Maximization of profit passé in brave new world

by Ogi Overman

You won’t read many columns wherein the author admits to knowing next to nothing about his subject, but you’re about to. Almost everything from this point forward – other than the Bush bashing, of course – is based more on gut feeling than an intellectual construct. Furthermore, what I’m about to propose has virtually no chance of becoming reality in anyone’s lifetime who’s alive today. Yet, as a wise man once said, the only battles worth fighting are the unwinnable ones, the ones that are so far into the future that you’ll be ridiculed for even proposing them but hailed as a visionary centuries hence.

No stranger to ridicule, I trudge onward.

My first and only economics class at dear old ECC (yep, the C became a U my junior year) was taught by a brilliant Indian fellow named Sher Rana, who’d served on President Kennedy’s Board of Economic Advisors. The one thing I took away from that class (other than the fact that I needed to change my major from business) was his definition of capitalism. “The goal of a capitalistic economy is the maximization of profit,” he stated over and over. “Nothing more, nothing less. It has nothing to do with who controls the means of production or where the profits eventually wind up. The point is for the corporations to make as much money as possible, period.”

I got the feeling that Dr. Rana was not convinced that this was the ideal economic system, but I was in so far over my head that I never dared ask. Over time, however, I became convinced that there must be a better way of distributing the wealth than the way we do it here in the Land of Milk and Honey. Communism seemed not a viable option, as the idea of working for the state was more repulsive to me than working for the Man. Socialism came closer to resonating but even it had a rather hollow ring, perhaps because it overly denigrates the profit motive. I tried communalism for a while but for all our ideals, we wound up sabotaging them. Still, for the ensuing three decades, communalism seemed to best capture the spirit of hard work being rewarded but for a greater good than the maximization of profit.

As I eventually became a self-professed word merchant, I felt the need to coin a new word that described what I saw as the ideal economic system. But then I realized that this was putting the cart before the horse; that the word itself is the least of our problems. First somebody, or some group of bodies, needed to come up with a whole new economic system, something to supplant capitalism, and then we’d figure out a word to describe it.

Yes, I understand killing off capitalism is a pretty radical idea, one that won’t go over very well with the oligarchy that rules the United States. Yet it’s that very oligarchy that’s the problem. All these years we loopy liberals, ex-radicals and unrepentant hippies have been blaming the system for the dynamic that allows war, poverty, inequality and injustice to flourish, but we’ve been blaming the wrong system. It’s not the political system that’s at fault, rather the economic system. Or, to be more precise, it’s the fact that they’ve become one and the same, virtually indistinguishable. One feeds off the other in a strange symbiotic dance of the dollars. Eisenhower warned us of the “military-industrial complex” but Bush & Co. have taken it to a level so fearful, so corrupt, so powerful that war profiteering has been allowed to become the norm. The lesson of Iraq may ultimately have to do with how Halliburton, Blackwater, Bechtel and dozens of other corporations made billions and billions off the blood, sweat and tears of US servicemen while the government applauded.

Anyway, that notion of a new way of spreading the wealth languished for many years. Then lately as I’ve continued to take stock of all the horrendous effects Bush’s war on Iraq has had on this nation, the truth emerged that everything this man has touched has been for one reason and one reason only. He’s had one underlying motive all along. All the decisions he has made that seemed to reek of incompetence now make perfect sense. They have one central thread, one common denominator. And that is: the maximization of profit.

Every bill signed or vetoed, every decision made or not made, every lie told or speech garbled can be traced to his unwavering support of big business. Tax cuts for the wealthy makes perfect sense in Bushworld. Deficit spending is not a problem if high rollers make obscene profits. And war profiteering is SOP, just the cost of doing business in an unprovoked war.

Yet, believe it or not, there may be a silver lining. This era may be viewed by history as the beginning of the end for capitalism and the genesis of a whole new way of how money changes hands.

We’ll get down to business next week.

Ogi may be reached at, heard Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on “Triad Today” hosted by Jim Longworth Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV 48.