For the past few years, the good people of Vermont have been fighting for their right to have all GMO food products clearly labelled as such.
I knew nothing of their travails with Monsanto until earlier today, when a friend of mine sent an item about it to a Facebook group devoted to things environmental which he’d started with a small bunch of like-minded others a while ago. Patrick’s post, linking to an article the Daily Kos published almost 3 years ago about this political issue, had such a shock effect on me that I at first didn’t even notice just how long the matter has been going through the Vermont legislature, first, and now through its court system, too.
Of course, nothing Monsanto does should come as a shock to any of us any more, and it wasn’t the corporation’s determined effort to push its products on unsuspecting Vermonters that stunned me so much. Nor was its obvious contempt for the very principle of democracy that had that effect on me. It was, rather, the on-the-whole unexceptional opening paragraph of the Daily Kos article itself that produced in me the jolt of anger the result of which is this Occasional Thought. Here’s the (unintentionally) offending paragraph in question:
More proof that the one thing big corporations don’t want is a real “Free market”, not if “free markets” mean a place where consumers are given exact information on what goes into the products they can choose from. Corporations are not for “free markets”, they are for fixed markets, fixed markets where corporations write their own rules and the only rule is “Let the buyer beware.”
What’s wrong with saying that, you might ask. And why on earth should it annoy a middle-aged scholar with an interest in our common well-being and in the safety of our food, water, and our environment, such as me?
What I find appalling is that we‘re still so docile and still so hypnotized by the discourse the corporate oligarchy has imposed on us via the academe and the media it finances and controls that we continue to describe these things in terms of a “free market” ideology at all — when, in actual fact, we’re in the presence of actions we ought to be able very easily, without much effort of thought, to recognize as criminal in intent.
It is criminal in intent to risk people’s health for profit.
How has that become so difficult even for our progressive (let alone mainstream) newspapers and TV networks to understand, acknowledge and say?! As for our departments of economics, what exactly is the obstacle that prevents us from teaching and explaining such matters to the young people in whose hands we will be leaving the world? The young people, that is, who need to be as clear-headed about reality as we can possibly help them to be since they and the generations of their children and grandchildren will be confronted with challenges of the sort and the severity our species has not had to deal with for (roughly speaking) the past 10,000 years or so?!
We’ve already breached the 4th of the 9 biosphere thresholds that make human life of this planet possible. Human civilization of any kind will become unsustainable (impossible) once the biosphere is degraded beyond a certain point — and the only way we’re currently willing to ensure that doesn’t happen is by bowing to the Golden Bull that reigns over Wall Street, entrusting the lives of all future generations of human-kind to the god of the “free markets”.
The incessant buzz-talk about “free markets” which we’ve been forced to listen to for the past 35 years and more has created a kind of mental chaos in our culture, a chaos which has confused our ethical faculties to the degree that we no longer recognize oligarchic, corporate criminality for what it is. Of course, as anyone who has read On the Wealth of Nations knows, that same “free market” chatter we’ve endured for so long, and which claims Adam Smith as its original source, has precious little to do with genuine, classical liberalism at all.
Adam Smith would be morally disgusted by such cynical abuse of his ideas and his work. The man did write a theory of moral sentiments, after all!
Occasioned by my very belated reading of this stirring and insightful Daily Kos item from April 2012.