For as long as the culture of business has been an integral part of American life, it has also been frowned upon by important sectors of our society. Among our intellectuals especially, the business world has been the subject of many brutal caricatures, portraying corporations large and small, and the people who run them, as heartless, soulless agents of greed. These caricatures have shaped our implicit understanding of the nature of the business world, so much that they have come to pass for conventional wisdom.
You can always tell an ivory tower writer when they use the word caricature with the words conventional wisdom to describe a universal truth. Most Americans are in business one way or the other. Most of us are not writing for magazines, inventing the next generation quantum computers or making the next great medical breakthrough. We sale, make, transport goods. We provide and sale the services. My life experience tells me that whether it is a hotel maid, a telecom field technician, a programmer, a nurse or a dish washer, most people take pride in what they do and these people are frequently the heroes or at least sympathetic protagonists of poems, songs, short stories and movies. So who is the author of this article arguing with. Mostly the straw man created by people who think we should worship the Koch brothers more. That we should think of CEOs who are paid more than they earn, deserve a place on the mantle already overcrowded with modern idolatry. This article is frustrating in many regards. A little patience in reading the whole does have its rewards.Valiunas picks up on some subtlety that is missing, has been missing and will largely continue to be trampled in the age of full tilt hyperbole, in the race to see who is the purest capitalist of them all,
In some of the muckrakers’ critiques, however, there was a sense that the reckless excess of capitalism was a distortion of a proper business culture — and therefore that there could be such a thing as a proper business culture. If Sinclair was the most famous of the muckrakers, Ida Tarbell was the most judicious. In The History of the Standard Oil Company (1904), Tarbell takes pains to distinguish the bestial ruthlessness of the great oil monopolist John D. Rockefeller from the robust laissez-faire energy of the smaller oil men, who represent the best in American business: “They believed in independent effort — every man for himself and fair play for all. They wanted competition, loved open fight.” Tarbell’s aim in exposing Rockefeller’s nefariousness was to revive the flagging decency of American commerce, which the magnate’s enormous power had undermined. Tarbell was scrupulous about just whom to indict for corruption, and she believed in the fundamental virtue of free enterprise honestly pursued.
Muckraking was thus not simply agitprop — though it could be that when a Sinclair or a Steffens got carried away. At their best, the muckrakers addressed real ills and re-directed the nation toward probity, or the hope of probity, in business and politics. Their successors may have taken up only the dark side of capitalism exposed in their works, but the muckrakers themselves often understood the good that was being perverted by industrialism’s excesses. Unlike their successors, the muckrakers grasped the complex mix of greatness and shallowness evident even in the worst perverters.
The occupy wall street commentary provides a fair example of what I mean. While I have seen a couple of socialist t-shirts, most of the protesters seem to want a free market that works. And when the powers that be drive the market off a cliff, the people who screwed up should pay, not the average American worker. They’re all lazy anti-capitalist trouble makers so the commentary goes on conservative and libertarian websites. These people are more the muckrakers of the 1920s and 30s. As the corporatists and plutocrats abuse the system to hoard obscene amounts of cash they do so like a runaway train over the lives of people who have a tiny fraction of the power of the Wall Street elite. If those elite want lots of money, have at it. They’ll still have plenty left if a small fraction was left in the hands of labor where it originated. That is not socialism, that is the kind of fair humanistic capitalism one can be proud of.
‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ was the first book to teach women about sex, birth control and—yes—the clitoris. With the release of a ninth edition, Jessica Bennett on why the 40-year-old text still matters.
[ ]…Our Bodies, Ourselves was the kind of book that libraries banned and women stashed under their beds like pornography—a fixture of college dorm rooms that shocked conservatives with its candid discussion (and close-up drawings) of masturbation, contraception and the clitoris (spelled out as klit-o-ris). Pre-teen girls poured over it at slumber parties. Boys ran off with it, determined to learn its womanly secrets.
The new edition came out last week. It includes new sections on date rape and cosmetic surgery among others.
I recently celebrated my wedding anniversary, having been married to the same woman for thirty-one years without ever straying. Newt Gingrich has been married three times, divorced one wife while she was recovering from surgery, and has had extra-marital affairs.
Guess who is considered the defender of traditional sexual morality?
It’s a strange situation where the political party with more ex-wives than candidates, that houses and defends a disturbingly amoral network of fundamentalist operators, is regarded as the protector of the sanctity of the family. They’re anything but.
I think I understand, though—it doesn’t matter what you do, all that matters is what you say. The Republicans support a version of marriage that rests on tradition, authority, and masculine dominance, and everything they do props up one leg of the tripod or the other.
History is frequently about people with extraordinary power being challenged by people with less power. Not one hundred percent of the time, but damn close, the ones with power – men, religious leaders, communist rulers, the monarchy…never pause and think, gee I’m being a self-important pig, let me give you some of this power which, in a moral world, is rightfully yours. In that last sentence Myers sums up the powers at stake. Even if inclined to give a little on one, they cannot give too much because the house of cards would collapse. The Right would have to deal from a foundation of respect, of normative values and consequences, they’d have to live up to some of that New Testament generosity of spirit. And mutual respect. The last by itself is enough to make a cultural conservative go all caps in a letter to the editor.