It’s ecology, stupid.

Kudzu covering a house

Consider the kudzu plant. It’s a beautiful plant, really, until you realize its nature. If you drive through Eastern Tennessee, you’ll surely notice its distinct features. On any hillside where it is allowed to take root, every other form of life is covered by the kudzu, choked to death and deprived of the resources it needs to survive. The kudzu has become like an unstoppable plague in certain areas. Sunlight, water, and nutrients in the soil are used to further its own growth. The survival of anything else depends on what is left.

Now consider our economic landscape. Is it the gentle meadow of textbook examples with cooperative interactions or is it the domination by the few, like the kudzu? How are resources divided among our citizens? An analogy may help. If the total wealth of the United States was represented by a tank containing 1,000 gallons of water, how much do you think would be given to the poorest 40% or about 120 million people? They would have 3 gallons of water total to divide amongst themselves or 0.000000025 gallons per person. It is hard to imagine this is a just distribution of goods.

This level of disparity is what exists with our current level of regulation. Yet, many economic plans propose that we deregulate and let the economy fix itself. But what might this approach require? You would need balancing mechanisms. Market forces would need the ability to stabilize, to change, to retaliate, and much more. Such things happen quite nicely in the meadows of textbooks. But is the patch of grass or even the sturdy shrub able to alter the course of kudzu? The picture sold to us about a self-policing economy is built upon the idea of the meadow. And yet, we are already so much like a hill in Tennessee. Why should we think further deregulation will not take us closer and closer toward the same ultimate end? The lucky few will thrive amazingly well, while everything else may, if it’s lucky, survive on what remains.

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