Former Justice Louis Brandeis said, “We can have a democratic society or we can have the concentration of great wealth in the hands of a few. We cannot have both.” Democracy and capitalism are not one and the same. Democracy and capitalism cannot coexist. Either democracy or capitalism will prevail. Democracy asserts that all people are treated equally, and capitalism strives for the very opposite. Capitalism allows a few people to enjoy great wealth from economic profit while the majority shares the remaining resources. In capitalistic societies and in democracies, those in control enjoy great benefits. However, the common people are in control in a democracy whereas the rich entrepreneurs are in control in capitalistic societies.
Free enterprise does not benefit a great amount of people. Free enterprise has allowed for the consolidation of firms that hold the majority of all profits in each market. These firms are controlled by very few people, and these people make unreasonably more than the workers who manufacture and provide the products and services. Individuals barely have a chance to compete against the dominating corporations that have evolved out of the free enterprise system. Self-fulfillment is a myth when the inequality is so drastically out of proportion: the top 20% hold 50.3% of the profits while the bottom 20% scrape by on only 3.4%. Furthermore, many of Americans do not earn enough money to have a materialistic life, thus proving that free enterprise, in fact, deprives the majority of people from obtaining the greatest good. Only those who sit at the top of the pyramid can enjoy the greatest good society has to offer.
The role of the power elite is legitimized by social institutions. The moral values held by the general public are invested in us at a young age, and it is difficult to see beyond the patriotic façade. The power elite are supported by the moral value of hard work and the traditional American dream. It is easy to believe that those who are at the top of society had to work their way there, and therefore they have earned it. We have been brainwashed to think that the status held by those in the upper class is a good thing, but nothing could be further from the truth.
During the Great Depression, FDR’s New Deal was installed because the hordes of unemployed Americans posed a great threat to the stability of the nation. The relief and reform programs were not established out of compassion for those who were suffering; instead, their intent was to appease those who threatened to rally against the federal government. Today, millions of Americans do live in misery, but the government does not intervene because there is no threat to the status quo.
The Gates Foundation a great example of someone being gracious and wanting to do something about the global crises affecting the lives of so many people. I love the quote taken from Gardner: “More money is being spent finding a cure for baldness than developing drugs to combat malaria. The market does not drive scientists, thinkers, and governments to do the right things.” This quote demonstrates the simple solution: care.
The solution comes in basic respect for human rights and the sacrifice of profits. Because corporations are greedy, they allow unsafe and unjust working conditions to exist in their own factories. The metal chips in some Smart Phones are actually created through child slavery in foreign countries. This policy is the issue, and it will not change unless the consumers demand it. We, as consumers, need to value our fellow brothers and sisters and desire their basic respect and freedom. Therefore, if the consumer’s dollar talks, the corporations will follow and will develop more humane working conditions, policies, and practices. Democratic principles hold all people in equal standing, asserting that every person be given the opportunity to pursue an education, career, and life free from the ravaging effects of poverty. Our economy needs to be restructured from top to bottom, and those who are living on the margins of society need to become the priority for us all. We cannot continue living in a world where people are enslaved, exploited, oppressed, starving, and in need. The time for change is upon us.