It’s time to look at capitalism differently

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, April 6, 2010

An increasing gross domestic product, the total value of the goods and services we produce, demonstrates our credit worthiness allowing us to float our debts at reasonable interest rates. The GDP includes tobacco sales and services to lung cancer patients. Similarly, distillery sales and detoxification services contribute positively. It is a strange system that fails to offset business profits by the human and planetary damages caused. The GDP is also subject to manipulation by imputing a product performance gain not reflected in market prices. The GDP is a poor index of prosperity and human welfare. Other free market institutions are in a shambles: the bond rating agencies conflicts of interest exposed, the Financial Accounting Standards Board unable to deal with toxic assets and corporate goodwill, accounting firms cooking the books of clients to save relationships. Corporate financial statements remain smoke and mirrors inspite of Sarbanes-Oxley. Why do we tolerate this failed system?

We are part of the problem. When we insist on “jobs, jobs, jobs,” infinite growth in a finite planet, we force government to stimulate business instead of criminalizing their antisocial activities and those that damage public health. While foreigners may admire our professed ideals and envy us some of our conveniences, they do not want our voracious free-market capitalism. The attack on the World Trade Center was a message we ignore at our peril.

It is time to retire a system that allows some tax deductions for interest on second homes while others are homeless, where some are forced to work mandatory overtime while others are unemployed, where people and the planet are poisoned for profit.

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John E. Gibson

Blooming Prairie