Monday, October 13, 2014

Above Reproach

Capitalism is an economic system that is based on ownership of business and industry by the private sector instead of the government. The version of capitalism that has developed in the United States has proven to be a model that, despite its flaws, in many cases levels the playing field and promotes equality and fair prices through competition. Capitalism is that proverbial golden ticket that promises that any person who is clever enough and works hard enough, can rise up to make their million, regardless of their background. However, even beyond questions related to issues associated with privatization of the means of production and distribution for so many vital goods and services, capitalism is often seen to be at odds with itself. On the one hand it is a system that is based on every person for themselves. On the other hand, it is a system that requires integrity and personal responsibility for the community to survive.

Over the past few months there have been numerous stories in the news about food safety recalls. While production and distribution of food is largely contained within the private sector, it is critical that it is carefully watched over, with strict controls in place. One bad apple, so to speak, can lead to widespread health problems. That is why the U.S. Government has developed the Food and Drug Administration and set up a strict system of rules. However, while some food safety recalls can be attributed to unfortunate oversights such as mislabeled packages, others are due to me-first human nature. As an example, there was a cattle processor that was recently charged with selling beef from cancerous animals. The distributor bought the affected animals at minimal cost and sold their meat at normal prices. It was all about greed. There are other examples of this sort from the past few months where produce distributors have knowingly skirted safety rules in order to prevent any loss of profit, hoping on getting away with the schemes that they have likely gotten away with in the past.

Even though we live in a society based on capitalism, where we still celebrate the self-made man and those individuals who have worked their way to the top, it is amazing how fragile the equilibrium is. As fast as new government regulations are put into place, there are slippery folks searching for loopholes and backdoors to maximize their profit while putting the rest of us at risk. The government can't seem to keep up. Imagine how much smoother and efficiently this system would operate if we were all above reproach in all of our dealings ...