Saturday, January 25, 2014

Trains and Riches

We’ve all heard of that old morality tale about the runaway train. It’s bearing down the tracks toward some helpless people, but you’re standing by the switch that can divert the train to another track. Flip the switch, save the people. Don’t flip the switch, the train grinds those poor imaginary people to death.

There is a certain type of person who would just stand there and watch the coming train wreck. “It’s not my fault those innocents will die. The train’s doing the killing; it’s nothing to do with me.” Our legal system even bears this concept out. This reprehensible person couldn’t be charged with murder. They didn’t technically DO anything to kill anyone, even though most of us wouldn’t be in a really big hurry to invite this fictional knob over for supper.

That’s the image that sprang to my mind when I heard Kevin O’Leary spouting off about the free market economy. Wages and prices are determined by the market, he says, mimicking the mating call of all Green-Striped Capitalists everywhere. “I don’t decide; the Market decides.” (I presume the Market is treated as a proper noun, as is the way with any important object of worship.)

This sort of moral cowardice makes me to mad. Maybe it’s just because I recently read the collection of rants by Rick Mercer and so my fur’s all up, ready to get furious. For those who don’t know him, Kevin O’Leary is a diehard capitalist, a frequent feature of CBC programming whenever they need to air someone who is morally repugnant and wholly without pity for anyone without a seven figure back account. Here’s what he looks like:

Smug, isn’t he? He has, to paraphrase the late, great Douglas Adams, a face that inspires you to punch it. Regardless, however, he made the news a little more frequently the last week. After the recent Oxfam report found that half the world’s population has wealth equivalent to the richest 85 people, Kevin publicly called this wonderful. “It’s a great thing,” he proclaimed.

Why is it a great thing? Well, because nothing inspires the poor and downtrodden more than realizing just how much ground they have to cover to be one of the elite. The wealth gap, according to O’Leary, is a stupendously effective motivator. That’s really all poor people need, you know: a little motivation.

Of course, if a terrifying wealth gap were REALLY any sort of motivator, you’d think the poor would be doing better, wouldn’t you? It isn’t as though the gap between have and have not is a new thing. Instead of shrinking, it’s getting worse. It’s not a gap; it’s a yawning, terrifying chasm. It makes the Grand Canyon look like a crack in the sidewalk. Just mull it over again.

Eighty-five people own as much as three-point-five BILLION. That is not right. I don’t know how to fix it: I haven’t a clue, not the foggiest, utterly without direction on this matter. Claiming it’s a GOOD thing, though… yeah, pretty sure that’s not the case.

Nor did any little demigod called “The Market” decide to inflict destitution on the masses. Hosts of petty tyrants, all with the Kevin O’Leary mindset, did this. They started the train rolling, and they refuse to flip the switch.

Oh, and if they could, they’d sell tickets to the inevitable wreck, too.

1 comment:

  1. I've not heard that morality tale told like that. It was told to me in a different way to demonstrate my small-minded hypocrisy:
    "A train is barreling towards 3 men on a bridge which would result in their certain deaths. You are standing next to the lever which would turn the train towards another bridge with 1 man on it which would result in his certain death. Do you pull the lever?"

    Apparently most people, including myself, choose Yes. So the next question now:

    "You are a surgeon. There are 3 men who will die very soon if they don't receive an immediate organ transplant. There is a patient in the hospital who has all the required organs to save the lives of the 3 men. He is there for non-life threatening injuries. Do you kill him to harvest his organs?"

    Most people choose No, including myself. Unfortunately, these questions are the exactly the same, philosophically. That was the first and last time I've ever appeared foolish. It's a good thing I'm so smart ushually.

    As far as redistributing wealth, you commie pinko, I was taught in history class that revolution only comes when the lower classes don't feel that they can improve their station. It's one thing to be poor and quite another to be poor and hopeless. So cheer up! Once no one can make more than minimum wage, "The Market" will fix itself, just like Mr. Baldypants says but not in the way he thinks.