Somehow the Dow Jones Industrial Average trading at a new high feels like a new low for our nation and world. It seems we have learned nothing from the Great Recession of the past few years as it relates to the concentration of wealth at the top of the economic ladder and the devastation such concentration has on the other 99%, particularly those living (sustaining? surviving?) at the bottom of that ladder.
The more we allow our social wealth to be focused at the top, the less mobile we are on that ladder and the less effective we are at being able to help those who are at the bottom, thus the less motivated we will be to try to improve our (or anyone else’s) quality of life. This has been proven time and again throughout history—just look at the major empires that have ruled this world over the past several millennia, they all collapsed as the social wealth concentrated narrower and narrower at the top of the social ladder, and the wellbeing of those who supported the economy on the rest of that ladder grew less and less able to do so.
Both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures preach harshly against this kind of economic system. I truly believe capitalism is not intrinsically bad, but it needs controls and regulations to prevent it from going hog wild and becoming an oligarchy or spiraling out of control into something worse. When the system allows the rich to simply get richer at the expense of the poor or even when it causes those in the middle to become poorer, we are no longer a civil society and we are no longer a democracy. It is already happening in the U.S. with the increasing power and influence of large, very wealthy special-interests in the forms of corporations (which are, according to the SCOTUS, legal “persons”) and Political Action Committees (PACs) and their relatively new and improved evolution into Super PACs. These special interests control our legislatures at all levels and the voice of the people is lost.
Let’s use the National Rifle Association (the NRA) as an example. A super majority of it’s members agree that some sort of background check should be required for all gun sales, and, if what I have read is accurate, most want to promote responsible gun ownership with accountability. But the leaders at the top (the ones who are under the control of those corporations and wealthy individuals who give the most to the NRA) refuse to support such actions, saying they are really looking out for the people. Meanwhile, people are getting killed by those who are ill or simply bent on doing evil. A background check is not going to suddenly stop violence or even stop criminals and mentally ill people from getting guns, but it will be a deterrent and at least slow the flow of guns to those who should not have them out of the best interests of society. Meanwhile, the NRA pours billions into campaign coffers for candidates who support their (the leadership’s) perspective regardless of what their membership says. This is another example of how wealthy special interests (often a minority in opinion) are really running the country.
I am not against owning guns, or even the NRA. I am against killing people, with the exception of self-defense (which is statistically rare). The Arizona State Senate is considering a bill that has already passed our State House of Reps (HB 2455) which would require ALL police departments in Arizona to sell guns confiscated or acquired by the department, including those voluntarily surrendered through buy-back programs, to gun dealers rather than destroy them, thus simply recycling that which is causing so many problems. The move, it seems, is to stop the buy-back programs which often result in guns being destroyed by the police departments in an effort to keep them off the streets and out of the hands of those who might use them maliciously. I can’t imagine anyone besides the gun lobbies are behind such an outrageous law. Those supporting the bill seem distraught over the thought of firearms being destroyed—which seems to be more of a travesty to them than the people who are often killed by them.
Again, I’m not against guns and can appreciate the fascination with them, though I do not own any. I have received lessons on gun safety and have enjoyed a firing range at times in my life. I am merely in favor of sensible laws and regulations that protect the public interest and our right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” by minimizing the threat of my family or me getting killed at random with a gun in the hand of someone who should not have had one to begin with. Why do we need more guns in this country? At last count, the U.S. has more guns than any other country in the world (see this article on wikipedia).
I hope we may regain the art of civil dialogue about what is best for most people, rearrange our priorities away from the wealthy but small minority, and re-engage in seeking that delicate balance between liberty and public interests. Mind you, when the second amendment was passed it took a bit of time to load a rifle of that era. And, if I’m reading it correctly, it is referring to a “well regulated militia” and not the right of each individual to own an arsenal without any interference from the government.
My point here is that we are being led down a dangerous path by allowing these self-serving corporations and super PACs to rule our country. We need to find a way to pull back the reins on these “legal persons”, first by redefining the definition of a “person,” then limiting the power and influence corporations and special-interests (including many that I support) can have on our legislatures, and then engaging in some civil discourse about what it means to live in “civil society” with guns and cars and other things that can cause great harm (notice the connection I’m making there?).