Compassion and the Free Market part 1

Here is what I wrote September, 2011…Going to pick it up again now!

Compassion and the Free Market

1. The Free Market is perceived as brutal – ignores losers
It seems to me that the free-market rationale debunking government intervention, entitlements, and the ‘I’m here to help’ government role is missing something. Free market arguments while logical and supported, comes across as brutal – while the free market brings greater benefit/prosperity to people overall, the losers are usually dismissed without being addressed. I find this a bit of a paradox, as here we are, understanding that more people will be helped overall, but not addressing how the losers (the Detroit auto workers, the unemployed who will have to stop watching TV and get a shitty job J, the uninsured) will be taken care of by the private sector if the public sector doesn’t do it.

So while free market solutions are usually the most compassionate options, it rarely shows. This struck me years ago watching Johan Norberg’s “Globalization is Good” video – he shows us people in Kenya, Taiwan, etc., but it would have been even more compelling if he addressed the losers of globalization – perhaps contrasted a Detroit autoworker or manufacturing worker in the US and what they were going through after losing their job, what resources they had available, what options they had, compared to the Malaysian rice paddy worker if they lose their job.

2. Compassionate people support government solutions
I think that so many of the well-off stick with the Liberals because their perception is that Liberals provide the more compassionate choice, the only choice that helps out those less fortunate.  And I don’t see anything out there offering them better, free market alternatives for their compassion, ones that actually go beyond ‘feel good’ and provide evidence or results.

3. The Free Market is perceived as inadequate for charity/assistance
Usually I hear a general argument that private charity is sparse and most people are selfish, so people will be dying on the streets if the government didn’t fund/entitle/help out.. But haven’t we seen a massive shift in the last 2 decades, in terms of ‘corporate social responsibility’, the number of charities and non-profits popping up, shown on every soup can and cereal box?  You can hardly buy a product nowadays without some $ going to charity. Is this still true that private charity wouldn’t be enough? While morally I am against government force being used to take from people to give to others against the donors’ will, can’t we also make a case for private doing charity better and thus more compassionately than public sector?

4. Little awareness or discussion of existing compassion in free market.
When I check out Cato, Reason, the Independent Institute, and when I search online for ‘Compassion and the Free Market’ very little is there apart from an obscure blog or two.

Some of what David Beito looked at in The Voluntary City (mutual aid societies, private insurance) would relate to this idea, certainly. But I’d like to take it step further – you have to give people a clear vision of what’s possible, correct? From my vantage point, there is no positive vision today showing what it would look like if we curbed Soc Sec or government healthcare, beyond a vague understanding that it will be brutal and harmful.

I’m interested in research that gives examples and a future vision as to how the private sector (be it profit/non-profit) would handle or cope with entitlement-type goods transitioned out of government control. How about something studying the Kahn Academy, offering free training/learning videos, living by volunteers and donations, and contrasting that to what the gov’t provides in terms of retraining for the unemployed? How about something contrasting what Father Boyle of Homeboy Industries is doing for gang members (“Jobs, not Jails”), teaching them to function in society and see new possibilities, contrasting that to the kind of help they get from government sources? What about something painting a picture of how American society might look if we actually were able to dismantle/repeal various institutions?  What kind of effective, grassroots solutions exist today  that could be grown, if we all had more money and lost the idea that government should be involved?

So Compassion and the Free Market is a project/study area I want to develop so that we can paint an honest picture that appeals to those who do care about fellow human beings, but don’t understand ‘free market’ beyond its brutal reputation.

I’d like  to change the national paradigm, dialogue, framing of issues, so true compassion shines through.


Let’s Create Salt Ration Cards While We’re at it…Why Stop at Production?

I read this morning about the recommendation to further regulate/limit salt in the food industry as well as the proposed New York ban on salt in restaurants (!).

Let’s create a salt ration card system while we’re at it. If you want to save people from themselves, don’t be shy about it, for heaven’s sake.

I think that the salt ban doesn’t go far enough, frankly. Us poor, poor folk making bad choices need to be saved from ourselves. Here are some ideas on great ways to make people choose carrots and edamame over french fries and hot dogs.

1. Salt and Sugar ration cards – each household only gets so many units. Grocery stores and restaurants have to register units consumed, and once they’re gone, you are not allowed to buy any more food that contains salt for that week.

2. Regulate all recipes put out in cookbooks, cooking magazines, TV shows and online – make sure they pass FDA standards for healthy eating before we can see them or use them. Let’s keep the dangerous information out of the hands of the masses who can’t handle it.

SERIOUSLY: The last time I checked, no one was holding me at gunpoint, forcing me to buy salty processed foods or forcing me to eat out and choose onion rings rather than a side salad.  Are we going to stop holding individuals to account for their own free choice behaviors entirely? It’s getting insane.

Regulation is not necessary, regulation is harmful, regulation is too costly to implement.

Healthy eating is a powerful trend right now that’s gaining momentum – can you deny it?

  1. Jamie Oliver (in the UK) and the Biggest Loser have done more to change perspectives and individual actions than any government program.
  2. 15 years ago, organic/healthfoodsections in grocery stores hardly existed.
  3. Local Farmers Markets did not exist (now we have four or five during the week)
  4. Chain restaurant menus – they mark healthy options on the menu. They have 500-calorie options!
  5. Frozen yogurt didn’t exist. Egg substitute didn’t exist. Edamame probably existed, but no one in the US knew about it. Heirloom tomatoes were unknown. Egg white omelets were never on a menu. Veggie omelets-no cheese, for that matter, were never on a menu.
  6. The only apples you could buy were granny smith, golden delicious or those mealy red ones…
  7. We can all identify heart-attack-on-a-plate. We know that greasy, salty food is bad for us and that if we actually ate one of those meals Paula Dean cooks on her t.v. show we’d gain 5 lbs overnight.
  8. Gourmet cooking mags now actually have a healthy eating section with healthy recipes (at least they’re trying)

Why won’t we trust PRIVATE individuals, non-profits, for-profits, and media to help fulfill the demand for healthier choices?

What healthy trends have you noticed over the past couple of decades ? Add to my list!