It is indeed remarkable what money can buy in these (somewhat loosely) United States of America now that virtually everything has become a commodity. Karl Marx was apparently the first to examine the concept of commodity and how important commodities can be. Karl Polanyi described the necessity of the commodity concept for a capitalistic economy, arguing that land, labor, and money all had to be so considered if such an economy were to function. I might be wrong but I doubt that either of these two great men actually conceived of pain, life, and death as commodities, as they have become here in the U.S. Nor, I doubt, did they imagine how easily these particular commodities could be bought and sold in our great central market for such commodities, otherwise known as the U.S. Congress.
We have just witnessed a perfect case in point, the defeat of a modest gun control measure. First consider what I think of as “TAWTINDS” (Things about which there is no doubt). There is no doubt that more people will be killed by guns in the hands of those who should not have them, and there is no doubt that background checks would have prevented at least some of these killings. Thus to vote against background checks is basically a vote for more deaths. There is also no doubt that some of those who voted against this reasonable, common-sense measure, have accepted money in one form or another from the gun manufacturers who derive their profit from the sales of guns. It may be the case that not all of the Senators who voted against the measure were motivated by such greed, but some surely were. As virtually all Republicans voted against the measure it could be that it is just another case of refusing to vote for anything that will help President Obama, and some no doubt voted as they did because of their fear of not being re-elected. In any case it is clear enough that voting against background checks will inevitably lead to more deaths.
Republicans vote consistently in favor of pain, suffering, and death. They oppose universal health care, Obamacare, minimum wages, labor unions, food stamps, unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and whatever else there may be to improve the lot of ordinary working citizens. They do this as if there is no connection between these various programs and human beings. Their decisions on these matters are calculated purely in terms of monetary value, how much are they going to cost? That is, it is reasonably simple to attach a monetary cost to, say, food stamps or unemployment insurance, and then decide whether or not it is going to be in their opinion too expensive. This works for them because no other costs are considered, what are sometimes referred to as “human costs.” While it is fairly easy to fix a cost on a program to alleviate pain, there is no way to calculate the value of the pain itself. While liberals like Chris Hayes may be concerned about human costs, Republicans are apparently not so concerned. As Polanyi thought that labor was in a sense a false commodity because it was just another word for human behavior and thus could not be separated from that basic fact, so it is that these various programs must be seen only in the abstract, mistakenly divorced from their human or behavioral consequences if one wishes to vote against them. As pain and suffering, just like the value of a human life cannot be quantified, such considerations do not become part of the equation.
Is this not what happens when Congress (aided and abetted by the Executive Branch and the Supreme Court) makes decisions about health care, food stamps, abortion, etc.? As no one can put a price on the human suffering (or pleasure) entailed, the decisions are made purely on the basis of cost, at least by Republicans. Thus we cannot have universal health care because it will cost too much, or we cannot have Social Security because (they falsely claim) it costs too much, and so on. Health care, food stamps, whatever, are traded on our huge Congressional marketplace on the basis of their monetary value, just like pork bellies, lima beans, and coffee. In addition to that unfortunate situation, decisions can also be influenced by special interests through monetary bribes, gifts, and so on. Human desires, pain and suffering, empathy, ethics and morality have nothing to do with it. When fully 90% of the public is clearly for background checks and they are voted down, what more proof do you need? Follow the money we say, and nowhere in the world is money followed more slavishly than here in the good ol’ U. S. of A.
Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that he nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all.