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The Default View

If I were to list some problems with modern American society and include on that list these items:

  • Excessively large numbers of people relegated to prisons. Many of them are not real criminals, and the prisons are so overcrowded and budgets so tight that states have turned to outsourcing some of the work to private agencies.
  • A vast military-industrial complex.
  • Large corporations exploiting the children of third-world nations.

Would you conclude that “aha, that is exactly why capitalism sucks and we need to consider alternative social models?” I used to think such an idea was silly, but now I believe it is the default view of many very thoughtful people who worry about the same sorts of issues that we worry about here. I am seeing more evidence in my students than before that this is the default view of the world.

What is especially clever about such a view is that it can take virtually any activity that is the result of private benefit seeking, such as corporations accepting the chance to manage prisons, and paint that as a problems with a free society. It’s quite clever. But the defense of a free society is not a defense of corporations – it is a defense of peaceful voluntary exchange with robust competition and no special privileges. It is not surprising to see people try to capitalize on such an income earning opportunity. Indicting commercial society on those grounds is much like indicting Catholicism on the grounds some people become lay ministers to satisfy their own egos.

Finally, the default view also includes the absurd notion that free societies are inherently immoral and that there is a moral supremacy to alternate social systems. Oceans of ink have been spilled on this topic, all I will add is that someone is doing a crappy job discussing what a free society is if this is the default view. And while I am on that thought, what the heck do they teach young kids these days about the spirit of the American experiment ?

4 Responses to “The Default View”

  1. Force Tube Avenue says:

    Some years ago, at my child’s high school, the “Civics” curriculum contained a definition of capitalism which called it, among other things, “the exploitation of labor and the environment”. I was so shocked that I went to that class, and a friend and I were allowed by the teacher to offer a rebuttal. While there, it seemed clear to me that the students were also getting an image of American “exceptionalism” as exceptionally evil, with slavery and exploitation the only distinctively American institutions. This, sadly, is more common than I would care to think.

  2. Rod says:

    It’s obvious: drugs developed in this country to treat millions — millions — of people in Africa and in the rest of the third world for AIDS are distributed for saving the lives of those millions so they can be exploited by multi-national corporations.

    It’s noteworthy that most of the AIDS drugs are the product of for-profit research conducted by those most evil of corporations, the American drug industry.

    It makes me feel good that my country, the United Imperialist States of America, is exploiting the third world in this way.

    I wonder how many lives have been saved by the efforts of the SEIU or AFSCME.

  3. […] In any case, there are lots of agencies — public, quasi-public and private that have particular advantages in dealing with some or all of these questions. Private recreation companies are surely better equipped to staff, clean, maintain, upgrade the parts of parks dealing with campgrounds, concessions and otherwise populous aspects of the park. Voluntary trail maintenance and hiking/outdoor organizations are obviously skilled at maintaining particular recreational or natural areas of parks. Local governments and state governments are certainly more attuned to the interests, problems and needs of park visitors, nearby communities and farmers, etc. than public officials in the nation’s capital. And major conservation organizations, legal organizations and research organizations are particularly well suited to handling easements, purchases, preservation, piecing large parcels together, etc. and so forth. In each of these cases, the default view prevails. […]

  4. […] anything but what I refer to above? I think I can answer that question without having to rely on the default view argument, but that’s for another […]

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