Robin Hood or Person Hood (Economics 101).

When Robin Hood knew that he was dying, he asked for his bow, said “bury me where this arrow lands,” and loosed it into Sherwood Forest. (“And so it goes.”) The passing of Robin ripped the social safety net and many sailed off in search of “a new world”–one with opportunities. A few boats reached the Americas, which were home to native people living there, whose culture honored Mother Earth as a living being worthy of respect.
Fast forwarding a few centuries, a new society–which aimed at “a level playing field” for all–evolved a new institution–the corporation— that allowed the enterprising to profit from the implementation of new ideas.
Corporations connected three kinds of participants, each of whom contributed something essential: capitalists contributed their wealth, workers their labor, and consumers their purchasing power.
This collaboration worked so well that Economist Adam Smith named it “the invisible hand.” In contrast to state controlled production, the free exchange of goods brought supply into alignment with demand. Like magic, profitability guided corporations into activities which could increase their wealth, while unions negotiated so that workers could earn a living wage.
Alas, love has fled from the marriage of capital and labor. Workers grow poorer, consumers choose from products that maximize the profits of corporations, and “the invisible hand” has some invisible aces up its sleeve.
The contract between the “means of production” and workers is now broken. Now corporations control governments and Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” is the wealth of corporations. Wars are waged so that corporations can reap profits and control foreign resources. Bankrupt nations are pushed around by corporations on whose wealth they depend. Five Walmart heirs have more wealth than the poorest 40% of Americans combined; the Koch brothers have pledged $1,000,000,000 to win the 2016 US elections; and Adam Smith’s invisible hand is dangling limp at the wrist.
A precipitous tilt toward “the means of production”, at the expense of workers, culminated in the 2010 US Supreme Court ruling: “Citizens United”, which granted ‘personhood’ to corporations, and the status of speech to their coffers of wealth. Equating an umbrella for commerce with a living human being (and corporate wealth with human speech) has reduced ordinary human beings to second-class citizens.
In today’s economy, where impoverished educational and health-care services falter and many large corporations pay $0 taxes, billionaires drown out voices that care for our planet and the living beings who depend on Her.
The fingers of Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ are picking the pockets of all but the most wealthy. “And so it goes” (to quote Billy Pilgrim once again).

5 comments to “Robin Hood or Person Hood (Economics 101).”
  1. To rework Milo Minderbinder: Everybody owns/is a breath. Acknowledge the profound mingling, the inter-penetrating breath swapping living forms of this blue planet, contemplate healthy sharing, figure out how to make it happen, let us all breathe deeply and well.

  2. Ha Ha! I like Ken’s Minderbinder reference! It points to a kind of catch 22, broad brush summary that supports itself. History as summary strikes me as a sort of mental tsunami that overruns everything in its path, thrusting itself and its point ever onward, covering the tracks and subtexts of cause and effect. I don’t agree or disagree with the points made, I just have questions surrounding and in-betweens some of them. For instance, a Koch brothers label is a hot button to some, and on another side, not mentioned, is George Soros and his billions spent for seemingly apposing causes. Apposing causes… Minderbinder cycles we engage in, over and over, round and round… As Ken says:

    “Acknowledge the profound mingling, the inter-penetrating breath swapping living forms of this blue planet, contemplate healthy sharing, figure out how to make it happen, let us all breathe deeply and well….” Inspired! 🙂

  3. Ken, David, Paul,
    I love the comments, which take things further than I did– or can, given that a one-sided view of things has me in a strangle hold.. I noticed that none of you took the opportunity to quote “Jerry McGuire and say: “You had me at Robin Hood”. Alas I guess I did stray a bit from the living and dying of Robin and his Merry Men. It’s interesting to be reminded of Milo Minderbinder in Catch 22. I wonder if the time is right for someone to write an absurd send-up of the present system, where institutions that do whatever they want love to present themselves as bringing democracy to the world.

    If only I had a sense of humor, I might try it myself. But even when I think I’m being funny my righeous indignation tends to be to humor what a loose guard dog is to a letter carrier. Here nice little doggie, I have a little joke I’d like to tell you . . .

  4. Ha Ha! Michael! Just for the record, I love your sense of humor. And I certainly understand righteous indignation. I have a chair on my porch designated for that, and I sit in it often enough. And probably from ‘our’ perspective (and all that entails), the world IS upside down. Today is definitely NOT my Grandfather’s today, were he alive to see it, and it certainly is not HIS father’s either. It’s the way of it, it seems. My embodied awareness will run out of its body soon enough too. But a world may or may not carry on depending on cosmic, human, and emergent events, our righteous indignation not withstanding. Which is why Ken’s response appealed so much to me. 🙂

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