toward all others. That example was government operating at its spiritual best by insuring equal justice for all.
Post Script: Unable to win his case, Lester Maddox became a martyr to segregationist advocates by selling the restaurant to employees rather than agreeing to serve black customers. He was later elected Governor of Georgia.
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My post on another local journalist’s blog, December 8, 2011:

“I do not see the financial ‘framework’ in America as being proportionately balanced. Earlier, I had used the term financial ‘game,’ but I think that ‘framework’ is a better word for what I am trying to describe. I am questioning the entire financial layout and philosophy in our nation, and not simply questioning the fairness of who pays more in taxes or who has more in wages.

Everyone cannot be ‘chiefs’; some must be ‘Indians’ according to their various talents (and to make any company flourish). I do not think ordinary workers, throughout the world, are given the value and respect that they deserve, and that is reflected in their relatively low wages, compared with what CEOs earn. Management should earn more than workers, but is the present system proportionately equitable? I have an egalitarian view of humanity. From this perspective, the lack of respect and honor given to common workers is a failing in capitalism, and that failing is reflected in the relatively low wages of workers. Although I support capitalism as an economic engine, I believe we must work against a self-serving and ‘survival of the fittest’ element in capitalism for all to flourish, as well as for the economy to flourish. I want to see businesses and corporations not only valued as vehicles to make profits, but also as a means to serve others, i.e. customers and employees. Wanamaker Stores of Philadelphia had this philosophy regarding its business practices.

American wages cannot be compared equally with the wages in other nations because the cost of living in different countries is also a variable that must be part of the analysis. I know of people trying to make a living as ordinary workers at WalMart, and other large corporations, who simply do not earn enough to be able to both support their families and, also, save for their financial futures in old age. I do not think WalMart has a union of any substantive strength. This is not a condemnation of WalMart per se but of a worldview in many corporations in which average workers are seen mainly as commodities to secure profit margins, and are not seen as equal human beings to those in management – simply because all are human beings.

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“Some say that entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, paid by the government, have no place in a capitalistic nation. There are different forms of capitalism. From 1945 until 1980, America’s capitalistic system contained a social responsibility, but for the past thirty years, America has rejected that form of capitalism for one that is more Libertarian in nature.  Social Security and Medicare are positive programs in the lives of many. I do not see having these programs as a matter of ‘needing the government’ as much as a ‘smart use of the government’ whereby, together, citizens decide to pool their common resources for the betterment of each, individually. Moreover, I believe that by realizing that we are ‘sharing’ and ‘pooling’ for our common good, we develop a more humble and humane attitude toward one another. The other way, of perceived ‘rugged individualism,’ tends to create an environment which is less humane because we tend to judge one another, i.e., ‘Did you take or get more than I did?’ If we as a nation become more humane, we will also react to the world in a more humane manner. So, how we perceive our use of our government is so much greater than simply ‘receiving entitlements.’ Insuring a social safety net is a means of creating a kinder nation, as well as a more secure people, because the entitlements into old age do alleviate fears, and they are shared. I want my grandchildren, one day, to be eligible to receive these entitlements, also, after having contributed to them, as I have. I, also, want my grandchildren to have drive and independence. These are not mutually exclusive.

I have an egalitarian worldview of humankind, and that is the perspective from which I write. I believe as Thomas Jefferson wrote: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . that all men are created equal. . .’ “

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