What’s the Purpose of America?
Your answer depends on what you value more: money or people. If you favor money, then you want America to be a country where you can maximize the profits of your business with as little interference from the government as possible. As far as you’re concerned, only the free market should determine who wins and who loses, and if losers don’t like losing, you say work harder, pally, and start winning. Sure, it’s a very cut and dry way to treat humans, but it’s the best approach to doing business and making the most amount of money possible.
If you favor people, however, America’s purpose is a bit more complex.
Those of us who fall into this category do understand the value of money. We just don’t like it when the maximizing of your profits prevents the rest of us from our own pursuit of happiness. Greed causes many industries to make decisions that harm people, so the government has to step in and regulate. The problem is, too much regulation and the free market suffers, but not enough regulation and the people pay the price.
It’s been like this since the 1800’s.
For instance, back then, “Westerners generally believed that the railroads possessed economic power that they systematically abused. A central issue was rate discrimination between similarly situated customers and communities.” In other words, profits were maximized by adjusting rates unfairly. The railroads kept this hushed by “granting free transportation in the form of yearly passes to opinion leaders (elected officials, newspaper editors, ministers) so as to dampen any opposition to railroad practices. (Link to Article)
Thus in 1887 the Interstate Commerce Commission was born.
Much to the dismay of those who favored money over people, the ICC regulated railroads (and later trucking) to ensure fair rates and eliminate rate discrimination. Of course, the railroads still made a hefty profit, just not at the expense of the rural Westerners.
Profit maximizers caused food and drugs to be regulated next.
19th century companies were selling rotten food and getting away with it. “‘Adulterated’ products often used chemicals or additives to mask poor quality wheat, sour milk, or meat gone bad. In response, these “unethical” companies asserted that it was a consumer’s duty to protect themselves from shoddy products.” Called ‘caveat emptor,’ it meant let the buyer beware.
Time for the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act.
This law said that, “If a product was found to be in violation, it could be seized and condemned; if a seller was found violating they could be fined and jailed.” It prioritized people’s safety over profits, and this did not make money lovers happy. (Link to Article)
Same thing happened to the business world.
At that time, monopolies were springing up and, free from competition, they began manipulating the prices for their goods and services. Customers were at their mercy and, once again, the only thing powerful enough to prevent this financial abuse was the U.S. Government.
So it created the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
This independent agency was “established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act. Its principal mission is the promotion of consumer protection and the elimination and prevention of anticompetitive business practices, such as coercive monopoly.” (Link to Article)
Thanks to greed, the big, bad U.S. government must constantly come to the rescue.
Those who value money over people understand this and spend millions lobbying congress to keep business regulations to a minimum. Sadly, those of us who value people over money haven’t been as organized. We’ve allowed the ‘rules of the game’ to be re-written over the last thirty years to favor big business. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich says this has resulted in insider trading, skewed pharmaceutical prices, and hundreds of other examples of how the deck has been stacked.
Then he says something shocking: “There is no free market.”
“And the kind of battle that we’ve had between liberals and conservatives for the past 40 years or 50 years, between do you trust the market or do you trust government, is a fatuous and silly battle, because you can’t have a market without government creating the rules of that market. And…it’s inside those rules that you find the most important issues that ought to be debated. (Link to Article)
What is the purpose of America?
Whether you believe it’s to maximize profits for the few or it’s to create a place where the rest of us are free to pursue happiness, the only way your opinion will make a difference and affect change is if you figure out which politicians feel the same way as you do and vote.
- Mike Lukas
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